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Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Page: 5420


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (16:59): Strangely, I find myself agreeing with the Treasurer and his comment about this budget. This is, indeed, a very Labor budget. With an elaborate system of smoke and mirrors this Labor government has managed to create an illusion of a wafer-thin budget surplus—for a couple of hours, at least. But do not underestimate the Australian people. They know full well that Labor has cooked the books here. Costs have been shuffled out of next year, shuffled into this year and shuffled into the following year. In some cases, such as the NBN, they have shuffled clean off the deck. There has been more shuffling going on than with the three-card-trick hustler in Vegas. What the Australian people cottoned onto very quickly is that splashing money around in a blatant attempt to buy votes and to compensate for the carbon tax actually achieves nothing at all. They understand that cooking the books does not actually make anything better.

I am no fan of cooking the books, but a guy as big as me is a fan of baking pies, and I know a fair bit about pies. No matter how you slice a pie, I know you are still going to run out of pie at some stage. The concept of creating a bigger pie so there is more to go around is lost on this government. For four years the government has tried to make a bigger pie by borrowing more pie from overseas, but sooner or later it has to be paid back. Already the interest is eating into our pie, and what this government has done is to commit the Australian people and their children to years of financial pain, as it will be they who have to pay it all back. If you dish out pie so you can collect pie just to dish out more pie, as this government is doing with the carbon tax, all you are actually doing is circulating the same pieces of pie, and every time it changes hands another piece of it falls on the floor. Labor is incapable of making the pie bigger, but it is truly world class when it comes to wasting it.

Let us not forget the Greens' influence. If there is one thing that the Greens hate, it is anyone with a bigger slice of the pie. They do not care how they got the big piece. They do not care if they baked it themselves, worked long and hard, mortgaged their house to buy the oven and gave almost half their pie to the government; they still end up with a big piece, and the Greens absolutely hate it. Now it seems the Australian Labor Party hate it too. They want to take the big piece of pie from that hard worker and give it to everyone else, not because they want everyone else to have more pie but because they just do not want anyone to have a big piece of pie. That is not socialism; that is just pie envy.

Taking the incentive away from the bakers of this country, most of whom are in regional Australia, is a recipe for a smaller pie. My constituents in Dawson can vouch for that, because they are the bakers. The Mackay region and the adjacent mining region around Mackay are the bakery of this economy—of this pie. But Labor is shredding their hope for the future. Labor is stealing their reward for hard work. Labor is robbing them of the opportunity to create wealth for the nation. Families in the Mackay region are paying the high price of creating that wealth. They pay exorbitant rent. They pay more for their fuel. They pay more for their groceries. They work long hours at shift work, often living away from home and the family. They have access to fewer services—health services, recreational services and things that capital city MPs in this place take for granted. Yet they are penalised because they have that bigger slice of the pie.

What these people expect to see in the budget is funding for infrastructure and for those services that others take for granted—facilities like the Mackay Showgrounds, which have begun a long, arduous and expensive redevelopment into what we hope will become a regional entertainment precinct. It is being done with funds raised through the community and some funding from the Queensland government. In regional centres like Mackay, the showground is a critical piece of infrastructure because it is where the community comes together. It is where events like the major Queensland Mining and Engineering Exhibition connect people and organisations that help drive our economy. But we did not see specific funding for the showgrounds in this budget. The people of my region do not deserve to be ignored and forgotten, as with the long-lost Labor promise of a GP superclinic. Labor promised it and Labor has not delivered it for the Mackay region. It is 20 months since the promise was made, and we have not heard a peep about funding for Mackay's GP superclinic.

But I would like to talk briefly on another project that I and concerned locals will no doubt have to fight hard to see delivered. The Blacks Beach spit is an area of coastal land with important environmental qualities that will be destroyed if it is allowed to be developed. As a councillor on the Mackay Regional Council, I lobbied for the council to purchase the Blacks Beach spit to ensure that that area was protected. It is time for this Labor-Greens government to return some of the funds to the economy's engine room, the Mackay region, so it can make a genuine, real investment in the environment. So the Mackay community actually did not get much in this budget, especially when you compare it to the electorates of Lyne, New England and Denison. It is funny, that! It seems that to get any investment in our community of Mackay it takes the whole effort of the community. In that vein I would like to commend the team of people who helped fight for a headspace youth mental health centre for Mackay, a facility so badly needed in a town where social disadvantage adds further fuel to a suicide rate that is just so unacceptable. Mackay was promised a headspace, with the funding to happen sometime in 2013, and I want to put the government on notice here that I want to see those funds starting to flow from the first day in January. I fought very hard for this centre, so did our daily newspaper, the Daily Mercury, and so did Sandi Winner, then from the Mental Illness Fellowship of North Queensland. There was also a collaboration of other local mental health workers, GPs and youth organisations.

What the people of Mackay find especially perplexing, though, is this government's reluctance to invest money back into other parts of the economy that are actually producing the money for the nation. Continued ignorance of this economic fundamental absolutely will result in a shrinking economy and a smaller pie for everyone. There is no point sending truckloads of money from Central Queensland and North Queensland to Canberra if there is no road for the trucks. This budget's neglect of the Bruce Highway is an absolute insult to Central Queenslanders and North Queenslanders who drive, or try to drive, on that highway on a daily basis. They know that congestion around Mackay is absolutely out of control. They know that they have never seen so many potholes before in their lives. They know that they had to pay a flood levy out of their own pockets to get repairs done on that road.

During the recent Queensland election, the new premier, Campbell Newman, actually committed $1 billion to the state controlled but federally funded Bruce Highway. And what did Labor put in the budget for the Bruce Highway? What new thing did they put in this budget for the Bruce Highway? I can tell you: it was nothing. There was no new money for the Bruce.

We did not need less investment in infrastructure, we needed more. We need funding for the duplication of local access streets into Mackay's industrial hub of Paget. A huge increase in heavy traffic servicing the resource sector has had such an impact on roads like Connors Road, Paradise Street and Milton Street, which are the main roads into the industrial centre, that the lacework of potholes actually joined up and the bitumen disappeared.

Former Mackay Regional Council mayor, Col Meng, put a duplication of this road on his wish list to state and federal governments, and I am inclined to believe that such infrastructure is absolutely essential. I think we should be doing that for Connors Road, Milton Street and Paradise Street. And as much as this Labor government thinks it is spreading the wealth of the mining boom around by throwing money at people for no return, it is actually missing the point. Some of that wealth needs to be reinvested in future wealth and to creating that bigger pie.

Just as importantly, if you want to talk about a two-speed economy, why are you not investing wealth poached from the mining sector into the sectors that actually are struggling? For instance, tourism in my electorate in the Whitsundays is on its knees. After weathering this barrage of natural disasters and associated damage to its image the industry actually faces now a high Australian dollar, and that drives tourists overseas. But in addition, this budget increases the passenger movement charge from $47 to $55 per passenger and it reduces Tourism Australia's budget by 6.2 per cent—or, in real terms, $8 million. It passed on the $118.1 million in costs related to the Australian Federal Police security in airports, which will actually go on to increase ticket costs. And on top of that, in just 39 days from today, I think, our tourism industry will be slugged with a carbon tax. I note that Cruise Whitsundays, which is an operator in my electorate, estimates additional costs of $770,000 over just three years as a direct result of the carbon tax and what it will do to marine diesel.

Tourism is an export industry, and I note that the government has moved to compensate other export industries for the carbon tax. So why not the tourism industry? Why does the Labor-Greens government hate tourism? Why does it not extend the regional investment and innovation fund to the Whitsundays, or areas like Cairns, where tourism is vital to the local economy and employment? That fund currently operates in the Illawarra, the south-east of South Australia and in Tasmania—all good Labor heartlands. But why not the Whitsundays or Cairns, where tourism is weathering the perfect storm and people are actually losing jobs? From my perspective, I am actually not convinced the fund is the best means of assisting industry, but that is the Labor way. That is how Labor deals with regional downturns, so if they are doing it in the Illawarra then they can do it for the Whitsundays and Cairns. I prefer to advocate for a different method of help. One of the ideas that have been put to me is a domestic holiday tax break to encourage Australians to holiday at home. Costs would be incurred as a result of keeping money in Australia, which helps. Profits would be made as a result of keeping money in Australia, and that helps to offset the cost.

But helping industry and encouraging growth, development and contribution are not in Labor's repertoire. Labor's modus operandi is industrial terrorism. While most Australians understand that our economic prosperity is underpinned by mining, Labor and the Greens have focused on undermining. Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Greens have undermined our future. They have undermined mining itself. They undermine the resources sector with the mining tax. They have undermined exporters with the carbon tax. They have undermined investment and productivity with red and green tape. We saw with the Abbot Point multi-cargo facility—which carried the hopes and dreams of so many North Queenslanders, families and residents of Bowen—that they stalled it for 17 months, with the application gathering dust on the Federal environment minister's desk. The extreme Greens, whose mission in life is to stop anyone from making money, enlisted the help of a herd of extreme left-wing organisations and rabid environmental groups, using deceitful tactics to prevent any kind of development they could. Their mission was to kill the very industry that creates the money that this government funds them with. It does fund them through the tax-deductibility status that a lot of them have. These are groups that were supporting and bankrolling a campaign to bring Abbot Point to its knees. It seems to me that this government is adept at shooting itself in the foot by aligning itself with these people, as it has in this parliament. It is time we reviewed the register of tax-deductibility for these extreme environmental groups and struck off any organisation whose operations are not in the best interests of the Australian people.

This government continually says one thing and does something so completely different. It says it wants to protect the environment and invest in renewables. If that is the case, why is this government—especially the Greens—not backing a national ethanol mandate? They want us to use renewables, but they cannot afford to be seen to be adopting coalition policy like direct action. Ethanol is a known and proven technology. A national ethanol mandate would secure the future of the proposed ethanol plant in the Burdekin and also the operating plant we have in Sarina. Australia currently produces less than 50 per cent of the oil that it consumes, and dependency on exports is expected to reach 80 per cent by 2030. While I acknowledge the retention of the ethanol excise rebate, the problem is that there is no stability in terms of demand. It will no doubt come back to the state government to maintain diversity for sugar by bringing in a state-based mandate. I think an incremental introduction could be achieved by introducing a regional mandate from Bundaberg north.

One area north of my electorate is Townsville. The government is determined to trash the Labor brand in that area. Townsville is actually home to the 3rd Brigade and the 11th Brigade at Lavarack Barracks, as well as 10 FSB and the RAAF base at Garbutt. On their behalf, I have a message for the Prime Minister. North Queensland is immensely proud of its Defence Force, as is the rest of the nation. Men and women in the armed forces devote their life to this country. They earn our respect and they always have, yet we have had almost $5½ billion cut from defence while our soldiers are overseas serving. It was disgraceful. The Prime Minister and the defence minister were in Townsville on the weekend. There was a welcome home parade, but they could not bring themselves to attend it, even though they were down the road waiting in a hangar for a plan to take off that afternoon. They could have attended it. The Prime Minister and this government have done nothing for our servicemen and servicewomen in the past. This Labor government is almost worse than the Taliban for the ADF, and the cuts are testament to that fact. (Time expired)