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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1305


Mr RAMSEY (Grey) (12:14): I might just take the opportunity to put the member for Throsby straight. It is true that the coalition opposed the steel industry package but, of course, it came accompanied by the carbon tax package at $23 a tonne, rising to $29 a tonne over the next four years when the rest of the world is paying about $6 tonne, and the steel industry is paying the carbon tax. The steel industry assistance fund roughly compensated for that amount—in fact, a little more than compensated—but it will run out in four years, when the tax will continue to rise. Of course, it would not have needed that assistance had it not been for the advent of the carbon tax.

But I will come to Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2012-2013 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2012-2013, which are formulated on the basis of the figures that were put into MYEFO back in October, now admitted by the Treasurer to be pretty much useless because it seems they cannot give the Australian people any indication at all as to what the deficit will be in just four months time when the end of the financial year will arrive. In fact, the MYEFO was virtually out of date before it was printed. In particular within the MYEFO are the estimations on the mining tax, which at that stage was supposed to raise $2 billion, which was down from the $3.2 billion in the budget, which was down from the $4 billion when the PM and Treasurer Swan signed the agreement with the three big miners, which was down from the $10½ billion which they originally thought it would raise over two years, which is down from the $12 billion that the original RSPT was supposed to raise. In addition to that, within the MYEFO papers was a forecast of a budget surplus of $1 billion which the Treasurer has now admitted is not going to be met. So while the opposition will not bar the process of appropriation bills, it is worth noting that the figures on which they are formulated are highly suspect.

I will come back to the mining tax, which is raising a lot of interest in the public at the moment, and quite rightly. Over the last six months it has raised $126 million dollars, less expenses. There is a $50 million cost to run this scheme and a foregone $38 million from income tax. That raises about $38 million net. I do not want to cause an argument with the good member for Casey, because he said in the chamber a couple of days ago that that amounted to $5.50 a head. Of course, he was talking about the gross amount, because the $38 million is about $2 a head. Now it seems quite likely the Obeid family has made more out of the resources boom than the mining tax, a lot more. It would be laughable if it were not so serious.

It is worth remembering how the Prime Minister came to power and how important this was in her surge to take the prime ministership. She said the Rudd government was a good government but it had lost its way, and she nominated three causes which she saw as needing immediate attention from the Prime Minister. One was to abandon the ETS and not have a carbon tax. Within months we saw a complete reversal of that policy. The second was to fix the flood of boat arrivals, but boat arrivals are going very well indeed!—a complete failure of government and also a significant part of the reason that there is no surplus. The third thing was to settle the mining tax. The mining tax was a political fix, a deal to get the mining industry to stop their very public campaign against the government leading up to the last election. Like Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, declared peace in our time. Her frontbench applauded, the caucus applauded, the electorate generally were pretty pleased, and the three big miners certainly applauded because they wrote the deal. In fact, BHP's Gerard Bond sent a draft of the tax to the Treasurer's office. The miners helped draft the tax, so no wonder they got a good deal.

The most essential flaw at the heart of the mining tax is the obligation of the Commonwealth to fund state royalties, and what an incentive that was for the states to lift royalties. Every time they lift royalties, the Commonwealth taxpayers foot the bill. How could the triumvirate of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the resources minister ever agree to this? It was a guarantee to ensure that the tax would fail.

But perhaps the greatest sin of the mining tax was to spend all the money before it arrived—before they even knew how big it was—$14 billion over the forward estimates, cash for everyone. In fact, Santa had arrived in the form of company tax cuts, increases to superannuation, cash payments for low-income people, instant write-offs, regional infrastructure funds, school kid bonuses. Some of these things in themselves are not too bad, but they are all just blatant bribes. And now, except for the $38 million net raised by the tax, it is all borrowed money, adding to the net debt of $160 billion and the $50 billion off-budget spend on the NBN and the as yet undefined and not budgeted for Gonski and NDIS commitments. It is money borrowed that will take at least 10 years to repay, with interest bills in excess of $7 billion—hang onto your hat if interest rates go up again. So that is the mining tax.

I will move on and draw your attention this morning to a pretty sad state of misadministration within my electorate. It involves Port Augusta, a vibrant city at the north of the Spencer Gulf. Port Augusta is one of the great crossroads of Australia, and a place where the traffic for the main east-west and north-south corridors of rail and road intersect. It is the service centre for the north of South Australia and southern Northern Territory. It is also a significant deliverer of services to the Aboriginal community of the far north. There has been a long-term effort in Port Augusta to combat alcohol and drug abuse, particularly in the Indigenous community. The city attracts large numbers of visitors from the remote Aboriginal communities, particularly in the summer when they come south to get away from the heat and to visit family. Some gravitate to Davenport, some into the town camp, some are just generally throughout the community. They cause enormous difficulties in themselves, but if these people happen to be alcohol dependent they cause a lot more difficulty again.

The Port Augusta Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre was announced in 2007 and received support from the South Australian government in July 2008. It was to be funded from a commitment from COAG of $7 million to specifically address substance misuse in remote communities in South Australia. It was anticipated that the centre would start operations last year. Nothing has happened with that centre, I must say. Nothing at all. Questions were asked last year in the October estimates on my behalf. I was informed that the tender process, while delayed, was in the final stages of negotiation. I have recently been informed the tender process has now been abandoned completely and the government is no longer committed to building a facility in Port Augusta. This is extremely disappointing for me and for the Port Augusta community. While the Port Augusta community and the Port Augusta alcohol management team fully recognise there are desperate needs in other north-western communities, like Ceduna and Coober Pedy in particular, there is no doubt that if you are talking about a most central point to deliver the service to the most people, Port Augusta is essential. It is almost impossible to bypass.

The Port Augusta council received advice in April 2008 that Port Augusta had been suggested as the location and considered eligible for this funding because of the high number of people from remote communities visiting or accessing services in Port Augusta. Tenders for the project to build and operate the facility in Port Augusta were called for in 2010. It took until 2012 until the council was informed that the tenders were not being proceeded with and the new tender proposition would not require the centre to be contracted in Port Augusta.

In answer, again, to questions asked in estimates in October last year, we were informed that the delay for the Port Augusta rehabilitation centre facility had been due to the lack of access to a suitable site or service provider. The Port Augusta council informs me that it has suggested up to five different sites and offered to negotiate access and has had very little feedback or interest from the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. They strongly refute that the department and the consultants used for the project, ARAP, have been working with the council to resolve the issues, as claimed in answers to questions at Senate estimates asked last year on my behalf. I have checked the available records and, to the best of my knowledge, just one meeting with the interested parties has been held in Port Augusta throughout the whole process—in more than four years. The news that there is no longer a commitment to build the centre in Port Augusta is a kick in the guts for the very hardworking Port Augusta Alcohol Management Group.

It absolutely seems amazing that the pledge—or what is left of it after the consultation fees—will now be allowed to fund two centres: one in the north-west as was planned and the other one in the south-east. The original grant was to combat drug and alcohol abuse in remote areas. I do not want to throw any mud on my southern cousins, but how on earth could anyone describe the south-east of South Australia as remote? Somebody should get an atlas out and have a look—92 per cent of the state is within the boundaries of my electorate, and I can guarantee that every remote Indigenous community within South Australia is within the electorate of Grey. There are no remote communities in the south-east.

The people in Port Augusta who have been working so hard—actually not working so hard for this project, because they have hardly been consulted, but hoping so much that this project was going to be delivered, are absolutely livid at the idea that half of this money, and we are waiting for answers from the government, or half of whatever is left will be spent in the south-east.

Going to broader issues just in closing, the Roxby decision has been a major setback for the region. Jobs continue to go—another 100 last week announced by BHP Billiton. We all hope for the best and that that project will get back on track—with the possible exception of the Greens, who may not hope for that. I think there is a feeling within the electorate that South Australia is probably blessed with similar resources to Queensland and Western Australia and yet seems to find it so hard to get projects on track and happening.

The optimists in the industry are now talking about the resources that will be freed up because of lack of progress at Roxby Downs and saying, 'This'll make our projects easier to deliver,' but we are not seeing evidence of that on the ground. Just to name a few, there are the IronClad and Iron Road iron ore projects on the Eyre Peninsula, and OZ Minerals at Carrapateena; Arafura are looking at building a rare-earth processing facility in Whyalla; there was Lincenergy's announcement of the discovery of $20 trillion worth of shale oil near Coober Pedy; there is a group working on the Braemar iron ore deposits nearer to the New South Wales border; and there are the Beach Energy and Rex Mineral copper prospects on Yorke Peninsula—and these are just a very small slice of the possibilities and plans for the electorate of Grey.

There are major infrastructure projects needed to deliver many of these projects, and I am going to run through a quick list in the time left available. I am very pleased that RDA Eyre Peninsula in Whyalla has listed, as a high priority, the redevelopment of the Thevenard port in the far west. There is a need to deliver new ports on the Eyre Peninsula and Spencer Gulf. Perhaps Port Spencer will be the one that will go ahead in conjunction with Centrex Metals. A duplication of the gas pipeline to the upper Spencer Gulf, probably terminating in Whyalla, is going to be needed before too many of these projects can go ahead. We need a new interconnector to Eyre Peninsula. There are vast wind and wave energy reserves, and, bearing in mind the current debate on wind farms, there are very few people for the wind farms to offend. We still have black spots all over the electorate for mobile phones. The roads have a $250 million backlog—and I am talking about the state roads here. There is $150 million a year, or thereabouts, raised in royalties in South Australia, which is just a very pale imitation of what is raised in Western Australia and Queensland. Very little of that is returning to the electorate of Grey, which is where it comes from. It is worth remembering not so much that the people of Grey feel they are entitled to that money, but if the rest of South Australia, if the rest of Australia, wants all of those vast resources in the Grey electorate to be developed, then the money needs to be spent there to enable those projects to go ahead.