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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1413

Mr CHRISTENSEN (DawsonThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (20:39): I pay tribute to the member for Forrest. She has been passionate about this issue of online safety, particularly for children. It has been a cause which she has been promoting to members and senators throughout this place. It is obviously something that is paying dividends now in the community. I note that the government is also responding to concerns that the member has been raising for quite some time in this place. So I do pay tribute to her. It is an important issue—one that is probably not so headline grabbing unless something terrible happens but one that we all need to be mindful of in this digital era.

Today I rise to speak on the appropriation bills that are before us. The appropriation bills, in layman's terms, are the updates to the nation's finances—the budget and the chops and changes that we have had to that budget. What I intend to do is give a bit of an appraisal from my point of view as the member for Dawson of how we are travelling as a nation economically. I have to say that one thing that is quite clear is that the situation we now have is absolutely astonishing, given that we have been through what should have been almost a golden era economically for Australia, where we have had the resources boom in full flight, great prices for our commodities and mining companies booming throughout the Bowen Basin and throughout your electorate, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, and over in Western Australia it has been powering on. The previous government talk of how they saved this nation from the GFC. Well, they did not. The reality is that there were only two sectors that were pulling the nation ahead, and it certainly was not the government. It was resources and it was agriculture. That is what kept this nation afloat throughout the GFC, combined with the fact that there was actually money in the cupboard—a surplus that the previous government had left; money in the bank—that could be spent in that time of need. The reality is that it was the resources sector and the agricultural sector that pulled us through the GFC.

I think of all of that economic activity—probably the greatest there has been in this nation, particularly in the resources sector. And what do we have now to show for it? We are careering head first into $667 billion worth of debt. That is a staggering figure—six hundred and sixty-seven thousand million dollars worth of debt that is saddled on the taxpayers of this nation and saddled on the government. This is a debt that is going to accrue interest—a debt that we are going to reach unless we turn around the good ship of Australia and set it on the right course. That was indeed what this government was elected to do. The Liberal and National coalition was elected to clean up the mess that we had been left from the Rudd-Gillard and Rudd again governments—a mess that almost brought the nation to its knees.

One of my political heroes is the late and great US President Ronald Reagan. I am going to paraphrase him. He could have been speaking specifically about Labor governments but he did not; he just said 'government's'. But I am going to say 'Labor's' just to help the quote. Labor's:

… view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

What an apt description for the last six years of Labor government that we saw in this country. If it moved it was taxed. The mining industry was powering ahead and creating jobs right throughout Central and North Queensland and regional Queensland—and in your electorate as well, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott—and creating jobs in Western Australia. It was an industry that was moving and the government saw it and said, 'Here is where we can get some money from,' and brought in a mining tax. They brought in a mining tax that collected nothing from the big players, I have to say—or just about next to nothing—but certainly hampered investment from new miners, which is why we have seen this dry-up of investment in the resources sector.

Then they brought in a carbon tax, which again hit so many mines out there. Mines that have fugitive gas emissions were all hit under the carbon tax for millions and millions of dollars. In fact, one mine alone in Central Queensland reported a $12 million hit from the carbon tax. At a time when prices contracted, this was devastating. The international price of coal fell and that was devastating for those mines. We have seen lay-offs not just of direct workers at the mines but also in the mining service companies that sprang up in what should have been this golden era, which have been contracting very heavily. I have seen estimates put out by organisations such as the Queensland Resources Council that job losses throughout the Bowen Basin are probably upwards of 11,000. In fact, I recently saw one estimate of over 15,000. Those are the direct jobs. The flow-on through mining service companies has been even greater and has been felt in towns such as Mackay and throughout the Dawson electorate. So that was clearly an example of, 'If it moves, tax it.' They did, and they just about killed it.

This government is going to restore confidence in the mining sector, but we can only do that if the opposition accepts the fact that this government has a mandate. We have a mandate to get rid of the mining tax, to get rid of the carbon tax, to implement the minerals exploration tax credit and to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission. These are four key policies. If we were able to get on with the job and do what we said we were going to do in the election, and if Labor got out of the way and just let us do it by instructing their senators to pass this legislation and accept the will of the Australian people, then we would be able to get mining back on the road again.

Ronald Reagan also said that, if it kept moving, you had to regulate it, and we certainly saw that under the last government. We have seen the chaos that has ensued from the obviously ham-fisted handling of the national transport regulations, which has brought the whole heavy vehicle industry to a grinding halt. It is symptomatic of the kind of ill-thought-through projects, proposals and regulations that we saw under the previous government.

In my electorate there was one major project that we wanted to get signed off months and months ago, and that was the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion. I had a town there—I still have a town there, but only just—by the name of Bowen. Bowen is on its knees. It has suffered job losses and business closures, all because of a lack of confidence and a belief that the government of the day, the previous Labor government, were not going to approve the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion and would acquiesce to their mates the Greens, who they were in government with. It sapped the lifeblood out of that town. It is only starting to come back now, since the current environment minister has finally approved that job-creating project, despite all the hoo-ha that has come out of the green movement on it and all the lies—and they have been lies, I have to say—that have been told about this project.

I found it very interesting that on that front the previous government would not say whether they would approve it or not—they kept the people waiting—but in fact the Labor candidate that ran against me at the last election told the people of Bowen that she supported it and would make sure that that approval happened. Well, the approval happened under this government, and what did the former Labor environment minister have to say about it? He said it was a bad thing and would probably harm the reef. So we know what Labor would have done for the town of Bowen and that project: they would have caved in once again to their Green mates, killed jobs and destroyed opportunity in a town which, as I said, is currently on its knees. There are so many other examples of this sort of rot that has gone on, impacting upon the development of North Queensland and the livelihoods of my constituents.

Ronald Reagan had another quote, and I am going to paraphrase that: if the federal government had been around when the Creator was putting his hand to things, Queensland would not be here; it would still be awaiting an EPBC approval. That was pretty much the reality under the previous government. But we are getting on with the job. We have approved so many major projects under this government. We are streamlining things. Environmental regulation is now going to be a one-stop shop: the state governments will be handling it. Why do we need two separate processes? Why do we need two years to go through a state environmental check and then two years to go through a federal environmental check? Why can't it be done more quickly, as South Australia can do? They have approved the biggest resource project in this country, I understand, and they did it in a bit over six months. If it can be done that quickly by a state government, why can't it all be done in a streamlined fashion and in that time frame? If we can do that, we will restore confidence not just to the resources sector but to the entire investment community out there. If they can see that these processes are going to happen quickly, we can get investment into projects and we can get jobs created. But again we need support from the opposition. We need them to recognise the fact that this government has a mandate to do that sort of stuff.

The final thing that Reagan said was that if it stopped moving then you subsidise it. We have unfortunately seen the results of a lot of the previous Labor government's policies come to a head. Unfortunately, in the few short months that we have been in government, we have seen major companies like Holden and Toyota announce that they are going. We have had requests for help from companies like SPC Ardmona and now Qantas that have been struggling under the weight of such policies as the carbon tax. This government is obviously considering every single cry for help and trying to do what it can within its means, but what do we hear instead of something well thought through from the other side? They just yell out: 'Throw money at it! Save it! Subsidise it!' Well, how big a cheque are they willing to write? How much taxpayers' money are they willing to throw at corporate welfare?

That is the problem with the Labor Party. They do not recognise that this nation is careering to $667 billion worth of debt, they just think that there is an endless bucket of money, Magic Pudding economics, and we can just write another cheque and hand it to another company to keep them going. That is not how things are going to work under this government. There will be new jobs created, there will be government investment in the regions, particularly in my region through the $6.7 billion that we are putting into the Bruce Highway to get that up to speed and projects such as the Mackay ring road that will go ahead.

These are things we are going to be doing that will directly create jobs but it is going to be real investment, not the fake sort of investment and dodgy schemes we saw under the previous government such as the school hall program. It is great there have been some results achieved there, but I went to one of the local schools in my area and the principal pointed out, 'This is the building we bought with P&C funds over here a couple of years ago. Here is the BER project.' I said, 'How much was that one?' She said: 'It was worth half the price of this one. That building over there, done by the P&C, was twice the size.' So there was your value for money under the BER. We had dodgy projects such as the pink batts scheme and the foil insulation scheme. I have a local constituent report to me that one of these pink batt salesmen came up and checked his roof and said: 'Yep, mate, we'll sort it out for you. We'll lay it all out.' He got a bit suspicious and crawled up in his roof to have a look and he already had the foil in there. It was already there. This is a kind of rot that went on and this is a kind of rot that needs to stop. That is what we are doing: stopping the rot, fixing the problems and getting on with the job of good government. Only if the opposition will join us can we actually implement these reforms we want to implement. They need to get rid of the carbon tax, get rid of the mining tax, help us implement the mandate we were elected to implement. (Time expired)