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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 57


Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (09:50): In rising to second this motion—representing the sorts of electorates that I have to represent—this parliament decided to take away the rights of sugarcane farmers to arbitration. People on my right believe, profoundly, in arbitration for everybody except farmers, while the people on my left probably believe that no-one should have arbitration—they let the free market benevolently look after us all. Think of companies like Wilma that have a monopoly and that can only sell your sugar if you are local mill, so they can pay you whatever they feel like paying you. Needless to say, it is not very much.

There is not a person in this House that is not aware of what happened when the dairy deregulation took place. There is not a person in this House, probably outside of the crossbenchers, who has moved to restore the rights of arbitration to the dairy farmers. They are in exactly the same situation. The banks have to come in and take over these cripples. The second, twin blow to the sugar industry—which is the biggest employer in Queensland; it is bigger than coal; coal is bigger in revenue; both of them are not very labour intensive, but it is the industry—the second mortal blow to that industry was the decision by both sides of this parliament not to move with ethanol.

We have a more enlightened view from the state governments, and I quote Iemma, former Premier of New South Wales: 'I cannot go another day with people dying in the City of Sydney that simply do not have to die.' And that is why every other country on earth has gone to ethanol. But the implications for the sugar industry—the giant juggernaut of the Queensland economy—are profound. We are now closing a sugar mill every two years. We have 23 left. To put that in perspective, for nearly a decade Brazil was building 20 sugar mills a year, and America was building nearly 40 ethanol plants every year. But we only have 20 left and they are closing at the rate of one every two years. We are taking the brunt and, unfortunately and sadly for many decent people working in the banking industry, they have to do the dirty job—the extremely dirty job.

For those people that think this is not happening or that this is some figment of our imagination, there are 13 stations that have been foreclosed on. I was with some people from a tiny town called Caulfield on the weekend. Charlie Phillott—the very famous person who was twice on 60 Minutes—named 12 stations that have been foreclosed on, in just his area of the Winton Shire, and the Catholic priest in Longreach said that one in four of the station properties in the Longreach area are being foreclosed on. That is three towns; we have over 50 towns like that in the cattle industry, so you can imagine the pain, disaster and misery that is coming down.

I said that there is now one person—I am trying to avoid the s-word these days—doing away with themselves every three weeks in North Queensland's cattle industry, which, again, was a decision by this place to stop live-cattle exports. It dropped the price of cattle in Australia clean in half, which sent every station-owner into penury. I said, 'One person is doing away with themselves every three weeks,' and a couple of people got nasty because I was wrong on the figures—it was one every two weeks that was doing away with themselves. I know these people. They are my friends and relatives.

Let us just start with the differences. We ran around congratulating ourselves after the GFC and, let's face it, the credit must go to Mr Swan and Mr Rudd for rescuing us from the GFC, and there is no question that is how the history books will read. There are a lot of people on the other side of the House who would agree with what they did, and we thank them for that. But let me just say what precipitated that was housing.

If you read the books—and there are three very good books out on the GFC—they will constantly quote the case of the Mexican picker of cherries who bought a house for $990,000 and he was on $40,000 a year and he had five kids. And the bank lent him that money. That is why the whole pack of cards came tumbling down. It was amazing that nobody in that nation—not one single person—was going to blow the whistle, except people who were going to make money out of it. They figured a way to make money out of the crash: 'Buy all the default insurance policies. We'll make a squillion dollars here!' See how many people blew the whistle in the effort to make money.

Over here—let me quote the figures—the last quoted figure I saw for the average price of a house in the greater Sydney area was $970,000. The average income for an Australian is $74,000. Take out his tax and he is on $50,000, which is about the repayments on the house. So if you tell me there is not a massive crash coming here then I say you are a numbskull. That is what I say to you. There is a massive crash coming.

I share the Prime Minister's view in the sense that I am one of the very few people in Australia that were responsible for calling on a royal commission. I and Bill Gunn, the Deputy Premier, were well aware of police corruption, which had reached a terrible level in Queensland—by our standards, anyway—so we called on that royal commission.

Government members interjecting

Mr KATTER: You people are laughing. A lot of you come from New South Wales. We are angels—absolute angels—compared with you people! Let me return. This is probably not a subject of humour. I share the Prime Minister's view in the sense that you cannot control—and I say this seriously to the House—a royal commission. I will have to live, until the day that I die, that four of my cabinet colleagues—

Honourable members interjecting

Mr KATTER: Stay with it—there is a message for every person in this House. Of 17 who have left this place, two went to jail because they had acted improperly with their benefits. Let me go specifically to the four people that went to jail in Queensland. The leading case was Brian Austin's case. Brian Austin's leading crime that he had committed was—listen to it—that he had used a government car to drive from Brisbane to Armidale to see his kids in boarding school that weekend. That was the leading example used to put him in jail—caged like an animal for two years. For the other four it was similar. There was no government corruption involved. There was misuse of your private assets that the government gives you.

You can all start thinking about your conscience. You can all start shivering, because you should. If you have a look at those cases, you should. But let me come to the point, and this is the point where I disagree with the Prime Minister, even though I can see the great dangers, the terrible things that happen in a royal commission, innocent people that get terribly hurt. Whatever Kerry Packer's misdemeanours may have been, I do not think he was the goanna running the drug syndicates of Australia. They are the things that happen in a royal commission.

I can see the Prime Minister's viewpoint clearly and I respect it, but I have to say that, if you want to stop police corruption, as in our case, that is what you have to do. We did not get the source of that police corruption; he was living with two top-of-the-range Mercedes-Benzes in a mansion at probably the most expensive address in Australia when he was the sergeant of police. We did not get him but we got the man that was protecting him. We took his protection away. So the royal commission achieved the purpose for which it was put there: to stop the police corruption. There were 45 murders that we knew of coming out of the police corruption.

Prime Minister, I ask you to think again on this issue, because, whilst I share your views of these things and every royal commission that I have seen has done terrible damage to totally innocent people, the royal commission that I was involved with stopped what we were trying to stop. Let me just go through: when everyone was congratulating themselves in Australia about how wonderful our banks were and how wonderful APRA was— (Time expired)