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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1508


Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Groom) (09:48): I rise today to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2012-2013 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2012-2013. No-one could imagine that I would be rising in this chamber just six short years since the coalition government ran successive budget surpluses, paid off $96 billion worth of debt and left this current government a $20 billion surplus, a $20 billion university fund and $20 billion cash in the Future Fund only to find we now face a situation where they have not only spent all that but have also spent almost $200 billion more. They have spent themselves into a huge hole. In doing that, they have spent Australia into a huge hole.

Were any of that spending being spent on lasting, economy-improving infrastructure that would actually boost our GDP, perhaps the alarm would not be quite as great as it is now. We have seen the Treasurer produce budget deficit after budget deficit. Of course. he has made promises that he will produce a surplus. The member for Longman, a young man—I think he is 22 years old—is still waiting for the first Labor surplus in his life. We need to see a government that can actually control its spending. This is not a government that can. It is a government that spends and spends and then introduces new taxes to try to make up for the enormous deficit that it has accrued.

It has completely wasted money. We just had the member for Bradfield talking about the NBN. I am a supporter of fast broadband. In fact, I already have fibre at my house. It is not operating at the moment. Perhaps it will again in the near future. But the reality is that in Toowoomba, where the broadband rollout is taking place, no-one is seeing it yet. There has been a lot of fanfare. There have been a lot of businesses saying how great that will be for them. But I am right in the middle of the quarter of Toowoomba that was going to get broadband a year ago. I doubt they even know where Kooroongah Street is. I have seen men and women in high-vis vests laying cable, but no-one is hooked up. Here we have again a situation where money is simply being wasted when there is a more-than-adequate alternative. For probably $30 billion less we could produce the same speeds for households, speeds of up to 100 megabytes, speeds which will allow movie streaming, downloading movies in a flash—not that some of us have time to do that, but our daughters are quite into that sort of stuff. We can do all of that far cheaper, far sooner and far more economically than the current proposal. We have seen money wasted on pink batts—billions of dollars literally up in smoke. Unfortunately, lives were lost in the process. This is a government whose incompetence knows no bounds.

Look at what my electorate could do with just a small part of that $30 billion. The Deputy Speaker and I attended a seminar in Toowoomba last week. Toowoomba has reached the point where we have said we are not going to wait any longer for a second range crossing. We are not going to have 40,000 vehicles a day going through our main street. We are not going to see our roads in Toowoomba destroyed by heavy transport, the houses adjacent to those roads shaking. We are not going to see the risk to human life as mothers take their children to school and weave in amongst heavy transport and wide loads—all of which is great for Australia's economy. We support the development of, particularly, the Deputy Speaker's electorate, where we are seeing such phenomenal investment going on in the coal industry and the coal seam gas industry with a whole range of resource and primary industry projects. We just do not want the trucks in our main street. We want to be able to drive our cars down that street without being urinated on by cows in cattle trucks. I have had cattle. I know how that all works. I want to see them transported to market as much as anyone, but I do not want them in the centre of my city.

So the Deputy Speaker; the member for Toowoomba North, Trevor Watts; the member for Toowoomba South, John McVeigh; Mayor Paul Antonio of Toowoomba Regional Council; a range of civic leaders and I put on this day that is about closing the deal. We want a Toowoomba range crossing built now. We have been waiting and waiting. Had the coalition been elected in 2007, this range crossing already would have been started. Had we been elected in 2010, it would have been started. But what is the response from the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport? The minister for transport just says no. He is not even vaguely interested in seeing the construction of this road—a road that will cost somewhere between $1.7 billion and $2 billion. If it is not in a capital city in a Labor seat, it is not going to be built by this government.

I make no apologies that we will be campaigning against the Labor government on a whole range of issues, including their absolutely atrocious financial mismanagement, with the aim of changing the government to a government which Australians trust, to a government which will do the things that Australians want it to do and a government that will do what it says it will do.

We will bring in place a government that will build the Toowoomba Range crossing. No other political party will guarantee that at the next election. We will. We have allocated $700 million. It will be $700 million well spent because the productivity gains out of the efficiencies in that infrastructure will be enormous. For a B-double truck travelling that route the savings in time will be almost half an hour. It will be perhaps even as much as three quarters of an hour for the larger loads. It is currently taking 80 minutes to travel from Withcott to Charlton on the western side of Toowoomba. That time will be cut to probably not much more than 20 to 25 minutes.

Apart from the social change that taking those transports out of town will have, the economic gain for Queensland and Australia will be enormous. So at the coming election we will be saying to the people in Toowoomba and on the Darling Downs and in Queensland, 'Do you want another government that continues to waste money, that builds school halls at highly inflated prices, that installs pink batts that have to be pulled out at the cost of billions of dollars, that sprays money away on an NBN that is not going to be able to do the sorts of things that people will want in the future? The people will want wireless, they will want to be remotely connected. They will not want to be tied to a wall. We will ask, 'Are you going to elect another government that will take us further and deeper into debt, that will not do what it promises it will do, or do you want a government that will actually deliver for the people of Australia, not just the people of inner Sydney and Melbourne but one that goes out into the regions?' That will be the choice for the people, not only in Groom and Maranoa but for people all across Australia. I sincerely hope that the people make the right choice because another three years of this government is another three years of the destruction of Australian small business and of business confidence generally.

We have seen, in the last 10 days, an extraordinary admission by the Treasurer, but we should not have been surprised. Those of us who understand business and how accounting and the taxation system works knew that when the Treasurer designed the RSPT and then quickly retreated. He assassinated the then Prime Minister, the member for Griffith, on the way through and then hastily did a deal where any outcome would have been fine—just tell me what you want and I will do it. So we had the negotiating genius and the economic genius of the member for Lilley and the Prime Minister going in and negotiating against three of the biggest mining companies in the world to produce a tax which, as we know, has produced almost no money.

Only the Labor Party could put in place a scheme to install pink batts in ceilings, then find it does not work and then have to pay $1 billion to get it out. That scheme pales into insignificance when you look at the incompetence of this government when it has put in place a tax that is supposed to raise $12 billion and it has raised less than $50 million in its first six months of operation.

How could you do that? Well, you go into a negotiation where you do not know what you are doing. You do not take the Treasury people with you because they might know what they are doing. You sit down and you negotiate with the likes of Marius Kloppers and David Peever and Mr Freyberg from Xstrata and you say, 'Okay, what do you want?' They say, 'Well, the first thing we want is all state royalties rebated. No cap.' That was the deal. Of course, that immediately opened it up for states to lift their royalties. What states do with their royalties is up to the states because the thing that is forgotten in all of this is that the resource actually belongs to the people of the state. It does not, as the Treasurer says, belong to the people of Australia. Each state, under the Constitution, owns its own assets, its own resources and therefore is able to set its own royalties—that is to value the value of those resources when they are extracted by companies.

That was the first major flaw and there was a little bit of logic in that. The second, though, was just beyond belief. Here we have a mining company with an asset that they may have built—and let us pick a number—for $400 million, $500 million, and let us say that it is an iron ore mine or a coalmine. Over the last year the value of that resource has probably trebled. In the case of coal, it may have even quadrupled, so the value on the day of that mine has obviously quadrupled as well. The company has already had the opportunity to depreciate the original asset under the taxation scheme so the three miners said, 'I'll tell you what, Mr Treasurer, why don't you allow us to depreciate it again, and not just at its original value but at today's market value?'

We know what has happened. The big mining companies that are particularly advantaged by this, who have got long-standing assets and large investments, just went snap, 'Thank you very much. If we are going to have a tax, we will take this one.' The rest is history. But what we are yet to see from this tax is, even if commodity prices return, whether large companies are going to pay any tax. What they are doing at the moment is accruing credits and —again, another masterly deal by the Treasurer—these are not at CPI or the bond rate, but at the bond rate plus seven per cent. What a fantastic number! I would love to have money invested at those sorts of terms—bond rate plus seven per cent. So what we have seen already in the short six months, it is suggested, is that companies like BHP and Rio have already accrued billions of dollars of credits that they will be able to use against future MRRT liabilities.

There is only one solution to this economic chaos that we are suffering under with this current government and that is to get rid of it. If we want to turn Australia to a situation of stable economic management and surpluses, there is only one decision for Australia and that is at the election whenever it is between now and 14 September, we get rid of the current Treasurer and the current Prime Minister—and mind you, that may happen before 14 September, but I shall not digress into that—and install and Abbott-Hockey Prime Minister-Treasurership to ensure that Australia progresses. We must take away these random decisions that are made for political purposes and we must resume the steady economic management of this country. We must put Australia on a firm footing.