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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 245

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:46): This Senate always works best when senators are passionate about individuals, the people in their own states, and I congratulate all those who have spoken so far on their passion for looking after the jobs of people in the states they represent. I can tell you that Senator Sean Edwards from South Australia, who will follow me in the debate, will be equally passionate.

I am one of those who hate to see government decisions costing people their jobs. As good as it is to see Labor Party people so passionate about this now, I might, as an aside, ask those Labor Party senators where those passions were for the people of my state when they introduced a mining tax and a carbon tax that destroyed the jobs of many hundreds and thousands of workers in the mines? The Collinsville coalmine and the Collinsville power station in my state of Queensland recently shut down because of the perverse decisions of the government to introduce a carbon tax—when they promised they would not—and a mining tax which made overseas investors in the mining industry very cautious with their investments. Jobs were lost then, but did we hear these Labor Party senators caring one iota at that time? In fact, Senator Carr, who gave a very impassioned speech about workers' jobs, did not seem to worry when it was workers' jobs in my state that were put on the line because of decisions made by his government. I might ask Senator Carr, who was so passionate about workers' jobs and the industry continuing, what did he do when his government—by a criminally stupid decision—banned live cattle exports from northern Australia with no consultation and no warning? It destroyed the jobs, livelihoods, businesses, homes and family lives of many Queenslanders, Northern Territorians and northern Western Australians. Did those opposite worry about those jobs? No, of course they did not. I admire them looking after the people they represent, but they have to be a little bit consistent with their passion for workers' jobs.

That decision to ban live cattle exports from my state of Queensland has destroyed so many jobs, but all we get from the Labor Party today are catcalls of derision. They simply do not understand. It is okay if you are looking after workers' jobs in what I might call the 'rust bucket' states in the south-east and south of our country—and I know my colleagues from those states will be angry with me for using that term. For years now, Australia has continued to function because of the wealth of my state of Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and, to a lesser extent, New South Wales. The Labor governments in particular—and our government as well, I might say—could always find the billions of taxpayer dollars to prop up General Motors-Holden's, one of the biggest commercial entities in the world. I am pleased that it has created employment in those two southern states, but, when you ask for a little bit of money for the northern beef cattle industry, where is the Labor government? Missing in action. In fact, they were introducing—I will keep repeating this—a criminally stupid decision to ban live cattle exports overnight without consultation. All of us in this chamber remember how Senator Ludwig, the then agriculture minister, was defending the live export trade on the Monday at question time. Overnight he was told by Ms Gillard—that wonderful Prime Minister that we had at the time—that he had to change his mind, and the next day he was telling us that he was shutting the industry down. Did we hear all this passion from Labor Party senators for the jobs, homes and livelihoods of those people, or is it just selective concern when it affects their voters? Senator Carr has the hide to start this debate and blame the Abbott government, which has been in power for 1½ months, for the problems of an industry which was failing in the six years that Senator Carr was the minister. We hear all of this passion now that Senator Carr is in opposition, but if the industry has problems and difficulties why didn't he do something about it? He and his government had six years to set the motor vehicle industry on what he now understands is the right path. It is great to hear all his wisdom today. I ask Senator Carr through you, Mr Acting Deputy President: why didn't you use some of that wisdom in the last six years? Why didn't you do something about it then instead of blaming a government that has been in power less than two months for all of the ills of the motor vehicle industry? It shows how hypocritical the Labor Party are. Sure, the union would have written their notes for them today, but it is a pity the union did not do something about this in the six years that the Labor Party were in charge of that industry.

Senator Kim Carr: Ever heard of the Australian dollar?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: If the industry has problems, why didn't Senator Carr do something about it in the last six months? He had 10 minutes to tell us why he did not do that, but he tries to shout me down when I ask him those simple questions now. You had your opportunity, Senator Carr, to explain what you did not do and why you did not do it, and now you are blaming a government that has been in power less than two months for ills that are occurring.

I am glad that we have subsidised industries in Victoria and South Australia, and I am glad that they have created jobs and small business, but I simply ask: what about some assistance for industries in other states that desperately need it—industries that are failing because of criminally stupid decisions of the Gillard and Rudd governments? Why is there one set of rules for a union-dominated industry in Victoria and South Australia and a different set of rules for an industry which is not as unionised? You hear a lot from Mr Paul Howes of the AWU, but not much when it comes to the jobs in the northern beef cattle industry or, indeed, jobs in the mining industry. Was there any concern from the Labor government at that time for those jobs? Were there any compensatory job-creating projects initiated when the carbon tax and the mining tax were brought in without warning? Of course there were not. It makes you realise just how hypocritical the Labor Party continue to be, carrying on in the way they did when they were in government in those six sad years for Australia.

I, like all of my colleagues, have a lot more I would like to say on that. The Abbott government is very keen to continue industries in Australia. But there is no denying that the automotive industry is facing a number of significant challenges as it adjusts, as it must, to the high value of the Australian dollar and a highly competitive and fragmented market.

I conclude by asking Senator Carr again a question he has been asked on a number of occasions but so far has not bothered to answer: where were you, Senator Carr, when that decision was introduced by your government on the fringe benefits tax that effectively cost the Australian car industry 100,000 cars a year? You are here crying crocodile tears today about a decision by a government that has been in power for less than two months when you presided over a particular public policy area which cost Australian industry 100,000 cars in a year. Next time you get to your feet, just answer that. (Time expired)