Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Page: 8568


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:15): It is a pleasure for me to follow Senator Fierravanti-Wells. I congratulate her on the great work she does in the Illawarra. She is one representative who has her office there and actually works in the interests of the people of that area. I know Senator Fierravanti-Wells and her staff do a lot of work to help the people in that area, because quite clearly the current Labor incumbents—and I emphasise 'current'—of the lower house seats there are not interested in their constituents.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Indeed. Judging from the visits, the local member is worried—and well she should be. But, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, you do a fabulous job there. Congratulations. Thank you for looking after that group of Australians who would be otherwise unrepresented in this carbon tax debate.

I note that Senator Fierravanti-Wells mentioned that Mr Paul Howes, the AWU supremo, has threatened to run her out of town. Mr Howes, those sorts of bullyboy threats might work in a union meeting but they will not work on Senator Fierravanti-Wells. I can assure you of that, so save it for your next union meeting. Save it for when you want to put down some of your troops who are rebelling at the lack of interest the AWU has shown in their futures. Right across Australia, AWU members are leaving the union in droves because they understand that Mr Howes and his cronies are only interested in the Labor government and their mate Julia Gillard and are not interested in the interests of the workers of our country.

In discussing this Steel Transformation Plan Bill, I want to start off by doing something fairly unusual for me, and that is to thank the Greens political party for threatening, bribing, encouraging—whatever the word is—the Australian Labor Party into introducing this carbon tax today. As I said, I do not often on record thank the Greens for anything but I do want to thank them for introducing this carbon tax and taking the Australian Labor Party along with them because, while I was pretty confident the absolute mismanagement of the Gillard Labor government since its inception a year or so ago would have meant the next election would have been ours for the taking, I can be very, very confident now after this carbon tax has passed the Senate today that the next election will see a massive swing to the Liberal and National party coalition. It will mean that, again, Australia can have decent government, the sort of government it used to have in the Howard years. I look forward to that day. I thank the Greens for their part in making sure that this cataclysmic change of representation will happen at the next election.

In the Illawarra, whilst there were plenty of reasons for state Labor members to be defeated at the last state election, the carbon tax proposals certainly played their part. I had the pleasure of going down and helping in some of the electorates in the Illawarra at the last election. We all know that there were seats that had never, ever in the 150 years of the New South Wales parliament been held by Liberals in the Illawarra area. But there was an 18 per cent swing. It had never been heard of in the history of Australia—swings to the Liberal Party in that part of the world. These are the seats of the steelworkers. These are the seats of the traditional Labor Party supporting blue-collar workers. They came to the Liberal Party in droves and that has meant that now in the New South Wales state parliament there are two or three Liberal members in an area where there have never been Liberal members before. Thank you for the carbon tax. Thank you, the Greens, for doing that. What you did in the New South Wales state election will be replicated with bonuses at the next federal election.

As my colleagues in this debate have said, if there was not a carbon tax you would not need a compensation plan. If you ever need any demonstration of the toxic impact of this tax on Australia, have a look at what is happening in the steel industry. Two particular companies, BlueScope Steel and OneSteel, are the beneficiaries of this $300 million package. As soon as they knew about the carbon tax they knew that they were in trouble. In fact, Mr Combet, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, said that the negotiation of this steel transform­ation plan that is being put into effect by this bill we are debating at the moment came out of discussions they have had with the steel companies for months now over the carbon price issue. So there is absolutely no doubt about the connection between the carbon tax and the difficulties being experienced by OneSteel and BlueScope Steel. I guess I should say to those two companies and their shareholders: 'Good luck. This government is a bit of a pushover when Paul Howes and the Australian Workers Union click their fingers.' But what about all the other steel businesses in Australia? The thousands of steel fabricators all over this country, many of them longstanding businesses that have operated in Australia for several decades, will not receive a single cent of assistance under this legislation. I am very concerned for all those steel fabricators in my home state of Queensland, the state that I represent here in the Senate. I am also concerned for those steel fabricators who operate right across Northern Australia, an area for which I have responsibility for the coalition. And you, Madam Acting Deputy President Crossin, would know many steel fabricators in the Darwin area who will be very, very concerned about the fact that this carbon tax will make life very difficult for them. But they are not getting a cent of compensation. It is the big guys that Senator Brown always criticises that are going to be getting the $300 million taxpayer funded leg-up.

The Labor Party and the Greens are continuing their support for the big end of town. Senators do not need me to remind them that, when the flood tax was being imposed on ordinary Australians, the Labor Party and the Greens absolved OneSteel and BlueScope Steel from payment of a tax that all ordinary people had to pay. All of the steel fabricators around Northern Australia and in Queensland had to pay the flood tax. But did these big companies—BHP, Rio, Xstrata, Woolworths or Coles—have to pay the flood tax? Of course not! They are the big end of town, which the Greens and the Labor Party like to support. We know why the Greens have now become the party of the big end of town. It is because they get donations of $1.6 million from the big end of town. We can understand why in the Greens' minds it is a quid pro quo. The big end of town give the Greens big donations—the biggest single donation ever in Australian political history, I understand. And what do they get in return? They get supported by the Greens and the Labor Party.

I am glad to see that Senator McLucas is in the chamber. She sometimes lives up in Cairns and represents that area—so she says—in the Senate. Did I hear her raise her voice for the steel fabricators in the Cairns region? Good heavens Cairns is in difficult times at the moment. There once were some very good manufacturing industries in Cairns. I do not need to remind any North Queenslanders that Cairns used to have a great shipbuilding industry—a very success­ful shipbuilding company that put in a contract for the air warfare destroyers. And they had been given a wink and a nod that they had succeeded. Wouldn't it have been wonderful for Cairns if that shipbuilding industry, which had been going for so long and had employed so many blue-collar workers and tradesmen, could have continued.

But what happened? The state Labor government withdrew a $20 million guarantee—which the Victorian government gave, just like that, so that the contract would go somewhere down near Julia Gillard's electorate in Victoria. And what did the Labor Party people in Cairns do? Mr Turnour said nothing and, of course, he got thrown out at the last election—and well he should have, for this incident alone. And what did we hear from Senator McLucas? Not a pipsqueak. There was a manufacturing industry in Cairns that has now all but disappeared because the state and federal Labor governments did not have the courage to go ahead and give that contract to the Cairns shipbuilding works. The bureaucrats had given a wink and a nod and had actually come down to Newcastle to sign the contract. But at the last minute the federal Labor government did not have any courage, did not have any support, and obviously was not being supported by the so-called Labor representatives of the Far North Queensland area. We heard nothing from Senator McLucas and nothing from them, and the contract went elsewhere. As I recall, 300 jobs vanished overnight, and Cairns is now in real difficulties.

But there are other steel fabricators in Cairns. Have I heard Senator McLucas arguing their case? Are they going to get something out of this $300 million largesse? Madam Acting Deputy Speaker, you are from Darwin. And I do not think I have heard you too often standing up for the steel fabricators in Darwin. Are they going to get anything out of this $300 million package, or is it only the big end of town—OneSteel and BlueScope—that are going to receive the benefit of the largesse from the Greens party and the Labor Party?

As I say, good luck to them. When Mr Howes clicks his fingers Ms Gillard says, 'How high do you want me to jump?' and they have got a few hundred million dollars—which, I might say, could well be spent within 12 months of the carbon tax coming in. It is really hush money to Mr Howes, I would have thought. But good luck to them.

What I am more concerned about is: where is the special package for the sugar industry? The sugar industry, particularly where I live in the Burdekin, grows the best sugar cane in the world. Why? They are dry but they have got plenty of underground water in the Burdekin delta. But they have to pump the water up, and that costs electricity. With this carbon tax, the electricity costs of the cane farmers in the Burdekin, and right throughout North and Far North Queensland, are going to skyrocket. They are price takers. They cannot pass on their price of production to the world market and say, 'Hey, fellas, my cost of production has gone up because the Labor government back home put on a carbon tax that has skyrocketed the price of electricity.' They cannot say to the world market, 'You've got to pay us a bit more.' They are price takers, they have got to take the market price, but their costs keep going up. I have heard, Senator McLucas, that you come from up that way; you know a few cane farmers. What is the package for the cane farmers? There is nothing I have heard said anywhere. In the debate on the carbon tax Senator Wong could not tell me. I asked her the question and she started talking to me about milling costs. She clearly does not understand that the milling part of the industry is quite different to the growing part of the industry. It is about the growing part of the industry that I want to know: where is the special $300 million package for them? It is okay for the big end of town down at Wollongong. What about Far North Queensland, Senator McLucas? What about North Queensland industry generally? Do we have any champions in the Labor Party for that? We do not, clearly; it is a rhetorical question.

I ask Senator McLucas the same question about the tourism industry. We have seen the passing of this iniquitous tax, the carbon tax, this morning. We heard ramblings from the Greens about how this is going to save the Barrier Reef. We are going to cut five per cent of 1.4 per cent greenhouse gas emissions and somehow that is going to save the Barrier Reef—a reef, I might say, that has been there for millions of years and has been adapting for millions of years. But the Greens, with their perverted view on life, tell us that this new carbon tax that is going to add to the cost of living is somehow going to save the Barrier Reef. We know it will not, but what we do know is that the cost will go up for tourism operators in Cairns in particular and indeed right up and down the Queensland coast, where tourism operators and small business make their livelihoods out of the Barrier Reef. Their cost of fuel is going up. Their cost of power is going up. Their air-conditioning costs will be going up. Their costs across the board will skyrocket.

Do we have a special $300 million tourism transformation plan for the North Queensland tourism industry? Do we have a special $300 million sugar cane transform­ation plan for the sugar industry? No, because Mr Howes does not look after them. He claims to look after the Illawarra steel industry. Perhaps Mr Howes does not know this—he is too involved running around propping up the Gillard government and making sure that the next leader of the Labor Party is one that he approves—but I should tell him that the AWU used to be the voice of the sugar-growing industry, back in the old days when there were a lot of canecutters and other manual workers. They are still there, but very few of them want anything to do with the AWU these days because they know that all the AWU is interested in is getting people like Senator Ludwig a seat in the Senate through his old man, big Bill Ludwig, who for many years was the supremo of the AWU, and of course that Mr Howes is playing politics down there, telling the Labor Party politicians who they can put in as Prime Minister and who they cannot.

But I digress from my point: where is the compensation for these other industries that are so important to my state of Queensland? Where is the compensation for Central Queensland—the Mackay region, where there are so many small businesses, so many steel fabrication businesses, that make their living out of the Central Queensland coalfields. This coal tax, as the coal industry have told us, as the mining resources council have told us, will mean that over the years there will be a diversion of investment from Queensland and Australia to places that welcome those industries, like many of the countries in Africa. The Greens and the Labor Party seem to think that Australia has this God-given right to be exporters of coal, steel, iron ore, uranium, copper, lead and zinc to the world. Little do they realise that Australia is pretty small fry when it comes to the export of minerals. There are plenty of opportunities for international investors to invest in other parts of the world. Things like this carbon tax and the mining tax will chase the investors away, and the Labor Party and the Greens would, if they were going to be in power for long, rue the day that this happened.

I conclude where I started. This is most unusual for me but thank you, Greens political party, for imposing this carbon tax on the Australian Labor Party. It is a shame that the Australian Labor Party are now so without intestinal fortitude that they are easy marks for the Greens political party, but I have to thank the Greens. They have made the result of the next election a forgone conclusion, and I do give them thanks for that. Better still, for Australia it is great, because we will get rid of this government and not only give decent government but get rid of this toxic tax as the very first action of a new, incoming, Abbott government.