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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 2191


Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (21:01): Tonight I rise to speak on the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011. This is a copybook example of how not to implement a policy. The government did not talk to the states who own the resources before it announced its policy. It did not consult with the mining companies which have the right to mine the resources. It did not consult with the Australian people before it announced its original mining tax.

The tax has so many flaws it directly led to the removal of the sitting Prime Minister as an unprecedented event in our political history, an event from which the Labor Party has yet to recover, since it was that event that led them to the arms of the Greens where they are now terminally wedged, Labor wanting to do the right thing by the workers and the wealth creators of this nation and the Greens wanting to progressively shut down our economy, particularly those parts which rely on exploiting our abundant national resources. Most of those resources are in regional Australia and, therefore, it is no surprise that the vote of the Greens is much lower outside the capital cities.

While the mining tax might be the greatest example of how the Labor Party can stuff up a mining industry, it is not the only example. The Labor government in Queensland has acted with similar haste with coal seam gas. Coal seam gas could be a historic economic opportunity for Queensland, particularly western Queensland, but it must be managed properly and a fair share of the benefits must flow to the regions from which the resources come. The Labor government in Queensland has fundamentally failed to strike this balance. It has sold off mining leases.

Senator Feeney: Madam Acting Deputy President, on a point of order regarding relevance: I seek that Senator Boswell draw himself back to the legislation that is before the chamber.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Stephens ): There is no point of order.

Senator BOSWELL: Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. That is a good decision. I want to talk about the mining tax and the coal seam gas tax. The Labor government sold off mining leases throughout the state in a desperate attempt to improve the parlous state of their finances. Licences have been sold and projects approved without proper protection for families that have owned and farmed land for generations. At the last minute the Labor government have made concessions and changes. They have extended the time for agreement to be reached and required mining companies to give landholders more support during the negotiation processes. However, it still remains the case in Queensland that the negotiating table is unbalanced in favour of the mining companies. After 50 business days of negotiation, mining companies can enter land, even without an agreement. It is then up to the courts to decide one.

Vast tracts of Queensland's best agricultural land remain under threat of further mining and coal seam gas development. Some areas should be off limits. Some parts of Queensland are so important for our future security that we should not rush into allowing them to be scarred by mining. That is why the National-Liberal opposition has promised the Scenic Rim will be off limits to all mining, including coal seam gas. A Queensland LNP government will also fast-track the planning process to ensure that areas in the Darling Downs and the Golden Triangle are protected as soon as possible.

One of the areas the LNP will protect from all mining is around the state seat of Beaudesert, covering much of the Scenic Rim. The Australian Party state leader, Aidan McLindon, is running in the seat. He and his national leader, the member for Kennedy, have made much of their apparent policy to protect landholders' rights against those of the mining parties. It is important to place on record here that the Australian Party stance on this issue—and Mr Katter's particular stance—is one of distortion and hypocrisy. The Australian Party website, under their coal seam gas policy, states that the party will promote and support property rights legislation that restores negotiating power to landholders. What is left unsaid is that, if they are to do this, they will be seeking to amend the legislation which gave the mining companies more rights—legislation that Mr Katter introduced and argued for in the Queensland parliament. This fact was uncovered last week in the Courier-Mail and the front pages of Queensland Country Life. The first paragraph of the story by Cameron Thomson in Queensland Country Life stated it best, saying:

Bob Katter—the man so bitterly opposed to mining and gas development on private land across Queensland—is the author of the very law he rails against.

I have here a copy of the second reading speech that Mr Katter gave on the minerals resources bill on the 5 October, 1989. I think it is in the public interest that I table this speech because, mysteriously, this speech is not located on the member for Kennedy's website. In that speech the member for Kennedy explained how he had negotiated with the mining industry to allow access to someone's land after simply a phone call. The provisions of the bill relating to prospecting permits had been reworded to allow the mining registrar to advise the land owner by telephone or similar method immediately he issues a prospecting permit and further to clarify that the holder must give notice to the land owner prior to entry.

Now many aspects of this bill were good. It was introduced by the then Russell Cooper government and, in many instances, strengthened the rights of landholders. For example, the bill ensured that landholders received a minimum 10 per cent premium, on top of the amount owed to them as compensation, to reflect the compulsory nature of the acquisition. Those provisions should be commended and, indeed, recommended for introduction in other mining laws. The member for Kennedy certainly commended the bill to the Queensland parliament when he introduced it. It is therefore hypocritical for the member for Kennedy to now violently fulminate against the laws that he introduced. His anger and passion can hardly be believed. The Australian Party's stance on these matters looks more like a political mask of convenience than a genuine, well-thought-through policy position.

The Queensland people should be wary of Mr Katter and the Australian Party taking them for a ride. They have more concern for their votes than they do for their interests. In my political career I have never seen the member for Kennedy solve any problem. He whinges about problems but I have never seen him find a solution. Mr Katter is good at finding problems but he does not provide the solutions.

The member for Kennedy is good at taking down straw men. He constantly talks of imported bananas as if the boats from the Philippines are just off the coast. But there has never been one banana, except for perhaps two or three that came in once on an Air New Zealand flight and they were immediately incinerated. It was not Bob Katter who stopped bananas, it was the Nationals in the Senate.

While other members are fighting tooth and nail for practical road and rail projects and improvements in their electorates, the member for Kennedy spends his time blustering about projects which grab many headlines but never seem to get built, just like the $1 billion CopperString project. His party will be the same. Their members will not be in the party room, they will not be able to fight for their electorates with the Treasurer direct. They will be shouting from the grandstands trying to look relevant to the media. You cannot score a try from the grandstand; you cannot kick a goal from the benches. You have to get involved to make a difference. Those in the Katter party do not want to fight these battles. The Katter party is led, here in Canberra, by someone who introduced the very laws that protect miner's rights and it is led in Queensland by someone who has never shown an interest in mining law until the focus groups told him that he should.

A search of the Queensland Hansard record reveals that the state leader of the Katter party, Mr Aidan McLindon, did not make one mention of coal seam gas in the Queensland parliament before he left the Liberal-National Party to form his own party. His passion on coal seam gas is feigned. It is a suit of political opportunity worn to try and harness enough votes to get him across the line at this election. We should not be surprised by this pattern. Mr McLindon has already left the Liberal Party for the Nationals, then the Nationals for the Liberal-National Party, then the Liberal-National Party for the Queensland Party and then the Queensland Party for the Australian Party. He has been a member of more political parties than he has had years being in the parliament. Perhaps his next venture will be to the Labor Party. Then he will truly be able to join the Billy Hughes club.

The Katter party's position is not genuine and cannot be believed. Today, Bob Katter put out a media release challenging 'Cameron Newman' to a debate on coal seam gas. Just for the Hansard record, I have not mis-spoken. The media release did state 'Cameron Newman' in the title and in the text of the media release. Notwithstanding this embarrassing mistake, this might be the first time in Australia's political history that the leader of a party who is not actually running in an election challenges the leader of a party who is running in that election.

Campbell Newman is running for the seat of Ashgrove. He is asking Queenslanders to vote for him. Bob Katter, the member for Kennedy, is not. He is not running for any seat. No Queenslanders can vote for him on Saturday. Bob should be here this week. The member for Kennedy should be in the other place representing the interests of Kennedy. Instead he is running around Queensland in an attempt to remain relevant. If he wants to serve in the Queensland parliament he should get on the ballot paper.

So instead of being in Canberra today, the member for Kennedy has been making false claims about the LNP's policy on coal seam gas in Queensland. Mr Katter claims that the LNP will not protect the Scenic Rim, and that is simply not true. The LNP and Campbell Newman have clearly stated that they will not allow any mining in the Scenic Rim. The LNP will not allow coal seam gas to be extracted in the Scenic Rim. The member for Kennedy has today also falsely claimed that the LNP will not protect prime agricultural land. Again, not true; the LNP will fast track planning arrangements to ensure that prime agricultural land is protected.

The rights of landholders will only be properly protected through the election of an LNP government in Queensland. The member for Kennedy can continue to promise Queenslanders the electoral equivalent of golf courses on the moon because he knows he cannot deliver.

The Labor Party can never get the balance right. It is always too focused on the wasteful spending that it thinks the mining industry can provide. That is why the Labor Party has fatally over reached with this mining tax. It was predicting rivers of gold and it will now be lucky to get a trickle. The mining tax will go down in history as one of the great policy debacles. The Greens know that it is a debacle as well. They are only agreeing to vote for it to keep the government alive. Time will prove that this tax is a dud. The policy is suited to Labor but it is not in the best interests of Australia's future.

The PRESIDENT: You have 30 seconds, Senator Joyce.