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Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Page: 524


Senator BACK (Western Australia) (18:25): Once again I thank Senator Moore and the Labor Party for the opportunity to expose the absolute failure and the incompetence of their six years in government. I will come to Senator Dastyari in a moment; I will just let him stew for a few moments, though I will allow him just this one snippet for a minute. The last time the Labor Party in government actually brought down a surplus, you, Senator Dastyari—through you, Acting Deputy President Williams—were a kid in short pants. You were six years of age. The member for Longman, Wyatt Roy, the Prime Minister of Australia in 2050, was not even born; the man was not even alive.

Senator Dastyari: When's your next surplus?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Williams ): Order!

Senator BACK: Isn't it incredible how they cannot ever listen in silence because they cannot hear the truth. We are talking about a crowd over there—and I will get to surpluses and I will get to confidence in a moment—that inherited a surplus in 2007 and turned it into billions of dollars of deficits. They were an outfit that had $30 billion in the bank to spend and managed to turn it into a nearly $500 billion debt.

Senator Dastyari: Did you hear of the GFC?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Dastyari, I made sure no-one interjected when you were presenting your speech. I ask you to show the same respect for others speaking in this chamber.

Senator BACK: I will come to the fact that then in government they had the best terms of trade in Australia's history. But what did they do with it? The first thing they did, of course, was to bring in a carbon tax and to send profitable businesses offshore. They had them compete unfairly with importing businesses which, of course, did not pay the carbon tax. The other industry going so well at that time was the resources sector, because we happened to have a product that the Asian neighbours all wanted. It was nothing to do with the Labor government—nothing to do with Mr Swan, the then Treasurer.

Senator Lines: Nothing to do with you, that's for sure!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator BACK: It was the fact that we had commodities that were in demand and, of course, we had excellence—

Senator Lines: Nothing to do with you!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Senator BACK: in terms of iron ore and coal, and, more latterly, gas.

I turn now to Senator Whish-Wilson. Absolutely laudable, Senator Whish-Wilson—through you, Acting Deputy President Williams. Like you, small business—fantastic! A one-and-a-half per cent tax cut; I am glad you are going to support it. What else have we done? Red tape has been reduced. I hope that you—from your background, Senator Whish-Wilson—will be very, very keen to support us when we have a reasonable discussion about what the impediments are to small business in the hospitality and tourism sectors, particularly on weekends, because, again, those are going to be the areas. We have a look at interest rates and we see the benefits. You speak of the Greens policy associated with the mining tax. I know Senator Whish-Wilson well enough to know that he himself would never, in his small business, and nor would his wife in hers, go out and spend profits or income that they thought they were going to earn. We all said the mining tax would make no money. It made no money! But what did they do? They turned around and spent it, that grossly incompetent government. Do not link yourselves to them, whatever you do.

But when it comes to small business, you and I both know well about agribusiness and the farming sectors. I am very pleased to see the crossbench senators also devoting much time and attention. I am not going to go in any detail through the figures that Senator Canavan mentioned because they are there in Hansard for everybody to read, except to say—through you, Acting Deputy President Williams—to Senator Dastyari that these are not coalition statements; they are statements by the ANZ Bank. They are statements by the Dun and Bradstreet Business Expectations Survey. They are statements, again, by Ernst & Young—independent, Senator Dastyari—and they talking about the parameters that we know to be so important.

Let's now turn to what this government is achieving. One of the great faults of the last government was the raising of sovereign risk. It was not just the loss of revenue, income and investment coming into this country; it was Australians going offshore. In my own state, 65 per cent of mining exploration went to Canada. Why? It was because of the imposition of the carbon tax and mining tax. Sovereign risk was causing money to go from this country to other countries. When we should have been investing in mining exploration here, investments were going offshore. Nothing was coming in.

Let me tell you one of the greatest benefits of the work done by Mr Andrew Robb and those fine officials in the department of trade—the three free trade agreements. Nothing was achieved in the six years of the Labor government, but here we had free trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China—

Senator Lines interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Williams ): Order! Senator Back, resume your seat. Senator Lines, when I am in this chair I continually have to bring you to attention. Stop interjecting; it is disorderly. I will not say it again. I say the same to you as I did to Senator Dastyari. When you are speaking, I will expect the other side to show the exact same respect. I will not ask you again to cease interjecting. Are you listening to me, Senator Lines?

Senator Lines: Yes.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Okay. Continue, Senator Back.

Senator BACK: Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I do appreciate that. This is a very important point because most people talk about resources and commodities with these free trade agreements. This is a stat that I would invite everyone to take on board. As Senator Whish-Wilson would know, 70 per cent of the Australian economy is made up by the service sector. It is not the resources sector—

Senator Lines interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Resume your seat, Senator Back. Senator Lines, I am very familiar with the standing orders. If you want me to read the part about naming a senator, I will gladly read out section 203. Enough is enough.

Senator BACK: The point I am making is that the services sector makes up 70 per cent of the Australian economy but it only contributes to 17 per cent of exports. With the Chinese-Australian free trade agreement being signed, we find ourselves in a situation where the Chinese, in addition to wanting our commodities and our resources, want our services. That is what they want most. They want our legal services, education services, prudential regulatory services and insurance services. In response to Senator Dastyari's allegations of no action, imagine if we could move from 17 per cent of exports of services in this country up to 35 per cent or 40 per cent, replacing what we are losing now in the resources sector. The same will happen with Korea. There is an enormous opportunity for this to happen.

The number of tourists coming into Australia now is huge. They tell me that 100 million Chinese travelled last year. That figure will increase to 200 million. We have opportunities in our tourism and hospitality sectors. I gave a speech last year on long-term unemployment on the Gold Coast. There was an interesting stat that Senator Muir might be interested in. There are about 85,000 jobs urgently needing filling in the hospitality and tourism sectors in this country at this moment. I am not suggesting that every long-term unemployed person might be interested in those positions, but the number of people in long-term unemployment in this country is 85,000. Imagine the increase we are going to have and are seeing already now with the increase in tourism and hospitality.

I had the opportunity, at my own expense, to spend a week in Mexico in January. There are opportunities there for our country in higher education. Fifty thousand students leave Mexico each year in the energy sector and they need the skills we have for their skills development. PEMEX, the Mexican owned oil company, is setting up its own university and asking Australia for our assistance in mining exploration in the oil and gas sector. There are enormous opportunities for us.

I am an absolute optimist. When I have a look at what we have in this country, such as the fact that we are at the forefront of 3D printing, and the thousands of jobs that are going to be needed, I am an optimist. We do not need to be held back by a regressive opposition.