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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 174

Mr LINDSAY (7:02 PM) —The member for Paterson blows in here as a new member and seems to forget, conveniently, the past in this place and seems to forget why the government changed three years ago. Are you in here tonight supporting the notion that we go back to debt and deficit?

Mr Tuckey interjecting

Mr LINDSAY —Does he? He lost—

Mr Bevis interjecting

Mr LINDSAY —So he does remember. Thanks, Mr Bevis. So you want to go back to deficit. Is that what you are proud of? You want to go back to the highest interest rates this country has seen. You want to go back to the highest unemployment this country has seen. Or would you prefer a government that delivers interest rates that are the lowest since man walked on the moon? Do you know what that does for people who own homes in your electorate? Do you know what the benefit is to them—ordinary Australians who have had what is the equivalent of a tax cut, which is more than a government could ever deliver? I can tell you that I am proud to support the Howard government. I will continue to stand up for the economy that this country has been delivered by the Howard government.

Tonight I wish to place on record, following my re-election to the House of Representatives, the thanks to my family—to my wife, Margaret, to my son, Mark, and to my daughter, Kylie—the thanks to my staff—Mike Wells, Christine Paul and Greg Doolan, who have worked so hard over the last three years; the thanks to my campaign manager, David Moore—and the thanks to the staff of Ian Macdonald—and to Ian and Lesley Macdonald—to Liza Albion, Phil Connole, Paul Randall and Emelia Verzeletti; and also to the many volunteers who worked with me during the campaign, including Lynn Richardson, Ted and Marion Barrington, Rod and Kathy Girvan, Steve Ison, and so on.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I suffered an absolutely ferocious campaign. The Treasurer in his question time answer this afternoon alluded to the kind of thing that occurred. I had the local Labor candidate spending—and I am advised by the Labor Party—$60,000 of his own money, above and beyond the national campaign, putting advertisements on television in every commercial break saying `Everything will go up 10 per cent' and `Do not vote for the coalition'. That was just dishonest and deceitful and he suffered because of it.

The Treasurer this afternoon and the media tonight have reported quite accurately that the Labor Party have been very severely embarrassed in relation to their advertisements late in the campaign about the household expenditure survey, suggesting that the government was being dishonest about that. The media have tonight reported the facts. They have reported that the government was, in fact, honest with the Australian people. It did lay out in quite some detail, and truthful detail, the impact of the GST in terms of the CPI. In fact, the government has been more than generous in its compensation in that regard. I leave that to the Australian people to judge. I am glad to see that the government has got off very well on the front foot in the first sitting day of the 39th Parliament.

I thought, when I stood in this chamber back in 1996, that little else in life would be able to top that moment—when you first stand up in this House to make your mark as a member of parliament. That first speech was special. I am sure that every member, past and present, would agree. But I have come to appreciate that indeed every time one rises to speak in the House of Representatives is just as special.

We have heard a lot said about mandates, including in the speech by the member for Paterson, since 3 October, particularly from the Labor Party and the Leader of the Opposition. Labor claims that they have a mandate to oppose tooth and nail the plan for fundamental tax reform that the coalition parties took to the Australian people on election day. They seem to be basing that claim on the fact that they secured the most primary votes.

That might be true, but it is not the way the electoral system in this country works. The Australian people had their say on 3 October. Our electoral system, the same system that I have listened to the Leader of the Opposition defend and praise on a number of occasions, delivered the task of leading our nation to the Liberal and National coalition government. I clearly recall the words of the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke to the Constitutional Convention Bill 1997, defending our electoral system. He said:

The secret ballot is known globally as `the Australian ballot'. It is the Australian ballot that has come to mark the peculiar contribution of the Australian nation to the democratic process internationally. That reputation has stood us in enormous good stead over time.

Indeed, it has. But what we are now seeing from the Australian Labor Party is an attempt to hedge their bets. You cannot stand here and defend the Australian electoral system, as the Leader of the Opposition did, but reject the outcome of that process. Either you accept the decision of the Australian people or you do not. I believe that the Australian people have clearly put their position in front of the nation. Labor simply cannot have an each-way bet in this debate. The coalition took the issue of comprehensive tax reform to the Australian people, including the introduction of the broad based goods and services tax, and we were returned to office. That is the Australian ballot the Leader of the Opposition has defended in the past. That is the way it works.

It is an honour and a privilege to have been re-elected to be the representative of the electorate of Herbert in the federal parliament. With this privilege goes great responsibility that I do not take for granted. Indeed, I am reminded of some of the words of Abraham Lincoln:

I do the very best I know how—the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing it until the end.

I gave a commitment during the election campaign to be a tireless representative of Townsville and Thuringowa and I will deliver on that commitment, doing the very best I know and the very best I can.

In my first speech to the parliament in May 1996, I described Townsville as the brightest star in Australia. That year, Townsville was named Australian community of the year. I also described Townsville as a city on the move and increasingly becoming a centre of economic growth and industrial development. I also said back in 1996 that Townsville would be one of the fastest growing regional centres in Australia. It is now November 1998 and while the honour of being named Australia's community of the year has moved on to another deserving centre, as it does each year, the bright star that is the twin cities of Townsville and Thuringowa continues to shine. It is still shining with a brilliance that is undiminished and it will continue to burn brightly well into the future.

Not only are the Townsville and Thuringowa communities on the move, I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, we are picking up speed. It is good news and the investors in this country ought to take notice of what is happening in the northern region, in the capital of northern Australia. Townsville is emerging as a major centre for industry and trade. Back in 1996 the Sun Metal zinc refinery existed only on paper. Today it is a plan that is rapidly becoming a reality, the third major minerals refiner in the city along with copper and nickel. More than 1,000 employees have clocked up more than a million working hours on the refinery's construction site. It is the largest investment a Korean company has made in this period outside Korea—and it is in Townsville. Everywhere you look in Townsville and Thuringowa there is new development going on. Early indications are, at this stage, that those sorts of developments are going to act as a beacon for other major investments in Townsville in the years to come.

A further catalyst for new investment and industry will be the establishment of a base load power station in Townsville. It is vital that this proposed station go ahead, fed by a gas pipeline coming down from New Guinea or one coming across Queensland from Roma. I see this as being critical to Townsville's development, not only as a major economic centre in North Queensland but also as a doorway to the Asia-Pacific region. Townsville does have that long-term potential but to realise the potential, to attract new valueadded minerals processing industries, Townsville requires that base load power station. It requires water supply. It requires the neces sary land and the necessary expertise. All of that is being put in place now.

But, while it is good and well to talk about the industrial potential of Townsville and Thuringowa, at the same time we cannot afford to become a so-called Newcastle of the north—it is a pity that the member for Paterson did not stay to listen to this speech—for that is not a desirable outcome. We enjoy a lifestyle in Townsville that is second to none. Local personality Steve Price's play on the acronym GST as standing for `Great Spot Townsville' really does say it all, much in the same way as I often refer to myself as the `Member for Paradise'. I would not trade Townsville for quids, which is why I say we cannot afford to let industrial growth and development spoil the tropical lifestyle we enjoy in our little patch of paradise.

The Townsville I want to see in the years to come is a city where you can build a complete life and a home. I want Townsville to be a place where our kids can grow up, go to school and university and ultimately find employment in a full range of occupations and professions. New industry opportunities are important but Townsville cannot solely rely on industrial development for the future. Townsville also needs to work towards developing as a smart centre for technical development research. Economic diversity is critical and our broad based economy at the moment with commerce, industry, education, defence, communications, minerals processing and so on augurs well for the future development of our city.

Earlier this year in this chamber I stated I would not rest until funding for a JCU medical school had been secured. I recall threatening to sit outside the Prime Minister's office every day while I was in Canberra until the money was committed. I did not need to. I was able to successfully argue for the medical school after Labor had promised it for the last 20 years. I was able to deliver a medical school for James Cook University, the first new medical school in Australia for many decades. The fight for a North Queensland medical school has been a coordinated team effort and, now that we have secured that commitment from the government, promises need to be translated into action. We have been fighting for a medical school for many years. It is a matter of urgency for North Queensland that this medical school get up and running as soon as possible. Queensland Health recently referred to the establishment of the JCU medical school as a long-term proposition. I do not accept that. It is not a long-term proposition. If we are made to wait any longer than necessary North Queenslanders will end up paying for that delay with their health.

The capital funding commitment by the Howard coalition government is on the table, as is the commitment to new medical student places. Clearly, the federal government's will is there to turn this plan into a reality. Unless the Beattie government knows something that we do not, the only remaining hurdle is for the Australian Medical Council to give accreditation to a new undergraduate medical school. I would like to see James Cook University have their first intake of medical students in the year 2000, and I strongly support the course being an undergraduate medical course.

I say to the Queensland Minister for Health: stop worrying about the federal government's commitment to a medical school and start concentrating on delivering a full undergraduate medical course for Townsville. Our commitment to the James Cook University medical school was locked in place during the recent federal election campaign and remains firmly locked in place. Wendy Edmond ought to get her priorities right and start backing what is best for Townsville and North Queensland. There would be a riot in the north if the federal government were to break their commitment on the medical school, and I would be leading that charge. But I know that that funding is in place and that we will go forward.

The medical school is critical to help attract doctors and health professionals to regional North Queensland centres. While the north makes up about 45 per cent of Queensland's total area and about 20 per cent of its population, we are only home to about nine per cent of the registered medical practitioners in the state. More than 75 per cent of Queensland's medical specialists live in the south-east corner of the state. Meanwhile, it is almost impossible to attract GPs to rural and regional centres and, even in the major cities of Mackay, Townsville and Cairns, it is very hard for our doctors to attract locums so that they can have a break.

As I have said before in this House, the problem of attracting and holding doctors and medical services in rural and regional areas demands practical, long-term solutions. A James Cook University undergraduate medical school is such a solution because, if you train doctors in rural and regional areas, they are more likely to stay in those rural and regional areas.

Townsville also has a strong reputation in the field of marine science and management, and that is something that I was proud to be associated with in the last election campaign. I want to see a marine science centre of excellence developed in Townsville city. There is an enormous window of opportunity for that project. It could be a win-win situation in many different areas. It all started with the realisation that the Australian Institute of Marine Science down at Cape Ferguson, about 40 kilometres south of Townsville, needs major refurbishment to its buildings. About $11 million was provided in the last budget to have that refurbishment done. Also, when the staff go to AIMS each day, they have to be ferried at Commonwealth expense, and it costs about half a million dollars to get those staff down to their place of work and back each day.

I think that, if we move AIMS back to Townsville and spend the money on new buildings in Townsville, we will be able to save that large transport expense. But, at the same time, another window of opportunity has arisen. We could perhaps co-locate other elements of marine science in Townsville at that location, for example, the Reef CRC at James Cook University and also the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. There is no intention at this stage that, if that project goes ahead as I wish it to, we would in any way put all of those organisations together—there would be no rationalisation of resources. But there are major benefits in co-locating. For example, a central library could be invoked or a centralised computer system connection to super computers throughout Australia could occur on that site. We would see a marine science centre of excellence established.

Then the location became an interesting decision, and the choice really came down to two. The site that I favour is at Jezzine Barracks in North Ward in Townsville, a site currently occupied by 11 Brigade, an element of the Australian Army. 11 Brigade wants to move from Jezzine Barracks out to Lavarack Barracks to be with the regular forces. The men of 11 Brigade want to move, so here is an opportunity to use an existing site in Commonwealth ownership to establish a new marine science centre of world excellence. We would have a win-win situation: we would get the marine science centre and the members of 11 Brigade would be happy. But we would have another win: that site would be held in Commonwealth ownership and that would ensure that the historical nature of the site, particularly the forts, would be preserved forever with full public access. I think that, from the RSL's point of view and from the point of view of the historians in Townsville, that is a great idea as well. I strongly support that marine science centre of excellence being brought to Townsville in these terms as soon as possible.

Currently, James Cook University's marine science department enjoys being a leader in marine science in the world. We will build on that. Already other opportunities are opening up. United Nations marine science is likely to co-locate in Townsville. That brings further opportunities for technical development, scientific development and jobs. I certainly will do my part in that regard.

I have mentioned the ADF. I have Australia's largest defence base in my electorate. I have a very significant RAAF component as well. There is a lot of work to be done in relation to that. I certainly strongly support the redevelopment of stage 2 of Lavarack Barracks, and then we will move on to stage 3. Stage 2 will cost $139 million. Stage 3 will cost $154 million. Of course, there is also the redevelopment of RAAF Townsville—new ordnance loading areas and redevelopment of the base—so there is perhaps another $90 million there. All up, with expenditure of about $500 million a year through the ADF in Townsville and half a billion of capital works, it is not a bad investment by the federal government in my city of Townsville and Thuringowa. I will continue to support the ADF as I have done in the past.

I was very privileged to meet the new brigadier who will be taking over 3 Brigade early next year, Brigadier Mark Evans. He will do a fine job replacing Brigadier Peter Leahy.

If I might be so bold as to put this on the public record, I think perhaps we might see Brigadier Peter Leahy, who has just finished his tour of duty in Townsville, as CDF. He is such a good quality person. I thank Mr Bevis for his support of that particular thought.

I look forward to another three years in this place, and I certainly intend to work as hard as I can for my electorate of Townsville.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bevis) adjourned.