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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 621

Mr NEVILLE (5:13 PM) —Madam Deputy Speaker, you will not be getting any gloom or doom from me. Nor will you be getting any fear tactics. Nor do I think the member for Calare was on about fear tactics. I think what he was on about was getting certainty for EC and country areas so that farmers do not have to wait, year on year, to know whether they are going to receive assistance. There is a lot of concern in country areas, after a prolonged drought and floods, about the fragility of primary industry. If you really want to help them—as the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development and Northern Australia said—and have a trickle-down effect to contractors and small businesses and the like, then certainly you will get some resonance from a $950 grant. But let me make an even better suggestion. If you really are concerned about the continuation of country people, why not give a two percentage point subsidy on farm debt, say, with a three-year ceiling? Then you would have money flowing in. You would have money flowing from the farmers to the contractors and to the small businesses—not just in one splash but on an ongoing basis—and you would give farmers the capacity to support those contractors and small businesses.

When it comes to the upgrade of schools, I beg you not to give the money to QBuild or state works departments, because it will never get done in the time and it will be twice the price. Feed it out to the principals and the P&Cs, as we did in the Investing in Our Schools Program—which people on the government side freely admit was a very good program. Get the money to where it needs to go. That way, the money will go to contractors, painters and so on in country towns, not the ones QBuild will bring out from Brisbane or the works department will bring from Sydney or Melbourne. We have got to stimulate. That, by the way, is the subject of today’s MPI: it is all about stimulating business and stimulating economic energy in country areas.

When it comes to road funding, do the same as we did before. Give it in a Roads to Recovery type program where you let the councils make the decisions about where the money goes. You will always get a bigger bang for the government buck. I cite two councils in my former electorate area of Eidsvold and Parry, two of the smallest shires in Queensland at the time and two of the most efficient with their roadworks. That is another thing you could look at. We talk about level crossings and, having done a report on level crossings for this parliament in 2004, I support the principle very strongly. In one sense $150 million is a lot of money and in another sense it is not, because it will only cover 200 boom-gate type level crossings and I am sure most of those will go to the capital cities or the larger provincials and their environs. If you want to help create a trickle-down effect in country areas, bearing in mind that there are 9,400 level crossings in Australia, and if you really want to help to get some of those level crossings, put lights on some in country areas. You do not need boom gates but certainly put on lights. On a country road where there are only a few trains a week, put a hundred metres of bitumen and rumble strips either side, because you will not have electricity there to provide either lights or boom gates. Do an integrated thing that trickles down into country areas and provides employment and the like.

My problem with the splashes of cash in all the recent programs is this: I am sure they work, I am sure the $1,400 and the $2,100 payments were welcome, but infinitely better for pensioners would have been a $500 grant and a $30 increase in their pension. Over the first year that would have been better than $1,400. Going to the $950 package, let me take those receiving Austudy as one example from the whole list of people getting it. Don’t you think parents in country areas trying to get their kids to school would rather have $30 a week for the whole course than a $950 splash once? Let us get fair dinkum. I will finish on another one. If we are really interested in opening up inland Australia, creating employment and generating economic energy, we should put in the inland rail. We on both sides of this parliament talk about it; we have been talking about it for 10 years. With $42 billion at hand, wouldn’t you think that three-quarters of a billion or a billion put into that inland rail would generate jobs galore and confidence galore? (Time expired)