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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1169

Mr PERRETT (4:10 PM) —I rise to speak on the matter of public importance. I was fortunate to be in the chamber at 12 o’clock when it was distributed by the clerks. I had a look at it: ‘The failure of the government to keep its commitments to Australian industry.’ I cogitated and I thought: ‘I wonder what industries they’ll be looking at. Will it be the education industry? Look at what’s been happening there in the last three years or so. Or perhaps it will be the superannuation industry,’ which the minister touched on in his speech—the incredible achievements that have taken place over the last three years and what we are about to see take off. We have had some great comments from the superannuation industry about our increases in the SGC. I thought it might even be the agricultural industry, since we seem to have a significant influx of young Nationals into the chamber, up in that corner. I thought maybe they were driving the agenda and it would be about the agricultural industry. Then I thought of building or broadband. Obviously the member for Wentworth is pretty interested in broadband and has been making some comments, so I thought, ‘I wonder if that’s what they’ll focus on.’ But no. I listened to the Leader of the Opposition and obviously, even though his speech was a little bit erratic, he seemed to be focusing on mining. In fact, he made this statement, and I think I am quoting it accurately: ‘The mining industry is under deadly threat.’ I have a bit of background in the mining sector. I have worked for the Queensland Resources Council as a mining adviser. I have worked for the state government in mining. I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll explore that a bit.’

I cast my mind back to a release that came out on Monday about a mining project up in Cape York, up in the wild rivers area. I thought maybe that was where Mr Abbott was getting his information from about the mining industry being under deadly threat. Perhaps it was because of something that was put out on Monday. You might remember that Mr Abbott is passionate about overturning the Queensland wild rivers legislation, which locks up the few pristine wild rivers left in Australia—well, left in Queensland. I cannot speak for the other states. But he is suggesting that it is going to overturn industry opportunities in those areas, which is actually complete rubbish. Mining can take place in wild river areas. Tourism and other things can take place in wild river areas. There just needs to be consideration of those wild river values. But I thought that maybe it was because he is passionate about wild rivers and intends to go up to North Queensland and actually talk to the traditional owners around the wild rivers. Instead of just listening to Noel Pearson and saying, ‘This is our policy,’ he said, ‘No, I will go and talk to the traditional owners who walked up and down these corridors last week and told people they loved the wild rivers legislation.’ These people said: ‘We’re the traditional owners. We can speak with authority. We’re not Noel Pearson.’ I thought, ‘Maybe that’s what guided Mr Abbott’s comments that the mining industry is under deadly threat.’

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—The Leader of the Opposition’s comments.

Mr PERRETT —Sorry, the Leader of the Opposition’s comments. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. So I had a look at the press release put out on Monday, 18 October by Cape Alumina Ltd about their Pisolite Hills project being unviable. It was an interesting release. If you looked at the spot prices of aluminium, you might say perhaps they guided the viability of the project, but it was strange timing, coming out the same day that the Leader of the Opposition said he was going to reintroduce his wild rivers legislation. Then I looked at the name at the bottom of the press release.

Mr Sidebottom —And?

Mr PERRETT —And it was my opponent. My Liberal-National Party opponent in the federal election put out the release by this mining company. I thought: ‘Gee, that’s a coincidence! That’s strange. These things happen, I suppose. It is a small state, Queensland, these things might happen.’ Then I thought, ‘Let’s have a look at this MPI and unpack it, particularly when it comes to mining.’ The reality is that, when we look at the deal that is on the table about the minerals resource rent tax, it is going to be a great thing for Australian businesses. We are going to lower company tax, we are going to increase SGC contributions for all Australians, we are going to do many great things for small business, we are going to provide other tax benefits, we are going to boost national savings, we are going to deliver tax cuts throughout—

Mr Zappia interjecting

Mr PERRETT —Yes, infrastructure. I thank the member for Makin for that contribution. Infrastructure, particularly in places like Queensland and Western Australia, will benefit from the MRRT. There is a bit of quibbling from those opposite and there are some concerns from the mining industry. But let us go to the common-sense approach to a deal, because we understand how to keep a deal. The reality is that, when we are talking about the deal with Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Xstrata and when we are talking about the state government royalties, we are talking about the current state government royalties. Imagine a scenario where, say, in Western Australia the National Party, which I understand is not in a coalition with the Liberal government—is that right, member for Fremantle?

Ms Parke —I believe it is.

Mr PERRETT —We saw that in the federal election, when the colourful Wilson Tuckey was knocked off by a National Party person. Imagine if the Western Australian Nationals said, with their Royalties for Regions program, ‘We need to ratchet up the state royalties by 10 per cent or 20 per cent.’ Imagine if that applied to state royalties and the federal government had to make a contribution—

Mrs Mirabella —Mr Deputy Speaker, on the point of relevance. Although—

Mr Crean —It’s feigned pain.

Mrs Mirabella —No, it’s not feigned pain, it’s real. It’s genuine and I know, Simon, you can feel my pain on this point.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.

Mr PERRETT —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member will resume his seat for a moment. I am listening carefully to the member for Indi. She is not convincing me at this point in time.

Mrs Mirabella —As the shadow minister for, amongst other things, industry, I have heard the member for Moreton say nothing in the last five minutes that is relevant to this.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume her seat. This is a matter of public importance debate; it is a wide-ranging debate.

Mr PERRETT —I would point out to the member for Indi that the mining industry is actually quite significant when it comes to Australian jobs.

Mrs Mirabella —Then why are you trying to destroy them?

Mr PERRETT —I am focusing on the mining industry. If you will sit there rather than play with your BlackBerry I will give you a real lesson on the mining industry. As I said, when it comes to considering the realities of deals, if we had the Western Australian Nationals come in and ratchet up their demands on the Liberal state government in Western Australia and say, ‘We need to increase royalties by 20 per cent or 30 per cent,’ how could we budget appropriately? That is why the deal that is on the table with Rio Tinto, BHP-Billiton and Xstrata is a realistic deal. And it is a good deal.

Let us look at what some of the industry leaders have said about it. I know there is a lot more work to be done by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, and the BHP Chairman, Don Argus, but let us look at some of those left-wing commentators, like our comrade Mitch Hooke from the Minerals Council. What did he say? He said it is ‘a positive outcome for Australia’. BHP Billiton’s Marius Kloppers even said he would work constructively with this government. He said:

We are encouraged that the MRRT design is closer to our frequently stated principles of sound tax reform, in that the proposed tax will be prospective in its treatment of profits from our iron ore and coal businesses, and not apply to the other commodities in our portfolio.

We work, and those opposite wreck. That is the reality of this. As I said, I looked at this MPI and thought about the number of industries that we could have talked about and our great relationship with them—things like the NBN—but, no, there was no mention of those. Anyone who understands the opportunities in the future for a smart Australia knows that we will not get there by lowering wages—that low road way is the way of the past. We need to be a smarter country, not investing in firing up your Atari 64 and hoping that will get us through. We need a broadband network, because, as I think the minister pointed out in question time today, 85 per cent of manufacturing productivity gains come from improvements in ICT. Broadband is the way of the future that will support the mining industry. (Time expired)