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Thursday, 1 March 2018
Page: 2515


Dr McVEIGH (GroomMinister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government) (15:26): The coalition certainly stands for more jobs, more opportunities and helping regional Australia capitalise on the immense opportunities that exist. The coalition has an unrivalled commitment to regional Australia and regional jobs. We're delivering jobs in record numbers, as has been quoted by the Prime Minister regularly—over 403,000 in the last 12 months, and I am so proud of the fact that 120,000 of those have been delivered in regional Australia. We've now had 16 consecutive months of jobs growth—the longest run of jobs growth ever recorded. Records have been kept since 1978—the year that I started high school.

When you think about North Queensland, as I said earlier in answer to a question in question time, you think of a hardworking, diverse community which has an immense range of opportunities. Only last week I was in Cairns with the member for Leichhardt, seeing firsthand how coalition policies like the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages are helping create the jobs that we're keen on and driving transformational change in North Queensland. We're backing the small and medium businesses in North Queensland with tax cuts so that they can invest more, so they can employ more.

This is great news for the thousands of small and medium businesses in North Queensland, many of them, of course, family businesses. There are 19,672 businesses in Leichhardt, over 17,000 in Dawson, almost 13,000 in Herbert and almost 17½ thousand in the member for Kennedy's own electorate. These are the lowest tax rates that we've been able to put in place for these entities in over 50 years. That's a major catalyst for more growth and better-paying jobs. We're creating that small business framework to, amongst other things, grow confidence in these communities such that people and their businesses can invest more and develop those communities. That involves, on behalf of the federal government, major infrastructure investments. There is $208 million for the Cape York Region Package, $105 million for a black spot project between Sarina and Cairns, $147 million for the Townsville eastern access rail corridor and of course delivery of the Townsville City Deal, which is underway.

I note that in the member for Kennedy's electorate we've invested huge amounts in major job-creating projects: $100 million for Outback Way, $38.4 million for the Bruce Highway between Ingham and the Cardwell Range, $40 million for the Gairloch floodway and $20 million for the Flinders Highway. Similar investments are being made right across the electorates of the members for Capricornia, Dawson, Flynn, right through to the southern areas—my electorate of Groom and that of the member for Wright as well.

In terms of opening up the Galilee Basin, which is the issue of interest here, the coalition definitely believe in miners and definitely believe in the mining industry. And we are not afraid to say that we support the coal industry and that we support miners. Adani estimate that $16.5 billion would be required to develop the mine rail project. They estimate that at project maturity the project will generate $3 billion in annual benefits to the Queensland economy. That includes generating 2,475 construction jobs and 3,920 operational jobs. The production of 100 million tonnes of coal per annum and the generation of potentially $7 billion in export revenues flows through to those local communities, and of course it would flow through to Queensland and the country at large.

We don't just talk about jobs in North Queensland; we talk about delivering jobs, unlike the Leader of the Opposition. There are already 800 staff directly employed associated with the Adani project. These are families that are investing and spending their own hard-earned income in Townsville, Bowen, and other communities across the north. The Adani project has received environmental approvals at both state and Commonwealth levels, as we all know. These approvals apply over 300 world-class conditions to ensure the protection, quite rightly, of the environment:

Yet through all of this the support of the ALP for the project has been muddled by flip-flopping by the Leader of the Opposition. On Tuesday, 27 February, 7.30 aired an interview with Geoff Cousins, who referred to conversations last month with the Leader of the Opposition. That's on the record. The Leader of the Opposition said in relation to the Adani mine that he would revoke the licence if he got into government. That's proof that he says something in the bush but he says other things in order to, for example, win the seat of Batman against strong Green competition. Geoff Cousins claimed the Leader of the Opposition has given him a commitment a number of times to shut down the Adani mine. He's also said in other cases that he supports the mine. The by-election has changed that, as we well know.

The facts of this flip-flopping, this reality that we're facing up to, is bamboozling the North Queensland community. It bamboozles them because other members of the ALP are also saying things different to the Leader of the Opposition. As I said earlier, a former Queensland MP that I know, having been a former Queensland MP, the current Labor state Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, has said that his government, the current Queensland government, is serious about having the Adani mine in operation. He said, 'We want this to happen.' He said, 'These are jobs for generations to come. There will be up to 10,000 jobs, if you take an average over the 25-year lease of the mine. You're looking at 2,000 and 4,000 jobs per year.' There are stringent conditions. He recognises that there's a Labor state minister very much behind the project. The reality is that we have the Labor aligned mayor of Townsville, Jenny Hill, and the Labor aligned mayor of Rockhampton, Margaret Strelow, also saying they demand that this project proceed. They want support for the project and they want to see those benefits flowing from the Galilee Basin. In my own community of the Darling Downs, we have the Wagner family, who are committed to being involved in that project. They want to be as innovative in North and Central Queensland as they have been in my home town of Toowoomba in building a privately funded internationally capable airport in recent years.

The Leader of the Opposition must be having a really tough time, trying to get his lines straight between what he says in Batman, what he says to the Greens, what he says to local Labor aligned mayors in North Queensland and of course what he has said on the public record. You start to wonder which of the multiple personalities you are going to encounter on any day of the week Which will it be? Will it be blue-collar Bill, who's spewing about the IR system that he created, or will it be inner-city, sophisticated Bill, the one that's the blow-fly to billionaires?

Regional Australia has long been the engine room of our national economy, and that will always be the case, based on our great agriculture and resource industries. The member for Kennedy's home town and my wife's home town of Charters Towers, for example, is a significant North Queensland centre that is now a significant agricultural centre and a significant educational centre, but it started out as a resources town, a gold-mining town. The coalition, the members on this side of the House, recognise those fundamental economic, historical facts in terms of the development of regional Australia.

We've got a strong plan to deliver on this vision for regional communities; hence our support for this project. We believe in miners and we believe in North Queensland. I think that the questions that the member for Kennedy raised today are very important ones. We won't parrot lines about the possibility of jobs in regional Queensland and then withdraw those lines when we're back in inner-city Melbourne. We are delivering real jobs, as we've shown through the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages. The opposition leader should back off. The opposition leader should support Queenslanders in regional Queensland, who simply want to develop these opportunities, to have these jobs, to get on with their lives and to support their families into the future.