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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10082

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (11:38): It is clear from the contribution from the member for Berowra that the government supports this legislation, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australia Fund Bill 2014, which sets up a committee, but is not necessarily committing to the establishment of an Australia Fund. It seems to me that what the government is really doing is playing along with the Palmer United Party's proposition that they want to set up a committee to do this but at the end of the day reserving its judgement on it. I believe that that is simply a political move on the part of the government and a tactical move to stall and delay any decision on this matter. But it also raises the question of just what deals have been made between the government and the Palmer United Party with respect to this whole issue, because it is clear from comments that the Treasurer has already made and comments that the Prime Minister has made that at no stage in the past was this government going to look at providing any form of direct assistance to industries, farmers and the like, but suddenly it has changed its view and is now prepared to consider what options are available. Why would a government change its view and consider what options are available were it not for perhaps having done deals with the Palmer United Party?

Again, that is a matter that goes to another statement made by the Prime Minister before the election that this is a Prime Minister and a government that will not make deals with Independents and minor parties but instead will lead as a government and govern as a government. So much for that commitment made to the Australian people before the election. It is clear that once you are in government all bets are off, all promises are in the past, and we now face a new landscape. It really highlights the hypocrisy of the government that it was prepared to say one thing before the election and another after.

But it is even more concerning because this proposition effectively flags giving hope to industries and farmers that are perhaps struggling right now and need some form of government assistance. By setting up a committee to look at what is available, it gives them some hope. The reality is that, by the time the committee is set up, carries out its inquiry, prepares its report and brings it back to parliament, and then the government responds to that report, we will be into the next election. It means that these people will not be able to get any form of assistance whatsoever.

What is even more concerning about that is that the member for Fairfax, in his address in support of his own bill, strongly made the point that one of the issues of concern to the farmers and industries that need assistance is the delay that they are experiencing as a result of government processes. So here they are being critical of government processes but then setting up another process which does exactly the same—it causes delay, it causes uncertainty. I suspect that, by the time this matter is resolved by the government, anyone who needs assistance right now will have moved on; it will be well and truly too late.

This is a government that has made it clear that it is not interested in manufacturing in this country. It has already turned its back on the manufacturing sector. We saw it very clearly with respect to car makers in this country, we saw it with respect to SPC Ardmona workers and we have seen it with respect to numerous other industries that hang off those sectors, both in the food area and in the direct manufacturing area. We are now also seeing it with respect to the construction of naval ships here in this country. This is a government that is not prepared to lend one iota of support to manufacturing, yet it pretends, by saying it is prepared to look at a proposition put forward by the Palmer United Party, that it might do so. The government simultaneously says that it cares about farmers in Queensland, yet we know that it is very, very slow in delivering the kind of assistance that they already need and that is available through drought relief schemes and the like. It is just dragging its heels in respect to providing the support that it could provide.

There are mechanisms available and already in place if the government wants to support both industry and farmers. There are funds available and already in place. Although the government has cut almost half a billion dollars of funding to manufacturing and industry generally, there are still funds available. Let us look at the processes that are available, improve those if we need to and stop wasting time with what is nothing more than a delaying proposition by the Abbott government.

Debate adjourned.