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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4055


Mr NIKOLIC (Bass) (19:47): There we have it, the most compelling thing the member for Bendigo has to talk about in her address-in-reply is protecting militant unions and those whom the royal commission has said have cases to answer for quite serious criminal offences. She talks about the rule of law and in the process slanders one of our most esteemed High Court judges. This is the most compelling thing that the member for Bendigo had to come into this House this evening and talk about to the Australian people. I am staggered and I am sure that the Australian people—her electorate—will be staggered when she returns for the election campaign and says to them that the No. 1 thing on her mind is protecting the CFMEU and the militant unions and some of the appalling acts that they have perpetrated on this very important industry over the years.

Deputy Speaker Goodenough, you will be pleased to know that what I am here to talk about this evening is reflective in nature. On 13 November 2013 I had the great honour of leading this side of the House in the address-in-reply. As we approach the beginning of the 2016 election campaign I thought it appropriate to reflect on the priorities that I identified for my electorate of Bass almost three years ago. I spoke about beautiful north-east Tasmania and how the people of Bass are rich in character and aspiration. I said that my early priorities in Bass included helping to deliver a healthier Tamar River, transforming Launceston's North Bank, new mountain bike trails in the north-east, the refurbishment of Invermay Park, where our famous cricketer Ricky Ponting—the boy from Mowbray—first made his mark, and enhancing the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, creating the irrigation infrastructure we needed to grow and export more fresh, clean, green, quality Tasmanian products into growing middle-class markets in the Indo-Asia region and exploring the exciting possibilities to develop the DSTO facility at Scottsdale.

Three years on, I am proud to report to the House that those promises and more have been fulfilled. I have secured over $150 million in federal funds for Bass since the 2013 election, including to help restore our rivers' health. These resources have been used in a collaborative effort with Launceston City Council, the Launceston Flood Authority, NRM North, TasWater and the federal government's National Landcare Program. $10 million has been won for silt removal, rejuvenating North Bank and Riverbank Erosion Grants and Green Army riverbank projects on the Tamar and South Esk rivers. Recently I had the privilege of hosting the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, at Launceston, where I pitched the benefits of extending the Tamar River Recovery Plan for another three years.

Since the 2013 election I have ensured that the federal government plays its part in addressing the Tamar River's many issues, caused by 16 years of inaction by state Labor and Greens politicians. We have applied $500,000 for TasWater to investigate Launceston's inefficient combined drainage system. That study is just about complete and will identify how best to address longstanding sewerage infrastructure issues in coming years. Federal funds have also been applied to upgrade the gritter at the St John Street pump station and there have been other quick wins relating to sewerage infrastructure. The gritter upgrade in particular provided immediate benefits in reducing the amount of pollution entering the Tamar River. The strategic importance of upgrading our sewerage infrastructure has also been acknowledged as one of only 93 Australia-wide projects in Infrastructure Australia's 15-year plan. Despite the criticism of certain Greens politicians from the sidelines, I cannot recall them standing next to me when I was fighting for that outcome here in Canberra.

A solution to the health problems of the Tamar is not going to be found in one single element. There is decades of pollution and the catchments will continue to deliver pollution and silt into the estuary until a suite of remedial measures start to make a difference. That work is underway, and even though it is not a federal government lead, I have secured federal resources to help fund it. All of my efforts have been directed towards a healthier Tamar River, and you only have to look at the work done so far on riverbank clean up, riverbank stabilisation and the relocation of industry. The First Basin area in Launceston would look much worse after the relatively rain-free years of the last two years if the Launceston Flood Authority had not shifted 450,000 cubic metres of silt with funding I had secured.

A lot of that has been done through an innovative raking program. There is a cray fisherman called Karl Krause. When he is not catching the most beautiful crayfish off Flinders Island, he is raking the Yacht Basin area and the upper reaches of the Tamar River. Three years ago, when there were 20 days of flow over Trevallyn Dam during heavy rain events, he managed to shift 250,000 cubic metres of silt. In the last two years he has done much less than that. The silt has built up once again, but we are going to stay on top of that problem, and we are certainly going to do a lot better job than the state Labor Party promised at the 2010 election.

At that time state environment minister, Michelle O'Byrne, said that the Bartlett government would devote $6.65 million to remove silt from the Tamar River. They spent $1 million on Environmental Protection Authority permits and other administrative expenses; they did not shift one bit of silt. In contrast, we stayed on top of that silt problem. When we can get even more water down the gorge, which I am working on with TasWater and the state government authorities, then I know that those three key things—silt removal through raking, heavy tidal action and water down Cataract Gorge—are going to make an even more impressive dent in that silt problem in the future.

All of these things that I have talked about contribute to a healthier Tamar, as will my consistent advocacy for stronger, reliable flows down the Cataract Gorge. We did a three-day trial last August where TasWater let more flow down the gorge at times when we were undertaking our raking program and during heavy tidal events. That additional input of water down the gorge improved our raking efforts tenfold, by 1,000 per cent. So it has been proven that water down the gorge is the missing link and we are working on that into the future.

I want to also report to the House that $6 million has been secured for the North Bank project, turning something that is currently a dirty, dusty industrial site where Boral run a concrete business into something that is much more family friendly, extending the use of our riverfront and giving the City of Launceston even more reasons to turn back towards our river.

I talked about new mountain bike trails. They are completed—the Blue Derby mountain bike trails. This is part of our strategy to make Northern Tasmania more of an entry point for our state. We now have mountain bike trails at Trevallyn reserve, at Hollybank and at Blue Derby. In the last budget I got some funding to make sure we could build a rail trail for cyclists between Launceston and Scottsdale. That is absolutely vital infrastructure. I will give you some grassroots examples of why it has been so successful. Mary and Murray Partridge run Cottage Bakery in Scottsdale. They have just had their best few months on record because every weekend mountain bike riders from all over Tasmania and all over Australia come to ride these trails. They are Olympic standard trails. Max Rainsford has opened up Red Dirt Cycle Company in the centre of Scottsdale. One of the restaurant owners there told me that he had 160 covers last weekend—meals sold in his restaurant. There are people who are opening new accommodation for that area, and it just goes to show that when you establish that infrastructure, then good things happen around it.

My view is we are going to make those Blue Derby mountain bike trails like Fruita in Colorado. Fruita used to be a small agricultural town in the middle of nowhere and, by virtue of investment in mountain bike trails, it is now mountain biking central in the United States. That is my plan for Scottsdale and, as the patron of cycling in Tasmania, I am thrilled at the amount of cycling tourism we are getting into our state. It is making a fundamental difference at the grassroots of my community. It shows you that when you invest in infrastructure of that sort, it is not a short-term political sugar hit for tomorrow; it is about delivering year-on-year benefits for these communities and I am excited about it.

All of these things, as I said, help make Northern Tasmania more of an entry point for our state: food, wine, adventure, recreation, arts, heritage—so many opportunities. There was a lady in the centre of Launceston the other day who had come all the way from Germany to take photos of beautiful heritage architecture and art deco buildings like Holyman House in the centre of Launceston, on the corner of Brisbane and George Streets. It goes to show what opportunities we have in Northern Tasmania to make it more of an entry point. When people think of Tasmania I do not want them to just think of MONA and Salamanca and Port Arthur, beautiful though those attraction are; I want them to think about Northern Tasmania and the Blue Derby mountain bike trails; Bridestowe Lavender Estate, the home of Bobbie the bear; Barnbougle Dunes, the 11th best golf course in the world. I want them to think about Pipers River wineries and Jansz and Josef Chromy's new food experience at the vineyards at Relbia. I want them to think about all of those new features that are opening up on the riverfront and throughout the north-east that will have more and more people coming to my community.

The refurbishment I promised of Invermay Park, where former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting first showed his talents, is now complete. Great work was done by the Baker brothers to ensure that new lighting and ground drainage now allows year-round use of this excellent facility. It is used by the North Launceston Football Club, Old Launcestonians, the Mowbray Cricket Club, umpires, soccer players and too many groups to mention. I also promised to help enhance the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme. Indeed, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised that on 15 August 2013 as part of the economic recovery plan for Tasmania. And we did not just talk the talk; $203 million has been delivered to make sure that we equalise the cost of getting those clean, fresh, quality goods from Tasmania into those growing international markets.

We promised to do more about irrigation schemes, to grow and export goods into those growing markets overseas; and what have we delivered? We have delivered $60 million for phase 2 irrigation schemes. Just a couple of weeks ago I was at upper Ringarooma opening a new $28 million dam. There is $20 million of federal money in that dam development—at the time, the largest dam development in Australia. Now, that is going to provide year-on-year benefits. With 95 per cent water certainty for water rights holders adjacent to that river, they are going to be able to turn marginal farmland into something more productive—greater farm efficiency.

I married that with a small $100,000 project to look at where it was best to locate phase 3 power in those regions, because, when you have reliable water and you have reliable phase 3 power, magic happens in agricultural terms. I am really excited that we have found those optimal locations to leverage the water infrastructure schemes where power is needed.

In my maiden speech, I said I would explore the exciting possibilities of developing the Defence Science and Technology Group facility at Scottsdale, and I am pleased to report that just a couple of months ago we approved a $7.2 million microwave assisted thermal sterilisation machine for Scottsdale. By virtue of the fact that it heats and cools food so rapidly, it sterilises the food so it does not need refrigeration, and the food's taste, texture and nutritional value is such that it will be excellent for our troops, it is going to enable us to have a food response option for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief contingencies, and it is going to have commercial potential. That is why we are going to locate that MATS machine at the Defence Science and Technology Group at Scottsdale but also have a production facility at Launceston so people can do small production runs to determine the commercial potential of this technology.

This is the first time this technology has been located in the Southern Hemisphere. It was developed by Washington State University and the US Army. I first got a sniff of it when I was the international fellow at the US Army War College in Pennsylvania. Now we have it here in Australia, at Scottsdale. It is going to be wonderful for my community.

As well as the things I have mentioned, there are so many others that have been achieved for my community, including $34 million for north-east freight roads to ensure the efficient and safe movement of freight, $19 million in grants to the Launceston campus of the University of Tasmania and $17 million in financial assistance grants to local government. I got $10 million to save the John L Grove centre in Launceston, a brand-new 20-bed rehabilitation facility opened by the Labor Party with much fanfare just before the 2013 election. The problem is that the deal Julia Gillard made with then Premier Lara Giddings was that the feds would build it and the state Labor Party would put the money in the budget to run it. Unfortunately, they did not do that, and so health minister Michael Ferguson came to me and said, 'This brand-new facility looks like closing,' a couple of years after it was opened because Labor did not put the money in the budget in accordance with the National Partnership Agreement. We managed to get two years of funding to enable the state government and the health minister, my good friend Michael Ferguson, to work out how to integrate the operations of the John L Grove rehabilitation centre into the state system. I am very pleased we were able to deliver that.

We also have $9 million from the Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Package, $5.7 million in Roads to Recovery funding, $3 million in innovation and investment grants, and $3 million for the Dorset Renewable Industries project. We have $2.7 million to establish the Major Projects Approval Agency in Launceston, co-located with the state government Office of the Coordinator-General. The agency are looking at hundreds of millions of dollars of projects for Tasmania, and they might be able to assist them in overcoming regulatory obstacles to optimise their investment. There is $1.15 million for Flinders Island Airport upgrade, $850,000 in capital grants for non-government schools, $790,000 to save StGiles speech pathology services and $500,000 to fix an accident black spot on Westbury Road. I could go on—Centenary of Anzac grants, support for the Ravenswood Neighbourhood House, the upgrade of the Launceston Police and Community Youth Club, grants under the Local Sporting Champions Program and money for Men's Sheds in Norwood, Rocherlea and Flinders Island.

The forthcoming election will be about jobs and growth. Around the time of the 2013 election, things were looking pretty grim. Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was pictured on the front page of TheExaminer, rushing to Launceston to meet with the then Labor Premier because the unemployment rate was 8.6 per cent. I am pleased to tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough, the unemployment rate today is under seven per cent. There is still a lot to do; let us not get too excited about that big drop from 8.6 to under seven per cent—but it is moving in the right direction. All of the things that I have talked about just now will assist us in creating more local jobs and are enablers of our future prosperity in northern Tasmania.

I can also say that today's CommSec report confirms that Tasmania's economy is heading in the right direction. It states that Tasmania is currently experiencing a 'lift in momentum'. The report notes that Tasmania has 'moved up the rankings' and caught up with South Australia. When we came to government, sadly—and this was in my maiden speech as well—Tasmania was last on every single CommSec measure. In this latest report, we have improved on all of those measures bar one. The report highlights the strength of Tasmania's tourism and hospitality sector, building activity and population growth as positives for my state. Importantly, it rates jobs as our main positive. The efforts of this government over the last three years have made a real difference. That will continue, and I hope to have the great honour of continuing that work as the member for Bass.

In the future, we have to make the most of those free trade agreements that Andrew Robb, our trade minister has organised. Why? Because at the moment there are 500 million people in the middle classes from India to Asia, and that is projected to triple to 1.7 billion in the next 15 to 20 years. The eyes of the world have shifted from the north Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific as the engine room of global economic prosperity for the next 50 years. Australia is astride the Indian and Pacific oceans, ready, willing and able to take advantage of that unfolding economic miracle on our doorstep, and the policies of this government will make sure that we can tap into those markets through our irrigation schemes, through the Freight Equalisation Scheme and through many of the other projects that I have mentioned.

I will mention that my wife, Christine, and daughter Julia are sitting in the gallery. It does not happen very often. My daughter Julia finished the Port Macquarie IRONMAN yesterday.

It was 180 kays on the bike, a four kay swim and a marathon. I am very proud of her, and I know that they will both continue standing next to me as we deliver for the constituents of Bass and the constituents of Tasmania. Thank you.