Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 61

Senator CARR (2:13 PM) —My question without notice is to Senator Campbell, the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Can the minister now confirm that the Regional Partnerships Strategic Opportunities Notional Allocation guidelines, or SONA, were first approved in September 2003 and amended in March 2004? I ask again: why were these guidelines not advertised? Can the minister confirm that the Auditor-General criticised the previous use of such guidelines and called for a more rigorous statement of the use of guidelines for projects of national significance? Will the minister table a statement conforming with the Auditor-General's requirements in relation to the $1.2 million Gunnedah ethanol project?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —Once again we have the Labor Party attacking regional Australia—attacking projects that will help regional Australia and attacking a set of guidelines that have assisted regional Australia in the delivery of project grants for projects that will stimulate employment, underpin the strength of local communities and be good for the environment in a whole range of ways. All Labor can do, of course, is carp, whinge and whine.

They intend holding an inquiry into this program and the government will, of course, provide information to that inquiry as requested. I remind honourable senators and anyone else who is interested that these are programs that have been subject to rigorous audit by not only the Auditor-General but also independent auditors on a quite regular basis. These are programs that we want to ensure are delivered and deliver quality and value for money. That is why the guidelines have been put in place. The projects comply with those guidelines. Everyone seems to be happy with these projects and happy with the great results that they can deliver for Australia. The only people who want to be negative and unhappy about them are the Australian Labor Party. We know the reason for that. It is that people like Senator Carr and the leadership of the Australian Labor Party—and, it seems, most Labor Party senators—seem happiest when they are closest to the general post office of a major capital city and even happier when they are in a cappuccino strip. They are very unhappy when they get out to the regions. They do not understand the fact that much of the wealth of Australia and much of Australia's prosperity is created by people who live outside capital cities—by people who run home based businesses from farms, for example, who have to struggle against the elements to grow crops and deliver export income for Australia.

Yesterday we had Senator Carr saying what a scandal it was that the proponent of an ethanol plant should have a company that was registered on the farm—at the home. This was an attack on a home based business—an attack on a farmer who wants to expand his business. It was an attack on a farmer who wants to develop an environmentally friendly project which will create full-time employment for dozens of other people and indirect employment for another 350 people, and provide alternative fuels and cleaner air and a structural adjustment that will underpin water reform in that district. So it is a win for the environment, a win for the economy and a win for employment in the local area. And who is against it? The good old hard Left of the Australian Labor Party represented by Senator `Comrade' Carr.

I was asked about guidelines, and I come back to the issue of guidelines. If we want to talk about guidelines and publishing guidelines, where were the guidelines from Senator O'Brien when he went up to Cairns and visited the centre at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park? He and Senator Lundy went up there and put on a political election stunt to announce a $10 million grant for an Indigenous program. Of course, it flew back in their faces, because they went to what I am told is a quite extraordinarily successful tourist attraction at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Don and Judy Freeman, the people who manage this park in partnership with the Indigenous owners, said that after Senator Lundy and Senator O'Brien had launched this $10 million proposal for a Cairns museum— (Time expired)

Senator CARR —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I once again remind the minister that the question went to the Auditor-General's statement. When will there be a statement produced conforming with the Auditor-General's requirement in regard to this project? What other Regional Partnerships projects have been approved using the SONA assessment guidelines? Can the minister provide a list of these projects, their dollar value, and indicate how they met the SONA requirements? Can the minister give an assurance to the Senate that such projects actually met the national interest test? Finally, can the minister also provide a list of projects that were not approved under the Regional Partnerships program up to the end of September 2004?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The supplementary question relates to guidelines, and if there is any further information I can add in relation to that of course I would be happy to do so. As I have said, the government intends to respond to any Senate committee inquiry to the fullest. The question in relation to guidelines begs the question about the Tjapukai national museum and any guidelines that might have been in the back of the minds of Senator O'Brien or Senator Lundy. Don and Judy Freeman, who run this successful private sector operation, were very worried, after the visit of these two Labor luminaries, to see that their successful private sector enterprise was going to have to compete against Labor's vision of a $10 million one with free entry. They were very concerned. They ended up having to have a meeting—and I feel sorry for them—with Senator O'Brien and Senator Lundy for them to explain how it would not compete against them. But they remain unimpressed. Mrs Freeman is quoted as saying:

“I don't think they'd given a great deal of thought to what they were doing,” she said. “We've asked that they respond to us by Saturday, giving us a commitment that whatever they undertake with the national museum would be in conjunction with Tjapukai.”

(Time expired)