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
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 7688

Senator IAN MACDONALD (6:14 PM) —I also want to make a couple of comments on this report of the Economics References Committee. I congratulate the committee on their work and the quality of the report. I was interested to listen to Senator Marshall, and I just want to ask Senator Marshall one thing: who is going to pay off the money that has been borrowed for the economic stimulus package? It is all borrowed money, which puts upward pressure on interest rates, as you know, and we are seeing the results of that now. Already interest rates are starting to climb and will continue to do so, because Mr Rudd, that supposed economic conservative, has borrowed all of the money for the economic stimulus package. Who is going to pay that off and how?

Senator Marshall —I am happy to answer that question.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Humphries)—You may be happy to answer, Senator Marshall, but it was a rhetorical question, I assume.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Please get up and answer it at any time that you are able to within the standing orders—and I do not think that is now, Senator Marshall. Just tell us. How is it going to be paid off? Will it be increased taxes? More taxes? Additional taxes? The CPRS is a huge tax grab with some $50 billion unaccounted for. Is this how we are going to pay for the economic stimulus package? I would be interested to hear. Perhaps someone from the other side who has not spoken in this debate could answer my questions if Senator Marshall is not permitted under the standing orders to do it.

I did want to raise one other thing in relation to the committee’s report on the economic stimulus package. In question time today we had the Minister for Employment Participation responding to some interjections I have been making during the week about the rate of male unemployment in the city of Cairns in the north of Queensland. It is 17½ per cent, which is beyond even the Hawke-Keating unemployment rates in Far North Queensland. There are a number of reasons for that. The tourism industry is struggling but it is not getting any assistance whatsoever from the Rudd government. Of course, the changes in industrial relations laws mean that it is more difficult for the small businesses that constitute the tourism industry in Far North Queensland to engage and employ people. The minister has just come into the chamber; he must have been attracted by my commenting about his sterling performance in question time today when, in response to my interjections about that 17½ unemployment in Cairns, he said, ‘Oh, but we’re building some schools in Ravens Shoe.’

Opposition senator interjecting—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Is it in western New South Wales? I am not sure where Raven Shoe is. I thought he must have been talking about a bird that was wearing some footwear. I assume he was talking about Ravenshoe—which, while it is in Far North Queensland, is nowhere near Cairns. My interjections, to which he said in his answer he was responding, were in relation to the high rate of unemployment in Cairns. Ravenshoe is some two or three hours to the south-west of Cairns, at the bottom southern tip of the Atherton Tableland. Senator Arbib, if you ever get out of running the Labor Party in Sydney, you would do well to go and have a look around Cairns and places in Queensland and in Northern Australia where unemployment is so unacceptably high.

My real concern about these artificial measures which Senator Arbib is saying the government is putting in place—the ‘Julia Gillard memorial halls’—is that they are supposed to be economic stimulus. In Cairns they have had a very good shipbuilding industry for almost 100 years and perhaps even longer. It is a shipbuilding industry that built the first iteration of Australia’s very successful patrol boats. It is a shipbuilding industry that employed a considerable number of tradesmen and labourers, blue-collar workers, in Cairns. There was a government contract around that was allowing for some shipbuilding work for the Navy. I understand from all reports that the Cairns company North Queensland Engineers and Agents—NQEA—trading under another name, was pretty well in line to get the contract. Then, because of the Queensland government and the federal government, on the cusp of signing the contract it was pulled from under the feet of NQEA, the shipbuilding operators in Cairns. As a result, over 300 trade jobs in the shipbuilding industry have gone.

Cairns is now in a situation where it is experiencing 17½ per cent adult male unemployment. This government could have secured the jobs of all of those working families in Cairns, but it chose to stab NQEA and every single one of those tradesmen in the back. Now they are talking about artificially stimulating the economy, when there was a very viable business there—a business that was paying its own way and employing a lot of working families in Cairns. The federal Labor government, in conjunction with the Queensland Labor government, let that business go to the wall. This is why I get very distressed at the way the Labor Party cannot handle the economy, cannot handle employment and simply cannot be trusted with our economy. There are more than 300 skilled tradesmen in Cairns who know firsthand what it is like to be victims of the Labor Party’s mismanagement of the country. Their jobs, their secure jobs that could have been there for the next 10 years if they had got this shipbuilding contract, were capriciously taken from them by the Labor governments in Queensland and the Commonwealth. Mr Rudd and his government must stand condemned for that and for the fact that unemployment in Cairns is now in excess of 17 per cent for adult males.