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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3337

Senator BUSHBY (7:01 PM) —I rise tonight to raise again my concerns about the severe and abject neglect that this federal Labor government has shown towards my home state of Tasmania, ranging from lack of new investment in roads, rail and public transport to the now very worrying impact on Tasmanians of the government’s proposed great big new tax on mining activities.

The unfortunate fact is that Tasmanians now have to suffer under the dual yoke of a Tasmanian Labor government that has neglected Tasmania for over 12 years, and has now morphed into a Labor/Green state government, and a federal Labor government that is showing strong form of doing the same to Tasmania.

It is hard to see how anyone can do other than draw the conclusion that the Tasmanian government has for years failed to deliver road infrastructure to Tasmania. With very few exceptions, the only significant investment in Tasmanian roads has been that delivered by the previous Howard Liberal government or started or promised under that government. The best that federal Labor can do is to point to the money spent as part of its stimulus project—a massive $90-odd billion spend that has delivered nowhere near the benefit that such an amount should have because of the poor quality of the spend, the bungled delivery, the rorting of the programs that have been permitted to occur and the need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more of taxpayers’ money to fix the problems it has created.

Sure, schools have new halls and libraries—whether they wanted them or not—but at what cost? How much value, in terms of the dollars spent, have taxpayers received? How much more could have been done for schools, teachers, teaching aides and supplies—for the overall quality of public education—if the money had been more carefully spent and better planning used to ensure that schools received the targeted assistance they needed?

Similar criticisms hold sway with respect to the other stimulus projects, whether they be the pink batts fiasco, green loans or the infrastructure funds where Tasmanian Labor members, state and federal, appear to have failed to ask for any and—surprise, surprise!—received none. There are the undelivered and ill-conceived superclinics. As recently as this weekend I had cause to visit the site of one of the proposed clinics on Hobart’s eastern shore with the Tasmanian state AMA President, Dr Michael Aizen. The AMA has raised the very serious impacts the superclinic is going to have on the many private practice GPs in Hobart’s eastern shore and how the clinics will not deliver the health benefits trumpeted by the government.

This contrasts with the previous Liberal government’s approach. Time and time again the previous federal Liberal-led government stepped in to deliver projects to local Tasmanian communities—projects carefully identified as needed and providing real benefits for those communities. Fortunately, back then, in the absence of action by the state Labor government, the previous Liberal-led coalition government was good to Tasmania.

It is also worth noting that the Tasmanian Labor government is the only state government which regularly spends less on roads than the federal government does. Examples of investment made or promised in Tasmania in just the last few years of the last government include the upgrade of the Arthur Highway to Port Arthur; the $7.8 million upgrade of the dangerous Sisters Hill section of the Bass Highway; the sealing of the Esperance Road in the Huon Valley; duplications and upgrades on the Bass Highway, including the Penguin to Ulverstone and Port Sorell Road to Devonport sections; the Kingston bypass; the Westbury-Hagley bypass on the Bass Highway; an accelerated East Tamar Highway upgrade package; Midland Highway upgrades; a new Bridgewater Bridge; and the very much needed but state-Labor-government-ignored Lilydale to Scottsdale road upgrade.

We also saw the Bass Strait subsidies, both freight and passenger; the Antarctic Airlink; Hobart and Launceston aquatic centres built, support for the forestry industry; the Investing in Our Schools Program, which was a far better targeted program for improving school facilities than the Building the Education Revolution program; and the Howard government funded Kingborough sports stadium, which opened as recently as a week ago.

It is illuminating indeed to contrast the Liberal-led federal coalition government’s investment in Tasmania with that of the federal and state Labor parties. The previous government was able to promise and deliver these projects and more for Tasmanians because it approached the issues it faced sensibly and rationally, creating an ability to invest in local communities all over the country while at the same time putting money in the bank for the future—creating the future funds, the education and the communications funds—and yet still managing to regularly cut taxes paid by Australians.

In a few short years, this federal Labor government has thrown all this away. We now see profligate spending and a reluctance to ‘cut their cloth to suit’. I have previously mentioned in this place that there are two ways to address the unenviable situation where your spending outstrips your income. The first is to cut spending to suit. The second is to raise your income to suit. As governments have no money other than what they take from those who earn it, it is a great shame that this federal Labor government has chosen the latter—to take more money from those who are earning it: taxpayers, Australian individuals and companies who are working hard, employing Australians and delivering the strong economy that underpins our national standard of living.

While the federal coalition delivered and will continue to deliver sensible, costed and well-managed projects to Tasmania—albeit it will take some years of reinstated good management to get us back to the funding flexibility we had created up to November 2007—it appears that all federal Labor can do is deliver programs reliant on debt and big taxes and riddled with mismanagement.

Of course, then there is Labor’s great big new tax on mining—a tax which will and does impact in Tasmania, despite what many people think. Many in this chamber would not be aware that something up to 50 per cent of Tasmania’s exports comes from the mineral sector. We are one of the nation’s quiet achievers when it comes to mineral exports. We have a long and proud tradition of mining and refining minerals and aggregate in Tasmania, a tradition which stretches back to the very first years of European settlement in my home state. Mining in Tasmania has largely been concentrated on the state’s rugged and hard to access west coast. There are, however, operations right around the state, ranging from sandmining in the state’s south to tin and copper mining on the west coast and aggregate quarrying right across the state.

The variability of commodity prices means that many of Tasmania’s mines have at times struggled to keep operating. Many of them have closed only to reopen or become viable with increased demand and better prices from year to year. What this government fails to understand is that in places like Tasmania mines operate for many years on very little or no return and the few good years that they do have is what keeps the doors open and investment coming in for the future. Without these good years, the others are not viable. We have here the proposition of the government taxing those good years to the extent that they will not be viable at all.

While we recently experienced major job losses and a collapse in investment in Tasmania, from paper to vegetable and saw mill closures, all we have heard Tasmania’s federal Labor MPs do is talk up the job and investment destroying great big new tax on mining. During the last sitting period we heard Tasmanian Labor members of parliament Julie Collins and Sid Sidebottom proudly talking up the mine tax during doorstops. Yes, it is true. Despite suffering massive job losses in his own home electorate and it being massively reliant on mining investment and jobs, Sid Sidebottom has been spruiking the job and investment destroying mine tax! Even in the far more urban electorate of Franklin we have heard the federal Labor member, Julie Collins, supporting a tax that would hit some of her electorate’s biggest employers. With sand mining and some of the state’s biggest quarries, the member for Franklin seems happy to continue the government’s ill-managed spend-a-thon—this time being supported by a new mine tax as well as more borrowings.

I call on the Labor members, senators and candidates in Tasmania to stop this tax before it sends Tasmania’s economy back to where it was 15 years ago. With the state’s forestry industry in crisis, federal Labor are now sending our mining industry into oblivion, and not one of the three sitting Labor members who are up for election have raised any concerns with the new mine tax. All three of them are members for electorates which have significant resource dependent sectors—and all three members will be punished by Tasmanians for not protecting their jobs and prosperity. In stark contrast, the Liberal Party’s candidates and senators are fighting for the state’s economic prosperity, well-managed infrastructure investment, low taxes and support for the private sector.

When it comes to investment in infrastructure, it has been the federal coalition which has delivered in Tasmania. Current major infrastructure investment is largely thanks to the previous Howard government or reflects promises made by that government. Again, in the absence of action by the state Labor government, the previous Liberal-led coalition government promised to fully finance and build the Kingston bypass, making the funds available immediately. That was back in July 2007. Inexplicably, this offer was not taken up by state Labor, because they preferred the deal, after pressure, offered by the then federal Labor opposition, to provide $15 million to jointly fund the then estimated $40 million project. The Howard-led government was going to fully fund it, and yet state Labor chose $15 million out of $40 million—inexplicable!

A further example highlighting how Labor is letting down Tasmanians in respect of their roads is found in one of Australia’s most productive and unique regions, the Huon Valley, south of Hobart. The Huon Valley maintains a substantial share of one of the most sustainable forestry industries in the world. It has quarries which will be hit by the mine tax. It has a major aquaculture industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It is fair to say that the road transport needs and road safety of residents and businesses of the Huon Valley have been totally abandoned by the Labor Party. (Time expired)