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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 1482

Senator COLBECK (3:18 PM) —We have just seen Senator Farrell struggle through his five minutes because, as Senator Mason said, the government does not have policy, does not have a plan and does not have direction. That is clearly demonstrated by Senator Ludwig’s answers to my questions today. I asked him three very simple questions: when is he going to announce the funding package for Tasmania’s forest contractors, which is absolutely desperately and urgently needed; will it be subject to GST and company tax; and will it have administration fees taken out of the $20 million—in other words, will it be whittled back? My understanding from conversations that I have had with industry is that the minister promised that this would be announced by the end of this week. I gave him the opportunity to clearly state that today. He hid behind the excuse that he did not want to reveal details of the package. I accept that he does not have to tell us how the money will be spent on the contractors themselves, but he could tell them whether $10 million will be gouged out for GST, whether they will be subject to tax on the money that they receive and whether the administration costs for that program will be deducted from the $20 million. He could quite easily have said that and put that on the table right now.

As Senator Mason said, there is an absolutely complete and utter policy failure here, because the Labor Party did not even issue an agriculture policy for this election. Senator Farrell has talked about how wonderful Mr Burke is. He was so lazy in his policy before the last election that he did not even release a policy. In fact, the Labor Party’s policy in respect of forestry was—I read the heading from the media release of 19 August—’Labor matches Coalition forestry commitment’. That was the Labor Party policy for forestry at the last election. So, when we talk about Minister Burke and how wonderful he might be, he was so lazy that he did not even release a policy at the last election.

Senator Boswell asked questions this afternoon in relation to marine parks. It would be interesting to know—given that Senator Conroy said the environment department were working very hard and Senator Farrell said that Minister Burke works day and night 24 hours a day—why the meetings with the Commonwealth Fisheries Association programmed for this afternoon on the issue of marine parks were cancelled. One of the representatives of the Commonwealth Fisheries Association, who was in my office this afternoon, said: ‘This is the reason: we’ve got nothing to say. We have nothing to tell you.’ This is yet another example of what Senator Mason has said: there is no policy and no plan.

The reason the government are struggling with the $20 million for forest contractors is that they did not do the policy work before the election. They are struggling through it now. Even the Tasmanian Premier said on 10 November:

I am disappointed that it hasn’t happened as rapidly as it should have.

He is quite famous in Tasmania for being slow to get things done, and even the slow Tasmanian Premier believes that this is taking longer than it should. It is a complete and utter policy failure on behalf of the government.

In respect of marine parks, we have been following this process for quite some considerable time. We want to know what the program is and we want to know what the displaced effort policy is, which was the issue which the Commonwealth Fisheries Association was supposed to meet the department about this afternoon. The responses from the department and from the government were, ‘We have got nothing to tell you’. There is complete and utter policy failure on behalf of the government, and now we are in a situation of policy paralysis. A minister cannot even confirm his commitment to an industry association in Tasmania that a policy will be launched this week. It was a very simple question. All he had to do was say, ‘Yes, I made that commitment to the industry and, yes, I am going to follow it through,’ but the government cannot even do that.

And yet again we saw Senator Conroy in response to a question today from another senator about the antisiphoning legislation and proposals. He did not even turn up to the free TV drinks last night—he did not even front. So not only can they not make policy or deliver policy; they will not front up. I spoke to a number of representatives of the industry last night who were very anxious to talk to the minister. They just wanted to put their views to him; they did not necessarily want to harangue, but he would not even front up. This is a demonstration, as Senator Mason said at the outset, of the complete and utter policy failure and paralysis of this government. (Time expired)