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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5573


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (15:13): Mr Deputy President, I will take that slip of the tongue by Senator Furner, referring to you as 'Mr Deputy Prime Minister'. I could see that—Nationals leader in the lower house in a coalition government. I think that would be a pretty good line.

Senator McEwen: You reckon he's better than Barnaby?

Senator WILLIAMS: No, we are talking about a coalition. He would be a fine Deputy Prime Minister, as he is a fine Deputy President.

Senator McEwen: Is this another three-cornered contest?

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator WILLIAMS: I will continue on when the interjections from the young ladies on the other side stop.

Senator Wong: Flattery, flattery, flattery—water off a duck's back!

Senator WILLIAMS: You give a compliment and you get ridiculed for it—a strange place, this! Referring to the questions today in relation to the carbon tax, Senator Furner made some points about Premier Campbell Newman not contributing any money to the NDIS. There is a serious problem in Queensland: they have a serious government debt—currently, I think, around $70 billion. This is for just 4½ million people. It is expected to go to some $80 billion by 2015 and some $100 billion by 2017-18. Is it any wonder Queensland is tightening the belt?

But the point I make is about the carbon tax. What a time to put extra costs on their economy—a time when they are struggling and have huge government debt. We know they have the huge government debt; there was a Labor government prior to this new Liberal National Party government in Queensland. We know throughout the history of my life that every time the Labor Party has been thrown out of government, whether it be state or federal, the chequebook is empty and usually the overdraft is maxed out. Sadly, Queensland, which was debt-free for decades under coalition government, is now wallowing in serious debt. This is not a laughing matter; this is a serious problem they have in Queensland; and, unless hard decisions are made, they will not correct themselves. They will go down the gurgler.

That is why we talk about the carbon tax at this time. My colleague Senator McKenzie highlighted AUSVEG and the fruit and vegetable industries. It is quite clear that rural and regional Australia is going to be hit the hardest. We already have the highest electricity prices. We already have the highest freight charges. We already have the highest cost of doing business because of a lot of those freight components. And yet this is going to add more. They talk about 10 per cent. There is an 18 per cent increase in electricity charges as of 1 July in New South Wales. IPART, the independent body, has put the price up 18 per cent. Fifty per cent of that rise is due to the carbon tax—to achieve what? That is the point.

I want to follow on from Senator Back's comments about the transport industry. There are many crazy parts of this carbon tax, but this is the craziest. Many of them over there are colleagues of the Transport Workers Union: Senator Sterle is a truckie, and I spent a lot of times in trucks myself; Senator Conroy is a big supporter of the Transport Workers Union. And they are going to add another $515 million in fuel tax to our transport industry, to the $8 billion litres of diesel the truckies use around Australia. And this is going to change the planet. The transport industry has done such a great job with their new, modern Euro 4 motors, where the pollution is basically zero compared to the older motors, yet they are going to hit the transport industry—which, of course, will have the most devastating effect on, once again, rural Australia, where in a town like where I live we have no rail and everything comes into the town by road. Everything goes out by road—for example, the thousand head of beef that are sorted each day at Bindaree Beef abattoir, a business I am so proud is based in my home country town. They will pay the extra freight charges—that is, unless there is a change of government come the next election.

Speaking of that, there will be an additional $1.7 million in the first year to the cost of running the abattoir at Inverell. The figures came forward at a Senate inquiry. But their competitors in America and overseas, against which we compete in the markets in Korea and Japan—the beef markets—do not have those costs. We are removing the competitive edge of our economy, especially those rural economies which rely so much on the export of our agricultural produce and products and our minerals. It has been two years since Prime Minister Gillard made that now-broken promise, and it will haunt her to her political grave.