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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 583


Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (16:23): I would like to start by stating the obvious: I am over the moon about being back here for a second term and representing my seat of Herbert and my city of Townsville in this nation's 44th Parliament. I feel a great debt of gratitude to the electors of Herbert, and I assure them I will be here and in my electorate doing my best for our city and our region.

No-one wins an election by themselves. The team behind me last year was massive. I would like to acknowledge my immediate and extended family, but especially my wife, Linda, and my three children—Emma, Abbie and Andrew—for their continued and determined support of me and my role. To my staff, ably led by Sheree Lineham, I say thank you. For any sales team to be effective, the back office must be strong. I have a back office of Sheree, Karen Ruffle, Calum Kippin and Kurt Fong. There are none better in this country. That they were able to marshal their families, friends, contacts, casual acquaintances and strangers from the street to help get me re-elected says a lot about their genuine enthusiasm for their roles. To all the team who worked so hard from the leadership group of Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop and Warren Truss, to the party organisations, to the party members in Townsville, to our friends and supporters, I say thank you very much. I want to especially thank a few others who went above and beyond the call of duty: to Michelle, Stephanie, Julie, Andrew, and Lenny, I thank you all; I would not be here without you. To the Jones collective and the Young LNP, I say thank you. I want to thank Molly, Dan, Brendan, Dale, Kelsey, Sam, Drew Boy, Emma, Thaddeus, Jessica, Scott, Dr Michael, Crystal, Chelsea, Ryan, Stathie and the hundreds of volunteers who these people were able to drag up to the front line in the name of getting me re-elected.

When Senator Ian Macdonald was first elected to the Senate in 1990 he was the only Liberal representative north of the south-east corner. That the LNP now boasts the members for Leichardt, Herbert, Dawson, Capricornia and, if you crib a little bit, Flynn, is full testament to the commitment Ian has to the role of being a senator for Queensland. His work in supporting our candidate for the seat of Kennedy, Noeline Ikin, where a swing of over 15 per cent was recorded to her, should go down as one of the great campaigns. His recognition of a truly great candidate to give proper representation to the people of north-west Queensland, and his willingness to back her all the way, should never be underestimated or undervalued. Noeline will come to this place and she will be a great member. I would like to also pass on my personal congratulations to the coalition's class of 2010. We have all been returned and will become a great force in this parliament. I especially want to congratulate the members for Aston, Kooyong and Riverina for their elevation to parliamentary secretary roles.

I do not propose to spend my time here pointing out the weaknesses and errors of the previous government—for a start I only have 20 minutes. The Abbott government will be a government for all Australians. It will be a government that sets tasks and gets them done. It will be a government that builds infrastructure and will facilitate growth and trade. Locally, we will finish the Townsville Ring Road, finally fix Dalrymple Road, replace the Haughton River Bridge, build a community centre and a cyclone evacuation centre in the northern beaches, fix the Bowden Road intersection, install lights for walkers on Castle Hill and River Way Drive, and upgrade facilities at the Townsville Showgrounds. Additionally, we will finish the Vantassel road extension, which should have been done in 2010. Additional to this will be the establishment of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University.

It will be a government that will reduce waste and remove the constraints of red tape. Small business has been especially hurt by new and costly regulations and red tape. It has strangled enterprise and it must stop. We will do this because it is not government that creates wealth, nor does it create jobs. What government does is set the parameters around which business can do things and then gets out of the way. That is what we will do.

Our Treasurer, JB Hockey, stated in a speech to the Centre for Independent Studies that the coalition has a plan in three parts:

Firstly we must be honest about the challenges we face.

Secondly we must lay down a road map that helps us to deal with those challenges.

And thirdly we must harness the support of the nation as we follow the road map notwithstanding the obstacles that will be put in our way.

No matter the sector, no matter the industry, no matter the cause or campaign, these basic tenets are true and we need to heed these words.

If we do not include the people of Australia in our vision, we are doomed to fail. I will challenge our side of politics to look further than the political wedge or the news grab for our discourse with the Australian people. We all deserve better than we have had. We have to be able to articulate that vision for the future. We have to get the people of Australia to understand and know that vision. And we have to deliver on that vision, keeping Australians informed along the way. That is the mission we have undertaken, and it is a mission in which I am proud to play a part.

The Abbott government took a series of commitments to the 7 September election, and we will honour our commitments. Central to this is the repeal of the carbon tax. No issue could be clearer to the people of Australia during the election: if you want the carbon tax removed, you vote for a coalition candidate. Nothing could be clearer. That we won 90 seats in a very clear majority should tell all those in this House what people want. They want this toxic tax gone. I urge the Labor Party to respect this mandate, as we respected its mandate to remove Work Choices. To do otherwise is to thumb its nose at the people of this great nation.

Townsville is a hub for our region and the north of our country. It will continue to be so and grow with responsibility and with the reputation for being able to get things done. Whether it is the west to north-west minerals province and its renewable energy corridor possibilities, or further north and east to PNG and Fiji and the Melanesian world, we will grow to become an educational trade hub for that dynamic arc of the Pacific. Townsville will be part of the future.

The future is indeed bright, but only if we grab it with both hands. Tony Abbott's backing of the white paper on the development of northern Australia is an act of pure leadership. Clearly, this is an incredibly important part of my future in this place. That there are only eight House of Representatives seats north of the Tropic of Capricorn in the entire country means that there are 142 south of that line. The politically expedient thing to do, if he was just about winning elections, would be to concentrate on other parts of the country. That he and Andrew Robb can see that the development of the north is imperative for the future of our country is a credit to them both.

The white paper is an opportunity to really grab our part of the Asian century, but we must be tenacious in our approach to this. We must remember to keep the paper looking to the future. I want the paper to be framed by the question: 'If we were having this conversation in 2050 or 2100, what would have to have happened for the development of northern Australia to be a success?' We must, first and foremost, look at what our customers want. We must then decide what can be built, maintained and delivered. We must approach the development of northern Australia at a macro level. Above all, we must get the baseline science right. You do not build a house starting with the roof—you get the foundations right. Everything we do impacts on our environment. It is how we manage those impacts which should drive our decisions. It is pointless to grow a $20 million crop of mung beans if it wipes out the billion-dollar prawn industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria. James Cook University, the only university to be established with its purpose in education directed toward life in the tropical world, is perfectly placed to lead this venture. We can lead the world on many fronts—from tropical medicine to clean energy generation to technology—if we seize the opportunity. This should not be a science versus development project; this should be development guided by science.

The white paper should look not only at what private enterprise will invest in but also at what private capital will not invest in. Some suggest the use of the $1.4 trillion of superannuation savings of Australians should be targeted as a driver here. I am certainly not against that, in principle, but for them to invest they must either be guaranteed a return or the enterprise must first be established and proving itself, through its returns, to be an attractive investment. We cannot speculate with the life savings of other Australians. To throw superannuation savings at speculative investments, the way a Labor-Greens government wanted to with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, would be folly of the highest order. Venture capital has its place but it must be supported by taxation reform. That is a discussion in which all Australians must play a part; I am willing to be part of that.

When Andrew Robb addressed a luncheon in Townsville on his plan to develop the north, he used this description: presently, there are roughly 500 million people in the tropical world—that is, people living between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer—who could be described as middle class. That number is expected to grow rapidly to 3.2 billion people by the year 2035. These people will want many things, including energy, quality education, quality food, cutting-edge health outcomes, holiday destinations and investment opportunities. If we miss this chance, if we sit back and do not plan, if we wait for them to come and throw money and infrastructure at us, we will be, as Lee Kuan Yew once famously suggested, the 'white trash of Asia'.

We have an opening and we must grab it and fight for it. This is too important an opportunity to miss. As a country, we need to ensure our own people are offered opportunities for personal growth and success. From our first Australians to the newest members of our society, the chance to prosper is what makes Australia great. That means that our education, industrial relations and social security systems need to be working correctly and engaged at every level.

Education is the key to everything, I believe. From health outcomes to work and pay, the better your education and attitude the better, statistically at least, you will cope. I do not have a university degree; I am an auctioneer by trade. But my life was given the best possible start by parents who loved me and believed in me and by quality teachers at Texas State School and Toowoomba Grammar School who drilled the basics into me until I knew them by heart and instinct. Under the guidance of Christopher Pyne, the coalition will allow more autonomy at the local educational level. We will empower principals and school communities to make the decisions. We need to get more decision-making capability closer to the students so that we get the best possible outcome for our future leaders. There is a lot we can do from this place to assist the states to deliver quality education. We must work together and be constructive, through COAG, to achieve better results for all Australians.

From education we go to work. We must be a country which competes on quality and service. We are a high-wage country. We can have high wages into the future if we have low input costs. Over the last two terms of government, we have seen a build-up of regulation and constraints around doing business in Australia. Cleaning these up does not mean a drop in working conditions; it means that if we want jobs we have to service the customer, not the other way around. If we do not, the customer leaves and does not come back. More than that: he tells his friends and they do not come back, either. We have needed foreign investment in Australia since 1788, and the world's capital is very mobile. We must provide the level of service and productivity we need to present a compelling case for investment. It is that simple.

I reaffirm the coalition's commitment to fair indexation for DFRDB and DFRB military superannuants from 1 July this year. The use of the CPI as the only lever for increase has diminished their pension's capacity to keep up. The inability of previous governments, going all the way back to Whitlam's, to apply the male total average weekly earnings and the pensioners and beneficiaries cost of living index measures to their pensions has gone on far too long. I am proud to be part of a government which will, from 1 July 2014, finally right this wrong.

Coming from Townsville, I am acutely aware of the service given to our community by the men and women of our ADF. We need to honour our past, and the centenary of ANZAC will be a great moment in time for all Australians. We do, however, need to be vigilant with our care of our most recent veterans. Additionally, we are also closing in on the 50th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan—surely a great moment for Australia to look back and right some more wrongs. As other members have noted in this place, this must be commemorated with respect and dignity.

I am heartened to hear that the Abbott government will work towards formal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in our Constitution. This, along with former Prime Minister Rudd's apology to the stolen generation, is a symbolic gesture whose time has come. It will not, however, get one more person a job, stop one more person going to jail or stop one more student disengaging from the education system.

Those are things which must be corrected in conjunction with our First Australians. It must be driven by them and for them. We in this place must offer every assistance and incentive, but there must be an outcome. In many cases, we are talking about changing generational disengagement. That is not easy; it never has been. But nothing worthwhile comes with no effort. There will be mistakes and errors, and there will be people hurt along the way.

For too long, good intentioned people have sat back and made excuses or looked the other way. For too long, the answer has been to simply throw more money at the problem. It is my firm belief that money is not the answer. It has created industries where people have profited from others' misery. It has, in some cases, meant that corruption has occurred. I will make it my business to uncover corruption where the victims are the most vulnerable in our society. There must be a way to hold the individuals to account. It has to happen, and it must start now. On the weekend there was a meeting of local Aboriginal and Islander elders aimed at engaging kids at risk, not just kids in the system but kids at risk of getting into the system. That is where our focus has to be. We have to spend money, but it costs over $100,000 a year to keep someone in jail, and we have to keep that in perspective.

The answer to getting people out of poverty is worthwhile and meaningful work. Minister Andrews is always saying that the best social security you can ever give someone is a job. Senator Nigel Scullion has always made the observation that this is not a black problem; this is not a problem purely for Aboriginal and Islander people. This is a poverty problem. This problem exists everywhere in the world where poverty exists. This is a problem everywhere in the world where people cannot engage properly in education and health systems or get meaningful work. We, as a country and as a society, must stand up and be counted. There are many steps and many debates, discussions, disagreements, and knock-down, drag-out arguments that have to take place along the way. We should have these debates, but meaningful work should be the goal for every Australian.

I said in my maiden speech that no-one would be left behind. I meant it then and I mean it now. Australia is a great country and I represent the best part of that great country. North Queensland is an absolutely magnificent place, and Townsville is obviously the greatest place in North Queensland. As the Treasurer said, there are challenges, and we must produce the road map to better times, which will include bringing everyone together and allowing them to play their part. I will be doing my best to represent my city and region for the next three years. Townsville and its people are a forward-looking group. They are a group that see the glass half-full. They are the fox terrier that is always chasing after something. They are the blue cattle dog that is always looking to work. We are optimists. We are workers who get things done, and we will continue to do so. I thank the House.