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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1282

Senator BOSWELL(11.37) —Senator Aulich has made an amazing contribution. Most of his speech was--

Senator Button —Hear, hear! I agree.

Senator BOSWELL —I did not say a good contribution; I said an amazing contribution. There is a difference. For most of the 20-odd minutes that he spoke on the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill he attacked the Gray Liberal Government in Tasmania. It was only in his last two or three sentences that he actually addressed the Bill.

I oppose this legislation on a number of counts. The Australian Labor Party came to government four years ago by attacking the Gray Government about the Franklin dam. Four years later, in its dying stages, the Australian Labor Party Government is again attacking the Gray Government. In between, the ALP has tried to centralise the power of the States in Canberra. Sex discrimination legislation, equal opportunity legislation and a Bill of Rights all involved the taking away of the rights of the smaller States and the centralising of power in Canberra.

Tasmania has borne the brunt of the Government's attack. It has bullied Tasmania, the smallest State, in regard to the Franklin dam and Badger Creek, and now the proposed commission of inquiry into the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests. The Government has tried to usurp the power of the Tasmanian Government. Tasmanians can feel that they have been badly treated. They wisely voted the Gray Government into office, only to find that its decisions are overriden by a centralised government in Canberra which uses the powers in an external treaty signed by overseas governments which do not understand the needs of the Taswegian people. What would a government in Turkey understand about the economic problems of Tasmania? Yet this Government is using an external treaty signed by countries such as Turkey to make decisions on what will happen in Tasmania. This Government was not elected to meddle in the affairs of Tasmania or Queensland, but it continually does so.

Every three years Tasmanians go to the polls. They decide their own fate at an election. They vote for a government and give that government a mandate to administer the internal affairs of Tasmania. One cannot complain about the Hare-Clark system. It has many faults, but it is certainly a one vote, one value system. Yet this Federal Government sells out the Tasmanian Government every time. It sacrifices the needs of Tasmania at the altar of the conservation vote. That is what this Bill is about when all is said and done. This is an election year. We are approaching a Federal election. There are strong rumours floating around this place that a double dissolution will be called and an election will be held on 9 May. The Government is trying to lock up the conservation vote in Melbourne and Sydney. It is putting that conservation vote before the most important interests of this nation.

The Labor Government knows that the six Liberal Party senators and the five Liberal Party members of the House of Representatives from Tasmania cannot be beaten. They have given excellent representation to the island State. The Government has written off Tasmania. It cannot do any worse there. It has said: `We will not remove any Liberal Tasmanian members of parliament'.

Senator Coates —You would not want to bet on it.

Senator BOSWELL —I would take any amount of money on that. I tell Senator Coates that there is no chance of removing any of the excellent representation that the Liberal Party offers the people of Tasmania. A number of jobs will be lost. I do not think that the Labor Party is particularly worried about that.

Senator Button —Hodgman will be one of them.

Senator BOSWELL —In Queensland last Friday I asked Senator Button a question. Unfortunately, he was unable to answer it. He said he did not know anything about it. I do not know why the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) treats him like a mushroom. He holds a very significant position in the Labor Party, yet every time I ask him a question that is of importance to Australia he does not seem to know the answer. Last Friday the Government rejected a silica mining project at Shelburne Bay for exactly the same reason-that is, it wanted to win a few votes in Melbourne and Sydney at the expense of the needs of the people of Queensland. We have seen this week a cynical and hypocritical operation. The silica mining facility at Shelburne Bay was thrown into the wastepaper bin by the Government. Now about 12,000 jobs in Tasmania over 20 years are being thrown away. The legislation that is before the Senate will deprive Tasmanians of jobs and job prospects.

Similar legislation which the Government will probably introduce in regard to the Shelburne Bay mining facility will cost Queensland, and ultimately Australia, $20m a year in export income. Some people are already employed in the area by the mining companies and carrying out economic impact surveys. Forty people who are there at present will lose their jobs. Eighty permanent jobs will be lost in the construction and mining phase. A capital infrastructure of $30m-most of that money would have been spent in north Queensland-will disappear. It will be sacrificed at the altar of the votes of a few conservationists who do not really understand the problems of Australia. With that silica mining plant in Shelburne Bay, there would ultimately have been sufficient grading plant in time which would have given Australia a facility to make silicon chips, fibre optics and photovoltaic cells. All these types of things have been sacrificed. Senator Button, the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, does not even know about these things.

Senator Button —Stop picking on me.

Senator BOSWELL —Senator Button should be condemned. He should understand these things as he is the Minister responsible. He should be making every effort to make sure that Australia moves into the high technology area so that we can exploit some of these items such as silicon chips, fibre optics and photovoltaic cells which will give Australia a future. Yet the Minister will close down the Lemonthyme forest, if the commission of inquiry ultimately has its way. I am disgusted at the Government's hypocritical attitude. Australia is in debt to the tune of $1,000 billion. We are running up a debt of $3.4 billion a month, our farmers are financially haemorrhaging, our small business people are going out of business, our children cannot get jobs and we shall never have the standard of living that the Minister and I have enjoyed in the past. Our children will never have that standard of living unless the Minister faces some of the consequences that he is putting before this nation. Our credit rating is down and if he cared about Australia instead of political expediency, he would make every post a winner.

I am glad Senator Button is present because this is his responsibility. He should try to create real and lasting jobs instead of phoney community employment program jobs that last for only three months after which most people return to the dole queue. He should fight for every export dollar this country can earn to reduce our overseas debt and, ultimately, our interest rates, so that small business and farmers can exist instead of going bankrupt. The Minister is not addressing the real problem of this nation. The Minister will not allow Tasmania and Queensland to create real jobs or earn export dollars, yet at Question Time he receives questions-Dorothy Dix after Dorothy Dix-attacking the two conservative governments in Australia, asking why their unemployment rates are high. I will tell the Minister why they are high. They are high because the Minister will not let those States create real and lasting jobs and attract overseas funds.

Senator Button —That is unfair.

Senator BOSWELL —It might not be fair, but it is true. If it offends the Minister I am sorry, but he had better wear it. He is in government. We are no doubt told by Senator Button and others in this Government that if we leave our country in its natural, pristine condition we will attract the tourist industry and that it will play an important role. I concede that the tourist industry plays a very important role, but Australia must be able to export to provide other jobs, otherwise all our children will be carrying drinks for wealthy Japanese and American tourists. That will be the future for our children. We will be the poor white trash of South East Asia, and our children will be mopping up floors and carrying drinks for Japanese and American tourists. That is not what I want for the future of the nation and our children. I want them to have real and lasting jobs and the Minister is not providing them because he is worshipping and kneeling at the altar of the conservation vote, which happens to be 3 or 4 per cent. The other 93 per cent of Australians want their children to have lasting jobs that are created by mining and farming, and the Minister will not acknowledge that.

If the Bill goes ahead, we could see 12,000 jobs lost in 20 years and valuable export revenue would also be lost in Tasmania. In the Shelburne Bay case, ASP Resources (Queensland) Pty Ltd, the company that was formed to extract the silica from Shelburne Bay, negotiated leases and honoured every requirement that the Federal Government asked it to meet. It cost that company $5m to meet all the requirements the Federal Government asked it to meet. It commissioned environmental impact studies, met the requirements of the Foreign Investment Review Board, and it has been given the green light by the Greater Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Never at any time in the 12 to 18 months was it told other than that it would be able to proceed-until the company received a letter from the Treasurer on 19 March stating that it could not proceed. The company spent $5m over 12 to 18 months and this Government never at any time acknowledged that it would not receive the leases and permits to export. If this is the Government's attitude on foreign investments, I suggest that overseas investors would not put even confederate money into Australia at the moment. They will not trust this Government again. This overseas company has done all the right things, has met all the requirements, has been told it can go ahead and extract silica from Shelburne Bay, but because an election is imminent, because a double dissolution is coming up, because this Government is terrified to face the people without the greenie vote, it pulls the rug out from under this company. This Government has misled the company into spending $5m.

Let me point to the irony of the situation. I have a letter signed by Mr Keating which, after pulling the rug right out from under the company, says:

You may be assured that Toyomenko and ASP Resources are most welcome to invest in Australia either by way of an acceptable alternative silica project or in some other project that would be consistent with your commercial interests.

I suggest to Senator Button that this company would rather trust the Government of Upper Chad than the Federal Government. That is how much credibility the Minister has left with people who come out here and take his word. I think the Minister should offer some form of compensation, except that it would be paid for by the taxpayer.

Every State in Australia deserves the right to plan its own economy. This Government is denying the rights of citizens of sovereign States. The Australian Constitution gives the people the right to elect a government of their choice and that government can make the economic choice in the best interests of its State. This is what this Federal Government is denying the citizens of Tasmania and the citizens of Queensland. The Government cannot win a ballot in Tasmania or in Queensland. It cannot legitimately control those States by having a Labor government there. The citizens of Queensland and of Tasmania are too smart for that. Yet the Government tries to centralise or to usurp the power of those democratically elected governments by some foreign treaty, signed by some country like Turkey, that would have no understanding of the needs of Queensland or Tasmania and the Government usurps it by some back-door phrase in the Constitution. The Government is ripping up the Constitution; that is what this Government is all about.

The Shelburne Bay decision also denies the Queensland Government the right to make those economic choices. The hypocrisy of the Government has to be seen to be believed. We are told that the decision not to mine Shelburne Bay was made under the Government's foreign investment policy, despite the fact that ASP Resources met every criterion set down by the Government. The Japanese company, Pacific Mining, was formed and had 51 per cent Australian equity and 49 per cent Japanese equity. That is what the Foreign Investment Review Board asked for, and that is what it got. The company honoured every commitment asked of it by the Hawke Government. It was then told that if it formed a company with a 100 per cent Australian equity the silica mined at Shelburne Bay would then be put on a prohibited export list under the regulations. I tell the Senate, and particularly the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button), that if the Shelburne Bay silica is placed on a prohibited export list by regulation I will move for the disallowance of that regulation at the appropriate time. Then we will go through this debate again.

I have not been to the Lemonthyme Forest, but I am sure it is a beautiful spot. However, I have flown over the Shelburne Bay sand deposits on a number of occasions. Shelburne Bay is 311 miles from Cairns. It is inaccessible except by sea and helicopter. There is no airport. If people want to go there the only other choice they have is to back-pack in, and this can take up to two or three days. I acknowledge that if Australia has an asset which people can enjoy then possibly, under certain circumstances, that asset should be left as it is. But for the life of me I cannot understand why, when there is a facility existing which can create jobs, export earnings and infrastructure and which is not accessible to anyone except those who own private helicopters-I suggest that there are very few of those-we should not be able to use these assets in the national interest. We cannot afford to sit on our assets. We cannot afford to sit back and say that these assets can be used for some future generation, because Australia has no future unless we export and create jobs. It is up to the government of the day to address those problems. We have no future unless we can create jobs and export earnings to reduce our interest rates so that our farmers and small business people can exist. To deny the use of assets that can generate those jobs is to deny the future of Australia.

In the Prime Minister's Press release of 20 March we were told that the development of Shelburne Bay would affect the Aboriginal community. As one Aboriginal from Bamaga community told me-honourable senators should remember that Bamaga is about 150 kilometres away from Shelburne Bay-a goanna would have to carry a cut lunch before he could cross the sand dunes. The Shelburne Bay deposits are about 200 kilometres away from the Edward River Aboriginal community and about 150 kilometres away from the Bamaga Aboriginal community. I have made inquiries from people up there, and I do not think that the sand dunes at Shelburne Bay have any Aboriginal significance. Therefore, the Prime Minister's Press release is not telling the truth. Yet Cape Flattery, the site of another silica mine, is only 20 kilometres away from the Hopevale Aboriginal community. Therefore, according to the Prime Minister's Press release, sand dunes have Aboriginal significance if they are 200 kilometres away from an Aboriginal community but they do not have the same significance if they are 15 kilometres away from another Aboriginal community.

The Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill and the Shelburne Bay decision reek of political hypocrisy and pragmatism. This Government could have given Australia more genuine jobs. It could have improved Australia's balance of trade figures. But it has sacrificed the best interests of this nation on the altar of the greenie vote. North Queensland and Tasmania will suffer and, overall, Australia will suffer. This Government will stand condemned by the Australian people for not putting Australia first and politics second.