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Thursday, 6 May 1993
Page: 258

Mr KATTER (11.30 a.m.) —Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is traditional to pay tribute to those people who are important and responsible for putting us here. The first person I would like to pay tribute to is my mum, who brought me up to be sincere, to love one's country deeply, to be good to people less fortunate than oneself and to understand that one's ultimate responsibility was always to God. She lived in a galvanised iron house; she had a wood stove, a copper boiler, an icebox and no hot running water.

  I also pay tribute to those people who worked so hard and effectively, without whom I most certainly would not be here: George Price, who can now be called the best campaign director in Australia, with a quite unprecedented string of wins in hard Labor areas; that incredible woman, Lady Pearl Logan, who, I always think, is the heart and soul of the National Party in Queensland; my wife, who had to do a great deal of the campaigning by herself in my old electorate and other areas, and also my five children, who worked tirelessly and effectively; the State members whose electorates are within Kennedy, without whose help I most certainly would not be in this place, and our National Party branches and personnel and, of course, the people who voted for me.

  When one comes into this place it behoves one to state one's political philosophy. The most important philosophy was espoused by the father of the English speaking peoples, no less a person than Alfred the Great, a very humble man. In the first laws that were ever written in English history, he wrote in the front of the Doomsday Book: `I have not presumed to put down in writing many laws of my own, for I do not know what will be suitable for those that follow after me.' Maybe we should have that tattooed on our arms or put over our beds of a night. It is a humble statement by a very humble man.

  The protection of our rights and freedoms and individual liberties through private ownership is a second important bastion. I saw that clearly when I had to effectively write a constitution for the black communities of Queensland. I saw clearly that private ownership was the great bulwark of protection against the excesses of government and of bullies of all types and of collectives in our society today. I pay a tribute to the people in Queensland who put forward the legislation for the Aboriginal communities which was so enormously successful.

  I could quote an authority, maybe the best authority, Robert Ardrey in his book the Territorial Imperative and that series of books, or maybe Abraham Lincoln and the Lincoln Homestead Act upon which all agriculture was based in the United States. It was based upon the idea of the man on his own land, owning his own property, working for himself. That was the basis of the Lincoln Homestead Act and that was the basis of the occupation of the continental land mass of the United States. That principle turned the United States into the great juggernaut of agriculture throughout the world—so much so that it threatens almost every other country with an excess of production.

  In sharp contrast, another principle was put forward in another country at exactly the same time. Karl Marx wrote his Das Kapital with its principle of collective ownership. Quite frankly, I do not care whether its a corporation or whether it is the government, it is the same sort of animal. I would object just as strongly to both. We have seen the failure of Das Kapital in Russia, the great basket case of the planet.

  I move to the area of education, because now almost half of our lives is taken up in education institutions. Let that great raconteur, Malcolm Muggeridge, have the last word. He said that education was like the giant armadillo: with each evolutionary wave it clothed itself in more and more armoured plate until eventually it was invulnerable from attack from every other creature that walked the earth. There was just one problem: it was so heavy it could not forage for food and it rapidly became extinct.

  If there is an underlying theme in the National Party of Australia, it is the theme of the owner-operator, which I turn to now. Alan Fletcher was a very prominent Minister for many, many years in the National Party governments in Queensland. When he died recently every speaker at his funeral said that Alan Fletcher had espoused and articulated the concepts and the principles of the National Party of Australia, that is, of the owner-operator in society. It was a term he used endlessly, over and over again, and fought courageously and tirelessly to implement, whether it was against big companies or whether it was against the bureaucracy and the pushers of socialism, he fought tirelessly and courageously against those moves, and to me he is a hero. Those who like reading books may like to read E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful. It represents very well the principles that Alan Fletcher fought, lived and died for.

  Let me also pay tribute to my predecessor—not to my immediate predecessor, but to my father. I had to speak at his funeral. I said of my father—and I think it was the most relevant thing that I had to say—that there is a great saying that you can take the boy out of the west but you can't take the west out of the boy; but, in my father's case, you could not take north-west Queensland out of Bob Katter, but you could also not take Bob Katter out of north-west Queensland, which he loved and where he lived and died.

  In his maiden speech in this House in 1966 he spoke of his dreams for his area. He could see hundreds of developments. He spoke of coalmines that were going to open up; of nickel plants and nickel mines; of television; of sealed roads, dams and cotton fields. He had the very great honour and privilege, I think, to have seen all of those dreams come to fruition. He saw the Nogoa Dam and the magnificent cotton fields of Emerald; he saw the Greenvale development which created for people in Queensland 1,500 jobs that are still there today, in part. He saw television, and he saw 2,400 miles of bitumen laid in and around his electorate.

  When one considers that we are talking about $1 million for every one of those miles of bitumen, or maybe as much as $2 million, one can see the sort of contribution that the Menzies and McEwen governments of years past made to the people of the inland. When I was a kid, we drove on dirt roads from Cloncurry or Mount Isa all the way to Brisbane, and whether one wanted to go by the coast road or by the back road it was that way. I do not have to tell honourable members what it is like to take five days to get from Cloncurry or Mount Isa to Brisbane. In one case, it took us nearly three weeks during one wet season. Now there are sealed roads, and one can do it in a day.

  I cannot help but say I suppose it is one of the reasons why my area, which should have gone to the Labor Party in this election, has staggered me that it did not: in the last three years, not one single solitary kilometre of bitumen was laid on any road inside the Kennedy electorate. I challenged my opponent, in public debate on the ABC, to name one single kilometre that was sealed. Yet in the 15 years before that in my own State electorate alone, 1,000 kilometres of seal was laid. Talking about dams and cotton fields, I asked the research library at the Queensland Parliament how many dams have been built in the last three years. They told me that not one single solitary dam was built in Australia in the last three years.

  Yet we get the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Crean), standing up publicly throughout Australia, telling us to be self-reliant and to look after ourselves. Count how many dams were built in New South Wales during the Menzies-McEwen era in the history of Australia, and then say how we have looked after the great resources that God has given us in this country, when nearly a half of the State of Queensland now is reeling under another drought, costing this nation maybe $1,000 million by the time it has run its course.

  Let me put a human face on what is Australia today. They were my father's dreams and they were fulfilled. Let me take honourable members, now, to Kennedy in 1993. I do not talk about dreams; I talk about shattered dreams. One of my very good friends, who was the federal president of the Cattlemen's Union, very recently put a gun to his head and shot himself. He had spent the previous two days shooting all of his calves and, from what I hear, his situation for the future was very, very grim. As with so many of the rest of us, every single thing that he had worked for, saved for and striven for in his entire life was going up in flames. He had come from generations of cattle producers, and he could not hand on to his son the same great development and production achievements that his father had handed on to him.

  In 18 months, three young men in just one area of the Kennedy electorate committed suicide. All three of them had lost their jobs in the previous two or three months. One of them left a suicide note to his parents. It said:

Mum and Dad,

I went out and I worked hard and I got a job in the meatworks and the meatworks closed. I went out and worked hard and got a job in a goldmine and the goldmine closed. I have tried to live at home but I know that I am a great burden upon you. I have tried to live elsewhere but after you pay $80 a week rent there is virtually not enough money left to stay alive so I have come home, but I cannot live with being a burden upon you any longer. Please pray for my soul. Goodbye. I always love you . . .

He mentioned his name, which I obviously will not do here.

  In a two-week period before the major speech I had to give in the recent election campaign, I cast my mind back over the people that I had stayed with in the Kennedy electorate during the previous week. The first one was a grazing family. The grazier was to take me around for two days in an area and he said, `I have just got a call from the bank'. His face was white as a sheet and his hands were shaking and I did not see him for the next two days.

  The next family I stayed with were cattle people; they inherited wealth, they were well off. The next family I stayed with, the bloke was drinking heavily; I had never seen him drinking heavily before in my life. He said, `My assets are the same as my liabilities. I will make huge losses this year. We are finished. Four generations of us out here in north-west Queensland and we are finished'. The next people I stayed with were all right. The next people were sugar cane farmers and he had to go and do a part-time job in town and his wife, at the age of 45 I think, has gone back to school teaching. She has tried desperately to get a job and she does part-time teaching. They are trying desperately to hold on to what they have worked for all of their lives.

  The next family I stayed with had a letter from the bank saying, `Pay up in two months'—which, of course, the family could not do—`or we are taking everything off you'. In the next family I stayed with, the husband had lost his job and for the first time in his life he was without a job and the bank had told him that if he did not have a job or a story to tell them within six weeks—those six weeks are up now—he would lose his house. In the last case, it was on Christmas day, the man rang his wife that morning, as he had rung his wife every morning for the last week that I had been with him, to find out whether the bailiff had served notice to throw them out into the street.

  For anyone who thinks that I am exaggerating, these people have intimated to me that they are quite happy that their names be used, so, if anyone wants to come and see me later on and check up and thinks that I am exaggerating, then they can come and see me. All I can say is that the people who talked about what they talked about during this recent election campaign, and, quite frankly, a fair proportion of the time since I have been down here, simply cannot be mixing or meeting with the same people that I am meeting and mixing with. I would ask the leadership of the Government, because they are the Government of Australia, they are responsible for our country, when was the last time they sat down and listened to a mob of blokes in a packing shed or in a crib room in a factory or in a pub, where they sat there for an hour and shut their mouth and listened and tried to hear some of the human pain and misery and suffering that was occurring out there and tried desperately to try and find out why it was there.

  Let me switch, with some considerable degree of violence and bitterness, and be very specific. Arguably the second biggest town in my electorate is Mareeba. After three years of this Government, 40 per cent of that town's income will have vanished, and it will have vanished because of the constant and continuous assault upon the tobacco industry. Some of you may have strong feelings about tobacco. Forget about that for one moment. The major damage that has been done is by a declaration of the Government that now runs Australia that it is going to remove all of the protection for that industry. We cannot compete against Zimbabwe, which pays a dollar a day for wages. Do honourable members want a dollar a day wages to be imported into Australia or do they want to just wipe out the entire economy of a town of 10,000 people, because that clearly is the choice, and that is what is happening now; it is the stated intention. Six hundred jobs have gone because $20 million a year has already gone and the economists tell us that every million dollars represents 30 jobs. I do not know, I am simply going by what they say.

  Timber industry logging has been banned, a wonderful achievement to protect the rainforests of North Queensland. It had sustainable logging taking place—even those opposite admitted that—but we have banned all the logging there and we now get our logs from clear-felled rainforests in Asia. So we have accomplished a lot by that move. All we have done is wipe out 1,000 jobs—not my words, the words of Prime Minister Hawke, `only 1,000 jobs will go'—and we can see and hear in that the sort of attitude that has resulted in the sea of human misery which now is flooding Australia and drowning all of us.

  I remember, with some considerable bitterness, pleading with people on my own side of the House to oppose the introduction of a gold tax. They said, `They have to pay their way the same as everyone else'; and I said, `No government in Australian history, whatever its political hue, has introduced a gold tax, but you have greater wisdom than the collective wisdom of every government in Australian history'. They introduced the gold tax.

  I have a newspaper clipping in my office in which the gold producers state that this year there will not be $4,000 million coming in from gold. This year it is projected that only $3,000 million will be coming in from gold. In my electorate that translated into the closure of five—arguably eight—significant mines, and the loss of 250 jobs between Charters Towers and Mareeba in the two years after it was introduced.

  Prawn and barramundi farming is a burgeoning industry in Australia, most certainly in North Queensland. When I was travelling around during this election campaign, I found to my horror that this booming industry was not only being stopped dead in its tracks, but at least half-a-dozen farms had been closed down because the water was going out into the ocean. Every country in the world, and most certainly in the Pacific, has a huge prawn and barramundi farming industry, and the only country in the world where effluent cannot be let out into the ocean is Australia. So another industry has been stopped dead in its tracks and, as far as we can quantify at the present moment, another 100 jobs have been lost.

  We pleaded with the federal Department of Primary Industries and Energy on the TB eradication program, and at State level we, as a government, told the relevant department what to do, but then we were quarantined by the other States. We were brutalised, so we had to go along with the way the TB eradication program was going. It did not wipe it out. We have still got TB in our State. It did not wipe out TB, but it most certainly wiped out half a million head of cattle. Five meatworks closed. Two of them were in the electorate of Kennedy, and that threw another 500 men out of work. Just to add that up so far, that is 1,400 jobs lost in the electorate of Kennedy.

  I have not finished yet. Century mine has announced that it is going to commence operations and it will employ 1,000 people. That has been widely canvassed in the press in Queensland, but because of environmental considerations and land rights legislation this project cannot go ahead at the present moment. So 1,000 jobs should be there, if not now, at least in the next 12 to 18 months, but they are not going to be there because the company is not moving at all. It is staying exactly where it is, and who can blame it?

  If honourable members want to know why the country is in the state it is in, they should look no further than Shelbourne Bay. The Shelbourne Bay region has something like 70 dunes. One dune is blowing into the ocean. We can scientifically prove, without any equivocation, that the dune will not be there in 70 years time. Not one single grain of sand will be left. It does not take a scientist to work that out because the dune is already protruding about 100 metres into the ocean now. We export silicon at $55 a tonne. These figures are old. I think they date back to 1988. I apologise to the House for not updating them, but I am sure the relativities would be similar now.

  We imported silicon as optical fibre product then at $3 million a tonne. Since it is 99.98 per cent pure going out, there is almost the same number of molecules or atoms going out as coming back in, except that it is re-formed. However, the $3 million stays in Japan, not Australia. When we attempted to develop that dune, we were told we could not because of environmental and other considerations. Honourable members should remember that we are talking about silicon. What coal was to the last century; what petrol has been to this century; please God, silicon will be to the next century.

  I had the very great honour of putting the first solar energy, stand-alone power plant in the world into Coconut Island. It was amazingly successful. It was abandoned, of course, by the enlightened socialists who took over after us, costing the taxpayers of Queensland, I might add, an extra $8 million. That is what it costs to use diesel rather than solar power over a 25-year time frame in an isolated community. We export silicon at $55 a tonne, and it is imported into Australia as optical fibre, silicon chip, aerospace material, clean solar energy and glass. The silicon goes to Japan, and we then pay a fortune to buy it back. So honourable members should look no further than Shelbourne Bay.

  Some 30 per cent of power is lost in sending it to North Queensland. So if the Tully-Millstream station is not built, 30 per cent of the power that is used in North Queensland is wasted. Also, we are short of power in North Queensland. It is a clean form of energy. I think it would be better to do it as pump storage rather than hydro, but the scheme has been stopped dead in its tracks. That is another 1,000 jobs lost to the Kennedy electorate. It was announced that that would go ahead, but it has been stopped. Another example is the Kirrama resort.

  There is a roadway going to the Kirrama resort and 100 jobs are involved in its construction. That has also been stopped.

  Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hollis)—The honourable member will have to conclude because his time has just about expired.

Mr KATTER —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. There are one million people being paid not to work. A very great Australian, the person I most admire in Australian politics, Edward Theodore, in this House said, `Let us pay people to work rather than not to work'. One of the things he said was, `Let us build the Bradfield scheme'. We have people having their crops destroyed. We have people out here whose land is ravaged by drought. Let us build it. It is not a dream. Those are documents prepared by some of the most qualified engineering firms in Australia. (Time expired)