Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 16 March 2000
Page: 14975

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (12:27 PM) —I came to this chamber hoping to support some of the issues that are very important to regional Tasmania promoted by my colleague the member for Braddon. I have always understood that this is a non-controversial chamber. It is a chamber where we as a parliament work together to ensure that the interests of the people we represent are put first. I have just had that belief absolutely shattered. And by whom? By a person so interested in regional issues that he is not even a member of the Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Regional Services. He did not even take the time to travel, with the member for Braddon and other members of the Labor Party, the National Party, the Liberal Party, and even the Independent member, around regional Australia to get a first-hand look.

He cannot even pronounce the names of the places. Let me give him a bit of a lesson: I was born in Boondooma. Does the member for McMillan know what Boondooma means? I doubt it. Does he have a heritage of regional Australia? The answer is no. He comes into this chamber, in an act of sheer political opportunism, to distract us away from one of the most important reports presented to this House in the short time that I have been a member of parliament. I congratulate the chairman of the committee, the member for McEwen, for her great guidance and leadership on producing the report. I congratulate all members of the committee for the time they spent, the time they gave up in their regional electorates, to go and see other people's regional electorates so that we could gain a greater insight into regional Australia. I suggest to the member for McMillan that, instead of following around the minister for forestry to get his picture in the paper, he actually takes a bit of time to join committees like this and learn a bit about a bipartisan approach to government.

Mr Zahra —I wouldn't follow him around.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—The member for McMillan has had his turn and should remain silent.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —Hear, hear, Mr Deputy Speaker. The member for McMillan should spend time with some of his own Labor colleagues. But just so that I can speak from—

Debate interrupted; adjournment proposed and negatived.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —The Prime Minister often refers to the Liberal Party as a broad church. One of our flock this morning did what any good local member will do: he promoted the issues in his electorate. We do not object to that in the Liberal Party. I know that parties like the Labor Party take the malcontents out the back and thump the living daylights out of them. I have actually seen physical scars as evidence of that. But we in the Liberal Party allow our colleagues to speak out.

Let us talk about the Liberal Party in terms of its regional credentials. We have more regional representatives in this House than the Labor Party and the National Party put together. Sure, they are level pegging; so we have basically got twice as many. That gives us greater coverage in more states on regional affairs than the member for McMillan's party and the National Party put together. So let us not get dragged away with a bit of free speech. Don't you allow free speech in your party? We do. The Liberal Party is out there listening to and speaking with the people that it represents right across regional Australia in every state.

This attempt by the Labor Party to promote a great divide is nothing short of political opportunism, destroying the confidence of people in the bush—people who have contributed much to this nation and who, hopefully, if some of the recommendations in this report are adopted, will play their part in the economic development of Australia in years to come. That is what this report is about. It is about ensuring that we as a nation develop as one; that the opportunities that are granted to all people in all walks of life in Australia are shared equally between the cities and the regions.

My concern about the statement by the member for Parramatta this morning was that he did not understand that if he works with regional Australia, we will help his constituents in the seat of Parramatta, because as the nation grows as one and as the economic benefits that flow through that permeate through our community, then all of us are better off. Again, that is what this report is about. It is about promoting economic growth for all Australians. It is about removing the impediments to development in regional Australia so that we will be able to play our part in ensuring that this great nation is even greater. It is about identifying economic opportunities; it is about encouraging the private sector to join with government to make investments in infrastructure or commercial opportunities, to provide jobs and opportunities not only for people in regional Australia but for people like the member for McMillan, who wants to move out to the bush and buy a cheap house.

This report is about promoting opportunities and advantages in regional Australia. It is about both sides of government getting together to ensure that the future of regional Australians is secure and is able to provide a benefit and an opportunity for our children. The report identifies some key areas. I am in total agreement with one of the previous speakers, the member for Braddon, including on the issue of the land bridge to Tasmania but, more importantly, on the issues that he raised regarding education, skills and leadership training for regional Australia. These issues are so important. I noted an article in the Courier Mail this week which made some criticism of all parties—and, to a degree, I accept it: there needs to be greater leadership in regional Australia; there needs to be greater training, greater skills and greater education. This government is working towards that. This government is looking to provide those opportunities for regional Australians to take their place in our nation.

Another important issue raised in this report is telecommunications. Again, let me quickly dispel a myth. I want to dispel the myth that phone services in the bush are getting worse. Fifteen years ago, at Boondooma, I had a handle on the front of my phone. I wonder if the member for McMillan, who I notice has now left the chamber, ever had a handle on the front of his phone. I can assure him, in his absence, that in Boondooma they now have high-speed access to the Internet through an automatic telephone system and digital links.

Telecommunications are improving in the bush, but not fast enough, and we are lagging a little in the opportunities that are being presented to some of our city cousins. But at the same time there are some technologies on the horizon which will tremendously improve not only the access to telecommunications but also the cost of telecommunications. I call on people to actually read through—rather than being distracted by the static—some of the excellent submissions that we received about some of the things that both the government and previous governments have done to improve not only Internet access but also telecommunications access.

For instance, in a couple of weeks time—in fact, it may be next week: time flies when you are having fun—the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, is travelling to my electorate to launch a project which will give easier Internet access to southern regional Queensland. The federal government contribution to that is over $3 million. It is part of the RTIF and the social bonus packages that we have put out there, funded, of course, by the sale of the second tranche of Telstra. It is the sort of thing that is delivering better communications into regional Australia.

This morning I am hosting a delegation from Toowoomba to talk to parliamentarians and ministers about another issue raised in this report—water. We currently have in the House a group from Vision 2000, an innovative and forward thinking group of people who are looking at ways of improving water availability in the Darling Downs region. It is the most fertile region in Australia, I have to say without a moment's hesitation, but one where the problem is always going to be water. That project has enormous potential to bring much needed water to the Darling Downs, about 100,000 megalitres annually; also—and this is the best part of the story—it is in fact waste water, sewage for want of a better word, currently being pumped into Moreton Bay. To remove that from the environment of Moreton Bay, a wonderful, pristine area which a number of my colleagues represent, and to have that water brought into a region and produce $150 million worth of wealth annually, is a project which has already impressed the Minister for Environment and Heritage this morning and, hopefully, it will impress the Minister for Transport and Regional Services this afternoon.

This report also highlights other water projects and the need for water projects in regional Australia. The Vision 2000 project in some ways is the epitome of what we are really promoting in this report. It will encompass local government—the Brisbane City Council is suggesting that it will make a significant financial contribution—the state government, which is currently doing some of the prefeasibility study on the proposal, and the federal government through some leadership and some coordination. It is those three tiers of government working together which again we call on in this report because when governments work together—and both sides of government work together—we can achieve the sorts of things in Australia that regional Australia so desperately needs.

To reiterate, this report is about not just the sustainability of regional Australia but also the development and improvement of the opportunities in regional Australia and all Australia. Congratulations are due to the member for McEwen and, in congratulating her and my fellow colleagues on the committee, I should also congratulate the secretariat headed by Ian Dundas. They did a job which was at times arduous—and at other times very pleasant.

I have to say to the member for Braddon that he represents an area which is currently in great difficulty, an area of wonderful natural beauty and an area which I, as an Australian, would love to be part of addressing. The difficulties facing the residents of the electorate of Braddon, or of many other regional electorates in Australia, are issues of transportation isolation. With today's technology, whether we are talking about a high-speed ferry across Bass Strait or an inland railway from Adelaide to Darwin or from Melbourne to Darwin, while I know the member for McMillan thinks we are doing nothing—and he does not even know where regional Australia is—the federal government is in there working and supporting the pre-feasibility study. Whether it is those sorts of transport links or whether it is air transport links to some of the Bass Strait islands or to Kangaroo Island, these are the issues that bring Australia together. These are the issues that resolve the tyranny of distance. These are the issues which we as a government and we as a parliament should be working together to overcome.

If you can drive from one end of Australia to the other—and I do mean starting in Tasmania—if you can put fruit or produce on a high-speed freight train and freight it up to Darwin and then use high-speed water transport to run it across to our markets, those are the sorts of things that will provide the opportunities for regional Australia. This report is not about subsidising regional Australia. This report is about identifying the impediments, working to find the opportunities and bringing Australia together. This report is about ensuring that we do not get sidetracked into the petty arguments and the petty jealousies that have kept Australia divided and have given us three rail gauges that I know about—and probably a couple more that I do not. This report is about bringing Australia together.

In closing, I can only say how proud I am to represent regional Australia. I represent regional Australia with a passion, with a heritage and with the experience of years of representing not only the grain industry but the farming industry in Australia as a whole. I only look towards the opportunities for regional Australia—(Time expired)