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Tuesday, 23 October 2018
Page: 10728



Dr GILLESPIE (Lyne) (14:25): My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Would the Deputy Prime Minister update the House on how a stronger economy is supporting rural and regional Australia and putting downward pressure on power prices? What are the risks for rural and regional Australia from alternative proposals?

Mr McCORMACK (RiverinaDeputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development and Leader of The Nationals) (14:26): I thank the member for Lyne for his question. As we all know on this side, a strong economy helps us invest in what is important—not those inside-the-Canberra-bubble games that those opposite ask about and those games that they play but what's important. We on this side of the House know what's important. It helps us put downward pressure on power prices. It helps us put the big stick of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission onto ensuring that Australians have a default power price so we can help power prices come down—a default price, more investment in the sector and indeed divestiture powers, affordability and reliability in the sector.

Those opposite stand for 45 per cent emissions. They stand for 50 per cent renewables. They stand for smashing manufacturing, for smashing farmers, for smashing families, for making sure that, every time people flick the switch—well, not every time, because we saw the great South Australian experiment when South Australians turned on the switch and, quite frankly, the power didn't come on.

But we're taking action. We're getting people's power bills down. At the moment, people worry about getting the bill. They certainly worry about getting the bill—they do. We know that small business, families and farmers need confidence, and we're working to deliver just that. We're doing that by running a strong economy. We're doing that by supporting small business. We're doing that by supporting those people who help create jobs, those small, family and medium enterprises and big business too, because they have helped create a million jobs in five years. We said we'd do that. We said we'd get the economic parameters right, and we did, and business responded by employing people, a million Australians.

And we're helping by taking a practical approach to energy, certainly in regional Australia and certainly for farmers such as dairy farmers. The member who asked the question, the member for Lyne, knows how important dairy farmers are to agriculture. When agriculture is strong, so too is regional Australia. When regional Australia is strong, so too is our nation.

Taking action on power prices also helps our farmers and our small businesses—businesses such as Valley Industries in Taree, in the member for Lyne's electorate. It's a non-profit organisation. It has several businesses in the Manning Valley, including a commercial laundry. It has 350 local employees, many of whom have a disability, and they rely on that particular business. They enjoy going to work. They look forward to it, and they're doing a power of good for their local community and indeed the local economy and through it the nation. It's providing tremendous opportunities for those locally. But a commercial laundry requires a lot of power, and at the moment that costs a lot of money. So we're going to make it easier for them. We are making it easier for them, and certainly all our policies will continue to do that in the future.

But what does Labor stand for? Well, more taxes—on your property, on your income, on your business, on your savings and on your electricity bill. That's right.