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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Page: 4450

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (13:16): The bills before us today are the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2013-2014 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014. In doing so, I want to speak about my seat of Herbert and my city of Townsville. I want to speak about our place in our region, our state, our nation and our world. I have based my speech on the question: where to from here? I will be addressing this using five elements that are key to our future in that context, and my speech is pitched towards and beyond the next election. We all know this is a bad government. We all know that this budget is primarily a work of fiction. But, rather than waste too much time emphasising those facts, I will be talking about (1) building a stronger economy, (2) building a stronger community, (3) bringing about a cleaner environment, (4) ensuring our borders and our nation are strongly protected, and (5) building efficient, economy-building vital infrastructure.

Let us go to building a stronger economy to start off with. Running a country should really be no different to running a business or a household. Sure, the numbers are bigger, but the principles are the same. If we are to be the next government, if we are to be given that honour, we will have to make some hard decisions. But they are the same hard decisions being made in every business and household across the country every week, fortnight and months. Living within your means is not shutting up shop. All debt is not bad debt. We have to be more precise about what we spend money on, just as every person does.

Take the following example of two people who each take out a loan of $100,000. One person invests the money in a business which will provide a return and grow their wealth. The other person spends it on clothes, CDs, movies and shouting their mates out on the town. Both owe $100,000 and both have to make payments to pay it off. But one made a sound decision based on good judgement and did their research before splashing the cash around.

The same goes for governments. We have seen this government handing cash out to just about everybody—dead, alive, resident, nonresident—to be used however they want. The taxpayer is now paying the interest on overseas holidays and the like, to the tune of $38 million each and every day. Using the good debt principle, that money could have seen the Bruce Highway flood-proofed and four lanes to Brisbane. It could have seen four lanes on the Pacific Highway. We could have seen all those jobs and all that productivity. But we are now paying, as I said before, $38 million each and every day in interest on the debt racked up to this country. What we as a country have to do is play to our strengths. We have to play to where we are strongest and where we will get the best return.

So the first thing we would do if we were the next government is axe the carbon and mining taxes, because the carbon tax is a tax on electricity. As a country we made a decision that we would not be a country of low wages. We would be a country of cheap power. You can have one or the other. You cannot have high wages and high costs of production.

The mining tax is a tax on success. We have a tax on business and it is called company tax. They do pay their taxes. Everyone who works there pays their income tax. The problem with the mining tax is not so much the actual tax but that we spent the money that was locked in even though we knew it was a variable.

The thing with the carbon tax is that, no matter what happens, the cost of the carbon tax is cascading all the way down to the person who pays last and that is always the poorest and least able to pay. So whilst we have this big money churn going on at the moment and a massive swill of money going around the place, we know that at the end of the day it is going to be the people in the houses that are going to be paying for this.

I want to reduce red tape on business. I know a lot of people talk about reducing red tape but if we do not get serious about this we are never going to get ahead of it. In my maiden speech I said that what small business wants government to do is get out of their road and get our hands out of their pockets. We have lost over 200,000 jobs in small business since 2007 and small business in 2007 represented 54.7 per cent of the workforce. Now that is 46 per cent. That, my friends, is a crisis. Small businesses where the jobs are created are where the wealth is created. Small business should be working with their accountants and their solicitors not as compliance officers and tax collectors but as people who advise and build their business and create their wealth and allow them to get through other things.

I am 100 per cent behind Tony Abbott when he says that he will do a complete and utter review of tax. If you look at the state taxes that are involved here and the payroll tax and stamp duty and those sorts of things, they are negative taxes. They do not help anyone and they do not do anything for anybody. I think if we gave them a way of getting around that or to get something back, we can get better. We have to make the commitment that we will not leave small business behind to build a stronger community.

In my town, as I suppose in lot of towns and cities, youth crime and disengagement from education are a major factor. It is not my place nor my role nor my wish to comment on the policing of the matter or the judiciary that has to do that. It is not my province. What we here in this place deal with is the cause and effect. I get up in the morning and I shave, I go to work. My kids see me do that every day. I watched my father do it and he watched his father do it. We have all watched our parents do it and so it goes down the line.

We have generations of people out there who have never had a job. We say to these kids, 'You have to try hard',' but how do we give them aspirations when they go home and only see someone who is never going to get a job no matter how hard they try and no matter what they do. We had a crime forum with the member for Stirling, Michael Keenan, in Townsville. We had it in the Upper Ross where youth crime is very critical. The good thing about the people of Townsville is they knew there was not one cause. They knew that there was not one magical answer and that was the key.

This is a big problem that affects everyone. All these boot camps and that sort of stuff do play a role but, if we do not get these kids engaged, we lose them forever. We have to break the cycle. Why are kids out there at 3 o'clock in the morning? That is why I strongly believe that the work for the dole and the Green Army projects that we intend to bring in, should we be the next government, will play a major role in breaking that cycle and giving some kids some actual self-worth, some actual self-respect. If you go to work at 8 o'clock and you go home at 5 o'clock in the afternoon and you are tired, you will go to bed and you will sleep. It is not a panacea. It is not the fillip. It will not fix everything but it will play a role in breaking that cycle.

I do support the NDIS. I have since the very day it was announced. But I cannot help but believe that the cart has been placed well and truly before the horse when it comes to the arguments we have had over funding. When it came down to it, we organised funding in a matter of days and they did not even meet. The thing is not even going to start until 2018-19 and we are still arguing. We have it only going to fund 40 per cent but we still do not know what it is going to do.

The issue I have with the NDIS is when you speak to parents about what they hate most about the disability sector they say that to get the assistance they need they have to paint the child or loved one in as black a picture as possible. I cannot imagine doing that. We are not having that discussion. We have to have the discussion on where the line in the sand is. A friend of mine in Townsville suffers from agoraphobia and chronic pain. He wants to know whether he will be covered. I had somebody tell me they wear spectacles. Really, if you wear spectacles that is some kind of disability. They flippantly asked if they were covered.

We have got to have these questions because there will be a line in the sand. We have to have the discussion over what we say to the person who just falls on the other side of it. What do we say and how do we say it? That is where the discussion should be. Money can happen down the end. It takes three days to figure out the money and we can do that at the end. We have to find out what is going to happen with this thing otherwise it is going to be too late. I am disappointed that the disability sector has not played more of a role in asking these questions. I would like to see more people jump up and down about this and find out what the hell is going to happen here.

I am very proud to say that in 2010 we took to the parliament our policy of fair indexation for DFRDB recipients—that is, Defence Force retirement and death benefit recipients. It has always been indexed on the CPI only and has been unfair when other government pensions have also been indexed on the male average weekly earnings and the pensioners and beneficiaries cost of living index. We will, if we are the next government, as one of our first orders of business fix that—well and truly. It has been like that since 1972 and no government is without excuse. Fraser, Howard, Hawke and Keating have all had chances to do it. It is about time.

Education has to play a role in stronger communities. I am dreadfully worried about the way the Gonski debate has gone. Gonski has become this all-encompassing thing. Can we just get down to the tin tacks of what happens over the next four years? Gonski says we should have an extra $6 billion a year. We are actually getting a loss, a cut in education over the next four years of $325 million.

An honourable member: That is wrong.

Mr EWEN JONES: It is not wrong, my man.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr EWEN JONES: Gonski is supposed to have $6 billion a year extra. David Gonski has not come out and said anything about this. So if you in the education sector believe that this government is going to come good with $6 billion a year extra in years 5 and 6 after three more elections then you go ahead and vote for them.

The cut to university funding is also shameful. When it comes to university funding, the key to education has got to be good teachers. To cut funding to universities is absolutely ridiculous, I say on behalf of James Cook University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

My side of politics is very serious about the development of the north of Australia. If we are going to be the food bowl of Asia then we have to get our science right. We cannot make the same mistakes with salinity and water that we made over 100 years ago in the Murray-Darling Basin. We have to get it right. The Murray-Darling Basin flows into the Great Australian Bight. That is the only place it flows. We have over 25 river systems in the north of my state and we know what goes into about five of them. We must get our baseline research done and places like James Cook University, Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority must be backed to get that. We must develop our PhD and research fields to make sure that we are getting the best results.

When it comes to schools, we must make sure that principals have the autonomy to run their schools like they would their business. We must let teachers teach. And we must get parents involved. If teachers can teach and parents can parent then we will get away with most things. If we could just get fathers to read to their children every night for 15 to 20 minutes most of the problems in this world will go away. We must work on outcomes as opposed to process. We must have our children become risk takers. At the moment we are so risk adverse with our children that we have kids in primary school who cannot climb over a see-saw. We are developing a bunch of children here that do not take risks because every time somebody falls over and scabs a knee there has to be reports done. A part of growing up is to fall over. We must tell the kids now that they must appreciate failure because if you fail it means you have had a go. 'Fail, and fail better', is a better lesson than, 'don't do anything'. So we must make sure we do those sorts of things.

I would also like to say that I am disappointed with the Queensland government's decision to raise stamp duty on insurance policies. We are copping it in the north of the state. But again, this does play into the fact that we must do more when it comes to tax reform. Raising stamp duty is probably something that was considered very seriously and would not have been done lightly, but that it has happened at this time hurts a lot of people. Insurance is too expensive in Northern Queensland. The coalition is working on practical expenses.

Townsville is perfectly placed for the development of north Australia. We have the north-west minerals province to our west. We are near Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and there is real growth in education and cultural exchange, and in services being two-way. We are perfectly placed to have used the north-west Queensland Cowboys in our soft diplomacy with Papua New Guinea, which is the only country in the world where rugby league is the national sport.

We must abolish the carbon tax, because the carbon tax does nothing for the environment. We are going to end up spending $3.5 billion per year every year to buy carbon credits from dodgy overseas operators. Direct action is a carrot versus the stick—I do not know how you guys work, but I tell you that when someone is hitting me over the back of the head, we will be fine.

We must work with the JCU algae project. We must open up the Coral Sea to recreational fishermen. We must get rid of the Pew foundation, and the GetUp people. We must secure our borders. We have people living in refugee camps in Cambodia and Chad and all those places, people are being pushed to the back of the line and not able to get here. I want to see a whole heap of things but I have run out of time, so I will thank the Deputy Speaker and I will take them up at another time.