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Thursday, 3 November 2011
Page: 12781


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (16:15): We are here to speak on the government's failure to responsibly manage the economy, and we have heard from Admiral Bradbury that everything is shipshape—the economy is well anchored. But it is very difficult for me to know where to start to criticise the government on this front. How do you choose from the vast array of economic vandalism that this government has listed on its resume? It would be a laughable proposition if only it were not so serious.

The government's economic failure is extremely serious for those on the receiving end—for this country's forgotten families: the hardworking mums and dads out there who had to sit back and watch this government dive into the pool of money earned by the good people of this country and responsibly banked by the previous government. The families in my electorate of Dawson had to sit back and watch them splash it around, spilling billions of dollars here and billions of dollars there. They are a Labor government, so they are not so concerned about a bit of spillage or a bit of waste, because waste is their middle name. When the pool of money ran out, they borrowed more, and then they borrowed more, and then they borrowed even more money. They splash, they spill, they waste. They just keep borrowing and they just keep wasting. It is painful to watch for the families that have worked hard for that money and even more painful for the families who will spend the rest of their working lives without seeing an end to Labor's debt, if this lot stay in.

This economic mismanagement continues to destroy the economy. They are a bit like a kid in the lolly store—spoilt for choice—but I will choose just three things to focus on. They are big things that the government are responsible for. They have continued and will continue to waste money. They have cost and will cost families money. They have cost and will cost businesses money. They have cost and will cost jobs.

There can be no greater example of a government determined to destroy its own economy than the Labor-Greens government, who are imposing the biggest, the ugliest and the most destructive carbon tax in the world. The problem with this government is their complete isolation from the people they are supposed to represent. The Prime Minister and the Labor members in this place sought and got a mandate from the people not to impose a carbon tax. They did not listen then and they are certainly not listening now. They are not listening to businesspeople, who quite justifiably have very serious concerns about the impact that this carbon tax will have on their livelihood. This Labor government denies the legitimate anxiety that these businesses have, knowing this tax is about to come in and hit them very, very hard. This is what business and industry are saying out in the real world. The National Generators Forum, the peak body of Australia's power industry, said the carbon tax will:

… produce virtually no change in emissions from the generation sector while imposing huge costs on the community, trade-exposed industries and electricity generators.

After looking at the legislation that this government introduced and passed, the National Generators Forum said it would almost double the wholesale price of electricity to $100 per megawatt hour by 2020. The Labor government either does not listen or does not care—probably both—about what this will do to businesses and the families that are employed by them.

Businesses in my electorate of Dawson have already made decisions to halt investment. Take, for example, Werner Engineering, a business that has been around for three decades in the Mackay region servicing the agricultural and resource sectors. I spoke to their manager, Chris Geach, about his planned multimillion dollar relocation and expansion. They have had to put it on hold. The increased cost that his local, Australian based business will have to pay under the carbon tax will not be paid by his international competitors. You cannot blame business for being against this carbon tax. But it is not just business; it is the families and workers employed, or soon to be not employed, by businesses who hate it as well. It is no wonder that more than 94 per cent of people who returned a survey that I put out in my electorate say they are opposed to the carbon tax.

Mr McCormack: Ninety four per cent?

Mr CHRISTENSEN: Six thousand people responded; 94 per cent were against. But, as big and as ugly and as economically destructive as the carbon tax is, it is just one method this government is using to bring the economy to its knees. Everything this government touches it stuffs up. As the Leader of the Opposition says, it is like the Midas touch in reverse; in fact, it is actually worse than the Midas touch in reverse because the government even manages to stuff up the economy with what it does not touch.

The one time they should have done something—the one time they should have stepped in—they did not. Qantas and the flying public needed the government to act and they did not act. They sat on their hands and did nothing. They were probably too scared to do anything because they know what happens when they do act. But doing nothing just punched another big, fat hole in the economy. It punched another big hole in business. In the Whitsundays, in the electorate of Dawson, times are already tough—as tough as they were during the pilots strike of 1989. They are suffering from the high Aussie dollar and the legacy of the summer of natural disasters. The Whitsundays relies on tourism and, by allowing the situation with the Qantas industrial dispute to get so out of control that the national carrier's entire fleet was grounded, this government knocked the stuffing out of even more Whitsunday businesses. QantasLink flights, thankfully, continued into the Whitsundays, but I have to tell you that there were a lot of empty seats. No connections means no passengers, and no passengers means no business, and that means someone is out of pocket—a family is out of pocket. How much more damage does the government want to do to the economy in the Whitsundays? They cannot wait for the carbon tax up there, I can tell you. They cannot wait!

Then there is the damage that has been caused to job-creating investment proposals in North Queensland by the rigid regulations of the environmental protection and biodiversity conservation approvals process. I point to one very big example of the damage: the multibillion dollar Abbot Point multicargo facility project. This project, which has the capacity to generate thousands of jobs and see an increase in population and services into the town of Bowen, has been held up by the federal environment department, awaiting EPBC approval, since December last year. Literally nothing has happened to what will be one of the biggest projects of all in Northern Australia. Each month the project proponents are told, 'Next month you will get the approval,' or 'The approval is coming; it is coming.' Well, so is Christmas—for a second time round for this proposal. Next month the project will have sat there stagnant for a year because of the federal government's delays.

Here is a little update that has been given by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; it came out during the Senate estimates. A bureaucrat from there, Barbara Jones, Assistant Secretary of the Environment Assessment Branch, said:

The proponent, North Queensland Bulk Ports, provided a final EIS document to the department on 6 December last year. The department is still considering the content of that document and assessing it.

The department has been assessing it for nearly a year. The proponents were advised that the application would be finalised in February—nine months ago—and it has been held up because of the onerous demands to offset perceived environmental damage. I have to tell you that that has Bob Brown's fingerprints all over it. The state government has already addressed the issue, and the proponents have agreed to a 100 per cent offset to all perceived environmental damage—100 per cent agreed. That was the original issue, and the agreement—you would think—would be the end of the issue.

But industry sources have told me that the department has now got UNESCO involved—UNESCO; would you believe it?—because the project is off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef. Now we have some bureaucrat in some United Nations office sitting over there in Paris with his little red pen, probably daydreaming about a holiday in the Bahamas or somewhere, and he is more concerned about that or what he is going to have for lunch than he is about creating jobs in North Queensland. The department basically confirmed this at Senate estimates. While they would not use the word 'referral' because of the connotations it has, they said that they were basically notifying UNESCO bureaucrats in Paris about job-creating projects in North Queensland.

Who is running this country? Is it the Labor Party, who quite clearly could not care less about business, investment or the economy? Is it the Greens, who want to completely shut it all down? If a Labor government is taking its economic policy from the Greens, it is just a matter of time before there is no economy in North Queensland—and the rest of the country will not be far behind.