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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 630

Mr CHRISTENSEN (DawsonThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (19:41): I did not want to start my speech this way but when you have to sit through 20 minutes of extreme green statements being thrown about in this chamber that are basically just absolute rubbish you have to say something in return. The member who just spoke—

Mr Frydenberg: Who misspoke!

Mr CHRISTENSEN: Well, who misspoke—shows exactly why the voters kicked out the last government that was beholden to his political party, the Australian Greens, and a ragtag bunch of Independents who used to sit behind me here. It is disgraceful that people are politicking off natural disasters in this country. We have had bushfires before, we have had droughts before, we have had floods before. They are terrible, terrible things. And up my way we have had plenty of cyclones before. But every time one happens now we have the Australian Greens jumping on the bandwagon and saying: 'This has to do with climate change. Oh, woe is me, the sky is falling!'

Mr Bandt: Doesn't it? Are you saying it doesn't?

Mr CHRISTENSEN: No, it does not because they have happened before. These events will happen again. Australians know it and, I have to tell you, they feel very offended when the Greens come out and try and play politics with these issues. The member pointed to all of these so-called record heatwaves that we have had through Australia, forgetting the fact that Australia is not the only place on the globe. It is supposed to be global warming. We have actually had record cold temperatures in many countries right across the world. In fact, nearly universally, all climate scientists will tell you that for the last 17 years there has not been evidence of warming in the globe. That is something that even the most ardent proponents of the theory of man-made climate change are scratching their heads about.

Mr Bandt interjecting

Mr CHRISTENSEN: The member here has proven why the last government was kicked out. He talked about us acceding to special interests. Well, we do accede to one special interest: the Australian people. They did not want a carbon tax, which the previous speaker, the member for Melbourne, concocted with the previous government and the other Independents and forced on the Australian people.

In making my contribution to the address-in-reply to the speech by the Governor-General, I want to acknowledge the Governor-General and thank her for that speech on behalf of Her Majesty's government. I also want to congratulate retired General Peter Cosgrove, AC, MC, who has been appointed to the role of Governor General and will be duly sworn in to that position in coming months.

I also want to thank the electors of Dawson for having faith in me to represent them again in this parliament. From Mackay, right along that North Queensland coast up to Townsville, the many different communities—the Whitsundays, the Burdekin and also the community of Bowen—once a Labor stronghold with 60-40 in most booths, flipped around to be 60-40 LNP this time and I am particularly pleased with that. I was very sad to hear on the news today that Bowen's famous Big Mango has gone missing. Apparently, overnight, something happened and there is some footage of that floating around. The Bowen tourism people turned up this morning to find the mango gone! I hope and pray for the sake of that town's honour that the Bowen Big Mango is restored and we do not see thefts of the Big Banana and the Big Pineapple to create some Big Fruit Salad!

Getting back to the topic, it is a privilege and an honour to have been re-elected as the member for Dawson. I said during the election campaign that I was going to be a strong local voice for those people in a better government, and I am very glad that I can be that strong local voice in a better government. We set out with a plan for the Dawson electorate. The plan involved fixing the Bruce Highway. The plan involved having policies that would stop the boats. The plan involved axing the carbon tax, and the plan involved restoring job security for local industry. I have got to say that we are doing it on all of those fronts.

Certainly, with stopping the boats it has now been nearly 10 weeks since we have had unauthorised boat arrivals in this country. When I walked around the electorate and talked to people in the street and asked them what was their biggest concern, they would say to me, 'On the national level, this whole illegal immigration thing is out of control. We have got to do something about it.' It was one of the issues for them.

And they were right to have those concerns and they should not be denigrated for having those concerns, as so many on the left do particularly the Greens. We need to know exactly who is coming into this country. We need to know their backgrounds. We need to know that they are not a security risk. We need to ensure that our immigration system is sacrosanct and is not being undermined by people coming through methods which, as a country, we simply do not prefer. So I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection for all they have done in the short time we have been in government to achieve this quite remarkable result. We have taken what was a full-blown crisis and actually almost completely solved it. For nearly 10 weeks that has been the case.

More than that, we have obviously got a plan to get rid of the carbon tax and, along with it, the mining tax. That plan is currently being frustrated in the other place where the Liberal and National coalition do not have control of the Senate. That is a shame. I would have hoped that Labor and even the Greens—yes, I can hope that much—would have recognised that the government have a mandate on these issues that we campaigned so strongly on: getting rid of the carbon tax and getting rid of the mining tax. In my community of Central Queensland in particular and all up through North Queensland, those two policies have caused economic chaos. We have had thousands of job losses. In fact, I think the figure at last count by the Queensland Resources Council put it upwards of 15,000 job losses in the mining sector particularly in the Bowen Basin. That, I have to say, is particularly being felt right on my doorstep throughout the Mackay region. The carbon tax and the mining tax were putting pressure not just on large coal mines and potential future investment in coal mines but also on mining service businesses that were feeling the squeeze at the time when they really could not afford to. If the Labor Party would get out of the way and allow us to implement what we were elected to implement, we could get things up and running again and restore some of the job security.

There have been a few brickbats thrown at the government from those opposite about the car makers leaving Australia, conveniently forgetting the fact that Ford announced they were leaving under the watch of the last government. I have made my position pretty clear on this issue. These were industries which were being propped up by taxpayer dollars. No-one ever came to Central Queensland to those mining service companies in my area that were feeling the pinch and having to shed jobs, actually closing the doors and going into receivership because of the downturn, because of the policies or partly because of policies implemented by the previous government—policies like the carbon tax and the mining tax—and said, 'How much do you want a cheque made out to to keep your doors open?' If that is the case for businesses throughout Central Queensland, then it should be the case for businesses in Geelong in Victoria, and in South Australia as well, particularly when they are multinational companies.

To go with what our plan was for the electorate, I have made many local commitments. We are committed to, and have a time frame in place, for the rollout and construction of the Mackay Ring Road, something that is vitally needed in our region, something that the last government actually did little about apart from the $10 million study. They did not even set aside funding in this financial year to do the detailed design work and the resumptions that were needed, and they should have done that. Now it is up to this government to get on with the job and do that, and we will be doing it. I am in continuing discussions with the Minister for Infrastructure about getting that funding called on sooner rather than later, in fact going quicker than the time frames that was announced during the election, and I am hopeful about that. We also have plans for the upgrade of Sandy Gully—a flood-prone area that we have near the Bowen community. We also have plans in place for the upgrade of the patently unsafe and also flood-prone Horton River bridge, just north of Brandon in the Burdekin.

We committed to providing social infrastructure for the electorate, with a contribution of $750,000 going to Mackay Gymnastics for their new gymnastics centre. That was something that I campaigned long and hard about in the previous parliamentary term, repeatedly asking the government to approve the requests from Mackay Gymnastics for funding to go towards that centre.

We committed to projects such as the Green Army, one that we would locate in the Whitsundays to help an excellent organisation called Eco Barge Clean Seas Inc. Eco Barge do this great practical environmental job—better than anything you would ever see coming from the Australian Greens. They go out and actually clean up the marine debris. They go out into the Whitsunday Islands, get their hands dirty and pick up all the rubbish—the flotsam and jetsam that is coming from boats and which washes up out of our waterways—that comes, quite frankly, from kitchen and bathroom sinks and which ends up washing out into the ocean. This is practical stuff, and we are going to provide a Green Army for them—it will actually be more like a 'Green Navy', given that it is going to be out in the sea—to help them do that job, and to do that job better.

We also have a Green Army for the Don River Trust in Bowen. They are going to do some environmental work that will assist that river in flowing more freely, ensuring that there is not a build-up of sand. That actually poses a risk to both life and property in the Bowen and Queens Beach areas.

I will go on with a few other government commitments that we have made: mobile CCTV units for the Mackay Regional Council. We are talking about funding at least two of those and possibly up to four, depending on how far the dollars stretch. That funding will, as I said, go towards these mobile CCTV units to investigate things like vandalism in parks and illegal dumping, with which we have a problem right throughout the Mackay region. We also promised funding to light up some of the inner-city CBD car parks—a problem that has been raised with me by younger women in particular, and also by shop owners and female workers in the CBD. I am very glad we have provided those commitments for the region.

Personally, I actually promised some things myself—some sponsorships for groups—and I am currently rolling those out. We have already contributed $5,000 to improve and build upon the Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance's young angler education program, where they are teaching kids how to fish. It is amazing when you go and see some of these kids out there, learning how to fish for the first time—putting the bait on the hook and learning how to cast a line. They end up loving it and taking on that hobby for life. I have given $5,000 to the 50 & Better Healthy Ageing Programme Inc. of Mackay, also to build upon the activities that they provide for seniors in our region.

Fifteen thousand dollars from my pocket is going to the Whitsundays community to help them build an adventure playground in Cannonvale. It is an innovative community-driven concept, and something I have been very happy to support. Along with that, there is $12,000 going to the establishment of a homeless drop-in centre in the Mackay region. They are just some of the things that I committed to personally, utilising funding from my electoral allowance, and I think that these are important projects for the region that I can contribute to directly as a local MP.

One of the other things that we also promised was to get on with the job of approving the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion. It has been a controversial decision, I know, but I have to say that there have been so many green lies told about this project it is not funny. For the town of Bowen, this project is so important; it is vital. We have had business after business shut their doors, people out of work and a community that really is in decline and in the doldrums. They were hanging their hats on Abbot Point being approved. We have approved that; we approved that at the end of last year. That project will go ahead once the green groups actually finish their court challenge for it, which is probably obligatory. What disturbs me is the fact that the green groups that are now taking this matter to court and the green groups that engaged in political campaigns against the government and against this project are the green groups that also receive tax deductibility status. I have to say that I will make it my mission this term to see that that tax deductibility status is stripped from those groups that engage in political campaigns like this—destructive campaigns like this—where they tell blatant lies about job-creating projects. It is always harmful to North Queensland.

I will go on to attacks that the green groups and other people in the nanny state brigade have also waged against the sugar industry. As someone from the biggest sugar-growing electorate in Australia I feel obliged to stand up and defend the sugar industry, and I will continue to do that this term. Along with that now, unfortunately, we have people within the bureaucracy, from the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, who have come out with this report saying that these so-called subsidies to the ethanol industry should be scrapped. I am fiercely against the recommendations that came out of that report. That report was clearly wrong. It has understated the employment that has been generated by the ethanol industry. They were even talking about how ethanol excise was being forgone to the tune of 38c a litre, forgetting the fact that actually government—and both sides of the political spectrum—has only ever said that ethanol excise will, at the most, be 12½c a litre. That report was based on outright lies, and I will continue to stand up and speak up for the sugar industry in matters like this.

In the short time that I have left, I will thank a bunch of people. I want to thank the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the ministers for agriculture and industry, and a former member, Sophie Mirabella, for coming to my electorate. I also thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, who also came to assist me in my electorate.

I thank my staff members: Dave Westman; Dennis O'Reily; Nicole Laffin, who has since left to have a baby; Anne Whitson; Kathleen Agnew; Margaret McLean; and Danielle Nielsen. I thank the people who assisted temporarily and in volunteer roles throughout the campaign—Anne, Tamara, Casey and Rebecca—and my indefatigable electorate council and campaign committee people: Charlie Camilleri, Kerry Latter and a bunch of other members. If I were to read that list out, I would have to have another 20 minutes—and, Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not think you will give that to me—but I do want to mention Jim Wort, a stalwart of the Liberal-National Party in the Airlie Beach area.

Sadly, I found out a week ago that Jim had passed away due to pneumonia. I probably never really stopped to give Jim the thanks and appreciation I should have. I am sure I said, 'Thanks for the help,' but we always say, 'Thanks for the help,' to our volunteers. Jim went out of his way for the cause. He went out of his way for me. I thank him and his family so much from the bottom of my heart. It is going to be very sad not being able to talk to Jim in the future, catch up with him and be harangued about the things he thinks we could be doing better. I do thank Jim. With those words I want to again thank my entire electorate for the privilege of being here. I will be their strong voice in a better government.