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Tuesday, 22 May 2018
Page: 4218


Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (12:56): It certainly gives me great pleasure to rise today and speak about the fantastic job-creating budget Treasurer Scott Morrison delivered in the House. No doubt those opposite will disagree. That is what they do. Through deceit and by peddling mistruths they like to scare people into voting for them. I will give more on that a little bit later.

One of the key measures announced in the budget is tax relief for hardworking people in my electorate. More than 75,682 people across Cairns and Far North Queensland will benefit directly from these tax relief measures. Hardworking Far North Queenslanders will receive immediate tax relief of up to $530 a year under our plan to reduce cost pressures on the household budget. We want Far North Queenslanders to keep more of their hard-earned wages. Our plan is responsible and, most importantly, it is costed, unlike the plans of those opposite that rely solely on raiding the pockets of our self-funded retirees.

I have been in this place for more than two decades and I can say with confidence that, when those opposite run out of money, they'll come after yours. You can bet your bottom dollar that we'll still be paying for these Labor promises in a generation. Since the change of government in 2007 we have been trying to solve those problems. I personally wouldn't trust those opposite with a church collection, let alone a nation's multitrillion dollar economy.

An honourable member interjecting

Mr ENTSCH: Ouch! This budget also includes record funding for hospitals and schools. Only recently our esteemed deputy opposition leader rolled into town for about two hours, I think. She proceeded to peddle mistruths and deceit about education funding. However, she looked a little bit like a goose the next morning when the local paper ran a story that showed funding per student in that particular school that she targeted actually will increase substantially over the next four years. I'm sure that the member for Sydney didn't care too much about that fact. The whole objective of her visit was to basically scare people into voting for the party that she represents. Far North Queenslanders are no mugs and they can see through the proverbial from a mile away.

She was the latest in a whole line of no-name shadow ministers who have recently paid a fleeting fly in, fly out visit to my electorate. I suspect that has got something to do with the change in the temperature, with the onset of winter. We always get this migration heading north. Technically, the member for Whitlam was the last one to visit, but absolutely no-one knew who he was. That was a rather interesting visit, which in no way whatsoever had any substance. I don't mind the no-name shadow ministers coming up to my neck of the woods for their fly-in fly-out visits, because the next morning my phone rings off the hook, with constituents saying to me, 'Warren, you must do something, anything possible, to ensure that Bill Shorten doesn't become Prime Minister.' It really frightens them. It frightens the children up there when these guys fly in for five minutes and make outrageous claims. However, I think it really strengthens our position. My constituents often say to me that they can't afford Labor to be in charge: 'Look at what they did to our economy last time. Our country can't afford to have them back in charge.' So I say: 'Please keep coming. I think we can really showcase to you how to do things in Cairns and Far North Queensland.' We can highlight the stark difference in prosperity with the cranes. We've got about eight cranes in the skyline now—the first in 20-odd years. So there's a really positive feel in Far North Queensland now; it's a stark difference to the years 2007 through to 2013.

The announcement in the budget was extremely well received in my electorate. There were a number of things in there that were specific at the time. There was the announcement of the $50.9 million investment for the Indigenous ranger groups across Cape York and the Torres Strait. I travel right through these areas and see what this work does in the communities. I've certainly seen firsthand the work they do on a day-to-day basis. There are ranger groups such as the Eastern Yalanji Rangers, the Yirriganydji Rangers, the Mapoon Land and Sea Rangers and the Lama Lama Rangers—just to name a few. The work that they do not only on country but also in the adjoining sea is quite amazing. They do a lot of work in relation to ghost nets, for example. These nets take a terrible toll on sea life. The rangers are doing work in relation to feral pigs and their predation on turtle nests and things like that. They also do a lot of fire management up there. There have been major changes, particularly in Cape York, with over 57 per cent loss of our grasslands because of changes in fire regime. You get this proliferation of broadleaf tea tree and narrow-leaf tea tree coming into what was originally open grasslands. By re-establishing those traditional fire regimes, we are starting to help manage the integrity of that landscape. The funding will allow some 23 Indigenous ranger groups to continue their great work in protecting and conserving threatened species, marine systems and cultural places. As I said, this will also address environmental threats caused by feral animals, invasive weeds and, of course, marine debris. The work also continues to be done across the Cape; it goes right across to the Torres Strait. We see the work that is being done up in the Torres Strait area, with all the rangers there in each of the communities. This investment provides real skills and employment opportunities in all of these areas.

As you can appreciate, being the home of two World Heritage areas, plus Torres Strait and Cape York, people in my electorate are extremely passionate about environmental issues, especially given the two iconic natural wonders that are in our backyard. Sadly, there are various internationally-funded groups and inner-city organisations that continually talk down the reef and use emotional blackmail to try and get the opposition leader back into The Lodge. That's why I was absolutely overjoyed and immensely proud that this government has announced the biggest single investment towards the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. This investment will protect thousands of jobs, improve water quality, tackle the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish and scientific reef restoration. It's certainly a game changer in the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef, and reinforces the environmental, economic, social and environmental importance of the Great Barrier Reef.

I have to say, while I welcome this investment and it's great that we are doing this as a means of continuing to build our credential as being the world's best—not one of, but the world's best—managers of a reef system, I think it's also important that we realise this is not about saving the reef: this is about the ongoing conservation and management of a very, very healthy ecosystem. Only a year or so ago, we announced a $2 billion initiative; this is another half a billion dollars. Most of this has been targeted at land users—at farmers, for example—and it's always about the run-off into to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. This has been great, but the farmers have done a massive job over an extended period of time and really need to be acknowledged for the work that they've done. It has been absolutely brilliant. There are other areas and, as I say, we need to look outside the square a little bit here too. One of the biggest contaminants into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon comes from our coastal cities and from the flow of our sewerage systems and urban drains, et cetera. We need to take a broader view rather than just continually targeting the agricultural sector. As I said, the agricultural sector is one that has been doing the heavy lifting for a long period of time in addressing environmental concerns.

We recently launched an initiative in Cairns where we're focusing on stormwater—that is, measuring the contaminants in streams that are coming within the city boundaries and what they contain. This is a fabulous initiative. By measuring the water quality of these streams—this is continual measurement, not just occasional sampling—we know exactly what has been flowing into there. That will then allow us—through the wonderful work of James Cook University, which is a partner in this—to be able to actually create a process where we can capture those and improve the water quality coming out of these watercourses that flow through our city. It's good to see that we are focusing on something other than agriculture, because this is a major area as well.

I'd also like to see onshore facilities being considered and made available for reef operators in areas where we have large reef fleets where, at the moment, all the disposal from their toilets is basically disposed in the ocean as they are returning back. Now, again, nutrients—as you can appreciate—end up in the lagoon. The reason that they have to do that is because there's no onshore sewerage facilities and the current onshore sewerage facilities aren't able to take it, because they use saltwater and that would contaminate it. There needs to be a new system. With this amount of investment, it would be good to investigate the prospect of putting these in those areas in Cairns, Port Douglas, Hinchinbrook, Townsville, Mackay and the Whitsundays. Those are areas where you have reasonably large reef fleets where they have the option of being able to tap into an onshore facility for the disposal of sewerage waste rather than, as they do at the moment, dispose it into the sea. All of these things will help us to build our recognition as the best reef manager and also would have a significant positive impact on the reef. I think we have an important obligation to do that.

Another investment I was pleased to see in the budget pages was the ongoing support for the Junction Clubhouse. The Junction Clubhouse, which is very capably run by Dorothy Dunne, is a clubhouse for people who have gone out of intensive mental health rehabilitation. It's basically a transitional clubhouse that supports them back into the mainstream community. It's a fabulous initiative. The Cairns community actually owns our own clubhouse up there. It is very, very strongly supported by its club members. But it will be a couple of years before we will see a full run-out of the NDIS, so it is important that we continue to support the amazing work of Dorothy and her team. It is amazing to see that we've got there.

I would also like to say that there are about 19,600 Cairns and Far North Queensland businesses that are going to benefit directly from business tax measures we announced in last week's budget. Everybody, except those opposite, obviously, knows that small- and medium-sized businesses are the driving force of our economy. I have to say that Cairns and Far North Queensland are home to some of the most fantastic family-owned businesses. Last week Craig Laundy, the Minister for Small and Family Business, and I visited one of those marvellous family-owned businesses, Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome, which is an amazing part of the CaPTA Group, which is the Woodward family, who have an amazing array of tourism products. Charlie Woodward, who was the head of the family, sadly passed away a year or so ago, but his legacy lives on in our city.

The instant write-off was another one—the $20,000 instant write-off, which I think is absolutely fantastic. This is a great opportunity to speak on this, but unfortunately we don't have enough time to go through all of it. But I have to say that the budget was extremely well-received in my electorate. I think most people see it as a very responsible budget, a budget that sees us living within our means for the first time in a long time, in that all of our obligations are being paid for through the budget and not through borrowing additional funds. That's the confidence that we're looking for—my people are looking for—as we move forward.