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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4379


Senator IAN MACDONALD (5:47 PM) —On behalf of the opposition, I indicate that the coalition will not be opposing the appropriation bills notwithstanding that they relate to what is perhaps the worst budget that we have seen in the last couple of decades.

I ask that you, Mr Acting Deputy President, might be able to indicate to me if my understanding is wrong. I speak on the understanding that at six o’clock we will break to deal with other matters of the Senate and then return to finish the speakers list on the appropriation bills. I just need some actual confirmation because the length of my contribution will depend on it. Whilst perhaps you are considering that, I note that Senator Sherry took 20 minutes on the second reading summing-up of the previous bill, which mainly consisted of a rehash of the printed second reading speech. So it is quite clear that the government has been filibustering to prevent proper discussion on the appropriations and it has left us with 10 minutes to discuss the complete appropriation bills. I know there are probably a dozen coalition members who would like to say something on the bills. I have more than 20 minutes to speak on it, but if we are to finish at six I will curtail my contribution so that hopefully my colleagues can have a couple of minutes.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Hutchins)—I am considering your request at the moment, Senator. Please continue until I can make a statement.


Senator IAN MACDONALD —Mr Acting Deputy President, I have looked at the speakers list and I have noticed Senator Brown is on it. I have got no idea how long Senator Brown will want to speak, but if we have to finish by six—


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —As I understand it, at six o’clock we will go to the consideration of government documents unless leave is granted to do otherwise.


Senator IAN MACDONALD —This is an appalling way to run the chamber and it is typical of the way the Labor Party run the government. They have simply got no idea. They could not run a marbles match. Just have a look at the state of the economy. You will remember at the budget 12 months ago the euphoria that was around. The budget came in at a $22 billion surplus. I might say it was a surplus left to the current government by Peter Costello. The books were handed over with $20 billion surplus. Here we are 12 short months later and we are now debating a budget with a deficit of some $58 billion. How could anyone, even anyone as incompetent as the Labor Party, turn that around in 12 short months? We are now facing a deficit of over $300 billion that will have to be paid off by our children and our grandchildren in the years ahead.

While Senator Sherry filibustered on that previous bill so that we would not get adequate speaking time, there was a group of children up in the gallery. I was hoping that we could get onto this bill so that they could listen to the debate about it, because those young children, who I would guess were between the ages of eight and 14, will be the ones who will have to pay for the profligacy of the Labor Party in this year’s budget.

This is not new to us. Look at the states. Every state managed by a Labor government has racked up debts to an incredible degree. My own state of Queensland has a debt approaching the $96 billion which the last federal Labor government had. That is incredible. How could a state government, my state government, the state government of Queensland, which has been the resource state and which has been recognised for 40 years as the best run, most financially responsible state, have a deficit of almost $90 billion? The answer is pretty simple: it has had a Labor government for 10 years or so. That is all you need to say.

I was in this chamber during the term of the last Labor government—the Hawke-Keating government. That government, in its last term of office, racked up a secret deficit —they did not tell anyone about it—in one year of some $10 billion. That was unheard of in those days. We came to government, opened up the books and found that the Australian public had been lied to by the last Labor government on the state of the books. We found a $10 billion deficit for that year. Then we added up all of the deficits that had been run up by the Labor Party and found that they totalled some $96 billion. That is what Labor governments do. That is what they did federally. It took us seven, eight or nine tough years to pay off the Labor Party’s $96 billion debt. That debt happened during the term of the last Labor government.

We left the incoming Labor government with a surplus of $22 billion. Thanks to Peter Costello, there was $22 billion in credit put away in different funds. But 12 months later we are now debating on these appropriation bills a deficit of almost $60 billion. How could anyone possibly do that? I know they talk about the global financial crisis, but it has been exacerbated by the inexperience and incompetence of Mr Rudd and Mr Swan in dealing with our economy. What concerns me and, I think, an increasing number of Australians is the understanding that someone has to pay off the debts that have been racked up by Kevin Rudd. Someone has to deal with Mr Rudd’s debts—and it will be the children of the future.

There are many issues that we could raise about the budget. Since the Labor government have come in, they have spent something like $225 million a day. Money just goes through their hands like sand through the hourglass. It is always so easy to spend someone else’s money. It is much more difficult when you have to pay for it yourself.

I am concerned about the impact of the Labor Party’s mismanagement in this budget on rural and regional Australia, particularly Northern Australia, which I represent in a portfolio way. I want to just for a couple of minutes deal with the people who predominantly live in Northern Australia, and that is our Indigenous citizens, the original citizens of Australia. I want to point out how the Labor Party in concert with the Greens has taken Indigenous welfare back about 100 years. I want to quote some material from various sources that have indicated how Indigenous people understand that the Labor Party is paternalistic, does not want them to make their own decisions and wants to keep them on the welfare drip, and that, in doing that, they are being supported by the Greens for political purposes.

You only have to look at the furore over the Labor Party’s plan to create a World Heritage area on Cape York Peninsula and to declare wild rivers. Indigenous leader after Indigenous leader has pointed out that by doing that you are condemning Indigenous people to a welfare existence. Indigenous people quite rightly say that these so-called environmental initiatives are only being undertaken to get Greens preferences in the leafy suburbs of Brisbane—the same sort of preference deals that the Greens did with the Labor Party in supporting Labor candidates who were pledged to construct the Traveston Crossing Dam. I will quote Mr Noel Pearson. He said:

All of that (economic growth) is precluded because the premier has made sleazy political deals in the course of the recent political campaign …

It’s an absolute kick in the guts to us.

He went on to say that it was all because the Labor Party needed preferences from the Greens to retain office. Of course, the Greens who go along and pretend that they are interested in Indigenous matters simply continue to support Labor governments, particularly the one in Queensland, who seem determined to condemn Indigenous people to welfare.


Senator Hanson-Young —You’re obsessed!


Senator IAN MACDONALD —I beg your pardon? I am upset. I am very upset for the Indigenous people. I want to quote—and I am not going to have much time to do this, but perhaps when we resume I will take no more than five minutes to complete it—from a very interesting inquiry the Senate Standing Committee on the Environment, Communications and the Arts conducted into forestry and mining on the Tiwi Islands. It was initiated, as I understand it, by the Greens and by Senator Crossin and it was to investigate certain, perhaps, malpractices.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Trood)—Order! Senator Macdonald, it is six o’clock and the Senate is due to go to consideration of government documents. Is leave granted for consideration of these bills to continue until concluded?

Leave granted.


Senator IAN MACDONALD —I will curtail my remarks because I know others do want to speak. This inquiry into the Tiwi Land Council was set up because it was thought that because there was a forestry operation on the island there had been malpractices and worse. The committee went up there and I am delighted that I introduced myself into the committee. I quote from the Hansard Mr Ullungura, an Indigenous elder, who gave evidence. He said:

… the frustration they—

Indigenous people—

feel about always having to fight to use a very small area, less than five per cent, of their land for economic development—in this case, it is forestry. The potential for jobs is enormous. A harvest is going to happen; someone is going to have to harvest this stuff when it is ready. I know there has been talk about art and tourism and stuff, but you are never going to employ potentially hundreds of people directly, or there is the forestry camp that you guys were at today. People have to be fed and watered, there is a hospitality industry there and the roads have to be done. There is a lot of short-term stuff, when they do the harvest and get rid of the chipping, but then they have to replant it. The potential for employment is huge.

He went on to say:

If it was not for forestry, we would not be sitting here now, we would be sitting out in the long grass. It is not the $10 million or $15 million that the federal government put in, but the initial stages of the feasibility study and all of that was all paid through forestry. Education was recognised on the islands and especially at Wurrimiyanga, this mob’s country, as just a disaster, an absolute basket case. I am a teacher by trade, part of the system that was teaching at Nguiu, and we have been pumping out illiterate kids, 90 per cent plus—literally, kids who cannot spell ‘cat’—for 20 years.

These guys are trying to build a future with five per cent of their land. They recognise, as well as anyone, that they want to look after their endangered species, but there is 95 per cent of the land that is free for the dunnarts to go roaming and all that sort of stuff. These guys have been saying for years that the answer to solving Indigenous disadvantage is jobs, jobs, jobs. You get self-esteem; you get money; you get a fridge full of food to feed your kids. To go out bush, to go hunting—that is all good; you leave it all alone. But you need jobs to be able to buy your car to be able to get out bush to go to your country.

I recommend to colleagues that they read the full transcript of that and of how these Indigenous people want to do things. They want to get real jobs. They are doing it on the Tiwi Islands. But that seemed to find disfavour.


Senator Siewert —There are nine.


Senator IAN MACDONALD —Sorry?


Senator Siewert —There are nine jobs.


Senator IAN MACDONALD —Senator, I am quoting the Indigenous elders. As always, you in the Greens would know better than the Indigenous elders. With respect, I say to you that this is what is so wrong with Indigenous policy in Australia. People like the Greens and people like the Labor Party know more about what Indigenous people want. This lot of Indigenous people built this magnificent school and they were, by implication, criticised by a senator not from the coalition parties for building it in a certain place. They were actually questioned on why they were building it there. What the committee were told by the elders was that they wanted to get it away from the influence of drugs, alcohol and welfare dependency that the government policy had created. I could go on for hours with this but I know my colleagues want to speak. Suffice it to say that the coalition will be supporting the appropriation bills.