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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 3147


Mr JOYCE (New EnglandDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (15:21): Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to rise and speak to this matter of public importance on employment. It is rather absurd that we are talking about what we are trying to do to create jobs on the day the Labor Party have signed a Faustian pact with both Senator Jacqui Lambie and One Nation on the backpacker tax. What is their proposal? Their proposal is that they will have a tax rate for foreign workers at 10.5 per cent, whilst Australian workers are working in the same field at 19 per cent, if they are above the tax-free threshold of $18,200. Obviously, what this means for Australian workers is that they are at a disadvantage. Obviously what the Labor Party have signed up for today with Senator Jacqui Lambie and One Nation is something that actually gives an impetus not to employ Australian workers in the agricultural sector.

We understand that you cannot have a tax rate at over 32 per cent, because no-one from overseas would turn up and we need that labour. But to go to the absurd position where we are offering a rate of 10.5 per cent means that if you are in the field and someone next to you is from Provence they will probably be on a cheaper tax rate. If they are from the Steppes at Ulaanbaatar, they will be on a cheaper tax rate. If they are from Umbria, they will be on a cheaper tax rate. If they from good old County Cork, they will be on a cheaper tax rate. Who proposed this? The Labor Party.

This is a complete disincentive to Australian workers, and today, of all things, Labor have an MPI on Australian labour. How on earth? We could never get something like that through. How did the party that are supposed to represent Australian workers manage to come up with that? How did they come up with a proposal that makes it a strategic advantage to employ people from overseas over Australian workers? Where is the logic in that? We stick to our position of a 19 per cent tax rate so that they are comparable. The Labor Party are coming up with a policy merely to tear the scab off an issue that had been resolved. Who are they putting on the fire as they tear off this scab? Australian workers. Australian workers are the ones they are attacking. It is bizarre that someone from the National Party has to stand up on behalf of Australian workers—Australian farm workers—because you today, with Senator Jacqui Lambie and One Nation, your new cabal of friends, have announced that you are going to come up with a disadvantage for employing Australian labour.

You say, 'Well, maybe it is just there,' but, no, their desire to take off the scab and create dissent and turmoil is in other areas as well. It is at the Adani coalmine, in Central Queensland, which would employ up to 5,000 people on construction and 4,000 ongoing workers. Who fights against it? The Labor Party fights against it. The Labor Party takes up the cudgels against the working men and women of Central Queensland. Why? Because it is advantageous. It gets them closer to the Australian Greens. Their battle is not for the Australian worker any more. Their battle is in Balmain. Their battle is with the Greens. They have given up on representing regional Australia. They used to be the party of shearers. They used to be the party of tradesmen. They used to be the party of miners. But that is no longer so. They have given up on that. Now they are the party trying to fight their battle street by street in Annandale, all the way up Trafalgar Street and all the way down to Glebe wharf. That is where the battle is. It is no longer a matter of looking after Australian workers. It was absolutely beyond compare seeing the shadow Treasurer and the member for Hunter, who in this place has not asked a question in the last year—he had a crack at it today but got kicked out—which is better than the shadow water minister, who has never asked me a question at all.

Mr Hartsuyker: How come?

Mr JOYCE: They don't believe in those jobs! They are two jobs they do not believe in. So the shadow Treasurer, the shadow minister for agriculture and the member for Grayndler launched themselves into a press conference to announce that the new tax rate for the people from Umbria, for the people from Vermont, for the people who are making their way over here from Lithuania, for all those good backpackers making their way in from all countries around the world, will be at some stage a third of the marginal tax rate of Australian workers.

What else have we noticed lately? The closure of the power station at Hazelwood, costing 750 jobs. Who is responsible for that? Labor is responsible for that. These people are losing their work. Then, we try to get more work going by standing behind the construction of Rookwood Weir, which would create 2,100 jobs. Who fights against us on that? The Labor Party. Who is going to take away the funding for that? The Labor Party. Who is going to take away the extra billion dollars a year for Central Queensland? The Labor Party.

When you peel back this onion you find that there are no friends in the Labor Party for the workers. When we try to ensure we have reliable electricity, we look at the policies of South Australia, where the Labor Party is, and what do we see? A blackout. What is the result to industry? They are trying to work out how they can get out of there, because the policies of the Labor Party are so unconducive to keeping people in full-time work. We look forward to the Labor Party's explanation. It is a shame that the shadow Treasurer was also booted out today, because maybe he could explain to us how he is going to pay for his rate at 10.5 per cent—how he is actually going to pay for the half a billion dollars.

Mr Brendan O'Connor: Ask George Christensen.

Mr JOYCE: I will take the interjection. At least the member for Dawson stands up for workers, such as would be employed at Adani, because you do not. You do not believe in the mining workers any more. You have given up on the mining workers, because you are mates with the Greens. You know your true friends. That is who you are fighting for, and people get it. People know that you are not serious about the mining industry in Central Queensland. Today they were absolutely flummoxed that you have come up with an idea where foreign workers, imported workers, taking Australian jobs are going to be taxed at a marginal rate—my daughters will be up there picking fruit and their marginal tax rate will be 19 cents in the dollar. It would have been the same as for the foreign workers working beside them, but in your stroke of genius today their tax rate is going to be half of what the other farm workers are paying.

That is what you think of Australian workers. That is where you put your heart. What is your explanation for that? Do not laugh at the fact that you make a disadvantage. You do not laugh at the fact that you make a strategic disadvantage against Australian jobs, against Australian workers. You do not laugh at the fact that your party now is making it easier to employ overseas workers than Australian workers. You should not be laughing at that. You should be standing up on behalf of your workers, but you do not.

It is all rhetoric and rubbish. You do not actually believe it. You do not stand up for it—or you have no weight in caucus and you cannot get things turned around. Did you actually know about it today? Did you know about their announcement? Did you care about it? Did it matter? How could you possibly come in here and move an MPI on jobs for Australians the day you brought about a disincentive for jobs for Australians? This is amazing. It would be interesting if the next speaker could explain to us—I put this challenge to you—why, today, you have created an incentive to employ overseas workers over Australian workers. Explain to us why you are doing that. Explain why a person who is over a tax-free threshold of $18,200 a year—my daughter, other farm workers—will be paying tax of 19c in the dollar and your proposal today is that the people who will take their jobs will be paying 10½c in the dollar.

You explain that to me. Explain to me how that fits into the ethos of the Labor Party. What part of the Labor Party platform is that? And while you are at it you can explain why you do not believe in decentralisation, explain to me why you do not believe in the inland rail, explain to me why you do not believe in electricity reliability. You can explain so much, because it is a complete and utter hypocrisy, on a day like today, that you would be talking about Australian jobs.