I rise tonight with a heavy heart to reflect upon a tragedy that has happened in recent weeks that resulted in the loss of a little angel named Willow Walker in the Central West part of my home state. I have decided to reflect upon this for a number of reasons. Willow Walker, the daughter of Brooke and Daniel, and sister to her brother, Harley, was a child of the Collins and Walker families of the Central West in Queensland.
I had the privilege to be able to join the family, extended family, friends and, indeed, almost the entire community of the Central West as Willow’s life was celebrated. I was particularly moved by a number of things that I saw. Firstly, the stoic and resilient approach taken by her parents as they celebrated this little girl’s life was inspirational—nothing short of inspirational. Supported by the broader family, the grandparents and, indeed, the entire community of the district, in so many ways it really was a restoration in the faith of our communities. I’m reflecting on this on the basis that these are rural communities. I think that the opportunity to provide support in these circumstances—the very nature of those communities, where everybody knows each other and everybody feels affected by these things, makes it easier or more likely for that support to happen in some of our smaller rural communities than we might sometimes see in larger metropolitan areas.
The entire Central West was affected by this enormous tragedy. It is an area that’s remained under the heavy hand of drought now for four or five years. It remains one of the districts—there are many—in Australia that have not recovered from the impacts of drought and of market forces that have really challenged the economic and social stability of these places. In the midst of that, to see them rally around the Walker and Collins families around the loss of this little angel, Willow Walker, was something that I am unlikely to forget.
I felt so moved that I believe the circumstances need to be placed on the annals of our Hansard here in the federal parliament, to let all the Brookes and Daniels of Australia, who each face their own tragedies, many of which we don’t learn about, know that we recognise their strengths. We recognise the strengths of their communities. They go to the very heart of what makes us Australians. They are deeply held in the culture and psyche of our people, who endure very difficult circumstances as they make their contributions to this nation. So I just wanted to say to Brooke, Daniel and Harley: the loss of Willow has not gone unnoticed. The impacts of how you celebrated her life were inspirational, and they will continue to play a part in underpinning this enormously important culture.
I want to thank Senator Wong for the opportunity to make a contribution on issues such as secure jobs, rising power prices, investment in education and health care, and addressing housing affordability. I think it is fair to say that most people who have a basic understanding of economic principles understand that most of the generation of wealth in a nation happens from the private sector. We know that the public sector, governments, can borrow more money, and my colleagues on the other side of the chamber know all about that; cut services, and nobody in this country wants to see an unnecessary reduction in services; or we can increase the receipts of the nation by higher taxes and charges. Of course, it is two out of three for my colleagues in the Labor Party and the Greens, who support those anti-economic measures in terms of their management of the economy. It’s well known that whilst the Labor Party, historically, has made great contributions to this nation over many decades, it cannot manage an economy. It mismanages every economic opportunity that it has. It’s also well known that it has no interest in rural, what I refer to as provincial, Australia.
This government, the Turnbull-Joyce government, has created some 240,000 new jobs—a quarter of a billion new jobs—since it come to power. I don’t know how many more jobs the Labor Party think there are to be had, but this is an outstanding record. As you all know, when people have the dignity of a job, it creates a much fairer Australia. The missions we’ve created with reductions in taxation create opportunities for private sector businesses to go ahead and employ more people and give people the dignity of employment. It creates these opportunities. Investment creates opportunities, and opportunities come in the form of jobs, which see a reduction in the impacts on the social security net in our nation. It gives us improved living standards, and Australians, generally—not all; I don’t think it matters at what stage in life we look, there are some people who find themselves left behind—have first-class living standards and education compared to anywhere in the world and have some of the best health care in the world. When you get people into jobs, all of this impacts on the economy and, amongst other things, results in a reduction in the cost of social security and an increase in receipts for the Commonwealth. And what does the Commonwealth do when it is in good economic circumstances? It invests that money, mainly in infrastructure projects and the provision of services for the nation. That is regarded as an investment in those economies. That turns to creating opportunities and jobs and in the wonderful economic cycle, the circle joins and goes on forever.
I find it difficult that the Labor Party would talk about creating a stronger and fairer Australia when their current tax policy is to increase taxes. This is a well known 101 of economics. Increasing taxes simply stifles investment. It reduces investment, and, therefore, these opportunities that I spoke of, these jobs that are created, don’t appear. In fact, jobs are lost.
Let’s just link that to what they’re talking about: to tackle rising power prices. It is well known that the Labor Party—it almost defied logic for me as I watched them over the last decade—abandoned blue-collar workers in provincial Australia and particularly those who were involved in our coal industry up in central Queensland. There were 14,000 jobs gone. There were 14,000 real jobs gone in Central Queensland between Townsville and Gladstone. The Turnbull-Joyce government has compensated with the creation of 240,000 new jobs, but, nonetheless, 14,000 jobs are gone.
Let’s talk about how the Labor Party might support us in dealing with this. It’s no surprise that my speech concentrates on Queensland, my home state, and on projects that will lift the economic fortunes of all the people in Central Queensland. We’ve got the Adani Carmichael project, with 2½ thousand direct jobs and nearly 4,000 indirect jobs once that goes into operation. We’re talking about a total employment impact of 11,800 jobs when the secondary jobs are taken into account—those businesses and industries that will support the development of the Carmichael project. With GVK there are almost 3½ thousand jobs in construction, along with 3,200 when it’s in operation. We haven’t even touched on some of the ancillary stuff that happens here. We haven’t even touched on the $1 billion rail line that has to be built and the increase in the port facilities in Central Queensland.
I have invited colleagues from across the chamber more than once—to save having to do it every time I speak, the invitation stands open—to make contact with my office. I’m happy to meet the costs of travel. We’ll go up into Central Queensland, into the public bar of the Black Nugget Hotel, into the town square at Blackwater or into the main street of Emerald and you can meet the people who will be directly affected by your policies that you continue to espouse. You can meet these people. You can meet the small-to-medium-sized businesses for whom you resisted a tax cut that would provide them with some surplus that they—most of them at least—would inevitably reinvest in employment opportunities. Going back to my cycle: employment creates opportunities, increases the receipts of the nation, puts the Commonwealth in the stronger economic position and allows us to invest in projects like the development of northern Australia, a $5 billion fund.
I cannot believe that Senator Wong selected some of these issues for the debate under standing order 75 today. She forgot to mention or wasn’t aware of the $2 billion dams package that will be invested in infrastructure in so many of our states. She forgot about the $1.7 billion invested in the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing to get our commodities from provincial Australia, particularly the central west and the south-west of my home state. There is $1.5 billion already invested in the Inland Rail, with a further $9 billion committed to be invested in that project. There is $10 billion invested in upgrading the Bruce Highway to make it flood-proof. There are all those commodities in the north. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed in the banana industry and the sugarcane industry, and they can all have secure jobs, knowing their commodities can make their way down to port.
I want to finish where I opened. The Australian Labor Party has a long tradition of poor economic management. It’s reflected in their policies today and the fact that these policies will impact on rural Australia. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.