SPEECH – The importance of regional Queensland

14 August 2017

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.