Tuesday, 22 November 2016
Matters of Public Importance
I should not be waving it around, Mr Acting Deputy President, you are quite right. What I am trying to do is look through it as I speak and try to find in this document anything that represents an Australian Labor Party policy for jobs and growth.
The Turnbull government, and before it the Abbott government, has a real vision for Australia that creates jobs. I am very familiar, as is Senator Canavan, who is the Minister for Northern Australia. We are very well aware of a detailed plan for the development of Northern Australia. That is not just a glossy brochure and it is not just there because the words sound good. It is actually a plan to develop Australia, to create jobs, to create exports and growth. Senator Canavan, as the relevant minister, is doing a wonderful job in promoting that plan for the development of Northern Australia. More than just a plan, it comes with budgeted money. Already Senator Canavan is having a field day spending upwards of $6 billion on initiatives that will help the growth of Northern Australia. There are things like the CRC for Northern Development and the beef roads project, which will allow one of our biggest industries to get their product to the market as quickly as possible and which in turn developed for productivity. There are plans for water resources—to grow anything in Australia, and growth in agriculture is one of the big futures we look towards, you need water. Up in the north, where most of Australia's rainfall occurs, there are very few catchments for those areas. The Turnbull government, in its wisdom, prior to the last election promised committed money to water infrastructure and provided some for actual work and some for feasibility studies. I suspect that senators from other parts of Australia will not be able to comprehend this, but the Turnbull government has a range of programs right across Australia offering money for water projects to various state governments. We do that because it is the state governments that control water streams and irrigation, not the federal government. We provide the money as the federal government and we have said to all of the state and territory governments, 'Here is some money. Go ahead and see what you can do in getting some water reticulation.'
Of all the states and territories in Australia, there is only one government that has not yet taken it up. All the rest of them have greedily, hungrily—and thankfully, from my point of view—taken the money and have done things with it that will come to fruition in the times ahead. But regrettably the Queensland government, my own state government, for some reason does not seem to want to use the money. I cannot work that out. Unfortunately, I do not see any Queensland Labor senators here. If they were here I would ask them, 'Why won't the Queensland Labor government take the Commonwealth's money and start the feasibility of the Hells Gate dam up behind Townsville or look at the raising of the wall on the Burdekin Dam?'
In the city, where my office is in Townsville, the local ratepayers are paying $27,000 a day to pump water from a long way away because there has not been this activity towards water that there should have been over the last 20 years. The federal government wanted to address that, and we have given money to the state government to do these feasibility studies around Townsville that would address that particular issue, but the Queensland state Labor government sits on their hands and do nothing. I do not know why they are doing that. It is not costing them anything; it is federal money. One can only assume that Senator Waters and her Greens mates in these states have threatened the Queensland Labor government, 'If you do anything with water, you won't get our preferences.' For that reason, the Queensland state Labor government sits on their hands and do nothing, and cities like Townsville, where I spend most of my time, run out of water and have to pay tens of thousands of dollars a day to get water pumped to reticulate the water supply.
All of this shows that the Commonwealth government, the Turnbull government, is keen on jobs and growth. We want to create an economy that is growing, because that creates jobs for Australians. I know that those following me in this debate will talk more intensely about the backpacker tax, which I intended to, but I have run out of time. But clearly the Turnbull government has jobs and growth as its No. 1 priority.