House debates

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Excise Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2014, Customs Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2014, Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Bill 2014, Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Special Account Bill 2014; Second Reading

12:25 pm

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

You may not know this but the economy of North Queensland is $500 million a year. If you knew anything about North Queensland, you would be well aware of the pivotal role played by my department in the creation of the prawn- and fish-farming industry, and you also would be aware that it was your government that smashed it to pieces with their greedy laws. So, who created it? Who smashed it? Now, let's have a look at the road monies.

This gentleman has got $160 million for road monies over the next three years—it might even be $200 million. In the last three years, to my memory, the previous Liberal member secured some $600 million out of the Labor and Liberal governments. So, if we compare their performances, he is appallingly lamentable. He said this government is spending massively on infrastructure in historic terms and on roads. Well, it is, but it is not in North Queensland. In fact, except for the $160 million ring road, which I and the previous member have done a lot of work on—but I am not detracting from this member on that issue—there is virtually nothing. Between Townsville and Cairns, when the work finishes on the Frances Creek and Cattle Creek upgrade, there is no money at all, except for some planning money for the next four years.

In contrast, the last government—heaven only knows I would not be singing their praises—spent over $1,000 million in the last three years alone. But in the next three years there is nothing. Well, hey, you represent Townsville! Where is the money between Townsville and Cairns? Where is the money between Townsville and Mackay? If I say nothing else about the member for Dawson, at least he opens his mouth. He does not come in here as a defender of the government. He comes in here as a representative of his own electorate.

This gentleman said, and quite rightly so, the ALP comes up with the question of where do we get the money from? They just say we will increase taxation, and that is pretty true. I think that is a fair call, actually. But let's have a look at what his government in Queensland has done with the money. They get no money. This is the Liberals: 'We're bankrupt. We've got no money.' Well, the budget for the ALP was $46,000 million, and I would share their view that the ALP government in Queensland bankrupted the state. But what is the Liberal budget for this year? It is $51,000 million.

If the other mob were a bunch of bankrupters then the current mob are an even bigger bunch of bankrupters, because their budget is $51,000 million, whereas the ALP's was $46,000 million. I share their view, most certainly, upon the bankrupters called the ALP. But if they were bankrupters then your own words indict yourself, because you are spending $51,000 million. Let us compare that to the National Party government. This was really, let's face it, the Country Party government. Until 1990, when Bjelke-Petersen was stabbed in the back, we were the Country Party. But when we left office we were spending $8,500 million. The LNP in Queensland is spending $51,000 million. You can say it is because of population growth—yes. You can say it is because of CPI—well, let's double the figure and say it is $16,000 million and then let's add 50 per cent for population growth, and that is $4,000 million, so it is $20,000 million. So it should be $20,000 million. But it is not $20,000 million. It is not $40,000 million. Under the LNP in Queensland it is $51,000 million.

What are they spending that money on? I will give you the three big-ticket items, and you can make up your own mind as to whether this is a good government in Queensland or not. What we are talking about in this legislation is spending this money on roads. I will tell you what are the big-ticket items of the LNP government in Queensland. There is $5,000 million that has been announced for the BAT tunnel. To quote Robbie Katter, the member for Mount Isa, which is the electorate furthest from Brisbane, 'What do we get for that $5,000 million? A few thousand people in Brisbane can get home three or four minutes earlier to watch the television. That's what we get for it.' That is the return and benefit to the Australian people, for spending $5,000 million of the taxpayers' money in Queensland.

The second item is moving seventh grade to secondary school. What the hell is that about? Can there be any logic in putting a 12-year-old in with adolescents, an entirely different animal, as those of us who are parents would all know indeed. A person is much different when they are 12 than when they are 15. I took castor oil rather than go to dances when I was 12, but my attitude had changed very dramatically by the time I hit 15, I can assure you. This is a fight between primary and secondary. Secondary wanted eighth grade because primary had all the numbers and they dominated the education department. So they thieved eighth grade off them, and now they are thieving seventh grade off them. That is going to cost $2,000 million and, I might add, put one-seventh of the primary schoolteachers out of work, unless they go back to university. We have not heard a bo-peep from the teachers union about that one. So the second item is a little warfare within a department between secondary and primary education, and to settle it they are throwing $2,000 million at the problem.

The third one is a beauty. There is a beautiful building we in Queensland call the power tower, where the Premier and all of the senior ministers are housed. It is the senior governmental building, the equivalent of the Pentagon in America—they flew one of those planes into it. It is Queensland's little Pentagon. The building was built about 25 years ago, which was just yesterday for high-rise buildings. It is being torn to the ground. A 20-storey building—perfectly new, absolutely palatial—is being torn to the ground. In fact I have been embarrassed every time I have ever had to go in there because of the palatial nature of that building. It is being torn to the ground to build a much bigger, new-beauter, more palatial one than the existing building. And it will be $1,000 million for the Premier's Taj Mahal.

So this is how the LNP spend their money. They are spending $5,000 on yet another tunnel. To quote one of Australia's most renowned economists, and I have used the term on many occasions, the trouble with infrastructure in Australia is that it represents tunnel vision. All we do with infrastructure is build tunnels. We do not build dams. We do not build railway lines into the Galilee Basin, or canals into the north-west phosphate and iron ore province. We do not do any of those things anymore. The imbecility of the Queensland government can be exemplified by both the ALP government and the LNP government in the rejection of the electricity line. The federal government gave them $320 million. For once, Canberra was putting something into what I would call infrastructure. I would never call a tunnel in Brisbane infrastructure, or an overpass in the Kennedy electorate.

I have secured three overpasses in the Kennedy electorate. That was $1,000 million for my electorate. The previous speaker, the member for Herbert, asked what I had achieved. Well, that is $1,000 million in the last four or five years. He has achieved $200 million in six years, it would appear. So let's compare our performances on the basis of road allocations. I had two hostile governments that I had to deal with: the ALP and the LNP. I am not on the side of either of them. Now he is in the government, and that is the best he can do. Quite frankly, when you compare his achievements—meagre as they may be—with those of the previous member, Mr Lindsay, it is appalling how short this member is in representing his area.

The previous speaker also said, 'What can you do about this problem?' The cost of living for people who do not live in metropolitan areas is very dependent upon petrol. If you are a haul-out operator, like a sugar mill, your income depends upon the cost of petrol. If you are a semi-driver, the cost of your income depends upon the cost of oil. A cane harvester, a roo shooter, a stockman and a railway maintenance worker who has to drive great distances to get to jobs all rely on the cost of oil.

Most of the time in the midwest, if you are lucky enough to live in Cloncurry, there are no dentists there at all. When we were in government up until 1990, there was not ever a situation in which there were fewer than three dentists in the midwest. So for the entire 20 years that I was the state member of that area, we had three dentists. But most of the time now we have no dentists. The net result of that was a person in Richmond had a 700-kilometre round-trip to the nearest dentist. He could not afford the day off or that amount of money so he pulled the tooth out himself. In Gordonvale there was another person who pulled the tooth out himself as well because he is a pensioner and cannot afford the cost of driving backwards and forwards to Cairns. And because he was not local to Cairns, he was put on the bottom of the list.

I cannot help but introduce this note. It is a most unpleasant note. I visited the Torres Strait three years ago for two days with a government group and I never ate a single bit of Indigenous food. When I was minister, in maybe 200 or 300 days I spent in the Torres Strait, I cannot have remember having a meal where the entire deal was not Indigenous—tam, yarrow, bananas, mangoes, coconuts and, of course, most of all, fish, crayfish, crab, dugong et cetera. But there was no fresh food on this trip. The cost of getting fresh food by road transport from Cairns, about 1,000 kilometres, and then on the boat out to the islands is such that the people cannot afford it. When I went into the supermarkets there, a seventh of the shelf space was taken up by rice.

What happens when your nutrition level falls to a certain point is you have epidemic proportions of diseases that follow from, effectively, malnutrition. Diabetes is one of those diseases, and we have got it in epidemic proportions. We saw genocide in the Boer War. Unfortunately, we were associated with concentration camps there. The people were not shot. The women and children were not shot; they were just starved to death. I would be casting the net too wide if I were to say this was in line with that, but there is no doubt that people are dying in massive numbers in the Torres Strait because of the cost of transportation, because of the vicious laws of this country and because of AQIS, which has not protected us from incoming diseases but is destroying a race of people up in the Torres Strait.

The answers lie in what the rest of the world has done in the fuel area. Every country on earth has moved to ethanol—China, India, Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia. All of the European countries have signed up to 15 per cent. All of the Americas, every single country in North America, South America and Central America except Paraguay—I do not why; it is a little tiny country so is irrelevant—and with the exception of Venezuela, of course, as it is a big oil producing state, has gone to ethanol. What are they paying for it? The library has informed me that the current price of fuel in the US is 87c a litre; in Brazil, it is 95c a litre; and in Australia it is $1.54 a litre. Let us not worry about hitting the poor people of rural Australia for another 50 per cent increase in the price of their fuel, let us talk about— (Time expired)


Glenn Kerswell
Posted on 26 Jun 2014 4:48 pm

What bob says about infrastructure is absolutely correct ,Australia's cities get the lion's share of the infrastructure spending , The price of one tunnel spent on dams for the regions would create jobs and generate income , Not to mention , Facilitate a population shift relieving pressure to build tunnels in the first place , Cities have become sink holes for money that produce precious little besides more houses and more roads and more crime .