Monday, 2 March 2015
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2014-2015, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2014-2015, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 2) 2014-2015; Second Reading
I must pay tribute to the previous speaker. It was one of the better addresses I have heard in this place. He is a man who is conscious of the needs of his electorate and can articulate not only the aspirations for his electorate but also the achievements. The outgoing Liberal government in Queensland told us what they were going to do if they were re-elected. We are not interested in that. We are interested in what you have done. I was in a government and a leader in that government for some 10 years. We were never interested in telling you what we were going to do, because if we were going to do it, we would have already done it. So we told you what we had done. I very much admire the member's contribution.
The honourable member for Leichhardt is in the chamber. He would agree with me that the situation in the outlying first Australian settlements is fairly unfortunate. There is diabetes now in epidemic proportions. Diabetes is another name for malnutrition. You cannot afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. You have no work available to you so you do not move around very much. In one council in my electorate—but I am quite sure it would be the same in the Cape York area—I asked the entire council whether they had relatives dying of diabetes, and every single member of the council had some close relative dying of diabetes. The situation is far worse in the Torres Strait than there. I think you measure a people based on its poorest people; and, if that is the measure of us as Australians, then we will be judged fairly harshly by history, in spite of the very excellent work done by the member for Leichhardt. There are a lot of people in this place who are very conscious of the environment—in my opinion, far too conscious. They are preoccupied with trees and animals but they are not particularly interested in the fate of human beings. It amazes me that our First Australians could be left in the situation they are in, and we never hear a word from those sorts of people about that situation.
I myself find nature and our natural environment very fascinating, and I pay tribute to some of the great naturalists in the Kennedy electorate or, if you like, in North Queensland. Peter Radke and his wife, Ann, are at Yuruga Nursery. He one of the best naturalists in the country and a trained scientist—but, infinitely more importantly, a self-trained scientist. Steve Malone in Julia Creek is truly one of the people in Australia who best understands our environment and how we interface with it.
Steve Malone, Robert Hacon and a number of others have done their best to bring to the attention of this nation an environmental holocaust called the prickly acacia tree, which has wiped out seven million hectares of what were described on the sun map of Queensland some 20 years ago as the best natural grasslands in Australia, as they most certainly were: the Mitchell and Flinders Downs country of Australia. They spawned Qantas and the Labor movement, although some people may not regard that as a necessarily good thing these days. Waltzing Matilda was written there. The Royal Flying Doctor Service was established there. Seven million hectares of that beautiful, natural pasture has been wiped out. The Julia Creek dunnart, the most threatened species in Australia outside of Australian farmers, is under very real threat from the approaching prickly acacia. So, what you do about it?
The way it happens is really pretty simple. Weeds get washed away in flood times. When the floodwaters break the banks of the river, they stretch out and provide a wonderfully moist environment upon which, in our dry land, at the end of the dry season, there is no ground cover. So there is no competition really for these plants, and they run away on the riverbanks. But that would not happen if the riverbanks were lined with irrigated pasture, and in North Queensland there is no excuse for us not doing that except for the restraints, constraints and impositions of government. If every single landholder were allowed to irrigate up to a maximum of 300 hectares, then we would not have drought in North Queensland, because almost every single station property has access to a critical river that runs every year. I have mentioned many times in this place that my own family has lived on or near the banks of the Cloncurry River for 120 years and it has run every single year in those 120 years, and yet it is 500 kilometres from the sea. We do not have a shortage of water. We have a shortage of water for 90 per cent of the year and a very destructive abundance, a superabundance, of water for the other two or three months of the year.
If you built a little weir or a small dam, or if you just permitted the people to have up to 300 hectares of irrigation land—a landholder might own five acres; well, give him five acres of irrigation land, just let him do that—it would go a long way toward solving the problem. Far be it from me to propose the building of dams; but, in our country of Australia, to my knowledge, in the last 30 years there has not been a single irrigation dam built. Here is the driest continent on earth going through one of the worst drought periods in its history, and there has not been a single damn built, not a single weir built, anywhere in the country. But we have people parading around North Queensland talking about the Northern Australia task force. I am not denigrating the honourable member for Leichhardt; I think he does everything that he can do. But please do not come around telling us what you are going to do; either do it or shut up.
If you want a lesson from Queensland, people in other states, look at the government in Queensland that had 72 seats and had left their opponents with seven seats in the parliament—72 to seven—and how they lost the next election. Just wander around telling us what you are going to do and then go and sack public servants, hell west and crooked, and tell us you are broke; and then decide to build a $5,000 million tunnel in the middle of Brisbane and then tell us you are broke. As Robbie Katter, the state member for Mount Isa, said: 'You say you have no money but you've decided to allocate $5,000 million, one-tenth of the budget of Queensland, to building yet another tunnel, which makes Brisbane the most tunnelled city in the world per head of population.' It is almost double its nearest rival, which I think is Tokyo. But, as he said, what do you get for your $5,000 million? A few thousand people get home a bit earlier to watch television. That is a wonderful achievement for $5,000 million! Now, if that $5,000 million had been used in the north to build a dam west of Townsville, it would have irrigated 120,000 hectares of land forever—forever. There is no lack of water in the river; the Burdekin River is the third biggest river in Australia.
We could produce ethanol instead of putting CO2 up in the atmosphere. Yes, ethanol will put it up but it will pull it back down again so there is no growth. Of course, I am no fan of An Inconvenient Truth, the film by former US Vice-President Al Gore. All the same, his first solution to CO2problems is ethanol. Every country on earth has moved to ethanol—every single country on earth. China, India, Japan, half of Indonesia, all of North America, all of South America and every single European country have signed up to 15 per cent ethanol.
This country has no petrol. It is one of the few countries on earth that has absolutely no solutions to its petrol problem. It was self-sufficient. In 2002 we sent $1 billion overseas. Now we are sending $25 billion a year to the Middle East to buy petrol, because we have no petrol. If you want to have a look at the cause of the Second World War, it was pretty simple: America cut off petrol to Japan. What was the war in Europe about? It was a drive to the oilfields. The great battle of the Second World War was Stalingrad, and that was all about oil. In my first year out of school I was handed a rifle. I had to give two telephone numbers and I was on my way to fight Indonesia—we were at war with Indonesia. What was the war about? It was about petrol. The Indonesians had seized the oilfields. That is what it was about.
We cut off the Indonesian's food supply. If you fight a war about cutting off somebody's petrol supply, how angry are you going to get when people cut off your food supply? The Indonesians have a very limited access to protein. The national dish is rendang.
I live in a country that within two years will have no manufacturing base. When the motor vehicle industry closes down it will take down 72 per cent of Australia's manufacturing. What is left? The last whitegoods factory closed in Orange last year or it closes early this year. There are 20,000 jobs that will vanish in the coal seam gas industry in Queensland when it finishes its development phase this year. There are 15,000 jobs to go in the coal industry. There are 3,000 in the sugar industry. The steel industry has said that there has to be a reserve resource policy, which this government has no intention of doing. Nor does the ALP have any intention of introducing a reserve resource policy, which every other country on earth has got. I am very familiar with it, because we had one in Queensland. That is how we were able to get the aluminium industry. We had the cheapest electricity in the world. Now that we have the second most expensive electricity in the world what do you think is going to happen to the aluminium industry. I think that we can say goodbye to the aluminium industry and most mineral processing, because we now have the second-highest electricity charges in the world. That is another marvellous success story of marketism, of the free market.
In Queensland and in the rest of Australia we had an average household paying $640 a year for electricity for 10 years. At the start of the 10 years, in 1990, it was $640. At the end of that 10 years it was still $640. There was no movement in price. Then the incoming ALP government, along with their federal colleagues with their great leader Mr Keating, decided to deregulate the industry and semi-privatise it. It was a marvellous success story! We went from $640 a year, which it had been for 10 years, straight up to $2,400, and it is not stopping there.
The steel industry has said that if there is no reserve resource policy on gas it cannot survive, so that is 50,000 jobs there. The aluminium industry has no hope of survival rate where it is at present. It is just congealed electricity, and electricity charges are the second-highest in the world, so add 25,000 jobs to that. The fertiliser industry has gone. The food-processing industry has gone. But this we know: 55,000 jobs in the motor vehicle industry have vanished; 15,000, arguably 20,000, in the coal seam gas industry; 15,000 in the coal industry; and 3,000 in the sugar industry. That, we absolutely know.
If the federal government thinks that it is going to survive the loss of some 200,000 to 300,000 direct jobs in this country over the next two years it believes in the tooth fairy. If it thinks it is safe then it should look at Queensland. Extrapolate the figures from the Queensland election to the federal figures and then tell me whether it is going to be governing this country at the end of next year. I very much doubt that.
All we are asking is that they build the Galilee rail line. Do not wait for some foreign corporation to build it. Build the Galilee rail line. Every single millimetre of the 3½ thousand kilometres of rail line in Queensland into their coalfields was built by the government. I might add, it was built by my government. I was a party to it. I say that very proudly. Introduce ethanol, for heaven's sake instead of sending $25,000 billion overseas every year. Pull the brakes of the from farming industry and we will have $10 billion a year in prawn farming, the same as Thailand has with much less suitable coastline than we have. It was the Liberal government that destroyed the prawn-farming industry in Australia. It went from $600 million down to about $35 million. If you unleash the irrigation potential of the north, even in a very minor way, say, 100 million a year, you will take the cattle industry to 10,000 million a year in North Queensland alone. (Time expired)