Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016; Consideration in Detail
I would seek clarification from the Labor Party. Have they got an agreement that there are going to be no cutbacks, or haven't they? We want to know what the agreements are. It is quite a reasonable question asked by the honourable member for Melbourne.
While I am on my feet and while the ALP decide how they are going to answer the question, which will be rather curious for we crossbenchers, could I add this: I do not feel particularly comfortable in acting like, 'No, we don't agree to any cutbacks in anything.' What people like myself are saying is: for heaven's sake, everyone else on earth has a charge on goods coming into their country. Whether you call it an excise duty or a customs duty or whatever the hell you want to call it—a 'primage charge', as Billy Wentworth used to advocate in this place—even five per cent will bring in $16 billion a year. Surely some benefit for the Australian community would follow if, in fact, we put that charge on. Our manufacturing industries are collapsing because of overseas competition. All of our competitors have protective mechanisms—tariffs and various other mechanisms—that protect them. We cannot send our sugar into Europe; we cannot send our sugar into the United States. All of these other countries have protective mechanisms; we have no protective mechanisms whatsoever. Surely a five per cent or a 10 per cent charge for people who want to buy an item from overseas, instead of buying an Australian made item, is not an unreasonable proposition. In my opinion, that is one of the places where the money should come from—not cutting back on areas that are extremely important.
For the areas I represent in North Queensland, we are at the end of a 2,000-kilometre electricity line. The line losses of 20 per cent and 25 per cent and the cost of servicing the debt on those transmission lines is horrific; it is costing the Queensland government something like $500 million a year. So these ARENA projects are extremely important to us. Right at the end of the line is Karumba, and they are now getting into solar, which is absolutely ridiculous in any normal situation. But when you are trying to carry electricity nearly 3,000 kilometres, then it is very, very intelligent to have solar panels in. We commend Doug Scouller and the people doing it at that end. But they are doing this on ARENA grants. Let us be intelligent about this.
Persons like me would normally be anti the Greens agenda, but in this case we are not—because we are at the end of the line and we need these alternative energy sources, which are highly suitable and cheaper when you are dealing with the end of the line. I speak as a one-time minister for electricity in Queensland. But we would like an answer from the ALP. I do not think it is unreasonable for the honourable member to ask for clarification on this matter.