House debates

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Matters of Public Importance

Rural and Regional Australia

3:39 pm

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) Share this | Hansard source

There are 12 sitting days for this parliament between now and Christmas, and, instead of coming up with a plan to deal with the issues that are confronting people in regional Australia, the best thing that this proud National Party can do is go to war with themselves. You know that they're in strife when the most productive thing they've got to say is about us. They've been given all this time to talk about their plans for regional Australia and the best thing they can do is to attack us. No wonder they are in such strife!

There is a reason why they don't have a plan for regional Australia: they've had three Prime Ministers, three Treasurers, three Deputy Prime Ministers and, I kid you not, since the last election to today they have had four ministers for regional development. Is it any wonder that they haven't got a clue when it comes to the issues facing people in regional Australia? Is it any wonder that they can spend 18 months trumpeting a decentralisation plan? Eighteen months ago they heralded, with great fanfare, that they had a plan to decentralise government work from Canberra, to send it out to the regions. Well, we waited with bated breath. We were told there was a hard deadline in December last year. We thought there were going to be some big announcements coming, along with Santa Claus, but there were no announcements and no decentralisation.

Then, with great fanfare, on budget night we saw the Deputy Prime Minister issue his famous press release saying, 'Decentralisation in our time'. But if you looked at the numbers, there were 100 jobs decentralised. And, if you looked at the fine print, 80 of those 100 jobs involved moving workers from one capital city to another capital city! Our favourite was the 34 jobs that moved from Sydney to far west Parramatta! This was their decentralisation plan. Is it any wonder that these guys are starting to ask questions of themselves?

I was pleased to see the member for Capricornia starting to ask some questions of her side today as well. This is the one who is welcoming Barnaby back with great hope. While she's doing the numbers on their own backbench, she might start looking at doing some numbers on decentralisation in her own electorate. While she's been here in Canberra and in other places around the country, talking about their great initiative in decentralisation, under her watch—under her government—we've seen 50 Public Service jobs ripped out of her electorate. That's what National Party-style decentralisation gives to you.

If it were just decentralisation and if that were the level of hypocrisy and carnage, you'd say, 'Fair go, these guys are dealing with a drought.' And the drought is having devastating effects throughout eastern Australia, there is no doubt about that. But it's the ideas drought on their side of the chamber that is having the most impact. I was pleased to hear the minister talk about telecommunications. These guys have had 18 plans in 13 years and still could not deliver a broadband plan for regional Australia. I've got to say that it takes a lot of genius to say, 'We'll only spend $36 billion on the NBN'—their fibre-to-the-node second-rate NBN—and then have to fess up and say, 'We've actually spent $50 billion,' only to deliver a service which is no better than that which they replaced. Is it any wonder that NBN complaints have gone through the roof under this mob here, with a 53 per cent increase?

Mr Coulton interjecting

I hear the minister complaining. They bagged it, they voted against it—year after year after year—and now they're putting press releases out saying, 'Thanks to us you've got the NBN!' These guys are the champions with the jam tin on a string. If we were to leave it to them, that would be the broadband connection that people in country Australia would get. Under their watch, complaints in the telecommunications sector are at four times the level that they are in the financial services sector, and we got a royal commission in the banking and financial sector. These guys reckon that business as usual is okay and that they're going very, very well. (Time expired)

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