Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2019-2020, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020; Second Reading
I always love coming to the Federation Chamber. I think our ratings are somewhere between the test pattern and the shopping channel, but I think the shopping channel is a long way ahead. The good thing about it is it allows an honest expose on issues as you believe they should be.
Just because you read it, doesn't mean someone said it. I looked at the headline the other day in The Courier Mail. Although I thought, with all due respect, I gave an honest view, it wasn't a proper reflection. Why I say that in an appropriation discussion is because one of the major appropriations, of course, is Newstart and pensions. The reason this might be clever for the day but probably not clever in the long term is, quite obviously, I think I'm incredibly well paid. I think I'm incredibly fortunate, but I have a real empathy for those who are not. I want to make sure that we do whatever is within our power by getting the budget into a position where we can help pensioners and people on Newstart. No-one in their right mind is going to say a person can exist on 280 bucks a week. It's just not possible. The problem now is, of course—I say this to anyone who is listening, and that's probably no-one, unless there's somebody up in the fourth estate watching—you take a person out as an advocate for you. You take a person out as a talking head for you because you can't validly hold an argument and support or promote a position because everybody just has a retrospective on what they believe you may have said, and it's beyond you. I hope there's another talking head that takes the spot and does the job, because it's vastly more difficult for me now to do it.
On to other issues. It is incredibly important that we develop this nation. One of the biggest fights I had when I was the Deputy Prime Minister was to make sure we had the appropriation—we might have had the promise, but we had to make sure we had the appropriation—for Inland Rail in excess of $10 billion. It was a mighty battle. It was a battle of the coalition. It was a battle to make sure that the National Party was heard and that we had delivery on that issue. It was something that had been a policy objective of the National Party for so many years but, to be quite frank, we hadn't gotten there. We hadn't gotten the money. There were a number of foolish people walking around carrying sleepers and knocking in spikes, but they didn't actually have the dosh behind it to build it, which is what you need. If you want to construct a railway line, you have to have the money to construct a railway line. Now we've got the money to construct a railway line and we've got to build it, because we've got to develop this nation off the coast. We've got to make sure that the trucks are not going through your electorate, Deputy Speaker Hogan, but are running on the railway tracks down inland. You want your commuters, the people in the caravans with the kids, to not be in the same corridor as the haulage. That's why it's important. We've got to get this project built, and I think it should be front and centre of a real desire of our government—I'm sure it will be—to make sure it happens.
Likewise for our dam stocks. The dams of this nation are absolutely fit for purpose for about 1970, but they are not fit for purpose for a nation of 25 million, now racing towards 30 million. We have got to build more water storage. The reason we are running out of water is the droughts, but it's also because we've got so many people, and the people are utilising water. They expect to live in a modern Western democracy, and they expect to be able to wash their cars, water their lawns and have a shower. This requires an increased amount of water for an increased population, so we need increased storage. But we have all these impediments that have been put in place, a lot of them by state governments. There has to a proper review on what these impediments are and a joint push at COAG to remove these impediments. If your priorities are frogs and pelicans over people, then we're never going to build another dam. It's just not going to happen. But, if your priority is people, then, after a logical assessment of the current situation, you'll know that we have to build further water storage and we have to start now. It has to go beyond studies. It has to go to yellow things pushing dirt up, to testings, to access roads, to getting it to happen. The people in Queensland have to talk to Jackie Trad—maybe if you're renting a house off her—and you have to talk to other people and say, 'You are just holding the whole show down.'
For my own election, I really understood how important delivery is in my own electorate. You have to be able to go to everything from the veranda at Urala to the Chaffey Dam extension and the APVMA and show people why you are relevant to them. Down here, about 90 per cent of what we do is politics—parochial, partisan, chest-beating politics—and that's it. We all carry on, get on Sky News, get on the ABC, and it's all that's partisan parochialism. But I can assure you that in your electorate it's 90 per cent delivery. It's 90 per cent being a public servant and maybe 10 per cent politics. In fact, in some instances, the less you talk about politics in your own electorate, the better you're going to go. They want to see the Chaffey Dam extension, because, without the Chaffey Dam extension, Tamworth will run out of water. They want to see decentralisation. That's why they say, 'The APVMA moving to Armidale: a great thing.' It shows that you don't just talk about it; you actually do it, you actually deliver.
Now we have to take the next step. There's a CRC. I'm trying to find Senator Bridget McKenzie so I can talk to her about how we can both lobby for an agri vet research centre for the period of time that it's allowed. We want to make sure that we make Armidale a centre of excellence for agri vet chemicals so that, if you want to know where the greatest collection of intelligence for agri vet issues in the world is, you go to Australia and you go to Armidale. Part of that plan in the past was the Regional Investment Corporation going to Orange so that, if you wanted to be in agri-finance and agri-investment, you'd go to Orange. We're trying to create these centres of excellence in our nation. We're trying to match up with the United States. When they developed Chicago for soft commodities, we wanted to develop Orange and Armidale for research. These are the sorts of things people want. They want this vision; they want a logical vision of where we're going.
All the time there are the basic necessities of a modern life. Communications is one of them—mobile phone towers. If you have a heart attack, you'll want to ring someone. You can't do smoke signals from the side of your car. You've got to be able to get on the phone. If you break down, or your partner breaks down, or your wife breaks down, or whoever, or if they have a flat tyre and they can't change it, they've got to be able to ring somebody. They've got to be able to connect to somebody. It gets a bit scary if you can't have a mobile phone. If a pensioner falls over on her way to the tip trying to burn her rubbish and she hasn't got a phone, she hasn't got any connections so no-one will know about it and she'll just lie there. These are the things you've got to do.
These are the reasons that people have a government—to deliver those sorts of services. You've got to get the medical services into areas. In my area you've got to respect Aboriginal Australians. You've got to make sure you don't always come up with your parochial reasons of why not. You need to get down and meet them and find out why you can and how you can. We've got to make sure that we promote the social interaction of people, so supporting things like your local tennis club is important and not just for the sport; it gets people out. It gets people mixing. It gets people talking and it gets people who otherwise maybe don't have a reason to talk to another person talking. I'd like to make a big commendation to Ash Barty and the way she's conducted herself. We are proud of her and how she is presenting our nation.
One of the things the Prime Minister said, and I agree with him, is that we have to make sure with this investment, with these appropriations, that we get more from our standard units of production, and one of those is soil. We've got to invest in research into soils to understand how we get a better return from them because we have an obligation, and not only to Australia. Those opposite talk about a $100 billion ag industry. Well, you know, unless it's inflation, you're not going to get there unless you do something substantially different. One of those things is to increase irrigation. Invest in the Bradfield Scheme so you can irrigate the western districts of Queensland and New South Wales, and create reliable access to irrigation water to improve the production capacity of the soil itself. You need this sort of expertise. It's got to go from research, though, to delivery into the paddock.
We have scalded soils, but people now know you can get gypsum onto it to break it up and get better production. In the past, we understood the benefits of superphosphate. A lot of the country was phosphate deficient and phosphate would make a huge difference. We have big problems now. Zero till is incredibly important to Australia because it keeps the carbon content of the soil up. But now we are talking about banning glyphosate, which, for people who don't know, one of them is Roundup. If we ban Roundup, we have to go back to cultivation. If we go back to cultivation, it means we have to turn the soils over to kill the weeds.