House debates

Monday, 21 October 2019


Customs Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019, Customs Tariff Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019; Second Reading

4:58 pm

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Katter's Australian Party) Share this | Hansard source

I withdraw. I don't want to take up any more time. I want to move on. I'd take up as much time as possible, if I were them. They started off the first industry to be deregulated. The first industry to be deregulated was the wool industry. The wool industry was bigger than coal. It was $6,000 million, and coal is about $5,800 million. Keating comprehensively destroyed the wool industry by deregulation. Our forefathers fought—and every time I leave this parliamentary chamber, you'll watch me hold up my fist in salute to the first member for Kennedy, the Labor member who held the seat for 25 years. He fought like a tiger to secure arbitration—decent pay and conditions for us. The farmers deserve decent pay and conditions as well. The Country Party, God bless them, got arbitration for the farmers. So every single farming industry, with the exception of cattle, had arbitration, for the sake of a better word.

Mr Keating, coming from the party that fathered arbitration in this place, came in here, and the first thing he did was deregulate the greatest source of income that this nation has had in its entire history. Every single year for over 100 years, the economy of Australia depended upon the wool industry, and he destroyed it. Within three years the wool industry was one-third the income it was before that man deregulated and destroyed it. He took on the farmers first, but, believe me, if he'd stayed around, he'd have taken on the workers too, because this man was driven by ideology. We have a saying in the bush: when your neighbour starts preaching religion, reach for your branding iron. I find it to be very true. When we talk about ideology, I start getting twitchy.

I've referred to the figures for wool—62 per cent of the sheep herd has gone, never to return. It was destroyed by deregulation. I've referred to fruit and vegetables—we're importing more than twice as much fruit and vegetables into Australia as we are exporting. I have referred to the pork industry. I have referred to the fishing industry. But exactly what food products do we export positively? Cattle is the only thing left, and—heaven only knows—the Labor government did a fair job of destroying the cattle industry with their ban on live cattle exports. Cattle is down from 32 million to 23 million. Dairy production is down 19 per cent. Sugar is down from 5.4 million tonnes to 4.7 million tonnes. And sheep is down 62 per cent.

Let's turn to manufacturing. The motor vehicle industry has gone completely. The petrol industry has gone completely—or near enough to completely. The whitegoods industry has gone almost completely. The textile, footwear and clothing industry has been decimated. This country is not a mining country. Everyone says, 'All we've got left is mining.' No, you don't have mining; you have quarrying. Mining is when you dig it out of the ground and sell a metal. We don't dig it out of the ground and sell a metal; we dig it out of the ground and sell the ground. That's called quarrying—that's iron ore and coal. More than half of this nation's income now comes from two quarries—the iron ore and the coal quarry. There are a lot of people in this place who believe the coal industry should be closed down. That's a good idea! We'd have no income at all.

We've still got a few to go. We gave the gas industry away. The brilliant leadership in this place sold all of our gas for 6c a unit. For those of you in the Labor Party, I got that by going to the convention of the ACTU. They had it up, covering the whole front of the dais. We sold the gas for 6c. Then, Labor governments were up to their eyeballs in it, and the ACTU is pulling no punches on it. We sold it for 6c. We now buy it back for $16. How can we stay internationally competitive in areas like fertiliser—I represent the biggest fertiliser plant in Australia, bringing in $2,000 million a year to the Australian economy—when we're paying $16 a unit for gas and our competitors are paying between $6 and $7 a unit for gas?

The steel industry has said, 'If you keep going with your present free-market electricity, there'll be no steel industry in Australia.' Half of it has already gone. There's been absolutely no effort made to stop the super-cheap steel coming in from China. Aluminium is concealed electricity, and since Australia has the highest electricity charges in the world—there's an advertisement on the television every night stating that, and, from the figures I've seen, that's most certainly correct.

Let me turn to agriculture. I got vilified by the rural action council of Mareeba, maybe the best fighting group this nation has ever seen in the area of agriculture, because John Anderson, the leader of the National Party, of which I was a member at the time, had said, 'We don't need 240,000 farmers.' He was being criticised because people were exiting the industry all the time. He said: 'We don't need 240,000 farmers. We only need 120,000.' And I'll quote the boys at the rural action council up there in Far North Queensland—in, I might add, the electorate of Ted Theodore, the greatest man that ever walked into this place, with the possible exception of Jack McEwen; Red Ted Theodore was Clyde Packer's closest personal friend, I might add, as well as the leader of the Labor Party in Australia—who said, 'If we don't need 240,000, what's he advocating? That we lose 120,000 farmers?' Well, we have! When he made that statement, we had 240,000 farmers. Now we've got 120,000. And it's thanks to his free trade policies.

Today we have listened to a member from Newcastle talking about making sure our wages are protected. We are going one-on-one against the biggest, or soon-to-be the biggest, coal producing nation on earth, Indonesia—we are going one-on-one against it. And we're going to pay the same wages, are we? We were enjoying $200,000 a year for our miners. Heaven only knows, they're in industries that are extremely dangerous. They work in extremely adverse conditions. And, thanks to the weak-kneed Labor governments of Queensland and Western Australia that allowed fly-ins, they don't see their families and they've got to live away from home for most of their lives, thanks to the weak-kneed Labor governments in Western Australia and in Queensland. The Liberal Party of Western Australia banned fly-ins. Under my own party, under the much-maligned Bjelke-Petersen, fly-ins were banned.


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