House debates

Wednesday, 26 February 2020


Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2019-2020; Second Reading

6:30 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I withdraw, Deputy Speaker. I call on the National Water Grid Authority to work constructively with the Tasmanian government to develop a Tasmanian water strategy. Let's not quibble about whether it's a local, state or federal responsibility. Let's get the strategy researched and written and have the fight later about who pays to put it all into action. The fact is that Tasmanian farmers cannot wait another decade before seeing real action when it comes to Tasmanian water security.

Labor has released a policy for zero net carbon emissions by 2050, and don't those opposite just love it! They've responded to our announcement with childish outbursts and histrionics which illustrate all too well how they intend to conduct themselves in any debate about climate change action. There will be no debate. There will be only war. There will be no regard for science nor for facts. There will be only hysteria. There will be no mature acknowledgement that more than 70 countries, Australian state governments, including Liberal governments, and major business groups and peak bodies have all announced net zero targets. There will be only a stubborn shaking of heads before stuffing those heads in the sand.

I've said before in this place that I truly lament the political weaponisation of climate change action, because climate change is a scientific fact, like relativity, gravity and ageing. It simply is. It's not Left. It's not Right. But that is how it's being shaped. If you want climate change action, you're a raging greenie who wants to tear down civilisation and force everyone to wear Birkenstock sandals. Any cost associated with climate change action is labelled a tax, while the higher costs of inaction are not. The fact is that Labor's 'Net zero by 2050' policy offers enormous opportunity for jobs and economic growth, especially in our regions. It offers opportunities for our farmers to diversify their income by expanding into carbon sequestration, something that will also help provide more canopy and restore denuded soils. Moving to zero net emissions is not about shutting down our $200 billion resources industries, which is how those opposite paint it in public. It's about grasping the opportunities of the 21st century and ensuring that we do not become an economic backwater while our international partners and competitors rocket ahead with new technologies that drive stronger economies.

There's a group called Farmers for Climate Action. It understands the need for Australia to take stronger action on climate change and that action in the regions can make a big difference. Recently I had the pleasure of being shown the work being done by the Derwent Catchment Project, a grassroots community organisation guided by evidence and science, which is working with farmers in the Derwent Valley to implement better land management practices and long-term strategies to prevent land degradation. This not only benefits the environment but results in better outputs and more productivity. The people running this project are experts in agriculture and environmental science. They are not political commentators. They are working in collaboration with local farmers who not only understand the benefits of sound environmental management but who are now seeing the benefits in the production of their goods. The Morrison government, meanwhile, is too caught up in itself and its own interests. It's too busy pandering to the hard Right of the party to appreciate the real work being done for the benefit of our agricultural sector. It's too busy fighting with itself, with the so-called modern Liberals squeaking away in the corner. They occasionally put their heads up above the parapet and make their voices heard, but they get slapped down and shouted down by their colleagues, so they disappear and don't put their votes on the line when it counts. They are too busy fighting amongst themselves to recognise that without climate change action our agricultural industries face further challenges.

As a member of a largely rural and regional electorate, I am very familiar with the poor telecommunications coverage that rural and regional communities face. Several towns across my electorate—towns like Miena, Broadmarsh and Lachlan—are all subject to intermittent or non-existent phone and internet connectivity. The unreliability of these services is an enormous disadvantage to those Australians who live and work in our regions, disconnecting them from the digital communications opportunities that their urban counterparts are so familiar with. We all rely so heavily upon our phones and a stable internet connection for work and for recreation. We use them as tools for learning and shopping, and to access health care and welfare services. Our regional residents are not so fortunate. Importantly, and this is particularly relevant given the bushfires so many Australians have just experienced, not having reliable telecommunications can place people in danger during natural emergencies like bushfires and flooding. I know many people in the community of Woodsdale, for instance, are concerned about their inability to use a phone and what that would mean in the case of medical emergencies and road accidents.

This is not news to me. I've spoken to countless constituents across my electorate who have to live with the reality of poor telecommunications and internet infrastructure, and I have raised it several times in this chamber. I acknowledge that many of my constituents are benefiting from the results of the Mobile Black Spot Program, a program I do hope to see supported well into the future despite some of the delays in some of the rounds that are still yet to occur.

Infrastructure Australia includes this issue of telecommunications as a priority. IA recognises that poor coverage is a barrier to inclusion and is preventive to economic growth. It is well-established that addressing these gaps is expensive, and even when done quality can be poor and there can be minimal returns on the investment. But we shouldn't look at telecommunications coverage in the regions as a business analysis; it's a community analysis. People need phone coverage, and we need to put out more mobile phone coverage and more broadband and internet coverage. The Morrison government talks a lot and uses a lot of slogans, and it's just so smug, but the reality is it's overseeing a rotting infrastructure and is failing to address the critical issues that are affecting so many people in my electorate and across the country.

On Monday night, I'm proud to announce the Brighton Council carried unanimously a motion for this government to increase Newstart payments. The Brighton Council represents an area in my electorate which includes Bridgewater and Gagebrook, areas of high socioeconomic need and very low incomes. A lot of people are on Newstart and other income measures. Brighton Council, fed up with this government's reluctance to increase Newstart, carried a motion unanimously, and there are people of all political persuasions on that council—people with Liberal leanings, people with One Nation leanings, people with Labor leanings and there may even be a Green; I'm not sure. People of all political colours came together on that council to say to this government: 'Increase Newstart. People cannot live on the rate at which it is now with rents skyrocketing, with cost of living going through the roof and with transport costs in Tasmania—and for appalling public transport in the Brighton Council; it's absolutely abysmal. People can't afford to live on the meagre income that is provided by Newstart. So I genuinely implore those opposite—I'm sure there are people with good heart over there—increase Newstart. Increase Newstart; give Australians who are on income support a better chance at a decent life.

Northern Tasmania, some of which is in my electorate, has been hit very hard by this government's tradie crisis, with 684 local apprentices and trainees gone in northern Tasmania. That's been the result of seven years of Liberal government—684 local apprentices and trainees gone in northern Tasmania. That's an absolute disgrace. We've seen evidence from the shadow minister this week and figures today about the fall in the number of apprenticeships under this government's watch at a time when we need to be growing our economy and growing our skills base. What this government has presided over, over the last seven years, is a reduction in the skills and training of young Australians. They seem content with that. They seem content with robbing young Australians and young Tasmanians of a future in trades and skills. They should stand condemned for it.


No comments