Thursday, 12 November 2020
Matters of Public Importance
I start by acknowledging the member for Chifley and congratulating him on his promotion to shadow minister for agriculture, which is an exceptionally important ministry, but I'll correct him on a few things. I'm sure you'll agree with me, Deputy Speaker, that, when you live in greater Sydney, you may think that 50 kilometres is not inner Sydney, but, when you live in regional or remote Australia, you know 50 kilometres from Sydney is certainly inner city.
We're talking here today about the delivery of the government, and I've got so much to talk about that I know 10 minutes won't be enough, so, if anyone's happy to move an extension at the end, I'll certainly take it. I want to touch on a few national things that we have focused on over many years and are focusing on right now and continuing to deliver on, because we know it's important for the growth of our economy and, if it's about the growth of our economy, it's going to be about the growth of jobs and the delivery of infrastructure and a whole lot of other areas.
The first one I want to talk about is tax cuts. What we started speaking about as soon as we got elected to government back in 2013 was lowering taxes both for business—small business and big business—and for households. Why do we believe that? We believe that because we know, especially with company taxes, this is a competitive world. Wouldn't it be good if we could all take our bat and go home? But small businesses and large businesses have a lot of choice with globalisation about where they set up and where they conduct their workforce and their operations. So we have lowered company tax rates, especially for small businesses, from 30 per cent to 25 per cent. We believe in that; we know that. It used to be bipartisan. The governments of Hawke and Keating understood this. They lowered company tax rates as well back then. Unfortunately it's not a bipartisan agreement now, but we know that, which is why we've done that for small business. We wished to do it for large business, but we couldn't get it through. But it's also with personal income tax. Especially now, in an economy that is challenged, we know that lowering taxes means that people have more of their own money to spend, and we know that is a healthy thing. Whereas, obviously, on the other side, they always believe they know where to spend your money better than you do.
The other thing that's really important to me—and I know the member for Chifley will be really interested in this, as the new shadow minister for agriculture; I'm sure it's important to you as well, Deputy Speaker Llew O'Brien, and especially for an area that represents the regions—is free trade agreements. The great thing about the regions is that we are the exporting powerhouses. The member for Paterson would agree with me as well, being a regional MP: we are the exporting powerhouses of our country. In the agricultural sector in my own area, it's things like blueberries and macadamias. But, in my area, it's especially value-added meat processors. Over a thousand people work in my local meat processor. Seventy per cent of what they process is exported. So the free trade agreements that this government has negotiated—and there's been a heap of them: Indonesia, Hong Kong, Peru, Japan, Korea, the TPP-11. Again, the other side, at some stage, said they weren't worth going through with or didn't want to go through with them, but we persevered with all of those. That's because any market that we can get for our exporters is good for our economy, our country and jobs. This government has a proud record in the area of free trade agreements and lowering taxes.
But the area I want to focus on is infrastructure. Infrastructure is exceptionally important. I think this government is going to be known for three or four things. Besides free trade, besides tax, one of them is certainly going to be the infrastructure delivery that we have done over many years. You might indulge me, Deputy Speaker, because I'm going to focus on my local area—what I know and what has happened in my community, locally, with the delivery of infrastructure, and what that's meant for my community. The centrepiece of our infrastructure spend has been the upgrade, the duplication, of the Pacific Highway. I know you have the Bruce Highway, Deputy Speaker; it's important to you. Why do we do dual duplications of major highways? The No. 1 reason we do it is to reduce fatalities. The fatalities on the Pacific Highway—this is obviously for the section that interests me: the Sydney to Brisbane section—are at multidecade lows. That's because, as the highway is dual duplicated, fatalities in those sections decrease rapidly.
Since I've had the pleasure and privilege of being a member of this place, my section—which was almost the final section to be completed; it's almost completed—was the Woolgoolga to Ballina section. How much did we commit as a government? The state has contributed 20 per cent as well. It was a $5 billion investment in dual duplicating this highway. This, at any one point, has had 2,500 to 3,000 direct jobs. So the primary reason is to reduce fatalities, but the other benefit of this is direct employment to my local region and my local economy. Obviously, at the completion of it, it will be a boon as well: we are closer to the rest of the country, and it's easier to get goods and services and tourists to visit our area. There are some real highlights on this highway, too. Deputy Speaker, I know you're a motorbike enthusiast. I know you've been up and down that highway a lot. There's the Harwood Bridge. The bridge at Broadwater over the Richmond River is very spectacular.
Deputy Speaker, I now want to take you on a quick tour. You've been on your motorbike; you might have been in the other sections as well. I just want to go through some of the regions of my local area and focus on what this government has done as far as infrastructure goes. I know that you would be a great fan of the BBRF. We were speaking yesterday, actually, weren't we. I brought up the BBRF yesterday, and you're a great fan of that, as well as the Bridges Renewal Program. Why is this important, and why do we as Nats do this?
The Bridges Renewal Program is a Nats program and was instigated by a previous leader, Warren Truss. What is a bridge renewal program important for? Take Kyogle, a small LGA in the sense of ratepayer base, with only a few thousand, but they have over 300 wooden bridges. Some of those 300 bridges might only service 10, 20 or 30 families, and others are more important. They had a huge infrastructure backlog. What I've been able to do, and what we have done as a government with them, is co-invest. We have done—I've lost count, but it's tens of millions of dollars each that we've invested in this to start fixing the backlog.
There are really important roads that we've done with them as well. The Toonumbar Dam road is a really important tourism road for Kyogle. The Culmaran Creek Road is really important for commerce there. Vitasoy—Deputy Speaker, you might be interested to know there's a company in my region called Mara Global Foods, and they supply 80 per cent of Vitasoy's soy. They need an upgrade of a road for their processing plant, and we were happy to invest, with the council, to fix that. Because what was it about? It was about jobs. It's about jobs and it's about the health of our local economy.
Let's move over to Lismore. Lismore is a great sporting town. Why is upgrading sporting events important? It is not just for locals to have good facilities on a Saturday; it also brings sports tourism. For just 300 grand we co-invested with the local Far North Coast Hockey Inc and we got a second field. What has that meant? It's an international standard field and, since then, we've been able to bring a number of national tournaments to Lismore, like the under-21s national tournament and the seniors national tournament. This is bringing hundreds of people to Lismore and the surrounds for not just a day or two but for two weeks in some cases—a great economic boon. It's the type of infrastructure that we focus on because it's the type of infrastructure that supports the local economy. We are upgrading a local sporting complex, Oakes Oval and Crozier Field, which is a rectangular field and an oval. They're international standard. We're spending $14 million there. Why? Because we're going to attract the best of all the codes and we're going to attract those types of events to our community. Again, it's about economic activity and bringing those people and that money to our local town.
Norco—I'm sure you've heard of it, Deputy Speaker, and I encourage the new shadow minister to meet Norco. Norco is a local dairy co-op, in my region. They have an ice cream factory in Lismore. They're a very good brand. A new brand they've got is Hinterland, which they've just marketed. They're a very important employer in Lismore. We have co-invested with them $15 million each to upgrade that ice cream factory to be world class. And that is very important for the hundreds of jobs in our region and the hundreds of jobs in that dairy processor.
Casino—Deputy Speaker, I know you're a Queenslander, so we'll probably disagree here. To the shadow minister: Casino is the beef capital of the world, member for Chifley. Do not believe that it is Rockhampton.