Monday, 21 November 2022
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2022-2023, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023; Second Reading
I held a Fisher budget forum six weeks ago. It was obviously the second one that I'd held this year, and we in my electorate discussed the good, the bad and the ugly in Labor's 2022-23 budget. I think it's important to recognise where we've come from, and that is a position of strength. The coalition set up and handed to the Labor government an economy that was the envy of the world, although the Labor government seem to be doing their best to trash that as we speak.
Less than six months on, things are very different to where they were in May this year. The Treasurer promised a bread-and-butter budget, but now we know that it was more like a charter-boat budget; any Queenslanders listening to this will know what I mean by that. The Treasurer is now wandering around saying: 'Budget? What budget?' I've never seen a Treasurer or a government walk away from a much-heralded budget like those opposite have done recently.
But it's not all bad. I want to talk about some of the good things. As the Leader of the Opposition said, we in opposition are not going to oppose for opposition's sake. We will identify and recognise where there are good things in the budget, and we will call out where there are bad things, bad policy that the government undertakes. I was pleased to see the childcare subsidy extended to even more Australians. I was with the shadow minister for early childhood education for an industry round table, and it was great to see and learn the perspectives of many industry players from the early childhood sector. Whilst I recognise and acknowledge it's a good thing that the childcare subsidy is being extended, it was made very clear to me in that meeting, and since, that there are many early childhood centres operating around the country but, in fact, there are many places in the country that simply don't have access to those early childhood centres. The government can throw all the money it likes at this issue, but I know that particularly in rural, remote and some parts of regional Australia there are young people who just simply cannot get those services. Families can't get those services. That means at least one parent has to stay at home and look after those children, and that has a significant impact on the productivity of this nation.
I was also glad to see the government recommit to reducing the cost of medicines through the PBS co-payment—something which both parties took to the last election. I was especially pleased to see support for veterans' housing, with the $46.7 million investment into the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme. Veterans' wellbeing has been one of my personal priorities over the last six years. There is so much more work to be done from this place on the care of our veterans.
Last but not least, I want to once again put on record the thanks of the people of the Sunshine Coast for the Labor government's intention to keep the $1.6 billion investment in the Sunshine Coast rail project that the coalition promised in the March budget. Whilst I am very pleased to see the recognition from the minister that the money is in the budget, it took a couple of days to get that announcement because there was nothing physically in the budget papers—which caused me some degree of consternation, as you'd probably imagine, Deputy Speaker Claydon—but the infrastructure minister, on about day 3 or 4 after the budget, came out and said that the Labor Party would be honouring the coalition's commitment of $1.6 billion. That's a great thing for the Sunshine Coast. We now have bipartisan support for the Sunshine Coast rail at a federal level. What we don't have on an estimated $3.2 billion project is the state's $1.6 billion.
This is another example of an infrastructure project which we led from the front when we were in government. We led by investing, or at least offering to invest, in a state project. When you see a train in Queensland that's operating on the north-south railway line, you'll see it emblazoned with QR. You don't see CR, you don't see CTHR, and you don't see federal rail; it says QR, Queensland Rail. The Queensland state government is responsible for its own rail line. The Federal member for Fairfax and I worked assiduously for six years with our own party, our own government, to get a commitment of $1.6 billion, and we secured that in the March budget. As I said, I'm very pleased to see that the Federal Labor Party have come on board. It's a great project. It's a nation-building project. It's good for the economy. It's good for the local economy. It's good for the environment. We need to get more cars off the road and more people into rail. But, as I said, what we don't have is Queensland state Labor stumping up with their $1.6 billion.
It reminds me of a situation when, once again, we led the path. We trailblazed, the member for Fairfax and I, our funding commitment for the duplication of the North Coast railway line. That was not on the cards with the state government. Once again, it was a QR project, Queensland Rail, but we offered to pay 50 per cent of that project. We didn't have to put a cent towards it, just like we didn't need to put a cent towards the Sunshine Coast rail. The only way that we seem to be able to get the Queensland Labor state government off their backsides to fund infrastructure in Queensland, particularly in areas like the Sunshine Coast, is if the federal government takes a leading role.
The member for Monash is looking at me, and I know exactly what he's thinking. He's thinking, 'This is rewarding bad behaviour, member for Fisher,' because that's exactly what we're doing. We are rewarding bad behaviour from a recalcitrant state government. The more money that we put into Queensland for Queensland state government projects, the less money that they put in. It's like rewarding a naughty child. What do they do? They keep doing it, and they keep getting a reward. But, if we didn't do that, the Queensland government would continue to not fund vital infrastructure projects.
It is a good thing that this Labor government stumped up and matched our funding. I am very appreciative of it, as is just about every person on the Sunshine Coast. Not only will it provide a link between the Sunshine Coast coastal strip and Brisbane; it will provide a vital link between the hinterland and the Sunshine Coast. It will provide 9,550 jobs over the next eight or so years. It will be the largest infrastructure project that the Sunshine Coast has ever seen. But what we don't have is the state government matching the federal government's commitment of their own $1.6 billion, to their eternal shame.
We cannot host the Olympics in 2032, partly in the Sunshine Coast, if we do not have this rail done. If the Queensland government wants to look a gift horse in the mouth, whether it's a coalition gift horse or a Labor government gift horse, this rail line will go the way of the Redcliffe rail line and probably take another 100 years to be built. If we're going to build this rail line, it needs to be done before 2032. My best advice, coming from the Department of Transport and Main Roads in Queensland, is that it's going to take about eight years to build it, so we have no time to spare. Get on with it, Mark Bailey, transport minister for Queensland. Stump up, come out publicly and say you're going to fund this $1.6 billion, and let's get on with it.
The Caloundra Labor state member should also be voicing his support for this project, as should the Nicklin Labor state member. These two Labor state members have said nothing on this project whatsoever, and it's about time they came out and publicly declared whether they are supportive of this project. If you're supportive, come out and support your communities. That's what your communities expect of an elected representative. Don't hide and wait until your government comes out and says what it's going to do. Be a leader. Push for change. Push the envelope, because that is what you are elected to do, whether it's in this place or whether it's in a state legislature or a council legislature: push the envelope and stick up for your people.
In relation to cost of living, which we heard so much about in the lead-up to this budget, I did my 'tour de Fisher', where I ride around my electorate. I did 23 listening posts on my pushbike—not my motorbike; I know you're thinking, 'Did he do it on his motorbike or did he do it on his pushbike?' I spoke to over 150 constituents in a week and I was asked by a radio station whilst I was doing tour de Fisher what the No. 1 burning issue was for locals in Fisher. I'll tell you what the No. 1 burning issue was: cost of living, cost of living, cost of living. It's all anybody wanted to talk about. We saw in the budget discussion about reducing power prices. When they went to the election, the Labor Party promised a $275 reduction in power prices. But when you dig into the budget papers, you see an acknowledgement from this Labor government that power prices are due to go up by 56 per cent over the next two years and gas prices are due to go up by 44 per cent over the next two years.
Nowhere since the election has the Prime Minister repeated his commitment for a reduction in electricity prices. He talked about this on 97 occasions prior to the election and not once since. And his own budget papers, the government's own budget papers, demonstrate that the prices of power and gas are going to go up by, in the case of power, more than 50 per cent—a 60 per cent increase in the gas price—and gas prices by 44 per cent. We estimate that people in my electorate will be paying more than $2,000 more by the end of Christmas for their cost of living than they would have been paying at the beginning of this year.
This government needs to work with industry to reduce power prices. It's not just a matter of pushing more renewables into the market. It's a matter of sensibly balancing renewables and other forms of energy. By all means look at nuclear energy, as the coalition government is doing. We're looking at nuclear energy. We're not demonising any form of energy, because we need to be able to keep the lights on. People are going to judge this government by how they manage their energy policy, and at the moment, as all our respective bills are showing, they are left wanting. So, there are some good things and there are certainly some bad things in this budget, and I'll continue to talk about them in this place. (Time expired)