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 rise to make a contribution on the appropriation bills for 2022-23. When the Treasurer presented his speech at the end of October it did very little to address the serious issues in my electorate of Flynn. One of the main things I hear when travelling around the electorate is how much families are suffering from the cost-of-living crisis. Unfortunately this budget does nothing to address it. The average family is set to be worse off by at least $2,000 by Christmas. Grocery prices are eight per cent higher, not just because of natural disasters but also because of Labor-made disasters—scrapping, for example, ag visas. Supply has been slashed because farmers and processors are only working at around 60 per cent of workforce capacity, which has led to upward pressure at the checkout for families. Retail electricity prices are predicted to increase by 50 per cent, while the $275 reduction in electricity bills promised by the Labor government has now been scrapped. It's gone. Interest rates have already gone up and are predicted to go up further, which is ripping hundreds of dollars out of household budgets each month.
Labor's own budget forecasts that gas prices will skyrocket by 40 per cent in the next two years, yet they have provided no serious policy or investment to alleviate this price surge. The surest way to secure affordable and reliable gas is through increasing supply. Funding for gas exploration has been cut. Labor has gutted $31 million out of the exploration in the Cooper-Adavale basin plan, and it has removed $23 million from the Beetaloo by discounting the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program. At the same time, in a blatant attempt to buy Green votes, Labor has showered the Environmental Defenders Office with an extra $9.6 million, opening the door for more vexatious court actions and lawfare to delay and stop new resource projects.
The only new change to the tax system announced in this budget is a new tax on investments. Labor's sneaky new tax will slug people who invest in their own savings and superannuation. Despite ruling out these changes before the election, Labor will hit retirees and investors with a new $555 million tax, depriving investors of franking credits which they had previously relied on.
Labor's budget has turned its back on families desperate to find childcare places in regional and rural areas. $4.7 billion in child care measures has been announced, but it doesn't help regional and rural families because it doesn't deliver any additional childcare places. In my electorate of Flynn, many families cannot find a childcare place for their child. This is preventing parents from returning to work sooner. Our communities need availability and accessibility, not just affordability.
There has been confirmation of cuts to or scrapping of programs: energy security and regional development plans, the Regional Accelerator Program, the Community Development Grants Program and the Building Better Regions Fund, the BBRF. Eight hundred and fifteen projects around Australia that were part of the BBRF have been scrapped. In October I visited the construction site of the Ivy Anderson aged-care project in Springsure, which received $4.1 million from the Building Better Regions Fund. This site is ready for foundation laying and construction. Depending on weather, the project will be completed in the first quarter of 2023. These nine one-bedroom residential units have been a long-time vision for the hardworking Ivy Anderson committee. Labor needs to tell our hardworking regional and rural communities why it's supporting their city mates before regional and rural Australia and turning its back on future projects just like the Ivy Anderson aged-care project.
We need rural and regional infrastructure to get produce from the paddock to port to pay the bills for this nation and improve our communities. I have previously used my time as the federal member for Flynn to speak out about serious logistical issues that are preventing the use of the port of Gladstone. The former member for Flynn Mr Ken O'Dowd secured $100 million for the port of Gladstone access project back on 3 April 2019 to provide an alternative route for heavy transport vehicles accessing the port of Gladstone. This $100 million is once again in this year's budget. However, the port of Gladstone project has not progressed, having been in the planning stages since 2020.
There are four bridges in the Gladstone area that have oversize, overweight and load restrictions put upon them. These bridges need to be repaired or replaced. They present huge logistical problems for the Queensland Labor government's proposed multibillion-dollar alternative renewable energy projects in Central Queensland. A few weeks ago, we saw a 250-tonne energy generator on its way to the Callide Power Station stranded at the port of Gladstone due to the bridges in the region having these size and weight restrictions upon them. This generator has now had to be loaded onto a barge and taken further up the port to Fishermans Landing. This is an absolute waste of time and resources. Even more disappointing, it could have been prevented.
Labor is taking the fun out of regional Queensland and Australia as well. The budget will not proceed with round 2 of the Agricultural Show Development Grants Program. This is a great disappointment, considering 30 regional shows are in the Flynn electorate. These shows are the very fabric of many of our regional communities. The October budget is scrapping $14 million over two years from 2022-23 for the partial reversal of the 2022-23 March budget measures titled Regional Accelerator Program establishment. The budget also mentions $2.8 million in savings for the partial reversal of agricultural shows and field days. The budgets says the funding will be redirected to fund other government priorities. The government does not prioritise regional and rural shows. It is stripping money out of regional Australia wherever it can.
Labor's budget has committed to increasing the heavy vehicle road user charge rate from 26.4c a litre to 27.2c a litre. This means truck drivers will be slugged an extra 0.8 per cent in tax for every litre of diesel fuel that they buy. Labor's agenda to treat regional Australia like a cash cow is a disgrace. However, the budget does include $80.7 million to support voluntary action by farmers to lower methane emissions. This includes $50 million for a National Soil Carbon Innovation Challenge to lower emissions through better soil management; $5.7 million for a national soil carbon data program to support partnerships, to improve data and low-cost alternatives for measuring soil carbon; and $20 million in a methane emissions reduction in livestock program for research into abatement and the productivity benefits of livestock feed technologies and the development of technologies to deliver low-emissions feed supplements to grazing animals. This plan does not stack up. This plan will force farmers to buy more expensive feed for their cattle, making farming more expensive. The result will be an increase in meat prices. Everyone's food bill will only grow under Labor. This is the start of another attack on farmers.
The coalition didn't sign up to a methane pledge, which called for a 30 per cent global reduction in methane emissions on 2020 levels by 2030. Signing the pledge goes against the agriculture sector's desire to grow to $100 billion by 2030. At a time when families are struggling with the cost of energy and mortgage repayments, this tax on the grazing industry will only push up food prices further. What activists want is an end to the beef industry and the grazing industry as a whole.
The budget also scraps $4.6 billion out of water projects by not proceeding with the Hells Gates Dam project in Queensland; deferring funding of $899.5 million over four years from Dungowan Dam and pipeline, Emu Swamp Dam and pipeline, Hughenden Irrigation scheme and the Wyangala Dam Wall Raising Project. This budget also did not match the coalition's commitment of $25 million towards the water supply for the critical development of a new industrial precinct 20 kilometres from Emerald at the Yamala Enterprise Area. The funding was to support the proposed Yamala Enterprise Area, an intermodal and industrial precinct to turbocharge Central Queensland's economy, creating more jobs and industries. Cuts to water programs are devastating and will impact on regional areas. The development of water assets is crucial to the future of the agriculture industry in Australia but this budget does not address this.
The Rockhampton Ring Road is a key piece of infrastructure. It is a project that will support the region's economy by improving freight efficiency, flood resilience and the capacity of the Bruce Highway, as well as improving road safety. Labor's budget confirmed that they will delay the $1.1 billion Rockhampton Ring Road project where tendering was almost complete and the work was due to begin in January 2023.
Central Queensland is the economic engine room of Australia and it needs to be supported with essential infrastructure to support the growth and development of this region. In the region there's the over $1 billion Shoalwater Bay Training Area and the Clarke Creek wind, solar and battery farm, and Rookwood Weir. With major projects like this, it is not acceptable for military tanks, over 100 wind turbines and oversized equipment to be travelling through the Rockhampton CBD. For the Clarke Creek windfarm each tower is 11 truckloads. This includes three blades, seven tower components and one Goldwind generator that weighs 108 tonnes. The biggest component is the synchronised condenser unit, which is a 220-tonne piece of equipment. There are 16 traffic lights through the central Rockhampton CBD which must have risers put under them, as load clearances have to be 6.2 metres. 100 wind turbines at 11 loads is 1,100 truck movements of oversized, overweight and overlength equipment. Three police will be assigned to each movement. It appears the federal Labor government are happy to strip critical funding from regional projects and pump the money into metropolitan areas. This is simply unacceptable. Enough delays—the federal government needs to cough up the funding for the Rockhampton Ring Road and get on with building it as soon as possible.
After the coalition delivered an $811.8 million connecting regional Australia initiative in March 2022, Labor's so-called Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia both axes and redirects funding from a number of important coalition programs. This Labor budget cut to regional communications at least $101 million over four years. The budget papers show that a $106 million program to boost the resilience of telecommunications infrastructure for natural disasters in vulnerable locations has been axed, with a much smaller allocation of $30.4 million made to the Department of Home Affairs for resilience initiatives including for telecommunications infrastructure. $30 million for various internet affordability measures for regional and rural communities has been cut to just $4.7 million. $5 million for emerging technology trials has been axed. $418 million for open access or multicarrier mobile expansion has been cut to $400 million. The Mobile Black Spot Program has been cut by $37.5 million, the lowest level of investment in that MBSP since 2015. Whilst adopting the coalition's plan to extend the Peri-Urban Mobile Program to regional cities, as the opposition called for, Labor is providing only half of the $78.5 million committed by the coalition.
It has been reported that the Boyne Tannum Sharks in my electorate of Flynn will receive only half of what Labor promised the club at the last election cycle. Even though Labor did ordinarily match the coalition's fully budgeted amount of $2.5 million to build the new clubhouse and facilities, they have decided not to honour this funding and reduced it to $1.3 million. Once again, Labor says one thing before the election and another thing after.
In conclusion, it is clear the Labor budget is one to appease metropolitan Australia and is not one for regional and rural Australia and particularly my electorate of Flynn.