Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Debate resumed from 26 October, on the proposed address-in-reply to the speech of Her Excellency the Governor-General—
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, express our loyalty to the Sovereign, and thank Your Excellency for the speech which you have been pleased to address to the Parliament—
on motion by Ms O’Neill:
That the Address be agreed to.
It is with great humility that I stand before you today in the 43rd Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia as the 14th member for Wannon. It is with great pride that I stand here as the son of the late Marie Tehan, my mother, who was a state parliamentarian. This is a first for the Commonwealth parliament. In Australian political history there has never been a member of this great chamber whose mother was also a parliamentarian. My late mother, Marie, was and remains a great inspiration to me. Not only was she before all else a wonderful loving mother but she was also an inspirational role model. She was a loving wife, devoted grandmother and brought up six children. It is fantastic to have my sister, Kathryn, and brothers, James and Dave, in the gallery today.
Mum firmly believed elected office was not an end in itself. It came with an obligation to work tirelessly to make your community a better place. She showed me the importance of having the courage to drive reform and how, if you needed to take tough decisions, you did not have countless reviews and put things to endless committees—you acted. As Victoria’s health minister she was personally responsible in 1992 for the most significant health reforms this country has ever seen. She drove the reform process in the most trying of economic circumstances with Victoria $22 billion in debt thanks to the gross waste and incompetence of the Cain-Kirner state Labor government. Not much changes.
My father, Jim, who is here today, was a great support to my mother, and she would not have achieved what she did without his help. I can also say without doubt that I would not be in this place today as the new member for Wannon if it were not for his guidance and support throughout my life. Like his father before him, Dad was a farmer who believed in not only working hard on the land but working hard through agripolitics for the land and for his fellow farmers. Like Mum he always found the time for his children, driving me countless miles every winter and summer so I could play country football and cricket. And all this, even though I had decided at age five, despite his urgings, to barrack for the mighty Richmond Tigers instead of his beloved Carlton Blues.
More than anything though, Dad taught me the value of hard work. At any opportunity he put us to work on the farm whether it was as a young boy driving the Land Rover while he fed sheep oats from the back, sweeping the woolshed board after school during shearing time or 5 am starts during summer holidays to help with dipping. We were always expected to put in. When we left school all of us returned to the farm to work for a year. This was a form of exchange. The farm had given us the opportunity to go to boarding school therefore we should give something back to the farm.
I do not think I could have been more blessed than growing up in a large, loving family in the country. It moulded my perspective on life and the beliefs which will always inspire and guide me. It taught me that above all else those who aspire and claim to govern in the national interest should encourage and reward those who are willing to be enterprising, work hard and have a go at life no matter where they live. It taught me that what was good for the country was good for the nation.
The electorate of Wannon is named after the river that runs through it. It is a Federation electorate and its last two members have been Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who saved our great nation from Gough Whitlam, and former Speaker David Hawker, to whom, along with his wife, Penny, I owe great debt of gratitude for their encouragement and support. As I stand here this evening there is not a more beautiful place in the world to live than the electorate of Wannon. Whether it be the yellow canola crops blending with the red gums, lakes and rivers, the majestic backdrop of the Grampians or the fields of rich green pasture running into the rugged coastal shoreline, its breathtaking scenery is superior to any other vista you could find across the world. It is little wonder that, after having travelled most of south-eastern Australia, so taken with it was the early explorer Thomas Mitchell that he called it Australia Felix; fortunate Australia.
The Wannon electorate is diverse and home to wonderful people with outstanding community spirit. Our largest town of Warrnambool is home to 32,000 residents and the famous May races, with the other 300 or more towns ranging in population from 12,000 to less than 10. The towns include many businesses servicing the mighty western district agricultural industry and a host of firms including education, financial, legal and tourism enterprises. They are surrounded by Australia’s largest dairy region, its largest wool growing region, ever-expanding cropping land and vineyards. This agriculture and services mix is supported by industry including mining, meat and dairy processing, timber and engineering for renewable infrastructure.
During my campaign for the seat I set out clearly what I hoped to achieve locally as the member for Wannon—greater federal funding for our crumbling road infrastructure; better health services, including the much-needed Medicare-funded MRI licence for south-west Victoria; employment rules which, instead of putting barriers in the way, encourage our young people to work; changes to the independent youth allowance so we can begin to address the alarming decline in country students accessing tertiary education; and real and practical action to support our local environment. I am deeply honoured and humbled that the electors of Wannon saw fit to make me their representative, their voice in the national parliament. With their help I now set about the task of honouring my commitment to fight for what Wannon needs and of ensuring that this government delivers services on a needs basis for all Australians, no matter where they live, highlighting that what is good for Wannon is good for the nation.
I would not be here today if it were not for the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is unique in that it relies on individuals volunteering their time and effort to create an organisation that will represent their views and the views of their community in the parliament. In Wannon the Liberal Party has more than 1,000 members, and one of the things that greatly inspired me as I campaigned across the electorate was witnessing how much our local members gave to and engaged with our local communities. I cannot place a value on how much this helped my campaign and inspired me personally, but I can say it was central to our success. In many ways, through their volunteer work they were living a life inspired by Robert Menzies, working for social justice and security, for national progress and for the full development of the individual citizen. It is as obvious to me as to anyone else however that, like many other volunteer organisations, our membership is ageing. If what sets us apart from all other political parties in Australia is our volunteer base, we are facing a looming and serious problem. As a party we are continually asking our ageing membership to give even more of themselves, when our collective vision should be to encourage more people, especially from my generation, to join so that they can give. In the end this will mean power ultimately and rightly will remain with our party membership, ensuring that we remain the party best connected to the community and, as a result, the best able to govern for all Australians, including country Australians.
My life experiences will play a large part in informing the way I represent my constituents. As a young boy working in our shearing shed I was taken aback by the fact that two of the shearers who had always been the best of friends were not talking to each other. Upon inquiring of the rouseabout as to why, I learned that one was in favour of using wide combs and the other was not. As it turned out, the friendship of the two shearers, who were both union members, never recovered. One shearer could not understand why the union would have them spending longer doing their backbreaking work and hence being less productive and earning less money per day. The other was of the view that the union bosses knew best: the Kiwis had to be kept out to protect union solidarity, and what did it matter if the comb was not a few centimetres wider? As it turned out, the first was vindicated. But as a young boy I could never understand why the dispute had happened. Why were the best of friends pitted against each other? Why did it take so long for common sense to prevail, for the union bosses to realise that better productivity for the shearers was in the shearers’ interests, country Australia’s interests and the nation’s interests?
Work Choices is dead. One of the most effective union propaganda campaigns ever seen, and Julia Gillard’s regulatory zeal, has seen to it. The regulatory zeal has had consequences however. Take the three-hour-minimum provision. When country kids in my electorate can no longer do their paper round before school, when dairy farmers can no longer get a break from their morning milking and when six kids get the sack from working after school in a hardware store because of this reregulation, something is wrong in Wannon and therefore in the nation, and there is a need to act. Julia Gillard told two young students in my electorate she would act. She said she would, and with one stroke of the pen through a ministerial directive to so-called Fair Work Australia she could have. But it seems the bosses of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union spoke, and two courageous young Australians, Matthew Spencer and Leticia Harrison, were left hung out to dry.
I want to take this opportunity to put to the Prime Minister three simple questions. Why are you siding with union bosses in supporting rules that mean young Australians in my electorate stay at home playing on their PlayStations rather than encouraging them to work? Why won’t you act in a way that allows all Australians, including country students, to work if they want to? Why can’t you see that what is good for country students in my electorate is good for the nation?
With Australia in the grip of a mining boom, employment flexibility has never been more vital to businesses directly competing with the mining sector for employment, and Australia’s young might never again have an opportunity like this to get the best start to their adult lives by getting a job. As the workforce was deregulated, youth unemployment over the period of the Howard government went from 28 per cent to 17.4 per cent and long-term unemployment went from 27 per cent to 15 per cent. What happens with these two key statistics in the future will be an important social justice indicator of Julia Gillard’s reregulation of the workplace.
Working as a diplomat I was fortunate enough to represent our great nation in Mexico, Central America and Cuba. On my first visit to Cuba I was given an extended briefing by the Cuban government on its health system. I was told that Cuba has more doctors per head of population than any country in the world, that the Cuban medical training school was regarded internationally and that Cuba exports its doctors to Third World countries such as Angola and Mozambique. Following this briefing I met the only foreign journalist permitted to live on the island. He was married to a Cuban woman and they had just had their first child in Havana Hospital. After I told him of my briefing, he told me of the birth of his first child. It was a simple story of the horrors of government intervention, of the misallocation of resources and of why no amount of spin can hide the fact that smaller government is better. He told me how he and his wife took to the birth of their first child at Havana Hospital toilet paper, bed linen and a light bulb.
When a government decides to legislate it always needs to make use of every available means to think through the consequences of its actions and to stop and think whether it should act at all. Nowhere is this more apparent today than in the way this government develops policy. Allowing state bureaucracies rather than school councils and principals to allocate BER resources and allowing a community group in my electorate, Peter’s Project, who want to build an Integrated Cancer Centre, only two months to put together a detailed and technical proposal for funding is, to me, Cuban-style decision making. Less stark, but equally relevant, is a policy that has left a large footprint in my electorate of Wannon. Managed Investment Schemes, or MISs, were primarily designed to provide incentive for investment in forestry. Unfortunately, the incentive that was provided was directed at the corporate tax break and not at sustaining production in timber. While initially providing a flow of investment, an MIS soon became an MIPS, a Managed Investment ‘Ponzi’ Scheme, leaving many in my local communities to ask why the long-term impacts of the scheme were not considered when it was developed. With MIS companies now insolvent, banks having no confidence to lend to the scheme, leading CEOs calling for it to be axed and timbered land in prime food and fibre production areas lying unproductively dormant, now is the time for us to act. An MIS, which unfairly pits small business, our family farmers, against large corporates and which gives the corporates a tax advantage when it comes to purchasing land is not what I consider good Liberal policy. It needs to go and an alternative found to encourage long-term investment in forestry.
Education is a key reason that I am standing here today. Nothing saddens me more than the growing gap between country students who access a tertiary education and their city cousins. The whole system of financial support that helps rural and regional students access a tertiary education needs to be reviewed. This growing gap needs to be reversed as a matter of urgency. As a country student I was lucky. I had a farm to work on for 12 months before I went to university and during school holidays. I was able to take a year off in the middle of my degree to work as a farmhand in Denmark. Even though I worked three nights a week in a bar, I had parents who could help support me when I did my Masters Degree in the United Kingdom. My international relations degree was insightful in two ways. The first is that, by studying international political theory, I was able to understand the philosophical antecedents of the parties in this place. The influence of Burke and Mill has been proudly and well documented on this side. But what of our dear friends opposite? They seem to have lost their way. We must never forget that they are born out of Marx even if they would try and have us forget. We should also remember they have done a deal with the Greens—the party that uses the environment as a guise; the party of Nietzsche, who want to trash modernity and religion in the hope that this will lead dangerously to a complete re-evaluation of our traditional values.
The second lesson I learnt is that globalisation will continue to impact on our society in ways which will continue to challenge us. How we respond to those challenges as Liberals will, in many ways, determine the economic future of our children. Over the long term, we cannot regulate or play defence against globalisation. The capital and labour markets of the world will eventually just pass us by to our detriment. If there was a lesson out of the global financial crisis, it was that the reform undertaken prior to the election of the Rudd Labor government saved us. It is why we have to continually look at ways to make all our businesses, large and small, more competitive. It is why, when country hotels still find it cheaper to buy their beer from the major supermarkets than the brewery, we should look beyond regulation to fix the problem. We should look to our tax system, including company tax, to help small business compete against such anti-competitive behaviour. It is why we should never buy into the concept of fair trade. We are either for trade liberalisation or for trade protectionism. Granted, we have to ensure that, when liberalising, it is done in a way that maximises our competitive advantage. That is not fair trade; that is negotiating cleverly. As a nation that is reliant on our trade in mineral resources, agriculture and services, we have far more to lose from trade protectionism than nearly any other country in the world. In dealing with globalisation, all our children, both country and city, will need the tools to compete. It is why I want to ensure that those country students who want to access tertiary studies can afford to do so. They should be able to access tertiary education—the great enabler.
I would not be standing here today if it were not for the help and support of a great many people. The Wannon preselection had 10 worthy candidates. I was encouraged to be one of them by Dr Denis Napthine, Michael Stewart, Jim and Ellen Dwyer, Leigh Allen, Alison McLeod and Simon Troeth. Jamie Briggs and Brad Williams and their charming wives, Estee and Meredith, as well as others also provided me with invaluable support during the process. My previous bosses—Mark Vaile, former Deputy Prime Minister; Fran Bailey, former Minister for Small Business and Tourism; and Peter Anderson, head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry—provided me with the opportunity to improve myself and with excellent references—I will be forever grateful.
The seat of Wannon was contested by nine candidates. I thank from the bottom of my heart the hundreds of Liberal Party members and supporters who, from nonagenarian Kaye Wiltshire to teenager Jamie Pepper, the third generation of Peppers to support the Liberal cause, contributed to what was an outstanding team effort. My campaign team of Lisa Robertson, Neil Gough, Evelyn Hunt, Sam Wilson, Geoff Cain, Anna Jamieson, Rob Lawrence, Pat Dalton, Graeme Sandlant, Hazel Mackinnon and Matt Makin never wavered from our commitment to run a positive, locally focused campaign. Bill Philpot, Nic Rule and Duncan Macgugan skilfully drove Wannon area finance. Tony Nutt and Damien Mantach from the state secretariat responded professionally and quickly to my every campaign need .Former Prime Minister John Howard and Australia’s longest serving Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, provided me with references. Former cabinet minister Peter Reith provided me with the soundest of advice. I am honoured.
My friends, many of whom are here in the gallery, did what friends do best. They kept me grounded and never allowed me to take myself too seriously. To Dennis Batten and John Parlett, who both took a week off work to help drive me around the 33,000 square kilometres of the electorate, I say thanks. To Dad and Sue, and my brothers and sisters, who all helped on election day: thanks also. To Tony Abbott: we have both come a long way since Beaufort. To the eight members of the shadow ministry who visited: thanks for showing through your actions that you care about Wannon and rural Australia.
Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Sarah, and our children. Sarah and I met not long after we had both lost a parent extremely dear to us. We built through love and sheer hard work a family that brings me such joy words cannot describe. To our children, Oliver, Tim, Amelia, Maya and last but not least Eleanor: give us a wave! You have all had to make large sacrifices so I can be here today. Our soccer games are fewer and Harmony and Rhapsody, the fairies who live in the bottom of the garden, do not get visited as often. I want you to know that I am here because I believe in your future. We are judged rightly by the electorate at each election but, when you grow up, if you and your generation locally deem my time here a success I will have done my job.
My great great grandfather settled in Portland—which is in the electorate of Wannon—with his wife and nine children on two acres of land in 1852. It is possible that one or more of his children were taught by Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop, who was working there at the time. I said I thought I was blessed growing up in a large family in the country! My grandfather, who was the youngest of seven, was the last to leave the two acres. With both his parents deceased, after completing his schooling, he left to join the Postmaster-General before buying his first milk bar and later first country hotel and, importantly, steeplechaser.
His first daughter was my mother. In the well-known Australian sitcom Mother and Son Maggie always had to have the final word. In the parliamentary version, it should be no different. In her maiden speech, my mother had this to say about Labor in power:
That sense of pride and achievement in self, in work well done and in community effort is being eroded throughout this country and must be reinstated as a fundamental value in personal and civic life if we are again to stand tall as … a country. The best place to start to instil and activate this sense of pride is in the security of an accepting environment—the home, the small business, the small town or rural community.
I couldn’t have said it better except to add ‘in Wannon’.
I stand here in this chamber today in the knowledge that I am but one man among many who have been elected by their peers to serve their community and their nation. I stand here as but one man aware that many others have served the Dawson electorate before me. I wish to acknowledge the previous member, James Bidgood, as well as the previous two National Party members, De-Anne Kelly and Ray Braithwaite, both of whom assisted me in my campaign. I stand here as but one man very much aware of the political greats both past and present who have sat or who sit in this place. The thought of being a minnow in a very big pond does spring to mind. I stand here as but one man who feels the enormous responsibility of representing the 94,533 electors in the seat of Dawson.
The mighty electorate of Dawson stretches from the powerhouse city of Mackay; through the idyllic Whitsundays, the beachside of Bowen and the bountiful Burdekin, which is one of the finest sugar-growing areas in this nation; north to the southern suburbs of Townsville, including Wulguru, Oonoonba, Idalia and Annandale. The industries that make up this mighty electorate include sugar but also tourism, horticulture, fishing and, importantly, industries serving the Central Queensland mining sector. The Dawson electorate is also home to many serving Australian Defence Force personnel.
With all due respect to members present, the needs and concerns of the people of Dawson are very different to the needs and concerns of those in capital cities. Whether it be in Mackay, Townsville or any of the towns adjoining the Bruce Highway, the poor state of our road network is a major concern. In Mackay, there is a desperate need for action when it comes to roads. Firstly, we need a solid commitment from the government to the important Mackay ring-road project. During the election campaign, the Liberal-National coalition committed to kick-starting this project. But all the government has done is promise yet another study, this one at a cost of $10 million. The ring-road will not only alleviate the growing traffic congestion problems for north side residents but link the port of Mackay to the thriving industrial precinct of Paget and to the gateway to the Bowen Basin mines, the Peak Downs Highway.
As someone who served on the Mackay council for six years, I also want to put on record the need for greater funding for local roads by both state and federal governments. Councils and ratepayers in growing regional centres like Mackay are literally at breaking point trying to keep up with the skyrocketing costs associated with building new roads and effectively maintaining old ones. The federal government is the only level of government that can give these communities what they need: access to an ongoing revenue stream that recognises the growing pains that they are going through.
Along with the road network issues in Mackay, there is a dire need for increased funding for a range of problem areas on the Bruce Highway. From the need for a new Burdekin Bridge to a four-lane duplication of Vantassel Street to Flinders Highway in Townsville, increasing overtaking lanes and flood-proofing sections near Proserpine and Bowen, there is about $1 billion worth of immediate work needed on the Bruce Highway from St Lawrence north, most of which is not in the government’s planning.
Health is another key area where we are being let down badly by Labor. In Mackay, we have an appalling situation in which this government weakened our rural rating which attracts relocation funding for GPs and incentive payments for GPs and registrars. Since the middle of this year, Townsville, Cairns and Rockhampton have all been classified as more remote than Mackay. As a result, they attract greater funding for GPs. In fact, Mackay is now classified on the same footing as some Brisbane suburbs. Given Labor’s penchant for quick fixes, here is one that can be done very quickly: put Mackay’s rural rating back to three so we can effectively compete with other regional centres for new GPs without having one hand tied behind our back.
There is a gaping whole in Mackay’s health network which must be mentioned. I refer to the desperate need for a Headspace youth mental health facility in Mackay. Two years ago, we had a spate of youth suicides in Mackay. In one six-week period, five children committed suicide and several others attempted suicide. That problem has not gone away. I am told by front-line social workers and GPs in Mackay that every week there is a suicide attempt that someone has to be talked out of. It was a commitment of this Liberal-National coalition to deliver a Headspace centre for Mackay. But I say to the government that they need to put politics aside on this issue. We need a Headspace centre urgently.
Finally in terms of needs for Dawson, there is a noticeable lack of adequate community and social infrastructure for growing populations. Whether it be an upgrade for the Mackay Showgrounds, the sporting grounds of the Mackay and District Junior Soccer Club, the Whitsunday Moto Sports Club’s raceway or the Whitsunday Sports Park, there is a clear need for more social infrastructure. If we are to make our regions truly liveable, we must have social and community infrastructure in place that makes those locations attractive to families and young professionals.
Under the coalition, such infrastructure was to be funded through a new Better Regions Program. I note that the new Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government has indicated that this type of funding will not be happening under his government as he considers it to be pork-barrelling. If it is all right for Western Sydney to get multimillion-dollar Labor promises for soccer centres and hockey centres during election campaigns, then it is only right that, through a proper process, we give regional areas that miss out time and again a fair go and a fair share. A fair go and a fair share is all regional Australia is asking for. Apart from that, government can get out of the way and let us manage our own futures.
The Dawson electorate, with its support services for the mining sector, with its major resource port of Abbot Point and with its resilient sugar industry, is the engine room of this nation’s economy. The onus is on the government, which reaps so much wealth from the efforts of the mineworkers, the farmers, the manufacturers, the businesses and the workers in the Dawson electorate, to give back a fair share in return for those efforts. I consider it my duty to hold the government to account on that front.
I am well aware that it is also my duty to serve in the national interest. That duty will be aided by the values that I bring to this House, values that were formed by the 32 years of my life thus far. My mother was an immigrant to this country. Her family came to this country with nothing but hope. Both my parents were disability pensioners during my childhood life and we lived very humbly compared to many others. All of that gave me a social justice conscience but tempered with a strong belief that living in abject poverty, or any form of poverty, does not necessarily lead one to poor academic performance, into further poverty or into crime. My father and mother strived to escape the welfare trap as much as they could. In the bad old days, my father—who is in the gallery today—fronted the CES looking for work. They told him, ‘No; you’re on the pension for life, mate.’ He did not accept that. He went on to become a taxi driver—the fastest in town, actually, because he also went on to become a professional drag car racer. My parents now own and run a successful small business, manufacturing and exporting motorsport car parts all over the world.
I was raised a Catholic, but family finances meant I never went to a private school. Of the state schools that I did attend, Walkerston State School lays claim to a former member of this House, the Rt Hon. Arthur Fadden, Leader of the Country Party and, famously, Prime Minister for 40 days and 40 nights. With some government support, I funded my own way through university, where I graduated with a degree in, of all things, journalism—yes, I am one of them! I attended Central Queensland University and was a proud residential student of Capricornia College. Amongst many other spirits, Capricornia College instilled in me a collegial spirit which I will have for life.
I had a great-uncle who ran for the Labor Party in the seat of Dawson in 1955. I had a grandfather of Irish stock who worked on the docks in Glasgow. My first job was on the floor of a printing factory and I myself have been a member of two different unions. So from all of this I understand and respect the needs and aspirations of blue-collar working men and women in the seat of Dawson. On the other side of the family, my grandparents were cane farmers and my father was a big Joh fan: ‘Don’t you worry about that!’
Over a decade ago, I joined the National Party, now the merged Liberal-National Party. And while in this parliament I sit with the parliamentary National Party, I now consider myself, first and foremost, a member of the Liberal-National Party, a unified grassroots conservative force. This grassroots conservative force came into being through the tenacious efforts of dedicated men and women, but I will single out for praise the father of the LNP, the Hon. Lawrence Springborg MP, party president Bruce McIver and deputy president Gary Spence, not forgetting the prior efforts of the member for Maranoa in his role as party president. I echo the words of the Leader of the Liberal-National coalition, who has written elsewhere that ‘there could be a strong case for a merged party at the national level’. He also said:
A merged party would be “liberal” in its instinctive support for individuals and community solutions over government ones and “national” in its determination that Australia should matter in the wider world.
I only hope that one day on a national level we can achieve that vision and unite the Liberal and National parties into a force that will be for the greater benefit of this nation. Because right now our nation groans under the weight of high taxation, government overspending, waste, debt and a political and media elite fostered culture of relativism and lack of responsibility that is often masked as tolerance and compassion. It is the conservative principles of those in the Liberal-National coalition that are needed to rectify this situation. It is the conservatism of those who sit on this side of the House—for now—that is the true philosophy in defence of individual rights. Conservatism, like libertarianism, seeks to defend individual choice and freedoms but it also points to the consequences of that choice and freedom, be it success or failure. One of my political heroes, former US President Ronald Reagan, declared as much when he said:
If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism … The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom …
On the other hand, Labor, like all leftist movements, likes to pretend it is the champion of individual rights. But, whether it be the mineworker, the cane grower, the small business owner or the mother in the working family, Labor is the party that has one hand picking their pockets while the other is boxing them in with regulation and red tape. Right now, a resident in the seat of Dawson could be subject to ambulance tax, land tax, stamp duties, local government rates, water rates, sewerage charges, waste levies, car registration fees, boat registration fees, cigarette excise, alcohol excise, fuel excise, capital gains tax, fringe benefits tax, superannuation tax, GST and, last but not least, personal income tax. To me, the most hated of these taxes is income tax and there are only a few things more detestable than someone mooching directly off your income, even if it is the state and it is supposedly for the common good. I believe income tax should go.
To paraphrase Lennon—John Lennon, John Lennon that is—I know I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. It is a big call, but I dream of the day where we can put more money into workers’ pockets by ending personal income tax. We are taxed to the hilt. And now Labor want to bring in two new taxes. The first is their mining tax that will put jobs and businesses throughout the Mackay region and North Queensland completely at risk. Those opposite may not know it but, when the global financial crisis first raised its ugly head, we felt it in Mackay. The mining industry hiccuped and people lost jobs, mining service businesses stopped getting orders and small businesses across the community felt the pinch in a very big way.
To us, it showed that the mining industry was not the unstoppable economic force we had thought it was and that obviously the government still thinks it is. But make no mistake: if the government rips billions out of the Central Queensland mining sector through its mining tax, it will have an impact. This is somewhat personal for me. My brother is coalminer. My sister is the wife of a coalminer. My two nephews and my niece rely on their dad’s coalmining income to live. If Labor causes the mining industry to hiccup, these are the kind of people who will feel it: miners, their wives, their husbands and their children—working families in Dawson, who have effectively been told by the Prime Minister that the only way Australia can move forward is by a great big new tax that will hold them back.
Then there is this carbon tax, the one that was twice denied during the election, the one that threatens to push up the price of everything, notably electricity, in the vain hope that we are going to cool the temperature of the globe. But whether you want income tax gone, or you just want tax in general lowered, here is the difference between the conservatives and the Labor socialists: we think that people should be able to make choices with their own money, while Labor dictates where they can spend it by taxing it and then giving back to you if you are performing an activity that falls into line with their particular world view. For instance, under Labor you could get some of your tax money back if you supposedly helped the environment by installing pink batts or foil insulation. We know how that ended up.
A better example: Labor gives generous subsidies to parents if their children are put into institutionalised child care. But what about choice? Shouldn’t parents, not governments, be the experts in deciding on the best day-to-day care for their children? Under Labor, childcare funding, along with paid parental leave, is more about promoting paid workforce participation than helping parents afford the care they really want for their children. Every family pays for child care by giving up or giving away income, in particular mothers who do their own childcare work unwaged. It is unfair that most Australian families miss out on childcare funding because they do not use day care or other outsourced care. I believe child care must be redefined to include parental and informal child care, which is preferred by most families and cheaper for taxpayers to fund. We need to put parents 100 per cent in control of the childcare budget, by phasing in a single childcare payment that parents can use for family based, as well as formal, child care.
But pinching people’s pockets and using and abusing tax dollars are not the only ways that socialists try to dictate people’s lives. We also have that other hand I talked about, the one boxing people in with red tape and regulation. In the electorate of Dawson, due to the actions of Queensland Labor, in concert with the Greens, we have a classic example of red tape and regulation strangling local cane farmers. You see, despite the Australian Bureau of Statistics finding that 97 per cent of farmers in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area were doing the right thing when it came to managing water run-off, state Labor brought in their draconian reef regulation rules. These rules require farmers to fill out piles and piles of paperwork, taking hours and hours each week—just to put some fertiliser on the paddock! It is typical of Labor. Despite knowing that farmers are already doing the right thing, they seem to think that through red tape and paperwork they can better protect the environment. Quite frankly, farmers are sick and tired of being portrayed as environmental vandals.
To the conservative, property rights are sacred. This is because the ownership of private property is so intrinsically linked to freedom for the individual, which I talked about earlier. So, as a conservative, I sympathise greatly with the plight of landholders who have had their property rights effectively stolen from them, without compensation, under the guise of native vegetation management legislation or the like. To even think that a farmer’s property rights have been restricted in the belief that locking up trees will keep the climate from changing is disgraceful.
But it is not the first disgraceful thing that has been done in the name of tackling so-called man-made climate change, and it will not be the last. Despite what the political and media elite tell us to think, the truth is the science on climate change is not settled. There are more than 700 scientists who have openly opposed the theory of man-made climate change in a report of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. One of those scientists is a resident in the seat of Dawson, the respected geophysicist Professor Bob Carter. It seems to me that, before we go down the track of removing people’s property rights or introducing carbon taxes in the name of stopping man-made climate change, we should really work out what the facts are. That is why I believe it is high time we had a royal commission to determine the scientific facts of the theory of man-made climate change.
But while liberty from taxation, liberty of choice and liberty from regulation are important, the liberty of life is fundamental to my conservatism. Whether it be the frail, the elderly, the terminally ill or the child in the womb, life matters. The left of politics promote welfarism of all varieties under the guise of compassion. Through days for this cause and that cause, and ribbons for this campaign and that campaign, the left champion this faux compassion between all and sundry, including complete strangers. But the relationship that exists between parents and children, or an adult child and dying parent, should be inherently compassionate by its nature. When we break that nexus, when we allow and encourage the removal of compassion from relationships that by their nature should be the most compassionate, then we are all the poorer for it. If we accept this as lawmakers, we accept a culture of death, and then we can no longer say we are a compassionate society.
I stand here as but one man, a conservative who is prepared to fight for the rights of the individual. I stand here as but one man ready to do his duty for his electorate. I stand here as but one man who knows that the task ahead of him is mammoth. And I stand here as but one man still feeling like a minnow in a big pond. But to quote my other political hero, the late, great BA Santamaria: ‘Even the minnow must do what he can.’
In closing, I would like to dedicate my speech to my family and loved ones, to my friends both here and departed, to coalition MPs and senators, to the LNP members and to all supporters who assisted me during the election campaign, and to most of all the people of Dawson who have put their faith in me.
Debate (on motion by Dr Emerson) adjourned.