Thursday, 1 March 2018
Matters of Public Importance
I have received letters from the honourable member for Kennedy and the honourable member for Gorton proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by standing order 46(d), I have selected the matter which, in my opinion, is the most urgent and important; and that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Kennedy, namely:
The failure to open up the Galilee Basin Coalfields and create jobs for Australia and particularly North Queensland, where real widespread unemployment levels are now reaching 20%.
I therefore call upon those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
Being a little bit more senior than most people in this room, I can remember the days when Australia was a coal-importing nation. Very few people know that in 1959 Australia was a coal-importing nation not a coal-exporting nation. Now how did we go from being a coal-importing nation to being a coal-exporting nation? In Queensland, we, the Country Party government, were not a government that said, 'Oh, if private enterprise wants it, then private enterprise will build it.' We were not a government that said, 'When you've got the mines, we'll build the railway line'—the chicken and the egg. The mines said, 'We're not going to open the mines until you've got a railway line.' We didn't worry about the chicken and the egg; we didn't worry about this concept that said if private enterprise wants it private enterprise will build it. No, we went out and built the railway lines. In a 29-year period, we built 6,000 kilometres of railway line. Under the ALP government in the following 28 years there was no railway line built—none, zero.
We have to ask ourselves: who is the socialist government here and who is the free enterprise government? Using traditional definitions, one would have to say that the Country Party is the socialist government and, of course, the Labor Party is some other sort of government—and there is no doubt that in Queensland they are a Greens government. There is not the slightest scintilla of evidence that would indicate that they are a Labor government. Over their 50 years in office, the Labor governments of Queensland, under the great 'Red Ted' Theodore and his governments, built the sugar mills and the dairy factories. Actually, the Queensland government built some of the mines as well.
Let us move on and ask: if you want the Galilee opened up, why do you want the Galilee opened up?
This gentleman here said, 'I don't know. Why?' That is actually an excellent comment, because in this place you seriously don't know why. Well, I'll tell you. With your free market policies, you decided that you would have no manufacturing in this country, that you would slowly crush agriculture out of existence and that you would buy everything from overseas. Those of us sitting in suits in this place are in apparel that now comes from overseas. We wear boots the leather for which comes from overseas. We have a telephone that comes from overseas. Our biros come from overseas. Our glasses come from overseas. Everything comes from overseas. I say to the honourable gentleman: if you want to buy all your white goods, all your petrol, all your motor cars and everything else from overseas, well, you've got to sell something. Well, thanks to you free marketeers, we don't have anything that we can sell! There's nothing left that this country can sell!
Don't tell me about mining, because I've been mining since I was a kid. I was raised and teethed on mining. I'm a mining man and I will be until the day that I die, so don't tell me about mining. We are not a mining country. A mine is when you dig it out of the ground and sell a metal. We dig it out of the ground and sell the ground. That it's quarrying. It's not mining; it's quarrying. We're reduced now to two quarries.
Let me be very specific: the income to this nation is supposedly $364 billion a year. If you take out the derivatives and the round robins, which were only put in four years ago—namely, the selling of student visas and the selling of coal seam gas—yes, it brings in $23 billion, but, thanks to idiocy of the people in Queensland and the people in this place, it just boomerangs out again. There's no wage structure in coal seam gas. We sold it for 6c a gigajoule and we're buying it back for $16 a gigajoule. That's a free market! It's a free market run by numbskulls!
I reeled off in question time today how the free marketeers decided to deregulate the wool industry, the biggest income item for this country in its entire history, and in the year it was deregulated it was still the biggest export earner at $6,000 million—$16 billion a year, in today's money, gone; gas—$23 billion gone; the motor vehicle industry—$21 billion gone; petrol, no ethanol—$19 billion gone; the Galilee coal rail line, worth $12 billion a year to the Australian economy—no Galilee rail line. That's $91 billion a year that this government is losing because of free market policies.
Now, I praise the government fulsomely on their aggression with respect to the Galilee. But I've got to say: are you fair dinkum? If you were fair dinkum, you'd set up an authority tomorrow to build the railway line instead of some poor beggar from overseas desperately trying to build it and being the target of everyone in the world who, for one reason or another, wants to close down the coal industry.
I happen to a be a bit of an expert in this field because I was the mines and energy minister in the Queensland government in 1990 when we had the cheapest electricity in the world. How did we do that? We didn't have private enterprise build the power station; we built the power station. It was manned by about 160, 200 workers, exactly the same manning level as the Collinsville power station. Collinsville put out 200 megawatts, and Gladstone, which was the biggest power station in the world, was putting out 1,400 megawatts with the same manning levels because the coal was free—but whenever there's a free market government it's the opposite. We took one per cent of the coal, so consumers in Queensland got their electricity from free coal. That's a government that is doing its job. So, we commend the government for their aggression on the Galilee, but, please, will you get fair dinkum and set up an authority to build the railway line instead of asking some poor beggar from overseas to struggle in a situation where it is very difficult for any of us to see how he's ever going to be able to build the railway line.
Let me turn to the ALP. There is no doubt that the government is 100 per cent right on this: the ALP are singing one tune in North Queensland and they are singing an entirely different tune in Brisbane. We all know Jackie Trad runs the government, and we all know that she scraped in by two per cent ahead of the Greens. Well, it's a pity that some in the ALP didn't take a page out of Mr Albanese's book, because, when he was trailing by two per cent, he went after the Greens. Slap! He bashed them and bashed them and bashed them.
Similarly, I use the example of Mr Latham going down to Tasmania and announcing he was going to save the trees and beggar the workers—well, he said he was going to look after them, but everyone knew that was a lie. It is a little known fact of history that John Howard was going down to say exactly the same thing. Some very sensible people got hold of John Howard and talked sense into him. When he went down there, he announced that he was going to save the jobs and not the trees. The much-maligned head of the CFMEU in Australia, Michael O'Connor himself, the current president of the CFMEU, held up John Howard's arm and said, 'I direct every genuine Labor man in this country to vote for the Liberal Party.' And, of course, the polls switched 6½ per cent. Latham lost 2½ per cent when he went down there appeasing the Greens. When Howard said, 'I've really got to look after jobs—these are human beings,' he leapt up 4½ per cent and comfortably won the election.
So, if for no other reason than your own political survival—and, as the member for Dawson will endorse, this election is about North Queensland. There are seven marginal seats up for grabs. If the Labor Party and the CFMEU have told them very, very clearly, 'If you persist with opposing this rail line then you are going to be annihilated'— (Time expired)
The coalition certainly stands for more jobs, more opportunities and helping regional Australia capitalise on the immense opportunities that exist. The coalition has an unrivalled commitment to regional Australia and regional jobs. We're delivering jobs in record numbers, as has been quoted by the Prime Minister regularly—over 403,000 in the last 12 months, and I am so proud of the fact that 120,000 of those have been delivered in regional Australia. We've now had 16 consecutive months of jobs growth—the longest run of jobs growth ever recorded. Records have been kept since 1978—the year that I started high school.
When you think about North Queensland, as I said earlier in answer to a question in question time, you think of a hardworking, diverse community which has an immense range of opportunities. Only last week I was in Cairns with the member for Leichhardt, seeing firsthand how coalition policies like the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages are helping create the jobs that we're keen on and driving transformational change in North Queensland. We're backing the small and medium businesses in North Queensland with tax cuts so that they can invest more, so they can employ more.
This is great news for the thousands of small and medium businesses in North Queensland, many of them, of course, family businesses. There are 19,672 businesses in Leichhardt, over 17,000 in Dawson, almost 13,000 in Herbert and almost 17½ thousand in the member for Kennedy's own electorate. These are the lowest tax rates that we've been able to put in place for these entities in over 50 years. That's a major catalyst for more growth and better-paying jobs. We're creating that small business framework to, amongst other things, grow confidence in these communities such that people and their businesses can invest more and develop those communities. That involves, on behalf of the federal government, major infrastructure investments. There is $208 million for the Cape York Region Package, $105 million for a black spot project between Sarina and Cairns, $147 million for the Townsville eastern access rail corridor and of course delivery of the Townsville City Deal, which is underway.
I note that in the member for Kennedy's electorate we've invested huge amounts in major job-creating projects: $100 million for Outback Way, $38.4 million for the Bruce Highway between Ingham and the Cardwell Range, $40 million for the Gairloch floodway and $20 million for the Flinders Highway. Similar investments are being made right across the electorates of the member for Capricornia, Dawson, Flynn, right through to the southern areas—my electorate of Groom and that of the member for Wright as well.
In terms of opening up the Galilee Basin, which is the issue of interest here, the coalition definitely believe in miners and definitely believe in the mining industry. And we are not afraid to say that we support the coal industry and that we support miners. Adani estimate that $16.5 billion would be required to develop the mine rail project. They estimate that at project maturity the project will generate $3 billion in annual benefits to the Queensland economy. That includes generating 2,475 construction jobs and 3,920 operational jobs. The production of 100 million tonnes of coal per annum and the generation of potentially $7 billion in export revenues flows through to those local communities, and of course it would flow through to Queensland and the country at large.
We don't just talk about jobs in North Queensland; we talk about delivering jobs, unlike the Leader of the Opposition. There are already 800 staff directly employed associated with the Adani project. These are families that are investing and spending their own hard-earned income in Townsville, Bowen, and other communities across the north. The Adani project has received environmental approvals at both state and Commonwealth levels, as we all know. These approvals apply over 300 world-class conditions to ensure the protection, quite rightly, of the environment:
Yet through all of this the support of the ALP for the project has been muddled by flip-flopping by the Leader of the Opposition. On Tuesday 27 February, 7.30 aired an interview with Geoff Cousins, who referred to conversations last month with the Leader of the Opposition. That's on the record. The Leader of the Opposition said in relation to the Adani mine that he would revoke the licence if he got into government. That's proof that he says something in the bush but he says other things in order to, for example, win the seat of Batman against strong Green competition. Geoff Cousins claimed the Leader of the Opposition has given him a commitment a number of times to shut down the Adani mine. He's also said in other cases that he supports the mine. The by-election has changed that, as we well know.
The facts of this flip-flopping, this reality that we're facing up to, is bamboozling the North Queensland community. It bamboozles them because other members of the ALP are also saying things different to the Leader of the Opposition. As I said earlier, a former Queensland MP that I know, having been a former Queensland MP, the current Labor state Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, has said that his government, the current Queensland government, is serious about having the Adani mine in operation. He said, 'We want this to happen.' He said, 'These are jobs for generations to come. There will be up to 10,000 jobs, if you take an average over the 25-year lease of the mine. You're looking at 2,000 and 4,000 jobs per year.' There are stringent conditions. He recognises that there's a Labor state minister very much behind the project. The reality is that we have the Labor aligned mayor of Townsville, Jenny Hill, the Labor aligned mayor of Rockhampton, Margaret Strelow, also saying they demand that this project proceed. They want support for the project and they want to see those benefits flowing from the Galilee Basin. In my own community of the Darling Downs, we have the Wagner family, who are committed to being involved in that project. They want to be as innovative in North and Central Queensland as they have been in my home town of Toowoomba in building a privately funded internationally capable airport in recent years.
The Leader of the Opposition must be having a really tough time, trying to get his lines straight between what he says in Batman, what he says to the Greens, what he says to local Labor aligned mayors in North Queensland and of course what he has said on the public record. You start to wonder which of the multiple personalities you are going to encounter on any day of the week Which will it be? Will it be blue collar Bill, who's spewing about the IR system that he created; or is it inner-city, sophisticated Bill, the one that's the blow-fly to billionaires?
Regional Australia has long been the engine room of our national economy, and that will always be the case, based on our great agriculture and resource industries. The member for Kennedy's own home town and my wife's home town of Charters Towers, for example, is a significant North Queensland centre that is now a significant agricultural centre and a significant educational centre, but it started out as a resources town, a gold mining town. The coalition, the members on this side of the House, recognise those fundamental economic, historical facts in terms of the development of regional Australia.
We've got a strong plan to deliver on this vision for regional communities; hence our support for this project. We believe in miners and we believe in North Queensland. I think that the questions that the member for Kennedy raises today is a very important one. We won't parrot lines about possibly jobs in regional Queensland and then withdraw those lines when we're back in inner-city Melbourne. We are delivering real jobs, as we've shown through the Regional Jobs and Investment Package. The opposition leader should back off. The opposition leader should support Queenslanders in regional Queensland who simply want to develop these opportunities, to have these jobs, to get on with their lives and to support their families into the future.
There are 30,000 people currently looking for work, currently looking for a job, in North Queensland—all the way from Rocky to the tip of Cape York—and that doesn't get enough attention in this place. So I'm glad that the member for Kennedy has brought this motion forward. It gives us an opportunity to shine a light on that situation, on the chronic high level of unemployment in Central and North Queensland.
This is a government that promises very big when it comes to North Queensland. When the white paper into northern Australia was released back in 2014, the former Prime Minister, the member for Warringah, Tony Abbott, said that this white paper was going to make northern Australia an economic powerhouse. The former Deputy Prime Minister, the member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, said, 'We're a nation smart enough and brave enough to make the next step, and now we've got a government motivated enough to do just that.' That was four years ago. So what has happened since?
If you go to North Queensland now you will find in places like Rockhampton and Gladstone that unemployment is higher today than it was then. It's got worse, not better, since the government's white paper for northern Australia came out. In Townsville, the unemployment rate today is about 8.5 per cent—twice as high as it is in Brisbane. The youth unemployment rate in Townsville is 19.4 per cent. That's almost four times what it is in Brisbane. And a lot of people who do have a job have found that, over the last few years, their wages have gone down or have stagnated—flatlining. The number of apprentices in Central and North Queensland has also gone through the floor. There are almost 9,000 fewer apprentices across regional Queensland today than there were when this government came to power. In the member for Kennedy's electorate, there are 1,200 fewer apprentices today than there were four or five years ago, when this government came to power.
The government talk a big game—and you heard it again just then from the minister—but the fact is that they haven't delivered for North Queensland. There's no better example of that than the NAIF, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. It's the biggest promise they made, a $5 billion fund to build job-creating infrastructure in the north, and it's their biggest failure. They announced this fund 1,024 days ago, and guess how many projects they've funded in North Queensland since. Zero; nothing. They haven't funded one job-creating project in North Queensland in all of that time. This has to be the most constipated organisation in the country, and it desperately needs a dose of Metamucil. It needs a box of Laxettes, because so far it has been an abject failure. The government have promised big and delivered nothing. No wonder the people of North Queensland are so upset, so angry and so frustrated.
There's been a lot of debate here and elsewhere about the Carmichael mine. Coal is our second largest export. Of the products that we export to the world, coal is our second largest, and it will continue to be a very, very considerable part of what we export long into the future. Whether this project goes ahead depends on Adani. The ball is in Adani's court. They've got to find the money to finance it, and the fact is they haven't done that yet. I've said repeatedly, and the Leader of the Opposition has said the same thing, this is a project that has to stand on its own two feet, and the taxpayers of Australia shouldn't have to give Adani a billion dollars to make this go ahead. I think most Australians would agree with that.
As I said at the beginning of this debate, there are 30,000 people in North Queensland at the moment who are looking for a job. If Adani finds the money and this project does go ahead, it's not going to fill that hole. It's not going to give all of those people a job. If you're hanging your hat on that, you're only going to be disappointed. The best bet is that this project will create 1,400 jobs when in operation. That's what Adani's own economist said under oath to the Queensland Land Court back in 2015. We need more jobs than that. We need a lot more jobs than that, which is why we've announced a raft of infrastructure projects for Central and North Queensland.
It gives me a great sense of pride to be able to stand here and share with the room that Queenslanders, most genuinely, in and around this space have had it up to the back teeth with fly-in fly-out protesters coming to Queensland, telling us what they believe is the right position for us to have in Queensland, when really our communities are screaming for jobs. It is so disingenuous for those on the other side to come into this place and say that they support Adani, that they support these projects, when their leader has openly declared what Labor's position is both at a state and a federal level—that, if in government, they would revoke licences.
The honourable member for Kennedy proposed this matter of public importance today about the Galilee Basin. Of course, the most contentious part of the Galilee Basin opening up is the Adani mine project. We can build a railway line easily enough, but, unless there are approvals in place for companies to be able to prosper and move forward, no coal is going to go on that line. We have funding, through the NAIF, sitting there ready to go. Federally, we have ticked off on approvals for the Adani project.
The member for Kennedy made a salient point when he suggested that, in Queensland, the show was run by Jackie Trad. That is exactly the case, because I have here on record that the Premier up there, some time back, actually supported the project. In fact, there are a myriad people on the Labor side that supported the project. Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, said on ABC in April 2017:
I support the Adani coal mine so long as it stacks up. I hope it stacks up …
Anthony Chisholm said:
The only people who lose in this are the people of Central and North Queensland who are looking to this vital project as an economic opportunity for their region.
… … …
Over the last month I have had many conversations in Townsville, Bowen, Proserpine, Mackay and Gladstone—there is strong support from the community for the Adani mine to go ahead.
Up and down the coast, there are Labor supporters who are supportive of the Adani project and for the development of the Galilee Basin. Murray Watt said:
… state and federal Labor have always supported jobs in mining … we also support the Adani mining project … This is a massive project, and it's got the potential to create thousands of jobs, which'd be fantastic for regional Queensland.
The shadow minister for climate change, who is sitting in the chamber, said, 'What we're talking about isn't about stopping Adani. This is one of the issues that irritate me—all of these environmentalists protesting against Adani or coal exports.' So I look forward to his contribution. The Labor Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said:
The Carmichael Coal mine-rail-port project has undergone a comprehensive and transparent environmental assessment process, according to State and Commonwealth legislation, and hundreds of conditions apply … My government has honoured its commitments on the Carmichael coal project and we are determined to see the project go ahead to create jobs in regional Queensland.
We know that not to be true. We know that not to be true. We know that Labor, those who sit on the other side of the chamber, will say whatever the audience wants to hear. Bill Shorten, the opposition leader, is on record with about half a dozen different opinions in this place. But the last one is the one that counts. It's the opinion that he had and the conversation that he had with Mr Cousins. I don't know why these conversations exist. We saw the opposition leader at the picket line, where you would have thought he would've been with trusted colleagues. But someone clearly leaked there. Then he had a discussion with Mr Cousins, hopefully in private. It was then leaked to the media by Mr Cousins that the opposition leader suggested that if they got into government they would revoke the mine. So, why would we be looking to build a railway line to open up the Galilee Basin, when, if Labor were to ever get in government, they would make sure there wasn't another coalmine opened up in this country?
To finish off, up in Central Queensland the Labor candidate there, one of the CFMEU bosses, proudly boasts that he's a third generation coalminer. Can I suggest that he has just enrolled in a party that is going to make sure there is not a fourth generation in his seat.
I'm proud to make a contribution on this MPI, which really goes to the future of coal in this country—in essence, that is the MPI today. I won't be lectured about support for coalminers by the coalition government—a coalition government that is happy to use them for props, but doesn't give a fig about coalminers. They are happy to use them for props—high-vis vests, hard hats—but they don't give a fig. Most of the people interjecting in this debate, during question time and everywhere else, have never met a coalminer. They are cosy up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, people like the member for Pittwater or whatever it's called nowadays. They're talking about coalminers, but they've never met one in their life. They don't care about coalminers.
If they did care, I would see them at the northern coalfields coalminers' memorial service, a memorial service held every year in Cessnock, that commemorates the 1,800 coalminers who have died in the Northern District coalmines, aged from as young as 11 to as old as 76. It's a tragic story, a story of the 200 years of coalmining in my region. I don't see a single coalition MP at the service, despite the fact that there are several coalition MPs who have seats in the Hunter Region with coalmines, including the member for New England. There are coalmines in his region, but I never see him at the memorial service. They don't care about coalminers; they just use them for cheap props.
I didn't hear them speak out when Senator Roberts, their partner in One Nation, talked about black lung as something to be managed rather than eradicated. I didn't hear them saying that that was an awful statement and we should never accept black lung in the coal industry. I didn't see them standing up for the 115 workers at Hunter Valley No. 1 mine when Rio Tinto sacked them for having the temerity to ask for an enterprise bargaining agreement. In the end, all we get from those on the other side are weasel words and using coalminers for props down here in Canberra. When it's about real action for coalminers, they go missing.
Turning to the $1 billion subsidy proposed through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, if this $1 billion loan goes ahead it threatens 18,000 coalmining jobs in my region. Don't just take my word for it. Jonathan van Rooyen, an executive at the Port of Newcastle, the biggest export port for coal in the entire world, says that if this loan went ahead it would 'distort competition and create sovereign risk' by supporting Adani in a 'shrinking world coal market'.
The government are quick to talk about the benefits to North Queensland of this taxpayer support, but have been silent about the costs it would impose on other coal-producing regions. There's no avoiding the simple mathematics that if Turnbull, the Prime Minister, succeeds in pushing between 25 million and 60 million tonnes of subsidised coal into a flat—in fact, a declining—world market, the volume of coal mined and exported from the Hunter and Illawarra will decline.
So I will say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and through you to the people of Australia that we care about coalminers. I care about coalminers. I care about the 18,000 coalminers in my region who are threatened if this mob succeed in getting this $1 billion subsidy for the Carmichael mine. The truth is that thermal coal market is declining globally. It peaked in 2013 or 2014. The seaborne thermal coal trade has declined every year since then. Coal imports to China have declined. Coal imports to India have declined every year. It's a matter of economic logic that, if you increase supply into a market where demand is falling, you will affect prices. You will drive down prices. You will threaten existing coalmines and existing coalmining jobs, including the 18,000 in my electorate. So I say to those opposite, if they care about coalmining jobs, come up and visit some of the coalmines in my region and look the 18,000 coalminers in the face and say, 'We're prepared to do you out of a job because we want this $1 billion loan.'
Government members interjecting—
Even better—I welcome you—come up on the second Sunday in September to the miners memorial to see the bronze wall commemorating the 1,800 coalminers who have died in my community to ship out coal and produce wealth for this country. But they won't, because they don't have the ticker. They don't care about coalminers other than to use them as cheap political props for their tricks. Shame on you! Shame on the entire coalition for their lack of support for real coalminers!
It's my pleasure to speak on this MPI as the son of someone who was a coalminer, as the brother of someone who was a coalminer and whose best friends are coalminers. Australia has not opened a new coal basin since the 1960s. That will change with the opening up of the Galilee Basin. The focus for the past five years has been on the Carmichael coal project and the 10,000 jobs it will generate. Green activists who have no understanding of economy or business, let alone the mining industry, try to suggest that the number of jobs will be lower, and we heard it from the Labor Party in this chamber just now.
I had one extreme Green suggest that the Carmichael coal project would create just one and a half full-time equivalent jobs, but economic analysis puts job creation at Carmichael at 11,800 jobs—3,900 direct during operation. Construction will see the creation of 8,300 jobs and 2,500 of them direct. In addition to the mine, Adani will expand the port at Abbot Point and build a railway line to the Galilee Basin. It is these vital pieces of infrastructure that will open the door to another five projects. We've got GVK Hancock's Alpha coal project, with 3,400 jobs in construction and 3,2000 in operation; Hancock's Kevin's Corner project, a further 1,500 jobs in construction and 2,000 more in operation; Macmines China Stone project, a further 3,900 jobs in construction and 3,400 in operation; Waratah Coal's Galilee coal project, 3,500 jobs in construction and 2,300 jobs in operation; and the South Galilee Coal Project, 1,600 jobs in construction and 1,200 jobs in operation. That's how valuable the Galilee Basin is to workers, to North Queensland and to the state and national economies.
But not everyone wants north Queenslanders to have a job. The Labor Party have tried sitting on the fence on the Carmichael coal project for more than five years, but they finally fell off the fence this week. The Leader of the Opposition was pushed off the fence by someone who knows exactly what side of the fence he truly sits, and—surprise, surprise—I've got to say it's not on the side of the workers. The Leader of the Opposition has confirmed that the Labor Party do not support the Carmichael coal project, the 10,000 jobs or the $16½ billion investment. The former CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Geoff Cousins, confirmed that at a secret meeting the Leader of the Opposition repeatedly agreed on what stance he would take. This is what he said: 'When we're in government, if the evidence is as compelling as it appears now, we will revoke the licence in accordance with the law.' While the Leader of the Opposition was gifting his commitment to the greenies, they were gifting him a $17,000 holiday, cruising the reef, taking a scenic flight around North Queensland—$17,000 and a few green votes. That's the price of Labor policy now. Who says corruption doesn't pay? This lavish gift from the Australian Conservation Foundation was requested by the Leader of the Opposition and arranged by our greenie millionaire mate.
According to the House of Representatives Register of Members' Interests resolution, I note that a member must within 28 days declare any gift worth more than $750 from an official source, such as the Australian Conservation Foundation. According to the resolution, any member who:
… knowingly fails to notify any alteration of those interests to the Registrar of Members' Interests within 28 days of the change occurring … shall be guilty of a serious contempt of the House of Representatives and shall be dealt with by the House accordingly.
The member for Dawson imputed the Leader of the Opposition and accused him of something with a quote that ended with 'who pays'. I ask him to withdraw that imputation of the Leader of the Opposition.
I withdraw. I continue. It says they will be 'guilty of a serious contempt of the House of Representatives and shall be dealt with accordingly'. I know that some members on both sides have neglected to update the register, but this is the first instance I've seen where any MP has done it knowingly—knowingly failing to do it. It's a critical distinction. In normal circumstances it would be difficult to prove that a member has deliberately concealed that information; however, as we've seen this week, the Leader of the Opposition specifically asked to keep the $17,000 gift and everything else around the dodgy deal secret. He had to keep it secret because he was about to tour North Queensland telling a different story. Having promised to kill off the project, last week he was in Mackay, Townsville and Rocky with coalminers saying that he supported the industry. He needs to come back and tell them how he's going to destroy their jobs now, because that's what he's promised the greenies.
I'm so glad that the member for Kennedy has raised this matter today because, unlike some matters discussed in this place at this time, this is truly of public importance. The Galilee Basin offers the greatest opportunity for economic development in my region in a lifetime. It's not every day that we as national leaders get to discuss a range of projects that will provide wealth and jobs for thousands of Central Queenslanders and exploit the natural advantage that we have in that part of the world. If we do not exploit our natural advantages, we will fail as a nation and be relegated to the annals of history as the nation that wasted a continent. If we are to continue to compete and continue to be the best, we will have to grow the pie from which we all dine. We will have to grow the economy, create jobs and give people a chance.
I always enjoy my trips to Canberra because I get to witness some of the greatest acts of hypocrisy one can imagine. Those opposite have the audacity to, in the same breath almost, cry for greater funding for health and education while downplaying and outright denying projects like the Carmichael mine. It's just unbelievable. It would appear that those opposite simply don't understand where the money comes from. This is the undying problem with the ALP. Those opposite are like small children watching mummy take money out of the ATM: they don't know where the money comes from, but they know they just want more.
Money for things like schools, hospitals and bureaucrats comes from the government's holdings. Are you following me? The government gets its money by charging taxes. Are you still with me? Good. The biggest source of taxes is by garnered by taxing people and businesses when they make money. I'm losing some of you, but I will keep going. If businesses and people don't make money, there is no tax taken and, therefore, no money to spend on schools, hospitals and bureaucrats. Oh, dear, it looks like I've lost them all. The fact is that my colleagues opposite fail to understand this very point. This is why they allow themselves to be hoodwinked by the militant Greens. This is how they miss the point. They sell out their members and sidle up with the radical greenies, who would have us replace hard work for success with hard work for survival.
It's the greatest hypocrisy one can imagine to know that, while the budget of the Queensland Labor government lives and dies by coal royalties, they are happy to threaten to shut it down. Just last year Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt recorded a budget surplus because of coal royalties boosting to $3 billion. The Queensland government are dependent on mining royalties to keep their record-breaking program of hiring public servants going. Without said royalties, they would be forced to face the dire consequences of their drunken sailor spending spree. Without mining and its royalties we would be in big trouble.
In Central Queensland we have two major coal basins: the Bowen Basin in the east and, tucked behind it to the west, the Galilee Basin. The natural resources within these basins are immense and provide enormous benefit to the state and national economies and to the government's budget. The coal seams of the Bowen Basin provide for thousands of direct jobs and billions of dollars in domestic product. These coal seams are more than that to me though—they are the basis for thousands of families and dozens of small communities across the region. These coal seams do not just create some carbon-emitting hole in the ground; they create homes for so many Central Queenslanders. Why do Labor wish to demonise the very homes of my constituents? Surely no-one opposite would like to be demonised because of where they come for? Why, then, are they happy to do so to the good people of the coalfields in my electorate? Why is it we cannot prioritise economic advantage for rural Australians?
As a National and a passionate regional member, I have seen firsthand just how much can be achieved by pulling appropriate levers to unlock the economic potential of the people in the bush—the real battlers, the men and women of the weatherboard and iron. Why is it that we cannot prioritise bipartisan support for these people and their lives? These are the people who want to get a chance at a better life through the development of the Galilee Basin. These are the people we should be fighting for, not pillorying a project that has all the approvals it requires, more than any mine in our history. It is already employing hundreds of Central Queenslanders for preliminary works.
I say to those opposite: go to towns like Clermont and Alpha where the project is already having a positive effect and tell people there they don't deserve a job. Tell them while you are sipping on your coal powered soy lattes that their jobs are somehow immoral and must end. I know you won't because you know that to do so would be hugely offensive. Continuing the same line in parliament or in Batman is no different. If you don't have the guts to say it to their faces, don't say it in this place.
Joel is looking after his own interests in New South Wales. He won't want to speak on Queensland projects.
The Adani mine has been talked about nearly as long as the Nathan Dam was, and it's time we actually bit the bullet and got on with it. Coal is still king and it'll be around for a long time. There are four mines in my area in the Bowen Basin—Dawson, Callide, Rolleston and Baralaba North. They just announced big projects to increase the mining in those mines. There are other boutique mines, too, that, with the price of coal going up and it being in demand, are ready to start in my electorate. Adani, or the Carmichael mine, is not in my electorate, but it joins my boundaries at Alpha in the Central Highlands electorate.
With all this talk about how much it costs for a railway line, those opposite are not looking at the real issues. I've just been talking to Aurizon and other companies. Once upon a time, when Joh Bjelke-Petersen was the Premier of Queensland, the Queensland government built the railway lines. They were shared railway lines. You could be carting coal, cattle, grain or fuel. When I was a fuel distributor in Emerald, under Joh's law, I could not go to Gladstone to pick up fuel in my own tankers. I had to pay 4c a litre—it would have cost me about 2c a litre if it was in a truck—to cart fuel by rail. That was Joh's law. That's how he developed these railway lines. That's how the electrification of the railway lines came into being—because of Joh's policy. In those days, before electricity prices went through the roof, diesel was getting a bit scarce around the world. In the Bass Strait, oil was being diminished. So his idea then was, 'Let's have a look at both diesel and electricity,' and he put the electrification lines in. They were totally owned by the government, and it charged whatever price it needed to pay for those railway lines. There's a Gladstone-to-Moura railway line that was built in 1966. There's a loop line that goes from Gladstone right through to Hay Point in Mackay. That can take coal in either direction. And of course there's the Moranbah-to-Abbot Point railway line. With a slight adjustment to plans, the coal from Carmichael could be shipped either into Moranbah and down to Abbot Point, or into Capella, down to Gregory mine and then back to Gladstone. So we've got a choice, and that comes in very handy and is very efficient in logistics when there are floods. With the rainfall we have in Queensland, it's either a feast or a famine. When it's a feast, the rain does come, and it's been known to have all the railway lines underwater. That affected the Gladstone Power Station at one time a few years ago when we ran out of coal for the power station.
However, the job at hand will feed into the Indian economy. There are 250 million people who have not got electricity as we speak. Don't we owe them something? If we want to continue with our free trade agreements, it's a two-way thing, you know? So we should be looking at that too. Giving 250 million people electricity is a point I think everyone should feel pretty good about.
We all know about the jobs it will create. There are already 800 jobs there. There'd be permanent jobs for 3,700 in production. In the construction, there'd be tens of thousands of jobs, and then of course there are the custodians.
Yes, a question to you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I'm just wondering if there's something wrong. I just note a distinct lack of Labor speakers on this matter. Is there a problem there? I've never seen that before in an MPI. They mustn't care about the issue.
I'll take the invitation from the member for Dawson, at the risk of making him happy. I note that when we speak on an agriculture bill, which is the next item of business, again there are no coalition speakers—oh, sorry: bar one. At least half a dozen members of the opposition are speaking on this important agriculture bill, but just one from the coalition. I noticed Mr Gee, the member for Calare, was on the list earlier, and he's somehow disappeared. How dare they come in here and feign concern and support for coalminers? How dare they? They've been sitting over there for four or five years taking every opportunity to vote with the Prime Minister on so many issues that are contrary to the interests of our coalminers. There is no better supporter of the coalmining industry in this place, and that is well known. So how dare the member for Dawson suggest he's supporting the coalmining industry? He wasn't prepared to stand up on penalty rates, by the way. He's sitting back while enterprise bargaining in the private sector is in decline, including in the coalmining industry. Contracting out in the coalmining industry is growing exponentially. Under this government, coalminers are being locked out of their mine sites in Queensland, and the member for Dawson wants to come in here with his colleagues and feign concern for coalminers. Well, what hypocrisy—hypocrisy writ large.