Senate debates

Thursday, 20 March 2014


Western Australia State Election

5:50 pm

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

A resounding 58 per cent of people in my home state of Western Australia said they wanted a strong coalition government here in Canberra. What has happened over the last seven months, needless to say, is that the Australian Labor Party and the Greens have stood in the way of what the Australian people wanted—and that was for the coalition government, led by Mr Abbott, to enact the resounding mandate it was given at the last election. The strongest result in the nation, the most resounding mandate, came from the state of Western Australia.

From 2010 to 2013, we saw dysfunctionality from the minority Labor-Greens government. What the Labor Party and the Greens are doing now is continuing to demonstrate that same dysfunctionality. We have seen it richly demonstrated in this place this year. Regrettably, we saw it again today in this very chamber when once again the Greens and the Labor Party voted down the repeal of the carbon tax. Mr Abbott went to the election saying, 'That will be the mandate; that will be the way we will govern.' If anybody in this country doubts that mandate, they need only look at the results. In contrast, in order to win the 2010 federal election, then Prime Minister Gillard said there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. Nobody voting in the election in 16 days time need have any doubt about the position of our Prime Minister, Mr Abbott.

It is interesting to see the confusion that now exists within Labor ranks. I refer of course to the vacillations of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten, a person who is struggling to assert his leadership. When in Western Australia last week, he told us: 'I don't quite know what I am going to do about the mining tax. I will have to go and consult with industry.' As I pointed out in my contribution the other day, he need not have worried too much about that—six leading bodies around Australia have already said that he should get rid of the mining tax. Only today, Ms MacTiernan, the member for Perth, said:

I think it would be fair to say that the mining tax hasn't done the job that it was designed to do … I do think it's time for us to really go back to the drawing board.

The people of Western Australia think so too. Unfortunately, we have to go back to the drawing board to reaffirm the election outcome from September—and that means at least three Liberal senators, if not four. Senators Johnston and Cash are doing a wonderful job here in this place and in the ministry, while Ms Linda Reynolds richly deserves to be Senator Linda Reynolds on 1 July. It would also be justice if Mr Slade Brockman were in there as well.

Why is it that Labor luminaries have to leave parliament before they come to their senses? I wonder whether, in six to nine months time, we will be looking at statements by Senator Farrell—who will then be Mr Don Farrell. Back in the real world, having reflected on his time in parliament, will he come to his senses? We have seen that in statements like that of Mr Kevin Rudd. He said:

No government should ever take a backward step in pursuit of the national interest.

And neither should they in opposition, I say to senators across the chamber. The Australian ambassador in Washington, Kim Beazley, said that there are a lot of challenges with labour regulations, costs, materials and planning. He said that Australia really has to work on these issues now so that we can win the next wave of projects, so that we can remain competitive.

If time had permitted, I would have gone through all the comments made recently by Mr Martin Ferguson, someone highly regarded in the energy and resources sector. He has been saying that if we do not become competitive, if we do not improve our productivity, we are going to lose opportunities. He noted that there were $180 billion worth of new LNG investments. For those who were asking about where the jobs are in the Western Australian economy, those investments have the potential to create 150,000 jobs. Mr Ferguson has been making the point that these investments could well go out the window to our competitors from Africa, Canada, the Gulf of Mexico and other places.

The point I would have made had time permitted is that they all turned on him. The MUA, the CFMEU and the other unions turned on Mr Ferguson, himself a proud member of the union movement—indeed a former ACTU president. 'Ferguson's a traitor to the working class' is what we heard, when all he has been doing is trying to point out where we need to be going.

Senator Sterle asked where the opportunities and the new jobs are. Only in the last couple of days I have spoken about oil and gas, manufacturing in the shipping industry in the south of Western Australia, and the fact that floating LNG is coming, an area we can lead the world in. Senator Mark Bishop this morning made a wonderful contribution, explaining that jobs in the mining industry are not just digging holes and shipping the ore out. There is a complex, sophisticated infrastructure associated with mining and exploration. But mining exploration has left Western Australia for Canada and Africa as a result of the decisions of the last Labor government, as a result of the sovereign risk created by the last Labor government through its mining and carbon taxes.

I ask Senator Siewert where she thinks the money is going to come from given that we are paying over a billion dollars a month in interest on the debt. It is not a billion dollars a month in repayment of the debt; it is a billion dollars a month just in interest on the debt. The new Fiona Stanley Hospital cost $1.6 billion. That represents six or seven weeks of interest. The new children's hospital represents about five weeks of interest. A school recently built near my office could have been built with one day's interest on the debt. I ask Senator Siewert, in her condemnation of Mr Barnett, to comment on his decision to create the Camden Sound whale sanctuary 400 kilometres north of Broome—the largest calving area for humpback whales in the southern hemisphere.

We can all sit up here and be critical, but I want to see some facts. I acknowledge Senator Siewert has a keen interest in the disability area, but I want to hear her acknowledge the work of the Hon. Helen Morton and the funds that have been contributed by the Western Australian government. I will not sit here and listen to condemnation. Senator Sterle was talking about education. Did he mention that Western Australian teachers are the highest paid in the nation, with the majority now earning more than $99,000 a year? Did he mention the contribution being made by the independent and Catholic school sectors? When he mentioned cutbacks in funding to schools, did he talk about the number of students in those schools?

I wish that time permitted me to outline where the new jobs are in education, agriculture, tourism and right across the board—including in mining exploration activity and in oil and gas, as mentioned by Mr Ferguson. We have a rich state. We are fine contributors to the national economy. The only way we can guarantee that that continues is to have a Senate that allows the coalition government to follow through on its mandate and to have a Senate that allows us to govern.


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