Wednesday, 24 June 2015
Excise Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2015, Customs Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2015, Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Special Account Bill 2015, Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Bill 2015; Second Reading
Madam Acting Deputy President Lines, thank you for protecting me from this vicious attack by the Greens political party. Unfortunately, I did not hear the interjection about coal-seam gas, but that is a matter for another debate. To you and your mate Senator Lazarus: in Queensland where the coal seam gas is, the LNP won every seat in the last state election. So, if we do live in a democracy, if we do live where the voices of people count, then you know what the people think about coal seam gas, in spite of you and your mate Senator Lazarus trying to build up some support in an area that is, I might say, made up of very sensible people who know how they are voting. That is why every seat in South-West Queensland at the last Queensland election went to the LNP.
I am distracted. I come back to the very serious subject of the cost of living for people in the bush. I have given one small example. There are a million examples I could give if time permitted, but they would be repetitive. The couple that I have given clearly explain that. I understand the government has to raise money and, if they raise it from the people who have the advantage of getting on the suburban train or on the tram or on the public bus, that is fine. I remember some years ago—and regrettably the details have escaped me a little—that during the Fraser years there was a scheme in place where petrol anywhere in Australia would be no more than 5c a litre dearer than it is in the capital cities. I am not sure why that was ever stopped. I suspect the voting strength of people in the rural and regional areas was not sufficient for successive governments to continue that program, but that was a good scheme that should be looked at again. In one way it would help ameliorate the often very great disparity in the price of fuel in more remote areas. The fact that rural people, of necessity, must use their cars for longer distances and more often than those in the city means that, again, the cost of living for people in the country is more expensive.
The government, perhaps even misguidedly, think that giving more money to Roads to Recovery will help rural people and might be some form of compensation, but, as I have pointed out, Roads to Recovery goes to the Brisbane City Council as well. I do not begrudge them that, but of course you know the Brisbane City Council has a budget bigger that the state of Tasmania, so it does not really compensate. There are other programs that this government have had for rural and regional people that do recognise the cost disadvantages of living in the country, but nothing impacts on people's lives in areas 100 or 200 kilometres from major cities more than the cost of fuel—just to get the kids to school, to get kids to their sporting events and to get to doctors. For a lot of Australians to see a doctor involves a $500, $600, $700 or $1,000 plane flight to the next community or it involves driving those sorts of distances. Every time you put up the cost of fuel, those people suffer.
Because I said so a year ago and made the commitment to myself and to the people I represent, but more importantly because it has a huge impact on people living remote from the major cities and towns in our community, I do oppose this and will always oppose it. I was in parliament when the Howard government stopped the automatic indexation of fuel and I thought that was one of the best decisions. It was another very good decision of the Howard government. One was, as I said, Roads to Recovery, and stopping the automatic indexation was another. Why? Because it had a beneficial effect for people who live remote from the services that we all need for our daily lives.
I conclude where I started. It will distress me having to vote with the Greens on anything, but I will be voting against this legislation. I emphasise that it is on completely different grounds to the Greens. In fact, diametrically opposed are the grounds upon which I oppose this. I have no truck with the arguments the Greens have and will make on this subject. I would like to hear Senator Milne's next contribution regarding how she understands the plight of people living 1,000 kilometres away from a major city. I do not think the state Senator Milne represents has any communities more than 1,000 kilometres away from a capital city, but it will be interesting to hear that. It is with some regret that I will be voting against my own government, but I do so in furtherance of my long-held view that people who live in the country should not be disadvantaged any more than need be by where they live, and increases in the price of fuel certainly increases that disadvantage, which I will fight against forever.