Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Matters of Public Importance


5:56 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

We talk about fairness, we talk about jobs and we talk about the cost of housing affordability and the budget. I have said it before and I will say it again: why are houses so expensive, especially in Sydney and Melbourne? It is the simple case of demand exceeding supply; it is as simple as that. What is the cost? The cost is the land. The land is the cost. When they pull down the old house—they pay $2 million for a little wooden house and then pull it down—they put up a $2 million home. Land is so scarce. Yet, what do we have in this country? What do we have more per capita than any other country on the planet? We have land.

We keep saying: move out to country areas. Where I live in the beautiful town of Inverell there is an ample supply of water. We never have water restrictions. It is very good value. I think it is still about a dollar for 1,000 litres. Use as much as you like. Even in a drought, we never have water restrictions. You can walk into Inverell and into many other country towns—there are nice country towns in New South Wales, as I imagine there are in every other state in Australia—and for $275,000 or $300,000 you can buy a three-bedroom brick veneer home on about a 600, 700 or 800 square metre block. That is not expensive. But the first thing people say is: 'Where are the jobs?' Where I live, we are lucky to have Bindaree Beef, a large abattoir, which employs 800 people. We have unemployment—we have too much unemployment; it's too high—but we can't get workers to work at the abattoirs. We have to bring them in from Brazil, the Philippines—you name it. The jobs are there. What I am saying is that, if I was a young fellow—and I only wish that I was 25 years old—who lived in a city and I had a basic job, I wasn't well educated, I didn't have a tertiary education, I wasn't a specialist and I had never had an apprenticeship—I wasn't a fitter and turner, a mechanic, a plumber or a tradie or in some other specialised field—I would move to a country area, because I know that if I go out there I will get a job. If I am prepared to work, I will get a job. I have never seen a situation yet where someone who tries and tries to get a job does not get a job. If you persist, try hard and have a good work ethic, you will always get a job. It mightn't be the best job, but it will be a job.

I am simply saying that we need to move more people out to country areas, and we are getting condemned for it. Barnaby Joyce moving the APVMA from Canberra to Armidale is making room in the city here. Housing is expensive in Canberra. I'm sure those of you who've bought houses here would be well aware of it. I haven't bought a house here. We're trying to make more room, yet we're getting condemned for doing exactly that.

Senator McAllister interjecting—

Exactly. The point I make is: we have plenty of land in this country; why don't we use some? I'm sure where Senator Dodson comes from there's stacks of land, heaps of room. Why we insist on stacking people into the cities, especially Sydney and Melbourne, is beyond me.

I want to talk about fairness, equality and the cost of living. Electricity prices are too high. State and federal governments of all persuasions have made mistakes in this field for a long time. Coal is the cheapest way to generate electricity—there is no question about that. In a motion before the Senate earlier today, the Greens and the Labor Party voted against coal once again. I don't know how the CFMEU support this mob. You don't support their industries, yet they back you financially all the time. Those opposite say, 'We can't build coal-fired generation in Australia, because we're going to change the CO2 levels around the world; we're going to save the planet.' As I speak to you now, 621 units of coal-fired power generation are being constructed. A unit is one generator. If you go out to Liddell or Bayswater in the Hunter Valley, you'll see the four big cement cooling towers with the water vapour coming out of the top. They are four-unit power stations, and 621 units of coal-fired generation are being constructed around the world, as I speak—299 in China, to add to the 2,100 units they already have. Those extra 299 units will produce more CO2—670 million tonnes, in fact—than the whole of Australia produces. These are the additional coal-fired generators being produced in China. There are some 120 in India and even 34 in Vietnam. Australia has just 73 units of coal-fired generation. Are we building any more? Not as yet, but we're going to have to, because it's getting too expensive, and coal is the cheapest way to generate electricity. We know that labour costs are expensive in Australia compared to many other countries. If we want to remain competitive, electricity is one cost we need to keep down.

Speaking of equality, John Laws is a person I've listened to on radio for probably 40 years. In the shearing shed, on the tractor, in the sheep yards, my late father, Reg, my brother, Peter, and I would be drenching or jetting a mob of sheep, and we'd listen to John Laws. He said for years, 'You don't make the poor wealthy by making the wealthy poor.' How true that is! Someone has to have money to create jobs, to invest, to kick off the factories, to employ the people. That's what the wealthy people do. They don't just sit it in a bank and live on it forever; the people with money, a good business initiative and the interest to have a go are rewarded for their great work, smart thinking and investment. That's what the country is about. Making them poor will not create more jobs; it will create fewer jobs. That's why we've reduced tax for small business, to give small business a go to actually grow.

This whole debate is about jobs. Let's look at the facts. Today's figures show that total employment rose by 27,900 in July to a record high of 12.2 million. We now have 12.2 million Australians working. In the past 12 months, 239,300 new jobs have been created, three times as many as in Labor's last year in government. Of those, 197,700 were full-time. Of the nearly 240,000 jobs created in the last 12 months, almost 200,000 were full-time. In the last seven months, full-time employment has increased by 153,200, the largest increase in full-time employment over the first seven months of a calendar year since 2008. Female employment has increased by 124,600 over the past 12 months, to a record of high of 5.677 million women now in the workforce. Isn't that great? Youth unemployment has fallen by 0.4 percentage points over the past 12 months. So the jobs are being created. The unemployment rate was 5.6 per cent, down from last month's revised figure of 5.7 per cent. The annual rate of employment growth of two per cent is well above the decade's average rate of 1.6 per cent. The jobs are being created—as I said, 240,000 in the past 12 months, three times as many as in Labor's last year in government. This debate put forward by Labor is about jobs. We have the record for the increase in jobs. The record's there and the facts are there to prove it.

In winding up can I say that one good thing I am proud and pleased about is the free trade agreements we've made and how rural Australia is looking so positive. Even the grain prices are good, along with the cattle prices, the wool prices, the mutton prices and the lamb prices, and the cotton jobs are going well, and many others. Jobs are available in regional areas. If you can't afford to buy a house in the city, move out to a country town. Put your head down—you'll get a job, you'll do well for yourself and you'll be most welcome and will fit into those country communities.


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