Senate debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Regulations and Determinations

Competition and Consumer (Industry Code — Sugar) Regulations 2017; Disallowance

6:26 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I am against this disallowance. We acted. We listened. This action was initiated by the canegrowers. It was not initiated by a strike pulled by Senator Hanson. All we did was listen, and then all we did was take action. This issue at its core is about farmers, food production and not being heard; and it's about farmers, food producers, with little power.

I'm proud of the fact that, over the last 170 years, since the Industrial Revolution—actually, over the last 250 years, thanks to the revolution in Britain and governance; actually, over the last 700 years, since the Magna Carta—we have lived in the sort of country that we live in today. Those events were due to freedom. They were due to largely free markets. At my core, I am a libertarian. I believe passionately in freedom of speech and freedom of markets. But, sadly, we do not have free markets globally. We do not have free markets in this country. I have worked and lived and studied in the United States. They do not have free markets. Increasingly, government is getting involved around the world, and it is causing problems. For those who live in cities, perhaps you can identify with another problem—the problem facing taxi drivers. We know it in Brisbane, we know it in Queensland and it's the same around the country. Taxi drivers are saddled now with expensive plates because Uber has come in with none of the burdens faced by taxi drivers. The core problem there is excessive government in the first place. While government was initially protecting some rich taxi drivers, that has turned and become government now impeding all taxi drivers.

We live in the real world. I admire Senator Leyonhjelm's philosophy, his honesty and his integrity with his principles. However, we do not live in a free world. We live in a world that has been manipulated and distorted by governments for many, many decades. This building, in my honest opinion, has been very destructive in some of the policies and government interventions that have come out of here. At its core, I'll bet the roots of this issue go back to excessive government intervention in the first place. In the real world, this kind of world, we need to look after the basics—the basics like food production; the basics of making sure that farmers have free access and free support. Food is an issue for all city dwellers. We all eat, and food is an issue for all people who buy food. It is part of the process to produce, distribute, process, distribute and then eat food. In this process, the leach is the government, quite often.

But the casualties are in the communities. When I went through Home Hill and Ayr not long ago, the number of businesses boarded up with blank windows and empty buildings was staggering. That means the community is suffering. I see initiatives in the regional towns—not far to the north, in Ingham—not being supported by the government and not being supported by the LNP in Queensland, the Labor Party in Queensland or their local members. Yet these are initiatives that regional people from Queensland are initiating which could contribute to fixing health problems around our whole country. Government is not doing its job. This industry's future depends on the process of farming, which, as Senator O'Sullivan said, can take many years to plan for and harvest to then get the rewards from the crop. It can take many years.

As Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Lending to Primary Production Customers, it has become clear to me that in addition to some of the banks' behaviours, some of the receivers' behaviours and some of the other people in the chain, one other entity has been doing enormous damage, and that entity is government both state and federal. Think about this: a farmer goes and buys some land. He or she then has property rights. Those property rights are then stolen. That land is worth less as a result of government intervention—government stealing land. Today in Queensland we see farmers actually suffering a loss of property rights thanks to the current Labor government and past Labor governments. That property rights issue destroys land values, destroys farm productivity and raises costs for farmers.

Another issue that governments control is tax. Tax is crippling. We have taxes on payroll, of all things. We know that if we tax something we decrease its use. Why are we taxing payroll? We know that it's difficult in our country for farmers to get labour in towns with high unemployment, and that's why we need backpackers. Something is wrong. We saw in 2011 the live cattle trade completely shut down overnight. We saw cattle then being moved from the north of Western Australia all the way down into New South Wales to be sold, and the prices plummeted and communities were devastated. Farmers and families were devastated and people were suiciding.

And then we see government intervention in the form of water control. Some of the farmers—there are some here now—from the Burdekin have had an increase of around 300 per cent in the cost of their water in recent years. Overall, I'm told, that most farmers have faced a 50 per cent increase in their water costs. But that's not all. They say power prices have increased 110 per cent in recent years in a state where the state government wants to destroy a cheap, reliable and secure source of power and replace it with a renewable energy target of 50 per cent—and the LNP supports that by supporting the Labor budget.

These farmers, some of whom are here, are not wealthy. They work in delicatessens and they own delicatessens to make sure that they can get by. Some do earth moving on the side to keep them busy and to get by. They are stressed. It doesn't matter whether they're cotton farmers from Mondure, or cattle men or what: these days they face international markets and they have to be very much on top of the science, to be au fait with the economics and to be lawyers—because they're taken to court or they have a state government stealing property rights. So they need to be experts in everything, and that's not fair. We pay for it throughout the country. We have the best farmers in the world—from the dry south-west right through to the tropical Cape York. We have the best farmers in the world, but they're challenged by overseas subsidies paid by foreign governments. Their challenged by overseas companies coming in here. They're challenged by our own government policies and regulations destroying businesses, making it difficult even to live. There are tax, energy costs, property rights and—there it is again—government. Government needs to get out. But in this case we have an imbalance of power—a huge imbalance of power. We have a $7 million company versus a $40 billion corporation who has legal power, market power and staying power.

This is about trust, as Senator Hanson so wisely said. This is about making sure Australians have a fair go, because under tax regimes in this country foreign companies quite often don't pay any company tax. That puts them at a 30 per cent advantage straight away. This is not a simple little issue.

We are against this disallowance. Our responsibility in One Nation is to listen, to ask questions, to listen, to take action, to listen, to serve and to be accountable, and we are willing to be accountable to the canegrowers of Queensland. We're willing to check ourselves and we want to restore our Constitution. We congratulate the canefarmers and we congratulate Senator Hanson for taking her action. This is a matter of trust, and we will not be supporting this disallowance.


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