Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Matters of Public Importance


4:48 pm

Photo of Sam McMahonSam McMahon (NT, Country Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak in this matter of public importance debate. Those on the other side of the chamber have said that we are always there when there's a photo opportunity. Yes, we do have photos. We have photos when we deliver things—when we deliver roads, when we deliver schools, when we deliver hospitals and when we deliver programs. We have photos when we actually deliver something. Those on the other side of the chamber have plenty of photo opportunities too, but not when they actually deliver anything—because they don't. In fact, today I saw some Labor people from the other place having a photo opportunity because they resigned. You have a photo opportunity when you quit. Isn't that wonderful?

At least we only have photos when we actually deliver things for the Australian people.

I completely refute their allegation that the budget does not create jobs. In fact, this government has been so successful at creating jobs that we now have a crisis. As Senator Walsh pointed out, we have a jobs crisis—because everything has to be a crisis these days. The crisis we have, particularly in the Northern Territory and regional Australia, is that we do not have enough employees to fill jobs. That's right. We've been so good at creating jobs and supporting people to not have to go to work that it's very hard for some employers to get people to take jobs, to fill vital roles in their organisations.

I bring your attention to the recent Northern Territory mango harvest. Since March, mango producers have been trying to source workers for the harvest. They normally rely on seasonal workers from Pacific countries. Many of these were not available this year because of border restrictions, so they started looking for Australians very early on in the piece. They looked very hard for Australians to take up the role. Very few did. One of our producers, who is part way through their mango harvest, reported to me the other day that they are $14 million down because they've been unable to source workers to take part in the mango harvest. They told me about one experience—of many—they'd had, as an example. They'd tried to get Australian employees through a labour hire firm. They were promised that four would be turning up. The four did turn up. They turned up late on their very first day. They did a couple of hours work and then said they were going into town to get some lunch. They never came back. This producer rang up the labour hire company and told them what had happened. The company said the workers had rung them and said, 'It's pretty hot and pretty hard, and we don't really want to do it.' They were 'going into town to go partying'. This is one of many examples.

It wasn't just mangoes. We have a crisis with pastoralists in the Northern Territory. There are pastoral properties that still have a market for their cattle. They're still trying to work their cattle. They're still trying to turn off their cattle. But they can't get staff. I was talking to the managing director the other day of one very large company that owns numerous pastoral properties. He said some of the smaller family owned businesses really struggle to get employees. He said: 'We need to do all sorts of things. We can get employees, but we need to do all sorts of things for them, like very comfortable accommodation and big-screen TVs. We've have put in high-speed broadband on all our properties.' We're talking really remote properties, where it's extremely expensive to put in and maintain high-speed broadband. He said: 'That's what we need to do to attract any staff at all. It's so hard and so competitive to get staff that we have to go to these lengths to get them to come out here.'

It's not only agriculture and those sorts of industries; it's the bars, restaurants and clubs. I frequently go for a walk around Darwin and stop in and talk to many of the local businesses. They tell me exactly the same thing. They can't get baristas. They can't get bar people. They can't get waitresses. They say: 'We're open. Our businesses are doing well. Our problem is we can't get staff.' These same problems are occurring in Queensland and in other states, particularly in rural and remote areas. We just can't get the workers to keep these businesses open. We've been so successful in creating jobs. Now we can't fill them.

If we look at some of the programs that this government has undertaken and that this budget has delivered, particular to the Northern Territory, which is my passion, the NT has received $250 million in JobKeeper payments. Bear in mind, we have a population of just under 250,000 people. There's $227 million in cash flow boost credit for business. There are 120,000 Territorians who will receive tax relief, and 20,000 NT businesses are eligible for business tax incentives. This budget commits an additional $189 million of funding for land transport infrastructure projects in the Northern Territory over the next decade. This includes $120 million for the Carpentaria Highway upgrade, $46 million for NT national network highway upgrades and $22.9 million for the Stuart Highway upgrade at Coolalinga. Roads do not build themselves, so all this funding for infrastructure creates jobs because we need people to build roads—a lot of people. Since 2014, the government has committed $2.7 billion to fund land transport infrastructure projects in the NT, including funding announced as part of this budget, as I said, to create jobs, because infrastructure does not build itself.

The other thing I'd like to mention is the Beetaloo Basin, which is a key element of our gas-fired recovery. The Morrison government committed $28.3 million to the strategic basin plans around the country, the Beetaloo being one of five key basins. Currently the Northern Territory has practically no manufacturing industry. There are several reasons for this, but one of the reasons is the high price of energy. The Beetaloo Basin has the potential to unlock affordable energy for the Northern Territory and to create an actual manufacturing industry, which will create jobs—jobs for Territorians and jobs for Australians.

Then, if we look at defence, defence has committed $8 billion to Darwin over the coming 10 years to build defence infrastructure. Again, infrastructure does not build itself. That $8 billion will create jobs and ongoing employment, and a further $1.6 billion will upgrade RAAF Base Tindal in my hometown of Katherine. Again, that's $1.6 billion injected into a town of 10,000 people. That is a hell of a lot of jobs and ongoing employment.

Then, if we look at the NAIF fund in the Northern Territory, there's $300 million to build a new ship lift to service patrol boats and other craft in Darwin. Again, a ship lift doesn't build itself. Jobs will be created in construction and in ongoing operation.

There's a recent $24.2 million NAIF loan to Humpty Doo Barramundi. This is a 100 per cent Territory family owned business. This will increase the size of the farm, put in additional ponds and create a new hatchery. Part of this loan will create 110 jobs during construction and a further 160 ongoing jobs when it is built and operating. That might not sound like much, but, to a small Territory family owned business, that is a hell of a lot of jobs injected into the local economy.

If we look at some national reactions, the government's $74 billion JobMaker plan is a key element of the government's economic recovery plan for Australia. Designed to support a stronger economic recovery— (Time expired)


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