Senate debates

Thursday, 13 May 2021


Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Amendment (Extension and Other Measures) Bill 2021; Second Reading

10:58 am

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | Hansard source

Sorry, I just saw Senator Waters get up. The Greens spokesperson for northern Australia, from Melbourne, Senator Rice, said that we should not invest in fossil fuels in northern Australia because it's all bad, it's terrible, and it's going to blow up the planet if we continue to do these things. What she doesn't understand and doesn't mention is that half of the economy in northern Australia comes from mining—50 per cent. Half of the jobs, half of the income, half of the cash flow, half of the tax revenues that we all take, down here, come from the mining sector in northern Australia. So if you move an amendment here that cuts off a big part of the mining and resources sector, and I'm including LNG as part of mining there—just to clarify—and say, 'No, none of that can be invested in,' you are cutting off half of northern Australia and you are completely limiting the opportunities for our part of the world where I live in northern Australia to grow and develop, because we have enormous opportunities to grow and develop our mining sector even further. We have enormous opportunities to grow and develop the coal basins of North Queensland, because people want high-quality coal around the world, and we have it. We have enormous opportunities to continue the enormous trade in iron ore that we have going out of the west. We have enormous opportunities to continue exports of gas, especially in the Northern Territory, where our country's first shale gas field exists in the Beetaloo Basin. Wouldn't that be a great thing for Darwin? It is a great port, it has great access to the Asian region but it doesn't have cheap energy at the moment; that field offers that. Let's hope it is developed.

The problem is the NAIF did get off to a rocky start; there is no doubt about that. It is hitting its straps now but it got off to a rocky start. One of the reasons it got off to a rocky start was that the Labor Party teamed up with the Greens to stop the NAIF investing in the Adani Carmichael mine. That was going to be a big project for the NAIF. It could have built the rail line out to Adani, it could have been built to a bigger capacity than is currently being built, but the Labor Party, with Jackie Trad in Queensland, with Bill Shorten down here, with everybody supine over there on that Senate side, teamed up with the Greens to kill any investment in a new rail line out to a new coal basin, the first coal basin that would have been opened in 50 years; that was taken off the table. Thankfully, the Labor-Green alliance wasn't successful in killing the project overall. They were successful in killing the size of the project; the rail line is not as big as it could have been, thanks to them. We could have had more jobs going up there now, but for them.

Thankfully, the project is going forward, and the rail line is currently being built. Just the other day Adani did hit first coal at their Carmichael mine; although the coal seam they hit is not one they will mine. In a few months they will hit the coal seams they actually will mine, and later this year they will export the first coal from the first coal basin in 50 years from this country to another one, to India, and it will be a fantastic day for our nation. And it will be no thanks to any of those people here in this chamber in the Labor and the Greens parties; they actively tried to stop it. Thankfully, the Australian people rejected that at the last election, and we are getting those jobs. We have that mine and we are going to have future opportunity for northern Australia and North Queensland.

Now, I do need to say, though, thanks to one person—that is, former Greens Senator Bob Brown. He was of enormous assistance getting the Adani mine going. I was trying for years, banging my head up against the wall, pushing, fighting, begging for the project to proceed. Bob Brown turns up and, within weeks, the whole thing is going forward. He was a magician, an absolute magician. There is one particular amendment I would suggest the Greens move that I might consider supporting. If they want to put Bob Brown on the NAIF broad, I might support that, almost as an honorary position for Bob Brown to come on to the NAIF board for his work in helping create jobs in northern Australia, and we would love to see him more in the north. I would love to have him back. Unfortunately—I have invited him many times—he is not coming, apparently. He has blamed COVID; now it is gone. But maybe if he was on the NAIF board he would actually come and visit us a bit more. He would come up to the Beetaloo Basin and help Senator McCarthy get shale gas going in the Northern Territory. He would come up to the west Kimberley in Senator Sterle's area and help us get cotton farming going around Kununurra; he would hate that too. He would do magic. He would do wonders up there. We could get that moving.

There is so much opportunity across northern Australia and there are a lot of people from down south, like Senator Rice and others, who constantly want to downplay those opportunities, who often bring, can I say, a European mindset to our nation, where they think the north is hot and humid and infested with pests, and we should keep our population development down in the more sanguine Mediterranean climate of our south-east. But I think our nation's mission is actually to grow and develop across this great continent. It is great what we have done in cities like Melbourne and Sydney; they are fantastic testaments to what we have achieved as a nation. But we can actually build similarly successful and popular cities in other parts of our country as well, where there is plenty of water, where there are high-quality minerals, where there are high-quality soils to grow food in. If we invest in those areas, we won't maintain our position as a country where we are concentrated in just one small corner but we will spread, grow, develop and create the opportunity for thousands and millions more Australians, as we have done in the south.


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