Senate debates

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Matters of Public Importance

Queensland Economy

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

I inform the Senate that, at 8.30 am today, Senator Brandis and Senator Hanson-Young each submitted a letter in accordance with standing order 75 proposing a matter of public importance for discussion. The question of which proposal would be submitted to the Senate was determined by lot. As a result, I inform the Senate that the following letter has been received from Senator Brandis:

Dear Mr President,

Pursuant to Standing Order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:

The serious deterioration of the public finance of Queensland, and the collapse of the Queensland economy, under the Rudd and Bligh Governments

I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in today’s debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.

4:21 pm

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

In Brisbane last Sunday morning, when Mr Lawrence Springborg launched the election campaign of the Liberal National Party, he posed a question. He said, ‘Usually in election campaigns people ask, “Where’s the money coming from?” but in Queensland today the real question is, “Where did all the money go?” As the people of Queensland go to a state election next Saturday, they go to vote at a time when the public finances of my state are in utter ruin as a result of 11 years of Labor state government. The budget projections show that the public debt of Queensland will be $74 billion in the 2011-12 financial year.

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

It is incredible, Senator Macdonald. That is $17,292 for every man, woman and child in Queensland.

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

That is a disgrace.

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a disgrace, Senator Williams. Compare it with this: when the Howard government was elected in 1996, the Howard government inherited a $96 billion deficit. But that $96 billion deficit was a deficit for the entire Commonwealth of Australia. It was the equivalent of a debt of $4½ thousand per Australian. The Queensland deficit today is about 80 per cent of what the entire national deficit was 13 years ago. It is, per capita, four times as great as the debt that the Howard government inherited from the previous Labor government. That is not the whole story. The $74 billion figure is revealed if you drill down into the Economic and fiscal update published by the state Treasurer, Mr Fraser, five weeks ago on 20 February. This is what the state government’s own document says:

Given an update of the Public Non-financial Corporations Sector has not been undertaken—

in other words, the government owned corporations—

it is not possible to determine a borrowing for the State as a whole. However, assuming no change in the Public Non-financial Corporations Sector, Table 7 provides an indicative view of borrowing as a result of the latest General Government estimates.

That $74 billion figure itself vastly understates the aggregate debt position, because it leaves entirely out of account the possibility of any increase in the indebtedness of the government owned corporations sector—which, as we all know, has tracked the general government sector in expanding its liability. The state of Queensland itself cannot tell the people how great the public debt is today. In the words of Mr Fraser’s document, ‘it is not possible to determine a borrowing for the state as a whole’, but we know it is projected to be substantially in excess of $74 billion.

It is quite extraordinary that debt could have been racked up to such an extent in the good times, because until the global financial crisis—taking effect in Australia these days as the Rudd recession—first emerged in the second half of last year, Queensland had enjoyed nothing but good times. The 2007-08 and the 2008-09 Queensland state budgets brim with optimistic predictions of continued prosperity. The Bligh government and, before it, the Beattie government rode the economic prosperity of the minerals boom. How do you do that? How is it that you reduce the state’s finances to such a shambolic position in the good times? Senator Sherry, whom I see in the chamber, is very fond of lecturing the Senate about how in bad times it is necessary for governments to go into debt. That may or may not be true, but what is plainly true is that in good times you make provision. In good times you do not accumulate debt; you reduce debt. In good times you pay off debt and accumulate surpluses, as the Howard and Costello government did, but the state Labor government in Queensland did the opposite; and, as a result, it brought the state’s finances to ruination.

In every year, in every budget for which the Beattie and then the Bligh governments were responsible, the level of state debt increased. In the 1999-2000 year, the first full fiscal year for which the Labor Party was responsible, the state debt was $10.123 billion. It increased the following year, 2000-01. It increased again in 2001-02. It increased again in 2002-03. It increased again in 2003-04. By 2004-05, it was up to $19.446 billion. The following year, 2005-06, it was up to $23.24 billion. In 2006-07, it had increased again to $26.68 billion. Now it is projected in the government’s own document to rise from $41.58 billion in 2008-09 to $56.65 billion in 2009-10, $66.452 billion in 2010-11 and $74 billion in 2011-12—and that excludes, as I said before, the debt of the government owned corporations. How do you do that in boom times?

As a result, the Queensland Treasurer, Mr Fraser, was on 20 February forced to bring down a minibudget. In that minibudget, he announced that there would be a budget deficit of $1.6 billion for that financial year. As a result of the accumulation of debt by the Beattie and Bligh Labor governments, the public debt interest paid by Queenslanders was at the start of this year approximately $2.4 billion per annum on that $74 billion figure.

But the news got worse, because, when Mr Fraser brought down the minibudget and placed on the public record the public debt projections of $74 billion, Moody’s, the credit-rating agency, slashed Queensland’s credit rating. Queensland was put on Moody’s watch list, and its credit rating was downgraded from AAA—the rating that any prosperous sovereign debtor ought to enjoy—to AA+. Imagine: Queensland, one of the two states, along with Western Australia, that has been propelled by a mining boom the likes of which Australia has never seen, has been put on the credit-rating agency’s watch list as a bad credit risk, and its credit rating has been downgraded from AAA status. What happened then? What happened as a result of the downgrading on 27 February of the Queensland credit rating is that, under the terms of the government bonds that had been issued, the interest rate went up by 0.4 per cent. In one stroke of a pen, Queensland is now paying about another $300 million a year in public debt interest. It is now paying about $2.7 billion a year in public debt interest.

How does that compare with what Queensland spends on other things? Well, Queensland spends about $600 million a year on child safety. We spend 4½ times as much on interest as we do on child safety. Queensland spends, in the current year, $8.3 billion on education. The public debt interest bill is fully one-third as much of every dollar the Queensland government spends on the entire Queensland education system. We spend about $941 million a year on emergency services. You will remember, Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator Ian Macdonald asking some very pertinent questions in question time today about how the response to the oil spill emergency in Queensland has been so badly handled. Could that have something to do with the fact that we spend three times as much on public debt interest as we do on our emergency services? We spend $8.6 billion on the Queensland hospital system. We spend fully a third as much on debt interest as we do on the entire health system of a state of 4.2 million people. What a disgrace! Finally, we spend about $1.57 billion on the police. We spend twice as much on debt interest as we spend on the Queensland police.

The fact is that tolerance of debt, willingness to go into debt, is encoded in the Labor Party’s DNA. Only if you were so negligent, so casual, in your attitude to debt, would it be possible to accumulate $74 billion of debt—$18,000 per man, woman and child—in a prosperous state like Queensland in the course of a mining boom. That was nowhere better illustrated than last week when the two former female Labor premiers of other Australian states, Ms Kirner and Professor Lawrence, issued a statement supporting Anna Bligh’s re-election as Premier. This is what Joan Kirner, the person who drove the Victorian economy into ruin, had to say about Anna Bligh’s fiscal management:

The other thing in Ms Bligh’s favour was that people now are more accepting of debt, she said.

Referring to her own experience in Victoria, she says:

People thought debt was a very bad thing back then, but everyone now is saying that you have to go into debt …

We know what the policies of Joan Kirner did for the Victorian economy with the attitude that in the bad old days people thought debt was a bad thing. Well, do you know what, Mr Acting Deputy President? Today, in 2009, there are still some people who think that debt is a bad thing. There are still some people who are not relaxed or casual or scoffing at the thought that it does not matter that you have run up a public debt in the most prosperous economy in the land of $74 billion in the middle of a mining boom. Those people sit on the Liberal and National party benches in the state parliament. (Time expired)

4:36 pm

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Government Service Delivery) Share this | | Hansard source

I have for the last couple of days actually been observing Senator Brandis and some of his speeches regarding Queensland. I have to say that, personally, I have always found Senator Brandis to be one of the more charming and intelligent members across the chamber and someone whom I have become very fond of in my short time in the Senate. But, I have to say, observing him talk about Queensland for the past three days of sitting, I think he does himself no service and actually does a disservice to himself and to his party. While there is an election on—we all know Queenslanders go to the polls on Saturday—I think Senator Brandis is playing partisan games. He is telling a tale about Queensland which bears very little resemblance to reality. Nor does it resemble—

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Arbib, which fact that I mentioned do you dissent from?

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Government Service Delivery) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator, please stick around and I will get to that. Thank you for the interjection. Nor does it resemble anything near what is happening globally. Listening to the good senator during his speech, it was interesting to see how many times he referred to the global recession. How many times did he actually refer to the global recession that is wrecking economies across the globe, killing employment? How many times?

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Sherry interjecting

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Government Service Delivery) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Sherry is right. He did not mention the global recession once. How can you talk about the Queensland economy or the Australian economy without actually putting it into the context of what is happening overseas? This is the political strategy that Senator Brandis and his leader, the member for Wentworth, have both undertaken and that numerous shadow ministers in this chamber have pursued: attacking the government federally and in Queensland for politically partisan reasons without taking into account the global recession. I am a senator from New South Wales; I am not from Queensland. You may have noticed.

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

Well, let’s talk about New South Wales!

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Government Service Delivery) Share this | | Hansard source

The good senator from New England has noticed. But, I have to say, I have had a fair bit to do with Queensland. In my current role as the Parliamentary Secretary for Government Service Delivery I have been working with the Queensland government on the rollout of the stimulus package. I was actually up there last Friday, meeting with officials of the government, and I can inform the Senate that the Queensland government is making great progress in the rolling out of infrastructure projects as part of the Nation Building and Jobs Plan. That is very good to see, because it will mean Queensland jobs are protected and Queensland jobs are supported.

But, going back to the global recession, what Senator Brandis has ignored is the fact that we are going through one of the most serious economic downturns since the Great Depression. Overseas now they are calling this the ‘Great Recession’—it is that bad. The effect it is having on the federal budget, the effect that it is having on the Queensland budget, cannot be overstated.

It was interesting to hear the Leader of the Liberal National Party, Lawrence Springborg, actually talk about the recession. When I was up in Queensland I saw an ad where he was talking about the economic circumstances that his state confronts. Admittedly, it was an ad from the Labor Party, but it was his words. It had President Obama talking about the global recession. It had the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom talking about the global recession and how serious it is. It had the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, talking about the seriousness of the situation. Then it went to Lawrence Springborg. His quote went something like, ‘This is not the Great Depression; this is not even a recession.’ That is the way the LNP view the economic downturn. That is the way those on the opposite side of the chamber view the economic downturn. Malcolm Turnbull said something very similar when he said that we were overhyping the global downturn.

Queensland has experienced a period of unparalleled prosperity. We all know that, and Senator Brandis made reference to it. Most of this growth was due to growth in the developing world, a once-in-a-lifetime mining boom and a boom in trading partners—in China, in Japan, in Korea, in Singapore, in Taiwan. When Labor was elected in Queensland unemployment was at 8.7 per cent; now it is 4.75 per cent. Queensland in fact has outpaced the nation’s growth for the last 12 years, and it will do it again this year. At the same time the Queensland government, through former Premier Peter Beattie and Premier Anna Bligh, has recorded record surpluses. Senator Brandis asked the question: ‘Where has the money gone?’ I will answer that for him. While Queensland has been experiencing the best of the mining boom, it has also been experiencing a population boom. Southerners from across the country have been flocking to Queensland because the state has been doing so well, with over 1,000 people moving north each week at its peak. That is a testament to the work that the Queensland government has been doing and the infrastructure that it has been building—the schools, the hospitals, the roads.

But there is a flipside to growth, and there is certainly a flipside to population growth. It means stress: stress on your infrastructure, stress on your hospitals, stress on your schools, stress on your roads, stress on your rail lines. There is no doubt about it: Queensland has been under stress—and it has had to invest heavily to keep up with the population growth. Queensland’s infrastructure spend has been at, and will be going forward at, record levels—something like $17 billion right now.

However, given this level of infrastructure spending to meet the growing needs of the population and given the global downturn becoming a global recession, they have been caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. They have suffered more than any other state due to a drop in demand from China and India. Queensland’s largest trading partners are now deeply in recession. Japan, Singapore, the United States and key trading partners South Korea, Taiwan and China have had huge cuts to their growth rates.

So it is easy to see where the money has gone. On one side the money is going into infrastructure and on the other side they have had a big cut in their mining royalties and their company taxation due to the global financial crisis. It is as simple as that, Senator Brandis, and your musings that somehow the Queensland government has been irresponsible to invest in infrastructure and jobs are simply untrue and tell a tale that bears no resemblance to reality.

There are two choices that a government can face in a situation like this: one—

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I do not think the honourable senator is at liberty to say that a statement was untrue when each statement I made was quoting from Mr Andrew Fraser’s own published documents. It is unparliamentary and it is against the standing orders to reflect on the integrity of a member of a state parliament. Senator Arbib, perhaps unintentionally, by asserting that the statements made by Mr Andrew Fraser, the Treasurer of Queensland and the member for Mount Coot-tha, are untrue, is in breach of that standing order.

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Government Service Delivery) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Acting Deputy President, on the point of order, at no time was I making any reference to the Treasurer of Queensland; in fact, I was talking about statements made by Senator Brandis.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As I heard it, Senator Arbib was talking about the musings made by you, Senator Brandis, so I think we will move on.

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Government Service Delivery) Share this | | Hansard source

I was saying that, given the circumstances that Queensland faces, there are two responses they could take. One would be to make cuts to their budget, to their infrastructure projects and to jobs. The second would be to keep spending and stimulate the economy with more spending to protect jobs. We know that, thankfully, Anna Bligh has made the right decision. She has decided on the latter course: keep spending money on infrastructure to support Queensland jobs. We heard at her campaign launch on the weekend that this spending will lead to and support 100,000 Queensland jobs, and that is something that we on the Labor side can be very proud of.

The $17 billion infrastructure package that Anna Bligh, the Premier, has put in place means that every hour of the day the Queensland government will spend $2 million on infrastructure, schools, housing and roads. And, positively, in the 17 months that Premier Bligh has been in her position, she has led a government that has created 168,000 jobs. That is to her credit and to the credit of the government.

Unlike the opposite side of the chamber, who, in their 12 years in government, decided the best way to deal with the states was to play the blame game—to blame them for problems in education and public hospitals—we on this side of the chamber have taken a different approach: to work with state governments on infrastructure and hospitals. We all know the federal coalition’s record on infrastructure during their 12 years. They cut funding to health by five per cent. They cut funding to education by five per cent. In fact, we were the only economy in the OECD reducing funding to education; everyone else was increasing funding to education. The former Prime Minister, John Howard, and Liberal senators on the other side were cutting funding to education and cutting funding to infrastructure. If you do not believe me, believe Don Argus, the Chairman of BHP, because he is on the record talking about the 10 per cent cut over the 12 years of the coalition government.

That is why we are working with the Queensland government with the $42 billion infrastructure package—$2.5 billion going into every one of Queensland’s 1,449 primary schools. We are providing rail and road infrastructure, fixing their highways and providing social housing—things that senators on the opposite side of the chamber ignored and voted against. Every one of the senators on the opposite side of the chamber voted against this infrastructure, this spending. It was the biggest modernisation of the education system in our country’s history, and Liberal senators and National Party senators fronted up to this chamber and voted against it. And they have the hide to come in here today and attack Premier Bligh and the Queensland government for spending money on infrastructure—the hide of them! These are Queensland jobs that are going to be supported during a global recession.

But it is not just Queensland. This is the way they view the world, the way they view the economic crisis: ‘Leave it to the market. Government, stay out of it. Don’t spend, don’t stimulate; leave it to the market to sort out. It’ll be right’. There is a global economic cyclone on the way, as the Prime Minister likes to say, and all the Liberal Party can do is sit on their hands, cross their fingers and hope it misses us. That is not the way that Labor works.

In fact, the Queensland election comes down to one thing—it comes down to jobs. Lawrence Springborg, who does not believe we are in a global recession, is talking about making jobs ‘de-necessary’. In fact, his solution to the problems that Queensland is confronting with the global financial crisis is to do exactly the same as those on the opposite side of the chamber would do—cut back on programs and cut back on funding. He is now making a three per cent cut to the Queensland budget. That will equate to 12,000 jobs being wiped out from Queensland.

We are supporting 100,000 jobs through infrastructure. Mr Springborg is getting rid of 12,000 jobs. That is the choice that Queenslanders now face. Listening to the shadow Treasurer, I wonder how they will make these cuts. How will they make this three per cent cut? They will make it by cutting back on infrastructure. So on Saturday this election is about jobs. (Time expired)

4:53 pm

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The election in Queensland has drawn into focus the alternative of the Greens. Last year the Labor member for Indooroopilly, Ronan Lee, left the Labor Party and became a Greens MP. He is a serving Greens MP for that seat of Indooroopilly. The reason he has done that, which he has stated publicly and to me privately, is simply that the Queensland government—and the opposition is no exception to this—simply cannot capitalise on the magnificent environment of Queensland and what it offers the people of Queensland in terms of economic and employment advantages for the future. And he is right.

I had the pleasure of launching with him a week ago a plan for 7,600 green-collar jobs in Queensland. The difference between that and what we have heard from the previous two submissions to the Senate is that this is based on real programs which involve skilling people to have jobs which will be long term and which they will enjoy—which will give them fulfilment. The LNP and the Labor Party back the heavy industrial and resource mining industry of the past—to wit, the coal mining industry. That is an industry which is in severe trouble now, not because of any Greens insurgency but because of the neo-liberal policies which the big parties have subscribed to in the past and which have come home to roost in Queensland.

There is a downturn and we are now hearing members from both sides of old politics saying, ‘Well, you should put off the tackling of climate change as a policy which is going to protect the environment, economy and employment of the future, because it might worsen the impact of the recession.’ But the recession is now claiming hundreds if not thousands of mining jobs in Queensland and we are hearing nothing from the big corporations about their responsibility to look after those people who are dispossessed of jobs or about the need to reskill those people.

I went to the Bowen Basin in Queensland to speak about this issue two years ago and pointed out that it was the Greens who were aware of this change in the economy and who would legislate to ensure that people in very vulnerable industries like mining and resource extraction were skilled for the new future, which is going to be in the green industries. One of those industries which Ronan Lee and Larissa Waters—the very skilled young woman who is standing in Mount Coot-tha and who is the Green Senate candidate—are promoting in the run up to this election is the solar industry.

Clean coal, which the big parties subscribe to, does not exist; it is not available. People like Ziggy Switkowski have said that clean coal is at least two decades away. But the base load solar power is available now—and I am talking about the sunshine state! As has been promoted by the Greens, power stations near cities like Cairns and Townsville—and indeed in South-East Queensland, as in New South Wales—are able to produce power from the sun morning, noon and night without worsening global warming, which the coal industry and the burning of fossil fuels do.

And the green industries are jobs rich. The Greens have proposed in Queensland—as we have nationally—that they will use their wherewithal on the floor of the Queensland state parliament to pursue the policy of having every house in Queensland retrofitted with solar hot water and insulation and will help them to get solar power. And we would have the proper gross feed-in tariffs laws to enable people who do put in solar power to be rewarded for that power—to get a stimulus from it, rather than have the rewards and the subsidies go to the old fossil fuel industries.

The Greens are strongly defending Queensland’s environment and would bring an end to the clearance of life-rich, high-conservation-value native forest woodlands. That would have a massive double bonus. It would end the polluting impact of the clearance of woodlands, which puts massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Of course it is the Greens who are the great defenders of the Great Barrier Reef—against not only the runoff which is threatening the Great Barrier Reef but also the impacts of climate change.

I have to acquaint the Senate again with the real figures here. Last time I looked, there were 28,000 jobs in the coal industry. It is a very important industry but it is largely foreign owned and it made $43 billion in the last year I looked. But the coal industry is getting all the subsidies from state and federal Labor governments as well as Liberal-National Party interests. The threat of that industry is to the Great Barrier Reef which, according to the Deputy Premier of Queensland, sustains 63,000 jobs. Now scientists tell us that with the current trajectory of climate change there is a huge risk that a massive amount of the reef will be dead by mid-century. I am talking about the jobs and lifetimes of our children and certainly their children. This is a very real, present threat.

If ever that needed to be brought home, it was brought home by this disastrous oil and chemical spill off the Queensland coast, which is now being endured by the people of Queensland. As I said in this chamber yesterday, if it is true what Labor said in defence of this ship leaving Newcastle and sailing with this dangerous cargo into cyclone affected waters, that we do not have laws in this country to regulate foreign shipping in such circumstances, we Greens will at the first opportunity move to amend those laws so that we not only have the oversight of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority but are able to implement it. If that is true, and the government used that as a defence here yesterday, it is absurd. I do not care what the international law is; this nation has a right—

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I bet you don’t.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Let me say to the Liberal Party member opposite who is interrupting: if you had done something about Guantanamo Bay, Sir, to uphold international law, you would be able to say something—or about the illegal invasion of Iraq. But you did not. You sat there and you supported George Bush all the way down the line. The National-Liberal coalition was a Bush-supporting entity all the way down the line.

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

That having been said, it is the Greens that will fix up this anomaly which has been used by Labor to allow—

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

You never met a terrorist you didn’t like!

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

They are interrupting because—

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Brown, please resume your seat. I will give you the call when there is quiet in the chamber. It is as simple as that. Senator Bob Brown.

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President—

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It is Senator Brandis who is interrupting, and I would have thought better of him, because—

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Brown, please address your comments to the chair. Ignore the interjections.

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

his colleague was heard in silence. I thank you for that, Mr President, because you are absolutely right. If it is truly the situation that foreign owned ships, as against Australian ships, leaving Australian ports cannot be regulated and cannot be made safe—and, remember, this ship could well have been off the Great Barrier Reef if there had been a day or two’s difference; as it is, it has created huge damage to the magnificent beaches of Moreton Island and, further north, Bribie Island and the Sunshine Coast—then that situation should be changed. That is our responsibility. That is a Greens point of view. And that is why it has been of enormous value to Queensland to have a  member of the Greens on the floor of the Queensland parliament—to stand up for issues which are ignored by both the big parties and to also bring forward the job-rich prospective future which Sir Nicholas Stern, one of the world’s great economists—

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I might be being heckled at the moment by the National and Liberal parties, but they seem sensitive to this. They have lost their way and do not understand. As Sir Nicholas Stern from the World Bank was explaining to us, in this city, those economies which reorient to ecologically based economies are going to be the most job rich in the future. Now we have a backbencher from Queensland who is saying: ‘He’s wrong; I’m right. Our old formula from last century is better for Queensland.’ No, it is not. The Greens are for the sunshine state to be the sun-powered state and the exporter of the best solar technology in the world, not one of the worst polluters in the world. This is possible, but it will not be possible if people support the old parties when they have got a fantastic opportunity to vote Green next Saturday in Queensland.