Senate debates

Thursday, 20 March 2014


Australian Greens

6:12 pm

Photo of Alan EgglestonAlan Eggleston (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I was very interested to hear Senator Ludlam's speech in this place last sitting week regarding the forthcoming Western Australian Senate by-election on 5 April. While I understand that Senator Ludlam's tenure as a representative of Australia's largest state may well be drawing to a close and he may be grasping at straws, I was perplexed when I heard him claim in that speech that returning a Greens Party senator would be good for Australia. Far from it, I have to say, from my admittedly biased Liberal point of view. The Greens have many policies which, far from being good for Western Australia and Australia as a whole, are in fact quite detrimental.

The first thing I saw when I went to the Western Australian Greens website was about their commitment to care for people. This is apparently a Greens initiative to improve access and services for people living with a disability. When I saw this, I thought to myself, 'I wonder if the Greens have heard of the cornerstone policy of the Abbott government at the last election, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which provided a comprehensive plan for a better life for people with disabilities.' The coalition government has repeated many times its commitment to delivering a National Disability Insurance Scheme in full and the priority of the coalition government is to ensure that the scheme is as good as it can be and as efficient as it can be, and that support goes to the people who need it. The coalition has long supported the concept of a National Disability Insurance Scheme and I think it will be a great step forward when that scheme is instituted by my friend and colleague Senator Fifield, who is the relevant minister. There are many thousands of disabled people whose lives will be made easier when the coalition plan comes into operation, closing what has been a great deficiency in our spectrum of social services and giving many disabled people the dignity of a more independent lifestyle.

The Greens always profess to be the friends of Indigenous people, but in the Kimberley region in the north of WA last year, the Greens opposed the plans of Woodside Petroleum to build an LNG processing plant at James Price Point just north of Broome, which had been given approval by the traditional owners in the Kimberley represented by the Kimberley Land Council. That this plan did not go ahead is nothing short of a tragedy for the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley because, as with the Argyle Diamond Mine owned by Rio in the north Kimberley, Woodside planned to train and employ Aboriginal people to work in the plant. This would have given those involved trade skills and a secure future which would have enabled them to give their families a place in modern Australia with housing and education. Furthermore, the Aboriginal people of the whole Kimberley will lose out as a result of Woodside's plans being cancelled, because an important dimension of the Woodside agreement with the Kimberley Land Council was that Woodside would provide $150 million for education, housing and health services for Indigenous people. But, sadly, with the cancellation of the deal for the plant to go ahead, the offer of these millions of dollars was withdrawn and of course nobody is going to fill that vacuum. Certainly the state government is not able to afford to do it, and the great opportunity which the Woodside development offered to the people of the Kimberley has been lost. I thought that outcome was very said and, as I have said, the big losers were the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley who would have greatly benefited from Woodside's generous grant. I am not sure that they would think the Greens are great supporters of Indigenous people as a result of that decision.

In turning to the Senate by-election, far from seeing the election re-run as a hindrance and a nuisance, I view the by-election on 5 April as a unique opportunity for Western Australians to send a clear message to the nation that they would like to see an Abbott government majority in the Senate so that the coalition plans and legislation could be passed without hindrance. The Abbott government's plans are very clear and include repealing the mining tax to reinvigorate mining investment and keep the benefits of mining in WA. As Senator Back has just said in his contribution, the mining tax has been a threat to continued investment in the mining sector in Western Australia and has meant the loss of considerable new investments to other areas of the world, particularly Africa, because Australia is now regarded as having a high level of sovereign risk as a result of the unfortunate experiment by the previous government with the introduction of a mining tax through the minerals resource rent tax.

The Abbott government plans also to repeal the carbon tax so as to reduce living and business costs to Australians in general, and it is estimated that Western Australian families will be saved some $500 a year on household bills when that tax is removed. WA is a state which is heavily dependent on air travel because of the long distances to the north-west and to other parts of the state, but the carbon tax adds greatly to the operational cost of aircraft. Both Qantas and Virgin Airlines recently said that they had paid more than $100 million each in carbon tax over the last year. Given that, it is little wonder that they are running in deficit.

The Liberal Party and the coalition government want to implement $30 billion of savings measures in Canberra to get the budget back into shape so that we can afford the infrastructure and public services that Western Australia and the country as a whole so sorely need. We want to continue with the new measures that are already working as well as halt illegal boat arrivals. Western Australians want to have an increased defence presence in the north-west of the state, and only the Liberal Party has undertaken to improve defence capacity in the north-west. The new defence minister Senator Johnston will certainly be reviewing the defence needs of the north-west coast where there are billions of dollars worth of investment in great resource projects whose protection must surely be a national priority.

When it comes to the repeal of the pernicious mining and carbon taxes the Greens and the ALP Senate have not got the message, because, as has happened today, they voted against the repeal of the carbon tax and are holding the country to ransom by opposing the repeal bills. Let us face the facts, the Greens and the ALP both want to retain the mining and carbon taxes which have been so detrimental to the Australian economy as a whole and to the Western Australian economy in particular.

Under the Rudd-Gillard government there was no long-term plan for the future of Australia, instead the country just lurched from one half-baked proposal to another. The national education curriculum was an example of this. Instead of teaching the history of European Christian cultural heritage, the ALP-Green national education curriculum ignored our history and the value of our national heritage. You can be sure that this will not be continued under a coalition government with a majority in the Senate. I certainly hope that the people of Western Australia will vote for the coalition on election day, 5 April.