Thursday, 3 September 2020
Jobs for the Future in Regional Areas Select Committee; Report
I'd like to very briefly take note of the report of the Select Committee into Jobs for the Future in Regional Areas. That was not a committee I was a member of, but I did follow that inquiry quite closely given my interest in the subject matter of jobs in regional Australia, particularly in my state of Queensland. I think that this is a particularly important topic at the moment as we all seek to deal with the effects of COVID-19. The reason I wanted to say something today is that we all know that tomorrow there's going to be another meeting of the national cabinet, and one of the reasons we know that meeting is on tomorrow is that we've seen sustained attacks day after day by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and various LNP members from Queensland on the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, and her government.
I remember only a few weeks ago in this chamber we had every single LNP senator sitting along the back row screaming at us on the Labor side about how important it was to open Queensland's borders. Well, weren't they proven wrong! They've been proven wrong on health grounds, because we've been able to keep Queenslanders safe from COVID-19 by having hard borders, and they've been proven wrong—
Senator McGrath interjecting—
I know Senator McGrath and his LNP colleagues are embarrassed that they got it so badly wrong by calling on Premier Palaszczuk to open the borders a few weeks ago. I've been amazed over the last couple of weeks—
Senator Bilyk interjecting—
You're right, Senator Bilyk: they haven't had the same passion about opening the borders in Tasmania. I wonder if that could be about it being a Liberal premier down there and a Liberal government. I wonder if that's why they haven't had a lot to say about the South Australian borders opening as well—something about it being a Liberal government versus a Labor government.
Some important statistics came out yesterday, and they are important in terms of jobs in regional Queensland. If the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and his LNP colleagues were right in saying that Queensland's closed borders are destroying our local economy, you would have thought that would've been backed up in yesterday's national accounts figures. We saw in yesterday's national accounts figures that we are now in the worst recession that this country has seen in 100 years. That will always be the record of Scott Morrison as Prime Minister, Josh Frydenberg as Treasurer and all of the LNP team behind them. They have delivered the worst recession in Australia in 100 years. But it's very interesting to have a look at how different states have coped with this in an economic sense, and it's very interesting when you look at the map of Australia that's included in those national accounts to see how each different state has performed. Funnily enough, despite the attacks of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and their LNP team on Premier Palaszczuk and the state Labor government, it turns out that those Labor states with hard borders, such as Queensland and Western Australia, have performed better economically than open-border states like New South Wales. If tough borders like what Queensland has were killing the Queensland economy in the way the Prime Minister says, you'd think that would be reflected in the figures. Instead, while Queensland's economy has contracted, as has every other state economy around the country, it has contracted by 5.9 per cent, as opposed to New South Wales, the worst performing state, which has had its state economy contract by 8.6 per cent.
On one hand, we have Queensland: tough borders, kept infection rates low, economy contracting by only 5.9 per cent—still more than we'd like to see but a lot lower than other states. On the other hand, we have New South Wales: open borders, higher infection rates, a worse economic collapse. If that doesn't tell the story, I don't know what does.
So can I suggest to the Prime Minister and all his LNP colleagues that maybe they could spend a bit more time focusing on what's going wrong in New South Wales. Of every state, that's the state whose economy has collapsed the most, with its open borders. And it's states like Queensland and WA, which have had closed borders—opposed by the Prime Minister, opposed by the Treasurer, opposed by the LNP—that have shielded their local economies and local jobs more than other states. The proof is in the pudding. Queensland taking strong action on borders has kept us safe from COVID, has kept our infection rates relatively low compared with other states and has shielded our economy from the worst of the economic fallout from this recession delivered by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister should stop his bullyboy antics. He should stop picking on Premier Palaszczuk and stop briefing against her in the media. He should get his own act together. He should be a leader. He should actually get the national cabinet working and make sure the entire Australian economy is being shielded, not just the Queensland economy, which is being shielded by Premier Palaszczuk. I seek leave to continue my remarks.