Matter of Public Importance- Regional Australia
Thursday, 19 June 2014
It is always interesting, in a debate on regional Australia, to follow the member for Perth, which is one of those far-flung regional centres that was so disadvantaged by the last parliament that we had to spend about $14 million on their road to the airport. The member for Perth mentioned the freezing of the financial assistance grants, but she did not mention that the Roads to Recovery program is going to be doubled. For many of the regional shires she is speaking about, the net effect is actually a positive one, not a negative one.
I would like to address the comments made by one half of The Two Ronnies, my neighbour down here from the Hunter. The member for Hunter gives irony a whole new meaning. For those who are new here, we had a boundary change in 2010. There was wailing and screaming and protest from a bit of the Parkes electorate about having to leave Parkes and go into Hunter, but these things happen in a redistribution. A couple of towns from the Parkes electorate went into Hunter, one of those being Kandos, which happens to have a cement plant that had been there for 100 years. Guess what happened on the day after the election? They shut it down, taking 106 jobs and leaving generations of people unemployed. So I went up there. It was not in my electorate, but I thought that, as I had been looking after these people for a term or so, I had better go and see what was going on. The members of the union had come across from Newcastle and were explaining to the workers that losing their jobs was a good thing, because it was for a greater cause. The carbon tax was going to cool the globe and make us look good on the international stage. Kevin Rudd was going to Stockholm and we had to have something to sell, so they had lost their jobs for a greater cause. The member for Hunter did not make his way across there until some time later, and, when he got there, it was like: 'Don't mention the war; don't mention the carbon tax.' A lot of the people of Kandos are now fly-in-fly-out miners in Cobar, North Queensland and Western Australia, because the industry that sustained them—
Government members interjecting—
Mr COULTON: Ah, my favourite rural Labor person: the member for Richmond—the one who fights so hard for the 17 per cent of her constituents who vote Green, the one who dies in a ditch for those Green votes, for those hardy rural souls from Byron Bay as they toil away over their hydroponics in the back shed. She is such a great advocate for the 17 per cent of people in her electorate who vote Green. But I do not want to be negative.
We are talking about this budget, and what I like about this budget is that this government treats rural Australia as if it has a future. This government treats rural Australia with respect. This government does not watch a Green-inspired program on the ABC and shut down a cattle trade, decimating not only a whole industry but also a couple of states and territories.
This government respects and understands regional Australia—not only in areas such as this, but in R&D. There is real money now in research and development, because we understand that Australian farmers and Australian regional communities have a future. For those of you who may be new, we sat here for two terms with this government and heard ministers such as Burke and others talk about farmers in slow voices, because they needed to help farmers to adapt to climate change. How were they going to do that? 'Oh, we will close down the cattle industry—that'll help.' They sacrificed the aspirations of rural Australia in order to get the vote from the member for Melbourne, up here behind us, because he had such a struggling urban electorate in inner-city Melbourne that they had to pacify him.
With telecommunications, Minister Conroy actually came to Goolma—it is in the outreaches, 25 kilometres from Mudgee. In six years, despite the fact that the minister had sat in Goolma Hall with 150 very angry people, Labor did not fund even one tower. We are talking about an NBN network that delivered no services to my electorate in six years—and we still have people who cannot have a telephone. The hypocrisy! I admire the member for Hunter's attempt at humour, because it is better than his attempt at politics. (Time expired)