Answers to Questions on Notice


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:29): Just briefly, I do not know this particular area terribly well—I am a Queensland senator from the north—but whenever the Greens run a campaign you always have to be suspicious. I want to thank Senator Back very much for telling those of us in the Senate who are interested in this what the real facts are. With the Greens political party, you have to always distinguish their political campaigns from their so-called environmental credentials. Senator Ludlam let the cat out of the bag when he told us all—as if we did not know—that there was an election coming up in Western Australia in the not too distant future. Of course, the Greens and the Labor Party, as a combined group as always, are fighting to defeat the Liberal government that has done so much for Western Australia over the past nine years.

But I rise in this debate simply to thank Senator Back. It is good that we have people like Senator Back, who know the facts, who can go through the history and who can tell it as it is, rather than listening to the mistruths and misconceptions of the Greens political party. I live in Queensland, and this is what we hear all the time from the Greens and their mates in the radical conservation groups. They will tell any lie at all to try and achieve their aims. I was interested in Senator Back's account of the court actions that have been taken. As I understand it, the courts have ruled against the line of the Greens political party and their radical green allies and ruled in favour of the law. The same happens in my state of Queensland. In Queensland, we desperately need the Adani rail and coal project. But the Greens political party representatives—the few of them that there are—and their radical green organisation counterparts keep taking court case after court case to try and stop this project, which means so much for jobs and wealth for all Queenslanders. It would be a fantastic project. It has unilateral support, except for the Greens political party. Even—I have to say to my colleagues over the aisle here—the Queensland Labor government has at last recognised the importance of this project and supports it. All the facts, all the evidence and all the scientific reports are there.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Ludlam, a point of order?

Senator Ludlam: Deputy President, I ask you to call the senator's attention to the question that is before the chair. We were not talking about Queensland.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: On the point of order, Deputy President, as you know—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Macdonald, take your seat. This is a very wide ranging debate, Senator Ludlam, and Senator Macdonald has referred to the Western Australian issue. Please continue, Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Ludlam moved the motion that the Senate take note of the lack of an answer, and that is what I am speaking to. If anything Senator Ludlam said was about the lack of an answer, I am still struggling to find it. Senator Ludlam used the opportunity, as people in this chamber do, to disrupt the agenda for the day and to have a diversion of about an hour into someone's pet project.

Senator Gallacher: What's your agenda?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: For as long as you want to do it, I am going to play the game too, Senator Gallacher. I can do that as well as you. It does not make a great deal of difference to me or the government. To continue, even the Queensland Labor government, dragged kicking and screaming, now support the Adani project. But the Greens political party and their radical allies, representing a very, very minor percentage of the people of Queensland, will continue to do everything in their power to disrupt this project, which is so valuable for Australia and so valuable for Queensland and which will mean real jobs. You do not care about the unemployed. We do on this side, and we understand the employment that that project will bring.

I cannot comment on the same aspects of the Western Australian issue; I do not know the details. But again, and I conclude here, thank you to Senator Back for rising to bring the Senate and those who might be interested in the debate the real facts about the issue so that we are not continually misinformed by the Greens political party and their allies with these strawmen they continue to raise to try and stop the development of Australia.

Question agreed to.

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:40): Those of us who have been around this place for a while, as I have, will remember that Senator Carr was once the minister for industry. We remember how in question time after question time, speech after speech, Senator Carr was softening up Australia for the bad news. It was during the time of his leadership of the industry portfolio that the manufacturers decided it was time to get out of Australia. The subsidies the government was then giving—taxpayers funding these multinational or American companies—were no longer viable. Senator Carr knew that himself, and he presided over the downturn of the car industry, which occurred just after the Labor government was defeated at the 2013 election.

Senator Bushby: Ford announced it while he was minister.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you, Senator Bushby—Ford did announce their departure while Senator Carr was the minister. I only raise that to put Senator Carr's comments in perspective. I have to say there is one element of Senator Carr's speech I do agree with. I accept the minister's confirmation that on the statistics, on the figures, employment is doing okay in Australia. But I come from North Queensland. I know the impact of unemployment there. That is one of the reasons I have been so keen to support this Singapore deal and the expansion of the High Range army training field. The Singaporean taxpayer, not the Australian taxpayer, is going to pour some $2 billion-plus into upgrading this area. The government has given a commitment that the work done in upgrading the area, which will be quite substantial for a whole range of contractors, will be done by local contractors, by local businesses in the Townsville and Rockhampton region. Those businesses will employ people—they will support other small businesses in those communities that are currently struggling. That is why I have been such a strong supporter of that particular project, because it will help with the unemployed in Townsville and Rockhampton, it will help with the small businesses struggling in Townsville and Rockhampton. This proposal to expand the army base is for Australia's benefit—it is for the use of Australian defence forces in extending their training. Their training has to be changed because 3 Brigade has now become not just the light infantry brigade it was but also it now has cavalry units, and so the training area has to expand. That involves quite significant development work, and it will create jobs for Townsville's unemployed and for the small business people that I look after in the area.

I mentioned previously on another topic the proposal for the Adani coalmine and the rail line from the coal site to Abbott Point—major infrastructure projects for Australia, for my state of Queensland, that will help the Queensland budget. Dearie me, the current government we have in Queensland needs every bit of help it can get with the state budget. It is good for Australia; but, more importantly, it is good for those unemployed, those quite substantial numbers of unemployed in central and north Queensland who are there because of the downturn of the mining industry and the closure of the Queensland Nickel refinery in Townsville. There are a lot of people out of work.

So on that I agree with Senator Carr. I am desperate, as is the government I am part of, to make sure that we do whatever we can to provide real jobs for the unemployed and to help struggling small businesses. Small businesses are mums and dads who put their life savings into their business. Through no fault of their own, with the downturn of the mining industry, a lot of them are struggling to stay afloat. The Adani project and the Singapore deal, which will require expansion for Australia of Australia's training bases, will provide those jobs, that support and that lifeline for small business in the north. We as a government will do everything we can to continue to grow employment opportunities in Australia.

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