MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - Budget


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:23): Last night's budget was just what Australia needs right now: steadfast leadership; an economic plan for Australia, for jobs and growth into the future; no frills; no inducements; careful management of our finances; and guaranteed spending on health, on education and on help for those in our society less fortunate than us.

Perhaps the centrepiece of the budget was real help for small business, the groups of people in Australia who create the real jobs in Australia. Coming from the North of our country, from the North of Queensland, and having a passion for northern Australia, I was particularly pleased to see the budget confirmed spending commitments in northern Australia: an additional $9 million for new northern Australian water infrastructure feasibility studies; $2 billion for a concessional loan fund for water infrastructure, most of which, I would hope, would be spent in the North; $2.4 billion for Roads to Recovery, which is so important to all of the councils across northern Australia; $600 million for the priority roads and $100 million for beef roads in northern Australia; the $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund, comprising 162 job-creating infrastructure projects in regional and disadvantaged communities across Australia; the $75 million Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, so very important in the North; and, perhaps best of all, confirmation of the money for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, for which we passed the bill through the Senate just this week. This budget was good news for northern Australia, as it was good news for Australia.

Those people like the Labor Mayor of Townsville, who was disappointed because there was not a long list of roads in her city—she has done nothing and the state Labor government have done nothing—do not understand what federal budgets are all about. Budgets set the parameters and the plan and allocate moneys to various departments of state, and in the future the relevant ministers and departments will allocate those moneys to specific projects right across Australia. I know that there will be a significant number of projects going to northern Australia, because this is a government that believes in northern Australia and that has followed up its beliefs with a firm northern Australian plan as part of the overall Australian economic plan.

Contrast this with the Labor Party: no plan and no real initiatives—just a return to the old tax and spend. Already the Labor Party have committed over $100 billion for projects that they have no money for. When they made a mistake of $20 billion in their calculations, they just passed that off as a rounding error. You can never trust Labor with money. That is why I was so proud of Mr Morrison, Mr Turnbull and our government last night. Here we have a sensible plan for Australia's growth into the future and for jobs.

In the North at the moment—in Townsville, Mount Isa and Mackay—there is some unhappiness. There are a lot of small businesses struggling because of the downturn in the mining industry and because some people—some Queensland senators—want to tax the sugar industry, one of the big industries in northern Australia—an industry that does so much for the North. You would not believe that there is a Queensland senator who wants to introduce a tax on sugar. There are Queensland senators who keep denigrating the Great Barrier Reef, who keep telling lies about the Great Barrier Reef and about mining, who want to shut down mining and who want to shut down the Trans-Pacific Partnership, perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to two of Queensland's most significant industries, the beef cattle industry and the sugar industry. There are Queensland senators who want to shut those down. There are Queensland senators who, as I say, want to denigrate the Barrier Reef and chase away the tourists that mean so much for jobs and growth along the Queensland coast.

On the other side of that, you have a government that is again providing money for research and tangible support for the Great Barrier Reef. You will not hear any of the Greens political party or their fellow travellers on the crossbench recognise the work that this government has done with our marine areas and particularly the Great Barrier Reef. And whilst the Greens and the crossbenchers and the Labor Party will never recognise that, I proudly display some work by the Marine Conservation Foundation, which has issued a booklet called A Big Blue Legacy. It talks about the Liberal-National tradition of marine conservation and it clearly shows that if you are interested in marine conservation—and I add to that to say any sort of environmental protection and support—you can only look at a government like the one we have now, because in the past it has been Liberal governments that have done real work for the environment. Last night's budget continued that approach with real funding for the environment, for the support industries that protect what is so wonderfully Australian and all of our natural resources.

I am also delighted to see the emphasis in last night's budget on the provision of jobs for young people. Regrettably, because of the work of the Greens in trying to shut down mines in the Great Barrier Reef and the Labor Party not giving the support that they should have in a timely way to projects like the Adani mine, unemployment is in some difficulty in Mackay, Townsville, Mount Isa—places where I live and visit very regularly. I was calling upon the government to do something tangible for that. The encouragement they have given to small business in last night's budget will help those small businesses and it will help with employment for young people. The PaTH program that was unveiled last night is something that will work. It is tangible. I hear the Labor Party people criticising it. These are people who have never employed anyone in their lives. They have always worked for the government, for the union, for another politician. They have never actually had to employ people and understand what works. What works is training young people, giving young people real jobs and giving them hope for the future.

Last night's budget is, as I said, just what Australia needs at this time. It is not something of outlandish promises that will never be met. We all know the Labor Party will promise everything and deliver nothing. We have a government now with a sensible economic plan for the next decade that will provide real growth and real jobs and that is what Australia needs at this time. We do not need uncontrolled spending that will blow out the budget deficits to $500 billion, as was the case under the last Labor regime. We want a sound government who can manage the finances, who understands that governments do not actually have any money; they only use taxpayers' money. It is important that we manage taxpayers' money in a very sound and sensible way. That is what last night's budget does. All congratulations to Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull on a wonderful budget.

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