Matters of Public Importance - Turnbull Government


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:29): I think Senator Brandis could well have been talking about the opposition debaters in this particular debate before the chamber. If I have heard a mediocre attack on the government that was it. And if that is the best the Labor Party can do then I do not think we have a great deal to worry about at the next election. I do go off the subject to simply say in defence of Senator Brandis, not that he needs me to defend him, that he has done such an excellent job that every attack the Labor Party has addressed to him as been flitted away, almost like brushing a fly away from the front of your face. The Labor Party's last great attempt to get Senator Brandis was the Gleeson Solicitor-General affair, when the Labor Party set up this sham inquiry to get Senator Brandis. All they achieved was to get the Solicitor-General—that Mr Dreyfus himself appointed to that position just a few weeks before the 2013 election. I can understand why the Labor Party are fixated with Senator Brandis.

Senator Polley: Acting Deputy President, I would ask you to draw the senator back to the topic we are debating today.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Whish-Wilson ): That is not a point of order, Senator Polley.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Polley spent some time talking about Senator Brandis and this is a debate, so I am responding to her comments. Why the Labor Party seem to be fixated with Senator Brandis is that he does such a wonderful job as Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Labor Party never lay a hand on him, in all of their attacks. He handles every question with great skill and aplomb. The Labor Party get very distressed by it. They keep bringing these futile attacks against Senator Brandis that get absolutely nowhere. Sometime the penny will drop upon the Labor Party, in this chamber, in that they perhaps should look further afield for some other attack focus.

The debate is about plans for jobs and growth. That was the broad program the government took to the last election and the Australian people supported it. It was a plan for Australia. It involved innovation. It involved some of the old industries. It involved some new areas that the government is looking at. But, all importantly, it was a plan. It centres around our enterprise tax plan, which is aimed at unleashing a new wave of investment, particularly for small businesses who provide about half of all of the jobs in Australia. That is why it is so important to support small businesses. They contribute very significantly to our economy.

To make it easier for these businesses to invest and expand, to create more growth and jobs, the company tax rate is to be cut. That is how you expand the economy. That is how you create jobs. You encourage business to create new employment positions. You do that by trying to reduce the company tax rates that we have in Australia which, by comparison with the rest of the world, are very high. We do not compete with a lot of investment into the country, because our tax rates for companies, which expand and create jobs, are far higher than they are across-the-board in other countries. That is why the Turnbull government has this plan to reduce tax, to encourage investment, which means encouraging growth and jobs.

By contrast, we have the Labor Party's plan for Australia's economy. I remember Mr Shorten talking about this during the election. I looked up his media release. It was pretty shallow but it did say, 'Go to this website and you can find out more about the Labor Party's plan.' I went to the website thinking I would get this glossy brochure that I had seen somewhere. Lo and behold, all the Labor Party's website did, when it went to this Labor Party 10-year plan for Australia's economy, was refer me straight to the ALP website—on which there is nothing about an economic plan or jobs. It was quite interesting. Unfortunately, I could not find that brochure on the website, but I did find a copy that I must have put aside. I am looking through this brochure for what the Labor Party's plan might be, but it is mainly full of glossy photos. There is not much about policy in it; there is not much depth to it. There are very nice photos, but there is not a single economic policy designed to support investment for small businesses, which generate, as I say, half the jobs in Australia. There is not a single policy in this program designed to repair the budget so that future generations of hard-working Australians are not saddled with higher taxes and debt. There is not a single policy in this document or any reference to any economic growth, which, as we all know, is the main driver of good, well-paid jobs in Australia.

Trying to find this thing which had miraculously disappeared from the website reminds me of the time many years ago when I was the Minister for Regional Services. I remember then Senator Sue Mackay was shadowing me; Senator Singh will remember this, because Senator Singh was Senator Mackay's media officer at the time. We were always keen to see what the Labor Party was doing and so we had a look at Senator Sue Mackay's website where we would find out all of the Labor Party's policies for regional Australia. Do you know where it went, Mr Acting Deputy President? You clicked on Senator Mackay's website and it would say: 'To see our economic policy, click this button,' which we did and it went back to my website. So the Labor Party was saying that its policy was the then government's policy on regional services. But it is a bit the same with this—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Whish-Wilson ): Senator Macdonald, please put the prop down. It is unparliamentary to be waving that around.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I should not be waving it around, Mr Acting Deputy President, you are quite right. What I am trying to do is look through it as I speak and try to find in this document anything that represents an Australian Labor Party policy for jobs and growth.

The Turnbull government, and before it the Abbott government, has a real vision for Australia that creates jobs. I am very familiar, as is Senator Canavan, who is the Minister for Northern Australia. We are very well aware of a detailed plan for the development of Northern Australia. That is not just a glossy brochure and it is not just there because the words sound good. It is actually a plan to develop Australia, to create jobs, to create exports and growth. Senator Canavan, as the relevant minister, is doing a wonderful job in promoting that plan for the development of Northern Australia. More than just a plan, it comes with budgeted money. Already Senator Canavan is having a field day spending upwards of $6 billion on initiatives that will help the growth of Northern Australia. There are things like the CRC for Northern Development and the beef roads project, which will allow one of our biggest industries to get their product to the market as quickly as possible and which in turn developed for productivity. There are plans for water resources—to grow anything in Australia, and growth in agriculture is one of the big futures we look towards, you need water. Up in the north, where most of Australia's rainfall occurs, there are very few catchments for those areas. The Turnbull government, in its wisdom, prior to the last election promised committed money to water infrastructure and provided some for actual work and some for feasibility studies. I suspect that senators from other parts of Australia will not be able to comprehend this, but the Turnbull government has a range of programs right across Australia offering money for water projects to various state governments. We do that because it is the state governments that control water streams and irrigation, not the federal government. We provide the money as the federal government and we have said to all of the state and territory governments, 'Here is some money. Go ahead and see what you can do in getting some water reticulation.'

Of all the states and territories in Australia, there is only one government that has not yet taken it up. All the rest of them have greedily, hungrily—and thankfully, from my point of view—taken the money and have done things with it that will come to fruition in the times ahead. But regrettably the Queensland government, my own state government, for some reason does not seem to want to use the money. I cannot work that out. Unfortunately, I do not see any Queensland Labor senators here. If they were here I would ask them, 'Why won't the Queensland Labor government take the Commonwealth's money and start the feasibility of the Hells Gate dam up behind Townsville or look at the raising of the wall on the Burdekin Dam?'

In the city, where my office is in Townsville, the local ratepayers are paying $27,000 a day to pump water from a long way away because there has not been this activity towards water that there should have been over the last 20 years. The federal government wanted to address that, and we have given money to the state government to do these feasibility studies around Townsville that would address that particular issue, but the Queensland state Labor government sits on their hands and do nothing. I do not know why they are doing that. It is not costing them anything; it is federal money. One can only assume that Senator Waters and her Greens mates in these states have threatened the Queensland Labor government, 'If you do anything with water, you won't get our preferences.' For that reason, the Queensland state Labor government sits on their hands and do nothing, and cities like Townsville, where I spend most of my time, run out of water and have to pay tens of thousands of dollars a day to get water pumped to reticulate the water supply.

All of this shows that the Commonwealth government, the Turnbull government, is keen on jobs and growth. We want to create an economy that is growing, because that creates jobs for Australians. I know that those following me in this debate will talk more intensely about the backpacker tax, which I intended to, but I have run out of time. But clearly the Turnbull government has jobs and growth as its No. 1 priority.

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