Matters of Public Importance - Turnbull Government


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:08): I thank Senator O'Neill for the humour at the end of her speech.

Senator Payne: The theatre.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes, the theatre. It would have woken up anyone who might have the misfortune to be listening to this debate. Sadly, I have only 13 minutes to try to list the outcomes and positive progress that has happened in Australia since the Turnbull government was elected and before that, of course, under the Abbott government.

I would like to pause for a moment on that to say that, for anyone who follow these things and can remember the dysfunction of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, any government after that would look progressive and positive. I still remember my old mate Senator Cameron's line when he referred to his colleagues as lobotomised zombies—and they are talking about disunity in this government! There are so many factions in the Labor Party that even those in the Labor Party forget which faction they are in now. You should ask Senator Carr which faction he now is in.

A government senator: Or Senator Conroy.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, he is former Senator Conroy now. Let's not speak ill of the dead, except to say this. I note the Minister for Defence has graced the debate with her presence. The Labor Party kept trying to find someone to be shadow minister for defence and kept picking the absolute worst people possible. The comment about Senator Conroy reminded me of that.

I am reducing my time. As I say, 13 minutes will not allow me to but scratch the surface of the great advances that have occurred in this nation since the advent of the coalition government. I will start with defence, as the minister is here. A wonderful white paper has set the plans for defence for years into the future. It is a credible, costed plan that will protect Australia. All credit to you, Minister, for presiding over that wonderful white paper.

Part of the white paper, indirectly, was the comprehensive strategic partnership with Singapore which will result in 14,000 Singaporean troops training at new defence facilities in Australia—$1.2 billion worth. That is all paid for by the Singaporeans, I might say. It does not cost the Australian taxpayer one cent. But it will bring those troops, their money, their leave time and their operations to Australia. That is, again, one of the most exciting things that has happened up in Townsville where I am based.

Talking about Townsville reminds me of the wonderful work the government did with the northern Australia white paper. Already there has been $6 billion worth of investment into northern Australia as a result of the coalition government's interest in the north. That is opposed to what you get from Labor. Labor have no interest in the north at all. They did used to have Senator McLucas in here who I rarely agreed with, but at least she was from the north and at least she put a northern view to the Labor Party. Of course, the Labor Party got rid of her. They dumped her and replaced with a union hack, a failed state candidate who not only comes from Brisbane but has moved further south to the Gold Coast. That is the interest the Labor Party have in northern Australia.

Australia's economic growth has strengthened 3.3 per cent—the fastest growth of any of the G7 economies. That is a wonderful credit to the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and all of the cabinet. But importantly after Labor and the Greens—because they always work together; they are one and the same—had six years in government they did not do one thing about multinational tax avoidance. It was left to the incoming coalition government to start on the world's toughest laws to make multinational companies pay their tax. Labor and the Greens did absolutely nothing in six years.

Senator Polley: You're trying to rewrite history.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: These are all facts, Senator Polley, not the fairytales that we will hear from you when you get to your feet next.

Over the past year, over 220,000 new jobs have been created. Perhaps, Senator Polley, you might be interested in this because you and some of your colleagues talk a lot about women in jobs. You never did much when you were in government. I say to you that, of the 220,000 new jobs created, over 60 per cent have gone to women. So the coalition does not use the mantra or the rhetoric that the Labor Party do. It does not use quotas to get women in places. The coalition government actually goes out and does it and gets new jobs for women.

Senator O'Neill mentioned the NBN. Well, Senator O'Neill, I was connected up just on Friday. I have not yet been at home long enough to know the advantages of the NBN, but it is happening even in my small country town of Ayr way up in North Queensland where I live. The NBN is now there. If I had waited for Senator Conroy's model I would have been a much older man by the time the NBN came around. Congratulations to Senator Fifield on the advances he has made and the sense he has brought to the NBN.

I live in the regions. I travel a lot in the regions. I understand the importance of communications out there, and we are working on that: high-speed broadband to regional and remote areas, phone towers and 3,000 blackspots addressed with the $220 million Mobile Black Spot Program. The original satellite was not well received, and I have acknowledged that and spoken to my government about that. The proof is in the pudding, but I am told the second satellite will hugely improve communications in the more remote areas.

New export trade agreements, the advantages to Australia of the Korea, Japan, China, Singapore and Thailand free trade agreements, all of which were negotiated under coalition governments, have been enormous. They will be particularly helpful for people in the state I represent, Queensland, where we have to trade to live. We produce far more than we can consume locally, and these free trade agreements—particularly in the areas of beef, sugar and horticulture—are wonderful news for Australians in the primary industries area.

Mental health care was mentioned by the previous speaker, obviously without any idea of the facts of the matter. Under the coalition government there has been increased funding for more localised mental health care and support services. There was an additional $192 million provided for 12 suicide prevention centres, 10 more headspace facilities—that wonderful initiative of the coalition government—and an innovative IT trial for 24/7 support. We are implementing a national innovation and science agenda. There is over $1 billion to make it easier for innovative enterprises to access capital and collaborate with researchers to attract talent from overseas.

When history is written in relation to the story of border security in Australia the Labor Party will be seen as the wreckers. They have no plan at all. They opened the borders and allowed in anyone who might like to head to Australia. It was no matter, it seemed, to the Labor Party that thousands of them, that we know of, were killed on the way. That did not seem to worry the Labor Party or the Greens. Under the coalition government we have the world's most generous refugee policy. We have a proper immigration policy that is properly planned. When people come here they are welcomed here, they have jobs and they have homes. Labor just opened the borders and let anybody in at all.

The coalition government has done a wonderful job as well in security in these dangerous times. The No. 1 duty of a government is to try and keep its citizens safe and we have done that with increased legislative activity and support for ASIO, the AFP and other agencies.

Health care was mentioned. I do not know where Senator O'Neill lives or what left-wing rag she reads, but the fact of the matter is that bulk-billing by GPs has increased to record levels with 17 million more GP services bulk-billed in 2015-16 compared to Labor's last year of office. Thanks to Minister Ley, medicines are now cheaper and we have added life-saving medicines to the PBS. I am so proud of what we have done with health. Senator Smith was involved in the hepatitis C campaign. A drug that is worth about $80,000 for one person for one treatment is now on the PBS for, what, $37. Thanks to Senator Smith and his little team for working on that. I proudly say that I had a little part in that as well.

We have a National Innovation and Science Agenda, which is something that will equip Australia for the future. The note that I am glancing at talks about infrastructure. I am sorry, not only do I need another 13 minutes but also I need another 13 hours just to talk about infrastructure. The former Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, said he wanted to be known as the 'infrastructure Prime Minister'. He certainly set the path there and that has been continued by Mr Turnbull with over $50 billion in land infrastructure, promoting investment and building the economy. That is what it is all about: building the economy. Also, some $4 billion is going into public transport investment to get cities moving. We have a minister looking after cities. I cannot even start the list of infrastructure things. Therefore, I will move on a bit to talk about NDIS, which is supporting 460 people living with disabilities over the next period of time.

Our National Ice Action Strategy includes some $3 million to improve treatment, after care, education, prevention, support and community engagement in dealing with that horrible scourge of Australian society. I could go on and on but my time is just about out.

Finally, I will come back to this chamber. One of the other things this government was able to do was to introduce Senate voting reform, so that we are ending the days of backroom deals and preference whisperers. Individual voters now decide who represents them in the Senate. It has been a wonderful litany of progress and advancement under the Turnbull government.

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