Budget treats regional WA with contempt

Speech to Parliament

May 10

“As a rural and regional member of this parliament I am pleased to speak on this significant matter of public importance. What concerns me is that this Labor government is treating rural and regional Australia, and the Australians who live there, with contempt.

The Labor government, particularly in Western Australia, is treating us like a cash cow. The evidence is in this budget with the mining tax—over 65 per cent out of Western Australia—and the carbon tax.

My electorate of Forrest and the greater south-west of Western Australia are going to be contributing hundreds of millions of dollars through the carbon tax.

That is what the government is going to rip out of some of the biggest employers in my part of the world. Businesses such as Wespine, Wesfarmers Kleenheat Gas, the Water Corporation, Simcoa and Iluka are all on the government’s carbon tax incomplete hit list that was announced just last week.

I have warned many companies elsewhere in my electorate that the responsibility and the liability for the carbon tax lies with them.

If their names are not on this list, they need take no comfort because they are liable and responsible when this tax commences in July.

They are major employers like Alcoa, Alinta, Worsley Alumina, the Dampier to Bunbury natural gas pipeline, Verve Energy, Synergy. That is hundreds of millions of dollars coming out of the south-west of Western Australia and this really concerns me.

Regional Australians and regional communities are hardworking.

They are fiercely independent and they are resilient. They make the best of whatever life throws at them and they show pretty good humour because they have a number of daily challenges simply because they live and work in rural and regional Australia.

You have seen them crack a joke at a drought or a flood or a fire or a storm despite having to live through it and the devastating effects. They deal with the blight of weeds and feral animal invasions and they stay positive.

But regional Australia now has to deal with the blight of the Gillard government. Even these stalwart Australians have lost their smiles. You only have to come to my electorate to see it.

Regional Australia, along with members like myself, are absolutely appalled at the ignorance of and the contempt they receive from this government.

This is the government that will take its total interest bearing liabilities to $293 billion. No wonder they have tried to hide this by raising the credit card limit in this nation to $300 billion.

This government’s debt will take generations to repay, particularly if this economy continues to be managed by the Labor government.

There is no hope for this country under a Labor government. On the basis of the truly aspirational surpluses claimed in the budget forward estimates, the debt will take decades to pay off with an interest bill of $8 billion in 2015-16.

After every Australian pays interest on their own homes, farms and businesses, they have to pay another $350 in taxes just to foot the government’s interest bill. Tax paying Australian parents will have to cover the $350 of interest for each year for each child they have.

That is the equivalent of the so-called kids bonus. These same kids that are referred to by this government are the ones who will ultimately have to pay off Labor’s debt splurge. They are going to have to pay. Regional and rural people know that mining and industry and agriculture make up around 60 per cent of our export trade and underpin our entire economy. But where does that this government think that comes from?

It is from rural and regional Australia. Yet we are imposing a carbon tax and a mining tax on rural and regional Australians, on small businesses and on every single individual and family.

Every time it is coming out of every electricity point. Every time you turn on anything that requires electricity to do anything, you are going to be contributing to the carbon tax.

The government is depending on the regions to continue to provide the wealth but is desperately missing in action.

As we saw the other night in the Treasurer’s presentation, this is the tax which must not be named, the carbon tax. It is a massive hit on rural and regional communities, taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of my electorate alone and the south-west of Western Australia.

In that light it is no wonder that the Treasurer could not even bring himself to name it on Tuesday night. We could not hear the words ‘carbon tax’. It is a new tax on every power point in every house and every business in Australia. It will rip millions of dollars out of the regions.

Common sense tells Australians, who have great common sense, that they will all pay more under the carbon tax. Common sense also tells them that taxing businesses and industry in Australia—not in other countries because our competitors will not have this same tax—is going to drive industry and business and jobs offshore. It will not cut carbon emissions but will simply redistribute wealth.

The carbon tax will have an immediate and a devastating later direct impact on transport.

Anybody who lives in regional and rural Australia knows that we rely on transport for everything and mostly it comes on the back of a truck. Practically everything that is delivered in this nation comes on the back of a truck.

The carbon tax is going to apply to road transport from 2014, so you will get a reduction in the diesel fuel rebate of 6.858c on heavy vehicles delivering vital goods to and from regional Australia.

That is expected to cost the industry and its customers $510 million. Guess what? That is most of us in regional and rural Australia. In 2014-15, it will be $510 million alone on top of the recent 2.4c a litre rise in the diesel fuel excise.

This means higher costs and greater impacts in regional areas. What is it about rural and regional Australia that this government does not understand?

I think perhaps there are not enough members who live and work there and understand the impact of carbon taxes and mining taxes because that is where they operate, in rural and regional Australia.

In 2007, Australian trucks transported 277 million tonnes of food and animals around the country, and the proposed tax is going to add cost to every tonne and every item.

Whether it is mining, marine or rail service, they will start paying the tax this year. But someone should really point out to the Prime Minister that mining, oil and gas production and fishing take place in regional areas.

As someone from a rural and regional area, I would really like to hear this Prime Minister talk about farmers in Australia because I do not know that I have heard that; someone else may have.

Clearly, we have got a Prime Minister who does not understand where food and fibre comes from in this country. So where does the government think Western Australia’s wheat, gas and iron ore come from? All this really means is that the carbon tax will not just apply to 400 or 500 businesses; it will initially apply to 60,000 businesses because they face increased air, rail and maritime transport costs.

By 2014, when the tax is applied to trucks on roads that number will jump to 100,000 businesses and millions of Australian families. Where will customers be hit the most by this? Where will Australians be hit the most by this? This tax will have a compounding impact on regional, rural and remote Australia. No-one should be in any doubt about this.

We have seen the cuts that the government has made to biosecurity—an absolute national disgrace. Agricultural production drives $155 billion a year in economic production in this country.

It generates about 1.6 million Australian jobs and $32 billion in farm exports a year. Around the world we see that Australian produced food is regarded as safe, clean and green.

It is essential that we retain that reputation. The quarantine budget has been slashed by more than $58 million since 2009. On top of carbon taxes, mining taxes, this budget is a greater attack on rural and regional Australia.”