Senator Barnaby Joyce
Canberra 28th August 2011
Look at these great big doors in this room. They also look pretty good and work pretty well. They are a marvelous attribute and adornment to this building.
The best door that actually represents the Labor party is this one. So just bear with me for one second. This is the Labor party.
[Opens door onto brick wall]
This is just remarkable isn’t it, looks great, goes nowhere.
On a more serious note, last night we went to the War Memorial and it really sought of moves me to hear Wacka talk about his father Reg and his Uncle and I was sitting next to a former advisor from the Labor party and his grand uncle. They had all fought with Lancasters.
We also had Frank Jackson and it wasn’t until then that I realized that half my town was named after Frank Jackson.
Why did these people do it? Why did these people you know make this commitment to our nation? What made them crawl into those planes where the chances of you getting back were very, very slim?
They did it I think for three main reasons.
First was family. They believed in their family. They wanted to protect their family.
They did it for their nation. A real sense of patriotism not nationalism, patriotism, love of their nation.
And they did it because they respected the office holders who sent them there. They had the respect for their office holders.
What we have in this nation at the moment is something to be honest is disgusting. We are starting to lose respect for the office holders of this nation.
And that stain is going out over all politicians. Where they see what is happening on the television at the moment, my heart sinks, and not so much by the actions of a certain member for Dobell but these fantastic fairytales that are just rolling out one after another to cover this up. It is contemptible what is happening in our nation at the moment and it must stop. We must turn this nation around and that is what really is the crucial thing that is before us at the moment.
You come here because you believe in this party, I come here because I believe in this party. We come to this town because we believe in this nation and we must reinvest respect in the office that was once held by Curtin, by Chifley, by Howard, by ‘Black Jack’ McEwen. These giants and now look what we have got.
Ladies and gentlemen, we live in the convergence of history. Australia is at a crossroads of world political and economic affairs. What we have domestically here are two things, we have panic and tax, ‘panic attack’, that is our government.
In our region, great opportunities beckon because we have the rise of China and India. We have what we have always wanted which is substantial markets at our doorstep for us to capitalise on.
But as the east rises, the west’s problems become more manifest more, stark. What will the world look like with a Chinese superpower in our backyard? And we will have a Chinese superpower in our backyard. How have we prepared for it? Where are we right now in regards to dealing with the issue?
To navigate these precarious seas, our nation’s leadership, in all fields, requires the greatest capacity of selfless aptitude, competence and perseverance.
Australia cannot afford to be sentimental. We must be professionally decisive about how we position ourselves. Europe has to deal with Europe’s problems, and some of them are insurmountable. The American people will insist that the US deals with US problems so its engagement in external affairs will start to wind down.
If Australia keeps mounting up debt, shutting down industries and concocting insane taxes for no effect, then the effect for us will be a mighty fall.
A wheat farmer is well advised to concentrate on growing wheat. You know a wheat grower has a problem when you start finding them going into forays of yabbies and aquaculture and crawbobs, where they go off the main business game. You know there is a problem coming.
You could always see it in accountancy practices when people started concentrating on peripheral issues when they should have been concentrating on their client base.
We must understand Australia’s core business and take and unsentimental assessment of our nation’s core business.
We must invest now and concentrate efforts not in the benevolent thoughts that one can afford when you have money in the bank and a gentle economic breeze in your sails. But we must concentrate on utter pragmatism.
Now I want to discuss why the Nationals party is so essential because it delivers this pragmatism.
I was astounded, astounded in my nation, to wake up one morning and to find out that apparently the nation was being run by Four Corners. They just closed down the cattle industry, a $300 million industry, they closed it down, overnight, literally
Our biggest neighbour to our north, 250 million people, they didn’t even get a phone call. This was like diplomacy via a brick through your window and a note attached. You just cannot deal with people like that. You can’t treat people like that as business person in your own business. How on earth did our nation start dealing with people like that? Where did that come from?
Now we are struggling, stumbling along to try to get it all back up again. Yes of course we had to deal with the acts of brutality. But you don’t deal with it by insulting one of your most important neighbours and shutting down one of your most vital industries.
So the National party was absolutely crucial in turning that around. Others were as well, I accept that, but the National Party is a unified force. There were no disparate voices within the National Party who said “this is insane, you have got to shut it down straight away.” That is a clear example.
Everybody at the start that “no, you are on the wrong side of this one”. Well, try it now, roadtest that now. The vast majority believe that what our government did then was completely insane.
Now the nation has apparently decided over the course of a Labor party government and others that is apparently immoral to go fishing, it is illegal to cut down trees and, carbon emissions, well that is breathing out, it is height of moral turpitude.
Apparently it is fine to strip fish somewhere else, in south-east Asia, off Thailand, that’s fine. It is alright to strip clear in another south-east nation, knock over every tree you see, that is apparently ok. And it’s ok to shut down the carbon emitting industries in Australia and move them all over to somewhere else where they just go on emitting carbon. That is apparently fine.
But if you do it here that’s somehow morally repugnant.
The Delphic oracles, which gather around the lawns up there, proclaimed that Australia feeding itself was apparently an inconvenience and we would be better to turn our nation’s food bowl, that is the Murray-Darling basin, into a national park. It was the Nationals as a unified force, with no disparate voices, who stood up and said this is insanity. We cannot just shut down Australia’s capacity to feed itself that would be the height of a government that has lost its way.
And now we are turning around that debate as well. It is not a wise thing to shut down the mechanism that produces 40 per cent of our nation’s food. Who would want to go and take away 40 per cent of your salary packet? Why would you shut down 40 per cent of your nation’s food bowl?
When one wise sage came up with the brilliant idea to re-engineer the whole of our economy on a colourless, odourless gas, who stood against this insanity? It was the Nationals party as a single voice.
They said there was only seven per cent of people who agree with you, we can’t get one economist to agree with you. Well, we are getting a few now and we have a lot more than seven per cent of people following us now.
That was absolutely essential and one of the crucial roles, and one of the greatest adornments of this party in recent history was to turn around this debate and to start reclaiming our nation.
The whole rationale of why people work is that the fruits of your labour reflect something. You work to collect cash and turn it into a real asset. A real asset that you really own. By the sweat of your brow you own this asset. We believe in that. It is fundamental, the core of our belief.
But for this system to work we must start respecting property rights. We must believe that if I worked for something then I own it. There is no point going to work if I don’t own it. You must tell me at the start, at the end I don’t own this because then I will stay home like every other lazy bugger and just sit down. But if you want me to go to work, you want to drive me, you must allow me the right of ownership at the end.
But in this nation we keep on intruding on this property right. Intruding with these little moral reasons on why we must take an asset off you.
What is the point of generations of my family paying off a property when overnight I can find that someone has a superior right to the ownership than I do? Someone is part of a transaction with a person who I have never met, in a room I have never been to, can then have a superior right over my land than me.
If we believe in a market economy, then don’t fool yourself, stand up for what is right.
So who has been standing up to make sure that coal seam gas is developed in a way which respects these rights? The Nationals party, we have moved this debate from the middle pages to the front pages because it is essential that we do. A capacity to eat is a higher hierarchy of needs. We must maintain our capacity to feed our nation. We must protect prime agricultural land.
I am looking forward to the response to the Nationals party extension to the Senate inquiry and I think it is proper to wait for that response, but I think there are some fundamental things we must look at.
Communal assets such as aquifers are just that, communal assets and cannot be destroyed, there should no impact on them which takes away their underlying value. Mining should not be located near residential areas. If people want to put their residential area close to the mine, that is another issue. We have to make sure people have quiet enjoyment of the houses they own. Property rights must be respected, prime agricultural land is a higher asset. That is not all land, that is prime agricultural land. A proper pecuniary return must be given to the farmer. We have been finding out that farmers have been getting less than 75 cents for every thousand dollars that they get off the gas wells. Now that is just being ripped off.
Every person will tell you that you are politically incorrect if you say that. Well, you know what the role of the Nationals party is so you have to go out and say it.
Our influence in all of these debates is why the Nationals party remains relevant to regional Australia. The continuing importance of our party is reflected in the remarkable success we have had over the years.
The comparative success of the Nationals at the 2010 election remains a largely untold story. Nationals candidates won 38.6 per cent of the primary vote in the seats they ran in, a higher vote than the Labor party — although obtaining a higher vote than the Labor party at the moment is probably not such a mean feat.
It is the Nationals party that has the clear ability to articulate a regional view. Every other party has to deal with their urban constituency and that clouds the view, tempers the view, shuts the view down. But that’s our role, we have got to have that clear decisive capacity to state what is important to our people and move the debate because of it.
The Federal Nationals achieved a primary vote swing of 4.4 per cent, bigger than the swing to the Greens of 3.97 per cent. And I am always proud of the fact that we are greater swingers than the Greens.
I particularly want to thank the efforts of our Senate team. Nige, whose work with indigenous people is something that has taken a constituency that has gone without the proper connection without the proper attention. And Nige has taken that side up and he is actually getting on the ground, he is doing it and he truly and utterly believes in it and it comes from his soul. He believes in this job and he is connected to this job. It’s great to have him there.
I believe that if we get there, we are going to have one of the first, truly emboldened and dedicated people in one of the hardest portfolios that this nation has, in indigenous affairs.
Fiona is so impressed with what I have done that she has left and gone home but she texted me before and wished me the best of luck. Fiona has been great, she is a stickler for detail and keeps the place organized, she keeps the place tidy. It’s a pleasure to work with her. She is passionate and has real conviction and if you see her in the joint party room and she is one of the people that you can rely on to jump to her feet and state her case. She is certainly a person that has got that real sort of fire in her belly in her own way and a great asset for this party to have.
Wacka has taken on some marvelous causes. He is taking on the fight on behalf of people that have been done over by the big banks, those people who have been done over by receivers. Some people have been charging over $900 an hour for looking at a piece of paper.
In my accountancy practice there was a guilt trip that came over me to charge the sort of money that receivers are getting away with but these people just do it and something had to be said. And John “Wacka” Williams got up and said it.
He has taken this fight on and he has actually started to say, justify your money. Justify why you can charge that sort of money. These people are in the corner and you can kick these people to pieces. If that is what you believe then John “Wacka” Williams is out to get you.
Now he has got a very close working relationship with the CEOs of all the major banks and that is exactly what we want.
Bossie is a bastion of issues. Anything that can possibly give him an angle against the Greens he is on. He’s consistent view of fighting for the rights of fishermen. Fighting for the rights of the unborn.
These things are the core, they have been the stalwart of our party, making sure that those who don’t have a voice are respected. And Bossie has been doing that for so many years and he continues to do it. He is unrelenting, he is never ever changed. He is totally and utterly focused, he continues to drive us crazy every time we are trying to organise question time or organise notice of motions. Bossie just comes in and bombs them but he believes in it.
That’s great because we have a strong constituency and we are not so scared of being politically incorrect that we can’t say it. We have a strong Christian constituency and we will continue to stand up for them. Because we are not embarrassed about saying that. Other people are, we’re not.
I also want to praise someone who has just been elected at the last election, Bridget McKenzie. Bridget McKenzie is really going to shine a light on all of us. She has apparently been to university!
Bridget is doing such a wonderful job. It’s early days, she has been committed to this job even before she started. She kept on coming down here, she was like a moth, everytime you turned a light on, she was around. But she has this absolute commitment to the job and she will be a great asset to us.
I also want to pay tribute to the state parties who have done such a marvelous job in the last elections. But now they have the job in front of them because they have to maintain the respect of their people. Now is the hard work for them.
It is so essential that our nation continues to represent, protect and progress the interests of regional Australia.
On coming to government we must move to decentralise. We must start move those departments that we can to regional areas. I was fascinated as I go through the ERC process that the plague locusts body is in Fhyswick. I have never had much of a problem with plague locusts in Fhyswick, I have had some problems with other things, but not that.
We have to look at actions and look where we can reinvest in regional areas by the proper movement of certain government departments, or part thereof, to regional areas because that is what we should do. We are a regional based party we should believe in that.
I want to just quickly touch on gross domestic product. So often in the discussions about gross domestic product, people overstate the argument of proportion while losing focus on the location of the source.
If we sit nine people at a table and that person there puts $100 in his pocket, and he walks across to that table and devises the transactions to get the $100 moved around the nine people at that table, then the GDP of that table will be $1000. We have got to remember if that person had not turned up with that $100 in the first place then the GDP of that table would be zero. The people at that table would say we are ninety per cent of the GDP. But they are 90 per cent of nothing unless the money actually turns up.
And the person who turns up with the money in this nation is called regional Australia. You have got to recognize that. Just think about it logically. Where are the coal fields, they are in regional Australia. Where are the iron ore fields, they’re in regional Australia. Where are the cotton fields? In my little town last year $640 million worth of cotton for about 4000 people, regional Australia. Where is the wheat? Regional Australia. Where are the cattle? Regional Australia. Where are some of the premier tourism venues, Ayers Rock or the Great Barrier Reef, regional Australia.
So it’s not paracholism or sugar bagging to invest where you make your money. It makes absolutely pragmatic sense , it is what a business does. It invests where you make your money because that is the only way you get yourself out of a problem.
It is very much a false illusion that a nation can stand alone as a nation of paper-folders and kitchen renovators. It is evident in this room today that we are a people that love our imports. From the televisions we are watching down here, the cameras these gentlemen have down there, the clothes you are wearing, the watches you are wearing, the cars you drove in here, what’s in the car, electronic goods. So who is putting something in the boat and sending it in the other direction and what is it? Are you going to invest in those people or do you blindly think you can live without them and think that this is a sustainable outcome, it is not.
It is a false illusion to believe that you can have DVDs, you can have new cars, Bosch, Hewlett-Packard, watch movies from overseas but nobody anywhere else is putting anything on the boat to pay for it. You must invest in the business where you make your money. Not in the crawbobs and the yabbies but in the wheat. You must make sure that this nation is doing it.
So we have a duty for our nation to make sure that we invest in regional Australia.
I would like to reflect on one of my mentors, and someone who supported me in my election to the Senate, and that was Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. When he first came into government he got himself a little bit of debt about him.
But the difference between him and the luminaries we have running the show at the moment, he actually invested in things that made a difference.
He invested in dams, he invested in the electrification of the railway lines, he invested in international airports, in Cairns, in Townsville, he invested in the major motorways.
They complained at the time that he made Wivenhoe Dam too big and it was never going to be required. He had vision and then that vision and that investment brought a return and when he left the Treasury was overflowing with money because the investment paid off. That is the difference.
That is the fundamental aspect you have to have in economics, make sure the investment pays off.
So what have we invested in? Well we have invested $1.5 billion putting fluffy stuff in the ceiling. Then we spent another $1 billion pulling it back out again because we burnt down 194 houses.
We spent $16.2 billion investing in school halls and I challenge my children when they come home, I challenge them whether they have got any smarter.
Comment allez vous mademoiselle … but they don’t know what I am saying. They haven’t taught them French, they know the same languages as they knew before. They have the same level of maths. We haven’t brought about a different outcome we have just squandered money.
And it is there and it is dormant. It is in every yard, in every corner of every yard. Every time I see that black sign, “Building the Education Revolution”, I just think in my head “ripped off”.
That is what I am going to think because luckily enough they put polling booths around those signs and I will be pointing at them as people walk up and saying this is where your money went.
Now we have another classic example of what taxes can do. Joh Bjelke-Petersen got rid of probate and for that we got the Gold Coast. Out of a swamp they built a city that has got a bigger population than Tasmania that is not a bad effort.
You have got to have vision, and vision can deliver real outcomes.
Now after two decades of almost unbroken Labor rule, Queensland finds itself as the most poorly performing state in the nation with the highest unemployment rate.
So what has changed in Queensland? Did the coal disappear? Did the Great Barrier Reef sink? Did the venues disappear? No, the only thing that has changed is the management. The management has changed and the place has lost its credit rating. It is heading towards $85 billion in debt.
That is what management can do and the management that is managing them is now managing us and taking this whole nation on this insane journey to perdition.
If you dig under it you see the reasons why. We have bats that have more rights than people, we have farmers in the best land who have had their rural soul sold out because the government has run out of money and sold every mining lease they could possibly get their hand on underneath all the land they could possibly find.
We have found in Queensland now it is illegal to go fishing. You can get arrested, you can literally throw a line in with your son and get thrown in jail.
These are all the things that are symbiotic with a bad government, that creates a sort of cancer that sits inside the government.
We have wild rivers that can keep the indigenous people in poverty. What is right about that? Do we think it is romantic to have them stand on one leg with a stick? Is that what we want for them?
They don’t want it. Fred Pascoe doesn’t want it. They want to get ahead. It is really unusual, they actually want a higher standard of living. How peculiar? How unjust that they would actually want to go somewhere? But what we have done is sat down and decided that we will shut their economic future up and we will let them parade around with nominal Greens and the Worldwide Fund for Nature and some lunatic Senator we had, Steve Fielding, and absolutely quarantine their right to get ahead. Well, we don’t believe in that.
We are the people that are going to try and take these people forward because that is what people want. Every person wants to be comfortable, every person wants a future. There is no differentiation on the colour of your skin, where you can say this person can go ahead and this person is a tourist attraction.
If we emulate Labor’s ideas we will duplicate their results. We have to have a virtual policy epiphany. We have to be brave enough to have that policy epiphany.
The government says we have a problem with productivity but we are imposing a $9 billion broad-based consumption tax on the costs of doing everything. That is the carbon tax, that’s totally unproductive. The whole point of the tax is to make things dearer so you cannot afford them, so you do not buy them. That is how the tax works it is a pricing mechanism.
Is it going to change the climate, no it is not? It is merely a gesture. Just a gesture that makes you poorer. At the start you will be sending $3.5 billion overseas for carbon credits.
What is that for? Someone gets on the internet and says I have a carbon credit do you have a bank account and you send them your money. At the end we are sending $57 billion a year overseas to be gone forever. Money that could have been spent to build hospitals and all these other things but this is the logic of the Labor party. We are just sending this money off and we wonder why we are going out the back door.
The government makes promises that it will deliver a surplus but in the last budget it made $18 billion of additional spending commitments, followed by a carbon tax. Even with a tax they have stuffed it up. They bring in a tax and it costs us $4.3 billion after they have received the money because everything they touch is disastrous. Their agreement with Bob Brown has cost them another $10 billion in off-budget spending on renewable energy.
There is no prospect that this government can deliver a change of direction. They have neither the authority nor the inclination to do so.
Because it lacks authority, this government is focused on what the parliament can do for the Labor party, not what the parliament can do for the Australian people. This government is more focused on the 6 votes of the crossbenches than the 13 million votes in the electorate.
The reality is now clear: the independents are independent in name only. They are now the Labor party’s most loyal lieutenants. They have voted with the government in this parliament, even though they don’t have to, around 75 per cent of the time, including by trying to cover up for the Member for Dobell.
When the government has a problem with the Murray-Darling they trot out Mr Windsor. His inquiry makes 21 recommendations of which the government accepts one.
Have a problem with a certain member north of Sydney you see Mr Oakeshott. I don’t know if that makes the problem worse or better.
These independents said they would withdraw their support if there was an act of “gross malfeasance”. That was Mr Windsor’s quote I think. Well, what does he call what is happening on the television at the moment? What is that the height of moral academy is it? But you don’t hear boo from Tony.
When they struck their deal with Julia Gillard the Prime Minister said she would “deliver” for regional Australia. So let’s have a look at what they have delivered.
In the north of our nation, they have delivered a plan to shut down the live cattle trade.
In the middle of our nation, they have a delivered a plan to shut down the food bowl of our nation.
In the south of our nation, they have delivered a plan to shut down the forestry industry.
And to shut down whatever is left they have delivered a carbon tax.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is not only the most incompetent government in our history, it is our most negative and least-inspiring government. This government is following a nihilistic agenda of the Greens to shut down everything.
The Labor party has got into this trap because they thought they could do a deal with the Greens. We all remember the photo with Bob Brown with the corsage signing what looked awfully like a marriage registry with everybody standing behind.
From that point on our nation went downhill.
The Greens always follows this path: find the high-colour issue, beatify the cause, then never be satisfied as they ride the horse called Insatiable Nihilism to the town of Shut Down.
These tactics are going to take our constituency to a very bad place.
The fact is the Labor party is not thinking hard enough about the person working in the timber mill in Smithton, the person working on the cattle station near Tenant Creek, the person owning the motel in Deniliquin. What they are thinking about is what goes on in a little building up there to keep their support but it’s not getting the support of our nation.
I remember in Biloela talking to a gentleman who said “why is the government introducing a carbon tax to give me a green job, I like the job I have.” That is a sentiment we are getting all around Australia.
They don’t want a green job, they like the job they have.
There are no green jobs, there are only high paying jobs and low paying jobs. If our decision in this nation is to increase the price of power then something’s got to give.
And, of course, it is either the price of wages or it means you don’t have a job. Something has got to give.
We can’t keep racking up more debt and putting on taxes and still think that we can maintain the same wealth generation capacity that underpins our standard of living. We have to focus on the things we can control, not futile attempts at trying to change the world.
At some point this country needs to reflect on its seemingly undying belief that windmills and solar panels are the future. The fact is that wind is double and solar 4 times more expensive than coal or gas fired power. Do you think the Australian people will reward governments that double their electricity bills?
Of course we should look to become more efficient and do things with less. We have been doing that for centuries without a carbon tax. We didn’t invent the wheel because we taxed walking and we didn’t invent the car because we taxed horses.
We are not going to generate wealth by subsidising more expensive ways of doing things. At some point we need to re-evaluate the subsidies we give to renewable energy whose main effect is to increase the price of electricity for families and businesses. The Productivity Commission put these subsidies at over $600 million per year and that is set to increase as the renewable energy target grows.
We have to look at what we can affect in this nation. Look at the things that influence our productive capacity, interest rates, our dollar, power, wages, global trade and politics. We are not going to affect global trade and politics, you can put that one aside.
We have to apparently get all of these carbon bills through because the Greens want to go to Durban. They have got to go to Durban. I have heard it is great for fishing and also for surfing but they have got to go there for a green conference.
Wages, well the Australian people sent us a message at the last elections, so we respect their decision.
Power, yes we can affect that and we are because we are putting the price of power up. Why? Because we think we can cool the planet from a room up there. That is amazing why can’t we do it in that room as well?
Interest rates, well we can affect that. If we keep borrowing money we will force up interest rates.
People in manufacturing are unfortunately making a very logical and mercenary decision. They are saying I can do it cheaper over there because of how much you have stuffed this country up.
And we have got to try to turn it around. We have got to turn it around.
People criticise the federal Coalition for being too negative but one of the most positive things we could do for this country is to stop this insane tax and stop this government’s record spending and waste.
The government just increased our debt ceiling to a quarter of trillion dollars. Just because other countries do, there is no need to have the ability to quote our debt in trillions of dollars.
Just this Friday your nation’s gross debt topped $200 billion. So far this Labor government has been in power for 1372 days and has borrowed an average of over $100 million each of those days.
And you have got to pay this back. No one else. There is no fairy godmother. You’re going to pay this money back.
We can’t keep going on like this.
The Nationals vision for the future is a basic but effective one. A plan that we know from our record delivers results.
Stop increasing the taxes that hold us back, invest in our regions to increase economic opportunity and start paying back debt so that we are stronger and more resilient.
That is why the Nationals have been at the policy forefront over the past year to design positive programs to provide a future for regional Australia. This program is all about attracting the people and the capital to make regional Australia a more prosperous place.
It was the Nationals party that developed the Infrastructure Partnerships Scheme. This policy aims to leverage government funding by providing a 10 cents in the dollar tax deduction for investments in nation-building infrastructure. So, under this scheme, a superannuation fund would pay only 5 cents in the dollar on investments that added to our nation building capacity.
It was the Nationals party that has pushed for a revamp of the zone taxation scheme. This revamp will provide targeted tax concessions to five rural areas. Under this scheme, individuals in eligible areas would pay no tax up to $55,000, and a family with one child would pay no tax below $75,000. Because the Nationals want people to fly in and live, not fly in and fly out.
We want to have the vision for new areas of our nation to open up. Whether that is in Weipa, whether that is in the Kimberleys and to say the politically incorrect thing to those in urban constituencies that if our nation has a future then this is what we must do.
New infrastructure in new areas is real vision, real vision. The Nationals have been the party to get dams back on the agenda and the Nationals have the deputy chair on the dams committee that is actually going to build dams because we know that water is wealth and if you can construct the dams, you can construct the wealth to take us forward.
We have not built a major dam in this country for over 20 years. In 1980 we could store in dams about 4.5 megalitres per person. Now the figure is just over 3.5 megalitres and if don’t do anything by 2050, if we don’t build any more dams, it will be below 2.5 megalitres per person.
The dams taskforce we have has already visited north Australia earlier this year. Georgetown sees at least 4000 gigalitres go down the Gilbert River every year. The people of Hughendon and Richmond have access to about 2000 gigalitres — of which only about 5 per cent is currently used. These flows meander down through vast tracts of deep, self-mulching loams with immense food producing capacity.
People like Fred Pascoe, Mayor of Carpentaria Shire and head of the Gulf Savannah Development Corporation. He sees that the only way for his fellow indigenous people to get ahead is to have access to the jobs and opportunities that other Australians take for granted. I wish people would speak to Fred before they start making decisions that we should not have any more dams.
This year it has been the Nationals that have stressed that we need to keep control of our strategic assets in this nation. As a country we will continue to rely and require foreign investment but I am deeply concerned about the increasing control that foreign, state-owned companies are increasingly gaining over our strategic assets.
We cannot predict what future arguments our children might have with the companies that are investing in Australia. Corporations are strong but we can take the Directors to court. Even Rupert Murdoch can be hauled before the Parliament. Could we do the same to a foreign leader of a foreign country when it is their nation’s state that actually owns the asset?
Do we have the capacity or are we fooling ourselves in our capacity to deal with that problem? Do you in the room have the courage to take the leader of a major economic power to court? Maybe the repercussions of that action would be worse than just to let it go through.
So why are we putting our nation in this position? Why aren’t we wiser about the possible problems that would happen to us in the future with state-owned enterprises? They are completely different to private individuals, completely different to corporations.
They have a long term view, they don’t necessarily have to rely on the market principle. They are securing their future for their people and if I was them I would do exactly the same.
But their people are not our people. Our people are the ones we are meant to be managing for.
The Nationals have been at the forefront of creating a Coalition taskgroup on foreign investment, Warren chairs it, and there is also an inquiry in the Senate. A recent OECD report has concluded that Australia has a more liberal approach to foreign investment in agriculture than in other countries. I believe our foreign investment review guidelines can be strengthened and the processes that the Coalition has established can suggest practical ways of achieving this.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Nationals have put regional Australia and its interests back on the agenda over the past few years. The fact is there is only one party in the Parliament that represents regional Australia. The independents have proven that they don’t.
In contrast, the Nationals have succeeded over the last few years by putting regional Australia first, whether that is popular or not. Our policies are made in regional Australia, not in Sydney, not in Canberra, not in Melbourne, not in Brisbane.
Like regional Australia, I think our party has a bright future as long as we ceaselessly and fearlessly stand up for the interests of regional Australia and in doing so we will be standing up for Australia.
It is the party of our future and it is the future of our country. It focuses on regional Australia to get this country back on track.
In closing, ladies and gentlemen, the greatest risk to our nation is not catastrophic climate change, it is not. The greatest risk to our nation is catastrophic global economic change and if we do not change the direction of this nation to deal with this threat then we are naïve and indolent.