The Coalition is Strengthening the Economy

I am not from Western Australia, but I think those Western Australians that may be listening to or reading about the events of tonight will have just witnessed a completely policy-free zone from Senator Lines there. 

It was 10 minutes completely absent of any policies or any alternative plan from the Labor Party. It had nothing at all to offer the Australian people and nothing at all to offer the people of Canning who this weekend are deciding who will represent them.

I am not from the west and I am not trying to presume what they would think, but I reckon most people around this country like to hear from politicians who have a plan and a vision and something to say about where they see Australia's future going. We do not resile for one second from the choices that this government has made in government to make Australia a stronger place, to repair the damage that has been done to our budget and to remove some taxes that were particularly hurting Australian businesses and increasing the bills and costs of living for Australian consumers. Those are decisions we are proud of. Those are decisions that we have made to make Australia a stronger place, a better place, a recovering place after the six years of mismanagement and, in particular, loss of control of our nation's budget that we suffered through under the Labor government.

Now we are starting to rebuild, and we are proud of that, but what I am proud of, more importantly, are the plans and vision we have for the future, which we heard nothing about in the contribution from Senator Lines earlier. What I am proud of is that this government has a plan to back the wealth-producing industries of our nation. We have a plan to grow agriculture in our nation—a multibillion dollar white paper to help grow agriculture in our nation, to build new dams, to go to the frontiers of our nation and build something that the Australian people will be proud of generations from today. We have a great opportunity here in Australia to supply the growing demands and needs, particularly of our Asian neighbours to our north, for products that we specialise in and can supply.

We need to have a government that is going to back Australians who want to do things. We have a government right now who are willing to do that by investing $100 million in beef roads in our north, an investment that would not have been done since the 1960s when the Menzies government first built many of those roads that I am sure Senator Scullion has driven many long hours on in his time. There is another $400 million for roads across the north to help connect our beef industry, particularly, but other industries that are emerging across the north as well. We have $500 million to build dams—to finally get over the 30 years of dam phobia in this country and build things that can store water, because if you can store water you store wealth by creating the ability to grow food or other products. We need to build new dams if we want to grow our nation and prosper into the future. We have vision to do that as a coalition government.

We have a vision for the north more generally, for the areas of our country which are not as developed as they could be. Again, there are enormous opportunities—for example, deepwater ports in Weipa and Darwin that can be expanded in close proximity to Asia. Our problem as a country has always been our distance. We have been far from markets, far from Europe, far from the United States, and it has been tough and difficult for our economy to integrate into the world given the vast distances of the Pacific and Indian oceans. But now we have an opportunity where we are proximate to the main epicentre of economic growth in our future. I am proud that we have a policy to help capture that opportunity by investing in our north, by unlocking the huge potential that exists.

That applies particularly to our first Australians, who are land rich but cash poor and opportunities have been denied them, given the way native title locks up economic opportunity. I want to pay tribute to the man sitting in front of me here, Senator Scullion, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, who gets down and sits in the dirt with our first Australians and understands what they want to achieve. Primarily what they want to achieve is economic opportunity, opportunity just like all of us here in this place have been lucky enough to benefit from. Our first Australians have many assets, particularly thanks to the Native Title Act and the property rights they have, but they are denied the opportunity to exploit those assets at the moment, given the legalese and disputes that any development initiative gets bogged down in. We have provided more than $100 million to unlock the opportunity that exists in native title, in land held by traditional owners, by helping to complete the native title claims that exist in the north, hopefully within a decade. This is a great initiative by Senator Scullion. We are also investing in a tropical medical research centre at James Cook University at Townsville, again to build on the benefits we have in Northern Australia and to help build Northern Australia.

We are not only building infrastructure in the north, though; we have a plan for building more than $50 billion of infrastructure all around Australia, including the Second Range Crossing where I used to live in Toowoomba—a great opportunity to connect Western Queensland to the growing markets of Asia—and the M4 East in Sydney. We did have plan for a highway in Melbourne, the East West Link. Unfortunately the new state government ripped up contracts with private suppliers who were going to provide that road, but we are working with the Victorian government to get new infrastructure in place to build our nation, create jobs and take the great economic opportunity that we have in this nation.

They are our plans for the Australian people. We have been talking about them for some time. Senator Lines had 10 minutes here in this place to outline an alternative vision for our nation. She failed miserably. She spent none of that time doing that for the people of Canning. Instead, she resorted to the politics of personal attack and division. That is not what the Australian people want. They want to see a vision for our future, and we are delivering that.

I should be fair to the Labor Party. I should be fairer than I have been in my first 6½ minutes, because they do have some policies. But Senator Lines did not mention them tonight. I think she did not mention them because she is a little bit embarrassed about them. They have announced some policies this year. This year was going to be the year of ideas for the Leader of the Opposition, and he has had a few ideas. He has had ideas for three new taxes already—a superannuation tax, a carbon tax and a renewable energy tax to boot, to push up power prices for Australian households and to hit Australian taxpayers and savers with a new tax on their superannuation. That is not our approach. That is not my approach as a member of the National Party and a proud member of the coalition. We do not believe higher taxes are the way to grow our country, to unlock the opportunities we all have so that we all reach as individuals the potential that we have. We believe in rewarding hard work and effort and not punishing people through higher taxes on the economy.

There is another policy that I think Senator Lines might have been a bit embarrassed about. I read in the paper today that they do have a policy for the people of Canning. There is one policy they are putting forward to the people of Canning. It is a car park! Maybe the people of Canning need that car park—I do not live there. But that is their alternative vision for our nation: a car park. Not a dam, not a road, not a highway, not a new port—

Senator Rhiannon: "Not a coal mine!"

Not a coal mine! Thank you, Senator Rhiannon. We believe in them, too—they produce plenty of jobs, and certainly people in Western Australia realise how important mining is for their economy. Not a coal mine and certainly not a car park. While car parks are very important, I am sure Senator Rhiannon is not a supporter of car parks. I think this one is at a train station, but I still do not think she would support that. Maybe a bike rack might be more Senator Rhiannon's go. Nonetheless, that is their vision. That is their nation-building vision for our country: a car park, and maybe some bike racks at the same time.

I do not think that is enough for the Australian people. I think they crave something a little deeper, stronger and more visionary than that. The coalition government has those policies in place, with its various white papers including the white paper on agriculture, its support for our mining industry, its support for the industries that create so much for our nation, that create the jobs that all of us rely on and the jobs that will be created for our young Australians to help solve one of the biggest problems in our nation—youth unemployment.

Those are the things that the people of Canning will be keeping in their minds this Saturday. They are the alternative visions of a government that wants to grow our country, support people who are willing to have a go, back hard-working Australians and keep a strong and secure Australia.

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