Jun 2014

BILLS - Asset Recycling Fund Bill 2014, Asset Recycling Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2014

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- Consideration in Detail 

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (12:54): I think the proposed amendments for tighter controls put forward by Labor are pretty reasonable. I cannot speak to this legislation without giving examples. Money was spent in Queensland—and in Australia, for that matter—to build railway lines into the coalfields. That is how we got the coal industry. This was infrastructure to develop and create jobs and real wealth for this nation. Then money was used to build power stations for aluminium. It was not squandered on self-indulgence or on winning votes in Queensland. There were no votes at a little place called Gladstone—there was no-one living there at the time. This is how we got the aluminium industry and beef roads industry. They are major export items. Beef was not really very important at all until the great Jack McEwen built the 'beef road scheme'.

Another good example is my cattle station and other blocks of land that I own. I and a friend owned half a million acres. On that half a million acres I do not think any cattle had ever been run properly. There was not one inch of fencing on 500,000 acres back in 1973, 1974 or whenever it was. The bloke on the neighbouring station, Esmeralda, sold it because he thought: 'What's the use of owning a station if you can't get into or out of it?' When the roads were built, we realised that these places, which had been—to quote the great Slim Dusty—'land wasted' were not land wasted at all. It was not wasted land; it had just been land that was wasted until we put the development there. The coal industry and the aluminium industry have been on average two of the biggest export items for the last 50 years, and then there were the beef roads. They were all created by infrastructure.

I do not think these amendments will be particularly effective because I think there will be a continuation of the spending. To again quote Robbie Katter: 'What did you get for your $5,000 million tunnel? One of the leading economists in this country—I think it was John Quiggin—referred to 'tunnel vision'. Governments today cannot see the potential of a coal industry, an ethanol industry, an aluminium industry or a beef industry. They cannot see that. All they know is that they will get to work a bit faster or get home a bit faster. That is the size of their vision for their country.

Let me be very specific: my great-grandad got on a ship to America and, out of his own money, bought two huge cranes to give to the Port of Townsville. He hoped that the board, which he was a member of, would pay him back, and they did as luck would have it. But he had no authority to do what he did, and if they had not paid him, well, at least we would have a port in North Queensland. Those two great cranes created that port. His grandson, my father, and his cousin, who was chairman, served on the Townsville Port Authority. So we had a vested interest in the port authority. The point I am coming to is that the government is going to sell the port. Already major industries in North Queensland are organising to build another port somewhere else, because, if the port is privately owned, the private owner can charge whatever they like. People are not going to go to a port where they can be charged anything that the owner wants to charge them. This is a multi-user government facility, and the government has a responsibility to provide the service at a reasonable charge to everybody.
The other issue is that, if Mount Isa Mines dominate that port and effectively control it—under private enterprise arrangements they might be the owner—they are not going to let their competitors use that port—of course they aren't. Once again, as the member for Melbourne said previously, the people built that port—great people like my great-grandad—out of their own money and their own time. It took him almost a year to get over there and buy the cranes and then come back again—six months, anyway, in those days. These people did that willingly because it was the right thing to do. The port is bringing in $38.5 million a year. The railway line, which is up for sale, is bringing in $450 million. So $500 million a year is now going to go to a private corporation.

(Time expired)

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