May 2014

BILLS - Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2014-2015, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2014-2015, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2014-2015, Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2013-2014, Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2013-2014

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 - Second Reading 

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (16:01): I asked a question in the House on the day of the budget. Household electricity prices over nine years of corporatisation have soared from $860 to $2,100. Petrol prices following the refusal to mandate ethanol soared 50 per cent above prices in Brazil and America. The price for petrol at the bowser in the United States as we talk today is 105c a litre. It is 95c in Brazil and 149c in Australia. And, whilst it has the world's cheapest land, Australia pays the world's highest housing prices.

The answers here are very clear. Let me be very specific and give a very specific example. If you lift the speed limits from Caboolture, north of Brisbane, back to Brisbane to 125 kilometres an hour and extend the highway at five kilometres a year back to Woodford, then you can bring in 200,000 blocks of land, with two acres for each block of land. You do not require curbing, channelling, sewerage, stormwater drainage or any of those cost add-ons. Simply the delivery of electricity, water and median-strip bitumen would provide all of those blocks of land for some $50,000 to $60,000 a block, versus some $200,000 a block at the present moment for quarter-acre allotments in Brisbane. And you would still get to work in some 30 minutes, which is a hell of a lot shorter time than most people take to get to work now, with very little outlay.

The Queensland government have gone in the exact opposite direction. They have released the zoning areas which you can subdivide. I do not know the hide that they have got. Somehow in Australia we have come to the conclusion that the Crown owns all the land. Well, the Crown does not own the land; the people own the land. I always recommend very strongly that people go and see the Russell Crowe movie Robin Hood, because it is the lead-up to the Magna Carta. If you read the Magna Carta, there are three clauses that very distinctly say, 'No, Mr King, you do not own the land; we the people own the land.' If we choose to subdivide it into 200 blocks, that is our right, and you have no right to stop us. But of course your interference has driven the price of land and housing to the highest price in the world. The country with the cheapest land on earth—about $80 a hectare is the average price of land in Australia—has the highest priced house and land packages in the world. Houses are very cheap actually; it is the land that costs the money. Malcolm Turnbull, no less, presented an excellent paper on this fact some years ago.

Farm incomes are falling disastrously while food prices rise and rise. Australian farmers are paid far less than any other farmers in the world—they receive 40 per cent less than the average price throughout the world—yet our food prices are moderately high; we are in the medium-high range for food prices.
Can the Treasurer explain why these the real issues will not be addressed in the budget? The budget has passed and I can say now that none of these items have been addressed. Under corporatisation—which is sort of like half-privatisation—electricity prices for the average household have soared from $860 to $2100; so what full privatisation will do to electricity prices I will leave to your imagination. On that basis, within the next four or five years we will be looking at paying $4,000 or $5,000 per year for electricity. I do not know how a retired couple will get on having to pay that amount of money when their income is around $20,000 a year. If you add up their insurance, which is about $3,000 a home in North Queensland, their rates, which are $2,000 or $3,000 and their electricity costs, which are $2,000 or $3,000, I do not know how they are going to eat.

But the main costs of living are none of those things actually; they are housing, health, food and petrol. This budget, by putting up the price of petrol, will increase the cost of food very significantly. With the $7 you will now have to pay when you go to the doctor and the $5 you have to pay at the pharmacy, health prices will dramatically rise. As for the cost of housing, there is nothing in this budget that addresses that. And petrol, of course, is going to rise significantly. These are four of the most expensive items that any household has to face, and all of them are going to rise.

In government we act collectively; by acting collectively we can achieve truly wondrous results that we would not be able to achieve individually. The Prime Minister told us that this was the greatest infrastructure budget in Australian history, with $10,000 million for infrastructure. Well, I suppose it is about how you define infrastructure. When we were in government in Queensland in the eighties, what we meant when we used the word 'infrastructure' was that we were going to put in another railway line and another port and create 2,000 mining jobs. When the federal government uses the word 'infrastructure'—and I would like to think I was the first one to use the term 'tunnel vision', but I noticed a very prominent economist using the term last week; maybe he dreamt it up himself—what we have is tunnel vision. Clearly Queensland is the greatest example of tunnel vision. The Queensland government is supposed to be bankrupt—it sacked 15,000 public servants because the ALP bankrupted Queensland—but it has been able to pluck $5,000 million out of the air to build yet another tunnel, which will bring the total length of tunnels in Brisbane to 23 kilometres. Brisbane has about 1.2 or 1.3 million people; Sydney has over five million people and has only 14 kilometres of tunnels. So, when I say 'tunnel vision', you cannot see beyond getting to work and getting home from work five minutes earlier to watch the television—that is your idea of infrastructure and development for your country!

Let me paint the picture that the KAP, the political party to which I belong, sees as the future of Queensland. What should have been in this budget was not the taxing of ethanol but the introduction and mandating of ethanol. I have said continuously that the only country on earth now that does not have ethanol in its petrol tanks is Australia.

The reason that people introduced it is to save lives. To quote no less a person than Morris Iemma, the former Premier of New South Wales, 'I can't go another day with the deaths on my hands of people who simply don't have to die.' And, to quote the President of the Australian Medical Association, 'More people die from motor vehicle emissions than from motor vehicle accidents.'

The minute that that landmark report came out in California, the Americans immediately moved to pass an act on air quality, introducing oxygenation of their petrol—in other words, introducing ethanol into their petrol tanks. Take Brazil—60 Minutes did a report on Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo is the cleanest city in the world. It has 23 million people—more people than live in Australia—and it is the cleanest city in the world, because they are on 60 per cent ethanol. It appears to me, on the latest figures I have seen from America, that there they are on 20 per cent ethanol. By law, every single European will be on 15 per cent ethanol. So all of the Americas, all of Europe, all of Asia—and China has just announced 15 per cent ethanol—and India, the Philippines and Indonesia are on ethanol.

So why is Australia not on ethanol? It is because our governments are owned by the oil companies, of course. Whilst that sounds cliched and as if it might be old leftist rhetoric, it is simply a truism. How else can you explain that, outside of Africa and, of course, the oil producing countries, the only country on earth that is not on ethanol is us? This government has decided that it is better to send $23,000 million a year to the Middle Eastern oil producers than to send it into rural and regional Australia. Nine years ago this country was self-sufficient in oil, but, according to the NRMA report done by the Air Vice-Marshal, there will be no petrol produced in Australia at all within three or four years. The refineries are closing. Our oil wells have run dry. Yet we are a country absolutely perfectly set up for ethanol.

We have giant water resources in Australia. Half of Australia's water comes out of the Kennedy electorate, the electorate I represent. I represent only seven per cent of the surface area of Australia, but I have got over 50 per cent of the water. I can tell you how much of it we are using: about 0.0001 per cent of it. Not only is this very, very bad government but it is also immoral. In a country where our nearest neighbour has 80 million of their population going to bed hungry every night, we are sitting on water resources that could provide food for 100 million people, easily, in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the surrounding areas that have been my family's homeland for the last 150 years.

Our little tiny party might be very, very small, but we do have one thing to offer: a big vision for our country. What we say to you is: put the ethanol in and your country will be $23,000 million a year richer. Instead of putting in a tunnel and building overpasses and superhighways in our cities to give you five minutes of extra television time, you should build a railway line, as we did in Queensland, into the Galilee Basin, and provide 50,000 jobs for 150 years. That is development. That is infrastructure. It is not about building some overpass or flyover, whirligig or tunnel in Australia's major cities.

I come from the bush of Australia. We understand that you can spend money extending the homestead and putting in air-conditioning or you can spend the money on putting water into the far paddock. What we have decided to do is to spend it on ourselves and have a nice flash homestead. In the meantime, the far paddock has no cattle in it because there is no water there.

The Galilee Basin provides 12 thousand million dollars a year in income for this country. Ethanol can provide 23 thousand million dollars a year in income for this country. If the Queensland state government would have got in and agreed to the ALP government's $320 million offer—the ALP government in Queensland rejected it; so it was bipartisan in its rejection—we would have 10,000 million dollars a year coming out of the North West Queensland Mineral Province. We have no electricity, so we cannot open up those mines. Here is the great vision that will provide hundreds of thousands of jobs for Australia—a rich and prosperous country. Instead of that, we are out there buying votes. We are spending the people's money on buying votes so that we can get re-elected at the next election while our country continues to lose its manufacturing base, its motor vehicle base and its agricultural base.

(Time expired)

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Email: Bob.Katter.MP@aph.gov.au