May 10, 2017









Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (13:55): Today I want to talk about the unfair budget that was delivered last night that delivers tax handouts to multinationals and millionaires while hurting Australian families. The reality is that the only people to benefit from this budget are big business and the well-off.

Before I get into the detail of the budget and why Queensland missed out, I want to respond to Senator O'Sullivan. I am sure the people of country and rural Queensland sleep well at night thinking that Senator O'Sullivan has got their interests. I know that he has a healthy property portfolio but, if he believes what was in the budget last night on the inland rail, then I have a Harbour Bridge to sell him, because what was in the budget last night on the inland rail is not going to do anything to get this project off the ground. When you look at a feasibility study from 2015, it shows that a $10-billion inland railway from Melbourne to Brisbane could not pay for itself without government funding in the first 50 years of operation, because that $10-billion price tag would make a significant impact on the government's balance sheet. Whilst the economic analysis that inland rail would deliver net economic benefit to Australia, the expected operating revenue over 50 years will not cover the initial capital investment required to build the railway, hence a substantial public funding combination is required to deliver inland rail. And that is not what we had in the budget last night—it is a giant hoax. Unfortunately, Senator O'Sullivan and the Nationals have been hoodwinked yet again. It is not going to deliver that railway for Queensland and other communities that would benefit from it.

I think the interesting thing about this budget is also the internal dynamics of the Liberal and National parties in the lead-up to it. If you were following the prebudget speculation, you would not have got any idea about what was going to be in the budget last night. At one stage, the centrepiece was going to be housing affordability, yet we saw nothing substantial last night that is going to tackle that challenge that so many people face.

One of the things I focused on was looking at the promises they made in the last election campaign and whether they were going to deliver on them. There is one that I have been particularly interested in, because I know how tough people are doing it in regional Queensland—that is the promise they made a year ago around a regional jobs and investment package. Despite making that promise 12 months ago, not one cent has been spent in communities in Queensland that need investment from the federal government. Over the last month, I have been to Cairns, Townsville, Innisfail, Bowen, Mackay, Gladstone, and places that would have benefited from this, and the government has failed to deliver. It is outrageous that they have done that. Not one job has been created despite their promises.

They also go on about the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility fund. Again, not one project has been funded. Not one dollar has been spent. Not one job has been created apart from those fat-cat executives that they have employed from down south who now, apparently, call Cairns home. But when it comes to Queensland—I think this is particularly sad and probably no surprise. In the lead-up to the budget, Mr Morrison has been to Germany twice this year, yet he has not been to Queensland once. Is it any wonder that he would bring forward a budget that does nothing for Queensland when he has not even been there? It is no wonder he does not understand the difficulties that people are facing in Central Queensland and why he has not put any money into infrastructure funding, apart from rehashing old promises about the Bruce Highway. It is not good enough and it is something that regional Queenslanders will be disappointed in.

When we look at this budget, what does it mean for Queensland? It means no money for cross-river rail. Senator O'Sullivan did not even know where it was; that is how much of a senator he is for Queensland. It means a tax cut for millionaires and a tax hike for every working Australian. Gross debt will now pass half a trillion dollars. There are no projects identified in regional funding commitments—just the National Party trying to identify another pork barrel. It is not good enough. This budget will fail the people of Queensland.

The PRESIDENT: It being 2 pm, we move to questions without notice.