Consideration of Senate Message – Debt Limit
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (17:24): In response, I would like to speak about the fact that it is Labor’s debt, and I would like to discuss where it came from. It is very clear to me that the money has already been spent. This is the reason the debt cap needs to be increased and, as the amendment has come back, to be deleted—to have no debt ceiling. Quite simply, the money was spent on things like school halls. I have been to many locations, up to 100, where the school hall was replicated side-by-side with one which they already had. When I said, ‘Why do you have a second school hall exactly the same as the other one?’ they said, ‘We were told we had to spend the money; we didn’t have a choice.’ That is not the way we do business on this side of the House and it is certainly the way business should not be done, but I will give them some credit. In areas like Tara, Miles and St George, where there was absolutely nothing, where there was no local community facility, there was some benefit. But in the many hundreds of coastal locations there were literally thousands of replications, whether they be libraries or other BER projects. The very first school project I went to I said to the construction company, ‘Are you sure this cost $2 million?’ They said, ‘Absolutely: design and construct project,’ I said, ‘How many do you have?’ They said, ‘Ten,’ I said, ‘What do you have to do?’ They said, ‘Same again.’ I asked, ‘What about the design component?’ They answered, ‘That’s fine; we covered that in the original quotation, no problems at all.’ It cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Just because somebody sends your credit card in the mail, that does not mean you necessarily have to fill it. Just because we have an option to use the money, that does not mean that we are going to spend it. We are not the United States. This is Australia, and this is the Australian parliament.
I sat in this place in recent weeks as a new member of the House. I continue to hear from those opposite how they represent the union movement. I am more interested to hear what it is that they intend to do for their electorates. Over and over they say that they represent the unions; that they represent the workers. I find it absolutely outrageous that they would indicate to those on this side of the House that they do not fairly represent all people because I am a worker. That is exactly where I come from. I hold a trade qualification. I work on a farm. I also have a degree in engineering. I represent people equally. That is why we are here and that is why I am on this side of the House and sit with the Nationals—because the Nationals are for regional Australia. That is what we are about.
I would like to talk briefly about a gentleman called Craig van Rooyen, who is an immigrant to this country. He came through with the correct process. It took years to arrive and they work hard. They have a lychee farm in my electorate of Hinkler. They were the people who broke the story on backpacker cheques. You may recall a story in The Australian during the election campaign. Mr van Rooyen came to me and said, ‘How is it possible that I have a cheque for a backpacker who has not worked at this location for two years, yet they get a cheque for $900?’ That is an absolute waste, yet it continues.
The house insulation scheme: as an electrician I think it was criminal. People lost their lives because of that project. They should be very careful about what it is that they put forward because it was clearly poorly-planned. There was evidence provided to people in this place, and they knew that over and over people with no training were put at risk in areas where they should not have been—and some lost their lives. It is time that people on this side of the House recognise that those opposite are not interested in what we do for Australia. What we do here is in the best interests of all people in our electorates—not just union members, not just workers but all people in the electorate. I look forward to the process where this legislation goes through the Senate and we can get on with the business of running this country.