Questions without notice – Regional Australia: Employment

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (15:10): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Water. Minister, will you update the House on how the Morrison-Joyce government is creating jobs in regional communities by undertaking reforms to remove regulation duplication? Is the minister aware of any alternatives?

Mr PITT (HinklerMinister for Resources and Water) (15:09): I thank the honourable member for Dawson. We know the member for Dawson wasn’t born in a crossfire hurricane, but he’s got a touch of the cyclone! And, when it comes to creating jobs in the member for Dawson’s electorate, we know it’s alright now because it’s a gas, gas, gas! We are delivering a gas-led recovery—strategic basin plans and more opportunities for jobs. We know that, around the member’s electorate, as we are progressing the North Bowen and the Galilee basins, the potential for those gas basins to land a gas pipeline into Mackay and drive jobs is incredibly important.

But there are restrictions. We are trying to ensure that we are streamlining regulations as part of our deregulation agenda. We are looking to ensure, particularly around the EPBC, that there is not duplication. Why should you have to have what is effectively the same level of approval at all different levels of government? So we are working closely to get that done, and I absolutely acknowledge the work of the Minister for the Environment in terms of driving this forward. But we know that there are challenges in the space.

In fact, only this week, the Leader of the Opposition seems to want to have a bob each way. We’ve seen media reports that they have had to have another vote in caucus about supporting us for the Beetaloo basin in terms of our strategic plan and the funding we have provided to bring forward those up to 6,000 jobs—to bring forward that investment. And what do we see? We see them send out someone from the other place—the Labor Northern Territory senator—to say, ‘Actually, we don’t like it and we don’t support it.’ So they need to make a determination.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr PITT: And I’d say to the Leader of the Opposition that there are plenty of opportunities for a personal explanation to rule this out.

The SPEAKER: No; the minister will resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition on a point of order?

Mr Albanese: Yes, Mr Speaker. I refer to your earlier ruling, about 15 minutes ago, about members of the government standing at the equivalent of the dispatch box and asking questions of the opposition.

The SPEAKER: I just say to the Leader of the Opposition: I chose my words carefully; I said I ‘may well’. But the minister will not ask questions of the opposition. And I’m giving fair warning now that, if that happens, I will take action. It may well be that I grant an indulgence or it may well be that that’s the end of your contribution.

Mr PITT: Those opposite—in terms of alternative policies—at the last election committed to what they called a landmark $14 million to the Environmental Defenders Office. This is an organisation who is currently out addressing, out charging down, what we are trying to do in the Beetaloo. We want to ensure that there is consistency in policy. We want confidence for the industry to invest. We want to ensure that what we are doing actually happens. The resources sector has delivered 279,000 direct jobs. We want those projects to come forward early. We want that investment to be early.

The SPEAKER: I just say to the minister that I have been listening to him and trying to ensure that he is being relevant to the question. On my notes of the question, the question was about reducing the duplication of regulations and he was asked whether there were alternatives. So the alternatives are to that, and he needs to be relevant to the question that he has been asked. Just because the question says, ‘Are there any alternatives?’ the alternatives don’t stretch to every alternative anyone can ever think of on any topic there or otherwise. So let me be very clear: he can discuss alternatives to the duplication of regulations but not give us a description of his belief of other policies. The minister has the call.

Mr PITT: Yes, Mr Speaker. We will ensure you get satisfaction. We want to make sure that when we deregulate we can bring forward these projects that create jobs in regional areas just like the member for Dawson’s electorate. We know that the Australian people understand. They can’t always get what they want, but the coalition government will get them what they need. In that case, it is about jobs and job creation. It is about the deregulation agenda to ensure that we can get these projects up earlier, whether they’re in the member for Dawson’s electorate, the member for Flynn’s electorate or right across the country, and we’re committed to doing just that.

Mr Morrison: Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.

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