Seafood Directions 2015: Selling Our Story, Crown Perth Convention Centre.
Thank you very much Arno [Verboon], and can I not only acknowledge your chairmanship of the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council, but also [as] the chair of Seafood Directions 2015.
Frank Seeley AM, my good friend Dean Brown, Flinders University Vice Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling, Seeley International Managing Director Paul Proctor, and everyone else here today.
You are all very special guests.
It’s an honour to have been invited here today to speak at the opening of the wine industry’s 2014 Outlook Conference.
Senator RUSTON (South Australia) (14:56): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Conroy. I refer the minister to Labor's planned review of the carbon tax required to be undertaken in the next term of parliament under Labor's own carbon tax laws. It requires consideration of the effectiveness of the coverage of emissions and potential emissions under the carbon tax. Will the minister rule out a re-elected Labor government ever expanding the coverage of the carbon tax to the agricultural sector or the family car?
I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak on the Australia Council Bill 2013. As my colleague Senator Edwards pointed out, because of the guillotining, many of our colleagues will not get the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this really important bill. The Australia Council is an extraordinarily important organisation and provides an extraordinarily important role in this country. I acknowledge some of the wonderful things that, over the last 50 years of the Australia Council's existence, it has been able to achieve on the Australian landscape.
I would like to comment on the previously tabled report in relation to the Tasmanian Forestry Grants Program. Administration of this program was a responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and it was an exit program. The purpose of the program was to assist the Tasmanian native forest industry to adjust to an industry downturn and to reduce the amount of native forest harvesting through voluntary exit. Up to $3 million was made available to contractors wishing to exit the industry. All applications were to be assessed by a panel from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; and the Tasmanian government. The basis of these assessments was a merit score and a set of assessment criteria. In February 2012, $44 million worth of grants were approved by this panel.
I, too, rise to take note of answers given by Senator Ludwig to questions from Senator McKenzie and to the responses we have heard from senators Urquhart and Stephens. Regarding the comment about the 4.5 per cent loan being at a reasonable interest rate, I do not think anyone is disagreeing with this. But this is actually not the point. The point raised is that 4.5 per cent is actually 1.5 per cent over the interest rate at which the government can borrow this money. So we have a situation where the federal government are crowing about helping out our farmers by providing them with concessional loans, while they are actually profiting from it. That is the crux of the issue. It is about profiteering on something. They have gone out there and made it sound like they are jolly good chaps because they have put these concessional loans in place, but it is really just a revenue measure. Those opposite then have the audacity to say that it is the fault of the state and territory governments for not taking this up. But it is they who have been left with the actual cost and expense of administering these loans, while the federal government are making money out of it. I think this shows extraordinary hypocrisy and it is something the government need to be called to account on. It is a complete and utter outrage.
Environment and Communications Legislation Committee report (Broadcasting Services Amendment (Material of Local Significance) Bill 2013)
Senator RUSTON (South Australia) (16:50): I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.
Senator RUSTON: I move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
I particularly wanted to speak on this Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee report given that the reason that Senator Xenophon decided to move the bill that this report refers to, the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Material of Local Significance) Bill 2013, was that regional news services were being withdrawn from the area in which I live. WIN TV, the television broadcaster in the Riverland and the Mount Gambier area in South Australia, made a decision, very tragically, a few months ago that they were no longer in a position to be able to provide a news service. Only a matter of a few months prior to that, they had made a decision that they could afford only one news service—which actually combined both areas—and, subsequent to that, was their decision that they could no longer afford to do any news service at all.
It was interesting to see Senator Lines being sworn in this morning. I wonder how long it will take before she realises things are not always what they seem in this place. When I arrived here a number of months ago, I believed far more than I do now that, as Senator Sinodinos says, good policy will always trump bad politics. But it appears once again that here we have another example of politics trumping policy. Having had an involvement in the hearings relating to this bill, I am really concerned that there is more a political agenda than any real objective. If there were any real objectives, you would have to ask why we are only applying this to coal seam gas and related coal mining. One would have thought that a water trigger under the EPBC Act should apply to anything.