Senator McGRATH: It is a great honour to be a senator for Queensland, and it is a great honour to represent the people of Queensland, whether it is dealing with the yellow crazy ants of Far North Queensland or being the patron for the restoration of the World War II igloo on the Atherton Tablelands. It is a great honour, and the LNP carries the torch for all Queenslanders. You only have to look at our Senate team and the senators who represent the LNP to see that we are a diverse team with a lot of senators who bring skills and abilities to the table that are sadly missing in the Labor Party.
My colleagues Senators Macdonald, Brandis, O’Sullivan, Canavan and Lindgren are talented and great people. We come from all parts of the state and represent all of Queensland. Senator Macdonald is based in Townsville. He is the father of the Senate who has been a lifelong champion for the people of North Queensland. Senator Canavan is based in Rockhampton and is the new Minister for Northern Australia. Senator O’Sullivan has his office in Toowoomba in the state’s south-west, and my office is in Nambour between the Sunshine Coast and the Wide Bay regions. We also have Senators Lindgren and Brandis with their offices in Brisbane.
Two weeks ago we saw the real difference between the Labor Party and the Liberal-National Party with the selection of our Senate teams. We did not have any of the smoke-filled rooms with union heavyweights moving knobbly pieces around on a board. We had a democratic process in our party where party members chose our Senate team for the next election. Senators Brandis, O’Sullivan and Lindgren were reselected and they were joined by two new Senate candidates, Gerard Rennick and Dan Ryan. As a reflection of the truly democratic nature of the LNP, these positions were decided on merit and not according to factional allegiances as occurs in the Queensland Labor Party where we saw Senator McLucas and ordinary members overruled by union heavies and factional warlords. North Queensland is going to miss out as Senator McLucas’s replacement is not taking over her office in Cairns but, instead, is going to be based down in the south-east corner.
In the other place, the Liberal-National Party has a fantastic team of MPs who have been holding the flame for the Liberal-National Party since the last election. They are going to be joined by great candidates like Ted O’Brien in Fairfax, David Littleproud in Maranoa, Teresa Harding in Blair, Nick Monsour in Moreton, Freya Ostapovitch in Rankin, David Kingston in Lilley and Fiona Ward in Griffith. They are already fighting to improve their communities and to provide a strong voice as part of the federal coalition team.
We are supporting innovation with our $1.1 billion innovation agenda to incentivise entrepreneurs and invest in education and research. We are opening up new trade markets with the China, Japan and Korean free trade agreements and the Trans-Pacific Partnership which are unlocking new opportunities for exporters and for our economy. We are standing up to the thuggery that is paralysing Australia’s construction sites, while those opposite sit back and take their orders from their trade union paymasters in opposing reform. We are investing more than $50 billion in infrastructure for roads, rail, airports and water, and we are developing a plan for Northern Australia for the first time in our nation’s history.
We are investing in a comprehensive and responsible long-term plan to defend our nation and advance our national interest to develop a more potent, agile and engaged Australian Defence Force. Defence funding will increase by $29.9 billion over the next 10 years, delivering on our commitment to return defence spending to two per cent of GDP within a decade and reversing the savage $18 billion worth of cuts that Labor made while in office which sent defence spending spiralling to its lowest level since 1938.
The coalition government have a very good story to tell. There have been 421,000 jobs created since we came into office, with 301,000 jobs in 2015 alone. That is the strongest calendar-year growth since 2006 when the coalition were last in government under John Howard. In 2013, under Labor, employment growth was only 1,900 per month which is an annual growth rate of 0.2 per cent. Over the past year, under the coalition, jobs growth has been more than 10 times that amount with more than 25,000 jobs created per month at an annual growth rate of 2.6 per cent. And we are fixing the budget by reducing Labor’s debt and deficit, with the underlying deficit falling from 2.3 per cent of GDP to 0.7 per cent over the forward estimates.
The coalition is also delivering on its promise to keep Australians safe. We have stopped the flow of boats that was unleashed by the open borders policy of Labor. And, unlike Labor, the coalition will work carefully in assessing tax reform options, rather than the Labor way of rushing changes that will hurt confidence, discourage investment, and damage the economy—like the carbon tax, the mining tax and their proposals on negative gearing. And we have just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the election of the Howard government, when the Australian people took their baseball bats to the economic recklessness of the Keating Labor government. Sadly, some things never change. Bill Shorten and Labor, and their high-taxing, high-spending policies, would once again take Australia down the path of economic destitution. It is the federal coalition that will fight to ensure Australians are able to achieve the exciting and prosperous future that lies ahead.
In my own home state of Queensland, we see the Labor government on the brink of collapse, frozen at the wheel. The Palaszczuk Labor government cannot make a decision but have launched over 80 reviews. Like their federal counterparts, they are under the thumb of union bosses, having met with their masters nearly 250 times since February 2015. The result has been a freeze in infrastructure investment, seeing unemployment rise, business confidence collapse and a growing state debt. Queensland deserves better.
And in Brisbane City the LNP’s Team Quirk has been working hard for the last five years to deliver practical, sensible and reliable leadership to the people of Queensland’s capital. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk is passionate about making Brisbane a more liveable, accessible and sustainable city, where new jobs and opportunities thrive. Under Lord Mayor Quirk, Brisbane has become a hub for enterprise, education, innovation, culture and development. Team Quirk have improved public transport, with over 1,000 new buses and 11 new CityCats since 2004, and high-frequency services to reduce congestion on city roads. They have delivered the Clem7, Airportlink, Go Between Bridge and Legacy Way projects, along with much-needed suburban road projects. Over two million trees have been planted, and 500 hectares of bushland have been preserved. The Brisbane City Council now uses 100 per cent renewable energy. Team Quirk has made Brisbane more liveable, delivering new traineeships; 100 per cent low-floor accessible buses; free wi-fi in Brisbane libraries and parks and the CBD; as well as new parks and upgrades. Brisbane has seen more four- and five-star hotels built in the last two years than in the past 10 years, and Brisbane has been the home of world-class events, like the successful 2014 G20 summit, Brisbane International tennis, and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
But all we have gotten from Labor is another dirty, dirty smear campaign—which today has been discredited by the Crime and Corruption Commission. So what we get from Labor is more smear, more dirt campaigns, more debt, more deficit and deceit. And that is all that Labor has to offer to the people of Brisbane. It is vital that Team Quirk is elected at the local government elections this weekend so that we can keep Brisbane on the right track with new infrastructure, improve services and have great amenities for the city. The LNP is the party that is delivering for Queenslanders, unlike the Labor Party and their union paymasters. Whether it is federal, state or local, only the Liberal National Party and the coalition is a champion of small government, low taxes, strong communities and personal freedom.