Consideration in Detail (Cognate Debate)
Economics and Governance Committee, Report
Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (3.56 pm): I rise to speak on the estimates report of the State
Development and Regional Industries Committee. During estimates, Labor committee members wasted time and ran protection to obstruct scrutiny of the minister, the department and the issues. It demonstrated contempt for Queenslanders and taxpayers. People wanted answers about: staff levels; reduced R&D funding; reduced funding to tackle red imported fire ants; labour shortages; why AgTech is being outsourced to industry; timber supply shortages caused by successive policy failures; the impacts of fishing reforms; the future of agricultural careers after the government closed the agricultural colleges and the fire sale of their assets.
Queensland’s budget has record spending, record debt and eye-watering borrowings, yet DAF
are still going backwards in funding, staff and services. DAF’s budget is cut by more than $64 million from what they spent last year. It is cut by $34 million from what they planned to spend last year.
Whichever way you spin it, DAF’s budget is cut. There are almost 40,000 extra public servants, but DAF are going backwards in staff. DAF plan for seven less staff than they planned for last year. Despite the extra bureaucrats, they plan to have 10 less than they actually had.
The minister was prepared with a ridiculous analogy which only highlighted his ignorance. The minister ignorantly tried to explain the cuts by quoting the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator, the EYCI, which is the carcass or dressed weight of cattle. He unwisely used an example of someone attending a cattle sale with a budget based on quotes of the carcass weight. Farmers do not buy on carcass weight at a cattle sale; meatworks buyers do. Carcass weight is after the beast has been killed. It is an indicator of the abattoir price or over the hook when it is ready to go to the butcher shop. At a store cattle sale, you buy a breeder or steer to take home, grow and fatten. Those prices have nothing to do with the EYCI. The minister may have been better looking at the feeder steer price.
No wonder agriculture is in trouble under this minister. He does not understand. It is also
concerning that no-one told him. The same minister supported his Labor Senate colleague Minister Ludwig in his decimation of the live cattle trade in 2011. The minister said nothing then and has learnt nothing since about cattle. It cost the beef industry billions of dollars just before the onset of a significant drought and has resulted in a class action worth a billion dollars to Australian taxpayers. Ignorance is dangerous and expensive. The minister thinks budgets are only estimates that you do not need to keep to. If a farmer borrows $50,000 from the bank, the bank lends against your budget. It will not pay if you go over. If you write a cheque for $55,000, it will be dishonoured. They will not cover it.
Budget and staff cuts are not just numbers on a spreadsheet; they impact service delivery. The fire ant eradication program faces fears of infestation rather than eradication. Excuses of accounting adjustments are used to justify $25.1 million in cuts. Cutting staff from the team that is supposed to resolve the labour shortage crisis implies that the government believes everything is fine. This failure means Queenslanders will pay more for their fruit and vegetables until real action is taken. The Sustainable Fisheries Strategy, which will put many operators out of business, had no regulatory impact statement. The government could not answer whether any analysis has been completed on the mental health effects this will have.
Construction is being impacted by a serious shortage of timber. The long-term supply chain
implications were started by Labor’s own failed forestry policy. Successive Labor governments have significantly reduced native timber plantings. Former premier Beattie promised in the 1999 SEQ regional forest agreement that our long-term transition for the timber industry is based on plantation timber, which will set up a viable long-term hardwood timber industry for the next 50 to 100 years. I ask: was the replacement stock supposed to come from the 5,000 hectares or 10 million trees promised by former premier Peter Beattie and former minister Henry Palaszczuk? The commitment was never kept. The failed forestry policy is now impacting supply.
Instead of addressing the policy failure, Labor committee members ran protection, claiming it is 20 years old. Trees take more than 20 years to grow. Decisions then cause problems now. To not know that shows complete ignorance about the long-term implications of government policy. Estimates show that ignorance is dangerous and expensive.