Barnaby: The Bush Has Been Rorted

21 Jul

Senator Joyce writes for the Canberra Times:

Australia must invest in the regions that are the source of our wealth. It is nauseating to hear the pejorative “pork barrelling” used for what is strategic investment. We must think of the benefits of regionalism logically: where are the coal mines, the iron ore mines, wheat paddocks, cotton fields, the cattle and many of the tourism attractions?

Why is a bus network in a capital city “nation-building investment” but a road in regional Australia welfare?

Ask yourself a very simple question: how many of the consumer items that reflect your standard of living came from overseas? So who is sending something in the other direction to pay for all of this?

While only one-third of Australians live in regional areas, over half of our exports come from regional Australia. If a person with $2 goes to a table of four and kicks off a series of transactions that move the coin around the table, then broadly speaking the gross domestic product of that table would be $10. The person with the coin is often regional Australia and, if they didn’t turn up, the GDP of the four remaining people would be zero.

People often lose sight of the fundamental economics of Australia by failing to think of the source of our wealth, not just its location. My shire of Balonne in western Queensland produces $600 million of cotton, over $100 million of grain, about $30-40 million worth of cattle each year, as well as sheep, wool, grapes, onions, kangaroo meat, wild pigs and free range eggs. about $750 million of annual renewable income from about 5000 people.

Investing in the areas that produce this wealth would seem to me to be a pretty smart thing to do, especially if we want to pay off our $197 billion in gross debt, plus a similar amount in state government debt.

Canberra, if we don’t start paying off debt rather than just accumulating it you might not have a job.

Parts of Queensland and NSW are currently living with the coal seam gas boom.

In some areas the roads are getting wrecked. There are people charging over the land in white Toyota wagons with red flags on what looks like a fishing pole strapped to the bullbar.

Some of their wells are producing $1million a day in gross income. For this, farmers get anywhere between a slab of beer at the worst and up to about $10,000 a year at the best. So the farmer gets less than 1 per cent of the income stream from the wells that sit on their place, affecting the land’s value and in some instances completely compromising how the farm works.

Are there new houses in these regions? No, generally not, just trucked in demountables called ”dongas”, lined up like barracks. It looks like you’ve been invaded by an army. Their lifestyle is not very good and their contribution to the community is generally not very good either.

When the wool industry came they developed the pubs, the roads and the towns. The money stayed local and was spent locally. With wool production in regional Australia we were the richest nation on earth.

With the cattle industry we had the development of Northern Australia and genuine progress in the income of indigenous people in some areas and genuine dignity in having their own business and the prospect of greater independence for their communities.

But in some areas, if the coal seam gas industry left tomorrow, the only legacy they would leave is potholes. Sure, state coffers would be upset, but in some areas of regional Australia they couldn’t give a toss, in fact they would be better off without them.

Royalties must be reinvested in the regions that generate the income stream; not all royalties, but a substantial proportion. Taxation rates must be adjusted so that we can develop regions. People must be encouraged to fly in, stay and live, not fly in and fly out.

Australia must have a genuine vision for a much wider development of our regions, otherwise what we are will be as good as it gets and over time we will become tired, worn out and diminished.

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4 Responses to “Barnaby: The Bush Has Been Rorted”

  1. JMD July 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Canberra ruined a perfectly good sheep station & things haven’t got any better.

    I would suggest going the other way though, instead of taxes being redirected to the regions, from where most of the wealth is generated anyhow; why not just not tax the regions? Oh yeah… that would put the bureaucrats in the cities out of a job.

  2. Fred July 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Barnaby, are you freakin crazy! What, with all that regional land and underdeveloped towns; if any of it ever got properly developed people might move and stay out there, forsaking the big smokes. And the wrong people might profit.

    How the hell do you think we can prop up capital city real estate prices and related debt businesses and tax revenues if we encourage people to sell up and move away to cheaper places! Don’t forget mate, Australians have been worked hard to achieve some of the highest property prices in the world. And that’s despite all the bucket-loads of empty land that constantly threatens, like an evil tsunami, to drag prices back down again one day. Aussie city property price growth & maintenance is a marketing miracle to behold my friend – and you won’t be allowed to mess it up. “Land release” is not in the Aussie vernacular for nothing.

    Do the maths: one of the least populated countries on the planet; highly concentrated capital populations; some of the highest house prices on the planet. Entropy must be stopped! Those would-be first home owners can stay put, right where their demand is needed (preferably on their bums idly watching their GFC-handout-funded plasma). So, we will invest in first home owner grants and things that ensure capital city property stays expensive.

    So rural Australia will get dongas. And you and your crazy hair-brained ideas will be run out of town!

    [Remove tongue from cheek] 😉

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