Grievance Debate - Great things happening in Hinkler
Mr PITT (Hinkler—Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (19:00): I rise to speak about a number of fantastic things that are happening in my electorate of Hinkler because this government is delivering. Last Friday I launched my annual shop local campaign, calling on local residents to support local businesses this Christmas. The #bundybayandbush campaign promotes the benefits of shopping locally. Buying and spending locally starts a cycle that will benefit everyone in the Hinkler electorate. Supporting our local businesses and being tourists in our own backyards injects money and confidence into the local economy. This then helps businesses create jobs and opportunities for current and future generations.
For anyone who might be listening, on the off-chance they are near a radio or online, who does not know much about the electorate, let me tell you what a wonderful place it is. Hinkler is home to some of Queensland's best natural holiday destinations,. Known as the 'gateway to the Great Barrier Reef', the Bundaberg region is Australia's premier location for observing nesting sea turtles. It is turtle season right now at Mon Repos beach, where the largest concentration of marine turtles nest on the eastern Australian mainland. It also has the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region. You can go out with the rangers from the Mon Repos Turtle Centre and you can see these majestic creatures laying their clutches. Early in the new year you could be lucky enough to see the hatchlings emerge and make their journeys to the ocean.
Hervey Bay, at the southern end of the electorate, is regarded as one of the best places in the world to watch humpback whales. The safe, sheltered waters provided by Lady Elliot Island, Lady Musgrave Island and Fraser Island make the Hinkler area a launching pad to an aquatic paradise year-round for scuba diving, for sailing, for water sports and for fishing.
Some of the other great tourism opportunities in my electorate include the Bundaberg rum distillery, which also includes their new visitor experience, and the Bundaberg Brewed Drinks factory, the home of the world famous Bundaberg ginger beer. This Christmas I want to encourage my constituents to get out and check out these tourist hotspots for themselves, and to tell as many people as possible so that they may also want to come and visit.
As members of parliament, we can be great advocates and great ambassadors for our regions. But so can our constituents. For the launch of my shop local campaign I had the fantastic support of well-known Bundaberg business owner Dale Rethamel. Dale knows firsthand the importance of community supporting local business. He has owned his business for a decade—10 years—and is building a new facility using local contractors. He can see the potential for growth in our region, and he is literally putting his money where his mouth is. Dale knows that if people spend locally, then businesses can invest, they can expand, they can hire more staff, they can support sporting and community groups and, in his words, 'the wheels will keep spinning'. So Dale himself shops locally; he encourages his staff to do the same. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dale, as well as Kay McCotter, Linda Carsley, Larry Burch, Craig Van Rooyen and Brian and Jill Perry for their continued support of the shop local campaign.
Small and medium businesses are the engine room of our nation. Many are family run—run by mums and dads, by aunts and uncles and siblings—and they contribute some $340 billion to the economy, including to regional economies right across this country. There are an estimated 8,541 small businesses within the Hinkler electorate, and across Australia small businesses employ more than four million people. They need our support, and I hope that my constituents do so during this festive season.
Over the past few weeks and months I have had the opportunity to see firsthand how the coalition government continues to deliver for communities like mine. The Stronger Communities Program has been a great success in my region. The program allocates each federal electorate $150,000 over two years, with eligible community groups applying for grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 for small capital projects. All applications need to commit at least matching funding or in kind contributions, and it has been a great success. In my electorate, the successful recipients have used those funds for a wide variety of projects—from barbecue trailers to kitchen upgrades and the replacement of vital equipment. The Stronger Communities Program has been a real boost to community groups and organisations that would otherwise struggle to generate the funding for this type of program. Mr Deputy Speaker, I know that you have done a lot of fundraising yourself. That is a lot of sausage sizzles and a lot of lamingtons to raise up to $5,000 or $20,000.
On Saturday in Bundaberg I saw the Australian Sugar Cane Railway's new tamping machine, purchased with their Stronger Communities funding, in action. The two-kilometre rail track has flooded twice, costing the not-for-profit group considerable time and money to repair. The tamping machine will dramatically reduce the time and backbreaking work in replacing sleepers and any repairs required. It is a bit like coming home when you go to a group like this, made up of retired tradespeople, engineers and operators. The Sugar Cane Railway is a wonderful tourist attraction in our region. It has carried more than 540,000 passengers—half a million—since it began in 1988, and this new equipment will see the railway well into the future. The new machine, which packs the underside of the sleepers, has made a huge difference in maintenance of the track. Previously it took some three days for a gang of up to eight men or women to replace 80 sleepers. The machine can pack approximately 100 in an hour with just two people operating the machine. I saw a demonstration on the weekend. It is a big difference to use a tamping machine compared to the 15-kilo jackhammers that they have used previously. It is a long way from a pickaxe, which they used to use quite regularly. The concrete sleepers—which are made at another local business, the Isis Central Sugar Mill, in their sleeper-manufacturing plant—have a much longer life span than the timber ones.
Last week I also met with Creative Regions, a local arts organisation which hosts community events and has developed a range of major arts and cultural projects designed to engage communities. They purchase low-cost equipment to host pop-up events in the Bundaberg region. Each kit includes portable sound, lighting, furniture and marquees, and reduces the cost of hosting pop-up events. They will be made available to community groups. I have had the opportunity to tour the facilities of Creative Regions, including their pop-up shop, the artist in residence department, workshop space and a meeting room for community use.
I have also met with the Hervey Bay Amateur Fishing Club to check out their new purpose-built barbecue trailer. All of these have been supported and helped to be funded through the Stronger Communities grants. The trailer will allow the club to run sausage sizzles to raise more funds so it can host community fishing education clinics to promote best practice techniques in fishing for all ages from juniors to grandparents. The club will also lend the trailer to other community groups for use by them for other fundraising activities. The club has had success in encouraging mature-age people, as well as families with young children, to go out, go fishing and enjoy an improved, more active and healthier lifestyle in the outdoors. The Hervey Bay Amateur Fishing Club was incorporated in 1975 and currently has over 107 financial members. The members have up to 30 years experience of local fishing, and they actively promote recreational fishing within the Fraser Coast.
While we are in Hervey Bay, the Hervey Bay Surf Life Saving Club was able to upgrade its kitchen facilities and provide a shaded outdoor area thanks to its Stronger Communities grants. The upgrade means the clubhouse can be hired out for functions, which will provide increased revenue to support the club's lifesaving activities such as the purchase of emergency first aid and rescue equipment. As is the case in many regional areas—as I know you are aware, Mr Deputy Speaker—the local surf club is a hub for local and surrounding communities, with the facilities being accessed extensively for functions, education programs and social gatherings. The Hervey Bay Surf Life Saving Club clubhouse is used three days a week to provide a social outing for Indigenous elders, including a meal prepared in the kitchen, and the upgrade that has been provided will allow this to continue.
The shaded outdoor area is also a priority for the club, as it will host the 2017 junior state championships, which will bring an influx of people to the region. When I say 'an influx', I mean thousands. The junior state championships in Queensland for surf lifesaving are an enormous event. The new shaded area will protect nippers from the sun during training, and it will feature activities and provide an additional space from which to watch surf events.
Last, but definitely not least, I want to speak about the great job that Global Care Bundaberg is doing in providing for the less fortunate in our community. It will use its Stronger Communities grant to purchase a coldroom so it can give fresh fruit and vegetables in its food parcels, which it has provided for the last nine years. The organisation provides food hampers to about 30 families a week and low-cost groceries to approximately 100 families, but demand, unfortunately, is growing at about 10 per cent a week.
The common thread that ties all of these projects together is that they benefit the community in one way or another, and these groups and organisations are using their funds to purchase equipment locally and are hiring local contractors, showing their support for local businesses.
It is this coalition government that is putting communities first, through funding provided through the Stronger Communities Program and by the actions we are taking as a government. We are delivering for communities. We are enabling positive change. Mr Deputy Speaker, I know you are a strong supporter of the communities grants program. I look forward, if there is any capacity, to continuing it in its current form. I think that would be greatly appreciated. I know you, as have others, have spoken to the shareholding minister, Senator Nash. This is a great program. I would like to see it extended into the future, if possible. It is a lot of sausages. The capacity to actually provide these funds in the short term is of great advantage to them, and I thank you.