Adjournment Debate – Queensland State Government
Mr PITT: I rise to talk once again about the HMAS Tobruk which is now a fabulous dive site off the coast of my home electorate of Hinkler between Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. It has taken a long time—many years, in fact. It was a national fight to deliver the ship, and, as many of the people in this place know, unfortunately, they muffed it at the last stroke of the pen, and HMAS Tobruk ended up on her side in 30 metres of water. I’ve spoken many times in this place about the benefits it will bring, about the potential for divers and about the addition to our economy, and all of those things are still true.
However, as I said in this place on 16 October, the state Queensland Labor government did not deliver what was intended, what was expected and what was asked for. However, the ship is in place and they have made changes to allow experienced divers to enter. It will still be a great boon for our local tourism economy and for divers who want to look on the great workhorse, the Navy ship Ex-HMAS Tobruk. However, the state minister for the Queensland government, Leeanne Enoch, simply can’t help herself. In the local paper on 12 February, the minister told local MPs, such as the Liberal-National members of parliament, that they are only interested in trashing the Tobruk and are actively encouraging people to stay away. What nonsense!
In this place on 16 October, I called on the minister to answer serious questions and to be transparent. It had nothing to do with the standard of the dive or the ship itself, but quite simply that we had negotiated for $2 million of ratepayers’ money to be delivered as part of this project. What was called for and what was expected was not delivered. If it had cost less than expected and if there was a possibility of a rebate, then that rebate should go back to our local residents and ratepayers. No-one else got up and called for that. It was me and me alone. The local mayors certainly didn’t want to get involved, but, lo and behold, they have recovered from the Labor state government hundreds of thousands of dollars that they contributed to this project. So I say to the minister: ‘We need to get on with this. You’ve done the right thing by returning the money to those residents and ratepayers that contributed. The ship will still be a great boon for tourism and we’ll continue to work with it.’
While we are talking about the Queensland Labor government, I would say to Minister Enoch, ‘Get in the lift, go up and see Premier Palaszczuk and get her to sign three things this week.’ The first one is the national health agreement, which will deliver $8 billion in additional funding for Queensland hospitals. The second one is the Skilling Australians Fund agreement, where there is $240 million for Queensland alone for up to 50,000 apprentices and trainees—the Queensland Labor government, would you believe, has refused to sign, not once, not twice, but for many, many months. In my electorate, we have difficulty with employment. Our unemployment rate is unacceptably high. Our youth unemployment was as high as 27 per cent. It dropped by seven per cent in the last quarter, which is good news, but it is still unacceptably high. There is $240 million on the table from the federal government to deliver up to 50,000 apprentices and trainees, and the Queensland Labor government won’t sign. They won’t play ball; they won’t participate. And the third thing is our regional deal. We negotiated a regional deal for our area, one of only two in the entire country, because of the economic challenges and to go hand in hand with the tough social policy that is the cashless welfare card, but, at the moment, the statement of intent is still unsigned. We are working closely with the local government, the state government and, of course, the bureaucrats through the department of infrastructure. I am hopeful that this deal will be struck very soon, but I am concerned.
I am concerned that the Queensland Labor government may look to play politics. There is an election on the horizon. I am concerned that, with all of these issues, they may simply wait for a May election. That is no good for anyone. It is no good for the people I represent, it is no good for those who are looking for employment, it is no good for businesses that are looking to invest, and it is certainly no good for those who are trying to put together a regional deal—one of the first of its type in the country—to deliver a stronger local economy and more local jobs. Who could possibly not agree with that? However, we are having some challenges with the state Labor government, and I would say to both Premier Palaszczuk and Deputy Premier Trad: ‘Sign the deal. Let’s get on with this. Let’s deliver.’ We need to be able to discuss this at all levels of government, because, if we work together, we will get the best outcome for our people. They are in desperate need. We have an unacceptably high unemployment rate. We have the lowest per capita income in the country and have had for two decades. As the local member, I want that to change.