Category: Opinions and Letters

OP ED – Time to let Commonwealth take lead on dams

It’s time. An oldie but a goodie when it comes to electioneering, but when it comes to critical water infrastructure for drought ravaged communities, time is up for all levels of government.

Words like ‘crisis’, ‘Armageddon’, ‘record breaking’ are all being flung around in the media but when it comes right down to it, we simply have to act.

No one cares about the State / Commonwealth divide, no one cares about the ideological differences between State Labor governments and centre right Commonwealth governments. The issue is about people, our regional towns and our Nation’s future.

It is a question of the long term survival of country people and their way of life. As a member of the Nationals party room, the only party that solely represents regional Australia, I’m saying it’s past time.

No matter where I go, in any part of the country, whether it’s a capital city or a regional area, everyone I talk to is saying the same thing: help them.

Help those farmers facing such a long drought. Help those businesses going backwards in the regions; help those kids being moved off farms and into cities.

While none of us can make the heavens open, we can give those drought stricken individuals hope.

Hope that government is not only saying we are doing everything we can, we actually are. Hope that in a future drought event the nation will be more resilient, due to decisions taken now.

Hope that we can get past ideological arguments and just do what is absolutely necessary. And that means making tough and likely controversial decisions.

In recent weeks we have seen a Victorian State Minister say no dams will be built in Victoria, because she thinks it won’t rain again.

In Queensland the long fought for Rookwood Weir has been downgraded in size making its viability questionable. And in one of the most disgraceful decisions I’ve seen in my 50 years on this planet by a state government, the country’s newest dam (opened in 2005), Paradise Dam near Bundaberg, will have its dam wall height reduced by five metres at a cost of up to $100 million dollars by the Queensland Labor State government, significantly and permanently reducing its existing 300,000ML capacity to 215,000ML.

That’s just a kick in the guts for the people of my region. Surely if it’s a safety issue it can fixed, and if this situation is temporary the State Government should say so.

It is time for the Commonwealth to take charge of delivering critical infrastructure and the first step in my view is to establish a new governmentowned corporation whose sole job is building dams.

The Australian Building Corporation for Dams can be an exact replica of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) currently chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss.

The ARTC is currently building the inland rail, and operates Rail tracks in South Australia and NSW. The previously announced National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility of $2 billion dollars was never taken up by a State or Territory government.

That type of finance can be used by the ABCD to build dams, just as the ARTC uses commonwealth finance to build railways. No more arguing, no more blaming other levels of government. If the states won’t build them, the Commonwealth will. In some of my former careers it’s an
approach known as the Nike criteria: Just Do It.

So how can this proposal be delivered in a timely fashion, allowing construction to start and not just be talked about?

Step one is to secure bipartisan support. Federal Labor needs to be on board.

Second, the public and the media need to support making tough decisions like this.

Third, regional members of parliament need to use their influence to deliver what is essential infrastructure for the people they represent. And Just Do It.

KEITH PITT

FEDERAL MEMBER FOR HINKLER

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Welfare card deals in currency of hope

Opinion piece by Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan.

Courier Mail, February 27, 2018.

WHEN it comes to getting people off welfare and into work, actions speak louder than words.

The extension and expansion of the Cashless Debit Card trial until mid next year marks an important milestone in the Government’s commitment to significant welfare reform.

Cashless Debit Cards are helping people manage their income and break the cycle of welfare dependency.

Communities at trial sites at Ceduna, South Australia and East Kimberley in Western Australia have seen less money spent on drugs, drinking and gambling.

The card is working.

A third trial site, in the Goldfields region of WA, has been approved. And the Government will keep fighting to ensure the next region to benefit from the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) will be the area that covers Bundaberg and Hervey Bay.

It’s a radically simple idea. The CDC quarantines 80 per cent of welfare money on to a card that can’t be used to withdraw cash, gamble or purchase alcohol.

This means money is spent on the things that matter – like food, rent, electricity and school supplies.

I was in Bundaberg recently and met community leaders and citizens deeply concerned about the impact of welfare dependency.

Concerned citizens told stories about starving kids coming into shops because mum and dad had spent their welfare money on grog and gambling.

They said “ideological warriors” opposed to the trial were running a scare campaign and shutting down legitimate debate.

The Greens-backed renta-crowd are doing a lot of talking but no listening.

“We’ve got to stop welfare being a career choice,” one local told me.

“If we do nothing, then nothing will change,” another said. “We can’t just sit and watch. I don’t want to watch more young lives destroyed.”

The Bundaberg-Hervey Bay region has the second highest youth jobless rate in Queensland, at 26.4 per cent.

This is more than twice the youth unemployment rate for the rest of Australia.

It’s estimated that nearly 60 per cent of people aged under 30 in Bundaberg on unemployment benefits will still be receiving welfare payments in a decade. Some young people have never seen their parents, and even their grandparents, hold down a job.

The CDC is just one of the innovative approaches the Turnbull Government is prepared to try because we believe the best thing we can do for people on welfare is to get them into work.

The Government has cut the number of people on welfare by around 140,000 (from 2.54 to 2.4 million) since 2014. The proportion of the working age population on welfare is now at its lowest in 25 years.

One young, indigenous leader described his journey from sceptic to convert.

“You must be brave enough to change your mind.”

That is the message that Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt and I will be taking to Labor and the crossbench.

Be brave enough to change your mind because if we always do what we’ve always done, then we will always get what we’ve always got, and that is simply unacceptable.

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PNG Trade Minister’s visit

Letter to the editor submitted to the NewsMail and Fraser Coast Chronicle on 10-07-17:

Dear Editor,

It’s disappointing that One Nation senator Pauline Hanson and One Nation candidate Damian Huxham can’t see the benefits of having a foreign trade minister visit regional businesses and universities.

On this occasion, the use of a charter flight – for the delegation of six (not two) – was the best way to maximise the limited time the Minister had in Central Queensland.

Do Ms Hanson and Mr Huxham believe that trade delegations should only be conducted in Sydney or Brisbane?

Or perhaps they can tell us which universities or businesses the Minister shouldn’t have visited so he could sit in Brisbane airport instead, waiting for the next flight?

Maybe they can tell us how to determine which business is more worthy of the Minister’s time?

Unlike One Nation, I believe that businesses and organisations in regional Queensland should have the same opportunities as those in the capital cities.

And I will continue to highlight the benefits of doing business with regional areas every chance I get.

KEITH PITT MP

Federal Member for Hinkler

Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

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Misconceptions about National Welfare Fund and the aged pension

Letter to the editor submitted to the Bundaberg NewsMail on 21 February 2017:

Dear Editor,

It’s unfortunate that the NewsMail has continued to perpetuate common misconceptions around the National Welfare Fund and the aged pension (NM, 16-02-17).

I’m sure that many NewsMail readers rely on it to provide accurate information, but this is not the case in relation to this subject.

This story caused senior citizens unnecessary angst, by including misleading details about the National Welfare Fund.

The age pension was introduced in 1908 – several decades before Prime Minister Robert Menzies’ time – and was subject to income and assets tests.

The National Welfare Fund was created in 1943 and included widows’ pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits, an expanded maternity allowance, and health services.

It did not include the age pension when it was first created.

In 1945, the Government made changes so all health and social services expenditure – including the age pension ­– was charged to the National Welfare Fund.

At the same time the Government separated income tax into two levies – a general income tax levy and a social services contribution.

The National Welfare Fund was not created to save up and invest workers compulsory contributions to be paid back to contributors when they retired.

Importantly, there was never a direct link between contributions and eligibility for payment.

An individual did not need to have paid the social services contribution to be eligible for the age pension payments and those who had paid could be denied the age pension because of the means test.

The Menzies Government merged the social services contribution back into general income tax in 1950.

Since that time, Australia has had no specific tax levied to pay for social security benefits.

So, the NewsMail was incorrect to state that ‘the 7.5% levy continues to be collected as general income tax’.

The age pension is there to help those who can’t support themselves.

KEITH PITT MP

Federal Member for Hinkler

Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

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Funds have flowed into region since 2013

Letter submitted to the Fraser Coast Chronicle on 22 June 2016:

Dear editor,

A minor party candidate is upset by my election commitments (FCC 21-06-16).

That’s because his party is not prepared to make any commitments because they can’t deliver anything.

But let’s forget about election commitments for a minute and look at the facts.

I have helped deliver millions of dollars for projects in the Hinkler electorate and I won’t apologise for delivering every cent that I can to this electorate.

The Bruce Highway has been made safer with $29.7 million in upgrades including an overtaking lane north of Howard and road widening works south of Torbanlea, Booyal and Little Pig Creek. All of this work has been completed.

Local roads have been improved, with $5.6 million invested in fixing with dangerous black spots and Old Toogoom Road and River Heads Road.

The burden on community groups to fundraise has been eased by grants like $6,800 for the Toogoom RSL sub-branch to display an Armoured Personnel Carrier and $8,450 for the Hervey Bay Historical Society.

The Stronger Communities Program has helped fund new freezers for We Care 2 and provided Wide Bay Gymnastics with $14,500 to upgrade their changing rooms, which is under construction right now.

Hervey Bay has a dedicated cancer care centre which means many patients will no longer need to travel to receive treatment.

We’ve invested $720,000 for new infrastructure at St James Lutheran College which was opened in April.

But this is just a fraction of the funding that has flowed into Hinkler since I was elected in 2013.

I have delivered on my 2013 election commitments and will do so again, if the Coalition is re-elected.

Only the Coalition has a plan for a strong local economy and increased jobs and growth.

KEITH PITT

FEDERAL MP FOR HINKLER

ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

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Millions delivered to electorate since 2013

Letter sent to the Bundaberg NewsMail on 22 June 2016:

Dear editor,

A minor party candidate is upset by my election commitments (NM 21-06-16).

That’s because his party is not prepared to make any commitments because they can’t deliver anything.

But let’s forget about election commitments for a minute and look at the facts.

I have helped deliver millions of dollars for projects in the Hinkler electorate and I won’t apologise for delivering every cent that I can to this electorate.

The Bruce Highway has been made safer with $29.7 million in upgrades including completed upgrades to three intersections near Childers and widening near Apple Tree Creek.

Local roads have been improved, with $1.6 million invested to fix dangerous black spots such as Mittelheusers Road at Burnett Heads and the intersection of Barolin and Crofton Street in Bundaberg.

The burden on community groups to fundraise has been eased by grants like $35,000 to restore Aviator Bert Hinkler’s Armstrong Siddeley vehicle and $44,000 to enable the Bundaberg RSL sub-branch to transport veterans to events.

The Stronger Communities Program has helped the Australian Sugar Cane Railway upgrade its tracks at the Botanic Gardens and Bundaberg Basketball is improving disability access to WIN stadium.

Bundaberg has a dedicated cancer care centre and an oncology centre which means many patients will no longer need to travel to receive treatment.

We’ve invested $500,000 for new infrastructure at St Luke’s Anglican College which was opened in March.

But this is just a fraction of the funding that has flowed into Hinkler since I was elected in 2013.

I have delivered on my 2013 election commitments and will do so again, if the Coalition is re-elected.

Only the Coalition has a plan for a strong local economy and increased jobs and growth.

KEITH PITT

FEDERAL MP FOR HINKLER

ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

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Where’s proof of alleged election promise?

Letter sent to the Fraser Coast Chronicle on 27 May 2016:

Dear Editor,

In the Fraser Coast Chronicle (26/05/16) a minor party candidate for Hinkler claimed the Federal Government’s funding commitment for a feasibility study into the Burrum Bridge project was a “recycled election promise”.

As far as I’m aware, you can’t recycle something that never existed in the first place.

I never promised Commonwealth funding for a feasibility study during the election campaign in 2013.

I challenge this candidate to provide proof to myself, or the Fraser Coast Chronicle, of when and where he alleges I made this promise.

This project has always had my support in principle, but as I have said many, many times, I would like to see the results of a comprehensive feasibility study first.

You can be sure that minor parties will always promise everything, and deliver nothing, apart from chaos and disruption.

KEITH PITT MP

Federal Member for Hinkler

Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister

 

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Funding to schools will continue to increase

Letter sent to the Bundaberg NewsMail on April 28, 2016:

Dear Editor,

The Coalition Government’s funding to schools is going to continue to increase from its current record levels, despite the claims made by Allan Cook (Gonski Love, April 27, 2016).

Our funding commitment to Hinkler schools is set to increase by $26.2 million or 28.3 per cent to the end of 2017 compared to 2014, and will keep growing thereafter.

That continued growth in federal funding from record levels means there is no reason schools won’t be able to continue to support teachers and existing initiatives, such as specialist teachers or additional resources. 

The Coalition Government is committed to supporting all students. The Prime Minister and state ministers agreed that discussions on new schools funding arrangements should be concluded by early 2017.

It is true that Bill Shorten and Labor are promising to increase funding from its existing record levels even more than the Coalition Government. 

However, this will only be paid for by higher taxes or greater debt, leaving fewer jobs and opportunities for students when they finish school.

The fear being spread by Labor detracts from the real conversation we need to be having.

While funding matters, what you do with it matters even more.

Evidence tells us to focus on the quality of teachers and teaching; the teaching of reading and maths; and the engagement of parents. That’s exactly what the Coalition Government is doing.

Keith Pitt MP

Member for Hinkler

Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister

 

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Appointment as Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister

Statement from Keith Pitt MP re: appointment as Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister

“It’s a great honour to be asked to join the Turnbull/Joyce Ministry as the Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister.

“I am humbled to be the first member for Hinkler to be appointed to a ministerial position since the electorate’s inception in 1984.

“I couldn’t have achieved this in my first term without the support of Hinkler residents, my Coalition colleagues, LNP members, previous Hinkler MPs, supporters, staff and, of course, my family.

“I’m excited about the challenges and opportunities that this role will bring and I promise to give it my all.

“I’ve been a tradesman, engineer, small business owner and farmer, and I believe it’s this practical real world experience which will serve me well in my new role.

“It’s a time of transition for the Nationals – with a new leader and deputy leader – but our goals have not changed: we are here to represent the people of regional Australia.

“I will be sworn in on Thursday at Government House and I look forward to working with the new Deputy Prime Minister to define my role over the next few days.

“I will continue to be a strong, common sense voice for the people of Hinkler, Queensland and regional Australia.”

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National Party leadership statement

Transcript of interview with David Dowsett, ABC Wide Bay re National Party leadership. To listen to the full segment click here.  

 

David Dowsett: Warren Truss ending that report, well now to the Nationals Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt who unsuccessfully ran for the deputy role in the Nationals. Keith Pitt, what do you make of Barnaby’s rise to the top?

Keith Pitt: Well, let me say, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a member of the Nationals party room David, I’ve got to tell you, but I’m sure Barnaby will be a fantastic leader. The Nationals are a party that are famous for its stability, we’ve had just 12 leaders, and now Barnaby is number 13, in over 90 years.

While I have the opportunity I would like to just absolutely express my thanks and gratitude to Warren Truss. Warren has been a servant of the people of Wide Bay, the people of Australia and the Federal Parliament for over 26 years, by the time he finishes, and I think it’s been an incredible innings and he’s certainly been an incredibly stable hand for our party, but I’m sure as Barnaby and Malcolm sit down today to have a discussion about a new coalition, which is simply part of the process when the leader of either party changes, and they look to form their ministry I certainly ask them to keep an eye out for Queensland. There are a number of my colleagues who I think have a genuine ability, who are genuine contenders, whether it’s Senator Barry O’Sullivan, who has just an enormous amount of life experience, even my colleague George Christensen from Dawson. George is of course a very outspoken member of the Nationals party room, but he’s a very intelligent man, he’s stood on his feet and I think both of them have real potential. But the Nationals of course, we are made up of real people, our party room consists of economists, and bankers and farmers and shearers and small business people, people who were book keepers, who worked in universities, it’s such a broad range of real practical experience, so it’s great to be involved with my kind of people David, people with common sense.

David Dowsett: You mentioned Barnaby Joyce there will be a great leader, why do you think that, what will he bring to the mix?

Keith Pitt: Well, Barnaby’s certainly different, we all bring a different range of skills to the parliament, Barnaby of course is a well-known person across the country, he’s outspoken, he speaks his mind, he’s also very attuned to regional Australia and to the people we represent and those are the ones that are in the regions. The Nationals are the only party who are there solely for regional Australia and I’m sure Barnaby will go on to be a fantastic representative not only for them, but for all of the members of the Nationals party room.

David Dowsett: So what can we expect for regional Australia now?

Keith Pitt: Well, we’re continuing to work on the things that are important to us, and of course, to our constituents, and that’s around communications, and at the moment of course the biggest issue, and certainly in our area, is unemployment. When the last coalition agreement was signed, we had a policy agreement in there with Malcolm Turnbull and our colleagues, the Liberal party, for the development of a regional employment package and I’m sure that that’s something which will be underway, if not, announced in the very near future.

David Dowsett: Senator Fiona Nash is the first female deputy leader of the Nationals, does that really herald a new era for the Nationals?

Keith Pitt: Well David look, I think in our party room, it’s all about what you bring to the game, regardless of your gender. Fiona is highly qualified and highly capable, she’s been here for more than a decade. She comes from a rural background, she still owns farms with her husband and her children, I think she’ll be an outstanding deputy leader for the National party and certainly brings a different perspective.

David Dowsett: You put your hand up for the role, are you disappointed?

Keith Pitt: It’s a tough game David, I was asked by my Queensland colleagues to ensure that our state had representation in the ballot and I was quite happy to do that. But politics, as you know, is a game that is brutally governed by the numbers and while I was very pleased to have the support of a number of colleagues, unfortunately I didn’t get the jersey. But I’ll never die from a lack of trying, I have to say.

David Dowsett: So overall, as we head towards the next election, is there a bit of spring in the step now?

Keith Pitt: I think there’s always been a spring in the step, it’s an absolute privilege to work here, to represent our constituents and for me, of course, that’s the people of Hinkler, it’s something I think about every day. When you come into this place and see the Australian flag flying above Parliament you realise just how humbling it is to be able to represent the people who are your friends, and colleagues, the people that you grew up with, it’s a very important role and I certainly do my utmost for the people of the electorate.

David Dowsett: Keith Pitt, thanks very much.

Keith Pitt: No problems at all.

[ENDS]

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