Constituency Statement – Electricity prices, BBRF funding

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Mr PITT (HinklerAssistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (10:00): While the same-sex marriage continues to rage in the press, I’d like to put to the House the issues that are being brought forward to my electorate office in Hinkler, and these are issues the government is acting on. In terms of power and gas, and these are matters of incredible importance, there is a laundry in Hervey Bay whose operators advised me last week that they have had a 30 per cent from their gas provider, with no notice. This is a laundry which employs over 100 people in my electorate, where I have an unemployment rate of some nine per cent across the board and over 20 per cent youth unemployment. It is unacceptable that this continues to happen.

The Red Shed, a family-owned seafood business, has had its power bill quadruple over 13 years. It used to be $987 a month; it is now $4,000 a month. They put in $68,000 worth of solar, and the tariff just went up 25 per cent. They simply cannot continue to operate with those energy costs. I have pensioners—and these are real stories—who came in to my office and say that they turn their fridge off, trying to save energy at night-time, when it is cooler, at the risk of all sorts of health problems. These are simply unacceptable positions.

On the cashless debit card, we are engaging with the community on this important, although sometimes difficult, change. We want to ensure that families and children in particular have the essentials of life and that we can attempt to break intergenerational welfare, which is a real problem in my electorate. We do have strong support from the community for the card. We cannot continue to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. The local Labor members are organising rallies against the card, but they are not putting up other options. They are not putting forward any other proposals. So we continue to consult with the community.

But we are delivering jobs. There is good news on the horizon for jobs. In the last round of the Building Better Regions Fund, $16.3 million was delivered to my electorate for three projects: a marine precinct at Burnett Heads port, an upgrade to Burnett Heads town centre and a local health provider, IWC—building more infrastructure. So $50 million of infrastructure will result from the injection of $16 million in funds. According to proponents, that will bring more than a thousand jobs into our local region—long-term, highly skilled, well-paid positions, which we desperately need. The NDIS rollout is underway, of course. It will bring 600 jobs to the Bundaberg region, and more than 1000 into Maryborough, which is part of Fraser Coast. So there are real job opportunities in the future.

We have been out supporting veterans. I was at Camp Gregory, which is a Vietnam veterans retreat down on the Gregory River, and it was great to see the work that they are doing and how passionate they are about the local veterans community. It is quite an incredible place to visit. I would certainly recommend, if you have the opportunity, Madam Deputy Speaker Bird, to come to my electorate, go to the Gregory River and see the guys at Camp Gregory. It is a fantastic opportunity for veterans, and I congratulate them on the work that they have done.

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