Constituency Statement - Nationals visit
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (09:39): Last week the Nationals held their first party room meeting of the year in my electorate of Hinkler. The party's visit was a clear demonstration of the Nationals' commitment to regional Australia. It gave my community an opportunity to show the rest of the country that after a tough couple of years of natural disasters Hinkler is open for business.
A year on from the floods and tornadoes, as part of the visit Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and I announced that repairs to the rock wall at the port of Bundaberg would be underwritten by the federal and Queensland governments by natural disaster recovery and relief arrangements. While it is anticipated that insurers will meet a significant part of the costs, the announcement of government funding for the shortfall will ensure that the wall is repaired more quickly. Shipping access to the port is vital to local industries and jobs, which is why the now Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and I made the commitment prior to the election to get it fixed. Since the election I have been in regular contact with Mr Truss's office to ensure the matter is resolved.
The sugar industry is just one group reliant on the port. The sugar industry generates around $230 million a year for the Wide Bay-Burnett region, supporting some 600 cane farmers and 800 direct local jobs. While in town the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, discussed electricity pricing with Isis and Bundaberg canegrower groups and toured the farm and processing facilities at Macadamias Australia and Farmfresh Fine Foods before meeting with Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers.
The Assistant Minister for Employment, Luke Hartsuyker, had dinner with various local chamber of commerce groups and toured jobs service provider IMPACT, where he had his blood pressure taken by some local aged-care students. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, toured the construction site of the new Indigenous Wellbeing Centre and joined morning tea with staff at the Mater hospital, where construction is set to begin on new patient and family accommodation facilities.
We also attended a civic reception with Brisbane Lions AFL players Daniel Rich and Simon Black at Bundaberg East State School, which was devastated by the floods in January last year. MPs Andrew Broad, Michael McCormack, Darren Chester, George Christensen, Michelle Landry and Ken O'Dowd, Senator Bridget McKenzie and Senators-elect Matt Canavan, James McGrath and Barry O'Sullivan also keenly participated in the events. This included a tour of Central Queensland University's Bundaberg campus and a community breakfast at the Old Bundy Tavern.
Local constituents were encouraged and heartened by their genuine interest in the issues that are impacting their daily lives. I would like to thank my colleagues for their support and their willingness to engage with the Hinkler community. I trust that what they learnt will inform their deliberations here in this place.