Constituency Statement - Opportunities at Port of Bundaberg
Mr PITT (Hinkler—Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (10:03): It is vitally important that Australia's regions are supported with modern infrastructure—infrastructure that makes a real difference to regional economies and creates jobs. From the 2017 budget, there is a massive opportunity in my region to develop the Port of Bundaberg. There is $10 billion on the table for railway infrastructure. State and local governments need to be on the front foot to investigate the possibility of developing the inland rail through to the Bundaberg port, which could then be developed as a container facility. The government is establishing a $10 billion national rail program to fund rail projects that will improve regional rail services to better connect our communities. The program would allow the government to partner with state governments to plan and deliver key rail infrastructure projects.
While I have been talking about additional opportunities at the Port of Bundaberg, I am calling on the Queensland state and local government to fight for the significant expansion which will result in jobs—thousands of jobs—in Central Queensland. There are already some fantastic things happening in Bundaberg. The ex HMAS Tobruk is berthed at the port while it undergoes preparatory work to be scuttled as a military dive wreck. I must thank the Minister for Defence, Marise Payne, and her valuable staff for their assistance in securing the vessel for the Wide Bay Burnett region. It has the potential to pump millions of dollars into the local economy in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay and to attract thousands of divers to the region. Already the project is creating jobs for locals, and more will come online as the project progresses under the management of the Queensland state government—although I would like them to get on with it a bit, I must say.
The $70 million Knauf plasterboard manufacturing plant is under construction at the port right now and is expected to create around 70 permanent positions. The facility will be the company's third in Australia, with manufacturing plants also in Sydney and Melbourne. The project will include gypsum handling and processing facilities to support plasterboard production and for the sale of gypsum to our very important local agricultural sector. The Bundaberg region is one of the largest horticultural producing areas of Australia. We are the biggest producer of heavy vegetables, so to have a company that can import lime directly and make it into a pelletised product at a much reduced cost will be a large benefit for our local growers. The construction of the $19.8 million, 28 kilometre Bundaberg port gas pipeline was completed by Australian Gas Networks earlier this year. One of its key functions will be supporting the Knauf facility.
Also announced in last night's budget was the establishment of a regional growth fund. The fund will include $272.2 million to provide grants of $10 million or more for major transformational projects which support long-term economic growth and create jobs in Australia's regions. The government is investing in regional Australia by delivering infrastructure that will drive economic growth and secure more and better paying jobs. I plan to meet again with state and local government representatives when I return to the electorate to gauge their interest and discuss what we can do with these two fabulous announcements. The $10 billion for rail infrastructure is an opportunity for us, and I intend to see that we take every single opportunity that is put in front of us.