Constituency Statement – Tobruk
Mr PITT: I want to update the Fed Chamber on the HMAS Tobruk and progress on hopefully soon creating a dive wreck in my region of Hinkler, about 15 nautical miles off the beach from a lovely place, Woodgate Beach. The idea was first floated with me by a local Hervey Bay identity Nicky Schulz, a well-known local fisherman, way back in 2013. I spoke about it many times in the lead-up to the election, and in May 2014 I wrote to the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Darren Chester to seek advice on what vessels might be available. The minister visited the region in November 2014 and in July 2015 we officially formed the Regional Dive Wreck Advisory Group. The establishment of that group was a masterstroke, I have to say—they worked incredibly hard, they brought a lot of talent and skills to the table and they were very successful. The group met with then defence minister Kevin Andrews and Parl Sec Chester. We launched a petition in October 2015 and in December 2015 that petition was tabled, with some 4,042 signatures gathered in just 21 days.
Clearly in my region the big issue is jobs, and tourism is a great generator. We had a $1 million commitment from the Fraser Coast Regional Council and finally sourced a $1 million commitment from the Bundaberg Regional Council, so we commenced this process with $2 million on the table. That process went on and on and on, and can I acknowledge and thank, once again, the work of the Queensland Labor government. We did manage to put this project together, and we got it over the line, in conjunction with them, because we do need to work together on these occasions.
However, the HMAS Tobruk was delivered in December of 2016 and it remains in the Bundaberg port, tied up to the wharf in the Burnett River. Work has not commenced. The state government did invest money for dredging works, with a tender put out in February 2017, to be completed by 30 April. They have called for a principal contractor. They spent $350,000 on dredging, only to discover it wasn’t suitable. The advice is it is in the wrong place. The Tobruk is still there. An additional $240,000 spend was required for a molasses pipe. That is great, and that is very helpful, but I say to the Queensland state government that the money is budgeted and the project is agreed to. The cynical side of me is looking at this and saying surely they are not waiting for a state election for this project to commence. We desperately need jobs in our area. The money is in the budget and the project should be underway—it should be underway now. When the ship was delivered, I clearly remember I stood up and said, ‘Christmas for our region has come early.’ I hope it isn’t another Christmas before these jobs are provided, because we simply cannot wait. We need the Tobruk to be in place. It will be internationally recognised as a dive wreck. It will bring tourists from right around the world. I say again to the Queensland state government, please don’t delay any further. Get on with this project, get the work underway, and let’s get it in place.