Constituency Statement – Tobruk
Mr PITT (Hinkler—Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (10:58): It is good to follow on from the previous member because I am here to talk about jobs and job creation. At the end of last year, after a very hard fought battle of more than three years, it came to a momentous end. Christmas came early for the Wide Bay Burnett region with news that the region was successful in its bid to secure the ex-HMAS Tobruk as a military dive wreck for the region. I first spoke about a military dive wreck in my maiden speech in 2013. Since then I have spoken about it on many occasions and to anyone who would listen. So, when the news came through that the region was successful, I and lots of people inside my electorate were absolutely over the moon.
The No. 1 driver behind this campaign, the No. 1 driver to bring the Tobruk to the Wide Bay, has always been about the creation of jobs—much-needed, long-term, sustainable jobs which provide a future for the next generation of job seekers. This dive wreck will bring domestic and international visitors to the region and will no doubt become one of Australia’s premier diving sites, potentially attracting thousands of divers each year, just as it attracted thousands of people to the port of Bundaberg when it arrived in mid-December. It was a stunning sight to see the Tobruk being towed up the Burnett River to its temporary home, while the work to prepare it for scuttling is carried out. I will take this opportunity to encourage everyone who is visiting the region to head out to Burnett Heads to have a look at ex-HMAS Tobruk. I believe that defence assets that are paid for by the Australian people can, and should, continue to serve the community long after they are no longer of use to the military. Tobruk will continue to serve the nation by providing local jobs in the tourism sector.
Wide Bay will not only become the custodians of the ship’s hull, but the rich history of this great ship and the stories of all those who have served in her. Tobruk had provided 34 years of service to Australia, sailing more than 947,000 nautical miles. She was a multipurpose, roll-on roll-off heavy lift ship, capable of transporting soldiers, armoured personnel carriers and tanks, and delivering them to shore via landing craft or directly by beaching. Tobruk was deployed on 26 major operations, including the Sinai Peninsula, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Bougainville, the Middle East, East Timor and the Philippines. She was awarded battle honours for her East Timor service in 1999.
Finally, I want to convey my sincere thanks to the people who helped the region secure Tobruk: Scott Rowe and the members of the regional advisory dive group—the knowledge, passion and persistence of this group played an enormous role in the successful outcome; Fraser Coast Regional Council and Bundaberg Regional Council, which committed $1 million each to the project—special thanks to Chris Loft and Jack Dempsey, the mayors; and, unusually, the Labor Queensland minister for tourism Kate Jones, who provided her support. And I would like to mention Nikki Schulz, a man who calls himself a seed planter who told me four years ago this is a great project, and it has come fruition.