Governor General’s Speech – Address-in-Reply
Mr PITT: I rise to explain to the House what it is the coalition government has been delivering into my electorate of Hinkler in the last two terms in particular that I have been the member. For some context, I think I should explain to the House and to those who might be listening some of the challenges that we have seen in my electorate over a long period of time, how what we are doing is actually working, what we are delivering on the ground and the great results that we have seen, particularly in the last 12 months. First and foremost, my electorate of Hinkler is just under 4,000 square kilometres. It runs from Bundaberg to Hervey Bay. It includes what I consider to be God’s country—all the local villages, the seaside villages and the towns. There are lots of beaches, lots of wonderful places to go, visit and stay.
One of the chronic challenges we have had over a long period of time is high unemployment and in particular high levels of youth unemployment. We continue to address this through a range of programs, including the Hinkler Regional Deal and the cashless debit card—a tough but necessary policy. We do need to continue to do more to ensure that into the future those changes are long-term and they are systemic, particularly around our regional economy.
It is good news locally. Whilst we still have a number of challenges around what happens in our local region, particularly around the challenge of income, the per capita income for each individual—according to local government reports across the country—is the lowest of any area in regional Australia, or in Australia itself, at just approximately 32½ thousand dollars. We know that we have those challenges.
We know that between myself and yourself, Mr Deputy Speaker, we fight it out for the highest number of pensioners in each region. I think at the moment we hold the title. So whilst it’s a wonderful place to retire; it’s also a wonderful place to work, to live and to raise a family, but we need to ensure that those jobs into the future are provided.
The regional jobs and investment package which we have delivered has been substantial. It has meant that there has been private investment, particularly for someone like Bundaberg Brewed Drinks under the Regional Growth Fund. Macadamias Australia, which we inspected just last Friday, is an over a $20 million facility which will ensure more jobs into the local region. It includes an opportunity for tourism. The tourism piece, I think, is very, very strong in terms of future growth. We’re famous, of course, for Bundaberg Rum in Bundaberg. The Bundaberg Rum facility delivers some 80,000-plus visitors into our region.
I will defer, of course, to the member for Calare who is in the chamber, who I believe also has a contribution with regard to his electorate and what else is happening. Thank you.