Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce breakfast address

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

**check against delivery** E&OE

It’s great to be here to speak to you all today; some of you for the first time since I was elected to the seat of Hinkler.

It’s been a very productive few months. 

We’ve wasted no time getting on with the job we were elected to do.

I’ve already delivered on nearly all of the election commitments I made to the people of Hinkler.

To name just a few, I secured a total of $850,000 for the Hervey Bay Hockey Club, the Hervey Bay Surf Life Saving Club and the Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club.

As promised, we’ve suspended Labor’s flawed marine management plans. We will create a new plan in consultation with stakeholders: one that is based on science.

We’re providing $6.5 million for 25 research projects to ensure the continued sustainability of Australian fisheries, including expanding the Status of Australian Fish Stocks Report to include more species.

Last month, we announced $4.75 million for Hervey Bay Roads. We’ve also announced funding to finish flood repairs at the Port of Bundaberg.  

The Coalition understands that well-planned infrastructure, delivered in a timely manner, is vital to helping all of you get your products to market. It also facilitates service delivery to regional Australia and provides long-term employment, and opportunities for training and development. 

And so, together, over the next ten years, the Abbott and Newman Governments will spend $8.5 Billion upgrading the ailing Bruce Highway.

I also look forward to delivering on our commitment to establish a National Stronger Regions Fund. Councils and community groups will be able to apply for grants for capital works projects that will regenerate the community.

As a former business owner, I understand that infrastructure is not the only hurdle regional businesses have to overcome. Here in Australia, regulation is high, input costs are high, labour costs are high, the Australian dollar is high and profits are low. We’re working to change that.

Repealing the Carbon Tax will be a great first step in helping business flourish. Electricity costs incurred through irrigation and refrigerant gases, for example, skyrocketed with the introduction of the tax.

We’re also cutting red and green tape to save businesses time and money. Next month, the Coalition will dedicate a day in Parliament to slashing unnecessary red and green tape, to lift productivity and boost economic growth. If there is a piece of Federal legislation you think needs to be reviewed, please email your suggestions to my office.

A root and branch review of Competition Laws will ensure large and small businesses have an even playing field. We need a supermarket code of conduct with teeth, to ensure small to medium sized suppliers are getting a fair go.

Earlier this week, full details of the Free Trade Agreement we negotiated with South Korea were released. The removal of tariffs will benefit a range of Hinkler exporters, including those in the sugar, horticulture and seafood industries. We are working to conclude agreements with other trading partners, to boost Australia’s competitiveness in the global economy.

In addition to these and other measures, the Coalition will reduce the company tax rate by 1.5 per cent from 1 July next year.

Let me tell you why we are trying to make it easier, not harder, for you to do business in Australia. It is business that grows our economy. It is business that creates jobs.

Small business is the backbone of regional Australia. They employ 50 per cent of all Australians working in the private sector.

And I don’t need to tell you that jobs are sorely needed in Hinkler. Unemployment is our single biggest issue.  Unemployment and financial hardship are often contributing factors in cases of marital break down, domestic violence, criminal activity, poor nutrition, health problems, and declining school attendance.

The greatest thing we can do to help communities like Hinkler prosper is provide Australians with opportunity. Opportunity for education. Opportunity for training. Opportunity for employment.

Employment gives people the ability to pay their own way and provide for their families. The people of this great nation should be able to depend on their elected representatives, but that does not mean we should be building a nation of dependence.

Under the Rudd and Gillard Governments, unemployment in the Hinkler electorate increased from 6 per cent in the September 2007 quarter to 9.3 per cent in the June 2013 quarter. That’s compared to an unemployment rate of 5.4 per cent for the nation or 6 per cent in Queensland.  

As promised, we’re revitalising the Work for the Dole program to give people routine, structure, presentation skills and access to potential employers.

We are fortunate to live in a country where the Government provides a safety net to those who find themselves without employment. Requiring Australians to work for the dole ensures that the obligation is mutual.

Financial incentives will also be provided to employers and employees to get young people and seniors into the workforce.

Hinkler residents aged between 18 to 30 will receive $2500 if they hold a job for a continuous period of 12 months, and a further bonus of $4000 when they attain 24 months of service.

Hinkler employers will receive up to $3250 when they hire a job seeker over the age of 50. That payment is particularly important in an aging electorate like Hinkler.

The median age in Hinkler is 44, compared to 37 for Queensland. Almost 3000 residents are over the age of 85, making it the largest single age group in the electorate.

For all the entrepreneurs in the audience, aged care is a sector that presents enormous opportunity. As the local population ages and more retirees move to Hervey Bay to enjoy the lifestyle, the demand for in-the-home care, retirement villages and nursing homes is going to increase.

Australians who have already paid their dues, and their taxes, deserve to live out their remaining days with dignity. There is no doubt that this will come at significant cost to Australian taxpayers, but it is worth remembering that in constructing these facilities and developing new innovative models for service delivery, we will be creating jobs for future generations. The business opportunities and economic benefits, both direct and indirect, should not be underestimated.  

One of the negative aspects of having an aging population is that our workforce is losing critical skills. Sadly, one of Hinkler’s great exports is its young talent.

If we are to hold on to our young people, we need to provide new opportunities: real jobs with real outcomes. We need to give our young people the incentive to undertake a trade. We need to give them a reason to return once they have finished their university studies in the big smoke. 

That’s where you come in. My challenge to you is to create that opportunity. We will do everything we can to get out of your way, to let you get on with doing what you do best, and that is running your business. We will work with our State and Local colleagues to create a business environment that gives you the confidence to expand. We just need you to create opportunities.

With that in mind, I welcome your views about a number of proposals that have come across my desk in recent months.

There are calls for a bridge over the Burrum River to link the Hinkler electorate’s tourism centres and provide an alternate route for critical transport, to take pressure off the Bruce Highway.

There have been suggestions that sinking a wreck in Hervey Bay would attract divers from around the world, and give our local tourism operators a much needed boost.

Some argue the Hinkler electorate is ideally situated for a container port to service Central and South East Queensland. The port could be constructed for much less than the cost of planned expansions elsewhere. Development of the port would attract investment to the region and create jobs, without impacting on the Great Barrier Reef.    

There are also plenty of formal opportunities for you to engage in the political process and have your say.

I would encourage those of you involved in the agriculture or fisheries sectors to make a submission on the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

You have just one week to comment on the Coalition’s $100 million programme to improve mobile telephone coverage in regional Australia.

The Productivity Commission has been asked to examine ways to make the child care system more flexible, affordable and accessible.

And this week we released the terms of reference for the review of the renewable energy targets.

In five months, six Federal Ministers have visited the Hinkler electorate to hear about the issues impacting local residents and businesses. And now, today, we have Senator-elect James McGrath here to speak to you too.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is certainly keeping his promise to lead a consultative, stable Government.

Gone is the unstable Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government that, in a period of just three years, gave us two Prime Ministers, two Treasurers, five assistant treasurers, six small business ministers and four ministers for immigration. The adults are back in charge!

I’m proud of what we’ve achieved to date. I will continue to work hard for the people of Hinkler, to build the stronger, more prosperous country that we all want. My door is always open.

Thank you for listening. I’d now like to welcome James to speak to you.

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