MPI – Morrison Government

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Mr PITT: They’ve heard it all before, I have to say. This mob have got form. The Australian people know exactly what would happen if they came to government in a Labor-Greens alliance. I rarely get an opportunity to talk about my local electorate and doing our job and what it means for the people whom I represent, and I want to talk for a little piece just about what happens locally.

In terms of delivery, we are getting on with it. The Hinkler Regional Deal is a $170 million commitment from the Commonwealth. What has that resulted in? There is an upgrade to Boundary Road at Hervey Bay. That might not mean too much to the people in the chamber, but for the people of Hervey Bay it is a third crossing across the city, one that’ll connect from Urangan all the way back to the main road out of town. It is one that will reduce congestion. It is one that will assist emergency services, particularly when they are trying to get from one end of the city to the other.

The palliative care facility at Hervey Bay is now complete and operational as part of the Hinkler Regional Deal. It is a facility that will be used by people in the local electorate for many years into the future. When they are at the most difficult period of their life, at the end of their time, they want to spend that time in a homelike environment. It is the commitment from this government that has delivered that palliative care facility for Hervey Bay and for the people of the region, who will go on to use it for many years.

The Hervey Bay town centre upgrade is well underway in terms of its planning. A lot of the consultation has been completed, and it will make a significant difference to the town of Hervey Bay. It will actually put a centre into Hervey Bay, an area that, as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker O’Brien, has grown from a number of seaside coastal villages all the way through to what is now a thriving city which is growing incredibly fast. A lot of people are moving to Hervey Bay.

On top of what we’ve already done, there is a $6 million facility that has been built in Bundaberg for both LifeFlight and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It includes new hangars and new facilities. Under the regional deal we provided $15 million that will be put towards a training facility for the Royal Flying Doctor Service—a simulator for their new King Airs or whatever type of aircraft they might decide to put in place. That will be in Bundaberg, and we’re looking forward to the construction getting underway very soon, because, quite simply, these are the people that regional people rely on. They rely on the Royal Flying Doctor Service in their time of need. When they are out to the west, when they’re out to the north, when they’re out in the bush and they find themselves in a difficult position, whether that is through injury or illness, the Royal Flying Doctor Service are the ones they rely on to provide them with support to get them to further help, and we are here supporting the RFDS.

As part of the deal in Bundaberg, there will be a common conveyor. It doesn’t sound like much for the Bundaberg port, but what I can tell you is that the Queensland state Labor government took more than two years to approve a simple conveyor to allow us to have more businesses working at the Bundaberg port, more economic activity and more jobs. Two years—that is simply outrageous. Of course, the costs of construction have now increased, and this means that it will be more challenging to get this built. But get it built we will, because it is important for our local economy. We have a port that has been reliant on the local sugar industry, which clearly is in decline. We have lost a number of local sugar mills, which means a loss in production, and this means a loss in capacity needed at the Bundaberg port. We need to expand its operations, and a common conveyor will allow things like timber pallets to be exported more successfully, whether that be into the resources sector in the western regions around Biggenden and whether that be elsewhere. The Bundaberg port has the ability to drive our local economy forward for the whole region. I know no-one knows more about this than you, Mr Deputy Speaker, in terms of what we need to drive our local region forward.

This week we committed $600 million to the Paradise Dam. That is $600 million of taxpayer support. It breaks my heart that we’ve had to do this, it really does. It is $600 million that could have gone towards a level 5 hospital in Bundaberg. It is $600 million that could have gone to extending the duplication of the Bruce Highway. It is $600 million that could have gone to further economic development. Instead, it is $600 million that is going towards fixing Queensland Labor’s mistakes.

We should never forget the history of this dam built by the Beattie government. At a cost of around $300 million, it was built to a price and not to a standard, and what has resulted? They have spent tens of millions of dollars in repairs over the last 15 years. They spent over $100 million to knock down the existing wall. They released 100,000 megalitres of water that farmers were desperate for in the midst of a drought. And now it will take $1,200 million to repair this piece of equipment, this infrastructure that we desperately need.

We recognise it has to be fixed. We recognise it must be fixed. We need it for reliability of water for my local community and we need it to ensure confidence for our local agricultural sector and, of course, for water supply to the city of Bundaberg. The fact that we have to ensure a $1,200 million repair gets done is solely due to the Queensland Labor government’s incompetence. It is appalling that this is where it has ended up. This is the biggest failure of public infrastructure in this country ‘s history. We will repair it, we will assist in the repair and we will make sure it happens. But, as the Deputy Prime Minister said, it has to be done in a certain time frame; we’re not going to have the state government sitting around on their hands for the next 10 years. It has to be constructed. And we’ll be supporting construction—not state required regulations or inquiries or more reports. It just needs to be fixed, and that is what we’re looking to support.

I want to give a shout-out to some of the local community who fought hard to make sure this happens. That includes people like Janelle Gerry, at Macadamias Australia, and the whole Steinhardt family; Jamie Hansen, at Childers; and Bree Grima, from Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers. There are so many out there who took on this fight themselves. They put forward their own money. In fact, I am of the understanding that there is a lawsuit being looked at against the state Labor government about what has happened to this community. There have been a lot of sleepless nights for people who have invested their hard-earned money. Tens of millions of dollars has been invested in things like macadamia crops off the back of the reliability that was given by this dam. There was roughly 92 per cent reliability for water supply every single year. Last year it was 14 per cent. Currently that has improved because we have had rain. But the idea that we can have this move forward and remain in the current situation is unacceptable. That is why we put $600 million on the table to make sure that simply doesn’t happen.

I’m very pleased that we’re getting on with the job locally. It is the job of government to deliver things like this because it matters for our local economy, it matters for our local people and it matters for jobs. We as a government are very proud of our history and what we’ve done in the last three years. That includes ensuring the creation of 1.1 million jobs since the pandemic hit. It hasn’t gone down; it has increased by 1.1 million since the pandemic hit. I want to thank all the hardworking men and women. Whether they are working in the resources sector, in the Murray-Darling Basin, in a small-to-medium business or elsewhere, they have simply done what they had to do. They have pulled this country through in terms of our economy due to their commitment, the risks they take and what they have delivered.

There have been 700,000 jobs saved through JobKeeper. We have 71.3 per cent of trade and exports now covered by free trade agreements. What does that mean to an individual? Quite simply, it means your job is secure if you’re related to an export trade. If we look at the resources sector, we know that China, for example, has made some decisions which clearly we don’t agree with. It meant there were exports from this country which were no longer being accepted and purchased by China. Free trade agreements mean we have options for those exports to go elsewhere. We as a government have spent time securing those agreements with other countries, and that is exactly what has happened. In my own portfolio, we have seen the resources sector increase exports into places like Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and India. I thank those nations for picking up that trade; it is incredibly important.

We in this country absolutely rely on what happens in the resources sector for the economy. Whether it is in the Murray-Darling Basin or elsewhere, it is how we pay for the essential services that Australians rely on. Could you imagine where this country would be positioned without the record economic contribution of the resources sector? In a year, it has provided $34 billion in taxes and royalties to state and federal governments. This is how we pay our bills. This is how we ensure that those hospitals are available. This is how we can commit $600 million to the Paradise Dam repairs.

Quite simply, we continue to build the economy, we continue to provide opportunities through free trade agreements and we continue to train Australians. And that is something I’m incredibly proud of—220,000 trade apprentices. That is the highest number since records began in 1963. I’m incredibly proud of what the resources sector is doing. Right across small and medium enterprises, they are engaging, they are employing new apprentices and trainees and they are providing opportunities for them to learn a trade, to learn a skill which they will utilise into the future—as I did as a skinny kid on 13 January 1987. I’m not quite as salubrious now in terms of the hair! It’s not quite the same colour. And I might have gained a couple of kilos—as the member for Riverina is reminding me from the benches. A trade gives you opportunity, a trade means you can pay your own way and a trade means you can get on with life. I’m very pleased that we’re helping to make that opportunity occur.

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