Private Members Business – City Deals
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (12:03): The one thing we know about City Deals is that everybody wants one. I have certainly heard contributions this morning. Everyone seems keen to get their City Deal, and that includes me. I am here supporting the private member’s business put forward by Mr Wallace, the member for Fisher—although I do have a few problems with section 3 in that I don’t think the Sunshine Coast should be the priority for City Deals across the country. I spoke with the shareholding minister, Angus Taylor, about six months ago about the potential for putting together a regional deal which uses more than just one town or just one city to try and include more numbers and, of course, find those areas in the economy that we can absolutely build on and drive what is essential, particularly in regional areas of our country, and that is jobs.
My region of Hinkler is based around the two major cities of Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, but Wide Bay-Burnett has a population of around 270,000 people. The three cities in that region are: Bundaberg, at around 93,000; Hervey Bay, at 52,000 and the city of Maryborough, which is in the seat of Wide Bay, at around 28,000. That’s around 173,000 individuals in the population just in that triangle.
What you may not know is that we also have some levels, some numbers and some statistics which are not that strong and not that supportive. They are around unemployment and median income. In fact, a recent report that was put out by the Local Government Association identified the area of Wide Bay as, once again, being the area of the lowest per capita income in this country, as it has been for some 20 years. As the local member, I find that unacceptable. As a member of the federal parliament I know that there are places here, ministries and buckets of money that can change policies and make a difference to people. That is our purpose as members of parliament. We are here to try and advantage and move forward our constituents and the people we represent.
A City Deal for those regions is a great opportunity. We can build on our strengths. Around Bundaberg that is in agriculture and around Hervey Bay it is in tourism—the best place in the country to see whales. Then there is the great Fraser Island, just on the outside of my electorate, and the city of Maryborough, which of course is one of the greatest industrial workhorses in this nation. It is a wonderful industrial city in the seat of Wide Bay, and I acknowledge the member for Wide Bay, Llew O’Brien. But we definitely need some help. The numbers are not strong. This place is somewhere where we can do something about it. The unemployment rate adjusted—what’s called the NIEIR unemployment rate, which excludes disability pensions in the region, is at 16.7 per cent. It is the highest in the country. I find that unacceptable. It has been in the top three for some 20 years. To have a per capita income of some $34,000—just $34,000—is also unacceptable. We need to drive jobs into that region, and the Cities program provides those opportunities.
So I would say to the shareholding minister, who obviously changed before Christmas, that we’re coming to see you. We did some great work with Angus Taylor in building this up. I think there is an opportunity to put those three cities together and put together a deal which builds across all levels of government. The people I represent are sick of the arguments between the state government and the federal government and between local government and state government. The good thing about a Cities deal is that it puts those three layers of government together and commits them to a plan. It commits them to delivering money, to delivering services and to delivering infrastructure.
I have seen dozens of reports, and I know there are more reports underway. We don’t need more reports. What we need is infrastructure and high-paying jobs. The potential is there. We can build around the Bundaberg port. We can build more infrastructure for tourism into that great city of Hervey Bay. We can absolutely look to build a level 5 training hospital in the city of Bundaberg that can service over 300,000 people from Rockhampton to Gympie. The evidence that’s been put before me is that we are transferring over 1,000 patients via the RFDS to Brisbane every single year because we cannot provide those essential peak services for medical specialists. So, we absolutely need to act only that. Unfortunately, the stench of ‘Dr Death’, from Jayant Patel, at the Bundaberg Hospital still hangs around our local hospitals. I congratulate our local hospitals. They work so hard, and we are here to support them.
There are opportunities around our port, our hospitals and our tourism, but we need to put those structures together—and this is one way that we can do it. I again encourage the minister—who I am meeting with this week—to get this on the table. This year, 2018, needs to be the year of delivery. The people I represent are tired of talk. They want action. Our job is to deliver for them and to make their lives better, and these opportunities are here and here now.