Private Member’s Business – Infrastructure
Mr PITT: We’ve heard a lot about congestion and roads and cities. I note the member for McEwen’s contribution, about how people are moving out of the cities and into cheaper regional areas. Hear, hear to that! I know that for you, Mr Deputy Speaker Rick Wilson—and for the member for Barker, who is here in the chamber as well—and me it’s really not about the train where we have to wait half an hour to get a connection back to our suburb. We simply don’t have the train. We don’t have those connections. It’s not about congestion; it’s about connection. What are we doing in regional areas to continue to connect our communities, to ensure that they have the opportunities that others, in the cities, may well have?
In my area, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you know, we’ve committed $173 million to the Hinkler Regional Deal, the majority of which is delivered into critical and connecting infrastructure, things that help to grow our economy, connect our local communities and ensure that people in our communities have an opportunity to escape from where they live in times of inclement weather, whether that is cyclone, flood or fire. We need to ensure that those connections are there. One thing that is incredibly important is the flood-proofing of the Torbanlea to Pialba connecting road. This road links the city of Hervey Bay back to the Bruce Highway. With the other link, which runs up to Maryborough, quite simply it is technically unfeasible to make it flood-proof. This is the opportunity. As part of the regional deal, we’ve committed $24 million, and, in some sort of miracle, the Queensland Labor government have committed their 20 per cent, which was a great surprise to me. In fact, I think it might have been a surprise to some of their ministers that it was on the approved list. They weren’t quite aware. That is a $30 million road upgrade which will ensure that we can connect the people of Hervey Bay to the Bruce Highway in times of difficult and inclement weather.
We’re also committing money to the redevelopment of the Hervey Bay CBD. What’s that about? Hervey Bay is, quite simply, a group of seaside villages that grew into a seaside town and then a seaside city. They don’t actually have what they consider to be a town centre. I congratulate the Fraser Coast Regional Council on their vision in establishing one in the city of Hervey Bay. To assist in that, we have committed $40 million from the Hinkler Regional Deal to help council achieve that aim. I think that is incredibly important.
We need to look back not just at congestion busting but connection—connecting those infrastructure pieces that are critical to our people. As I said earlier, the member for McEwen is on our side: he wants people moving into the regions. But what are the critical elements to ensure that we can provide for people that want to move to our areas? The first one is jobs. As I’ve said many times in this place, the unemployment rate in my electorate had been, quite simply, unacceptable. It had a ‘9’ in front of it. In the last 12 months, it has now reached the point where it has a ‘7’ in front of it, a substantial improvement. That’s happened through a range of issues, most importantly through this government’s investment into the regions through funds like the Regional Jobs and Investment program and the Regional Growth Fund—very substantial injections of cash not only into local governments and councils but also, in some cases, into businesses, which have expanded and created jobs and provided opportunity. Every single time we provide a permanent job in our region, the flow-through effect helps everyone in our community, and that includes our schools, our volunteer organisations and our rural fire services. It ensures that we have teaching staff and facilities.
As I’m sure you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, we need to continue to drive jobs into regional areas. We simply can’t sustain the type of growth that we’ve seen in some locations, predominantly, I have to say, from immigration. We know that in 2017 some 170,000 individuals chose to make Australia their home, and I say, ‘Good on you.’ But those 170,000 individuals moved into the east coast cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in just 12 months. I think there are opportunities in regional Australia for them and for us. So I think we need to ensure that we continue to provide those opportunities where we can for long-term jobs, to drive prosperity in our regional economies.
As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, right now there is nothing more important than water and water infrastructure. We can’t provide a solution to the current drought. It is well established. But we can ensure that there is a reliable water supply which is available for a much longer period of time if we simply commit to that infrastructure. Right now, we have a Queensland Labor government that is, would you believe, knocking down the dam wall at the Paradise Dam. They are going to take five metres off the Paradise wall—that is, 85,000 megalitres of storage—for an unspecified and yet to be stated safety issue. If there is a safety issue for our community, the Queensland Labor government should tell them what it is. What action do you plan to take? When will it be done? And give us back our water, because water is wealth.