Second Reading Debate – Appropriation Bills (2015-16)
Mr PITT (Hinkler—Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) (10:29): I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2015-2016 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2015-2016. In my electorate of Hinkler, there are many things underway, things which will help improve our local economy and provide jobs. One of those is the Fraser Coast Military Trail, which is being proposed by the Fraser Coast Regional Council. The Fraser Coast Military Trail will be a huge positive to the region and has the potential to draw in large number of tourists to my electorate of Hinkler. The trail, which will link existing military sites around the region, is progressing well, with the RSL recently receiving $900,000 under the Stronger Regions Fund for stage 2 of the Duncan Chapman Military History project.
I must note that grant was secured by the member for Wide Bay, our former Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss. Maryborough of course is in his electorate, but the member for Wide Bay and I share many other things: we share boundaries, we share a local council in the Fraser Coast Regional Council and of course we both work for the common good for the people of both Wide Bay and Hinkler. While I have the opportunity, I would like to congratulate the former Deputy Prime Minister on the announcement of his retirement. Warren has been a great colleague of mine and a friend of the people of Hinkler for a very long time. He has served not only the people of Wide Bay but also the people of Queensland, the people of regional Australia, the people of Australia in total and the Nationals for almost 26 years. The member for Wide Bay is one of those people—and I have known many of them over my working career—who, when they get to the point of retirement, you want to be able to tip upside down, give them a quick shake and have all of their knowledge fall into a bucket as something that you can store on the shelf and reach into in times of need. Unfortunately that cannot be done, but I must thank the former Deputy Prime Minister for all the advice and assistance that he has given me in the time I have been in this place. He has been an absolute servant for the people of Australia, and I congratulate he and Mrs Truss on their future retirement and I wish them well.
Stage 2 of the Duncan Chapman Military History project will feature an eight-metre high representation of the cliffs of Gallipoli ahead of the statue in Maryborough’s Queens Park. It will also include information bays between three panels of cliffs, which will convey the Gallipoli story, and sculptures will depict the landing scene at Anzac Cove. A trench walk depicting the Western Front and a memorial commemorating the battle of Pozieres, where Major Duncan Chapman was killed, will complete this unique, interactive, memorial. The tourists that are attracted to this site will also be attracted to the areas inside my electorate.
Beginning at the Maryborough military museum, which is home to over 7,000 items of military memorabilia, the history trail will include a Vietnam War museum in Toogoom, the Duncan Chapman statue and the training ground on Fraser Island of the famous former Z force from World War II. I must congratulate the sub-branch of the RSL at Toogoom, which has just secured an APC from the Vietnam War era. It is an armoured personnel carrier, which they will have on display, which I believe will arrive in future weeks.
I would also like to throw out my congratulations to those surviving members of Delta Company from the battle of Long Tan, who celebrate a very significant memorial date this year in August. There are a number of Delta Company vets in Toogoom and in Hervey Bay. Lt Col. Harry Smith, retired, a former Hervey Bay resident who has just recently moved back to the Sunshine Coast, is a very well-known advocate for the members of Delta Company from the battle of Long Tan.
A military dive wreck, which I have been advocating for my electorate since I was elected in 2013, would be a fantastic addition to the military trail. While the fate of the HMAS Tobruk has yet to be decided, I acknowledge there is strong competition for it with both Tasmania and the Gold Coast expressing interest in having it scuttled in their waters. A Wide Bay Burnett regional dive wreck advisory group has said that while the HMAS Tobruk is the ideal vessel—as it is possible to swim through it from one end to the other—there could be another vessel that would be just as suitable. If the Department of Defence do have another vessel they think is suitable, the advisory group would consider it as an option. There is a strong need for a new tourist attraction in my electorate of Hinkler to stimulate the local economy and create jobs. The dive wreck advisory group estimates that a military dive wreck would contribute between $1 million and $4 million each year to the local economy—that is a great boost. Another flow-on would be an increase in domestic and international visitations to the Wide Bay Burnett region. In New South Wales, for example, about 5,000 divers explore HMAS Adelaide with at least 90 per cent of divers coming from outside the region, including 20 per cent who come from overseas.
For tourism, it is no secret to my constituents that Hinkler is a fantastic place to visit and live; we have everything right here on our doorstep. Just last month, Flight Centre announced its top 10 Australian holiday destinations for 2015 and Bundaberg, at the northern end of my electorate, was ranked No. 6. Rising in popularity by nine per cent in 2015, more Aussies are taking advantage of Bundaberg’s laid-back appeal and easy access to the country’s largest concentration of nesting marine turtles. Each year, from November to March, around 30,000 visitors witness the majestic marine turtles laying their clutches on the shores of Mon Repos beach, which has the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region. And the Fraser Coast recorded Queensland’s strongest domestic overnight visitor growth, with a 21.4 per cent increase—nearly triple the overall state increase of 7.9 per cent—for the period ending September 2015. Fraser Coast Opportunities reported a major 35.9 per cent boost in intrastate visitors to the area. ‘Holiday makers’ and ‘visiting friends and relatives’ were the primary purposes for those trips, with raw figures of 294,000 and 264,000 visitors respectively.
The Hinkler electorate is a wonderful, community minded place to live with many groups and organisations providing support and friendship to our residents. The coalition government is providing funding opportunities to these groups, through the Stronger Communities Program. Eligible community groups can apply for grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 for small capital projects. Each federal electorate is allocated $150,000 a year over two years. In my electorate, we have already presented three community organisations with their grants and there are more announcements to come.
Rum City Rods and Customs was awarded $5,775 to replace the roof on their hall in Bundaberg. The club was formed around 1994 and was originally named the Rum City Rodders. The club’s main objective is to promote and encourage community interest in the sport of constructing, showing and driving street legal rods. I must say, having seen some of the members’ cars, they are just incredible pieces of workmanship. The long-awaited upgrade will provide the club’s 70 members with a central meeting point that is safe and dry, and the hall can now also be utilised by other community groups.
The Bundaberg Steam Tramway Preservation Society received a grant of $18,182 which will go towards replacing the existing timber sleepers with concrete sleepers along the two-kilometre line. Since it was built in November 1988, the Australian Sugar Cane Railway has carried more than 500,000 locals and tourists. It is a sight to behold—a true coal-driven steam engine towing around the botanic gardens. The society is committed to keeping ticket prices low so that children of all ages can enjoy the botanic gardens and learn about locomotive and sugar cane history. These upgrades will reduce the number of track maintenance closures, which will enable the railway society to entertain and educate more families.
We Care 2, an organisation which provides meals and assistance to about 1,000 disadvantaged Fraser Coast residents each week, was awarded $10,000 to purchase new freezers. These freezers will enable the team at We Care 2 to continue providing vital assistance across the Fraser Coast, whether it is through Extra Choices, the Community Connect Food Van, school breakfasts, emergency relief or to support the Comfort Kitchen weekly dinner for the disadvantaged.
I will have several more projects to announce through round 1 over the next few weeks, which will benefit community groups right across the electorate. The second round of Stronger Communities funding opened last week, so I encourage any community groups in my electorate to consider whether they might be eligible and submit an expression of interest.
In Queensland we have local government elections underway right now. The upcoming elections, which take place on 19 March, have attracted a lot of interest. We have six candidates vying to be mayor of Fraser Coast Regional Council and 35 candidates standing for council. In Bundaberg Regional Council we have five running for mayor, with 33 candidates running for council. I take this brief opportunity to wish all candidates well for their campaigns.
In relation to aged care in my electorate, construction has begun on a number of aged-care facilities. Builders Woollam Constructions have just turned the first sod of a $40 million aged-care home at Kawungan, which will bring not just 150 beds but also more than 100 jobs. A $30 million Premier Health Care facility in Urraween’s Medical Place will offer 145 new beds, with construction due to start next month. In Bargara, a $25 million, 160-bed aged-care facility is being built beside the existing Palm Lake Resort. It is expected to open in April. Attracting investment to our region to deliver more aged-care facilities is something I have been particularly vocal about since my election in 2013. It requires a team effort from all three levels of government and the private sector. Our senior residents deserve to live out their remaining days with dignity, and Hinkler is an idyllic place to do just that. While the federal government provides the recurrent funding for the daily operation of aged-care facilities, development and planning is controlled by councils and the state government.
There are many things that all levels of government can do to make our region an attractive investment option. This includes providing land, reducing red tape and speeding up approval processes. I am very pleased to see so many new facilities being built across the region, which will reduce wait times and stimulate our local construction industry.
We should be celebrating the fact that Australians are living healthier, longer lives, rather than focusing on the economic challenges presented by having an aging population. As the baby-boomer generation ages and demand for quality aged care and retirement villages continues to grow, there will be enormous opportunities for employment in the construction industry, mobility retail sector, medical technology and innovation, pharmacy, nursing and allied health care.
While I am on my feet, I would also like to congratulate Knauf. Knauf is another significant project which has started in my electorate. It is the construction of a plasterboard manufacturing plant at the Port of Bundaberg. Civil works began on 1 February on the $70 million plant, which is expected to create around 200 jobs during construction and around 70 permanent jobs once completed. Knauf are importing more than 200 containers from Europe for local companies to install. The Bundaberg facility, which is expected to be operational by the beginning of 2017, will be the company’s third facility in Australia, with manufacturing plants also in Sydney and Melbourne.
The project will include gypsum handling and processing facilities to support plasterboard production and for the sale of gypsum to our very important local agricultural sector. For those who know the Bundaberg region, it is one of the largest horticultural producing areas of Australia. We are the biggest producer of heavy vegetables, so to have a company that can import lime directly and make it into a pelletised product at a much reduced cost will be a big benefit for our local farmers. I commend the bill to the House.