Wednesday, 1 October 2014
Central Queensland: Employment
Last week, I told parliament that Central Queensland faces a jobs crisis on a scale not seen for 30 years. Tonight, I want to spend more time outlining this situation and explain what actions I am encouraging our government to focus on to help our struggling communities.
As global coal prices continue to dive, it is reported that up to 15,000 coal related jobs in Queensland have been lost in the past two years, most from Central Queensland. Coal prices are half of what they were three years ago, while the cost of production in Australia is far higher than for our world competitors in Indonesia, China, Africa and the United States. Last week, BMA announced a further 700 job cuts directly impacting on Central Queensland towns like Moranbah and Dysart and regional cities like Rockhampton and Mackay. But we face a double whammy. Our concern for coal jobs is coupled with a downturn in our beef sector and a severe drought in Queensland. As I indicated last week, this creates the hallmarks of a perfect economic storm.
We need to fast-track key priority infrastructure projects to help stimulate employment and business growth in Central Queensland. That is why I and my federal colleagues George Christensen and Ken O'Dowd have been working to secure meetings with key government ministers to review projects that create local jobs. In the past week, we have raised the jobs crisis in meetings attended by the Prime Minister and other senior ministers. I have been canvassing my local mayors and councils to seek their input into suitable projects that may be shovel-ready, with the ability to create jobs. I can report that this morning I, along with my fellow Central Queensland federal National Party MPs and senators, met with the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister to seek support to fast-track projects that may boost job creation in our region. Fortunately, our coalition government, a government that focuses on the genuine growth of regional Australia, has already been proactive in this regard. Task forces, such as those reviewing the future development of Northern Australia and the future competitiveness of Australian agriculture, have outlined significant projects that would enhance future job and investment opportunities.
This includes water infrastructure. I want to see the Connors dam built between Sarina and Moranbah. This project is shovel-ready and is located in the Isaac shire, which is suffering badly from the downturn in coal and the impact of the 100 per cent fly-in fly-out work policy. Towns like Moranbah and Dysart need to diversify away from their reliance on coal. The current jobs crisis in our coalfields impacts not only on workers and their families but also on small-business owners and their families who rely on coal workers and contractors to support their business.
Central Queensland is proud of its coal and beef industries—but it is so much more than 'coaldust and bulldust' and it must diversify. To do this we need secure water supplies. I am pleased to inform the House that, on 9 October, I and a strong group of National Party MPs and senators will be conducting an excursion to examine the potential for dam projects firsthand in Capricornia. I thank my colleague Senator Matthew Canavan for his assistance here. We will look at the Connors dam site and meet the Isaac shire mayor at Moranbah to discuss community input on the concept.
Other key water projects that we must progress are the Fitzroy agricultural corridor near Rockhampton and the Urannah dam near the coalmining town of Collinsville in northern Capricornia. We need to fast-track key road projects like the upgrade of Peak Downs Highway, to which the federal government has already committed $120 million. Civic projects such as a convention centre and NRL stadium in Rockhampton and redeveloping the foreshore on the coast at Yeppoon may also provide further ongoing jobs in a diverse set of industries. But we should also look at non-traditional ways to boost our economy. We need to attract more Defence jobs to Rockhampton's military precinct, because more families would generate more activity in our small-business sector.