House debates

Wednesday, 17 June 2020


Fairfax Electorate

7:54 pm

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When I was elected to this parliament in 2016, I made a pledge that I would be the Sunshine Coast's man in Canberra, and not Canberra's man on the Sunshine Coast, as an expression of my dedication and my desire to serve. As part of that pledge, each financial year I complete an annual report as a way of being accountable to the people who put me here. I look forward to publishing that annual report in a few weeks time, but I thought I would take this opportunity to at least provide a verbal snapshot of what this financial year has been about, particularly for the people of Fairfax.

I will say at the outset that I've never been as proud to represent my community as I have been this financial year, and that is because of how the community has responded to the coronavirus. One of our leading demographers, Bernard Salt, refers to the Sunshine Coast as being the most entrepreneurial region in the country, which speaks to something in our cultural DNA as a region. And it also makes sense when you think of one of our leading sociologists, Hugh Mackay, who talks about particular areas of the Sunshine Coast having the highest degree of social capital compared with other places right across the country. I think it's those informal bonds between people and that real sense of community that has shone through, particularly in recent months, as we have all supported each other as a global pandemic hit our shores. Of course, the Grattan Institute's analysis suggests that the Sunshine Coast has been hit harder with job losses than any other region in Queensland. Indeed, if you look at the federal government's JobKeeper program, the Sunshine Coast is one of the largest recipients. So our community has done it tough.

It does make sense, when I look at some of the statistics of what my electorate office has done in this financial year, that we have sought to assist so many people. My office and I have made over 5½ thousand outbound phone calls, focusing on that demographic which we think would be most impacted by COVID-19. We sent over 15½ thousand direct letters to residents over the age of 70. We responded to thousands of phone calls and emails from people in distress. We published weekly COVID e-newsletters for residents and weekly COVID business sector updates for chambers and local businesses. We distributed 2,000 face masks from my electorate office, delivered five online business forums about COVID-19 in the course of the last few months, and spoke regularly to the community via radio, newspaper and television advertisements and, of course, via social media. Only recently did I release the most comprehensive and most recent COVID-19 business survey for the region. This was, of course, in addition to the $260 billion that the federal government committed, and I'm very grateful to the business owners in the seat of Fairfax who shared with me some of their insights and, indeed, some of their problems. Through the listening ear of the Prime Minister and Treasurer, I was delighted to see the final package of JobKeeper reflect some of those areas of input.

But, of course, it wasn't just about COVID. The Sunshine Coast continues to receive more federal government funding than it ever has in its history: $3.2 billion for Bruce Highway upgrades; $390 million for the North Coast rail line; and $181 million for the upgrade of the Sunshine Coast Airport by way of concessional loan. This month alone, June, has seen the $301 million works at Maroochydore Road begin and the launch of the Sunshine Coast International Airport runway. We continue to work, and I look forward to working hard during the next financial year.

House adjourned at 20 : 00

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr L O'Brien ) took the chair at 10:22.