Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Regional Queensland

7:44 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Over the last few months, there has been an increasing amount of debate within the community about the need for more jobs in regional Queensland. That is something that, as a senator for Queensland, I've been very vocal about ever since I arrived here a bit over 18 months ago. I've been very pleased that, as Senator Ketter has just mentioned, federal Labor has responded to the needs of regional Queensland by already having committed to a $1 billion manufacturing fund, which will benefit manufacturing in regional Queensland. We have also announced that we would allocate $1 billion to establish a northern Australia tourism infrastructure fund to support new tourism development in northern Australia, which is very important given how important an industry tourism is in that part of the world.

But also for people who are already in jobs—as opposed to how we are going to create new jobs—Labor has been at the forefront of the debate about the need to protect employment security for people in work. Regional Queensland has been suffering for some time now from an economic slump. As well as people being laid off entirely from their work, what we've seen increasingly from employers is a tendency to bring people on in insecure work via labour hire, via casual employment, via contract employment and all sorts of other ways to drive down wages and conditions. So there has been a lot of debate about the need for jobs in regional Queensland.

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

So you'd support Adani?

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's appropriate that Senator Williams raises Adani. There has been a lot of debate both down here and in regional Queensland about the Adani mine project. From the amount of talk you've heard from the LNP about Adani—and it has just been evidenced by the fact that Senator Williams has raised Adani while I am talking about regional jobs—you would think the LNP have a one-track mind. The only project they see any future in, in regional Queensland, is the Adani mine project.

I've made my views known about the Adani project at other times, and there is no need for me to go back over that in great detail tonight. But it's no surprise that the LNP seize upon Adani as the only thing they want to talk about in relation to regional jobs in Queensland; if you look at the list of failures from the LNP around regional jobs, they've got nothing else to talk about. Of course, the most infamous example is their $1 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, the NAIF—also known as the 'no actual infrastructure fund'. It is a fund that was announced and created three years ago, and it has still not created a single job or spent a single dollar on a project in regional Queensland.

But it goes well beyond the NAIF. Eighteen months ago, at the last election, a number of regional LNP candidates announced regional jobs and investment funds that would be out there supporting new jobs and projects in regional Queensland. Eighteen months later, guess how many projects have been funded, guess how many jobs have been created? Zero, not one—just like the NAIF. And then there was the Regional Growth Fund announced by this government nine months ago. It is yet to issue guidelines, let alone start funding projects. And that's before we get to the fact that the LNP have been completely missing in action when it comes to defending people who are in work from the casualisation, labour hire and insecure work that is rife across regional Queensland. They do nothing about that at all.

Labor has a different approach. Last week I was very pleased to join Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, in Gladstone to announce Labor's Real Jobs for Regional Queensland package. We think it's important that the debate about jobs in regional Queensland gets beyond that one mining project. Regardless of the merits of that project, regardless of your views on that project, it is a terrible thing for regional Queensland if the only plan of a particular government is to fund and support one mining project. But that is all the LNP have to offer. They have a list of other funds that have done nothing for jobs in regional Queensland, and all they want to do is bang on about one particular mining project.

Labor, on the other hand, sees a lot of opportunities in regional Queensland in a range of different sectors. We do think there is a future for regional Queensland in energy, mining and resources. But we also think there is a future in tourism, agriculture and education. That's why we were announcing funding last week for projects like Rookwood Weir and the Gladstone port access road. Regional Queensland, more than anything, wants a bunch of LNP MPs who come down here and focus on the jobs of regional Queensland. But this week has shown yet again that there is only one job that regional Queensland LNP members care about, and that's Leader of the National Party.