Thursday, 15 February 2018
I'm very pleased to again talk to the Senate chamber about Australia's sixth biggest city, and Queensland's second biggest city, the Gold Coast. As I think I've previously advised the Senate, I was very pleased to officially open my Senate office on the Gold Coast, in Southport, in October last year. It's been around 20 years since the Gold Coast has had a senator based there, with an office based on the Gold Coast, and I think it's going to make a difference to have some representation in the Senate chamber for that big city, which has such an exciting future. I think many people know that the Gold Coast is a fantastic place. It's obviously somewhere people go to a lot on holidays. But, as I always say to people, sure, it's a fantastic tourist destination—and it really is—but it is a real city with real needs that need to be addressed by government.
Senator Smith interjecting—
Senator Smith would think it was wrong of me not to mention that the Gold Coast recently got even better by getting its first Labor state member of parliament in several years, in Meaghan Scanlon—
I congratulate Senator Smith on welcoming Meaghan Scanlon's election to the parliament of Queensland, in the electorate of Gaven. But as good as the Gold Coast now is, with a state Labor member representing it for the first time in a long time, I'm very pleased to advise the Senate that the best is yet to come—
being the Commonwealth Games. Of course, it'll be better still when we have even more Labor members there! But that's a work in progress. But, seriously, the best is yet to come with the Commonwealth Games, which are going to be held on the Gold Coast in April. There are only 48 days to go until the Commonwealth Games start. Every day you spend on the Gold Coast, you can feel the excitement building amongst the community about what will actually be the biggest event ever held in Queensland. There will be athletes attending from 70 nations, and there will be about 6,500 athletes and officials coming from those 70 nations. It's obviously a fantastic opportunity for the Gold Coast, but also for Queensland and Australia, to have 6,500 new ambassadors for one of Australia's greatest cities and greatest regions. I'm sure that, after the experience that the athletes and officials have at the Commonwealth Games, they will be fantastic ambassadors for the city well into the future.
Apart from it being a big sports event, it's a massive economic incentive for the city as well. It's been estimated to have about a $4 billion economic impact—a positive economic impact—and has created about 16,000 full-time jobs. That's one of the reasons why the then state Labor government, under Premier Anna Bligh, was so committed to winning this bid, despite opposition from the LNP at the time. We're now seeing the economic boom that is being provided in the Commonwealth Games.
One of the things that have been very much in the thinking of the organisers of the Commonwealth Games, and the state government, who has been behind it, is making sure that there is a really long-term legacy for the Gold Coast in staging the games. We don't want this just to be a one-off event where everyone has a great time but when they walk away there's no lasting benefit. I know there's been a lot of work undertaken on a bipartisan basis. I should recognise the efforts of former premiers Rob Borbidge and Peter Beattie, who have both been working very hard to make sure the city does get a long-term legacy. There's been a lot of new infrastructure built, whether it be sporting facilities or roads and transport infrastructure, that will benefit the city well into the future.
It has been disappointing to see some criticism coming from LNP state and federal members about the organisation of the Commonwealth Games. They have been nitpicking about a range of things which they have labelled 'political correctness'. It's just disappointing that, when we have the biggest event that the Gold Coast and Queensland will have ever staged, there would be people out there knocking the event just to score a few political points. I call on those LNP members: we've only got 48 days to go; let's get behind this event and make sure we are presenting a bipartisan, positive image about the Gold Coast to everyone who's going to be coming over here.
The other thing that I should mention is that there have been some concerns raised about transport to and from the Commonwealth Games. It's well understood that the Gold Coast has been facing large transport pressures over a long period of time. But I'm very confident that the plan the state government has got in place will manage the additional burden that the Commonwealth Games will place on the transport network in and around the Gold Coast. Again it has been disappointing to see some LNP members, state and federal, jumping on this transport issue and trying to make out that it's going to be a massive problem and that the state government is to blame. We have even seen this week the federal member for Moncrieff, Steve Ciobo, saying in the Gold Coast newspapers that the solution to the Gold Coast traffic issues going forward is building a hyperloop which would enable people to jump in a Jetsons-style carrier and get to Brisbane from the Gold Coast in 10 minutes. As I have said to the Gold Coast media, I'm all for big ideas, but it's a bit of a shame that Minister Ciobo hasn't shown the same enthusiasm about projects that would be ready to go right now if only they could get a bit more support from this federal government.
We know very well—I've talked about this in the past—that the federal government under both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull has been very slow to come to the party for funding to upgrade the M1, the major highway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. That work could have been undertaken if only we'd had a federal government prepared to put its hand in its pocket and provide the same level of funding as they're willing to provide over the border in New South Wales. I'm glad an agreement has been finally reached on that; it's just a shame that it took so long.
Even on light rail, one of the things that has really revolutionised the Gold Coast, the then Abbott government didn't want to play ball and opposed the construction of stage 1. The then Liberal opposition opposed stage 1 of the light rail and didn't want to see it funded, but when federal Labor under the Rudd and Gillard governments did find funding for it they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to fund stage 2 of the light rail, which fortunately is now open. There is a consistent pattern here: every single major investment that has occurred in transport at the Gold Coast over recent years has been led by state or federal Labor governments or both. We really need to see that effort being matched by this federal government as well.
As I said, Minister Ciobo has been in the media on the Gold Coast this week, talking about a hyperloop, something no-one can actually put a cost on. No-one knows how soon it could be delivered, but, let's face it, it's going to be a long time off. The best thing Steve Ciobo could be doing is using his role as a senior cabinet minister to be getting funding from the Turnbull government to put into the Cross River Rail network, which is a project the state government has actually started work on. As yet, we've had not a single dollar put into the Cross River Rail project by the federal government under Malcolm Turnbull. Despite the fact that they have every single federal seat on the Gold Coast, they're not prepared to invest in rail infrastructure that will make a big difference on the Gold Coast. There's a common misunderstanding that because Cross River Rail mainly involves rectifying the tracks and building new networks in Brisbane there's no benefit to the Gold Coast. That's actually completely incorrect. It is critical that this Cross River Rail project happens to make sure that we can increase the number of trains and the number of passengers getting to use the train from the Gold Coast. It's been estimated that when it goes ahead it will take about 16,000 cars off the M1 between Brisbane and the Gold Coast every single day, so it would actually save people travelling from the Gold Coast about 15 minutes each way in their journey. That can only be a good thing for Gold Coast residents, so it would just be nice to see one of the four LNP federal members take this issue up and try and get some money out of their own government.
But, despite all of that, as I say, I'm very confident that the transport plan that the state government has ready to go is going to work for the Commonwealth Games. It's going to be just one reason why these go down as the best Commonwealth Games ever and the very biggest and best event that Queensland has ever staged.