The Turnbull Government’s 2017 Budget was a huge disappointment for North Queensland and particularly for the people in the Hebert electorate. The Budget delivered nothing for the regions in terms of infrastructure projects, funding or support for the vital issues of water, energy and jobs, which are critical to the future growth and development of the Herbert electorate.
Townsville’s unemployment rate is currently 11.3% and youth unemployment is at a very high 21.7%. The Turnbull government had the opportunity to offer this region some hope in the 2017 Budget but sadly North Queensland was not even mentioned in the Budget speech.
This Budget has pointed out the absolute hypocrisy of the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his “regional” jobs plan. It appears the Deputy Prime Minister is only interested in decentralising his own electorate and not any other regional areas as there was absolutely no funding allocated for Government Departments and services to be decentralised.
This government chose not to reinstate the 200 job cuts at the Townsville Australian Tax Office, the 19 job cuts to the CSIRO at James Cook University and the 4 job cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs office in Townsville.
North Queensland is the heartland for tropical cyclones and it appears that the Turnbull Government is considering closing the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in Townsville. The work done by the BOM is crucial in order for businesses, organisations, governments and members of the community to be adequately prepared and be ready for all weather events. The BOM provides the initial on the ground data to the community that ensures that life-saving information is quickly disseminated. No assurances have been given that BOM staff will not be relocated and these whispers are only getting louder.
I have been a strong and loud voice in the ear of the Government regarding the issues of major concern for the North right up to the day before the Budget was announced. I urged the Federal Government to match Labor’s $300 million for water security and energy infrastructure by calling on Prime Minister Turnbull and the Treasurer, Scott Morrison to match Labor’s pledge and deliver action on these critical projects.
There is no doubt that Labor is leading the charge here in Queensland. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has visited the state twenty three times since the federal election; and five of those visits have been to Herbert. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has only made thirteen visits to Queensland and the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has made fourteen visits.
It is blatantly clear that it is only Labor that will deliver for Northern Australia and only Labor that will provide the necessary action to reignite regional Queensland areas such as Herbert.
Cathy O’Toole, MP
Member for Herbert