Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (5.26 pm): I rise to speak on the 2020-21 budget. The government
has twisted, ducked and weaved. It used every excuse not to deliver a budget before October. Last year we were told a budget would be delivered early so the electorate would know what was in it before the election. Then the new Treasurer was caught out saying that the budget was delayed because
Queensland always waits on the federal budget. It was always scheduled to be brought down before the federal budget. The government keeps changing the spin because it only sees the budget as a
cynical PR exercise in political manipulation. It has done everything to avoid revealing the brutal truth about the government’s mismanagement of the state’s economy. It did not want attention on its financial incompetence.
Labor’s new spin is that the electorate overwhelmingly endorsed the budget. The government
has not explained how the electorate overwhelmingly endorsed something that was delivered on
Tuesday. It is cloaking the budget in a mantle of retrospective approval. Queensland is the last state to deliver a budget in 2020. Labor has been flying blind through the biggest economic crisis in almost a century. We are in a mess because Labor cannot manage the economy. It is addicted to putting
everything on the credit card, crossing its fingers and hoping problems will disappear. Labor has already smashed the Queensland economy with nine new or increased job-destroying taxes, ripping almost
$4 billion out of the economy. Even before the coronavirus, we were at the bottom of the economic ladder. We had the highest unemployment rate, the highest number of bankruptcies and the lowest
On any measure, the government has failed every man, woman and child in this state. Almost
214,000 Queenslanders are unemployed. That is more than the total population of Toowoomba,
Townsville or Cairns. From November 2017 to January this year, we had on average the worst
unemployment rate in the nation. At 15.5 per cent, we have the highest youth unemployment rate in the nation. We have the second highest number of long-term jobseekers. More than 10,943 bankruptcies have been declared since December 2015—the most in the nation.
Labor treats taxpayers’ money with contempt and siphons it off for political and self-interest
purposes. It wasted $1.3 billion in the last three years, and that is what we know about. There was a $527 million blowout on IT projects and hundreds of thousands were spent on changing the name of a hospital. It spent half a million dollars for a disgraced former Labor Party operative to advise it on how to campaign and conduct internal opinion polls. In June it changed the election campaign rules to rig the election. It will cost an additional $23 million in public funding. The government believes that there is not one electorate or one frontline service that could better spend that $23 million on health, transport, police, law and order, small business, ambos, roads, fireys or education. It is showing breathtaking contempt for taxpayers.
Gympie residents still talk about how a Labor government casually wasted $500 million on the
failed Traveston Dam. After six years of power the government is putting more on credit, more
borrowings, more debt, highest jobless figures—a forecast that our jobless rate in three years, in 2023-24, will be the highest in the nation. That is cold comfort for the 2,048 unemployed in Gympie in the June quarter. Our unemployment rate of 9.4 per cent is three per cent above the state average.
Our state debt is headed for $130 billion. The government promised only $4 billion in additional borrowings. Now it is borrowing an eye-watering $28 billion. Despite this, Gympie did not even get crumbs from this budget. It is as though Gympie does not exist. The government scraped the bottom of the barrel to find two things to put in its glossy brochure. To make matters worse, the state government is only a bit player in both those projects. The state government is only making a small part-contribution to the Cooroy to Curra section D Gympie bypass and the upgrade of the Imbil sewage treatment plant.
In a glossy brochure the government announced a $94 million commitment towards the Gympie
bypass. It must be one of the most recycled announcements ever made. It has been announced, reannounced and used in endless photos and media opportunities. Only two months ago the roads minister was in Gympie for a sod turning photo opportunity. The government is announcing a project that was committed to three years ago—in November 2017.
What is more contemptible is that it is claiming credit for a project that is principally funded by the federal government. The major portion of the Gympie bypass is funded by the federal government— $94 million out of a total spend of $1 billion is less than 10 per cent of the project. Canberra is doing the heavy lifting and the government is claiming credit. The minister even announced and re-announced it in a press release issued in the department’s budget. The only reference to the federal government was in brackets as an afterthought saying the project is jointly funded. Jointly implies equal contributions.
Nothing is further from the truth. It was the LNP that kickstarted the Bruce Highway upgrade.
The only other announcement for the Gympie region was $128,994 for the Imbil sewage
treatment plant upgrade. The major portion of the upgrade will be funded by local ratepayers. In previous years we used to get 80 per cent of the funding from the Small Communities Assistance
Program. It was removed by Labor’s Bligh-Fraser government. When existing projects become the
highlight there are big problems. There is a lack of vision. Meanwhile, Gympie residents will cough up more in future debt repayments while choking on the crumbs. We did not even get a decent slice of the cake.
Gympie is a growing region which needs investment into upgrades and new projects. It is a
high-growth commercial and residential corridor in a strategic location. Local real estate agents are reporting a tight property market, properties sold sight unseen and rentals snapped up. The budget has no vision for Gympie’s future. It is not like those opposite do not know. I have written to ministers and the Premier numerous times seeking support for local projects. This budget provides next to nothing for state controlled roads, bridges, local schools and health care.
The police minister boasted in a press release about a record police budget and capital works
program. Rainbow Beach needs a properly designated police station. The Cooloola Coast’s permanent population of 6,500 swells by thousands during the peak tourist season and on weekends. The current police beat is not a police station and does not provide the same level of service.
Mr Ryan: You’ve never raised it with me before.
Mr PERRETT: I have raised it now, Minister, and I look forward to seeing it in next year’s budget.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Lui): Direct your comments through the chair.
Mr PERRETT: Patients on the coast are forced to travel significant distances for many basic
healthcare treatments and services that are available in towns with populations of only 2,000. The Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service’s review of health needs on the coast was due in February this year. The master clinical plan was scheduled for completion by the end of this year. Phase 1 was due back in March. That review was undertaken before COVID. It will provide some guidelines on the health and medical facilities needed on the Cooloola Coast.
Planning also needs to start on a new Gympie hospital. It is on a constrained site at the top of a steep hill and parking is poor. The private hospital has closed and it is putting additional pressure on the public hospital. Cooloola Coast Medical Transport needs support. It takes patients to out-of-town medical appointments when patient transport is outside the scope of local ambulance services.
Glenwood was new to the electorate in the last term. It was previously in the Maryborough
electorate. Locals tell me that the Labor member ignored their requests for an ambulance station. More than 6,000 people live in Glenwood and the surrounding region. They must wait for up to 40 minutes for an ambulance to come from Gympie or Maryborough. The stretch of Bruce Highway going through the region is notorious for serious accidents. Glenwood needs an ambulance station to help save lives.
Our local high schools are under pressure. Enrolments at James Nash and Gympie state high
schools are almost at capacity with private schools picking up the slack. We should plan for significant growth. Gympie West State School needs funds to help upgrade playground equipment, with the main
play area for prep and year 1 in urgent need of improvement. Investigation and work needs to start on raising Borumba Dam to provide water security. The government can no longer ignore Gympie’s need
for a new fire and rescue station. The land was bought in 2014 and is ready for a station.
We need to improve train services from Gympie North to the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane. The
government needs to get behind volunteer and community groups such as the Tin Can Bay Fishing
Club and Sporting Shooters Association, Rainbow Beach Surf Life Saving Club, Lake Borumba Fish
Stocking Association, Gympie Army Cadets, our Show Society, Historical Society and the Lower Wonga Hall and Gympie’s karate, cricket and pistol clubs. The government needs to consider funding projects such as Imbil Rail Park, Mary Valley Rail Trail and to support the Men’s Sheds in the Mary Valley, Tin Can Bay and Glenwood.
We need substantial funding for our road and bridge infrastructure. There has been increasing
pressure on local state controlled roads. The minister knows about these issues because I frequently raise them: overtaking lanes on the Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach roads; upgrading bridges on
Glastonbury Road including the Eel Creek Bridge; upgrading the Mary Valley Highway or
Gympie-Brooloo Road; and improving lighting at the intersection of Rainbow Beach Road and Queen
Elizabeth Drive, Cooloola Cove.
Instead of blaming everyone else and using misleading spin the government should do its job
and fix our bridges and upgrade our roads. Ministers are quick to complain that Canberra is not spending enough in Queensland, yet Canberra is constantly having to pick up the tab on things that are state responsibilities. This year a stretch of the Bruce Highway on Gympie’s northside was dug up and
repaired only six months after completion of a $17 million job. They said they did not know the condition of the underlying pavement. They were not forging a path over the Blue Mountains in the 1880s! The section would be one of the most documented roads, with more than 50 years of records of countless jobs, products used and weaknesses in the substructure. It would be one of the most dug up, patched and re-patched stretches of the Bruce Highway. Truckies know it is notorious as a mishmash of repairs.
The transport minister who is usually quick to shift blame was suspiciously quiet when this was
raised. The same minister used the upgrade of the Coondoo Creek Bridge as a political football. Before the 2017 election I announced a $10 million commitment to upgrade the bridge and approaches to a
one-in-50-year flood height immunity. Despite local Labor smugly claiming it was on their radar there was nothing in the 2018 budget. The minister blamed Canberra throughout 2018—for a state road! The minister said nothing when federal member Llew O’Brien secured a $5 million commitment in August
2018. Thanks to Llew’s instigation the upgrade was opened only two weeks ago. Responsibility stops here in Brisbane, not Canberra.
Despite eye-watering state budget borrowings, the budget of the Department of Agriculture and
Fisheries is going backwards—backwards in funding and staff. DAF’s budget is cut by $44 million
compared to last year’s expenditure. There is nothing for the department, no expansion in services, and it has budgeted for nine less staff—a drop from 2,124 to 2,115. That is less staff when the government’s employment solution is a Public Service led recovery. There are 30,000 more Brisbane bureaucrats
and DAF is cutting.
The minister is overseeing a decline in the department while other departments grow.
Front-of-counter services are cut, DAF offices closed, extension of services have all but disappeared and research and development are ignored. The minister’s budget press release could only find
$6.4 million of commitments to announce. It was an embarrassment. The Queensland Farmers’
Federation calls DAF’s budget ‘underwhelming’ and stated it was ‘a missed opportunity to address some critical competitiveness and productivity issues and exciting growth opportunities for the sector which would benefit all Queenslanders.’
There is much more to standing up for agriculture than wearing a hat and boots and racking up
frequent-flyer points. DAF’s budget is cut at a time when two-thirds or 67.4 per cent of Queensland is in drought. Parts of the state are into their eighth consecutive year of drought. Labor demonises the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors. It stops them from managing their businesses and creating jobs.
When we next face the ballot box Labor will have been in government for 30 of the past 35 years.
Our debt will be $130 billion at a minimum. Our unemployment is forecast to be the worst in the nation.
That is the sort of longevity of government and economic data you see in a banana republic. We risk becoming a one-party state, with government arrogance and incompetence glossed over by entrenched elites and party acolytes. There is more than a generation of governments stacked with union officials and political machine operatives destroying our state and running up the credit card. Gympie deserves
it’s fair share and agriculture, fisheries and forestry must rank higher than a poor cousin to other areas of this budget.