Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (2.36 pm): I rise to speak on the 2022 budget. This government is
riddled with integrity and transparency issues, and that character is written throughout this budget. It
treats the trust of Queenslanders with contempt. It treats Gympie with contempt. It fails the Gympie
residents. The Treasurer promised 26 times there would be no new or increased taxes. The government
broke its debt promise, its no new tax promise, and its service and spending promise. It has failed on
integrity and transparency.
Despite all this, the health crisis will continue. Nearly a third of the record $9.785 billion to deliver
new hospitals and beds is not identified until beyond July 2026—in four years. Only $85 million is
allocated for next year. None of the beds will be a reality until 2028. There will be no new hospitals until
after the next election. The AMAQ has said that our health system is on life support. The government
has overseen its destruction and wants another decade to fix its health crisis.
This is not about a record health budget; it is about the government’s record on health. Its record
in Gympie shows it is in crisis and it refuses to deliver a new Gympie hospital. Last year the government
finally released the Master Clinical Services Plan—20 months late. It is now clear the plan was delayed
because the government does not want to deliver a new hospital. The report found—
The existing Gympie Hospital infrastructure creates significant clinical and operational challenges, with services spread across
multiple, poorly connected, multi-aged buildings. The fragmented operation of the facility is exacerbated by the steep topography
of the site, and the inherent forms and structural constraints of the aged buildings.
The hospital cannot be patched. The report said—
Whilst ongoing minor capital works are undertaken … to maintain safety standards, there is a need to move away from incremental
capital works in favour of a broader investment in the site.
It cannot be clearer. I asked the minister in May to support fast-tracking a new hospital. The
minister could not even be bothered to respond. The only response was from a departmental bureaucrat
advising that Queensland Health, the bureaucracy, will consider it against other funding priorities. In
other words, it is the department, the bureaucracy, which is determining the priorities for our region.
Does the minister advocate for anything?
The hospital is a priority for my residents. Whichever statistic you look at—ambulance ramping,
wait times or rates of chronic disease—Gympie has systemic problems. Every Labor budget since 2015
has contained a record investment in health, but services in Gympie keep declining. Patients and their
families are being distressed. The community is frustrated as services are run down, closed or ignored.
Almost daily I am told of problems. They are systemic: patients are discharged late at night; patients
are forced to sit outside in the cold and wind, including a mother and young baby; an elderly man with atypical pneumonia who waited for his 78-year-old wife to travel more than 60 kilometres; mental health
patients told to return home even though their GP says to urgently go hospital; those transferred to the
Sunshine Coast are discharged with no way to come home; patients use their mobile phones to ring for
staff attention; emergency department waiting times; no beds; being sent home only to return with a
worsening condition; told the hospital cannot help and ‘go talk to your GP’ which is a bit hard when you
cannot get in to see a GP; no response from phone calls and long waiting lists.
Ambulance ramping is concerning. In the December quarter, it was 23 per cent in Gympie, 44 per
cent in Nambour and 46 per cent at the Sunshine Coast. They cannot even get the ambulance ramping
figures right which is the percentage of patients not seen on time. Last week, the minister was caught
using misleading ambulance ramping figures for Sunshine Coast University Hospital or SCUH. Instead
of the claimed 18 per cent, it was really 40 per cent.
Since the last record health budget last year, staff have told me that Queensland Health is trying
to spin its way out of problems and massage messages. There is a culture of secrecy, a lack of
transparency, cover-ups and stalling. I have heard anecdotally that the staff are run off their feet,
stressed and overworked. They are concerned about the lack of equipment and patient care.
Three weeks ago, people started telling me they tried to attend the hospital’s fracture clinic, only
to be told it was shut. The closure follows last year’s fiasco from the closure of the paediatric ward.
There was no warning to the community, let alone the patients. Patients were sent away from booked
appointments or either told to see their GP or book an appointment at SCUH, a hospital at the southern
end of the Sunshine Coast more than 100 kilometres away. It is up to a two-hour trip for patients from
the Cooloola Coast. How can Queensland Health book you an appointment on a Monday, tell you to
have an X-ray beforehand and bring it to the clinic to then tell you to drive more than 100 kilometres
with a broken limb? You cannot not provide service at the hospital.
We have had issues in the paediatric ward, ambulance ramping, emergency departments,
contraction of services in obstetrics, gynaecology and orthopaedics. When services are removed
altogether, no-one finds out until they notice a change in what is provided or the loss of service. No-one
is told anything. When I have raised issues, all I have received is evasive answers. These should be
frontline services, often the first experience at a hospital. The state government seems to be deliberately
running down services at the hospital. It knows the hospital facilities are old, not fit for purpose, with
services fragmented and spread across multiple buildings. Its own master plan recommended preparing
a business plan for a new hospital on a new site. The only plan seems to be to close services with no
The glossy budget highlights brochure scraped the bottom of the barrel to find Gympie projects
to showcase. The government has hitched itself to projects primarily funded and delivered by the former
federal and the Gympie Regional Council. The $834,000 for the Cooloola Coast Esplanade revitalisation
will be delivered by the Gympie Regional Council. The state is making a part contribution to a council
project. It is claiming credit for total funding of the ongoing commitment to deliver the Gympie bypass
project. The former federal government funds the bulk or 80 per cent of this $1 billion project.
I welcome the $100,000 to commence replacing the permanent fire and rescue station in Gympie.
It is projected to cost $6 million. Since I was elected in 2015, I have advocated for a new station. Land
was purchased in 2014 for a site. Whenever I have asked, time lines are bounced around. I have also
raised local concerns about the suitability of the site and the possibility of an alternate site. Twelve
months ago the minister advised me that the current station was functional and a replacement would
be delayed until 2024. I am pleased the minister has now relented.
Rainbow Beach needs a properly designated police station and additional personnel. The Police
Minister should be acutely aware that the population surge in the area during tourist season and on
weekends is renowned for generating policing issues in popular spots like Teewah Beach. When I
specifically raised the need for a station in the parliament more than 18 months ago, the minister asked
me to raise it with him. I said I looked forward to seeing it in the following budget. I again wrote to him
that same week. There was nothing in that budget. When the minister was in Rainbow Beach last year,
I suggested he find the police station which operates from underneath a house. I never have been told
if he ever found it. I wrote again asking for it in this year’s budget.
The capital statements show a $100,000 commitment for a Rainbow Beach replacement police
facility. There is no mention of my request for additional personnel and an upgrade at Imbil police
station. I trust the $100,000 commitment is not simply designed to keep my community quiet. It must
be followed up with the full funding to replace the police station.
I welcome the admission there has been a problem with Weapons Licensing. The process to
modernise with streamlined processes and digitising records for a new management system must be
real and effective. This budget has almost nothing for increased social housing, state controlled roads, bridge
upgrades and schools in Gympie. We have had three floods this year, one of which was only beaten by
the 1893 flood. Despite the hand-wringing and media opportunities, the government is clearly reluctant
to flood-proof the Gympie region or provide special assistance for sporting clubs which have been hit
hard. It has ignored requests to invest in high quality sporting facilities. It has ignored fast-tracking
investment in new school buildings and flood-proof them, especially at One Mile State School.
Demountables should only be temporary; they cannot be a solution.
The Premier turned up for the first time. I asked her to listen and to deliver. We were hopeful.
Nothing has been delivered. The government’s announcement to build 1,200 new social and affordable
homes is an exercise in cynical and cruel trickery. It was already announced in last year’s budget, but
unfunded. The Treasurer’s breathtaking claim was, ‘That’s what governments do. We make our
announcement and then deliver.’ It did not deliver. The government is not looking for a housing crisis
solution; it is only looking for a political one. Gympie has next to nothing for anyone needing crisis or
social housing. It is compounded by pressure on the tight private rental market. The situation is
exacerbated by the floods which have forced renters and home owners out of homes which need repair
to compete for limited accommodation.
Last month, I asked the minister if land was identified for future housing as part of the
$10.5 million funding for emergency accommodation in Gympie. The minister said that two projects
would deliver three homes. Another project is going through the final design stages. Another three sites
are identified as potentially suitable for development. It is not much to meet Gympie’s acute housing
crisis. When people are living in their cars, in tents, couch surfing, families are being split and forced to
live apart, the last thing they need is platitudes and budget trickery.
We need substantial funding for road and bridge infrastructure and improved train services. There
is increasing pressure on local state controlled roads. The minister knows about them because I
frequently raise them. The government is refusing to help improve flood immunity and start planning for
a high-level bridge to improve access between north and south Gympie, or to provide special assistance
for road upgrades. There are no increased train services for Gympie in the government’s $3.5 billion
road cash splash to revolutionise the rail network.
The budget has wrong priorities and missed opportunities for agriculture, fishing and forestry
industries and the communities they support. After adjusting for CPI, DAF’s expenditure is cut by more
than $6.2 million from $614 million to $608 million and, even more concerning, staff have not increased.
The government is promoting its commitment to mental health in the budget. DAF’s budget has no
mention of or funding for the dedicated mental health support or assistance for fishers. There is no
funding to complete a regulatory impact statement.
Fishery operators are experiencing extreme hardship caused by the government’s fishery
reforms which is exacerbated by the minister’s continual refusal to complete a regulatory impact
statement. The former Productivity Commission heard that commercial fishers experienced significantly
higher levels of high and very high psychological distress than the general Australian population, with
the perpetual uncertainty generated by fisheries’ management strategies cited as the key contributor. It
heard the mental health issues are a direct by-product of legislative or regulatory change as there was
no regulatory impact statement and mental health did not even feature in what was going to happen.
Last year during estimates I asked the agriculture minister about the mental health impact of the
reform process. I had to ask three times. The minister did not want to consider it and deflected to the
director-general, who eventually said it was not their role.
DAF’s budget does not address timber supply issues, which are significantly impacting housing
and construction. A more than 100 per cent increase in raw timber costs and lengthy delays to source
products have inflated building costs. If nothing changes we will be short 56,000 house frames by 2035.
The timber shortage crisis is fanned by this government’s policies and inaction and is underpinned by
systemic failure of government policy over two decades. The government will not discuss it. In
November 2019 the Premier promised a timber action plan within two years. It still has not been
delivered. She promised a timber advisory panel. The panel has rarely met, and during question time
the Premier could not list even one recommendation it has made.
Piecemeal government assistance, poor policy and cuts to service delivery have driven up the
price of fruit and vegetables. Biosecurity has no additional staffing as the sector is threatened with
Japanese encephalitis, which is already here, and foot and mouth disease at our borders. The war
against fire ants is being lost. The agriculture minister is weaselling out of his national responsibility to
eradicate fire ants and has reinvented the eradication program as a ‘suppression task force’. It is clear
the government has no intention of meeting its responsibility. The minister’s press release ignored the
discontinuation of the extension program for primary producers who adopt improved management
practices. It flies in the face of the minister’s claims to work with agricultural industries to achieve best
This budget demonstrates Labor’s ingrained cynicism, its spin, its trickery and its lack of integrity
by dishonouring commitments and breaking promises and the trust of Queenslanders.