Speech to the Local Government Association of Queensland Breakfast
18 June 2018
National Convention Centre, Canberra
I join with my Parliamentary colleague Steven Jones, and welcome you all to Canberra. Not that Steve and I are residents of Canberra, we're [indistinct]. But we certainly welcome you to Canberra. So Mark, I acknowledge you as the president, thank you. And Sarah just said it would be dangerous to start acknowledging others. But I do need to, I'm sure you'd appreciate to acknowledge my Deputy Mayor, Carol Taylor, and my Mayor Paul Antonio. All politics is local, I'm sure you'd appreciate [indistinct].
I wanted to just mention that it's a pleasure to catch up with some of you yesterday, and I know that as I walk in this morning, my former state parliamentary colleagues Jack Dempsey and [indistinct] said: g'day mate, there's no doubt about it, we've stepped up, you stepped down and [indistinct].
Thank you Jack and Sean.
And as I mentioned, I certainly acknowledge Steven, my parliamentary colleague as well, and I don't think it's appropriate to [indistinct] political this morning because we all [indistinct] to discuss local government policy issues, et cetera. But if I was going to get down to hardcore politics, I'd just remind you that Steven's from New South Wales.
But look, it's a great pleasure to be here as a Queenslander certainly and as a former Toowoomba regional councillor addressing LGAQ here this morning. All of you people whom I admire greatly, given your dedication to your communities, which is at the end of the day where your local state and federal government, I guess at the end of the day, that's what we want to do, is properly represent our communities. Of course, Queensland in my case has a special place in my own story, in my heart, in my diary. Last month I was at Emerald, catching up with Western Queensland Local Government Association at the annual conference, of course, in March, with some of you, I was in Brisbane for the LGAQ assembly of regional organisations of councils. And just in this past fortnight, I've again met with mayors from across western Queensland and I've seen- [indistinct] here this morning, I think. There he is. Look after Paul Antonio down there.
To catch up with the Prime Minister in Blackhall and Charleville as part of our drought tour of Western Queensland and Western New South Wales. So it's always a pleasure to sit down with you colleagues, discuss the issues that are impacting our communities right across- in our case, the great state of Queensland. Drought being an example of one of those significant issues. And when you're dealing with tough challenges, such as drought and the other issues we faced, particularly in regional Australia, it's imperative, I believe, to get feedback from local government in particular. So I particularly appreciate that advice from mayors and councillors, the old adage: you are the closest level of government to the people.
Some of the great work that we will acknowledge in the local government sector will be represented in the National Awards for Local Government tomorrow, as you're all aware. I'm particularly pleased to see Queensland amongst the category winners. Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council is the winner of the Achieving Big Things in Small Communities Award, [indistinct] work on the new communications system which we'll be talking about. The Sunshine Coast Regional Council, the winner of the Boosting Productivity Through Infrastructure Award for the Sunshine Coast solar farm initiative. And the Scenic Rim Regional Council, highly commended in contributing to regional growth award category for their vibrant and active towns and villages initiative. So I congratulate all of you and look forward to talking more about those projects and others from across Australia at the formal awards presentation tomorrow.
Can I just mention again from a Queensland perspective, the Beyond Belcarra initiative. As we all know, in recent months the actions of a very, very, very small minority- or allegations at least—have done a great disservice I think to reputation of local government across our state. Of course, the overwhelming majority of councillors do the right thing. I know that, you know that. Committed to serving local communities with honesty and integrity. But when that may not be the case or there are questions being asked those people who [indistinct] need to be accountable. If I can recall the words of Greg Hallam in the Courier Mail not so many weeks ago, when you talked about the small number of individuals in question compared to the councillors, some 579 from memory across the state, so we need to keep that ratio in context. So I congratulate LGAQ on developing the 10 point plan, and I can only share my view with you, and I'm sure that members of the government- I'm sure members of the opposition, members of the Australian Parliament would very much understand the dedication, purpose and integrity of the [indistinct] in local government [indistinct] LGAQ in pursuing those ideals.
I gave them a Queensland context. I note the waste management discussions, at present, and Greg has been talking to Steven and I very briefly over breakfast about that. I share with you that, back in 2012, it was then legislation being promoted by the then-state government in Queensland that actually prompted me, amongst other things, to run for state politics when the opportunity arose, and I know that the current government is revisiting that legislation. I know that creates some certainty. At the end of the day, [indistinct] discussing waste management does present an opportunity too for us, our communities, our state economy in this case. But like you, I remain weary of some of that uncertainty, and particularly I would be keen to watch in case the total responsibility of the cost is dumped, pardon the pun, on local government. So it's something I'm watching and I'm sure you all are as well.
Can I quickly touch on Budget measures through the recent Budget that relate to Queensland I believe was quite significant? The $75 billion pipeline of infrastructure projects that we've committed to, together with transport initiatives, et cetera; I believe it represents an approach that we should all be pursuing—federal, state and local government—and that is a long-term planning approach beyond our political cycle. It's irrespective of the politics of the day. The longer-term planning we can do, I think, the better.
Many of you know these details. I'm sure you've all heard of it, but I just touch on some to remind you of the focus going forward. The Bruce Highway, an additional $3.3 billion over the next 10 years, bringing the [indistinct] investment up to $10 billion. Now, that includes Pine River to Caloundra, including that Dohles Rocks Road intersection, and of course the Cooroy to Curra section D, where my colleague, Llew O´Brien, as many of you know, a former police officer, understands first-hand the issues around the not only convenience and productivity around road infrastructure upgrades, but most particularly road safety. And Llew is one of our colleagues in the Federal Parliament that understands that very clearly, having to attend accidents over the years and knock on families' doors late at night. That's something very important indeed, that that's maintained as a priority.
The M1 Pacific Motorway, Varsity Lakes to Tugun project, there are a whole range of components in these projects that you'll be familiar with. Brisbane Metro back in Brisbane itself, of course. The Beerburrum to Nambour Rail Upgrade and the [indistinct] focus is on the Sunshine Coast. But heading a little further west, the Cunningham Highway. That Ebenezer intersection, or Yamanto and Amberley intersection there. Or, I should say, that Ebenezer area, that the congestion there at the Cunningham Highway; again, safety issues. And again, further west, of course, Outback Way, running through Queensland onto Northern Territory and Western Australia. So, I won't rattle through all the dollar figures, but just in terms of priorities, I wanted to note those couple of things, amongst others, coming down [indistinct] the Budget.
But I can move beyond very quickly, individual projects, to just touch on that Roads of Strategic Importance [indistinct]. I encourage local government to really get its head around that. [Indistinct] 3.5 billion over the next decade, ensuring key freight roads. At the end of the day, we're not able to get product to market for agriculture, mining et cetera. We're missing significant transport links and it's great to have [indistinct] free trade deals around the world, [indistinct] opportunities for regional Australia, but if we can't get product to market we are constrained. So that Roads of Strategic Importance [indistinct] initiative, as we're calling it, reserves amongst other things $1.5 billion for roads and projects in Northern Australia. So, something for us to all have there.
And lastly, another quick initiative I want to touch on, is the Major Projects Business Case Fund. Now, I sit alongside Michael McCormack, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, because we share the same department, the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities with our colleague Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities. And I stress again that a good project for us to look at as we were analysing advice and input from the department and independent experts was that $15 billion business case, to look at passenger rail options in the future between Toowoomba and Brisbane. Just sort of round out those connections in South East Queensland and [indistinct] discussing it a little earlier.
Can I just touch on Inland Rail, because I never tire speaking about it and I know it is largely an eastern seaboard project that will bring benefits to Queensland albeit a Melbourne to Brisbane rail route. But to think there is proposed $7.3 billion of economic benefits to Queensland in the decades to come I think is something we should be [indistinct] of as opportunities to [indistinct] into that right across the state. Significant- and from a Queensland perspective again, the fact that we now have Warren Truss as chair of the Australian Rail Track Corporation, a man well respected across politics and obviously has the Queensland experience, has that infrastructure experience [indistinct] his own ministerial responsibilities in his role in infrastructure and transport. I think that's a significant achievement for us. So I look forward to his guiding hand going forward.
I guess I just wanted to mention, before I wrap up, there's always plenty happening in Queensland. Steven and I have responsibilities obviously across the nation. Sure, Queensland is near and dear to my heart, but as Mark mentioned and reminded me this morning, is the most decentralised state in the nation. We have not only those opportunities, but significant challenges to continue [indistinct] together going forward. So, please maintain your advocacy. Please maintain your leadership; those ideas coming through, the challenges coming through, whether we're talking [indistinct] or, as my mayor and deputy mayor remind me, the significance of road funding requirements into the long-term [indistinct]. We need to continue to deal with those challenges jointly. So, ladies and gentlemen, whether you serve in the greater Brisbane or Southeast Queensland area, the regions or in the remote parts of the state, please understand the government is very keen to continue to back Queensland. I look forward to that partnership approach going forward and how we best support local communities.
And finally, as I've said a number of times, I am very keen, very keen to continue to ramp up that direct communication between the Commonwealth and local levels of government. Very much respecting the role of our state colleagues, but the more feedback we can get from specific local areas, planning [indistinct] here in Canberra the better and I believe that is best provided through local government, through leaders such as yourselves. So, thanks for having me this morning and enjoy the rest of breakfast please.