Recently, Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten traveled across Queensland, meeting and talking with people about issues that concerned them most. During that time he made a series of key announcements on health, infrastructure, education – all with important local and national impacts. If anything, his visit demonstrated that whilst the Coalition chaos continues, Labor is ready to govern.
So whilst the Coalition was busy watching rats desert their sinking (stinking) ship, Bill Shorten and Labor articulated a series of policies to help Queensland and in particular, its regional areas. These policies included:
- investing $1.14 billion in a National Hydrogen Plan to make Australia a world leader in the burgeoning hydrogen industry – boosting jobs, exports, fuel security and reducing pollution in Australia’s energy, transport and industrial sectors;
- committing $800 million to build the Rockhampton Ring Road in partnership with the State Labor Government. This transformative project will support around 780 direct jobs during its delivery. Importantly, it will ease congestion on the Bruce Highway;
- partnering with the Burdekin region to protect the Great Barrier Reef, with a $5 million investment to remove harmful nutrients from wastewater before it reaches the Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most precious marine ecosystems – worth $6 billion a year to the economy while supporting around 69,000 jobs. A significant threat to the ongoing health of the reef is the impact of wastewater;
- supporting a new dedicated training facility at Cairns Hospital. This $60 million investment is part of Labor’s Fair Go Action Plan to protect Medicare and fix our hospitals;
- creating 100 permanent full time Department of Human Services jobs in Cairns. These 100 new and secure jobs will inject up to $7.2 million into the local economy each and every year, and will further cement Cairns as a national hub for Commonwealth Government service delivery and administration;
- investing $5 million to rebuild the Proserpine Entertainment Centre – generating 43 local jobs in construction and giving the local community a vote of confidence in the future of their region. The entertainment centre is a central part of the town’s identity, but was badly damaged through Cyclone Debbie in 2017 and has been closed since, forcing events to relocate and limiting the region’s capacity to attract new events. Rebuilding it will be an integral step in helping the community’s ongoing recovery efforts;
- building a new 33 bed ward at the Townsville Hospital. Labor will invest $13 million to build the ward, providing state-of-the-art care to cancer and cardiovascular disease patients, general medicine patients and general surgery patients. The new ward will also reduce pressure on other parts of the hospital, including the overstretched emergency department, and contribute to the expansion of the hospital required over the next decade;
- creating 200 permanent full time Department of Human Services jobs in Townsville;
- committing $280 million to deliver the second stage of the Mackay Ring Road, a vital piece of infrastructure that will support the region’s on-going economic development;
- investing $25 million to rejuvenate Great Keppel Island, helping to grow tourism, create jobs and deliver an $80-million-a-year boost to the region’s economy. Great Keppel has amazing, untapped tourism potential but it is held back by a lack of basic infrastructure, including drinking water and a reliable power supply; and
- building a dedicated community mental health centre in Bundaberg. Labor will invest $15.7 million to construct the new building to accommodate rapidly expanding community mental health services in Bundaberg.
With several federal seats in the balance in Queensland, Labor could potentially capture up to eight LNP seats – which is more than enough to claim majority government.
Labor also knows that the fight against the LNP and its lackey, One Nation will be in the regions. Thats why Most of Bill Shorten’s time was spent in provincial areas, holding town hall meetings and engaging with everyday Queenslanders.
As Bill Shorten leaves the Sunshine State, he has done something the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government could never do – give Queenslanders hope for the future.