This budget estimates hearing was my second budget estimates hearing. Just like I did last year, I went in with a positive outlook and an open mind but, just like last year, my disappointment with the process did not take long to surface. Just like last year, ministers attempted to shut down countless questions, showcasing Labor’s lack of openness and transparency.
During the estimates committee hearing I asked about a number of issues related directly to my electorate of Bundaberg. The government’s responses were disappointing, to say the least. It has been more than two years since a state development area was declared at the Port of Bundaberg so, obviously, I asked whether work had commenced on the approved solar farm, which was mentioned at last year’s estimates hearing, and if any other projects were available or had begun within the state development area. The response confirmed that the site for the solar farm remained untouched and the only other approved project is an area for spoil disposal. Any other projects that were mentioned during the estimates hearing were located outside of the Bundaberg state development area. After more than two years, a spoil dump is not much for the government to hang its hat on. Do those opposite really consider that to be progress? I can tell members that the residents of Bundaberg certainly do not.
As Labor has invested nearly $13 million into the Gladstone State Development Area, I was keen to see if Bundaberg would receive a similar commitment. In stark contrast to the nearby city of Gladstone, Labor made it clear that there are no plans to replicate an investment in the state development area in Bundaberg. In an area with historically high unemployment, Bundaberg’s state development area is a priority for my region. It has the potential to provide opportunities for local industry to grow, creating jobs along the way. The people of my area are crying out for jobs, development and government commitment, but all we are seeing from Labor are broken promises and ongoing delays.
Just as this anti-region Labor government does on a regular basis, during the hearing it also confirmed that it has failed to update the Wide Bay-Burnett regional plan for eight years. Of course, Brisbane’s plan is up to date, but Labor does not see fit to spend any time updating any other plans. Regional plans address critical land use issues affecting the regions. If they are not kept up to speed, they stop being commercially viable. Over the past eight years, the Wide Bay-Burnett area has changed a lot, so it is disappointing that not even this regional plan can be kept up to speed by this Labor government.
To develop projects that help drive the local economy and create jobs, we need to see cooperation between all levels of government. Just as Labor has done with the Hinkler Regional Deal, championed by our federal member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt, when it comes to my region, all we are seeing is broken promises, neglect and political games. Clearly, Bundaberg is clearly not a priority for this Labor government and these estimates hearings certainly showcased that.