The Premier needs to start delivering more than just daily media conferences on corona virus.
She and her ministers need to start actually administering the state of Queensland.
“Business as Usual” No Longer an Option
This was the Courier Mail’s editorial headline on Wednesday this week when it reported that the Queensland Productivity Commission had “belled the cat” on Queensland’s post COVID future.
The QPC said a return to regular policy settings would be a disaster that would limit growth in the living standards of Queenslanders.
The QPC report found Queensland’s economy was in a poor way before the COVID pandemic with stalled wage growth, increasing unemployment and evaporating investment.
What it didn’t say was what had got us there.
Read the Signs
It is not just financial incompetence and cronyism. The signs of failing governance are all around us- and have been for some time.
Labor’s luck is that – like the Victorians who still #StandwithDan - we Queenslanders are meant to be so distracted by the fear of COVID19 that we have no time to notice anything else.
Consider these clues and draw your own conclusions.
Youth crime crisis
This is a state-wide crisis, totally due to Labor’s changes in the laws affecting juvenile criminals.
Right across Queensland, people call them the “Catch and Release” laws, because that is their outcome. If local police charge young offenders, even where they have hard evidence like CCTV footage, they must tell the Magistrate what other approaches they considered before charging the youth and why charges are the best decision. Police are then often mocked and taunted by the bailed miscreants as they walk freely from the court, to reoffend.
This has resulted in the death of young, unlicensed drivers in stolen cars, ongoing theft for businesses and homes with hardship for the victims. Most people in regional Queensland are very reliant on their vehicle because there is no public transport.
Children being killed while under Child Protection
As I have previously written with great anger, Queensland’s Child Safety Department is completely broken. The result is an unending list of tragic deaths for small children who were under the Department’s protection. Nobody is ever held accountable for these betrayals of those children.
Ice Addiction Crisis
This is still raging across Queensland and is closely tied to the high number of children in care and the number of horrible deaths we are seeing at the hands of drug-addicted parents.
The Ice epidemic affects regional Queensland as much as the south-east corner. A year after holding an urgent “Regional Ice Community Engagement Summit” in 2017, the Premier announced a $100 million “Ice Strategy”. New regional rehab beds were promised as part of that.
At the time of writing, not one rehab bed has been added in Queensland, let alone regional Queensland.
Two thirds of Queensland is still in drought. In Gregory, some of us are in our eighth year of drought.
So, it is no surprise that multiple Queensland towns are struggling with secure water supplies, not just for agriculture and industry, but even for household use.
In five years, the Palaszczuk Government has built not one dam. To the contrary, it is actually emptying and demolishing the Paradise Dam and downsizing the Rookwood Weir!
Citizen Class Actions against Government
Queensland citizens have had to launch legal action against their own Government in a desperate bid to get them to stop demolishing the Paradise Dam because of the catastrophic effects on one of Queensland’s key agricultural centres.
DAF Says “Tell It to the Hand”
So, in the midst of this historic drought and the impacts of Annastacia’s border pass system, her Department of Agriculture decides to close country service counters. The media publicly reports that the Department has instructed its’ public servants to “hide”, rather than answer the counter, if the public can see they’re in the office.
Thousands of highly addictive drugs – like Fentanyl, Oxycodone and methadone – have gone missing from our public hospitals between January and September 2019. Why and who?
Hospital Waiting Lists
The re-emergence of waiting lists for the waiting lists at Queensland hospitals, while the Minister passes a law rather than solving ambulance ramping issues at metropolitan emergency departments.
ECQ Struggles to Count Votes
Meanwhile, we can’t seem to administer elections anymore. The Electoral Commission of Queensland, embarrassingly, struggled to count the votes at the recent council elections.
It may, or may not, have something to do with their on-going IT upgrade. But blowouts on IT have become the norm in Queensland Government departments.
Under the Palaszczuk Government, public service IT blowouts have cost the State half a billion dollars more than what was budgeted. For instance, Queensland Health’s electronic patient records system was to cost $86 million when it started in 2016. The department has spent $302 million to date. This is the same system that threw the hospitals into chaos when it crashed last October
I don’t have to tell any Gregory resident about Queensland’s failing road network. But I will remind you it is because we have $9 billion of unfunded road maintenance.
Another Class Action – CQ Electricity
This comes as Central Queenslanders are invited by a Brisbane law firm to join a class action against Stanwell and CS Energy for manipulating the market to illegally drive up the cost of electricity between 2014 and 2019. These are owned by the Queensland Government.
Now, Even the Volunteers Are Walking
As Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers, I have watched appalled as both our volunteer rural firies and our SES volunteers have walked in droves.
The have left due to QFES bureaucracy and a lack of respect and funding.
More than 20 SES branches have closed altogether. There has been a 15 per cent slump in volunteers. I was only able to discover this situation through a written Question on Notice in parliament.
Meanwhile Minister Crawford has a secret review into the SES, for which taxpayers paid $250,000. But the Minister refuses to release it publicly. How damning is it and what else has he buried?
Quite a Bit - Actually
There is the Blue Water Review which is way overdue and which has left our volunteer marine rescue force unfunded. Surf Life Saving has no funding after December 31. And while no public announcement has been made officially, the Rural Fire Brigade Association of Queensland have been told a further $7 million has been cut from their funding. This takes their total funding cut to $20 million in just two years.
Why We Need Our Volunteers
With Queensland’s huge physical size, dispersed population and natural propensity for storms, floods, bushfire and cyclones, we need this volunteer force to ensure our survival and resilience.
We cannot afford to pay full-time unionized firefighters in the place of our rural firies and SES volunteers. No government could.
Another Early Fire Season
As I write this, I am keeping an eye on a bushfire in northern NSW behind Byron Bay. It is burning out of control in dry and windy conditions. This could be an early start to another dreadful fire season. Yet Labor is happy to shed volunteers and brigades.
We have come to rely on volunteers from NSW and Victoria – who don’t have blue cards. Will Annastacia give them all exemptions from her border closure?
And the Point Is?
The point the Queensland Productivity Report makes, is that we can’t continue like this. Labor’s priorities are all wrong and their administration of the State was failing before COVID19.
The corona virus impacts mean the world is facing a global economic crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen for 75 years.
Despite the media concentration on the daily media conferences by the premiers, when Queenslanders go to the polls on October 31, we must lift our gaze and recognise that to go back to “business as usual’ will be disastrous.
What Can Be Done?
If we are elected, what can the LNP do to try and set things on the right road again?
We do have detailed policies for every area I have mentioned. If you are interested you can read the detailed policies here .
Check Your Enrolment to Vote
I also urge you to check you are enrolled to vote which you can do here. COVID19 means there will be an extended period of about two weeks in which you can vote. I will let you know the locations of pre-polling booths in Gregory as soon as possible.
In Queensland you can register as a postal voter if you are unable to attend a polling booth due to physical incapacity, if you reside more than 20 kilometres from a polling booth or if you are registered as a “silent elector”, or your religious beliefs mean you cannot attend a polling booth.
If you wish to register as a special postal voter you can do so here.
Latest Border restrictions
The latest border arrangements have brought some of the saddest stories to my door. People who are enduring often tragic situations are then forced to try and obtain compassionate exemptions to cross the border to deal with family deaths and serious illness.
No Access By Road
There are two points I wish to stress. Firstly, you can no longer enter Queensland by road, at all. You must fly. The airports are the only point of entry. You can transit through Brisbane. Emerald, Blackall, Barcaldine and Longreach all have flights from Brisbane but you need to book ahead.
Exemptions as Rare as Hen’s Teeth
Secondly, Premier Palaszczuk publicly warned that exemptions would be hard to get. She has fulfilled her warning and it would appear that the vast majority of Queenslanders are cheering her on.
In my experience, you can apply here, but don’t expect any kindness to be involved in the risk assessment.
That is the personal tragedy. Then there is business.
Harvest Threatened By Border Bungle
As many Gregory residents would be aware, farming is a high tech industry now. Modern farming technology is so expensive that the business model is heavily reliant on contractors, so that the cost of the necessary machinery and skilled operators is spread across multiple farms.
Queensland’s border restrictions have spiked that in a major way. I have been advocating strongly for a better arrangement and I am hopeful that today’s national cabinet meeting may arrive at a workable solution.
Apply Early at New Link
In the meantime, contract harvesters can lodge an application for new category of road exemption here. I stress, this is a new measure so apply early and if you need advocacy, contact me.
Agforce has test cases in at the moment and in the meantime, we all await further announcements in this space. I will let you know any updates in my next letter.
I am also working hard to assist in a solution for the citrus harvest workforces.
No Christmas Border Miracle – Plan Accordingly
The experiences in Victoria and New Zealand have shown the eradication of community transmission of corona virus is a fantasy.
The good news is that NSW is demonstrating that good testing and contact tracing means clusters can be managed.
In even better news, federal health Minister Greg Hunt seems more confident about a vaccination being available next year.
In the meantime, the PM has said there is unlikely to be a Christmas border miracle. I think this means we should start thinking about what a Corona Christmas will look like for our individual families. Hopefully, it will be the only “Corona Christmas”.
Social Distancing is Still Vital
Remember we have no cure and no vaccine. This is still a very serious situation.
Please observe social distancing, please wash your hands for a full 20 seconds as often as you can and please co-operate with the COVIDsafe arrangements in retail and social venues. And don’t forget to use the COVIDsafe app.
We really must keep acting as if it is walking around amongst us.
Thank You For Reading
Thanks for reading and staying up to date.
As always, I welcome any comments or information by return email.
You can raise any issues with me the same way, or by going to my website at Lachlanmillarmp.com. You can find scholarships, grants, community events and my speeches, newsletters and media releases there as well.
If You Need Help – Please Call
With life so complicated at the moment, please don’t hesitate to call my offices if you need help.
If we can’t help you, we can usually give you the contacts for the right person who can. Gregory Longreach is PH (07) 4521 5700. Gregory Emerald (07) 4913 1000.
Kindest Regards – and stay safe,
Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.