The Palaszczuk Government should extend its Townsville job-creation response to Central Queensland where unemployment is crippling economies and threatening to become entrenched, according to Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar MP.
“The Townsville response was sparked by the loss of 257 jobs at Queensland Nickel. Central Queensland is bleeding by comparison. The mining industry has shed 20,000 jobs over the last two years while drought has severely impacted our other major employer, Agriculture,” said Mr Millar.
“Figures released in November show that in October 2015, the Outback region shed 1,100 jobs, the Fitzroy region shed 400 jobs and the Mackay region shed 300 jobs. That is nearly 2,000 jobs in just one month.
“I have every sympathy for the QNI workers in Townsville and the Government has responded correctly with an emergency response. Having said that, it means Central Queensland’s situation is a crisis,” he said.
“The Government needs to focus intently on preventing this from becoming entrenched to the point we start seeing failed communities in Central Queensland.”
Mr Millar said that he had written to the Premier suggesting a multi-pronged approach that would immediately boost jobs but also build long-term economic diversity and depth into the Central Queensland economy and address high youth unemployment rates in the Outback region.
“As they are doing for Townsville, they need to bring forward planned works. There are roads such as the Tambo-Alpha-Clermont Road and the Springsure-Tambo Road crying out for funding. There are long-delayed upgrades to facilities such as the Blackwater Hospital. Now is not the time for hesitancy. The Government should move decisively to start these projects as a way of priming these local economies,” he said.
Mr Millar said he had also asked the Premier to look at initiatives to assist tourism through capturing a share of the international market now flying into Townsville.
“We do very well in catering to the Drive Tourism market, but that is a very seasonal market. If we could capture a share of the international market through charter flights between Townsville and Longreach, we can add depth and stability to the Tourism sector in the west. That will create real jobs on the ground,” said Mr Millar.
Mr Millar said he had also requested that the Premier look at using some of the catalyst infrastructure funding announced last year to build projects which complement Central Queensland’s existing agricultural enterprises and infrastructure.
“Once again, projects like the Emerald Meatworks, the oilseed plant and the Inland Port which have been put forward by the CHRC would add depth to our economy and create real jobs on the ground.”