February 22, 2019
A Report from the North West Floods
I spent last Friday and Saturday visiting flood-affected communities across Queensland’s north west with Deb Frecklington and then visiting my own constituents in flooded parts of Gregory.
I can’t begin to tell you how badly it has been hit.
People are still in shock and the extent of the damage is still emerging, but it is clear the entire region – the economy, the businesses, the ecosystems, the herds, the wildlife and the people – have all been hit harder than any disaster I have witnessed before.
The silver lining was seeing the Prime Minister out there, again, and genuinely committed to the huge task of reconstruction.
He has been personally involved in getting up the $75,000 assistance grants for flood-affected primary producers.
These are designed to be low on the paper work and they will supply some liquidity to local economies in the short term.
I urge every flood-affected primary producer to put aside the self-reliant habits of a life time and apply for this grant. If you spend the money locally it will help to sustain your local small businesses and the families they support.
We’ve learnt through the excellent work of the Western Queensland Drought Appeal that this absolutely works, so applying for a grant will help your whole district in the immediate future.
Parliament Sits – Strategically
Don’t fall over in surprise. Last week, the Queensland Parliament sat for three days. It was the first time since the middle of November, 2018.
In that time, Queensland has had catastrophic bushfires throughout the State, but particularly in Central Queensland where thousands had to be evacuated and national parks burned.
There has been major urban flooding in North Queensland and the absolute devastation of the families, herds, the ecosystem and the regional economy of North West Queensland and the northern parts of Central Western Queensland.
Meanwhile, the advent of 2019 saw the rest of central and south western Queensland entering their eighth year of drought. Another tragic record.
In all that time, the Premier and her team have been governing via carefully staged media conferences and photo- calls. In that entire time, Labor has not had to explain their actions or responses to Parliament once.
No media are reporting it yet, but to me it seems that Labor is avoiding hard scrutiny of the Government’s actions – or lack of action. Some call that the small target “strategy”, but I think that is the polite description.
What do you think? When we gathered on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, it had been 1 day shy of 90 days since parliament last convened. There are only 18 sitting days scheduled before the Budget sitting, with another 18 sitting days set aside before Christmas.
Last year we sat for a grand total of 37 days because Labor cancelled all the sitting days in December.
Yet this government is one of the best resourced governments in Queensland history. There are 224 ministerial staffers, separate from the public servants. And there’s roughly an extra 30,000 of those as well.
Family Friendly or a Gag?
The worst part is, when parliament does sit, Labor manipulates the time available for MPs to actually debate and speak on behalf of their electorates. Debates are being guillotined, speaking opportunities rationed and MPs cut off in mid-sentence.
All in the name of family-friendly hours, so debate can finish by 7 pm. It is no wonder the work isn’t getting done.
My friend and colleague, Robbie Katter, introduced the Liquor (Rural Concessions) Bill on May 2, 2018.
This Bill is supported by the LNP. It will see country pubs charged a much lower license fee than big city pubs like the Breakfast Creek Hotel. Currently, they pay the same despite the differences in the size of their potential markets and their bottom lines. My publicans desperately need this fee relief and my communities rely on their pubs as a community hub.
But Robbie’s Bill has languished at the bottom of the pile of Bills awaiting debate. Thankfully, the Premier has just said the ALP will support the Bill, so hopefully it may get debated soon.
And those family friendly hours? The rural and regional MPs can’t pop home to the family, so we would rather be working.
Last week I moved a motion for a full, independent and public Inquiry to be conducted into the bushfire preparations before the dreadful fires this summer.
As the Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers, I have been hearing a lot of good sense from volunteer firies and from landholders.
It seems many of the worst fires came off government controlled land – including state forests and national parks. There must be serious concerns about the Government’s fire preparation regime.
There were reduced QFES Hazard Burns in 2017 and 2018.
The maintenance of fire access trails in national parks and state forests also needs to be urgently looked at. These trails let firies get to the fire before it becomes a monster.
So too, the establishment of firebreaks in national parks. These give fire fighters better strategic choices as they risk their lives trying to protect lives, property and infrastructure on the fire-ground.
A volunteer at a fire debrief at Wallaroo told the meeting that firebreaks should be seen as a conservation asset. Perhaps if there had been one strategically placed in the Carnarvon National Park, ancient rock art would not have disappeared under a layer of chemical soot when a synthetic walkway melted and park infrastructure was damaged.
These fires were in strange places and unheard of in their ferocity and destructiveness. It seems we must adapt to a new regime. I believe a full and public review by a committee, with representatives from all parties, would make an excellent start.
Sadly, Labor only want an internal review, so their report may never be released publicly and the public consultation is a market research survey in selected locations.
The LNP’s motion was a last chance to change this. Labor chose to treat the suggestion as an insult to the volunteer firies and emergency services.
Labor did this even though I clearly said the emergency services response was excellent and that what we needed to know is what preparations would have improved the situations they had to face.
The motion failed when Labor and the Green Member voted as a bloc to defeat it, but if the topic interests you, you can view some or all of the debate by clicking on this link to the parliament broadcast.
Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers