Have Your Say - FIFO Workforce Consultation

The Coordinator-General’s Department is currently reviewing the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017.

This is the Act that bans 100 % FIFO mining workforces. Click here to find out more.

You can have your say in the online survey. This is a matter of huge importance for Gregory’s current and future prosperity, especially when the Southern Galilee Basin develops.

Cognate Bills, Missing Codes and Gags

It was another grim week for rural and regional Queensland this week in parliament. The sitting kicked off with a “cognate” debate. This is when two bills are debated  and voted on together.

How To Gag A Debate

Labor has delighted in allocating a set amount of time for the debates that is too short for every member who wants to speak to a bill being physically able to speak to the bill. In the debate on the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill and the Biodiscovery and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, only about three hours was allowed. There are 92 MPs, not counting the Speaker.

The Lucky 16

The Minister and Shadow Minister get 20 minutes each. Then each member can speak for up to ten minutes. So, in other words, the time allocated allows only 16 members of 92 remaining members to speak.

Not all members will ask to speak to every bill, because some bills won’t be relevant to their constituents.

But it Isn’t Gagging Electorates – Not Much

 But there were far more members than 16 wanting to speak to these bills, including Labor, LNP, KAP, One Nation, Greens and independents. But when the time is up, whoever is speaking just gets “sat down” in mid-sentence and the vote is taken.

In this parliament, the Labor government always wins on the numbers.

Hector Barbossa – “It’s not so much a Code as…”

The Biodiscovery bill will make people who are using the properties of Queensland’s native plants and animals, comply with a Code of Practice based on traditional indigenous practices. The problem is, the Code hasn’t been developed yet. Still Labor pushed the bill through without anyone knowing what it all means.

A Rehabilitation Commissioner

The Environmental bill was to establish the office of the Queensland Rehabilitation Commissioner. When I first heard this, I thought it was great idea. There have always been problems with compliance being carried out by either the Department of Mines or the Department of Environment.

An independent statutory body could also act as a repository of knowledge about rehabilitation, helping us develop our expertise to “world’s best”. Rehabilitation is multi-disciplinary – from soil scientists, to water, to vegetation and zoology. Why not become the very, very best?

This Emperor Has No Clothes

But no, the emperor has no clothes. Under this Labor bill, it is all for show and the Queensland Rehabilitation Commissioner has no enforcement or compliance powers.

Residual Risks Post-Mining

The other important aspect of this bill was to do with “residual risks”. This is of great importance to both mining and agricultural stakeholders. It relates to the risks remaining when rehabilitation is signed off by the government as “complete”. For instance, will water still be affected by chemical pollution?

Tell Me What it Does and I’ll Tell You What it Costs

This bill was intended to make clear what would constitute a residual risk, but there are no guidelines or criteria included. So, it fails completely to address stakeholder issues.

No wonder the Hon Ian Macfarlane says the Queensland Resources Council can’t estimate the cost of these laws to industry until they see an actual definition of what the legislation does.

Down the Slippery Slide

I did not get to speak to this bill, as the time expired. But this bill also went through on the government numbers, too. Meanwhile, Queensland now rates lower than African resource nations as a desirable investment location for resource development.

Ring Fencing the Locked Box

The next cognate debate was the bill to establish the Queensland Future Fund and a bill to change the royalty model for the gas and petroleum industry.

These two bills were both presented to the house as “urgent”. This meant they could be rushed through the committee process without the irritation of public submissions or hearings.

That also means we don’t get the benefit of experts and stakeholders. It is a sure recipe for poor legislation.

Funding Queensland’s Future?
The Queensland Future Fund was announced by Treasurer Jackie Trad as a distraction from yet another major debt blow-out. With Jackie Trad standing down during her second CCC investigation, Treasurer Cameron Dick is now overseeing the establishment of the Fund.

Only After Two and a Half Centuries

Earnings from the Fund are supposed to be used only to pay down Queensland Government debt. This bill meant that we finally found out what assets will be placed into the fund. That meant the likely earnings could be calculated.

The meme doing the rounds was that under this regime, it will take 250 years to clear the current debt. I don’t know if this is accurate, but I can tell you three things:

Only Pays Half of the Interest

The assets in the Future Fund will only deliver a 1.3 % return on asset value. That is less than half the interest rate on the Queensland Government debt.

Remember we lost our triple AAA credit rating under the last labor government, so Queensland pays a higher interest rate than other Australian governments.

Value Unproven While Debt Continues to Swell

The assets are of unproven value. If the NSW Titles Registry was sold for $2.6 billion in 2018, why does Treasurer Dick value Queensland’s Titles registry at $4 billion?

To see what other assets are included you can read my speech here.

Investing in Virgin

One of them is the Treasurer’s dubious investment in the troubled Virgin Airlines. This industry has been the most COVID impacted industry, world-wide. We can’t be sure it will hold its value and the investment has not resulted in more Queensland jobs or more flights for regional Queensland.

What is the Ring Fence thing About?

Treasurer Dick has said the Future Fund will “ring fence” these precious assets. I pointed out that a ring fence is supposed to keep the predator out of the flock. You don’t ring fence the predator in with the sheep.

Shame we Can’t Lock Down the Debt

Meanwhile Debt has reached $100 billion in the middle of the worst financial crisis in 75 years.

Tourism Smashed, Ag Still in Drought and Resources Showing the Strain

It would be helpful if Labor realised that three of Queensland’s economic pillars are under strain. Tourism has been smashed by COVID19, two-thirds of the state is still in drought, coal demand is falling due to COVID impacts on our customers and the gas companies are reporting major write-downs.

New Gas Royalty Model

But the same debate pushed through a major change to the gas and petroleum royalty scheme. Previously, royalties were calculated per well-head. This bill will change that to the volume of gas produced. Problem is the legislation does not say how the volume will be measured. Huh?

Tell me how we are going to do it and I’ll tell you what it costs!

Health Amendments will Have Major Consequences

That brings me to the omnibus health bill. You can read my speech here.

This Bill looks like it will undo Lawrence Springborg’s concept of local hospital and health boards and return us to the bad old days of centralised health delivery.

Local, independent hospital and health boards were empowered to deliver health services that address the health needs and priorities of their local communities.

SEQ Needs will Again Override Bush Needs

This bill will require them by law to take into account “the effective and efficient use of resources for the public sector health system as a whole, and the best interests of patients and other users of health services throughout Queensland”.

In other words – and for example – the Emerald Hospital will have to consider the needs in, say, Caboolture before it commits to renal dialysis in Emerald. This comes on top of them pulling the doctor housing subsidies in mining areas, an initiative which solved the chronic lack of doctors in these areas.

Back to the Bad Old Days

We are back to the bad old days, and the people who will suffer most badly are Queenslanders in our regional cities and country towns.

Outlawing a Problem Doesn’t Solve It

The bill also makes it a law that ambulance drivers and emergency department nurses must “co-operate”. This results directly from the problems at Logan Hospital about ambulance ramping.

It speaks directly to Minister Miles’ incompetence. He is both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Ambulance Services, yet the only way he can overcome the issue of ambulance ramping at Logan Hospital is to pass a law.

We have never needed that before, ever.

Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy

Finally, the bill also banned “gay conversion” therapy. This was a solution in search of a problem.

Many constituents contacted me with concern about this bill because it will have a major impact on how psychiatrists and family therapists practise. If a patient – as young as 10 – presents saying they believe they are the “wrong” gender, the doctor must affirm that or risk criminal charges.

Criminal to Get All the History?

Being young is complicated and many issues emerge during the challenging time that is adolescence. Therapists put considerable effort into obtaining a full patient history before any diagnosis. Under these laws, that could be seen as a failure to affirm the patient’s chosen gender identity.

First Do No Harm

What do we say in ten or 15 years if people turn out to have their lives ruined by such a non-medical approach? In the meantime, many highly skilled doctors and therapists are likely to steer clear of this area of practise, leaving patients worse off. Government has no place in using the criminal code to prescribe medical treatments.

You can read my speech here.

School Infrastructure “Tradies Bonanza”

On Tuesday, the Premier announced to Parliament what she described as a $220 million “tradies bonanza” of works and upgrades at state schools. Labor MPs began posting on social media about their “wins” for their electorates. Naturally, the Courier Mail asked for an electorate-by-electorate breakdown of where the money is going.

The government refused to release that information, but yesterday I received a letter from Minister Grace Grace listing the projects at Gregory schools.

Blackwater SHS biggest Winner

Last year I advocated very strongly for the old manual arts block at Blackwater State High School to be replaced by a new STEM block. The old block is subsiding in a dangerous way and so I was very pleased to be able to tell the school community the request had been granted. Tuesday’s money allocates the largest amount in Gregory to this project - $4,200,000. That is nearly half of the total funds for Gregory.

The Rest is Standard Maintenance

Only seven other jobs are listed which are all refurbishments and other maintenance. The money is only for state schools, not private or religious schools. So – less the Blackwater State High project funds – if you divide the remaining funding by Gregory’s 44 state schools, they should get a bit over $100,000 each to cover both tradie labour and materials.

This won’t happen though, as the money has already been allocated to the listed jobs, making it likely that Gregory’s schools are receiving their standard maintenance budget and being told it is Easter and Christmas! Don’t fall for it.

COVID Closures Made Permanent

It also emerged during Parliament this week that the Department of Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries(DAF) has decided to make COVID19 service restrictions permanent.

During the initial lockdown, DAF closed its service counters and all enquiry had to be made by phone or email. Now it has been decided that this has shown that face-to-face service is not required in a number of country centres, including Longreach and Emerald.

The poor DAF officers have been told to hide from the public. They live in these towns too!

The phone number to use now is 13 25 23.

Corruption News Ban Bill Withdrawn

This morning the Attorney General issued a media statement that simply said:

The government respects the recommendations of the CCC. However, given the limited time for the parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee to consider the law changes the CCC seeks, the CCC Bill introduced yesterday in State Parliament is withdrawn.”

Media Gag on Corruption Reports

The bill in question sought to make it illegal for any mainstream media to publish articles about candidates facing corruption investigations by the CCC. MPs, however, would still be able to throw mud. That would mean such mud would eventually find its way onto social media pages, but mainstream newspapers, radio and TV would not be able to report it.

Public Outrage

The bill meant that Queenslanders could vote in elections without knowing important facts about the people standing for office.

The huge media and public backlash this morning has thankfully seen the bill summarily withdrawn.

Latest in a Conga Line

There is some comment the proposed media gag indicates a pending scandal that is yet to emerge. Most probably it is just the latest in a conga-line of Labor gerrymanders to ensure it is re-elected.

They have changed the rules to nobble donations to other parties; they have put new rules in to ensure no other party can spend as much on a campaign as them. They have changed the rules to enable taxpayer funded advertising to boost Labor right up to three weeks before the election. And they are gaily pork barrelling key seats as hard as they can.

Remember all of it on October 31 when you have the say that counts – your say!

Thanks for Reading

Thank you for reading this and staying up to date. As always, if you have a comment or an issue to raise, you can simply contact me by return email. Next week we are back to parliament.

If You Need Help

Remember, if you need help or advice, please don’t hesitate to ring and we will do our best for you. (Emerald Office PH 07 4913 1000; Longreach office PH 07 4521 5700.)

Kindest Regards – and keep COVIDsafe,

Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.