For the video recording of this speech, click here.
Queensland, Legislative Assembly 2015, Debates, 26 March, pp. 189-192
Mr DICKSON (Buderim—LNP) (2.39 am): Mr Speaker, firstly, I would like to congratulate you on attaining the position of Speaker of the Queensland parliament. I rise to express my lack of support for this motion of confidence in the Palaszczuk Labor government. This is a government that has no idea and no plans for the future of this great state. Simply put, Queenslanders are being kept in the dark and that is not good enough.
Thanks to this Labor government, the Sunshine Coast is a region that is now in limbo. Its future is unclear and that is extremely disappointing for the people of the Sunshine Coast. How can we have confidence in a government when, to date, its only action for the Sunshine Coast is to remove a critical piece of road structure for the region? I ask the Premier to make her position clear for the people of the Sunshine Coast. What is the Labor government’s plan for the Sunshine Coast as it moves forward? What is the Labor government’s plan for the Mooloolah River interchange? This is a critical piece of infrastructure that will link the people of the Sunshine Coast to the new private hospital at Kawana. This is an upgrade to the Sunshine Coast Motorway that is needed desperately. When this road is built, it will save lives. When the Sunshine Coast University Public Hospital opens in 2016, it will offer a range of new and expanded free public health services. It will also be supported by specialist staff who will care for patients with life-threatening conditions. If patients are delayed when travelling to this hospital owing to the inadequate road network, precious lives could be lost. I have written to the Deputy Premier, Minister for Transport, Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning and Minister for Trade requesting an update on the Mooloolah River interchange. Currently, I am awaiting a reply.
On 13 March the front page of the Sunshine Coast Daily stated, ‘Labor axes $440 million road plans’. This headline was followed on 18 March by an article with the headline, ‘Interchange axing upsets Coast leaders’. The article states—
Mayor Mark Jamieson and the Sunshine Coast’s peak business organisation have criticised the new State Government’s decision to axe the $440 million Mooloolah River Interchange.
Sunshine Coast Business Council chairwoman Sandy Zubrinich said she was concerned ‘minimal, if any, attempts had been made to strike up a dialogue with the Mayor ... and local community’.
Councillor Jamieson said the interchange upgrade was identified as one of the council’s top 10 priorities to candidates prior to the state election.
‘In failing to invest in our region, we need to consider what kind of message the government is sending to the private sector and what this means for the future of the Coast,’ she said.
‘Losing such a critical piece of infrastructure has the potential to negatively influence our investment prospects and, by extension, the growth of the Sunshine Coast economy.
Those are direct quotes from the Sunshine Coast Business Council. We cannot ignore the fact that the upgrades are also needed desperately to alleviate traffic issues on the Sunshine Coast Motorway, particularly at the Mountain Creek interchange. The weaving on and off this motorway at this junction is incredibly dangerous and has gone on for far too long. The MRI upgrade would have put a stop to the daily near misses and actual accidents. Can the Labor government outline how it can justify taking away this critical project with no alternative, no replacement and no ideas of its own?
The people of the Sunshine Coast have also been left wondering about the much needed upgrade to the Sunshine Coast rail line. Prior to the election the LNP committed to duplicate the rail line from Beerwah to Landsborough. It also listened to the people of the Sunshine Coast. Now, this project to ease rail congestion, add more services and to get more people home faster has been relegated to no man’s land. What is the government’s plan for this project?
Let us face it: Labor’s track record for leading this great state certainly is not promising. The last time a Labor government led Queensland it lost Queensland’s AAA credit rating.
Queensland was the only state to lose its AAA credit rating. In the process, the former Labor government raked up $80 billion in debt. If that does not demonstrate how Labor is incompetent at handling the state’s finances, I do know what will.
But wait, there is still more. What about the health planning fiasco identified by the independent report that found that a 2006 Labor election commitment to build three new hospitals at a cost of $2.87 billion blew out by 77 per cent and ended up costing $5.08 billion? No-one could forget the infamous payroll scandal and blunder that cost Queenslanders $1.25 billion. That is $1.25 billion that could have gone towards critical medical equipment, research, saving lives. It was Labor that allowed the fake Tahitian prince to squander Queensland Health dollars. The LNP government was able to recoup lost funds through the sale of the assets acquired fraudulently by the fake Tahitian prince and ensure that the proceeds were returned directly to the Health budget where they could be well used. It was a Labor government that wasted and mismanaged Queensland dollars that meant that critical health services just did not happen.
The Traveston Dam-Mary Valley fiasco is another of Labor’s monumental failures. The former Labor government wasted hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds to clear the way for a dam that would never be built, which left a terrible legacy of disrupted families, businesses and communities. There is the mothballed Tugun desalination plant, at a cost of $1.2 billion. What about the $350 million that was spent on the Wyaralong Dam, which Labor decided not to connect to the South East Queensland Water Grid—another bungle by the Labor government.
We cannot forget Labor’s failures in our national parks. Let us remember the egg on the former Labor government’s face. Upon being appointed the minister for national parks in 2012, I exposed another of the former Labor government’s failures—wasted spending on projects. I discovered that it had commissioned an exorbitantly expensive piece of artwork in a remote part of the Conondale National Park near Kenilworth. Dubbed the Strangler Cairn, the 30-tonne collection of rock, shaped into an egg, cost more than $680,000 to build. That cost included the cost of helicopters lifting rocks into an inaccessible area. It was unbelievable. A fig tree planted at the top of the rocks will completely cover the egg when it has grown. The entire project was a completely cracked thought bubble of the former Labor government. If it were not such an outrageous waste of money, it would be laughable.
Labor placed this pile of artfully arranged rock on an offshoot of a 50-kilometre walking track that takes experienced bushwalkers four days to cover. Not content with the natural beauty of our national parks, the former Labor government spent well over half a million dollars of taxpayers’ funds on an international artist to enhance a remote area with art that is designed to eventually disappear. That shows just how far that former Labor government was removed from reality.
I do not know how anyone could justify spending almost $700,000 on a pile of rock. In 2012, 2,250 people had seen it since it was built. Furthermore, the fig tree inside the rock was designed to envelop the artwork completely as it grew. When the idea was first floated, Labor rejected a submission from native artists to create artwork for the area. Instead, the former Labor government chose to spend $330,000 to commission an international artist who specialises in creating works that will eventually be destroyed by the surrounding environment.
Because the rugged area they decided to place the sculpture in could be accessed only on foot, a further $50,000 was spent on heli-lifting the rocks for the project. As with so many ludicrous schemes from Labor, there was absolutely no serious business plan in place to ensure any sort of value for money, just a lack of common sense and no regard for the use of taxpayers’ money.
In comparison the LNP state government worked collaboratively with tourism operators across Queensland to cut red tape and create the right environment for an ecotourism industry to flourish. But it does not stop there. Another bungled project that was undertaken by Labor was the Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway. In 2012, figures were brought to my attention showing that the $10 million Bligh-era tourist attraction was losing $300,000 a year. The former Labor government spent $10 million on the Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway in Wooroonooran, which is 150 kilometres south of Cairns. But since it opened in 2008, it has never turned a profit and operated at a loss of some $330,000 last financial year.
This development was never financially viable. The former Labor government ploughed ahead and built a state-of-the-art walkway in the middle of a rainforest using $10 million of taxpayers’ money. After discovering this Labor bungle, I worked with the local tourism industry and traditional owners to salvage the walkway. A local couple, Mark and Judy Evans, began operating the ecotourism attraction and have used their impressive track record and extensive local knowledge to transform the walkway into a must-see attraction.
The LNP government understood that our natural environment is our greatest advantage. It also understood that a great way to draw investment and grow visitor numbers was by bringing in commercial management—something Labor will never understand. This was a win-win for all involved. It was a shame that the former Labor government could not see the potential and come up with a viable solution on its own.
Time after time, with a Labor government we see the same scenario played out—botched schemes, a lack of credible business cases, a lack of common sense and no regard for the use of taxpayers’ money. An audit of national parks conducted in 2010 identified that 98 of the 576 protected areas had parks management plans.
Instead of finding a solution, Labor continued to lock up land, often with very little conservation value, with no plans for the land’s management. The Labor government needs to ensure that our beautiful natural parks are available for all Queenslanders to enjoy and are protected into the future. In 2012 in my capacity as sports minister I had to step in and stop a planned $6.1 million Winter Olympic ski jump training facility from being built at Brisbane’s Sleeman Sports Complex, after finding the project buried in the former Labor government’s pile of debt. The former Labor government had approved the 36-metre high 10-metre wide development complete with hydraulics and purpose built lifts at the Sleeman Sports Complex using the centre’s new 50-metre swimming pool as the landing area. The fact that a Winter Olympic training venue was considered a priority at a time when 96 per cent of Labor government capital spending programs were being sourced through debt is simply beyond belief. I had no hesitation in cancelling this project which was approved and progressed using some of the most financially unsound reasoning that I have ever seen. With no credible business case to speak of and no tangible usage agreement, all this scheme would have achieved was to put a brand new pool off limits to actual swimmers. According to what little information was available, potential usage indicates that very few elite athletes would have used this training facility. Although the former Labor state government was required to contribute $2.6 million to build the facility, with the balance from the Commonwealth, it would have been responsible for 100 per cent of the ongoing management and maintenance cost for this complex piece of infrastructure. What the former government proposed to build was a hugely expensive 10-storey high structure to rival any winter sports training facility in the southern hemisphere. This was a luxury item that the people of Queensland could neither afford nor need when the state was facing such dire economic circumstances. I am still baffled as to how this ill-conceived and inappropriate project was ever progressed let alone paid for with Queensland taxes. But that is a Labor government for you. It is happy to spend the taxpayers’ dollars even on the most bizarre of items.
The Queensland racing industry, employing 30,000 people, was also left in disarray. The LNP government worked to re-establish confidence and integrity in an industry that had been brought to its knees under a Labor government that was effectively asleep at the wheel. Racing is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Queensland’s economy and was being run as someone’s own private empire under Labor’s lead. Country racing was also left to stagnate under the previous Labor government. After seeing firsthand how additional regional race meetings benefited regional Queensland, I can only hope our industry continues to thrive and is not taken back to the dark ages. I am sure that Minister Byrne will look after it. Some of those who have let these things go on are now sitting across the room. The old band is back together and they will soon be singing the same old melody for Queensland whether we like it or not. Queensland taxpayers will be paying for the former Labor government’s incompetence for years to come and now they are back at the helm with a Premier who cannot even tell the difference between a sale and a lease. Let us not even bother asking the GST rate—or perhaps do it over a cup of coffee. It is truly concerning. The people of Queensland cannot forget that it was the Labor government that left this state in such a bad financial position, wasting billions of taxpayers’ dollars on bungled projects like the health payroll fiasco, the $9 billion water grid white elephant, the desalination plant, the fake Tahitian prince, the Traveston Dam crossing, asset sales by the Bligh government and, of course, the rule of the Labor Party by union bosses. The former Labor government misled Queensland about selling the state’s assets and has done so again. I urge the Queensland Premier to please define strategic and non-strategic assets to the people of Queensland. What is she planning to sell? Queenslanders deserve to know. Let’s face it though, there are just too many questions that are going unanswered. A state cannot be run this way. Labor does not have the clear support of Queenslanders and should not receive the support of this House. This is a government that has no plan, no idea and no clear mandate to lead the state. That is why the people of Queensland should have no confidence in this government.