THE Great Barrier Reef narrative desperately needs a reality check to give taxpayers and tourist workers a fair deal. Dodgy science and fake news on the reef were costing taxpayers and tourism operators billions of dollars for the sake of perpetuating an ideological myth.
The reef has been used as a weapon in the extremists’ war against capitalism, democracy and the Australian way of life. They say truth is the first casualty of war and that certainly seems to be the case as highly dubious evidence has been used to attack farmers, industry, and everything socialists hate. That narrative – that mining and farmers have killed the reef – is translating to fewer visitors from interstate and overseas.
I met with leading reef expert, Dr Peter Ridd, in Mackay to discuss what was needed for the future of the reef and North Queensland. Dr Ridd identified two key things we needed to change regarding the reef.
“We need to get the science evidence checked and we need to start telling the people in the south-east corner (of Queensland) that not everything that you’ve heard about the state of the reef is true,” he said. “We’re spending a whole lot of money supposedly on the basis that the reef is badly damaged when all the evidence would seem to indicate that it’s not. I’m just asking for a little bit of money just to check some of that science and also to get the message out to the people in the south-east that in fact the reef is in really good shape. There’s all these people down there who think it’s completely damaged when it’s not. It’s in way better condition (than that), probably in excellent condition.”
Both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk have rejected my call to withdraw the billions of taxpayer dollars being used to fight an ideological war against farmers. Both major parties at both levels of government are throwing money at the reef and in the war against farmers because they think it will win votes in the capital cities. But those billions of dollars won’t make any real difference to the reef. They will just send farmers and regional Queensland broke.
At a time when we need to get our economy going again, the last thing we want to see is taxpayer money being used to kill off our most productive industries in mining and agriculture.
BOTH sides of politics are blaming farmers for perceived damage to the reef in a bid to win over metropolitan votes. While Queensland Labor is being blamed for spending taxpayer money to demonise farmers through the Reef 2050 Water Quality program, the attacks are being funding by the LNP at the Federal level. Both parties and both governments should hang their heads in shame for the way they are treating farmers and I call on them both to withdraw taxpayer funding from the program and use it to support industries that keep taxpayers employed.
These political parties can’t just place all the blame on farmers without considering the impact our urban population has on water quality. I would go up the Pioneer River, where the fresh is, and drink water out of the river any day but I don’t think the Premier (Annastacia Palaszczuk) would do the same in the Brisbane River any time soon.
The Pioneer River is surrounded by sugar cane farms from top to bottom but Mackay still has the second best drinking water in the world. For the Reef 2050 funds to be spent on demonising farmers and driving them out of business instead of actually making a difference on the reef is a travesty. The LNP in Queensland likes to pretend they are the friend of the farmers but they never let on that their Federal counterparts are funding this lunacy.
I wrote to the Prime Minister about this issue and asked for taxpayer funds to be withdrawn from the program. The Prime Minister, in his reply, pointed out some of the positive support being offered to farmers to voluntarily change their practices, but he doesn’t’ mention what happens with the millions of dollars in untied funding gifted to the water quality program. The truth is the whole program, including the disastrous measures being implemented by the State, are funded by both the major parties.
KickStart – Reef 2050
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk remains committed to funneling cash out of regional Queensland and into the south-east corner with a bid for the 2032 Olympic Games. I sent a petition to the Labor government with more than 5,000 signatures calling on the Premier to cancel the 2032 Olympics bid and focus on more important priorities for regional Queensland and the State’s economy. In responding to the petition, Premier Palaszczuk refused to abandon the bid, saying only that discussions were “on hold” due to the Coronavirus impact and claiming the Commonwealth Games were a “great success”.
The Commonwealth Games, also hosted in the south-east corner, were anything but a great success. Those games and, in particular, the way athletes were treated at the closing ceremony were nothing but a joke, being roundly criticised by all and sundry, including the Premier herself, saying organisers should ‘hang their heads in shame’.
What’s worse is the Premier claiming in her response to the petition that the Commonwealth Games cost $1.507 billion for an estimated $2.5 billion boost to Queensland’s Gross State Product ($1.804 billion of which benefited the Gold Coast). You could get the same result standing on the street corner of Cavill Avenue with a wheelbarrow of cash, making it rain $100 bills. What little benefit spilled outside the Gold Coast didn’t make it past Brisbane but it was the whole state that had to fund that $1.5 billion photo opportunity.
The cost of an Olympic Games will be greater by a factor of about 10 and, given the State’s big money earners – mining and agriculture – are both being shut down by the Labor government, it doesn’t make sense to borrow that kind of money. The estimated average cost of hosting an Olympics since 1960 is $12.5 billion. That’s a big ask for regional Queensland to service that kind of debt, especially when any returns that come back to government from hosting the Games will only be used in campaigns against our regional economy.
Now is not the time for frivolities and political grand-standing, when scarce public funds should be directed towards essential services and long-term infrastructure, which will provide widespread economic benefits and permanent jobs. Ordinary people will benefit very little from hosting the Olympic Games. The Commonwealth Games left the Gold Coast under-whelmed despite the promises that it would deliver for everyone. Regional Queensland was disadvantaged once again at the very time of natural disasters and the drought weighing heavily.
State funding should be prioritised towards education and health with a stronger focus on regional infrastructure like water for agriculture and rural communities, delivering basic bitumen roads, and support for volunteer rural fire brigades.
The Queensland Labor government’s attempt to buy airline jobs with taxpayer-funded debt is proof they missed their own brief. We don’t elect a government to take our money and buy jobs. Governments don’t create real jobs, and they certainly shouldn’t buy them. It’s the government’s job to create an environment that enables businesses to create those real jobs.
If the Queensland Labor government wants to keep Virgin operating and keep their head office in Queensland, they should look at how their own government treats businesses. Labor needs to ask themselves (or, better still, ask Virgin management) why an airline would want to go to the trouble and expense of moving their head office to another state. Fixing those issues should be their priority.
Given Labor’s record of sending the State into debt, the last thing they should be doing is spending more borrowed money to buy an airline that is already losing money. Aviation analyst Neil Hansford earlier this week said the winning bid to buy Virgin would have to have strong aviation experience and a willingness to lose money in the short-term”. There’s no question that Labor is willing to lose money. They are experts in that field. The problem is that it’s not their money and the people of Queensland are not willing to see their money and their future thrown down the gurgler.
Queensland has suffered a massive blow to its economy due to lockdowns and restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Recovering from this disaster will not be easy. It will take a comprehensive strategic plan to kick-start the economy and get the State moving again. That’s where KickStart Queensland comes in.
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