While the Queensland Government is busy tilting at windmills and pouring money into “green” energy, it is failing to take advantage of a gold mine in royalties right under its nose. Mount Morgan’s gold mine could pull Queensland and Australia out of debt for a third time as the State looks for a post-COVID economic recovery.

Labor’s Minister for Mines and Energy yesterday found the time to spruik the 15 ongoing jobs to come from a billion dollar wind farm investment, but he couldn’t find the time for a meeting about Mount Morgan. I have been urgently seeking State Government support for fixing the environmental hangover from previous mines while kickstarting a new era for Mount Morgan and Queensland.

Private enterprise is already prepared to stump up $50 million for the first stage of fixing environmental issues caused by past mining practices and we desperately need the State Government to match that commitment. In the process of restarting production of gold in one of the most historic mines in Australia, the current lease-holders can fix a looming environmental disaster. The Government’s approach to handling the toxic waste to date has only served to concentrate it and kick the can down the road. It really is incumbent on the government to finally fix the problem caused by the very mining practices that dragged Queensland out of debt in the past. As yet, the Minister for Mining in Queensland has not agreed to a meeting to discuss the proposal.

Re-opening the mine site for processing gold would create direct and indirect jobs in the town but it would also be a tremendous boost to tourism in the region and across Queensland. There is a big difference between visiting an historic gold mine and visiting an historic gold mine that is still in operation. Mount Morgan has so much to offer tourists already but not many people are aware of the history and the important role the town has played in creating the country we see today. It’s fair to say Mount Morgan could become a key destination for tourism in Queensland but it can’t happen if the State Government doesn’t realise the potential.

The economic benefits for the State could be substantial and that was exactly what is needed in a post-COVID economy. COVID-19 has dealt a devastating blow to our economy and if we are going to get back on track we need to focus on the things that will KickStart Queensland with new and expanding industry and job creation wherever possible. The Queensland Government stands to gain an enormous amount from royalties they will receive from every ounce of gold coming out of the mine and there is a lot of gold left in Mount Morgan.

LOCAL shows are in danger of permanently disappearing without properly targeted support. I have asked Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, to match Federal Government support for show societies but to target the support in a way that will bring shows back into regional Queensland. The Federal Government has committed $36 million to support agricultural show societies’ recovery from pandemic-enforced shutdowns.

We want to see an equivalent commitment from the State Government because these shows are an integral part of our regional communities and we can’t afford to lose annual ritual. But it can’t be just a matter of committing funds. The money needs to be targeted in a way that will get results.

After consulting with stakeholders, it became clear that a more targeted approach would be necessary before shows could be held. Keeping the local entities alive to look after the grounds and stage the show is just part of the equation. Even if showgrounds were allowed to host such events later this year, there probably wouldn’t be any shows as we know them. The rides, sideshow alley, food vendors, showbags, and all the stalls that we normally associate with a visit to the show are unlikely to be in a position to simply restart their life. Many members of the Showmen’s Guild and the travellers that follow the show circuit have slipped the gaps of government support and have been financially crippled by the pandemic that shut down their business.

I put a proposal to the Queensland Government this week to target their matched funding to getting the show circuit moving again. I have asked the Premier to consider underwriting the restart of the show circuit because these travelling businesses are a vital part of the show and they simply don’t have the means to get their businesses up and running again. Once they get moving on the circuit again, they will be generating turnover, rebuilding their business and boosting regional economies as well as boosting spirits. While it is likely numbers will initially be down on show attendances prior to the pandemic but we can’t afford to have communities get used to not having a show.

It would be a terrible loss of tradition and social cohesiveness. Everyone in the great State of Queensland has a connection to ‘the show’ and the smaller the community’s population, the stronger that connection will be. I think restoring the ‘local show’ for people that have been through so much will be a welcome relief and a return to normal life. In addition, the local shows have always been a great contributor to the regional economies and we are in desperate need of getting our wealth-producing regions booming again.

The General Manager of the Queensland Chamber of Agricultural Societies, Trevor Beckingham, has called on Members of Parliament to push for funding from the State Government. I’m happy to do that but I also want to make sure we get the right outcomes. It would be a terrible shame if taxpayer money was spent to keep the shows running and we didn’t get that outcome. I understand some of the businesses that travel the show circuit have invested enormous sums of money in stock that they now have to pay to keep in storage. The feedback I am receiving is that even if shows were scheduled for later in the year, those key elements of the show could not afford to attend.

The combination of funds to the local venues (from the Federal Government) and funds for the travelers (from the State Government) will help compensate for what will no doubt be lower-than-normal numbers at local shows when they are able to return.