February 13, 2019









Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (13:50): I want to start by echoing the thoughts of Senator Macdonald, particularly for those in Townsville, close to his home town, and for those in the north-west as well, which is obviously still suffering. I acknowledge the message that Senator Macdonald said in that regard.

This will probably be of interest for Senator Macdonald—and, indeed, yourself, Acting Deputy President O'Sullivan, and probably for Senator Watt—as I'm sure Senator Macdonald is very excited about the news that Labor's No. 1 Senate candidate for the next election does live in Cairns. It would be fantastic, if Nita Green is lucky enough to be elected, to have some Senate representation in Cairns. And I note that, as the LNP continually neglect regional Queensland, it will be an important step by federal Labor to ensure that regional Queensland still does have good representation in the Senate.

It's actually regional Queensland that I want to talk about, and particularly a bus trip that I recently went on through Queensland with the federal Labor leader, Bill Shorten. I also acknowledge my colleague Senator Murray Watt, who was with me for a long time on that bus trip. I think it's fair to say that the Labor bus trip, federal Labor leader Bill Shorten's bus trip, was what I would call a fair dinkum bus trip, not like the bogus bus trip we saw from the Prime Minister, where he basically flew into various towns, hopped on a bus for a couple for minutes, got off, went to an event and then jumped back on an aeroplane. I know federal Labor leader Bill Shorten travelled on the bus from Brisbane to Townsville, all the way along the Bruce Highway. The reason that's important is because when you do that, you actually get a full and proper understanding of their neglect by the federal LNP government of Queensland.

Indeed, there's no better example of that than the Bruce Highway. Year after year—they've been in government now for six years—they've continued to neglect the Bruce Highway. They elect LNP members, but those members don't actually push the case here in Canberra to deliver for the Bruce Highway. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, wouldn't have a clue about that, because he didn't actually travel on the Bruce Highway to get an understanding of how important it is to Queensland and how it is the beating heart, the artery of Queensland that makes the whole state pump. Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten got a really good understanding of that, having travelled all the way from Brisbane to Townsville.

The reason we do this is because it's part of federal Labor leader Bill Shorten's commitment to Queensland and to regional Queensland. Since the last election, federal Labor leader Bill Shorten has spent 95 days in Queensland, and a lot of those have been in regional Queensland. As part of that, he's done 27 town hall forums, including one in Bundaberg in January, and also one in Yeppoon that Senator Watt was at. We do these forums because they're such a great opportunity for us to hear firsthand from the Australian people about what their concerns are, and then we are able to bring those back to parliament and use them as we formulate the policies that we then take to the Australian people. But we're only able to do these things because we have such strong candidates in these Queensland seats.

I wanted to talk about the bus trip and actually step through it because it was really important for the towns we visited. As we get closer to an election, the issues we cover and the announcements we make along the way show those people that federal Labor are listening and, more importantly, we're acting so that those people in Queensland, and particularly regional Queensland, understand what a federal Labor government would deliver, as opposed to what we're seeing on the other side, which is just continual chaos and dysfunction. They're not actually putting forward a platform for the Queensland people.

The bus trip that federal Labor undertook started in the federal seat of Forde, where the Labor candidate, Des Hardman, is doing an outstanding job. There we made an announcement of $33.4 million for a Logan urgent care clinic. That will be really vital to easing the pressure on the emergency department, especially following the years of cuts from this federal LNP government.

Continuing the health theme: in the electorate of Lilley, with federal Labor candidate Anika Wells, who's aiming to replace Wayne Swan, we announced a new MRI machine for the Prince Charles Hospital. Here we saw another example of how this LNP government is not listening to the local community and not meeting their concerns.

On the Sunshine Coast there will be $5 million to support an internet submarine fibre cable. This is an important economic opportunity for the Sunshine Coast, which is crying out for further development and new industries in the area. Federal Labor recognised that, and Bill Shorten made a commitment along those lines.

Then we took the bus along the Bruce Highway to Wide Bay electorate, where at Downer EDI we made an announcement about a national procurement plan. This is significant for Queensland, and particularly regional Queensland, because it is going to mean more jobs for local communities. It will mean that as part of a spend that any Labor government does federally there's going to be a local component so that there will be local jobs. The workers at Downer know that they can have a bright future and the company can plan for the future because there's going to be a federal Labor government looking after their interests and the interests of other workers as well. That was well received by the hundreds of workers that were in attendance as Bill made that announcement.

Then we moved to the electorate of Hinkler—in particular, Bundaberg—where the federal Labor candidate there, Richard Pascoe, and Labor leader Bill Shorten made an announcement of $15.7 million to upgrade the Bundaberg Hospital. Anyone who's been to Bundaberg will understand that the hospital is vital to that area, particularly to its ageing population. Unfortunately, we know that the current Prime Minister has not been to Bundaberg once—not whilst he's been Prime Minister, not even whilst he's been a minister in this government. He has not even bothered to visit Bundaberg once, so how would he know what the needs of the local community are and how urgent it is that the local hospital get support?

Senator Watt interjecting

Once again, as Senator Watt pointed out, there is the neglect of the local LNP member, Mr Pitt, who has done nothing for that region.

Then we went further north along the highway to Gladstone, in the electorate of Flynn, where we made a fantastic announcement about hydrogen. Federal Labor seized the opportunity that hydrogen will provide Australia into the future. As part of that, there was an announcement of $3 million for a Gladstone hydrogen innovation hub. This is federal Labor saying: we're not going to put all our eggs in one basket; we see that there are other industries that are going to play an important part in Australia's future and we want Gladstone and Queensland to be the hub of those. That was a significant announcement, very well received by the local community and the local mayor, which I know will deliver jobs—that federal Labor will be prepared to deliver on them.

We continued further north to Rockhampton and the electorate of Capricornia, where, in conjunction with the fantastic Labor candidate there, Russell Robertson, we made an announcement of $800 million for the Rockhampton Ring-Road. We also announced $25 million to transform Great Keppel Island. That is somewhere that has been absolutely neglected by the local LNP member, who has done nothing for that area over the time that she has been there. Again it was well received by the local community. But we're only able to do this because we have good candidates who are in touch with their local communities and can push these issues, push this agenda, so that federal Labor can deliver for them.

We continued to go further north to the electorate of Dawson, with our fantastic candidate Belinda Hassan, where we made an announcement of $280 million for the Mackay Ring-Road—one, again, that the LNP member has done nothing about for so long. He talks a big game here in Canberra but does nothing when it comes to delivering for his local community.

We went further north to Proserpine, where we made an announcement of $5 million to help rebuild the Proserpine Entertainment Centre. That was devastated by the cyclone, but what have we seen from the LNP government? What we've seen from the LNP government is nothing. The Proserpine Entertainment Centre needs to be redeveloped. It's been sitting there and those opposite have done nothing about it. But federal Labor will deliver. We are listening to that community. We understand the damage that the cyclone did. Only federal Labor will deliver for that community.

We continued on to Senator Macdonald's home town of Ayr, where we made a fantastic announcement, with the Mayor of Burdekin Shire, Lyn McLaughlin, of $5 million to help protect the Great Barrier Reef from wastewater harm in that area. Again, that was a significant announcement that we could only make because we'd been listening to the community. In federal Labor, we didn't do the bogus bus that Prime Minister Morrison did. We did the fair dinkum bus. We rode the whole way. Only federal Labor and Bill Shorten understand Queensland and particularly regional Queensland and will stand up for them, unlike those opposite.

The PRESIDENT: Order! It being 2 pm, we'll move to questions without notice.