Wednesday 12 March 2014

Save jobs or towns will die: Katter tells government

The Member for Mount Isa Robbie Katter has called on the Queensland Government to stop rail job cuts and get serious about investing in rural and remote communities before they die.

He told an often emotional Save Our Town meeting in Hughenden last night (Tues) that north west Queensland towns will struggle to survive if the Government does not stop Aurizon’s plan to cut 30 jobs there, and a further 36 in Charters Towers, Cloncurry and Mount Isa.

“”These towns can’t survive – the viability of these towns is really threatened when you take jobs like this,” he said.

Mr Katter told an audience of nearly 100 businesspeople, community members and rail employees: “We are not going to sit back and do nothing”.

“This town and others like it are suffering and the Government, as the Rail Regulator, has the power and authority to stop Aurizon cutting those jobs.

“This is a massive hit for a small town; the government needs to step in.

“These jobs are the bedrock of these smaller communities.

“The Premier, in his Queensland Plan, paid lip service about increasing the population of rural and regional centres.

“This (job cuts) is heading in the wrong direction,” said Mr Katter.

Mr Katter was joined by the Member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth, and told the audience not to accept the government’s rationale that there is no money out there.

“This government is building a $5 billion traffic tunnel and a $600m office building in Brisbane, yet says it can’t afford to support rural and remote communities.

“They are very happy to suck the blood out of the rich resources we have here, but don’t consider towns like Hughenden worthy enough to reinvest.

“We want to ignite some resistance here, telling Aurizon and the government we don’t accept the job cuts.

“That’s just political and personal arrogance by the Premier Campbell Newman and his Treasurer Tim Nicholls.

“We want the government to stimulate the economy of smaller communities in northern and northwest Queensland before it’s too late. Before they die and cannot be resurrected.”

Mr Katter said eight “positive” resolutions, to stop the job cuts and to stimulate the northern and north west communities, were unanimously passed and will be debated before Transport Minister Scott Emerson.

“Amongst these is to fast-track the allocation of Flinders River irrigation for small scale agriculture.

“This water is free, so just give it to them and stimulate agriculture which the Government bangs on about being one of its ‘four pillars of the economy’.

“This is such an easy option, and will cost the government nothing. I don’t know why they haven’t done it sooner when the upside is so obvious,” he said.

“We’ve been waiting for this for 20 years while governments from all sides keep stalling with indecision, no vision and no commitment.

“We don’t want to wait any more.

“We need the public of Hughenden and Charters Towers and surrounding communities to have their voices heard through letters, emails, and phone calls to their local MPs and government MPs.

“It’s time for these communities to take control of their future and not be bullied by an arrogant government which continues to ignore them,” said Mr Katter.

RESOLUTIONS PASSED UNANIMOUSLY

1. That the Queensland Government use its regulatory powers over the rail track to stop the current job losses proposed by Aurizon. In doing this it will honour its commitment under the Queensland Plan to regionalise the population.

That the attendants at this meeting unequivocally oppose any further privatisation of the Queensland Rail Ltd or any further sale of Aurizon shares.

That the Queensland Government put an immediate stop to any job losses within the Queensland Rail Ltd network such as those 10 job losses recently announced on Friday in Charters Towers and Cloncurry.

That the attendees of the meeting unequivocally oppose the sale of any further state assets such as the electricity network that will inevitably result in further western area job losses.

That the Queensland Government immediately review the State Roads funding with a view to either recommitting or bringing forward capital works to stimulate western local economies under stress like Hughenden.

That an immediate review is made of the Flinders River allocation to allow low cost allocation to small scale irrigation activities to stimulate jobs in the region.That a commitment is made to the ‘National Inland Highway’ with a view to providing an inland route open to triple road trains with an associated logistics hub in the Hughenden/Charters Towers region. This will include the completion of the Hann Highway.

That the Local Government day labour component of flood damage (NDRRA) on shire roads be funded by the Federal Government.

Member for Mt Isa Robbie Katter warns the Liberal State Government if local railway jobs are cut then at least seven regional towns will die