Opinion Pieces

Check out opinion pieces that Murray Watt has written.

LAND 400 PROJECTS SHOULD BE JUST THE START FOR FEDERAL LNP MPs

July 13, 2017

Last week produced a groundbreaking "announcement" from Queensland's 26 Federal LNP MPs. Yes, they will take a temporary ceasefire from their usual infighting, to try to secure a large defence contract for Queensland. No guarantees mind you, but after four years in office, they've decided to try to work together for our state.

 

I am genuinely pleased. The Palaszczuk Government has been working diligently for months to encourage the two bidders for one contract, to build hundreds of new Land 400 armoured vehicles, to base themselves in Queensland and it's great our Federal LNP MPs have jumped on board.

 

For too long, we've seen other states secure the lion's share of projects from the Abbott and Turnbull Governments, while Queensland - where the LNP holds the vast majority of seats - has been taken for granted. 

 

This year's Federal Budget did it again - delivering billions for the Sydney Airport expansion and rail and road upgrades in Victoria. Meanwhile Queensland's LNP MPs couldn't secure a single dollar for Cross River Rail, or any new infrastructure projects north of Noosa. They even delivered a cut in funding for tourism, our flagship industry, despite us having a Gold Coast based Federal Tourism Minister!

 

Queensland has been ignored in the defence portfolio too. Over last year’s election campaign and since, Malcolm Turnbull and his Defence Industry Minister have announced around $92 billion in defence industry spending, with Queensland getting barely over 1% of it.

 

And just last year, we saw the Turnbull Government pass over Cairns, in favour of Western Australia, for a naval shipbuilding contract, worth nearly $300 million. The Land 400 contract is a chance for Mr Turnbull to show he really does support our state.

 

After all, in Townsville and Enoggera, we have two of the largest Army bases in the country and the Shoalwater Bay training facility, near Rockhampton, will soon be expanded. Why shouldn't we broaden the economic benefit to Queensland, by building and maintaining the vehicles that will be used at our state's bases?

 

But more than that, Queensland needs this work, especially in our regions. Regional Queensland has been hurting since the end of the mining boom, with jobs disappearing in the mines and the manufacturing and maintenance businesses that support them.

 

Increasingly, under the watch of regional LNP MPs like Michelle Landry and Ken O’Dowd, the jobs that remain are being made more insecure, through labour hire, casual and contract arrangements. I've been to the workshops and met with many of the workers affected, and they are fast losing hope for the future.

 

The silver lining is that the manufacturing expertise we developed through the mining boom has left us with a unique capacity to take on defence projects of this size. Cities like Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone have large manufacturing bases, which could be adapted to build and maintain military vehicles - vehicles that will end up being used on army bases in Queensland.

 

In awarding this and other defence industry tenders, the Turnbull Government should look north, and should push as many jobs as possible into Central and North Queensland. These regions need a shot in the arm and moving more defence manufacturing there would provide hope, long-term, secure jobs and would build on existing manufacturing strengths.

 

Last week's news was a good first step. Let's hope our Federal LNP MPs extend their temporary ceasefire and devote their full-time attention to getting Queensland the jobs, infrastructure and health spending our state deserves.

 

With George Brandis and Peter Dutton both sitting on the Cabinet Committee which will award defence contracts like this one, it should be a lay down misere that more of them come to Queensland.

 

Let's make sure they go to the part of our state that really needs a boost - our regions.

This opinion piece was first published in The Courier Mail on Thursday 13 July 2017.

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