ONE of the most important issues confronting Rockhampton’s candidates contesting the 2020 Queensland Election is employment – particularly in the wake of the economic downturn created by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a recent poll conducted by The Morning Bulletin to determine the region’s most important issues during the election campaign, job creation was popular, finishing in second place behind youth crime.
At the Bulletin’s online Rockhampton candidates debate on Thursday night, we challenged the candidates LNP’s Tony Hopkins, One Nation’s Torin O’Brien, Katter’s Australian Party’s Christian Shepherd and Legalise Cannabis Queensland’s Laura Barnard on the issue.
Additionally, those who weren’t there, Labor’s Barry O’Rourke and The Greens’ Mick Jones have also responded to the question:
Job creation – The second highest polling issue in our Rocky Big Issues poll was job creation. What ideas do you have to stimulate employment in Rockhampton?
LNP candidate for Rockhampton Tony Hopkins
Mr Hopkins said his party would support local employment through its proposed major infrastructure projects including the proposed four-lane upgrade of the Bruce Highway, building Rookwood Weir and other dams.
One of his priorities was the establishment of a logistics modal hub for Gracemere, as well as developing storage infrastructure for coal, dry goods and the nation’s fuel supplies.
“With manufacturing brought back to this area, I’m hoping to grow the economy in this area,” Mr Hopkins said.
“We’ve got to work on businesses coming back to Rockhampton and building the economy again.”
He said they had been talking with the university and were hoping to get a TAFE up and running to train workers for the mines and build a pipeline of trade skilled workers.
One Nation candidate for Rockhampton Torin O’Brien
Mr O’Brien said harnessing tourism and developing Great Keppel Island had a massive role to play in generating employment and we needed to market ourselves better.
He highlighted the Rockhampton Airport’s potential to connect with international markets.
“Tourism and coal is my answer to the growth of our region,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Coal is the reason why our economy is ticking along so nicely.
“We need more coal, cheaper electricity and we need to build High-Energy, Low Emissions coal-fired power stations.”
Katter’s Australian candidate for Rockhampton Christian Shepherd
Mr Shepherd said the slogan his party liked to use was “we like make-money projects, not take-money projects”.
“We are keen to invest in that CQU TAFE Centre of Excellence, which I’ve already made a ($50 million) pledge towards,” Mr Shepherd said.
He said KAP aimed to establish a state development area in the Gracemere/ Stanwell development corridor while also working to slash red and green tape – particularly with regards to the state’s vegetation management laws.
Mr Shepherd’s ambition was to bring down electricity prices by leveraging the state owned power assets, reducing the “chokehold” on the manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
Legalise Cannabis Queensland candidate for Rockhampton Laura Barnard
Ms Barnard said there was a great opportunity to use State Government funding to harness cannabis’ potential and range of uses including the industrial, clothing and fuel sectors.
While she struggled during the debate to articulate what sort of jobs would be created by the industry in Rockhampton, Ms Barnard later expanded on her explanation in an online post.
“Cutting the red tape on hemp agriculture is essentially an invitation of further manufacturing, not just in regards to hemp’s many applications,” she said.
“Manufacturing is almost extinct in our state, these jobs guarantee ongoing employment opportunities which in turn spin that economic wheel we love so much in politics.
“Hemp farming in itself looks interesting, a field of once illegal crop.”
She said there was the potential for leveraging cannabis into a tourism opportunity.
“If Queensland were to capitalise on the possibilities to operate ‘cannabis cafes, themed gift shops, hemp farm and processing tours; take a photo in a field of pot and learn of its applications and health benefits’ .. this serves as a double win for educating the public on what these farms produce and where to buy the products,” she said.
She said there were industrial uses for the secondary crop once seeds were harvested for food.
“Versatile, weather durable, light weight and naturally insulated, breathable hempcrete – this is that niche I mention,” she said.
She said her party also had a plan to retrofit power stations to run on hemp methanol.
Incumbent Labor candidate Barry O’Rourke
Mr O’Rourke said job creation was his number one priority and his government had invested heavily in job-creating projects for the immediate and long term in Rockhampton.
“These include the Capricornia Correctional Centre upgrade that will create more than 230 full-time positions in our community – a significant ongoing boost to our economy – and Rookwood Weir, which will help drive economic growth into the future,” Mr O’Rourke said.
“There is also the ongoing pipeline of road projects, including the Northern Access Upgrade, Capricorn Highway duplication, Lawrie Street upgrade at Gracemere and the Rockhampton Ring Rd.
“And don’t forget stage one of the Browne Park upgrade, which will create local construction jobs and help attract more events to the region.”
He said they were also investing in skills training, including the new $2.8m Advanced Technology and Innovation Centre at CQUniversity that would help ensure locals had the skills they needed to fill the jobs that become available in the region.
“On top of that we’ve made TAFE free for under 21s and continue to invest in our schools, hospital and police force, creating new jobs in our community,” he said.
“We’ve also reopened our local QBuild depot after it was closed by the last LNP government.
“And we’re supporting local businesses and helping them to take on additional staff via fantastic initiatives like our Made in Queensland grants that help local manufacturers to develop their competitive edge and expand their operations, and the Back to Work program, which provides assistance to employers that take on workers that have been without a job for a while.”
Mr O’Rourke said he was very happy to stand on his record when it came to job creation over the past three years and if he was fortunate enough to be re-elected, pledged to continue working hard to back local projects and local businesses.
Greens candidate for Rockhampton Mick Jones
Newly announced Greens candidate Mick Jones said his party would create 2000+ new jobs for Rockhampton in the manufacturing, health, renewable energy, and housing sectors.
“Those are real jobs, fully funded, and a prudent estimate of job creation, not the kind of wild, inflated figures that get thrown around so much in politics,” Mr Jones said.
He said this included a wind turbine factory in Rockhampton which would create 425 jobs a year, building up to 100 wind turbines a year, with a capacity to manufacture 250MW of wind turbines by 2023.
“Construct 1100MW worth of public and community owned renewable energy projects in and around Rockhampton, creating 1,142 jobs per year,” Mr Jones said.
“Build 1,800 well designed, safe, public homes over four years in Rockhampton, creating 364 jobs per year.
“Open six bulk billing community health clinics around Rockhampton, creating 72 jobs for doctors and nurses.”
Mr Jones said Rockhampton should be a booming hub for innovation, education, support services, and manufacturing, plugging into projects all over Central Queensland.
“We’ll build a Green Steel Mill in Gladstone to supply that factory in Rocky. Statewide we’ll create tens of thousands of good, secure jobs with massive public investment in manufacturing, healthcare, renewable energy, public housing and more, laying the foundation for a thriving, green economy,” he said.
“The Greens will make mining corporations, property developers and big banks pay their fair share in state-based taxes to fund our state’s recovery.
“We’ll put that revenue into publicly owned projects, to keep the profits in the regions, and provide good wages and conditions.
“We’ll implement strict local content rules, requiring 60 per cent locally sourced manufacturing content for all utility scale wind and solar energy projects by 2027.”
He said the party intended to ban the use of labour hire for renewable energy projects and guarantee leave entitlements and sick pay for every job.
“And I’d support us going even further, with laws to reverse the offshoring in other sectors, that saw our rail yard close,” he said.
To pay for these plans, Mr Jones said his party would introduce a 0.05 per cent levy on the big banks to raise $4.6 billion over four years, tax big developers on land value gains from rezoning, reducing corruption and raising $7.8 billion over four years and increase mining royalties to raise $55 billion over four years.