North Queensland State
A North Queensland state is something that has been talked about for over 100 years. Cairns is a very long way from Brisbane indeed. Our geography and our relatively small population (compared to South East Queensland) makes us politically powerless. When you add to this the political scenario two Brisbane based parties fighting each for power, the chance of Far North Queensland getting proper consideration and funding is remote. I support a North Queensland State because as American business identity Jack Welch once said, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.”
I do not believe there will be a separate state for North Queensland anytime soon. However, the debate in Queensland politics for a separate state can serve a useful purpose. It is an opportunity to highlight the relative neglect of people in North Queensland when it comes to allocation of government funding and resources.
If you live in Edmonton, Bentley Park, Mount Sheridan or anywhere in Far North Queensland, you will only have access to a fraction of the services and supports available to people in South East Queensland.
Speech to Parliament
Mr PYNE (Cairns—Ind) (6.26 pm): The people of North Queensland are fortunate in this parliament to have strong representation through the cross-benches to make sure the voice of our region is heard. What worries me is that we could go back in the next parliament to one of the big Brisbane based parties running this parliament, and we know that when that happens the voice of the north is not heard down here.
We can see the many years of neglect and the lack of infrastructure. I do not think people realise the burdens on families needing medical procedures. Always needing to fly down to Brisbane when the patient transit scheme hardly covers the costs for them. Not to mention the trauma and the difficulties of moving away from their support networks to get medical treatment in the south. We need these sorts of medical treatments and medical services in North Queensland. Ports in other areas get significant infrastructure investments, yet Cairns gets no investment in its ports.
In terms of roads, I love coming to Brisbane and seeing all of these underpasses and overpasses. If we are all going to be Queenslanders, surely we are all entitled to the same level of service. By no barometer— by no measure—could anyone in this House say that the people of my city receive the same level of services as people in South-East Queensland. No-one in this House could say that with a straight face.
Public transport is another great example. Down here Cross River Rail is proposed. What a wonderful piece of infrastructure that will be, but the north is lucky to get the bare essentials in terms of transport infrastructure. People can get a go card and hop on a ferry, a train, or a bus. We have only buses in Cairns, and it is not a great service. The people in Cairns are entitled to receive the same services. It is that failure to deliver the same level of services in the north that has led to the call for a separate state.
Where do members think this call for a separate state comes from? It comes from people in North Queensland who feel that they have been neglected. People feel that the state government is not delivering the services that they are entitled to receive.
I would like to reflect briefly on the administration side of a new state. One of the big problems in the roll out of government policy is that policy is channelled from George Street—from public servants
making decisions who have no knowledge of the context in which those decisions will be rolled out in Cairns, Far North Queensland, Townsville, rural and remote communities and Indigenous communities. We all know how significant public servants and directors-general are in the policy process.
It is okay for ministers to stand up in this place and announce a project as theirs because they are the minister at the time, but many of these projects are developed over the years through the departments. We need to have some of these public servants living in Cairns and making decisions on a more informed basis. Why are we not entitled to have more public servants in Cairns? Cairns has one of the highest unemployment rates of the state. Why is not more of the machinery of government located in the regions, such as in my city of Cairns?
North Queensland has one senator based in North Queensland, Senator Macdonald. He must be getting on now, but that is not his biggest problem. His biggest problem is that there is only one of him.
Mr Springborg: But Murray Watt stitched up the other one.
Mr PYNE: I take that interjection from the member for Southern Downs. I can tell him exactly why Jan McLucas is no longer a senator and Murray Watt is. What did the Labor Party say? `Where are the numbers? Where are the votes? They are down here. Don’t you worry about Far North Queensland. North Queensland lost a senator and the Gold Coast got one. We see this happening across-the-board in North Queensland: neglect, neglect, neglect. We need a separate state. I look forward to North Queensland becoming a separate state, with its beautiful, lush, green capital of the Pacific rim city of Cairns.
As early as my time on Cairns Regional Council I could see the need for change. The systemic neglect of Far North Queensland is largely a result of mathematics. There are 93 members in the Queensland Parliament but only 5 representing Far North Queensland. Even if these 5 representatives found the courage to vote as independents, in the interests of our region (rather than the interest of their party) they would be numerically insignificant. The Far North will never have strong representation as a part of the state of Queensland. The only hope is electoral reform.
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