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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 13032

Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (21:36): This evening I rise to speak on three important issues in my electorate of McPherson. The first is the growing necessity for improved transport infrastructure on the southern Gold Coast; the second is the need to reduce our somewhat high unemployment levels; and the third is the establishment of a fly-in fly-out hub at the Gold Coast Airport.

The Gold Coast is Australia's sixth-largest city and it is still growing. The region's population is set to grow from well over the existing half a million people at a rate of 13,000 to16,000 people per year to between 750,000 and 800,000 in 2031. The Gold Coast is without doubt one of the nation's fastest growing areas and it needs and deserves appropriate transport infrastructure, which is the first issue that I would like to speak about tonight.

Transport infrastructure for the southern Gold Coast is increasingly important, given that the city has won the right to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. I have spoken in this place before about the transport infrastructure issues on the coast: most importantly, the need to widen the M1 to the border and potentially beyond; the extension of the heavy rail line to Coolangatta; and to have in place an effective light-rail system on the southern Gold Coast.

During my first speech in this place, I noted that there was a strong possibility that we could be hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2018, meaning we would have to ensure that we could meet the needs and expectations of athletes, officials and visitors. We have now been awarded the games and, whilst this is a fantastic opportunity for our city, it is imperative that we move quickly to meet these high expectations.

I believe hosting the games provides a further catalyst to ensure we have the necessary transport infrastructure upgrades to relieve the present traffic movement restrictions which currently plague the southern Gold Coast. There is currently no heavy- or light-rail infrastructure that can transport visitors from the Gold Coast Airport and, while this is a problem now, it will only get worse, particularly when people begin to arrive for the games in less than seven years time.

While there are plans to construct three further heavy-rail stations south of the Varsity Lakes station—namely, Tallebudgera, Elanora-Palm Beach and the Gold Coast Airport—these are not scheduled until 2019 to 2025, which is well after the Commonwealth Games will have been and gone. Although I am pleased that there are plans at least in place, the rail extensions need to happen sooner rather than later before current transport problems are exacerbated. On this note, I repeat my call to the local, state and federal governments to work together and to consult with the local residents and businesses to ensure we have a world-class transport system.

The second issue that I would like to speak about is unemployment. A I mentioned previously, the Gold Coast is a fast-growing region but it has significant unemployment levels, and we need to work hard to reduce those. The entire Gold Coast City and southern Gold Coast currently have an unemployment rate of six per cent for the October period of this year. Compared with the same period last year, the Gold Coast as a whole has had a 0.7 per cent rise in unemployment, while southern Gold Coast levels unfortunately rose nearly a whole percentage point.

These unemployment levels must be reined in, and I believe one of the ways that we can do this is to establish the Gold Coast as a national hub for fly-in fly-out or FIFO workers. The mining and resources sector will need thousands of workers to fill the sector's shortages in the next decade, and the Gold Coast is well positioned to do its part with an available workforce which is ready and willing to work in the mining industry. The Gold Coast is also well placed to provide the social support networks for the FIFO workers, particularly their families, and to develop this hub on the Gold Coast would be wonderful.

In closing, I want to reaffirm my commitment to work for sustainable growth on the southern Gold Coast. I will continue to fight for employment opportunities in our great city and for a transport system that will be envied by the world so that employees and residents, along with tourists, can move freely through the city on world-class transport. I will always consider the overall needs of my electorate and look forward to working towards integrated solutions to these two issues. (Time expired)