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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6832


Mr SLIPPER (9:10 PM) —With respect to the provisions of infrastructure and government facilities, I must say that I hold a fairly old-fashioned view. I believe that Australians, regardless of what state or town they live in, are entitled to a reasonable level of infrastructure and facilities and that just because an area at a certain level of government may well have voted for, say, as in our case, the Liberal-National Party as opposed to Labor that area ought not to be treated as an area not worthy of government support.

I was extremely disturbed at the announcement by the Queensland Labor government in its budget recently that the desperately needed hospital that had been promised by the Labor government in 2005 for Kawana Waters in my electorate has become the victim of yet another delay, with the government announcing a further two-year wait for this vital infrastructure. The hospital was originally due to be opened in 2012. That was changed to 2014. Now the government has announced that it will be delayed until 2016, which is seven years away.

The Sunshine Coast is one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia. In fact, it is the most desirable area of our country in which to live, and people move from the rust belt areas of southern Australia like South Australia, Tasmania and other places to come to the Sunshine Coast. In fact, those who do not move there go there to holiday because it is a wonderful area. It has a tremendous environment, a welcoming people and warm and welcoming weather. But we do as a consequence have increasing infrastructure needs. The Sunshine Coast is one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia and our population will double over the next 10 to 15 years. We are desperately short of hospital beds, and the provision of those beds to meet what is essentially everyday demand has slipped well down the state Labor government priority list. This is unacceptable for the residents of the area, those of the Kawana Waters area and the former city of Caloundra in particular, who, like other Australians, deserve the provision of appropriate health services.

A report entitled Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay southern cluster projected inpatient bed requirements 2009 also strongly suggests that the region needs more hospital beds. The report goes so far as to predict that, if current growth trends continue, by 2016 more than 300 local patients daily will be spending nights in Brisbane hospitals due to massive local bed shortages. The news of the delay for the new hospital was accompanied by the state government’s announcement that it is now seeking an investor to build a private hospital, with the government to rent beds in the new facility for public patients. However, this remains a stopgap measure that will not satisfy local needs and will also not address the real likelihood that more and more local patients and their families will be forced to travel to Brisbane for treatments that require hospital stays.

This hospital fiasco is one of a mounting list of problems that have festered under the leadership of Anna Bligh and the state Labor government and are now conveniently blamed on the challenging economic times. Queensland has been the engine room of the Australian economy. We have had successive governments, both National-Liberal and Labor, which in recent times have been able to recognise the fact that this is a part of Australia which is uniquely blessed. From the time of the Bjelke-Petersen government, we have had sound economic management. Whatever comments you might make in relation to other aspects of that government—and there would be a range of views on the performance of that government generally—with respect to economics what the former National government in Queensland did was outline the philosophy that governments, like private households, cannot spend more than they earn. The concept of constant deficit budgeting became extremely unpopular in the community because, if you have zero debt, it means you are not paying interest and it means that as a government you are able to meet the infrastructure costs of a growing community.

But, unfortunately, the legacy of the former Liberal-National government in Queensland and also former Labor governments has been squandered by the Bligh Labor government—


Mr Adams —No international crisis?


Mr SLIPPER —which has in fact brought Queensland to a situation where, instead of being an icon for the other states to follow, we have become absolutely the worst economic performer. The honourable member for Lyons mentioned the global economic crisis, and one cannot deny that such a thing exists. However, such a thing exists and affects everyone in Australia; it is just that the Queensland Labor government’s response to that and to economics generally has been so much worse than that of every other government in Australia, whether it be the Liberal-National Party government of Western Australia or the Labor governments in all of the other states and territories and the national Labor government. The Bligh Labor government is the worst government in Australia, regardless of politics.

I do not want to be party political about this matter but, where Queensland was once the trailblazer for the rest of the country, we are now the basket case. For many years, people suggested Tasmania was not viable, that it was a basket case. However, Tasmania is now performing in a way—


Mr Adams —With a Labor government.


Mr SLIPPER —that it has not always performed in. I suspect that, whether we had a Labor or a non-Labor government in Tasmania, people would appreciate that you cannot spend more than you earn as a government. If you continue to spend more than you earn as a government and you move into deficit budgeting in a constant way then essentially you become a state which is probably the only Third World state or country where you are able to drink the water.


Mr Craig Thomson —What about infrastructure in Queensland?


Mr SLIPPER —Infrastructure in Queensland is very important, and conservative governments in Queensland provided that infrastructure. Unfortunately, the state Labor government with respect to infrastructure has not really been anywhere near as good as it could be.

I spoke at the commencement of my speech about the Kawana hospital. Kawana, a state electorate which had the temerity to vote for the Liberal National Party at the recent state election, has been penalised as an area because they did not vote for the incumbent Labor government. Right across the Sunshine Coast, which was virtually a clean sweep for the Liberal National Party, we are suffering because we did not vote for the incumbent Labor government. The incumbent Labor government has entirely squandered the economic security and economic benefits that it inherited, and we now have a situation where the Sunshine Coast hospital at Kawana fiasco is simply one of a mounting list of problems that have festered under the current state Labor government.

 It has been put to me, including by the member for Lyons, that these matters can be blamed on the challenging economic times. But the reality is that our problems do not stretch from the economic crisis; they really stem from Labor’s complete and utter inability to manage money. Of course, it is the rest of us, and our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren and beyond, who will have to carry this serious and unacceptable burden.

I am someone who tries to give credit where credit is due. I am not saying that just because someone happens to be on the conservative side of politics they are a person who is worthy of support. I have seen Labor governments that have been good—not many, mind you—and I have seen Labor governments that have been bad. I have seen conservative governments that have been good and some that have dropped the ball. But in Queensland, with the Bligh Labor government, we have a government that no-one could defend as having any solution to the global economic crisis, and the reason that Queensland is suffering so badly and that we are not getting the health infrastructure that we should on the Sunshine Coast is that the state Labor government has indicated that it is totally, completely and absolutely unable to manage money. That is really sad for the people on the Sunshine Coast.

The Sunshine Coast is barely an hour’s drive north of Brisbane. We have got 260,000 people; we will have 500,000 people in 10 to 15 years time. We are a diverse community. It is much nicer than the Gold Coast. We are the area where you would like to bring up your children. The area stretches from Noosa to Caloundra. We have got every possible sort of community. We have got five-star tourist resorts and we have got places where families can go and have holidays. It is an absolutely tremendous area, and I would recommend that any honourable member who has the time visit the Sunshine Coast, because it is an absolutely wonderful place to be. But, as the population grows, we need infrastructure. The fact that, at the state election, people on the Sunshine Coast chose to vote for the Liberal National Party ought not to be a reason to deprive us of health infrastructure, particularly the Kawana hospital. It is completely unacceptable, and I condemn the Bligh Labor government.