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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8139

Senator SANTORO (7:03 AM) —I seek leave to incorporate the speech I would have made in the adjournment debate.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Queensland is a very go-ahead place. Throughout the state communities look to the future with pride in their ability to make a Living—and better—in the new world of the twenty-first century.

No more so is this spirit obvious—so obvious that it is palpable—than in the cases of the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

These two regions, proudly independent communities in the best traditions of the Australian way of life, have taken to heart the lesson that there is strength in unity.

They have a message. That message demands to be listened to. It is a compelling message—and not just because it is a very good message indeed, but also because of the vibrant people who are selling that message.

It is often said that Queensland is the home of small business. That is doubly so in the case of the Gold boast and the Sunshine Coast. Roth regions are the home of the entrepreneur and the innovator. Both profit from this. And both are determined to continue to profit from this—and to build on those profits.

It seems to me very appropriate that on the last occasion the Senate—the States' House—sits in 2002, it should hear the inspiring story of how the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast are building an even brighter future for themselves and for their state and country.

The Gold Coast has put to put together a great team of people who are selling the message that Gold Coast City is transforming through innovation. The statistics prove the point: All age groups are moving to the city and its hinterland in search not only of the lifestyle choices that climate and geography make possible, but of booming employment in business—particularly small business—and industry, in education, in IT, in tourism and hospitality.

The numbers are impressive. At any one time— and this excludes the peak holiday period into which we are now passing—there are more than half a million people resident on the Gold Coast.

The city itself has a population of 450,000—it's Australia's biggest city outside of the mainland capitals—and on any given day, around 100,000 visitors.

It is a young city: No longer—if it ever really was—a retirement community alone.

Developments valued at $10B are under way. it is in every sense a place of increasingly locally coordinated planning and tremendous forward vision.

It is a place that believes in the maxim: carpe diem. It is determined to seize the day. It is doing so by confronting the natural challenges that growth bring head on.

To transform through innovation means in the context of the Gold Coast that you must recognise the realities of the day. As the Gold Coast City Council itself suggests—in an exciting audio-visual presentation I have recently seen and which is the product of author Bernard Salt, who wrote `The Big Shift'—it is dealing directly with the implications of demographic and cultural change.

Its assertion is that the Gold Coast region is ideally placed to build on the benefits of the push from the bush. In 1901, 52 per cent of Australians lived in rural areas and only 8 per cent in coastal communities. In 2001, the rural population had fallen to 18 per cent and the coastal communities to 19 per cent.

In the case of the Gold Coast, a modern city in its own right, this demographic is further bolstered by another—the growth of suburbia. In 1901, nationally, 15 per cent of Australians lived in the suburbs. In 2001 that percentage had grown to 58. The Gold Coast magically combines the coast and the suburb in a way that truly shines a light on the modern Australian way of life.

I recently met a delegation of Gold Coast business people who were proudly boosting their city.

Let me say that there is nothing wrong with boosterism, in spite of the bad press it once got— still gets—from its genesis in the amazing American expansion of the nineteenth century.

The delegation was led by Gold Coast councillors Alan Rickard and Max Christmas: and their message was, frankly, exciting.

Let me say too that there is nothing wrong with excitement, either.

It is true that the Gold Coast, like all developing and growing communities, has some problems— or if not problems, then some issues that need to be addressed.

I'll come to those in a minute, but first I want to say a word or two about my Liberal colleagues in the other place who represent Gold Coast-based seats.

Stephen Ciobo, Margaret May, Kay Elson and David Jull are tireless representatives of their constituencies and their constituents. The Liberal Party is the party of freedom—freedom to work, to build, to have families, to create a great life. The Cold Coast is I believe classic Liberal territory, and we are working to make it so at the state level as well as federally.

With innovators such as the people I've just mentioned, and a strong community focused development ethic such as that demonstrated by the “innovation city” branding that underpins the new push to—as the promotional literature puts it— “have it all”, the Gold Coast is going places.

It will be assisted in going places—literally—by greater governmental focus on public transport and the road system; on a much needed emphasis on facilitating east-west movement within the city, which is too much aimed at north-south movement along the beaches at present; on development of the Gold Coast airport; and in better attention to environmental issues.

It's true that some of these things are negatives in the present picture. I believe that the Gold Coast community, properly facilitated by government at all levels, can beat all of those challenges.

It is already—has been for a long time—the country's leader in domestic family holidays: the destination of choice of mums and dads—and kids—from across the nation.

It is now also an education centre of excellence that dies everyone proud, with the Griffith University Gold Coast campus, Bond University, and a strong TAFE presence.

Mr President—

The Sunshine Coast is also an astonishing success story. I heard the latest chapter in this tale just last week, here in Parliament House, when a delegation from the three- council SunROC organisation came to see me and also my colleagues Senators Brandis and Mason.

They gave us a stirring presentation too, as you would expect from such a forward-looking and lateral-thinking organisation.

SunROC, which is the Sunshine Coast Regional Organisation of Councils, links the three local governments in the area and gives the entire region a strongly coordinated focus.

The Sunshine Coast grew up in a rather different way from the Gold Coast. It is one of the fastest growing regions in Australia—a rate of 4.4 per cent a year over the 10 years 1991 to 2001. Nearly a quarter of a million Australians now call the Sunshine Coast home.

Forecasts are that the population will double within 20 years.

Now that might be seen in some circles as a planner's nightmare,

Not in SunROC. Don Aldous, the mayor of Caloundra City; Trevor Thompson, deputy mayor of Maroochy Shire; and Frank Pardon, deputy mayor of Noosa Shire, believe in thinking positively.

So too do the other members of the delegation to Canberra last week: Tony Long, the independent chair of the SunROC Transport Infrastructure Project Committee; Graeme Pearce, SunROCs `Executive Director; Tony Nioa, Chair of the Sunshine Coast Area Consultative Committee; and David Hopper, the CEO.

SunROC's mission statement says this:

SunROC will be recognised as the pre-eminent lobbying organisation for the regional interests of the City of Caloundra and the Shires of Maroochy and Noosa, and through effective lobbying and council cooperation, the Sunshine Coast will have the best physical infrastructure of any region in Australia ... This in turn will achieve the highest standards of economic, environmental and social infrastructure for the region, and the quality of life of the citizens of the Sunshine Coast.

Now that, in my opinion, is genuine nation-building material. That's what we should be doing, across the country. Our country—any country—is primarily its people. Let us never lose sight of that.

I want to pay tribute to the three federal Liberal representatives of the region—Peter Slipper, Alex Somlyay and Mal Brough. Like their counterparts on the Gold Coast, they are always there when the Sunshine Coast needs to put its point of view across.

The Sunshine Coast, again like the Gold Coast— but in a subtly different way, of course—is a region in which small business drives the economy. It has a strong tourism industry—one incidentally that has been given a great fillip by new air services direct from southern states provided by Virgin Blue and Qantas.

It has a rich hinterland—the mountain communities of Maleny, Mapleton and Montville, like Tamborine and the others in the Gold Coast hinterland, would see off the best competition from anywhere around the world in their tourist experiences and facilities.

SunROC has adopted eight Action Plans—

Transport Infrastructure: Suntrain—a public transport system; and road infrastructure.

Recreation and Culture: Quad Park—a regional sports complex; a Regional Arts and Multi Purpose Exhibition Centre; and Regional Tracks and Trails.

Sugar industry: Future of the industry after the Nambour mill closure.

Telecommunications: Provision of broadband facilities.

Government Relations: State infrastructure Plan.

There are major shortfalls in the region's infrastructure, particularly with transport systems— public transport and roads—and telecommunications. The region represented by this go-ahead cooperative effort needs an extra helping hand, and it is looking towards State and Federal governments to provide a helping hand.

We should look upon the representations and the presentations of the leaders of the Sunshine Coast with great sympathy.

For their representations are based on the principle of self help and this sort of initiative wants to be recognised by State and Federal governments.

It has been my very great pleasure to have been able to engage so constructively with the worthy representatives and leaders of both the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast region of Queensland.