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Thursday, 1 March 2018
Page: 2517


Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (15:35): There are 30,000 people currently looking for work, currently looking for a job, in North Queensland—all the way from Rocky to the tip of Cape York—and that doesn't get enough attention in this place. So I'm glad that the member for Kennedy has brought this motion forward. It gives us an opportunity to shine a light on that situation, on the chronic high level of unemployment in Central and North Queensland.

This is a government that promises very big when it comes to North Queensland. When the white paper into northern Australia was released back in 2014, the former Prime Minister, the member for Warringah, Tony Abbott, said that this white paper was going to make northern Australia an economic powerhouse. The former Deputy Prime Minister, the member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, said, 'We're a nation smart enough and brave enough to make the next step, and now we've got a government motivated enough to do just that.' That was four years ago. So what has happened since?

If you go to North Queensland now you will find in places like Rockhampton and Gladstone that unemployment is higher today than it was then. It's got worse, not better, since the government's white paper for northern Australia came out. In Townsville, the unemployment rate today is about 8.5 per cent—twice as high as it is in Brisbane. The youth unemployment rate in Townsville is 19.4 per cent. That's almost four times what it is in Brisbane. And a lot of people who do have a job have found that, over the last few years, their wages have gone down or have stagnated—flatlining. The number of apprentices in Central and North Queensland has also gone through the floor. There are almost 9,000 fewer apprentices across regional Queensland today than there were when this government came to power. In the member for Kennedy's electorate there are 1,200 fewer apprentices today than there were four or five years ago, when this government came to power.

The government talk a big game—and you heard it again just then from the minister—but the fact is that they haven't delivered for North Queensland. There's no better example of that than the NAIF, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. It's the biggest promise they made, a $5 billion fund to build job-creating infrastructure in the north, and it's their biggest failure. They announced this fund 1,024 days ago, and guess how many projects they've funded in North Queensland since? Zero; nothing. They haven't funded one job-creating project in North Queensland in all of that time. This has to be the most constipated organisation in the country, and it desperately needs a dose of Metamucil. It needs a box of Laxettes, because so far it has been an abject failure. The government have promised big and delivered nothing. No wonder the people of North Queensland are so upset, so angry and so frustrated.

There's been a lot of debate here and elsewhere about the Carmichael mine. Coal is our second-largest export. Of the products that we export to the world, coal is our second largest, and it will continue to be a very, very considerable part of what we export long into the future. Whether this project goes ahead depends on Adani. The ball is in Adani's court. They've got to find the money to finance it, and the fact is they haven't done that yet. I've said repeatedly, and the Leader of the Opposition has said the same thing, this is a project that has to stand on its own two feet, and the taxpayers of Australia shouldn't have to give Adani a billion dollars to make this go ahead. I think most Australians would agree with that.

As I said at the beginning of this debate, there are 30,000 people in North Queensland at the moment who are looking for a job. If Adani finds the money and this project does go ahead, it's not going to fill that hole. It's not going to give all of those people a job. If you're hanging your hat on that, you're only going to be disappointed. The best bet is that this project will create 1,400 jobs when in operation. That's what Adani's own economist said under oath to the Queensland Land Court back in 2015. We need more jobs than that. We need a lot more jobs than that, which is why we've announced a raft of infrastructure projects for Central and North Queensland.