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Wednesday, 12 October 2016
Page: 1605

Senator WATT (Queensland) (13:43): If you ask Australians and people all around the world what their favourite place in Australia is, many will say the Gold Coast, in my home state of Queensland. I personally have many memories of great times on the Gold Coast. I have been going there since I was a kid, with family holidays at Broadbeach and early-morning trips down the highway to throw a line in the water. I did my obligatory rite of passage as a schoolie there. I have been to more Big Days Out at the Gold Coast parklands than I can remember. I saw Nirvana play at Fishermans Wharf. And I have bushwalked and swum in crystal clear waterholes in the stunning hinterland that sits behind the coast. Now as a parent I am introducing my kids to the joys of the Gold Coast, with our own family trips to Currumbin Creek, Burleigh Heads and many other places.

So it is with great pleasure that I advise the Senate of my intention to establish my Senate office on the Gold Coast. This is an important step as the Gold Coast has not had a senator's office in nearly 20 years. With over half a million residents, the Gold Coast is Queensland's second-biggest city and Australia's sixth-biggest and, as I will explain, it has been poorly served in federal parliament for far too long. Since the federal election, I have been spending even more time on the Gold Coast and, as I get around and meet everyone from business and community leaders to the average person on the street, what keeps hitting me is how much more there is to the Gold Coast than first meets the eye. The Gold Coast is world-famous for its beaches, its theme parks, and of course the well-known Glitter Strip. But it is much more than that. The Gold Coast is a huge contributor to the Australian economy, with over 12 million tourist visitors per year and its very own international airport. Beyond tourism, it is the home of Australia's leading independent bus manufacturer, and over the years I have worked with people in all sorts of industries on the Gold Coast—from software development to construction to environmental services. It has become a nation-leading education precinct with three universities, one of Queensland's largest clinical teaching and research hospitals and a specialised health sciences academy run by the state government. It is the home of the Titans, who have just made their first finals series in years, and the Suns, a young team on the up. The Gold Coast arts centre has terrific shows and gallery exhibitions every single week, and the dining and entertainment options on the Gold Coast are second to none. And, of course, in 2018 the Gold Coast will be on the world stage as the host of the Commonwealth Games.

What a shame that this vibrant, forward-looking community is not served by similarly energetic, hardworking federal representatives. If there is one thing the Gold Coast residents keep telling me since the election, it is how let down they feel by the wall-to-wall LNP representatives they have at all levels of government—how they feel let down and ignored by the wall-to-wall sea of blue that claims to serve them as their political representatives. For, despite its many selling points, the Gold Coast has its challenges—none more important than its rapid population growth and the related need for infrastructure. But, sadly, the Gold Coast's LNP political representatives sit by and do nothing. The Abbott government refused to cough up for the second stage of the Gold Coast Light Rail network, and the Turnbull government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to cough up money to match that put on the table by the Labor state government. And now we see the Turnbull government refuse to offer the Gold Coast its fair share of funding for the critical upgrades to the M1 highway that connects the Gold Coast with Brisbane.

Not a day goes by that we do not read about or experience crashes and other delays on the M1 motorway that could be overcome with two simple upgrades to be made as soon as possible. But what does Malcolm Turnbull do? Rather than actually coughing up and doing what federal governments do, all he has on the table is 50 per cent of the funding for these two upgrades. At one level, 50 per cent sounds okay. But it is not okay when you think about the fact that just over the other side of the border, in New South Wales, the federal government is chipping in 80 per cent of the cost of an upgrade to the M1 there.

Why is it that the Turnbull government just does not get Queensland and is not prepared to pay 80 per cent like it will to New South Wales? And what do the Gold Coast's four federal representatives do? They do nothing—just as they have always done. Well, that is about to change. With the establishment of my Senate office on the Gold Coast, residents there will at last have an ally and an advocate in Canberra. With the return of Labor to the Gold Coast, its residents, businesses and workers will not be taken for granted any longer.