20+ QUESTIONS: How ALP's Zac Beers responded
What is your professional background?
I started my working life in Gladstone Industry as a painter and scaffolder at the Queensland Alumina Refinery, where I learnt just how important it is to have a good job with decent pay. After that I was fortunate enough to begin working for the Australian Workers' Union as an Industrial Organiser representing working men and women throughout Central Queensland. In this role I fought for locals to have safe workplaces, better job security, and decent wages.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing the region? And, what would you do to address these issues?
My top priority for the region is creating secure, well-paid jobs for Central Queensland locals. I've secured a $1.1 billion National Hydrogen Plan, including an Innovation Hub right here in Gladstone to put us at the front of this booming industry. It's essential we reform our workplace laws to crack down on casualisation and stagnant wage growth so that locals have the security of a decent pay cheque each week.
What made you interested in politics?
I've seen firsthand how many Central Queenslanders are doing it tough right now, so I got involved in politics to do something about it. Central Queensland creates so much wealth for Australia, yet far too many locals are missing out. Whether it's low wages, casualisation and insecure work, a lack of job opportunities or underfunded health services, I want to fight for our region to get a better deal.
What makes you the right candidate for the region?
I've got the right mix of skills and energy to fight for our region. I've lived in Central Queensland for most of my life, and I know what's important to our region. I'm up for the job of getting into the community and talking face to face with locals about the issues affecting them, and I've done the hard yards to secure the commitments our region needs.
What should be done to ensure Queensland has reliable, affordable electricity?
Reliable and affordable energy is critical for both local families and local industry. Keeping our energy suppliers in public hands to avoid privatisation and desperate sell offs is the most effective way of keeping energy prices down. It's why I've fought against attempts to try and force the state Government to sell off energy generating assets so that we can guarantee reliable, affordable energy both today and into the future.
What do you think Canberra doesn't understand about the Flynn electorate?
Right now, too many politicians in Canberra spend too much time with big businesses and multinationals, and not enough time with locals on the ground. There's a real disconnect between what people in Flynn need and what this Government is delivering. Our region creates so much wealth for this country yet has missed out on funding when it comes to infrastructure and health services. It's time for that to change.
Do you think Adani's Carmichael Mine should go ahead?
I've always said that if Adani stacks up environmentally and financially it should go ahead, just like any other project. But it's important that we make sure any jobs that come from the project are secure well-paid jobs for Aussie workers. We need to put an end to casualisation, 457 visa rorts and the misuse of labour hire. Only Labor has a plan to make that happen.
What will you do to create jobs for the region, with or without Adani's mine?
Securing jobs should be any politicians top priority, which is why we've secured our job creating $1.1 billion National Hydrogen Plan. At the same time, infrastructure investment is always the basis to local job growth. That's why we've announced upgrades to the Capricorn and Dawson Highways and committed to funding Stage 2 of the Gladstone Port Access Road Upgrade, specifically tailored so that locals get first crack at these jobs.
What will you do to make a strong economy within the region and the state?
Our $1.1 billion National Hydrogen plan is designed to bring new industry and jobs to Gladstone. I'll also crack down on casualisation and low wage growth so that locals have a decent wage to put money back into the community. We'll also put in place the infrastructure local businesses need to be productive and profitable through upgrades to the Capricorn and Dawson Highways and the Gladstone Port Access Road.
How can we increase tourism in the region?
There's no reason why Central Queensland can't be a tourism hotspot. We're ideally placed right on the Great Barrier Reef, yet easily accessible to the rest of Queensland and Australia. Labor's $1 billion Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund will go towards improving services and infrastructure for tourists in places like Central Queensland. We'll attract more people to our region and bring increased tourist dollars into local businesses and tourism operators.
Gladstone's resources sector provides a large amount of royalties to the state and federal governments. How will you ensure that money is returned to the region?
Central Queensland creates a lot of wealth for Australia yet misses out on important funding for local projects too often. I'll fight against handouts to big multinationals to ensure that money is going back into the community. Resource industry employees do an essential job for our region yet are being badly hit by low wage growth, casualisation and labour hire rorts. We need to reform our workplaces so that they get a better share of the profits they help create.
What should be done to address climate change, and protect the Great Barrier Reef?
We'll diversify energy sources, bring down pollution levels and safeguard local eco-systems to make sure that our environment, including the Great Barrier Reef, is kept safe so that it can continue to attract tourists and create jobs. In all of this, we'll work with industry to make sure that local jobs are safe and protected, and that energy-intensive businesses receive the support they need to operate into the future.
Will emissions reduction targets affect the long-term viability of BSL and other energy-intensive businesses within the region? Why/Why not?
I started my working life in Gladstone Industry, and I'll always stand up to protect the important jobs it creates. That's why our plan works with industry to make sure that sites like BSL have a long and productive future in front of them, and that jobs are protected and grown into the future. Our commitment is to work with industry to make sure they have a sustainable and profitable future.
The Observer's recent FutureCQ event revealed community leaders want to see investment to create better sporting facilities. What would you do to facilitate this?
I know how important our local sporting clubs are to the Gladstone community. I've been a proud member of the Tannum Sands Seagulls for most of my life so I've seen firsthand the benefits of good local sporting clubs for kids and adults alike. I'll fight to secure better funding for local sporting facilities and make sure local clubs are being listened to and looked after.
Demographer Bernard Salt's analysis of ABS population data found an increase in youth leaving the region. What can the Federal Government do to encourage youth to stay, or encourage others to move to the Gladstone region?
If we want to encourage young people to Central Queensland, we need to make sure we're creating decent, well paid jobs to attract young people to our region. That's why we're committed to creating new jobs through our $1.1 billion National Hydrogen Plan and working with local industry and manufacturers through our $1 billion advance manufacturing fund to safeguard existing jobs well into the future.
Mr Salt's analysis also found there will be an increase in seniors living in Gladstone. What can the Federal Government do to ensure Gladstone has the facilities an ageing population requires?
Looking after seniors is something we have to get right. We need more funding for aged care, more funding for senior's health services, and we need to ensure we've got a well-paid, well-trained aged care workforce to look after our seniors when needed. This is why Labor is committed to investing the funding needed to guarantee our seniors quality care.
What will you do to provide the region with more health services?
Health services in our region have been going backwards, which is why I've secured a local health care plan to get us back on track. I've secured $15 million to upgrade services in the Gladstone Hospital by buying the Mater site, a Medicare funded MRI Licence, a radiation therapy centre in Gladstone, and an extra $6.1 million into Central Queensland healthcare to give locals access to healthcare closer to home.
What do you plan to do about the ice problem in Central Queensland?
There are no easy fixes for such a serious problem, and it's going to take working with community groups, health and police services, and the wider community to properly address it. Key to any strategy will be making sure that our young people have the support they need. Our plan for new local headspace facilities, more funding for local health services and creating new job opportunities are essential to this.
What should be done to make regional airfares more affordable, and to encourage airlines to add new flight routes to regional airports?
The cost of regional airfares is something that comes up wherever I am in Central Queensland. Locals are sick of being made to pay excessive ticket prices just to get to and from work or visit family members, especially when there aren't enough flight routes to meet local demand. I'm ready to go in to bat for locals against the big airlines to make sure that locals are being heard.
What is the most common misconception about you?
People often assume that I play my footy in the halves or the backs, but I've actually spent most of my career as a front rower for the mighty Tannum Sands Seagulls.
Do you support the construction of a new coal-fired power station in CQ? Why?
We're fortunate to have the youngest fleet of coal fired power stations in the country, and I'm committed to making sure they've got a long future. I'll fight against privatisation so that it's not multinationals that profit from our assets. If private enterprise puts forward a proposal for a coal-fired power station it should go through the proper processes to see if it stacks up, and if so, should go ahead.
How would you make housing more accessible for first home buyers?
Owning a home is a major milestone for so many people yet has become impossible for some. It's why Labor is helping young people struggling to afford their first home by limiting negative gearing to new housing from January 2020. At the same time, we're committed to making sure that existing home owners have peace of mind about any changes by grandfathering any existing negative gearing arrangements currently in place.
How would you tackle high fuel prices in CQ?
There's nothing more frustrating than watching fuel prices rise fast and fall slow. It's bad for families, and bad for business. While there's no easy fix to this problem, I know we can't have another three years without action. That's why Labor will go into bat for locals by boosting the power of ACCC to investigate and take action against big multinational fuel companies colluding to keep prices high.
How could we better utilise public transport in CQ?
Accessibility is vital to ensuring that many in our community can get about their daily lives. This is particularly the case in Central Queensland where distance and travel times can make getting to school, work and medical appointments much harder than just walking down the road. That's why I'm committed to working with all levels of government to do what we can to improve and protect public transport services for locals.
What should we do to support scientific research and increase innovation?
Labor knows that research and innovation is key to creating jobs and driving economic growth. That's why we'll be boosting investment in scientific research and innovation so that we don't fall behind. We'll establish a Hydrogen Innovation Hub right here in Gladstone as part of our $1.1 billion National Hydrogen Plan to ensure that Central Queensland can take advantage of this booming industry, creating new jobs and opportunities for locals.
Do you support shifting a government department or military base to CQ? How would you make it happen?
Making sure Central Queensland gets its fair share of Government jobs is a no brainer. It's why I've fought for and delivered 100 news Department of Human Services jobs to be based right here in Gladstone. This won't only provide opportunities for local job seekers, but will invest $7.2 million into the local economy, providing a much-needed boost for local businesses.
What plans do you have to better support small business?
Small businesses are vital to the local economy yet are doing it tough right now. That's why Labor will reduce the burden they face by delivering sweeping tax cuts, while providing incentives for businesses to employ more young and mature workers. Our Gas and Hydrogen plans will also create new well paid local jobs, leaving families with more disposable income, providing a welcome shot in the arm for our small businesses.
What is your approach towards taxation? Where would you cut or impose taxes?
Labor is committed to providing significant tax relief to families on low and middle incomes. We know these families are doing it the toughest, and we want to make it easier for them to put food on the table and pay the bills. We'll also make sure that the big multinationals are paying their fair share and aren't using dodgy offshore loopholes to get out of paying tax.