20+ QUESTIONS: How LNP's Ken O'Dowd responded
Born in Gladstone, raised in Mount Larcom, resident of Gladstone
What is your professional background?
I've been largely self-employed. By the age of 17 I had worked as a contract milker, picked beans on my neighbours' farms, worked on the railways as a fettler and on flying gangs and worked on construction to build a new railway line from Gladstone to Moura.
After leaving school, I did stints as a payroll clerk at QAL, worked in New Guinea at the Bougainville Copper mine, worked in fuel industry as distributor across Central Queensland, owned and ran a pub in Rockhampton along with building supply business.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing the region? And, what would you do to address these issues?
Jobs, cost of living, support for our agricultural and coal industries, better infrastructure and lower taxes for businesses and individuals. Our strong economic management means we can offer tax cuts across the board, without attacking the savings and investments of retirees. We are the only party backing the resources industry and supporting Central Queensland's heavy industry. We are also backing affordable, efficient power by investing in renewables as well as future high efficiency, low emission coal fired power technology.
What made you interested in politics?
As a long-time business owner, I could see a clear difference between Labor and Coalition Governments. It is pretty clear cut - under Labor, interest rates went up which meant very tough times for small business owners, and unemployment went up. Under the Coalition, business conditions improved and I was able to employ more people and grow my businesses. Border security was also a big issue for me - we should decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.
What makes you the right candidate for the region?
Real life experience, an belief in 'reward for effort', knowledge of the entire electorate, an understanding of the industries which keep the region strong and the fact I'm not afraid to stand up, speak out and fight for the electorate in Canberra.
What should be done to ensure Queensland has reliable, affordable electricity?
We are taking action to lower power prices to help families with the cost of living, support small businesses and help Australia's economy. We will:
- Take a big stick to the energy companies to stop rip-offs. This includes banning sneaky late payment penalties, requiring savings in wholesale prices to be passed on to customers, and cracking down on dodgy, anti-competitive practices.
- Create a price safety net to protect customers.
- Back investment in new reliable power generation to improve competition, lower prices and guarantee supply.
What do you think Canberra doesn't understand about the Flynn electorate?
The diversity of the electorate and its industries, and its sheer size. The different coastal and country communities in Flynn are part of our strength, but there are challenges involved in travel, communications and connectivity. Most Australians live in highly urbanised places, while we often have to drive for hours to get to our final destination. A good example is electric cars - they might work well in cities, but out here stopping to charge up a car just isn't practical or efficient.
Do you think Adani's Carmichael Mine should go ahead?
Absolutely yes. I have strongly backed the project at every opportunity- publicly, privately and in Parliament. We need to get on with the job of developing this mine and others because our region needs these jobs. The project is already subject to the strictest environmental conditions under Australian law and it infuriates me to see it held up for political reasons.
What will you do to create jobs for the region, with or without Adani's mine?/What will you do to make a strong economy within the region and the state?
We are working to build a stronger economy by lowering tax for small businesses, backing our resource sector, working to reduce power prices, investing a record amount in infrastructure, boosting exports and creating 80,000 new apprenticeships by providing more incentives to employers. Our 2013 promise for one million new jobs to be created within five years was delivered ahead of schedule, and we will use our policies to support the creations of another 1.25 million jobs over the next five years.
How can we increase tourism in the region?
Forty-three cents in every tourism dollar is now spent in regional areas, creating more jobs and driving economic development, so getting the basics right is important - and the Coalition's signature programs like Building Better Regions and Stronger Regions are already investing millions of dollars in key tourism infrastructure like airport upgrades, better community attractions and facilities, visitor information centres, playgrounds and sports facilities. Our record road funding also means visitors have safer, better roads to travel on.
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?
The National Party is the only political party dedicated to representing regional areas. Outstanding programs like the Mobile Black Spot program, Bridges Renewal and Roads to Recovery were developed and implemented by the Nats, with the whole objective being to return a greater share to regional communities.
What should be done to address climate change, and protect the Great Barrier Reef?
Our Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan has been endorsed by the World Heritage Committee and praised by the OECD.
When the Coalition came to office in 2013, the Reef was on the UNSECO's in danger "watch list" but through the good work Government, it is now off. We are working hard to reduce emissions, having already ratified the Paris Agreement, which will see Australia reduce its emissions by more than 50 percent on a per-capita basis by 2030.
Will emissions reduction targets affect the long-term viability of BSL and other energy-intensive businesses within the region? Why/Why not?
We have a sensible climate policy that will ensure we reduce our emissions, meet our Paris target and keep the economy strong. Our $3.5 billion Climate Solutions plan will work with farmers, Councils and businesses to deliver practical climate solutions across the economy that reduce emissions. We have already beaten our 2020 target by 367 million tonnes and are well on our way to our 2030 target without hurting heavy industry like BSL.
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?
Our $100 million Community Sport Infrastructure Grants program has already supported more than 450 grassroots sporting projects across the nation including installation of lighting, irrigation and air conditioning, upgrading of change rooms and resurfacing courts and playing surfaces. I'm always happy to support applications from sporting groups or other organisations seeking funds - most recently I've helped secure $80,000 to help upgrade Gayndah's pool facilities.
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?
A strong economy, education, training and local job creation is the best way to retain locals and attract others to the region.
A strong economy means businesses and industries can expand and take on more employees.
Nationally youth unemployment is at its lowest level in seven years and we will create 250,000 jobs for young people over the next five years by investing $525 million in skills funding and creating up to 80,000 new apprentices.
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?
The Liberal Nationals is investing a record amount in aged care, with annual funding to grow from $18.1 billion to $23.6 billion a year by 2022-23.
In recent weeks 84 new aged care beds were allocated to a new aged care facility for Gladstone - this will make a huge difference to the community and means that as people need greater care they are able to stay close to home near their family and friends.
What will you do to provide the region with more health services?
I've already secured a bulk-billing MRI for Gladstone, as well as $5 million for a cancer treatment centre for the city and 84 beds for a new aged care facility.
More than $514 million has gone to Central Queensland's hospitals under the Coalition, that's a 93 per cent increase in funding since Labor was last in power.
Over the next four years, we will invest an additional $6 billion in Medicare and our strong economic management means we've been able to list more than 2,000 lifesaving drugs on the PBS.
Nationally, we have delivered record funding for public hospital services, increasing from $13.3 billion when Labor was last in power, to a record $21.2 billion this year. It will grow to $26.2 billion in 2022-23.
What do you plan to do about the ice problem in Central Queensland?
Nationally, we are tackling the supply of ice through increased international cooperation, intelligence sharing, law enforcement and better controls of precursor chemicals.
The Government has committed more than $685 million to reduce drug and alcohol misuse, including funding for locally-based treatment through Primary Health Networks, 260 new services for Indigenous communities, 220 Drug Action teams around Australia, funding addiction medical specialists through Medicare and research into new treatment options and training. We have also launched the Cracks in the Ice online community toolkit (www.cracksintheice.org.au) to provide information for community groups, Councils, parents and friends, teachers, students and frontline service providers.
What should be done to make regional airfares more affordable, and to encourage airlines to add new flight routes to regional airports?
All too often, regional air fares are exorbitantly high. Even though the Federal Government doesn't regulate domestic airline routes, the LNP fought to get a Senate Inquiry covering regional air fares established so we can get some answers out of the airlines. If successful at the election, I will push for the inquiry to complete its work on rural and regional airfare pricing and make recommendations to Government.
What is the most common misconception about you?
With Flynn being such a big electorate -almost twice the size of Ireland - it is impossible to be everywhere at once. When I'm not required at Parliament, I'm on the ground in the electorate, travelling to meet constituents and community groups throughout the region.
Do you support the construction of a new coal-fired power station in CQ? Why?
Yes. Gladstone's success was built on two key things - affordable and plentiful power, and the people who work in the industries which were only made possible because of that cheap energy. I was one of the driving forces behind the Liberal National Government putting $10m on the table for a feasibility study into locating a new generation coal-fired power station in Central Queensland.
How would you make housing more accessible for first home buyers.
Our plans to establish the $1 billion National Housing Infrastructure Facility and the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation will help unlock new housing supply including social housing; the New National Housing and Homelessness Agreement will provide more than $7b in housing and homelessness funding and our First Home Super Saver Scheme allows first home buyers to build a deposit 30 per cent faster within their superannuation fund.
How would you tackle high fuel prices in CQ?
We are helping consumers shop around for better fuel prices by having the ACC monitor prices, costs and profits, with websites and apps already helping people find the cheapest available prices. Labor is proposing a car tax of up to $5,000 per vehicle, a 50 per cent mandate on electric vehicles and a tax on Australian petroleum refineries all of which will drive up the cost of buying, owning and running a car.
How could we better utilise public transport in CQ?
Public transport is not the responsibility of the Federal Government, so our focus remains on supporting state governments and Councils to fix urban and regional infrastructure networks on which public transport operates. We have programs to upgrade highways, such as our $10 billion Bruce Highway Upgrade Package, as well as programs to support local priorities. For example, Councils are able to identify popular bus routes, including school routes, for funding under the Roads to Recovery program, which has been increased to $500 million a year.
What should we do to support scientific research and increase innovation?
The Liberal Nationals have a strong record of supporting science and innovation with $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund, tax incentives for early stage investors and crowd-sourced equity funding legislation, the establishment of the Australian Space Agency and $1.9 billion for long-term national research infrastructure. A re-elected Liberal Nationals Government will establish a Manufacturing Modernisation Fund which will stimulate $160 million of investment in supporting technology.
Do you support shifting a government department or military base to CQ? How would you make it happen?
Yes - the Liberal Nationals are committed to a practical, planned decentralisation agenda to support growth in regional areas.
Locating government closer to rural and regional communities and stakeholders supports a greater understanding of the views, needs and experiences of people living and working in rural Australia. Relocation of jobs also stimulates broader job creation and investment in regional communities, diversifying regional economies and reducing disparities between cities and regions.
What plans do you have to better support small business?
17,209 small and medium businesses in Flynn are benefiting from tax relief already brought in by the Government, and almost 17,300 small and medium sized businesses in Flynn will benefit from the Liberal Nationals' instant asset write off scheme which enables businesses to invest in machinery and equipment up to a value of $30,000.
What is your approach towards taxation? Where would you cut or impose taxes?
It's simple - we are cutting personal tax. Everyone earning more than $40,000 will be better off under the Coalition when compared to Labor once our personal income tax relief plan is fully rolled out. More than 60,000 taxpayers in Flynn will benefit from tax relief in 2018-19 as a result of our enhanced personal income tax plan, with 20,874 people set to receive the full tax offset of $1,080.