DIRTY INJUSTICE: Govt overlooked 75 axed CQ miners
THE same day 75 Cockatoo Coal mine workers were laid off, 237 employees of Clive Palmer's Nickel refinery in Townsville were reeling from forced redundancies.
A year on, Rockhampton region councillor Neil Fisher believes the Federal Government overlooked the Central Queensland site in favour of the northern operation.
The sore point resurfaced during the Rockhampton Regional Council's meeting on Tuesday during a submission to the Federal Government via the Productivity Commission's Transitioning Regional Economies Study.
The report was authorised by Treasurer Scott Morrison to investigate the the economic impact of the mining downturn on regions transitioning from the resources boom.
RRC Industry Engagement senior executive Rick Palmer told council while Rockhampton's diverse economy was traditionally an effective buffer, the Bowen Basin coal downturn started to impact the Rockhampton region by 2012.
His report made six submissions to the Productivity Commission centred on simplifying mining application procedures, and upgrading three arterial roads which connect Rockhampton to greater Central Queensland and Central West.
But Cr Fisher questioned how much attention Canberra gave the document.
"I do get frustrated with these reports, go back to last year when same day that Townsville had lost their nickel plant, we had lost Cockatoo Coal," Cr Fisher said.
"Did anybody else see anything mention from government about the loss of those jobs at Cockatoo Coal? It had the same impact as what Townsville had.
"No one even looked at this report, they looked at who had the highest profile and Townsville reaped everything, services were actually taken from Rockhampton and given to Townsville.
"So sometimes I wonder whether these reports are being looked over because we were handled very, very badly at that stage.
"Cockatoo Coal had a big impact, you only have to ask councillor Smith the impact it has on the community of Gracemere as the largest residential provider.
"So sometimes I question these reports and how valued they are, or are they just another dusty item, on a dusty shelf, in a dusty office?"
Mr Palmer said the report showed in 11 of the last 14 years, the Rockhampton region's gross regional product (GRP) had grown, and "usually by a decent amount" in the range of 4%.
"But in 2015 the GRP fell by 2.5%... in the last 14 years it has fallen three times, but the 2.5% in 2015 has been by far the largest," he said.
"Amongst the other information that's attached to this submission there are pieces about the rentals that make me worried that this may be continuing, it shows four years in which rentals have fallen in Rockhampton, both houses and units, they're worrying figures.
"It's not only about that, those figures for the values of units aren't as bleak as that, but those figures aren't good.
"They show the impact the resources boom has had... we've always had a comparatively high rate of unemployment that has often been at 6% sometimes higher."
He noted peaks in 2013 and 2015.
Rockhampton region mayor Margaret Strelow said the submission was an opportunity to leverage other projects to aid in the region's transition from the resource sector.
She said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's and cabinet's visit last week was a "wake up call" that council be more deliberate in targeting higher levels of government.
She drew on the tourism and agriculture sectors as the primary means to transition away from a heavy reliance on resources, but declared roads were council's "number-one priority" with particular focus on the Capricorn Hwy, Rockhampton-Biloela connection and the May Downs Rd.
"The issue of how we transition and what other strings we can add to our bow seem to be what they are looking at and for as well, and I wonder if it's an opportunity for us to talk about other things like our tourism and agriculture," she said.
"What opportunities we have as a community to help us transition away from that heavy dependence on resources?
"We absolutely want Adani, we want our share of the Bowen Basin... but the other side has to be how do we increase our diversity, we have lost some of that."
Cr Fisher offered some ideas.
The Airport portfolio holder reiterated his vision to create flight routes between Rockhampton and the Central West to capture business and educational opportunities which would otherwise favour Townsville or Brisbane, as well as the benefits to the health and tourism sectors.
He also pushed to "look above departmental lines" and better connections to Dysart, Middlemount and Tieri via May Downs Rd.
Although the three mining townships fell within the Mackay district, Cr Fisher stressed the communities shared strong family links with Rockhampton.
The draft submission made six requests for the Productivity Commission to seek from the Federal and State Governments:
a) Reduce the complexity and time of gaining mining project approvals, while preserving the consideration of stakeholders' interests;
b) Reduce the time of making government decisions regarding mining projects;
c) Help diversity the mining industry supply chain;
d) Upgrade the Capricorn Hwy, especially west of Emerald, as one of the main access routes to the Bowen and Galilee Basins;
e) Upgrade the Rockhampton-Biloela road system to improve access to the Callide/Dawson Valleys; and
f) Upgrade the May Downs Rd to improve access to areas in the centre of the Bowen Basin.
Council unanimously backed the submission.