Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert at the protest for improved pay and conditions for child safety officers.
Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert at the protest for improved pay and conditions for child safety officers. Emma Murray

Greater say for the north

FURIOUS North and Central Queenslanders sick and tired of being ignored by the Brisbane-centric State Government have joined forces demanding their voices be heard.

It comes as the call for stronger regional leadership in the Premier's cabinet grows, following the decimation of Federal Labor at the election for misreading Queensland.

Already regional MPs from Gladstone to Townsville have united to pressure Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Deputy Jackie Trad to resolve the Adani issue immediately.

Keppel MP Brittany Lauga called for more regional MPs in cabinet while Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders asked for a new portfolio to be carved out to serve local communities.

The Premier has ruled out a cabinet reshuffle to take in the regions and yesterday could not explain why the portfolio of Minister Assisting the Premier for North Queensland was taken away from Mundingburra MP Coralee O'Rourke in 2017 and never reallocated.

Ms O'Rourke is the only MP between Caboolture and Townsville who holds a cabinet position, serving as Communities, Senior's and Disability Services Minister.

The front page of the Daily Mercury in Mackay calling for action.
The front page of the Daily Mercury in Mackay calling for action.

High-profile former Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne played a key role in Ms Palaszczuk's cabinet, including as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Economic until his retirement in 2017.

Former Mundingburra MP Lindy Nelson-Carr served under Premier Peter Beattie as Environment Minister in 2006.

 

Robbie Katter the state member for Traeger says someone needs to step up for North Queensland.
Robbie Katter the state member for Traeger says someone needs to step up for North Queensland. Nigel Hallett

Burdekin MP Dale Last is the LNP spokesman on North Queensland, but doesn't have an opposing Labor MP in parliament house.

In Far North Queensland, Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt was stripped of his Treasury portfolio after the last election and made Speaker, while Barron River MP Craig Crawford is Fire Services and Emergency Services Minister.

In Rockhampton, Mayor Margaret Strelow has announced the launch of a Queensland-wide campaign for a "major shakeup" across all levels of government to stop taking the regions for granted.

The "day of action" on Friday will unite businesses, organisations and surrounding councils to "draw a line in the sand" that the status quo will no longer be accepted.

"We want to get a message to other levels of government that we want serious jobs for the regions and we do support Adani," Cr Strelow said.

"We haven't been left behind, but simply held back. Chronic underinvestment in infrastructure, education, skills and jobs continues, exacerbated by a lack of political will from other levels of government to change things.

"It is our regional areas that provided immeasurable contributions to the success of the southeast corner... we won't be silenced in our demands for a fair go. It is time, once and for all, to stop taking us for granted."

But Julieanne Gilbert does not believe North Queensland needs its own minister.

She said as the Member for Mackay, she advocates for her community in the same way state members do across central and northern Queensland.

"We've got a minister looking after the environment, and a minister looking after state development, health," she said.

"All of those different areas are being catered for, each individual member of parliament lobbies on behalf of their electorate."

Ms Gilbert said while she lobbies on behalf of Mackay, she also liaises with Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker and Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox to make sure their projects are seen by the government.

The assistant minister for State Development, Ms Gilbert said she felt like there was a good representation of people per capita for the state.

"We do have regional ministers who are easy to access and they do travel to Mackay, to our city, on a regular basis," she said.

"It doesn't matter where you live, it's how engaging you are, the Premier and her ministers are always in touch with what is happening in our region."

Recently the government has announced two mines - Winchester South and Olive Downs South in the Bowen Basin - which Ms Gilbert said would be a great benefit for the region.

Ms Gilbert also rejected the need to have the mining minister stationed in central or northern Queensland, saying there was more than just coal mining in the state.

"We've got the gas fields, we've got copper, nickel, and they're all spread out over Queensland," she said.

"That's what makes Queensland such an interesting place ... we don't have all our eggs in one basket."

Ms Gilbert said the mining, engineering and technology services and manufacturing industries based in Mackay which supported the mining industry, were looked after by the Minister for State Development, Cameron Dick.

She said she was proud to be the assistant to his portfolio because of the importance it had to the whole state.

"There is a lot going on in our region which is more than one industry," she said.

However, One Nation Member for Mirani Stephen Andrew has put the State Government on notice, warning that they can "no longer pretend" they are doing anything for rural Queensland.

"It's crunch time," he said.

"Central and northern Queensland people sent a blunt message that having a job is their priority, with the Federal election result demonstrating Labor is not listening and certainly not delivering."

Katter's Australian Party state leader Robbie Katter said after the passing of the contentious vegetation management laws and reef protection bill, there was no other conclusion to draw.

"That's a full frontal assault (of the regions)," he said.

"Someone needs to step up to the plate and demonstrate that they believe in energising industry and the economy in the state by unlocking mines and patting farmers (and workers) on the back."



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