Sep 2012

QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE: Queensland Reconstruction Authority

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Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (14:37): My question is to the Treasurer. Is the Treasurer aware that there is no safe anchorage on the entire paradise coast, from Townsville to Cairns? With the Queensland government's decision to close yet another service vital to the north, the Reconstruction Authority, could the Treasurer assure that the federal government's allocated $5.5 million to build the Mission Beach breakwater will be preserved for that purpose? Further, could he address the Yasi damage to Port Hinchinbrook and consider resumption of the harbour below high water in order to facilitate reconstruction?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke): I have to congratulate the member for Kennedy for being on time.

Mr SWAN (Lilley—Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:37): I thank the member for Kennedy for that question. I have to say I thought it was some sort of sick joke when I read in the Queensland budget papers that they intended to abolish the Reconstruction Authority. There has been a very substantial commitment to the rebuilding of Queensland made by the Commonwealth, particularly tropical North Queensland—well over $1 billion.

I have been up there on many occasions with the member for Kennedy and I know he has worked his guts out getting around those communities, working out what needs to be done, trying to ensure that it is done promptly and trying to ensure that the guidelines that the Commonwealth has put in place are adhered to, particularly by the state authorities but also by the councils. So I take this matter very, very seriously—in particular the matter at Mission Beach, where we are trying to provide an all-weather safe harbour. We have allocated $5.5 million towards the planning and construction of an all-weather boating facility. That is really important up there for that local economy and it is certainly very important for safety. Enormous damage was done to industry in that area—to rural industry on the one hand and the tourist industry on the other. So we take this very seriously and we will do everything within our power to ensure that that money is correctly spent there at Mission Beach.

The broader question of other areas and other harbours is much more difficult, and I cannot say I can give him at this stage any great comfort about that because they are very difficult challenges. What I can assure him of is the absolute determination of the Gillard Labor government to ensure that the money that is provided to Queensland is properly and correctly spent to the benefit of Queenslanders and in particular to the benefit of all of those people that live in tropical North Queensland.

When we look at the proposal to abolish the Reconstruction Authority, I guess that it will be another one of those slash-and-burn proposals that the Leader of the Opposition gives very big tick to, because he has given a big tick to making very big cuts in terms of jobs, in terms of health and in terms of education. But all of us on this side of the House do understand the importance of the rebuild in Queensland. We understand the damage done in particular to the Queensland economy and also to the Australian economy. Unlike those opposite we do not pretend that it did not happen. We understand the damage that was done and we have backed it with a lot of cash to support Queenslanders who had great need during that period. We will continue to do that and to do absolutely everything we can to ensure that our money is spend correctly by local authorities and by the state government.

SOURCE: Hansard www.aph.gov.au/hansard

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