The Turnbull-Joyce Government’s regional development agenda is a hollow promise so long as they continue to cut regional public sector jobs.
Labor welcomes the long-overdue investment made under the Far North Regional Jobs and Investment Package but says the benefits continue to be undermined by Turnbull’s regional job cuts.
Since 2014, the Government has cut more than 800 public sector jobs from regional Australia. They are cutting permanent staff and shifting their workforce to casual contracts.
The fact is the benefits of the Government’s investments will be cancelled out by their ongoing job cuts.
The Coalition has cut more than 180 full time public sector roles from across regional Queensland with its casual workforce now exceeding 15 per cent in Cairns.
The best thing the Coalition can do for regional development in Cairns and the Far North is to stop their job cuts and focus on delivering long-overdue regional funding programs.
In May 2017, the Government announced its $272 million Regional Growth Fund. Yet, 280 days later and still not a single project, not a single cent of funding has been made available.
After nine months, the Government has not even managed to agree on guidelines for the program.
Regional Development bodies and councils have developed projects based on the assumption this funding would be forthcoming but all they’ve received from this Government is a deafening silence.
Cairns and the Far North have been sold a lemon. The Government takes with one hand and gives with another.
The Coalition has cut jobs and investment on rail, roads and other infrastructure and left regional Australia locked out of important funding opportunities.
In contrast, Labor has developed detailed plans for Regional Australia including investing in Queensland’s water security, jobs and community infrastructure and committed to investing $1 billion through the Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund.
If Turnbull and the Coalition want to be taken seriously in North Queensland then they need to start delivering on their promises and put regional jobs back into regional communities.