Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has slammed the State and Federal Government for what he calls “hollow promises” which are a “sick joke” giving the people of the Far North false hope.
Mr Entsch’s criticism of State and Federal Government comes after Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace and Transport Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that the $150 million Ray Jones Upgrade, the $38 million CBD Revival and the $240 million Cairns Entertainment Precinct will commence within 10 months.
“These Ministers say they are hearing the cries of the community and they are responding to community anger. They need to respond faster than this. We’ve been waiting for the $150 million Ray Jones Upgrade since 2007.
“If they were serious about making a difference to the economy in our community they would immediately terminate the primary contracts with the southern based companies and insist that these contracts be awarded to local companies.
“While I welcome an investment in the CBD, which is long overdue, frankly, it may make the community feel good, but it will do nothing to encourage more visitors to Cairns and do little to boost our economy. The same can be said for a 240 million dollar, 1,000 seat Performing Arts centre, it may well be a wonderful monument to our ‘one term’ Mayor, but will do little to rebuild the economic future of this city.
“The little economic benefit it would have would only be measurable if the work is exclusively given to local contractors and judged on past performances, this is extremely unlikely as even the cycling bridge on Sheridan Street was manufactured in Germany.
“Expecting our community to wait another 10 months is not ‘fast-tracking’ projects. We have 400 businesses which have closed their doors in this region in the past two years and many more on the brink; contributing to the highest unemployment in the country.
“On the eve of a State Election, there is a sudden focus on our region; one can’t help but be cynical as to the intentions. If Government is serious about kicking-starting our economy, there is no need to wait 10 months. It can start NOW by spending funding commitments made in 2007 and 2010 elections.
“What we need to do is demand that the proposed Cairns Entertainment Centre is rationalised into a more publicly acceptable and more affordable investment of $80-$120 million and at the same time support a bid for our region to become the Tropical Campus for the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).
“They also need to insist that a re-commitment of funds from both State and Federal Governments go immediately to ‘shovel ready’ projects within that initiative. For example, the Hockey Centre and Netball stadiums, a cover over centre courts at our Tennis Centre, upgrades at Tobruk Pool for Swimming, lighting at Barlow Park, the Trinity Beach Baseball Diamond and Mountain Bike competition tracks to name but a few.
“We also need to finalise planning for a more modest Performing Arts Centre and a Rectangular Stadium in preparation for construction,” said Mr Entsch.
The types of projects that the State and Federal Governments should be focussing on to give genuine immediate economic stimulus to our region and assist in diversifying the economy sooner rather than later are:
· Extend the entitlements for Cyclone Yasi Disaster Relief under the NDRRA to include all businesses affected by the event in Cairns, Daintree Coast, Cooktown and Cape York and review the eligibility criteria so businesses can actually access the support. These concessional loans and grants would go a long way to giving businesses the immediate boost they need
· Redirect money to James Cook University and immediately commit to the development of the Australian Institute for Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) based in Cairns, which will include a facility for Tropical Sports Medicine
· Committing $40 million to the widening and dredging of Trinity Inlet and supporting a bid to become the Far North Queensland base for the international cruise industry
· Immediately commit $20 million for the Port Douglas Lagoon
· Support further development of the Super Yacht industry in Cairns
· Commit to a long term further expansion of the HMAS Cairns base
· Continue to invest in Fly in Fly out initiatives for our mining industry
· And finally local businesses need to be given priority at all levels of the tendering process
“These initiatives will have an immediate positive impact on the economy of our region. It will show that we actually have a comprehensive long-term plan and it will strongly support rebuilding the existing businesses.
“If the State and Federal Governments are not prepared to take up this challenge then it is not unreasonable to say that this is all spin. What is proposed does not create new industries. It does not create new opportunities, and it certainly does not create new incentives for people to come to our city,” he said.