FEDERAL Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch is furious at comments made by Government Treasurer Wayne Swan in today’s The Cairns Post on council’s handling of the Cairns Entertainment Precinct.
Mr Entsch contacted Cairns Regional Council Mayor Bob Manning early this morning to reaffirm his “unconditional and unequivocal” support for council’s decision to re-examine the site, cost and design of the project.
“Bob Manning and the council were mandated by the community in their decision, so it’s unbelievable that Mr Swan is now vilifying him and his councillors when they are standing up for the community,” Mr Entsch said.
“The issue is not whether we need a Performing Arts Centre, the discussion has always been about its location, cost and concept.
“If the broader community had had any significant input from the start, the project would have been well on its way by now. Instead they’ve just seen it railroaded through under highly dubious circumstances – by the former council and the state government, and they’ve rightly expressed their concerns about that.”
The MP said it was “totally hypocritical” for Mr Swan to say that council’s decision to reconsider the $150 million project had put jobs at risk.
“It was this government Swan and his Labor cohorts who made a major contribution to the dire situation we have in Cairns right now,” Mr Entsch said.
“Look at the debacles that this government has imposed on people from the absolute waste of taxpayer’s money that was the $16 billion school hall initiative to the Pink Batts program and the bungling of the Cairns ship-building contract to construct the navy’s $8 billion air warfare destroyers.
“If they had stood by us then, there would be no issue about a shortage of jobs. But they’ve done absolutely nothing for us in the last five years. And any threat by the government to withdraw its financial support for this project based on legitimate community concerns is absolutely unacceptable.”
Looking forward, Mr Entsch said it was clear that the focus needed to stay on projects that would provide jobs and economic diversity for the region, including;
1) the establishment of a world-class Performing Arts Centre that will complement the existing Convention Centre by providing additional exhibition space, enabling Cairns to promote itself as having the ‘largest exhibition space in regional Australia’;
2) the development of a Tropical Campus for the Institute of Australian Sport;
3) the arts, exposition and conference centre and waterfront redevelopment at Port Douglas;
4) supporting James Cook University by providing additional funding to back the State Government’s commitment to the establishment of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine;
5) supporting the State Government commitment to dredging the sea channel at Trinity Inlet;
6) backing the Bruce Highway upgrade by committing $4 billion to support the $1 billion committed by the State Government, fulfilling their obligation of an 80/20 funding arrangement.
“As a region, we’re trying to focus on the future but we’re being repeatedly dragged down with uninformed political attacks and ignorant decision-making from people like Swan and his cronies,” Mr Entsch said.
“I’m very much looking forward to an early election.”