FEDERAL Member for Leichhardt has questioned the move to award Pacific Island nations with $320 million to tackle gender inequality, saying long-overlooked projects in Far North Queensland should be prioritised.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the announcement at the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands last week, saying the 10-year program will help increase the proportion of Pacific women in leadership roles, improve women’s access to financial services and increase safety.
“When I heard Julia Gillard announcing this I just shook my head in disbelief,” Mr Entsch said.
“I can fully appreciate the need to build the role of women in Pacific society, and nobody can argue that violence prevention is not a worthy cause.
“But when you consider that this $320 million is on top of the $160 million allocated to battle climate change in micro-Pacific nations I think the bulk of it could have been better spent.”
Mr Entsch cited numerous local projects that could have benefited greatly through a funding injection worth a fraction of $320 million dollars.
“Another $12 million would have been enough to fix the Torres Strait sea walls in their entirety instead of leaving the job half-done and putting the responsibility on the State Government,” he pointed out.
Mr Entsch inspected crumbling sea walls on Saibai Island in June
“And what about an economic stimulus for Far North Queensland? Investing $40 million for the waterfront redevelopment in Port Douglas would have been a good start, as would a commitment to get the dredging of Trinity Inlet underway.
“Certainly any funding that will help establish sports infrastructure in Cairns would have been a significant boost.
“The process to attract a Tropical Campus for the Australian Institute of Sport has started, and I’d love to see the Federal Government support the State Government’s commitment to a National Institute for Tropical Health and Medicine.”
Mr Entsch added that the Government “wouldn’t even reconsider” re-opening applications for those graziers affected by the disastrous decision to halt live cattle exports last year, where families who missed out on the $25,000 assistance package continue to struggle on a day to day basis.
“Even $100,000 to re-establish the Cairns Youth Mentoring Scheme or to help with the provision of additional mental health services and facilities for young people would have been of significant benefit.
“I can’t help thinking this is a wasted opportunity – there has to be a balance between supporting our Pacific neighbours and throwing almost half a billion dollars of borrowed money at them while Australian projects continue to be neglected.”