• Applications open soon for Bowen Basin Jobs & Investment Package

    The Bowen Basin region with get a much-needed $30 million shot in the arm from the Regional Jobs and Investment Package, and the good news is that applications will open on May 31. With the Local Investment Plan, formulated by local representatives now done, the applications from the Bowen Basin region can roll in. This has been announced jointly today by the Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash along with Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry, Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd and myself. I thank the Bowen Basin Local Planning Committee for their hard work, based on local knowledge of the Bowen Basin region.
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  • Help for young parents in Mackay and Townsville

    Disadvantaged parents of young children in Townsville and Mackay will soon have access to the training and support they need to become work ready, thanks to the Liberal National Government’s decision to expand the successful ParentsNext program. The best form of welfare is a job and we are focused on helping more parents of young children into work and off welfare. After successful pilots, the Government is rolling out ParentsNext nationally, to connect more parents of young children with personalised support to improve their work readiness by the time their children start school. 20 new locations have been selected for the next rollout of this program, and both Townsville and Mackay are included.
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  • Cyclone Debbie grants for businesses and non profit groups

    May 18, 2017: I welcome today’s announcement that eligible small businesses and non-profit organisations in the Mackay region will be eligible for NDRRA recovery grants of up to $25,000. This… read more →
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  • Labor Senators ‘don’t give a damn’ about jobs

    LABOR senators can’t spent an extra few hours in Canberra to ensure thousands of workers get on the job sooner to build the Carmichael mine, port and rail line. This is the frustrating result of a series of last minute amendments and stalling in the Senate which has pushed off a vote on the Native Title Act for another month. Although Labor said they would support the necessary amendments to the Native Title Act which has essentially frozen a number of projects, including Adani’s Carmichael mine project, over indigenous land use agreements, they have managed to stall the process and further delay job creation. It’s just another example of the so-called ‘party of the workers’ failing to do what is necessary to support workers not only in Central and North Queensland, but also workers in South Australia at Arrium who will have job security through the company’s deal to supply steel to build the Carmichael rail line. The necessary amendments to the Native Title Act were scheduled for a vote in the Senate yesterday.
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  • Banks warned: Anti coal capitulation will cost

    If banks are going to take actions to discriminate against businesses undertaking legitimate activities, I will take action too. To start with, I’ll be pushing for the LNP and the National Party to shut down their accounts with Westpac and go to a bank that does support jobs in regional Queensland because of the stance they have taken against the Adani Carmichael Coal Project. I have been informed that the Mackay Conservation Group is planning to grandstand about their ‘huge win’ outside the Westpac bank in Mackay on Monday, and then head to CommBank to put pressure on them to abandon support for Adani. People have a right to protest against government decisions, but they are really treading close to the edge when they protest against a legitimate business activity, which is a bank financing another company to conduct a completely legal activity. For the banks to acquiesce to these green thugs is unbelievable.
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  • Future secure for $1 billion Landcare program

    An investment of more than $1 billion over five years in the National Landcare Program announced in this week’s Budget will supports the type of environmental work I fully applaude. It provides practical, on-the-ground ways to improve issues like soil health, erosion management and water quality, making the program relevant to all land managers – but especially farmers. Our farmers manage about 53 per cent of our landmass and with global demand for food and fibre set to double by 2050 it’s important that we keep Landcare front and centre to assist them to manage our natural resources. Every farming family I know wants to pass on their land in better shape than when they got it and our investment through this Budget will help them achieve those goals.
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  • 300,000 apprenticeships for rural and regional Australia

    A new $1.5 billion Skilling Australians Fund announced in the Budget will give rural and regional Australia a jobs boost through the creation of 300,000 apprenticeships over the next four years. I welcome this move to reverse the dramatic decline in apprentice numbers, because vocational education and apprenticeships are vital in this region, and some of the identified growth industries to be prioritised are agriculture and tourism. And I welcome the fact that this is being funded by the abolition of the 457 Visa program, which will be replaced by a revised program which will require employers hiring temporary or permanent employer-sponsored foreign workers to pay a fee.
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  • Mackay businesses invited to seize North Asia free trade opportunities

    I encourage business owners to seize the opportunity to gather firsthand information on trade opportunities from the experts at a seminar for small to medium sized businesses in Mackay next week. Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Keith Pitt will host the seminar for those who want to discover how Australia’s Free Trade Agreements with China, Japan and Korea can benefit them. The free event will be held on Friday, May 12 at the Mackay Grande Suites, Flinders Room, 9 Gregory Street, Mackay from 12.30pm to 3.30pm. There are businesses in the region reaping the benefits of the free trade deals which are now in place with our Asian neighbours and I would love to see others explore the options available.
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  • Getting funding right for schools

    THE Liberal National Coalition Government’s new plan for schools will mean growing and better targeted funding and evidence-based programs for local students. The Government announced it would grow funding for Queensland government schools by $1426 million or 91.5 per cent over the next ten years that would be real needs-based funding and would be tied to school reforms which are proven to boost student results. Non-government schools will see an increase in funding of $1304 million or 59.3 per cent over the next 10 years. We’re delivering the real ‘Gonski’ needs-based funding model that Labor didn’t.
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  • Surging ahead on Haughton

    The vital upgrade of the Haughton River Floodplain, which includes the replacement of the Haughton River Bridge, has been brought forward by nine months and tenders for the design and construction of the project will be called this week. This work cannot come soon enough. The replacement of the Haughton River Bridge has been voted the most urgent problem to be fixed on this stretch of the Bruce Highway between Mackay and Townsville.
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  • $15 million for cyclone community recovery

    THE announcement of almost $15 million in Category C community recovery funding for Local Government Areas (LGAs) including Mackay, Whitsunday, Isaac and Rockhampton is a sensible support step for those who have been adversely affected by Cyclone Debbie. This further level of Category C Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) funding provides for such initiatives as a personal support program to provide counselling for those experiencing personal and emotional difficulties, and financial counselling for those adjusting to changed financial circumstances. Another important element of this additional funding will be the provision of specialist mental health services and support for those experiencing severe distress and mental health disorders. It can be particularly appropriate for those with existing mental health problems (including children), and for emergency responders.
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  • Campaign on Country of Origin labelling kicks off

    The Federal Government’s country of origin labelling for food campaign, which was announced yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP and Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos, is a welcome move. This new food labelling system which came into effect last year supports Aussie producers and Aussie jobs, and it’s what the Australian consumer wanted. It’s important now for the government to get out there and let people know what the new labels mean.
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  • Who should call North Queensland home?

    21 APRIL 2017: Decentralising government can bring a lot of benefits if it is managed well so I’m asking North Queenslanders to help identify the best options and then I can lobby for North Queensland to be a beneficiary of the Liberal National Government’s decentralisation push.
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  • Ayr school scores $19,000 for digital teaching tools

    20 APRIL 2017: Ayr State Primary School is set to engage in some digital technology education with cutting edge tools as part of a nation-wide digital literacy program run by the Liberal National Government. The school will receive $19,065 through the Digital Literacy School Grants Program.
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  • Scrapping 457 visas puts Aussie workers first

    19 APRIL 2017: The Liberal National Government’s scrapping of the 457 visa program is a massive win for Australian workers. In November last year, I called for a complete ban of 457 visas in North Queensland because Australian workers here could not find jobs. Now that the entire program has been scrapped nationwide, that’s even better.
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  • Insurance forum for cyclone-affected

    19 APRIL 2017: Cyclone-affected insurance policy holders can attend a forum in Mackay to meet with key insurance companies, Legal Aid, and the Insurance Council of Australia. The forums will be held in Mackay on May 1 and Proserpine on May 2.
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  • Jobs flow from new overlaking lanes

    12 APRIL 2017: MORE overtaking lanes are in place along the Bruce Highway, with two new sections opening between Proserpine and Bowen three months ahead of schedule. Completion of the overtaking lanes near Dingo and Emu Creeks – funded as part of the Coalition’s record $50 billion infrastructure investment programme – highlighted the government’s drive to improve safety and efficiency on the Bruce Highway.
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  • Debbie donations deductible

    12 APRIL 2017: Donations made to Australian disaster relief funds in the wake of Cyclone Debbie will be tax deductible after the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, declared Tropical Cyclone Debbie and associated rainfall and flooding a disaster for the purposes of establishing Australian disaster relief funds.
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  • Foreign aid an insult to victims of Debbie

    7 APRIL 2017: NORTH Queensland cyclone victims are struggling to access government payments while billions of dollars are being sent overseas. Today Icalled for a halt to all foreign aid while the nation is struggling to deal with its own domestic disaster.
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  • Severely affected Mackay residents now eligible for more assistance

    A request to the Federal Minister for Justice to allowed severely affected residents in the Mackay Local Government Area to be eligible for Disaster Recovery Payments and the Disaster Recovery Allowance was granted within 24 hours. This morning the Minister for Justice Michael Keenan has announced that Mackay has now been included in the local government areas which are eligible for this Australian Government assistance. I raised this with the Minister on Monday when he was in the Whitsundays, we followed up by letter yesterday and had word late yesterday that Minister Keenan had activated it. These payments are for people who have been severely affected by cyclone and flooding events, and though that’s a relatively small number in the Mackay local government area, the effects on them are devastating.
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  • Action needed on grants for farmers

    WITH the sugar industry facing tonnage losses of between 20 and 40 per cent across the Proserpine, Mackay and Plane Creek districts, as well as Bowen district vegetable growers estimating a $100 million loss, I’m urging the State Government to lodge the request for the next level of NDRRA funding. This would provide primary producers with individual grants of between $10,000 and $25,000 to aid their recovery from Cyclone Debbie damage. Although the assessment of crop damage is still ongoing, some growers in the hardest hit areas of Proserpine have losses of 50 per cent of their crop, and in Mackay and Plane Creek the damage is extensive with estimates of losses of 20 per cent.
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  • Financial help at hand for farmers and small biz owners

    A NUMBER of assistance measures have been made available for small businesses, primary producers and non-profit organisations following Cyclone Debbie, and the assessment of the impact is still ongoing. Small business owners, primary producers and those operating non-profit organisations in both the Mackay and Whitsunday local government areas are eligible for concessional interest rates loans for direct damage of up to $250,000 to repair or replace damaged plant, equipment and buildings as well as replace stock. These are offered at an interest rate of 1.16% and no other fees apply.
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  • Assistance for the people of Mackay and Whitsundays

    A number of assistance measures have now been announced for Mackay and Whitsunday Regional Councils by the Federal Minister for Justice Michael Keenan and Queensland Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services Mark Ryan. These include: •Immediate assistance for individuals and families facing personal hardship and distress, so that those people can cover emergency needs such as food, clothing, accommodation and essential repairs.
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  • I have just been advised by the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) that they have declared a catastrophe event for the damage caused by Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie. As a result of that declaration the Insurance Taskforce, comprising all insurers with a claims footprint, has been established, to address and identify any issues that arise. The declaration also means residents of the north can access ICA’s disaster hotline which is now taking calls on 1800 734 621. Please note however that this line is for people with questions or who have lost documentation, not for lodging claims, nor for queries regarding government assistance.
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  • Insurers stand ready to assist

    I’VE held discussions with the Insurance Council of Australia, as well as one of Queensland’s largest insurers Suncorp, today to discuss assistance measures for people dealing with the after-effects of cyclone and storm surge damage. Suncorp have advised me that they have teams on standby to be deployed on the ground and they are gearing up their call centre capacity to take higher numbers of claim calls in the wake of Cyclone Debbie. While we have to await the outcome of Cyclone Debbie to see just what the extent of the damage is to homes and businesses and crops in the Mackay, Whitsundays, Bowen and Burdekin regions, the Insurance Council of Australia can also declare what they call an ‘insurance catastrophe’ depending on the number of people impacted.
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  • Navy and Airforce ready to help the north

    The deployment of the Defence Force’s humanitarian aid ship to the region as well as Navy and Airforce helicopters and planes on standby are some of the latest measures being taken to ensure a rapid response to Cyclone Debbie for residents of North and Central Queensland. I have just received the latest advice from the Minister for Defence Marise Payne and the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, on preparations being taken at a Federal Government level to provide assistance to communities which may be impacted by Cyclone Debbie. He has advised that Defence is ready and able to respond and support local emergency authorities and the people of the affected area between Townsville and Mackay. As a precaution, HMAS Choules, the nominated HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) ship, departed Sydney this morning and is heading north to Queensland to be ready to support recovery efforts if needed.
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  • Helping kids with Anzac Day history

    Schools throughout the region will receive books and posters to educate students about Australia’s wartime history and commemorate Anzac Day. It is important that every generation understands the costs and impacts of war, both on the battlefield and at home. To help with that, the Coalition Government is providing schools will two books: Decision: Stories of leadership in the services about the influence of Australian leaders during wartime and A Bitter Fate: Australians in Malaya and Singapore, December 1941 – February 1942. The books explore the stories of individuals who made decisions that saved lives and influenced the outcomes of battles and wars.
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  • Funds for bridges on offer

    Councils throughout the region have the chance to get local bridges in poor condition fixed with the help of direct funding from the Federal Government with the commencement of a new round of funding under the $360 million Bridges Renewal Programme. This is a great opportunity for state, territory and local governments to apply for funding to have ageing bridges fixed, with up to half the cost met by the Australian Government. This will be the third round of funding under the programme, which is continuing to keep communities connected and local industries profitable. Our councils can get on board by nominating local bridges that need upgrading or replacement. Residents who might like to put forward their ideas should get in touch with their Council to find out about any plans they have to nominate local bridges, or put forward suggestions.
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  • Elitists try to write off jobs in the North

    The elitists are trying to write off jobs for struggling unemployed Central Queenslanders and North Queenslanders with their letter to Gautam Adani opposing the Carmichael Mine. Styling themselves as ‘prominent Australians’, these elitist wankers include investment bankers, CEOs of major corporations such as Telstra, pretentious literati, professional activists and has-been celebrities. I’d love for just one of them to come down to the Larrikin Hotel in Bowen and explain to the locals there who have been suffering from a stalled economy for years on end, why they think the jobs from the Carmichael Mine and Abbot Point coal port expansion should not be created.
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  • Tourism numbers for region on the rise

    We know it’s beautiful one day, perfect the next in Mackay and the Whitsundays, and others are working that out too. The latest latest tourism data released today shows an increase of 11 per cent in international visitor numbers to Mackay in the last 12 months, and an increase of 19 per cent in international visitor numbers for the Whitsundays. Mackay welcomed 47,000 international visitors in 2016 and they injected $31 million into the economy. The Whitsundays welcomed 248,000 international visitors in that timeframe and they spent $204 million in the region.
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