Speech to Parliament 14 October 2015

15 September 2015 –

I recently passed the one year anniversary of my election to Queensland’s Parliament by the people of Stafford. It has been a hugely challenging and exciting 15 months.

Below is a copy of a speech I delivered in Queensland’s Parliament this week – in the speech I talk about our local community, entering politics, and some of what I have been working on as a local MP, and as a Minister in the Palaszczuk Labor Government. 

Speech to Queensland Legislative Assembly 14 September 2015

Hon. AJ LYNHAM (Stafford—ALP) (Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines) (5.10 pm):

I have now been in this House for 15 months. It has been a time of great change—change in my life and change for the better in Queensland with the Palaszczuk Labor government. Like my friend and colleague Yvette D’Ath, I am here as a result of a by-election during the term of the previous government. As Yvette will admit, they were exciting times, but none were more exciting than the election result of 2015.

I am here for a reason. That reason is to represent the people of Stafford, an electorate that is strong in its people. They are active in the community and have a vibrancy that is directed towards helping their neighbours and the community in general. People like our local corner store owner, Mr Dang, a hardworking pillar of our area who makes some of the finest takeaway for those late nights getting home. This spirit is reflected by people like Jack Poole, who is president of our local Meals on Wheels; Val Smith, President of Community Access Respite Services; John Smith, a local real estate agent who is a powerful community worker. There are many, many charity, and community groups in Stafford who all deserve acknowledgement.

Our schools are our lifeblood. They are the very being of Stafford. They all have their own strengths and their own character and this is what makes our community richer.

As a doctor who has worked many years in our hospitals, I am just so proud that we have one of Queensland’s premier hospitals right here in my electorate. Prince Charles Hospital is the epitome of a community hospital. It bats above its weight in expertise and in research. It is a world leader in the development of mechanical heart replacements led by Professor John Fraser.

I also acknowledge a very accomplished physician at that hospital, a man who at the very pinnacle of his career chose to enter politics. This well-read and highly educated man was my predecessor, Dr Chris Davis. At every visit to Prince Charles, I am asked how he is going and I can report that he is well and fighting fit. However, who can forget how he was treated by those opposite when he stood up for the people of Stafford, when he stood for accountability and integrity when those opposite had none? Let’s just pause and reflect on how other members of parliaments in Australia were treated in very similar situations. Kevin Rudd stood up against his government at that time; he stood proud for Griffith in his fight against the second runway at Brisbane Airport. Sharman Stone is a federal Liberal MP who stood against the closure of SPC at Shepparton, again against her own government. Those two were local MPs who stood up for their electorates against the policies of their own government. What happened to them? Nothing. One went on to become Prime Minister of Australia. Their protests were accepted. They had a right to stand up for their community. What happened to Dr Chris Davis? He was sacked. A fine man was forced to stand down. It was a shameful episode in the history of those opposite.

The Palaszczuk government has been active and responsive and is getting on with the job of governing for a better Queensland. We are a government that is achieving for this state, a government focused on job creation, restoring services, building the economy and reintroducing fairness, transparency and accountability. As Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, I am proud to be responsible for these two very important portfolios in achieving our government’s goals. I am very proud to be part of a government that supports economic development, the mining and agricultural communities, and the creation of jobs now and jobs for the future. The development of the Galilee Basin presents a massive opportunity for job creation and economic development in Queensland. It has advanced with the close of consultation on the draft environmental impact statement for the Abbot Point coal project. Abbot Point currently has a capacity to export 50 billion tonnes per annum and the proposed expansion will increase this capacity by 70 million to 120 million tonnes per annum. The capacity of the port of Abbot Point has been fully contracted. This is an expansion that will enable the port to cater for any future users and so it can handle additional coal from proposed Galilee Basin mines. Not only will this proposed expansion help develop the Galilee Basin; this proposed expansion will also create up to 164 jobs during construction for the local community.

We are not allowing the dredge spoil to be disposed of into the beautiful Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area and, unlike the previous government, we are not dumping it in the Caley Valley Wetlands. We are committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef and maintaining its integrity so much so that the Palaszczuk government has committed $100 million over five years to protect it. Our revised plan for Abbot Point would see the dredge material, instead, be placed on industrial land next to the existing coal terminal and beneficially reused at the port.

Unlike the previous government and consistent with our election commitments, this government is not paying for approval costs, capital dredging costs or dredge disposal costs. These costs will all be met by the components. Considering the significant environmental analysis already taken at Abbot Point, the Queensland government will deliver a final robust EIS to the Commonwealth. I anticipate that the federal environment minister will make a final decision on the Abbot Point proposal by the end of this year. As I said earlier, the environmental impact process has included 21 business days for public consultation. I would like to point out that this is more than double the consultation allowed under the previous government.

This is what the Palaszczuk government is all about: a balanced approach to delivering the infrastructure vital to Queensland’s economic future, protecting the environment and bringing the people along for the journey. Our government is also committed to having sustainable resource communities where workers have the choice of where they live or work. Last week the parliamentary committee handed down its report into fly-in fly-out and other long distance community work practices in regional Queensland, and I thank the member for Mirani in his eminent capacity as chair of that committee. In addition, an expert panel conducted an independent review into FIFO resource industry operations. The panel was very busy travelling to many parts of Queensland affected by resource industry FIFO operations.

We have listened to the people and agreed that people should have a choice. If they want to live in resource or regional communities, they should have the opportunity to apply for jobs in resource communities. I would like to note the extensive consultation by both the FIFO panel and the parliamentary inquiry and their efforts in preparing their reports. The government will now use the reports to develop a whole-of-government policy framework for regional resource towns and communities. I anticipate delivering a response to the recommendations early next year.

We also listened to the constituents of the Gold Coast when they said they did not want the Wave Break Island cruise ship terminal to go ahead. No-one was in any doubt where a Labor government stood on this project. We went to the election committed to protecting Wave Break Island, and that is what we have done. More to the point, my Department of State Development is still working closely with ASF and we have identified another investment opportunity on the Gold Coast for them consistent with the framework around the IRD process. We have invited a detailed proposal from ASF for development of a five-hectare site at Main Beach between Sea World and the Gold Coast Fishermen’s Co-operative. ASF is expected to respond early next year with a detailed master plan proposal which will go out for full community consultation. Not only have we saved Wave Break Island, but we have kept the project alive by working openly and honestly with proponents to identify for them a particular area of that original site to continue with the proposal.

The government has also been working to finalise the process in respect of the Queen’s Wharf project. This will be a massive boost for Brisbane and the Queensland economy, and I expect financial closure very shortly indeed. Queens Wharf is a multibillion dollar redevelopment which will revitalise the north bank of the Brisbane River, but it is the 2,000 construction jobs and the 8,000 ongoing jobs once completed that will really stimulate this economy. It will also deliver an additional 1.39 million visitors per year to Brisbane and provide $4 billion extra to the gross state product. It is a transformational project. There are 12 football fields of open space in the development, and that open space is accessible to all members of the Brisbane community. From the sky deck to below, access to the public is open.

We are a government that listens to the people and we listen to the facts. This is what we are doing in our review into the approval processes and environmental impact statement for Acland Stage 3. It is my highest priority to ensure that the approval process for that mine has been administered correctly. To that effect I have also been proactively meeting with all of the stakeholder groups that have an interest in this proposed mine. I also anticipate that, with the government’s recent restoration of objection rights for mining projects, those people who have submitted an objection about the New Acland Coal Mine Stage 3 should have their concerns heard by the Land Court. In conjunction with my colleague Minister Miles, we will be making a balanced and unbiased decision on the mine when I am presented with all of the facts from the review, when I have received a comprehensive briefing from the department for the proposed mining lease applications and when I receive the recommendation from the Land Court.

Since assuming my ministerial duties not only have I met with New Acland Stage 3 stakeholders, but I have been meeting with stakeholders all over the state. Mr Speaker, I travelled to Mareeba in April and was fortunate to discuss economic developments in that shire. I met with members of the local government, the Mareeba Chamber of Commerce, Regional Development Far North Queensland and office staff of my department. I also listened when told about the future challenges that the region faces with water management, telecommunications and distance to markets and local road infrastructure as well as the opportunities for the future. I have made other such trips to Townsville, Gladstone, Roma, Dalby, Toowoomba, Mount Isa, the Cooper Basin, St. George, Goondiwindi, Aurukun, Mount Morgan and Moranbah. I have met with local governments all across Queensland, from the Tablelands Regional Council in the north to Redlands City Council in the east and Mt Isa City Council in the west. I have met with members of industry and the business community both big and small. I have met with constituents and constituent groups with special interests. I have also been meeting with environmental and natural resource management groups.

I have even met with international stakeholders, from Indian business proponents to the governor of China’s Heilongjiang province. As I mentioned this afternoon, last month I travelled to Peru and the US on a trade mission with seven Queensland businesses. Addressing the Perumin Mining Convention in Arequipa was an exceptional opportunity to pitch Queensland as a resource investment destination and our METS companies as business partners. In the US I met with aeronautics giant Lockheed Martin to identify upcoming opportunities for Queensland companies in the production of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters. I am keen to see more Queensland companies winning contracts here in the future.

The Palaszczuk government is committed to forward-thinking policies and programs like Advance Queensland that will continue to give Queensland businesses a winning edge. I was quite proud to see the coding initiative introduced by the Premier this afternoon. That initiative will stimulate the growth of our children to become adults of the future who have the technological base that will drive Queensland as a diverse and intellectually proud community.

I have pledged to strongly represent the interests, and speak on behalf of, all stakeholder groups to ensure their voices are heard. I am part of a government that proactively consults and listens to all different groups in the state, as all groups have a stake in the economic and environmental sustainability of Queensland. This is a key difference between a Labor government and a conservative one: we do as we say. We are committed to those election commitments we made during our campaign and we are still getting on with the job.

All levels of Australian government recognise the opportunities that lie ahead for northern Australia, positioned as it is at the intersection of the growing Asian and tropical axes. The future of Queensland’s economy and our growth opportunities are interconnected with the future of North Queensland. In May I announced the first new coordinated project declared in Queensland for 18 months. White Horse Australia Lindeman gained coordinated project status for its proposal to revive Lindeman Island. In June I released our new MOU with the proponents of the Etheridge Integrated Agricultural Project in the Gilbert River. Also in June the Coordinator-General approved BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s Red Hill Mining project north of Moranbah. Another exciting proposal for North Queensland is Stanbroke’s $200 million Three Rivers Irrigation Project. The draft terms of reference for this project were released by the Coordinator-General for public consultation from 1 to 31 August 2015. Regional Queensland is going ahead under Labor.

I again acknowledge the Attorney General. She shares my vision and this government’s vision for a less violent society. We have evidence based measures that are proven and effective to reduce violence in our society; they have simply been ignored by those opposite. Our initiatives are supported by all agencies—police, medical, research and community groups—but not by those opposite. Instead they gave us clubs and pubs with the ability to open until 5 am, only worsening society’s problems and placing unnecessary demands on our fine police, ambulance and hospital staff. In the news only the other day we heard of paramedics being assaulted. With a sensible state-wide approach we will be able to reduce interpersonal violence reliably. There is a causal relationship between alcohol and other drug use and domestic violence. The reduction in alcohol and other drug harms should overflow to assist in the reduction of other blights such as domestic violence.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my retiring colleagues. As you recall, there were only nine of us in the previous parliament and we all became very close indeed. As any new parliamentarian knows that time can be difficult and daunting, especially when faced by such a raft of numbers as those opposite at that time. I would sincerely like to thank my retired colleagues Tim Mulherin and Desley Scott. They provided great mentorship for me during that time.

A number of people have been integral to my success. I would like to thank my campaign team and campaign director Terry Sullivan, the SEC and local branch members who all campaigned tirelessly for my election; my electorate office staff Eileen, Susan, Robert and Janet; and my ministerial office staff Adrian, Jan, Kristy, Helena, Michael, Simon, Corryn, Anton, Josh, Rebecca and Dave. They all work hard to ensure that I can serve my electorate and my portfolios effectively and productively.

Lastly but not least, as always, I would like to thank my beautiful wife Pam, who has put up with an awful lot for me to get here. Even today she was out doorknocking for the local council candidate. My wife is a real trooper and I love her dearly. Of my four sons, my eldest is a teacher for the hearing impaired; my second graduates from medical school at the end of this year; my third is a proudly-serving police officer in Toowoomba; and my fourth is presently studying at QUT right next door. I am so proud of my four boys. I would do anything for them, and I am so proud of where they have got to in their lives.

Lastly, I would like to thank the voters of Stafford for once again placing your vote with me. I will stand up for you and represent all of your interests to the very best of my ability.