Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Governments must fund regional powerhouses

About this time last year I wrote an opinion piece about the value of regional Australia and the need for governments at all levels to back these communities and the industries that support them.

For far too long our regional cities have suffered at the expense of their metropolitan cousins – losing out on much needed funding that would bring about community and industry re-invigoration and create much needed jobs. This is despite the fact that for the last decade a large percentage of the Nation’s GDP has in fact come straight out of our regions – most notably from mining and agriculture.

Now we find ourselves in the situation where the resources boom has reached its inevitable wind-down and what does regional Australia – in particular central Queensland (where much of this activity occurred) have to show for it? Well not a lot really. There have been relatively few upgrades to infrastructure, no boost to industries outside of mining, our hospitals are still lagging behind and participation in higher education among regional students is still behind that of students who grew up in the city. This is simply just not good enough and it is high-time that our politicians started to realise the potential and worth of our regions and the people who call these communities home.

Residents of regional Australia also need to make a stand and demand a better deal - Just like I said last year - As the resources boom slows, there has never been a more important time for regional economies to back themselves and look at new ways to diversify growth in other sectors. We will seal our own fate if we let our confidence waver.

For the past two weeks, I have been making a stand with CQUniversity’s Chancellor, Mr John Abbott to lobby for a better deal for the Gladstone community by highlighting the critical need for better investment in the City’s trade training facilities.

We have put forward plans for a $16.4 million redevelopment project proposal which the University hopes will get support from both sides of government, at all levels.

Stage 1 and 2 of the proposal includes a state-of-the-art TAFE Trades Training Centre, hair and beauty salon and modern hospitality training centre that would include a commercial kitchen and restaurant, at the Gladstone Marina Campus.

A Stage 3 proposal has also been put forward to develop an advanced Community Health Precinct that specialises in health training and the delivery of allied and public health services, as well as an aged care facility, located at the existing Gladstone City Campus in Derby Street (former CQ TAFE campus).

Should we be successful in attracting a funding commitment, the projects would lead to a new era in the delivery of education and training in Gladstone and create new jobs in the process. Combined with the location of Gladstone and its access to a world-class port the region would be in a prime position to provide education, training and research to support industries like agriculture, tourism and hospitality.

The Gladstone community both needs and deserves this investment in its future. Gladstone has been a powerhouse that has contributed to the national economy exponentially over the years yet the trade and vocational facilities inherited from the Queensland State Government following the merger between CQUniversity and CQ TAFE are below adequate. When you compare the facilities with those of the trades training centres in Brisbane the difference shows just how disproportionate funding in regional education and industry has been over the years.

It’s time to change this and I believe that expansion of CQUniversity’s operations at the Gladstone Marina campus would be a positive thing for this important region going forward and I hope that our politicians will commit to supporting this project and the local community by making it a reality. Our kids, our businesses and our future deserve much better.