Train line proposed to join Port of Bundaberg and Melbourne
HINKLER MP Keith Pitt is spruiking the potential to develop an inland railway line connecting the Port of Bundaberg to Brisbane and Melbourne under the Federal Government's $10 billion National Railway Program.
The government announced the program in Tuesday's Budget, which aims to fund rail projects improving regional rail services.
Mr Pitt said the venture could lead to developing the Port of Bundaberg as a container facility.
He called on the State Government and Bundaberg Regional Council to support the ambitious project saying it would inject millions of dollars into the local economy.
"Here is an opportunity to put real hard infrastructure and a link between the port and existing rail lines to connect to the inland rail network," Mr Pitt said.
Mr Pitt said a key aspect to converting the port into a container facility was an offshore loading platform and railway link.
Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey was receptive to the idea saying establishing a rail head at the port would be a significant economic building block for the Wide Bay region.
"Given the incredible focus the region has on agricultural pursuits, enabling the connectivity of a rail line linking from the inland rail network to the Port of Bundaberg would facilitate the movement of that produce.
"The Wide Bay is the largest region outside south-east Queensland and the diversity of agricultural pursuits would ensure a rail connection to the Port of Bundaberg would play a key role in the movement of those commodities."
But Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson was a tad more sceptical.
"This is a desperate attempt by the Member for Hinkler to divert attention from his total failure to deliver for the region," she said.
"To say that the $10 billion rail fund is a win for our region is fanciful and deceptive.
"The suggestion that Bundaberg Port could connect to the inland rail is also a pipe dream with the Melbourne to Toowoomba portion not even forecast to be complete until 2025."
Mr Pitt rubbished those claims telling the NewsMail it was very disingenuous for Ms Donaldson to make those comments.
"What would you expect from a do-nothing local member from the Labor government," he said.
"The reality is we have had billions of dollars put forward for infrastructure projects.
"Particularly for water infrastructure projects the State Government just won't take."
Mr Pitt also called for community support to introduce a Cashless Debit Card in the region to improve the lot of local welfare recipients.
It's part of a suite of measures the government announced including forcing some welfare recipients to undergo drug tests to keep the dole.
"Evaluation of the CDC trials in Ceduna and the East Kimberley shows significant reductions in gambling, drug use, alcohol consumption and an improvement in the care of children," Mr Pitt said.
"I heard loud and clear from workers at the coalface and community and welfare groups that we need to do something and I believe this cashless debit card is a way forward."
BUNDABERG MP Leanne Donaldson has criticised the Federal Budget saying it has nothing for Bundaberg residents.
"If the Turnbull Government cared about Bundaberg then they'd be investing in infrastructure and job-creating programs to create new growth and opportunities," she said.
"Instead we've got nothing and I'm sure Keith Pitt is as disappointed as I am."
Ms Donaldson also slammed the lack of funding for upgrading the Bruce Hwy in the Bundaberg region.
"This is a slap in the face for the people of Bundaberg," she said.
"We have missed out again, and I think this raises questions about how successfully our federal member is advocating for us down in Canberra."
But Ms Donaldson welcomed the news that the NDIS would be fully funded.
"The Federal Labor Party was the architect for the NDIS, and I am very pleased to see funding certainty for people with a disability," she said.
Ms Donaldson said with about 91,000 Queenslanders living with a disability, the announcement would offer some comfort to those affected, their family members and carers.
BUNDABERG Mayor Jack Dempsey welcomed the Federal Budget, and said it showed great confidence in the Bundaberg Regional Council and the Wide Bay region.
But Cr Dempsey warned the Federal Government its tough stance on welfare recipients would need to be backed up with a treatment plan for those affected by drugs, alcohol, gambling and mental health issues.
Cr Dempsey said three items in particular were of interest to the council: resuming the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants, which has been frozen for three years and enables the council to pocket an estimated $7.6 million each year; an extra $200 million increase to the Building Better Regions Fund to $500 million and; $20 million for a Regional Jobs and Investment pilot program package Bundy is a part of.
"We are very hopeful that the majority of that $20 million will be spread across the Wide Bay area but particularly we're looking for investment and stimulus into the private sector to get more jobs," Cr Dempsey said.
"What we need is the Federal Government to work with Bundaberg Regional Council to be able to get those infrastructure projects up in a timely manner so we can get people into jobs."
Cr Dempsey said the government needed a carrot-and-stick approach to deal with jobseekers under its proposed demerit-point system.
He said people he had spoken to seemed accepting of the to the idea.
"They understand the frustrations with six and five-year generational unemployment within families," he said.