Gladstone hosted the fourth and final Regional Community Forum for the Central Queensland region on Monday, where local forum members, Ministers and Members of Parliament came together to discuss the region’s lack of vaccination rates.
Minister for Education and Minister for Industrial Relations Grace Grace, Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen and Minister for Public Works and Procurement Mick de Brenni and Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing Glenn Butcher all chaired the forum.
Speaking to the media after the event, Mr Butcher said forum members heard from Gladstone health professionals about the way forward.
“Certainly Central Queensland Health and Hospital Services are going to play a huge part in Central Queensland when the borders open in December and we start to see covid cases coming forward,” Mr Butcher said.
“People are often asking what is going to happen to the health system here in town.”
Mr Butcher said a new plan would be rolled out in the coming days which would detail the amount of hospital beds and ICU units which would be available in the region.
It would also detail a plan for when people present with Covid at home or at hospital.
“We had small business owners, community organisations and professionals from the health industry just getting that info now in preparation for December 17,” he said.
When asked why residents were hesitant to receive the vaccination, Mr Butcher said it was more of a matter of complacency.
“This is serious. I dont think people quite understand even if you’ve had a double shot you can still catch covid,” he said.
“You will still have to stay home and quarantine if you are diagnosed and tested positive, you can’t just continue in the community.
“The last thing we want to see is places like Rio Tinto particularly the Boyne Smelter losing a third of their workforce
“A third of the workforce will shut down our economy in Queensland.”
“If we shut down any of these industries because nobody can go to work we are going to be in serious trouble.”
Mr Butcher said they have provided residents every opportunity to get vaccinated.
“That’s why we’ve brought pop up clinics to the people so if they want that choice to get vaccinated, we give them every opportunity to go get vaccinated,” he said.
“People have been having a go at me saying I’m not listening to the people not wanting to get vaccinated or choosing not to get vaccinated.
“I take the health of my community very seriously.
“I have seen and heard about the covid cases in NSW and Victoria.
“I have heard of the sickness in those communities and the fact they’ve been in lockdown for months and months and months
“I am in a position in the local government where I want to make sure that my community stays safe, I want to make sure my community continues to go to work.
“We can only do that if we get vaccinated.”
Mr de Brenni said a lockdown in Central Queensland because of Covid could devastate the local economy.
“We are in a race against other states to stand up our global exports of hydrogen here from Central Queensland and we simply cannot afford to lose a couple of days or even a couple of weeks because of a lockdown because not enough of us are vaccinated,” he said.
“This isn’t just about the health response, this is about the economic prosperity of Gladstone.
“No one in this community wants to see jobs go to Western Australia, Victoria or even Europe or the US.
“This is an opportunity to make sure those resources jobs stay in CQ, means we have to get vaccination rates up today.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said since 2019 the forums have been a platform to elevate regional voices in the State, and the local community representatives could now help to increase vaccination rates.
“With just weeks to go until our border reopens and greater freedoms flow for vaccinated Queenslanders, we are getting the message out – vaccines are safe, effective and our best defence against COVID-19,” the Premier said.
“We want to ensure people living and working in regional Queensland are fully vaccinated to protect their health and the health of their family, friends and community.
“That’s why the vaccine rollout and sharing the opportunities that come with reopening our State will be a key focus of the final round of Regional Community Forums for 2021.”
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said other local leaders including Hospital and Health Service representatives have also been invited to all seven forums today to focus on the health and economic benefits of vaccinations.
“The Palaszczuk Government values the contributions that forum members make as community leaders,” she said.
“So now we ask them to do what they do best – help us to ensure more of our communities are vaccinated.”
Mr Butcher said Monday’s forum also marked the last for existing forum members, with their terms to conclude at the end of 2021.
“Adaptable, resilient and collaborative, our Central Queensland forum members have been catalysts for positive change across the region,” he said.
“They have witnessed the transformation of local industries, with a focus on innovation.
“They have met with leaders of local government and business enterprises, and shared their thoughts on infrastructure planning and prioritisation, education, transport, tourism and health.
“As a Government, we are so grateful for all we have learnt from our forum members and look forward to building upon their actions in the years ahead.”
Expressions of interest for new members on the Regional Community Forums can be made on the Advancing Queensland’s Regions website.
Regional Community Forums will also be held today in Far North Queensland, North-North West Queensland, Western Queensland, Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday, Wide Bay-Burnett-Fraser Coast and Darling Downs-South West Queensland.