Workers and community leaders gathered at a Community Forum in Biloela last Tuesday to discuss the importance of secure jobs and investment in new industries.
The aim was to ensure a sustainable future for the Callide region.
The message of the forum was clear; regional communities like Biloela and surrounding towns rely on secure jobs.
Attendees heard from CS Energy about their plans for a CQ Energy Hub and the Banana Shire Council’s plan to diversify industry.
Local power station worker Rob Elmes said the community would like to see commitment from all levels of Government and all stakeholders to ensure that the community remained strong.
“The biggest thing at the moment is the uncertainty; if people knew what was going to happen or there was commitment to what was going to happen, people can plan their lives,” he said.
“I’m on the way out, but I’ve got young kids in this town, one’s just bought a house, and I’m really worried about that.”
“There needs to be focus put on this area, and the impact of the potential closure of a major industry in this area can do.
“We just need support to bring something else to this area,” Mr Elmes said.
President of the Biloela Bowls Club Matt ‘Tractor’ Weeks said that job security was super important, especially for a small community.
“We rely on a lot of agriculture, but mining and the power station are big inputs to the community,” he said.
“Over the past 12-18 months we’ve had a huge amount of shops close down, and I think that’s because there isn’t that job security in town at the moment,” Mr Weeks said.
When asked about what the young people say about the future of the town Mr Weeks said they wanted more opportunities.
“Tradesmen are scared and the opportunity for tradesmen to leave a small town to go chase big money now is there,” Mr Weeks said.
“We’ve got to try and keep people here.”
“The opportunity for the younger people to do a trade and then develop their skills and keep them here, is very important.”
“I think the younger ones think that they all want to go to the mine, but the Banana Shire Council have a huge amount of jobs going there at the moment,“ he said
Mayor of Gladstone Region and Labor’s Candidate for Flynn Matt Burnett said every job created represented a local family, a mortgage on a house, and a future for the town.
“Biloela wants to see more jobs in more industries, but those jobs need to be safe, secure, and delivered through a plan for the future,” he said.
“I’m proud of my track record of securing Gladstone’s industrial future through hydrogen production, supercharging our port, and fighting for the Inland Rail to Gladstone.
“Many people in Biloela have told me that they want a leader who has a positive plan for jobs and the region’s future.
“That plan includes servicing projects in new energy generation and transmission, machining and fabrication through advanced manufacturing, and setting local businesses up for future export opportunities through Inland Rail.”
“The Council also outlined their plans for expanding the Biloela Industrial Estate, which is a project I’ve been calling on the Federal Government to back,” Mr Burnett said.
Labor Senator for Queensland Murray Watt said Biloela’s State and Federal LNP representatives had been caught missing in action on a plan for the town’s future.
“There are so many opportunities on offer to bring more jobs in more industries to the region, but Colin Boyce and Ken O’Dowd are nowhere to be seen,” he said.
“I have fought hard for the Federal Government to look at extending Inland Rail to Central Queensland, but they haven’t bothered to consider the benefits to towns like Biloela.”
Mr Watt said the LNP had no plan for future jobs for the region.
“Not only do they have no plan for future jobs, the LNP have overseen an explosion in insecure work in CQ,” he said.
“Casual work has exploded in mining, manufacturing, hospitality, and other vital industries and CQ has the second highest rate of casualisation anywhere in the country, with nearly 4 in 10 workers in casual jobs.
“While the region suffers from lazy LNP representation, Labor is proud of its Secure Australian Jobs Plan; it’s what Central Queensland workers deserve.”
However Member for Callide and LNP Candidate for Flynn Colin Boyce said the recent Community Forum held in Biloela was staged by the Labor party.
“ I was not invited, and furthermore I was in Parliament so I could not attend anyway,” Mr Boyce said.
Mr Boyce claimed the Queensland Labor Government had overseen the demise of Callide Power Station with the implementation of its 50 per cent renewable target by 2030.
“Similarly, the Labor Party has not supported the Coal Industry in Central Queensland, with repeated attempts by the Labor Government to stop the Adani Coal Mine and Acland Coal Mine,” he said.
“Federal Deputy Opposition Leader, Richard Marles, is on the record saying that ‘the collapse of the thermal coal industry would be a good thing’ and Former Labor State Government Treasurer Jackie Trad is on the record stating that coal miners will have to reskill.”
Mr Boyce said he would continue to do all he could to fight for the coal, gas and agricultural industries.
“Do not be fooled by Labor party rhetoric pretending to support traditional power generating industries, coal, gas and agriculture,” he said.
“The Labor Party is beholden to the Greens who dictate their marching orders and will see the demise of jobs in Central Queensland.
‘As we move to the future, the Morrison Government will protect the jobs of Central Queensland.
“The Prime Minister’s plan is to support technology, not taxes.
“To provide choices, not mandates. To support new technology, provide and support reliable, affordable power, and be accountable for progress as we move to the future.
“I will do everything possible to ensure job security for the industries that are paying the bills and bringing prosperity to Australia and Central Queensland.”