DUO Op Ed - Tie up the ends into a lovely package

Tie up the ends into a lovely package

by Ewen Jones MP Federal Member for Herbert
Published Duo Magazine June 2016

Townsville is a great city, with so much potential. While the focus is and should be providing jobs and growth immediately, the city’s plan for the future and what those jobs will look like then, is also important. This is my vision for our city.

There are (hopefully) consistent threads in my columns in this magazine. What I have tried to do is convey the issues that I pursue on Townsville’s behalf in Canberra and how I want to drive this city forward. Now, I would like to tie those threads together and present to you my vision for Townsville and North Queensland on three levels: long term, medium term, and short term. All are linked and each is important to our city and future. It is only time which separates them.

The short term is my Tenders for Townsville campaign. It is about how our local firms can get a better bite of government tender work. Be it construction, health services, legal and accounting services, engineering, anything which has a tender component, we have the people who can deliver.  If we can be a partner, not a price taker, we can drive value for the tax payer and the investor and ensure government funds was through our whole economy.

The Coalition has announced a Strategic Comprehensive Partnership with Singapore that will see $1.2 billion invested in and around our city, from a High Range training facility to supporting infrastructure. It will allow the Singaporean Defence force to train up to 14,000 of their troops for up to 18 weeks each year. On the back of Tenders for Townsville, I have already had a commitment that Defence will be working with local businesses in delivering this work.

This partnership will not only provide jobs in construction and maintenance, it will open doors for our city to become strategic partners with one of the smartest, service driven countries on the face of the planet. How far we take this partnership is only limited to our ability to negotiate and innovate to find the areas where we can deliver. From direct flights to increased trade, these opportunities set up an exciting time for all Townsville businesses.

The Coalition has committed $150 million to the Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor. This project has long been touted as the necessary next step in ensuring we can efficiently get our region’s sought after products out to the world. This will create jobs during construction but it will also set up local industry for decades to come. 

The approval of the Carmichael Mine is also a fillip for short term job creation from Townsville Port to the mine and back along the rail line to Abbot Point, but it importantly presents an opportunity to look long term at our energy needs and deliver base load energy. If we can use Direct Action to buy the carbon dioxide emissions we can turn this plant into a super low emissions base load supplier of electricity.  This would be funded by private investment, not tax payer’s funds.

We can then use the Coalition’s $5 billion Northern Australia concessional loan scheme to build the poles and wires from the power station to Townsville. This will connect the North West’s renewable energy precinct with connectivity to the National Energy market. We can supply 40% of the Nation’s renewable energy targets from this precinct, again with private investment. But it will only go ahead with the presence of base load power to financially justify the extension of the electricity grid.

I have been banging on about water for some time now. Key to our region’s future is to raise the wall of the Burdekin Falls Dam and establish Hell’s Gate dam to our north west. Townsville has two years’ waters security while the south east has 10. That is just wrong. Getting the feasibility studies and business cases done are keys to the development of our region for sustainable agricultural and economic growth. If we back it up with good science, we will deliver sustainable industries while giving protection to the Great Barrier Reef.

The medium term centres on the Defence White Paper and the Townsville based Northern Australia Co-operative Research Centre (CRC), both released recently. The Defence White Paper speaks of “developing Capacity and Capability into our region”. I see our region as an umbrella starting at Indonesia and India, through Singapore and through PNG and into the Pacific. Harnessing these opportunities for education, logistics, transport, training, health, and climate change are vital to ensure we have a peaceful region looking to the overall betterment of our part of the world. Better health and education outcomes in our region will mean better lives for all of us.

The Port and Air Port are central to this, as is the combined might of Army at Lavarack Barracks, the RAAF Base, and our Navy Fleet visiting more often for exercises and leisure. The recent announcement of the Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership runs alongside our Defence White Paper and shows exactly what we are trying to achieve.

The CRC will ensure our city is at the forefront of the new economy. It will complement our existing research base by connecting industry directly with science to drive innovation in our businesses. A focus for me will be on fresh water and sustainable agricultural development.  We can research better plants to grow and ways to produce better yields on our farms, and better water practices with regard to issues such as salinity.

If we can get our water sciences right, as the city which has the best Great Barrier Reef scientists on the planet, these practices can be applied anywhere on the planet. If the CRC can deliver ways in which we can sustainably deliver better growth and better farming, then surely we will be a valued destination for people all over this country and the world.

What this election will do is provide me with an opportunity to deliver my vision for Townsville into the future. How we change the way we look at ourselves as a city and region. How we describe ourselves as a city and region; the language we use and the attitude we project. How we can and will become an international city of importance, while still being North Queenslanders.

The Coalition has a plan for our region. We are a great city and we are on the cusp of real change and a great future. To me this is an exciting time. There are lots of opportunities in each of these big brush strokes. It is up to us, as a city, to drive them as hard as we can.

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