Minister Ann Leahy pictured during Question Time at the Queensland Parliament, Brisbane 17th of March 2020. Ministers are sitting one seat apart due to the spread of Coronavirus (Covid 19). (AAP Image/Josh Woning)
Minister Ann Leahy pictured during Question Time at the Queensland Parliament, Brisbane 17th of March 2020. Ministers are sitting one seat apart due to the spread of Coronavirus (Covid 19). (AAP Image/Josh Woning)

BIG READ: Leahy outlines key Warrego issues to parliament

Warrego MP Ann Leahy has delivered a major speech to the Queensland parliament outlining her key concerns across the electorate.

The Warrego electorate covers towns from Dalby to the South Australia border, but not including Chinchilla and Miles.

It is one of the largest electorates in the state and faces many challenges such as drought, poor roads, and issues with health services.

"As I stood in this house two terms ago to make my maiden speech, I did so as the first woman elected to the state seat of Warrego since Federation," she said.

"With the support of my constituents, I stand here today making history as the first woman ever elected for three consecutive terms since Federation as the member for Warrego."

She made a speech to the parliament on February 25 talking about issues such as disaster recovery, road funding, rentals, and the drought.

 

Shadow Minister for Disaster Recovery

Ms Leahy has been appointed as the Shadow Minister for Disaster Recovery and hopes to bring a focus of disaster prevention into her agenda for the role.

She told the parliament that preventing disasters is more cost effective than fixing up after them.

"I take the appointment as the shadow minister for disaster recovery very personally due to the 2010 and 2012 Roma floods," Ms Leahy said.

"Natural disasters and Queensland seem to go hand-in-hand.

"Queenslanders certainly receive probably a little bit more than their fair share."

She said Queenslanders pay high costs for insurance due to disasters, especially in the north where they're 'disproportionate'.

 

Electoral Issues

There were polling booths that were shut down at short notice before election day at Mungindi and Dirranbandi, meaning residents had to travel to other towns to cast their votes.

Ms Leahy said the only word of this was from a press release buried on the Electoral Commission of Queensland's website.

"There is no public transport to the next closest available polling booth at Thallon and the travel time is about half an hour or 45 minutes," she said.

"Further, in the Warrego electorate there were more postal ballots rejected by the Electoral Commission for not being sealed, signed or witnessed than there were informal ballots.

"Across Queensland there were some 57,000 postal ballots that were rejected."

She said the most disappointing thing was the rejected ballots weren't publicly recorded, unlike informal ballots.

"Without public reporting of these rejected ballots, there is no way to benchmark if this

number is increasing or decreasing."

 

Regional Hospitals

The State Government has recently completed a new $112.6 million hospital facility in Roma with modern facilities, but Ms Leahy believes other hospitals in her electorate aren't as flash.

She told the parliament a mother of a sick Dalby boy was taken to the COVID isolation room of the local hospital where there were reportedly dead bugs, mouse poo on the bed, 'sticky stuff' on the walls, and a rusted bed, among other things.

"This is a busy regional hospital," Ms Leahy said.

"The doctors, nurses and staff want to deliver a world-class hospital system.

"However, to do so, they need to be better supported by the Palaszczuk Labor government, especially at the Dalby Hospital."

Ms Leahy also slammed the closure of maternity units in Chinchilla, one of which has been reportedly turned into an office.

"The state Labor government need to do more to return birthing services to communities like

Chinchilla.

"The mums and dads of Chinchilla want their birthing services returned.

"It is farcical."

She heard the Labor government saying they'll return these suites, but said it was 'unacceptable' that they've been turned into office spaces.

 

Drought

Ms Leahy said the drought isn't over in many parts of Queensland and the little-known issue of 'green drought' is plaguing many communities, such as Quilpie.

This is when there's enough rainfall to make the grass look green, but not enough to sustain normal operations and usage.

She said some local government areas have received enough rain for it to no longer be drought declared but other parts of the LGA have still been patchy.

"Once the current drought declaration is revoked, the fodder and water freight subsidies will cease on the revocation of the current drought declarations," she said.

"The Queensland government clearly said in their response to the drought program review, which they initiated, that they supported the recommendation to remove these subsidies.

"I say to all producers: if you have not got your applications in for Drought Relief Assistance Scheme assistance it would be highly advisable to do so before these subsidies cease."

She said they could be gone by April.

 

Second Bruce Highway

"I was pleased that the Palaszczuk Labor government finally found a road west of the Great

Dividing Range in their election campaign. They called it the 'inland Bruce'," Ms Leahy told the parliament.

The ambitious project aims on having $1 billion worth of upgrades between the Charters Towers to Mungindi corridor via Emerald and Roma.

This will be part of an 80:20 funding split between the Federal and State Governments, with the latter paying $200 million for bridge repairs, and other upgrades along the corridor.

The LNP's promise in the last election was to run four lanes up the entire existing Bruce Highway.

But with no commitments from the Federal Government yet, Ms Leahy doesn't believe this project will get off the ground for a few years, likely beyond 2023.

"If the state are serious about upgrading this road, they could reinstate the 110-kilometre-per-hour zone from Surat to St George which they removed," she said.

 

Road Upgrades

Ms Leahy believes many single-lane roads in her electorate are not as wide as some of the bike lanes in parts of Brisbane.

"The Roma Condamine Road is one such road where B-doubles filled with grain travel one way to feedlots while B-doubles of cattle travel in the opposite direction," she said.

"I will continue to advocate at every opportunity for the need to increase the maintenance of these roads with priority given to the sections where these school bus routes operate."

She also brought up the $230,000 planning project for the Warrego Highway and Jackson Wandoan Road intersection, and believes the spend is excessive.

"We are yet to hear if this will result in a much needed slip lane turning north on the Jackson

Wandoan Road," Ms Leahy said.

The Landsborough Highway at Augathella is also a dangerous spot that Ms Leahy would like to see upgraded.

"There are many other roads like the Warri Gate Road, the Bollon to St George road to name a few that need sealing and maintenance."

 

Residential Properties

Ms Leahy said she was pleased to see a jump in property sales across Warrego.

She said that a local agent from Tara advised that 50 properties were sold in the Western Downs town during 2020, a number the agent hasn't seen in a long time.

Ms Leahy also brought up that a newspaper report showed a Roma agent sold 21 properties in December 2020, which is the same number sold during all of 2019.

"The agents are saying that the break in the season, the high cattle prices and the bargain basement interest rates have been assisting a strong property market across the rural industry, and that is a very positive thing for my electorate," Ms Leahy said.

"We are also getting some long-term gas workers and contractors with the gas industry settling and buying homes.

"We are starting to see some of the changes and the things that we put in place with closing down camps actually starting to bring benefits to communities."

But the rental market is a different story, with hundreds of jobs available throughout the electorate but there simply aren't enough rentals to go around.

 

Country University

Ms Leahy also briefly mentioned the new country universities popping up in towns like Roma, Dirranbandi and St George.

"These country universities offer a campus life environment for students studying by distance: space, computers, videoconferencing facilities and a tutor to assist with general academic skills."

Her speech was cut off after that and the sittings adjourned for a lunch break.

 

Horticulture Workers

The lack of farmhands across Queensland has caused tens of millions of dollars worth of fruit and produce to rot, with international borders being one of the reasons why farmers struggle to find workers.

Ms Leahy said growers in her electorate will be reducing their plantings because they don't have enough people to pick them.

She is calling on the State Government to get busy on an international quarantine plan to allow foreign nationals to work on the farms.

"We will see increased prices for food in our shops, if we do not have those workers, because there simply will not be the produce coming through the system," she said.

"I know that most of the grapes that you would have seen over the Christmas period actually came from the St George region."


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