Continuing on from our highly successful Cairns Convoy to Canberra, the largest ever business delegation from our region to visit the nation’s capital, our focus in the first part of 2019 is on the federal election, which is expected to be in May, and advocating for the region on a federal front.
To kick off the year, we’ve had a huge win through our Convoy with the Federal Government’s recent announcement of its $60 million contribution into a new state-of-the-art medical research facility near Cairns Hospital, a huge step forward to achieving tertiary hospital status.
Our other ongoing federal advocacy is going to come about in a number of ways. We’re currently finalising our formal budget submission that will go to the government, opposition and cross-bench MPs where we’ll be asking for a significant amount of money to be included in the forthcoming budget, which has been set down for April 2.
We’ll also be hosting a series of MPs to our region. We wrote to all the MPs we visited on the Convoy and invited them to visit us, and several senior MPs from both the Government and the Opposition have accepted and will be coming here early in the year, which will give us the opportunity to advocate directly to them for the issues that matter in Tropical North Queensland.
As part of our advocacy we’ll also be heading to Canberra for the first sitting of parliament in February and then again in April when the budget is brought down, so we have a lot of activity going on in the federal arena. Some of the big-ticket priorities we’ll be focusing on are the extension of the national highway A1 to Smithfield, our ongoing ambitions for the Cairns Hospital to become a university hospital, having HMAS Cairns expanded, continued development in the marine maintenance industry and supporting the Nullinga Dam, which is well advanced in its detailed business case being led by Building Queensland.
The issues were among the list we took to Canberra on the two-day Convoy, which featured 50 delegates, 51 separate MP meetings, $1.9 billion in funding requests, 11 industry sectors and 32 detailed written briefs. The feedback from the Convoy, a collaboration between Advance Cairns, Cairns Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Tropical North Queensland, has been exceptional and we’ve already had a win with the government’s $20 million commitment towards the Mossman Mill Daintree Bio Precinct. Plus just before Christmas the State Government matched that contribution. The investment from both levels of government was just reward for the hard work of the growers and Douglas Shire Council in consultation with the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning.
Substantial government commitments have previously been confirmed for key infrastructure priorities including the Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns Shipping Development Project and continued sealing of the Hann Highway.
We are also seeking extra federal funding to better promote the Great Barrier Reef, to enhance aged care, to develop the work force and to attract new airlines. We also want policy change around superyachts, business taxation, regional migration and population growth, energy, a refined national credit framework and skills and training.
The Convoy showed the power of a coordinated effort – we were complimented by both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader for our united approach working together advocating for the region.
On the state level, we also have a budget due in June, so we’ll be releasing our budget submission in March where we’ll be asking for money to be allocated for major projects such as the expansion and refurbishment of the Cairns Convention Centre and the ongoing works for the Smithfield bypass.
We’ve also been part of the collaborative effort to pursue the State Government’s promised $10 million export distribution centre pilot proposed for the Cairns Airport and we are undertaking a major agricultural supply chain study.
The advocacy work can only come about through the ongoing support from business and industry. Our membership numbers have now reached record levels, and we look forward to welcoming more leading businesses to partner with us in driving a new agenda for the region.