The Queensland State election was held at the end of October, and the residents of the Far North declared an overwhelming faith in the incumbent Labor government. In the four seats which comprise Far North Queensland – Cook, Barron River, Cairns and Mulgrave – all four sitting Labor members were returned with increased majorities.
But what does this mean for the landscape of Cairns business? Connect Cairns Magazine spoke with the re-elected Member for Cairns, Michael Healy MP, about what our city’s business community can expect under his leadership.
“I first put my hand up as the candidate for the seat of Cairns in 2017, because I was fed up with politicians personally attacking one another, and not actually adding any value to their communities. The ‘Opposition for Opposition’s sake’ mentality annoys me, and at that stage, Cairns had experienced years of in-fighting between local, state and federal members. The major casualty in that tussle was our city.
“I made a pledge that I would not be involved in that type of school yard behaviour. It’s immature, it’s counterproductive, and quite frankly, it’s offensive. I was entrusted by the people of Cairns to be their representative in Brisbane, so I rolled up my sleeves and I started advocating for the betterment of our city,” explains Michael.
“Since being elected to the position in 2017, 2039 local businesses have received over $46 million in funding through the Back To Work scheme, which has resulted in the employment of 4548 locals. The Jobs Support Loan Scheme has provided over $46.7 million in loans to 319 local businesses, which supported 3585 local jobs, and over $14 million was invested in the Skilling Queenslanders For Work program, which saw over 2000 locals were supported in training, leading to the creation of over 1185 jobs.
I was entrusted by the people of Cairns to be their representative in Brisbane, so I rolled up my sleeves and I started advocating for the betterment of our city
“As the economic effects of COVID emerged, my government was at the forefront of supporting local businesses, and we did this in numerous ways. Firstly, we identified that if the disease got into our community, it would decimate lives as well as our economy. So the Premier took a tough, and often unpopular stance on protecting Queensland. However, this strong health response has put Cairns in the box seat for the recovery of our local business sector.
“To kickstart this recovery, we immediately offered financial assistance to small businesses through the COVID Adaption Grant. This two-part scheme saw 900 local small businesses benefit from up to $10,000 in funding to help their business pivot in the face of the pandemic. The beauty of this scheme was that it was double-edged. Recipients were required to spend their grants at another business, and overwhelmingly, that was another local business, meaning that the financial investment on offer was actually doubled in communities.”
With Cairns being considered a key seat at the election, the region was showered with lures over the election campaign from both sides of the political divide.
A re-elected Labor government has committed to a bevy of investments over the next three years, including a $30 million commitment to the Cairns Marine Precinct to deliver two new wharves for the Port of Cairns, which will provide employment opportunities for 150 locals during construction, and will expand the precinct’s capacity to carry out in-water maintenance on vessels used by the Australian Defence Force and Australian Border Force.
“We will also support an investigation into the viability of manufacturing commercial vessels, which would again boost the local economy,” Michael furthers. “This commitment to the local maritime sector builds on the $127 million Cairns Shipping Development Project, which was completed earlier in 2020.”
The Cairns Hospital is another main focus for the re-elected government, with a $52.9 million upgrade of the Emergency Department and $70 million for the redevelopment of the Cairns Hospital Mental Health Unit.
“Each of these keystone projects will roll out under the government’s Buy Queensland program, which is expected to inject $4.1 billion to Queensland SMEs this financial year,” Michael explains.
Michael Healy believes his government’s strong health response will make the Far North even more attractive to domestic tourists while international borders remain closed.
“We’re providing $74 million to the tourism industry through the Rebuilding Queensland Tourism scheme to assist local organisations like TTNQ to market the Far North and attract events.”
“I have spent my career in the local tourism industry, selling Cairns as a product to overseas and domestic investors. I am acutely aware that there is a lot of work to do. The people of Cairns are my employers, and my commitment to them is that I will continue to work hard, advocating for our city at every opportunity. I will continue to roll up my sleeves and fight hard to deliver for Cairns and its people.
“Many people refer to elections as a job interview. That’s not quite right. My job interview has been conducted over the past three years. I believe in KPI’s and results, and I’m proud of the progress I have made since taking on this role. And, at my next job interview in four years time, I will once again be judged, by my employers, on my results.”