Speech to Parliament - Appropriation Bill and State Budget 2017-2018

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Speech to Parliament - Appropriation Bill and State Budget 2017-2018

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (11.34 am): I rise today to speak to the Appropriation Bill and state budget 2017-18. This budget that is proudly lauded by those opposite as a good Labor budget is an insult to the people of Redlands. It is nothing more than a con. Worse, this budget is the cause of injury to the people of Redlands. Let me spell it out for those opposite in the clearest possible terms.  The Redlands electorate is in the top five fastest growing electorates in Queensland. The Redlands electorate is part of Redland City—the fifth largest urban population in the state. 

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Stewart): Members in the House, I ask you to please keep your conversations down. Those conversations are interrupting the member for Redlands. 

Mr McEACHAN: This budget does nothing to address the needs of not only the 55,000 people in Redlands but also the some 165,000 people who make up the city.  Redland Hospital, under Labor’s watch, now has one of the worst rates of ambulance ramping in the state. Proud, hardworking ambos and hospital staff are stretched to the limit. How many more beds, nurses, doctors and services at the Redland Hospital have been funded in this budget? None, but that is okay says Labor: you will get Cross River Rail!  Alcohol and substance abuse is taking a terrible toll in the Redlands. It is a big factor in home invasions, assaults, theft, child neglect and antisocial behaviour. How many more police on the beat for Redland Bay, Cleveland, Russell Island and Macleay Island police stations are budgeted for? None, but that is okay says Labor: you will get Cross River Rail!  Victoria Point State School, Redland Bay State School, Mount Cotton State School and Carbrook State School are using enrolment management plans. They are overflowing with students. Notwithstanding the very welcome but reannounced $668,000 in funding for a new administration facility at Redland Bay State School, Redlands got no investment in local schools.  The department knows we need to start work on a new school in the southern Redlands. What did we get? Nothing, but that is okay says Labor: you will get Cross River Rail! Russell Island State School and Macleay Island State School are both situated on central spine roads that traverse the length of each island. These roads are the principal access roads for people getting to barges and ferries—people on time constraints. The reality is that we do see people exceeding the speed limit. They see people exceeding the speed limit while students are arriving or leaving the schools. There has been a tragic fatality on one of these roads. A child was struck while riding his bike. Crossing attendants regularly report near misses.  
  
We heard earlier last night that the electorate of Pine Rivers has school zone flashing lights for every school. We should all applaud that, but what do we get on the islands? Nothing. The Deputy Premier said yesterday that that is okay Redlands: you are getting Cross River Rail!  The electorate of Redlands is home to vast mangrove forests, internationally important Ramsar sites, the world-famous Moreton Bay Marine Park, endangered koala populations and creeks with remnant rainforests that are in desperate need of remediation to improve water quality. What did we get for our precious environment in Redlands? Nothing, but that is okay says Labor: you are getting Cross River Rail!  I have some important news for the Deputy Premier and it pertains to Cross River Rail: there is no railway in Redlands! Residents from Redland Bay, Victoria Point, Coochiemudlo and the Southern Moreton Bay Islands can drive 45 minutes at peak hour to get to the Cleveland station—a single line— often to find that the service has been cancelled. Deputy Premier, it is time to climb on board the reality train. Your Cross River Rail con job will not fly in Redlands. We need investments in roads, schools, emergency services, our hospital, environment and local jobs, not the cheap tricks of a cheap charlatan. Apart from being a con job, I believe there is a fundamental problem with the budget process for Redlands. The Redlands electorate is a proud part of a proud independent city. We have gone from a rural shire just 11 years ago to a major Queensland city today. It is time for Redland City to get its own place in the budget—a snapshot in the same way that cities like Cairns, Townsville, Toowoomba and Logan get, to name a few. Redland City needs this so it is not subsumed by Brisbane’s budget figures. Redlands need this so a clear light can shine on our needs and they can then be properly addressed. I make this commitment. I will fight for Redlands to have its own place in a budget brought down by an LNP government.  In order to demonstrate the importance of this, I turn to the Far North Queensland action plan and compare it to the Brisbane action plan. The Brisbane action plan includes Redland City in the map only—the only major population area and independent city not subject to this state budget process. Let me say from the outset that I do not begrudge funding to the good people of Cairns. This serves purely for comparison purposes. In this budget the Cairns urban area receives up to $97 million out of a total spend of $897 million in the forward estimates. Redland City, with an almost identical population, be it slightly larger and growing faster, in this budget receives up to $15 million—$15 million compared to $97 million—out of a spend of $30 million in the forward estimates. It bears repeating: in this budget the Cairns urban area receives up to $97 million out of a total spend of $897 million in the forward estimates. Redland City, with an almost identical population, be it slightly larger and growing faster, in this budget receives up to $15 million out of a $30 million spend in the forward estimates.  It is also worth pointing out that of the $15 million for Redlands in the 2017-18 budget nearly $10 million is for the Stradbroke Island transition. Stradbroke Island has an economy that under this incompetent Labor government is rapidly going from a vibrant, diversified economy to a singular one totally dependent on tourism and in doing so has trashed more than 100 local jobs and amplified sovereign risk. From the mayor to the Redland City Chamber of Commerce, to Straddie residents, they know that this transition strategy is hopelessly inadequate. With my friend and colleague the member for Cleveland, soon to be Oodgeroo, we are standing up for Straddie locals and those on the mainland impacted by this ill-considered decision and we will fight for a transition plan that better meets the need. It is reasonable to say that the Redlands electorate and the City of Redlands is actually going backwards under this utterly incompetent Labor Palaszczuk government. It must have escaped the Treasurer’s attention but two of his own Labor members represent the City of Redlands as well. I will happily say on behalf of those Labor members that locals in Mount Cotton, Sheldon, Capalaba, Alexandra Hills, Birkdale and Thorneside in this year’s budget receive—wait for it—nothing. That is okay they say, because we are getting Cross River Rail! I am sure great candidates Julie Talty and Cameron Leafe will have a differing view, a view that actually represents the concerns of local people. A Tim Nicholls LNP government will tackle the cost-of-living pressures to help build stronger Redlands families. An LNP government will freeze family car registration for three years, saving Redlands families and pensioners hundreds of dollars—the first of many policies to help ease cost-of-living pressures. The LNP will get the state’s finances back on track so we can build not only a better Redlands but a better Queensland. The LNP plan to create more jobs, stronger families, lower crime rates and build fair dinkum roads. An LNP government will commit $100 million to fund the Get Queensland Working plan to help tackle unemployment—so important for the Southern Moreton Bay Islands, an area of persistent disadvantage where youth unemployment is north of 30 per cent. 
 
I am pleased to say to Redlands locals that asset sales are ruled out completely, as are forced redundancies in the Public Service. Contrast this with the Palaszczuk Labor government, who sold the Mount Cotton driver training centre, a world-class facility and an income-generating asset. Not only did they break a promise to Redlanders; but they spent the proceeds on government advertising, putting the lie to the ridiculous assertions of the hyperbolic member for Yeerongpilly. 

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Stewart): Member, that was unparliamentary language. I ask you to withdraw. 

Mr McEACHAN: I withdraw. I would like to acknowledge the speech given earlier by the member for Southern Downs. It was a fantastic speech and demonstrated what a person of conviction and integrity in the position of health minister can do in three years. It was a proper schooling for those opposite, particularly the member for Maryborough. 

Mr Pegg interjected. 

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Stretton, your interjections are not being taken. 

Mr McEACHAN: Speaking of schools, the member for Maryborough commented last night that Maryborough State High School had not had any new buildings since 1955 which I found quite interesting given that Maryborough State High School did not exist in 1955. There were in fact two schools—a boys school and a girls school. In fact, my mother went to the girls school and I went to the high school some years later. I do recall going to school and attending the computer classes in a newly built building which also housed our music and art. I am pretty sure that was not around circa 1955.  An opposition member: So did he mislead the House? 

Mr McEACHAN: He may have misled the House, but I am not going to go down that path because I have no faith in him whatsoever in restoring the record. I am happy to restore it on his behalf. There have been several other buildings built since 1955 at Maryborough State High. I would like to continue with my speech. In closing, only an LNP government is committed to building a better Redlands— building the roads we need such as upgrading Cleveland-Redland Bay Road, tackling the cost-of-living pressures, creating the environment for small business to thrive, creating jobs, creating stronger families, tackling local crime, tackling ambulance ramping and protecting our environment.  During the Bligh years when my daughter broke her leg—her tibia and fibula below the knee— and I held her in my arms at Redland Hospital and as we waited for more than three hours to be seen, with no pain relief for that little girl and no emergency beds available to lie her down, and ambulances ramped down the road, I made a promise to her. I promised to devote my life to get rid of the Labor government responsible, and I saw it through. I look across the chamber at an even worse Labor government and I reaffirm my promise to her and to the people of Redlands. Only an LNP government can build a better Redlands and a better Queensland. 

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Speech to Parliament - Redlands roads

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Speech to Parliament - Redlands roads

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (6.57 pm): I rise tonight to speak on an issue important to the people of Redlands. In 2015 this deceitful Palaszczuk Labor government sold the Mount Cotton driver training centre—an income-producing asset. In a traitorous deal done in the dead of night, this do-nothing government actually did something: they sold a key Redlands asset. Worse than that, they took the proceeds from this sale and shipped it out of Redlands. The money went into government advertising, not infrastructure, not investment, not into our roads badly in need of upgrade and repair. Redlanders are rightly in a state of disbelief.

I want to speak tonight about how the proceeds of this sale could have been spent to benefit the people of Redlands, because $16 million goes a long way in Redlands. Given that this government has spent no money upgrading Redlands roads over the past two years, $16 million could do the following: $5 million would fix the Anita Street intersection, an intersection so dangerous that Redlanders raise their concerns with me on a daily basis—this government already ripped money out of this intersection; $5 million would upgrade intersections near Mount Cotton State School—Seaview Road and Sanctuary Drive are congested and are a serious safety concern for local residents, parents and our children; $5 million would improve safety and congestion on Duncan Road, Mount Cotton; $400,000 would install flashing school zone lights at Russell and Macleay Island state schools. Both schools were slated for lights under the LNP’s flashing light program. These island schools are missing out under this incompetent Labor government.

Finally, $600,000 would improve school crossing safety on Ziegenfusz Road in Thornlands and at Carbrook State School. This is an appalling betrayal for the people of Redlands. Only the LNP has made a commitment to upgrade roads in Redlands—roads like the congested Cleveland-Redland Bay Road and the dangerous Anita Street intersection. Enough is enough.

I urge the main roads minister to climb down from his sanctimonious throne and come out to Redlands to have a look for himself at the roads that we have to live with. The community of 50,000 people have single-lane state roads that have not been upgraded in more than 20 years thanks to Labor. I will continue to fight for the people of Redlands to get our fair share.

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Speech to Parliament - Redlands Electorate, Mrs E W Lee - 15 September 2016

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Speech to Parliament - Redlands Electorate, Mrs E W Lee - 15 September 2016

Mr McEACHAN (RedlandsLNP) (6.52 pm): Tonight I rise to speak on a number of matters of importance to the Redlands electorate. Firstly, I want to address an ongoing issue of concern for not only Redlands residents but also all taxpayers, that is, the waste of taxpayer funds and the lack of transparency that has surrounded the purchase of prime real estate by the Department of Housing and Public Works. Thus far, Minister de Brenni has left my correspondence on the purchase of land at 1 Boat Street entirely unanswered. The land is expensive, at over $600,000 for 800 square metres, and is poorly located. It will take residents more than an hour by public transport to reach Redland Hospital and health services. With the scrapping of the Logan Renewal Initiative, the minister has already proven that he has no interest in providing more public housing for the many Queenslanders on waiting lists. The purchase of this expensive bayside land is yet another example of poor decision-making by this Palaszczuk Labor government.

I also want to draw the attention of the House to the plight faced by residents living near the Anita Street intersection at Redland Bay. Anita Street is one of the most dangerous intersections in Redlands. At the last election the LNP committed to the upgrade of that intersection and, since I was elected, I have been calling on Minister Bailey to see sense and commit to the upgrade. Constituents who have to run the gauntlet of the intersection contact my office almost daily. It is time that the Palaszczuk Labor government sat up and listened. Redlanders do not care who fixes this intersection; they just want it done.

In closing tonight, I wish to express my condolences and, in some way, honour the life of Erna Winnifred Lee, née Lyons. Erna was born on 3 March 1925 at the European hospital in Samarai in Papua. She grew up on Samarai, a tiny island on the China Strait. Ernas father was a magistrate for the eastern division of Papua. Erna was sent to Brisbane to attend boarding school and later attended business college. She was there when her mother was evacuated from Moresby on the Katoomba in 1941. Erna married Gary Lee on 15 September 1948. Gary passed away in 1976.

Erna was a long-time active member of the Liberal Party in Redlands and would hold meetings in her tiny workers cottage in Victoria Point. As I understand it, five people made an uncomfortable crowd in the confines. However, Erna was so sweet that members dared not suggest another location. One can imagine the remarkable times that Erna lived through. Erna Lee is survived by her children, Lenore, Slade and Sandi. I offer my condolences to them and her extended family and friends.

 

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Speech to Parliament - TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE: REPORT, MOTION TO TAKE NOTE - 15 September 2016

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Speech to Parliament - TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE: REPORT, MOTION TO TAKE NOTE - 15 September 2016

Mr McEACHAN (RedlandsLNP) (11.52 am): I too rise to contribute to the discussion of the Auditor-Generals report to parliament No. 2 of 2015-16 titled Road safetytraffic cameras. I will keep my contribution brief. I acknowledge the contributions already made by the members for Murrumba, Southport and Kallangur.

The framing of this report is around the 437 fatalities, or 22 per cent of all road fatalities, from 2008 to 2014 and the 2,172 hospitalisations in the similar period from 2008 to 2013, which underscores the importance of this program. The committees first recommendation states

The Committee recommends that the Minister for Main Roads, Road Safety and Ports and Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply; and the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services and Minister for Corrective Services provide an update to Parliament about what strategies are being prioritised to address the disparity between the number of offences detected by the Camera Detected Offence Program and the number of offences that can be proceeded with.

We heard from experts in the field, including senior police, in relation to the speed camera operation. There is a real problem with traffic offenders who are, in essence, undetected. Evidence suggests that there is a significant cohort of people who are deliberately going undetected and who are hugely disproportionately recognised in the level of harm on our roads. Also, those drivers are overrepresented in serious crime. That was a revelation to the committee and it is something that we wish to pursue. I urge that there be more covert and overt enforcement to mitigate the risk to the community.

 

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Speech to Parliament -  CHILD PROTECTION (MANDATORY REPORTING—MASON'S LAW) AMENDMENT BILL - 14 September 2016

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Speech to Parliament - CHILD PROTECTION (MANDATORY REPORTING—MASON'S LAW) AMENDMENT BILL - 14 September 2016

Mr McEACHAN (RedlandsLNP) (10.19 pm): I rise tonight to contribute to the debate of the Child Protection (Mandatory ReportingMasons Law) Amendment Bill 2016. Queenslanders face tragedy on a daily basis, be it natural disasters, road trauma or personal loss, but the callous murder of Mason Parker, a childa toddler, just 16 monthsis a tragedy that hardly bears thinking about. As a father, I cannot fathom the cruelty and heartlessness residing in the perpetrator. Many of us in this House are parents, and I confidently say that all of us here are affected by reports of horrific child abuse. Some reports are so horrendous that they make nearly impossible reading, but our job in this House is to do our utmost to protect our most vulnerable Queenslanders.

In 2011 Mason Parker, a toddler, was murdered by his mothers then boyfriend. The bruising on this little boys body was observed by childcare staff at the centre he regularly attended. Staff at that centre followed internal procedures by reporting the injuries to the centre director. However, they were never reported to authorities. They were not required to. Mason Parkers grandparents John and Sue Sandeman, here tonight, have shown incredible courage in the face of a great tragedy by campaigning tirelessly for the mandatory reporting we debate here. I want to commend the efforts of my colleagues the members for Aspley, Mudgeeraba and Hinchinbrook. I know that these members are deeply passionate about this bill. I also acknowledge the role that the minister has played in supporting this most important bill.

The reason this legislation is being debated tonight is to ensure that every possible measure is being taken to protect children in Queensland. Mandatory reporting laws are enacted in each Australian jurisdiction. It is widely accepted that these laws are an important component of the broader child protection system. In 2014 the Queensland Law Reform Commission reviewed child protection mandatory reporting laws for the early childhood education and care sector. The overwhelming majority of submissions received by the commission supported extending mandatory reporting obligations under the act to the ECEC sector.

The commission, in making its recommendations, had six key considerations consistent with fundamental legislative principles including the paramount principle of protecting children from risk or harm; the critical protective role of the ECEC sector in relating to children aged zero to five years; the fact that staff in these centres are in regular and direct contact with children and their families; that the threshold for a reportable suspicion under mandatory reporting provisions is currently confined to significant harm; that mandatory reporting aligns with existing child protection obligations for the ECEC sector; and that there is increasing regulation of ECEC services and staff. Those employed in the ECEC sector are in regular contact with children and their families and are arguably the best placed to observe and report children at risk of significant harm.

 

There are already a number of professions who work with children which are mandated by law to report child safety concerns to the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. However, the absence of the ECEC sector reporting means that a child can fall through a gap with tragic consequences. Those of us in this place have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable Queenslanders—children too young to speak for themselves. Tonight we all help to give them a voice. In closing, this bill is a positive, important contribution to improving our child protection system in Queensland. I commend the bill to the House.

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Speech to Parliament - EDUCATION AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL - 1 September 2016

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Speech to Parliament - EDUCATION AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL - 1 September 2016

Mr McEACHAN (RedlandsLNP) (3.40 pm): I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Education and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. From the outset, I put on the record my strong advocacy for public schools and private schools throughout Queensland, particularly in my electorate of Redlands.

I attended a number of state schoolsLong Street Primary School, Forestdale Primary School, Central State School and Albert State School and Maryborough State High School. I had the benefit of being taught by some wonderfully dedicated teachers. One of the first that comes to mind is Mrs Morgan. She was a wonderful mentor for me and she saw me through my weekly detentions where I gained valuable skills. That was my prep. Those detentions were nearly every week for the entire year. I think they were beneficial in terms of me improving my skills.

An opposition member: What did you do?

Mr McEACHAN: I liked to ask a lot of questions. Some of those questions were unwarranted. I did also like to entertain the class and sometimes my entertainment was not desired. I spent a fair bit of time in detention. She was wonderful and helped me through what was a difficult transitional period for me. It was about grade 4 or 5.

Mr Krause: Nothing has changed.

Mr McEACHAN: Nothing much has changed, no. I had subsequent teachers who were terrific. One other that stands out was my history teacher at Maryborough State High School. He said, If you learn one thing from me, it is this’—I think it is something that those in the Labor Party would do well to learn—‘There aint no free lunch.That is advice that our friendly socialists on the other side of the chamber should take on board.

My daughter attended prep in the Redlands. She has now moved on to high school. I am a strong supporter of state education. There are some things that I have concerns about, despite the admirable intentions of the bill. I will use the Redlands experience to highlight what might be some problems in the rest of the state.

In the southern Redlands, which is one of the fastest growing areas in Queensland, we have Redland Bay State School, Mount Cotton State School and Carbrook State School. They are fabulous schools with great teachers and principals, wonderful P&Cs and wonderful kids. All those schools are on enrolment management plans. If we are to increase the take-up of prep I would like to know from the education minister how we are going to take on those extra kids in that area. Does it mean we will have more classroom space? Will we have more teachers? Are we looking at new facilities in that part of Redlands?

The other side of the coin are the issues that we experience on the southern Moreton Bay islands. Macleay Island State School and Russell Island State School have an underrepresentation of kids starting grade 1 who have done prep. We have significant issues that need to be addressed now before we embark on further legislation and further problems arise from that.

I would urge the education minister to look closely at that. As the education minister knows, I have an outstanding invitation for her to come and meet the teachers and P&Cs in the Redlands and look at some of the issues we have. One of those issues is that teacher aides who support our wonderful teachers and help our kids on the islands do not get a travel subsidy. Our teachers get a travel subsidy to get to the islands but our teacher aides, who are coming from the mainland, do not get a travel subsidy. They have out-of-pocket expenses in the order of 41⁄2 thousand dollars a year so they can get to work and be part of our education system. It is my firm view that that treats them as second-class employees.

I believe that teacher aides are equally important and are absolutely integral to the fabric of our education system. I would urge the education minister to have a look at that situation and help the teacher aides get to these schools. We have problems on the southern Moreton Bay islands in terms of equity of education. I would urge the education minister to look at that. One of the other things we need is to have better paediatric support on the islands. The current attendance levels across the state are 97 per cent. That does not reflect what is happening in the Redlands.

Labor has a very poor track record of looking after schools. When we came to government in 2012 there was a $300 million black hole in the school maintenance program. We had schools in my electorate where paint was peeling off the walls, there were holes in the roofs and there were problems with maintenance. It was the former education minister who took that problem on and came up with the maintenance program that got those schools up to scratch so that the current government could carry on and fix up all the issues.

The Palaszczuk Labor government likes to duplicate, complicate, pontificate but not create solutions. I urge those opposite to fix the problems that we have right now rather than create more problems for the future.

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Speech to Parliament - Redlands Electorate, Festivals - 31 August 2016

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Speech to Parliament - Redlands Electorate, Festivals - 31 August 2016

Mr McEACHAN (RedlandsLNP) (11.27 pm): I rise tonight to bring to membersattention the fantastic festival that is happening in Redlands as the House sits this week. This festival combines the 4 Island Festival and RedFest and celebrates all of the things that make the Redlands the best place to live and play.

Mr Bennett: Second best.

Mr Costigan: Third best.

Mr McEACHAN: The best. This weekend gone, I had the great pleasure of attending markets, viewing art displays, eating fabulous food, listening to terrific music and watching moving displays put on by the Yulu Burri Ba dancers on Macleay and Karragarra islands. Picture stunning blue skies, glittering Moreton Bay, towering gums and people with a profound sense of community enjoying their place in the world. The celebration does not happen without the vision, passion and hard graft of a huge number of dedicated volunteers. Time does not permit me to name them all but I want to acknowledge some of them tonight.

I acknowledge Steve Morgan; the three commodores and members of Karragarra Yacht Club, Tingira Boat Club and the Sandy Beach Yacht Club; Wally Crook and the members from the Macleay Island Lions; Councillor Mark Edwards and Mayor Karen Williams for their enthusiastic support; President of RedFest, Patrick Burke; and Adrian Addicott, who was recently recognised for 30 years service to the festival. The festival goes all week, heading to Coochiemudlo Island, North Straddie, Russell Island, Lamb Island and Redland Showgrounds. It shines a light on our unique natural environment, our strawberry-growing heritage and our rich cultural history.

This weekend I have the privilege of emceeing the famous International Strawberry Eating Competition—‘internationalis a bit of poetic licence. I take this opportunity to invite one and all to come out to the Redlands and enjoy our hospitality. The 4 Islands Festival and RedFest bring to the Redlands national and international music starsperformers like Taxiride, Darren Percival, Joe Camilleri and the Black Sorrows, the Hillbilly Goats and many more. The festival singing competition has also uncovered local voices like Mirusia Louwerse and up-and-comers like Leah Lever.

Redlands is all about community and our relaxed way of life. Redlanders are passionate about their local area. RedFest and the 4 Islands Festival are a celebration of everything that is great about our beautiful Redlands. The 4 Islands Festival highlights the beauty of our Southern Moreton Bay Islands and our stunning Moreton Bay watersdragon boat racing, kayaking—made safe by Volunteer Marine Rescue and Coastguard. RedFest in turn celebrates the best food, music and businesses that Redlands has to offer, from Mount Cotton to Capalaba and Cleveland to the bay.

Following the lead of my colleague the newly minted member for Toowoomba South, I am going to shamelessly promote my electorate and encourage all members to head to the bay to enjoy a weekend of festivals in the Redlands.

 

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Speech to Parliament -  VEGETATION MANAGEMENT (REINSTATEMENT) AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL - 18 August 2016

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Speech to Parliament - VEGETATION MANAGEMENT (REINSTATEMENT) AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL - 18 August 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (8.40 pm): I rise tonight to speak against the Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. This legislation is fundamentally flawed and will adversely affect thousands of farmers across Queensland. Those who vote for this legislation in the House tonight are voting against farmers; they are voting against the rights of Indigenous communities; and they are voting against the basic tenets of the rule of law.

I have been listening to the drivel about science and facts coming thick and fast from those opposite. For tens of thousands of years the reef has coexisted with humans engaged in active land management. Indeed, both Indigenous communities and the reef survived the last ice age, where the sea level was several hundred feet lower than it is now. Unlike anyone on that side of the chamber who has smugly mentioned science, I have worked on scientific research projects in the Great Barrier Reef marine park. For the benefit of those opposite, poorly managed national parks—which make up many of the parks in the reef catchment—contribute hugely to sediment and organic load to outflows. Unmanaged parks are full of noxious weeds, feral pests have degraded soil structures, and when they burn the fuel load is so high it causes a burn so hot that plants which rely on fire for their germination are killed off. This leaves more soil exposed, no habitat for wildlife and more damage to the environment: this is your environmental legacy. It shows your fundamental misunderstanding of ecological science. When those opposite sanctimoniously screech science at us, know that they have no idea what they are talking about.

The Palaszczuk Labor government’s motivation behind this legislation is far from pure. Their motivation is the threat faced by the Deputy Premier in her own seat of South Brisbane who is concerned about Greens preferences. The Deputy Premier is a threatened species facing extinction at the hands of the Greens. It is clear that, in her panic to put this bill through the House, the Deputy Premier and the Palaszczuk Labor government did not listen to Queenslanders. The parliamentary committee was unable to recommend that the bill be passed. The proposed legislative changes have been constructed with very little consultation with those who are impacted so strongly by this legislation.

The Tablelands Regional Council stated in their submission to the committee that they were very concerned with the level of consultation undertaken, given the major changes and implications to their constituents. Rural and regional Queensland has suffered from devastating drought and the flow-on effects from the mining downturn. The last thing that rural and regional Queensland needs is crippling legislation written by those in George Street to satisfy an unwritten agreement by this Palaszczuk Labor government with the Greens. The Palaszczuk Labor government already has form in this space where the fundamental elements sound all too familiar: lack of public consultation, insufficient time for consideration, pandering to minority interest groups and showing disdain for the concern of those affected by their decisions. We could be debating any number of bills brought before the House by this Palaszczuk Labor government.

Many on this side of the House have worked on the land and, unlike the Deputy Premier and those opposite, we do listen to rural and regional Queenslanders. Frankly, the Deputy Premier would not know regional Queensland outside of throwing on a pair of RMs and chinos for a token photo shoot here and there. To know regional Queensland is to listen to regional Queensland. The explanatory notes outline just how little consultation has been undertaken on this proposed legislation. The submissions received by the Agriculture and Environment Committee were overwhelmingly critical of this, particularly given the significant impacts the bill will have on the agricultural, resource and development industries.

Shockingly, this bill also seeks to override fundamental principles of our justice system. Farmers and landowners will be presumed guilty until proven innocent. Our hardworking farmers will be treated worse than the most dangerous of criminals. This is simply unacceptable. The Queensland Law Society labelled this bill unjust and backward. QLS president Bill Potts stated—
The government’s justification for these changes is, quite frankly, feeble and based on administrative convenience.

The application of retrospectivity to this legislation paints farmers and landholders as criminal from the outset. The explanatory notes acknowledge the massive impact that retrospectivity will have on those affected by this bill. They state—

There may be some detrimental effects on individual rights in relation to these applications; however individual rights are outweighed by the public interest to protect the long-term health of our biologically diverse state ...

I do not accept that we are a society which so easily casts aside the rights of the individual. Queenslanders expect better from this Palaszczuk Labor government. They expect more from this Deputy Premier than just deals with the Greens to manipulate her way into power. This is not the standard we should accept.

This bill seeks to remove high-value agriculture and irrigated high-value agriculture from the vegetation management framework. This will have a huge impact on farmers, restricting their ability to grow grain crops and fodder. Submissions to the Agriculture and Environment Committee opposed the reinstatement of regulation of high-value regrowth on freehold and Indigenous land.

Concerns were raised about the significant devaluation of land and assets held by freehold and Indigenous landholders, all without compensation for these hardworking landholders and farmers. Concerns also raised about the loss of pastures, with the result that landholders have to stock their remaining land more intensively. It also threatens a landholder’s ability to manage their own land, including the control of noxious weeds. This can hardly have good outcomes for our environment.

Indigenous leaders, especially those on Cape York, consider that this legislation is an unfair restriction on their ability to realise the potential of their own land. With over 98 per cent of Cape York covered in remnant vegetation, these proposed laws will have a massive impact on Indigenous communities. It will prevent them from providing a sustainable future for themselves like any other Queenslander. It smacks of paternalism in the same vein as the Bligh Labor government’s reviled wild rivers legislation. Wild rivers prevented Indigenous communities from making decisions about their own land. Earlier tonight the Deputy Premier said that this legislation was in the great tradition of Labor governments which have gone before. On that at least, Deputy Premier, we can agree. This legislation is in the tradition of Labor governments gone by, including the devastating Traveston Dam travesty and the protectionist racket that was the wild rivers legislation.

Richie Ahmat, chair of the Cape York Land Council, responded recently to the Deputy Premier’s statement that it was ‘simply unacceptable not to act.’ Mr Ahmat responded, ‘We say it is simply totally unacceptable to exacerbate Aboriginal disadvantage on Cape York just so she and her ministerial mates can keep the green vote happy.’ Mr Ahmat also raised concerns about the legislative restrictions that would be placed on Indigenous determination over the use of their own lands. Mr Ahmat said, ‘If the proposed act is legislation, it will misappropriate Aboriginal people’s private property rights and force our land to be used to provide public environmental outcomes without Aboriginal people’s consent.’ As the member for Maroochydore mentioned earlier, Eric Rosendale had a few words to say about this as well. He said—

I need to clear land for pastures and to plant crops for the cattle but I won’t be able to do that under these new laws. The greenies are behind this and they don’t care about my people, who have been looking after the land for thousands of years.

This legislation does not get the balance right, as claimed by those opposite—far from it. If Labor truly cared about balance they would treat all Queenslanders with respect. They would carefully listen to all the different views and act with consideration. Instead, they bulldoze communities, clear-fell the facts and woodchip the rule of law.

Earlier tonight the Premier declared that Labor cares about the bush. This proposed legislation makes it abundantly clear: Labor do not care about Indigenous landholders, they do not care about the agriculture, resources and development industries, they do not care about the fundamental principles of justice and they do not care about the bush.

 

Comment

Speech to Parliament - APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL; APPROPRIATION BILL - 16 August 2016

Comment

Speech to Parliament - APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL; APPROPRIATION BILL - 16 August 2016

Mr McEACHAN (RedlandsLNP) (11.09 pm): I rise tonight as a member of the Transportation and Utilities Committee to make my contribution to budget estimates report No. 21. I firstly acknowledge my fellow committee colleagues the members for Kallangur, Southport, Murrumba, Logan and Whitsunday. I also make mention of the dedicated committee secretariat, ably led by Kate McGuckin.

There were several aspects to the line of questioning that I would like to comment on. Firstly, it was very disappointing during the estimates process to listen to the Minister for Energy and Water Supplys response to questions from members. The minister was completely unperturbed that Queensland families have missed out on a year of savings due to the deregulation delays and a seeming lack of interest.

The impact of these changes on consumers, given the lack of education and awareness campaigns, is unjustifiable and a direct result of the ministers failure to act. Consumers will be paying more for power as we heard in the estimate hearing comments of director-general Professor Simshauser. I particularly note his comment

The general range that we have seen in the marketplace is between $100 and $400 difference between standing offer tariffs and market offers.

This is a significant figure, especially for those in our community who are struggling to make ends meet. It is a completely unnecessary burden on their household budget. This poorly executed electricity price deregulation has disadvantaged consumers, especially those who have unknowingly been rolled onto these standing offers and are already feeling its effects, resulting in them being out of pocket.

During the estimates process I, like many of my fellow committee members, was again concerned with the ministers lackadaisical and unconcerned attitude towards an education program regarding deregulation. I note the ministers comments in response to the member for Burleighs question

... he should give the campaign some time before he casts judgement on it. I know he wants to attack the government over it, and that is fine, but I think you have to give it a little bit more than three weeks or so before you cast judgement on what is going to be a substantial campaign over time.

He continued
The ability to measure the campaign will only come over time. I think you should give it a fair go and see how it goes.

That sounds pretty reasonable, but the issue with these statements is the complete disregard they show for the impact of these changes on Queenslanders. The minister delayed deregulation for 12 months. As of 21 July, according to his own correspondence raised during estimates, the government was still yet to implement any sort of education program. I certainly appreciate the ministers point that the ability to measure a campaign will only come over time. It is this very point that is most concerning. Campaigns, as the minister acknowledged, take time.

Electricity deregulation took effect on 1 July, at which point, as I noted previously, no campaign had been launched. Even if a campaign had been launched on this date, by the ministers own reckoning, it would have taken several weeks for the campaign to reach consumers. It is unequivocally unacceptable that the minister would allow such significant changes to occur to electricity prices yet leave consumers in the dark about these very changes for almost a month. It would seem the minister has a proclivity to ensure his union mates are ahead of the game before Queensland consumers.

I would also like to highlight another key issue raised during the estimates, that of the Palaszczuk Labor governments flagship entity, Energy Queensland, lacking any staff or indeed a business case for the new energy services business. Of course, what more could we expect from a government that lacks direction or a plan for Queensland.

The people of Queensland deserve better. The Palaszczuk Labor government have clearly demonstrated their inability to manage the Queensland economy as well as showing a complete disregard for the hip pockets of hardworking Queenslanders.

 

Comment

Speech to Parliament - Macleay Island, Asbestos - 16 June 2016

Comment

Speech to Parliament - Macleay Island, Asbestos - 16 June 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (12.38 am): I rise tonight to speak about a matter of utmost concern. For many years the residents of Macleay Island have lived with an area of their foreshore that is quite literally littered with asbestos. As you arrive on the island, you are immediately taken with its natural beauty and friendly atmosphere. However, just to the left of the ferry terminal is a two-metre cyclone fence adorned with signs warning to keep out due to the asbestos risk. I know of no other community or town in Queensland where this situation either exists or would be acceptable. At low tide you can walk between the fence line and the water and pick up pieces of asbestos. In the fenced-off area asbestos could be raked into dry, fibrous piles. The community’s patience and forbearance is at an end.

I put it to the House that every single one of us here would find this totally unacceptable. How many people are being exposed to airborne fibres? How many people are at risk of developing asbestos related diseases? How many schoolchildren waiting for the ferry are exposed on a windy day? The truth is we will never know, but we do know that exposure to asbestos is deadly: it kills. The federal Department of Health states that there is no absolutely safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres. The Australian Asbestos Network states that ‘medicine tells society that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres’ and that ‘medical authorities advise that people’s safety could be ensured only by the elimination of exposure altogether’.

As I speak tonight, a decision to entomb this area is pending with SARA, the State Assessment and Referral Agency. I put it to members of this House that entombment is the only acceptable outcome for residents and visitors to Macleay Island. In 2009, the report of the Queensland Ombudsman, Phil Clarke, contained 36 recommendations for improving asbestos removal regulations. Redland City Council and the state government have been discussing how to contain the asbestos on the beach since a 2009 Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station, or SIMTARS, report found contamination. Since then, 8,800 square metres of land above and below water has been fenced off, and the council has applied to two state government departments for a development application to build a car park to entomb the asbestos and in the process provide much needed infrastructure including a recreational boat ramp. All we need is the go-ahead.

It seems obvious to me, and I suspect to those opposite, that a mesh fence is not in any way suitable to containing and eliminating the risk of airborne asbestos fibres, and any delay in entombment is unacceptable. I need not remind anyone in this House of the human tragedy of exposure to asbestos. This is an injustice to Macleay Island residents. It needs to be resolved. This asbestos must be entombed. Macleay Island will not accept anything less. As their representative, neither will I.

 

Comment

Budget Speech to Parliament - APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL; APPROPRIATION BILL; DUTIES AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL - 16 June 2016

Comment

Budget Speech to Parliament - APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL; APPROPRIATION BILL; DUTIES AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL - 16 June 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (11.51pm): I rise to contribute to the debate on the Appropriations Bill. One would think that with Queensland burdened with the highest per capita debt in the country—a debt that is Labor’s legacy piled upon Queenslanders while it sold assets, a debt that Labor wantonly and recklessly grew and in doing so created an intergenerational burden—Labor would hesitate to plunder the $4 billion put aside to ensure the retirement income of Queensland’s public servants. Further, Labor is growing the public service at a near record rate, up to six times the rate of last year’s population growth in Queensland and twice the population growth rate this year. This irresponsible engorgement of the public service combined with this reckless risk-taking endangers the defined benefit super scheme. I predict that under Labor it will soon go into deficit.

In yesterday’s Australian newspaper it was reported that the State Actuary warned against grabbing $4 billion of the defined benefit surplus as it markedly increased the risk of the fund plunging into deficit by 2020. If that happens, the State Actuary warns that Queensland taxpayers would have to stump up the extra cash to ensure bureaucrats receive their retirement entitlements. There is no evidence that Labor can manage a budget at any level of government. Federally, no Labor government has ever left Australia in surplus since Federation. For 115 years they have left a legacy of debt. The DNA is the same. It is the same old Labor. The members for Ferny Grove and Redcliffe are examples of that. They have never worked under a Labor government that has not driven Australia into debt.

Queenslanders are being ripped off. Queensland is being devalued by economic incompetence and recklessness. It is a value writ large. When other states with their AAA credit ratings intact look to Queensland, they see a great state mismanaged. They see proud Queenslanders suffering under Labor’s ideological mantra. They engorge the Public Service, unfairly compete with private enterprise and pander to a glut of unelected union heavies. In Queensland, we have what is in effect a money- laundering scheme that Don Corleone would be proud of.

Queensland taxpayers pay the public service, taxpayers pay for Labor’s union encouragement initiative, union numbers grow, their dues are tax deductible, the union pays for untruthful, distorted, manipulative campaigns to keep Labor in power, the unions donate their taxpayer funded dues to the Labor Party, the Labor Party further legislates to empower the unions, the Labor Party’s black shirts intimidate and threaten anyone who stands up to them including MPs, mum-and-dad businesses, and Queensland families—in one word, thugs.

Last night we saw the Premier and her Labor government come into the chamber and vote to create the single largest energy company anywhere in Australia, an energy company that in the explanatory notes provides for the establishment of an energy services retail business fully owned by the Queensland government in direct competition with mum-and-dad businesses. As we heard this morning, some are faced with the decision of laying off employees because simply they cannot compete with this government and union controlled enterprise. This government is not creating jobs for ordinary Queenslanders: it is only interested in retaining their jobs by lining the pockets of their union masters on Peel Street.

This Labor government has let down Redlanders badly. Redlands is one of the fastest growing electorates in Queensland. The city of Redlands includes the electorates of Capalaba, Cleveland and of course Redlands. By urban population, it is the fifth largest city in Queensland, bigger than Cairns, Toowoomba, Mackay and Rockhampton. We are fiercely proud of our part of the world and protective of it. We love living there. We love the bay. We love our bushland. We have fantastic community groups and we look out for each other.

If we consider comparable cities in Queensland, we can note what the Palaszczuk government is doing for them. I refer to the Regional Action Plan. In Cairns, there is an additional $33.5 million for tourism. Compare that to North Stradbroke Island in the City of Redlands which is getting just $20 million after Labor closed down its primary industry, the sand mine. In Townsville there is another $33.5 million in additional funding for tourism. Compare that to North Stradbroke, still stuck on $20 million after its only viable industry was shut down. There was another $33.6 million for capital works and schools. In Redlands, we got nothing. In Mackay, there is another $33.5 million for tourism by way of additional funding.

Mr Pearce: Table the document.

Mr McEACHAN: It was already tabled; the Treasurer tabled it on Tuesday. How is Peak Downs going? Look at what the City of Redlands gets when within the electorate of Redlands we hardly get a brass razoo. Our roads are bursting at the seams, island car parking is overflowing, our schools are on enrolment management plans and our hospital needs serious investment to provide more beds, services, better access and support for the hardworking staff.

This a spiteful budget from the Palaszczuk Labor government for all of Redland City. The poor old member for Capalaba must be out of favour at the moment, because the only significant funding he received in Capalaba was for the Redlands electorate, specifically residents of Redland Bay. The Treasurer is putting money into Capalaba not for Capalaba residents but for Redland Bay residents. This might be of some benefit to them, except that for Redlands residents it can take up to an hour to get there because traffic is at a standstill, just like this government. The level of incompetence, ineptitude and indolence from this Palaszczuk government is simply staggering. It bears repeating: the level of incompetence, ineptitude and indolence from this Palaszczuk Labor government is simply staggering. The Palaszczuk Labor government claims this is an infrastructure budget yet it has the lowest infrastructure spend in Queensland’s history.

Under the Palaszczuk Labor government the people of Redlands, including the residents of Southern Moreton Bay islands, are slugged higher fees, levies and charges with nothing to show for their hard-earned taxes. The Palaszczuk Labor government has yet again shown contempt for the people in the islands of my electorate by denying them provision of a zone 3 or even 4 in the public transport zone review, and punting them out to zone 5 is on a par with the Sunshine Coast up to 100 kilometres away.

The Southern Moreton Bay Islands are unique in Queensland. They are alive with community groups, arts enthusiasts, volunteers, up to 500 businesses, retirees, RSLs, sporting clubs and schools. These vibrant communities do all this in spite of communal disadvantage compared to the mainland. Last year’s Dropping off the edge report assesses this persistent communal disadvantage to be equivalent to that of Palm Island, which I note in this year’s budget received $32.6 million ongoing in the forecasts. Yet what do we see for this part of Redlands? Absolutely nothing.

Enough is enough. The residents of southern Moreton Bay islands are sick to death of being treated like second-class citizens. When will this asleep-at-the-wheel, do-nothing Premier and her Labor government finally start governing for all Queenslanders, not just those at Peel Street and their acolytes? I encourage all residents of Redlands to visit my website and tell this incompetent Palaszczuk Labor government exactly what they think of her plan to yet again treat them with disdain.

The electorate of Redlands needs comprehensive investment across a range of portfolios. As an LNP member, I will continue to fight for proper investment in our roads. Recently the roads minister declared, ‘We buy and sell assets all the time.’ This minister sold the Mount Cotton Training Centre. Redlanders reasonably expected that some or all of the proceeds would be invested in local state roads, but, in the member for Yeerongpilly’s infinite wisdom, it has been spent on government advertising and the Redlands community is ripped off again.

I remind the minister that we have just two direct points of access to Brisbane from the Redlands electorate—Cleveland-Redland Bay Road and Mount Cotton Road. Only the LNP is committed to upgrading the Anita Street intersection with Cleveland-Redland Bay Road. Only the LNP is committed to upgrading Cleveland Redland Bay Road to dual lanes from Magnolia to Double Jump. I will continue to fight for more roads funding across the electorate. I will continue to fight for front-line service staff including more police for Victoria Point, Redland Bay and the Southern Moreton Bay Islands; more doctors and nurses for Redland Hospital; and more teachers and improved facilities for kids at our local schools.

Infrastructure for boaties, kayakers, sailors and fishers needs serious investment. If you want to tie up your yacht, cruiser or tinnie anywhere in the Redlands electorate, incredibly there is nowhere you can do it. Thousands of boats go past our wonderful islands smack bang in the middle of Moreton Bay Marine Park unable to refuel, take on supplies or step ashore to enjoy warm hospitality and coffee at places like Aunty Alice’s Cafe or the Blue Parrot Cafe.

Redlands punches well above its weight. We are an aspirational community, and all we ask is for a fair go with the taxes, fees and charges we contribute to the Queensland economy. We are sick of being dudded by Labor. Under the previous LNP government, tough decisions were taken. They were taken for the benefit of all Queenslanders with the future of all Queenslanders in mind. They were taken with the grim understanding that Labor had driven Queensland’s balance sheet to something akin to an Edgar Allan Poe horror story. Debt was hidden in GOCs, terms of trade were in freefall, public sector spending had to be financed by borrowings and surgery waiting lists were totally out of control. The former premier had declared that Health was broken and, like Humpty Dumpty, could not be put back together again. It was a rotten, stinking mess and Queenslanders were right to sweep irresponsible Labor members into the dustbin of history.

Only the LNP has a clear plan to kickstart jobs for the youth of Queensland and support businesses that give them a go. Labor has no plan and is more than asleep at the wheel; indeed, it has slipped into a coma. To its shame, youth unemployment has grown under this Labor Palaszczuk government. This Premier’s own employment minister even had the gall to say that youth unemployment was not new and there was not much you could change. The LNP believes that you can have a plan to help young Queenslanders get a job or a qualification. By contrast, the LNP has a plan to create up to 20,000 jobs as part of our plan to get Queensland working. It is a plan that includes increasing apprentice opportunities for up to 10,000 young Queenslanders, helping tradies to get working with a $500 tool voucher upon completion of their apprenticeship, and providing small businesses with incentives to help train and retain young Queenslanders—young Queenslanders who just want a job and a fair go. Our LNP plan will be guided by experts, not by union heavies, with the establishment of the Ministerial Industry Commission.

Only the LNP has the energy, experience and commitment to get Queensland working and creating jobs and opportunities for young Queenslanders. Only the LNP has a plan for Queensland and only the LNP will deliver for Redlands.

 

Comment

Speech to Parliament - ELECTRICITY AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL - 15 June 2016

Comment

Speech to Parliament - ELECTRICITY AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL - 15 June 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (5.03 pm): I rise to contribute to the debate on the Electricity and Other Legislation Bill. I would like to begin by acknowledging the excellent work of the committee secretariat ably led by Kate McGuckin. I would also like to acknowledge my fellow committee members: our chair, the member for Kallangur; our deputy chair, the member for Southport; the member for Murrumba; the member for Logan; and, last but not least, the indomitable force from the north, the member for Whitsunday and shadow assistant minister for North Queensland.

This bill has two components. The first part of the bill concerns amendments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities (Justice, Land and Other Matters) Act 1984. It is proposed to modernise provisions currently applying to the Island Industries Board, remove the current geographic limitations on the operations of the statutory body and change the name of the body to reflect this change. It also seeks to amend provisions relating to board governance, membership, operations and administration to modernise these provisions and to more readily facilitate operations of the statutory body. This is done to accommodate potential changes to its operations as a result of the removal of the geographical limitations. However, because this component of the bill is corrupted by the merger component of the bill it cannot be supported.

The second part of this bill concerns the merger of Ergon and Energex. It has been described as purely technical to facilitate the merger. This merger is one of the biggest—if not the biggest—in Queensland’s history and I am deeply concerned at the process and lack of scrutiny. The Energex response to the Queensland Productivity Commission Electricity Pricing inquiry outlined concerns in considering similar utility restructures. The Energex report outlined that up-front costs would be significant and may outweigh forecast savings. I table the report for the benefit of the House.

Tabled paper: Document, dated 16 November 2015, titled ‘Energex—Response to Queensland Productivity Commission (QPC) Issues Paper’ [941].

Due to the seriousness of concerns raised by Energex in this report, one would have thought further discussions with Energex and, indeed, Ergon senior managers made sense. However, the opposite is true. Rather than questioning experts in the field before the committee and hearing evidence, curiously, no submission was received from either Ergon or Energex. It is concerning that the committee had only one hearing to scrutinise this potential legislation. The committee spent less than an hour questioning public officials and other stakeholders to this bill. LNP members were lobbied by industry who wanted to extend the time frame for consideration of this bill.

As part of the 2015-16 Mid Year Fiscal and Economic Review, the Palaszczuk Labor government claimed savings of a very courageous $562 million. I note that the majority of these savings are associated with efficiency savings required due to the Australian Energy Regulator’s most recent determinations for these two businesses. The House should note that these cost reductions have absolutely nothing to do with the merger of these two entities. The real concern is that the Palaszczuk Labor government has not properly identified any savings from their proposed merger.

If we look a bit deeper into the background of the merger it gets more curious. The Electrical Trades Union is supportive of the bill in spite of the likelihood of at least 366 redundancies. In fact, they applaud the voluntary redundancies. Perhaps the establishment of the energy services retail business will have 366 budding solar power and alternative energy sparkies, an ETU-run business taking on the mum-and-dad private sector who have innovated, worked hard and created a vibrant emerging industry across Queensland.

The explanatory notes from this bill outline that a separate energy services business will be established under the parent company. The Treasurer spoke of it being established in his first reading of the bill. When LNP members of the committee asked about the detail, we were stunned to hear that Queenslanders will not get the opportunity to scrutinise this through the committee process. The establishment of Queensland’s largest energy services business will have no parliamentary oversight at all.

To better understand this approach, I considered the motivation for such a move. In a fit of fiscal adventurism, I researched the Queensland Labor Party State Policy Platform 2015. Like Alice in Wonderland down the rabbit hole, I went to a strange and magical place overflowing with motherhood statements and Brezhnev clichés. Here I discovered a passage optimistically titled ‘Economic Management’. There I found this edifying wisdom from our friendly socialists: ‘If our economy is to reach its full potential and Queenslanders are to be supported in good times and bad then there must be an ongoing role for the government as the doer in the economy, not just the enabler.’ Profound! Let us just recap on some of the most recent successful forays that the Palaszczuk Labor government has made into ‘doing’ private enterprise.

Mr Bailey: Are you going to come back to the bill sometime?

Mr McEACHAN: I appreciate your contribution, but I thought you were going to demonstrate some of the doing that you have done. I am still waiting. I am giving you time to think of a successful foray into private enterprise.

Mr POWER: I rise to a point of order. Is there any relevance to the bill?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Elmes): Order! Sit down. Member for Redlands, through the chair.

Minister, it will be through the chair if you want to make any comments.

Mr McEACHAN: Those of us on this side of the House are not alone in our concern with this Labor proposal—not by any stretch of the imagination. Master Electricians Australia CEO Malcolm Richards has warned—

Emerging technologies are the bread and butter work for all electricians, whether they are based in the regions or in the city.

We believe the new entity can stimulate the market, actively enabling new emerging technologies to exceed by tweaking tariffs and incentives, and not competing with mum and dad contractors directly,

The Energy Retailers Association of Australia wrote to Dr Malcolm Roberts, the Chair of the Queensland Competition Authority.

Mr Power interjected.


Mr McEACHAN: Their correspondence raised concerns about this merger. Is that not relevant?

Is the member saying that that is not relevant?

Mr POWER: I rise to a point of order. It was made absolutely clear in the hearings that this is not relevant to the bill. If someone writes, scaremongering and fear mongering about this, that does not make it more relevant to the bill for someone who knows the facts.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Elmes): Order! The title of the bill gives people latitude in this particular instance. We will proceed with the member for Redlands.

Mr Power: There is no latitude to mislead the House.
Mr HART: I rise to a point of order. I find that the member up the back has disrespected the chair.

I suggest some action be taken.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I suggest that the member for Logan resumes his seat and remains very quiet for the next little while.

Mr McEACHAN: For the benefit of the member for Logan, I will repeat what I was saying. The Energy Retailers Association of Australia wrote to Dr Malcolm Roberts, the Chair of the Queensland Competition Authority. The correspondence raised concerns about this merger and the consequent establishment of an energy retail business and states—

If this was to occur it would create a more onerous market that was significantly less attractive for retailer participation relative to other jurisdictions. The Energy Retailers Association of Australia is therefore seeking further information from the QCA as to what actions it may take should these government policies come into effect during this notified price period.

Aren’t we all? However, at every turn this parliament is denied an opportunity to scrutinise this proposal. What exactly are those opposite afraid of? Perhaps they are concerned that scrutiny will further reveal the absurdity of this proposal by the Palaszczuk Labor government.

The LNP committee members are gravely concerned about the low number of submissions received by this inquiry, perhaps as a result of a lack of engagement made by the committee. I note that the committee failed to travel to north and regional Queensland to conduct public hearings, that is, to the very areas where the impacts of this legislation will be most keenly felt. I acknowledge the tireless advocacy of the member for Whitsunday on this point. He continues to fight for his region and for the mum-and-dad sparkies who will be so affected by this proposal.

The concerns raised by the LNP have been echoed by Redlands sparkies, including Craig for Solarhart and Gavin from Goodhew Electrical. Mum-and-dad sparkies are worried about their future, their apprentices, and the clubs and community groups they sponsor and support. People from right across Queensland know what we on this side of the House know: Labor is not a friend of small business and private enterprise. Labor’s focus, to the exclusion of all others, is unashamedly on the unions that empower them. It is a marriage of mutual benefit, but with no benefit for the people of Queensland.

The story is the same across-the-board with this Palaszczuk Labor government. Union influence has clearly proven to be too great. Forced to make a decision between the best interests of Queenslanders and the best interests of union mates, this Palaszczuk Labor government continues to choose unions every time, clearly scared of union retaliation should they take a stand. Of course, that is what one would expect from a government that made deals with the unions to get into power and makes deal with the unions to stay in power. What is the result? Mum-and-dad sparkies are sold down the river. Those are people who built their small businesses from the ground up; people who put in many hours every day trying to make ends meet for their families. Many of us on this side of the chamber have run small businesses ourselves. We know of the blood, sweat and tears put in just to keep food on the table and to keep our employees paid. It beggars belief that this government would forsake small business owners.

I do not support this bill. I do not support this merger and the establishment of an electrical retail services business. I put it to the House that Labor and the ETU want to be the doers in the provision of retail energy services to the detriment of local businesses across Queensland and to the detriment of mum-and-dad sparkies. Labor clearly wants to do in private enterprise for the enrichment of union members.

 

Comment

Speech to Parliament - Mount Cotton Driver Training Centre - 25 May 2016

Comment

Speech to Parliament - Mount Cotton Driver Training Centre - 25 May 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (1.14 am): Tonight I rise to speak about the sale of the Mount Cotton Driver Training Centre. The sale is yet another example of Labor’s grasp on power, whatever the cost. Labor massages the truth to get elected, Labor manipulates to stay elected and Redlanders get sold down the river. I am calling on the Palaszczuk Labor government to use earnings from this sale to go towards improving road safety and relieving congestion.

Minister Bailey today and again tonight all but confirmed that the government intends to rip this money out of Redlands roads. The sale of this asset is not the whole story; it is the contempt with which the Palaszczuk Labor government treats the voting public. With one of the fastest growing electorates in Queensland, Redlanders could reasonably expect that some of the money derived from this sale would be reinvested in their local area. Our infrastructure is already 20 years behind, with Cleveland Redland Bay Road not the only example of local roads failing to cope with current traffic volume.

Redlands needs investment in roads, schools, public transport, car parking for the islanders and other infrastructure. I know that the members for Cleveland and Capalaba share that opinion. What have we seen from this Palaszczuk Labor government? We have a secretive agreement, no public tender process and no public scrutiny or consultation. Those opposite went to the last election with precious little else than a promise not to sell assets. They had no plan to fund the infrastructure Queenslanders need. Our infrastructure deficit is the result of decades of failed Labor governments.

The Labor governments of Beattie and Bligh left no infrastructure legacy, just more black holes, a Health payroll debacle and wholesale mismanagement of government assets—a legacy Queenslanders still live with today. Those opposite have no plan to pay for the roads and infrastructure Redlands needs. They are asleep at the wheel. They have shifted debt to government owned corporations, pilfered Public Service superannuation and long service leave, and now they are selling assets not to invest in Queensland but to cover their own economic mismanagement.

They sneak into Mount Cotton in the dead of the night, with their light-fingered proclivities, and sell Redlanders out. We cannot afford another four years of this Labor government. Queenslanders cannot afford it and Redlanders cannot afford it—and they do not deserve it. Once again, I call on the Premier to have an open and honest conversation with Redlanders. I call on them to engage with stakeholders already using the facility. Finally, I call on the Palaszczuk Labor government to listen to Redlanders and deliver the roads and infrastructure we need. It is not too late to turn this around. Invest in Redlands infrastructure and invest in roads. Be honest with voters.

 

Comment

Speech to Parliament - PUBLIC HEALTH (WATER RISK MANAGEMENT) AMENDMENT BILL - 25 May 2016

Comment

Speech to Parliament - PUBLIC HEALTH (WATER RISK MANAGEMENT) AMENDMENT BILL - 25 May 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (5.12 pm): I rise to contribute to the debate on the Public Health (Water Risk Management) Amendment Bill 2016. I want to begin by thanking the committee secretariat for its hard work on this report along with that of the chair, the member for Kallangur, the deputy chair, the member for Southport, and my fellow committee members. I also want to acknowledge those members who contributed to this report under the previous committee prior to 18 February 2016.

The report handed down by this committee recommends that the bill be passed and recommends that the Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services clarify in his second reading speech the meaning of the term ‘person in charge’ and also investigate options for including a precise definition of ‘person in charge’ in whatever legislation is considered most appropriate, and I understand that the minister has already addressed that issue. In making the recommendations, I understand the committee’s consultation had been limited due to the urgency of the proposed amendments. Key private healthcare providers and representatives for smaller healthcare providers and all hospital and health service chief executives have been notified of the proposed legislation. Consultation with the private residential aged-care sector will be undertaken during a phased implementation process.

I now turn to the amendments proposed to the Public Health Act 2005. These amendments work to achieve the objectives of the bill which are to improve the management and control of health risks associated with the supply and use of water in hospitals and residential care facilities, in particular the health risks associated with legionella bacteria, and provide greater transparency of water testing activities being undertaken by these facilities. Proposed new section 61D sets out what the water risk management plan must contain and provides for additional requirements to be prescribed by regulation. The committee received submissions with regard to the implementation of a water risk management plan. In particular, the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service raised concerns that the implementation of the bill’s proposed amendments will incur considerable costs for healthcare facilities and that there is no funding or resources being provided for this purpose. As a result of this, the committee requested further details on the implementation costs.

The department advised the committee that the cost for facilities to implement interim measures that already have water risk management plans in place are not expected to be significant. Funding will have to be set aside to implement remedial measures should legionella or other hazards be detected in the facility’s water supply system. The department advised that estimated costs associated with expanding existing water risk management plans would range from zero to over $100,000 and that, similarly, the costs associated with infrastructure improvements will also vary based on factors such as the age of the facility and incoming water quality, potentially costing several hundred thousand into the millions of dollars. The department advised that the cost for state government facilities would be incurred over a period of years in line with existing infrastructure budgets. The department also advised that budgeting arrangements for licensed private health facilities are unknown and that other costs to government such as compliance, enforcement and the provision of training will be funded within existing departmental budget allocations.

In considering proposed new section 61A of the bill, the committee took submissions from the Metro South Hospital and Health Service and Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service as to the definition of a prescribed facility. The Metro South Hospital and Health Service questioned the definition of a prescribed facility and its application to public sector mental health community care units. Residents in these facilities are not classified as inpatients and are not aged-care residents, so the department clarified that the intention of the bill was that it would not apply to these units as they are not hospitals as defined by the Hospital and Health Boards Act.

The committee also considered the requirement under proposed new section 61K of the bill which proposes that the chief executive of the department publish a report, with notices given by facilities about the presence of legionella or reports about prescribed tests undertaken in accordance with water risk management plans. It was a point of some discussion for the committee on how public reporting of the presence of legionella might be received by the public, and I refer to the report in relation to that issue. The report states—

... while there are over 50 species of Legionella, the species of most concern in drinking water in a health care facility is Legionella pneumophia serogroup 1.

The Department acknowledged certain species of Legionella present a greater health risk than others, however, it explained: the conditions that allow low risk Legionella species to proliferate are the same conditions that allow for the more dangerous species to proliferate. Therefore, for the purposes of identifying hazards in a water risk management plan, and in relation to the notification and reporting requirements, the Bill doesn’t differentiate between different types of Legionella bacteria.

The report states—The CQHH— the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service— raises a concern that the Bill does not disclose which tests would be included in the definition of a prescribed test for Legionella. It states that there are different types of tests for Legionella and some laboratories can perform more sensitive tests than others. The CQHHS is concerned that this could place facilities that use these laboratories at a disadvantage and notes section 61H(1) also refers to the use of a prescribed test.

In response to a question taken on notice at the public briefing the department advised—

... tests for Legionella in water can be divided into two categories: DNA-based tests and culture-based tests. DNA-based tests can provide very quick results, however, they don’t provide information on whether any Legionella detected is alive or dead. As a consequence, the results from DNA-based tests provide only limited information with regards to how hazardous the water is to human health. Culture-based tests, on the other hand, provide results in terms of ‘culturable’ Legionella. These are live Legionella cells and provide more useful information with regards to how hazardous the water is. For these reasons, it is the Department’s intention to prescribe certain culture-based tests in the Regulation. Specifically, it is intended to reference the methodologies prescribed in Australian Standard AS3896 and international standard IS011731.

The bill proposes a requirement that the chief executive of the department publish in a report notices given by facilities about the presence of legionella or reports about prescribed tests for legionella undertaken in accordance with water risk management plans. The CQHHS submission raised the concern that I mentioned earlier. In its submission, it stated that public reporting of legionella test results may not be in the best interest of healthcare facilities nor the public as it may result in unjustified levels of concern and anxiety and undermine confidence in a facility. The department responded by stating that it does not intend to make any revisions to the bill in response to that issue and that the inclusion of provisions allowing for the publication of legionella test results fulfils the government’s commitment to greater public transparency.

At our public briefing, the department responded to a question from the committee on the likely risks or concerns that may be associated with public reporting. The departmental officer said—

I do not believe there are any risks. I am certain that people are concerned about it because they are concerned that people will find out information about their facility that they might prefer that people not know about, but I think it is very important and I think the public values knowledge. The more we get the information out there, the more it becomes understood. It is not necessarily that a facility has done anything wrong by having legionella in their water supply. It is ubiquitous; it is everywhere. The problem is how they respond to that. If facilities have to have that information out there publicly, then the community I think will have greater confidence in the services that are being provided to them.

I think that is an important point. That is one aspect of this bill and its implementation that we need to watch closely in order to monitor the impacts on facilities that publicly report incidents of legionella. A representative of the plumbers union also provided evidence. He said—

I have worked in this industry for roughly seven years, and I do not think I have gone a week without someone raising this— legionella— as an issue. It is something that everybody talks about, and unfortunately it is also subject to the rumour mill within the community. That is why we think it is really fantastic that there will be public reporting of this. There is no doubt in my mind—and there is no doubt in the minds of the people I talk to in our industry—that the lack of knowledge within the public on this matter is currently eroding public confidence and patient confidence in the system, so we think it is really fantastic that it is being addressed and that people will get a fair bit of knowledge, certainty and confidence in this area.

It was some comfort to the committee to hear both of those opinions. The other aspect that the committee heard was in relation to ice machines and warm water systems and, as the good member for Southport mentioned earlier, thermostatic mixing valves.

Mr McArdle interjected.

Mr McEACHAN: Thermostatic mixing valves. We asked the plumbers union to bring one in so that we could have a look. We have seen a thermostatic mixing valve. They are real. In their submissions the plumbers union of Queensland and the Master Plumbers’ Association of Queensland highlight the role that industry standards play in relation to the design, operation and maintenance of ice machines, warm water systems and TMVs—thermostatic mixing valves.

An opposition member interjected.


Mr McEACHAN: I should have brought one in. For example, in terms of the quality of ice machines, in its submission the MPAQ explained—

... many machines do not meet certification standards, Water Mark approval as required by the National Construction Code Volume 3, the Plumbing Code of Australia, and this is a matter that must be rectified.

The plumbers union of Queensland and the MPAQ support an amendment to the bill to reference the need to comply with existing industry standards. In response, the department advised that the ‘potential for these industry standards to be called up in legislation would be most appropriately considered by the Department of Housing and Public Works’.

In response to a question on this issue at the public briefing, the department confirmed that it will be alerting that department to the necessity for reviewing these amendments. Regarding the quality of ice machines, the department clarified that it has a policy in place that requires ice machines in health facilities to comply with the industry standard water mark approval. However, that leaves open the prospect that there are many ice machines out in the community that do not meet this industry standard.

Mr Power: Including here in the parliament.

Mr McEACHAN: Quite possibly in the parliament. I thank the member for Logan. In its submission the plumbers union of Queensland highlighted the need to employ licensed persons to install and maintain the infrastructure related to legionella. It also raised this issue at the hearing. The representative from the plumbers union said—

We are aware that the Queensland Building and Construction Commission are currently undertaking a licensing review. We think that this is a big part of what needs to occur in that review and what the outcomes need to be.

As we stated in our submission, we consider that for far too long the prevention, detection and rectification work associated with legionella has been addressed in a suboptimal way. Addressing such a harmful presence through non-skilled labour, a lack of regular checks and generally poor practices has increased the likelihood of additional issues, in our opinion. Licensed persons must be involved in the installation and maintenance of all infrastructure related to legionella, including cooling water systems, air-handling systems and their associated duct work and pipework. They have been identified as particular areas where legionella is commonly found.

The report goes on to refer to one of the aspects that the committee covered, which was the right to enter dwellings and residential aged-care facilities in the case where legionella was detected. Under clauses 5 and 6, which relate to the power to enter premises, the bill proposes to amend section 385(1)(d) of the Public Health Act to add new sections 389A and 389B to the list of sections under authority by which an authorised person may enter a place. Clause also amends section 385(3), which currently limits section 385 search powers by stating—

... nothing in this part allows entry to a dwelling without the occupier’s consent, an enforcement order or a warrant. The amendment proposed by clause 5 confirms section 389B as an exception to that general rule, as section 389B does provide for a power to enter dwellings in residential aged care facilities in certain circumstances, even without the occupier’s consent, an enforcement order or warrant.

Clause 6 of the bill proposes to insert new sections 389A and 389B into the Public Health Act to confer a general power to enter a prescribed facility and a power to enter dwellings in residential aged- care facilities. Proposed new section 389B(2) applies where someone at a residential aged-care facility has had a notifiable condition resulting from legionella or where the result of a prescribed test confirms the presence of legionella in water used by the prescribed facility. It allows for an unauthorised person to enter a part of the residential aged-care facility that is an occupier’s dwelling for monitoring compliance with the facility’s water risk management plan without requiring the occupier’s consent, an enforcement order or a warrant.

The committee noted that the power to enter dwellings in a residential aged-care facility is only triggered when someone at a residential aged-care facility has had a notifiable condition resulting from legionella or where the result of the prescribed test confirms the presence of legionella in water used by a prescribed facility. When those preconditions are met, the entry powers become exercisable under subsection (2), but there are a number of safeguards on the exercise of that power contained in subsections (3) and (4). Given the limited circumstances in which the powers become exercisable and the statutory safeguards on the manner in which the powers may be exercised, the committee is satisfied that the entry powers are appropriate to the circumstances.

The committee also notes the response provided by the Department of Health regarding the definitions and how ‘person in charge of a prescribed facility’ differs from ‘responsible person’. The committee is concerned that, given the proposed offences will apply to either a responsible person or a person in charge, the definitions of both these terms could be easily interchangeable. I referred to that earlier and the minister has addressed that in his second reading speech.

In closing, the bill is proactively taking on legionnaire’s. It minimises the risk of outbreaks before they occur and has the capacity to maintain public confidence in our health and aged-care system. I acknowledge and share the concerns raised by my colleagues in relation to the costs involved in implementing these management plans. I note particular concerns raised about the costs in rural and regional facilities. I urge the Palaszczuk Labor government to be considered in its approach to dealing with rural and regional facilities facing significant cost burdens. I commend the bill to the House.

 

Comment

Speech to Parliament - NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND PROTECTION AND SUSTAINABILITY AND OTHER ACTS AMENDMENT BILL - 25 May 2016

Comment

Speech to Parliament - NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND PROTECTION AND SUSTAINABILITY AND OTHER ACTS AMENDMENT BILL - 25 May 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (10.47 pm): I rise to speak on the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability (Renewal of Mining Leases) Amendment Bill and the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability and Other Acts Amendment Bill. I note that we are considering these bills in cognate. I acknowledge the Quandamooka people and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. I do respect that there are differing opinions within the Quandamooka people, as there are across the North Stradbroke Island community. I also want to acknowledge the work of my colleague and Redlands neighbour Dr Mark Robinson. The member for Cleveland has been a tireless advocate for locals, for jobs and for opportunities on North Stradbroke Island, and I commend him for continuing to do so in response to this proposed bill by those opposite.

The legislation put in place by the former LNP government was sensible, it was reasonable, it recognised the importance of sandmining to North Stradbroke Island’s economy and it had a nominated end date. Mining creates hundreds of direct and indirect local jobs both on the island and in the mainland Redland City. The 2019 end date and economic transition strategy proposed by those opposite provides no certainty for locals, with hundreds of jobs to be lost. A date of 2024 is an improvement, but I am satisfied that the 2035 closure date remains the most sensible time frame for the end of sandmining on North Stradbroke Island. Sandmining has operated on North Stradbroke Island since 1949. Currently operated by Sibelco Australia Ltd, it is an example of world’s best practice in sandmining operation.

The real cost of a premature end to sandmining can be seen in the following recent survey of Straddie Chamber of Commerce members. The survey found that 82 per cent of businesses reported at least 30 per cent of their sales were either directly or indirectly derived from sandmining on the island. That is putting aside the economic stimulus of the 104 Straddie locals including 35 Indigenous employees plus up to 23 more in my electorate of Redlands currently employed in the mining operation—local jobs for local people who, in turn, reinvest in their community; local businesses such as the corner store, newsagent and many more mum-and-dad operations.

Decisions like these are never as simple as the Deputy Premier would have us believe. There are flow-on effects to local businesses and industry. It is no surprise that the Deputy Premier is unaware of these issues, particularly given her refusal to meet with Straddie locals who opposed the early closure. What we see here is political pressure from groups who do not represent the views of the wider North Stradbroke Island and Redland City population. Those people who have contacted both the member for Cleveland and me about their concerns over the early closure feel as though they are being ignored by this Deputy Premier and the Palaszczuk Labor government.

The LNP position on sandmining and rehabilitation of the mine site is widely supported in our local communities. Legislation put in place by the former LNP government provided a reasonable time frame for the North Stradbroke Island economy to transition to other industries and provide for local jobs. Thus far the Palaszczuk Labor government has been unable to put forward a logical argument for early closure. No-one disputes that sandmining will come to an end on North Stradbroke Island.

What is in question, certainly from my perspective, is the disrespectful manner in which this matter has been handled by the Deputy Premier and the Palaszczuk Labor government. The Deputy Premier has continued to demonstrate her lack of respect for Queenslanders. Her actions—her callous disregard for local jobs and local people—are evidence of that. This is not the first time the Deputy Premier has acted in this manner. Her display during the vegetation management legislation debate demonstrated her blatant disregard for the effects of those insidious laws on landholders, not just those trying to run a business in primary industries but every Queensland landholder.

I was made aware of a meeting held by the Deputy Premier with union representatives on North Stradbroke Island. In a practice run for lockout laws, Straddie locals were locked out of the meeting. Locals reported that ETU members manned the doors and prevented them from entering the meeting at Little Ship Club in Dunwich. I have photographic evidence of that which I would like to table.


Tabled paper: Photographs, undated, of Electrical Trades Union employees [782].

It was even reported that some were being forcibly removed from the venue and press were prevented from attending. This is further evidence that government has no understanding of the real effect of the legislation. The Deputy Premier continues to demonstrate that she is more interested in ensuring green votes in her seat of South Brisbane than she is in governing in the best interests of Queenslanders. It seems to me that the Deputy Premier is doing a lot more than just deputising. It begs the question: who is the real premier of Queensland?

These bills are unnecessary. The LNP continues to support its 2013 position to extend sandmining on North Stradbroke Island to 2035. It gives a reasonable time frame for a proper economic transition. I say to the members opposite that I have spent time in Central Australia. I have spent time with Gurindji people. I have been to Wave Hill Station where Vincent Lingiari sat down and took on Lord Vestey. I have worked with the Wik people from Far North Queensland, and I know that there are Indigenous communities around the country that are crying out for an economic path out of the position that they are in. We are in an extraordinary position where we have a diverse economy on North Stradbroke Island, and we are taking that away without a proper transition.

I urge those members opposite to consider what this will do to all the people on North Stradbroke Island. I urge the crossbenches to consider it as well, because it is my belief that in a few short years if this is successful tonight we will see horrific effects of an economy that has been trashed, and that will be the government’s legacy. I cannot support this bill.

Comment

Speech to Parliament - Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Bill (No. 2) - 19 April 2016

Comment

Speech to Parliament - Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Bill (No. 2) - 19 April 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (4.48 pm): I rise to speak to the Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Bill (No.2). I speak in support of this bill and its implementation of recommendations made in the Bryce Not now, not ever report. In September 2014 the former LNP government established the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence to be chaired by the Hon. Dame Quentin Bryce. This task force delivered its report on 28 February 2015 and made 140 recommendations including 121 recommendations for the government. I was pleased to see the government accept all these recommendations.

The Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Bill (No. 2) implements some of these recommendations, including the creation of a provision for domestic and family violence to be an aggravating factor on sentence; to amend the Criminal Code in creating an offence of choking, suffocation or strangulation in a domestic setting; and to amend legislation allowing a court to receive a submission from a party on what they consider to be an appropriate sentence or sentence range for the court to impose. Our society will only be successful in tackling the scourge of domestic violence if all levels of government and political persuasions work together. I am pleased to say that the LNP opposition members have worked closely with government committee members on this hugely important issue. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of shadow minister Tracy Davis on this issue.

The figures are damning. The Bryce task force reported that in 2013 more than 64,000 incidents of domestic and family violence were reported and 13,000 breaches of domestic violence orders occurred in Queensland. It is an indictment on our society. For far too long domestic and family violence was an issue that stayed in the shadows, a shameful stain on our society that has a place at the very heart of social dysfunction. This is an issue that touches us all and, unfortunately, it is all too common to find someone in our community affected by domestic or family violence. Even in this House, we have listened to many of our colleagues speak of their own harrowing experiences. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the bravery of my colleague the member for Mudgeeraba, Ros Bates, in sharing her story. I know that all of us listening to her speech late last year were deeply moved. It serves as a reminder for all of us in this House that on this issue we are working not only for Queenslanders as a whole and our electorates but also for each other. I am honoured to be a member of this parliament that is advocating for this issue and I passionately support this bill.

This bill implements recommendations 118 and 120 of the Bryce task force report. The task force undertook extensive consultation in preparing its report. The task force met with victims, service providers and community leaders in its consultation process. The recommendations made through this consultation are reflected in the amendments proposed through this bill.

The Bryce task force recommendation 118 was that the Queensland government introduce a circumstance of aggravation of domestic and family violence to be applied to all criminal offences. Rather than attaching a general circumstance of aggravation to any offence in the Criminal Code, which must be charged in the indictment and becomes a matter the Crown must prove beyond all reasonable doubt, this bill amends the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 to make provision for domestic and family violence to be an aggravating factor on sentence. The amendment provides that the court must have regard to whether the offence constitutes an act of domestic and family violence when determining the appropriate sentence for an offender.

I note that the Bryce task force did recommend a specific circumstance of aggravation of domestic and family violence to all criminal offences. This bill proposes an alternate approach: providing that an aggravating factor must be considered on sentence. A circumstance of aggravation must be charged by the prosecution and is, therefore, a matter that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. A previous High Court judgement of Barbaro & Zirilli v The Queen held that prosecutors were not permitted to make a submission to the court during a sentence hearing on the appropriate sentence to be imposed by the court. This decision led to a very significant shift to established practice in Queensland, which this bill proposes to restore.

The Bryce task force recommendation 120 refers to the creation of a specific offence of strangulation, choking or suffocation. Presently a person who unlawfully chokes, suffocates or strangles another person can now be charged under the Criminal Code with the offence dependent on the force used, the intent in committing the act and the injuries sustained by the victim. The new offence of strangulation will attract a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment. This penalty reflects the seriousness of this offence and that the behaviour is in itself extremely dangerous. The Bryce task force heard evidence that strangulation was often a key predictor of domestic homicide. It is vital that our law reflects that this violent situation is often a predictor of escalated risk to victims of domestic and family violence.

I urge all members to support this bill. It is vital that we continue to work on implementing the recommendations made by the Bryce report. I commend this bill to the House.

Comment

Speech to Parliament - Early Childhood Development Program - 19 April 2016

Comment

Speech to Parliament - Early Childhood Development Program - 19 April 2016

Mr McEACHAN (RedlandsLNP) (10.28 pm): I rise tonight to bring to the attention of the House the very important work being done in the delivery of the early childhood development program in the Redlands. However, in spite of this, the Palaszczuk Labor government recently signalled that the ECDP would be axed due to the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Labor minister Joness subsequent partial backflip has served only to prolong the uncertainty. Families are at a loss to explain why the minister saw fit to play politics with this issue. Certainty and stability for parents and children are of paramount importance.

The Queensland TeachersUnion expressed its ongoing support for the ECDP. In my meeting with the QTU, I was pleased to hear that the union wanted the same certainty for students, parents and teachers, and why would it not? This program is vital and teachers know that it gets results. At my recent mobile offices, parents of children currently in, or graduated from, the ECDP dropped in to express their dismay at Labors position and to thank me as an LNP member for our strong support of this vital program.

Parents, grandparents, teachers and supporters tell story after story of children who would otherwise have fallen behind in their education and who have blossomed under the program and are doing great not just in their academic work but also socially and emotionally. To cast a pall of uncertainty over the future of this program is a heartless, ham-fisted approach by Labor that has parents worried sick. It is clear that Minister Jones has jumped on an opportunity to ditch the ECDP under the guise of funding from NDIS. The LNP will not allow this to happen without a fight, and we are standing up for those in our community who, in spite of a tough start in life, meet their challenges with humour, courage and determination. This program works because it has decades of corporate experience. It is educational, it is classroom centred, it prepares children for school and it can only be delivered successfully by schools like the Redland District Special School and many others around the state.

I take this opportunity to thank Principal Andrew Thompson and the staff at the Redland District Special School. The school enjoys an excellent reputation in Redlands city as a professional, caring and empowering educational facility for our community. I also thank the parents who have spoken to me about this issue affecting their families. I want to make particular mention of Louisa, Sam and Anne, all of whom took the time to advocate on this issue. I remain resolute in the defence of the early childhood education program, and I urge the Palaszczuk Labor government and Minister Jones to back it completely and remove uncertainty for children, parents and teachers. 

Comment

Speech to Parliament - Plumbing and Drainage and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 - 16 March 2016

Comment

Speech to Parliament - Plumbing and Drainage and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 - 16 March 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (5.11 pm): I rise to speak to the Plumbing and Drainage and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. I want to begin by thanking the committee secretariat for their hard work on this report along with that of the chair, Shane King, the member for Kallangur, the shadow minister, Rob Molhoek, and my fellow committee members. I would also like to acknowledge those members who contributed to this report under the previous committee prior to 18 February 2016.

The report handed down by this committee recommends that the bill be passed. It recommends that the Minister for Housing and Public Works investigate legislative mechanisms to ensure that a person cannot be listed on a tenancy database if the amount owing is an unreasonably small amount. In considering amendments to the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, the committee has recommended amendments to the proposed section 564(2) to provide for a transition period of six months from commencement and that the bill be amended to prohibit personal information of victims of domestic violence and family violence being listed on a tenancy database. I note that some of these committee recommendations have been addressed in the amendments proposed today by the minister.

In making the recommendations, the committee consulted extensively with the Department of Housing and Public Works as well as industry stakeholders. I will turn now to the amendments proposed to the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. These amendments will allow approved housing providers to give tenancy guarantees to private lessors. The opposition members of the committee do not oppose these amendments. However, reservations were raised that the bill did not contain provisions to prevent the personal information of victims of domestic and family violence being listed on the tenancy database. The amendments to this bill bring Queensland into line with the national minimum standards for residential tenancy databases.

Tenancy databases are privately owned databases that contain information about an individual’s tenancy history. Lessors or agents can record the personal information about tenants who have defaulted in their tenancy for matters such as rent arrears, property abandonment or termination of a tenancy. Tenants are listed on these databases for a period of three years before they can apply to be removed. This amendment will allow housing providers to provide tenancy guarantees to private lessors. Approved housing providers such as the Logan City Community Housing service will also be able to provide tenancy guarantees.

The new section 458B is proposed to apply where a lessor or their agent uses a tenancy database for checking the tenancy history of the applicant and finds the person is listed on the database. An agency or lessor would now be required to give written notice to the applicant within seven days advising that personal information about them is in the database, stating the name of the database, details about who has listed the information and how, in what circumstances the applicant can have the personal information removed or amended and how they can obtain a copy of the personal information.

The committee received submissions in support of prospective tenants being advised of their listing on tenancy databases. In addition, the Property Owners Association of Queensland raised concerns with regard to the requirement that the person checking the tenant’s rental history must inform the prospective tenant of the listing and the way in which the listing could be removed. I would urge the minister to monitor these concerns and take action if that should be required.

The Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House Incorporated submitted its support for the proposed new section in the committee’s public hearing and stated—

Our experience is that at the time the tenancy ends our clients are often going through a number of circumstances of disadvantage. There may be a connection with domestic violence, mental health issues or other instances that do mean that they are transitioning directly from the tenancy that is the basis of the listing into some form of emergency accommodation, transitional housing or that more traditional understanding of homelessness. I would accept Mr McBryde’s comments about his practical experience that the existing provisions to notify a person of the proposed listing that the current act has in place in practice still mean that it is unlikely that a client of ours might be notified at the time they leave the tenancy that the listing has been put in place. That is one of the reasons we strongly support the proposed legislation around section 458A and B, that there is that notice at the time they are applying for a further tenancy that they have been listed.

However, the committee also noted other submissions which indicated that tenants are not always informed about listings or may be unable to understand the process. The Residential Tenancies Authority advised the committee that the proposed amendment is a national minimum standard. The committee took on board the concerns of some stakeholders regarding this requirement but concluded that it was satisfied with the amendment based on the departmental advice and the need to bring the legislative requirements into line with national minimum standards.

The opposition members of the committee expressed some reservations about these amendments where there is a possibility that legislation will allow tenants to be listed on tenancy databases for unreasonably small amounts such as those owing less than $20. The committee received a submission from Enhance Care requesting stronger legislative protection to prevent the listing of a person for owing as little as $20. Enhance Care submitted that section 459 be amended to include a provision that a tenant not be listed on a tenancy database if the listing is for an amount under the value of $300. I note the current provision under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Regulation 2009 that the amount owing be more than the rental bond and any tenancy guarantee before listing on the database. I understand that is part of the amendments submitted today as well.

I remain concerned though that in situations where a tenant does not pay a rental bond it would be possible for them to be listed for an unreasonably low amount. The committee has recommended the Minister for Housing and Public Works investigate legislative mechanisms to ensure a person cannot be listed on a database if the amount owing is unreasonably small. I understand the amendments attend to that. I thank the minister.

Further amendments in subsection 459C(1) and 459C(2) require a lessor, their agent or a database operator who lists personal information on a tenancy database to give the listed person a copy of that information within 14 days. That requirement would follow a request and the fee having been paid. Proposed subsection 459C(3) also requires that any fee charged must not be excessive. Enhance Care submitted that there should be clarification around the interpretation of whether a fee charged is excessive and proposed an amount of $20 be set as the maximum fee charged. The committee, however, was satisfied with the advice of the Department of Housing and Public Works that the proposed subsection is modelled on a provision within the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 on the cost of access to information.

The proposed section 459D seeks to impose limits on the length of time an individual’s information can be kept on a database. The amendment proposes to impose a three-year limitation on information held on tenancy databases and provides that where a database operator is advised that information held is out of date where it relates to an amount owed, the incorrect information must be removed within 14 days.

I note the submissions to the committee which did not support limiting listings to three years on the basis that this will increase the risk to lessors. The Property Owners Association of Queensland did recommend five-year listings where a tenant has not repaid the amount owing. Advice from the department was received noting that the three-year limitation was established as part of the minimum national standard. The committee therefore resolved that the proposed subsection and three-year limit was appropriate and consistent with national standards.

Submissions were taken by the committee on a number of other matters in relation to listings on tenancy databases. These included submissions on removing bankrupt persons from the database; allowing registrars to make orders on database matters; the introduction of a transition period for database listings to be removed from a database; and a proposal to allow the listing of tenants prior to the end of a tenancy.

The committee did recommend that the Minister for Housing and Public Works amend the bill to prohibit personal information of victims of domestic and family violence from being listed on the tenancy database. The Residential Tenancies Authority advised the committee that South Australia has recently introduced amendments to prohibit disclosure of personal information pertaining to victims of domestic and family violence from being listed on a tenancy database, and again I understand that the Minister for Housing and Public Works has considered this proposal and is implementing appropriate amendments.

The committee also considered amendments to the Housing Act 2003. Clause 4 of the bill proposes to insert a new part 9, division 2B, development of public housing premises, which includes new sections to amend the Housing Act 2003 to provide that all development and building work for properties approved or used as public housing has been done lawfully in accordance with relevant laws at the time.

Currently, the construction of public housing is exempt from development approvals, as building work is self-assessable by the Department of Housing and Public Works against all applicable codes. These properties do not have local authority development or building approvals normally expected in the private sector. The not-for-profit sector does not benefit from the same expectations when undertaking the construction of public housing. The committee noted the department’s advice that the public sector housing stock complies with all applicable laws and regulations, and while the committee supported the deeming provision proposed in the bill, it was concerned that the not-for-profit sector, including community housing, would not benefit from the same exemptions.

Concern was raised that the not-for-profit sector would be impacted by additional requirements imposed under the development application process as a result. The amendment to this bill inserts a deeming provision to amend the Housing Act 2003. It seeks to facilitate the transition and approval process of public housing stock to community housing providers. I note that this will assist in particular with the LNP’s Logan Housing Renewal Initiative. This is a 20-year initiative to revitalise public housing for tenants and build a brighter future for the Logan community. This is about providing the best housing services possible. The initiative will build a stronger sense of community and improve the wellbeing of residents in Logan. This important project has suffered many delays under this government. Those opposite are more concerned with planning to plan and consulting about consulting than creating jobs and building the new homes which are desperately needed in Queensland.

I move now to speak to the committee’s findings on the amendments to the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 and the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991. The LNP is not opposing the amendments, but we have noted our reservations. The bill seeks to establish the Plumbing Industry Council by another name—the Service Trades Council—within the Queensland Building and Construction Commission. The opposition members on the committee certainly acknowledge the industry’s desire to have high-level representation within government. We also acknowledge that the plumbers of Queensland ensure that we get healthy water to our homes, hospitals and businesses and, indeed, that waste is taken safely away and I want to thank them for that. We are concerned, however, that the creation of the new position of assistant commissioner within the QBCC will risk a significant cost to the industry. It is particularly concerning that the acting commissioner of the QBCC was unable to specify the cost of the Service Trades Council when questioned on this matter by members of the committee. It should be acknowledged that there is a risk that this could lead to an increase in licensing costs for plumbers.

I note that the industry has had representation within the Queensland government since 1950. Opposition members on the committee have concerns, though, about creating the new position of assistant commissioner. The role comes with associated administrative costs, and it is suggested that the fees be met by and funded by industry members.

The Service Trades Council is clearly just the Plumbing Industry Council by another name, whereas the previous LNP government sought to reduce red tape by bringing the industry under a single regulatory and licensing system. Whilst we acknowledge and respect the desire of the Master Plumbers’ Association of Queensland and industry representatives to have a defined industry voice in government, opposition members remain concerned about the cost of the association and union members. The Labor government is simply establishing another bureaucracy that will require more government funding. There is not a bureaucracy in the world that Labor could not inflate or blow out of proportion. At risk of getting bogged down in gutter politics—excuse the pun—I can assure members that is not my intention in referring to the red-tape bureaucracy created by those opposite. It is simply a mere statement of fact that the ALP is incapable of running a government without running up the bill. Given that the QBCC has had an interim or acting commissioner for eight months, is it any wonder that industry wants direct representation.

In addition, the department responded to suggestions in relation to licensing that were raised by the Master Plumbers’ Association of Queensland that they could be dealt with by one of the more than 80 reviews instigated by the Labor government. That begs the question: why not wait for the review? However, I do acknowledge that there is scope within the bill to deal with other licensing functions as they arise. Ultimately, this bill with its three components covers a wide range of legislative areas. Not without some concerns, it has industry and stakeholder support. The LNP has recorded reservations with it but does not oppose the bill.

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Speech to Parliament - Rural Fire Brigades - 23 February 2016

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Speech to Parliament - Rural Fire Brigades - 23 February 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (9.02 pm): Just last week in my electorate, in the Carbrook area a bushfire burned for days. It cast a pall of smoke over the Redlands and forced the closure of roads. The fire was attended by rural, urban and parks fire crews, with incident management and catering supplied largely by the Gold Coast Rural Fire Brigade Group. The rural fire brigade provides an essential service for Queenslanders and, indeed, for communities across Australia. We have a responsibility to support those hardworking volunteers in their efforts to keep our communities safe.

 

In the Redlands, a public meeting attended by more than 100 Mount Cotton and Sheldon locals unanimously voted for the establishment of a brigade. I was disturbed to learn that this was met with strong opposition from the United Firefighters Union and some Labor members opposite. Surely as local members we have a responsibility to support positive community actions such as this, and not try to sabotage them.

 

On that note, I thank Minister Byrne for his recent statement of support for the establishment of the rural fire brigade at Mount Cotton and Sheldon. I look forward to working with the Redland City Council and the community on progressing this matter. The United Firefighters Union has an important role, yet it does itself a disservice with overzealous and thuggish behaviour, including the Victorian arm of the union coming to Queensland— in this very House—to oppose rural firefighters being eligible for the same compensation for cancers as their urban counterparts. That same union, led by Peter Marshall, has banned its members from taking part in a post-traumatic stress disorder trial, simply because volunteers from the rural fire brigades would be involved. This sort of ongoing dispute only serves to harm our community and does nothing to properly recognise the sacrifice made by those volunteers.

 

In the Redlands, we face a severe risk of bushfires, particularly in the areas of dense bushland in Mount Cotton, Sheldon, Cornubia, Carbrook and the Moreton Bay islands. Both our urban and rural firefighters serve their communities with distinction and each play their role in keeping us safe, and I applaud them one and all.

 

Tragically, last week a brave volunteer made the ultimate sacrifice as he battled a bushfire near Dalby. I am sure I speak on behalf of the member for Condamine and all members when I say that our thoughts are with his fellow firefighters and family.

 

It is time that all of us in this House support those brave men and women. This is not a matter of choosing sides; it is simply a matter of working together to ensure that our homes, businesses and families are safe. I will continue to support those hardworking emergency service workers and volunteers across the Redlands. I call on the Labor government and Minister Byrne to pledge their support and demonstrate real action by doing the same.

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Speech to Parliament - Southern Moreton Bay Islands, Law and Order - 16 February 2016

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Speech to Parliament - Southern Moreton Bay Islands, Law and Order - 16 February 2016

Mr McEACHAN (Redlands—LNP) (10.00 pm): Tonight I rise to speak about an important issue facing the electorate of Redlands. Like many of my colleagues in the House, I have a focus on improving law and order in our community so that Redlands is a safer place to live, work and raise a family. Last week I held a law and order forum on Russell Island, one of the five inhabited islands in my beautiful electorate. The southern Moreton Bay islands share many of the same concerns as mainland residents; however, the isolated nature of the islands does present some unique challenges. I was pleased to be able to co-host this forum with hardworking local Redlands city councillor Mark Edwards alongside Bayside Crime Stoppers, Russell Island and Macleay Island police officers and senior staff from the mainland. Residents turned out in force to have their say. With over 200 people in attendance, we ran out of chairs in the local hall. It was excellent to see so many people committed to making our community safer and engaging with local police and Crime Stoppers in that effort. I especially want to thank Paul Fitzpatrick from Bayside Crime Stoppers for giving up his time to talk to the meeting about the important role Crime Stoppers plays in our community. Many of the attendees were interested to learn about the difference between the emergency 000 number, the Policelink reporting line and the Crime Stoppers line. The most commonly raised concern during the meeting was the resourcing of police officers on the islands. I was pleased to hear the community come out in support of the current officers on both Russell and Macleay, with residents joining in a rousing round of applause for those officers who work so hard to keep our community safe. Residents are concerned about the workload of the two police stations. They have just two officers in each station, serving a population on each island of around 3,000 people. Compare that North Stradbroke Island, which has six officers and about half the population. I join with my constituents in calling for more police officers in the southern Moreton Bay islands to support those already working in our community. Later this week I will be launching an online survey so that residents of Redlands can have their say about law and order issues in our community. The forum on Russell Island has only further highlighted to me how keen residents are to have their voices heard on this issue. Law and order was also one of the top issues raised in my electorate-wide survey. The online survey will be open to all residents on both islands and the mainland, and I will be seeking meetings with Queensland police and Minister Byrne to further discuss resourcing in the Redlands. Feeling safe and secure in our communities is fundamental to our way of life, and I am committed to ensuring the Redlands remains the best place in Queensland to live.

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