Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her travelling band of ministers took the government to the people of the west this week, holding a regional Cabinet meeting in Longreach.
- Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Cabinet met in Longreach this week
- Funding was announced for weir upgrades, dialysis services and tourism attractions in the central west
- No decision was made about the future of the former Longreach Pastoral College
Residents and local councils got face-to-face with policy makers and keepers of purse strings to ensure the issues facing central west Queenslanders were heard loud and clear.
The government’s treasure chest was opened, with funding announcements for various industries with tourism, health, and water security coming out on top.
However, some issues like labour shortages and the future of training facilities remained unresolved.
Here is how the trip panned out.
Winner: Renal dialysis
The Health Minister announced renal dialysis facilities would be available in Longreach by the second half of 2022.
The government will spend $2.7 million to establish a dialysis unit with two chairs at Longreach Hospital.
It is part of a broader package of 33 regional dialysis machines promised by Labor ahead of last October’s election.
Yvette D’Ath also said the government would fund two new specialist nurse roles, but conceded the Central West Hospital and Health Service could face challenges recruiting and retaining dialysis nurses.
“It’s really important that we have a sustainable workforce,” Ms D’Ath said.
Winner: Water security
The government pledged $1.2 million to “drought-proof” the Isisford weir to ensure that town’s water security.
A recent engineering inspection of the 70-year-old weir identified it had age-related major flaws.
Cr Rayner said upgrades to the weir would likely be finished within 12 months.
He also said the government flagged potential funding for upgrades to the Thomson River weir in Longreach down the track.
“We have to do a lot more due diligence around the design and the planning, but that’s certainly the priority for us and the government [is] aware of it,” he said.
Twenty-five hours sardined on the Spirit of the Outback train with tourists left no doubt in the Premier’s mind how important tourism is to western Queensland.
Ms Palaszczuk’s first engagement on Sunday was opening the new entrance building at the Australian Workers Heritage Centre in Barcaldine.
After 30 years, the centre now has main street frontage to capitalise on tourist foot traffic.
The government also earmarked nearly $500,000 to strengthen the dinosaur tourism market across outback Queensland, which accounts for 11 per cent of the region’s tourism.
Loser: Labour and housing shortages
Going hand-in-hand with the west’s tourist boom is the desperate need of operators for more staff to meet that demand.
“The one thing that we picked up from our visit … is that the outback needs you,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
The Premier made an impassioned plea in a press conference on Monday for people to consider a tree change and working out west.
However, the Premier would not be drawn on whether the government had a specific plan to entice workers, or to help ease the drastic housing shortages facing many western councils.
“That problem is not unique just out to western Queensland, we’re actually seeing it across Queensland at the moment,” she said.
Ms Palaszczuk said a coordinated effort from both the state and federal governments would be required to solve the accommodation problem and entice people to snap up jobs in the hospitality, catering and tourism industries.
Loser: Longreach Pastoral College
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner did not make any real commitment about the future of the former Longreach Pastoral College.
The Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) handed a business case developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers to the Minister last July.
RAPAD has a licence to occupy the government-owned facilities until the end of this year.
Four commercial tenants are currently occupying parts of the site, and RAPAD wants the government’s commitment to resurrect the educational use of the facilities.
When asked if the government would commit to bringing back purpose-built agricultural training facilities to the west, the Agriculture Minister made no promises.
“Through community engagement we’ll come up with a model that might consider all types of different training,” Mr Furner said.
“It’s not a case of looking at what used to be in the past.
The minister suggested the government’s priority was focussing on funding vocational education through TAFE, rather than agricultural colleges.