Opening of the First Session of the 57th Queensland Parliament
I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we meet, and the lands of Queensland generally, and I pay my respects to elders past and present.
Following the state election held on the 31st of October 2020 and upon the Electoral Commission of Queensland’s declaration of a majority of seats for the Labor Party, Annastacia Palaszczuk informed me on the 11th of November that she was in a position to form Government and I asked her to do so.
The Ministry led by Ms Palaszczuk was sworn in on the 12th and 19th of November.
The Parliament of Queensland is a tremendously important, defining institution, existing now for 160 years to carry out the will of a widespread and diverse population.
This is the 57th occasion since 1860 that Members have gathered to begin a new term, giving up their personal ambitions and agendas to the service of those who elected them.
Our Parliament is robust.
Over the generations and amid the ebb and flow of political and social change, Queensland’s legislature has remained stable and trustworthy.
It can also be robust in its adversarial nature, and while Members will be forgiven for moments of fervour and zeal, they must strive to carry out their duties with dignity, grace and respect.
The previous Parliament was an historic assembly – the first to sit for a fixed term, and with an expanded membership of 93.
This new Parliament also breaks new ground. It will be the first to sit for four years, with the next election to be held on the 26th of October 2024.
10 new members take their place in this term. This is the smallest intake of new members since 1956. Welcome to the Members for Mundingburra, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Caloundra, Nicklin, Pumicestone, Stafford, South Brisbane, Cooper and Whitsunday.
At the other extreme, some Honourable Members have been here now for almost three decades.
Regardless of their experience or allegiance, my Government will work constructively with all members, for the benefit of all Queenslanders.
During the referendum to extend our three-year parliamentary terms, there was bipartisan agreement that four years would provide a better opportunity for productive and effective governance.
That opportunity is with us now.
My Government has always been committed to inclusivity and greater representation for regional communities.
During the 56th Parliament, Townsville hosted a highly successful regional sitting of Parliament that allowed residents of the area to see the Parliament in action and to meet with Ministers and public servants, and to discuss issues of relevance to their community.
I have great pleasure in announcing that, during the 57th Parliament, a regional Parliamentary sitting will be held in Cairns to allow the residents of the far north of our state to have this same opportunity.
Community Cabinet meetings and regional forums will also continue in this four-year term.
My Government will continue to keep its commitments to Queensland.
Ninety per cent of the commitments made in 2017 have been delivered so far.
Prior to the 2020 election last month, the Government made over a thousand further commitments.
The twin goals of keeping Queenslanders safe during the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring our economy could withstand the impact, have been pre-eminent in my Government’s actions this year, and in the commitments made for the next term.
The public can be assured that health and economic strength and safety remain front of mind.
By the same token, my Government also has a firm eye on the post-COVID future.
Therefore my Government’s key priorities as outlined in our COVID-19 Fiscal and Economic Review, and Queensland’s Economic Recovery Plan, are broad and comprehensive.
The goal will continue to be the health of Queenslanders, and the strength of our economy.
The response is not only to the immediate challenges, but to work in partnership at every level and across every sector with an eye on the horizon.
Areas of focus are:
- Safeguarding our health: Safeguarding our health and jobs by keeping Queensland pandemic ready;
- Supporting jobs: Support increased jobs in more industries to diversify our economy and grow our existing strengths in agriculture, resources and tourism;
- Backing small business: Helping small business, the backbone of our economy, thrive in a changing environment;
- Making it for Queensland: Growing manufacturing across traditional and new industries, making new products in new ways and creating new jobs;
- Building Queensland: Driving investment in the infrastructure that supports our recovery, resilience and future prosperity;
- Growing our regions: Helping Queensland’s regions grow by attracting people, talent and investment, and driving sustainable economic prosperity;
- Investing in skills: Ensuring Queenslanders have the skills they need to find meaningful jobs and set up pathways for the future;
- Backing our frontline services: Deliver world class frontline service delivery in key areas such as health, education and community safety;
- Protecting the environment: Protect and enhance our natural environment and heritage for future generations and achieve a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.
Every good Government is focused on job creation, service delivery, budgetary responsibility, community health and safety, reliable infrastructure, environmental protections and social improvements.
In this four-year term, delivery of these fundamental commitments will result in more jobs in more industries, more teachers, more police, more firefighters and more health workers.
It will result in better roads, a more skilled workforce, more productive farms and a more highly valued Queensland environment.
Despite the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on our economy this year, there are 256,000 more jobs today in Queensland than there were when my Government was elected in 2015.
Most recently, as our economic recovery continues, 25,300 jobs were created in October in Queensland – with 205,900 jobs now returning since May this year.
The total number of employed persons in Queensland is now back to pre-COVID levels.
My Government intends to continue the momentum and create even more jobs in this term of office.
The economic recovery plan announced in August is supporting 55,000 jobs, and commitments made by my Government during the election will support another 50,000 jobs.
Creating good, secure jobs is at the heart of my Government’s economic recovery plan.
This will be achieved with initiatives such as Skilling Queenslanders for Work, major projects like the second M1, and the further development of the North-West Minerals Province with projects like CopperString 2.0 and renewable energy zones.
And my Government will support up to 17,800 jobs across the state in partnership with local councils as part of Queensland’s Economic Recovery Plan.
The highly successful Works for Queensland program has made important local infrastructure projects possible, while supporting thousands of jobs, and Councils across Queensland have welcomed every single Works for Queensland round in the past.
The new commitment includes $600 million for Works for Queensland, with a South East Queensland Community Stimulus Package.
In addition there will be another $280 million for the Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme.
Queensland has led the way in strengthening laws to ensure workers are protected, including labour hire licensing laws and the criminalisation of wage theft.
To further strengthen workers’ rights, eight additional frontline inspectors will ensure compliance with labour hire licensing laws and stop wage theft.
This boost to the Labour Hire Licensing Compliance Unit will allow it to pursue targeted campaigns in a broader range of sectors and locations.
My Government will back Queensland small businesses to further drive economic recovery with a $140 million strategy to lift competitiveness and resilience.
That includes an initial $100 million Business Investment Fund to invest in small to medium sized businesses that have significant growth potential.
And $30 million of investment including small business grants and grants to assist regional exporters to develop new markets.
Manufacturing is a key focus and priority of my Government.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Queenslanders will again build Queensland trains.
These trains will be manufactured from the ground up and locally built in Maryborough.
This $1 billion train building program heralds a new and ambitious chapter for manufacturing, not just for Maryborough, but for Queensland.
Other regions will also be involved.
Rail manufacturing will be revitalised in Rockhampton by securing land at the old Aurizon workshops to support a rail maintenance, manufacturing and logistics centre.
More broadly, manufacturing businesses will be supported to help the economy recover from COVID-19 and create vital jobs throughout the state.
Two new regional manufacturing hubs will be established – on the Gold Coast and in Mackay to support the growth of local manufacturers and the jobs they create.
There will also be further investment in manufacturing skills training, and more Made in Queensland grants to manufacturing businesses.
Health is fundamental to families and to Queensland.
Since elected in 2015, my Government has hired 7,358 more nurses and midwives, 2,450 more doctors, 2,025 more health professionals and 812 more paramedics throughout Queensland.
In this next term, a record 9,475 frontline health staff will be hired.
That includes 5,800 nurses, 1,500 doctors, 475 paramedics and 1,700 health professionals.
In an Australian first, seven new Satellite Hospitals across South East Queensland will help take pressure off emergency departments and provide hospital care closer to home.
This initiative will mean people can access public urgent care and other services closer to home rather than having to go to a large major hospital.
They will be located in Ipswich, Redlands, Brisbane Southside, Pine Rivers, Caboolture, Bribie Island and on the Gold Coast.
Caring for Queenslanders at the end of their lives is one of the most important responsibilities a government can have.
My Government will invest a further $171 million in palliative care funding to ensure Queenslanders get the highest quality care at the end of their lives.
This will be the biggest single injection in palliative care funding in Queensland’s history.
Last year saw the launch of Ambulance Wish Queensland to grant terminally ill Queenslanders the dying wishes they would otherwise be unable to experience.
The increase in funding for palliative care will apply to public and community-based health services.
Following receipt of the Queensland Law Reform Commission Report on Voluntary Assisted Dying, my Government will introduce legislation to the Parliament that implements the Draft Bill in 2021.
Every student should have a great opportunity. Education is so important.
My Government has tripled school infrastructure funding since 2014, including building 13 new schools with another nine on the way, hiring an additional 6,000 teachers and 1,500 teacher aides.
By mid 2022, air-conditioning will be installed in every classroom, library and staff room.
And beginning in this next term of Government, more than $1 billion will be invested to modernise Queensland’s schools and support local tradies.
26 new multi-purpose halls and performing arts centres will be built, and 11 will be upgraded.
New classrooms will be built at 46 schools, and administration blocks, carparks, equitable access facilities and security will be upgraded across the state.
Plus there will be planning for 16 new schools.
More than 6,100 new teachers and 1,100 new teacher aides will be employed under my Government, to keep pace with expected enrolment growth of an extra 8000 students each year.
In addition, a new Turn to Teaching paid internship program will attract aspiring teachers from other fields of work.
The biggest investment in teachers in Queensland’s history is not just an investment in teachers, it’s an investment in our state’s future.
An innovative new plan will link high schools with local industry to provide students with pathways into rewarding careers.
New and upgraded training facilities and trade training centres at 26 schools across Queensland will complement local emerging growth industries, including:
- Defence maintenance and manufacturing; and
- Aviation and aerospace.
After-school homework centres will be established at 120 state schools to boost student engagement.
Three teacher aides will be at each location to supervise homework activities, easing the burden on students and parents.
Students in every Queensland state school will have guaranteed access to mental health and well-being support.
$100 million will be invested to ensure every Queensland primary and secondary state school student has access to a psychologist or similar health and well-being professional.
At TAFE centres throughout the state, new, modern facilities will skill Queenslanders for the future.
$100 million will be invested for major expansions to provide additional training resources in existing industries and our industries of the future, including:
- Cyber security training;
- Hydrogen and resources;
- Agriculture; and
- Nursing and allied health.
My Government will also provide tens of thousands more young Queenslanders with free TAFE and free apprenticeships, by extending the opportunity to under 25s.
Free TAFE and free apprenticeships have already been provided for Queenslanders under 21, giving training opportunities to more than 24,000 young people.
Extending that to under 25s means another 37,000 young people will be able to get world-class vocational training for free.
Since 2015, my Government has delivered $3.7 billion in Bruce Highway upgrades, supporting thousands of regional jobs.
We are transforming the Bruce around Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gympie and the Sunshine Coast.
Annual investment in Bruce Highway upgrades will continue to increase, to almost $2 billion by 2023.
That includes an additional $500 million for priority upgrades between Proserpine and Gladstone.
Regional communities will also have a say in how funding is prioritised, with six new representatives from regional Queensland to be added to the Bruce Highway Trust.
And work will continue in partnership with the Commonwealth to take trucks off the highway onto a ‘Second Bruce’ inland freight route, to improve safety for all drivers and make freight delivery more efficient.
This is essential infrastructure for regional Queensland.
This will reduce truck movements on the existing Bruce Highway by up to half, and cut freight travel times between North Queensland and key markets in Sydney and Melbourne.
For the M1, record investment will continue, following the completion of two upgrades at the Gateway Merge and between Mudgeeraba and Varsity Lakes.
Two more projects are underway: between Eight Mile Plains and Daisy Hill, and between Varsity Lakes and Tugun.
Work will also begin on the Second M1, with stage one between Coomera and Nerang.
My Government will not relent in its commitment to protecting our environment, the Great Barrier Reef and other natural assets.
In partnership with farmers, a $10 million Reef Credits initiative will improve the quality of water flowing onto the Reef.
In the same vein, my Government will work with local councils and organisations through a $10 million Reef Assist program.
My Government will deliver new ecotourism projects, acquire more protected areas, develop ‘sailing trails’ around Townsville and the Whitsundays, and upgrade National Parks and World Heritage Areas.
Agriculture is one of Queensland’s traditional economic strengths, and our farm businesses will help underpin our economic recovery.
My Government will reduce irrigation water charges by 15 per cent, and water costs for horticulture will be cut by up to 50 per cent.
My Government will invest a further $74 million to help rebuild Queensland’s tourism industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, building on a record investment in the industry to support jobs.
That includes a new $20 million Queensland Tourism Activation Fund to generate tourism opportunities throughout Queensland.
There will also be new funding for events, tourism initiatives and regional tourism bodies.
My Government will provide an additional 2,025 police personnel over five years and will deliver 25 mobile police beats - the biggest increase in police resourcing in almost 30 years.
Of those, 1,450 will be deployed to the frontline which means at least 150 positions will be located per key region across the state.
An extra 357 firefighters over the next five years will further strengthen Queensland’s frontline emergency response.
The acquisition this year of a Large Aerial Tanker based in Bundaberg will also provide better bushfire fighting resources.
My Government places the highest value on the service of the men and women of Australia’s military.
Queensland’s veterans and services organisations will get more employment assistance, infrastructure funding, legal help, homelessness support and other services with a new $10 million package.
That will include:
- capital works grants, and funds for commemorative events and memorials for ex-services organisations, councils and other groups helping veterans;
- a specialist service to support homeless veterans;
- a training package to help veterans into civilian employment; and
- financial support for veterans affected by COVID-19.
The legislative program in this term will continue to fulfil my Government’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of all Queenslanders, the recovery and growth of our economy, and well thought out social reforms.
My Government’s major priority will be a Budget for Queensland.
The timing of the election and the Federal Budget meant the budget for 2020-21 was delayed. Next week, the Treasurer will introduce the Appropriation Bills.
The extension of the end date for the COVID-19 Emergency Response Bills will be another priority.
My Government has a proud record of protecting Queenslanders through this pandemic.
It has been our strong health response that has supported our economic recovery, and my Government will continue to ensure we have the legislative basis for the continuation of our health response.
The new Attorney-General will again have a heavy legislative workload, with commitments to reintroduce the Criminal Code (Consent and Mistake of Fact) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill and to legislate against coercive control as a form of domestic and family violence.
My Government has also committed to a review and modernisation of the Property Law Act 1974 and the Trusts Act 1973.
Considerable work has also been commenced on a comprehensive review of the Justices Act 1886 and the Criminal Practice Rules 1999, and that work will be finalised.
My Government will:
- Legislate for the final protections for the World Surfing Reserve, from Burleigh Heads down to Snapper Rocks;
- Finalise a review of the Cultural Heritage Acts; and
- Strengthen tobacco legislation retail provisions to reduce supply, including direct action on illicit tobacco at retail premises and strengthen Queensland’s advertising and promotion provisions.
Honourable Members, I am sure, need no reminding of Winston Churchill’s famous observation, and I quote:
“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government - except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Unquote.
Re-expressed in our own Parliamentary context shall we say that no-one presumes to expect perfection, but they expect the highest endeavour, a positive focus and an unselfish purpose.
Queenslanders value stability and optimism, and my Government’s agenda is always to ensure that our state’s best days lie ahead.
Queensland is a big state, united and resolute in its response to the COVID crisis.
Continuing in this manner to work together with the community, with Mayors, with businesses and unions is our best and surest way forward.
I wish all Honourable Members well as they go about their duties serving Queenslanders in our 57th Parliament.