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Local News - January 2020

Labor uses Sunwater to squeeze farmers dry

24th January 2020

Sunwater’s annual report shows the utility has enjoyed a massive jump in revenue despite a drought in which Queensland irrigators are battling to stay in business.

As well as increased revenue, the annual report also shows the State Government-owned corporation has approved large CEO and corporate salary increases.

LNP Shadow Minister for Natural Resources Dale Last said Annastacia Palaszczuk should stop using farmers as cash cows.

"Water prices are skyrocketing and every cent Sunwater receives comes at the expense of water users who have to count every drop,” Mr Last said.

"Annastacia Palaszczuk is ultimately responsible for a 56 per cent rise in the Sunwater executive team’s pay – an income increase that most farmers can only dream of.”

The annual report shows:

  • Sunwater posted revenue of $335 million from continuing operations in the 2018-19 financial year, an increase of 36 per cent from 2013-14 ($246 million), despite having roughly the same number of customers.
  • Operating expenses have grown rapidly, with the biggest increases including contracted services, which has risen by 158 per cent from $29million in 2013-14 to $75million in the last financial year.
  • In 2018-19 the salary of the Sunwater chief executive officer was $642,000 (including a cash bonus) – up $172,000 on the amount paid five years ago.
  • Sunwater’s executive team have enjoyed a combined pay rise of 56 per cent over the same five years.
  • The board also voted to pay out the full dividend to shareholding ministers – Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham – ploughing irrigators’ cash straight back to the Palaszczuk Labor Government.

Mr Last said the annual report also shows that skyrocketing electricity prices are putting pressure on Sunwater.

“Sunwater’s report shows that its electricity costs have jumped by $5m in five years – an extraordinary admission that Labor’s electricity rip-off is hurting the corporations it runs,” Mr Last said.

"It's time the Palaszczuk Labor Government pulled Sunwater into line and showed they are fair dinkum about providing affordable water to our farmers and regional communities across Queensland.

"Labor should ensure Sunwater invests in water assets and dams while supporting lower water prices for farmers.”

2018-19 Sunwater annual report:
2013-14 Sunwater annual report:

Firefighter masks rollout bogged by Labor delays

16th January 2020

Volunteers are being sent to fire frontlines without new protective breathing equipment promised by the Palaszczuk Labor Government more than 12 months ago.

LNP Leader Deb Frecklington said Labor announced “thousands of personnel” were to be issued with negative pressure masks (P3 masks)*, but only 200 have since been issued.

“Queensland’s firefighters need to be able to do their job with the best protective equipment available, but Labor has let them down,” Ms Frecklington said.

“Queensland communities have been devastated by fires in recent years but not have even those conditions have been enough to prompt Labor to act and get these masks fully deployed.

“Whether its failing to complete hazard reduction burns or rolling out masks for firefighters, the Palaszczuk Labor Government has a culture of not hitting targets.

“Annastacia Palaszczuk has failed to provide basic resources to our firefighters.

“There is nothing more important than breathing equipment to allow our heroic firefighters to protect the public and property.”


Deb’s 10-point-plan to get Queensland bushfire ready

14th January 2020

LNP Leader Deb Frecklington today announced a 10-point-plan to overhaul Queensland’s bushfire strategy to improve public safety and protect property.

“The LNP will take decisive action to get Queensland bushfire-ready in wake of the incredible tragedies we have seen in New South Wales and Victoria,” Ms Frecklington said.

“In a bushfire-prone state like ours, the government must stop at nothing to ensure communities are kept safe.

“Queensland has faced its own bushfire catastrophes in recent years, but the Palaszczuk Labor Government has failed to learn lessons and strengthen policies.”

The LNP’s 10-point-plan is the culmination of recommendations by the Inspector General Emergency Management (IGEM), listening to the concerns of stakeholders, and implementing the advice of Queensland’s expert rural firefighters.

“The LNP will make sweeping improvements to Queensland’s bushfire strategy to make the state more prepared and more able to respond in emergencies,” she said.

“Queensland needs a modern strategy to mitigate and respond to bushfires and the LNP has the plan to deliver it if elected in October’s election.

“The LNP will do whatever it takes to keep communities safe from bushfires.”

LNP 10-point-plan for bushfires

1. One-stop-shop for streamlined approval process
• The LNP will establish a single point of contact for landholders and councils to submit all bushfire mitigation inquiries and permits to the Government, as recommended by the 2018 IGEM report. This was only accepted in-principle accepted by Labor Government.

2. Deemed approval after 15 business days under a "right to burn" model:
• Properly made applications will be automatically approved after 15 business days to give landholders and councils certainty.
• This will stop permits getting lost in bureaucratic process and restore accountability and bring certainty to landholders and allow government to scale up or down resources to respond to demands for permits.

3. New KPIs to achieve 98 per cent of hazard reduction activities:
• There are currently no KPIs holding government departments to account on hazard reduction burns, the creation of firebreaks and community education. Between 2016 and 2019, Only 54% of hazard reduction burns planned have been completed. There’s also been a 30 per cent reduction in completed overall hazard reduction activities.

4. Indigenous rangers to undertake traditional burning
• The LNP will trial a traditional burning program run by indigenous rangers. The program won’t replace Rural Fire Brigades’ role in managing and co-ordinating hazard reduction burns. It will compliment pre-existing efforts by combining traditional and modern burning practices. Blending cultural and modern burning techniques has proven successful and should be expanded.

5. Establish a Natural Disaster Cabinet Committee to monitor preparations
• The group will be chaired by the Emergency Services Minister and QFES Commissioner. It will monitor the progress of state departments and land-holders conducting hazard reduction activities.

6. Monitored grazing in state forests and some national parks to manage fuel loads:
• The 2018 IGEM report cited grazing as a measure used in conjunction with a suite of hazard reduction measures.
• Grazing will be monitored to protect the environment but also manage fuel loads.

7. Establish urban-based Rural Fire Volunteer brigades:
• Just like in Sydney and Melbourne where brigades exist that are manned by urban volunteers that can be called on during extreme bushfire events, a similar model should be investigated in Queensland to make use of the large number of SEQ based volunteers.

8. Restore local control to Rural Fire brigades
• This will restore recent management structure changes that pushed local fire brigades under the reporting authority of regional urban fire groups. The Rural Fire Brigade Association of Queensland has been very vocal in calling for brigades to be able to report back through the rural fire assistant commissioner rather than through the urban fire system.

9. Establish a Rural Fire Board
• The Rural Fire Board will be made up of elected rural fire brigade members from across Queensland as well as members appointed by the Government.

10. Review of aerial firefighting capability
• A review and stocktake of aviation fire assets in Queensland to ensure the state’s capacity will accommodate future increased fire risks.


Labor keeping farmers in the dark

13th January 2020

When the Palaszczuk Labor Government came to power in 2015 it promised openness and accountability, but this appears to be another broken promise.

Agricultural and biosecurity advisory committees and councils used by industry bodies and farmers to hold the government to account on its departmental and operational activities have not been meeting.

LNP Shadow Minister for Agriculture Tony Perrett said it’s a disgrace Queensland’s biosecurity agricultural development isn’t a priority for Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“Queensland’s key biosecurity advisory committee used to provide strategic oversight and advice to the Agriculture Minister on biosecurity matters has not met since January 2018,” Mr Perrett said.

"Even more alarming, there has been no BQMAC meetings while Labor conducts a secret review of the Biosecurity Act and Regulations.

“While Queensland farms have been invaded by animal extremists risking on-farm biosecurity, this Labor Government has refused to allow feedback on its dismal record.

“Queensland’s Agricultural Ministerial Advisory Council (AgMAC) which was lobbied for by industry and promised by Labor before the 2017 election, has only met 3 times, and only once in 2019**.

“AgMAC was designed to address critical competitiveness and productivity issues, as well as identifying growth opportunities within the agriculture and food sectors and it’s appalling that its been purposefully put out to pasture.

“Annastacia Palaszczuk’s culture of secrecy and coverups is hurting rural and regional Queensland.

“Farmers and their representatives have been shut, while the Palaszczuk Labor Government ignores biosecurity issues and industry development.

"Unlike Labor, the LNP will never take our biosecurity and agriculture for granted because we understand how important it is to our farmers and protecting local jobs.