A collective voice repeating the message – develop the north – will be sounding around Canberra on Monday and Tuesday as mayors from Queensland’s north west undertake a campaign at Parliament House.
The mayors – Mount Isa’s Joyce McCulloch, Cloncurry’s Greg Campbell, Jane McNamara from Flinders, Jack Bawden representing Carpentaria, McKinlay’s Belinda Murphy, Ernie Camp from Burke, and John Wharton from Richmond – have a full invitation card of leaders from across the political spectrum to visit over the two days.
As well as the value their sprawling region contributes to the national economy – $176,000 per capita, compared to $66,000 elsewhere in Queensland – they expect their solidarity will get them noticed.
“We’ve never had this amount of collaboration before,” Cr McCulloch said. “Plus, this is a bipartisan approach. We aren’t Liberal or National or Labor or Katter or Hanson - we are not very political.”
In addition, the mayors representing the North West Qld Regional Organisation of Councils hope the depth of feeling voters in urban communities have for a fair go for their fellow man will see them support their remote cousins’ aims.
Cr McCulloch wasn’t sure how the impact of the Victorian election result – a landslide to the incumbent Labor government on Saturday night – would affect their reception, only commenting that while it may play into their favour ahead of the next federal election, their issues were far removed from Victoria’s.
First among the doors they’ll be knocking on with their six point plan for reliable energy, roads, dams and water, first world communications, and targeted funding for remote community services is, appropriately, that of Resources and Northern Australia Minister, Matt Canavan.
Rather than waiting for he and the other political figures they’ll be speaking with to develop a plan, the North West Qld Regional Organisation of Councils has come up with their own vision of what will make the north west attractive to live, work and invest in.
What they want funds for are:
- Fair funding for beef, freight and tourism roads and railways
- Power policy for the real world including remote Australia – harnessing a balanced mix of technologies so local families and businesses get reliable, affordable, local power solutions.
- Investment in water infrastructure and dams so that farmers and agribusinesses can harvest water and continue to be profitable through floods and drought.
- Build and sustain regions through immigration incentives and correct tax arrangements.
- First world telecommunications and connectivity – increased access to affordable high-speed internet for councils, businesses and community.
- Funding and delivering community services in a way that works for remote areas, by giving local government the tools, funding and support to do what state and federal governments can’t.
“Our ask is simple – a coordinated regional deal to support a range of initiatives across priority areas for our region,” Cr Bawden said. “And politicians will be surprised during this coming campaign when and where we might turn up to make our voice heard.”
The mayors, their councils and communities want funds for a concrete plan to make their region attractive for people and businesses to live, work and invest.
Cr Bawden said many Australians would be surprised to know NWQ’s positive impact on the nation’s economy, yet they still have to go it alone on providing many things others would expect as normal where they live.
“Locally we have people building their own telecommunications infrastructure, our councils are providing childcare and aged care, and many opportunities for building for our future are lost without investment.
“Our region is critical to the national northern Australia agenda, and while we are already contributors, we need the re-investment to ensure we continue to make this positive contribution into the future.”
Others the NWQROC mayors will be touching base with are agriculture minister, David Littleproud; Warren Snowdon, the ALP deputy chair of the joint standing committee on northern Australia; Scott Buchholz, assistant minister for roads and transport; Bridget McKenzie, regional services, sport, local government and decentralisation minister; Katter’s Australian Party leader, Bob Katter; Nationals leader and infrastructure,transport and regional development minister, Michael McCormack; Pauline Hanson; ALP spokesman for transport, infrastructure, cities, regional development and tourism, Anthony Albanese; drought envoy, Barnaby Joyce; ALP spokesman for regional communications, Stephen Jones, and Sussan Ley, assistant minister for regional development.
Read more: Northern mayors off to Canberra