The Queensland Government has announced it is seeking to buy back a site sold off as part of a 2010 asset privatisation program that played a major role in Labor being voted out of office two years later.
The Premier’s office confirmed the Rockhampton rail workshop site was part of $15 billion worth of assets sales in 2010 under the Bligh government.
Labor’s asset privatisation program was widely acknowledged as the primary reason for the party’s worst-ever result in 2012 in the election that elevated Campbell Newman’s LNP into office.
Shortly after the election in April 2012, then-opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk apologised for Labor’s handling of asset sales, but said she stood by the policy.
Aurizon purchased the Rockhampton rail yard after it was floated by the Government, but sold it in 2017 and cut 180 local jobs.
Today, Labor announced it had entered negotiations to buy the old Aurizon workshops so the city could become part of the supply chain for rail manufacturing.
The Government said the cost could not be revealed because it was commercial in confidence.
Speaking at the Rockhampton railyard on day 10 of the Queensland election campaign, Ms Palaszczuk said it was great news for the regional economy and would offer greater job security.
“This 21-hectare site will be absolutely vital when we start using it for the supply chain for making of trains in Maryborough,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Queensland jobless rate rises
Meanwhile, Treasurer Cameron Dick said Queensland was “heading in the right direction” despite recording the worst unemployment rate in the country.
The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released today show Queensland’s jobless rate rose from 7.4 to 7.7 per cent seasonally adjusted.
Mr Dick said unemployment figures did not include JobKeeper, which “continues to hide the real [picture]” across the states.
“For example, in Victoria, 113,000 people are on JobKeeper — in Queensland, it’s 30,000,” Mr Dick said.
“We’ve now got the highest participation rate in the country. What that means is more people are back looking for work in Queensland.”
He slammed the LNP’s unemployment target of 5 per cent as a “sham” but continued to decline to nominate his own party’s target, saying the state was in the worst pandemic in a century.
Labor fundraiser questioned
Labor also had to fend off questions about so-called ‘cash-for-access’ events, following revelations in The Australian newspaper that Labor sold access to Queensland’s Attorney-General to Tabcorp and KPMG in August, just months after she introduced legislation to ban such fundraisers.
The new laws come into effect in 2022.
Asked why ministers were continuing to conduct the events, Ms Palaszczuk said the laws took effect in two years’ time and until then “parties need to fundraise” in accordance with the law.
Old Facebook post apology
Meanwhile, an LNP candidate in a marginal north Queensland seat has defended his support for women amid an attack from Labor.
At a separate press conference, Deputy Premier Steven Miles handed out screenshots of a September 2018 Facebook post from an account called Rainy Doyle, purported to be LNP Mundingburra candidate Glenn Doyle.
The Rainy Doyle page shared an ABC News #Retrofocus post highlighting a discussion from 1961: ‘Is education a waste of time for married women?’
“A lot of good points raised on both sides here — I’m afraid I’ll have to sit on the fence. Definitely more research needed!,” Rainy Doyle wrote.
Mr Miles said the post implied that Mr Doyle believed “teaching women, educating women might be a waste of money”.
“These are views from the 1960s, they have no place now, they have no place in politics now,” he said.
“I think he should apologise and the Leader of the Opposition, a woman herself, should distance herself from him.”
Asked about it at a press conference in Townsville, where the LNP was announcing a $67 million commitment for aquaculture, Mr Doyle said he had no knowledge of the post and that he had supported his wife gaining several university degrees.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about and if there’s any implication there, that’s clearly not the implication,” he said.
“My wife has got several degrees … a lot of the women that I socialise with are very well-educated women — I supported women, I 100 per cent support our leader — to make anything out of an assumption out of a post that I haven’t seen, it’s completely crazy.”
‘Comments do not represent my views’
Mr Doyle later issued a statement, apologising for past social media posts.
“It’s disappointing that Labor wants to make this election about old social media posts instead of about which party has the best policies to grow the economy and create jobs,” he said.
“Those comments do not represent my views, but I apologise for them and for any offence they have caused.
“I am focused on creating jobs and fixing the crime crisis in Townsville.”
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said she was not aware of the post, but promised to examine it later.
“No-one would support that,” she said.
“I’m an educated woman standing right before you … I have three daughters, of course I don’t support that,” Ms Frecklington said.
“I haven’t seen that statement so would like to see it in context.”
It comes a day after another social media post emerged from December 2015 showing Mr Doyle posing for a selfie with Pauline Hanson.
The photograph was captioned “breakfast with the next Prime Minister!”.
Mr Doyle said it was a “fun post, tongue in cheek from five years ago and I’m not embarrassed at all”.
The LNP’s $67 million pledge would contribute towards James Cook University (JCU) building a tropical aquaculture accelerator to help the industry to grow.
The university said the investment would lead to the creation of 11,000 jobs over the next 11 years, including 480 in construction.
“It means more prawns, more barra,” Ms Frecklington said.
“Right now Queensland is trailing South Australia and Tasmania in aquaculture and it’s not good enough.”
A JCU spokesperson declined to say what commitments they had received from Labor, only that discussions were continuing.