Pyne First Reading Speech Outlines Projects and Vision for Cairns!
Firstly I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to elders both past and present.
I would also like to thank those who have assisted me in becoming functional in this place. As a person with quadriplegia, the Clerk of the Parliament has provided me with ‘reasonable accommodation’ to allow me to contribute to this parliament on an equal footing with other MPs. That is all people with a disability want, equality of opportunity. When I was elected, one question asked was ‘would I have extra time to get here when the bells ring’, but that was not something I would request or expect. However, in providing me the nearby Deputy Whips office, what I have been given, is ‘reasonable accommodation’ that allows me ‘equal opportunity’ to be here in time when the bells ring. For this I am grateful. Importantly, I want to thank my family for their support.
Thanks to my mother Marion, Sister Joann and most importantly, my wife Jenny and daughter Kate for their love. I also thank my staff Erenie and Cameron for essentially being me, when I am out of the office, including my time here. I also thank the Cairns trade union movement, ALP members and all my supporters for their ongoing support. It is a considerable honour and personally significant moment to be giving this speech today. With your indulgence I will explain why this is such a poignant event, for my family and myself. I grew up in a Labor family, a family committed to public service. My father Tom Pyne will be unknown to many of you, so I will recount his place in history. Dad was born in Babinda, the youngest of five children. He was educated at the McDonnell’s Creek, Bellenden Ker and Hambledon State Schools, and lived for a period at Deeral before moving to Edmonton. He married my mother Marion McKinnon in 1955; they had two children, myself and my sister Joann. He worked as a wood machinist for Queensland Railways, the Department of Works, and for Advanx Tyre and Motor Services, before subsequently opening his own small business, a petrol station at Edmonton. Dad joined the Australian Labor Party at 18, and held a range of roles in the party, including local branch president and secretary, campaign director for several MPs, ultimately being awarded life membership of the party in 1985. He was elected as a Shire of Mulgrave councillor in 1961, and served continuously (including 16 years as Shire Chairman), until the shire was merged into the City of Cairns in 1995. He then contested the first mayoral election for the new enlarged City of Cairns and easily defeated incumbent Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne. His term as mayor included overseeing the transition to the new council, new council headquarters, and the Esplanade Lagoon on the Cairns foreshore. He retired in 2000, having never lost an election, and having served as shire chairman or mayor for 21 consecutive years. He was a prominent member of the Local Government Association of Queensland, becoming a member of the Local Government Executive in 1979 and serving as the President of the LGAQ from 1997 to 2000. Dad passed on in 2011. He offered his services to the Party as a potential candidate for Cairns in 1983, but was overlooked for Keith Delacey, subsequently becoming Keith’s campaign manager. Well, it may have taken a while, but if the old man is looking down tonight, he well may feel that he has reached the only political goal denied to him, through me.
In 2008 I was elected to Cairns Regional Council, and was subsequently re-elected in 2012. All being well, at the end of this term, my family will have represented people in Cairns (in one capacity or another) for 50 years, without electoral defeat. A family electoral record of which I am duly proud. While it is great to be inspired by history, reflection must be brief, as more than ever the modern electorate is concerned with those who can deliver and deliver now. Clearly Cairns electors did not feel the state government was delivering sufficiently at the last election, which is why they elected me.
It is my intention to deliver for those who put me in this place, including small business people, teachers, nurses and public sector workers. Nurses like Fae Morgan. Fae is palliative care nurse. Nurses such as Fae regularly see people dying before their time, and families hurting. Supporting families faced with the anguish and gut wrenching pain of losing someone they love, and unfortunately, because of cuts to services, often working to support these people with struggling resources. Nurses are at the coal face of caring for people we love. They work unsociable hours to the detriment of their own families, missing out on school concerts, family get togethers and special occasions. Every day nurses care for Queenslanders. Nurses, firies, ambo’s and all who work unsociable hours deserve to be paid penalty rates. Fae said to me, “Nursing has an ageing workforce, how can we attract more young nurses, to care for us? Certainly not by cutting their entitlements! We need to be forward planning and attracting young people towards the health professions, by offering appropriate remuneration, conditions and most importantly, our respect.”
I also represent teachers. Teachers like Stephen Lippingwell, who teaches at Woree State High School. Educators in the Far North and my Electorate of Cairns are presented with unique challenges due to the cultural composition of their school communities. Stephen says, “I am passionate about increasing the engagement of all cultural groups in education, especially, Aboriginal and Torres Strait and Pacific Islander students. I understand that different culturally appropriate educational approaches are essential to engage all students in education. Others need to recognise this.” I support educators such as Stephen Lippingwell who are developing culturally differentiated pedagogical approaches to foster connectedness to the school community and increase the engagement and success in education of Indigenous and Pacific Islander students’.
I also represent small businesses. People like Rob Rutten. Rob runs a business called ‘Rutten Technologies’ As a small business owner who has worked with hundreds of small businesses in Cairns over the last 13 years, Robert understands that good economic management and consistent government underpins private sector growth. But he tells me that is not enough anymore. Rob is part of a growing tide of small business who demand to see community focused outcomes and a fair-go for all. He says, “It is about more than the simple bottom line of a profit and loss. Modern business owners are not ruthless profit chasers. It’s not all about “show me the money” for me it is about how small business can thrive and contribute to a better place to live for our families and friends of today and our children into the future.”
Sonya Barber, a former TAFE teacher, now employed by Fitness Australia, has endured the despair of recent years. Sonya said to me, “Having been part of the fight to defend TAFE, please don’t forget about our teachers and students. You were there for us, including when we went on strike for first time in 20 years. She said, “Also remember the health agenda!!! Preventative health programs that have wide reaching impact on social and community connectedness! We spend less than 2% nationally on health promotion and REAL programs, it needs to be more to have an impact on chronic disease … anything more than 2% is good, Annastacia must invest!” It is indeed my hope the Palaszczuk Government will deliver for these and other Cairns people, who have been missing out for a number of years. I hope to see this happen through the delivery of a number of important projects by Executive government and also through the work of this legislative assembly. First, just some of the projects I feel are important for Cairns.
The Martyn Street Sporting Reserve Redevelopment. This is a very important initiative, especially for netball. One of my first actions following the election was to confirm this funding had been secured. Along with Cairns Netball I am keen to see work on the redevelopment of the Martyn Street site begin later this year. This will benefit Cairns and neighbouring electorates.
Cairns State High School High Performance Centre Cairns State High School has identified a long standing need for an undercover sporting facility. Plans were drawn up by the Bligh Government, construction promised by the Newman Government and now it is time to deliver. I have met with Cairns State High School Principal and her leadership team and promised my support for this project. I have written to Minister Kate Jones and will continue to lobby hard for this much needed project, that would see valuable school land used for the benefit of not just the school, but also the wider community.
Synapse Rehabilitation Centre. I have long been working with the Synapse Brain Injury Association to plan and construct a rehabilitation facility for people in Cairns who sustain an ABI. I am confident that there will be a rehabilitation centre operational in Cairns during this term of government. Primarily aimed at Indigenous people with an ABI, this facility will provide a pathway and live opportunities for some of our most disadvantaged Queenslanders.
Cairns Special Education Centre. Cairns needs a base for our special education specialists and facilities for students with very high needs. This must be done in an inclusive education environment that fosters socialization and wellbeing. Land has been identified and parents of some of our high needs students are already being consulted. They are looking forward to the same facilities for their children, as are provided in other regional cities of similar size.
Shields Street Heart Project Cairns Regional Council wants to make our CBD streets welcoming and beautiful – cool and shady in the daytime and festive and lively at night. The Shields Street Heart project focuses on creating a new and refreshed public space from Abbott Street to Grafton Street, providing more green, cool, vibrant and tropical streetscaping for our city heart. Plans have been developed following community feedback. The Bligh government committed $38 Million to CBD renewal in Cairns. Work subsequently commenced with the upgrade of Lake Street, completed in 2014. However the Newman Government only allocated a fraction of the Bligh commitment. With work on the Sheilds Street Heart to start this year, I expect our current government, the Palaszczuk Government to make a meaningful contribution.
Step Up Step Down The Step Up Step Down Unit proposed for Law Street in Cairns will offer short-term residential treatment in a purpose built facility delivered by mental health specialists in partnership with non-government organizations. The units in this centre will be occupied by young people who are at increased risk of an acute episode of mental illness. A young person experiencing this situation will have the needed supports, which will be subsequently withdrawn as mental health improves and the young person transitions back into the community. This will be a six-bed facility with the capacity to expand the number of beds to 12 in future years. Targeted at 18 to 25 year olds, this project offers a best practice response to people experiencing mental illness, focused on community care and integration. The project follows the tragic loss of a number of young lives to suicide in recent years. The project is funded but has not commenced construction, as the land in question remains registered in the name of Queensland Rail. I have seen much bureaucratic bungling over the years from both sides of politics, but I am confident Health Minister Cameron Dick will resolve this and ensure the land will be transferred and the construction of this much needed facility will commence in the not too distant future.
Public Housing A commitment to public or social housing is another key reason I support the Australian Labor Party. During this term of government I am confident to see a number of public housing developments completed in Cairns. The total cost will be several million dollars and many families will be housed. This is exactly the sort of thing Queenslanders are right to expect from a Labor Government.
Tinagra Street Boat Ramp: Cairns residents have long lacked the recreational fishing facilities of other cities. I am working to have the Tinagra Street Boat Ramp upgraded. This would provide a safe and accessible way for local boaties to enjoy the recreational boating opportunities of Trinity Inlet and surrounding areas.
Global Village: The impact arts, culture, heritage and our creative industries have, has been extremely important in Cairns, ensuring a vibrant, livable community, inclusive of the many migrant communities that have established their lives here in our region, far from the Brisbane’s centralized services. Importantly, the Arts and Cultural communities have a unique way of engaging with the domestic and international tourists, our region’s most dominant industry. I recently met with key members of the arts and multicultural communities, who outlined the extent of the decline in the FNQ region’s arts services and cultural support infrastructure over recent years. They also outlined how this poses an opportunity to go forward and address this deficit with strategic solutions that capitalize and expand on existing programs. This is a unique opportunity and three significant community based organizations, have offered to pool their skills and resources into a Shared Service Model that would deliver services on a range of current State government policy areas including the Arts, Event Management, Science and Technology, Tourism, Education, Employment and Crime Prevention. The proposal is to co-locate three community-based NGOs:
- Arts Nexus, which is an arts and cultural development services for the creative industries
- Cairns Community Radio (Ethnic and Community broadcaster); and
- Cairns and Region Multicultural Association (CARMA) These three organisations each have proven track records, active memberships and are best placed to facilitate community conversations on cultural facilities and other community issues.
As well as these specific projects, Cairns desperately needs to position itself to generate the jobs of the future. Jobs in health, education and tropics sciences are part of a bright future in jobs growth. My vision for Cairns is that of a city that will “Fulfil its potential by making the most of its environment and geographical location as a Pacific Rim city. Cairns will embrace its cultural diversity and firmly establish itself as a world leader in health and education, and as the home of tropical excellence in business, sport, and the arts. This shall be achieved by fostering Innovation and embracing emerging technologies.” I have tried to steer away from controversy in this my first speech, and I close on a subject that I believe is the most important faced by this parliament and which, where it not for the intellectual poverty of recent years, indeed be beyond controversy. The issue of which I speak, is the issue of climate change. Climate change is a scientific fact. It is leading to sea level rise and Cairns is a low lying city. I try my best every year to attend a king tide on the Cairns Esplanade. I see the Esplanade sea wall breached and I see water coming up through the storm water drains, and flooding underground car parks. This is an urgent situation, but I see no sense of urgency by our leaders. I have utmost respect for those working in disaster recovery, but the reality is a summer king tide combined with a category five cyclone would see much of Cairns city destroyed. All levels of government need to first acknowledge this problem and then make sure our best scientific minds feed in to an all of government policy response. I pray this will happen.