The Estimates Hearings follow the presentation of the Queensland 2021 Budget, then Committees table their reports with MP’s Statement of Reservations included, with the delivery of speeches giving voice to budget items, as well as broader systemic concerns.
As experienced over many months in communities across QLD and Australia, COVID disrupted the hearings, ultimately leading to my attendance at the Legal Affairs and Safety Committee Hearing via Zoom to put questions to the Attorney-General and the Minister for Police.
These included around the impact of DV on victims and this community, with prioritisation of emergency and affordable housing at the forefront. Additionally, how funds are allocated to DV families and their children so they can access the support and services they need to break the intergenerational cycle of violence and suffering.
The Attorney-General has offered to work closely with me as we strive to provide what is sought by these families and the organisations that provide shelter and support.
Other questions targeted the privacy of information and other election practices, funding to ensure adequate handling of complaints that residents have about public officials and government decisions, and the electoral boundaries.
Time and question allocation constraints has led to our other questions being submitted via standard correspondence, and covers options to house DV perpetrators away from the family home, and DV and sexual assault education and services being made available to all young people in schools .
Within the budgeted increase for police personnel, the Minister for Police did not commit specifically to our needs for extra permanent resources in our community and Teewah to see an end to the dangerous and disgraceful behaviour that is impacting our environment, residents and visitors, however we have reiterated the urgent need in follow up advocacy. The exploration of increased Unmanned Aerial Vehicles deployment in the Noosa area will be followed up.
Other budgetary items included the importance of requested training for our SES personnel and volunteers who do an incredible job selflessly giving of their time to keep our community safe. Bushfire resources, pilots for that LAT (the large air tanker that had down time during the Fraser fires from a lack of replacement pilots) – and additional resourcing for youth crime were delivered either verbally or via a Question on Notice.
Unlike previous years, I did not attend other Committee Hearings due to the constraints within the Estimates Hearings process which, similar to the Committee process, is fundamentally flawed as I have outlined previously that is not equitable nor efficient. Instead, I submitted Questions on Notice to the relevant Committees, which were not accepted as below –
- Premier – loss of CHO to become the new Governor and confidence in giving the new CHO emergency powers to handle the pandemic; clarity around a plan for border security, quarantine and lockdowns relating to the vaccination rates of Queenslanders
- Tourism – specific funding request for Noosa-specific tourism opportunities to counteract the loss of business from international and interstate tourists caused by COVID lockdowns; cross-departmental funding to facilitate alternative transport means to get additional travellers to our area, such as expanding Queensland Rail and linking services.
- Health/Ambulance – access to the Hospital Building Fund announced in the budget to increase capacity in our region, expansion of the Noosa ED, assist with decreasing ambulance ramping; bolstering frontline health and allied health professional numbers; additional and increased funding for palliative care providers and hospices
- Employment and Small Business – business assistance for COVID lockdowns; funding for Back to Work and Skilling Queenslanders for Work programs; strategies to assist Holiday Management Rights businesses as the influx of people permanently residing in holiday rentals increases
- Communities and Housing – emergency housing provision; transitioning social housing to CHPs to assist affordable housing measures, head lease packages to enable housing provides to construct additional residences; departmental provision of capital works and financial support to community housing providers; funding for housing for indigenous youth in partnership with the Cooloola Great Walk Project
- Education – funding to establish the school Occupational Violence Prevention Strategy and assessment of its effectiveness; incentives for high school and university students to train as teachers of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics); respectful relationships training in schools with allied support services embedded
- Transport/Main Roads – Funding allocation and proposed timelines for Beckmans Road Stage 2 and the Kin Kin Range; changing the Student Travel Assistance Scheme to assist young students with altered school travel arrangements due to Family Court orders or from domestic violence issues.
- Deputy Premier/State Development – environmental rehabilitation of renewable energy project sites; funding grants for climate hazard adaptation.
- Treasurer – measures to address the underemployment rate whereby people are not being able to access enough hours to sustain their families; ongoing issues with the Motor Accidence Insurance Commission not finalising claims in an efficient or speedy manner
- Regional Development – investment to support small to medium manufacturing businesses; requirement for pro-active departmental scoping and support
- Agriculture & Fisheries – Environmental Risk Assessments for target fish species to assist the establishment of localised programs to protect and enhance the fishery stocks; business support to establish local sustainable harvesting of meat operations.
- Seniors, Disability and ATSI – budget allocation for the Path to Treaty, processes and timeframes to implement; protection for seniors from elder abuse through increased funding for services and the helpline; funding pools for disability housing; recreational and educational development.
- Children and Youth Justice– increased funding for child safety and early intervention programs for youth justice
- Environment/Youth – appropriate resourcing for the management of pandanus dieback, visitor numbers and eradication of invasive plants and pest species; reviewing of the Kin Kin Quarry environmental authority; funding and research for alternative materials incorporating recycled waste which could reduce the need for expansion of quarries for raw resources
- Energy/Renewables – Development and production and distribution of green hydrogen fuel; departmental directives on solar generation input and possible negative impacts from decreased buybacks and ineffective and unaffordable battery storage options.
- Resources – identification of Unallocated State Land that could be used for community purposes and affordable housing; reviewing the Key Resource Area recognition for No. 57 Wahpunga Range KRA .
There has been detailed research done by two of our Parliamentary Interns that outlines how the Government, could ‘tweak’ the current process to improve the process and promote greater scrutiny and efficiency. This information was tabled during my Estimates Speech, located here and here.
Previous requests to the Premier and the Speaker for a review have been unsuccessful, however we do have an upcoming panel in which we can further demonstrate why the review is essential, including that it has been 10 years since the last one was undertaken.
Estimates 2021/22 as last year was not easy, and the impacts from COVID is apparent in every realm. As resources are stretched to accommodate, the reality is we are seeing many requests that are not considered as vital in the health and economic rebuild arenas, relegated to the ‘future’. This will no doubt translate to many of these questions being revisited in 2022.