Carter Holt Harvey
Carter Holt Harvey Troy Jegers

Gympie region is being overlooked - we must make more noise

GYMPIE has taken some hits of late.

Whether that be the issue of the private hospital closing, or the departure of Carter Holt Harvey, they provide examples of just how difficult regional communities across the country are having it. It's hard enough to keep infrastructure going, it seems let alone attract it.

Sometimes, we perhaps have justification to feel that our region in particular continues to be bypassed.

It will be interesting to see whether the Bruce Highway upgrades will deliver new business opportunities.

I continue to be bemused by a television commercial currently running, that promotes Rainbow Beach as being "just north of Noosa".

This geographical appropriation of part of our region reminds me of the ludicrous and abandoned proposal by the Queensland Electoral Commission to move the boundary to put our coastal community in the electorate to our south.

Either way, both ignore the fact that to get to Rainbow from Noosa, you have to drive a fair way through the Gympie region.

The accuracy of the current advertising might only be validated should a direct Rainbow-Noosa road ever be built.

Until it is, we can continue to feel miffed at being conveniently discluded in a resort's promotion. A direct road isn't coming any time soon.

If the speed at which any sign of Coondoo Creek's new bridge is any indication, it won't be happening any time this century.

The threat of the loss of our private hospital, thereby putting added pressures on Gympie General, comes at a time when many regional centres have the same problem of under-resourced medical facilities.

We all share the problem of attracting medical professionals and keeping them.

Government policy must take some share of the blame, along with any unwillingness on the part of some doctors to leave all the comforts of city life.

Recent decisions by Queensland Labor to close maternity facilities in small Central Queensland towns just add to this feeling that the regions continue to be an afterthought by a Government that can't see beyond Bald Hills.

We have great support for the establishment of new medical facilities on the Cooloola Coast to service our ageing population but I cannot see the current government in Brisbane giving anything but lip service to the plan.

Even if we are successful, the question that dogs the private hospital might also apply: how do we attract medical professionals who will commit to staying for a good period of time?

We all regard doctors as being well paid; indeed better paid than most of us.

But we don't consider the astronomical insurance premiums they pay or the size of their HECS debts.

Federal Labor has suggested discounting HECS debts of teachers prepared to commit to working "in the bush" for designated periods.

One has hope that someone in Canberra might take up this idea and apply it to the health sector as well.

It certainly wouldn't do the Coalition's re-election prospects any harm to propose discounting the HECS debts of medical professionals who commit to moving "to the bush".

A word of warning should apply here, though. Such a scheme would have to be safeguarded against any political manipulation which might include areas like say Western Sydney as "regional Australia".

The prospect of Gympie's particle board factory being lost from our manufacturing landscape is a blow to the region's economy.

One wonders just how long the site could be idle.

Will all plant be stripped from the site or left to decay?

What obligations will be put on the company to maintain the site in a tidy order until such time as the site is used again?

It remains a problem when a multi-national company pulls up stumps and leaves town.

Of course, they can offer the PC stock-standard media release expressing regret etc etc. but they're only interested in the bottom line (which is totally understandable on one level).

But they can up and leave and it's the community that has to deal with the aftermath.

Which leads me to wonder if all levels of government can be more proactive when a regional community loses a major employer, rather than taking a completely hands-off approach.

Governments keep offering tax incentives and subsidies and other financial attractions to industries but prescribe no penalties on companies who leave communities in the lurch when they might relocate to cheaper climes.

Perhaps governments should become more mercenary when a multi-national pulls out of a community.

Industries seem to like all the tax incentives but face no repercussions when they make decisions offshore which might leave regional Australian taking an economic hit.

What if the Government was to step in and take over operating such sites until such time as the operation can be sold?

Of course, the outgoing operator might protest loudly, but they've already made the decision to leave so obviously, they have no further use of a factory etc.

Such suggestions might cause some Coalition MPs to choke on their porridge at the very idea of government intervention in markets, like this.

But then again, when it comes to electricity, it hasn't stopped some in their ranks from wanting the power to break up power generators into smaller companies or to even use taxpayer money to build coal-fired power stations.

So obviously, their doctrine of not intervening in the free market isn't something entirely set in stone.

In an election year, parties should be open to all ideas.

Especially those coming from their regional constituents.

Because let's face it, their own policy think tanks are fast running dry on ideas.

And it's probably a good time, as we head towards a Federal Election this year and a State Election next year, for regions like ours to start making a bit more noise.

With South-East Qld getting increasingly enthusiastic about bidding for the 2032 Olympics (and this is yet another instance of Gympie being excluded from that floating concept of "SEQ"), we had better become more forceful in pushing for our share of attention from Government before all focus and funding is drawn towards that two week sports carnival.