Jobs, power prices and a heckler too: Deputy PM busy in Gympie
BARNABY Joyce was as Australian as can be when he came to Gympie yesterday to promote his plan for a coal-fired worker's utopia - for those who want to work.
"If you don't want a job, there's nothing I can do for you," he said over a very fast coffee at Emilia's Cafe.
Power prices, he said, are the great political scandal of our time - and he blames renewables.
"People say they can't afford their power bills. The big issue is power prices. I find that everywhere.
"We stand for keeping coal fired power in operation, because people who are poor get hurt the most."
Those views helped power up protesters during Mr Joyce's Sunshine Coast visit, a couple of hours earlier.
"It's their right to demonstrate and it's my right to disagree with them," the Deputy Prime Minister said. "But I'll line up with the men and women who want a job any day of the week."
That does not mean any welfare crackdown in Wide Bay electorate, our federal MP Llew O'Brien said.
The experimental introduction of a welfare card involving only 20% cash was being trialled in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, but not here, he said.
He said the infrastructure investment Mr Joyce was demanding was already happening in federal spending in the Gympie region.
Mr O'Brien pointed to $200 million more in the Building Better Regions fund, a $1.5 million dollar-for-dollar deal with Gympie Regional Council to upgrade the Emilia's end of Mary St.
"We've already put $5 million into the Aquatic Centre," Mr O'Brien said, "and $700,000 for the Pavilion."
Mr Joyce added "$6.7 billion for the Bruce Hwy and an $8.4 billion inland rail link from Melbourne to Brisbane.
"How will that benefit people here?
"It'll give all people greater access to transport services and we'll do many more short hauls to Toowoomba instead of expensive long hauls to Melbourne.
"We'll get more people working and greater capacity.
"Dams, railway lines, roads - these are the heart of our agenda.
"We're starting to lose sight of who makes the nation work," Mr Joyce said. "We're only noticing the people who protest."
Mr Joyce found ready support on all the infrastructure issues, with Mr O'Brien and Mr Perrett especially welcoming spending on the upgrade of the Wide Bay Hwy and Bruce Hwy intersection at Bells Bridge.
Mr Joyce said he was excited by what he had seen of the technology and jobs investments being made at Gympie's Nolan Meats plant at East Deep Creek.
"They're employing 400 locals and they won't all be blokes with boning knives, although there will be plenty of them too.
"It's important businesses like that have confidence to invest. It's not just an abattoir.
"With it you have feedlots, truck drivers, vets, grain growers, the people who fix tyres, mechanics, boiler makers, electricians."
But none of this washed with Gympie's lone Barnaby Joyce protester, Widgee's Lynlie Cross.
"You're not doing a good enough bloody job Barnaby," Ms Cross said. "Get up and stir," she said. "Use your testicles and stand up to Malcom Turnbull."
A veteran of debate, the Deputy Prime Minister was happy to shake Ms Cross' hand before he left, saying it was an "absolute pleasure" to have met her and had a chat.
Faintly annoyed by the distraction of his alleged New Zealand connections, he said the High Court would decide.
"I was born in Tamworth, my great-grandfather was born in Tamworth.
"I served in the Army Reserve for about five years in Queensland and now I have to prove I'm an Australian," he said.