Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien.
Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien. Renee Albrecht

Smackdown: Gympie leaders slam claim regions get too much

A BRISBANE economist has come under fire for claiming regional centres received an "excessive” amount of funding at the State Budget compared to the south-east corner.

In an article published by the Brisbane Times last week, economist Gene Tunny, principal of Adept Economics, said a "strong case” could be made for considering some areas in the south-east were underfunded.

Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien and Gympie MP Tony Perrett have hit back at the claims.

Mr O'Brien said Mr Tunny was clearly out of touch and did not understand the challenges and issues people living in rural and regional communities faced.

Tony Perrett (Member for Gympie)
Gympie MP Tony Perrett. Frances Klein

"Mr Tunny needs to understand that the only reason he has the choice to live in the city is because of the regions. Regional communities supply the electricity to power Mr Tunny's home, the fibre that he dresses in, and the food he eats,” Mr O'Brien.

"I will fight for every cent I can get for Wide Bay, and I make no apologies to any economist sitting in a major city if they feel regional areas receive 'excessive' amounts of funding.”

Mr Perrett said "playing with statistics to undermine funding for the regions was a destructive and blinkered way to determine the needs of regional Queenslanders”.

"It is nonsense to think that we have been receiving more than our fair share,” Mr Perrett said.

"It is just absurd.

"Based on his methodology, all government funding should go to Sydney and Melbourne as they have higher populations.

"In regional areas government services are reduced, with residents often having to travel long distances to access the same services and facilities that those in the south-east corner take for granted.

"It is the role of government to make adjustments for the disparity especially in education, health and roads and water security by investing in key infrastructure to allow regional communities to borrow and invest.

"The claim also ignores that the regions often punch above their weight supporting some of our

most productive industries of agricultural and resources.

"In fact, Gympie's Gross Regional Product of approximately $2.1 billion in 2015/16, contributed 16.9% and 0.7%, respectively, to the Wide Bay Burnett and Queensland economies.

"Recognising the economic potential of the regions is why I was a strong supporter of the LNP's Queensland Plan, which aimed to diversify over 30 years' future population growth throughout the entire state.

"It is only through decentralisation and empowering and growing regional communities we can provide the best opportunities for families, businesses, industries and workers to thrive.

"Interestingly the examples quoted by the economist were only in the regions where the State Labor Government is pumping money to prop up Labor seats.

"Gympie's experience is that in three Labor budgets all we have received are recycling, re-announcements, and rebadging of previous commitments.

"This year we not only didn't receive a crumb we had money taken away from the region to prop up the discredited member Labor State Member for Bundaberg.

"The sad truth is that despite all the fanfare of the Queensland Cabinet governing from the Wide Bay this week we will see nothing more than a mountain of media releases and photo opportunities.

"In the June Budget we had $1 million in funds scheduled for the new Rainbow Beach Auxiliary Fire and Rescue Station redirected to the Bundaberg Station,” he said.

Mr Perrett said the central plank of the June Budget was about saving the Deputy Premier's inner city seat of wealthy, unproductive, green activists at the expense of regions such as Gympie.

"That same Budget, which took money away from us, committed $2.9 billion to the highly controversial Cross River Rail project which has a business case in a mess, six secret taxes, and missed deadlines, just so commuters can save a few extra minutes getting to and from work,” Mr Perrett said.

"Claims that somehow the State Government have discovered the regions are hollow.”

Mr O'Brien said Mr Tunny's comments would be offensive to any person who'd had to leave their home town to get a job, go to university or access health services.

Governments need to provide the economic, education and health opportunities people need within their own communities, and not just focus on the capital cities, he said.

"I am maintaining my fight to secure more funding to make the Bruce Hwy safer, I want more tertiary courses made available in Gympie, and I'm working to identify a secure funding stream for Little Haven Palliative Care.

"People in cities may take these things for granted, but these are bread and butter issues for people living in the regions.”