by Leighton Smith
QUEENSLAND Labor Senator Murray Watt was in Depot Hill yesterday visiting flood affected South Rockhampton residents and this time, he brought along some props.
Flanked by Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne, Mr Watt showed off a booklet he'd assembled of all infrastructure projects constructed by the federal government's much touted $5 billion Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund over the past two years, flipping over page after empty page.
He said although the fund had the potential to create much needed jobs and get economies going across northern Australia, nearly two years on, little had been invested.
Mr Watt claimed no jobs had been created and no major projects underway.
"The only money that has been spent on the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund is the high salaries being paid to the directors of that board but what are they doing?” Mr Watt said.
He proposed a new name for the fund, the No Actual Infrastructure Fund.
"Everyone in Central Queensland knows that the region is crying out for new projects and more jobs and the people who don't know that are Malcolm Turnbull and Michelle Landry, his local member,” Mr Watt said.
"Last week in the federal budget, we saw no new infrastructure projects for Central Queensland, not one.
"I expected yesterday when the Prime Minister was in town that that might be the day he finally announced the funding for the flood levy but again he rode in and out of town with not a dollar spent for the flood levy or any other infrastructure project whatsoever.”
Rockhampton-based Senator and Northern Australia minister Matt Canavan hit back at Mr Watt, saying the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility was assessing applications for concessional loans.
"There have been more than 115 inquiries and there are five projects close to a final decision,” Mr Canavan said.
"More than half of the projects under active consideration are from Queensland.
"Murray Watt is simply covering for the fact that Labor has no plan to develop Northern Australia.
"In fact, senior Labor frontbenchers have gone on record saying they want to rip money out of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to spend on rail lines for inner-city Brisbane.
"That's on top of Labor promising to strip $1 billion out of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility at the last election. They're just not in it for the North.”