Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt today attended a briefing by representatives from Advance Cairns, Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) and Cairns Chamber of Commerce.

The briefing, also attended by Mr Pitt’s parliamentary colleague Steve Wettenhall MP and other elected representatives from local and federal government, outlined ‘A New Deal’ for Cairns, a three point plan in response to issues facing the Cairns economy.

Mr Pitt said he supported the intent and rationale behind the plan and said that a united push by elected representatives and the business community is necessary.

“I congratulate Advance Cairns, Cairns Chamber of Commerce and TTNQ for their efforts in bringing this together.  I stand shoulder to shoulder with business community on the need for action.  This plan is a good start,” Mr Pitt said.

“It must be recognised that we are a special case. We are not like the rest of Australia. Our unemployment rate is significantly higher than the state and national average.”

Mr Pitt said that a key focus of the plan is to ensure that there is recognition of this fact by those in Brisbane and Canberra.

“To this end, Steve Wettenhall and I will be meeting with the Premier next Wednesday during the sitting of Parliament to brief her on the plan and put the region’s case to her in the strongest terms,” Mr Pitt said.

“In addition, we have also arranged for Treasurer Andrew Fraser come back to the far north 5-6 November.

“During his visit, Mr Fraser will meet with key regional stakeholders to hear first-hand from local MPs and the business community about employment and sectoral development – particularly in the areas of marine and aviation.

“I also understand that our federal colleagues Senator Jan McLucas and Jim Turnour have a commitment from Senator Mark Arbib to return to Cairns in November to follow up on the ‘Keep Australia Working’ forum held last month.

Mr Pitt said that the plan identified the development of a new Arts and Cultural Centre for Cairns as a cornerstone project into the future.

“I support the concept of the Cultural Precinct but project like this would require a huge commitment from all levels of government,” Mr Pitt said.

“In order to have any chance of making it a reality, I think we have to consider staging the development and ensure that it is a multi-purpose facility.

“It must have a practical component that builds on our strengths in the local economy – adding exhibition space to increase our ability to attract convention delegates in greater numbers than our current capacity allows.

Mr Pitt said that while he supported the Cultural Precinct concept, the plan correctly identified that a mix of short-term stimulus measures and longer term projects is needed.

“It’s clear that structural reform is necessary for our local economy. We cannot continue to rely on tourism to deliver,” Mr Pitt said.

“Tourism must continue to be supported, but we must build on areas of success such as education and continue to develop our tropical expertise.

“We need genuine regional approaches to investment, tendering and training to secure outcomes for a region that is in desperate need.

“More immediately, the Government needs to support private sector investment projects that will generate employment opportunities today.

“Those who are willing to press ahead, despite the tough economic times deserve the Government’s full attention.

“This means cutting red tape where we can and asking how we can help, instead of putting up roadblocks.

“The time taken for some of the planning studies and the sometimes disjointed efforts of government agencies has not helped in some cases.

“I want to be clear that I do not support development at any cost. Good planning is about striking a balance in order to not only sustain the environment, but also foster economic development.

“My number one priority at the last election was the creation and retention of jobs in Mulgrave and I will continue to do all that I can to support this commitment in the Far North.”