Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt says Member for Thuringowa, Sam Cox, is the latest LNP backbencher to join the long list of disgruntled regional LNP members speaking out about the Newman Government’s callous slash-and-burn budget.

Speaking in Townsville today, Mr Pitt said Mr Cox had finally spoken out about the LNP’s closure of the Oonoonba biosecurity laboratory and scrapping of the Labor Government’s proposed new biosecurity laboratory at James Cook University.

“By breaking his silence on the slashing of biosecurity laboratories in Townsville Mr Cox has shown how disgruntled the people of Townsville are with the Newman Government’s callous State Budget that takes more than it gives to regional Queensland,” Mr Pitt said.

“Mr Cox’s breakaway comments join the chorus of regional backbenchers speaking out against the Premier and Treasurer and questioning the entire Budget strategy.

“Others include the Member for Gregory, Vaughan Johnson, Member for Mirani, Ted Malone, Member for Toowoomba North, Trevor Watts, and Member for Gympie, David Gibson.

“These attacks on the budget strategy of the Premier and Treasurer reflect deep divisions within the LNP over its needless mass sackings and savage cuts to frontline services.

“The public backlash against job cuts and funding cuts is to be expected because we have a Premier and a Treasurer who fail to listen to people, especially those in regional Queensland.

“The fact that five regional LNP backbenchers are now raising their voices shows the Premier and Treasurer are also not listening to their own MPs, let alone local communities,” he said.

Mr Pitt said Mr Cox planned to make representations to the Agriculture Minister, John McVeigh, about revisiting the prospect of funding a biosecurity laboratory in Townsville.

“But where was Mr Cox when Mr McVeigh was making these decisions and announcements? It has taken months of pressure from disgruntled locals for Mr Cox to finally stand up and speak out against the closure and scrapping of the labs,” he said.

“Mr Cox’s representations to Mr McVeigh will no doubt fall on deaf ears, as Mr McVeigh did not even take his own department’s advice not to scrap the new biosecurity lab at JCU.

“Mr Cox also said he was looking at a new site where a biosecurity lab could be located, despite the JCU site being ready to build on and the LNP incurring losses of $3.3 million by abandoning the proposed lab at JCU.

“This shows the twisted priorities of the LNP Government, they are quite happy to waste $3.3 million writing off this project, while also splurging $3.5 million on the planning of a new Executive Building in Brisbane’s CBD for the Premier and his Ministers.”

Mr Pitt said the LNP Government also need to explain where the $22 million from the sale of Oonoonba has been re-allocated to.

“The funding from the sale of Oonoonba was allocated by the previous Labor Government to the new biosecurity laboratory at JCU,” he said.

“Now the JCU lab has been scrapped by the LNP Government, they need to outline where the money has been redirected to, is it being spent in Townsville?

“The move to scrap both these Biosecurity labs is in contravention of advice from the LNP Director-General, when he briefed Minister McVeigh twice advising him against the scrapping of these labs – which will cost $10 million and result in 20 job losses.

“Mr McVeigh is acting in isolation, ignoring advice from his own LNP hand-picked Director-General.

“The move also puts regional Queensland at serious risk of disease outbreaks. Without the scientific expertise and facilities in North Queensland it will be increasingly difficult to respond quickly or effectively to outbreaks of viruses such as Hendra in regional areas.”