State Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt and Cassowary Coast Division 4 Councillor Mark Nolan will hold a public meeting in Innisfail to discuss the local economy.

Mr Pitt said there had been a call from community for such a forum that had so far fallen on deaf ears.

“I agree with the Mayor – there is no easy fix, no magic wand. But I completely disagree with only consulting a select few,” Mr Pitt said.

“People aren’t looking for a handout or to be bailed out. They just want their elected representatives to listen to them.

“This public meeting is necessary because we have a Council that wants to have closed-door meetings and a state government that wants to shut down debate and don’t want to give people an opportunity to have their say.

“This meeting won’t just be about the challenges we face. It’ll also be about how we grasp the opportunities before us, particularly as the declining Aussie dollar makes tourism and exporting more attractive.

“I’m hoping that the Mayor changes his mind, becomes a partner in this forum and comes along to speak with people and hear what they have to say.”

Innisfail Councillor Mark Nolan said a public meeting was essential to the town moving forward.

“People are very aware that I’ve tried to get Council to hold something like this. The Mayor may have shut the door but the local member Curtis Pitt and I want to open the door,” Mr Nolan said.

“We have one of the worst crises of ratepayer debt and cost of living in Queensland right here on the Cassowary Coast.

“We want to hear from local business people, growers and others in the agricultural sector, and of course mums and dads.

“We know that every idea put forward won’t be a game changer but this is about facing up to reality and trying to turn a negative situation into a positive one.”

Mr Pitt said that while people were talking about escalating rates, there were far broader cost of living issues having an impact on families and businesses.

“We all know the cost of insurance is out of control but the Newman Government decided to increase Insurance Tax at the last budget anyhow – hitting those areas prone to natural disasters like ours harder than other parts of Queensland.

“The average is more than $110 for house and contents, but businesses are being hit in the tens of thousands of dollars.”

“Let’s look at what else was in that budget:

– Professional indemnity insurance tax went up, the introduction of a fire levy for regional Queensland – $90 for households and up to $60,000 for some SMEs.

– Despite a promise to increase the Payroll Tax threshold, the LNP deferred the increase leaving more Queensland businesses liable.

– And electricity is the big one. The rises have been astronomical but the fact that the LNP promised to reduce electricity bills was one they never intended to keep and has just rubbed salt into the wounds of families and businesses across the state.

“The LNP promised the world before the election, including addressing cost of living issues. But the reality is that things are worse, not better, under Campbell Newman.

“We’ve seen more than 8,000 mining jobs lost over the last year in Queensland alone. If the federal and state governments decide to simply meander aimlessly through the next economic phase, we risk a period of substantially lower growth in wages, lower employment and rising inequality.

“Since coming to office, the Newman Government remains in negative territory when it comes to full-time jobs. Not a single additional full-time job has been created in Queensland since Campbell Newman was elected.

“In the meantime Queensland’s population has increased. There’s fewer full-time jobs to go round with a lot more people. This is reflected in the declining participation rate – many people are simply giving up looking for work.

“The LNP Government is crowing about growth in coal exports, all the while ignoring the sectors of the economy that are slowing and hurting ordinary Far North Queenslanders.

“While I’m sure BMA and Rio Tinto are pleased, this means little for families who are facing record electricity prices and lower wages growth, of for small businesses who are losing customers because of higher unemployment or shutting the doors.”

The meeting will be held on Monday 17 February at the Innisfail Senior Citizens Hall (Corner of Lily and Owen Streets) from 6.30pm and will be open to all members of the public.