NQ First makes splash with uranium mining and $2b road plan
HOPING to make Central Queenslanders sit up and pay attention to his fledgling political party, North Queensland First party leader Jason Costigan has unleashed a string of outside-the-box election commitments targeting our region.
Since founding the political party in September 2019 following his expulsion from the LNP over a subsequently retracted allegation, the Whitsunday MP has been free to carve his own path into North Queensland's political landscape.
Unafraid of courting controversy, Mr Costigan has thrown his support behind the recommencement of uranium mining in Queensland, a $2 billion pledge to upgrade the North's roads and an $8.5 million promise to build a new police station in Clermont.
Uranium mining plan
In September last year, the Queensland Resources Council said our state was missing out on a multi-billion dollar addition to our resources and energy industry and the opportunity to lower global emissions, because of the ban on uranium mining.
QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane told the House of Representatives inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia that Queensland uranium could be mined sustainability and economically.
The most recent valuation estimated Queensland's uranium deposits to be worth about $10 billion.
"Queensland is literally sitting on billions of dollars of value to our local communities and our economy. But the ban on uranium mining prevents us from reaping the benefit of regional jobs, investment and royalty taxes," Mr Macfarlane said.
"Queensland's uranium reserves are not only a valuable export, but they also have a role to play in delivering reliable and low-emissions power."
Seizing on the idea this week, Mr Costigan called for Queensland Government to revive the fortunes of regional north Queensland by lifting the ban and resume uranium mining.
"After inspecting what's left at Mary Kathleen last year, I came to the conclusion we should go back to the future and mine uranium in Queensland again, exporting it to the world, creating jobs and economic development," Mr Costigan said.
"Australia is famous for its mineral resources and that includes uranium and that is why we mine 'yellow cake' as they call it in South Australia and the Northern Territory but sadly, in Queensland, it remains a no-go (since 2015)."
Mr Costigan said the resumption of mining would kickstart the COVID-19 recovery, leading to export opportunities at Karumba.
$2 billion Roads to Revival program
This week Mr Costigan revealed a $2 billion Roads to Revival package for a series of road projects stretching from Cairns down to Rockhampton.
Mr Costigan said building new roads and bridges in North, Far North and Central Queensland, funded by mining royalties, would kickstart the economy in response to COVID-19, if his NQ First party was able to secure the balance of power at the October 31 State Election.
The Whitsunday MP said the first tranche of his road infrastructure projects would provide an economic "zinger" for communities, big and small, north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
"It's not just Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton that are crying out for economic recovery - it's also our satellite towns including Mareeba, Port Douglas, Mossman, Innisfail, Ingham, Ayr, Bowen, Moranbah, Emerald and Clermont, as well as Proserpine and Airlie Beach in my own electorate and that's before we touch on remote communities," he said.
"By investing serious coin in major road infrastructure projects, we can stimulate jobs and economic growth in all these places and more, so long as we secure the balance of power and then we can lean on Canberra for even more financial assistance."
Mr Costigan said Roads to Revival was part of NQ First's $6b Real Royalties for Regions program which would include $200m towards a new bridge across the Fitzroy River as part of Rockhampton's proposed ring road.
Other road projects he flagged included:
• $500m towards a tunnel linking Cairns with the Atherton Tableland via a new Kennedy Highway, thereby providing an alternative route across the Kuranda Range.
• $200m towards a new bridge across the Burdekin River.
• $200m towards floodproofing the Bruce Highway at Goorganga Plains including a new interchange for access into the Whitsunday Coast Airport and a dual carriageway from Lethebrook to Proserpine.
Plan to replace Clermont's Police Station
Also in the past week, Mr Costigan has promised a new $8.5 million police station at Clermont if he was re-elected with the balance of power on October 31.
He said it was obvious that the existing facilities were completely inadequate, especially with Clermont and surrounding communities looking to a positive future after COVID-19 with the development of the Galilee Basin.
"Blind Freddy can see the current police station has had its day. We've seen other police stations rebuilt here and there but from our observations, there is no firm commitment from either of the major parties, the LNP or Labor, to finally give Clermont a new police station which is where NQ First comes in, putting North and Central Queensland first," Mr Costigan said.
"The hard working police officers assigned to the Clermont station would love nothing more than a new home to carry out their duties. After all, a modern and bigger workplace really isn't too much to ask and hence our strong $8.5m commitment to get the job done."
A new police station would be funded as part of NQ First's $1 billion Building the North program.
"This money will come from royalties from the resources sector and so instead of building these fancy tunnels and bridges in Brisbane under the LNP or Labor, we'll make damn sure that if we secure the balance of power at the State Election, we'll quarantine funding for major job-creating projects in North, Far North and Central Queensland," he said.
Projects already announced as part of NQ First's flagship $6b Real Royalties for Regions program include the proposed North Australian Maritime College in Airlie Beach, agricultural colleges in Mareeba, the Burdekin, Emerald and Longreach, a new batch of cyclone shelters from Sarina to the Torres Strait, a new police station and courthouse in Proserpine and a new emergency services complex in Mackay's Northern Beaches.