Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 2020 would go down as Australia’s toughest year yet, and naturally the same can be said for Queensland as the state battles the impacts of COVID-19.
Regional Australia and regional Queensland were already facing significant challenges before COVID-19 reared its head, in the form of job shortages, business closures, a lack of services, and poor road and rail infrastructure, just to name a few.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the drain it has placed on resources could be viewed as yet another reason for Government to ignore the issues affecting regional Queensland, and its effects on the state has made us examine closely the messaging and objective of the Stand Up for Regional Queensland campaign.
Of most relevance to our thinking is the undeniable fact that COVID-19 has highlighted to the broader Australian public the important position agriculture holds in our community – the need for high-quality, high-yield food and fibre to keep us going, now and into the future.
That’s why this is the perfect time to reinforce to governments the integral role regional communities and regionally based industries, as well as Queensland’s extensive natural resources and grazing land play in our lives.
And then AgForce received a call from the state government to provide recommendations on how Queensland could recover from the greatest economic jolt seen since the global financial crisis.
It was a week the attitude of Government, and of the Premier in particular, appeared to change. Our previously strained relationship turning to one of mutual interest.
We grasped this opportunity and put forward our COVID-19 Economic Stimulus for Agriculture and Regional Queensland package, including:
- bringing forward investment into critical regional infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and rail in conjunction with local governments
- bringing forward investments in robust irrigation and town water supply projects
- investing in state land management and maintenance
- accelerating payments under the already budgeted Land Restoration Fund (LRF), and creating a practical and secure ‘natural capital’ marketplace in Queensland
- seeking to maintain and improve our market opportunities both domestically and internationally
There is no doubt that Queensland is a different state since the emergence of COVID-19 and the impacts will continue to be profound for the majority of us.
But while many Brisbane-based electorates have traditionally held strong influence over this state government, it appears their eyes are starting to open to the importance of regional Queensland and the part their communities have to play in this new world.