Tony Burke MP, Shadow Minister for Finance, speaks with Labor candidate for Dawson Frank Gilbert following a meeting with Dawson industry representatives.
Tony Burke MP, Shadow Minister for Finance, speaks with Labor candidate for Dawson Frank Gilbert following a meeting with Dawson industry representatives. Luke Mortimer

Dawson MP: Burke doesn't pay much attention in parliament

GEORGE Christensen, Member for Dawson, has shrugged off comments made by the Shadow Minister for Finance yesterday and said Mr Burke "obviously doesn't pay too much attention in parliament".

"It would be a great change for a Labor Government to actually take the needs of Dawson seriously because it certainly wasn't done in the last Gillard-Rudd Government," he said.

"In the last financial year alone there's 25 speeches I've given in parliament all about local issues ranging from the state of the resources sector, to the Bowen horticultural sector, to local infrastructure needs, local roads, the Adani project - I'm looking at them (Hansard) right now.

"The Carmichael Mine has obviously taken up a bit of time, the sugar industry and the need for a code of conduct, looking at super yachts for the Whitsundays, biodiesel - I could go on and on, but that has just been in the last year.

"You could very well say in the past three years it probably would've been 75 speeches or more I've given in the house. And that's just speeches, everyone can give a speech, but it's what you do behind the scenes as well, going in and talking to ministers about what your needs are locally and getting outcomes."

Mr Christensen said he was pleased Mr Burke had stopped by the Dawson electorate, "but he didn't really deliver anything".

"Just today, because of my lobbying, Barnaby Joyce came to Mackay and has delivered $3 million to go into the Urannah Dam project and that's the difference between sayers and doers," he said.

"Tony Burke's trying to paint a picture that I'm not interested in local issues, but in fact every day, whether in Canberra or here, I'm fighting for local issues. They can keep that false argument up if they want - people will see through it."

Mr Christensen cited an online link to House of Representative Hansard as proof of his effort in parliament.


INITIAL: THE Dawson electorate has been all but forgotten in Canberra due to political ping pong between the extreme right and extreme left of Australian politics, according to Shadow Minister for Finance Tony Burke.

He pledged that central Queensland and the Dawson electorate will "absolutely" be a priority if Labor forms government after the July 2 Federal election.

Mr Burke was in Mackay yesterday to speak with Labor candidate for Dawson Frank Gilbert and representatives of the mining, sugar and other industries, including Resources Industry Network (RIN) chairman Tony Caruso.

Also in attendance was Wilmar Sugar Australia national operations manager Carl Morton, RIN deputy chairman David Hartigan and Isaac Regional Council mayor Anne Baker.

"Frank organised a few key businesspeople and people who are interested in the growth of the area and jobs to have a conversation with me," Mr Burke said.

"I've got a whole lot of issues directly from Mackay to take back to Canberra.

"The truth is the messages from here haven't been making it to Parliament House from the representation you've currently got.

"Look, if I go through the different speeches I've heard (Member for Dawson) George Christensen give over the years that have had publicity, not many of them have been about the local area.

"This local area has always meant a lot to me, as someone who's held both the agriculture and environment portfolios. A big part of the issues I've dealt with have been here.

"And the whole series of events ... led to Mackay getting a worse deal than what I think it deserves.

"(Right now) It's an extreme argument from the right versus an extreme argument from the left and the truth is if you want jobs, if you want business to thrive, you need to be moving back to the middle."


Senior politicians "a little bit blind"

Resource Industry Network chairman Tony Caruso described the meeting as an educational experience for Labor's Mr Burke and Mr Gilbert.

"It was probably about us giving them more information, educating them about what's going on in the area," he said.

"I think a lot of these senior politicians have been a little bit blind to what's really transpired on the ground in Mackay, in terms of the severity of the job losses in the region.

"It was useful for them to get an understanding, rather than them giving us any direction on what they'll do for the region.

"We spent a fair bit of time talking about the limitations and barriers for business."

"It (the meeting) was about everything, big tickets items like mine approvals and reactionary legislation passed more recently, like the unwinding of the Mineral and Others Legislations Amendment."


Tony Caruso, Resources Industry Network chairman, attended the meeting with Frank Gilbert and Tony Burke.
Tony Caruso, Resources Industry Network chairman, attended the meeting with Frank Gilbert and Tony Burke. Emily Smith

Asked if Labor was across the issues important to the Mackay region, Mr Caruso found it difficult to respond.

"Without a doubt, George understands the industry, he's been in the role for some time and he's across the issues," he said.

"No doubt Frank will have to get up to speed with those issues as well. Whoever goes in will only be as effective as the government behind them.

"I think George does a good job of promoting the area in Canberra, the problem is Canberra isn't listening.

"Labor can't blame it all on George, there's more avenues that need to be used to get the message to Canberra.

"My feel is both side of politics are very wary of anything to do with coal mining. There's no doubt coal mining is a dirty word at the moment.

"Both sides of government seem very reluctant to make bold statements in regards to the resources sector. They're worried about the backlashes from the big regional centres and metro areas.

"I don't know I'm optimistic (the issues will be received in Canberra), but I'm satisfied we've at least done what we could - put the facts in front of them - so hopefully they know what we're dealing with.

"I'm keen to see what happens in the next couple of weeks. Queensland is a very resource oriented state so I'm hoping they'll get behind the resources industry."

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