I understand it was a terrific success with around 33 exhibitors, over 700 jobs on offer and almost, I think, 1,300 people through the doors of the jobs fair in Cairns. It's one of three jobs fairs that the government has put on in the last few months, including the ones in Townsville and Wide Bay.
Senator STOKER (Queensland) (14:57):
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business. Can the minister update the Senate on the recent jobs fairs held in North Queensland and how these jobs fairs are helping Australians get into jobs?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:58):
I thank Senator Stoker for that question, and I recognise that Senator Stoker was there and opened the Cairns Jobs Fair last month. While I couldn't make it, I understand it was a terrific success with around 33 exhibitors, over 700 jobs on offer and almost, I think, 1,300 people through the doors of the jobs fair in Cairns. It's one of three jobs fairs that the government has put on in the last few months, including the ones in Townsville and Wide Bay. It's all part of making sure we connect North Queenslanders and all Australians with the job opportunities that we are growing in North Queensland and right through our country.
In North Queensland, we have, over the past year and a bit, made significant announcements about investments through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. Just the other week, we announced an over $600 million loan to Genex to help build a massive power station in North Queensland and create 510 jobs. We've also made an investment with James Cook University in a technology innovation centre. There will be 270 jobs there. And we've made an investment in the Townsville Airport to upgrade the terminal, creating another 267 jobs there.
In addition to those investments through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, the Northern Australia Roads Program is in the process of upgrading significant road infrastructure in North Queensland, including the Hann Highway, creating the first inland sealed route from Cairns to Melbourne and cutting eight hours off the journey. Right across northern Australia, those roads programs are supporting more than 2,000 jobs being created.
Our government is focused on jobs. It is our No. 1 focus when it comes to the economy because we know that having a job allows you to provide for your children, allows you to pay for your home and allows you to think about other things you will do to support your family and create a better environment for your children. It is a prerequisite to create a better Australia and better communities right across Australia. That's why we fight for jobs and create jobs, and we're doing all we can to keep job growth strong.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Stoker, a supplementary question.
Senator STOKER (Queensland) (15:00):
Minister, why is it so important to focus on bringing jobs to North Queensland?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:00):
In particular, I recognise, and the government recognises, that it has been a difficult few years in North Queensland on the jobs front. A few years ago there was a significant mining downturn in other parts of North Queensland, like Cairns. It's been a tough time for the tourism industry, when there was a high Australian dollar.
But there has been good recent news. We have been working hard to bring job-creating projects like the ones I mentioned in the first answer, and there has been significant improvement recently. Unemployment in Cairns is down to 4.7 per cent, a 1.7 percentage point reduction over the past year. In the Townsville region, an area that's had high unemployment recently, the rate has fallen to a still too high 7.1 per cent, which is a 2.1 percentage point reduction in the past year. In Wide Bay it's 7½ per cent, a two percentage point reduction. We are focused on making sure we target these areas of high unemployment to bring more jobs to people in them.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Stoker, a final supplementary question.
Senator STOKER (Queensland) (15:01):
Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches to creating jobs in North Queensland?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:01):
The biggest issue we have in North Queensland—and, indeed, many areas of our country we are seeking to grow and develop—continues to be those that want to run an agenda and don't want to use our resources or develop our country. It is those that are risk averse and have narrow-minded thinking and a view that we shouldn't continue to develop our nation—that we shouldn't build dams, create new mines or help grow our farming sector. Those that have those views are the biggest barrier to job growth in North Queensland and right across regional Australia in particular. Those that haven't supported the Adani Carmichael mine will wear that like a millstone in North Queensland now for years, because they weren't there backing the development of the Galilee Basin when it was crucial and needed. They weren't on the side of North Queensland. They are still not on side. The Labor Party is still not on the side of building dams in North Queensland. They're not partnering with us to get the Big Rocks Weir built and bring thousands of jobs to North Queensland. Until they do, the people of North Queensland know that Labor is not on their side.