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Palaszczuk predicts - but won’t promise - 'jobs bonanza' as borders open

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Opening up Queensland’s borders to Sydney and Victorian visitors would create a ‘jobs bonanza’ over the Christmas holidays, the Premier has predicted.

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Annastacia Palaszczuk suggested Queensland’s response to the pandemic, and the pending border changes, had allowed theme park operators to hire 500 additional staff, while some regions had experienced a 250 per cent increase in accommodation bookings.

“What does that mean? It means jobs, jobs and more jobs. It means a jobs bonanza.”

In the first Question Time of the new parliamentary term, the Opposition has focussed on Queensland’s high unemployment rate.

Palaszczuk said the end of the JobKeeper income support measure on March 28 would present challenges but Queensland Labor would push for continued federal support.

“That is the domain of the Federal Government and we will be mounting that campaign federally … because that’s where the issues are going to be,” she said.

Treasurer Cameron Dick used Question Time to attack the LNP’s economic record, and the economic performance of the Berejiklian Government in NSW, as well as the legacy of the Newman government that left office almost six years ago.

When new Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli asked if the Labor government had targets for job creation, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was quick to associate him with the former Newman Government.

“In fact, he was a minister,” Palaszczuk told parliament, to roars from Labor MPs.

“And what was their record on jobs? Cutting jobs.”

Labor spent the election campaign warning of a return to the Newman era under the LNP so this inevitably proved a sensitive issue with the returned MPs. Speaker Curtis Pitt, a Labor MP, had to call the Legislative Assembly to order, suggesting “the ghost of members past should not cause such a ruckus in this place”.

Palaszczuk said the Budget on December 1 would focus on growing the economy, investing in skills and training, and delivering infrastructure, all of which would create jobs. She avoided setting any targets.

Crisafulli followed up, asking Palaszczuk if it was acceptable to have 214,000 unemployed going into Christmas.

While Palaszczuk would not be drawn on whether it was acceptable – Labor even attempted to have the question ruled out of order – she said the unemployment rate had returned to pre-pandemic levels and Queenslanders could expect a “bright Christmas”.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath also came under scrutiny over Queensland’s COVID-19 response, with the Opposition demanding more transparency from the government. No new cases were recorded overnight, with 14 still active, and public health emergency declarations will be extended.

Opposition frontbencher Fiona Simpson asked Resources Minister Scott Stewart how a “vote rorter” like former Labor MP turned consultant Mike Kaiser came to be appointed his director-general. Labor attempted to have the question ruled out of order but was again unsuccessful.

Stewart read from briefing notes to say that Kaiser would replace the current acting director-general, who is currently serving three ministers, and hold the role for three months from January while a merit-based recruitment process was undertaken.

“Mike Kaiser is a highly qualified individual who has years of experience,” Stewart read, adding that Kaiser was also “well-respected by industry”.

Dick was later asked whether he was achieving his aim of reducing expenditure on consultants by having them appointed as directors-general instead, referring also to the recruitment of John Lee as head of the Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport.

Stewart and Dick pointed to the Newman Government’s appointment of LNP figure Michael Caltabiano, who was forced out of his role, albeit with a separation payment, after an investigation into his comments around the appointment of an MP’s son.

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