Gympie’s Bob and Pat Catlin prepare to install set-top boxes at the Cooloola Coast this weekend.
Gympie’s Bob and Pat Catlin prepare to install set-top boxes at the Cooloola Coast this weekend. Renee Pilcher

Budget a mixed bag for Gympie

GYMPIE Region slipped through the cracks in some major federal spending plans announced in the Wayne Swan budget.

In a budget variously seen yesterday as good, bad or indifferent, depending on your politics, leading issues in the Gympie area included mental health, road infrastructure and disaster recovery.

But it was the unlikely issue of free set-top digital television boxes for pensioners that attracted the most attention, especially at the Cooloola Coast.

The free digital offer did not arrive in time for the scheduled switch-off of the analogue TV signal on Saturday at Tin Can Bay and yesterday at Cooloola Cove.

But some residents reported intermittent signals on some channels as they wait for the government-funded conversion crews to arrive this weekend.

Mayor Ron Dyne expressed his disappointment that otherwise widely praised mental health initiatives do not seem to have included much for Gympie, despite spending elsewhere.

Mayor Ron Dyne, federal Wide Bay MP Warren Truss and state MP David Gibson all expressed disappointment in the Swan budget yesterday, as did Labor’s close allies in Canberra, the Greens.

Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser welcomed a budget which he described as being “focused on short-term recovery and long-term prosperity”.

State Mental Health Minister Curtis Pitt said the record $2.2 billion budget for mental health “would go a long way towards helping people with a mental illness cope and recover from Queensland’s recent natural disasters”.

However, Cr Dyne said Gympie seemed to miss out on the benefits.

“There doesn’t seem to be anything meaningful for Gympie,” he said.

He said the budget had identified funds for mental health hospitals “in Maryborough, Hervey Bay and Bundaberg.

“I would have thought there would have been at least something for Gympie.

“I don’t begrudge anything to Wide Bay-Burnett, but if there is going to be spending at Maryborough and nearby at Hervey Bay, there might have been something for this area.

“I’m also disappointed we didn’t rate some new funds for the Bruce Hwy.

“The $285 million they have identified will only pay for design work and a feasibility study. We really need to get some work done on Cooroy to Curra.

“They say they will start on Section A (near Cooroy and linking to the current roadworks underway in Section B).

“But upgrading the northern sections would also address flood proofing for the highway, because it was that section that prevented access to Maryborough and Bundaberg during the floods.

“And we had to bring groceries in by convoy through Kin Kin.”

Upgrading the northern sections of the Cooroy to Curra stretch would eliminate that problem, he said.

Cr Dyne said he was also concerned that the government would spend $350 to install set-top boxes for pensioners “when they only cost $50 and a 10-year-old can install one.”

Mr Truss said the government had “not only failed to allocate desperately needed additional funds to upgrade the notorious Cooroy to Curra section of the Bruce Highway, but actually (had cut) funding from the existing construction project”.

He said the government had stripped funding from the current Sankeys Rd to Traveston Rd section upgrade.

Greens leader Bob Brown slammed the government for cutting renewable energy programs but welcomed the mental health boost.

Analysts said rural Australia had generally done well in the budget, with limited funding cuts and big regional benefits from hundreds of millions to be spent on mental health and skills training, employment and jobs creation.

Gympie Times

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