Article – Conflict over growth rate

22 June 2014
Chris Burns
North West Star
THERE could be a political contradiction involving the predicted fate of Mount Isa and received Royalties for the Regions funding.
The federal government’s green paper on Developing Northern Australia released two weeks ago shows that Mount Isa is expected to have the highest population growth among northern Australian regional towns within 12 years.
But Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said Mount Isa’s resource industry was not growing last year when explaining why the town only received $500,000 in round three of Royalties for Regions funding.
Member for Mount Isa Robbie Katter asked Mr Seeney in Parliament on October 31 last year why important water infrastructure needed to drought-proof Mount Isa was not being funded by Royalties for Regions; especially considering the town contributed $90 million in royalties in 2012.
Mr Seeney blamed Mount Isa mayor Tony McGrady and Mr Katter for not addressing these water infrastructure issues in a mature resources city with a large population.
Then he said; “We will continue to ensure that Royalties for the Regions is used to address growth pressures where the resources sector is growing, and Mount Isa is not one of those.” Mr Seeney’s comments could have been interpreted two ways; Mount Isa’s resource sector was not growing, or that Royalties for Regions funding should instead go to areas developing in the resource sector rather than to established mining towns which contribute to the royalties.
A spokeswoman from the Deputy Premier’s office said Mr Seeney’s parliamentary comments were taken out of context.
Mr Seeney said the Queensland Government provided almost $9 million to council shires in North West Queensland through the Royalties for Regions program since 2012.
This included $500,000 for Mount Isa’s sewerage treatment plant and $4.8 million for a heavy vehicle bypass and $1.3 million for airport upgrades at Cloncurry.
“These allocations reflect the state government’s commitment to ensuring the city of Mount Isa and the entire region share in the royalties earned by local resources sector,” Mr Seeney said.
The Deputy Premier’s office was asked how Mr Seeney expected Mount Isa’s population to grow if the resource sector did not, but the question was overlooked.
Mr Katter told  The North West Star  last week that the deputy premier had been politically biased.
There was a link between Mount Isa’s population growth and the growth of the resource sector, Mr Katter said.
“The deputy premier fell victim to his own political bias when he made the clumsy statement about growth in our area,” he said.
“I am sure he has since realised how foolish this statement was.”
Mr Katter acknowledged that employee numbers at Mount Isa Mines might have declined lately, but it had still grown since the last slow period in 2002.
“The future of Mount Isa will always be intrinsically linked to the fortunes of the mining industry,” he said.
Cr McGrady said the Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia proves the Deputy Premier’s former comments regarding the lack of growth in Mount Isa’s resource sector was wrong.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said in Parliament last year that Mount Isa only received $500,000 in Royalties for the Regions funding because the area’s resource sector was not growing.
“Those comments he made were wrong at the time and are doubly wrong now,” Cr McGrady said.
Mr Seeney’s office was recently asked for further clarification about what he meant about Mount Isa’s resource sector considering federal and state statistics show the city’s population is expected to grow in the next 12 years.
Mr Seeney’s office responded by highlighting direct quotes from Cr McGrady expressing delight in receiving $500,000 Royalties for Regions money in May this year.
“The Deputy Premier’s support of our submission has restored my faith in the Royalties for the Regions program,” Cr McGrady said in the release.
Cr McGrady defended his earlier comments on Friday by saying “the time for petty politics is long gone.”
“When we got $500,000 of course I was delighted.
“We missed out on our previous two grants.”
Mount Isa City Council employed consultations to help with the third grant application, which resulted in the royalties funding.
“The paper proves he was wrong,” Cr McGrady said.
“I just wish this silly nonsense would stop.”
Courtesy of the North West Star