Coal-loving, nuclear power advocate is NQ’s new champion
THE hopes of North Queensland are pinned on a coal-loving, nuclear-power advocate based in the cane farming heartland of Bundaberg.
Hinkler MP Keith Pitt was yesterday sworn into federal cabinet as Resources, Water and Northern Australia Minister - portfolios that take in some of Townsville's key priorities.
Questions have already been raised about how the 50-year-old former electrician, university-trained engineer and cane farmer, will balance the interests of mining and water industries.
And the sheer size of the portfolio has spurred the creation of an Assistant Minister for Northern Australia, awarded to Rockhampton-based Capricornia MP Michelle Landry.
Townsville Enterprise chief executive Patricia O'Callaghan said it was important no momentum was lost on the works already in progress.
New Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt was yesterday sworn into federal cabinet into portfolios that take in some of Townsville's key priorities.
Mr Pitt, like his predecessor Senator Matt Canavan, who quit cabinet to back Barnaby Joyce's unsuccessful leadership, is a big believer in high-efficiency, lower-emission coal-fired power stations.
But unlike Senator Canavan, who has downplayed the role of the controversial energy source, Mr Pitt is one of the most outspoken advocates for nuclear power.
Mr Pitt has been pushing for an end to the ban on nuclear and the contemplation of small, prefabricated reactors, though he is opposed to his home town of Bundaberg being a possible site, as regional Queensland was "prone to earthquakes".
First elected in 2013, Mr Pitt quit as assistant minister in August 2018 because he opposed the government's Paris Agreement commitment to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030.
Mr Pitt has represented the people with the lowest average incomes in the nation, and is a staunch backer of the cashless welfare card, trialled first in Bundaberg, arguing that doing nothing to address the cycle of welfare dependency wasn't good enough.
Townsville, as the most populous city in Northern Australia and its unofficial capital, will be a major part of Mr Pitt's new job duties.
Townsville Enterprise chief executive Patricia O'Callaghan said the economic advocacy group would request to meet with Mr Pitt to brief him on key projects and priorities that his predecessor "strongly supported", including the $54 million Hells Gates Dam Stage 1 project, the Galilee Basin, and the North West Minerals Province.
"The Northern Australia Agenda review will also form a key part of our discussions with Minister Pitt," she said.
Herbert MP Phillip Thompson said he had spoken to Mr Pitt and had been told Townsville would be one of the new Minister's first stops.
Labor MPs at state and federal level have already begun attacking Mr Pitt on the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, a $5 billion fund designed to boost large construction projects that has been hit with numerous hurdles, including a latest conflict of interest kerfuffle involving Senator Canavan and his membership to the North Queensland Cowboys.
Opposition Northern Australia spokesman Murray Watt, who like Mr Pitt doesn't live in the region, said the appointment of a two ministers in the portfolio was a "sign" Prime Minister Scott Morrison knew his Northern Australia agenda was "floundering".