In five days last week I cycled over 200km and stopped to speak to local residents in 26 different towns around the Southern and Central Sunshine Coast in my electorate of Fisher. I rode my pushbike to Mooloolaba and Montville, Pelican Waters and Peachester, Conondale and Currimundi and all the towns in between. I had one on one conversations with more than 200 people who live here about the issues that matter to them in 2019. The people that I spoke to love the Sunshine Coast. Time and again they told me about what a wonderful place our home is and about their optimism for our future. But consistently, like me, they want the Coast to be even better, and they have great ideas for how we could do it.
The vast majority didn’t want to talk to me about the to and fro of Canberra politics or the organised campaigns loudly promoted through social media. They wanted to talk to me about the everyday challenges they face and what the Government can do to make our lives on the Coast that little bit easier.
We have many senior Australians here, and a lot of them took the time to meet with me on the road. Their number one issue couldn’t be clearer. Seniors throughout the Coast are worried about their futures under Labor’s proposed Retiree Tax. Many people I spoke to face losing a third of their already modest retirement income if Bill Shorten gets the opportunity to impose this new tax. One gentleman asked me rightly how the average worker would get by if the Government expected them to take a permanent 30% pay cut overnight. Another pointed out how local shops and cafes who rely on retirees’ visits for their revenue throughout the day will be hit. A third brought me a stack of figures which showed how unfair the tax would be. He took me through how a working high-income earner on $200,000 would be allowed to keep their full tax refund under Labor’s plan, while a self-funded retiree with a self-managed super fund who should receive a tax refund would get nothing.
Consistently the message from local seniors was clear. They have worked hard all their lives and saved carefully so that they will not be a burden on the state in retirement. Now Labor’s Retiree tax threatens to wipe out that independence and leave thousands more on the Coast relying on the pension. Local seniors are rightly proud of what they achieved, and the ones I spoke to were absolutely gutted at what Bill Shorten proposes to do to them. I heard them loud and clear and in 2019 I will fight every day to stop Labor’s unfair and disastrous tax grab.
A lot of people of all ages wanted to talk about traffic congestion, and as I cycled from town to town I can’t say I blame them. On a bike you are especially aware of all of the cars around you. When they start to build up you can feel as well as see it. On my journey I experienced firsthand that local roads like Caloundra Road, Kawana Way, Brisbane Road and Nicklin Way among others are absolutely chock-a-block with cars and exhaust fumes at peak hour. It is bad for the environment, dangerous for all of us, and takes us away for longer from the people and things we care about. I am determined in 2019 to do something about it. These roads are a State Government responsibility, and I will work hard to put pressure on them. But I have no intention of passing the buck, and on behalf of the many people who spoke to me about this issue, I will also be exploring what the Federal Government can do to help.
At one point on Thursday following my GPS route I ran straight into a dead end on Martin Road, my forward progress blocked by the roadworks around the Bruce Highway. It was fantastic to see up close the physical results of the $3.4 billion the Coalition Government is investing in upgrading the Bruce Highway between the Coast and Brisbane. Like most of us who live here though I was frustrated by the holdup to my journey that the roadworks caused. I don’t want to see this construction drag on for years to come, and as I looked for an alternative way to get to Sippy Downs, I recommitted again to work hard in 2019 to get these upgrades, both to the Bruce Highway and to the North Coast Rail, fast tracked and completed as soon as possible.
In every town I visited there were local projects, new facilities and new community infrastructure that local residents want, from an upgraded pool for Conondale, to new beachside facilities at Currimundi. I will be looking into these projects in 2019 and where possible, I will be fighting for Federal support to make them a reality.
In the end there were as many unique perspectives as there were people on my 200km journey; but the common themes were clear. We love the Sunshine Coast but we want it to be even better. We want new and good quality, meaningful local jobs, the infrastructure we deserve, and a strong regional economy that will help us all to get ahead. We want to keep the cost of living down, protect the lifestyle we enjoy and to spend less time in traffic. We want independence in work and in retirement without the burden of huge new taxes.
I am grateful to everyone who gave me a friendly wave as I rode up and down the Range last week, and especially to everyone who came and spoke to me. I heard from a lot of passionate, sensible people who want our community to be even better. I am listening, and in 2019 I am committed to working hard in Canberra to help make that a reality.
Andrew Wallace MP
Federal Member for Fisher
First published in the Sunshine Coast Daily, 2 February 2019.