Jim Campbell

Queensland LNPs wants $100m innovation fund for CQ

SOME Queensland LNP federal backbenchers are pushing for ministerial support for a $100 million innovation fund for central and north Queensland.

The push for the fund is being led by Dawson MP George Christensen and backed by MPs Michelle Landry, Ken O'Dowd, Keith Pitt, Ewen Jones and senators Matt Canavan and Ian MacDonald.

It comes amid rising job losses across central Queensland and Mr Christensen said it would help mining services and construction firms diversify away from mining.

A policy proposal was circulated late last year to several Cabinet members, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Treasurer Scott Morrison.

Mr Christensen said he met with several other ministers last week in Canberra in an effort to secure funding in this year's federal budget for the initiative.

"What we've got is a corridor of towns in central and north Queensland with mining services companies that have had to put off hundreds of staff since the mining downturn began about three years ago," he said.

"We're really looking for a sum of money that can help local businesses pursue new ideas, move into a new sector or buy some gear that will help them innovate."

Mr Christensen said money from the fund, if enacted, would be given to businesses under a strict, merit-based competitive process ideally to support existing jobs or creating new jobs in the region.

"It's not re-creating the wheel, there's been 15 of these in the past to help out South Australia, Tasmania or Geelong," he said.

"It's time the communities who helped prop up the economy during the financial crisis got their fair share."

The fund is understood to have high level support within the Nationals, given a promise in the Coalition agreement with Mr Turnbull for a regional jobs package.

But with the government looking to cut spending and the Treasurer's edict that any new spending must be offset by cuts in the same portfolio, it is yet to be seen whether the government will act on the backbench push.

Comments were sought from Mr Morrison's office before filing.



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