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Australia

'Underdog' Premier promises apprentices and tradies as Labor rebuilds

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Sunday claimed underdog status for the 2020 Queensland elections, while announcing she would reinvigorate a key government building arm to employ an extra 100 trainees and apprentices each year.

Labor will reinvigorate QBuild, slashed in half by the Liberal National Party when Campbell Newman won office in 2012, Ms Palaszczuk told the party's annual state conference.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announces she will employ an extra 100 tradies and apprentices in Q-Build each year.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announces she will employ an extra 100 tradies and apprentices in Q-Build each year.Credit:Tony Moore

QBuild had more than 2500 employees, including 293 apprentices in 2012, but by 2015 the were 1073 staff in the department's renamed Building and Asset Services.

The LNP believed QBuild was inefficient and wanted to create private-sector competition.

Ms Palaszczuk received a lengthy, standing ovation from ALP delegates on Sunday announcing the return to what she described as a "signature Labor policy."

"We will employ 300 QBuild tradies and apprentices over the next three years. We will recreate regional QBuild depots in Rockhampton, in Cairns, in Ipswich and in Caboolture," she said.

The government will employ 20 apprentices and 80 qualified tradies each year under their plan and use workers to repair buildings when natural disasters impact Queensland.

"The reinvigorated QBuild will boost my government's ability to respond fast, to rebuild and repair schools, hospital and social housing across Queensland," Ms Palaszczuk.

"This will guarantee skills development in blue-collar trades across Queensland."

The policy launch was part of a speech by the Premier to deliberately stake out differences between the ALP and the LNP 12 months out from the 2020 Queensland election.

"Rebuilding QBuild is a landmark decision and one that sets us apart from the LNP in this state," Ms Palaszczuk.

ALP state conference backs call to employ extra apprentices at state conference in Brisbane.

ALP state conference backs call to employ extra apprentices at state conference in Brisbane.Credit:Tony Moore

She accused the LNP of "destroying trade work" in Queensland.

"We will rebuild it."

LNP public works spokesman Michael Hart said under Labo Queensland had the highest unemployment rate on mainland Australia.

"Labor has failed miserably to create more jobs," Mr Hart said.

"Labor must guarantee any new bureaucracy it creates doesn’t take work off local tradies and small business.

"The new bureaucracy must also deliver value for money for the Queensland taxpayer."

Housing and Public Works minister Mick de Brenni said the LNP targeted apprentices and regional Queensland when it slashed QBuild.

"QBuild was historically one of the key deliverers of apprentices to the Queensland construction industry," Mr de Brenni said.

"We are seeing the rates of apprentices fall in this country and we are seeing the rates of completion rates for apprentices down to below 50 per cent in some areas in the private sector.

Housing and Public Works minister Mick de Brenni at the 2019 ALP conference.

Housing and Public Works minister Mick de Brenni at the 2019 ALP conference.Credit:Tony Moore

"If we are going to be a government that is committed to providing jobs in the regions we have to walk the walk."

Ms Palaszczuk bluntly laid out what she saw were the differences between the two major parties well before the formal election campaign began, claiming underdog status.

"Make no mistake, the votes the LNP will again receive from Clive Palmer and One Nation means we are again the underdog at next year's election," Ms Palaszcuk told party supporters.

"I've never minded being the underdog.

"We've climbed Mount Everest together before."

She highlighted her recent announcement of free TAFE apprenticeships to attract 60,000 young people under 21 to TAFE and the decision to make Christmas Eve a public holiday after 6pm.

"The Newman government in this state slashed TAFE, Labor is rebuilding TAFE," Ms Palaszczuk told the conference.

The Premier's carefully worded speech credited Queensland's varied resources industries with providing $21 billion of new investment from 30 new resource projects as she reminded delegates Queensland had an expanding mineral export market.

"The expansion of the resources sector has contributed markedly to $87 billion in exports over the past year," she said.

"That is double from when we first came to office and more than New South Wales and Victoria combined."

The Queensland Resources Council in April 2019 said there was a pipeline of $60 billion worth of projects to be approved. Since then Adani's $2 billion Carmichael coal mine has been approved.

"Friends. Coal, gas and renewable industries; all these are good, decent jobs in Queensland," she said.

A threatened stand-off between the CFMEU's Michael Ravbar and Left faction leader, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, did not eventuate publicly at the conference on Sunday.

Mr Ravbar said Ms Trad "was not up to the task of managing" the Cross River Rail project and asked she stand down while the Crime and Corruption Commission investigates the home purchase made by Ms Trad close to Brisbane's underground Cross River Rail project.

On Sunday, Mr Ravbar moved a low-key motion asking the state government to ensure all government procurement policies would be in place before sub-contractors began work on Cross River Rail.

Contracts have been awarded and site clearance work is well advanced on the $5.4 billion project.

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