• A king tide threatens to surge over an old seawall in Saibai, Torres Strait. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Labor's funding commitment for an extensive seawall project in the Torres Strait announced this week trumps the government's $5m work-for-the-dole election promise last month.
Aaron Smith

10 May 2019 - 6:04 AM  UPDATED 10 May 2019 - 6:06 AM

Labor candidate for the federal seat of Leichhardt, Elida Faith, in Cairns on Wednesday announced a $20 million election commitment for the construction of seawalls in the five Torres Strait islands most at risk from climate change.

The money will match the Queensland Government’s commitment enabling work to continue to build seawalls and other flood mitigation projects to protect Boigu, Poruma, Iama, Warraber and Masig.

Ms Faith said action was needed now to protect the Torres Strait.

“The people of the Torres Strait are seeing firsthand the devastating impacts of the LNP’s inaction on climate change,” she said.

“While the LNP continues its reckless in-fighting over whether or not they believe in climate change, the Torres Strait is suffering.”

“Rising sea levels and extreme weather events mean people on the outer islands of the Torres Strait are growing increasingly concerned for their safety and the safety of their community.

“There is no more time to spare. We need to take action to protect the Torres Strait now.”

The commitment matches dollar-for-dollar the $20 million pledge from the QLD state government to build seawalls and other flood mitigation works in the Torres Strait, and bests a $5 million commitment in April from outgoing  minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion.

Queensland Government Member for Cook, Cynthia Lui, said the pledge from her federal colleagues was "welcome news", particularly after the Federal LNP government's commitment of $5m fell "well short" of the required $20 million for the proposed work.

“This outcome is a true reflection of the type of representation we need in Far North Queensland,” Ms Lui said.

The federal government's April 19 commitment of $5 million snubbed the Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC) with funding to go directly to Traditional Owners and all subsequent work to be carried out under the contentious work-for-the-dole scheme.

At the time, Senator Scullion lashed out at Senator Pat Dodson for planning to scrap the program.

Mr Scullion also said TSIRC would be cut out of the seawall project for poorly managing the last round of funding, something TSIRC Mayor, Fred Gela, said contradicted an evaluation report the Minister himself commissioned.

Cr Gela has previously stated Torres Strait Islanders face the possibility of being the world's first climate change refugees and on Wednesday endorsed Ms Faoth as a "true leader".

“This is what Torres Strait expected and certainly nothing less,” he said.

However , Cr Gela added that "the proof will be in the pudding" in regards to what Bill Shorten's Labor Party can deliver.

Senator Patrick Dodson joined Ms Faith and Ms Lui for the announcement in Cairns and said the Liberals and Nationals "just didn’t care enough about people in the Torres Strait".

“(Member for Leichhardt) Warren Entsch has pulled a funding figure out of the sky, but it doesn’t come close to what is needed to protect the Torres Strait," said Senator Dodson.

“As a final insult, the funding committed by the LNP hinges on using the Community Development Program (CDP), a discriminatory, punitive and ineffective program that hurts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers.

“Labor is committed to protecting our Torres Strait Islander communities. That’s why we are committing the full funding. We are not going to go to communities with piecemeal funding offerings when their homes are at risk. We will protect the Torres Strait,” he said.

The $20 million investment will provide funding over three years to complete the critical infrastructure upgrades already commenced by the Queensland Government.

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