OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott will lock himself away tonight with business and industry leaders at an undisclosed Hervey Bay location to hear tales of stalled development and chronic unemployment that will shape his policy preparation in the run up to the next election.
Mr Abbott's arrival this afternoon, so soon after Premier Campbell Newman's appearance in Hervey Bay in early April, has pitched the Fraser Coast on to the national stage once again and enlivened hopes that the region will be designated a high priority by an LNP ascendant at state and federal levels across Australia.
A devoted ocean swimmer, Mr Abbott will complete the 1.6km Pier to Pub event tomorrow but it is local joblessness, hurdles to development and a stagnant tourism industry that will exercise his mind tonight.
Member for Hinkler Paul Neville, who structured the deal to bring Mr Abbott to the Fraser Coast, said with unemployment tipping 10% and construction companies going bust, it was time the plight of the Wide Bay region became a national focus.
"We need to position our region for special treatment," Mr Neville said. "There is growing disquiet in the Wide Bay about the general malaise that grips the country, but presents in acute form across our region.
"We have sought out the big players, in particular in Maryborough and Hervey Bay, to come into conference with Mr Abbott and face to face, craft a special case for better treatment for our area."
While the identity of the members of the "star chamber" who tonight will attempt to shape the LNP's approach to the needs of the Fraser Coast has been tightly guarded, the identity of several members has leaked out.
Businessman Glen Winney confirmed that he would attend but refused to say what he would pitch to Mr Abbott, beyond confirming that the impact of the carbon tax, health and the Bruce Hwy were burning topics.
It is understood there will be about 15 leaders of development, retail and professional service sectors present, including LNP "machine men" from the region.
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