SUBJECT/S: Labor’s commitment to the Cross River Rail; Labor’s plan for a fairer tax system; Greg Hunt to be challenged by Julia Banks in Flinders; Murray-Darling Basin; Scott Morrison running away.
PAUL NEWBURY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BRISBANE: Hi everybody, welcome here. I'd like to welcome Bill Shorten back to Brisbane yet again. It seems like he's here every other week now. Bill's here to show Labor's support for the Cross River Rail project, and so Bill's going to say a few words in a moment, but Cross River Rail is one of the number one projects - infrastructure projects - in Queensland. It's been a priority (inaudible) since 2012, and secondly we're very happy to be associated with it.
It is a transformational project. If you are serious about congestion, if you are serious about planning for the future - as all governments should be - then you have to take such projects seriously and so on that note I'd like to hand over to Bill. Welcome back to Brisbane Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Paul, and it's great to be back in Queensland. I think I've been in Queensland about 92 days since the last election. It's great to be here with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and of course my finance spokesperson Jim Chalmers.
All of last week I was travelling up Queensland and making clear Labor's commitments to Jobs not Cuts. And of course I was speaking at great length about our investments in the Bruce Highway for regional Queensland. But you could have knocked me over with a feather when I noticed the current Prime Minister came here in a bit of a hurried trip in the last couple of days, talking about infrastructure in south east Queensland, and no mention of Cross River Rail. Cross River Rail is a transformational project which will deal with one of the biggest challenges in Brisbane, both on the north side, but also right down to the Gold Coast - that is traffic congestion.
Brisbane's an international city, it takes its place proudly amongst the ranks of great international cities. But great international cities need great public transport proposals and Cross River Rail is exactly that. This is a business case which has been worked up since 2012. Everyone who drives on the roads in south east Queensland knows that Cross River Rail is as important to Brisbane and south east Queensland as the Bruce Highway is to regional Queensland.
That's why I am really pleased to recommit federal Labor to the Cross River Rail project - this visionary project - which will decrease congestion and have some great results. It is a very exciting project. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk deserves the congratulations for showing the vision for this project, but what Queenslanders deserve and what people in south east Queensland deserve is a government in Canberra who recognises that we have an obligation to reinvest some of the taxes that Queenslanders pay in south east Queensland, to reinvest that in quality public transport.
This visionary exciting plan, which will see no less than four new underground stations built, see the upgrade of another two railway stations, 5.9kms of tunnel to be excavated. This will mean in a practical sense, thousands of extra passengers on the rail and indeed by 2036, tens of thousands of extra passenger places. What it means is that the drive between the Gold Coast and Brisbane, which a lot of people make, will be quicker. There will be fewer cars on the road than there otherwise would be.
Everyone knows that the population in south east Queensland is going to grow. That's why we need infrastructure to lead the way not to follow behind the growth in the population. The only way you decrease traffic congestion is by providing an alternative to driving to work or driving to the city. That is why this railway project provides the next step for the next generation of investment.
A Labor Government that I lead will be pleased to invest $2.24 billion dollars over the next number of years, both in the construction phase and the operations phase, and what this also means is because of our Commonwealth investment as good governments do, working with other levels of government, it means that the Queensland Government can free up very very important resources to help do a better deal even for hospitals and schools and other priorities for southeast Queensland and Queensland more generally.
This is an exciting visionary project, you can't be fair dinkum about infrastructure or jobs or congestion unless you invest in public transport and in south east Queensland the number one project is Cross River Rail. This will deliver 7,700 jobs over the construction phase and another 500 jobs in the operations phase. If you want real jobs, if you want to get around south east Queensland more quickly, if you want less congestion, and if you want Brisbane to be one of the great cities of the world, then you've got to have a vision for Cross River Rail. And on that note I'd like to hand over to Premier Palaszczuk whose vision for the whole of Queensland, from the Bruce Highway to Cross River Rail is a very exciting set of propositions for an incoming Labor Government to work with.
ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND: Thanks Bill, and it's wonderful to have you back here in Queensland. We've been in regional Queensland last week and of course today we're here to talk about Cross River Rail.
Cross River Rail is south east Queensland's number one infrastructure project. It's been my government's number one infrastructure project now since we came to office. Unfortunately, Scott Morrison and the LNP federally have failed to contribute one single dollar to Cross River Rail.
In fact Scott Morrison has delivered, this much to it. Absolutely nothing. Why should Victoria and New South Wales get the lion's share of infrastructure funding when Queensland's number one infrastructure project is not given one cent by the federal government.
So in Queensland, we got on with the job and we allocated over $5 billion. I welcome Bill Shorten's commitment of over $800 million for the infrastructure costs - that's $800 million that I can use to help improve more schools and more hospitals across Queensland. This is where we work best when we work together. Why shouldn't Queensland's priorities be Canberra's priorities?
Now, I really want to thank Bill for being here today. We know how many jobs this will mean to the south east of our state, over 7,700 jobs. We've been right across Queensland over the last week talking about the upgrades to the Bruce Highway, new projects that are happening in Townsville. So I really want to thank Bill for coming here today, and with those few words I'll hand over to the Deputy Premier, just to talk a bit more about Cross River Rail, and why this is a transformational project for the south east of our state.
JACKIE TRAD, DEPUTY PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND: Thank you very much Premier and many of you here would know that I have been advocating for this critical project in south east Queensland for a long time now. It's no secret that south east Queensland is one of the fastest growing areas in our nation, and we are a large contributor to the national economy, but all of this is at risk unless we can address the congestion issues confronting everyday Queenslanders on our roads and on our public transport system. And that solution is Cross River Rail.
That's why, as the Premier has said, we had to go it alone without any support from Scott Morrison either when he was Treasurer and now that he is Prime Minister. That's why we had to go it alone because we could not leave Queenslanders sitting in traffic away from their families and away from their jobs. $5.4 billion has been allocated to this very important project, but with the election of a Bill Shorten Labor Government federally, what it means is that Queensland will have a partner in Canberra who will help us meet the costs of this critical project to busting congestion in south east Queensland.
This is about jobs. This is about growing our economy. This is about ensuring that Queenslanders have the skills necessary for the future. And I just want to say what a stark contrast it is to have Bill here in Queensland today, recommitting billions of dollars to this project, on the one hand, then on the other hand having Scott Morrison here in the south east Queensland corner committing little bits of money here and there for park and rides, and little bits of infrastructure. What we know is we need this large scale infrastructure project to fix congestion and without Bill Shorten as the Prime Minister of Australia we know we won't get a fair deal out of Canberra.
So it's great, it's refreshing to have Bill here recommitting to this critical project for Queensland. Thank you.
SHORTEN: Thanks Jackie. Are there any questions on our commitment to Cross River Rail and new vision for public transport in south east Queensland, or any other matters?
JOURNALIST: If you are elected, that money goes towards this project I assume (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: The Premier can answer for her decisions, but the reason why the national government that I’d lead wants to invest in public transport is you can't be fair dinkum about congestion and jobs unless you're willing to revitalise our public transport infrastructure. You don't have to take my word for it, just talk to any Queenslander who sits on the busy crowded roads at peak period.
We need to recognise that south east Queensland is growing. This is Queensland's number one choice for south east Queensland for infrastructure. What we need is a government in Canberra who listens to the people. Unfortunately it was former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who started leading his right wing crusade against investing in public transport in cities and it would appear that under the current fellow nothing has changed. The fact that you can come to Brisbane, be oblivious to congestion and not have an investment of public transport, just shows you people are out of touch.
The other good news, of course, and I had the chance to meet some of the contractors working on the job here, is that when you spell out guaranteed funding for five years that means that the plumbers, the excavator operators, all the people who use their skills, can be guaranteed of five years plus of work. That's just good news for our construction sector and of course the Queensland Government with $800 million extra can do wonderful things in a whole range of other areas.
JOURNALIST: As you worried that the Prime Ministers (inaudible) getting traction in the act they're giving us a number of election promises, they're spent, they're in the Budget and that might attract people to vote for it?
SHORTEN: This Government has moved its Budget forward to early April for one purpose only. Not to create a better life for Australians, but to get themselves re-elected. There is nothing this government says about infrastructure which perturbs me, except the fact that they don't know anything about public transport. We will match the local promises they make, so that's not an issue. You can vote for us and you know if there's a particular roundabout they're talking, the Government's speaking about, well that will be fine.
But what this country is crying out for, not just south east Queensland, is vision. People are sick of the day to day politics. What they want to know is what do we think this country will look like in 2030 and beyond? We need, if we are to be a liveable, sustainable nation - not only investment in the Bruce Highway, not only investment in the beef roads of western Queensland - but we need to get people moving again in south-east Queensland. A good metro system is what the best cities in the world have and I only want the best for the Australian people including the people of south-east Queensland.
SHORTEN: Some of them are things that we've already announced and we'll study the rest of them. But isn't the point about today, where's the vision of this current Government? They've got a vision for, you know, taking each other out and, you know, are sort of continuing their civil war. If I want to have a good civil war in Australia, I'd hire the Liberal Party of Australia. If I want to get public transport built in Australia and decongest, I'd vote for the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] self-funded retirees support Labor when Chris Bowen says that you don't need their votes? And was that a bit arrogant on his part?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all - Chris was saying there's a choice in policies - and that's sensible, there's always a choice. But when I talk to older Australians, I put this to you: If you're sick of your energy bills going up, vote Labor because we're going to invest in renewable energy. If you're worried about your private health insurance becoming a luxury, vote Labor because we're going to restrict the increase in premiums for the next two years to 2 per cent. If you're worried about the cost of going to see the doctor, vote Labor because we're going to unfreeze the patient rebate. Wherever you look in this country, Labor's got a plan to reduce the aged care waiting lists which are a disgrace.
And what we're also going to do is stop the bank rip-offs of older Australians. A lot of the victims of the banks have been older Australians, small business people, retirees, you name it. The current Prime Minister voted 26 times against having a Banking Royal Commission.
So I say to not just older Australians but all Australians, if you want to make sure that we have a fair go in this country, that is not simply your postcode or your wealth which determines what happens, but getting a fair go, then we're the party for you. From health care, to the cost of living to making sure that we have good infrastructure as well.
JOURNALIST: Was it arrogant of Mr Bowen and could it cost you seats like Herbert?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, I don't accept the characterisation you're making of Mr Bowen's comments. There are choices and what we've been is upfront with the Australian people.
We respect all Australians - that's why we're putting our policies out in advance. We've done something unusual in Australian politics. We're explaining how you pay for things before we then say how we're going to use some of that money.
But I think it is appropriate that we shut down unsustainable tax concessions. Why are we the only country in the world who will let people claim an income tax refund when they've paid no income tax in that year? It's generous but it's not sustainable. Why do we want to be a country which will spend more on tax concessions and tax subsidies to some people who are already quite comfortable and well-off and spend more on that than we will on higher education or childcare, or a range of other important services which are fundamental to the success of this country going forward?
Sorry, you're next.
JOURNALIST: On Julia Banks, do you think she stands a chance of [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: Well I wouldn't want to be in Greg Hunt shoes today. But before we start talking about Julia Banks and Greg Hunt, the Labor Party's nearly concluded its process to pick a candidate in Flinders and we'll be doing our very best to win the seat.
But I will make these observations about Julia Banks: I don't know her very well but she seems to be a woman who speaks her own mind. Now, I think that her running in Flinders is the ultimate sign of failure of the Prime Minister's authority over his own party. She made it clear that she was bullied by the coup-masters who got rid of Malcolm Turnbull - who've never explained to Australians why Malcolm Turnbull is no longer there. She went to her own Prime Minister, the new fellow and said, this isn't good enough. And in the end, she was so unimpressed with his lack of authority on the issue of the proper treatment of women in the Liberal Party that she's running from outside. So I think she's very strong.
I think it's a three horse race down there and I suspect in his very quiet moments, the current Minister for Health, the Member for Flinders must be regretting the fact that he was Peter Dutton's choice for deputy and that it was up to his neck in getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull. And now, the chickens have come home to roost in the form of the very formidable Julia Banks.
Sorry - yourself and then yourself.
JOURNALIST: Are there any other groups like retirees who you recommend vote against Labor?
SHORTEN: Well I don't accept your characterisation. I'd refer you to the earlier answer. What I would say to Australians is this: if you are dissatisfied with the fact that everything's going up except your wages, then vote Labor. We're the only party offering a plan to improve people's wages in this country - to protect penalty rates, to make sure that women get paid the same as men. If you are unhappy, if you earn less than $120,000 a year, with the fact that you pay so much tax, you should vote for Labor because we are offering bigger tax refunds every year.
Take one of the construction workers here and one of the railway workers here - say they're a married couple. Say one of them is pulling down a wage of $90,000 and the other a wage of $70,000. In our first term alone, under a Labor government, each of them is going to get nearly $3,000 back in tax refund which is almost twice as much as the Government's offering low paid and modestly paid workers.
So when you look at it - if you're sick of no action on climate change, you wouldn't give this mob a third chance. If you're not happy with the fact that your energy bills keep going up, why on earth would you invest in this current mob because the reason why power prices are going up in Australia is because this government's so anti-doing anything on climate change, no one can invest in new power generation which forces prices up. And if you are unhappy that the banks didn't get a royal commission, it took so long to get the Government, or if you want multinationals to pay their fair share then you'd be voting Labor at the next election.
We've got a plan for Australians and it's a very good plan and at the core of it is jobs. Everyone who gets stuck in traffic driving up from the Gold Coast should consider voting Labor because of Annastacia Palaszczuk and myself, we've got a plan to decongest the roads and to provide real public transport options to one of the fastest growing centres in Australia.
Sorry you and then -
JOURNALIST: What do you have to say to charities like the Cancer Council who rely on donations from self-funded retirees who will possibly have less in their pocket?
SHORTEN: Listen, no charity is going to be affected by our changes to imputation laws - first of all. Secondly, I would say this: you're still allowed to give money in this country. And what I would also say thirdly - and this is perhaps most important - I think the charities of Australia do a fantastic job. We couldn't be where we are without them. But now, too often we're relying on our charities to fill the front-line gaps of health funding cuts under a Liberal Government. What I can say to charities in the future is that because of a Labor government, the causes you are most interested in are going to get a better deal in funding from a Labor government.
We should have a health system which doesn't rely on charity but relies upon your Medicare card.
SHORTEN: Well first of all, it's an ecological disaster unfolding but I will remind you, as I'm sure you're aware, the Coalition, the LNP, have been in power for five years. So I think they've got a lot of explaining to do. The royal commission in South Australia will hand down its report - that's in the next hour or so. I might, having waited this long, wait an extra hour and read what they say.
But you've had a question for the Premier.
***STATE POLITICAL ISSUES DISCUSSED***
JOURNALIST: Just one last one - the Prime Minister moved his press conference this morning because of Labor protesters. These were women in their 60s and 70s who were pretty quiet. What do you think about that? [Inaudible].
SHORTEN: I don't know why he moved his press conference and he's always going to blame the Labor Party for anything - probably including the weather. I've done 80 town hall meetings across Australia, many of them in regional Queensland for example. I've taken the view that you're better off inviting people and getting them in the room. I've had meetings where people have held up their placards on all sorts of issues. So I think people have got a right to express a view. They should always be polite. If Mr Morrison felt his safety was in danger or he had advice, I don't know and I don't get that's the impression what happened here at all.
I think a politician will run out of places to visit in Australia if they never want to hear from people who disagree with them. One of the benefits I suppose of six years in opposition is I've had nearly every issue raised with me but I think that's how you find out what's going on. At the end of the day, the people of Australia are the bosses of the parliamentarians -not the other way round. And I think sometimes you've got to get out and about and talk to people. That's what I did on the bus, that's why I stayed on the bus for a nine day trip. You know, there's always a balance, isn't there? You know, I'm not going to second guess the current Prime Minister entirely. He'll have his motivations but if you become afraid of talking to the people well then the people will work that out pretty quickly.