WEDNESDAY, 21 FEBRUARY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s Plan for Real Jobs in Regional Queensland; Russell Robertson, Labor candidate for Capricornia; Adani; Barnaby Joyce; Australian immigration; National Security laws.
CHRIS KETTER, LABOR SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Thanks very much for coming out today. My name is Chris Ketter, I'm a Labor Senator for Queensland. Can I say what a pleasure it is for me to be here today with Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition and other elected Labor representatives who Bill will talk about in a couple of minutes. But before I do hand it over to Bill, I just want to say how proud I am of the fact that the announcement that Bill is about to make today, builds on the announcement we've made in respect of the Rookwood Weir, in respect of the South Rockhampton flood levy. This just shows that at a time when our political opponents are tearing themselves apart over their unfortunate behaviour and their own jobs, Labor at a federal level is focusing on the jobs of regional Queenslanders and their future.
So with those few worlds, I will hand it over to Bill Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Chris. Good morning everybody, it's great to be back in Rockhampton. I think this is about the sixth or seventh time I've visited since the election, and it's great in today's event to be accompanied by State Members of Parliament, Barry O'Rourke and Brittany Lauga, also Senator Chris Ketter and I'm pleased as part of today's press conference to introduce Labor's new champion for Capricornia, Russell Robertson. A coal miner, a father of three, long-time local for generations.
And it's also really positive to be here today because Labor wants to get on with the job of helping create real jobs for regional Queensland, and I'm really pleased to announce that if I was elected Prime Minister, Labor will provide the necessary funding for the overdue first stage of duplicating the Yeppoon-Rockhampton Road.
This road badly needs duplication. You don't have to tell a local who uses this road that there's more cars than ever; 12,000 car journeys a day. At least 1,000 of these journeys are made by heavy vehicles. Much more tragically then that, we see that there's been 20 fatalities in the last 20 years. This road needs duplication. Labor is prepared to work with the Queensland State Government to match dollar for dollar the funding for the first stage, so I'm pleased to announce that if I'm elected Prime Minister, we'll spent $47.5 to create 150 jobs, more importantly to keep the road users safe, and to make sure that this fast growing part of Australia gets its fair share of resources. We can afford to make this promise because we're not giving $65 billion away to large multinationals who will send that money overseas.
Only Labor is committed to real jobs in regional Queensland. We're committed to improving the safety of road users in Rockhampton, who travel between Rockhampton and Yeppoon. I congratulate both Russell Robertson for his lobbying on this matter, but also the Queensland State Government represented today by Brittany and Barry, because we know that if you look after the people then that's what actually makes Rockhampton-Yeppoon a real go-ahead area, which it is.
I'm happy to hand over to our State colleagues, and then Russell and I might talk a little bit further and answer any questions that you've got on federal issues. Thank you.
BRITTANY LAUGA, STATE MEMBER FOR KEPPEL: Brittany Lauga, State Member for Keppel. It's absolutely fantastic to have Federal Labor Leader, Bill Shorten in town today to announce that Federal Labor will commit to the first stage, 50 per cent of the funding to duplicate Yeppoon-Rocky Road from Tanby Road to Limestone Creek. This is an incredibly important project for the Keppel electorate and for Central Queensland. Yeppoon-Rockhampton Road has over 11,000 vehicles travel on it every day. I'm one of those people that travels on this road every day, and I can tell you how heart breaking it is every time I see an accident on this road. You, yourselves as the media would know just how many times you have to come here and report incidents on this road.
I'm really excited that a Federal Labor Government will actually commit to infrastructure in this region, to commit to funding important road duplications like the Yeppoon-Rockhampton Road here in central Queensland. This duplication, the first stage, will create about 150 jobs, it will save lives and it will be an important piece of infrastructure for our region going forward. It's absolutely marvellous to have our Federal Labor leader here in town today for a town hall meeting as well. I think that it shows Labor's commitment to Central Queensland, Labor's commitment to growing jobs in Central Queensland, and our Federal Labor leader's commitment to actually listening to the people of this region and what their concerns and needs are. Thank you.
RUSSELL ROBERTSON, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CAPRICORNIA: Thanks Brittany and thank you Mr Shorten for introducing me as the ALP candidate for Capricornia. For those who didn't know me, I am a coal miner so I look forward to fighting that good fight and fighting for local jobs like this one. So if elected, I look forward to pushing forward with the project that our leader, Bill Shorten has produced.
SHORTEN: That's great, Russell. We're happy to take any questions people might have.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you've stood up here with Russell Robertson today, a coal miner himself. Do you guys clash over this Adani coal mine proposal?
SHORTEN: Let's tell the truth, Adani is not the whole coal industry for goodness sake. There's nothing wrong with demanding that Adani stack up commercially and environmentally, and no amount of pressure from Adani is going to make me back off standing up to make sure that the deals actually add up financially and add up environmentally. But I want to make this point very clear, that when the boosters of the Adani deal say somehow, if you are sceptical about Adani, that makes you sceptical about the coal industry, that's just not right. I have spent my life representing miners, I understand the importance of mining. I have spent my life representing resource construction workers. I have spent my life standing up for blue-collar engineering workers. The big difference between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party is that Malcolm Turnbull thinks a coal miner is Gina Rinehart, I think a coal miner is Russell Robertson. The reality is that we are the party of miners, we are the party of farmers, we are the party of the services industries, we are the party of average and middle class Australians right around this country.
So yes, if there are environmental concerns and commercial concerns about Adani, well that's just the way it is. That doesn't mean there is no role for coal in Australia. It just means that this particular project, you know there's a lot of question marks. And the reality is, it's not just me who is saying it. The difference between me and the LNP is they know it, they just won't tell people that, whereas I am willing to be upfront.
JOURNALIST: Do you wish the project was just dead in the water?
SHORTEN: Well, they have missed seven deadlines, and the banks don't want to have a bar of it. The truth of the matter is that Adani doesn't equal the mining or the coking coal sector in Australia, it is a project. And as a project, if it doesn't stand up, it doesn't stand up. One thing I can tell you right now, I am not going to use taxpayers money to stack up an Indian billionaire trying to get money out of the Australian taxpayer to otherwise bankroll the Adani mine, that doesn't make sense. If I have got to use scarce taxpayers' money, I think that is a pretty important obligation to spend it wisely. That's why I have announced that if elected, we will fund the $176 million for the Rookwood Weir. That's why I have said that if elected, we will make sure the Levee gets built. That's why I have said that if I get elected Prime Minister, we will fix up one of the most dangerous roads in Australia. That is what you use taxpayer money for; for the interests of the people not to give tax cuts to multinationals or to help companies overseas get a taxpayer magic carpet ride in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Matt Canavan came out this morning saying you care more about votes in inner-city Melbourne than jobs in central Queensland. How would you respond to that?
SHORTEN: I think the National Party is in witness protection at the moment, aren't they? Let's face it, it's day fourteen of the ongoing Turnbull-Joyce saga. It's day fourteen and the Prime Minister still hasn't shown any leadership. It's day fourteen and the Deputy Prime Minister has shown no sense of responsibility. It's day fourteen and the most senior leaders of the Australian Government are more interested in themselves. No, Senator Canavan needs to have a good look at himself and straighten up here. He should be backing us in on Rookwood Weir. We've already had an anonymous government spokesperson say that the government can't make a decision on that until, at the earliest, April. That's just a joke. And you don't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to work out that this is a very dangerous piece of road and duplication is long overdue. So, we're on the side of the road users; the truck drivers and the families, we're on the side of blue-collar workers who will do the civil construction along here and lay the road and the culverts and the drains. We are the party looking after people, the LNP is in danger of disappearing up itself as they just focus on their own jobs and their own infighting.
JOURNALIST: Is Australia's overall migrant intake too high?
SHORTEN: Oh, you're referring to Mr Abbott's latest bomb that he has thrown at Mr Turnbull. Let's talk about what Mr Abbott is doing. This is just another part of the never-ending war between Abbott and Turnbull. This morning, the Treasurer has torpedoed Mr Abbott's idea. The Treasurer has said that Mr Abbott's idea is going to cost Australia $5 billion. We all know what this issue is about, it is not about immigration, it's about Abbott versus Turnbull.
Now, I do have some sympathy for people complaining that the rules around bringing in temporary visa workers, taking jobs of Australians, are too slack. Labor is proposing to tighten that up and we want to increase the cost of those visas so employers are forced to hire Australians.
The other thing I want to do is save TAFE. I want to make sure that young Australians, when they finish school, can get an apprenticeship. So I think there's tightening up we can do about the visa requirements, but as for the rest of the debate, Morrison has torpedoed Abbott, Abbott's trying to ambush Turnbull, it's just another day at the office for the LNP. They’re just obsessed about themselves, they're just in it for themselves and not talking about the real issues which affect working families.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten what does this say about the relationships within the Liberal Party?
SHORTEN: There's more fault lines in the Liberal Party than you can shake a stick at in the Government. Mr Turnbull's flying off overseas, I bet he can't wait to leave. He's already put his hand up and said, don't blame me, I'm only the Prime Minister of Australia, how can I be expected to discipline by own Ministers? It's day fourteen, the Prime Minster hasn't shown leadership. It's day fourteen, the Deputy Prime Minister's shown no sense of responsibility. It's day fourteen and the senior members of the Government are fighting each other. It doesn't matter if it's Abbott lobbing bombs about immigration to Turnbull, Morrison's out there attacking Abbott, you've got Joyce who's running his own race. He's called his boss inept, no discipline there from Mr Turnbull. I tell you what, I bet you Mr Turnbull can't wait till that door on the plane closes and he can just forget about Australia, forget about his own government for a while.
JOURNALIST: News Corp reports that Barnaby Joyce has purchased six parcels of land near the Inland Rail line. Has he breached the Ministerial Code of conduct?
SHORTEN: Well, there's a few things, and this is obviously a breaking story. First of all, someone in the Cabinet has leaked that Mr Joyce didn’t declare any potential conflict of interest. That's how we know this. So already, you've got people in Joyce's front bench -Turnbull's front bench, undermining each other. As for the actual substance, I think it's up to the Prime Minister to explain, is he satisfied with Mr Joyce's conduct. But we all know, that even if the Prime Minister's unhappy with the Deputy Prime Minister, nothing's going to happen to Barnaby Joyce. No one can control Barnaby Joyce in this government, the Prime Minister has given up trying to control his government. The soap opera of the Turnbull/Joyce Government continues on, no wonder Australians are fed up with politics.
JOURNALIST: Are there any other parts of the migrant program that you think could be trimmed?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, I'll wait and see what the government says about it, I'm not going to respond to Mr Abbott's thought bubbles. We all know this is just another part of the rolling war that carries on, the never ending war Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull. And the Treasurer's come out today and said that Mr Abbott's idea would cost Australia $5 billion. Before we take what Mr Abbott says seriously, he had his go at being Prime Minister, his own party didn't even like him in that job, so I'm not going to give Mr Abbott more attention than the rest of the government.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the people of Capricornia care about the Barnaby Joyce issue at the moment?
SHORTEN: I don't think they care about his private life, I really don't. I think that people will say what's going on though about special jobs being created, they will go on and ask about how does a bloke on $420,000 a year need free rent from a rich property developer mate. I think the question which was raised earlier about if he's buying land, half a million dollars’ worth of land, and is it all declared. These are the issues. It's not the man's private life which matters, it's whether or not there's been any use of public office for private gain.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's a smart move for him to take a leave of absence next week?
SHORTEN: I think he should step down as Deputy Prime Minister and the only problem is though, what we've seen is effectively Barnaby Joyce has emasculated Mr Turnbull's leadership because Mr Turnbull can't discipline Mr Joyce. This is a full blown political crisis. I get that Australians are actually sick of it, I'm sick of the crisis. But what amazes me is Mr Turnbull's off overseas, that's an important visit and I wish him well with his dealings with President Trump. But when he's on the international stage, he represents all Australians. But in the meantime he's leaving a horrible mess at home and I don't think it's going to get concluded while he's overseas. So when he returns, he's got to come back to the same nightmare that he's left; a government in disarray.
In the meantime though, I just want to reassure Australians be they the residents of Capricornia or broader, through Central and North Queensland, indeed all of Australia; Labor's not taking its eye off the ball. We're going to take on the big health insurance companies who keep premiums low. We're going to make sure that working Australians don't have to pay more in taxes. We're going to do the necessary infrastructure in Central Queensland. Rookwood Weir, the Levy, the Yeppoon-Rockhampton stage one duplication. We're getting on with business because someone has got to step up and remember the Australian people because this government only thinks about itself.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) WA Nationals have called for Barnaby Joyce to stand down?
SHORTEN: I think the Western Australian Nationals have just said what most Australians think. Just Barnaby, move on son. It's not working, you need to move on. The Government is paralysed, you've made your boss look like a laughing stock because he can't control you. It's time for him to just move on.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor be open to supporting an overhaul of anti-terror and foreign allegiance laws as suggested by Peter Dutton?
SHORTEN: Well, I haven't heard all of Mr Dutton's speech at the Press Club. If there are deficiencies in the anti-terror laws, well then we will look in good faith. We are all on the same team when it comes to keeping Australia safe. And you'll find that one of the lesser-known but better success stories of the last five years is our ability to work with the government constructively to keep Australians safe.
JOURNALIST: I've got one more from Canberra. Why shouldn't Australia reduce its immigration intake as proposed by Tony Abbott?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, I don't accept that Mr Abbott runs the Government. Mr Abbott has got a whole lot of views on a whole lot of topics, I am not going to analysis each one of them, life is too short. But when it comes to what he said on this, it’s the Treasurer who has torpedoed Mr Abbott's idea on this. If the Treasurer says that Mr Abbott's idea is going to cost $5 billion, well that's a pretty serious point, isn't it? I get the legitimate anxiety about temporary visa workers taking jobs which Australians feel like they could do if we had proper TAFE and apprenticeships in Australia. Beyond that though, let's call this idea for what it is; Mr Abbott is feeling deprived of attention. Mr Abbott wants Mr Turnbull's job so he is raising issues to cause problems for Mr Turnbull. This is just part of the never-ending, on-going war between Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull. Australians want us to focus on their daily needs; jobs, health, education. That's what Labor is about.
JOURNALIST: Just one more on Adani, a lot of Central Queenslanders are worried about the jobs that may be lost if Adani falls through. If elected, will Labor create enough jobs to make up for this?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, Adani has promised 10,000 jobs. They haven't been lost, most of them haven't even started. This debate has sort of got a bit out of control, hasn't it? There is a lot of doubt, a lot of question marks about the Adani proposition. What I said in my opening though, is that Labor's concerns about Adani, which actually reflect the banking sector, the financial sector, plenty in the LNP privately, plenty of business, is that if you put all of your eggs in one basket, what happens if that doesn't materialise? We've all seen what happened in Townsville. We all hoped that QNI and Clive Palmer would come good and they didn't. So what a prudential leader does is recognise that the resources construction sector is coming down. Inpex in the Territory is finishing up, a lot of people are going to come back to Central and North Queensland. We need real construction jobs, we can't just rely on someone somewhere else in the world. That's why we are announcing proper infrastructure projects. Rookwood Weir, we do that, not only will it generate a couple of hundred of jobs but that will generate a couple of thousand jobs in agriculture as we are able to use the lower Fitzroy better. Our proposal around the levee, that's going to help keep insurance costs down. Our proposal on duplication will generate jobs, it will also make the lives, the quality of life and the safety of people in this area better off. Labor has got real plans. I won't go through the whole list from Townsville, what we've said there and the list we've said in Gladstone and the list we've said in Mackay. Labor is the only party who is doing the homework about how we make sure Central and North Queensland have fair dinkum jobs.
One last question for Russell and then we will go.
JOURNALIST: Russell, as a former coal miner, I am sure you'll be pushing for jobs in the mining sector. Will that be one of your key priorities?
ROBERTSON: Yep, any infrastructure jobs that are sustainable and financially viable, I will throw my full weight behind.
JOURNALIST: Do you support the building of the airstrip that’s being funded by Rockhampton and Townsville Council?
ROBERTSON: The funding of local projects from local mayors is, I guess, for them. But I will support sustainable development anytime.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Adani is sustainable?
ROBERTSON: We're just trying to see how it stacks up. At the moment, it has missed a couple of deadlines as Bill has said, so we're still waiting to see where we get to with it.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) quite a strong hold on the Federal Government in CQ. What do you think your chances are at the next election?
ROBERTSON: As long as you work hard, be open and honest and get around and see the people, there is a good chance in the future poll.
JOURNALIST: Is it disappointing though, you know, your party distancing itself from Adani?
ROBERTSON: I don't think they're distancing themselves. They have said that they’d support if it stacks up financially and environmentally, then we're supporting it.
JOURNALIST: Well how long is it going to take to decide that though, if it stacks up?
SHORTEN: I'll have a crack at that one. The question is how long will it take, you're going to have to ask Adani. How many deadlines do you break before you give up? Seven different deadlines since 2011. If you look at the press releases this company has issued - it's not me issuing them, it's the company. They should have been shipping coal out, according to them, three years ago. And let's also be really straight as we conclude this conference, Labor stands up for mine workers but what we are not going to do is give large mining companies massive tax cuts. We stand up for mining communities, but what we are not going to do is pretend that every deal that comes along, every bit of froth and bubble stacks up, because we also stand up for the environment. I am looking forward to seeing you at our public meeting tonight. Unlike the LNP, we don't just do invitation only. You're all welcome. See you there.
JOURNALIST: While you're here, is today the start of the election campaign? Has this week been the start of the election campaign - you've travelled to Townsville, Mackay, up the Queensland coast, you've got the ALP candidate here. Can we say the campaign is on?
SHORTEN: For me, the campaign has never stopped. I've been here seven times. What I do is I don't just turn up at election time. Did you know Malcolm Turnbull has spent more time with Donald Trump than he has in Rocky? That's amazing. Thanks everybody.