ROSS RIVER DAM
TUESDAY, 2 MAY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for jobs and water and energy security in Townsville; Western Sydney Airport; Adani; 2017 Budget; Turnbull Government’s cuts to universities; State of Origin in Townsville
CATHY O'TOOLE, MEMBER FOR HERBERT: As always it's a huge pleasure to welcome Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition back to Townsville. I think this is Bill's tenth visit to Townsville in the last, probably, 14 months.
Today is an absolutely amazing and exciting day for Townsville, and Bill will talk about what Labor is offering to our community. We know and I know from listening to people in our community that water and energy are major issues for the sustainability of our community and growth of our economy.
And that is why the hard work that I've been putting in, in Canberra, talking with Bill, Bill's office and the relevant shadow ministers, has enabled us to come up with a wonderful plan for Townsville, that is a real and genuine commitment, so that we see some action addressing our water and energy. And I'd just like to hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be here with Cathy O'Toole, and of course the Mayor of Townsville, Jenny Hill, and the Deputy Mayor, Paul Jacobs.
Townsville has got a great future, but I think that the people of Townsville and the surrounding region have waited long enough to have the key issues of power and water security addressed.
The fact of the matter is that Townsville's in the dry tropics - it doesn't get the same rainfall as other parts of North Queensland, or indeed Brisbane, which means that having a reliable supply of water is fundamental to the growth of Townsville.
What we need to do is governments and political parties of all persuasions need to start addressing having a reliable supply of power and a reliable supply of water, so that Townville can help fulfil its bright and exciting future. But right now the status quo is not something which people can rely upon.
That's why I'm pleased to announce that a Labor Government, if elected, would provide a finance facility for $200 million to start with, to help fund hydro-electric power in the Burdekin River and the Burdekin Dam, because we think that with hydro-electric power being generated, we can start doing something about providing greater reliable power for Townsville, for its residents and for its businesses.
Of course, it will generate good jobs, both in the construction, but also importantly, it'll provide the sort of reliable basis that will allow people to invest in Townsville and the surrounding area.
Today I'm also pleased to announce that a Labor Government, if elected, would make an initial grant of $100 million on the table to help deal with the water security issues, which of course are something which I think has been holding Townsville back.
Now there's a taskforce working from all levels of government to look at what are the best options to improve water security. But today, Labor has decided to lead not follow. What we are doing is putting money on the table, both in financing and grant-funding, to help make sure that when the final propositions are outlaid and the cost-benefit of the various options - raising walls, duplicating pipelines, probity-fed pipelines, hydro-electricity schemes - what we want to do is, we've heard what the people of Townsville have been saying, enough talk, let's just get on and do it.
Townsville is ready to go to the next stage as one of the key centres in Northern Australia - a key city in Northern Australia. But what we need is to see a federal government putting money on the table so that people know that as soon as the final feasibility studies are ticked, we're ready to roll, so that we can have a bright future for Townsville and we can deal with the fundamental drivers of future prosperity in Townsville, reliable water supply and of course power.
Happy to hear the council's perspective and then take questions on this.
JENNY HILL, MAYOR OF TOWNSVILLE: Thank you. This a fantastic announcement today, that we have a $100 million commitment from the Labor Opposition. What we need though is a couple of things. Firstly, we need bipartisan support to ensure that whatever solution is determined by the taskforce, or solutions, that all levels of government are prepared to support it, not just with words but obviously with capital, it is extremely important for us in Townsville.
I welcome this announcement, there is no doubt that the taskforce through the city deals process has the 30th of June in mind to deliver an interim report. From that we will have an indication of what is seen as the short term solutions and what are the medium to long term solutions. I've asked the taskforce to ensure that all of the proposed solutions have financial modelling, so we as a community can determine what we can afford. We only have approximately 78,000 rate payers who pay water and waste water fees, so we really have to ensure that those property owners can afford the solutions that are put forward. The grant that is offered by Federal Labor is an excellent start and would ensure that we will have security because water security, ladies and gentlemen, is first and foremost for our ability to grow our city.
SHORTEN: Thanks Jenny, are there any questions on this and then perhaps we can go to other matters?
JOURNALIST: Other matters?
SHORTEN: Others matters, fine.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on the government’s announcement on Badgerys Creek, is that something you support?
SHORTEN: We will just have to wait and see what the numbers look like and what the cost of it is. Labor has supported the principle of a second airport at Badgerys Creek. We want to see, of course, making sure that they do the proper community consultation, that they meet all the environmental and noise standards expected and that of course that there is a clear plan for public transport infrastructure.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the timetable for construction to be finished by 2026 is realistic?
SHORTEN: They've just made their announcement this morning, I've still to study the detail of that.
JOURNALIST: What sort of model do you think the government should use for this construction?
SHORTEN: Well again, they've just made their announcement this morning so - one thing I do know absolutely is that if they build an airport without a public transport link then that’s just a complete joke. Great cities and airports in great cities should have designed from the get go, public transport linkages. The other day Labor announced that we would fund a railway link, an orbital railway link which would go to Badgerys Creek from south western Sydney through to north western Sydney and certainly whilst we study the detail of the government’s announcement today we will be looking to see if there is a commitment to have public transport from day one. It is no good just building an empty cabin where the railway station would go from day one but not have a train line going to it, that would be absolutely ridiculous.
JOUNALIST: There has been complaints about price gouging at Sydney Airport, what would a future Labor Government do to prevent that from happening at a second airport?
SHORTEN: Well, there is no doubt that increasingly Australians see the administration of airports, and this is not all of them, but many of the big ones, have been basically been operators of expensive car parks with a runway attached. So I think it’s something which requires constant vigilance.
JOURNALIST: Mark Butler commented yesterday that Adani would negatively impact other coal mining areas, does that mean that Federal Labor doesn't support the mines even if the state government does?
SHORTEN: Federal Labor supports the creation of new jobs pure and simple. If Adani stacks up environmentally and commercially as I hope it does then we look forward to it going ahead.
JOURNALIST: I've got a budget question for you quickly.
JOURNALIST: Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister said that the Budget is going to be making tough decisions but it’s something that they have to do, what do you make of this and does it sound like the first truthful answer for what we can expect from the Budget?
SHORTEN: This government whenever its given a choice between looking after pensioners, battlers, working families or the big end of town always makes the choice to look after the big end of town. The fact is that a budget speaks volumes about the priorities of the government of the day. The fact that this Government will fight tooth and nail to defend negative gearing and deny $37 billion of improvement to budget bottom line over the next 10 years shows they prioritise property investors. The fact that this Government is fighting tooth and nail to give a $50 billion corporate hand out to the largest companies in Australia rather than defend penalty rates of workers who are seeing their penalty rates being cut at the beginning of July speaks volumes about this Government.
And now, today we see the Government coming out and declaring that their next target, their next priority is to cut funding to universities, to increase the fees that university students pay. Again, this is a government with all of the wrong priorities and the Budget highlights it. How can Malcolm Turnbull be an innovation prime minister when he won't be an education prime minister? The rest of the world is investing more and more in the education and skilling-up of their citizens yet we've got a government in Canberra who wants to make it harder for working class kids to get to university.
So when the Government talks about Budget, they need to reorder their priorities. They need to stop governing for the top one or two per cent of Australian society, big business, the investors - the property investors, and instead start standing up for working class kids who want to go to university. Start standing up for reforms which give first home buyers a chance to compete on a level playing field.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten - I hope your League knowledge is better than the Prime Minister's but would you be willing to support an Origin match up here in Townsville?
SHORTEN: Well I come from Melbourne so I barrack for the Storm. I have to say Victorians go to nearly any football game of any code but I think we could perhaps afford to see a State of Origin game up here in North Queensland because everyone up here follows the code.
JOURNALIST: What about you, Jenny - how do you feel about it?
HILL: Why do you think I am wearing Maroon?
JOURNALIST: So welcome news this morning?
HILL: Oh look, I think - I welcome the QRL's support. We would love to host State of Origin up here. There are a lot of people in this community that don't have the means to be able to pay the prices for accommodation and airfares to watch State of Origin in Brisbane, let alone Sydney or Melbourne. The game needs to stop being sold to the highest bidder and come back to the heart land of rugby league and that's up here in North Queensland.
So if there is a message I can give the NRL - is give Townsville a go.
SHORTEN: Ok, if there are no further questions, I just want to make a final comment about the Budget and the universities announcement. Let's be really clear, this country cannot improve its productivity, cannot improve the opportunities of its citizens, if we force universities to have their funding cut. What will happen is if you cut the funding of universities you increase the price of going to university. That's taking Australia all in the wrong direction. It's about time the Turnbull Government stood up for people, and young people, who want to better themselves. Labor is very opposed to these cuts to university funding and making it harder for working class kids to get to university.
JOURNALIST: And would you be prepared to negotiate any changes to the funding cuts?
SHORTEN: Well, you could start off with - if Mr Turnbull wants to save some money for the budget, rather than cut $2.8 billion from university funding, why not, not go ahead with giving away $50 billion over the next 10 years to large corporations. Why not cancel the proposed tax cuts for the top two per cents which will save tens of billions of dollars. And why not go ahead with reforms to negative gearing which means that property investors won't be getting a taxpayer funded concession in an unfair competition with first home buyers.
I can find Malcolm Turnbull $100 billion over the next 10 years and he doesn't need to make it harder for middle class and working class kids to go to university.