WEDNESDAY, 4 NOVEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to deliver a new Townsville stadium; Labor’s commitment to tackling climate change; trip to the Pacific; ALP preselection; Liberals’ proposal to increase the GST to 15 per cent; Dance moves.
CATHY O'TOOLE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR HERBERT: It's great to be here today with Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, I welcome Bill to Townsville with the fantastic news that he is going to give us in a moment. What's really pleasing for me is that Bill Shorten, in Opposition, has listened to the people of Townsville. He has recognised really clearly that our community is hurting, we need jobs, we need a big infrastructure project, we need to focus on what is important to the people of Townsville. The people of Townsville need business confidence, that is about to happen for us, we need opportunities for small business. Everything that we've really been wanting to kick-start our economy is going to come to play for us this afternoon will Bill's announcement and I couldn't be more happy.
What I was also like to say is that Ewen Jones has had five years to deliver this and he has not done that, he has not respected the needs of our community, he has not understood how important jobs are for our local community. We have been able to, as the Labor Candidate for Herbert, I have been able to bring this message forward to a very listening Opposition Leader, I've been able to deliver a beautiful statement for our community within five months. I think that speaks volumes for the fact that I am committed to our community, and that the Labor Party is listening to what Townsville needs and wants.
JOURNALIST: Cathy three years ago though was Australia in the position to fund a stadium?
O'TOOLE: Three years ago we had the Labor Government commit $15 million to a business case for the stadium, that was the first time it was brought to a federal campaign, and we were willing and able to offer that. We didn't get elected so that didn't happen. I think the message for the people of Townsville is really clear: it is only Labor governments that deliver infrastructure, that is as clear as the day is long in Townsville. The big infrastructure projects that we have had have been from Labor governments. So I have no reason to have any other thought other than when elected a Shorten Labor Government will deliver this project for Townsville.
JOURNALIST: But Cathy we don't even know how much this stadium is going to cost?
O'TOOLE: I think the cost of the stadium is immaterial at this point, I think what we have seen with the State Government offering their $100 million and the statement that Bill will make in a moment about what the Federal Government is prepared to offer. We are very much almost there, so I think it's about Labor saying to the people of Townsville: we care, we understand your community and your economy is hurting and we are here to make sure that that changes.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Perhaps I might just at that point take up Cathy's invitation. Today, Labor is announcing that if elected federally, we will contribute $100 million to assist with the building of the Townsville stadium. Too much infrastructure money gets spent down south and not enough gets spent in the north. We fundamentally believe that jobs need to be created in Townsville, we think a new stadium will have a positive impact on jobs, tourism, major events. You've got a world-class football team here, and what we want to see is it has a world class stadium.
Labor understands that Queensland doesn't just end at South East Queensland, that in fact the North and the Far-North deserve their fair share of jobs and infrastructure, hopes and dreams and quality sporting facilities. Labor's very excited, Cathy O'Toole has been lobbying strongly since she became the Labor Candidate for Herbert, she really gets Townsville, she understands the job of a local member of parliament is to find out what the issues are and then advocate for them.
So I think two crucial triggers have led to Labor's announcement - one was the choice of Cathy O'Toole as our candidate, and of course I think the whole of Australia now knows the home of the Cowboys and I think that everyone can see the case for a Townsville stadium, a new home for the Cowboys, and a new start for Townsville in terms of jobs and tourism. We're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Bill does this funding commitment, if Labor is elected, does it depend on what comes out of the business case?
SHORTEN: Well there always has to be a business case to back up the ideas, the detail does matter. Labor does want to support the stadium though and we're making it very clear, let's take the politics out of this stadium decision. Labor's saying that if you vote for us we will find the $100 million to match the offer which is already in the State Budget by Premier Palaszczuk and it's great to have Scott the local State Townsville Member here too.
So State Labor Government has proposed $100 million, Federal Labor will match it with another $100 million. Of course there has to be a business case done but I think anything who has followed the fortunes of football up here, anyone who has followed the need to create more jobs in Townsville, anyone who knows that Townsville can really go ahead and get ahead if it gets the chance to get some vitally needed community infrastructure. I think the case really makes itself.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) the sporting side of it, not an entertainment and convention centre side?
SHORTEN: Well let's see what the rest of the case and how it emerges in terms of entertainment centre and convention centre, but I think the case is very clear in terms of the sporting stadium and that's what Labor will be committing resources to. We make these decisions pretty carefully, we understand that taxpayer money is scarce, it's hard-earned, but when I look at the picture of community infrastructure in North Queensland, I think one of the gaps in decisions which hasn't been made in recent years is a sporting stadium for Townsville and that's why we're here today announcing that.
JOURNALIST: Why not wait until a business study was completed before then committing money after the business case is done, you've seen it and you've seen that this project is viable and costs aren't going to blow out, that sort of thing?
SHORTEN: Well I think actually you've got to make a decision and show leadership. It's very clear to the residents of Townsville, indeed all the fans of the Cowboys who live in North Queensland, that what you get with Labor is we understand that this region deserves a quality sporting stadium. We get it, we understand. That's what Cathy O'Toole's been saying to me, so of course the business case has got to follow up, to make sure the detail matches the proposal, but what we're saying unequivocally is we've waiting too long in North Queensland, Townsville has waited too long, Labor will provide the necessary money to match the Queensland State Government which will see Townsville go ahead, and it isn't just about sport, it's also about jobs. 700 jobs will be created during the life of this project. This makes sense.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that the State Government shout put in more money to this project? I mean, this is, there's still going to be a funding shortfall even if with the money that Labor's promising?
SHORTEN: Well I think the Queensland Government's done a good job with the offer that it's made, it made the promise before the last election, it has kept its promise, we think that our proposal is very sensible too.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) released today said that they would be providing it $50 million with the NRL but we've spoken to the Mayor today and she says that she won't be giving it a cent?
SHORTEN: I understand that the Council has provided land and in kind support.
JOURNALIST: So you don't expect them to provide millions to this project?
SHORTEN: Well I understand at this point they're providing land, land's pretty important to this project, and in kind support. I should say something about the Council, they're real boosters of Townsville, I've never visited Townsville without having Jenny Hill or other Labor leaning councillors saying 'listen, Townsville needs to get the attention, it needs to get support and jobs.' Whenever I talk to Council and Jenny and other representatives from the local community, one thing I really like about Townsville is that people here are really transfixed about creating jobs, they want to make sure that young people can find work here, they want to see small businesses do well. The stadium project is more than just $100 million, it's even more than just a home for the Cowboys, it's about a community declaring that we see a future here, that it's worthwhile for people to move here, and that people can find work and it can be a tourism venue. So that's why I'm very excited by today's announcement.
JOURNALIST: Just on climate change, you've just returned from four days in the Pacific, during that time you haven't revealed what emissions reductions targets you back, you haven't supported calls from the Pacific Island nations to back 1.5 degrees or a moratorium on new coal mines. What exactly are you offering to the people of the Pacific besides a listening tour?
SHORTEN: It's much more than that as you know Tom. What we're doing is we want to see first-hand the problems of global warming and climate change in the Pacific. Let's be really straight here: some of the coral atolls and nations of the Pacific, which is home for millions of people, they are literally facing worse storm surges, greater inundations, rising sea levels, warming temperatures, coral reef acidification, they're facing drought. In New Guinea it's very clear they're having the worse drought they've had in a very long time. If you go to the Marshall Islands, just north of the equator, they're experiencing storms and surges which are literally drowning islands as we speak. And then we visited Kiribati which is seeing the encroaching tides literally taking houses into the water. There is a real problem so the first thing we're doing is we are using this tour to draw attention. Climate change is real, you know there are still a lot of sceptics in the Government, Malcolm Turnbull is still rusted on to Tony Abbott's discredited climate change policies and what we've seen first-hand is you can read all the statistics in the world but when you see it as you did, and others saw it, it's real and it's happening. I can't believe in Australia there's still a debate about taking meaningful action.
There we talk about the sort of leadership that Pacific Island nations are expecting. I was privileged to meet with the Heads of State, with the presidents and prime ministers of no less than three Pacific nations, they are all very interested in what Labor has to say. Now these nations don't get involved in our domestic politics, but they are greatly disappointed that Australia which should be viewed as their big brother or sister in the Pacific, what they say is 'where is Australia?'. They say Australia just talks and they're not doing enough.
So when we go to some of the specifics you raised, Labor will set its emissions reductions targets in due course, we will do so based on the best science, we'll do so based on aiming to try as restrain the increase in temperatures by two Celsius degrees I had long conversations on views of the Pacific nations about the future of fossil fuels, I made it very clear that Labor is not going to stop coal mining in Australia, it's part of our energy mix. But they were really heartened by what we were saying about we will focus on renewable energy, solar power, wind power. I think they saw our visit as one of the best things that has happened in a number of years in terms of Australia showing an interest to get back on track with climate change.
I think what they really wanted to hear is does Tony Abbott and the Liberal Government, and now Malcolm Turnbull, speak for all Australians about acting slowly on climate change, or as Australians do we understand climate change. And what they saw, quite bluntly, and what they were reassured by, is that most Australians think that Paris, this conference coming up in the next month to set new targets, should be a source of leadership by Australia, not us at the back of the pack.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, I'm all too aware of how busy your schedule has been today but have you been briefed on the ALP National Executive meeting in Canberra today on the Gary Gray issue, and do you think Federal intervention is needed in the Western Australian Labor Party?
SHORTEN: I firmly believe that Gary Gray should be our candidate, the Labor candidate for Brand at the next election. I haven't heard about the ins and outs of the party administration nationally. Gary Gray does a good job, it's always the case in a political party which is democratic, people are free to have the arguments about what's right, what's wrong, who should be the candidate, who shouldn't be the candidate. But just so there's no doubt as I said earlier today, I support Gary Gray, I think the party needs him and I want to utilise his services as a candidate at the next election.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of moves to get rid of him then?
SHORTEN: Well political parties are known to have debates about ousting candidates. I think Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott a month ago so I don't really think on the sort of seismographic political scale of political earthquakes, I think a debate about Gary Gray really - Tony Abbott was our prime minister 8 weeks ago, now that is an ouster.
JOURNALIST: Just in terms of the funding for the stadium. $100,000 from the state, a $100,000 from yourself, say if the NRL and council do put in $50,000 combined, there's still a $75,000 shortfall, where does that money come from?
SHORTEN: Well, I understand your question; I think you mean $100 million and $50 million -
JOURNALIST: Sorry. -
SHORTEN: But yeah, you know your points there. Federal Labor, federal politics has been asked to provide $100 million as part of getting it to go ahead. That's been my discussions with Townsville representatives, that's what Cathy and the Mayor and others have said and Scott. We support - we think $100 million is a reasonable part component. When you have federal tax payer dollars it's important that we use them wisely to the best effect. I don't think it would be right for the federal level of government to pay for all of the stadium. But if you've got the State Government making decisions with its scarce dollars to put $100 million in, I think matching funding is sensible. Council and NRL will no doubt play a role as well. The way Townsville and indeed Australia works best is when we work together. You don't have buck passing between different levels of government, you don't have buck passing between the sporting code and the parliamentarians. The news today for Townsville, the people who live in Townsville and people who want to see a strong NRL in North Queensland, is Labor will put $100 million, you can vote for Cathy O'Toole at the next election and you know you're getting a stadium in Townsville, that's the news.
JOURNALIST: Are you not concerned that maybe if you did give that $100 million you know, for this stadium at there was a $70 million shortfall, are you not worried about what might happen, would your money then go to waste if you couldn't find that shortfall?
SHORTEN: I think Townsville needs political parties who are willing to back in the dreams; who are willing to back in the big ideas, willing to back in the jobs. I'm standing here today as the alternative prime minister of Australia, I'm promising people in Townsville that if you vote for Cathy O'Toole at the next election we will make sure that in amongst all the priorities of policies and decisions we have to make about the best interest of the nation, we actually think having a sporting stadium in Townsville is in the national interest as well as the Townsville interest. We think it's good not only for NRL and for the Cowboys, we actually think it's good for jobs, we think it's good for small business who will get a lot of flow on work. We think it's good for tourism, we think it's good for major events. Australia can't just be three large cities on the east coast of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. We need in Queensland to be backing in areas north of Brisbane. That's what Labor will do.
JOURNALIST: So a Labor Government would not ask questions to the State Government and the Council about where the extra money was going to come from?
SHORTEN: With respect we've said that at the very first question, I think it was, you asked it about a business case. We want to see the business case, but let’s not be knockers here. Let's not just try and rip down an idea where a government is willing to put up or an Opposition is willing to put it up. I've travelled to Townsville 5, 6 times this year already. One message has been clear; people in Townsville are worried about jobs. People in Townsville want to see the small businesses going ahead, they want to see more shops and more businesses opening up not putting up for lease signs over the shops. People in North Queensland want to see infrastructure dollars being spent in the north; the south gets more than its fair share. I think this is a good announcement today, I'm certainly backing it to the hill, I - what I really hope is that the Liberal Party in Australia, even if it's just to play catch up with Labor do the right thing by Townsville, support the $100 million.
JOURNALIST: I've got a question about GST. If the Government went to an election campaigning to increase the GST and it won, would you see that as a mandate to waive the changes through?
SHORTEN: If the Liberal Party go to the election with a GST with I think they will, they're going to do very badly. I don't concede the basis of that question which is that a 15 per cent tax, 15 per cent you know, tax on the things that people need most, asking people to pay more for the things they need most I think that's a toxic idea for the economy of Australia. I don’t believe in regressive taxation. See the real sting with the GST is that for people who don't earn a lot of money, for people who are you know, working hard just to make ends meet, they spend a far greater proportion of their household budget just on costs of living. On the shopping, on going to the doctor, on the school fees, on fresh food. This idea that Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals have, that somehow by making a lot of people pay a lot more for the things they need most in life, that that's good for economy, good for confidence, good for the household budget; it's just wrong. What the Liberal's should do is come clean now, I mean they're sort of dancing around the issue, they want a 15 per cent tax, they're scaring people, what is it going to be on. You know, I’ve got no doubt that Australians don't want a GST and we're on the side of Australians.
JOURNALIST: So just to clarify, if Turnbull went to the election saying let's increase the GST, the Australian people voted for him, would you still vote against the tax increase?
SHORTEN: Well let's be really straight here, you can vote for Labor at the next election and not have a GST. If people vote for Liberals and a GST, that's what people choose to do. But in the meantime I'm not giving up on the idea that a GST is a bad idea, just because Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals say that paying 15 per cent tax on everything is in your interest by some sort of political hypnosis; it's actually not in people's interests. There are other ideas which can be canvassed to make our tax system fairer. But I don't, never have, never will support the idea that the way you reform this country is you make people with less income, people who work hard every day pay more tax. That's a bad idea for Australia, that's a bad idea for households and families and for individuals. Thanks everyone.
JOURNALIST: Oh Mr Shorten, you busted a move in the Pacific. How would you, just tell us how would you describe your dance moves?
SHORTEN: I'm giving hope the dads everywhere. The shuffle, well, it was a form of Pacific Island diplomacy and the good news for me is that I'm running for prime minister, I'm not running on Dancing with the Stars, which is lucky for me. Thanks everyone.
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