SUNDAY, 17 JUNE 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for flood mitigation in Latrobe, the Liberal’s ABC privatisation scheme, personal income tax cuts
JUSTINE KEAY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BRADDON: Thank you very much everyone for coming this morning here at Belles Parade in Latrobe. And it's great to have the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, who I've asked to come here today, Mayor Peter Freshney, and councillors from the Latrobe council.
Two years ago, pretty much nearly to the day, this area was inundated with water. Businesses and residents were flooded and sadly a life was lost here in Latrobe.
The town has spent many many months, if not years recovering. Not just the town itself getting together and pitching in and cleaning up from this devastating flood, but from outside this municipality there's been an enormous amount of support for this town to get itself back on its feet and get things happening.
Many residents, businesses, were impacted quite heavily from that flood and the council have been working very very hard to find a way to mitigate against any more future floods.
I'd like to just first of all say thank you very much of the Latrobe council, with the leadership of Mayor Peter Freshney, for doing all the work that they need to do to develop a plan to put forward for people like myself, the Labor Party, and my opposition and of course the State Government to provide funding to work together with the council to hopefully ensure that a flood like that again does not create the same amount of devastation and destruction. I'll now hand over to Bill, thank you for coming to Latrobe.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hello everyone, it's great to be back in the Latrobe. I was last here in the days after the terrible June 6 floods.
I remember walking up the main street and seeing small businesses having to start the really difficult task of rebuilding, cleaning out, getting rid of that terrible mud, replacing damaged stock and wasted stock. So this is a really exciting day for me today, because two years ago it was very clear to me that following the dreadful dreadful floods which saw $180 million of costs for Tasmanians, saw hundred 2,150 insurance claims, it was very clear to me then, that if we would just spend a little bit of scarce resource on building flood mitigation, we can stop families and households and businesses have to go through the dreadful clean up and the dreadful cost of dealing with the floods.
So today I'm pleased to announce that following the hard work of the Latrobe council, Federal Labor will commit to $3.4 million in flood mitigation measures to prevent the catastrophe which happened in the 2016 floods in Latrobe.
These measures will ensure that 70 households and 73 businesses are flood proof to the extent that if the 2016 floods occur again, the best engineers tell us that this will keep the people of Latrobe's feet dry in their houses and their businesses.
The specific measures will include about 1.85 kilometres of extra flood barriers. They'll also provide extra drainage. It will also make sure that we can enable the bridge at Victor street to be able to be more flood proof than it was previously.
I might ask the Mayor in a moment Peter Freshney to talk about the specifics of the proposals, but the summary is that Labor sees flood mitigation as just not only good for the community, but good economic sense.
If we know that the floods could come again, I think it is far more sensible to outlay money now to help prevent the catastrophic damage of the floods, than wait until the even greater cost of cleaning up the damage after the floods have hit.
It's great to be back in Latrobe working with Justine. I congratulate Justine for her lobbying to make sure the flood mitigation was one of the number one issues for our priorities for Latrobe. If it alright I might now handover to the Mayor.
PETER FRESHNEY, MAYOR OF LATROBE: Thank you to both Bill and Justine. It's fair to say, I think particularly following the floods and the recovery process to the extent that we have recovered, our resolve is very much now about ensuring that we protect this town from future events as referred to by Bill.
We've engaged the State, if not the country's, best consultancy, Entura, the consulting arm of the hydro, to undertake the study for us. They've come up with a number of options. Option D is the preferred option and it is costed at $4.5 million, so $3.4 million is a wonderful start to funding the mitigation measures that we so badly need.
So particularly to Justine who's been engaged with our council step by step through the process, we're grateful to you Justine for influencing the Federal Labor Caucus. And for Bill, to come down today to make this announcement.
The flood system will include, as Bill said, earth mounds along River Road right behind us. It includes sheet piles along behind the houses in Gilbert Street that were so badly impacted by the floods. It includes the raising of the bridge of Viktor street again where Bill referred to, and the raising of the banks on Kings Creek which flows into the Mersey just to our south.
It's a comprehensive flood mitigation model. It a wonderful report that's been delivered. We're grateful to be working with such a professional team as we do with Entura and I must say with our council offices who have been very very studious in their input into the report. We're looking forward to this.
One thing I must say is that the report itself won't save lives. It won't protect the Latrobe. It's what we do with the report and the contribution of Federal and State governments that we'll make the difference, if they are prepared to act on the report and recommendations that it makes.
So we'll be looking to work with not only Justine and the Labor team but also the Federal Liberal team to ensure there is bipartisan support for this project, to ensure that our residents are protected now and in the future, and to ensure they don't go through what they had to go through in 2016.
JOURNALIST: Peter how soon would you like to see work begin on this flood mitigation?
But to be realistic, as soon as we can get the funding, and I'm hopeful that the federal Liberal team will come on board as well. I expect that we should start this work next year, next calendar year, and have it completed by the end of that year. But that's all dependent upon funding.
JOURNALIST: Without federal government support can you still do anything?
FRESHNEY: It would be a struggle, and I suggest it would have to be in a staged process and that's not what we need. We need to protect the whole town and a staged process will not deliver any mitigation whatsoever.
But when it was completed, yes it would but we need the project built in one stage.
JOURNALIST: Is this funding announcement would be premature? I believe that matter is going to Council this week.
FRESHNEY: Council has received the report last Monday. We had a workshop on Tuesday night where councillors were informed about the report and the fact that we'll be releasing it. We had to take the opportunity that presents itself in terms of the federal by-election, but council is supportive of Option D and we'll be discussing that further and the potential funding and the advocacy required in the coming weeks. We have another meeting on Monday night to deal with this issue as well. But certainly Council is very much engaged in the process and councillors specifically.
JOURNALIST: Have you been given any guarantees from the Liberal Party about funding for flood mitigation?
FRESHNEY: No we haven't.
JOURNALIST: Would you like to see that?
FRESHNEY: Obviously we'd like to see the Liberal Party in Government match the contribution or the funding promise made by the Labor Party. We hope that sets the benchmark in terms of levels of support. And we're also seeking the support of the State Government as well.
SHORTEN: I might take any federal questions, but just I just want to follow up on this, "Is this premature?"
Two years ago I visited and saw the flood damage. It was very clear to me then mitigation is the answer.
Just waiting for the next flood to come along, getting the brooms out, watching the stock get damaged, having to grapple with insurance companies about whether or not the fine print of the policy covers the flood. It is long overdue. So this is not a premature proposition.
Anyone who was here like me two years ago and saw the damage knows that it can happen again. So why not prevent the flooding damage now. And so that's why we're right up for it.
And I have to say,I remember visiting further along to Launceston, and you saw the Tamar in full flood. It was like a fire hose coming out of the gorge. Thank goodness that a previous Labor Government had built some of the levees which literally protected Launceston.
So flood mitigation is not a new concept. Labor's got a good track record of building flood mitigation in Northern Tasmania and Latrobe Council's got its act together, it's got the propositions. I think this is an issue which should be above politics and I'm calling upon the Liberals just to match this full stop, and let's just move on to all the other issues in this by-election.
JOURNALIST: If there wasn't a Braddon by-election though, would this announced today?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, I'm not saying that you want to do this, but you may want to if you've got the time, have a look at the footage of when I was here last time, and I said flood mitigation is the answer here.
We had every intention to have flood mitigation for the general election. Timetables move forward but that's fine by me. The winners in this are those 70 households, the 73 businesses, and anyone who is interested to make sure that Latrobe doesn't get their feet wet again in the way they did last time.
I mean, let's let's be really straight here: the people in this area, they have rebuilt. It was very important for me and rewarding for me to walk along, pop into businesses. I remember what it looked like two years ago. So I'm really pleased that Justine and I are back here keeping our promise. Two years ago I said "flood mitigation, that's the answer", and now because of Justine and the hardworking Council, flood mitigation is our answer.
JOURNALIST: So that timetable is only come forward because of the by-election?
SHORTEN: No, we wish Mr Turnbull would call an election tomorrow, generally, he won't, but flood mitigation has been on my radar and it's absolutely what we're delivering today.
JOURNALIST: Realistically, when would you provide these funds?
SHORTEN: Straight away. As soon as we can get a general election.
And I'm hoping that because of Justine's leadership working with the Council, maybe the Liberals might be jolted into action.
JOURNALIST: But this is dependent on one you getting into government and two, the State Government also contributing - there's a few ifs involved in that.
SHORTEN: Do you really think Mr Hodgman would be so silly as not to find a million dollars to match our $3.4 million? I wouldn't give up that quickly.
And in terms of the Federal Liberals, well, do they want people in Latrobe to vote for them? Of course they should do this. It's a no brainer.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Coalition should have put funding towards flood mitigation soon, before the enquiry?
SHORTEN: Well they are the Government. Certainly, I know that I said that flood mitigation was the issue, and this isn't me saying that now, you can go back to your own TV footage and see what I thought was the priority two years ago.
Justine has been working on this matter, the Council has - and I've got to just congratulate the Latrobe Council here. You read their report, they've been thinking about this issue, the reports have been coming along, and so anyone who saw the flood damage two years ago knows that was a catastrophe.
If it wasn't for individual acts of some considerable character, it could have been a lot worse for the people involved.
But when you look at the business clean up, we were talking to Bushy, before he's had to have the arguments with AAMI and the insurance. You talk to the shopkeepers who saw their stock literally soiled and damaged and unusable - this was a major disaster for the community.
Frankly it's amazing to see how the community in large parts got back on its feet in that time, but it's now time for the Government in Hobart, the Liberal Government in Hobart, and of course the national Government in Canberra to show the same sort of character that the people here have shown.
JOURNALIST: On some national questions -
JOURNALIST: - in relation to the ABC motion from the Liberal conference, aren't you facing a similar problem with your members, when the Labor left want to end offshore processing?
SHORTEN: The Labor Party doesn't want to privatise the ABC.
I mean, Mr Turnbull has got form on these matters.
Every time that the right wing of his party want to do something terrible to the Australian way of life, in this case privatising the public broadcaster, Mr Turnbull says he won't listen to them, and every time that he says that he then starts walking towards whatever the right wing of his party want.
If you love the ABC you'd be wise not to trust Mr Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: So you're not -
SHORTEN: Sorry, I'll take her and then I'll come back to you. I'll come back to you in a sec.
JOURNALIST: Why won't Labor support the Government's personal income tax cuts plan?
SHORTEN: For tax cuts proposed for this year, we will vote for them, this year. For tax cuts which are proposed more than two election’s time or in 2024, we're not going to be rushed into signing a blank cheque which has been written by a bloke who probably won't be around to keep his promise.
JOURNALIST: If you want to split the income tax cuts Bill, if you can't do that will you vote in favour of the whole package?
SHORTEN: Well first of all let's split the Bill. Really, what Mr Turnbull is trying to do is hold hostage a tax rise of $10 for 10 million people this year, so that he can give thousands and thousands of dollars to other people in seven years time.
So it is pretty dodgy. I say to Mr Turnbull, why don't we together, vote for tax cuts for people this year. And then if you want to give promises of tax cuts in more than two election’s time, fight the next two elections and see where we're going.
JOURNALIST: But what if you can't split it?
SHORTEN: Well again, we've got the more sensible proposal.
Really, the question Mr Turnbull has to answer is why doesn't he want to give 10 million people $10 dollars a week? And why is he insisting on tying that very reasonable and modest measure to giving people on $200,000 massive tax cuts in seven years time. It doesn't make sense.
I mean that's why you have elections - every election you put forward your views, then after the election you bring forward your policies.
Mr Turnbull is trying to bind Parliaments in more than two election’s time, when he won't be around to actually see the promise delivered or not.
No what we're standing for today, is let's look after 10 million people now. That's what Labor is up for. At the same time we'd say to Mr Turnbull in the upcoming two weeks, drop your rotten corporate tax cuts for big banks and big business, take a leaf out of Labor's book like Justine's doing here. Let's fight to reverse the cuts to hospital funding in Braddon. Let's fight to put more money into the schools in Braddon. Let's put some money into flood mitigation in Latrobe.
I don't know why Mr Turnbull so obsessed about looking after big end of town, when the when the real issues are right here right now.
JOURNALIST: Are you saying you don't have a problem with your members in relation to ending offshore processing?
SHORTEN: My track record of working with my party is much better than Mr Turnbull's. We all know and we've all seen this movie before, Mr Turnbull haven't we?
He says he wants to do something in the middle. Then his party drags him to the right. Mr Turnbull says he won't move to the right. Then he moves to the right.
Look at climate change and now look at the ABC. If you really love the ABC you certainly wouldn't trust Mr Turnbull to stare down the right wing of his party.
I mean, it is important that we fight for the strong public broadcaster and that it shouldn't be privatised. Frankly it is outrageous that the governing party, the party in government in Canberra, are saying they want to privatise the ABC.
Places, especially but not just Tasmania, see what happens when you have a Melbourne/Sydney-centric media market. We're seeing all around the world in our media, big private companies getting bigger and more powerful and focusing on the very big population centres.
It is wrong to propose privatising the ABC, for whom they provide services in Tasmania and Northern Tasmania, that if they weren't there would to be done for the for-profit motive, a lot of people just wouldn't get the news they need, wouldn't get the information they need.
So this policy of privatisation is also a very Melbourne/Sydney-centric, for profit motivation, which will see Tasmania the worse off.
JOURNALIST: Will you make selling the ABC an election issue?
SHORTEN: Well Mr Turnbull's party - we know what they want to do. What's happened is that the Liberal Party has come out two to one and said they want to sell the ABC. So we know what the Liberal Party thinks and we've got this highly implausible fairytale where Mr Turnbull says I'm not really with them.
Well he'll be the Liberal candidate for Prime Minister. If he gets another chance as Prime Minister after an election, the Liberal Party will be emboldened and they will sell off.
This idea that somehow Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party are two separate entities, two complete strangers sitting at a bar talking to each other, is rubbish.
If you want to privatise the ABC, obviously that's what the Liberals want to do. If you want to make sure that we have a strong public broadcaster, which looks after not just Melbourne and Sydney, but the needs of Tasmania, Devonport, Burnie, Latrobe and the rest of the communities here, well then you’d obviously want to make sure that we get Justine up in this by election.
JOURNALIST: So you're saying you won't have a problem with your members, in relation to offshore processing?
SHORTEN: I'm saying that my track record of working with my party and making sure that we're marching to the beat of the same drum is much better than Mr Turnbull's.
And time and time again I've made it clear that I will take the debate to my party.
See, Mr Turnbull's frightened of his party. What happens is his Liberal Party meet in one room, which he is at by the way, and say you've got to do this and this, then he walks out the door and says I don't worry about that, they don't really mean it.
All we know from that is that Mr Turnbull doesn't control his party.
In my case I go and have the debates, I go and talk to our membership and we go and put the case, and more often than not people will eventually pull together in a unified fashion.
You cannot pretend after this weekend that Mr Turnbull is in lockstep with his party.
They want to privatise the ABC, and who knows what Mr Turnbull will do after an election.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Government's new ads?
SHORTEN: I haven't seen them.
JOURNALIST: Just going back to flood mitigation, sorry -
SHORTEN: Yeah great.
JOURNALIST: Just before you were talking to residents about potential lowering of insurance, [inaudible]
SHORTEN: Well obviously because of the far sighted actions of the Council and the lobbying of Justine, what happens is, if you've got better flood mitigation then the insurance companies need to be challenged to go back and re-evaluate the premiums they're charging residents and businesses.
If there is less risk of flooding because of flood mitigation, then insurance companies have to be told unequivocally: less risk, lower premiums.
And this by the way is the proved lived experience in other parts of Australia when you put flood mitigation. That is what makes today's announcement such a sweet package to announce. One, it stops people going through the cost and the harm of the floods. Two, it will generate jobs in the community and three, it will help the cost of living pressures on households and businesses because it will put downward pressure on insurance premiums.
And what Justine and I and the Mayor are going to do, is we're going to write to the Insurance Council of Australia and say see these proposals, when they're done, we want to make sure that you pass this on in lower premiums for businesses, lower premiums for households.
And we will make sure that happens, because if there's less risk then the big insurance companies can stop taking people for a ride.
Thanks everybody, see you around.