MONDAY, 11 MARCH 2019
SUBJECTS: Bruce Highway between Rockhampton and Gladstone; Labor’s local jobs for local projects plan; Labor’s plans to boost wages; Nationals chaos and dysfunction; Coalition’s privatisation plans; Labor leading the way on regional water security; Coalition’s energy shambles
RUSSELL ROBERTSON, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CAPRICORNIA: I'm here today with the Labor candidate for Flynn, Zac Beers, and the Shadow Finance Minister, Jim Chalmers. We're here today and we're announcing the planning process for the 108km of Bruce Highway between Gladstone and Rockhampton. A very ambitious project from a potential Shorten-led Government that's going to really unlock Capricornia and Flynn again. So it's great to be part of a team with a vision to increase the Bruce Highway and see it safer and more economic. We know if we continue this duplication for this 108km of road, it's going to reduce the strains and stresses on the Capricornia and Flynn electorates. We're seeing now over 8,000 traffic movements every 24 hours and it's only a future Shorten-led Government that has got this vision and this ambitious project. It's something Zac and I are extremely excited about. It shows again the great teamwork Zac and I have to get these sort of funding commitments from a Shorten-led Government, and I've got Jim who'll also touch on how exciting it is to be part of this project. I want to hand over now to Zac, who'll touch more on the Flynn portion.
ZAC BEERS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FLYNN: It's great to be here today with Russell Robertson, Labor's candidate for Capricornia, and Jim Chalmers, Labor's Shadow Finance Minister, making an announcement to commence the process to get dual laneways between Rockhampton and Gladstone. We know how critical it is that people have quick and efficient access between Rockhampton and Gladstone, to not only make it easier to access services, but make it more efficient for businesses to grow and improve their ability to access different sectors of the economy. This announcement today is about kicking off the first step in that process, to get us to the point where we have dual lanes between Rockhampton and Gladstone.
Anyone who travels this road will tell you that it's a road that is in desperate need of more investment. We know that this road gets used a lot every day. We know there's a lot of heavy vehicle movements, and we know that the LNP has fundamentally failed when it comes to investment in the Bruce Highway. Not only have they failed to upgrade this section to the standard that it needs to be, but they've cut $725 million from the Budget for the Bruce Highway. The people of Central Queensland deserve decent representation when it comes to investment in infrastructure. The people of Central Queensland deserve to have a future and a vision when it comes to road infrastructure. This announcement today is a $2.1 million planning process to get that underway for the dual laneways.
But it joins with our announcement for the Capricorn Highway - $15 million to introduce six new overtaking lanes. It joins with our announcement to upgrade the Rockhampton Ring Road to increase efficiency and efficient access for heavy vehicles around the Rockhampton region. We know that investment in road infrastructure is essential for Central Queensland. We know that investment in infrastructure, particularly in road infrastructure, is vital for the future of Central Queensland. Today is another step from a Shorten Labor Government towards making that vision a reality for the people of Central Queensland. I'll hand to Jim.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks very much Zac, and thanks Russell as well. I'm really pleased to be here today to announce that a Shorten Labor Government would invest $2.1 million in making sure we get the priorities right in the stretch between Rocky and Gladstone on the Bruce Highway. Whether that means doubling from two lanes to four, getting the overtaking lanes right, all of these priorities need to be determined so that we can get on with investing in the Bruce Highway here in this part of Queensland. This is all about making the Central Queensland economy more productive, it's about making our roads safer, and it's about making sure we can ease congestion for local families as well. In the Labor Party, we've got a very proud record of investing in the Bruce Highway, investing in local roads, including just over our shoulder here with the flood-proofing that we first committed to, and we contrast that with the $725 million that the Coalition has pulled out of the Bruce Highway in their term of Government. The contrast couldn't be clearer when it comes to local roads here in Central Queensland.
The reason we're so keen to invest is because we know that you can't grow the national economy unless you have thriving, growing, productive regions like Central Queensland. We are all about jobs and wages and making sure that local businesses can get a slice of the actions when it comes to Government procurement and other projects as well. That's why I'm proud to say that a Federal Labor Government under Bill Shorten will make sure that local businesses will get a slice of the action on local projects by insisting on local businesses playing a role, by making sure that every 10th worker on a big government project is a local apprentice, for example. Making sure that when there is a big project, the local labour market has to be tested first, so that we can get local workers involved and not necessarily just ship people in from outside the community. I think that's a really important way to make sure that we can grow the economy here in Central Queensland.
We also want to make sure people are paid fairly for their work, here and indeed right around the country. That means restoring penalty rates, it means cracking down on sham contracting, it means cracking down on dodgy visas, it means ending the practice of labour hire being used to undercut wages and conditions. All of these things are very important to making sure that the local workers and local businesses can prosper here in Central Queensland and that people can be paid fairly for their efforts.
These will be the key issues at play in the federal election in May. We've got two outstanding candidates in Zac Beers and Russell Robertson. Two of the best candidates anywhere in Australia contesting this election here in this part of the world. What we understand, and the Coalition does not understand, is that in order to deliver for Central Queensland, you need a united and a stable team. And Labor is the united and stable alternative at this election. At the same time as the Coalition, and particularly the National Party today are tearing themselves apart.
We've had an extraordinary intervention today by Barnaby Joyce, who's had another crack at Michael McCormack, who's here later today, with Barnaby Joyce insisting that he's the elected Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, forgetting of course that nobody ever elected Scott Morrison the Prime Minister of this country. So once again, the National Party are tearing themselves apart. For as long as the National Party tear themselves apart over the leadership, then ordinary working people in Central Queensland won't get a look in. For as long as Barnaby Joyce and Michael McCormack and other Nationals are going at it about their own personal ambitions, ordinary working people won't get a look in in this country, and that's what we're seeing.
If the people of Central Queensland want to send representatives to Canberra who will put their hand up for a stronger local economy and better wages and conditions and more jobs for Central Queensland, then they need to elect Russell Robertson and Zac Beers. All they're getting right now is the National Party eating itself alive, consumed with internal power plays, going soft on the banks, putting their hand up for electricity privatisation, and putting their hands up for cuts to hospitals and schools as well.
One final point: Michelle Landry and Ken O'Dowd have co-signed a letter which leaves the door open for electricity privatisation in Queensland. The so-called "big stick" legislation, which Michelle Landry and Ken O'Dowd and other Nationals are calling for leaves the door open for public energy assets to be sold off. The people of Queensland have expressed a view on this multiple times. Electricity privatisation is in the Coalition's DNA. We've seen that again today. Campbell Newman tried and failed to sell off the power assets, now Ken O'Dowd and Michelle Landry are having another crack. These people will not listen to the people of Queensland. We will not sell your power assets. The National Party stands for a big sell-off of public energy assets, and people will express a view on that in the election as well. Over to you.
JOURNALIST: So, as you said, the Deputy PM will be here... (inaudible) ...infrastructure projects across CQ. Why should voters here trust you guys (inaudible)?
CHALMERS: Labor's presenting a stable, united alternative, which is focused on the things that really matter to Central Queensland - jobs, wages, infrastructure projects, at the same time as the National Party are just eating themselves alive over the leadership. And I think people will make that contrast. Whether it's Russell and Zac, or Bill Shorten and the entire Labor team, we're united on policy making sure that we can get a fair go for Central Queensland and all the great regions of this country. When Michael McCormack is here later on today, you should ask him about his leadership. He can't even guarantee that he'll be there at the election, so none of the commitments that he makes when he's here are worth the paper that they're written on.
JOURNALIST: Will the Ring Road still be built if Labor's elected?
CHALMERS: Yes, the Ring Road will be built by Labor. We've made that clear, but beyond that, we've got a range of other commitments that we've made that Zac and Russell have run through on multiple occassions. If people are voting on good public infrastructure, in Rocky or Gladstone or right throughout Central Queensland, then the only alternative is Labor. We're the only ones genuinely focused on what these people need in these communities. The National Party and the Liberal Party are just focused on their own jobs.
JOURNALIST: Jim, are you able to provide some specifics on how this round of funding will translate into the duplication of the highway between here and Gladstone?
CHALMERS: This $2.1 million is a crucial step in determining the priorities for this stretch between Rocky and Gladstone. We already know from listening to Russell and to Zac and to the local community that two lanes is a problem. There's not enough opportunities for overtaking. We can make the road more productive. We can make the road more safe. And we can ease congestion for local families as well. So this is an important step in determining those priorities, to get the planning done so that we can then consider what needs to be done subsequent to that to give Central Queenslanders the roads that they need and deserve.
JOURNALIST: Can you back up the plans with further funding... (inaudible)?
CHALMERS: Certainly that's our intention. You don't do the planning if you have no intention of improving the road. We'll see what the planning process says. But we have signalled our intention. Not just with this commitment today, but with all the commitments we've made to local roads. If you want to make the economy stronger, you want to create jobs, you want to make sure that local families can prosper, you need to make sure they've got the right infrastructure. We've got a terrific record of investment. We plan to continue that. The next step, the next logical step, is to get the planning right.
JOURNALIST: The Coalition have some pretty big plans for water security and water infrastructure projects in our region ... (inaudible) ... what's Labor's plans for funding (inaudible)?
CHALMERS: We've led the way on the Rookwood Weir. We've been on the record for far longer than the Coalition when it comes to that important investment, and we support the water infrastructure fund as well. So, again, if people are looking for investment in water infrastructure in regional Queensland, we have led the way. They will do better under Labor than they will under the alternative. And when Michael McCormack is here later on today, he needs to explain why it took them so long on the Rookwood Weir, for example; why they're always playing catch-up with the Labor Party, which has actually prioritised Central Queensland. We've done that because of the advocacy of Zac and Russell and others. While the other guys, Michelle Landry and Ken O'Dowd, all they do is they go to Canberra, they put their hand up for cuts to hospitals and schools, they leave the door open for electricity privatisation and they run a protection racket for the big banks. Central Queensland's a terrific region in the best state in the Commonwealth. You deserve better representation than you're getting right now, and you'll get that better representation from Russell and from Zac as part of a stable and united team under Bill Shorten and Labor.
JOURNALIST: So they say that weir is being delayed by the Palaszczuk Government ... (audible) ... is it just a blame game (inaudible)?
CHALMERS: Australians are so sick of the finger pointing and the blame game. This Government has spent a lot of time doing that. Under Bill Shorten and the Labor Party, with these advocates here, we've always taken the view that you do what you can to get the problem fixed. And whether it's state or local or federal, you need to put your back into it and try to get the problem fixed. That's been the approach that we've taken. The other guys have pointed the finger. That's how they roll unfortunately. But that kind of approach doesn't necessarily get problems fixed in Central Queensland or elsewhere in Queensland.
JOURNALIST: There's a study that's been released today ... (inaudible) ... shows modern coal-fired power stations produce more ultra-fine dust particles and road traffic ... (inaudible) .... Matt Canavan is pretty keen on building more coal-fired power stations (inaudible)?
CHALMERS: The Coalition have had almost six years now to deal with energy in this country. Throughout that time energy prices have gone up and up and up. They've had something like 12 different policies on electricity in the almost six years that they've been in office. They've had more than one policy every six months in the time that they've been in office. This is not actually - whether it's Matt Canavan or Michelle Landry or Michael McCormack or Barnaby Joyce - this is not actually about the generation of electricity. It's about internal brawling in the National Party and in the Coalition more broadly. They keep having a crack at each other over energy. They are hopelessly divided when it comes to the building of power stations. We have our own plans and it's not for us to respond to every daily episode of internal bickering in the Liberal Party and the National Party.
JOURNALIST: So I guess ... (inaudible) ... some of those people might be a bit concerned that under Labor those will be under threat. Is that true?
CHALMERS: We think that coal's an important part of the energy mix. It will continue to be so even as the world makes the transition. It will be an important part of the economy here. You don't need to tell Robbo how important coal mining is. He's a coal miner. It will be an important part of the local economy, an important part of the energy mix. Not just in the near term, but in the medium term as well. We've said that repeatedly.
Great, thanks very much.