Doorstop – Rockhampton- Wednesday, 04 October 2017








SUBJECT/S: Labor’s $1 billion Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund, Rockhampton Flood Levee, Commonwealth Games

JASON CLARE: It’s great to be here in Yeppoon, with Jim and Kate and Brittany. We’ve got Murray and we’ve got Bill. We’ve got Mary here as well over in the background.

I’m here to talk about the commitment by the Shorten Labor team to implement a billion dollar Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund. Tourism employs tens of thousands of Australians across Northern Australia, particularly in Queensland and a lot here in Central Queensland. We’re talking about an industry that contributes more than $1.4 billion to the economy here in Central Queensland and about 7,000 workers. And it could be even more. We want more people here in Yeppoon, in Rocky, right across Central Queensland to get a job working in the tourism sector. A big part of that is making sure that we’ve got the infrastructure that is needed to attract tourists. Now that could be expanding airports, it could be expanding ports. It could be a new convention centre. It could be lots of different things. That’s why I’m here in Yeppoon, I want to talk to the Council, talk to private operators of tourism facilities about what they need so we can set this fund up right when we win the next election and hit the ground running.

One of the problems with what the Government’s done with their Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility – a $5 billion fund which we supported, which is a great idea in theory – is that none of the money is being spent. None of the money from the NAIF has been spent on any infrastructure projects that are going to create any jobs. The only money that’s been spent so far has been on money for staff and director’s fees. After two years, still the NAIF hasn’t spent a dime on infrastructure projects in Northern Australia. And that’s a failure, that’s a shemozzle. It’s something that’s desperately got to be fixed. We’ve said that 20 per cent of that fund – a billion dollars – would be dedicated to tourism infrastructure projects right across Northern Australia, and in particular here in Central Queensland.

I might ask Jim to say a few words, and then we’ll get Kate and Brittany to say a few words as well.

JIM CHALMERS: Thanks very much Jason. I’m Jim Chalmers, I’m the Shadow Finance Minister. I was here 9 weeks ago with the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen. We wet with Mary Carroll, and Mary said ‘you have to come to Yeppoon’, so here we are.

We’re here at Yeppoon talking about tourism and talking about infrastructure. In Federal Labor and State Labor we care deeply about tourism because tourism means jobs. Tourism means jobs for local people, it means money in the tills of these local businesses and it means an opportunity to show the rest of the country and the rest of the world just how terrific Yeppoon is, and right through Central Queensland.

The World Economic Forum did a study this year and it said that Australia is the 7th most attractive tourist destination on the planet, but it has the 14th best infrastructure. And when it comes to port and ground infrastructure we ranked 53rd in the world, which is not good enough. And that’s why we want to invest via this fund that Jason has outlined for you. We want to invest in local tourism infrastructure so we can get people coming here to Yeppoon, coming to Rocky and Central Queensland. Spending money in local shops, creating jobs for local people.

KATE JONES: Well it is great to be here today with my Federal Colleagues as well as Mary and of course with Bill and my good friend Brittany Lauga.

We are here in Yeppoon today because we know that infrastructure will make a difference to creating tourism jobs in this region. The billion dollar fund from Federal Labor is real money that will make a real difference to the lives of people working in the tourism industry here. We know by investing in infrastructure we can grow tourism opportunities. As Jim has just said we have some of the best destinations in the world, but this critical piece that is required is additional infrastructure spending. After two years we’ve seen not one dollar pumped into one tourism project across Queensland through the NAIF. The NAIF has been a complete and utter failure. What we have here is real solutions and we want to sit down with tourism operators to make sure that we get this infrastructure project right. By having these funds available we want to support those infrastructure projects that will make a difference to encourage the private sector to invest in tourism.

We’ve worked really hard with the tourism industry here in Queensland. When the LNP cut $188 million in tourism funding we’ve committed more than half a billion dollars to market Queensland and invest in Tourism and Events Queensland and our RTO’s just like Mary runs so successfully here in the Southern Great Barrier Reef region. We are seeing more Australians than ever before coming to Queensland and more international tourists than ever before coming to Queensland. But we know this infrastructure fund by Labor will make a difference to infrastructure in Central Queensland and deliver jobs here locally.

BRITTANY LAUGA: Brittany Lauga, State Member for Keppel. Good morning everyone and it’s wonderful to have my Federal Labor colleagues here this week for the Country Labor Forum and also to have Minister Kate Jones here today.

This infrastructure announcement by my Federal Labor colleagues today is very much welcome news. We know that not a single cent has been spent from the Northern Australia infrastructure Fund since its inception, except the dollars that have been spent on those directors’ wages. Infrastructure and tourism go hand in hand and we know that we need infrastructure in order to encourage more tourists to this region.

I want to pay credit to Mary Carroll and her team at Capricorn Enterprise and our existing tourism operators in this region who do a marvellous job at bringing tourists and encouraging tourist from around Australia from around the world to our beautiful region. But they need the support of infrastructure in order to encourage more tourists to this region. So I think it’s a great announcement today. I think the $5 billion that’s been allocated by the NAIF needs to be spent ASAP and the $1 billion that’s been announced by Federal Labor today as part of the Northern Australia tourism infrastructure plan will go a long way, particularly in this region to growing our tourism industry.

BILL LUDWIG: Livingstone Shire Council and the region welcomes this commitment to infrastructure. We’ve certainly had great support from the State Government in building the foreshore projects that we have here and we also have had an injection of Federal money in to that to the tune of $10 million. But the infrastructure that we need – and it’s significant – projects like getting power and water to Great Keppel Island. That would make that project advance so much quicker and attract investors. And there’s no other island on the Great Barrier Reef that has the potential that Great Keppel Island has with the approvals that are in place. A commercial boat ramp facility that would allow us to keep all of those jobs here in Central Queensland – load the hard rock, the construction material – are just two of the major projects that direct funding and grant funding would be a huge help. NAIF has been a disappointment and we really need to look for those alternatives if we’re going to move forward and do the job and grow tourism and be China ready in particular here in Central Queensland.

CLARE: Alright, happy to take all your questions.

JOURNALIST: In terms of development on Great Keppel Island, what can we see there? What ideas do you have?

CLARE: Well Bill mentioned a few of them just then. In terms of access to power and water, you mentioned as well. Really what we’re seeking here is advice from the local community about what the priorities are. What the sort of infrastructure is that they would like to see this fund invested in. At the moment the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility isn’t looking at any tourism projects at all and that’s just a massive oversight. We want to see at least a billion dollars of this fund invested in tourism projects that create local jobs. We’ll be guided by local industry and the local Council about what those projects really should be. They’re the experts. They’re the ones who will know where the money should be spent. One of the problems with the NAIF at the moment is it really doesn’t seek to work with local Councils. It’s really more focused on the private sector. A lot of tourism infrastructure is often infrastructure built with the local Council.  That’s why we’re here with the Council. I want to talk to the local Council as well as the private sector about what sort of infrastructure we should be using this fund to invest in to create more businesses and create more local jobs. And we do that off the back of bringing tourist from down south as well as from up north.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, I may have missed this earlier, but you’re saying that the funding would be available for Tower Holdings for their project?

CLARE: Well, it would be available for councils as well as the private sector to come forward with good ideas. The problem we’ve got with the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility at the moment is they’re not considering any tourism projects at all, at least as far as we know. The last time we were briefed by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility they said they’re not looking at any tourism projects at all. So we’re providing a billion dollars to invest in tourism infrastructure, now that could be from Tower Holdings or it could be from all of the other different tourism operators here at Yeppoon, right across Central Queensland, right across Northern Australia, including councils.

Can I just make, while I’ve got the microphone, one other point. And that is about the Rocky flood levee. Summer’s coming. It’s not far away. And if you live in Northern Australia, you know that with the sunshine of summer comes rain and sometimes comes the risk of natural disaster. And Rocky too often, has suffered flood, after flood, which has knocked our businesses for a long period of time. It’s meant that people have had their homes and possession affected by flood. Federal Labor has committed twenty five million dollars towards the building of the Rocky Flood Levee, State Labor’s committed twenty five million has well. Rocky Council has committed ten million dollars. We can make this happen. We can build the flood levee that protects those businesses and projects those homes. We just need the Federal Government to contribute the twenty five million. We’ve said we’ll do it if we win the next election. But between now and the next election there’s another summer and another risk that people’s homes could be flooded. So today I’m calling on Malcolm Turnbull and Michelle Laundry again to pull their finger out and commit to building the levee, commit twenty five million dollars of Federal funding to build the Rocky Flood Levee and help to save people’s homes and businesses.

JOURNALIST: There’ve been flood levee experts in the past that have said even if the Federal Government don’t chip in their share that it still represents good value for the council to go ahead and do it without them. Is that something you’d support?

CLARE: All the evidence I’ve seen is that the cost of these floods outweighs the cost of building the levee. The levee itself would cost sixty million dollars. Every time a flood comes through it costs the town of Rockhampton, the city of Rockhampton, tens of millions of dollars. So it’s something that’s got to be built. We’ve been talking about this for two decades. I was at university when we started talking about the Rockhampton Flood Levee. Let’s build it. But it shouldn’t be all on the back of ratepayers in Rockhampton. I think it’s only fair enough that the Federal Government, the State Government and the Council work together I partnership to get this levee built. And for the life of me, I can’t understand why the Local Member Michelle Laundry, doesn’t think it’s a good idea to protect the homes of the people she represents.

JOURNALIST: So in terms of a casino licence being granted to Great Keppel Island, is that still off the table?

JONES: Look I agree with the Mayor, Bill Ludwig. I think he summed it up really well yesterday, when he said Tower Holdings has had all the approvals that they need to get on with construction and they haven’t done that. I think it’s time for them to put up or shut up and I think it’s not fair on all the other operators that want to see a flourishing Great Keppel Island to be held to ransom in this way. So I say, I echo the calls of both the local member here and the Mayor, that they need to get serious and start demonstrating that they will put the money into constructing their development.

JOURNALIST: So, should the State Government not extend the lease?

JONES: Well they’ve been given, I understand, from the State Development Minister another six months to get on with the job. And I support that but I think at the end of that six months it really is time to move on. What I’m also really excited about here today is the infrastructure that Federal Labor is talking about. It’s infrastructure that’ll benefit all tourism operators on Great Keppel Island by investing in, as the Mayor said, in connecting water and electricity by investing in a jetty. That critical infrastructure opens up the opportunity for many tourism operators on Great Keppel Island. And I think getting this right after two years of inaction on the NAIF having a dedicated tourism fund, to build that critical infrastructure, will be the necessary step required to open up GKI.

JOURNALIST: And what would that project cost?

JONES: So we’ve done some estimates ourselves, where we say, you know, around thirty million dollars would be require to build some of that infrastructure, around ten million dollars for the connection of electricity and water. And certainly, what we’re hoping out of the discussions with operators today is a clear understanding of their priorities when it comes to what infrastructure they want to see delivered first. I mean we’re all frustrated that after more than two years we’ve seen nothing out of the NAIF. Here is an opportunity for us to deliver out of a dedicated tourism infrastructure fund that will actually make a difference to all of the operators, not only on GKI but also here in Yeppoon.

JOURNALIST: So will the State Government chip in to any of that thirty million?

JONES: We’re certainly having those discussions but we very much believe that the Federal Labor path of dedicating one billion dollars exclusively for tourism infrastructure will be a game changer for Great Keppel Island.

JOURNALIST: Com Games six months out, how excited are we and how ready are we?

JONES: Look, we are so excited that today marks six months till the Commonwealth Games kicks off here in Queensland. And this will be a celebration that is celebrated right across our state and Australia. We are the first Commonwealth Games ever to have all of the infrastructure completed, six months in advance of the Games commencing. And next week we’ll see the Chief de Missions from all of the countries come and spend a week here to look at the infrastructure and look at how they’re going to organise their teams, the seventy Commonwealth nations and territories, coming here next week to see firsthand the work that’s gone on the way. With the six month mark, what we’ve seen is the handover of the village from the developer over to GOLDOC, the organising committee, and the work now begins on getting the Games Village ready for the athletes. It really is exciting to stand here with six months to go to the Commonwealth Games knowing that the Commonwealth Games are on track, on time and on budget and we’ll deliver a world class tourism opportunity for Queensland.

JOURNALIST: Is there anything left to be done?

JONES: So now it’s all about getting down to the nitty gritty of organising the Commonwealth Games, of course we still have, I’m very fortunate and have seen a sneak peak of the opening and closing ceremonies. They are going to be amazing and they are going to showcase the very best of Queensland’s tourism offerings from right across our state. We also have to work with our volunteers to make sure that they are trained and ready, they will be the face of the Games and so there’s a lot of work happening with the organising committee to make sure we get everything ready. But the key milestone with six months to go and all construction completed, well in advance of the Games is something we’re celebrating.


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