Interview with Jacquie Mackay – ABC Capricornia – Thursday, 17 May 2018



SUBJECTS: Turnbull’s Budget failing Central Queensland, NAIF

JACQUIE MACKAY: The federal budget certainly seemed to be popular with people. The Prime Minister’s approval improved substantially in the days since the Budget. Certainly people like the sound of tax cuts, how does Labor combat that?

CLARE: The more you dig into it the more you find out. If you’re earning $37,000 you get a $4 a week tax cut out of this Budget, but the Commonwealth Bank get a $7.5 million a week tax cut. That’s part of the problem with this Turnbull Budget. They’re giving $17 billion in tax cuts to the big banks and to pay for that our schools are getting cut, our hospitals are getting cut, and local universities are getting cut as well.

MACKAY: So what is Labor promising for Central Queensland specifically?

CLARE: What we’re saying first is we can reverse the cuts that Malcolm Turnbull and the LNP have made to our schools, the cuts they’ve made to Rockhampton and Emerald Hospital, and the hospitals in the region because we’re not going to give the big banks a $17 billion tax cut.

In addition to that what we’ve also said is in Rocky for example we’ll build the flood levee. After the floods came through in April last year, Bill Shorten and I said that we’d put $20 million in to build the flood levee. The Queensland Government said they’d put money in as well, as well as the Council. I’ve been banging on trying to get Michelle Landry to put some money into this to convince the Government to put money in to stop Rocky from flooding. We’ve been doing that now for over a year and still nothing has happened.

Here in Gladstone, where I am at the moment we’ve said that we’ll put $100 million in to build the next stage of the Port Access Road. The port is already huge, but it can grow. We can export more. You need road infrastructure to help the port grow and to keep the trucks off local roads.

We’ve also said we’ll put money in to build the Rookwood Weir and there was nothing for that in the budget. There was no money for new infrastructure projects in Central and North Queensland. There was $17 billion in tax cuts for the big banks but nothing for the people of the North.

MACKAY: So you’ve also been rather critical of the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility not allocating any funding until just recently. How would Labor do it any differently? Because surely it takes time to investigate applications, ensure due diligence.

CLARE: Well that’s true, but it shouldn’t take three years. Now this is a fund that was announced three years ago this month, $5 billion to build infrastructure in North Queensland and Northern Australia. Three years later, we still don’t have one project funded in North Queensland. It’s been three wasted years. If this money was invested earlier we’d have more people being employed and more useful infrastructure in North Queensland and Central Queensland.

And for the life of me, I can’t understand why it is taking three years before we’re seeing anything. It’s the most constipated organisation that the Turnbull Government has ever set up. Yesterday they allocated I think $7 million out of the $5 billion to a project in the Northern Territory – it’s a good one, I’m glad they’re doing it – but we need to see them pull their finger out and start funding some good projects in Central and North Queensland as well.

MACKAY: Are there any particular projects for infrastructure development that come out of this region that you think NAIF should be ticking off?

CLARE:  One that immediately comes to mind, it’s a bit north of here but it’s the Kidston Solar Hydro Project which is west of Townsville. It’s a ripper project which has got the potential to create jobs and provide more energy for North Queensland. It’s the sort of project that I’ve been banging on about saying the Government should provide funds through the NAIF for, for a long, long time and still we’ve seen nothing.

You asked me what the Labor Party would do differently. One of the things we’d do differently is that out of this fund we’d dedicate $1 billion to tourism infrastructure. We want to make sure that we get more people as they travel north stopping and staying at places like Rocky and Gladstone and tourism infrastructure that is often run by councils and state governments, gives people a reason to stop and stay and have a look around. That means they’ll stay in the local hotels, go to the local coffee shops and have a meal in town. It helps the local town to grow and create local jobs and so far this fund hasn’t done anything for tourism in the region.

MACKAY: So in Gladstone today, Gladstone today, what are you hearing so far on the ground from people there about what they need?

CLARE: Well I’m at the Lightbox Café in the main street at the moment with Zac Beers. We’re about to go and have a chat to the Port Corporation about our plan to expand the Port Access Road. I’ve just been talking to some people at the coffee shop and I said does anybody here think that we should give $17 billion in tax cuts to the big banks? I’ve got to tell you no one has said that we should do that, not even the local bank manager.  So the feeling I’m getting from people here is that with limited government money you should put it where it’s needed most and that’s not in giving a tax cut to the big banks – it’s in making sure we’ve got decent schools and decent hospitals.

We’ve also said we’d eliminate the cost of TAFE courses for 100,000 TAFE students where we’ve got a skills shortage. In Rocky and in Gladstone we’ve got the problem that we’ve got fewer apprentices today than we had five years ago and at the same time we’re bringing in people from overseas. So Bill Shorten has said we’ll get rid of the TAFE fees for 100,000 students where we’re having to bring in people from overseas so we can train up our own electricians and boilermakers and plumbers. That’s pretty popular here as well.

MACKAY: Thank you for your time this morning, Jason Clare Shadow Minister for Resources, Northern Australia, Trade and Investment. He is in Gladstone this morning.


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Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra