Doorstop – Townsville – Wednesday 17 April 2019



CATHY O’TOOLE, MEMBER FOR HERBERT: It’s really fantastic to be here today with Jason Clare our Shadow Minister for Northern Australia, Pat and Greg from North Queensland Drive It. This is a great day for Townsville today – I am so proud to announce that a Labor Shorten Government will back in Drive It NQ with $12 million.
This funding will be absolutely critical for Townsville. It will create, in operation, 149 jobs and contribute $38 million to our economy. In the development and construction phase it will be 90 jobs, and $34 million to our economy.
Townsville needs jobs, we are desperate for jobs, so this announcement on the jobs front, is one of the best announcements we have had so far in the campaign and I thank Pat and Greg for the hard work that they have put in, they have been working hard for Drive It for the last 13 to 15 years.
I also thank my colleague Jason Clare for coming up today to back us in on this announcement, it’s very important for us in terms of the development of Northern Australia as well. This facility will also have a driver education program, which is critical for our young people, but it will also create opportunities for organisations like the police service, the ambulance, the firies and defence, to have their driver training done here. Currently they go to the South East Corner that takes away from productivity and is also additional cost, so all around I think this a fantastic announcement from Labor – $12 million to Drive It NQ.

JOURNALIST: If Labor doesn’t win, but you are re-elected, how much will you push for this to be funded by an LNP government?

O’TOOLE: I will be, like Pat and Greg have been, I will be continually lobbying for this project to be funded. This also has a health benefit for us, we see way too much trauma on the road with young people. So the fact that we can have a supported, safe, monitored driver training facility for young people, that’s critically essential. So I will not let up on this until it’s funded.

JOURNALIST: How quickly if you took government, would it be funded?

O’TOOLE: Well Labor fortunately doesn’t fund into the never never so if we make a commitment to a funding project, we will fund it in our first term.

JOURNALIST: And, Labor’s also announced an electric vehicle policy, 50 per cent – is this also a bet each way also getting the petrol heads vote as well?

O’TOOLE: Let’s be really clear about the electric car funding announcement, and Jason will speak to this. This is the LNP’s policy we are talking about. Josh Frydenberg has been out talking about electric cars for the last couple of years in fact. This is moving forward in a safe and managed way, so I think our announcement around electric cars is sensible, it’s transitioning us into the future, but let’s not take away from this announcement today. $12 million to Drive It NQ, who has been working tirelessly, for nearly 15 years to get this off the ground, and that’s what we are here today to talk about, but I’ll hand over to Jason now.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: Well thanks very much Cathy, I was talking to Pat just before we started the press conference and he said to me that this is an announcement that’s going to save lives in Townsville and make money for Townsville, so it does two really important things.
We are in the guts of an election campaign now and you’re going to hear lots of announcements, particularly from the Labor Party about things that will create jobs here in Townsville but also things that are going to save lives, that’s how we make a better health system. This announcement does both – it’ll help save lives and it’ll help to create jobs here.
Anybody that has a child that’s old enough to drive, that’s said, “Mum, dad can I have the car keys?” will know that is one of the most terrifying things in life, worrying about whether your kids are safe behind the wheel.
This precinct is going to provide an opportunity for young people in Townsville to learn to drive well, to learn to drive safely, defensive driving courses. But in addition to that it’s going to create more jobs here in town, as Cathy said 90 jobs in construction and 148 full time jobs when it’s operational, bringing cash to town, bringing cash to Townsville, it’s going to help create another reason for tourists to come to town, but it’s also going to mean that the ambos, the cops, the firies, and the ADF can train here in Townsville rather than going down the coast, so it’s a fantastic announcement. I can’t think of many announcements that do both of those two big things, help make our streets safer, help save young people’s lives, but at the same time also help to create jobs in a town like Townsville that desperately needs it. Pat did you want to say a few words before we take a few questions?

PAT DRISCOLL, DRIVE IT NQ: Today’s a great day for Drive It, we’ve been looking for funding from the Labor Party for a number of years, and Cathy O’Toole and Jason and the team have delivered, and it’s fantastic.
The $7 million provided on top of the $5 million we already have, totalling $12 million, is halfway to our goal of a fully completed and operational precinct. If we can spend this money judiciously and well, to save lives and burgeon Townsville’s economy. The jobs it will provide during construction and after it’s made will last well into the future. So what we’ve got is something that provides social value to a city and provides economic value to a city, and as such is well worth government money.

JOURNALIST: Where are you hoping to get the other sort of $13 million?

DRISCOLL: So basically we see that all infrastructure, all major infrastructure in regional areas is usually contributed to by three levels of government. We’ve had outstanding support from our local council; they provided us with 306 hectares of valuable land, at a peppercorn lease. They’ve given us all the assistance they can in putting together our business cases and that sort of thing. Now that we have development approval for all the structural components that are needed, we need to have support I think from the state level of government as well.

JOURNALIST: It’s been a 15 year long, I guess campaign to get this up and running, how exciting is it to see it finally coming together?

DRISCOLL: So exciting that I don’t sleep at night and that’s not a lie, to be looking at the point we’re at a tipping point, where we now have a commitment that will get us halfway to our infrastructure that’s outstanding.
Of course it’s easier for other people to get on board when there is a basis there, so now that there is $12 million moving forward, $12 million of federal money in the project I think it does give the state a very good return on their investment should it decide to have skin in the game.

JOURNALIST: If the LNP is elected is this something you hope they will match?

DRISCOLL: Absolutely, at the end of the day I think it should be bipartisan support, it’s that good a project.

JOURNALIST: And the $12 million, remind us all how far along can this get the project, what will we see with the $12 million?

DRISCOLL: Okay, so we’ve invested the initial $5 million into general infrastructure and for driver education infrastructure. Moving forward obviously we would be investing it into infrastructure that will give us a good return on our investment, so we can fund the driver education. Without looking at it in detail, I think a speedway and drag strip would be two things that would be most useful in that area.

JOURNALIST: How excited is the community to get out there and get going?

DRISCOLL: Well the last time we had a media poll on how good this was we had 90 per cent support, our social media is reaching huge numbers so I think the community is very supportive.

JOURNALIST: Just got another question for Cathy sorry, just on another topic.
The CEO of Adani was on the ABC last night basically saying that he is not concerned that if Labor takes government the Adani mine won’t go ahead. So will Labor promise to support the Adani mine if elected?

O’TOOLE: I have been very clear about this, I have said if the project stacks up, it stacks up, ticks all the regulatory boxes, it goes ahead, that is it. Labor has always said, that if this project stacks up it would go ahead. We would never take a decision to put our country at sovereign risk, that would not happen. So at the moment that is where the project is, it sits with the state at the moment. I have also been very very clear, asking South East corner, or demanding the South East corner to get out of North Queensland’s business. We need to know, people in our community need to know that the goal posts aren’t shifting every five minutes. It’s not good for the bigger picture, it’s not good for the fact that people may question why would I invest in Queensland it’s too hard. That’s not fair on our community, we need jobs, we need an economic stimulus, and that’s what we will get.

CLARE: Maybe just add to that just another important point, Cathy is absolutely right we are not interested in creating sovereign risk,  but the other point is that one project alone is not going to create all the jobs we need here in Central and in North Queensland.
If you have a look at the stats something like 28,000 people who are unemployed and looking for work from Rocky to Cairns, and so it is important that we have got a government, at a state and federal level, as well as council, that are looking at projects that we can invest in that are going to create more local jobs.
This is just one example of it, but so is the port expansion, so is the water pipeline project, so is everything that we’ve announced so far in the campaign. It’s about creating more local jobs, and one of the areas where the federal government could do a hell of a lot more is to get money out of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund and invest it in the local community.
The NAIF was announced four years ago next month, and at the moment they still haven’t spent one cent out of that fund in Queensland. There have been some announcements, we’ve heard the promise of money for the airport here, but still not one cent has been spent in Queensland, and that was four years ago that was announced.
I often call the NAIF the most constipated organisation that the LNP has ever created. They need to get the money out there because if you spend money on infrastructure you create local jobs. Four years, is four years of wasted time that could have had a lot of those 28,000 people on the tools at work.

JOURNALIST: If you became the Northern Australia minister, would you scrap NAIF, would you operate it differently?

CLARE: No, the money would stay the same we think there are some big and important changes we can make, to make it work better, and Bill Shorten and I will have more to say about that in the campaign.
But that $5 billion is important, and it will stay, we’ve said so far that $1 billion of that will be for tourism infrastructure for the sorts of things that are going to bring people to town, but the $5 billion stays.
There is a lot that we can do to make this thing work better, to get the money out the door. The audit office put out a report about the NAIF, I don’t know whether you saw it last week, which had a number of recommendations about improving its operation. There are a lot of things wrong about the NAIF, one of the things that is a problem with it is that half the board members are donors to the LNP, so we need to improve the processes of the NAIF but ultimately and most importantly we need to get money out the door building infrastructure, creating jobs here in Townsville and right across Northern Australia.

JOURNALIST: So it’d be like changing the structure of the loan system?

CLARE: We’ll have more to say in the campaign, don’t worry about that, I’ll be back in town.

JOURNALIST: Cathy I have just got one more question for you regarding penalty rates – the unions are sort of standing up today just defending wages in retail, hospitality, those sort of sectors, the LNP cut penalty rates by July 1, and Labor has said they will defend that, is that right?

O’TOOLE: That’s absolutely right, Labor has said that within the first 100 days we will reinstate penalty rates, we are talking about some of the most lower paid workers in our community here in Townsville. We are talking about people in retail and hospitality, this a cruel cut, it is an unfair cut, and it further divides the inequality in wages.
Let us also remember that vast numbers of workers in that industry are women. So not only do they go home with less money in their pocket, it also impacts on their superannuation. It is absolutely unfair and Labor will defend and reinstate penalty rates in our first 100 days.

CLARE: You know it’s an important question right now, because we are about to go into the long weekend, and there are going to be a lot of people in Townsville working on Friday and on Sunday, who are not going to get paid their penalty rates like they did in years past, because this government has stood by and let penalty rates get cut.
If Cathy gets elected and if Labor gets elected, we will reverse the cuts to penalty rates. That puts more cash in the pockets of those hard working Australians here in Townsville, but that also means they’ve got more cash to spend in the local community and that’s good for the local community.
The Libs are out of touch on this. They don’t understand that people who are on penalty rates don’t earn a lot of cash, they spend everything they’ve got, and they usually spend it on food for their kids and for their family and if we win the election we will reverse those cuts to penalty rates.