Doorstop - Rockhampton

01 August 2017



Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund; Labor’s plan for a Fairer Tax System for all Australians; Turnbull Government division over marriage equality.


CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well thanks for coming everybody, it’s great to be here in Rockhampton. Queensland is very important for the Australian economy. And regional Queensland is very important. And Labor’s thinking as we undertake the task of thinking about economic policies in the next Labor Government. And today, Jim and I, together with Senator Chris Ketter are touring this part of Queensland talking to people about their ideas for reinvigorating the economy. As you know, Bill Shorten on Saturday announced the Labor party in Government would have a $1 billion fund for tourism in Northern Australia. And already today, we’ve spoken to people with fantastic about how that fund could best be put to use and how best that fund could be designed. And their ideas that Jim and I will take back to Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese and Jason Clare the Shadow Minister for Northern Australia as we prepare our plans for the next election and more importantly government.

This part of Queensland is vital for Australia’s future. Queenslanders in this part of the world deserve a stake in the economic growth in the future of Australia and we are determined as the alternative government to facilitate that and to lead the debate. I’m delighted in particular that my friend and partner in economic policy-making, Jim Chalmers, could join me on this tour, to take these ideas away, and to continue to develop them.

After this we’re off to Mt Morgan and then tomorrow we will be in Gladstone. This, as I said, is an important trip where we factor this part of Queensland into our plans in economic policy-making.

Just before I hand to Jim just on a few national issues.

On Sunday, Bill Shorten and I announced a very important shift in policy. The policy to tackle tax minimisation through family and discretionary trusts. Now the Government led a scare campaign in the week leading up to it. Since then they’ve been struck dumb. Here’s the challenge for the Government: go out and defend income splitting and tax minimisation and promise no change to policy or embrace Labor’s policy. Labor’s policy has been embraced by group after group, expert after expert. We saw the Tax Institute say that our policy was ‘clever’ that had been carefully designed. We have seen John Daley from the Grattan Institute say that this was ‘sensible tax reform’. Expert after expert. All the Government has are themselves to back their position in.


When the Government lectures everybody about the need for Budget repair and to get back to Budget balance, but then they let this sort of tax minimisation go unchecked then they let Australians down. Peter Costello knew this had to be fixed but he couldn’t fix it. Joe Hockey knew this had to be fixed but he couldn’t fix it. We will fix it. The policy we have put out is detailed and includes a 10-page factsheet – far more detailed then what goes out with Government policy announcements. It’s carefully designed, well-calibrated and it’s the right one for Australia’s future. I’ve been very pleased with the response of experts, of stakeholders, and I’ve been not surprised but disappointed at the Government’s lack of vision and lack of willingness to embrace this.


Okay, we’ll go to Jim then take your questions.


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks very much Chris and thanks to Chris Ketter for the opportunity to spend time here in Rocky and I want to thank Mary and all of the people we have met while we’ve been here.


Our focus has been on tourism because tourism in Central Queensland means jobs for Central Queensland. That’s why Bill Shorten, in regional Queensland, announced a $1 billion co-investment in local tourism to try and ensure that we’ve got the infrastructure that we need for to turn a very attractive place to visit into the perfect place to visit with all of the infrastructure that you need in this part of the world. We know, unlike the Turnbull Government, that economic growth in this country is not just created in the boardrooms of Sydney and Melbourne, it’s created in the stockyards, workshops and hotels of places like Rockhampton and places like Central Queensland, the rest of regional Queensland, and throughout Northern Australian.


We’re very proud to have announced that $1 billion in co-investment. We’re very grateful to the local community for discussing that with us today and also we’re very proud of the commitment that Bill Shorten has made to the flood levy here in this part of Queensland. A very important announcement as well.


Now the contrast with the Turnbull Government…[interruption]…and the contrast with the Labor Opposition under Bill Shorten and the Government under Malcolm Turnbull is that while they squabble internally about marriage equality, while they give tax cuts to the top end of town, while they go out of their way to give pay cuts for weekend work. Labor is out and about in the community, listening to people, making investments in infrastructure, making investments in tourism, making investments in the flood levy and other important projects to Central Queensland. The contrast couldn’t be any more stark. When local representatives from this part of the world from the LNP go to Canberra, they vote to prevent a banking Royal Commission and vote for a $65 billion tax cut for the multinationals and the four big banks and they vote against Labor’s very sensible plans to invest in Central Queensland, to invest in regional Queensland, and to give the economic growth you need and deserve.


BOWEN: Over to you folks.


JOURNALIST: So can you explain a little bit more about the funding and where it might go in Central Queensland?


BOWEN: Well as we've said Bill Shorten announced this fund on Saturday and of course there will be all sorts of normal processes to ensure quality for money, quality projects and impact. Now what we are out to do today is not assessing projects but getting ideas about the sorts of projects which are in the community, the ideas that are there and there are good ones that we have heard already that we want to take away and talk to Bill and Anthony and Jason about. And also about design; so for example today we've heard it’s important that we not have too low a minimum investment because very good tourism projects come from quite small investments.


We will take that on board and take that away and feed that into our field of policy development. North Queensland, North Australia deserves this sort of investment. Very good projects with huge economic payoff can occur with just a little bit of government involvement, working with the private sector and a bit of government involvement. Australia is a very attractive tourist destination but our infrastructure is not up to scratch, we rank very highly when it comes to the desirability of where to go around the world. When the world's tourists are thinking where would we like to go, Australia ranks highly. When you look in the detail of our tourism infrastructure we lack real substance there, we fall behind and that's what the North Australia Tourism Investment Fund is all about. We’re lifting that and letting North Australian grow to its full potential.


JOURNALIST: How important is tourism in the lifting the economy of Queensland?


BOWEN: Well we think tourism is absolutely an essential part of the jigsaw puzzle, it's not the only thing of course. But tourism has many virtues, the multiplier effect of tourism is significant. For one dollar spent here in Rockhampton or Yeppoon or wherever it is, flows through the economy, ripples through and creates more jobs and it's also a part of the economy which to be frank everybody can participate in. Tourism creates all sorts of jobs for people of all ages, backgrounds, educational qualifications. They are good jobs and so we are actually making sure that those jobs are being created here in this part of Queensland and right across Northern Australia


JOURNALIST: You did sort of touched on this before, would the fund be looking at investing in large-scale projects or just sort of the smaller businesses who want to add something extra upscale sort of thing?


BOWEN: Well we want the fun to be flexible in its approach and again we've just had good feedback even here with Capricorn Enterprise about how they think the fund could best contribute to tourism here in Rockhampton and Yeppoon and the sorts of projects which could meet the criteria we are looking for so obviously we are not here today to announce specific investments and specific projects but to take away the advice of locals who are the best experts in their experience and how to generate this economic activity and feed it into our process. We went to take this fund and we want to make it work for the people of Queensland.


JOURNALIST: And where did this idea for a tourism fund for Northern Australia come from?


BOWEN: From Bill Shorten and from Labor. We get it, that tourism, let's be frank; the Queensland economy and particularly the regional Queensland economy is doing it tough. In places like Mackay, Gladstone, Bowen where I was a few weeks ago are doing it tough, Rockhampton as well, the aftermath of the mining boom has left, a lot of people are hurting and so we need new booms to replace that. The mining boom is not coming back anytime soon.


We need new investments, services investments to replace that economic activity in this part of the world and tourism is an absolute no-brainer. I'm just disappointed the Government hasn't just matched it and said let's get on with it. We've heard a lot of fanfare about the North Australia Investment Fund, we have no problem with that. It was announced in 2015, we are now well into 2017, the second half of 2017. How much has been spent? Not a dollar. Not a dollar. It's not created one job, not one new investment so the Government is full of talk, they can talk the talk but haven't walked the walk when it comes to investment in northern Australia.


JOURNALIST: Sorry I might have missed this earlier but did you put a figure on how much would be in this Northern Australia Tourism Fund?


BOWEN: $1 billion.


JOURNALIST: Over a period of time?


BOWEN: Well it's $1 billion fund so we would encourage the fund grow and start investing in good order.


JOURNALIST: And why just tourism and not a general fund like what the Liberal party has done?


BOWEN: Well it's - of course we'd also have the North Australia Infrastructure Fund but we think tourism is so important it's justified having one specific fund dedicated to it, it’s so important for the economic future of North Queensland.


JOURNALIST: And you mentioned the zero dollars spent from the North Australia Infrastructure Fund how disappointing is that for?


BOWEN: I think it's disappointing, I think to be fair there would have been a fair bit of excitement when this fund was announced in 2015 in Rockhampton and up and down the coast and inland. I think people would have said "Wow, Canberra is listening to us and getting it and a tick to Malcolm". I think they would have said that but did they really think though that 2 ½ years later not a dollar would have been spent, not a job would have been created, not an investment would have been made? I think just as they are entitled to be excited they are entitled to be disappointed.


JOURNALIST: And do you think there are projects out there that deserve some of this funding?


BOWEN: There's no question about that, there's no question. I mean in the vast area that's covered by the North Australia Infrastructure Fund is the Government really saying there's no projects? The best they can do is just keep talking about it? Seriously? North Queensland doesn't need more talk, it needs some investments.