Doorstop - Townsville

23 February 2018



SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for Townsville and the North; Malcolm Turnbull’s $65 billion tax cut; Clive Palmer; Barnaby Joyce; Townsville economy; rain and water security.


CATHY O’TOOLE, MEMBER FOR HERBERT: It’s really great to be here today with Jim Chalmers the Shadow Minister for Finance. Once again, Labor leading the way, being in the regions, being here in Townsville, to listen to the people of our community to hear about what our needs are. So I’ll hand over to Jim.


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE, MEMBER FOR RANKIN: Thanks very much for making the effort in the difficult conditions. It’s been a really great trip actually the last couple of days with the indefatigable Cathy O’Toole the Member for Herbert – a great friend of ours in Canberra and really, in terms of Federal representation, right off the top shelf.


We’ll be speaking to CEDA today about some of the economic challenges and opportunities here in Townsville and in the North. We’ll be contrasting our plans with the Liberals’ plans for this part of the world, this really crucial part of the world. North Queensland has a choice between Labor’s targeted investment in infrastructure versus Malcolm Turnbull’s $65 billion tax cut for big businesses and multinationals which will flow overwhelmingly to the southern capitals and overseas. So when the election rolls around the people of North Queensland have a very clear choice between a Turnbull Government who wants to favour the top end of town at the expense of middle Australia and the Labor Opposition under Bill Shorten and with Cathy O’Toole as a key part of that – we want to invest in local infrastructure, we want to invest in local water infrastructure, pumped hydro, we want to support the local tourism industry, all of the ways that we actually get the right kind of economic growth and job creation in such a crucial part of Australia like Townsville and the broader North.


Mathias Cormann and Scott Morison were out there again today talking about their tax cuts for the top end of town. These characters in the Turnbull Government are so desperately out of touch that they think the main problem confronting regional economies and the broader Australian economy is that foreign multinationals pay too much tax. That is how spectacularly out of touch this Turnbull Government is. In the Labor Party we don’t support a tax cut for big business, we think it’s unfair, it’s unwise and it’s unaffordable. It’s unfair because it distributes money to the top end of town at the expense of ordinary working people here in Townsville and around the country. It’s unwise because the Treasury modelling says that the benefits will only be negligible and down the track and it comes at the expense of investing in infrastructure and local skills and all of things that will actually grow the economy the right way. And it’s unaffordable because we’ve already got under this Turnbull Government record debt which is growing faster under the current Liberal Government than it did under the former Labor Government.


This tax cut that Malcolm Turnbull wants to inflict on the Australian people will flow to the top end of town at the expense of middle Australia. It’s unfair, it’s unwise and it’s unaffordable and the people of Townsville will have a big say in determining what kind of economic growth we want in the regions and around Australia as well.


There are a couple of other issues floating around today. We’re told that Clive Palmer has announced that he will be re-entering the political fray. This is a man who has no shame. Clive Palmer ought to be ashamed of himself, of what he has done to this city with Queensland Nickel. He should come here and make sure people are getting paid the entitlements that they need and deserve. He should apologise to the people of Townsville. Most importantly for the broader Australian community, we cannot led Clive Palmer do to Australia what Clive Palmer has done to Townsville. The people of Australia should know that this town been treated appallingly by Clive Palmer. He should be ashamed of himself, he shouldn’t be putting his hand up again for public office with that appealing and shameful record that he has here in Townsville.


The last issue is that Barnaby Joyce will be making a statement later on today. There’s a lot of speculation about Barnaby Joyce’s future of course and that’s been a feature of the last couple of weeks. The deep division and dysfunction in the Turnbull Government will not be resolved by the resignation of the Deputy Prime Minister. The division and dysfunction which defines the Turnbull Government will not be fixed by the exit of Barnaby Joyce. It infects the whole show from top to bottom, including the Prime Minister himself who has failed to show the leadership required of him in asking for Barnaby Joyce to step aside some time ago. He has failed the leadership test, Malcolm Turnbull has, and changing the top of the National Party will not address the problem that we have with the leadership at the top of the Liberal Party. This has ceased to be  a functioning Government. It looks more like a demolition derby than a functioning Government. We have people crashing into each other in the Turnbull Government, we’ve got people hitting the fence, we’ve got mud flying around, they’re going around in circles. It looks more like a demolition derby than a functioning Federal Government. The Australia people are crying out for leadership, Labor’s providing that policy leadership. Here in Townsville that means investment in infrastructure and skills.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)


CHALMERS: If Malcolm Turnbull was any kind of leader he would have insisted that Barnaby Joyce step down some time ago because he has breached the existing Ministerial Code of Conduct. Barnaby Joyce has failed to properly declare a gift, which was free accommodation from a wealthy businessman in his own electorate. Malcolm Turnbull should have insisted that that breach of the Ministerial guidelines lead to Barnaby Joyce’s resignation some time ago. Because of Malcolm Turnbull’s failure of leadership this has gone on and on and on. Even if Barnaby Joyce does resign today it won’t fix the deep division and dysfunction which defines and infects the Federal Coalition and the Turnbull Government.


JOURNALIST:  A local economist has come out today and said Townsville has the equal fastest growth rate in the nation. Now that’s fantastic news but on the bad side of that forty percent of his listeners say that they can’t get employees because they’re not skilled enough. Now what would a Labor Government do in that case to make sure that obviously we are bouncing back here in this region but we don’t have enough skilled workers.


CHALMERS: Spot on. The local economy here in Townsville is a mixed bag. You’ve got some big challenges around energy, ordinarily around water. You’ve got some big challenges there around youth unemployment for example and at the same time I think you’ve got extraordinary vision form Cathy O’Toole, from Jenny the Mayor, the State Members as part of the Palaszczuk Government.


You can see when you come to Townsville that Townsville has some direction, it has some vision, which involves fixing up things like widening the port which Bill Shorten will contribute Federal money to. You’ve got good ideas around tourism, you’ve got a whole range of things on the go. The stadium’s starting to come up out of the ground, which is just an outstanding outcome for this city and something Federal Labor is very proud of being in the cart for from the very beginning. Yes, there are challenges here but there are reasons to be optimistic and one of the reasons you have to be optimistic about this part of the world of Townsville and the North I think is because the State Government, the Federal Labor Member and the Council have a good idea, working with business, working with unions, working across the board, of the future of this place. It just needs a bit of commitment and the only way to afford to be able to make that commitment to this city is to not proceed with the $65 billion ram raid on the Federal Budget which is Malcolm Turnbull’s tax cut to the top end of town.


JOURNALIST:  Cathy, how do we go about skilling our locals here so that they can fill those positions that are there?


O’TOOLE: One of the things I would say is that the very first thing that Labor will do is to bring TAFE back to its former glory. How on earth any Government thought by slashing funding to education, whether it’s schools, whether it’s TAFE or universities, was going to help us build the skill base that we need for the future beggar’s belief. Labor is very focused on building the vocational education training sector back to what it was and even better into the future. Townsville has a real role to play. Our TAFE sector has been demolished, here locally, and we need to actually do something about that and Labor does not support the ridiculous cuts that this Government is doing to universities. James Cook University and Central Queensland University will be severely impacted by these cuts and it’s just not good enough. We deserve better.


JOURNALIST:  Final comment from you on this rain? Obviously I think it’s got everyone’s spirits in Townsville up, everyone’s happy as Larry, what’s the hope moving forward? Maybe we’re going to see some good news going forward?


O’TOOLE: I think the rain’s wonderful. It makes people feel better if we have a green environment it helps people’s mental health but let’s not take our focus off the main game. This is rain for now but Labor is focused on ensuring that we have long term water security which is looking at stage two of the pipeline.