Doorstop with Deputy Prime Minister, Rockhampton, Queensland

 

PRIME MINISTER:

Our economic plan is about jobs and growth and what we are seeing today in our announcement for water infrastructure in Queensland is a commitment to strong growth for agriculture and industry with the water it needs. The commitment to the Rookwood Weir here in Rockhampton will result in millions of dollars of extra agricultural production. We heard from Eric how vital water is to him. Plenty of land, plenty of good soil and you need to have reliable water. 76 million litres a year from the Rookwood Weir, we are committing $130 million to that which will see it built, together with the Queensland Government. And in addition to that, as Barnaby will describe, we're committing to feasibility studies right across Queensland which will ensure more projects, more water projects brought to the point where we can invest in them with our water fund and of course the large concessional loan program that we have that will back state governments, that will back local authorities and the private sector in building more water infrastructure here in Queensland.

Most of Australia's water falls in Northern Australia, as we know. I've had a long passion about this since I was Water Minister - John Howard's Water Minister many years ago. It is fantastic to be leading a government that is getting on with the job and making sure that we're capturing and harnessing that water in a way that ensures we can grow the jobs and the economy here in Queensland.

You know, we have seen already today the extraordinary benefits of our trade export deals, a key part of our national economic plan. We were just there with the Acton’s at Paradise Lagoon and you saw there the growth they have had in cattle prices in recent times; 50% over the last year, 70% since the change of government. That has been because of the way we've opened up big new export markets and cattle producers right across Australia, in fact the whole agriculture sector, has benefitted from it. Coupled with a government that is committed to agriculture, committed to exports, committed to driving jobs and growth in regional Australia, we have a plan that delivers on that jobs and growth strategy. That is what Australia needs.

Now, I regret to say our opponents don't have a plan. They're in chaos at the moment. As you have seen, their shadow ministry doesn't know what their budget plans are, doesn't know what their economic policies are. We have seen backflips today already. They are at sixes and sevens as to where they're standing on their spending and their taxing. The one thing that Australians know about Bill Shorten and his spend-o-meter is that it's the same old Labor. They can't manage money. They don't know how they can manage the economy. They have as we have seen from Mr Feeney's notes that he left behind him after his interview yesterday, we have seen that they have no plan for jobs or growth. Plenty of ideas for spending, which they seem to be changing by the day, by the way, but they have no economic plan. There is not one element of their policies which will create jobs or drive economic growth. And you see from my Government right around the country measures which will deliver growth - here in Central Queensland and around Australia, jobs and growth with our national economic plan.

Barnaby.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much for that Prime Minister and it's a great joy to be back here in Central Queensland with the Prime Minister.

Last time we came up, we inspected the site for Rookwood Weir. Today we come back to announce $130 million for the construction of Rookwood Weir obviously in partnership with the state. Yesterday, we announced money for Macalister irrigation district. A few weeks ago we opened Chaffey Dam. We started in our term of government and completed in our term of government, down in Tasmania now we have $120 million worth of irrigation works going forward, irrigation and water infrastructure works going forward.

What you can see quite clearly is that we are a government that has the ticker to build the dams, to build the infrastructure and we haven't stopped. We are going to keep going. Whether it's Emu Swamp that we put money towards a feasibility study down at Stanthorpe. Whether it’s Hell’s Gate. Whether it's the Burdekin. Whether it's out at Mount Isa or up in the seat of Leichhardt. Whether it's Urannah Dam and how important that is for the people of that area - George Christiansen would know about that. It's great to work with this because the people of Central Queensland, people like Michelle Landry, people like Kenny O'Dowd put their shoulder to the wheel and go into bat for the people of Central Queensland. When we get this thing built, and we will, it will provide an extra billion dollars a year for this economy, for around here. Over 2,000 jobs.

People say, “What are you talking about when you talk about jobs and growth?” Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. This is one of the clear examples of a government that has the ticker to get on with the job to create the jobs, to create the growth. Growth in the income of the area, growth in the job prospects for the area, new export dollars for this area. When we're out here with Eric and Christine – it’s great to be on their place, they're excited about it. People want this. Central Queenslanders want this. Australians want this. So we will continue on our work to make sure that we drive forward because we have more to announce. We have more dams to build. We have got the funds in both the capital fund and the concessional loan capacity to assist people to get these things done. And if we do this for our nation then we take our nation to a stronger place. We take our nation to a place where it's more resilient for our children, for our grandchildren. Whether it's the infrastructure such as inland rail, or its infrastructure such as dams, you can tell what it does - it promotes the growth of our nation and builds jobs for our nation and makes our nation a stronger wealthier more resilient place.

JOURNALIST:

Why have you been a bit wishy-washy on asylum seekers in the last 24 hours, Mr Joyce?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

I know what you're referring to. This is quite clear. You don't try and fix one problem, which was the problem of people coming in here under their own arrangements by boat, by creating another one, which was the banning of the live cattle trade. It's as clear as that. You don't fix one problem by creating another one.

JOURNALIST:

APN newspapers have been campaigning for a ‘Fair Go for Regions’ trying to close the gap between metro areas and regional areas. Is this something the Turnbull government would support?

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely - that is why we're making these important investments right here. This is vital investment in regional Australia. Can I just say to you - one of the great benefits of our national economic plan and our focus on jobs and growth across the country is that you are seeing a 21st century economy that is far more diverse because you are seeing enormous growth in tourism, at 44% of every tourist dollar goes into regional Australia, and of course phenomenal growth in agriculture. You know, we talk about the dining boom overtaking the mining boom. Well, we can have both but what we are seeing is great growth here but you need to have the water. And we have got masses of water in Northern Australia, as you know, that is where most of Australia’s water falls, most of our rain falls to be found but we have done relatively little in managing it and regulating it and using it and we can do so very sustainably by looking after the environment and ensuring that we are getting the big increases in agriculture production. As Barnaby said, it will add thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of production to this region.

JOURNALIST:

Can you please break down how those 2,000 jobs would be expected? Is that going to happen now or in a few years' time?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is what will come following the construction of the weir because of the increased agricultural production. And all of these things feed into each other. Irrigated agriculture is the most productive agriculture, everywhere in the world. It has been for thousands of years in fact. Agriculture has been around for a very long time; pretty much as long as humans have been. But it gets smarter and more innovative all the time. Look at what Eric and Christine are doing here. They are using the latest technology, the latest genetics to deliver sweet potatoes with all the different characteristics that their customers need. That is right across the board. Australian farmers are innovative. We talk about our innovation and science agenda. And that is critical to our success in the future. Just because agriculture has been with us for a long time doesn't mean it isn't at that cutting edge, that forefront of innovation and it is right around Australia and right here where we're standing here today on Eric's farm.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Ali and Michael.

JOURNALIST:

On water infrastructure Rookwood Weir has been talked about for over two decades. Why now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well because you have got a Government that is prepared to do it. You have a Prime Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister among other members who are passionate about water. I’ll tell you a lot of these water projects have been around longer than all of us. They have been around some of them for a century. Dr Bradfield identified quite a few of them not quite 100 years ago. So the reality is you need political will and you need leadership and you need leaders that understand water. And Barnaby and I do. We really do understand the importance of water, the importance of irrigation. And we've both got a passion for it. I am so excited to be supporting this and announcing this. I know that we will do a lot more. We've got a lot of water in Australia. But what we don't have is enough good management of it and that is particularly in the north.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Michael, Michael, Michael, Michael. Michael. Michael. Michael, Michael.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull, your funding for Rookwood is obviously conditional on State funding. How confident are you that the State will stump up that cash and what have your dealings been like with them on this issue?

PRIME MINISTER:

I will ask Barnaby to answer that but I am very confident the State will come to the party. It is such - it is a really compelling project. You know you get a lot of water for the investment. There's a lot of water for the taxpayer’s buck there and it's a compelling one. So I'm very comfortable.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Further is we know that the State Government also understands how important Central Queensland is. We know quite clearly that what is really driving up here is their desire to make sure we strengthen our job prospects. We know that what this produces is over 2000 jobs. We know that even construction is going to assist people whether they're earth movers, whether they have the quarry pits, whether they're surveyors. All these people know that this form of infrastructure also stimulates the economy for this region and also Central Queensland in general. We also know that the money that will come in from here the billion dollars a year that is also an accelerator for the commerce, for the size of the economy of Central Queensland. The only thing that we have also proven today that there is one side of Government that has the ticker to go out and build this. That is the Liberal-National Coalition. They are the ones who go out and do it. They are the ones who have the form on this. They are the ones who are actually delivering on this. We're the doers.

JOURNALIST:

Have you heard about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard breaking up? Do you feel partly responsible for this? And are you getting custody of the dogs?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Look in all seriousness the one thing I will never ever revel in is any relationship breakdown, no matter what animosity that might be seen on the airwaves between Mr Depp and myself. I have always hoped and wish the very best for people. No I would never ever revel in something like that.

JOURNALIST:

Conservative British MP Andrew Rosindell has slammed your comments over the British referendum. He says they're ridiculous and Australia would never sign away its own powers to Asian countries. Do you still support the UK remaining part of the EU?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I tell you what I have said and so has President Obama so has the Prime Minister of Canada and so has the Prime Minister of New Zealand, what we have all said is that while the choice is entirely a matter for the British people, of course, we all believe that our countries benefit from Britain being part of the EU. Britain is a great – we’ve got incredibly close ties with Britain of course, from historical, personal, family, strategic, economic, we couldn't be closer. So it is to our advantage if Britain is part of the EU. They are part of a big market and they're a good friend to have there. But it is a matter for the British people and I am on a unity ticket with those other leaders that I've mentioned and many others. But it is a matter for the British people.

JOURNALIST:

Julie Bishop this morning has said that the Government doesn't believe there is any link between the Indonesian government and people smugglers. That is in contrast, Mr Joyce, with what you said this morning on Seven. You said you were stating the bleeding obvious. So what is the Government’s line if Mr Joyce -

PRIME MINISTER:

Hang on let me deal with that. You're being unfair to my good friend the Deputy Prime Minister here. Let me be quite clear about this. There is no link between the Indonesian government and people smuggling. The Indonesian government and I count the Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Jokowi, as a good friend. He is a great leader. He and his wife Iriana and Lucy and I spent a very, very very productive time together in Jakarta last year. And I believe our relations between Australia and Indonesia have never been better than they are today. So that is the - and what we have had to do is recover a lot of damage that was done to our relations by the Labor Government when they precipitously and suddenly stopped live cattle exports to Indonesia. That did enormous damage to the cattle industry across Australia but it was an incredible affront to Indonesia.

Now the only point that I want to stress is that our cooperation with Indonesia, in terms of stopping people smuggling, is very, very strong. They are as committed to stopping that trade as we are, and indeed all the other countries that are party to the Bali process. But what the Labor Party did - we often look at these things from naturally as Australians from our own perspective. And Australians were, many Australians, most Australians I think were horrified by that live cattle ban, not least because of what it did to farmers in Australia and cattle producers, beef producers here in Australia. But it was also an outrageous affront to Indonesia. And we should treat our neighbours, our friends, and neighbours, with respect and I do and we do. We have a good relationship with them. As I say I think President Jokowi is a great leader. He is in fact an inspirational leader and one who whose importance is quite profound because it goes beyond Indonesia. Jokowi as he often says as the popularly elected leader of the largest Muslim country in the world, as Jokowi says regularly - he says Indonesia is proof positive that Islam, democracy and moderation are compatible. He is a great role model and a great leader in a troubled world. He has my immense respect for the leadership he's shown both internationally and in terms of his relations with us.

JOURNALIST:

Have you had any contact with the Queensland Premier with regards to the ongoing unrest in Aurukun and what is the solution to the problem?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I spoke to the Premier this morning. Firstly let me say I spoke to Annastacia Palaszczuk. I offered her all assistance that we could provide. She said she is going to travel up to Aurukun shortly and will talk to me - she appreciated my call and said she will call me when she gets back from Aurukun. I have also discussed it with my own Minister, Senator Scullion. As you know, we have provided funding for CCTV there but it is a law and order issue to be managed by the Queensland Police. But, clearly, we are very alert to the problems and the Government - we don't want to make politics out of this. This is a law and order issue. The Premier has such support as she seeks from us, we will look at and work together with Queensland and the community there, to resolve those matters which clearly there is an element of the adolescent kids there in Aurukun who are not going to school and are making a lot of mischief. That needs to be dealt with.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister on your company tax cut, a Sky News Omnipoll has the vote winner, on ‘what’s a vote-winner in the Budget’, it has education spending at 48%, the company tax cut at 9%. It is not the first poll with that low number. Why are voters not really won over by this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me focus on the reason why we are proposing a company tax cut. Let me just give you an example. Right here in Central Queensland, 14% of the private sector work force - right here, where we are, 14% - work for companies that have revenue of between $2 million and $10 million a year. If we are returned to government on 2 July, they will get a tax cut, and they will get access to those instant asset write-offs. So all of those companies will be denied a benefit if Labor wins the election. They will be denied a benefit and that means their employees will be denied a benefit. Because the one thing that is very clear, is that when you cut business taxes, when you reduce business taxes, the bulk of that benefit flows to labour and I don't mean the Labor Party, I mean the employees. That is clearly -the Treasury has made that clear in their independent analysis. If you just let me finish – and indeed Chris Bowen has made that point clear too in a book he wrote about economics not so long ago.

So what we are doing with our enterprise tax plan, is we are ensuring that there will be more investment and more jobs. Our focus, we have a plan and our focus is unrelentingly on driving growth and jobs across Australia. Every element of our plan is doing that. You have seen that with the trade export deals. You are seeing it here. There is nothing - not one element - in Bill Shorten's election platform which will drive economic growth or jobs. All he is talking about is spending. He has got one complaint after another and he is not even clear on what he is spending. Now they seem to have changed their minds on some issues today.

Really, the time has come. Let's be frank, the time has come for Mr Shorten to tell the Australian people what he is going to do in terms of spending. I mean, the spend-o-meter keeps spinning. It's spinning so fast no-one can see what's on it. What Mr Shorten has to do is stop the spend-o-meter spinning and he has to tell us what's on it. He's got to say how much he is going to spend and then we will know how big his black hole is. How much more taxes he will have to raise. How much more debt he will have to raise. The acid is on him.

Now on Friday, Chris Bowen will be debating the Treasurer, Scott Morrison. He should have that all laid out in advance of that debate. I will be debating Mr Shorten on Sunday and he should certainly lay it out there. Because what he is doing, he is in a state of complete chaos. His frontbench don't know - David Feeney doesn't know whether he has a $2.3 million negatively geared house and he doesn't know what his own policies are. He seems to be a very inattentive shadow minister and Bowen and shorten are changing their position on important economic priorities by the day. So as I say, stop the spend-o-meter spinning Bill and just tell us what your plans are. We have told you what ours are. They're in the Budget.

JOURNALIST:

John Setka has made some comments overnight likening your Government’s attacks on his union to Nazi Germany. He has also apparently boasted that his workers could get an 18% pay rise and not give productivity trade-offs in return before you get the chance to build on the ABCC. Just your comments?

PRIME MINISTER:

Mr Shorten has to publicly and clearly and emphatically disassociate himself from Mr Setka. What John Setka has done is demonstrate yet again why we need the rule of law to be restored to the construction sector. This is not about politics, this is about economics. The construction sector employs 1 million Australians. It is a huge part of our economy. The lawlessness and the contempt for law that the CFMEU shows and the reckless abuse we get from Setka, Mr Shorten should disown that. He should publicly disown what Setka has said and reprimand him for that kind of language. That is the type of abuse that is just a reminder of why there are over 100 CFMEU officials before the courts on more than 1,000 breaches of industrial law and industrial agreements. John Setka is the reason, he is proof positive if ever you needed reminding, of why you need the rule of law restored.

If we win this election, we will restore it. That will be to the benefit of every Australian, every Australian who pays for construction, whether it's for an apartment they're buying or whether it's paying their taxes for hospitals and schools. It will be for the benefit of everyone who works in the construction sector, because it will mean more construction and more construction jobs. The rule of law must be restored and Bill Shorten should disown the outrageous remarks made by Setka today.

Thank you very much.