From left, Alton Downs farmer Ian Lovegrove, Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce visit Rockhampton
From left, Alton Downs farmer Ian Lovegrove, Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce visit Rockhampton

A transcript of the PM's visit today in Rockhampton

THE following is a transcript of today's media presser in Rockhampton with Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce, provided by the Prime Minister's office. 

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much.

Now Barnaby and I have a great passion for water, we love it. We've just been talking to Rob, the owner of this land here and he was talking about how important his ability to irrigate this land is. As rainfall in Australia has always been variable, the scientists tell us, it's going to be more variable. So what we need is more and better water storage. We need to be able to use the huge water resources of Northern Australia. To do that, we need to invest. We need the infrastructure.

We've got most of the water in Northern Australia but hardly any of the infrastructure. Not enough dams. Not enough irrigation. This is a great opportunity. Now we've committed half a billion dollars, $500 million to water infrastructure in addition and another $2 billion in concessional loans, $60 million to fund the feasibility studies. We are opening up the balance of the fund now. Of that 440, we have 130 committed to the Rookwood Weir that Michelle just spoke about. That is a project that we should get on with now. It's not a gigantic dam, it's a weir; it will add $1 billion of additional agricultural income and over 2,000 jobs to this district.  That is vital, absolutely vital.

Central Queensland, Northern Queensland needs more jobs and investment. We've got great opportunities in Asia for agricultural exports, we've opened them up with our big free-trade deals. We need to produce more and we need the water to do it. As Rob was saying just a moment ago, without water, he can't do anything with this paddock. With water, he can do everything he needs to do.

Barnaby, Water Minister, as well as Deputy Prime Minister, speak to us.

[Laughter]

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Good on you. That sounds like I talk to my kelpie.

[Laughter]

Look, it's great to be here. I don't think we've ever had our nation, a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, that have been so aligned in trying to make sure we get the show moving, get things moving along, get things built, get yellow things pushing dirt around so we can get this nation moving.

And we're doing it with real money that we're putting on the table. You know, I hear some people say: "What are you gonna do for us? What have the Romans done for us?" We put $130 million on the table here for Central Queensland. We put $2 million on the table for the feasibility study. We are standing by the Adani mine, trying to kick that thing along, get it moving. We put money into your mobile phone towers, we put money into the roads.

I can take you into space and you go touch the Sky Muster satellite and show you the things we are doing. We are doing it for Central Queensland, because we know, we believe in this place. We believe in this place.

I was talking to the Prime Minister this morning and saying: "Look, they've got the mineral resource

here, the hydrocarbon resource here, the water resource here. They've got the cattle resource here. They've got the capacity for this to be such a generator of wealth for our nation. We believe in them and we want to stand behind them." Now, we've got the State Labor Government that are fluffing us around and playing silly little games. Every other state in Australia, Labor or Liberal, or Coalition, are saying: "Well, we're talking to you. We're ready to move. We're ready to start building."

Here in Queensland, they're playing these games. Now, we want to know, is the Queensland Labor Government, are they fluffers or doers? Are they gonna get stuck into it? Are they gonna have a go? Or are they just going to come up with new excuses? Because for Central Queensland, we want the jobs here. We want the development here. We want it to happen here. Here we are, standing in Rob's - the remnants of a crop. And we see the productivity that can come forward. We know that if we get that Rookwood Weir built, it's about 170,000 megs, 86,000 megs of yield that we can bring, real wealth. An extra $1 billion a year to wander around the shops of Rockhampton, have people renovate the kitchens or buy shirts, buy dresses, buy shoes. That wealth comes into this area.

We know that there will be jobs there, so people say: "I'm looking for a job." Mate, there's over 2,000 jobs by reason of the horticultural region we're growing in Central Queensland. I love being part of a Government that are doers. That make things happen. That talks about projects such as we're gonna seal a road across our nation, from Winton through. We put $100 million on the table for that. I love being part of a Government that talks about the inland railway. A corridor of commerce for Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. I love being part of a Government that that has people who, in their own lives, has actually done something. Had a go. Made a buck. Now we want to make sure that that happens for other people.

Anyway, thank you very much.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, why do you think the State Government is dragging the chain on water infrastructure and dams? Because there are no votes in it for them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's very hard to understand why they are doing it, other than for political reasons. I assume they feel they've got to placate the left of their own party or the Greens. I heard their Minister saying on the radio this morning, basically criticising dams. As we were just discussing with Rob earlier, the one thing we know in Australia is that rainfall is variable. You know, we talk about average rainfall figures but you don't get an equal amount every week or month, you might get it all in one week and you mightn't get it at all.

So in the land of droughts and flooding rains, you need to have reliable water supply. Wherever you can. That requires storage and that requires dams and it requires the sort of infrastructure that we're talking about here. So this is critical. You're either serious about promoting productivity and exports and jobs and investment in the north, or you're not. We're serious and to do that, you need to put the dollars to work to build the industry.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you say it's an important project and it is, lots of people feel that way. But if it's so important and it'd going to be around for so many years, isn't it important for the state to make sure the business case is economically feasible?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I say, it is plainly an economically viable project. Barnaby, you can enlarge on this, this is a very efficient project.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

The Gladstone area Water Board have been studying this. These figures that we give to you come from the Gladstone area Water Board. When people say: "You must have just dreamt that one up,"  we say "No, everyone has been talking about it." The Gladstone area Water Board, they've been talking about it for ages. It's just like the other one down the road here, they started talking about it in 1928! How many more business cases do you want? We are putting the money on the table and we've said: "Okay, here you go, here's another couple of million bucks". Even then, when we give them a couple of million bucks, even then when they've got the Gladstone area Water Board report, they say: "Oh that's not enough. We need something more". The Archangel Gabriel to descend from heaven and tell us it's the right thing to do? The planets to align?  The muses to rise up from the ground? No! Get moving! Get moving!

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you spoke earlier about Adani, the impact of Adani on the area. Do you think that action by groups like the CFMEU could hold back potential mines and jobs in the area?

PRIME MINISTER:

The CFMEU's lawlessness, their regime of thuggery and defiance of law on building and construction sites adds enormous costs to every project, every union project. 30% or more. Judge after judge, in case after case, describes the culture of lawlessness in the CFMU, the way they treat the fines like parking tickets.

You can see the union is flush with cash, that's how they back the Labor Party. That's how Bill Shorten has to stick with them. He is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a trade union, 113 of whose officials are before the courts right now for more than 1100 breaches of industrial law. They are calling the tune for him. What we're asking is no more than that the Senate should support the restoration of the rule of law to the construction and building industry. It's about time. We passed the bill through the lower House. We took it to the election and we won the election. It's time for the Senate to pass it and then we can make some real progress to restoring the rule of law.

JOURNALIST:

What about doing more to stop the endlessly legal challenges against mines like this?

PRIME MINISTER:

As you know, we brought some legislation through the Parliament in the last Parliament and it was rejected by the Senate. We are looking at the issue again.

Can I just say, Barnaby and I, Michelle and Ken, we are all united in our concern to protect the environment. We don't want to shortcut environmental issues. We don't want to short-change the environment. But what we do need to do is make decisions in a prompt and efficient way. The fact is it can sometimes take decades to get approvals through. It is just taking too long.

Developer after developer, investor after investor says to us:" Look, we'd rather have a quick "no" than 10 years of no decision". We have got to speed up the process. Again, we are thoroughly committed to the environment. We know we've got to leave our nation, our country in better shape for our children and grandchildren. We know that. We get that. But we got to make up our minds on these projects and either go ahead or not. There's just too much delay and too much red tape.

We've cut quite a bit out, but there's more to go.

JOURNALIST:

You been waiting 10 - 15 years for this to happen so far, will we be waiting another 10 - 15 years? What is the timeline on this, when do you want to see farmers with a solid answer and solid infrastructure begin?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Tomorrow. Here we are. You know I betcha if I said: "Look, I've changed my mind, instead of putting money on the table for Rookwood Weir, we're going to give you whatever they want, $5.4 billion for the Cross River Rail, they would be into it toot sweet. Bang.  Even though that thing won't return even 30% of it's cost of running. Talk about your business case there! But you've got people who stand behind it and believe in it. The Prime Minister believes in it. I believe in it. We said there's the money, you've got $130 million also there for your construction. 

You, the state government, state government, you actually own the resource. It's not the Federal Government's resource, it's your own money.  This money, "this becometh you". What are they doing? Every time, we get these sort of prevarications and complexities.  It's just frustrating. So I'm saying quite clearly; we're ready to roll right now.  They should be ready to roll now. They've got to make a call. Do they believe in Central Queensland? Do they believe in jobs? Do they believe in the prosperity of us standing behind the record cattle prices, record prices we're getting in meat sheep?  Not that they have many of them up here. We have turned around the agricultural economy and are willing to build on it.  Or do they want to go down and fascinate themselves south of the Pine River with new excuses?

As Prime Minister said, there are three things in business - best answer you can give someone is "yes". Second best answer is "no". Worst answer, "maybe".

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister,  do you think it's fair that so many of the statistics - life expectancy, wealth, health, education - are inferior for rural people and do the government have a concerted plan to close those gaps?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I say to you, let's just talk about rural health. I met with Ewen McPhee just the other day who is from Emerald and he is President of the Rural Doctors Association. I met with him with the Assistant Minister for Rural Health, Doctor David Gillespie and this is a very high priority. We are going to appoint a rural health commissioner to make sure that we are constantly checking to deliver equality of treatment to people, wherever they live in Australia, it is absolutely critical. I can't tell you how important it is.

Barnaby may wish to say some more about it, but we are very, very keenly focused on it, I can assure you of that. Of course getting more doctors into regional Australia is vital too and Ewen and I and David Gillespie, we talked about that and the methods to do that, to have a speciality rural practice.  So all of those measures we are very focused on.

JOURNALIST:

Will those results be explained to the public and will those attempts to close the gaps be reported as robustly as those of the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians?

PRIME MINISTER:

We explain everything to the public and we are accountable for all of those measures, but again Barnaby do you want to add to those issues?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

In consultation when we won government, with the Prime Minister, we decided to put a doctor from a regional area as the Assistant Minister for Health, in Doctor David Gillespie, a Gastroenterologist. He is hard at work now making sure, with Sussan Ley - who is from a regional area, she's from out West in New South Wales - so I think our Government is more focused than any other government. We have got both a minister from regional New South Wales, western regional New South Wales, and a doctor from regional Australia, from regional New South Wales as well, working together as a team, to make sure that we get the best outcomes.

In everything we do, we understand - whether it is mental health or the delivery of places - we understand the concerns people have. Yeah, people say there might be an oversupply of doctors. Not out in Longreach. Not in Thargomindah. Possibly not in Dirranbandi, no oversupply there. Other areas there might be an oversupply and we will focus on that and make sure that we do our very best to give back to the Australian people a delivery of a service that's a reflection of the nation they live in. It's a wonderful nation.

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just add something, just to add to Barnaby's remarks? You know a big part of this is better telecommunications. Barnaby talked about the 499 new mobile phone towers that we are funding under the first round of our mobile blackspots program. We have got two more rounds that are being delivered as well. So that is a very key part of it.

Only yesterday, I was in Birdsville watching the fibre-optic cable being rolled through Central Western Queensland there. That is going to deliver 21st-century connectivity to some of the most remote parts of this state. That of course has enormous implications for education, for health, for the quality of life in those communities and being greeted with great enthusiasm at the Birdsville Pub, I must say. Mind you, they're always enthusiastic at the Birdsville Pub, but never more than they were yesterday.

JOURNALIST:

One more question for you.  Leaked reports suggest that there is somewhat of a war between yourself and Tony Abbott, is that the case?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course not.

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask about Derryn Hinch and his paid parental leave. He plans to push it back a year and support it. What is your take on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

We don't have a majority in the Senate, so everything, every bill that we pass through the House, we have to negotiate its passage through the Senate. Barnaby and I and our ministers will continue to engage with the senators to secure the passage of our legislation, to ensure that we can deliver on our national economic plan, to ensure that we can bring the budget back into balance. So that's the nature of the 45th Parliament.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, are you sympathetic to pregnant women who are currently pregnant who will be caught up in any changes?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course we are sympathetic. We are fathers. We are husbands, Barnaby and I. Of course insofar as men can understand these matters, we are absolutely understanding and sympathetic. We are working with our colleagues and we will obviously engage with the Senate to negotiate the passage of this legislation. But it's important that we are able to engage with the senators and I can just say, we're often invited to negotiate through the media. I heard Nick Xenophon making the point today. He has a very important role in all of these legislative areas, he's got three votes in the Senate, and we sit down and we negotiate respectfully with all of the senators. Not just the crossbenchers, but the Greens and Labor as well, we will negotiate with them, to deliver our agenda. We are very committed to ensuring that our national economic plan delivers the growth, the jobs, and it does so above all else, in a manner that is fair.

Remember, a key part of our agenda is fairness. It's one of the great achievements of Australia. We are a prosperous, first world economy, with a generous social welfare safety net. Australians have a very keen understanding, all of us, of a fair go. So fairness is a critical part of our platform now and always will be.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

I've got a question for you. Last time I was here we had Michael, where has he gone?

JOURNALIST:

He has gone to Sydney. He's gone to Sydney, he's at Sky News in Sydney.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

We made him famous and then he just left us. Typical.

JOURNALIST:

This is his replacement Georgia.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Georgia, Georgia, Georgia. Georgia. Georgia, Georgia.

PRIME MINISTER:

There's a song in that Barnaby.

JOURNALIST:

Just one final question, can you comment on Townsville water infrastructure at all?

PRIME MINISTER:

Righto. Well, Barnaby you can talk to it more.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

This is definitely the last Georgia. Just because of Michael.

Georgia, I went out even with people who are not in the Coalition. I went out with Bob Katter to Hells Gate to have a look at that. That would be a great project. I had a look Burdekin Falls Dam, I am very aware of it. There's so much we can do there. But just give us somebody to work with! Give me something to work with! To Minister Bailey who is obviously watching, Hi Mr Bailey, Hi Annastacia. Hi - who is the one, what's her name, the one that wants to take Annastacia's job? Jackie. Hello Mrs Trad. Honestly, start moving. Show North Queensland and Central Queensland that you care. When you say: "What are you going to do?" We'll just listen. Give us something to work with ladies and gentlemen, and we can start building some of this stuff.



Woorabinda's young book lovers enjoy literary boost

premium_icon Woorabinda's young book lovers enjoy literary boost

$10k donated towards CQ school for over 550 new books

Many hands make light work for retirement village residents

premium_icon Many hands make light work for retirement village residents

CQ businesses come to the aid of Settlers Rockhampton

Rocky fighters ready to rumble at Callaghan Park

premium_icon Rocky fighters ready to rumble at Callaghan Park

Fists and feet set to fly at action-packed fight night on Saturday

Local Partners