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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 40920


Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 01/05/2017

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 40920

Location: Townsville, Queensland


I’m thrilled to be here with my colleagues, the Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor and Senator Ian McDonald, the Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan and the Queensland Minister for State Development Dr Anthony Lynham and the Mayor of Townsville City Council, to announce the appointment of Watpac as the managing contractor for this $250 million North Queensland Stadium.

This stadium is going to be built for the people for Townsville, by the people of Townsville. The work will begin later this year and the stadium will be complete in time for the 2020 NRL season. Now Watpac has a plan for more than 80 per cent of the hours spent building this stadium to be by locals. At least 80 per cent of the value of the project will be spent on local subcontractors and suppliers. More than 2000 people from the Townsville region will be involved in contracts related to the building of this stadium. Watpac aims to employ 6.6 per cent of the construction workforce from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

So this is going to be a massive job creator here in Townsville. It’s a game-changer that will increase tourism to the region, increase investment, revitalise the city of Townsville. It is a vital part of our Townsville City Deal.

Now the City Deal is an example of what governments can do when they work together, when the federal government, the state government, the local government, work together.

We are implementing our City Deal. It involves our investment here, $100 million from the federal government in this project. It involves $150 million into the Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor Project. It involves the work we’re doing on water, the Townsville Water Security Taskforce. We’re working together on that. Right across the board, here in north Queensland and here in Townsville, we are seeking to grow the economy, deliver jobs, deliver the infrastructure that Queenslanders, North Queenslanders and the people of this city, need and deserve. That’s our commitment. More growth, more jobs, more investment, more employment, more opportunities for the people of Townsville.

So we’re proud to be here with my colleagues and Dr Lynham from the state government and Jenny Hill the Mayor to announce this great initiative. I’m delighted that Watpac is going to ensure that this stadium is built for the people of Townsville, by the people of Townsville.


Thank you Prime Minister.

This is a wonderful day for Townsville, indeed a wonderful day for North Queensland. With Watpac being announced as the major contractor - 80 per cent local suppliers, 80 per cent local people involved in this magnificent town-building project.

I’m very proud to stand here today, supporting Townsville, supporting North Queensland. I remember before the last election, election commitment from our Premier, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, to get this stadium built. The state government as the major contributor, has put in $150 million to this stadium. But as the Prime Minister said, as the Premier knows, this will be a game-changer for Townsville and North Queensland. It’ll be great here to see the Cowboys to victory in 2020 when this stadium is completed.

Over to you Mayor.


To all the dignitaries that are here, ladies and gentlemen. Firstly, it is great to hear that Watpac has been appointed as the lead contractor for this project. Watpac have a great reputation in our community, especially in terms of the use of local labour. So when people do come out and maybe have a look at the work-site, they might see their friends or even their family working here. That’s important to us here in North Queensland.

I want to thank the Prime Minister and his Minister for Cities Angus Taylor as well as the Premier and Anthony Lynham for being here today and all being part of the City Deals project. This is the first project that’s been delivered under City Deals and I think, Prime Minister, the first one in Australia you’ve delivered under the City Deals banner.

We’d like to think this will be the first of many projects delivered as part of City Deals. There is still a bit of a way to go in terms of dealing with water issues and we are working very hard towards that and looking again for cooperation from both levels of government to deal with that.

But there are other things happening in this city as a result of City Deals. We’ve had significant interest from investors now, to think about investing in new technology and new industries in our city. Again, working together, we can deliver that for our community. This is just the first piece of the puzzle of revitalising and refocusing what Townsville really is. I want to thank both levels of government for supporting us in delivering the stadium and I hope to deliver more of the City Deals agenda.


Thank you - Angus, do you want to say a few words about the City Deal? Angus has been working very closely with Jenny and with the state government on this. It’s been a great collaboration.


It sure has. This is a great day for Townsville and its terrific to be here again. It’s my home-away-from-home at the moment, so it’s really wonderful to be here.

Look from the very early discussions about the City Deal, we made it very clear that we wanted to see very strong local content in the construction work that was to follow from the projects that happen here. Of course we had no problem convincing the Mayor and Deputy Premier in those early discussions that this was an important part of the City Deal and something that we had to focus on. So it’s a really wonderful day to be here where we’re announcing 80 per cent local content, local suppliers, local people in this great project.

Of course the City Deal is about much more than just the stadium. It’s an important part of it, but we’re also working on projects for water, as the Mayor has said, but also the industrial redevelopment. Just near where we stand today, the rail access corridor, the establishment of a development corporation, all of that is channeled to attracting investment into Townsville.

And if I want to leave one core message today it is to all of those people and organisations looking at investing in Townsville; invest in this great city. What we’re doing with the City Deal here is creating an environment where it will be, and is, attractive to invest in this great city.

So thank you for everyone involved in this project today.


Prime Minister, what measures will you put in place to ensure that Townsville people do get the job opportunities?


Well that is the commitment that’s been made by Watpac and that’s part of the deal. Perhaps we can ask the Watpac CEO – do you want to come in and talk about that?


Watpac has been here for about 20 years now and we are strongly local and employ all local staff for our business. We have a commitment to the state government and to the federal government to ensure that we have at least 80 per cent of local content in this project.


Can I say as Mayor I have already, I had been contacted prior to this by a number of local subcontractors who have worked with Watpac over the years, desperate for Watpac to win the work because they knew they’d be employed as part of this project.


Prime Minister - Budget related, the countdown is on–


I know we’ve got the Budget but let’s have a few more questions-


I paused in and no-one jumped in!


Anymore questions on the stadium and we haven’t heard from the Cowboys. Come and say a few words about how important this is. We just marked the try line. You’ll be – you know crossing and scoring!


That’s 2020 – I’ll be sitting firm in the Gavin Cooper Stand by then-



You’ll be right – you’re looking terrific.


From our point of view, I know this is big for the city but it’s big for our members and fans. Watpac, they’ve been around, like you’ve just said, for 20 years and the commitment to our community, I know personally of some families that have had to move away in the construction game through lack of work. With this coming on board and a big sign as you drive past that actually says it is happening so hopefully people from around town actually believe it is on the cards now and Townsville is moving forward.


The other thing from the club is we are a community-owned organisation that gathers all of North Queensland into a single body. To see the announcement and this start to come to fruition is that it is fantastic because it is the Cowboys with the community supporting growth and that is what we are about, giving back to our community. Thank you.




I don’t have a stadium question but I do have City Deal question.


Yep, okay, well, any more stadium questions? There being none – City Deal questions – okay.


Yesterday the Premier came out and said that she is interested in building a hydro-electric plant at Burdekin Falls. The Mayor herself has spoken the need for water infrastructure here in Townsville - is that something that is on the radar as part of the City Deal, on the federal government’s radar?


Well yes, can I just say that the water is absolutely on our radar and I will ask Matt Canavan to add a little bit to this but the Government, we have a Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund, we have a water fund, we have a number of water projects that we have committed money to in North Queensland and frankly we are waiting for the state government to come on board, the Rookwood Weir being probably the most notable example.

But water is the source of life. Water is critical for agriculture, it’s critical for cities, it’s critical for industry so we need to invest in the infrastructure.

I am passionate about water. Ten years ago, I was John Howard's Water Minister.

We are absolutely committed to investing in and ensuring that we have better management of water, more management of water in Northern Australia. We have got most of our water is in Northern Australia and hardly any of our water infrastructure is.

But I will ask Matt to say a bit more about it as the Minister - it is a big agenda for us.


Well thanks PM and the PM is absolutely right that 60 per cent of Australia’s water falls in Northern Australia. It makes up 40 per cent of our land mass but 60 per cent of our water falls in Northern Australia and that is why we are very committed to seeing the water resources of Northern Australia develop.

Now under the City Deal, the Townsville Water Security Plan is part of that deal. We have set up a task force with Angus leading on that, the Federal Government has put funds aside to look at raising the Burdekin Falls Dam, reduplicating the Haughton River Channel, and looking at the Hell's Gate Dam option as well. We want to find a solution for Townsville but we also want to find an opportunity for North Queensland, to grow its agricultural industry and unlock that massive potential that exists here.

On my way here, the cab driver on the way helped build the Burdekin Falls Dam in the late 1980s and he was just waxing lyrical about the opportunities that Joh and Bob Hawke brought to this region when they had the guts to do that. And that is why we are getting right behind developing water with $500 million in terms of grants for water infrastructure across Australia, a $2 billion concessional loans programme for water infrastructure from the federal government as well. 

So we are happy to work with the state government, with local government and put real money on the table to get these things built.


Minister, given that there is that capacity for baseload power here already, dams overflowing, don’t you feel that that shows there is no need for a coal-fired power station?


We are technologically neutral. We are willing to look at all options as the PM has announced recently. We are willing to look at hydro options and we are willing to look at hydro options as part of the water security plan here in Townsville.

But we also have abundant sources of coal here in North Queensland. It would seem incongruous to me, that we would seek to support, as a state, local and federal government does, the opening up of the Galilee Basin – send all of that coal overseas and not even consider using some of it here. That should at least on the table. We need the best option to help secure and protect jobs in our region.


But would it be a better option when it comes to meeting our climate targets?


Well that is something we will consider of course, all of those things. But at the moment what we have is a proposal from the state government – we are open to making sure we have all proposals on the table. We should of course be technologically neutral. Their objectives are clear. Let's get the best way of getting it to that objective, to protect jobs and have affordable power prices for Australians as well as deliver more sustainable power.


Can I just point out though that Townsville is in the dry tropics; we get one third less rain than our counterparts in Brisbane or even in Cairns. So water here is a real issue and the affordability of water. At the moment, the cost of power is driving up the cost of water because we have to pump. So both parts are integral for the growth of our community. We need affordable power and we also need affordable water in order at least have a lifestyle that is similar to our counterparts in Brisbane or Cairns.


Prime Minister – Deloitte, very pessimistic about the Budget forecast. They say higher deficits and the AAA credit rating under threat. Do you share their pessimism? And what are you going to do to make sure their forecasts don’t come to fruition?


Well we will tell you next week at the Budget, a week to go and so I won't add to the Budget speculation. But we are very conscious of the need to ensure that Australians have, Australians are assured of the services they need from government.

We are also committed to ensuring that we bring the budget back into balance. We cannot keep on living beyond our means. We have to be able to bring the budget back to balance as we committed to and in so doing ensure we don't throw a mountain of debt on to the shoulders of our children and grandchildren.


Is the AAA credit rating worth fighting for?


The AAA credit rating is very important. Absolutely. It is important not just because of the - what it means for the cost of the government's borrowing but Australia's AAA credit rating affects every other borrower in Australia. So it is a very important, you know, credential, financial credential to maintain.

The skepticism that the ratings agencies have shown in the past - or their concern is probably a better word to use - their concern has been that the government will not be able to achieve its goals because of opposition in the Senate.

So our commitment is to ensure that we are able to deliver that AAA rating. But we call on the other parties, particularly the Labor Party, to support us in bringing the budget back into balance. It is a responsibility that weighs heavily on the shoulders of every single member of the house and the Senate, regardless of their party.


They say you have a spending problem; you often say you’ve got a spending problem also, what do you do to rein that in?


Well, again all will be revealed on Budget night, you haven't got long to wait.


And last one from me I promise, you didn’t receive the warmest welcome from the Premier on the front page of the paper yesterday. What is your response to some of her very choice words directed your way?


Well you know, I am at a loss to understand why she chose to, you know, use such personal and bitter language about me. It was uncalled for, it was unnecessary, there was no basis in fact. But I am not going to get into a slanging match with her or anyone else for that matter.

The fact is that, as you can see, here we are today. I am here with one of her ministers, cooperating on the revitalisation of a great Queensland city. We are investing billions of dollars, records, into infrastructure in Queensland. A record spending and federal spending in Queensland in every area - health, education, infrastructure. It is… the commitment to the state is enormous.

And of course, this comes only a month - the remarks that she made are so incongruous, so hard to understand or explain, they come barely a month after she thanked the Federal Government and praised the Federal Government for the unprecedented cooperation and preparation between the federal government and the state government agencies for the Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

You have to remember that was a you know, there was a tragic, tragic loss - losses of life and of course, enormous damage to property as a result of Tropical Cyclone Debbie. The disaster relief funding is committed – 75 per cent of it is being funded by the Federal Government. Over the years, over 80 per cent of all the disaster relief funding from the Federal Government has gone to Queensland. So, it is – you know it is hard to understand why she made those remarks.

Again, I can't explain it she has got to do that. But I can tell you, I am not going to let personal attacks like that get in the way of my or my government's commitment to the people of Queensland. Our focus is on serving the people of this great state. That is what my team is focused on and that is what we are doing today. As you can see three levels of government working together. That’s what people want, they want us to deliver. They don't want us slanging off at each other, they want us to work hard, work together and deliver results.


Do you support the boycott of Westpac and do you urge the banks to support a project like this?


Well, Look I am disappointed that Westpac has made that decision. I really am. I think these projects should be examined on their merits.

Just echoing what Matt Canavan said, the reality is that the energy solution for Australia has to be all of the above. It will include coal, gas, it will include renewables, wind and solar and hydro. It is going to have to include a lot more storage. We have led the way on that in terms of the big projects which we are working on with the Snowy Hydro 2.0 and of course, more recently, the work we are doing with Hydro Tasmania. So storage is going to be a very big part of it as well.

But coal has a big role to play for a very long time. You know the idea that Australia, the largest coal exporting nation in the world, the idea that we would suddenly walk away from that enormous resource is extraordinary. You know, as Matt often observes, modern high-efficiency low-emission coal-fired power stations have a very big part to play in ensuring that we have affordable, reliable energy - vitally important as the Mayor just said - and also that we meet our emission reduction obligations.

So we can use all the above, our energy policy is governed by engineering and economics, not by ideology. One of the reasons we’re in, we’ve got the challenges we have is because the Labor Party has had a very ideological approach to this. You see this particularly in Victoria. Just note, we are here in Queensland, gas is being accessed. Queensland is producing a lot of gas


And new coal-fire powered stations.


And in Victoria, massive gas resources locked up by a political decision by the Victorian Labor government. The consequence of that you have seen recently with gas shortages in Australia and I have had to take the unprecedented action of putting export restrictions on gas. Which you know, we have had to do in order to protect tens of thousands of Australian jobs, including in Queensland, including at Incitec Pivot where I was last week with my colleagues.

Okay, thank you all very much.


Transcript 40920