Subjects: Labor $120 million Tasmanian tourism policy; Indigenous voice in Parliament; Drought assistance to farmers; Foreign fighters legislation; Mr Morrison’s sneaky deal with Clive Palmer; Leaders’ debates; Missing Liberal Ministers; Macquarie Point; Labor health funding for Tasmania; Liberal cuts for Tasmania.
JULIE COLLINS, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health,
MEMBER FOR FRANKLIN: Thank you. It’s terrific to be here with Bill Shorten the leader, but particularly on behalf of Ben McGregor the candidate for Clark, Brian Mitchell the federal member for Franklin and myself Julie Collins the federal member for Franklin. It’s wonderful to also have Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke for this terrific announcement about Tasmania. People would know that Tasmania got hit particularity badly by bushfires earlier this year and we are starting to recover from that and today’s announcement is really, really important about the future of Tasmania, about jobs in Tasmania and about recovery here in Tasmania. So I’ll hand over to Bill to make the announcement.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: First of all, isn’t this great to be at MONA. And it’s great to be here with David and Kirsha and the workforce here. MONA is just … MONA is simply fun. Now I was saying to David as we walked down here “You know, is this world’s best?” and he said “No, it’s just fun.” But actually, I think that David is being a bit modest. Tasmanian tourism, with the flagship which is MONA, is not only leading in Australia, it’s leading throughout the world. And it is fun. But what Labor wants to do, is we want to back in the future of Tasmanian tourism, and we want to back in the investment which has been made by private investors in MONA. Chloe and I came here for a 45th birthday last year with friends. It is a fabulous centrepiece of a visit to southern Tasmania. And when you think about MONA, it really is excellent and fun across the world. Paris may have the Louvre, you know you’ve got the Guggenheim, you’ve got other great international exhibits, but Australia, not just Tasmania, has got the MONA. This is fabulous. But the money which has been invested here has been all private inspiration. There’s been no national support for a facility which is employing hundreds of people, and bringing, you know, tens and tens of thousands of tourists, not just to Tasmania, but to Australia. So I’m really pleased to announce, in part through the hard work of our tourism spokesperson, Anthony Albanese, and our Tasmanian Labor team, spearheaded by Julie Collins, that a Labor government if elected on May 18 will invest an additional $50 million in MONA, as part of a $120 million tourism package. The Tasmanian economy has many strings to its bow. But tourism is certainly, I think, one of the great job generators for Tasmania. Tasmanian tourism is famous across the mainland and famous across the world. If you’ve got people who are willing to back themselves and invest in such a marvellous facility and experience, then they need a government in Canberra as committed to Tasmania, as committed to tourism, as committed to fun, as the people here are. I’d now like to get Albo to talk further about the whole package of tourism announcements at this fabulous facility.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development & SHADOW MINISTER FOR TOURISM: Thanks very much Bill, and it is indeed a very proud moment because I believe this is the most significant tourism package for any state from any federal government or opposition in Australia’s history. $120 million, with MONA at the centrepiece, but also recognising that one of the things that MONA does for the 400,000 visitors who went through MONA in the last financial year, 70 per cent of whom were from interstate or internationally, is bring them here – this is the magnet – and then to spread the benefit throughout Tasmania. Particularly throughout the regions. So this package is comprehensive. It’s been worked through, through four roundtables that I’ve had with the tourism sector here in Tasmania, having meetings in Launceston, at Cradle Mountain and here in Hobart. Freycinet will receive $10 million to improve the facilities there. Mt Field National Park, $5 million. Both of these pristine natural environments are suffering from the number of visitors who are coming through and we need to infrastructure to keep up with it, so that people can have a positive experience when they visit those destinations. As Julie said, Tasmania has been affected by the tragic bushfires in recent times. One of the areas that was damaged is the Tahune AirWalk, and we’ll put $5 million to recuperate that area. The Agritas facility at Smithton, promoted last time we were in government, remains unused. $3 million there to fix up that facility on the north-west of Tasmania. The north-west coastal pathway, making sure that that experience can be benefited by all who visit as well as local residents. A number of rail trails and mountain bike trails including a new mountain bike trail at Dial Range Strategic Mountain. The world championships were held in north-west Tasmania recently. People coming from all over the world, bringing their families and friends, to enjoy that environment and to, of course, create jobs while they were there. Tourism trails throughout Tasmania, Beauty Point, to support infrastructure there as well. Together, this package, here at MONA, but right throughout Tasmania, will deliver jobs, will deliver economic activity and here at MONA of course, with the fact that our contribution is for the public infrastructure, things like the amphitheatre that will be available to schools and people who have concerts. They’re making available, courtesy of David Walsh, 7,000 manuscripts including manuscripts like of one of the originals of editions of Origin of the Species with a handwritten note from Charles Darwin. Other manuscripts including the original from Lolita. Manuscripts from a range of things right across the board, everything from Hunter S. Thompson to the classics. That being made available here through this contribution will mean that this goes from being the biggest magnet that we have for Australian tourism as a single entity to being even better in the future and I’m very proud of this package. And I want to thank the Tasmanian tourism sector for the way that they have engaged with us to make a difference to ensure that today we can make this comprehensive announcement. And I thank Bill Shorten for his support. As the tourism shadow minister, it’s great to have a leader that is prepared to back in good ideas and good announcements like this.
SHORTEN: And in that spirit of congratulations I’ll just acknowledge Bec White, Tasmanian Labor leader. She certainly convinced us of the importance of investing in Tasmanian tourism. I’m not sure her counterpart has had the same success today in convincing the current Prime Minister to back in Tassie like we are.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten on the Indigenous voice to Parliament, if you go to the people without a fully formed model, does that open up the chance of a fear campaign? Does it make it harder to sell to the public? And on top of that, you’re also planning a first term Republican plebiscite – is it too much? Is it too many things to sell with these big votes?
SHORTEN: Well first of all I think it’s long overdue for our First Australians to be in the nation’s birth certificate, the Constitution. I think that we’ve left it too long. Now, what we will do is listen to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and we will argue the case for a voice. It will be a fully formed proposition. As for scare campaigns, we’ve already seen some in the right wing, in the extreme right wing already start to complain about including First Australians in the Constitution. We’re up for the argument. In terms of an Australian head of state, yes Australia should have an Australian head of state. But we have said that what we want to have is the referendum on the voice first of all.
JOURNALIST: How much money has Labor set aside to help drought-proof our farmers?
SHORTEN: We’ve actually set quite a lot aside and without taking too long on this interview I congratulate the work of Joel Fitzgibbon. We’ll have a look at what the government said today and if it makes sense we’ll do it. Because we don’t approach this sort of negativity of the Government where as soon as one side of politics has an idea the other side has got to get out a big stick and whack it. So we’ll have a look at that. But in addition, we’ve already offered $100 million for drought relief. We’ve also said that when it comes to central Queensland, that we will invest in the Rookwood weir which is going to open up 2,000 agricultural jobs. In Tasmania as well, I was down here a little while ago and we said that we would do tranche 3 of the irrigation projects, $100 million, which will assist to open up new land and provide greater productivity for farmers. So we’re up for helping. And also, just for dairy farmers who have been doing it hard, we want to set a floor price for milk, which will be great assistance for them when they’re dealing with the processes.
JOURNALIST: The foreign fighter laws that weren’t passed by Parliament before it was prorogued, would you put them to a vote in the first week of your government in you’re successful at the election?
SHORTEN: Well, Penny Wong dealt with this question comprehensively yesterday. I’m happy to go to the key points she said. If it wasn’t because of a work-shy and lazy conservative government these laws may well have already been passed. But as you know, what we’ve got is a government in Canberra who has organised Parliament to sit for 10 days in eight months so no wonder we get didn’t get to it. In terms of the actual security law what normally happens is that a parliamentary committee looks at the laws and we’ve got a unanimous position, both Labor and the others, so there’s no reason why we couldn’t do it in the first week back. But let’s go back to the reason why we don’t have it. The Morrison government cancelled Parliament so many times, they didn’t want to sit, they’re work-shy. So if Mr Morrison is looking to blame someone for a failure of national security, he should buy a mirror because that’s the face he should blame.
JOURNALIST: Do you commit to putting both referendums in the first term, even if there isn’t bipartisan agreement on them, especially the voice to Parliament, and doesn’t that raise the risk of a seriously damaging, and possibly a no vote as a result, a damaging campaign, that is overwhelmed by politics?
SHORTEN: Well, let’s go to the heart of the matter. I think it’s wrong that we don’t have our First Australians in our Constitution. I guess you’d probably agree with me. Isn’t it time in Australia that after 120 years that we actually said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should be in our Constitution? So I think it’s not so much the difficulty of the debate but why don’t we put just some of our Australians and give them the same recognition that all other Australians have. In terms of the head of state business, we’ve said we’d have a plebiscite not a full referendum in our first term. But we will advance on recognition of our First Australians. But that’s not all that we’re going to do. We want to close the gap. Your skin colour in this country should not be the reason why you do better or worse. So I think it’s not a question of symbolic recognition or practical work, it’s about doing all of it. We’ll work with people and this goes to the broader issues in these elections. The Morrison government, by its desperate deals with extreme right wing parties, is promising us if they get elected, a return to the chaos, a return to the cuts of the last six years. I mean, what we see is it won’t just be Constitutional recognition of our First Australians which becomes endangered. It will be the whole business of government. Imagine what we won’t get done in this country under a Morrison-Palmer-Hanson Government. This is a government who is, you know, there’s an old saying and I think that Mr Morrison is going to learn the truth of this in this election campaign, that if you lie down with dogs, you’re going to get up with fleas.
JOURNALIST: You’ve said that there have been no formal negotiations on preferences between Labor and Mr Palmer. But do you concede that Labor did approach him about a preference deal, as he has again confirmed this morning?
SHORTEN: First of all, whether or not there were conversations, I would not sign off on any deal with Mr Palmer until he resolves the issue of the tens of millions of dollars that he owes taxpayers and workers. Now I’m not going to be like Mr Morrison who sort of very coyly pretends he doesn’t know what’s going on in the administrative wing of his party. A deal like that, the leader’s got to be aware of. And I think that Mr Morrison’s got to come clean on what he’s promised Mr Palmer. Are we really to believe that when you do a deal with Mr Palmer he just gives you something for free? That is not that gentleman’s track record. That is not that gentleman’s track record. So if there have been conversations to find out what Mr Palmer is up to, well that is as it is. But no deals from Labor. Because, and I think it’s a legitimate question which you should be asking Mr Morrison, what arrangements has he made to get from Mr Palmer the hundreds of millions of dollars that he owes the Commonwealth and owes the debtors? How is it that this bloke, this Mr Morrison who’s always up on the high ground, always on his soap box, you know, parading his morality, yet you know, when it comes to doing a deal with Mr Palmer, he puts all of that aside, gets to the bottom of the barrel. What is Mr Morrison doing as the prime minister, doing a deal with Mr Palmer, when Mr Palmer owes his workers and owes taxpayers tens of millions of dollars? I’d like to get Anthony’s take on this, because he has done negotiations, not on the preferences, but with some of these crazy crossbenchers who the government keeps trying to desperately prop up.
ALBANESE: Look, Scott Morrison had a choice between standing up for ripped off workers or sucking up to a tosser who ripped them off and he chose the tosser. He chose Clive Palmer. The fact is that today when I heard that Scott Morrison was holding a press conference with the deputy prime minister, I thought that’s interesting, Scott Morrison and Clive Palmer are having a joint press conference. I wonder why they’re doing it in Parkes. Because the fact is that this bloke, this bloke, should be an anathema to people who are mainstream Australians. I did have to negotiate through the 43rd Parliament. But it was pretty hard some of the time, because Clive was asleep, sitting on the frontbench during question time. Here we have, here in Tasmania, can I say this: this morning we have comments from the National Party senator, and you’ll remember him, he’s the guy who was actually appointed as an independent to replace the Jacqui Lambie Party senator, Jacqui Lambie, when she had to resign, when she was the member of that party, before she was an independent, before she was a member of Palmer United Party which is how she was elected. That person, who has never been elected by anybody, has been through about five different parties. I mean this is the recipe for absolute chaos in this country that Scott Morrison is putting forward. But today, this bloke has said there’s no difference between the Nationals and One Nation, which is why they’ll give preferences to One Nation. Just like Scott Morrison’s party, the LNP, are doing preference deals with One Nation throughout Queensland. Now, here in Tasmania that’s particularly offensive. Because we have Pauline Hanson who joined in on the conspiracy theory about Port Arthur. About Port Arthur. And you have a Tasmanian senator saying there’s no difference between One Nation and the Nationals. Well what’s very clear about these preference negotiations that have taken place, whether it’s Palmer or whether it’s Hanson, is that it is a recipe for absolute chaos. And if we have a Morrison-Hanson-Palmer government, then it will be the most chaotic in Australia’s history. And Australians need to think very carefully, not just about not voting for these fringe hard right parties but about not voting for someone who is prepared to promote them and bring them in as if they are mainstream. They are not. They are dangerous, they are wreckers, and they would be at the heart of a Morrison government if he’s successful in three weeks‘ time.
JOURNALIST: Can you clarify your comments on Sky, did you say there were no conversations with Labor…
ALBANESE: I haven’t done Sky. That was the Today Show. I have to be loyal to the Today show. They give me a slot every Friday at 7:15.
JOURNALIST: Can you clarify, did you say there were no conversations with Labor powerbrokers at all?
ALBANESE: About preferences. About preferences, seriously. A confession here, from time to time, I have been referred to by some of you people as a Labor Party powerbroker. From time to time. I know how to negotiate. And we’re not negotiating preferences with these parties.
JOURNALIST: What about legislation? You say they shouldn’t be brought into the mainstream. That means that Labor won’t deal with them in the next Parliament?
ALBANESE: Look what it means is we don’t want them in the next Parliament. That’s what it means. What it means is we are working each and every day to stop them getting into Parliament. Scott Morrison is working each and every day to get them into Parliament. By putting…
JOURNALIST: Could you answer the question?
ALBANESE: I’m answering it absolutely – you might not like the answer, but it’s the one that is required. Which is that, which is that they won’t get into Parliament unless they get the excess from the LNP vote in Queensland. That’s how Palmer gets into Parliament. Scott Morrison can stop that. He can stop that today by not giving them preferences and putting a bloke who has ripped off workers, has ripped off taxpayers, who has ads speaking about foreign investment in Australia that are funded, because of foreign investment in Australia and the royalties he receives. A bloke who speaks about foreign investment, whose corflutes are printed in China. That’s what this bloke stands for. Scott Morrison needs to explain that, because we will stand up for the national interest.
JOURNALIST: If you feel that strongly about him why won’t Labor rule out any dealing with Clive Palmer’s party should you win the election?
SHORTEN: First of all the election is not over. And what we’re warning Australians is you have now seen, Mr Morrison has shown his hand. A vote for Scott Morrison is a vote for Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson. What we now see is the prospect, if they are successful, of the most extreme right-wing government in Australia’s history. We see the prospect of the most chaotic, risky government in Australia’s history. Does anyone really believe that when you sit down with One Nation or you sit down with Palmer, that they’re just giving preferences, One Nation and Palmer, to the Liberal Party and the LNP out of the goodness of their heart? That somehow it’s an act of charity? Of course it’s not. And the question you have got to ask the government, is what promises have been made. Do we have to water down our gun laws? Do we have to forgive Clive Palmer’s debt which he owes the taxpayers and the workers? What is the deal. I mean old Morrison here, he’s a very sneaky operator. I mean you could ask Malcolm Turnbull that. But he is a sneaky operator. In Melbourne and in Sydney and in Hobart and Launceston he says Oh no, we don’t like One Nation, we’ll put them below Labor. But up in Queensland where it really matters, he’s given a sly nudge and a wink to his mate the Deputy Prime Minister, the Nationals, and to his party in Queensland you can do whatever deal you want. Well that’s not on. The real issue here is do Australians want the prospect of the next three years of cuts, chaos, desperate behaviour by the Morrison-Palmer-Hanson government.
JOURNALIST: Your proposal for a debate at the National Press Club, will that be in prime time and if not, why not?
SHORTEN: First of all, yesterday Channel Two said what about us, and Channel Nine said what about us, and you complained about Channel Seven had an interview and Sky. So I thought the neatest and cleanest solution was to have you all in the same room at the National Press Club. We’re happy to do it at lunch time. The good news is they have invented i-view. They can play it in the evening if you want to. We are happy to debate. But the other point is if we are going to talk about debates how have you gone finding Melissa Price? There should be a search party sent out to check on her whereabouts. Because we haven’t had a debate on the environment or climate change between their ministers. And have they got the Minister for Industrial Relations out of witness protection? Where’s the wages policy debate? And apparently Dan Tehan won’t do one debate with Tanya Plibersek.
JOURNALIST: A local question. Is Labor disappointed that Macquarie Point is still sitting idle? [Inaudible] unlike here it has not been activated at all.
ALBANESE: Frankly this is an indictment on the state Liberal government. This is appalling. We put in 2012 $50 million as a catalyst to get Macquarie Point going. We built the [inaudible]. We fixed a whole range of the issues getting them off the site. What that should be is an area that drives the economy here. And the vision that was there for a mix of commercial, residential, hospitality and tourism with the waterfront, is absolutely tragic that we’re at 2019 and they haven’t got their act together to actually advance that project. Our $50 million was a very serious investment indeed. And if you look at the difference, I’ve got to say, between what a private sector operator in David Walsh and his crew have done at this site. Have a look at this use of this magnificent natural environment to open it up to people and take advantage of it and then go down and look at the mess that is Macquarie Point. And if we are successful and Bill appoints me hopefully as the infrastructure minister …
ALBANESE: You just got that commitment. (LAUGHTER) Very good! One of the things that I’ll be doing is sitting down with Premier Hodgman and saying listen mate, let’s get on with it. Let’s actually start delivering jobs. Just like what today’s announcement is about. Macquarie Point is about jobs. Jobs in construction, but in the long term, jobs in hospitality, as well as just uniting the city and the water. One of the things about being cities minister, and this wasn’t even included in their so-called city deal, cities for too long had industry on the waterfront because waterways were seen essentially as places where you put out the rubbish. Now with Tony Burke doing his urban waterways program, with our city partnerships program, in general what we want to do is to maximise the wonderful natural environment that Australia’s waterways bring to our cities, to our urban environments, and Macquarie Point is a great example of something that we would advance.
JOURNALIST: Tasmanian Liberals have come out today and said this funding as well as a commitment to push for a Tasmanian AFL team, that these funding commitments are out of touch with the community. What would your response be to that?
SHORTEN: Why is it that Liberals whenever they see a new idea, a good idea, find an excuse not to do it? Let’s talk about it. When the Liberals say that Tasmania shouldn’t get some AFL funding, they need to explain why they are running around on mainland Australia providing AFL funding for the Swans, providing AFL funding for Collingwood. This is a government, a Liberal government nationally who wants to treat Tassie as second class. But let’s go to some of the issues which we think are in touch. Jobs are an in touch issue. This will generate jobs. But what I also think is an in touch issue where the Liberals are nowhere within any close range of us is health funding. Did you know that we have already announced $100 million-plus of specific health projects for Tasmania. Because we don’t think that Tasmanians because they live in Tasmania should have longer waiting lists than the mainland. Because we think that in Tasmania if you’ve got a diagnosis of cancer, you should be able to access metastatic cancer nurses just like they can elsewhere. Prostate nurses just like they can elsewhere. And when you look at what we are doing on health, that’s just specific projects. Did you know because of our $2.8 billion hospital fund, we’re going to see greater investment and reverse the cuts to Tasmanian hospitals that have occurred? Did you know because of our $2.3 billion plan to turbocharge Medicare, to help practically remove a lot of the out of pocket costs for cancer treatment, that is going to be of massive benefit to Tasmanians. And of course, let’s not forget Labor’s commitment to restore and start increasing the patient rebate when you go and see the GP. When you look at it, when it comes from tourism and jobs, when it comes to providing Tasmania some equal status in grassroots footy as they do on the mainland, or indeed to a fundamental issue like health, Labor has got all points over the Liberals. Maybe what the Tasmanian Liberals should do is rather than being a cheer squad for cuts and chaos to Tasmania from Canberra, maybe they should take a leaf out of Bec White’s book and start fighting for Tasmania. Thank you, catch you soon.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.