Press Conference, Brisbane Airport

Interview

DCI062/2017

03 July 2017

Subjects: Brisbane airport expansion, Qld infrastructure investment, current political developments

Darren Chester: I mean, in a financial sense, no. This is a Brisbane Airport Corporation project—a great project for the future of obviously Brisbane, South East Queensland, and Australia more generally. As I indicated in my earlier comments, 22 million passengers per year already use the airport; that's expected to double over the next two decades and we're certainly looking forward to seeing further growth to capitalise on the visitor economy.

Question: [Indistinct] plans for [indistinct] would the Government welcome that, even further expansion?

Darren Chester: Well, what we're seeing here is the benefit of enormous private investment between the accommodation being provided, the new runway. We're very keen to see further growth in the south east corner of Queensland. It's a great part of our nation and I simply want to congratulate everyone involved for the work they've done already.

Question: You touched on it briefly before, but how much growth do you expect to come from the Asian region in that future doubling of passengers?

Darren Chester: We see enormous opportunities for the growth of the visitor economy, particularly from the Asian region. We've been very keen to promote Australia at international levels to make sure we're getting our share of the visitor economy. Now, Queensland is perfectly placed in terms of the year-round attractions the state can offer. I'd like to see further investment in infrastructure here in the south east corner. We're working with the State Government on that to make sure that we spread the benefits of the visitor economy, that people not only come to Brisbane, not only come to the south east corner, they get out and explore this magnificent state and all it has to offer.

Question: How does this compare with what you're going through with the Sydney's second airport?

Darren Chester: Well, we're a long way to go yet on the work on Western Sydney Airport. There's an agreement reached as part of the budget process for an injection of in excess of $5 billion to get that project underway, but this project is far more advanced in that regard.

Question: Why can't they get their act together and fund it privately?

Darren Chester: Spoken like a true Queenslander, I'd suggest. This is a great project. I'm not going to be disparaging about the Western Sydney Airport project. It's one where the Government's putting equity into the project, and we expect to have that concluded by 2026. Obviously the Sydney Airport Corporation had a first right of refusal which it chose not to take up and now we're progressing the project.

Question: Are you dudding Queensland by not contributing here, or is it we don't want the money?

Darren Chester: It's not a question of dudding Queensland. We've got a fantastic investment in Queensland infrastructure, if you drive on the Bruce Highway there's $6.7 billion worth of work underway which has been great for improving productivity, improving safety on that important stretch of road. If you go to the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, it is the biggest single road project in Australia today. It's a magnificent piece of work that's going on right now, employing Queenslanders and making a real difference in the Darling Downs region. Of course, there's the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Project which has $8.4 billion being allocated to it, and the majority of that money, or the most significant greenfield work on that project, will occur here in Queensland. So there's a lot of great projects underway in Queensland which involve Federal Government funding.

Question: We saw a [indistinct] international event here yesterday. Do you think the doubling of capacity of Brisbane's airport will see us attract more events like [indistinct] yesterday?

Darren Chester: I can only see upsides in terms of Queensland's potential to host major events, whether it's of the nature of the boxing world title fight yesterday, whether it's the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, or other major events into the future. The capacity of the airport is a critical part of that. You live in a beautiful part of the world and people want to visit, but they also want to come here for major events. I can see for the corporate sector as well, major conventions and events that will attract business to the region, which can only be positive for jobs and future growth opportunities in this part of the world.

Question: Do you think this puts us on the map for finally getting the Olympics [indistinct]?

Darren Chester: I think Brisbane, Queensland, are well and truly on the map already. In terms of, any future major sporting events that different levels of government, want to bid for, I would certainly be supportive of that. But in terms of is Queensland on the map, or is Brisbane on the map, I think we're well and truly on the map already.

Question: You seem to be showing a lot of support today for the airport. What's the Federal Government's current attitude towards the M1? I know that there's been an announcement recently about that, but has work started?

Darren Chester: Well, we're working very closely with our state counterparts, but there has been some argy-bargy, as you're well aware of, over the last 12 months about the funding share. We've reached agreement on some projects to start on some sections around the Mudgeeraba part of the coast, which is obviously a congested part of the M1. We've got work underway with the Gateway Upgrade North—that's well underway. Projects on the Sunshine Coast section of the Bruce Highway.

There's work going on right around Queensland where we're working in partnership with the State Government. In many cases, the Federal Government's paying 80 per cent of the funding for that work. So we're funding the lion's share of those road construction projects, but we are keen to do more. We recognise that a region like this, which is growing enormously, is going to place extra demands on infrastructure and we're keen to play our part in the future, delivering growth and job opportunities for Queenslanders.

Question: Just- my colleagues in chilly Canberra: What do you make of Tony Abbott's latest efforts to undermine the Government?

Darren Chester: Well, I was at the Orbost Football Ground on Saturday, and I was watching Orbost play Lakes Entrance, and a lot of people come up to me and talk to me as their local member of parliament, and not one person mentioned Tony Abbott to me. They wanted to know what job opportunities are going to be here in the future for their kids, what we're doing in terms of infrastructure investments that will create new opportunities not just in Victoria, but right around Australia. Put quite simply: they're not interested in this internal bickering. They don't care. They want us to be focussed on delivering things which are good for our communities, and that's what we've been doing over the past 12 months under the Turnbull-Joyce Government.=

Question: He is, though, going on radio at least a number of times a week, making a number of TV appearances. He's rolled out a plan that goes against Malcolm Turnbull. I mean, isn't that undermining [indistinct].

Darren Chester: Tony Abbott is a busy and active backbencher and he's doing media engagements because the media wants to talk to him, but I'm telling you when I go out and talk to my community, listen to their concerns, they're not interested in what individual personalities think of each other. They're interested in what are you doing in terms of creating more jobs in our community; what are you doing in terms of improving national security so I feel safe at home, on the streets, and at our borders; what are you doing in terms of investing in good infrastructure that will make a difference in peoples' lives? Now, in all those three things the Turnbull-Joyce Government is delivering right around Australia. And quite frankly, I'm not interested in internal games; I'm focussed on what I can do as a minister to help deliver some of those outcomes for Australians.

Question: Would you prefer if Tony Abbott left his thoughts to himself?

Darren Chester: I've got no comment whatsoever to make about whether Tony needs to make more media appearances or not.