Press conference - Rockhampton

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: It's fantastic to be back here in Rocky today with the Premier of Queensland Steven Miles, with my Minister, Catherine King, with Minister Bart Mellish and with the local State Members Brittany Lauga and of course Barry O'Rourke as well. And it is a terrific day to be here and to witness the progress that is taking place on this vital project. When Kirsten Livermore was the Member, some time ago, we did the planning work on this project, it was something she was very passionate about. Now, not much happened for the 10 years of the former government, when they were in office, but were determined to make sure we get this done. This is a $1.7 billion project. It will create hundreds of jobs both direct and indirect, and will make an enormous difference here for the people of Central Queensland and Rockhampton. This ring road will divert heavy traffic and freight away from the CBD, away from the more than a dozen traffic lights that currently heavy vehicles have to deal with. That's good for productivity, but it's also good for Road Safety for locals and for people who are traveling up and down the Bruce Highway. This builds on the work that happened under the former Labor Government I was proud to be a part of with projects like the Yeppen Floodplain, a major project in this area that was funded and built, constructed and has made an enormous difference for road safety and also for flood proofing. Previously, of course, people were regularly kept out from the southern approaches to Rockhampton, because when flooding occurred on a floodplain, guess what, people couldn't get through. This project will make an exciting difference for the people of Rockhampton, I'm very proud that our governments are working together to deliver it. Of the $1.7 billion that's been allocated about $1.2 billion from the Federal Government, around about $500 million from the Queensland Government. We want to make sure this gets done. And I do want to congratulate as well, Queensland, as the people who look after the project for what they're doing and proprietors here for making sure that small companies are benefiting, we need to make sure, and we have a buy Australia plan, and a plan also to help small and medium size infrastructure companies. Because that's how you keep value in a town like Rocky. That's how you build capacity. And small companies can become medium companies and medium-sized companies can become larger ones as well. And that's one of the things that we've witnessed here today and talking to the people on the ground who are part of this project. So congratulations for all of the work that's taking place. I look forward to coming back here and having multiple examinations. I was here with Steven, just a short while ago, having a look at, while he was Acting Premier, indeed, having a look at the progress and works that were taking place. This is a great project and I'm very pleased it's part of my Government's commitment to nation building here in Queensland.

STEVEN MILES, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND: Thanks Prime Minister and it's great to be here with you again at the works for the Rocky Ring Road. We were here for the sod turn, now to see it underway, it really looks underway to me and to see the workers here delivering on what is a game changing road project for Central Queensland. It will avoid 17 sets of lights. It will take effect thousands of heavy vehicles off the road. It will reduce the interactions between local traffic and those heavy vehicles. It is such an important project. It is now fully funded by both the Australian and Queensland Governments, as the PM outlined, $1.2 billion from the Australian Government, a bit more than $500 million from the Queensland Government, but it is worth every cent. It is our Government's standing together and delivering the infrastructure that Rockhampton needs. It will boost productivity for the entire state. It's also being delivered overwhelmingly by local contractors and our buy local procurement rules are ensuring that as much of that investment, as much of that $1.7 billion stays here in Rockhampton, that's where the investment is, that's where we want the benefits to be accrued. I'm also really pleased, first of all, you all know that our passionate local Members, Brittany and Barry really have helped get this project to where it is today. Many of you know that Barry has said that he won't be running again and I want to thank him for his enormous contribution as a Member. I'm also pleased though to introduce you to Craig Marshall, who is the man who will be Labor's candidate in Rockhampton at the next election. He's a proud local, he's lived here, I think more than 30 years. He's worked in the community in healthcare and other services. I think he'll be a great local Member, another passionate advocate for Central Queensland, a great member of our team, and I might just ask him to introduce himself.

CRAIG MARSHALL, LABOR STATE CANDIDATE FOR ROCKHAMPTON: Hi, I'm Craig Marshall. Having lived in and working and raising a family in Rockhampton for the past 30 years, I have a strong focus on the issues that affect the community of Rockhampton, I believe in a good quality health care system, good local schools, safe and secure housing and a fair go for local families. I'm really looking forward to representing the community of Rockhampton. As Premier Miles said, I've been in the healthcare industry for about 18 years now. And I've seen the benefit of having a Labor Government in our hospitals. I've also worked as a contractor in the mining sector at various mine sites throughout Central Queensland. I've owned and operated a small business. And I've got about 10 years' experience working with kids in care. Thank you very much.

CATHERINE KING, MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Thanks very much. I'm Catherine King, I'm the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and what a great day this is. It's terrific to be here, I was here not that long ago, when we were announcing the early works package and just down the road here, we were in the middle of a paddock. It's terrific to be here with Premier Steven Miles, the Prime Minister obviously Anthony Albanese, but also Bart Mellish, my counterpart here in the state of Queensland, and terrific to have been working with him really closely on making sure that this project was done and is being delivered. This is a $1.2 billion commitment from the Commonwealth, over $580 million from the Queensland State Government. And we've heard a lot about this project. We know how important it is, 2600 trucks being taken out of the CBD, 18 bridges which amount to about six kilometers of the 17 kilometer project. So it's a big build. But particularly a couple of things I want to mention that I'm really pleased to hear about. The first is that the Queensland Government has really focused on local procurement, making sure that we get as much value as we can for Rockhampton businesses into this project. It was something that we were at pains to make sure we wanted to see that happen. The other, as I would always say, I want to thank all of the construction workers who are here on site today, but also, will be working, hundreds of them, through this project's life. What we are seeing is more fabulous women entering construction. It is a great industry for women. We've got a project manager here on site, Bonnie, who's just fantastic who's just shown us around and telling us a little bit about that. I want to see more women in construction. It's terrific to see that here on this site today. And if I've got a shout out to anyone, any young women who are thinking about finishing school, thinking about what their career might be, this is a great industry for you.

BART MELLISH, QUEENSLAND MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND MAIN ROADS: Thank you, Minister King, and it's fantastic to have the Minister up here, as well as of course the Prime Minister, the Premier, our local Members and our candidate Craig. So this is the biggest road project ever in Rockhampton. This is an outstanding project $1.7 billion. We're really pleased to be partnering with the Federal Government on this. And as you can see works are well underway and works are going to locals here. This is an outstanding project, both for what it will do for the connectivity of the region, but also what it will do for employment, what will it do for upskilling for these local businesses, and I really can't wait to visit here more and more as this project progresses. Importantly, this will also be for 14.7 kilometers of new Bruce Highway. So the spine of our state, the spine of our road network, we are adding to it through this project. This is fantastic work you've seen on behind us here today on a balmy Rockhampton day, the weather doesn't bother them, they're cracking on with it. And I really can't wait to come up here more and more and see just how this project progresses for the benefit of locals. Cheers.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. I want to acknowledge the Mayor who's here as well and for his support for his local community. He's always a very strong advocate. And we were talking before about the the Yeppen Floodplain project. So we've both been around a little while building things here here in Rocky, we're happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, I am not familiar with all of that detail so I just refer you to the Defence Minister Richard Marles.

JOURNALIST: How can voters trust that your Government won't make changes to negative gearing given you broke your promise on stage three tax cuts?

PRIME MINISTER: Voters know that when economic circumstances change, good governments will change their economic policy in response. So when we had the impact on energy prices of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the global phenomenon, what we did was work with the Queensland Government, work with the New South Wales Liberal Government, to put a cap on coal and gas prices and to provide energy price relief. Now the Australian Bureau of Statistics and others have indicated that they had a real impact on lowering inflation, compared with where it would have been had we not taken that action. That was action that was necessary. So this is the right decision for the right reasons. And here in Rocky, some 59,000 people will get a bigger tax cut in the electorate of Capricornia than they were going to get. So you have these Nats and they wring their hands and say there's these cost of living pressures, they're right in identifying the issue, but they're wrong in their response. They voted against the energy price relief plan. They voted against cheaper medicines. They dismiss Fee Free TAFE, 300,000 places, some of whom will end up working on this very project here. They oppose cheaper childcare. They oppose all of the measures that we've taken. The other thing they've done is oppose real wage increases, we've increased wages, real wages have increased over the last two quarters. We've had significant increases in the minimum wage not once but twice. We gave a 15 per cent pay increase on top of other increases for the aged care sector in response to the aged care royal commission. So we want workers to earn more, and we want them to keep more of what they earn. And overwhelmingly, the beneficiaries will be regional Australia, as well as 90 per cent of women will receive more, it will help with labour supply. 98 per cent of young people aged between 18 and 24, who are under financial pressure, we know that that's the case, will receive a bigger tax cut as a result of these changes. And the Coalition, firstly, they said they oppose it, they didn't know what it was, but they opposed it, Sussan Ley. And then she came out and said they'd reverse it. So they'll go to the next election saying that they would have tax increases for 12 million Australians. We want everyone to get a tax cut. That's why people under the income of $45,000 will get a tax cut under our plan by reducing the 19 cents rate down to 16 cents, but right through the system that will flow. So, we're increasing the top marginal tax rate from 180,000 to 190,000, because we want to build in that aspirational aspect. But we have a position very clearly that I took to the election, which said, no one left behind, and no one held back. We have changed our position because of the changing economic circumstances. It's not the easy decision, it's the right decision. And the question for the Coalition is, why do they oppose people who are in middle Australia getting a decent tax cut?

JOURNALIST: The LNP has already announced their candidate, are you taking Rockhampton for granted by announcing Labor's candidate so late?

PRIME MINISTER: I think that's probably for Steven.

PREMIER MILES: Not at all. Barry has been a great servant of Rockhampton, a great member of our team. When he announced that he didn't intend to stand again the Labor Party has a process by which our grassroots branch members can nominate and get endorsed by their fellow branch members. That's the process that we've undertaken here. It is a good and democratic process and it's delivered us a fantastic candidate.

JOURNALIST: How does State and Federal Government invest in the Great Keppel Island jetty and barge ramp?

PREMIER MILES: I'm happy to get Brittany to talk a bit more about this. But we have been working on the Woppa master plan. I released that with Brittany late last year. It's a fantastic plan. We have funds on the table available for some of the infrastructure in that plan. And no doubt over time, you'll see governments at all different levels, committing to important projects on Great Keppel Island. And I might let Brittany say a bit more about it.

BRITTANY LAUGA, STATE MEMBER FOR KEPPEL: Thanks, Premier, thanks for the question. Accessibility to Great Keppel Island is incredibly important. And currently, the ferries pull up on the sand. And if you're in a wheelie walker or a wheelchair, or you have a pram or a lot of luggage, as a lot of people do, it's very difficult for you to get onto the island and around the island. So that's what the master plan did, was look at all of the infrastructure challenges on Great Keppel, and how we can improve them. And that's why we've supported infrastructure on the island with a $30 million commitment. First things first, we need wastewater treatment on the island and that's definitely a priority and we're working towards that. Next let's get into access and a jetty or barge landing is certainly on the radar.

JOURNALIST: I do have one more question for Steven Miles are you across the severe weather situation in South East Queensland?

PREMIER MILES: I haven't got a further update since the press conference I held in Townsville a couple of hours ago. The last we heard was that waters were receding in Laidley, which is good news, but that it was continuing to rain in Moreton Bay, which is concerning. The Morrayfield shops have been inundated. I'm aware that Caboolture Hospital is on bypass because of the water impacts there at the hospital. The Prime Minister and I will head from this press conference to the Disaster Management Centre at Kedron Park where we'll get a full briefing on those weather impacts. But our understanding is that the greatest concern at the moment is in the Moreton Bay Council area.

JOURNALIST: It's been a relentless summer of disasters.

PREMIER MILES: Tell me about it.

JOURNALIST: What's your biggest concern?

PREMIER MILES: I'm most concerned about our SES volunteers and our emergency service workers. They are exhausted. They've been at this since the middle of December. We work very hard to make sure that they get rotated through, that they get sufficient breaks that they manage their fatigue but some of them, some of them just keep on going because they want to be there supporting their fellow Queenslanders. What you saw in the preparations for Tropical Cyclone Kirrily was we put the call out to other states and to the Albanese Government to ask them for assistance in advance. That's precisely because we know how stretched our volunteers and our emergency services are and have been. We'll monitor the situation in the southeast very closely. No doubt if we need that assistance, it will be forthcoming again. Thankfully, we didn't need all of the assistance that was made available to us in Townsville, but it was certainly there if we needed it.

JOURNALIST: Any planned releases from dams?

PREMIER MILES: Look, I understand Paradise Dam is spilling at the moment but it is safe and affected residents have been notified. Our water entities will continue to manage all of the dams that they both actively and passively manage to keep the community safe. They're really good at that. The last update I got on Wivenhoe was that it was still well within its drinking water capacity. And that is only one of the compartments, so it's not yet into the blood management compartment.

PRIME MINISTER: Can I just conclude, perhaps with two things. One is to say that when we were in Townsville, we had an opportunity to once again thank the extraordinary workers and volunteers who make a difference for their fellow Australians. At the toughest of times, we see the best of the Australian character. And we see that particularly here in Queensland. This is a tough country. We have had more extreme weather events than we used to have, in recent times. The science told us that this would occur. It's one of the reasons why we are determined to take action on climate change. But it is remarkable the efforts that people undertake on behalf of their fellow Australians. So I do want to take the opportunity to thank them. And a final thank you to Barry, who I've known for some time as the local State Member here. We work across government wherever possible. And Barry's been an outstanding Member and I wish him all the best for his future. Thanks very much.