Transcript - Media conference - Caloundra, Queensland

CATHERINE KING, MINISTER: Well, good morning, everybody. I'm Catherine King, the Federal Infrastructure Minister, and can I welcome everybody here to beautiful Caloundra. What an amazing place to be able to be here to make this announcement, alongside Premier Steven Miles. I'm also joined by Senator Anthony Chisholm, Senator for Queensland, my colleague, and also the two state members Jason and Rob who cover this beautiful part of the world. 

Well, tomorrow in the budget, you will see further investments from the Albanese Labor Government in infrastructure in Queensland. An additional $1.15 billion into the Sunshine Coast direct rail. That brings the Commonwealth's contribution to this project to $2.75 billion, and that's alongside the Queensland State Labor government's commitment to this project to make sure we can get this rail line to Caloundra to begin the work, really, of making sure we're taking traffic off the Bruce, but more importantly, actually connecting these communities, the big population growth we're seeing through here, connecting communities together, making it easier for young students like Macy, who has joined us here, to be able to get to university, get to social and community and recreational events in this district without having to rely on bus services or largely on parents as well. 

This is a significant investment from the Albanese Labor Government. It obviously comes on top of what we've previously announced in the Bruce Highway, additional nearly half a billion dollars extra going into the Bruce Highway new projects and cost pressures there as well. There will be more in the budget as well. You will see that on Tuesday night, but we wanted to make this announcement because this is a project we know for the south-east that has been really critical. 

What we found, unfortunately, with the previous government, is they made investments in this project, really, without knowing how much it was going to cost and that's why the Queensland Government has done the hard work, has done the business case. There's still a little bit more that needs to be done with Infrastructure Australia, and that work will get under way shortly. But we know how important it is that we plan this project properly. 

We understand the costs of it. We actually co-invest in partnership with the Queensland Government when this project is ready for investment. I'm very pleased to be able to be here to make this announcement today and I will hand over to the premier.

STEVEN MILES, QLD PREMIER: Thanks so much, Catherine, and it's fantastic to also be joined by Anthony Chisholm who is also from Queensland. This announcement is a game changer for the region, a game changer for not just the Sunshine Coast, but all of south-east Queensland. The vision for Brisbane 2032 was always better transport connectivity, changing, completely transforming the south-east, and we already had much of that under way - heavy and light rail on the Gold Coast, faster rail to the Gold Coast, cross-river rail and now we add to that a fully funded Sunshine Coast heavy rail project to Caloundra.

It's very exciting for the region. It will change the region and I just want to say how great it is to be working with an Albanese Australian Government who are willing to partner with us on these region transforming projects, all along the way. Being there through the planning process, ensuring we have a deliberative consideration process, and this is the culmination of all of that work. Now that it is fully funded, we can get under way and get started building heavy rail to Caloundra. 

KING: Sounds like we're for questions.  

JOURNALIST: What's the new timeline? 

KING: Well, I'll hand over to [indistinct] people here to talk about timeline.  

MILES: Yeah, we will be under full construction in 2026, but certainly we'll have more detail.

JOURNALIST: The premier said it would be a game changer, you were saying how it would get students around the coast. That's probably only if you're going from Beerwah and Aura to Caloundra. It should be going to Maroochydore as the government had previously promised, at least the Transport minister. Why isn't it going all the way to Maroochydore as previously promised? 

KING: Well, again, these are very big infrastructure projects. The business case it's $12 billion to build it to Maroochydore. What it also recommended is that it be staged and that's what we're doing. Being responsible for making sure that we actually stage projects, we plan them properly unlike, frankly, the previous Morrison Government who just basically just put money into a project when they have no idea how much it was going to cost. Actually doing the business case, doing the planning work, and the business case has said the best way to construct this project is to stage it and this is what the announcement is today, is to stage it but also to do the corridor preservation and the future planning work to build stages 2 and 3 later on.  

JOURNALIST: I spoke to the Opposition Leader, state Opposition Leader last week who promised that he would build it all the way to Maroochydore, in time for the Olympics in 2032. He said the way it is now, Caloundra will be a car park.  

KING: Well, I look forward to seeing the big budget black hole resulting from the Opposition Leader frankly making a promise that he can’t deliver.

JOURNALIST: When you came today did you come in through the Sunshine Motorway and how did you find it? 

KING: I came down the Bruce, is where I came, and it wasn't too bad. There were a few pinch points there and hopefully what we see with this direct rail, we'll see traffic getting off the Bruce. People actually catching public transport, 45 minutes in time saving to get into Brisbane. So it's a great opportunity and great for public transport.

JOURNALIST: So it won't reach the athletes' village in time. Is that a missed opportunity? 

KING: Well, again, we're doing these projects properly. We're staging them, we're making sure that they are deliverable and that's what we're announcing today. Stage 1, bringing this to Caloundra, actually not just putting out press releases about projects, making sure we've actually got the money there, we've got the business case, and we've got the planning done to bring this to Caloundra. This is a big announcement, again, a project that wasn't funded properly previously. We've now got both levels of government, $2.75 billion from both levels of government invested in this rail project here to Caloundra.

JOURNALIST: The Mooloolah interchange, the reason I ask about traffic, it's one lane in the Sunshine Motorway to the coast, one lane out, it's a major bottleneck and dangerous. We've been previously promised by the state government - got mixed up, I think, with the federal government funding under the previous government, you have withdrawn any funding that was on the table and it's just sitting there... a bottleneck - 

KING: So what I inherited with the Infrastructure Investment Program was, frankly, a whole lot of press releases and not enough money to actually deliver them. That's what this work has been to do. It's been to look at, planning properly projects, making sure we've got the full money to deliver those projects with collaborative piece with state and territory budgets to do that. What we inherited is a pipeline that we were told that its own cost pressures alone had $33 billion worth of funding cost pressures and no new projects, including this one, could be delivered by the Commonwealth, no funding, no new funding for any new projects for a decade. That is what we inherited from the Morrison Government. 

Doing that hard work, working with the states and territories, making sure that we're delivering and putting money into projects that could be delivered is important. Now states will always come forward in budget processes, and in MYEFO with new projects, but what we're very clearly saying is that we expect the planning work to be done. We expect it to be fully costed so we understand what those costs are before the Commonwealth makes investment. That's what we have done with this project.  

JOURNALIST: Will there be any new money in the budget for inland rail?  

KING: Well, again, what we had to do, we had to review the inland rail project. There is money sitting within the contingency reserve to build inland rail including to bring that project into Queensland. We haven't taken any money out of the inland rail. But what we have to do is make sure environmental approvals, the planning approvals are done, and that that work is actually done to deliver the project. What we've said is we are going to prioritise taking the project to Parkes, and continue that planning work to bring the project here into Ebenezer one the business case for Ebenezer is finalised as well.  

JOURNALIST: When will it come?

KING: Again, we're not putting time frames on it because that is the mistake the previous government made. They didn't plan, they had inland rail where they didn't know where it was going to end, where it was going to start, and no proper costings done across the project. And again, we’re getting that project back on track so it can actually be delivered. You can't deliver infrastructure projects by just press release and hope alone, you've actually got to do the work and that's what we did with the Schott review and that project again remains critically important to rail freight network of this country. We want to make sure we're doing it properly. We're prioritising getting it to parts and that work is continuing getting environmental and planning approvals and once we have those, we will have a better indication, both of its cost and of its timeline.

JOURNALIST: Caloundra is already quite a busy area and the LNP say they are concerned about it turning into a car park with this project. How are you planning on managing that? 

KING: Well, what I'm going to do is hand over to Steven to talk about, you know, it's not my job to talk about the LNP. Frankly, they can talk for themselves. But clearly, they haven't put any money into this project, as far as I've seen, and they’re making grand claims about what they're actually going to be able to deliver. Well, let's see what they're actually going to do. And I might hand over to Stephen to talk about the LNP Opposition.

MILES: When it comes to public transport, when it comes to planning for our region, the LNP have all the slogans in the world, but they have no detailed plans, no funded projects, no costed projects. What we know is that the only way to get trains operating for Brisbane 2032 is to stage this project. 

The business case said that if you tried to build it all the way to Maroochydore all at once, you would have no trains operating for at least 10 years. It would cost billions and billions of dollars more, dollars that are not funded by the Australian Government. What we have here is a fully funded, well-planned project that we can get under way on and start working on. 

David Crisafulli, frankly, is trying to con the people of the Sunshine Coast. There is no way he can build all the way to Maroochydore in time for 2032. That's not me saying that, that's the experts saying that. And so he should be more honest with Queenslanders, more honest with people on the Sunshine Coast.  

JOURNALIST: Was your former Transport Minister being dishonest and when he promised that the line would be built all the way to Maroochydore in time for the Olympics? A couple of times to me personally. 

MILES: That was before that planning work was completed. This is the project that can be delivered by 2032. It is well planned, fully costed, now fully funded and we can get under way and start building it. It's a region-changing project. Of course, we will seek to deliver stage 2 and stage 3 in time just as we have seen us deliver on the Gold Coast. These big, new public transport expansions, these big, new heavy rail expansions do take time and the best way to deliver them is in stages, that way you get some of the benefit in the meantime.  

JOURNALIST: Is this enough funding?

MILES: This is it now the subject of a very detailed business case planning and costing process. So this is what we anticipate the project will cost to deliver. It is now fully funded, unlike the plan that you've heard from the LNP.

JOURNALIST: When would it start? Are you on that yet? 

MILES: Heavy construction will start in 2026. There's early works already under way, there's engineering works, that kind of thing.

JOURNALIST: Are concerns it becomes a car park in Caloundra?

MILES: This will allow us to better integrate bus and active transport connections. So I know what a debacle it is trying to get train and bus connections from Brisbane to parts of the Sunshine Coast. This will allow us to deliver heavy rail to Caloundra and then integrated bus and active transport from there. Once you're connecting directly to heavy rail you can better time and better coordinate all of those services. So this will deliver better public transport throughout this part of the Sunshine Coast, not just the heavy rail connection. It will also allow us to unlock tens of thousands of additional homes, homes that can allow us to relieve the pressure on the supply, which we know is driving up prices.  

JOURNALIST: Just on other issues, if Kate Jones decides to run for the Senate, will you back her?  

MILES: That will be a matter for the party. If we are to get to a vote, I have one vote just like every other branch matter, but I understand it’s very early days.

JOURNALIST: Do you think she’d make a good senator?

MILES: As you know, I like Kate a lot, I respect her a lot, she's a great Queenslander, but I'm not going to comment on senate pre-selections.

JOURNALIST: [indistinct] should it go to a ballot?

MILES: I'm not going to comment on the pre-selection process. Those questions will need to go to the party.

JOURNALIST: Members of the right have warned this could be the biggest factional war in a decade. Given that you're five months out from the state election what would your message be?

MILES: Unity is - so our party has been incredibly united for a very long time now and I've worked very hard to continue that unity in our caucus and within the wider party. It's incredibly important as we head into an election. You've seen already just how disunited the LNP are. You've got their headquarters fighting with their branch members. You've got one set of their lobbyists fighting with another set of their lobbyists. You've got a front bench that don't really like their leader very much. So there's plenty of disunity on the other side. What we have on the Labor team is a very, very united team.

JOURNALIST: What conversations have you had with Kate Jones about a potential senate run?

MILES: I'm not going to get into private conversations.

JOURNALIST: What conversations have had you with Gary Bullock about taking the position [indistinct]? 

MILES: They would qualify as private conversations.

JOURNALIST: How can you talk of unity when your government is attempting to take a Senate position off the right?

MILES: I'd say the same thing to all of the factions, that being united is what serves - has served our party incredibly well for decades and I expect everyone to be working hard to see that continue.

JOURNALIST: Just on the supermarket inquiry, Coles and Woolies CEOs aren't fronting it today. Are you concerned they're not taking it seriously? 

MILES: I am concerned. This is the biggest single issue for Queenslanders and for that reason, it's my number one priority, cost of living is my number one priority, and I think what we've seen from the supermarkets is they just don't seem to get it. They just don't seem to get how the impact of their prices and their practices are hurting Queensland households and hurting Queensland farmers. This inquiry process was set up in good faith to identify what we should advocate for at a national level, as well as then we might be able to do at a state level. I think, frankly, I think frankly, in particular Coles, is thumbing their nose at Queenslanders, thumbing their nose at the Queensland Parliament. This process is really, really important to me, and I'm disappointed it's not important to them.  

JOURNALIST: What do you have to say about Townsville being a proposed site for a nuclear reactor plant? 

MILES: It's not just Townsville. The LNP are proposing nuclear reactors right across this state. Up to three near Townsville, two not far from here. So Tarong power station is only about 120 kilometres from here, Wivenhoe is only 80 kilometres from here, and that is where the LNP plan to build nuclear reactors. 

What we know about those nuclear reactors, is that they will be much, much more expensive. As much as six times more expensive on your household power bill. We also know that as a result of those reactors, future generations of Queenslanders will have to manage nuclear waste forever. That's the LNP's plan. Higher prices and nuclear waste putting our waterways, our environment, our beautiful state at risk.

JOURNALIST: The Bundaberg regional council proposed taking a caretaker role of the Bundaberg East flood levee if the state government covers ongoing costs. Is it something that the government is considering? 

MILES: I'm not aware of active considerations of that. Of course, we'd always consider proposals from local government. That flood levee is an incredibly important flood resilience project, it's one jointly funded by the Queensland and Australian Governments and we're looking forward to getting it in place so that in the future, all of those homes that currently are at risk of flooding can be protected.

JOURNALIST: What about Bonza? The deadline for a decision on the airline is getting made. So will the state government change its position on helping airline out?

MILES: This is a private company experiencing financial difficulties. Our primary concern is for the work force. We will work with the company, with the administrator, with the unions, to make sure that all of their employees are taken care of but it's not the role of the states to step in and prop up a private company.

JOURNALIST: The government's [indistinct] anti-siphoning sport rules for digital streaming, which means the AFL and NRL will be streamed from overseas companies. Why is the government not supporting Australia businesses?

MILES: I'm not across the details of that. We'll get the Comms Minister to -

JOURNALIST: The Federal Government that half a billion almost that they have announced recently for the Bruce Highway for Cairns to north of Brisbane or wherever, there's an area from Maryborough to Gympie 10 deaths since January last year, where it was four lanes goes into one single lane each way. Would you like to see funding approved for that and fast tracked so there’s no further deaths on that road, from the Federal Government?  

MILES: The Bruce Highway is an incredibly important road to Queensland and to the nation. The Australian - the Albanese and my government are delivering billions of dollars on projects all along the Bruce Highway and will continue to do that. We have a long-term investment plan for what is one of the longest and most important routes in the country.

JOURNALIST: Senator Chisholm, the second position on the Senate ticket has traditionally been reserved for the SCA. Do you think it should stay with the right?

SENATOR ANTHONY CHISHOLM, ASSISTANT REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT MINISTER: I'm not surprised there's interest. Obviously, being Senator for Queensland is the greatest job in the world. I'm sure that many quality candidates will put their name forward. As the Premier said, we've got our party processes to go through. I'm happy to be respectful of that.  

JOURNALIST: Would you support Kate Jones' bid for the Senate? 

CHISHOLM: As I said, I expect a number of candidates will put their name forward. We've got to let that process happen. That's what's happened in the past and that's what happened on this occasion.

JOURNALIST: Given we're five months out from the state election, the Premier’s called for unity. Do you think that's possible when the left is [indistinct] for a right spot? 

CHISHOLM: Well, the Queensland Labor Party have been a very stable organisation for many decades. That's been a hallmark of our ability to be able to deliver good government at the state level and also work collectively federally with our state colleagues. So I expect that to continue, and I echo the premier's call just before.

JOURNALIST: One of the arguments from the left is that the right doesn't have a female candidate put forward to that Senate position given the Party’s affirmative action rules. Does the right have a female candidate in mind?  

CHISHOLM: As I said, I expect a number of colleagues and candidates to come forward. I hope that it is a female candidate because I think that would add to our ability to deliver for Queensland and I expect that that's what will happen over the next couple of months.

JOURNALIST: Just on affirmative action, Shayne Neumann and Blair, would you support him to contest that seat? Or do you think it should go to a female? 

CHISHOLM: We've got a party process to go through but what I know is Shayne is an outstanding member for Blair. I don't know a harder worker in the entire caucus and if he wants to run again, I expect he will get strong party support to do that.  

KING: Thanks, everyone.