Transcript - Press Conference, Cairns

NITA GREEN: Well, good morning, everyone, and a big welcome to Gordonvale. It’s fantastic to be here on Yidinji country and talking about a fantastic infrastructure project delivered together with the federal and state governments. What I’m really proud about is that our government is working together with the Queensland Government to deliver these infrastructure projects all across Far North Queensland. We’re a government that wants to work with people, not against them. We’re a government that wants to work with the Queensland Government to deliver this nation-building infrastructure project and this Stage 3 Cairns Southern Access is just one of those projects that we’re delivering right here in Far North Queensland.

Before I hand over to the Minister to talk more about this project, I just want to say a big thank you to all the people that are here today. I know there was a community event here on Sunday and it was a fantastic time for the community to come together and express how happy they were to see these works developing and to really thank all of the workers, 500 of them, who have contributed to this project in Cairns and make sure that they knew that they were very appreciative. We are also very appreciative of the work that everyone has done to get this project to this point and it’s really exciting to have both the Minister Catherine King here today, Minister Mark Bailey to officially open this fantastic bypass.

CATHERINE KING: Thanks very much. It’s terrific to be here with Senator Nita Green, with Mark Bailey, my Queensland counterpart, and also Curtis Pitt and we’ve got Warren Pitt here I’d like to acknowledge his great work through many years in this community.

Can I particularly start by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land that we gather on and thank them very much for their warm welcome. I think I couldn’t have said it better when you heard the story about this is about the past linking to the future and really what better place to actually see that. We’re surrounded by extraordinary mountains, we’re surrounded by the economy of Cairns in the cane fields and here we are with this fantastic infrastructure project delivered by the Queensland Government, delivered by workers here in Queensland who are with us today, 500 of them who have worked on this project, and a joint investment by the Commonwealth Albanese Government and the Queensland State Government as well.

It’s great to just be here to see the final piece in this puzzle, this has been a project that’s been a long time coming. I know that commuters coming through this area have put up with a couple of years of disruption, but it is absolutely worth it. It’s a really terrific piece of infrastructure and really that is what these investments are about. This last piece of the puzzle here, really providing for safer, better commute, but the fact that you’ve also been able, congratulations to Mark Bailey, a keen, mad keen cyclist, as I would call him, having an amazing cycle way as well as built as part of this project, increasing active transport, making it safe for people to be able to participate in that active transport as we’re building these big infrastructure projects. It’s exactly what we want to see, and I’m delighted to be able to be here as part of the opening today.

Cars will be able to come along this road on Friday, the 18th, and it’s a bit of a privilege to be one of the first people to be able to cross this part of the road. But I really do want to say congratulations and thank the Queensland State Government for the great work in building it. It’s been over almost half a billion dollars, these are investments that are incredibly important, I know, to Queensland and certainly here in Cairns. But I do want to say thank you very much for all the work force who have done a fantastic job on getting this project done. Understand it’s been a bit wet for the last couple of weeks, but you’ve managed it and look forward to seeing cars coming across it here on Friday and I might hand over to Mark Bailey and then we’ll take some questions.

MARK BAILEY: Thanks so much, Catherine. Can I just acknowledge all the Yidinji elders and traditional owners here today. Lovely to have you here. Can I acknowledge my colleagues, Catherine King, Transport Minister at the federal level, Senator Nita Green, Speaker of the House of Legislative Assembly, and local member Curtis Pitt. Can I also warmly acknowledge and welcome Warren and Linda Pitt, very strong advocates for this community. Look, this is the - we’re coming now to the completion of the largest project infrastructure project in Far North Queensland.

SPEAKER: Sorry, I had a mic die on me. Sorry about that.

MARK BAILEY: So, look, we are coming to a close on the largest infrastructure project in Far North Queensland. A half a billion dollars in joint funding, the Albanese Federal Government, the Palaszczuk State Government working together for a safer road system here in Cairns and Far North Queensland.

This project has been a phenomenal success story. I want to thank Seymour Whyte, John Holland, the contractor, have done a fantastic job on this project. More than 2 million work hours over a couple of years here. We’ve seen 220,000 upskilling hours for trainees and apprentices and people coming into the trade and really encouraging to see one in five workers were from First Nations backgrounds. So that’s the kind of thing we want to see to help this community, not just a safer road and a new cycle way but, you know, making sure that everybody gets a go and that’s what good infrastructure projects are about.

We’re seeing nearly 500 jobs here on this project and it will set up this area for quite some time. This is the third Bruce Highway upgrade south of Cairns the Palaszczuk Government have completed in less than three terms. So we are committed to Far North Queensland because of the commitment of people like Curtis Pitt and our other State members here in Far North Queensland who advocate so strongly for better infrastructure.

Can I just say also that it’s not just about duplicating the Bruce Highway and making it safer for people, it’s about active transport as well. When we do these major road and rail upgrades we do major active transport upgrades as well and what we’ll see when the cycle way is completed is a little bit more tidy up there to do, but you will be able to cycle from Gordonvale right into the heart of Cairns, separated from traffic all the way, that means a healthier community, gives people travel options where they don’t necessarily have to take the car every single time, and it means kids can ride to school safely. That’s the sort of community benefit and safety we want to see.

So very pleased to be here for a day of celebration. I want to thank all the community who have submitted ideas for naming the different parts of this project, who have ensured that the First Nations history in this area has been acknowledged by naming a range of things after First Nations culture, but also we’ve been able to name it after a significant people who have contributed a lot to this community and also, of course, local cyclist Luke Azzopardi, I want to acknowledge him and his family and acknowledge the tremendous community support behind the naming of it after him and including from Curtis Pitt. This has been a great community outcome, not just a great road and cycle outcome. Curtis.

CURTIS PITT: Look, it’s wonderful to be here today. I want to also acknowledge that we’re gathered today on the land of Aboriginal people. I pay my respects to elders past and present. It’s very – we’re very fortunate in this country to have two of the world’s oldest, continuing living cultures in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whose lands, winds, and waters we all now share.

We had a great community open day on Saturday and that open day was a chance for the locals of this area to essentially meet the people who delivered this project and that was a great thing because as we’ve heard, this project has been about three years overall. We’ve seen definitely 466 direct jobs associated with this and over half a billion dollars’ worth of investment between the Australian Government and the Queensland Government.

The parts of this project, I think, is the most exciting for me, there’s two of them. There is actually the Luke Azzopardi cycle way which we have heard about and that is a real tribute to Luke. It’s not just the fact that he was a very, very promising cyclist who left this world before his time, but he was also a very, very strong advocate for road safety. And so it’s quite fitting that there’s going to be a traffic break, or an uninterrupted off-road cycle way named in his honour and there will be a lot more to talk about that as we go forward.

Of course, the other part is the pedestrian overpass that you will see a little bit closer to Gordonvale township itself. My office used to get, at least once a week, and on a very regular basis, people coming in saying that children were crossing the road and actually having many near misses. I’m quite amazed that we never had a fatality. That pedestrian bridge is going to be an amazing thing for young people and safety. But actually, more importantly, for the Gordonvale community, it’s a piece of social infrastructure. As you know, we’ve got an old township of Gordonvale, and that’s where I lived for most of my time, but there’s also a new part of Gordonvale. This bridge will connect both sides of the township and it’s going to feed directly to Kenrick Park, which is a joint State and council project.

The point is, you get a lot of opportunities when you do major projects. This is almost what I would call a perfect project and that is that it delivers fantastic ability for a better commute, it helps alleviate what was the busiest two-lane section of the Bruce Highway in Queensland. But it also, of course, provides the opportunity to have safe things for pedestrians, off-road cycle ways and very importantly, the fact is that it will be a motorway between Draper Road and once you get into the Edmonton area. So we’re really talking about 100km/h basis over a 10.5 kilometre stretch. A massive difference for people and it’s going to see that all-important population growth which is continuing to trend south.

I could not be more proud as a local member to have been involved in his project. I did help fund this in my former role as treasurer. So I get to be very, very pleased to see how this has come right through our system. I cannot say enough about the professionalism of the Department of Transport and Main Roads staff who have been working on this project, led by Ross Hodgman locally, Delida and her team and others who have kept people in very, very clear communication as to the steps and milestones of the project. That has been a very important thing because community has been right behind this project and they’re very grateful and the chance to have that opportunity to say thank you was on Saturday. No doubt they will be thinking about those people as they drive on this road for decades to come. Thanks.

CATHERINE KING: Questions to me. We should have also acknowledged that we have John Holland here today. John Holland as the constructors as well is an important partnership. Questions.

SPEAKER: I just got a separate question for you on a different project.

CATHERINE KING: Of course, have we got any on this? Okay.

SPEAKER: When will we know the outcome of the 90-day infrastructure review and which projects will affect that?

CATHERINE KING: Sure, so we’re expecting to receive the review sometime this week. We’ll obviously then have to look at it, we will be talking to states and territories and making announcements subsequently but there’s a little way to go.

SPEAKER: Can you explain why the Australian Government declined Qatar Airways’ request for additional of services?

CATHERINE KING: As I said in Parliament, I’m not going to say much more than this, but these are bilateral agreements between governments, they’re not commercial arrangements, and there’s a range of factors that the Government takes into account in terms of those bilateral agreements and they have to be in the national interest and we determined that in the case of Qatar Airways, owned by the Qatari Government, this was not in our national interest.

But I would say in terms of aviation overall, is that we know that it is still in recovery, particularly domestic has come back very strongly, but international income has not come back as strong as we would like. Outgoing is doing fairly well, but still it’s challenging as well.

We’re seeing a huge amount more capacity actually come into the international market. We already have Singapore Airlines, Emirates has already increased their capacity, we’ve got Hong Kong, I think Vietnam Airlines is also looking to increase its capacity in Australia and we’re making consideration of those requests at the moment and I see from reports in the media that Turkish Airlines are intending to eventually apply also to increase its capacity and we are constantly working on that. And we’ve got an open skies agreement with Singapore Airlines and continue to work with them in terms of their capacity.

As the capacity comes on, and obviously Qantas is increasing its capacity as well as buying new planes which are important to our system as well. As that capacity increases, prices will start to come down. I think everyone is experiencing increases in prices internationally in terms of aviation particularly in flights to Europe, that’s happening internationally, it’s not unique to Australia, but as that capacity increases, you will start to see prices come down.

SPEAKER: What is our national interest as far as the Qatar decision?

CATHERINE KING: I’m not going to comment any further than that. Bilateral agreements between governments and we may have to make decisions about what is in the national interest of this country, and we take those decisions very seriously.

SPEAKER: Have you been briefed as Minister as to what occurred on board a Malaysia Airlines flight last night?

CATHERINE KING: Yeah. So yes, certainly my office was made aware the minute the security incident occurred. Obviously there will be investigations into that matter but, you know, we do want to say thank you very much to the authorities for dealing with this matter swiftly and quickly, making sure that passengers were safe. It’s, you know, we’ve got a very safe aviation system in this country and I’m very pleased that that has worked in this instance. I’m sure it would have been quite a distressing incident for all of the passengers involved on that and I do want to thank the airline staff, the crews, everybody on the ground for really working on that. But there will obviously be an investigation and further comments made but certainly aware of reports from the incident and my office was made aware of those yesterday, as was I.

SPEAKER: Was three hours too long for those passengers to be waiting?

CATHERINE KING: I’m not going to – it’s difficult to comment on the ins and outs of what actually happened. This was a security incident, it was a very serious security incident, there will be investigations into that. I don’t think anyone – no-one wants to be inconvenienced, it’s horrible for that to happen and I’m sure people are incredibly distressed by that as well. They’ve had their holiday or, you know, visits home interrupted, but I would like to say that I think it was incredibly well handled. These things are awful when they happen, but we’ve got a very safe aviation sector in this country, and we want to keep it that way.

SPEAKER: In your electorate, what’s the biggest challenge or difficulty the community’s facing in regards to housing?

CATHERINE KING: Oh, gosh, in my own electorate in Ballarat, we’re a bit far from there today. I heard it was three degrees there this morning. It feels quite a long way away.

I think, look, right the way across the country and in my own hometown of Ballarat, as well, the rental market obviously is quite hard and that’s because there just isn’t enough supply. It’s why the Albanese Labor Government has been so desperate to get a Housing Australia Affordability Fund, future fund through the Senate because we know that that will unlock significant supply. I’ve got community housing organisations right the way across the country are ready to go now with social and affordable housing projects, local councils are desperately wanting to make sure that these get built. We just do not have enough supply.

Alongside that is obviously then when we do start to build and we do start to build new neighbourhoods, it’s exactly what you see around us, the squeeze on infrastructure. Making sure we plan our suburbs properly, that we’re investing in the infrastructure, we’re not sort of patching up afterwards, that’s critically important as well and that’s, you know, the problem in my hometown as well as in everybody else’s hometowns at the moment as well.

SPEAKER: There’s been a lot of speculation about a public holiday if the Matildas go on to win the World Cup. Would the money better be spent on building new infrastructure so more girls and young people can take up the sport?

CATHERINE KING: I don’t think it’s an either/or argument. I mean how fantastic – I mean I’m so excited about the Matildas. I’m not really someone who watches soccer a lot, but I have been absolutely riveted by these extraordinary women and we know that as a result of, you know, just where they’ve got to now, we are going to see hundreds, if not thousands of young girls want to play soccer but also want to participate in other sports and I think this whole myth about that no-one wants to watch women’s sport has been completely busted by the Matildas, by the Diamonds with their extraordinary win. We know how fantastic women’s sport is and the rest of the country does now.

Obviously, you know, frankly, it’s a bit cynical to see the Opposition, you know, after the sports rorts, after the female change rooms, the sorts of things they do. I wouldn’t trust them with, you know, spending money properly on female change rooms. We’ve been spending a lot of time trying to clean up the rorts and grants mess that we’ve had. We all want to see more women participating in sport. We do know that having access to decent facilities is one barrier, it’s not the only barrier, culture issues and sporting clubs can be barriers as well for women. Costs, like access to uniforms, all of those things as well. We want to make sure there’s more women participating in sport but frankly, it’s a bit of a joke, frankly, to see Peter Dutton, you know, sports rorts, the whole thing, suddenly out there saying they’re going to spend money. Are they going to spend it fairly? Where would they spend it? How would they do it? Have they learnt any lessons from what they did last time? I don’t think so.

SPEAKER: Minister, just regarding The Voice.

CATHERINE KING: Yes, of course.

SPEAKER: There was a large event in Toowoomba last night for the No campaign. What is the Federal Government proposing to do in regional Queensland for the Yes vote?

CATHERINE KING: I might get Nita to answer that because I know that Nita has been holding lots of community groups. But I’ll just say from my own heart, in my own community, I’ve been a regional MP for over 23 years. I held a street stall last weekend down in the Bridge Mall in Ballarat, freezing cold, I would have to say. I was overwhelmed by just how many people there, you know, there were a small few, a very small handful who wanted to march up and tell me they were voting no and good on them, that’s up to them. We all have our own vote. But the vast majority of people who were talking to me, were either voting yes, wanting to get badges, wanting to talk about it, or they were asking information and wanting to know what is this about and engaging in it.

I feel very confident that people are engaging in this issue now, making up their own minds. The No campaign can be as negative as they like. This is about a positive future for First Nations people and our whole country. It’s the part of the journey of reconciliation that we are all on together, that generous offer from the Uluru Statement of the Heart to ask us to walk with First Nations people. I will proudly be voting yes, and I will be encouraging everybody in my own community to do so. I might just ask Nita to say something as well.

NITA GREEN: Thank you very much for the question, and it’s an important question because we know in regional Queensland we have such a beautiful dynamic First Nations community that deserved to have this opportunity to have their voices heard. I can say just tonight we’re hosting a community forum here in Cairns. We’ve got Senator Malarndirri McCarthy coming, we’ve got the Marion Scrymgour, and we’ve got Reconciliation Queensland that are coming to talk to people, if they do have questions, about The Voice and about what it might do.

But as we started our day recognising the country that we’re on, can I just remind people that The Voice is a very simple idea. It is about recognising those thousands and thousands of years of First Nations history in our country, in the constitution. And it’s also about making sure that that recognition is not just symbolic, but comes with outcomes and the thing about regional Queensland is we know this better than anyone else in the country because we see the difference of programs when we include the voices, when we listen to communities, and when we know that we are hearing what people have to say on the ground. That’s how we get better outcomes and that’s how we will start to make some changes when it comes to closing the gap.

So regional Queensland’s got a really important story to tell. We’ll have an opportunity to hear some of those stories tonight. I’m really looking forward to it and I really want to thank all of the communities that have opened their arms to me and to other people and had the chance, for us to have the chance to listen about how this will have an impact on people’s lives.

SPEAKER: Minister Bailey.

SPEAKER: I’m not too sure to direct a question but basically I want to praise the Lord and our God and creator for this location and all the families and peoples that are here today. My question mostly is in reference to yes, we have the bipartisan support and that’s fantastic and that whole approach to The Voice is working in its direction and natural cause.

I just want to bring the attention back more to home, particularly to the Yidinji people and to our neighbouring tribal groups that all reside here. It is a whole of collective what is happening with the gateway internationally as well as nationally.

We, or me personally, I would like to see stronger advocate and support coming around the table in reference to our tribal groups in determination of all those determinants. At the moment, as we know, it’s still a little bit higher than we need it to be but I think the beauty of where we are living and the way the changes have occurred in this nation, particularly in the last 10 years, is absolutely positive and we are going in the right direction.

So my question or my request from both state and federal is that we have a greater opportunity to have our voice in reference to where we’re coming from, and we’ve had all the ministers and our Premier here recent times and we’re very grateful for that conversation. So I just wanted to pose that sort of question.

CATHERINE KING: So that’s about making sure, as we go forward with The Voice, that that is about making sure there is a Voice to Parliament and to the executive but that the regional voices are also heard and that is very much part of what the Uluru Statement from the Heart asks for because we do know by talking to people we get better outcomes. I know that in my own portfolio, the fact that we’ve got this incredible infrastructure project here that has involved First Nations people all the way through the process, and it is about recognising our history, listening to First Nations people and leading that into the future and I’m really pleased that you’ve been very much part of that project.

SPEAKER: Thank you, Minister.

SPEAKER: Minister Bailey, do you think you’ve been genuine and transparent with Queenslanders about the train cost blowout? How can people trust your numbers on other projects now?

MARK BAILEY: Absolutely. I’ve answered questions on this extensive over four-hour estimates, two very long media conferences. I’ve done something that you will never see David Crisafulli do. I’ve taken responsibility, apologised when there’s a mistake, and, you know, made trains in Queensland. That’s what we’re about. We’re making trains in Queensland. David Crisafulli and Jarrod Bleijie sent trains overseas to be made. They were cheap, they were dodgy and we’re still fixing them to make them disability compliant. That’s their record when it comes to trains. I’m not going to be lectured to by a bevy of failed Newman Government ministers who, you know, botched up public transport when they were there.

SPEAKER: You’ve apologised, but do you think you were transparent enough to the people of Queensland and genuine about it? You know, how can they be sure you’re not going to do something like this again, this mistake is not going to repeat itself?

MARK BAILEY: Look, I’ve been a Minister over three terms. I think people know me, they know I’m upfront and I’m clear about things. There was a mistake and a stuff up and I’ve said I acknowledged that, and I’ve apologised for that. You know, not everyone’s perfect and I think when you look at the record of all those Newman Government ex-ministers who are running the Queensland LNP even to this day, none of them apologised for the excesses, the outrages, the privatisation, the sell-offs, the sacking, the cutting, when they were in power. Not at any stage, and I’m happy to own up to a mistake when it’s made and apologise. That’s what being a good minister is about.

But I’m not going to be lectured to by people whose record on public transport and sending Queensland manufacturing jobs overseas, that’s their record. I’m not going to be lectured to by them. Their record is appalling and they’ve got no integrity whatsoever.

SPEAKER: Can you confirm you told the Cabinet Budget Review Committee about the cost blowout on 16 May, why did you need to meet with the committee?

MARK BAILEY: Look, I’ve covered this extensively. We did not have a signed contract until 30 June. That’s been well known, that’s been talked about many, many times. So until we had an actually signed final figure, we didn’t know what the final figure until my Acting Director-General signed that after the close of business on 29 June and then we had a clear figure then. A mistake was made, I’ve acknowledged that, I’ve apologised for that. I’m the line minister, I’ve done that now many times. So, you know, I’m happy to put my record up against the record of these failed Newman Government ministers any day of the week.

Queenslanders know me and they know I don’t carry on like they did when they were in power, drunk with power, lauding it over people, cutting, sacking, selling, that’s the LNP record. That’s not something this Government’s done. This Government invested in infrastructure, it works with community and has respect. If we make a mistake, we own up to it. That’s who we are.

SPEAKER: We’ve seen a number of campsites close on K’gari because of the dingos. Are dingos being prioritised over people, do you think?

MARK BAILEY: Look, I’m not briefed up on this specifically, but I know the Department of Environment and Science take public safety very seriously and any actions on K’gari will be based on an evidence-based approach. We’ve all seen footage on social media of dingos there getting very brazen in their behaviour towards some humans. It’s not, you know, they’re a wild dog, they’re a dangerous dog and animal. We’ve got to make sure public safety is number one priority. So any moves by Department of Environment and Science to protect people there appropriately based on the evidence there, I support. We don’t want to see any further instances like the terrible incident with the lady in the surf who was lucky to escape with her life because she was rounded up by some wild dingos. We don’t want to see that sort of thing happen.

SPEAKER: Can you provide us an update on the Sunshine Coast Rail Line and the Beerburrum to Nambour Rail Upgrade, where are we up with those?

MARK BAILEY: What we’re seeing is the Sunshine rail duplication from Beerwah to Beerburrum, the early works is very advanced now. So we’ll see some announcements there in the very near future but this will be an enhancement of the rail line there with other upgrades further north of Beerburrum and the Sunshine Coast direct line, this is something that, you know, we didn’t have a Federal Government that was remotely interested in actually committing any dollars to the planning necessary for a Sunshine Coast direct line.

Under this Minister right behind me right now, Catherine King, and the Albanese Government, they are interested in doing that. They pass the first funding through the Federal Parliament of any Federal Government for the planning for a Sunshine Coast direct line. I want to acknowledge Catherine and the Prime Minister’s support for us and to partner with us. We’re doing the necessary planning now to look at what a scope and costing would be.

You know, Sunshine Coast is the third largest city in Queensland, it’s the ninth largest city in the whole country and it’s growing very quickly. So it needs infrastructure. So we’re doing the planning and, you know, we saw a decade of zero from the LNP when they were in power in Canberra. They did absolutely nothing, didn’t pass a dollar through Parliament for this and their record is pathetic and that’s being kind. We saw the Newman Government ignore the Sunshine Coast for the three years they were in power. So again, we’ve got the LNP lecturing us about infrastructure. They only ever cut. It’s the Labor governments that build and it’s Labor governments do the planning necessary to get to a stage where we might be able to fund it.

SPEAKER: The Premier said you plan to hold a press conference to announce increased cost of the $9.5 billion. When was that press conference going to be?

MARK BAILEY: Sorry, can you just – I only saw half of that.

SPEAKER: The Premier said you plan to hold a press conference to announce the increased cost of the $9.5 billion. When was that press conference going to be?

MARK BAILEY: That was something that was planned and, look, it didn’t – unfortunately it didn’t happen. We apologise for that. We’ve acknowledged that. But we’re making trains in Queensland. Let’s get it clear. 800 jobs coming back to blue collar workers here in Queensland under this Government, under this contract. And I think when you look at the any cost escalations in Queensland compared to other States, because we managed the pandemic so well, we’ve seen much less than any other States. So we’ve managed the infrastructure projects very well. As you can see here, a fantastic infrastructure project in partnership with the Federal Government driven by the State Government and our fantastic people at Transport and Main Roads who do an excellent job.

When it comes to building infrastructure, we’re spending nearly double what the previous Newman LNP Government spent because they only cut, sacked, and sold when they were in power. I’ll put that record up against David Crisafulli’s record on infrastructure or integrity any day of the week. You know, he lied about the laptop virtually at every press conference for five months and when he was found out by the independent CCC report, did we get any acknowledgment? Did we get any apology? No, we didn’t, because he’s a weak leader and he’s only good at throwing mud, he’s not actually good at being – leading from the front.

SPEAKER: Okay, plaque time.