Doorstop, Rockhampton

CAMERON DICK [Qld TREASURER]: Good morning, everyone. Great to be back in Central Queensland with another great day for job creation in regional Queensland. Today I’m joined by Senator Anthony Chisholm, Assistant Minister for Regional Development in the Albanese Labor Government, also by local MPs Barry O’Rourke and Brittany Lauga, Mayor Tony Williams from the Rockhampton Regional Council, and the Managing Director of Alliance, Scott McMillan. We are all here today to celebrate a magnificent new facility, a magnificent new aviation facility in Central Queensland. You know, no Queenslander is immune from the national cost-of-living pressures facing the nation. That includes people in Central Queensland, and the best thing a government can do when Queenslanders are facing cost-of-living challenges, is to give them a good job and that’s what we’re celebrating here today. A magnificent new facility that has created 115 jobs in construction and, going forward, when the facility is fully operational, there will be a hundred new jobs in this community, including 16 positions for apprentices and trainees. This is an incredible contribution to Central Queensland. It’s why we created a $175 million Regional Jobs Fund to help support these sorts of investments. It’s why we’ve committed $9 million to this. But I also want to recognise the Federal Government for their very significant contribution through Senator Chisholm here today, and also the contribution of Rockhampton Regional Council has made. This is transformational for Central Queensland. To have a facility of this type in Central Queensland is the dawning of a new era for jobs and industry in this part of the state. It’s not just the maintenance, repair, and overhaul work that that will occur here, it’s the supply chain, it’s all those local businesses that will be able to supply into this facility in the future. So my thanks go to Scott McMillan for his vision to develop this MRO facility here in Central Queensland. This facility means more jobs to Australia. We will be reshoring manufacturing jobs from overseas. They are coming back to Queensland and they’re coming back to Central Queensland. That’s why we’re so excited and supportive as a Government and I can’t wait to see the hundred workers one day bustling around here, repairing, maintaining, and overhauling aircraft. That is a great thing for our country, it’s a great thing for Queensland, and it’s a great thing for Central Queensland. I might hand over to Senator Chisholm to stay a few words, followed by, Brittany, and the Mayor, then we’re happy to take some questions.

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Thanks, Treasurer. Great to be here with you and also Barry and Brittany, the Mayor, Scott from Alliance and also Michelle Landry, the local Federal MP as well. Such a great facility here. It’s just so impressive looking here. But as the Treasurer said, it’s just really great to think about the generations of workers that are going to be able to come here, learn a trade and contribute to the economy. They have really bold plans when it comes to training and education and I think that’s really exciting for the local region to know that if you’re a young person and you’re interested in aviation, if you can come here, get a trade and work here, it can take you right around the world in aviation which is fantastic. It’s also pleasing that this investment from NAIF and the broader Federal Government contribution to the airport here means that there will be an ongoing maintenance facility, but it also means that there will be confidence in terms of the local economic infrastructure that will be part of this as well. So it’s a great investment by the Federal Government. I think you can see that this is world-class facilities and it’s really encouraging that you can see the potential of the Federal Government working with the State Government and working with the council and working with private business that the opportunity is going to create for this region. Just one other thing I wanted to mention, and that is I really enjoyed working with the Mayor, to secure the extra money for the Mount Morgan water pipeline that was announced yesterday. It’s a great outcome and I congratulate the Mayor on his persistence in advocating for that project. And I’m really pleased that the Federal Government found an additional $26.5 million that will ensure Mount Morgan continues to have a great future as well as such a historic past as well. So thank you.

BRITTANY LAUGA [QLD STATE MP]: Good morning, everyone. Brittany Lauga, State Member for Keppel. It’s great to be here to help officially open this amazing new maintenance facility here at Rockhampton Airport. I’ve always said that diversification of our local economy is really critical to our local community. So as the economy goes through its normal ebbs and flows, we have a solid stream of jobs for our local community to look forward to and these are good, secure jobs here at Alliance. I’m really pleased that there’s over 40 students from high schools across Central Queensland who are currently studying and doing – undertaking training in aircraft maintenance and looking towards a bright future and great jobs here at this facility. Can I thank Alliance for their investment here in Rocky. They could have gone elsewhere. They looked elsewhere but Rocky, with the assistance of the mayor, the State Government and Federal Government made sure that we could – made sure that this partnership came off. Alliance was one of the – was the only aircraft – Alliance was the only airline that stayed flying through the pandemic. So it’s great that this hangar is here, but also that this building, this facility was part of our State Government COVID recovery economic plan. So we kept people in jobs through building this facility through the pandemic and no doubt planes will continue to fly for many years to come as a result of the maintenance that happens in this facility, pandemic or not.

TONY WILLIAMS [ROCKHAMPTON MAYOR]: Tony Williams, Rocky Regional Council. This is a fantastic day for Rockhampton, fantastic day for Rockhampton on the back of yesterday’s announcement that the full funding for the Mount Morgan pipeline. I’d like to thank the Albanese Government and also the Palaszczuk Government for working with council on that project and that brings us to today’s announcement. This is going to be such a major announcement for the region, one that will really see jobs and secure jobs in the future, diversifying our economy, and I would like to acknowledge the Treasurer here today, and also Senator Chisholm, and Scott McMillan from Alliance Airlines. This is a project that’s been in the pipeline for five years now. There have been more people working in the background to bring it here. Michelle Landry is a big component of securing the funding going back, and former mayor, Margaret Strelow. My fellow councillors have been very passionate about this project and one that we see the fruits of that labour coming in today. It’s a great announcement, one that’s really going to benefit Rockhampton and I think there’s even more announcements to come off the back of this project where we will see further development occurring off this project. So once again, I’d just like to thank everyone. Let’s enjoy the celebrations today and create those jobs for the people of tomorrow.

SCOTT MCMILLAN [ALLIANCE AIRLINES MANAGING DIRECTOR]: Good morning, everyone, I think it’s all been said, let me just say it again, look, we’re absolutely delighted to be here. Just want to thank all levels of government. It’s actually five years tomorrow that we first had the meeting with Rockhampton Regional Council in Brisbane and hatched this idea. A lot of people thought we were pretty stupid. We didn’t. It took a while to get the momentum up and running and when I do my thank you speech later on, you will hear all the organisations that have been involved - the Government, private enterprise, banks, so on and so forth. We’ve been made incredibly welcome by Rockhampton Regional Council here and the Rocky Airport and, as was alluded to earlier, there are going to be a lot more of our suppliers wanting to come and set up shop here in Rocky. A number of those are here and interestingly, our aircraft department maintained overseas all of the countries that do that maintenance are actually represented here today. So even though they’re about to lose a fair bit of business, they’ve come from all over the world to join us here today. And the other thing that we’re incredibly proud of is the long-term training programs. We’ve already started, we’ve already got nearly 40 kids every Thursday coming for a day off school, to come and look into our training facility here right across this Central Queensland region and, as I said, there’s 40. They won’t all probably work for us but a good percentage of them will. We are on track to get to about 120 staff. We’ve already got about 20 here. Yesterday we issued 10 job offers and they were all to people of Central Queensland and they were accepted. It’s going to be a fairly unique facility around the world. This is world-class. This is the largest aircraft maintenance facility in regional Australia, and we are going to staff that with as many local people as possible. We won’t get them all. So we’re doing more recruitment drive next week and we will try and get two more people on board. But we are also in the throes of setting up a residential school for apprentices to come from other parts of Australia, hopefully live in the residential colleges here at Central Queensland University and that will be unique. That will be unique around the world. So we can’t get everyone from here, but we will try to fit the majority of people in. So I’m happy to take questions about the facility either now or after.

JOURNALIST: It’s a very big, bold move to bring maintenance from offshore into Australia into Queensland. Why? Obviously it’s paid off, but what was that driving it?

MCMILLAN: Back when we did all this BC, before COVID, and COVID made it even more important. We were ferrying aircraft all over the world during COVID, it was virtually impossible to get aircraft maintained. So by doing that maintenance here, from a pure financial perspective it’s line ball. But we do save around 3 million litres of jet fuel a year by flying the aircraft to Rockhampton. We operate services for Virgin and Qantas in and out of Rockhampton who have already got a very significant set up here and, in fact, when we started our business 22 years ago we had two aircraft. One was called the City of Rockhampton and the other was the city a bit north of here, which I won’t mention. But for us to bring that home, we’re going to have to generate 300,000 hours of labour in this hangar. We’ve got 72 aircraft in our fleet now. We’ve got another 32 coming. One of them should have arrived on Saturday but it’s still stuck in Honolulu. I think the pilots have gone surfing, but they had an HF radio issue. You can’t fly across the Pacific without an HF radio. So that’s arriving tomorrow. So if you want to come back tomorrow you will see the first of the aircraft that’s coming in here.

JOURNALIST: When do you think you will be fully – all the jobs will be filled here?

MCMILLAN: I think we will be constantly evolving. You know, an apprenticeship could go up to four years. Some people want to stay with us, some people might want to move to Alliance. We operate all over Australia. We want young people, and you don’t have to be necessarily young to do an apprenticeship. Come work here, you might only want to work here for three or four years and then go and work for us in Darwin or Adelaide or Perth or whatever. So I think we will be constantly employing, and I don’t ever see that stop. We are building our own HR capacity here in Rocky. We’re going to be self-contained; we’re going to have our own finance function. We’ve got training, which is being provided by Aviation Australia, which is funded by the Queensland Government. Without them we wouldn’t have had this facility and it’s just going to be a constant goal.

JOURNALIST: Are you able to talk to us a little bit about roles that people are going to get? So maintenance, avionics, just talk to us a little bit about?

MCMILLAN: So essentially it’s a big hill. So we start at the bottom, with no disrespect, apprentices have to start at the bottom. We then move them up to being trades assistants. Then we move them up to being aircraft maintenance engineers. There’s about a four-year program. If they want to, they go to the next level of study to become licensed aircraft maintenance engineers, or a LAME as we call them. So a LAME working here, they get to sign the aircraft out. So there will be five LAMEs in each of these bays so 15 plus lead coverage so about 20 LAMEs. Those skills, as was mentioned earlier, can be taken almost anywhere in the world. So you’ve got a really transportable qualification that you can go all over the world with. So an aircraft, visualise an aircraft coming in here to do a big disassembly on it. Do a lot of fatigue check, so a lot of non-structure testing, we’re looking for corrosion, we repair that if there’s any. Take the interiors out. There’s a big facility out the back where we’re going to be overhauling seats. Doesn’t sound like a thing but 100 aircraft with 100 seats is a lot of seats just to maintain the seats and we’ve got other, as I said earlier, other organisations that are going to come and set up around us and the multiplier effect of this part of Central Queensland is very significant and we’re already talking with the council and Rocky Airport about building another facility over the back here, a big storage facility for our spare parts.

JOURNALIST: And just the last one, does Alliance have plans to perform maintenance on any other aircraft?

MCMILLAN: No, this is for us only. So with a fleet of 100 aircraft, we’re going to struggle to fit. It’s just for us.

JOURNALIST: Is there room to move here, Scott, or –

MCMILLAN: We’ve got to fill this one, mate. One of the reasons we came to Rockhampton is that this is owned by Rockhampton Regional Council and I’m sure if I rang the mayor and said we need another block, I’m sure he’s going to say yes. So the great thing is there’s plenty of room here.

JOURNALIST: What does that feel like to see the place finally operational?

MCMILLAN: Brilliant. I’ll be even happier when that aircraft arrives tomorrow, and we start work on it.

DICK: See how Scott’s trying to arrange another media op immediately. Do you have any other questions?

JOURNALIST: I do have one. Sorry but I came unprepared so hopefully you can answer.

DICK: So not about Alliance?

JOURNALIST: No, not about Alliance.

DICK: No, that’s fine, okay. So if you’re not interested in Alliance, you don’t have to be here.


DICK: You are, no, no, I mean –

JOURNALIST: It just - last time you were here in Rockhampton you announced the funding for the Browne Park Stadium and said that that would be starting operations after the end of the QRL season. We’ve passed the end, we’re looking at preseason, there’s been no action. Do you have an update on whether we will see those upgrades starting?

DICK: I’d have to go get that from the Department of Tourism and Sport.

JOURNALIST: Regarding the seriousness with the fires, is there any consideration to getting another large water tanker? I know you’ve got one, are you thinking about, now conditions are pretty –

DICK: We’ll continue to monitor the aerial assets that are required through the rest of the fires. Not just today but across this summer. We know it’s going to be a hot, dry summer across our state, and I think one of the things we’ve learnt from the last couple of weeks is the importance of aerial firefighting assets to quickly be deployed to address threatening fires. So, look, our Government will continue to take advice from the Queensland Fire Emergency Service on the assets that they need to be able to respond. We’ve obviously got those incredible human assets, men and women wearing orange across the State protecting the people and property. But we, of course, have those aerial assets as well. So, look, that’s a work in progress. We will give the Fire and Emergency Services whatever resources they need to fight these fires. We are prepared to do whatever’s necessary to protect Queensland and we’ll continue to take their advice and provide those resources as they’re required over the summer. Thanks, everyone. Thanks for your patience. We had a technical problem.