Minister Littleproud and Assistant Minister Michelle Landry Media Conference Rockhampton

MICHELLE LANDRY: Look, it’s wonderful to be at Rockhampton Airport once again, and we are

here today to make some more announcements. We have Minister Littleproud, who is the Minister for Northern Australia, here to make a very exciting announcement.

But what I wanted to talk about was the $25 million that we’ve already committed to the Rockhampton Regional Council for the Alliance project. Now we’ve already seen that some of the earthworks have started with this. This is a fantastic project – 100 jobs coming from overseas. So probably over 200 jobs direct and indirect. This is fantastic for Rockhampton Airport.

When I travel around the state this is probably one of the best regional airports in the country. So it’s something that Councillor Fisher and I have certainly discussed a lot about improvements to Rocky airport, and so we’re very excited with our announcement today.

We also have further plans to expand Rockhampton Airport. We would love to see it as a site also for exports of cold and dry produce. And I think that’s really important. So I’ll pass over now to Councillor Fisher, and thanks very much from me today.

NEIL FISHER: Neil Fisher, Chairman of Rockhampton Airport. Look, it’s another exciting day. We have sort of – our journey with Rockhampton Airport has been a vision that we have sort of held for over the last 10 years. And as you see, we have worked very, very closely with our government partners and also private industry, like with Alliance. This actually sees the next part of – this funding will actually give Rockhampton an entire new industry, something that we always felt we had the opportunity to be able to bring and develop in Rockhampton. But, as a council, you need that support.

So with what the Federal Government is announcing today we actually see Rockhampton Airport enter a whole new part of our future. And this will be something that is not just five years, 10 years, but this will actually see a culture, an industry and a whole new opportunity for young people to actually work in the aviation industry. So this is something that is quite long term. I’m very, very proud, very happy, to be part of this organisation and to actually see Rockhampton Airport actually reaching those goals.

But, as Michelle said, we’ve still got a long way to go. There are still many more things that I intend to knock on the door of her office and Minister Littleproud’s office for more that we can do to make this airport not only the best regional airport in the country – which I think we are – but also there to make us one of the best airports in Northern Australia.

JOURNALIST: You say it’s a new industry. Do you know more details about, you know, what jobs will come from this?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: It’s important to understand these are commercial-in-confidence arrangements. There is a return to the Australian taxpayer. We made sure of that and making sure that that investment is not just the capital we provide – and it is repaid. And it’s important to understand that term of investment is not getting repaid that capital but it’s also the jobs created. Importing foreign jobs to Australia. That is the story of the day. We’re bringing 100 jobs that are effectively overseas into Rockhampton. And for an airline to pick Rockhampton speaks volumes about this community and what it can do and how it’s competing with the rest of the globe. And it’s head and shoulders above the rest of the globe.

JOURNALIST: There’s been a lot of controversy about NAIF projects. Can you talk to us about how many projects have been approved so far?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: There’s over $3.1 billion of loans that have been committed across the country, across Northern Australia – Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. The fact is there’s only been about $700 million drawn down, and the reason for that is that we’re asking the companies that take these loans to use their own money first. We want to see some skin in the game and they have to put their money on the table first before they start using Australian taxpayers’ money. So that draw down on that will continue to grow and grow significantly over the coming months when you get the [indistinct] up, so they’re starting to use their money first, they’ll then use ours. That money will be drawn down quickly.

So over the coming 12 months you should see significantly more draw downs on those loans after the equity of the proponents is used. And we expect to commit the final balance of that $5 billion in 12 months, such is the number of projects that are coming to the NAIF already. So as a federal government we’ll continue to look at the NAIF as a mechanism to continue to get investment in Northern Australia, importing jobs from overseas. And those decisions and announcements will be made in the future.

JOURNALIST: Minister, has the party been able to reach a consensus for introducing a net zero by 2050 target?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, I think everyone’s jumped the gun on this. There is nothing to be decided today. The facts were we haven’t seen the plan or the pathway. So until that’s presented to the party there is no decision to be made. And that has been the position from the very start. Until we understand how we get there who pays for it, but then there is no decision to be made. And the Prime Minister’s made it clear that regional Australia will not foot the bill. We’ve taken the bill and we have to bear it on behalf of the Australian public for so long. It’s time now to square the ledger. And the Prime Minister’s made it clear that he won’t commit to any plan until such time as he can be honest with the Australian people look them in the eye and tell them how we’re going to do. That hasn’t been present to the National Party party room yet, so there is no decision to be made at this present time because there’s nothing to put before the National Party party room.

JOURNALIST: Is the issue tearing the party apart with Darren Chester taking a step back?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No. Let’s be honest about this: I would rather be in a political party where you have people that are going to stand by their convictions, that stand tall and protect their communities and stand up for their communities rather than be part of a party that falls into line. Now, we have 21 passionate independents in the National Party party room, but ultimately the party room holds us together. It’s glued by this one principle – that we’re there to support, protect and to represent regional and rural Australia. And that’s something we proudly wear on our sleeve. And sometimes our heart bled on our sleeve because of that, and that’s a good thing. I would have thought in a democracy that’s something we should be proud of, not denigrate.

JOURNALIST: You did say there are no decisions being made today and you don’t want regional Australia to be footing the bill. If it was to go ahead, is there any conditions or caveats that the party would like to see?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, again, there’s no decision to be made because there’s no plan put in front of our party room. Until we get that, until we get that plan, there’s no determination to be made or what that looks like. The only thing we can look at is the Prime Minister has made a commitment to regional Australia that they won’t be disadvantaged. They won’t be disadvantaged in this. So when we get that plan, then we’ll pragmatically sit down and work together as a party room and sift through it and make sure that regional and rural Australia is not disadvantaged. I take the Prime Minister at his word, and I think we all should. He has been very open and honest about this. He’s made it clear that that plan hasn’y only to shown to the National Party Room, it has to be shown to you. Why would you commit to something unless you know how you’re going to get there and who’s going to pay for it?

The other mob have already blindly said, “We’re just signing up to it.” Where’s their plan? Anthony Albanese wants to be the alternative Prime Minister, yet he cannot tell you who’s going to pay for it and how he’s going to get there. Why would you trust a man that has just signed our economy to net zero emissions by 2050 with no plan to get there? Who’s going to pay the bill? Who is going to – who is going to pay the bill of that commitment? That’s a serious question for the alternative Prime Minister to put his hand up and say, “This is how we answer it.” Our Prime Minister is going to say how do we get there who pays for it and to make sure that we cannot only say to the Australian people, we can look our global partners in the eye and say we will and this is how we will do it.

JOURNALIST: A couple of questions about the agriculture workers visa. Would you be able to provide us just some updates on the bilateral arrangements that you’re organising with South East Asian nations? Are there any developments on that?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: So they’re continuing and we’re hoping that this week – obviously I cannot pre-empt what the Governor-General will do, but I think it will be gazetted with the regulation to provide opening of the Ag Visa. And if he signs that then we’ll then be able to present with those partners in South East Asia a guarantee of what the ag visa will look like. Those discussions already have taken place and we are hoping that once that’s provided to them that we’ll get some affirmative action. But you’ve got to understand, they are sovereign governments. They have their own right in which to accept or decline the terms of the visa we’re offering them. We’ll continue those discussions, those bilaterals, to ensure that as soon as it is signed off from the Governor-General that this regulation will come into effect and [indistinct] to ensure that that is another suit of nations, another group of workers, cohort of workers that we can bring in [indistinct], not just on a seasonal basis but from a semi and skilled basis as well.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us if there are any specific zones in South East Asia that the Government is focusing on? Is it the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: It’s not appropriate for me to actually outline any commitment that we may be having. That’s disrespectful to those sovereign nations. We should wait [indistinct] it’s for their governments to make their determination. When they’ve done that obviously if they make it in the affirmative, then we’ll be announcing that [indistinct]. If there is [indistinct] then obviously we’ll be making sure that those countries know that this could be taken up, if the state governments allow it to.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] take place do you think we’ll see workers by November, December?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: We’re hoping realistically if we can get the bilats completed that realistically you’d hope to see something in November.

JOURNALIST: Is it okay if I ask Michelle Landry a question?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, for sure.

Media contact: 0455 448 985