Press conference

Ken O'Dowd: Well, good morning everybody and welcome to Mayor Matt Burnett and of course the Deputy Prime Minster Michael McCormack, who is here with me today. We've got a very important announcement. As you know, we had a Budget handed down last Tuesday night. Very, very good Budget, and that's coming through loud and clear from the people on the street. They like the idea. But the better idea is—for here today is the announcement that I'm about to make and it's to do with the Port Access Road.

As you know, there's a lot of product goes past the gates of Gladstone and indeed the port, and our port is a very—it's a big port, it's a multi-commodity port, and it's got the potential to grow much, much bigger than it is now. And that's why Matt's here with me today and Michael's made the trip to Gladstone for this Port Access Road.

Now, it's been bandied around for a few years now. We've put—locked the money in the Budget we've just announced on Tuesday night and it's $100 million. And I now call upon the Queensland Government, the Gladstone Port Authority, and of course the committee that have been working on this project to get road train access straight into the Gladstone Port without any decoupling of trucks because, you know, that is not only a hazard in safety, it's also very time consuming and not cost-effective. So, once we get this Port Access Road, that will be linked with the Dawson Highway and of course the Bruce Highway from the north and the south and that will give us proper access into the Gladstone Port, and who knows what will happen in years to come as we take this very first step in this very important development of having a good road into the port, and it starts with a small move. It's only the start of a very big project for the future.

So without further ado, I'd like to hand you to Michael, Deputy Prime Minister. Thank you, Michael.

Michael McCormack: Well, thank you, Ken. Hard working, building Ken O'Dowd. And great to be here, too, with the Mayor of Gladstone, the hardworking, building Matt Burnet, and Peter Masters, who's also on the Council.

We are wanting to connect with councils, with states who are willing to build, and this $100 million announcement today for the Port Access Road is going to make such a difference for Gladstone, such a difference to the truck companies, such a difference to those people who cart whether it's grain, whether it's a heavy vehicle, mining equipment, no matter what it is—beef, you name it—anything that's dealing with the primary industries, we want to get it to the Gladstone Port quicker. We want to make sure that it gets there safer and we can do that with the Port Access Road, with stage two, making sure that this busy port—it's already the busiest and largest multi-commodity port in Australia—we want to make it even busier.

We want to make sure that this port has the access it needs to the Bruce Highway, north and south, to the Dawson Highway, west. We want to make sure that it connects up and that's why we've put on the table another billion dollars as part of the Roads of Strategic Importance, taking that fund to $4.5 billion. And these sorts of projects, these sorts of roads, are possible through that ROSI announcement, through that ROSI funding, and I know how hard Ken has worked to make this happen. This is such an important thing for Gladstone, such an important thing for Central and North Queensland, such an important thing for regional Queensland.

It's also going to ensure that there are future jobs. It's also going to make sure that there is growth in Gladstone, enhanced growth, making sure that we build the roads of connectivity for road trains, for that heavy haulage. It's going to be an important access route. It's going to make sure that a lot of the goods that are already going right past Gladstone come to the port here.

And you don't need to take my word for it. Listen to people such as Aren Farrington. Now, Aaron runs Tranzquip. That's an important business here. It's a small business which is now going to be able to take advantage of the instant asset write-off and he's absolutely delighted. He said when I asked him about it that it's an exciting and awesome development because it means that his business, which wasn't eligible previously in most of the previous years of the instant asset write-off, is now because it's going up to a turnover of $50 million and it's going up to a $30,000 instant asset write-off for all capital equipment.

But moreover, he's delighted with this because he has a leased depot down with the Port Authority at Gladstone. He's also got another depot where he's got a heavy haulage business. He can now, through this announcement, have confidence in the future—confidence to invest any more. He's already employing 25 people, but he can grow his business because of the availability and the accessibility to the port that's going to be made possible through this new road, through this project.

Now, what we're waiting on is the Queensland Government to also come on board. We've got the Council on board. I know Matt Burnett, the Mayor, is delighted. But we now need the State Government to come on board and I'll be looking forward to having discussions with the Roads and Transport Minister Mark Bailey in relation to this. I will work with him in good faith to get construction timeframes, to get final designs for this road, for this project up and happening.

[Car horn]

See? You can even hear the delight as people drive past. They're excited about it. They know about it. And they know that Ken O'Dowd is a fighter and a worker and somebody who gets things done. Vote for anyone else this election, you won't get these sorts of things happening because this is in the Budget. It's real money. It's costed. It's $100 million guaranteed from the Federal Government. That's the sort of delivery, that's the sort of achievement that Ken O'Dowd brings to the table and I'm delighted to be here to make this announcement. Matt, would you like to make a few comments?

Matt Burnett: Yeah, I'd love to. Well, there we go. Thank you, Deputy Prime Minister and thank you, Ken. $100 million for our Port Access Road is fantastic news and we can get the trucks off stage one right onto stage two, bringing our commodities into the Gladstone Port, whether they're coming from Emerald, whether they're coming from Biloela, or north or south; it doesn't matter. So, stage one was actually funded under RONI program, which was Roads of National Importance, and here we have our Roads of Significant Importance [sic]. And what more significant port in Queensland or Australia is there than Gladstone? We also see that this is probably stage one of a bigger project, which is the Inland Rail project from Melbourne through to Gladstone. I know that it's already funded to Gowrie Junction in Toowoomba. But the residents of Acacia Ridge don't want this Inland Rail port, so we say bring it through to Gladstone, add on to what the Deputy PM and what Ken have already announced here this morning of $100 million for Port Access Road, and bring that Inland Rail right through to Gladstone and let's continue to develop the greatest port in Queensland.

And if it's alright with you, Deputy PM and Ken, I wouldn't mind throwing to Councillor Peter Masters who's chairman of our Regional Roads and Transport Group, who's been working very hard with Ken to deliver this project.

Peter Masters: Thank you, Mr Mayor and thank you, Deputy Prime Minister and Ken O'Dowd, local member. This is a significant announcement today. It's an important piece of infrastructure not only for the safety of our mums and dads as they travel down Hanson Road—no longer will they have to mix in with these heavy vehicles—but it's an important piece of the jigsaw to create—to get all those vehicles from out west, to get those commodities and that agricultural product. There's over a billion dollars' worth sitting at our neighbours that will have to come in to Gladstone. Currently, they are going down to Brisbane and it just makes sense and we'll realise a lot of the freight savings if we can get them into the Port of Gladstone. So, I think it's an incredible decision today—announcement today and I'd just like to thank everybody for the announcement, yes.

Michael McCormack: Well done. Any questions?

Journalist: Labor says they're going to match the $100 million and they said they'll get it done quicker, claiming that CQ won't see an infrastructure dollar in two years. Is that true?

Michael McCormack: Believe what Labor does, not what Labor says. Labor can't be trusted. Bill Shorten came here yesterday, spent five minutes here, didn't announce too much, didn't invite the Mayor along to what he was announcing. I've got the Mayor here because I know he understands that this is real money.

This is a real project and this is real delivery. Real outcomes for Gladstone—that's what I'm about. I want to work with anybody who wants to get this happening. But mainly, I want to work with the people of Gladstone to make sure that they know that they have a future under the LNP, that the growth for this economy, for this community, is guaranteed. Real money, a real project and real delivery.

Journalist: When does that money actually arrive, though?

Michael McCormack: Well, as soon as the State comes on board and makes the final design plans and gives us some construction timeframes, we'll be right there with shovels in hand. I know Ken is keen to put a shovel in the ground. I know Matt Burnett is ready to throw out a witch's hat. And we want to get it done. We want to get it happening. I mean, we've talked about it for too long. We are builders. That's why we've put down $4.5 billion dollars for the Roads of Strategic Importance as part of a $100 billion record infrastructure spend right around the nation. And whether it's Central Queensland, remote Queensland, anywhere in this fine country of ours, we want to get it built. We want to get it happening and that's why we've got real money in what was a surplus Budget last Tuesday.

Journalist: You said Shorten didn't announce too much, is a radiation therapy centre not an important thing for Gladstone?

Michael McCormack: Of course it's an important thing, and Ken O'Dowd, I know, fought hard. And earlier this year, we announced that there would be MRI scanning done and bulk billed. So, that's going to save $1.3 million for people in and around Gladstone. It's also going to mean that the 3354 patients who need MRI scans can have it happen here in Gladstone. It's also going to mean that when you're in pain—and many people who are requiring of an MRI are actually in pain—they don't have to either catch a plane or get in a car and drive to Rockhampton, 110 kilometres away, to have that procedure done. It's also going to mean that having a centre here for this particular medical service is going to mean such a relief. Such, such convenience for the people of Gladstone. They need it. They wanted it. They expected it. They deserved it. Ken O'Dowd delivered it.

Journalist: Just on Adani as well, was that decision rushed? And if so, why?

Michael McCormack: It certainly wasn't rushed. The Minister, the Environment Minister Melissa Price, took the time she required through due diligence, through the proper government processes, and made sure that Geoscience Australia, made sure that the CSIRO—very independent, very established, very recognised and very respected organisations—had the time they needed to make the decision they needed. They weren't coerced. They weren't pushed. They made the decision based on science. As did Melissa Price, taking on board Geoscience Australia, taking on board CSIRO recommendations, and taking the advice of her own Department. It was done with due diligence, it was done in the right timeframe making sure that the science was looked at, the science was examined and science was followed.

Journalist: Just have a couple of questions for Matt or [indistinct].

So can you explain what stage two is actually going to be?

Matt Burnett: Yeah well stage two basically connects the [indistinct] you can see at Glenlyon Road and it'll take it right out towards Blain Drive and towards Red Rover Road. So what we want to see is how much we can get for $100 million dollars to deliver. But what it does is it brings—and I probably shouldn't be looking at Ken—but what it does is it brings this—commodities into Gladstone from—whether it's agriculture or whatever other commodities we can bring into our Port—but mostly agriculture from our neighbours in Emerald, our neighbours in Banana Shire and delivering through the Gladstone Port. We are already, as a Deputy PM said, one of the largest multi-commodity ports in Australia, if not the largest, certainly in Queensland. And if we can continue to diversify what we export through our Port, it's only going to be good for Gladstone, it will be good for Queensland and especially Central Queensland.

Journalist: How many stages are there?

Matt Burnett: Well obviously, you can get two or three stages, but then as you talk with Councillor Peter Masters we can take further access—the road access into connecting up to the Dawson Highway, whether it's making sure that the road doesn't go past the Calliope State school, because we're talking about road train access and we've got to make sure we get the road train access into our port. We've also got to make sure that we look after our local communities on the way, and driving road trains past primary schools is not necessarily a good thing. So there could be further extensions to the Port Access Road depending on how far you want to call it.

Journalist: So that section of stage two, do you know how many k's it is?

[Indistinct talking]

Matt Burnett: So sorry, start again?

Journalist: How many Ks is that stage two section?

Matt Burnett: Oh goodness me, I have to throw to Peter Masters for that—it's probably only …

Peter Masters: 2.3.

Matt Burnett: There you go—it's 2.3, thanks. It doesn't seem like you're going to get a lot of kilometres but you're talking about building overpasses and all the rest of it, you're talking about going behind KFC, in between there in the hospital grounds so you're talking about going through some pretty rough terrain—an area that's already heavily urbanised. So we got to make sure we get that right and we've got to make sure that it's a safe Port Access Road but we also want to be able to get our community in and around the Gladstone region and the Gladstone City safely.

Journalist: Would you say that the demand is already there? Or are you hoping that the Port Access Road will increase that demand for it?

Matt Burnett: So, the demand is already there but absolutely we will increase it as well. So you've got to hit the nail on the head absolutely right there. We have got trucks coming in from every which way into the Gladstone Port and already the demand is there for this. This is needed absolutely now. I'm so glad to see that the funds are in the Budget, so this project will happen. But you're right, this is going to make sure that we can continue to develop our Port and grow our Port and, like I said, make it the best and biggest port in Queensland.

Journalist: How much of an impact would that have on Gladstone—that Port continuing to grow?

Matt Burnett: It'll be huge. We want to diversify our economy and the Port is key to diversifying that economy. So, the Gladstone region is grown and it started because of the Port. The City started off with the meatworks at QAL and then—where QAL was now, and the City has continued to grow because of the Port. We are the Port City to the world and without the port we probably wouldn't be the community or the city we are now. So, while we continue to grow port we'll grow our City; we grow the city we grow the region; and we grow the region we grow Central Queensland.

Journalist: And how long will that actually take—that stage two?

Matt Burnett: That'll be up to the Queensland Department of Main Roads, but I haven't got a timeline on that. If you let Council build it, we'll start building tomorrow.


Journalist: Have you spoken Mark Bailey about it at all?

Matt Burnett: Over the years, absolutely. Mark Bailey is well aware of this and he knows what the priority is, he's—obviously with his involvement in the Port as well, so he is well aware of how important this project is. And I'm sure that not only would the Deputy PM and Ken be on the phone to him but I'll be on the phone to Bailey as soon as I leave here, say: when can we start jobs, mate? We need to get this on the road and we need to make sure that this is happening straight away.

Journalist: This question's more for Ken. So, ahead of the 2016 election you said you were unable to commit to the $100 million upgrade because you were waiting on an updated report at the time from Transport and Main Roads. Did you ever receive that report?

Ken O'Dowd: That's something that Peter Masters and the Committee have been working on. I haven't seen the final project as yet but it's well in the pipeline. The Port Authority is involved in this, the Council are involved, and the trucking companies. There's a lot of work to be done there to get it right. And the route has changed a bit over the last three years. Not quite shovel-ready then. It's not quite shovel-ready yet, but as Matt said: we'll get the main roads and the Queensland Government on board ASAP and get the project underway. So, we've virtually decided on the route, so now it's just up to costing, scoping and planning and then I think there's got to be some land taken off the railroad here—I don't know whether that's still the case, Peter? But there's those negotiations. Now the money's there they can get on with the final planning.

Michael McCormack: I'll just make one more quick comment. Later today the Attorney General for Australia, Christian Porter, will be making some remarks about what the Commonwealth intends to do as far as vegan activism is concerned. We need now for the States to not just talk the talk but walk the walk with us. These activists have damaged the reputation of Australia. These activists have impeded upon the rights of Australian farmers. Our Australian farmers do the right thing. Our Australian farmers are the best environmentalists, are the best animal welfare people, are the best at looking after our lands, our rivers, and they don't deserve to have their properties trespassed upon in the middle of the night, early in the morning, or at any time by these activists—these vegan activists. I'd like to get their addresses and announce it to all Australians so that they could as well know what it's like to have their privacy intruded upon. There's nothing worse, and I've had the experience of having people break into my house and steal everything I own, and it's not nice. You feel invaded. You feel intruded upon. You feel as though your privacy has been taken away. Well that's what the farmers endured earlier this week. Our farmers, particularly Queensland farmers, have already endured enough this year and in previous years with the drought, with the cyclonic floods in North Queensland and fires. They do not need vegan activists intruding upon them. These vegan activists should be locked up and for a long time. The Commonwealth Attorney General Chris Porter will be making some announcements later on in the day about what we intend to do as a Federal Government to ensure that farmers' rights are protected. I encourage people to have a good, long, hard listen to what he has to say. And I look forward to sitting down at lunch time and having a good steak with tomato sauce.

Thank you very much.