Transcript - Stanthorpe Doorstop

DAVID LITTLEPROUD

Well, it’s great to be in Stanthorpe and to have the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Infrastructure be out this morning at Emu Swamp Dam where we're on a bulldozer, getting it going and finally we're starting to see some action out here in Stanthorpe for Emu Swamp Dam. There's been a lot of talk about dams and building them. The Federal Government has over $3 billion ready for some State Government to come and get it. We've committed $47 million to Emu Swamp Dam. The growers themselves committed $23.4 million and the State Government finally put $13 million into it so now the time for talk is over. People are jack of that. They just want to see some dozers and some excavators moving and today the DPM got one moving and starting to move those dozers to get some dirt moved and to get these storages built. This is the time – when we're in recession – to build infrastructure that's going to rebuild our economy and building water infrastructure will do exactly that. It is time now for the States to take our hand, this isn't about blame, this is about help and we are here to help. The Federal Government is here to help in building dams not just here in Stanthorpe but right across the country.

There's been 20 dams built in this country since 2003, 16 of those have been in Tasmania, so it's now time for the eastern seaboard States to catch up to Tasmania and to put the shoulder to the wheel with the Federal Government and start digging some holes. That's what we need to do to plumb this nation and the Deputy Prime Minister has started that with the Water Grid and this is a perfect example of what that infrastructure will look like, empowering a community that will create 700 jobs here in Stanthorpe. You couple that with a tourism sector but, more importantly, it will give this community water security and I say to all levels of Government, it's time to get out of the way, it's time for Local Government to partner with us, it's time for State Governments to get the approvals in place and it's time for us, as the Deputy Prime Minister has done. He's cut the cheque. He's cut the cheque for $47 million, he's getting on with the job. This is a real opportunity for our nation. This is a real opportunity for regional Australia to show that the story of agriculture is "just add water" and we're going to have it. So DPM, thanks for being here and thank you for your resolute support of water infrastructure, but particularly this program. This project here in Stanthorpe is going to lead the nation in the first dam being built in many years and it's all because the Deputy Prime Minister and some of the nagging that I've given him has meant that he's put the shoulder to the wheel, he's cut the cheque, it's now time to get on with it so thanks for coming, mate.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thank you, David and great to be here in the main street of Stanthorpe and you see how busy it is. We want all our rural and regional communities to be as busy as Stanthorpe and it's only going to get busier here when the project begins, when the construction begins for the Emu Swamp Dam and David Littleproud and I have spoken about this on many, many occasions.

I do believe, earnestly and honestly, that when we start construction on the Emu Swamp Dam, when we begin that build, when the first shovel goes in the ground, when the first dozer actually begins that construction then it will be the catalyst for change, the catalyst for a welcome change on the mainland to build dams. Yes, we have been talking about it for a long time. We can't, as the Commonwealth, build water infrastructure without the States' say-so. It's part of the Constitution and it has been an arduous process. It has been a long time in the making.

As David has just said, as the Member for Maranoa has just indicated, 16 of the last 20 dams built in Australia have been built in Tasmania and we're just about to commission and go online with the Scottsdale Dam in north-east Tasmania and it's a great project but no greater than this one and it builds water capacity here, it's going to increase the water reliability by 40%, 3,900 megalitres and that's going to help people like Howard Poole, somebody who actually was one of the first growers to send vegetables to China. How excited will he be? How excited will the Sweet’s Strawberry Runners be to be able to increase the capacity, to be able to increase their productivity and all it does is create more jobs, create more confidence, create more opportunity for towns such as Stanthorpe.

And there are communities like Stanthorpe right across this nation which need water infrastructure. David Littleproud, the Agriculture Minister and I stand ready to deliver that water infrastructure. Of course, we need our States to come on board and I'm really pleased that States have shown a willingness to get through those processes of planning and development to make sure that the business cases are fast-tracked, to make sure that we get that sort of bureaucracy which has in the past bogged us down and we know through COVID-19 there is now a willingness, a commitment, by Commonwealth, by States and indeed by Local Government too and private players such as what we have here in the Granite Belt where they've put $23.4 million on the table of their own money, so they're backing themselves, they're taking the risk, we're fast-tracking these approvals while still making sure that we've got all the right and necessary tick-offs but we're getting on with the job. We're going to be building dams and the Emu Swamp Dam is going to be the first of many.

The National Water Grid, established on October 1 last year, is going to make such a difference. We're going to make some more announcements about that in coming weeks but I'm really excited to be standing here in Stanthorpe with my great friend David Littleproud, because he is making such a difference as the Agriculture Minister. He understands full well what a difference this is going to make for his local community and indeed, through it, for Queensland and the nation.

JOURNALIST

When will we most likely see the first shovel actually go in the ground? Because a lot of this is planning at this stage, despite you on the dozer today.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I was amazed I even was able to actually get the dozer moving but with David's help and Ben Sweet as well, we were able to get the dozer going but look, I'm hoping that it's going to be before the end of the year. Yes, there are always these little hold-ups. I will be having a discussion this afternoon about the latest, but it's not so much a hold-up, it's just processes. It's getting through the necessary paperwork. It's not easy to build dams. It's not easy to build anything in this nation when you do have to comply of course, with State, with local processes, but we're getting there and we've made good progress. We've made sure that those cages which need to be rattled have been rattled and I'm hoping, as is Brent Finlay, as is Lloyd Taylor, as is everybody else, we're hoping that we can actually get work started before year's end.

JOURNALIST

Michael, will you be finished by the end of around 2022 like you originally said?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, let's hope so because I know that through COVID-19, if there's one thing that has shown us – mining, resources, agriculture has held up. It's created jobs, it's created opportunities and infrastructure will too. It will help us create those jobs that we need to, to help Australia through COVID-19, through the back end of it. Yes, it's unfortunate we've got this outbreak at the moment in Victoria, it's not a second wave, we still haven't got over the first one yet so there are obstacles in the way of course, of getting through this global pandemic, but as a nation we've done very well. We thank those Australians for doing what they've done so far and certainly the results here in Queensland have been good but if there is going to be one thing that's going to help us through this it's going to be jobs through infrastructure, jobs through agriculture, jobs through mining and resources and David Littleproud and I stand committed to backing each and every one of those.

JOURNALIST

When it comes to the State Government, are you calling on them to do anything else? They've accelerated $6 million in funding. What else do they need to do?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, they've put on the table $13 million. We've put on the table $47 million. Look, I'm not going to get in the political argy bargy with Anthony Lynham. I've had many good discussions with him about the necessary water infrastructure that we need to build in Queensland.

At the moment, most of the water infrastructure and a lot of the growing actually happens down south in my part of the world and yet we've got most of the water up here so it just makes good sense that we build more water infrastructure particularly in Queensland. I'm really pleased that Deb Frecklington has a plan, has a vision and has a blueprint to build that water infrastructure in Queensland. Of course, we've got an election on October 31 but I'm not going to get in the argy bargy and start finger-pointing and start the blame game with Anthony Lynham or anybody else. I want to build water infrastructure, as does David Littleproud, with whatever Government, whatever State Government, is in office in any particular State.

David is the Agriculture Minister so he needs to work with Agriculture Ministers right across the nation, just like as the Infrastructure Minister, I work with Infrastructure Ministers of all different political persuasions right across the nation and the public expects us to be able to work together to get things done. That's what we're doing. I want to work constructively with Anthony Lynham and anyone else who wants to build water infrastructure, that's our purpose. The public expect, demand and deserve us to do it and that's what we're doing.

JOURNALIST

What is the next stage of approvals from a federal point of view? You have said you were having some meetings this afternoon?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, there's an [inaudible] that needs to be sorted through and we will sort through that and then, really, it is just a matter then of making sure that the Queensland Government has everything it needs to have done and then they will work, of course, with the Granite Belt here, with the authorities here, with the private developers here to ensure that we can put it out to tender, get people who are going to construct it and get those jobs happening. Get those high-vis workers out on site and get those bulldozers moving.

JOURNALIST

When will those tenders go out?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, very soon. Hopefully by Spring we'll be able to have put that work out through the Queensland Government, through the private entity and we'll be able to get that work happening.

JOURNALIST

Talk about the National Water Grid, there's talk about the Mole River project in New South Wales, is there a bigger picture here? Do you see there could be some connectivity between these two?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, Mole River, I'm also very much in favour of. Very, very much in favour of. Of course, the ball is in the court of the New South Wales Government. I had a discussion only last week with New South Wales about that but there's also Dungowan Dam, there's Wyangala Dam in New South Wales. There are any number of major water projects at the moment throughout this nation that we've funded or we've put money down on the table for business cases or we've put money on the table to get work begun. I'm going to be spending time with Michelle Landry and talking about Rookwood tomorrow so we're getting on with the job of doing what it would need to do. We can't do it alone. We have to have the cooperation and collaboration of State Governments so I'm happy to work with any State Government, with any State Minister of any political persuasion to get this happening because people, the public, deserve it. What we want to see is Sweet’s Strawberry Runners grow capacity even further. What we want to see is more vegetables going to China. What we want to see is the output of these very vibrant areas increase because when you increase agricultural output by adding water, you add jobs, you add prosperity, you add hope and you add optimism to these communities.

They're already very resilient. I mean, Stanthorpe survived through the drought and we're not out of the woods yet but, you know, you've got to give credit to these remarkable communities. They've been here for decades, more than 100 years in most cases. They know how important it is to have agriculture. They know how important it is. I mean, you know, [inaudible] a future in this local community as does everybody else so we're growing hope and optimism. Add water, grow jobs.

JOURNALIST

Look, the Inland Rail project, that's also hopefully forging ahead there. In terms of having still no clarity about when the report comparing the forestry route will be done, can you provide us with any more detail?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I'm going to give them the necessary time to be able to get that report finalised and to be able to do the right thing in an independent way with the world's-best hydrology experts, with local input – that's really important – so that we get the right outcome. I'm then going to consider that report very carefully. We want the best outcome for Inland Rail. It's going to bring – just like dams are –  confidence, jobs and prosperity to these regions. Have to get it right and that's why the process is taking place the way it is.

JOURNALIST

How long will it take to do this?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It will take as long as it needs to take. I'm not going to rush it. I'm not going put a timeline on the people who are doing it. I don't want them to rush it and I don't want people, locals, to think that I have forced this along more hurriedly than it needs to. I want them to have the right time, the best available time to consider it in the proper way.

JOURNALIST

Are you concerned that the lack of clarity is causing some issues for the project and moving it forward?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No, I'm not, because the work is continuing at a pace. The Parkes to Narromine section is just about finished. There's 13 sections to Inland Rail. We're just about to start the next one in New South Wales and a lot of the EIS’s, indeed, have not been completed in Queensland. Queensland was the last to sign up to the intergovernmental agreement, so we've got a few considerations to make sure that we work through there but look, I want Inland Rail to be completed by the mid-2020s. It's going to enable people to get their produce from the areas that are along the line, to port, to Brisbane, to Melbourne, within 24 hours. That's never happened. That's never happened before and we've got an infrastructure roll-out across Australia, $100 billion. Now, it takes time, it takes planning, it takes the right consideration to roll out that infrastructure program. We're doing it right across the nation. Tens of thousands of projects. We've getting them done. We're a nation of builders, we're a Government of builders and by building things you create jobs and you create opportunity and that's what we're doing.

JOURNALIST

Are you sick of Queensland dragging the chain on the Inland Rail project?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Never been sick of Queensland. I think it's a great State. I'm a little bit surprised at how cool it is this morning. I came up yesterday from Wagga Wagga, I was thinking it was going to be much warmer than this but lucky I threw a jacket in to the bag but look, never tired of Queensland. Queensland is a great State. Yesterday I was there with the Governor and the Premier and others, many of my Federal colleagues, opening the new runway for the Brisbane Airport. $1.1 billion, that's Queensland backing itself. That's going to double the capacity of Brisbane Airport. One in 70 Queensland jobs is reliant on that airport so whether it's metropolitan areas or whether it's regional Queensland, Queensland's backing itself and the Federal Government is backing it as well.

JOURNALIST

Back to Emu Swamp. The DPM alluded to some obstacles in the road at the moment, can you outline what they are? 

DAVID LITTLEPROUD

Well, we're working with proponents, it's basically ticking off the environmental approvals at a State and Federal level and proudly, Sussan Ley, the Environment Minister, has already made it clear that any water infrastructure project she intends to fast-track. So, any Federal impediments will be quickly moved because the Federal Environment Minister's already made that clear. What it would need to ensure is that all levels of Government, both local and State, also work collaboratively with the proponents here because while we have got the header dam starting there today, the most important thing is we get the first excavator going out on the main dam and that can only happen once the tenders go out. Now, these final tick-offs by all levels of government simply need to get done. I mean, the time for talk is over and there is a real level of fatigue about all the paperwork and all the talk that's gone on. They are just jack of it. People just want to see a hole dug and it's not that hard, you know? We can burn some diesel and get an excavator and a dozer going real quick. We've got the financial commitment. Everyone's behind this. This is a real opportunity, particularly during COVID, for everyone just to say, "start your engines." Effectively, that's what needs to happen and whatever impediment is there at any level of Government just needs to be fixed. Get out of the road and get on with the job.

Media contacts:

Tess Salmon, 0467 740 017

Hannah Maguire, 0429 920 254