Transcript - Gladstone Press Conference

9:19AM

MATT BURNETT

Look, it’s fantastic to be here at East Shores in Gladstone with our Federal Member, Ken O’Dowd, and our Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, obviously announcing $10 million. And I’ll let them talk more about that. But $10 million for the Gladstone region is fantastic. Here we are at our cruise ship terminal. Unfortunately since COVID we haven’t welcomed any cruise ships back, but sooner or later they’ll be back here in Gladstone and checking out our fantastic facilities here at East Shores. And some of this money, $5 million goes towards – I believe it’s going towards upgrading here at Auckland Hill, so council in partnership with the port and the Federal Government will make sure that we can beautify that, so when you’re looking up there as well as down here at East Shores it will all tie in together. So you’ll be able to go around the lap, around for a run and up on to the top of Auckland Hill and a bit of money spent up there as well. So a partnership with the port, the council, obviously with the land and the Federal Government. And another $5 million for our hydrogen knowledge centre. So thank you so much to Michael McCormack for bringing up the funds to Gladstone and thank you to Ken for helping to deliver that. And I’ll throw over to Ken now to talk more about it.

KEN O’DOWD

So, Ken O’Dowd, Member for Flynn. Well, thank you, Matt, and welcome to Gladstone, again, Michael, our Deputy Prime Minister. It’s great to have you here – especially when you bring the cheque book with the $10 million, and that’s what Matt and I are very thankful to be here with you today for this major announcement. On top of the hill up there you’ll see it’s a very popular place for tourism and locals. I was up there on the weekend and the place was overcrowded. And it does lack car parks and does lack facilities in the café that’s already there. The staff up there do a great job in looking after tourists and local people and this will only enhance that operation. It will be the aesthetics of Auckland Hill and East Shores down here, a most popular place for families and tourists, and when the ships, as Matt says, comes – start to return, they’ll be super impressed with what Gladstone has to offer.

Now the $10 million just didn’t come out of anywhere. Gladstone performed and the regions of Central Queensland performed very well during COVID. It kept our economy going, it kept the jobs in place here in Gladstone, but overall our economy of Australia has been so much better because of Gladstone and the region. So it’s a small reward – or should I say a $10 million reward.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

A large reward, Ken. A large reward.

KEN O’DOWD

But Matt and I are always striving for bigger things and the $10 million is going to be very well received by the people of Gladstone. Our tourism board, they’ll love it, the fact that we are spending money. We make a lot of money for the Australian Government and the Queensland Government, so this is a just reward. So thank you very much, Michael, for bringing it here to Gladstone. Thanks, Michael.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thank you, Ken O’Dowd. Thank you, Matt Burnett. Thank you, Gladstone. Thank you, Gladstone, for providing a safe harbour right throughout COVID-19. Thank you, Gladstone, for keeping the wheels of the Queensland – certainly the Central Queensland economy rolling through COVID-19. Thank you, Gladstone, for being the economic powerhouse that you are, not only for this region, not only for this state but, indeed, for our nation. This nation owes Gladstone a debt after gratitude for what it has done through COVID.

And, of course, as we know – as Matt knows, as Ken full well knows – regional Australia has been, is being the best place in all of the world, the safest place, as we still battle with the challenges of COVID-19. We’re still not through it yet, but these economic recovery partnerships are helping not only Gladstone but, indeed, other regions, other cities right across Australia. It’s a $100 million program. Gladstone, well, it’s getting $10 million; $10 million for a hydrogen hub, a hydrogen knowledge centre. I like to think about it as getting technologists to town, technologists who will potentially invest their expertise and their experience in developing new cells for buses, for ferries, for cruise liners based on hydrogen. I like to think of it as bringing the best minds to Gladstone to develop this vital piece of the energy mix. Ken knows how important hydrogen is going to be into the future, and so HyPark, which is already under construction, it will only benefit from this $5 million investment.

And we’re here at the port, one of the best ports in all of Australia. Make no mistake. A deep water port, a port that sees so much of Queensland’s product go out of it and so many tourists – hopefully, Matt – going to come back into it. And when they come back in, we want them to experience that Auckland Hill. We want them to have better accessibility, particularly for those older cruise ship tourists, of whom there are many. And we want them to come and see Central Queensland at its best. And Central Queensland is at its best right here at Gladstone.

So we’re going to develop Auckland Hill with that $5 million grant, that $5 million Federal grant. We’re going to work with local Government. We’re going to work with the state Government, because that’s what the Nationals in Government, that’s what the LNP in Government does – we work with our parties at local and state level to enhance these cities. We enhance regional Queensland and we get the best outcomes for regional Queenslanders.

And I’m so excited to be here with Ken O’Dowd. He has been such a dogged fighter for so many years for Gladstone, for the electorate of Flynn. I wish him all the very best for the future. I know he’s been such a powerhouse not just here in the local electorate. You just don’t want somebody who’s going to say a lot of things and perhaps talk up a big game when they’re here. You want them also to go to Canberra and do just the same and Ken has done that. For four terms now Ken has produced the goods for Gladstone, for the wider Flynn region. And I know he’s going to continue to do that right throughout the remainder of his fourth term in Parliament. I went into Parliament together with Ken O’Dowd back in 2010. And in him you’ve got a fighter. In him you’ve got a fighter. And this is why this $10 million is being spent in Gladstone – because Ken O’Dowd has achieved outcomes for Gladstone. And I think it’s a great announcement today. Any questions?

JOURNALIST

Do you know when the LNP will be announcing the candidate?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we’ve got some really good and exciting people who’ve already indicated an interest. We’ll be making those – you know, we’ll be looking at that soon. I’m sorry to see Ken g, I really am. Because I know he’s been a fighter and I know so long as his name was on the ballot paper, his name would emerge victorious, because people of Flynn know that when you’ve got someone like him in Parliament they’re going to deliver. And we also know that the LNP delivers, and that’s why I say, with all due respect to some of the company present, that the LNP will continue to deliver for Gladstone. So put the LNP number one and you won’t go wrong. Sorry, Matt.

JOURNALIST

Michael, when will the Federal Government make –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Actually, I’m not sorry, but anyway.

JOURNALIST

When will the Federal Government make a decision in regards to staged cruise returns, obviously not in international waters, but obviously Gladstone is a cruising hub here in Central Queensland. Obviously there’s talk that there might be some kind of staged return soon for local cruising. Do you know if the Federal Government will be making any return announcements?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Yes, you’re right, and we are working with the cruise industry. We are working through all transport operators to get the best and most viable outcomes concerned. Because we know that cruise ships on the water means jobs on shore. We know that this is so, but we don’t do anything unless we’ve got the best possible medical advice, and that’s what we’ve done the whole way through – we’ve taken that best possible medical advice. We’ve acted on it. We want to keep communities such as Gladstone safe. We want to keep Queensland safe and we want to keep Australians safe. And so that’s what we’ve done the whole way through. We’ve taken that advice from chief medical officers, we’ve taken that advice from public health authorities in the states, in the jurisdictions which run public health. And that’s why we’ve got the outcomes that we’ve got. Yes, of course, 910 people have lost their lives from COVID, and that’s very, very sad for their families. But when you compare what Australia’s been able to achieve by listening to the experts, by listening to the medical advice and by taking heed of such, we’ve kept our nation very, very safe indeed.

JOURNALIST

Does the Government have a time line for the staged return to cruising?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We’re having those discussions with cruise operators now, with the industry as a whole. And, I say again, we’ll take that best possible medical advice. Look forward to announcements in the not-too-distant future.

JOURNALIST

How valuable is Gladstone as an asset, the city, and what it gives to the country and the economy?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It’s unlimited. It’s absolutely unlimited. And the two gentlemen beside me know that better than most. Because I’ve got the Mayor here and I’ve got the Federal Member here. They know just how much of an economic powerhouse that Gladstone is. I’ve got not an interest but – not a financial interest but certainly an economic interest in the northern oil refinery as far as what it has produced because it actually started its life at Wagga Wagga in my home town. And Tim Rose brought it here to Gladstone on the back of a meeting that he had with Ken O’Dowd and I. And he invested in Gladstone. He took the risk. He built here and now he’s reaping the rewards. So is Gladstone. And I’m just delighted that a Wagga Wagga firm saw the benefit of investing in the economy of Gladstone – I know Matt’s pretty delighted about that, too – and been able to see it grow. And what the Northern Oil Refinery is doing is transforming the way we recycle oil, the way we recycle used oil, the way we do a lot of things. And he will only develop that further through the technology that he has with getting waste and converting it into energy. Tim Rose is somebody who is an entrepreneur who knows how to turn something that other people may not have even thought of or weren’t willing to take the risk to develop and turning it into a potential gold mine, not for himself but for the community in which he serves. And the community that he is serving is not only at Wagga Wagga; it’s also here at Gladstone. And, you know, it’s people like that that I know we’re going to attract through this hydrogen hub. I know we’re going to get technologists – I love that word; make sure you use this grab – technologists to Gladstone. What could be better than getting technologists to Gladstone to develop hydrogen and to develop and diversify the Gladstone economy even further.

JOURNALIST

Talk us through what Gladstone actually did throughout COVID-19 to keep Australia going?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it kept the wheels of the economy going through agriculture, through resources. And it wasn’t only Gladstone, it was communities such as mine. It was regional Australia per se. Regional Australia was its best self. Agriculture grew from around a $60 billion enterprise to it’s now $66 billion. That is just in the last 18 months. We grew by that much in agriculture because farmers were willing to take the risks. Farmers were willing to back themselves. Their communities were willing to back them as well. And, you know, you’ve got to pay credit to those farmers. They withstood drought, they withstood fire, they withstood in some areas floods, and yet despite then the downturn of COVID, they kept on producing. They kept on growing food and fibre. Resources industry did the same. And I know Keith Pitt’s pretty proud of that. I know David Littleproud is doing everything that he can as the agriculture minister to grow agriculture to a $100 billion enterprise by 2030. Keith Pitt’s doing the same with resources – making sure that its potential can be realised, making sure that those ships which are leaving Gladstone port and others with the valuable iron ore, the valuable coal, the valuable resource products going around to the world, which knows that the best resources are right here in Australia. And they want them and they’ll want them more into the future.

JOURNALIST

You said before that Gladstone’s resources industry kept the economic wheels turning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Helped keep the economic wheels turning, yep, absolutely.

JOURNALIST

The industry obviously is going through a lot of changes with the renewable industry emerging. Do you think that puts Gladstone in jeopardy as an economic powerhouse?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No, I think it only enhances Gladstone. I think what we’re doing here as far as rooftop solar and other renewables is fantastic. Coal has a future. Coal has a big future. I know that some of our political opponents don’t think it, but coal has an amazing future and the world will continue to want coal as a resource. I think it’s fantastic that Adani is where it is and growing and going to be able to, you know, provide that valuable resource to India where they’re burning cow pats and they’re burning rubber tyres to keep themselves warm. That is not fair. And those people who sit in cafes in Melbourne sipping their lattes and carrying on as though coal is such a bad thing, they ought to come to a place like Gladstone. I caught the plane this morning from Brisbane and the line of hi-vis workers and others who are coming to work in a FIFO situation, coming to work in Central Queensland, was from here to Auckland Hill. I exaggerate not. And it was doubled back. Now, do those people who are in those cafes in Melbourne or Sydney or elsewhere – indeed, does Anthony Albanese think those people should not be – should not be, those hi-vis workers, should not be working, should not be working in the resources sector? Well, I do. I back them. I know Ken does and I’m pretty sure – I hope, Matt does, too. Because they are keeping this economy strong. They are keeping the wheels of the nation going. And they’re keeping the lights on. They’re keeping our exports up and they deserve a job, they deserve a future. And, I tell you what, under the Government that Ken O’Dowd and I are in, they’ll have a future.

JOURNALIST

Can you talk to us about the hydrogen hub and the knowledge centre? What does this mean for jobs in the area?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it’s going to mean – well, the potential for the jobs is unlimited really because it’s a $5 million investment. We’re going to be improving the technologies. We’re going to be enhancing what is already there and under construction at HyPark. We’re going to be making sure that we attract the world’s best minds and Australia’s best minds to see what we can do in the hydrogen space as far as developing cell technology, developing hydrogen as an energy source. And I know that it’s going to be, as Matt Burnett described it, a knowledge centre. So this is an exciting development. So the money is going to be improving what is already there and what is already under construction. And I’m pretty excited about it. It’s a $5 million investment. It’s a $10 million investment overall with this port upgrade. So that’s good for Gladstone. It’s good for jobs. I know that with the Auckland Hill there’s going to be around 40 jobs – certainly dozens – of jobs in the construction and then directly ongoing from that as more tourists go up and see the great vista that will be there, have better car parking, better accessibility and, as Ken said, probably improve the café as well. But for the hydrogen hub, the potential for jobs, well, that’s just limitless. It’s almost a little bit like Northern Oil Refinery. I don’t think Tim Rose, when he started investing in Gladstone probably expected or realised that it would grow so large over, you know, such a short space of time. And there’s no reason why the hydrogen hub won’t do the same.

JOURNALIST

Matt, we’ve got a popular café up there on Auckland Hill that a lot of people attend. Can you categorically rule out that that won’t be shut down?

MATT BURNETT

Well, I assume not. I’ve been talking to the port authority about this. So what we did is we transferred – we’re in the process of transferring the land to the Ports Corporation. So council has been the trustee for that property for a long time. And the idea is to tie it all in here with East Shores so we’re going to have the whole of East Shores down here on the waterfront and tie in with the hill up the top. So we have made it very clear to the port that the café stays. And, in fact, if some of the funding, as Ken has said, can go towards enhancing it, that’s what it’s all about. The idea is to make sure that you’ve got a place up there where you can have a cup of coffee, you can look over the beautiful Gladstone Harbour, the harbour that exports to the world and is, you know, pretty much the engine room, as previous mayors have said, of the Australian economy. But it also provides, you know, such a great place for people to come and visit, whether they’re cruise ship visitors or whether they’re other visitors from Central Queensland. We want them to come and check East Shores, our Spinnaker Park, our Marina Parklands and really enjoy the place.

JOURNALIST

In your role as the Flynn candidate for Labor, the PM is announcing a $370 million Ag security package to improve –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Hear, hear!

JOURNALIST

– and biosecurity measures. As a candidate, what do you think about this announcement? Does there need to be more support in other areas to cattle producers and especially those in the electorate of Flynn that are drought affected?

MATT BURNETT

Well, firstly, I’m here today representing the Gladstone region as the Mayor of Gladstone, so I don’t want to hijack a press conference that I’ve been invited to by the Deputy Prime Minister and our Federal Member. I want to respect that and so I’m happy to answer questions like that, but I welcome announcements like this – $10 million ones this morning and any announcement, whether it’s the Federal Government or the Federal opposition, in agriculture. I’ll be attending two days in Beef Week this week. And we’re meeting up with our colleagues in other councils in Blackall, Tambo and Isaac and Central Highlands and Woorabinda and Banana Shire and Rocky and making sure that those people know – and I know that I’m pretty sure the Ag Minister’s going to be there – if not, we certainly have a state Ag Minister going to be there – and we’re making sure that the powers that be know that we need to upgrade those beef corridors so that they can get their product to port through the fantastic port here in Gladstone. So we want to support them however we can. Any funding for agriculture is awesome news.

I was speaking at Labour Day yesterday and I don’t know how many times you would have heard a Labor candidate speak about agriculture at a Labour Day function. I certainly was – the three things I was talking about was mining, manufacturing and agriculture. They’re very important. I don’t want to hijack today’s press conference; I want to say thank you to Michael McCormack – $10 million is fantastic news for our community.

JOURNALIST

Michael, just a question, yesterday we were contacted by PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – and they basically rubbished Beef Week. What would you say to someone like that who, you know, it’s such an economic driver for the region and for Rockhampton? What would you say to someone who rubbishes Beef Week?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Get a steak into you. Put a bit of tomato sauce on it. Maybe mushroom sauce. Very good. Yum.

JOURNALIST

What about the benefits that it provides, though, how long it’s been going?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

The cattle industry – I mean, my father was a cattle farmer. I come from a farm. I mean, PETA wants to shut down everything that rural and regional Australia have fought so hard to develop over so long. And whilst we might be Nationals, LNP and Labor, I think we’re all on a unity ticket as far as eating steak is concerned right here, right now. PETA, that’s just an organisation which wants to shut down Australia as we know it. Of course animal welfare is important and that’s why our farmers are the best in the world. They’re the best environmentalists in the world. They’re the best at what they do in the world. They care for their animals. PETA needs to know that. They need to know that our farmers don’t like to see their animals harmed. That’s why we’ve got when it comes to live exports that ESCAS system in place, that export security and quality assurance scheme, in place to make sure that our animal welfare is what it needs to be. But here in Queensland where you’ve got, you know, it’s the beef capital of Australia, you know, our farmers, of course they’re going to put the welfare of their cattle first and foremost. If they don’t, they won’t have a business. If they don’t, they won’t have an industry. So PETA needs to know that our farmers, our cattle producers, are the best in the world at what they do. And there’s plenty of people out there who want to have a steak.

KEN O’DOWD

There’s not much protein in lettuce, I can tell you that.

JOURNALIST

Now, Ken, could you talk to us about the investments and what it will do for local business?

KEN O’DOWD

Well, you know, apart from the initial jobs that these two projects will create, it’s the local businesses that will benefit from these two developments. You know, we’ve got a lot of ingenuity here in Gladstone. We’ve got McCosker’s earth moving, for instance, doing the Rookwood Weir. Now that’s a $360 billion project. That’s a Gladstone company doing the Rookwood Weir. Water infrastructure, very, very important to our agriculture and to Gladstone. And later on we’ll probably see a pipeline from Rookwood Weir to Gladstone to give us water security here in Gladstone. As you know, we haven’t had much rainfall in our catchment areas for the last few years, which is a bit disappointing. But if we were to get no rain for the next five years we’d be in trouble in Gladstone with our water. But we’ve got backup and it’s been planned that a pipeline will come from Rookwood, which is the second biggest catchment in Australia out of the Fitzroy River, so that it will give us the security that Gladstone industry needs to forge forward in future projects like hydrogen. And, of course, we’ve got a cement industry, the only cement manufacturing industry in Queensland, providing great jobs. Aluminium, it’s turned around. And there’s a good future now for aluminium. We are the largest aluminium producers in the world apart from China. So all these jobs at Yarwun and Boyne Island and Gladstone all add up. Jobs on the glass on Curtis Island, it all adds to our economy. And it’s a great economy. It’s diversified. And the cattle in agriculture to the west, it only enhances the whole liveability of Gladstone. This is a wonderful city to live in. There’s no doubt about that. And, you know, the people, the families who come and enjoy the facilities there is just fantastic. And it’s a credit to the planners of Gladstone that we have these facilities available to us.

JOURNALIST

And, Matt, could you talk a little bit about the effects on the local economy that these will have and maybe even bringing tourists to the area?

MATT BURNETT

Yeah, well, tourists, as soon as we can get the cruise ships back in to our port here, whether it’s Carnival, whether it’s P&O, or whoever it might be, that’s going to be bringing, you know, 2,000-odd passengers here spending money, enjoying our Feast on East markets and heading up to Goondoon Street, heading down to Agnes Waters, 1770, some go up to the caves. So we spread it right across CQ. That is going to be fantastic when we have that investment in the Auckland Hill and that brings those cruise ships back. They’re going to come back anyway, but it’s nice for them to have some investment in Auckland Hill there as well.

The hydrogen hub is great news, obviously. I’ve been supporting hydrogen and renewable energies for a long time. And as the Deputy Prime Minister said, I support coal as well. Coal has a future in Central Queensland, it has a future in Australia. We aren’t living under a rock, though. We know that global markets are determining what’s happening with energy markets around the world and we’re looking at future energies. We’re looking at hydrogen, biofuels, and the team at Northern Oil are certainly championing that, and so are many other people. We’ve signed up MOUs with Sumitomo and other companies to make sure that we have that hydrogen investment. So this $5 million will go a long way towards delivering that. Gladstone will be the first city I think it’s in Australia but definitely in Queensland where we’ll be injecting up to 10 per cent hydrogen in the domestic, the commercial and the industrial network. That’s fantastic news. We want the world to know that Gladstone’s on the market for hydrogen. We want to bring more invest. Here.

I spoke to another international company via Zoom just recently who were very keen to talk to us about investing in future energies as well. And this $5 million is great news. And I want to say thank you to the Deputy Prime Minister every single day and every time he comes back to bring a cheque book I’ll here to stand next to him and say thank you very much, sir.

ENDS 9:46AM

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