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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Sunshine Coast, QLD: 22 September 2017: Sunshine Coast visit; Bruce Highway; Tony Abbott; same-sex marriage survey; Liddell Power station; NDIS; NZ election; film industry; Pauline Hanson

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Friday, 22 September 2017

Doorstop with Andrew Wallace MP, Member for Fisher and Ted O’Brien MP, Member for Fairfax Sunshine Coast, QLD

SUBJECTS: Sunshine Coast visit; Bruce Highway; Tony Abbott; Same-sex marriage survey; Liddell Power Station; NDIS; NZ election; Film industry; Pauline Hanson.



PM, welcome to the Sunshine Coast. It’s absolutely fantastic to see you. Ted and I are very pleased to welcome you to our great city. The Sunshine Coast has really turned on the weather for you this morning.

This is a great day because we are here for, as you’ve seen, this terrific program of the upgrades of the Bruce Highway between the Sunshine Motorway and Caloundra Road - $929.3 million investment into this stretch of the much needed Bruce Highway upgrades.

This is a fantastic project, PM, because what it is is a project between Fulton Hogan Seymour Whyte which are two tier-two companies and this is the future of contracting for governments of all tiers because it is two tier-two companies that they’ve contracted with. And what this has allowed us to be able to do is get a cheaper product for the Sunshine Coast taxpayers. $300 million savings by doing it this way. Some terrific savings. 80 per cent of the workforce here are local contractors so it means infrastructure, it means more jobs, it means importantly better access to Brisbane, better access from Brisbane people to the Sunshine Coast for our tourism markets.

It’s a good news story and I’ll now throw to Ted.


Thanks Andrew, and I echo the welcome to the Prime Minister. Welcome to the most important part of Australia, the greatest region in Australia and we are of course delighted that the Sunshine Coast has never been a recipient of so much federal government funding as it is today and the focus has been on roads and also the airport and other community facilities.

As proud as we are of the Bruce Highway and what’s happening here - we are just warming up and we really want to see continued investment in the Sunshine Coast and that’s why we are putting rail at the top of our agenda. Second - roads. And we’ll continue to work cooperatively and under your leadership PM, seek support for rail.

Better infrastructure, more roads, more rail equals more jobs.

And with that PM, welcome to the Coast.


Thanks very much Ted and Andrew and thank you very much to the whole team here - you’re doing a fantastic job. You’re ahead of budget and on time too so it’s great work.

It was terrific seeing the drill rig in operation. Obviously we've got some very challenging geology there having to go down with that particular pile we were looking at, 18 metres down into the rock, but you've got it all worked out and you've got the men and the women and the machines to do the job. Congratulations to you all and thank you very much.

As Andrew and Ted said, this is a $929 million project, it is 80 per cent funded by the Federal Government.

It's part of our commitment, our $15 billion commitment to infrastructure in Queensland, our $6.7 billion commitment to upgrade the Bruce Highway.

So we absolutely understand, all of us, how important it is to ensure that we have safer roads, less congested roads so people can get to work, get to school, do all of their business safely and freely on the roads without risk of accident or being stuck in a freeway that turns into a carpark.

You're seeing tangible evidence of that commitment here and this project will be completed in 2020. It's going very well and well done to you all.

Ted mentioned rail - the Beerburrum to Nambour duplication is a project that these two gentlemen beside me have been advocating very strongly.

We have a $10 billion Rail Fund and we look forward to working with an LNP state government after the state election on many rail projects in Queensland.

And certainly this Beerburrum to Nambour duplication is one that has enormous merit given the strong growth in this region and the need to invest in the road and rail infrastructure to ensure the Sunshine Coast is connected and has the maximum connectedness with Brisbane and the rest of the nation.

So I’m delighted to be here, thank you, I've had a very warm welcome, a beautiful walk along the beach this morning and a great night at the Caloundra RSL last night, it was a very good ‘Politics in the Pub’ discussion.


Prime Minister, it must be extremely concerning to you what happened to Tony Abbott in Hobart yesterday afternoon?


Yes, well I absolutely condemn that assault on Tony Abbott in Hobart last night. I've been in touch with Tony and of course with the Federal Police Commissioner and he's given a statement to the police and we look forward to the assailant being identified and charged and brought before the courts.

We must have zero tolerance for that type of violence, or any type of violence on the street, but in politics there is no place for violence or indeed any other form of disrespectful conduct.

We have a great tradition of resolving our political differences in Australia peacefully and respectfully. Sometimes strong opinions are expressed but we always do so with respect for the other point of view.

Last night in the RSL was a very good example. Most of the evening was spent discussing energy, I would say almost all of it, but there was a bit of time spent discussing the same-sex marriage survey. There were people who supported a ‘yes’ vote, as I do, there were people who supported a ‘no’ vote. Both sides expressed their views and listened to the views of the other with respect.

That's the Australian way.

Respect is the key.

It's a big issue. Every Australian is getting a say. We've delivered on that commitment and I encourage everyone to participate in the survey.


When did you contact Tony and what did you say, Mr Prime Minister?


I rang Tony. I left a message on his phone and I followed that up with a text message expressing my concern firstly for his position. I wanted to be sure that he wasn't too badly hurt. I then spoke to the Police Commissioner and I heard back from Tony - he thanked me for my message and he has confirmed he has given a statement to the Tasmanian Police and they will be going through the CCTV recordings to see if they can identify the person who assaulted him.

This is an assault, that is a serious crime, assaulting somebody on the street and the assailant, the police I'm sure will identify him and bring him before the courts.


Do you accept Eric Abetz’s view that this is the type of violence that people will face if they support same-sex marriage and it is legalised? Do you support his view on that?


I haven't heard the remarks you described so I can't comment on them, but I'll just say this - I have great respect for the common sense of Australians and the wisdom of Australians.

There are 24 million of us, 16 million of us are getting postal surveys. Overwhelmingly Australians are engaging in this debate respectfully, peacefully, listening to the other person’s point of view, forming a view and then they will have their say. That is democracy, that's the way we do it.

There have been several incidents of the kind that we saw last night with the assault on Tony Abbott, and one incident is one too many. Just one is one too many.


Do you accept responsibility?


Hang on, just let me finish. However, it's important to remember that overwhelmingly Australians are engaging in this debate respectfully and harmoniously and making up their minds and then having their say, as we promised they would.


Do you accept responsibility for any of the violence that has taken place because you pulled the trigger on this vote?


The responsibility for violence is with those who commit the violence, and they should be brought to justice. And I've got no doubt that the police will go to every length to find the assailant. I'm sure he will

be found, it was in a crowded place as I understand it, I'm sure there was lots of witnesses, there's no doubt CCTV there, I'm sure they’ll find the assailant and he will be brought before the courts.


Do you think people need more protection, prominent people in the same-sex marriage debate?


Those issues about security I always leave, at the federal level to the Federal Police. They are the experts in that field and they will make those assessments.


Prime Minister, AGL has told Sky News they can't guarantee the safety of workers at the Liddell power plant if it does stay open beyond 2022. They say they have actually raised that with you. Is that demonstrating a disregard for the workers safety by you?


AGL has not raised that with me. I have had several discussions with Mr Vesey and he has not raised that matter with me. He has said if the plant continued until 2022 there would need to the investment in it. Of course big industrial plants like that, there's investment, repairs and maintenance going on all the time. But he hasn't raised that in those terms with me at all. And I have met with him several times about it and spoken with him several times on the phone.


The NDIS artificial intelligence program Nadia has stalled. The centre is concerned it will never go live. What are you doing to ensure the program gets up and have you spoken to the relevant ministers about this?


We are in constant discussion about the NDIS. It's a gigantic national enterprise. It's a huge scale. Rolling it out is always going to have some issues. Christian Porter is relentlessly focused on ensuring that it is rolled out efficiently and effectively and he'll continue to do that.

The most important thing, however, is being able to pay for it.

The Labor Party said the NDIS was fully funded. It wasn’t. It wasn't by Labor, there was a big funding gap and Labor should get behind our move to increase the Medicare levy by 0.5 per cent to fully fund the NDIS.

It's the least we can do as a compassionate nation to be able to say to the parents of disabled children, for example, to say to them the NDIS that will be helping your kids lead dignified lives will be fully funded into the future.

Now, that's our commitment and Labor should stop playing politics with this and get behind it and back it in.


Bill English is now preferred as Prime Minister when New Zealand goes to the polls this weekend-


I am wishing Bill every good fortune in the polls. Yes, he's been a great leader in New Zealand for many years. I am certainly wishing him every good wish.


Annastacia Palaszczuk wants the location tax halved to attract more movies to Queensland. She’s taken that today to the federal minister. What are your thoughts on that?


Well, I haven't seen her proposal but we provided tax incentives for a number of big budget movies that have been made in Queensland in the past and I have no doubt we will continue to do so.

Certainly, you know, the tax incentives we provide have been absolutely critical in ensuring the film industry, these big budget movies are made here.

It would be good for the state to consider how they can provide more incentive too. It does provide a lot of employment in the state - there's no doubt about that.


Pauline Hanson was here yesterday - she took credit for your visit to the Coast. She alluded to the fact that One Nation was gaining political ground in the leadup to the state election. Any comment on that?


I’m sorry - was she here yesterday? She should have come to the RSL. It would have been a good night.

Look, my visit is focused on meeting with the people of the Sunshine Coast, meeting with my colleagues obviously, but meeting with the people of the Sunshine Coast. As you know, we've done that in a variety of settings here obviously with this project. We will be visiting a men's shed shortly. I had a big night last night at the RSL. It was a very good evening. I know many of you journalists were there.

How many people were there? 300 people there. Very good discussion in both a formal Q&A and informally afterwards.

And I tell you what, the message I get back from everybody I meet on the Sunshine Coast, is that they know with Andrew and Ted, they have two of the most formidable, persuasive advocates they could ever ask for in Canberra.

Thank you all very much.