Doorstop in Townsville
27 October 2016
Subject: Water infrastructure; Northern Australia development; Adani Carmichael mine; Beef Roads; Northern Australia Roads Programme; green ‘lawfare’
It's great to be here today in Townsville, and it's fantastic to be here on a day where the Government is announcing and unlocking $440 million for water development right across Australia, and at least $200 million here in Northern Australia.
So much of Townsville's wealth is underpinned by water. Water means wealth. Storing water in a dam is like putting money in the bank. It's there to help you unlock agricultural production and industrial development, once you need the water. And the last major dam here in this country was built just down the road at Burdekin Falls. And again, some of the best opportunities in the country are here in the Burdekin, whether that is raising the Burdekin Falls Dam, the potential Hell's Gate Dam and the Urannah Dam further down south.
We've already put money aside for the pre-planning works for those projects, to help bring them up to speed and to put them in a position to potentially be funded. And the decision today to unlock these funds and release the guidelines provides the capital that will be able to pour the concrete, fund the concrete to build some of these dams if they stack up. So we now have to work with State Governments, Local Governments and local proponents to build these cases up, to bring them to us and to get these projects over the line.
It's a very exciting time for the north. It's a key component of our Northern Australia agenda. It builds on the $300 million we announced on roads this week, $440 million this week on dams. We're a government that's building roads, building dams, building tangible things to help Australians employ people, get the country moving and give people a vision about what the future of our country will be.
Just on Adani while we're at it, how are you characterising the ongoing opposition to the Carmichael Mine?
Look, there is a cabal of individuals and overseas activists that are actively trying to stop jobs being created in our region. It doesn't just involve mining, but of course the forefront of the debate at the moment is the Adani Carmichael mine project.
These groups don't live here, they don't understand the region and they're trying to corrupt our judicial system and our political system for their own ends, which are all about stopping jobs, not protecting the environment. Some of these groups are funding court cases where clearly they don't intend to win, they're not playing to win. They're the Nick Kyrgios of the judicial system, because they don't intend to win the case, they just intend to disrupt and delay it long enough that the investor leaves.
Now I want to attract investment like Adani. I want the thousands of jobs for our region that this project represents, I want to be part of a government that rolls out the red carpet for investors, not just rolls out red tape. That's what we're focused on trying to reform our environmental laws. Of course, we need the support of other parties and other Senate crossbenchers to get those laws passed.
But you don't think there are genuine concerns, I mean yesterday we had JCU scientists talking about coral bleaching and raising temperatures in the ocean. There is concern that if that continues the Coral Reef will be in a lot of trouble. They have legitimate concerns, don't they?
We have to make sure that we find a balance between the environment and developing projects. That's why we placed 30 of the most stringent conditions ever on the Carmichael mine project. We have some of the world's most stringent environmental laws, and rightly so because we have to protect the environment. The Greens support those laws being in place. Other activists have campaigned for those laws to be in place.
The problem is that when the umpire makes a call and approves projects under those laws, as has happened here, they want to disagree with the umpire that they have set up. They can't have it both ways. You either agree with the laws, or you don't. We have protected the environment under these laws. This project can happen, we can find a balance. It's now time to get on with it.
Ultimately though this is a coal mine and will be one of the world's largest coal mines, and coal is a significant problem, is it not?
So the Supreme Court judgement recently, admittedly on the GVK mine, although it's similar to the Federal Court cases recently in regards to Adani, it was very clear on this point. And it's a point that I certainly agree with, but it's not my point, it's the point of the Supreme Court of Queensland – that by shutting down Adani, that is not necessarily going to reduce the amount of coal burned in the world. India will seek to provide electricity - to its 200 million people who don't have it - one way or another. If they don't get it from Australia, they'll take it from Indonesia or other countries.
In fact, if they do not get it from Australia, most likely that coal will be lower in quality. It'll be higher in sulphur and it'll probably have higher carbon emissions because it has lower calorific value. So developing the Galilee Basin is actually good for the environment. It is an environmental plus, because we have some of the world's best coal and some of the most efficient coal. And the goal here is to produce electricity for all of the world at the lowest emissions possible, not to simply shut down coal altogether, which won't happen. It can't happen, and it would be futile to try.
If I can just add too, I spoke to the Indian Resources Minister on Sunday, he was here in Australia this week. And he was adamant on this point, that India will get its coal from someone. It would be happy to get it from Australia, but it doesn't need it from Australia. It's got other options like Indonesia and South Africa. So if we don't take this opportunity, we won't save the world, we'll just cost ourselves jobs.
The Roads Minister Mark Bailey says a $20 million upgrade to Flinders Highway won't go ahead because the promised Northern Australia (funding) has been redistributed to the Northern Territory. How has this happened?
It's a complete furphy. We've had those projects out, the funding envelope has been set by the Government, we made decisions on how the money is allocated. Queensland has received the largest share of funding across our Northern Australia Roads Programme. That's right and proper, it has the largest share of population, it's the largest economy in northern Australia. But they were always going to be spread geographically across the state.
We're the only Government that has invested in northern Australian roads specifically. We're the only Federal Government to do that. We are the first Government since the Menzies Government to do so in the Beef Roads. There are great opportunities in the north. Unfortunately, we have a State Government that just wants to make a drama out of everything, and not take an opportunity when it’s presented. This is a major investment in Queensland roads from the Federal Government, and instead of acting like a jealous aggrieved partner, we should be taking the opportunity of developing our roads and developing our state.
What about other projects across the state?
Earlier this week we announced both the Beef Roads and the Northern Australia Roads Programme. We've got upgrades to the Peak Downs Highway, the Burke Developmental Road, upgrades in Rockhampton to allow type-one trucks in through to the abattoir so they don't have to decouple at Gracemere. That will save truck drivers two hours each load. We have upgrades to the Longreach-Winton Road which I was out at recently. It's got terrible shoulders on the road which have become a massive safety issue for the trucking industry. We're upgrading those as well.
These of course also build on the other announcements we've already made which include the Mackay Ring Road, upgrades here in Townsville, upgrades to the Hann Highway. Over the past year we've allocated $700 million to roads across northern Australia. It is the biggest investment in roads since the Menzies Government. It's something I'm very proud of. I'm sure the Queensland Government will actually work with us, despite wanting to play politics with what should be a good news story terms Queensland.
In terms of water, well today we're announcing the guidelines for those projects to take submissions. The funding we announced earlier this year will help build up business cases for projects like Burdekin Falls Dam and Urannah Dam and Hell's Gate. It'll then be a matter for the State Government and others to bring to us the proposals to access the $440 million.