Media doorstop with Minister for Veterans' Affairs Matt Keogh, Rockingham, WA

media conference
Veterans and Families Hub, NDIS, radioactive capsule, PEP-11, the Voice to Parliament

MADELEINE KING: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm really pleased to be here at the Port Kennedy RSL in the southern suburbs of Rockingham in the Southern Metropolitan area of Western Australia. Here with Minister Matt Keogh, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. We've been here today talking to the veterans community of all of Rockingham and Kwinana and especially around Port Kennedy and Secret Harbour, about the commitment of the Albanese Government to the Veterans and Families Hub.

And the purpose for the Veterans and Families Hub to be created here in Brand is about an integrated approachable core of services that are available for veterans that have, you know, served our country, are transitioning out of service and now need some assistance in that transition to a hopefully productive, normal, prosperous life outside of the service. And it's the least we can do as a Government to pay the respects that veterans deserve, to make sure they get the help they deserve, because many veterans, of course, as we know, have witnessed extraordinary things; they've had to undertake extraordinary work, and their injuries are not always seen, but they are certainly felt by those veterans and their families, themselves.

So I'm very grateful for Minister Keogh for spending time here today in Port Kennedy, and I'm really exceptionally grateful for the community of veterans here in Rockingham, one of the highest, if not the highest veterans communities in the country, because of course we host the biggest naval base in the country here at Garden Island. So with that, I'll hand over to Minister Keogh to talk a bit more about the Veterans and Families Hubs Program.

MATT KEOGH: Well, thanks Madeleine. It's great to join a ministerial colleague in doing the work around our Veterans and Families Hub network that we're rolling out across Australia. We committed to 10 of these Veterans and Families Hubs at the election and funded them in our October budget. And right here in the southern suburbs of Perth, in the area around Rockingham, right next to Australia's largest naval base, we'll be rolling out a new Veterans and Families Hub, a $5 million commitment to the local veterans and families community here in the electorate of Brand.

The important thing about these hubs, it's about bringing together the coordination of services, making them available in a place that is welcoming to veterans and welcoming to families, and recognising as part of that the importance of families, in that they need support too, but also they are critical to making sure that our veterans are able to access the supports and the services that they may also require, whether they're contemporary veterans looking to gain employment in civilian life, whether they are veterans of a past era and past conflicts, who may need further assistance in dealing with claims or accessing further services to make sure they're also able to live their best lives as a veteran who has served our community, served our country, made sure that they've been able to stand up for our national interest, and that is why it's so important that we repay that debt as a Government and as a country, making sure they're able to access the services that they not just need, but frankly they deserve to be able to have access to.

I really want to thank the Port Kennedy RSL, as well as the Kwinana and Rockingham RSLs who joined us today, and the veteran community for sharing their stories and providing their input into the sorts of services, the sorts of things that should be considered for a hub right here in this community, because what we want to deliver as a Government is not a cookie‑cutter approach to hubs across the country, but making sure that the hub will be delivered here in the southern suburbs of Perth, around Rockingham, will meet the needs of the veteran community here. And with over 8,000 serving personnel and veterans in this community, the second-highest concentration of veterans in the country, the highest concentration in Western Australia, we look forward to rolling out over this year the selection process for a proponent, and then being able to move forward with a business case, and into developing a family and veterans hub for the community here in Brand, servicing the veterans and families, as well as supporting serving personnel in making sure they get access to the coordination of services that they need to have successful and fulfilling lives as civilians as they transition out of Defence and supporting not just those serving personnel and veterans, but their families as well.

Journalist: And just a couple of questions about the NDIS. Would you agree that unless the government gets on top of the NDIS budget, the ability to fund programmes like those helping local veterans will be at risk in years to come?

MATT KEOGH: I want to be very clear that there's no risk to the funding for this Veterans and Families Hub here in Brand or across the country as part of the program that we are rolling out. And of course we've inherited a situation where there are growing cost pressures on the NDIS, and I know that the Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, is working with the state colleagues as well, to make sure that we are able to deliver the services that people would disability require and that we're able to do that in a sustainable funding way while making sure that they get the services they need. The funding for the veterans programs, the Families and Veterans Hubs is under no risk of that.

Journalist: And do you think that we may have no choice but to start making NDIS participants contribute to it through co‑payments or make it means‑tested as suggested by the IMF yesterday? 

MATT KEOGH: Well, I've seen that there's been some commentary from the IMF about the great position that the Albanese Government has now delivered through the October budget in making sure that we have a grown‑up approach to delivering programs, to funding them, and making sure that we can deliver a prosperous economy for Australians that can get access to the services they need; whether they're people with disability, whether they're veterans, whether their families, and I know that Bill Shorten, as the Minister for NDIS, and the work that he's doing with his State counterparts as well, will absolutely ensure that that's the outcome, that people get the services that they need, and we do that in sustained and funding way.

Journalist: Just a question for Minister King. What's your opinion on the controversial PEP‑11 project? 

MADELEINE KING: Yeah. Well, the PEP‑11 project has no doubt been through many twists and turns. I am now dealing with the omnishambles that Scott Morrison's multiple ministries have left behind. What we've seen in the agreement between the Commonwealth and the proponent is the end of a process that was entirely disrupted and messed up by a man with an extreme ego that sought to take over, and did take over the Resources Ministry, subverting the process in Government, subverting the work that the actual [indistinct] Minister, Keith Pitt, was doing, and turning up his own decision, which obviously had apprehended bias as part of it. That's the process that has now passed, that is the omnishambles Scott Morrison has caused. Now we turn to the future. This application now reverts back to ‑ almost back to the start, so given that I am not going to replicate the mess that Scott Morrison created, we, I, as the Resources Minister in this Government will follow proper process so the proponent can have their chance to go through a process that they should have had before.


SPEAKER: Would you like to add anything else? 

JOURNALIST: Yes. I have a couple of questions. Just in terms of the radioactive capsule, I just wanted to know your thoughts on whether Rio should just foot the bill instead of simply offering. I just wanted to know your thoughts on that.

MADELEINE KING: Well, I know there's a review going on of the whole process, and I think everyone around Australia, a lot of jokes are being made about this, because it's so remarkable and unbelievable that this could happen, equally unbelievable they found it, in my view. But these experts are experts, and I gather they were very confident they would find it with the advanced equipment they had. Rio have made the offer. I know that is genuine. They know what they did has caused great consternation in the community, and we need to have faith in how we transport these radioactive products that are a very important part of the mining industry, and also medical industries as well. So you have to have faith in the process. And that's why the Government, State Government has issued a review, and as the Federal Resources Minister, we'll keep in touch with that review, because obviously I'm responsible for radioactive waste in this country, and that associated with medical products and other products as well.

I'm sure there will be a conclusion as to who pays the costs. We know Rio have offered. That's probably all they can do at this stage. But what I really also want to do is just acknowledge the exceptional work of the responders that went and walked and drove their trucks at 10Ks an hour along some 1,400 kilometres, to be found just outside of Newman, and the experts at ANSTO as well, the DFES people that walked that track and carried that equipment and now dealing with that little tic‑tac capsule that has, you know, caused quite a ruckus, as well it should, because it's very dangerous material.

JOURNALIST: I also wanted to know, what sort of impact do you think The Voice to Parliament will have on mining companies? 

MADELEINE KING: Well, mining companies, our two biggest mining companies, Rio Tinto and BHP absolutely support The Voice, and I really welcome their support. I have no doubt that more mining companies will come on board as we talk to them more about what The Voice means. What we know is that the resources sector, and those mining companies have the greatest interaction with Traditional Owners and the land of Traditional Owners. So they've been engaged for many years with the Indigenous peoples of this country, and coming to agreements with them and working with them, and they're the highest employer of Indigenous people in this country too.

So I have called upon mining companies publicly to support The Voice, and I call upon them again today, because it's a generous offer for the Indigenous people of this country, through the Uluru Statement From the Heart; it's the least we can do to let them have a voice to this Parliament.

Journalist: Thank you, that's all I had.

Journalist: Just back on to the radioactive capsule, what's your take on the $1,000 fine for the incorrect transportation of radioactive material -

MADELEINE KING: Yeah, I mean that's a matter for State Government, and I know they're looking at it. I'm sure everyone sort of reacts the same way, or I [indistinct] that does seem a bit low, so I'm sure that will be reviewed. More importantly, you know, we know, it should ‑ fines for mistakes and bad practice shouldn't become a cost of doing business, it has to be an actual penalty, and I'm sure that's what the State Government will look at. Importantly, the waste has been found, and it should never happen again.

JOURNALIST: Thank you.