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May 10, 2019

CATHY O’TOOLE, MEMBER FOR HERBERT: It’s really great to be here this morning with Shadow Minister for Employment Brendan O’Connor and two Townsville workers. Today Labor is announcing our North Queensland Jobs Package. Unlike the LNP Government we actually have a vision and a good solid plan for jobs in North Queensland.
I have fought very hard to get the water security for the pipeline. And Labor was first to the table with that commitment. Also, hydro on the Burdekin Falls Dam is an essential project to reduce the cost of living and move into a renewable energy space. And the port expansion project, again Labor was first to the table with that project.
The government has not made any commitment at all to hydro on the Burdekin Falls Dam. The great thing about these projects for our community where unemployment is almost double the national figure, is that one in ten jobs on these commonwealth funded projects will be an apprenticeship or traineeship which is essential when we have such extremely high youth unemployment.
I’d like to hand over to Brendan O’Connor now to speak a little bit more about the detail of jobs plan.
BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Thanks very much Cathy. It’s great to be in Townsville. It’s always good to be with Cathy O’Toole, who is a local champion. Always in Canberra defending Townsville and certainly asking for more investment, because as Cathy just indicated, the only way we are going to get jobs in this electorate, in this region, in this community is to ensure we invest.
Cathy talked about the investment in infrastructure that Labor is proposing if elected. Indeed, she has led the way even in opposition, putting pressure on the government to actually do something. And yet, here we are again with more ideas, more plans for this region, for Northern Queensland.
We’ve got a plan that really does go to some of those issues – investment in infrastructure, investment in Tafe. We know that the current Morrison Government, the Liberals have stripped away 150,000 apprentice places across the country. That means thousands of young people have missed out in Townsville. We’ve seen of course the increased casualisation of employment, the overuse of 457 visas, the labour hire overuse and misuse meaning that people are missing out on not just jobs but missing out on secure jobs.
Now, Scott Morrison likes to boast about jobs but the fact is under his watch we’ve seen casualistion in Queensland get worse and people can’t find secure work. Even tradespeople like plumbers can’t get a home loan because they are employed by a labour hire company. That’s why our policies are not just about creating jobs, but creating fair, secure decent jobs so people are getting a wage increase, and people are getting some guaranteed hours of work. That’s what’s needed.
You’ve got a permanent family, you need a permanent job. You’ve got a long term mortgage you need a long term job. You can’t expect people to pay the bills, have any sense of certainty and security if they have insecure work. And that’s what we are seeing too often because there is no interest by the Liberals, by Scott Morrison.
I do have to call Scott Morrison out today. Earlier today I was in Rockhampton and so too was the Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Scott Morrison said we didn’t support legislation. The fact is Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have had six years to fix labour hire, 457 visas and casualisation. In the last week of parliament – remember it’s a part time parliament, we only sit ten days for eight months – the last week of parliament they introduced a bill, they never brought it on for debate, it never passed the parliament. And yet Senator Canavan and the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison have pretended they’ve sought to do something about casualisation because they know the people of Townsville are concerned so they want to pretend they are doing something. And that’s really important to know. As recently as today Scott Morrison has lied about addressing casualisation because he knows people want something done and of course he’s done nothing.
The other point I need to make is of course his tawdry deal with Clive Palmer. What has Clive Palmer extracted from Scott Morrison to do this unholy alliance between the Liberals and Clive Palmer? The fact is Clive Palmer is on the record wanting the $80 billion tax giveaway to big business. Indeed Scott Morrison has spent the last three years as Treasurer trying to get the $80 billion tax giveaway to big business, to multinational companies, to big banks. That’s what Scott Morrison has been doing and now he has entered into an arrangement with Clive Palmer but he hasn’t told the people of Townsville, of North Queensland, of Central Queensland indeed of the nation, what deal he has done with Clive Palmer.
What money, what taxpayer money is going to go to big business as a result of the tawdry deal that Mr Morrison has done with Mr Palmer? I think the Australian people deserve to know what Scott Morrison has agreed to in secret that he is yet to disclose publically. It’s a test of character for Scott Morrison and he has failed that test until he explains in full what his plans are with Clive Palmer.
I mean do we want to see more cuts, more chaos because clearly entering into an agreement with Mr Palmer who was irresponsible and reckless when last in Parliament and we’d only see the same. But there is something even more than that- we’ve got the taxpayer owed $64 million because of the QNI collapse. Clive Palmer has spent about $60 million on his election campaign, but no one has paid back the taxpayer for that debt. And of course we know there are QNI workers living here now that are still owed $7 million on a promise by Mr Palmer on the never-never. You know maybe after the election maybe you’ll get some money. Well that’s like three thimbles and no pea, if you shook Mr Palmer’s hand you’d count your fingers afterwards wouldn’t you, because you really can’t trust this person, yet Scott Morrison is banking on winning the election on a deal he’s done with Mr Palmer.
I’m happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Is there anything in your plan specifically about youth unemployment?
O’CONNOR: We really need to deal with youth unemployment. In fact youth unemployment nationally can I say, is more than double the national average. In fact it is between 11.5 per cent and 12.5 per cent, it goes up and down but is really high. The first thing we want to see is young people get a good education, vocational education or indeed tertiary, stay at secondary school and get the skills they need, that will keep people in jobs for a longer period. Our first priority is to see people get into apprenticeships, traineeships or university. That’s why we’ve provided university places, that’s why we’ve invested in TAFE in Townsville, and Northern Queensland and indeed for that matter Central Queensland and the rest of the country, because we need the skills for people to be connected.
Beyond that, Bill Shorten at the launch announced a new jobs tax cut which means that businesses with a turnover of up to $10 million can employ up to five people if they are under the age of 25 they can be employed and there will be a tax depreciation for every one of those five people up to an amount of $50,000 for that small business. So that’s tax relief for small business and it’s also a boost for youth employment opportunities because employers will go out of their way to employ young people because of the tax benefit they receive by employing those young people.
And we know this - if young people just get a chance in the labour market with a small or medium business, then they are usually set. But the longer they are unemployed, the longer they’re not learning and they’re not earning it gets more and more difficult for them. And that’s why we need to invest in the infrastructure, but also invest in incentives for businesses to employ young people.
JOURNALIST: Cathy a question for you, there’s a youth program here that’s called Recycle Your Dreams, are you aware of it?
O’TOOLE: I’m very familiar with it.
JOURNALIST: Anyway, their Federal Government grant is over now and they’re shutting their doors today which is super sad, they’re doing some really good work there. Is there anything that you can do to try and help them out? They’re trying to apply for more funding but it has taken 12 months and they’re just a bit over and have to close their doors and they’re turning away youth as well.
O’TOOLE: It is an absolute disgrace, that this Federal Government has not funded Recycle Your Dreams. I’ve been there numerous times, I’ve lobbied on their behalf to the Federal Government, I have written to the relevant Minister and the Prime Minister to say this is a wonderful project with unbelievable success rate. I have also approached the State Government to see if they could do something by way of funding for 12 months to give them some time to look at what else they can do federally. But, the reality is, this Federal Government does not care one ounce for young people and building their skills.
The young people that are attending Recycle Your Dreams, some of those young people have been out of work for quite some time. Some of those young people that attend have had mental health issues, some of them have been excluded from school. Every single person that I have spoken to there, young man or young woman, is so energised by that project. They are not finishing the training because they are jobs. I just do not understand why this completely out of touch LNP Government - and where’s the candidate, where is the LNP candidate for Herbert lobbying for Recycle Your Dreams? He hasn’t uttered one word, he has not paid one ounce of attention to this project.
Labor has committed, if elected, $1.5 million to look at grassroots programs for early intervention prevention. That program will be run through the local council and with local organisations. Recycle Your Dreams would be one of the very types of projects that we would look at in terms of an early intervention prevention project. And there’s another project there that the Commonwealth took money as well and that’s Project Booyah - another highly successful youth project. They just seem to have nothing but cuts and chaos in their back pockets and they have demonstrated beyond any doubt that they do not care for the young people in our community.
JOURNALIST: Cathy, we’ve had the mayors of Western Queensland in town today, basically asking for them to be given a fair go and appealing to Townsville voters to choose a candidate that will look after them and their interests. How can you assure people of Western Queensland that a Labor Government will look after them?
O’TOOLE: I have met with all of those mayors in Canberra a number of times. I take my hat off to the Coalition of Mayors in the north-west. Townsville really is the hub for the north-west and it is in our best interest to work very collaboratively with the regional mayors and I include Palm Island in that space.
For us, there is enormous benefit because the produce they bring into this city is shipped out through the port or goes out on rail and that’s a pay off for us. So I have absolutely committed to working with the alliance of Mayors from north and west Queensland to ensure that we get a fair hearing. Townsville is the largest city in northern Australia. We have a role to play, a leadership role to play in the development of northern Australia. To do that well we need to work with our regional mayors and I am one hundred percent committed to that and I will stand up for those mayors every day that I’m in Canberra.
JOURNALIST: So projects like Mt Isa, Townsville rail line, the Burdekin Falls-
O’TOOLE: Yes we’ve backed that. So Labor has committed $100 million dollars to the Townsville Mt Isa rail line. That is our life blood. That rail line is critical to the survival of the jobs in Mt Isa and jobs here in Townsville. Incertek Pivot lost $10 million a week when that rail line was down. So that is a complete no brainer for us and Labor has committed to the Mt Isa Townsville rail line.
JOURNALIST:  And also we have Matt Canavan here this morning to re-announce some funds for the Hann Highway, I think, so was Labor supportive of that project and what do you think about the Minister coming down to re-announce something?
O’TOOLE: Well I said I think it says a lot about whether you haven’t got a policy you may as well re-announce one which you’ve already announced. What the people of Townsville need to think about very clearly is the budget’s not put one cent of new infrastructure money into this economy for two years. So it’s well and fine to come and re-announce something that you’ve already re-announced and when there’s no benefit for two years, that’s not very helpful not right here and now.
JOURNALIST: Interestingly enough at that press conference Senator Canavan (inaudible) so does that say something about (inaudible)?
O’TOOLE: Well to me locally, I think it says to our community that the LNP is in utter chaos. We’ve got a Senator who is developing his own policy. He doesn’t agree with his own team. In fact he’s fighting against his own team for a spot. How will that help Townsville? It’s more cuts and chaos. That’s all it is. Chaotic, chaotic, chaotic.
JOURNALIST: I’ve got a random one. Suburbs like (inaudible) falls into the Seat Dawson. Isn’t it a bit strange that they’re not in the Seat of Herbert? Do you think they would be better represented in Herbert?
O’TOOLE: That’s done on boundaries of numbers in essence and Brendan would be able to speak to that more clearly but what I will say is the people who live in those suburbs feel more connected to Townsville than they do to MacKay without a doubt.
O’CONNOR: I might just add, obviously that’s up to the Australian Electoral Commission based on numbers on the principle of one by one value, but anyone I think would rather be represented in Canberra by Cathy O’Toole than the current incumbent of Dawson. I mean he’s a part time parliamentarian and for that reason if you want to get things done you’re not going to rely upon someone who spends a year out of three overseas. But as for the lines, the boundaries, they are all things that are determined by the Electoral Commission and political parties can make submissions about that but quite rightly the decision is made by the AEC.
Thank you.