GEORGE CHRISTENSEN, MEMBER FOR DAWSON: Well it’s great to have PM here in Mackay and I’ve also got our soon to be Senator, Suzie McDonald who will be based out of North Queensland as well. What we are doing this afternoon after we have done a bit of a walk through the local shopping centre just talking to locals about their needs and wants and concerns, we are going to be hearing more of that here today with a community afternoon tea so people from all walks of life whether it’s from you know the local scouts club to the local SES groups, surf lifesaving all different service clubs we’ve invited a lot of different community group representatives here to come and listen to the PM and more importantly to engage directly with the PM so I’m not going to talk any further, you get to engage with me every day, let’s hear from the PM.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks George, it’s great to be here in Mackay today and as we approach the end of my run up the Coast, it’s been tremendous to be listening to Queenslanders this week and it’s a great opportunity to be listening to community organisations here at Mackay today and hearing them and doing as you would have been seeing as we have moved up throughout Queensland, we have making a number of announcements and I have also been taking a careful note of the key priorities that Queenslanders have been raising with me as I have moved throughout the state – and the range of projects as you know here in Mackay which are very important during the next phase of the ring road project, is an important project and that’s one that George has been, I can assure you, advocating very strongly for so there has been a good opportunity for us to have a bit more of a chat about that today so we will continue to assess that and see where that goes in the not too distant future. George has got a package of material there - that he is handing over to me today and as I say he is really pushing this issue very strongly as you would expect him to be doing as the local member and I’ve been carefully listening to and hearing what George and the locals have had to say.
It was also a great privilege to get out to the CQ Helicopter Rescue today and to meet all the crew and those who keep that service operating throughout Queensland. I want to thank them for the tremendous service that they have given most recently in attending those very tragic incidents that have occurred with the shark attacks. I met directly with those who were attending those at the scene and were involved directly at the scene and that would have been a tough day at the office for those individuals and they provide a great and compassionate and very professional and dedicated service and I want to thank them again publically for what they have been able to do.
The other thing I mentioned more broadly on a national level is earlier today, I met with the Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter in Townsville, Bob and I have been talking for a number of weeks now and we were able to reach an agreement for his ongoing and continued support of the Government to ensure that we are able to continue on the way that we have been governing and he has provided his support to our Government and I will be releasing the details of the letter that summarises that agreement that we have been able to reach in terms of ensuring the Parliament can operate with stability and not be held up by the tricks and games and the nonsense that the Labor Party, the Opposition, try on every occasion and I want to thank the Member for Kennedy for his great support in ensuring that there is stability in our Parliament so that we can get on with the job of governing for Australia, continuing to roll out plans for a stronger economy that guarantees the essential services that Australians rely on and a stronger economy that pays for the essential infrastructure, for Medicare, for affordable medicines and all the important things that Australians need and that we keep Australians safe.
I was down at Lavarack Barracks earlier today and meeting with our Defence Forces and the important investments we make in the Defence of our nation and of course keeping Australians together. I don’t want to see an Australia, I don’t want to see a Mackay, where you have got employers and employees being set against each other. We have got small and family businesses here who just work together for the good of that enterprise and the better that business is doing, the better that they are all doing whether they work for that business or they own and run that business and it is great to see the strong economic performance of Mackay and of the electorate of Dawson more generally. The unemployment rate well below what the national rate of unemployment is and one of the key reasons for that is the works we have been putting in in infrastructure but equally it’s the importance of sectors like the mining sector and the sugar sector, sectors that have got a lot of support from our Government.
Mining creates jobs and it deserves the support of a government that is committed to jobs and we have that. Sadly I can’t say that for the Labor Party, who are quite happy to sell out mining jobs here in North Queensland to try and attract the votes of others in the inner city suburbs and areas of Melbourne. So I’ll say the same thing about mining here in Mackay as I will anywhere else in the country, and you’ll get the same message from me. It creates jobs, I think it’s good for the country. So happy to take a couple of quick questions.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of Keith Pitt’s comments to cull sharks?
PRIME MINISTER: Well as a local member, Keith is going to be part I think of providing a local response to these issues but as the Prime Minister, it’s not an area that we have any direct responsibility over. It’s a very sensitive issue and there have been three lives lost and my sympathies and thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have been lost and those who were involved in attending the scene at the time, as I mentioned. So I don’t want to complicate that issue, I think it should be handled sensitively. There are a lot of strong opinions on how these issues should be handled and I’m going to leave it to the local authorities and the state government to work together with local communities I think to manage those issues in the best interests of the safety of the local community who are visitors and to act in accordance with environmental processes.
JOURNALIST: Are you one of the few people in Australia who would actually ask Santa for a lump of coal?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I’ve already got one. What I’m hoping is when we go into this Christmas season is as people have really worked hard and really put in this year, I know that people have been making a lot of sacrifices. The one thing they will be looking forward to is just some really precious time with family and that’s my Christmas wish for Australia. That they’ll be able to get some special time, some special time with their family, their friends and to be able to focus positively.
JOURNALIST: You’ve called the ring road an important project. When will we actually be seeing funding for stage two?
PRIME MINISTER: Well as I say, George has been making a very strong case and when we’re in a position to saying something further about that we will.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Luke Foley should resign, following these allegations that he inappropriately touched a journalist?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I found the allegations, when I reviewed the statement that had been provided by the young journalist in question, very shocking. The alleged behaviour of Mr Foley is very, very shocking and concerning. And really they are matters for him and his colleagues in the Labor Party to address, whether it is Bill Shorten or others. They are matters for them to reflect on and for him to make judgements. I’m not here to act as a judge and jury on these sorts of things but I must say I found those allegations very, very shocking.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there has been some criticism of you catching a plane instead of taking the bus [inaudible] some of the smaller communities of Dawson. What’s your response to that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well the reason we left the bus in Gladstone is because that enabled me to get up to Townsville last night and to do the community forum we had on air last night and it enabled me to be here this afternoon. Queensland is a big state and as Prime Minister you’ve got a pretty punishing schedule, which is fine, and I chose to spend more time on the ground practically, talking to people, than I did in transit between locations. I mean, it’s just a practical thing.
What matters is coming to listen, coming to hear, coming to do. That’s what I’ve been doing and that’s why I’ve really taken a lot out of the week. And one of the things I’ve really taken out of the week, in addition to the issues that issues that are really focused in the minds of Queenslanders. They’re infrastructure, power prices. Power prices which are basically set at the end of the day by the Queensland state government. They’re the ones who own the power companies in Queensland, they’re the ones who take the dividends out of the companies, put them in their own pocket while Queenslanders pay higher power prices. So that’s a really big issue. Water infrastructure is a big issue, you’d be familiar with the announcement we made further south in terms of the pipeline project. We’re looking at a lot of important water projects here in Queensland and we’ve been doing a lot of feasibility work on those and we’ll carefully consider those.
But it’s been a very informative week, but what’s been great is the amount of support we’re seeing supporters of the LNP coming back in solid numbers. People who had previously been a bit frustrated, been a bit anxious, being able to come and for me to be there and welcome them back into the LNP. New members coming in, old members coming back, supporters coming back, rallying around the Party, because they believe the same things we believe, and that is we need a stronger economy, that’s what’s good for Queensland. That’s what delivers the services Queenslanders are looking for. Under Labor, you’ll have a weaker economy, you’ll have fewer jobs, they’ll be shutting down industries up here in North Queensland because of their reckless policies. Whether it’s on emissions reductions targets or whether it’s on taking away the tax refunds of older Australians through their retirees tax or smashing, up here, those who invested in properties for their own future through negative gearing. There are more people who negative gear in George’s electorate than in my Sydney electorate to the south. They’re people like those who have been working in the mining industry who have gone and they’ve invested for their future. Now what the Labor Party is going to do on negative gearing, I’ve seen Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen have been taking a hammering on this today, and so they should. Their policies on the taxation of housing are reckless and they put at risk the Triple A credit rating of Australia and they will undermine the value of the most important asset every family saves and scrimps for and pays for over the course of their entire working life and beyond and that is their home. They are a threat to the value of people’s homes and that’s why they should walk away from these reckless policies and that’s why you will not see those policies from our Government. Thanks very much.