Tourism announcement at Cradle Mountain with the Hon. Will Hodgman, Premier of Tasmania, Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck and Senator Steve Martin, Senators for Tasmania and Brett Whiteley, Liberal Candidate for Braddon

Transcript
16 May 2018
Prime Minister, Premier of Tasmania
Cradle Mountain cable-car funding; GST; Citizenship; Tasmanian AFL team; North Korea
E&OE
Infrastructure and Industry

PREMIER OF TASMANIA, THE HON. WILL HODGMAN MP:

Thank you very much everyone for being here today.

Can I welcome you, Prime Minister, to a classically Tasmanian spot in extraordinary Tasmanian conditions. But a very warm welcome to you and to Senators Colbeck and Martin, and also to the Federal Candidate for Braddon.

Can I also just very briefly acknowledge the First Tasmanians as the original owners and custodians of this land. And as the Minister, newly appointed, self-appointed in fact for Parks and for Tourism, we’re delighted to welcome the commitment of the Federal Government to provide $30 million to a project that will transform what is already an iconic part of our state, but which will elevate it to truly rival Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef.

The Tasmanian Government has already made a significant commitment; we have $51 million to transform this iconic precinct, this wonderful natural area, which already attracts around a quarter of visitors to our state here and it’s expected that the investment we’re making now in partnership with the Commonwealth will bring an additional 60,000 into the area.

As a Government we’re very conscious of capitalising on what are our great competitive strengths and our natural areas are one of those.

We need to also invest in infrastructure to support the increased number of visitors and people who come from across the world to be here.

So, delighted to have the Prime Minister and our federal colleagues here. Thank you very much for a significant commitment to our state. This will help to take Tasmania’s tourism industry and the promotion of our wilderness areas to the next level and certainly deliver on our commitment to make Tasmania the eco-tourism capital of the world.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thank you Will and it’s great to be here with you and with Senators Steve Martin and Richard Colbeck and of course Brett Whiteley, our candidate in the Braddon by election.

I just want to say Will, thank you to you and all your Tasmanian colleagues here today, because I know that normally you’d just be wearing t-shirts, because this is just another mild, balmy Tasmanian day.

[Laughter]

But you've rugged up so I don’t feel too bad, in many layers here to try to stay warm.

Look, I'm thrilled that we’re able to provide $30 million to support the construction of the cable-way. Which, as Will said, is going to transform the tourism infrastructure here at this iconic location, this beautiful location, that all of us who've visited here will never ever forget.

I first came up into the Cradle Mountain- Lake St Clair National Park in 1972, would you believe? On a bushwalk for quite a few weeks. Got over to the Walls of Jerusalem and walked down to Lake St Clair and saw this beautiful place. I was back here a few years ago, with Lucy, it was a bit colder than I expected so I required the jacket to stay warm. But it’s terrific.

This is going to add 150 jobs in the construction, there’s going to be 50 additional, ongoing jobs, 60,000 more visitors. It’s a low-impact, environmentally-friendly cable-way that is going to get cars off the road. It’s going to reduce traffic. It’s going mean this car park is not going to have as many cars in it and certainly won't need to be expanded.

It’s a great outcome and it’s part of a big vision for this precinct.

It’s on top of the over $900 million we're investing in infrastructure in Tasmania, including the new Bridgewater Bridge, the Midland Highway, $400 million going to Roads of Strategic Importance, not to speak of the City Deal that’s underway in Launceston and of course, the City Deal, Will, that we're negotiating for Hobart.

So, Tasmania is showing the benefits of strong economic leadership from the Liberal Government, led by Will Hodgman, from my Government in Canberra. We're seeing stronger economic growth, more jobs, record jobs growth and that's enabling us to not only provide tax relief for individuals and businesses, - particularly people on middle and lower middle incomes - but it also means we can fund the essential services and guarantee the essential services, whether it's in health or in education, or in infrastructure.

So great to be here, Will.

I think Steve Martin, you're going to have a few words. Good on you. You've been a great advocate for this and I want to thank you for your advocacy, together with Richard and all the other Tasmanians in the Senate and the Parliament, supporting this great project.

SENATOR STEVE MARTIN, SENATOR FOR TASMANIA:

Thank you very much Prime Minister.

The impact of the Cradle Mountain visitation certainly has a huge significance for the north-west region. So much so, this Cradle Mountain Master Plan will generate around about $29 million of extra economic activity. Along with it will come, not only the jobs for the cable-way but in all, around about 140 jobs and around about 160 construction jobs over the period of the time this project will be built.

It’s been my honour and privilege to be able to work with the Prime Minister and Senator Cormann in securing this $30 million for this project.

It certainly will highlight what Cradle Mountain is and attract more international visitors.

Lonely Planet has listed Cradle Mountain as number 32 in the world of places to visit, internationally and that goes against Port Arthur, which is listed at 416.

So, Cradle Mountain is an iconic place in Tasmania and it’s great to be part of this and securing the funding.

So thank you very much, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good on you, Steve.

SENATOR STEVE MARTIN, SENATOR FOR TASMANIA:

Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

So Brett, what is it going to mean for Braddon?

BRETT WHITELEY, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR BRADDON:

Well this is an amazing day folks. Thank you, Prime Minister, thank you, Premier and thank you Steve for your added support to this project.

This project will, for the north-west coast of Tasmania in particular, be the equivalent of what MONA has done for the south of the state and the state generally.

It’s a game-changer for this region Prime Minister. So this $30 million investment on top of the state funds, is going to transform, I believe, this region. The benefits into Braddon are enormous, whether it’s hotel occupancy, whether it is the service industries generally, restaurants, just economic stimulator would be an understatement for what this will do for the region of north-west Tasmania, and Braddon in particular.

So, thank you so much, Prime Minister. This is a project that’s been very much supported by the tourism industry, by the Cradle Coast Authority, the Senators and I recognise Senator Colbeck, and certainly, the state and the cream on the cake obviously, is having you here today to announce this and we appreciate it very, very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much Brett, thank you.

So, Richard, how do you see this changing things here? A big boost for jobs?

THE HON. RICHARD COLBECK, SENATOR FOR TASMANIA:

Well, it is a big boost for jobs and when I had the privilege of being your Tourism Minister, Prime Minister, and talking to the international players in tourism, their argument to me was that experience is the new star rating. It’s not about marble in bathrooms. It is about the experience that people can get, and that's what Tasmania has in spades.

So this investment really contributes to the improvement in the experience, so the cable-way in itself will be an experience in getting here to the mountain. But also, it's just a significant boost to the quality of the tourism offering in Tasmania.

And as the Premier has quite rightly said, maintain Tasmania's premier position as one of the great Australian tourism offerings. So, it’s a real boost for the industry. I'm sure that the industry, generally, will be very excited by it. And it is a very, very welcome investment.

So, thank you, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good, well that's terrific. Thank you all.

Now let’s take some questions.

JOURNALIST:

Well Prime Minister, why is this funding only being announced now after the by-election’s been called?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, look, it's been under discussion for quite some time now. But obviously, the timing is very appropriate given that at long last we're actually having a by-election in Braddon.

I have to say, Justine Keay, it was quite clear that she was ineligible to sit in the Parliament last October. The High Court said so. If you were a dual citizen at the time you nominate, you weren't eligible to sit.

So she has sat there together with a number of her Labor colleagues for all of those months, drawing a salary, using the Parliamentary entitlements, when she wasn’t eligible to sit in the Parliament.

JOURNALIST:

Do you regret not making this funding announcement before the last federal election?

PRIME MINISTER:

You can’t live your life backwards. Always on the front foot.

JOURNALIST:

Where is the money actually coming from?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s coming from our infrastructure budget. It’s a massive commitment right across the country. We have, as I said, it is on top of over $900 million that is going into other Tasmanian infrastructure. Mostly, you know, roads and of course the bridge.

JOURNALIST:

Will this be given in one year or the forward estimates?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, this will be paid as and when it's needed - as it's spent. So, in other words, the project as they have got to get under way, they've got to get a contract let, they’ve got to get it being built and the money will be drawn down as required to pay for the work.

JOURNALIST:

Is this just pork barreling on behalf of Brett Whiteley because there’s a by-election?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, this is a cable-way to get people up here, to deliver 60,000 more visitors and many more jobs in this part of Tasmania.

JOURNALIST:

You do hope it wins you votes?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sorry?

JOURNALIST:

You do hope it wins you votes?

PRIME MINISTER:

What we're doing is ensuring that we create more jobs and stronger economic growth here in Tasmania.

JOURNALIST:

Why aren’t you visiting Hobart today, they’ve had a natural disaster and I’m sure they’d appreciate a visit from the Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you know what, I spoke to the Premier after the flood. We've provided our National Disaster Relief funding, it is flowing through, as Will knows. The Minister, Angus Taylor, was on the case immediately. So we're providing all of that support and we obviously, you know, send our, all Australians send our best wishes to the people in Hobart and give them every support to, you know, rebuild and clean up and get everything back in order again. But it was a very severe flood and we understand that.

JOURNALIST:

Will you be releasing the Productivity Commission GST review before the Braddon by-election?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it will be released within weeks not months.

But it is a huge report. Obviously there was a draft report published earlier. The Treasurer and his team are going through it. I haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet. It's over 400 pages, I might add, it's quite a doorstopper, and he'll be consulting with the states.

But I can repeat the assurance that the Finance Minister gave yesterday that whatever changes are made to the GST to make it fairer or more transparent, Tasmania will not lose a cent out of any changes. We'll ensure that's the case.

JOURNALIST:

How confident are you that you can win Braddon?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we've got a great candidate. Brett delivered for Braddon when he was the member. We were sorry that he was defeated. The people of Braddon have the opportunity to re-elect him so he can get back to delivering for the people of Braddon as he consistently did during his time as the federal member.

JOURNALIST:

Are you concerned your potential candidate for the Longman by election, Trevor Ruthenberg could be facing his own questions over dual citizenship?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well all of those matters will be dealt with in the preselection process. The one message that is very clear from the High Court of Australia is you've got to get your act together and make sure you're not a dual citizen before you nominate, okay? That applies to every candidate. I think it's going to be, I hope, foremost in the mind of everyone who is planning to run for parliament, whether it's in these five upcoming by elections or in the general election next year.

JOURNALIST:

Are you pushing back the date of the by-elections though, to allow your candidates time to get their citizenship questions in order?

PRIME MINISTER:

The date of the by-elections is set by the Speaker, who consults with the electoral commission and also consults with the leaders of the major parties in the Parliament, including me of course.

JOURNALIST:

If the Productivity Commission GST report isn't released before these by-elections, does that just prove that you’ve got something to hide?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Productivity Commission report will be released as I said, within weeks, not months, but we obviously have to go through it and read it very carefully and give it the respect it deserves.

JOURNALIST:

You've criticised Justine for taking a salary while the cloud has hung over her citizenship status, what about the Liberal members who have also been there in that situation. Should all politicians' salaries in that scenario be pulled back?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think Justine Keay is in a, really an indefensible position. She knew she was a British subject, a British citizen when nominated, she knew that. She announced that she had delayed renunciation because she didn't want to give up her British citizenship. So she knew she was a British citizen.

It was very clear in October last year in the High Court’s judgement in the Canavan case that if you were a dual citizen at the time you nominated you were not eligible. They made it very clear, that’s exactly what they said.

Now, the High Court restated that, again, in the Gallagher case last week. But in all of those intervening months, Bill Shorten gave his rolled gold guarantee that his Labor members are eligible to sit in the Parliament. He defied what the High Court had said. Kept them in the Parliament, drawing a salary, you know, using members' entitlements, flying around the country, sending out letters to constituents. Doing all of that. The by-election should have been held last year.

Compare what our people did - Steve Parry, when he realised he had this issue, he resigned. John Alexander, when he realised he couldn't establish that he’d, you know, ceased to be a UK citizen, when he couldn't find the paperwork to confirm what had been his belief, he didn't argue about it - he resigned. Barnaby and Matt Canavan and Fiona Nash went to the High Court so the matter would be heard. And once the High Court made their decision, they were out. So our side of politics has acted responsibly about this, as indeed other members have.

But Bill Shorten with his rolled gold guarantee, unbelievable Bill, Unbelieve – a – Bill - you can't believe him on the Budget, you can’t believe on tax, you certainly can't believe him on border protection. But what he's demonstrated is that he was prepared to hang in there, keep those members there, drawing a salary, drawing taxpayers' money they weren't entitled to. The High Court had made clear they weren't entitled to. Why? Because he thought he could get away with it and time ran out last week.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, on something very important, what about the Tasmanian AFL team, Mick Malthouse and Leigh Matthews have jumped onboard, is there anything you can do to get us an AFL team in Tasmania?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'll give you lots of enthusiasm and encouragement. But it's not part of the Federal Government's responsibility to establish AFL teams.

But I know how passionate Tasmanians are about AFL. It's part of Tasmania's way of life, and you couldn't imagine the AFL without the contribution of Tasmania or Tasmanians. So I hope there is a Tasmanian AFL team, but it's going to be a matter for the AFL.

But you know what, if enthusiasm and passion counts for anything, I reckon you'll get your own team. There you go.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, on North Korea, are you concerned that North Korea is threatening to pull out of the high-level talks with South Korea because of US military exercises, will this undermine North Korea’s- show they’re not really willing to make peace?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, the important thing is that the parties continue to talk.

I just want to say again how much credit we have to give the effect of the sanctions on North Korea, the economic sanctions. Full credit has to go to the very tough stand, strong stand that President Trump has taken. The support that China under President Xi has given to the sanctions.

Those economic sanctions are the reason North Korea has come to the table to negotiate and we look forward to those discussions progressing.

But we have to say that while we welcome them, we've always got to say we welcome them with caution. There have been a lot of false dawns before but certainly, so far we appear to be making some progress. Let's hope we're not disappointed as we have been so many times in the past.

Now I think, do you want to ask some questions of Will? OK, Premier.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, can I just ask you one more about the University of Tasmania?

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay, just one more for me, then the Premier.

JOURNALIST:

You've previously announced funding for the relocation of the uni. Are you concerned that construction work hasn't started there?

PRIME MINISTER:

You're talking about Launceston?

JOURNALIST:

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

I look forward to construction getting under way as soon as possible, and I'll be following up with Will and all of the parties, and the University, to see if there are delays, I'll be seeking an explanation for it.

JOURNALIST:

Premier Hodgman, the Treasurer see’s Senator Cormann’s comments as a cast-iron guarantee the state share won't drop. Is that a naive trust? And are you actively fighting to make sure that doesn’t happen?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

No a guarantee is very strong language and you've just heard it repeated by the Prime Minister no less.

PRIME MINISTER:

We're talking about dollars, by the way. Can I just be quite clear about this. Because the state's share, every state's share varies from year to year with the GST now. So what the states have had - it is not just Tasmania but all states have had this issue - that the GST payments have fluctuated, sometimes quite dramatically and it makes it very hard for planning. So that's one of the other things that has to be reformed. So what we've said very clearly, is that Tasmania won’t, the dollars it receives are not going to go backwards. That’s very important.

JOURNALIST:

But they may not go up? If the share for the other states increases, if the GST revenue increases they may not go up?

PRIME MINISTER:

The shares change every year. Tasmania’s share of the GST is not the same this year as it was last year, and it changes all the time.

JOURNALIST:

Well you’ve said Premier that you won’t hold back any punches fighting for Tasmania’s GST revenue, should the Prime Minister be putting his fists up as well? Are you talking to him about that today?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

No. Yeah of course. Never have, never will back down from fighting for Tasmania.

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm just warming him.

[Laughter]

This is a political hug, designed to provide thermal comfort in a chilly environment.

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

The biggest problem I've got is my mouth's not working because it's so cold.

[Laughter]

So, no, look, we've fought every single time this issue arises and we've done some important things, not only fight for Tasmania's fair share but also get Tasmania's economy back up and running, get our budget back under control and make sure that we are deserving of our fair share of the GST.

JOURNALIST:

Premier, when will the funding for this project come, the state funding come into play?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

Well, it's already happening. There's work under way on the Gateway Precinct Plan. We will be budgeting for the work to have the cable-way up and running as well.

JOURNALIST:

When do you hope to have the cable-way running?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

As soon as possible. Look, this is a World Heritage area. It is very sensitive, it has to go through proper planning processes and approvals, including with the Commonwealth. So we hope it will be up and running soon.

JOURNALIST:

Are you expecting opposition like we’ve seen in Mount Wellington?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

Yeah, quite likely there'll be some who will want to see Tasmania stand still. But we as a Government have been prepared to embrace the fact that our wilderness areas are one of the things that is not only important to us but also to the people who come here.

JOURNALIST:

What will you do if we do see that opposition?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

Sorry?

JOURNALIST:

What will you do if we do see that opposition like we’ve had with the Mount Wellington cable-car?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

Well, we've just been to an election with this commitment.

I literally am struggling. It's like I've had an anesthetic or something. You could take a tooth out and I wouldn't feel it!

[Laughter]

Look, we've been to an election on this. Tasmanians know we are a government that supports development, including in and around our wilderness areas. It’s one of the reasons why we are the nation's number one tourism destination. We're going to continue that.

JOURNALIST:

Premier which of the recommendations – I can’t speak either -

[Laughter]

Which of those inquiry recommendations have yet to be implemented?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

I think there are possibly four, I mean-

JOURNALIST:

Can you tell us which ones?

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

I’m going through, we are going through each of these to make sure that our response is effective. That it's in keeping with what we need to do to make sure Tasmania is safe, and to deliver positive outcomes.

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay, thanks very much.

PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

Football, Nick, do you want to talk about? Let's go.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, if Mr Whiteley is elected what can he do to get some north-west teams back into the state league and how can you help him get that-

BRETT WHITELEY, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR BRADDON:

Make me captain, coach and centre-half forward.

[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:

There you go, there’s the answer! Thank you.

[ENDS]