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Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

14 May 2011

Doorstop Interview

Hay Point Coal Terminal, Mackay

14 May 2011

SUBJECTS: Mining; Mackay Infrastructure; Budget; Mental Health; Polls

TREASURER:

It's great to be here in Mackay, one of the great engine rooms of the Australian economy. You can see mining boom mark II in action right behind me here today. Today I've been briefed on the plans for expansion in terms of the port, not just here but also further to the north. And what we are seeing is an investment boom, and that investment boom can bring an opportunities boom to Australia. What it really means is jobs, jobs and jobs. Certainly jobs in this local community, and of course jobs elsewhere in the country, as we unlock the wealth and the potential and the jobs that come with the investment in mining.

And of course that's what the Budget was really about this week. Coming back to the black in 2012-13 is very important, and also the investments that we put in place in training - that's very important as well, making sure we've got the apprentices for all of the demands of this economy that we will see particularly in regions like this. And of course we do need the investment in infrastructure as well which is why we put in the Budget our commitments to do the planning for the ring road in this region, the Mackay Ring Road. The money has been made available which will come from the Mining Resource Rent Tax in terms of the Peak Downs Highway. Other local investments, investments in that infrastructure locally, it's critical to the quality of life of all those people who live in these towns and in the wider region. So it's very important in that context that the Budget passes, it's very important that it passes because it gives us the opportunity to maximise the opportunities which will flow from mining boom mark II not just in regions like this but of course right around the country.

Now I noticed that the leader of the Opposition in his Budget reply the other night didn't once mention the impact of the floods in January on not just this region or on this state, he didn't mention its impact on the country at all. It was completely omitted from the Opposition leader's speech the other night. I think that demonstrates just how out of touch and how political the Opposition leader has been behaving. How could you fail to mention the impact on communities such as this in a Budget reply? How could you fail to mention the importance of the spending that we're making on flood recovery in Queensland and across the country? How could you fail to mention this $6 billion worth of lost coal production in a region like this and more broadly across our state? I suppose we shouldn't be surprised by that because the Coalition is also opposing some significant initiatives in our Budget because we want to fund the infrastructure in this region, particularly that investment in the Peak Downs Highway with money from the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, but the local Liberal member opposes that as well, so I think the acid is really on Mr Abbott. He should pass the Budget so we can make the investments in communities like this but also so Australia has the certainty, the certainty that we require to maximise the opportunities that will flow from the mining boom in communities like this and right around Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, you speak of the engine room of the economy, is there any plans for an Abbot Point upgrade?

TREASURER:

Well certainly I've been discussing these matters this morning actually with the locals and I'll be talking to the State Government about their plans as well, and I've just been talking to the industry this morning about the importance of Abbot Point. When the expansion here is complete I'm been told it's going to have the capacity for 140 [million] tonnes combined and of course when you get to Abbot Point you can pick a number probably greater than that. And of course as you know there are many proposals for more mines in the region so there'll need to be expansion also at Abbot Point, but I can't give you any further detail on that except to say that the Federal Government is working with the State Government, and is working with investors, and is working with the local community to ensure we get the right frameworks in place. Not long after I became Treasurer one of the first visits I made to this area was to stand up there at Abbot Point and have a look at the area and talk to Treasurer Fraser about the implications of that. This is a real example of why we have to face up to the future and deal with the challenges of mining boom mark II, which is why Mr Abbott's speech last week was just so bereft of any detail. What we have to do in this country is to make sure that we get the investment and spread the opportunities that flow from the boom, which brings the jobs. Simply running around the country mouthing mindless slogans doesn't produce jobs and it doesn't spread the wealth of the mining boom around our country.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan this morning you've spoken about funding for the Peak Downs Highway, I know a lot of people in the Mackay region, a lot of people have been dying on the roads around the Bruce Highway, any funding for the Bruce Highway?

TREASURER:

Well there's an upgrade going on at the moment, and we've got a massive investment, an upgrade to the southern approach going on right now. And of course we've got a massive investment in the Bruce Highway over seven years. We're spending a lot more than has been spent in previous periods on the Bruce Highway, and I also understand it's not just the Bruce highway around here, it's also the Bruce Highway to the south, and the Bruce Highway to the north. Having driven that road myself on many occasions in my life, I understand the importance of getting all those things right. A lot of money is flowing and as you will know, we've provided additional monies in this Budget to do further upgrades in key parts of the highway.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) Bruce Highway, can you understand the frustrations of locals (inaudible)

TREASURER:

That's why I'm here. I've been to this region on numerous occasions in the last couple of years talking precisely about issues like the ring road, about the Peak Downs Highway, about why we need to use the revenue from the Mining Resource Rent Tax to invest in infrastructure in communities like this. That's why I'm just so stunned that the local Liberal member is opposing those investments. I mean what could be more irresponsible than opposing - as he is - the money that is going into the planning of the ring road, and the money that we are going to allocate for the upgrade of the Peak Downs Highway, I mean nothing could be more irresponsible than that.

JOURNALIST:

Back in relation to the ring road, $10 million, that's a good start but can we expect some more funding?

TREASURER:

Well certainly over a period of time if the Mineral Resource Rent Tax passes, there will be a couple of billion dollars for Queensland, and that's precisely the type of project that money is meant for, that's the whole point. So the Liberals want to oppose the revenue stream which will provide the infrastructure for the future, which will lift the quality of life for people living locally.

JOURNALIST:

Do you see any funding going to any mining projects in this region in the near future do you think? Any mining projects, any funding going to any mining projects?

TREASURER:

Well I'm talking to private investors about massive amounts of money that they want to invest in projects in the region. What government has to do is to work with those investors through the ports corporation and other public authorities to make sure that there is good value for money for whatever dollars are put in from a public perspective. There's a lot of private investment coming in here, and the key is going to be the planning of it. What has occurred here so far is very good. I've had a very good briefing this morning up in the Port Corporation about their plans for the future, and I'll certainly be going away and talking to the state minister, the federal ministers as well that are involved, and also the private investors about how we maximise the opportunities from this investment boom and maximise the jobs that flow from this investment boom, not just locally but right around the country. We've got to get that right. And that's why it's just so stunning that Mr Abbott could give a so-called Budget reply speech which doesn't mention any of these critical challenges for the future. It goes to the core of what we must be about - which is jobs, jobs, and jobs.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, you speak of the Budget really combating the skill shortage, and attracting workers to this region. What specifically can we see to bring workers here and when will this start to begin?

TREASURER:

Well we're allocating money in the Budget for a dramatic change in emphasis in the apprenticeship system. You would be aware that many apprentices who start their apprenticeship don't complete and in fact around half apprentices that start don't complete. So there are very significant initiatives in this Budget, particularly in terms of mentoring and the recognition of prior training and training on the job that have not been there before and they are well funded, and they are well funded because we want to make sure that we are training Australians first for the opportunities that will come from this mining boom in local communities like this. So you'll see that money coming into this community.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, Mackay has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. Do you think it deserves to house one of the next Headspace facilities?

TREASURER:

Well certainly there's a very big emphasis in this Budgets on mental health. I've got to say it's one of the things I'm most proud of in the Budget. We've got a very significant commitment of new money in this Budget for projects and for programs like Headspace and others as well (inaudible). So we understand the importance of mental health, but I'm not doing the planning for those programs or the allocations, but if Mackay has such a strong case I'm sure that will be taken into account as we go through the implementation of the program announced the other night.

JOURNALIST:

One final question on bringing some workers to our region, will overseas workers be a focus of the Government, bringing them…

TREASURER:

Well the Government has made it very clear that our first priority is to train Australians, and also not just to uplift the skills of Australians but also to get those that are out of the workforce or only working a few hours to work some more hours. So there's not just an emphasis on skills or upgrading of skills, there's also a really big emphasis on talking to those groups in the community that have been excluded from the labour force for a whole variety of reasons and engaging them in the work force and training them up. So that's our first emphasis, and from time to time some companies will need to access temporary skilled labour. They can do that now under our 457 program and that will depend upon the (inaudible) that they have.

JOURNALIST:

I just wanted to ask you on the polls overnight, what are your thoughts on that?

TREASURER:

Well the numbers that I'm interested in are the 500,000 new jobs that are going to be created in Australia in the next couple of years on top of the 700,000 jobs that have already been created in the term of our Government. That's what I'm interested in, getting the fundamentals right.