Regional Investment Corporation, Murray-Darling disallowance, Decentralisation
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well look, today marks a milestone in delivery to regional and rural Australia by the National Party. We promised the Regional Investment Corporation, and today we've taken one huge step in delivering that for the people of regional Australia. We've been able to pass it through the Senate. It'll now go to the House, and we're going to be able to create the Regional Investment Corporation in Orange, in regional and rural Australia.
We're saying to the rest of Australia that we believe in regional and rural Australia. We're prepared to make the bold investments with the strategic steps to ensure that regional and rural Australia gets to participate in the wealth of the future. We're a government for all of Australians, not just big city Australians, and I have to say that this wouldn't have happened without the hard work of the Deputy Prime Minister, who came up with this concept many years ago. Everyone's talked about it, but today we've delivered as a National Party, we've delivered as a government, and I have to say, to you, Deputy Prime Minister, this is a really sweet moment for you for the hard work and determination that you've put into it. So, Deputy Prime Minister, please.
BARNABY JOYCE: Well, thank you very much, David, and I'd like to commend David and Andrew Gee. Andrew Gee, the hardworking local member who goes in to bat for the people of the Seat of Calare, who goes in to bat for the people of the City of Orange, to make sure that we get another centre of excellence.
With Orange you have Paraway Finances, which deal with issues for Macquarie Bank in the agricultural sector. You have a rural lending arm of, one of the major rural lending arms, of the National Australia Bank. You have the Department of Agriculture, the New South Wales Department of Agriculture. So, it made abundant sense that we drove and built on this centre of excellence with a $4 billion bank, and that is what we're doing – the Regional Investment Corporation, a $4 billion investment facility that will be based in this marvellous city.
It goes to show the architecture of our vision for our nation. If you have the intellect and the capacity to deal with veterinary medicines and plant chemicals, and Armadale is going to be such a centre of excellence with APVMA moving up there. With the Inland Rail, we get the expansion of Parkes as the crossover point between Perth and Sydney, and Melbourne and Brisbane, on that new corridor of commerce – the Inland Rail. We're seeing decentralisation in its many forms, with Wodonga picking up part of the MDBA, with Northam in Western Australia picking up part of the Grain Research Development Corporation.
We have a vision for decentralisation. We have the aptitude to make sure that what we do is grow regional areas, and this – the Regional Investment Corporation – has been something that's been talked about by so many. They talked about it and talked about it and talked about it, but they never did it. We have done it. We have got it through the Senate, we'll get it back through the Lower House with its amendments, and we will make sure that we drive this agenda forward. So, you'll hear other people on the crossbenches and independents talk about these sort of things, as they'll likely do. Well, the difference is the Coalition and the National Party actually did it, actually delivered on it, and it's been hard work.
I'd like to commend those who have supported this. I'd like to also commend the work done by Senator Mathias Cormann in passaging it through the Senate. And I'd especially like to commend the hard work and the lobbying by Andrew Gee, who I'll now pass over to.
ANDREW GEE: Well, thanks Barnaby, thanks David, and a great day for country Australia, really. Look, I'm absolutely delighted that the Regional Investment Corporation is going to be based in Orange, but I think the really important thing for Australia is that this is going to really benefit country communities. It's going to improve the administration of, for example, concessional loans to our farmers. It's going to help build badly needed water infrastructure in our country communities. I think this is something that will be warmly welcomed in country Australia, and for the critics who say, nah, we don't need it, they're talking a different language from people who live in the country, because folks in the bush know how important this type of facility is, how important these concessional loans are, and they know that it helps build our country communities and keep them together.
So, I'd like to thank Barnaby and David for all of their work in finally getting this through the Senate. It's been disappointing that you've had some knockers out there, like Joel Fitzgibbon, for example, who said it was pork barrelling for Orange. I totally reject that. We're talking about a decentralisation program here that country people all over Australia welcome. We know the value of moving these departments out of the big cities, out of Sydney and Canberra, and into the regions and helping our regions to develop and grow.
So, I think this is a really important development, and to the knockers, they can keep on knocking, but we're in the business of building regional Australia and that's precisely what we're doing with the passing of this legislation through the Senate earlier today.
QUESTION: Why do you reject Mr Fitzgibbon's claims that this is pork barrelling?
BARNABY JOYCE: Well, whenever it happens in a Labor seat it's apparently good government, and when it happens in a Coalition seat, it's pork barrelling. Might I remind you that the Department of Mines was moved by a Labor government to Maitland, and that would make sense – there's a lot of mines around there. Might I remind you that the Labor Government at a state level has also moved, I think, the gun registry to one of their northern Labor seats, and that's fine. But what we do is we don't- every time something gets moved out of regional areas – when they close down a post office; when they close down facilities; when they close down schools – in regional areas, we just have to accept it. We just have to accept it as the state of play. But when we apparently have the temerity to say, no, we'll actually move things back to regional areas, then they call us pork barrelling.
If you followed the Labor Party, basically, mantra, we'd have everything in Sydney. That would be it. Sydney would be a really big city and nothing else would exist. Remember, this city that we're in here right now, Canberra – a great city – it was brought about by a decentralisation agenda, that we would not have government just based in Melbourne, and I don't think anybody's complaining about Canberra at the moment. It's our greatest example of decentralisation. The problem is, sometimes we think it's the only example of decentralisation.
Now, we're going to build what America did with Chicago and create the centre of excellence in agriculture. We're going to do that to Orange. We've got to start the process somewhere. We've got to start the vision somewhere, and we are doing that. And the expertise in agriculture chemicals, for both vets and plants, in Armadale. And the intermodal capacity in a great hub, like a Fort Worth, you can do that in Parkes. And with MDBA, we're going to move that. We'll be moving that out. I'm sure that Dave's got a lot more to say about that, so we have it actually- incentives on the river. We are a government of vision, and we've done it in the past with the Antarctic division which is- obviously it's more relevant that it's in Hobart.
The Labor Party will always say the one thing. They'll say that everything should be in Canberra, even though, in its initial form, they would never have supported that. They would've left government in Melbourne.
QUESTION: The reports Senator Nash was disqualified from Parliament. She had some plans where Cabinet was asking- or she was asking all of the Cabinet ministers to put forward their decentralised- where's all that at? Because that's been left hanging since she was disqualified.
BARNABY JOYCE: No, we're going to continue with our decentralisation agenda. It's vitally important, and of course, that is one of the facets being carried by Dr McVeigh, who's now the Minister for Regional Development, and I'm absolutely certain, after going up with John McVeigh into Toowoomba and seeing the money that we're spending on the Warrego Highway, that the 796 kilometres of highway that goes right out to Charleville, and the excess of half a billion dollars that was put on the table to expand the Warrego Highway, because we have a vision also for east-west, not just for north-south. But John McVeigh will definitely be driving the decentralisation agenda, and I'm sure you'll hear more about that.
QUESTION: Is that project still happening though, that Senator Nash promoted?
BARNABY JOYCE: Decentralisation has not stopped. It is one of four facets of what it is to be National Party member, and certainly what it is to be in the Coalition.
QUESTION: Can you give a guarantee they'll go to non-National Party seats though?
BARNABY JOYCE: We're only too happy to do that. Bit of support from the Labor Party would be great. If they actually got on board and decided that they believed in decentralisation, that would be a really big start, and if the Labor Party want to work with us in a bipartisan way, I'm sure that we can do a lot in that space. But as you know, the Labor Party is one of the greatest hurdles in any form of decentralisation because they just don't have the vision for regional efforts.
QUESTION: Deputy Prime Minister, it's been 40 days since the Cabinet reshuffle. How are things in that?
BARNABY JOYCE: They're going well. You can see today [indistinct] brilliant answer today. Absolutely nailed it.
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: And today, we've just got the RIC through today.
BARNABY JOYCE: We just got the RIC through today. We're laying tracks for the Inland Rail. We're just talking today about in excess of $3 billion that's going to be spent on the Pacific Highway around and about the seat of Page. This is a great time and we are moving things forward. You've got record wool prices. We are doing a great job and we'll continue to do a great job, and the National Party's a very tight thing.
QUESTION: What about Labor's support for the Greens' disallowance motion on the Basin Plan, Mr Joyce? What's your view on that? That's been a big issue.
BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I'm going to hand that back to David.
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Look, quite frankly, this is why people hate politicians. This was all about politics. This was nothing more than politics. This is Tony Burke's plan, his review, and he had from 26 November last year to come up and tell us what the issues were with the Northern Basin Review. He said nothing until five to midnight. He decides to come out and say, no, I'm not quite happy with the Northern Basin Review. It smells all about Batman, it smells all about politics. You know what? He's playing with people's lives. These are real people's lives that they're playing with here. This is disgusting, the fact that he's prepared to go and play a political game with the livelihoods of those people, and I don't think he's been out there, and he's sat at the kitchen tables, sat in the business, he's sat with those people that are being impacted day after day, because I can tell you, when you do, you realise what this actually means.
So the reality is my hand's still out. My hand's still out there to reach out to him to get common sense, because the reality is we are at real risk. We are at real risk of this whole thing blowing up. We've got the New South Wales minister quite rightly flabbergasted by what's happening here. He's put his hand out and said let's go on the journey, on the full journey, and he gets slapped down. So what more do they want? What more do they want? The reality is the plan was approved in 2012, bipartisanship, all the Basin states agreed to it. For god's sake, let's just deliver.
The Australian people, they want us out of their lives, and they want us to put the framework and the environment around them to go and do what they do best, particularly in regional and rural Australia, and that's grow the best food and fibre. And we're not giving them certainty, and we're not giving those communities that live around those irrigation farms the certainty that they need. This is deplorable politics, and I just say: take a step back from the edge. My hand's still out. I'm still there to lead with you. This is about leadership, not politics.
QUESTION: Minister, where will it leave the plan if this motion, and in fact the second Greens motion as well, gets passed?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well look, the real risk is that if we don't have calm, if we don't have leadership, this whole thing can blow up. We could have what we were proposing as a 3200 plan, end up delivering 2090 to South Australia. So the Greens, in what they're trying to do is put more water back in the environment, they're actually going to take less.
QUESTION: How do you figure that?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, if the 3200 blows up, the fact is that we have to deliver 2750, but the only mechanism we've got is buybacks. We've only got 275 gig to get up to the 1500 cap. We're going to get nowhere near 3200 for South Australia. So you do the math. The reality is that they're going to do themselves out of a hell of a lot of water, just for the sake of grandstanding and playing politics with people's lives. It's not just up in the Northern Basin that they're playing [indistinct], they're playing it with people in South Australia. There's farmers in South Australia that are going to cop this as well.
So the reality is we all have to show some leadership here. Please, these are real people's lives. I've seen them, and I just reach out to the Greens and whoever else: take a step back, because we are at a pivotal moment, and I'm trying to reach out to the states as well, to make sure they stay on this journey, because if they fall, we are at real risk of this Basin Plan falling apart. I am committed. I wasn't in this place in 2012, but I'm prepared to go the full journey on the Basin Plan. But if those who were the architects can't even be bothered to do that, they want to play politics with it, then you make your judgement about them.
QUESTION: Well, the analysis in South Australia seems to be a bit different. The Greens obviously think this is going to put more water back in the river for lower down the river, and probably Labor agrees based on initial indications there.
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, they're playing a great big game of chicken with New South Wales and Victoria. Now, if you're in an electorate in South Australia, I'd be very concerned about the potential of losing up to 1100 gigalitres out of the Murray into the mouth.
QUESTION: You're saying because those states will walk away?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, if we don't have some calm, we don't have some leadership. And to think that he's come here at five to midnight, after sitting on this plan since November 2016, it smells nothing other than politics. The hypocrisy, the disgusting nature of it, I just say take a step back and think about the livelihoods of the people you're playing with.
QUESTION: Do you think New South Wales is serious though? Do you think that they're legitimately going to walk away from it?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: I do, and in fact, Minister Blair has already written and reached out to South Australia to show that he's committed towards the full plan and the 450. We've got an [indistinct] report in which to move forward from now. That is the framework in which to go from. It's there for scrutiny, it's there to move forward, but the reality is if we're not prepared to take a leap of trust – and that's what every state is going to have to take, a leap of trust in one another – if they don't do that, then I fear that we're going to end up with a hell of a mess.
QUESTION: Do you accept Mr Burke’s that he put forward today about his reasons for supporting the Greens' disallowance and that they need more guarantees that the water's going to be delivered?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well you answer me this: He had since November 2016 to come up with those reasons and he came up with that just before Question Time today. I think that's the answer itself.