Doorstop at Coolum, Queensland

18 May 2016

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. SENATOR RICHARD COLBECK,

MINISTER FOR TOURISM AND INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION

TED O'BRIEN, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR FAIRFAX

DOORSTOP

COOLUM, QUEENSLAND

Subjects: Clive Palmer, federal budget, tourism

EO&E...........................................................................................................................................

JOURNALIST:

So can you talk a little about the Sunshine Coast and what you've experienced this morning?

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Well I've been here since yesterday and had a chat with the Mayor last night about some of the infrastructure requirements that this community has and this morning just talking to some of the local tourist operators to get a sense of their local issues here in this part of the coast and how their aspirations might match up with things that we're looking to do on a national basis and how they might take advantage of that.

JOURNALIST:

Excellent - and we've got such a ummm - I mean we've just had the whole Clive Palmer debacle in this area of Australia. What are you thinking to rebrand this area? Has the federal government been thinking about Coolum as a particular area?

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Well look, in the sense of Coolum itself I think the opportunity is to go back to having a local member like Ted here who will look after the community rather than focusing on themselves.

I mean, our job is to represent our communities not to make the focus of what we're doing ourselves and I think that's the unfortunate thing that's occurred over the last three years where we've had this circus that's been going on, effectively, where the Clive experiment, if you want to call it that, has been a complete and utter disaster both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate where the whole thing's effectively disintegrated. So what I would say to local communities here in Coolum is have a look at your local candidates, don't experiment, and I would urge you to send an LNP candidate back to Canberra after the 2nd of July.

JOURNALIST:

What can Ted O'Brien as the candidate do and probable Member for Fairfax, in conjunction with you as a tourism minister, to address some of these issues that's been created by the debacle over the Palmer Resort?

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Well there are a number of things that Ted can do. Ted actually knows the local area very well and he's demonstrated that to me even through our conversations this morning. He has the local interests at heart and he'll work for those local interests in Canberra.


We do really need to re-build this region after what's happened here and it's a real tragedy to see so much employment and procurement disappear out of the local community with the collapse of the resort. It really just doesn't make sense to me.

He has the capacity to work with the local communities here to advocate for the infrastructure that will be required to cater for the growth in tourism numbers and also he'll be able to put this place back on the map in the context of a tourism destination which it is, and work with the government for our marketing campaign which markets our coastal and aquatic attributes - and you don't get much better than what we're standing in front of here today.

JOURNALIST:

And what sort of issues have tourism operators been bringing to you to the table this morning?

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Well obviously taking advantage of the growth of the market, they're very disappointed with the downturn with the employment and procurement that's in the local community as a result of the impacts of the Coolum Resort. They want to be able to take advantage of the growth in the sector that's projected to be 4.1 per cent per annum over the next decade - they want to have their slice of the pie.

Ted has quite strongly put to me that he wants to be part of helping them to do that.

JOURNALIST:

You talk about the advocating by Ted O'Brien but in terms of concrete help that the federal government can give, because the closure of the Coolum Resort is not dissimilar to what happened up in Townsville and there's been, because they've got an active local member up there, they've had huge bail out packages and assistance from the federal government. Concrete policies - what can be done by the federal government for this community?

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Well the opportunity for Ted is to now re-build the reputation of this community, work with our tourism agencies to make sure that it's on the map and part of that broader offering.

There's obviously some infrastructure works that are being required and I met with the Mayor as I said last night and Ted's already asked about what we might be able to do to assist with respect to infrastructure and connectivity is a very, very important element in the success of a tourism region. So Ted's already working hard to see what he can do to achieve those things.

JOURNALIST:

As far as jobs are concerned as well, like what, I mean we have lost a lot of jobs in this area. What sort of things do you think this community needs in order to move forward?

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Well look I think rebuilding the reputation, separating themselves from the Palmer effect if you like, and there's no question this is a very, very desirable tourism destination.

Making those linkages, developing that connectivity that's going to be important for the region and taking advantage of the growth in the sector that is going to come to Australia and Ted's not much different to me in that sense.

I live in regional Tasmania and one of the things as a Tourism Minister I want to ensure is that regional Australia feels the growth of the tourism sector. So I mean, we're kindred spirits in that sense where we'll be looking to try and achieve exactly the same things.

JOURNALIST:


I was talking to a colleague of mine who's been on the coast forever as a journo, I've been here for almost a decade, and neither of us can remember the last time a Federal Tourism Minister visited what's one of Australia's biggest tourism destinations. When's the last time someone was here as Federal Tourism Minister?

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Look I can't actually answer that question but I've been Tourism Minister since September last year, I was delighted to receive the invitation from Ted to come up and visit with some of the local operators.

It's a busy time but I was really pleased to be able to put it into my program and I think it demonstrates what I just said, I want to see regional Australia benefit from the growth in the tourism sector and I know Ted does too.

JOURNALIST:

Doesn't it concern you though that the federal government gave nothing in the budget for this area, when we have two LNP local members that are representing us already?

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Well the federal budget wasn't about any particular parts of the country, it was about providing capacity for business to grow and we actually did provide that capacity in the budget. If you look at last year's budget we had a significant small business package and we extended that to small business between $2 and $10 million as part of the budget.

We're putting our faith in the capacity of business and industry to develop growth and jobs and that's what our whole campaign is about - growth and jobs in local communities.

No government ever spent a community or a country into prosperity but they could tax it into oblivion and that's what you'll see with the Labor party. They've got a spend and tax approach to things - we trust business and industry to spend their money better than we might spend it to develop jobs in local communities and that's very much what we're about.

So there was something in the budget for this community and it's in the benefit of all of the small businesses who will provide local employment into this region.

JOURNALIST:

So essentially it's a responsibility for the community to build jobs for the community and the government will get behind it?

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Well our job is to provide the economic settings for them to be enabled to do that. I'm not saying it's about a responsibility but it's about providing the opportunity and the economic settings to do that.

If we're going to grow this nation, if we're going to grow these communities it's not necessarily going to be government spending that will do it, it will be small businesses, regional businesses who are working hard every day putting everything they have on the line to do that and providing the opportunities for jobs in local communities.

That's how it's going to continue to grow. Our job is to provide the right economic settings to encourage them to do that.

JOURNALIST:

Yesterday when you did an interview with Annie Gaffney for ABC radio, she asked why you were coming here and you seemed unsure. Is that just put down to a busy schedule, or you weren't quite sure?

MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK:

Well it is a very busy schedule and I have a lot of invitations to travel. But as I said, I'm very pleased that Ted's given me the invitation to be here and I'm actually delighted to be here to have a chat to local business.

JOURNALIST:

This is I guess probably a question for Ted actually - we've sort of been tailing about the Clive Palmer effect, umm, you would know a lot of the problems around this area, certainly around the Palmer Resort (inaudible) that doesn't change(inaudible). What changes in terms of where we're headed in Fairfax?

TED O'BRIEN:

So the challenge that we've had with the Palmer phenomena here is that you look to the resort itself there's been 600 people who've lost their jobs, $20 million of a salary bill ripped out of the local economy, $10 million off the local procurement bill. This has had a dramatic impact. Now with Clive Palmer announcing he will not contest the next election it gives us an opportunity to detach his brand from the brand of Coolum and the Sunshine Coast. We need to leverage that so we can start rebuilding and reclaiming this area as our own.

That's why we need the likes of the Minister for Tourism here today, tourism is a core capability of the Sunshine Coast and particular Coolum - we need to leverage that.

JOURNALIST:

While you have that resort though, just shut down, it's sort of like the elephant in the room though. Is there anything you can do about that?

TED O'BRIEN:

Well the best thing you can do about an elephant in the room is to call it out and that's exactly what we're doing today. We need to take control of our own destiny here in Coolum and on the Sunshine Coast and that's where the Coalition's plan kicks in.

At the end of the day we have particularly around Coolum, a real issue with youth unemployment and again we've got the path program from the federal government, we've got a real issue with infrastructure and I've been lobbying again this morning for federal government assistance with our major pieces including the Bruce Highway and the airport.

We need to keep going in to bat because unless we unleash our economic capacity here, then we will fall victim to the likes of the Clive Palmers and it's up to us as a community to do it together.

JOURNALIST:

Why wasn't this economic capacity unleashed here in the last three years, in the last six years, it doesn't matter who the local member is.

TED O'BRIEN:

I am enormously optimistic about what the economy has in store for us. We've already seen growth for this economy but it can be bigger and it can be better and that is why having the right people representing them in parliament is so key. It's why I'm putting my hand up for Fairfax.

JOURNALIST:

Fairfax has always been a fairly safe seat for the LNP - safe seats don't usually get the big dollars and funding. What have we got (inaudible) for Fairfax?

TED O'BRIEN:

The one thing we do know is there's no such thing as a safe seat and here we are in Fairfax, the most marginal seat in the country and the best you can do if you want to represent the people is to put them first and go into bat and make sure you do not give up and that's exactly what I'm offering for the people here.

JOURNALIST:

So what exactly are you offering for the community through, what are your ideas going forward?

TED O'BRIEN:

So my priorities are jobs, infrastructure and investment. On jobs it's particularly looking at youth unemployment, on infrastructure it's mainly the Bruce Highway and the airport - where we can provide assistance for the rail, that too.

On investment, what we need to do is work with private sector to ensure we are attracting investment to reboot this economy, not just the tourism sector but health and wellbeing, education and training, food and agri.

We need to have a strong robust, dynamic economy and that's what the Turnbull Government's all about and I believe that's what the Sunshine Coast is all about. It's in our DNA now we just need to get on and get the jobs done.

(ends)

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