SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND
SENATOR CHISHOLM SKY NEWS INTERVIEW WITH KIERAN GILBERT
TUESDAY 6 MARCH 2018
SUBJECTS: Bill Shorten, Federal Labor
KIERAN GILBERT: Now the front page of the Courier Mail says, “’Shifty Bill’s Queensland Betrayal’: Back-flipping Bill Shorten has declared his outright opposition to the Adani mine, turning his back on thousands of crucial Queensland jobs.” That’s not going to go down well in some of those key seats in Central and North Queensland.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well what I see, and I spend a lot of time up there and I spend a lot of time with Bill up there as well, and there’s been an increasing amount of scepticism that the project is actually going ahead and I think that there has been a level of frustration from Bill Shorten, I think we saw it from other political leaders as well that this is the only thing that’s being talked about in North Queensland. I certainly know from Bill and I certainly know from the determination from the senior leadership of the Labor Party that we don’t want to have been in government for 5 years and have not delivered on projects in North Queensland so we don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket, and that’s what we’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks. We’ve been spending time in Regional Queensland, making announcements about projects that are actually going to deliver jobs for Regional Queensland. And I think that’s going to be a contrast where the Federal Labor Party goes and the direction we take compared to what the LNP have been doing up north for 5 years, which is nothing.
KIERAN GILBERT: “I don’t support Adani Mine” was the quote yesterday. “I don’t support the Adani project, I’m not supportive of it”, an out-right opposition as the Courier Mail put it and it has concerned a number of your colleagues. One quoted in the Courier Mail and I’ve spoken to one front-bencher that Mr. Shorten’s lost the plot on it.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I don’t think anyone who’s been following Bill and what he’s been talking about on Adani now for a couple of months wouldn’t have been surprised to hear those comments come out of his mouth. What we’ve said consistently is that the project has to stand up on its own merits both commercially and environmentally, and that’s what we’re sticking to so we’re not going to create any sovereign risk problems, but there really is a level of frustration from what Bill’s saying and I actually think that in some respects he’s actually reflecting the thoughts of many people in Central and Regional Queensland who are saying that people have been talking about this project for years and they haven’t got off the ground and can’t get their financial closure in place. And we don’t want to be in a position where we have been in government for 3 to 4 or 5 years and this has been the only project that people have been focused on. We want to talk about other things, and that is what Bill Shorten, to his credit, has been doing.
KIERAN GILBERT: It might not come as a surprise, the language, but certainly several of the Labor Front Bench confirmed to me last week that Mr Shorten had wanted to harden the position that Labor had on Adani, had to be talked down from that because of sovereign risk concerns and now these comments are at least being seen by some as going ahead with that against the party position. That’s how it was put to me. That he’s on a frolic of his own, against the party position.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I also saw that there was a recommitment that the project needs to stack up on its own merits. So we’re not going to create any sovereign risk issues, and that the company themselves have to be in a position to get the finances in place and get all their approvals in order. So far they’ve been unable to do it, and Federal Labor isn’t going to sit around kowtowing to a foreign company like we’ve seen from the LNP. Absolutely we should be tough on them. I think that the Federal Government, the LNP, should actually toughen up their rhetoric as well and ensure that this company can get on doing its business or not.
KIERAN GILBERT: Do you accept that there is concern in the party ranks about the chopping and changing here. Another front bencher said to me this morning that really any position is defensible; it’s the changing that’s causing the problems.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I think that as more information comes to light and the frustration grows, as I said I think that Bill is reflecting the frustration many people in Queensland have. Even the Mayors, people like Jenny Hill, Mayor of Townsville, and Margaret Strelow, the Mayor of Rockhampton, both good friends of mine, and they’ve historically been strong supporters of the Adani project but even they are getting frustrated that the company is failing to meet deadlines, failing to get approvals in place and it’s failing to meet its end of the bargain. I think that Bill is expressing frustration about that, and there are plenty of people in North Queensland and Central Queensland who agree with him.
KIERAN GILBERT: And within your party though, particularly in Queensland, is there a recognition that those seats around Central and North Queensland are going to be pivotal at the next election, are you comfortable with the position that Mr Shorten is taking and saying I don’t support the mine. How is that going to be received in Herbert and elsewhere?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I think that as long as we continue with our Real Jobs in Regional Queensland Plan, we’ve already made some announcements in regards to that, in regards to the port in Townsville, in regards to the ring-road in Mackay, Rookwood Weir in Capricornia, and the Port Access Road in Gladstone, I think that people will see a real commitment to providing infrastructure in rural and regional Queensland, and the jobs that will create rather than putting all your eggs in the Adani project like the LNP have. But there have been other failures from the LNP as well. The Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund which they’ve trumpeted now for a couple of years has not funded one project in Regional or North Queensland. They announced money for regional unemployment packages and not one cent has been spent on Regional Queensland. This was promised two years ago in the federal election campaign so I think that there is a frustration with a lack of action up there and Federal Labor Party wants to ensure that we are absolutely making promises that we can deliver on.
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