TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop at Epic Stadium, Coffs Harbour NSW, 11 March 2019

E&OE

Subjects: Funding for infrastructure in Coffs Harbour; Building Better Regions Fund; Energy Policy; Snowy Hydro; Coal-Fired Power

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

It’s a great to be here today with the Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, and also the Nationals candidate for Cowper, Pat Conaghan. This is an epic grandstand for an epic stadium. This is the result of $6.5 million of Federal funding under the Building Better Regions Fund, in conjunction with the local council - Coffs Harbour City Council - making sure that we build the stadiums, making sure that we build the infrastructure, the sporting amenities that this community expects, demands, needs and most of all, deserves. This is going to bring so many national events to Coffs Harbour, national events which will put Coffs Harbour in the Australian sporting spotlight. This is fantastic; but not just for national events and not just the big AFL and Rugby League and cricket and touch footy events, but also making sure that locals are well-served, that local schools also have the facilities that they need.

This is just a great announcement. This is what happens when the Federal Liberal and Nationals Government work together to contribute to these great regions. And I know Pat Conaghan understands how important it is to build up these regions; to make sure that regions have world-class facilities. And here, just behind me, we have got a world-class, state-of-the-art sporting facility. The grass here, it’s as good as the MCG, or the SCG or the Gabba, or anywhere in any capital city that you’d like to name or point to. This stadium is one of the best. It's going to have hundreds of people sitting down, watching the very best of sporting excellence in Australia right here at Coffs Harbour. How good is this?

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] sporting events to the Coffs Coast with these changes?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:            

Oh absolutely. It's not just about the seating capacity. It's also about having the amenities, such things as broadcast facilities. We’ve got the lights here, we've got the media rooms here. And of course, it's about being able to broadcast these sports as well. Because when the AFL comes to town, when the NRL comes to town, when cricket comes to town, they want to be able to make sure that not only is it enjoyable for the people on Coffs Coast, but they want to broadcast, to telecast this all around the nation. And so they can do this with the media facilities that they have here. The change rooms, the media facilities, the sporting ground; it’s just an amazing facility, and well-deserved. So well done, Coffs Coast. Well done to the council, and well done to Luke Hartsuyker, too, who fought hard and has always fought hard over his 17-year political career to make sure that there was the delivery of these sorts of facilities.

QUESTION:

We can turn to the election in Cowper. You’ve got a new candidate …

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:            

And a good candidate.

QUESTION:

And the National Party basically stuffed up the bypass issue. How hard is it going to make it?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, they’re your words and I certainly don't agree with them. We're the only Government, we're the only Government that’s actually getting on and building the Pacific Highway. We’re the only Government that has actually put real money on the table - $971 million. Now, we're working with the State Government to finalise the designs, to finalise the EIS, and - rest assured - the duplication of the Pacific Highway to make sure that people on the Coffs Coast get home and up and down the highway sooner and safer. It is actually happening, and it’s happening because the Nationals have striven hard and fought hard in Government to make it happen. Far too many fatalities had happened on the Pacific Highway. I know. I used to come here all the time for holidays – back when I had holidays – these days I just seem to work every day, but that's all good.

I'm very, very happy to work each and every day for regional Australia and very happy to work in the Infrastructure and Transport portfolio and Regional Development to make these sorts of things happen. Whether it's the stadium or whether it's the Pacific Highway, we're getting on and we're doing, we're building it.

QUESTION:

Barnaby Joyce has come out this morning saying he is the elected Deputy Prime Minister. Is your leadership at risk?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well he was the elected Deputy Prime Minister and then he resigned. Last February he resigned. I'm now the Deputy Prime Minister, and I'm working very hard with my colleagues to make sure that we build a better rural and regional Australia. And I'll continue to do that.

QUESTION:

Do you think your leadership is at risk, though?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

No.

QUESTION:

Barnaby Joyce also says he doesn't care if a push for new coal-fired power stations hurt the Liberals in city seats, saying the Nationals and Liberals aren’t married. Does that concern you?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, when you have a marriage- I understand when you have a marriage that it's a two-way relationship. You don't always get what you want, but you have to work together to build better outcomes for your family. I understand that; I understand what it takes to have a successful marriage and to make sure that we work together to build a better Australia. That's what I do with the Liberals; that’s what I do to make sure that each and every day - whilst we might not always agree on absolutely every point – that the Liberals and Nationals in Government are making sure that we create more jobs; are making sure that we lower taxes; are making sure that we’re fighting hard together for lower power prices. That’s what the Liberals and Nationals stand for and we’re committed to making sure that we do just that together. We're doing it together. And what we are both very much, very much, on the one page about is making sure that Bill Shorten and The Greens, and Labor, stay out of the Treasury benches because under them, there'll be higher taxes; under them, there'll be less jobs; and under them there'll be higher power prices.

QUESTION:

We understand that you spoke to Barnaby Joyce about a week and a half ago.  Will you try and speak to him today to resolve this coal war?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

There's no coal war; there's no cold war. There's no war absolutely whatsoever. I mean, they're your words, they're not mine. There's no war whatsoever. The Nationals are getting out and about, making sure that rural and regional Australians are well looked after, and they are being well looked after with such programs as the Building Better Regions Fund - the Building Better Regions Fund which, I might add, will be scrapped if Labor gets into Government and such things as the $500 million National Water Infrastructure Fund: That’ll all go. That’ll all go under Labor Government. Liberals and Nationals, we stand for more regional jobs. We stand for more regional infrastructure. That is my focus. It’s on the ordinary everyday Australians, ordinary everyday families and small businesses. That’s my focus now. It’s my focus tomorrow. It’ll be my focus way into the future. A future I might add, where I’ll still be the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.

QUESTION:

What is the cheapest power available – coal or renewables?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well there’s got to be a mix. I don’t want to cherry pick and I don’t want to have to select between one and the other.  At the moment, coal is providing two-thirds of Australia’s energy needs. And as I said yesterday, if you take those two-thirds of Australia’s energy needs, i.e. coal, out of the mix, and then you go down the path of a 45 per cent emissions reduction target, and then you go down the path of the 100 per cent renewables, and you do it all at once - well, goodbye to affordable power. Goodbye to many sporting events. They won’t be able to be held at night. We saw the folly of that in South Australia. We saw during the very hot summer what happened in Melbourne when power was at a premium; or when Tomago Smelter had to power-shed and turn off their plant. We don’t want to have to turn off the turbines. We don’t want to have to turn down manufacturing. We don’t want to have to stop industry and we don’t people not to be able to afford their power bills. I don’t want to see pensioners not be able to afford their power bills. So I stand for a mix, at the moment we need a mix. I’m very, very delighted that Scott Morrison just last week turned the first sod for the Snowy Hydro. That’s going to create power for 500,000 homes, mainly in New South Wales, so that’s a good thing. Renewable storage, we’re doing it in Tasmania as well, but we need to have a mix and that’s sensible policy, that’s why we’re pushing it.

QUESTION:

Can your candidate in Cowper beat Rob Oakeshott?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Can he beat him? He will beat him. The fact is Pat Conaghan stands for jobs; delivery; for what ordinary, everyday people want us to deliver. The Nationals have always stood for the sorts of things that you would expect regional Australia to be getting, such things as this stadium, such things as making sure that their kids have a job, have a future. Just this morning, we opened a wonderful health facility in Port Macquarie. We opened a wonderful aged care extension; we announced that in Port Macquarie. There’s great infrastructure happening in Coffs Harbour as well, right around the Cowper electorate, right up and down the Mid North Coast. That's what Pat Conaghan stands for. He is not somebody who wants to push his own name out there. He's not somebody who wants to stand on the mountaintop and say – look, aren't I good? He wants to work with a viable team, a united team, a team that's always striving hard for rural and regional Australians, fighting hard to make sure that there's better, better outcomes and better achievement and better delivery. That's what Pat Conaghan stands for and I’m sure he’s going to achieve it.

QUESTION":

Barnaby has inferred on ABC Radio that you roll over in Cabinet. Are you a weak leader?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well how would Barnaby know? He's not in Cabinet. I don't roll over to anyone. Never have, don't now, won't in the future. I mean, that's just a nonsense.

QUESTION:

Is energy policy being used against you as an excuse to tear you down?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Energy policy is very, very important for the Federal Government and we're working hard to make sure that we get the best outcomes for all Australians. Labor stands for a 45 per cent emissions reduction target, they stand for 50 per cent renewables. The Greens stand for 100 per cent renewables. I mean it’s nuts. You can’t achieve that with the mix that you need. And at the moment we rely on coal. At the moment, we rely on coal-fired power stations to provide two-thirds of Australia's energy needs, but also, perhaps just as importantly, $66 billion of exports. Now, if the Greens and Labor have their way and leave everything in the ground, how in goodness knows name are we going to pay for our health and our education if we just take $66 billion off the bottom line? I mean it's crazy politics, but this is what Bill Shorten stands for. He'll say one thing when he's campaigning in Queensland and he'll say a completely different thing when he's down in Maribyrnong. I would defy any one of those Greens and of those Labor people who want to shut down all our coal mines, to go up to Queensland, to go up to Central and Northern Queensland and look a coal miner in the face - indeed, look at somebody who not necessarily wears a hi-vis vest and works down in a coal mine, but who works perhaps in an office, an air conditioned office and wears a suit, who relies on the coal mining industry - to tell them that they shouldn't have a job, to tell them that they shouldn't be working, to tell them that they don't have a future. Well let me tell you, coal has a future in this country and the Liberals and Nationals back it as an industry.

QUESTION:

How confident are you that George Christensen won’t call for a spill at the next party room meeting?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well I spoke to George on Saturday. Why would he?  I mean George is a great mate of mine; he’s a great mate of Luke’s. We get on very well with George. George won’t be calling a spill.

Thank you very much.

Hannah Maguire