CAIRNS AIRPORT, CAIRNS
MONDAY, 21 MARCH 2022
SUBJECTS: Labor’s Supercharging the Economy policy; funeral insurance schemes.
ELIDA FAITH: My name is Elida Faith. I'm the Labor candidate for Leichardt and I'm joined today by Labor's Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Stephen Jones. Welcome back to Far North Queensland, Stephen. Australia has a world-renowned superannuation industry. And it makes perfect sense to tap into that capital for investments into infrastructure in our regions. Now we know Scott Morrison and the Liberal government have no interest in super. In fact, they've spent the last nine years undermining it. Labor does have a plan. Labor will restore the relationship between our superannuation industries and government so we can start seeing real investment flowing into regions and regions just like ours here in Far North Queensland. And I'm going to hand over now to Stephen to tell you a little bit more about it.
STEPHEN JONES: Thanks Elida, great to be back here in Cairns, Cairns Airport, which is actually in part-owned by Australian workers through their superannuation funds. And it's a perfect example of how we can get capital money investment happening in regional Australia for great infrastructure projects to grow the economy and grow opportunities for economic development in regional areas. You know, Scott Morrison's down in Brisbane today making an announcement about a billion dollars’ worth of a city deal for Southeast Queensland. That's fine. But what we want to talk about is how we can use the capital, the money, that is already there. $3.4 trillion in Australian workers’ savings to grow our economy, not just in our capital cities, but right around the country and in regional Queensland and in far north Queensland. There's lots of fantastic opportunities, whether it's developing the marine precinct, whether it's developing resources, renewable energy sources, there are heaps and heaps of opportunities here. The superannuation funds want to invest, but where they're lacking is guidance and leadership from the government. So I'm so pleased to be announcing our supercharging the economy policy, which will bring the power of our superannuation investment and great regional opportunities to places like Cairns create jobs, to create wealth and create opportunity for Far North Queensland. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Can you explain a little bit more about how that relationship, or how Labor will mend that relationship between government and superannuation funds?
JONES: For the last three years Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have been at war with superannuation. If you're listening to them, you could be forgiven for thinking that every economic problem we have in Australia is because we've got a world class superannuation system. Well, we don't think our superannuation system is the source of the problem. We think it's the answer to a problem and that's how we get investment in regional Australia, Australians owning Australian assets. So we've got a brilliant marine district here in Cairns, a fantastic port. We think we can be bringing together the power of superannuation funds, power of local, state and federal government to boost economic development in projects like this all up and down the coast. People are looking at places to invest in renewable energy. I'm not talking about a couple of solar panels on top of somebody's roof, as good as that is, but of larger scale wind, solar, renewable energy projects. Battery projects that can ensure we boost our renewable energy supplies, bringing down power bills. But also ensuring that regional Australia becomes a centre point for boosting manufacturing and economic growth into the future. That's just two examples. Renewable energy and boosting our marine district, lots of opportunities here in regional Queensland
REPORTER: What other projects would Labor fund under this policy? I know the council has been pushing for years to fund a water infrastructure project because they're saying we're going to run out of water here in Cairns by 2026 and they've asked the government to put in and they're saying no, I guess. Is that something that would come under this?
JONES: Lots of opportunities in utilities, whether it's water, whether it's water distribution, whether it's water storage, whether it's gas, whether it's electricity. There are heaps and heaps of opportunities. The funds are actually investing overseas at the moment because government isn't working with them to bring those projects online. So under Labor's policy, we'll get everybody around the table and say, where are the projects? Where's the money? How do we sign a deal to ensure that we can get at the economic benefits of workers’ superannuation money in great Australian assets? We don't want all that money flowing offshore. We want to ensure that workers get control of, and have a say in, and have some of the benefits from, these fantastic opportunities in developing Far North Queensland.
REPORTER: Did you want to do anything else on this? Or did you want to go on to the fund if there's something else on this one?
JONES: The only other thing I'll say about this is right now, you've got investment funds from overseas coming to Australia saying we want to invest in that infrastructure project or that property development or that agricultural development. And that's great, but why isn't the Australian government doing more to ensure that our own funds get first crack at some of these deals? I think if you ask anybody here in Far North Queensland, they'll be saying Australians first. We want to see Australian money, owning Australian stuff creating wealth for Australian workers through their superannuation funds. Everybody wins.
REPORTER: And yeah, just on this funeral fund, I guess what are your concerns about this? People have been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars since these organisations have gone into liquidation. I guess, how concerning is that?
JONES: Elida and I met with some representatives this morning. This is an absolute disgrace. It's a disgrace that has happened under the nose of the Morison government. I wrote to them in 2019 and said, this fund is going to fail. The government needs to step in to ensure that thousands of policyholders are not left high and dry. That's exactly what was happening. They were warned. They knew about it. They failed to act. And now we've got thousands and thousands and thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who have lost thousands of dollars and a government seemingly indifferent to their plight.
REPORTER: The government says they're putting, you know, these people who are suffering in touch with organisations that can help them be reimbursed or you know, assisted in actually organising these funerals. Like is that enough?
JONES: There's no money there to reimburse them. The government is lying. The government is saying we're going to put you in contact with somebody else? They should be putting them in them in contact with Warren Entsch, Josh Frydenberg, Scott Morrison. Scott Morrison is going to be in Cairns tomorrow. They should be asked what is your plan to ensure that the thousands of people here in Far North Queensland who have been ripped off under the government's own nose are going to get some compensation, they're going to ensure that they have their funeral expenses met? This is the question that Scott Morrison has to be asked. This happened on his watch right under his nose.