Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel


September 16, 2021


GENEVIEVE ALLPASS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR GROOM: Well, it's really wonderful to welcome Shayne Neumann here to Toowoomba. It's a beautiful time of the year. It's Carnival time. Shayne is our Shadow Minister for Veterans Affairs’ and Defence Personnel. And he's here to have a word to you all about what he's doing here today. 
SHAYNE NEUMANN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VETERANS' AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE PERSONNEL, MEMBER FOR BLAIR: Thanks, Gen. It's great to be here in Toowoomba. I’m from Ipswich just down the road. It's great to be back. My wife's family come from Toowoomba and I’ve been out here plenty of times in my life, that's for sure. Beautiful part of the world. I'm very proud to support Gen. She’s a local through and through and we hope will be the next member for Groom. But I'm here today as the Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel to meet with local veterans and local RSL members and to encourage people to put in a submission to the Royal Commission into veteran suicide. Labor's championed the idea of a Royal Commission for a long time. The Morison Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming into that, that process, and we warmly welcomed the fact that they finally saw sense and listened to the advocates like Julie-Ann Finney, Karen Bird, who sadly lost their sons, and RSLs around the country and the veteran community. So I'm here today to talk to the veteran community, to encourage them to make that submission to the Royal Commission, but also to see the challenges as the veteran community have dealt with the fall of Kabul and the collapse of Afghanistan. I know from speaking to Vietnam veterans around the country, as well as veterans who served in the Middle East, that they're doing it pretty tough, so I'm here to listen and learn and see what veterans in the Toowoomba area are dealing with and to see how Labor can support them should we come to power either later this year or early next year. But I’m also here to talk about quarantine and vaccination. Scott Morrison had two jobs, two jobs, during a pandemic. We’re now 18 months into this pandemic. Two jobs and they are to vaccinate the country and have a national scheme on quarantine around the country. Both federal government responsibilities, constitutional responsibilities, of the federal government. He's failed on both. This is a prime minister that likes to be in office but not in power. Shirking responsibility. Can't take it. This is a prime minister that shirks responsibility. We've seen the Queensland Government here in Toowoomba step up, and I want to thank Anastacia Palaszczuk, the Premier of Queensland, and the Queensland Government for taking the initiative on the Wellcamp facility, that is the Queensland Regional Accommodation Centre, here in Toowoomba, which will have 500 beds for quarantine later this year and a 1000 bed facility in the first quarter next year. The Queensland Government fulfilling the responsibility that the Morrison-Joyce Government should have done. But this is a government that's exemplified by a prime minister who says, “I don't hold a hose mate. It's a matter for the states. It's not a race” on vaccination. We've got to do better and the Prime Minister needs to step up and do better. It's no good the Prime Minister, promising things and not fulfilling them. He's broken promise after promise. We were supposed to have Indigenous people vaccinated earlier. Aged care facilities was supposed to be fully vaccinated by Easter this year. People living with disability and the workers in that sector are struggling in that area as well. These lockdowns that have had half the country in lockdown at the moment are the direct failure of the Morrison-Joyce Government. We need to do better. Here in Groom we need an advocate who will stand up for the local people, that will stand up on these issues. And that's why I'm here to support Gen today. We're happy to answer any questions,
JOURNALIST: What types of conversations will you have with John Wagner this afternoon? 
NEUMANN: We're having conversations to see what's happening. We've already met with the Minister's office in Brisbane to talk about the issues. We thank the Wagner Corporation. They're building this facility to be managed by the Queensland Government. 350 to 400 jobs during construction. We're talking about hundreds of jobs to maintain the facility. That's jobs here in southeast Queensland, in Toowoomba and elsewhere in southeast Queensland. That's really important. But we've got 38,000 Australians stranded overseas. Prime Minister Morrison said they would be home by Christmas last year. We want to bring him home.
JOURNALIST: If Labor comes into power later this year or early next year, will Labor consider maybe footing some of the bill for the quarantine facility if possible?
NEUMANN: We have said that we will build a national scheme on quarantine facilities. The Queensland Government's going head with this thing at the moment. We are looking at other options down the track. The Morison Government is 18 months into the pandemic and hasn't done anything. We've got a leaky hotel quarantine system in this country. I don't know about you, but I think hotels are built for tourists and not built as quarantine facilities, and that's why Labor has committed itself to a national quarantine system should we win government. 

JOURNALIST: Do you think the way in which Annastacia Palaszczuk did it, you know, out of nowhere, do you think that's sort of the way you should be doing that sort of thing, though? 

NEUMANN: We've been talking to the to the Commonwealth Government for ages about the issue. It mustn’t have come as news to the Commonwealth Government that the Queensland Government wanted Wellcamp as the Queensland Regional Accommodation Centre. They were talking about it for months and months and months. And when Annastacia announced it, what did the Prime Minister say? Good, they could have done it a long time ago. Effectively that’s what he said. 
JOURNALIST: Toowoomba locals don't support it, the quarantine facility, if you looked at a majority, you know, poll-wise. What do you say to their concerns about possibly bringing the virus into Toowoomba from the quarantine facility? 
NEUMANN: The Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, these quarantine facilities are very important to get it right in terms of being COVID safe. 27 leaks, 27 leaks we've had from hotel quarantine in this country. It's far safer for the people in my city of Ipswich and in Toowoomba, to have purpose built quarantine facilities than have hotels leaking COVID into the community. I think people know that in Toowoomba and they know it in my home city of Ipswich as well.
JOURNALIST: Now you're not the defence minister, the shadow defence minister I should say, but what did you make of the announcement this morning about the nuclear submarines that are going to be going to be brought here or built here from US technology?
NEUMANN: First thing I'll say about this is how much money has the Morison Government squandered with the $90 billion they had with the French option and the submarines, which were going to be built in South Australia and Western Australia? I look forward to reading the Auditor-General's report about that. And I want the government to be upfront about that. Now, America in the UK are great allies of ours. I was not part of that briefing. That was done confidentially to our leadership team. I am confident that Brendan O'Connor, the Shadow Minister for Defence will have something to say about that. But I want to reiterate the great Allied support and friendship that we have with the United States and UK. 

JOURNALIST: Is Labor concerned about what signal it sends to our neighbors as well as China? 

NEUMANN: We are engaged in our community of Asia. We can't be engaged from it. We've got to be engaged with it. And that's why Labor has three really strong commitments, engagement with Asia, our allies with the United States and indeed with Britain, and of course, engagement in the United Nations. Labor is from the time of John Curtin, and Ben Chifley, from the time of Gough Whitlam, recognising China. Our long history as a party has been engaging with Asia. We will do that with Anthony Albanese as the prime minister and Penny Wong as the foreign minister. 
JOURNALIST: To clarify, do you support the Prime Minister's decision? 
NEUMANN: That's a matter we will announce later today. It's not for me to announce that at this point in time as I’m not part of today's briefing. But I want to reaffirm our strong commitment to the relationship with the United States and also with the United Kingdom.

JOURNALIST: Is Labor concerned about the cost the taxpayers will have to pay for abandoning the current project with the French? 

NEUMANN: Of course, we're concerned about that. The Auditor-General’s report will be fascinating reading. This will be the subject, no doubt, of Senate estimates enquiries and interviews. The Government has a lot of explaining to do here. I mean, Prime Minister Turnbull signed this contract back in 2016. It's gone on for year after year after year. It's a complete stuff up there. I mean, the fact that they have been in this project, it's been delayed. This is a really big mistake. They have really messed this up. And I think the governments of Western Australia and in South Australia are asking lots of questions, and the shipbuilding yards in South Australia, which we're going to build the subs with the men and women who worked there, are going to be asking lots of questions as well.
JOURNALIST: And what might it do with relations with the French do you think?
NEUMANN: Well, I think where the Prime Minister was talking to President Macron a little while ago in relation to this. I think there'll be some interesting discussions that take place with the French government over this. 

JOURNALIST: Are there any concerns about nuclear waste from the subs? 

NEUMANN: I haven't been briefed in relation to that issue. And so I'm not in a position to make comment about that. But there are nuclear subs around. Many countries have nuclear subs in relation to this issue. We will make announcements about the about the AUKUS arrangement later today. I'm sure the Shadow Defence Minister Brendan O'Connor will make that. That’s not my place to make those announcements. 

JOURNALIST: Do you believe the subs should be built in Australia? And if so, where? 

NEUMANN: I'm always of the view that we should support local manufacturing. That's why we've got a manufacturing plan for a national scheme in terms of guarantees and equities and loans that Labor will support manufacturing, get that back on track should we win government. So I look forward to hearing the proposals the Government's come up. All we know today is what they've said this morning. So I'm in no position to make any further comment other than that Labor’s strong commitment to a manufacturing plan is to provide assistance to industry - loans, equity, guarantees - to support manufacturing, to get people in jobs. That's our priority. 
JOURNALIST: I might ask, you’re here to support Gen today. The election’s coming up. Given Laborhas never held the seat of Groom do you have any confidence that you might be able to win come election time?
NEUMANN: I think she's a terrific candidate, and she'll give it her best. No election’s ever, no one's ever certain. It's like, if you can tell me who's going to win the AFL grand final or the NRL grand final in the next week or two, I guarantee you can't do it. You can never tell that in elections either. I've been involved in quite a few of them as a candidate. And you can never tell the outcomes. I think Jen will give it the best possible go she can. She is a great candidate. And I think if she's elected at the next election, she'll serve this local community, which she’s grown up in, she's raised her kids in, she's been involved in for such a long time. She will serve this community with heart and humility and determination to represent this community to the best possible ability that she has. And I think she'll do a great job and I look forward to welcoming her in Canberra. 
JOURNALIST: I have a question for you, Gen. What do you hope comes with these talks with the Wagner's later this morning, this afternoon?
ALLPASS: Oh, yes. I just want to know what's going to be happening in my community. So when my community asks me what's happening I've got the answers. 

JOURNALIST: Anything you're hoping to come from this afternoon in particular? 

ALLPASS: I'd like to know exactly how many jobs will be available to our community and where those people are sourced from. I'm hoping that those people will be local. 

JOURNALIST: And possible checks for businesses in the area that provide accommodation that might be pushed out if this facility becomes accommodation down the track after quarantine? 

ALLPASS: Well, those facilities, those hotels can now have tourists in them, can’t they?