Door stop interview - Minister for Defence, Deputy Prime Minister, Member for Capricornia, Member for Flynn - Canberra

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Senator the Hon Marise Payne

Minister for Defence

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  • Henry Budd (Minister Payne’s office) 0429 531 143
  • Defence Media (02) 6127 1999

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8 February 2017

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, thank you very much for being here. It's incredibly important that we've always prided ourselves on being a government that hears the concerns of the people. It's an incredibly complicated job, running a nation, and to be part of a team – especially with my colleagues Marise and the Prime Minister – to hear the concerns and then to work round an issue so that we come up with a solution that deals with the concerns that have been conveyed to us. Now, ultimately the major concern was people do not want their property purchased against their wishes. But they certainly want to retain the right if they do wish to sell, that they're able to sell, and that would be a right in any free nation and in any nation that believes in the simple principles of commerce: that if a willing seller and a willing buyer meet each other, they should be able to exchange contracts and continue on. Now, we've dealt with that issue. The Prime Minister and the Defence Minister have now a clear position that property will not be purchased against your wishes. If you wish to sell, you can, but if you don't wish to sell, that's fine. And I don't see this as being a major detour from what we're doing in any case, because the properties that have been purchased thus far have all been between a willing seller and a willing buyer. Now, I want to thank Marise. I want to thank Marise because it's a hellishly hard task being the Minister for Defence. It's a massive portfolio, and the weight of the nation rests solidly on her shoulders, because all of- the defence that the nation requires, Defence Force bases, requires the capacity for our nation to train with our allies, the United States, New Zealand, and Singapore. We also want to dispel some of the rubbish that was being peddled around, that this was being bought by the Singaporeans. No, it wasn't. This is complete BS. It's being bought by the Australian Government, the Australian Government represented by you. This is your Defence Force base. But I'll now hand to Marise, and I'd just like to say right at the outset, this has been incredibly hard work by Marise. She has done an absolutely splendid job. I've not known a Minister to be across more of the detail than this lady.

MARISE PAYNE: Barnaby, thank you very much, and let me also acknowledge our local colleagues Michelle Landry and Ken O'Dowd who are with us today. As you know, the initial planning process for the development of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area and the Townsville Field Training Area commenced last year, and that has been underway for some time. I have visited the north, central north, and the north of Queensland a couple of times during that period, and again Monday a fortnight ago with Michelle in Rockhampton and Ken and other colleagues. I think the outcome that we've come to today, which is that our master planning process will continue and will be finalised within a fortnight or so is an important one, but most importantly it will continue without the pursuit of forced sales, and that is a matter that the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister and I have discussed at some length in the past few days. Some great length, actually. You can tell the accountants here when the willing seller meets the willing buyer. He totally gets the commercial process, and that is one which we will continue to pursue. It's important that we're able to complete the master planning process, and we will go from there when that is made public. Thank you very much.

BARNABY JOYCE: Michelle, Ken. Do you want to say g'day? MICHELLE LANDRY: Look, I would like to thank the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, and the Deputy Prime Minister for the wonderful outcome. It's been a very controversial issue in my electorate, obviously, and I've had a lot of upset farmers there. But this is a win for the whole community, and I'm really, really pleased so thank you very much, Marise. I do appreciate what you've done. But this will certainly make our farming community very, very happy, and with the investment that the Singaporeans are making into Queensland it will also make the business community very happy as well, so I think this is a fantastic outcome, and I'd like to thank our leadership team.

KEN O'DOWD: Well thanks to our leadership team, you've done very, very well, and thanks Barnaby and Marise for coming to our area. It's been a big issue for farmers in the Stanage Bay, Shoalwater area, and I'd like to thank them for their patience, but now I can say to them, if you want to sell your property go out and negotiate as hard as you like with the Defence Department, and if you don't want to sell that's fine, just keep doing what you do well. It was great to see the hard work of the farmers who worked that land so much over the 140 years or longer, and if you want to you don't have to leave. That's the good news.

QUESTION: Deputy PM, who in the first place thought it would be a good idea to include compulsory acquisition of land?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well this is- let's just get a few things on the record. The last person to compulsorily acquire land for the Defence Department was one Joel Fitzgibbon when he was the Minister for Defence just before they booted him, and that he was with the Australian Labor Party – last time I checked he still is. It is not unusual, it is within the gamut of issues that the Government's involved with that they retain that right, but on this issue there was an overwhelming sentiment of concern and this was something that, because we are not an arrogant government, we're a government that listens, and a government that listens has to react. Really, what this shows is that this Government, the Coalition Government, has the capacity to deal with an issue and say, okay, rather than just say well bad luck, you've just got to tough it out and see you later, we've heard the concerns, we reacted, we've now mollified the position in such a way that no person who doesn't want to sell has to sell. Now, that is actually I think a Government should be commended for, and the Minister should be commended for. If we didn't, they'd say they're arrogant, they don't listen, they believe that they're the master of the people, not the servant of the people. We are doing it, we are changing the position so that we make sure that we get what we want in a form that is on side with the farmers. QUESTION: You mentioned your disappointment in the way this issue is being discussed. Do you think there have been overtones of racism?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, I just think that there are some stories that get out there, and they start saying, oh well, you know, the Singaporeans are going to be buying all the land, and that was just rubbish. MARISE PAYNE: [Interrupts] So without wanting to get into the false news side of the discussion, I think misinformation is a powerful political tool if you decide that's what you want to do. QUESTION: Minister, can I ask, will this have any effects to the planning of the exercises with Singapore?

MARISE PAYNE: Well it's part of the master planning process, and as we have both said we will be pursuing agreed sales, willing sales, but at this stage no …

QUESTION: [Talks over] There's no change to timetables? MARISE PAYNE: But at this stage, no. And the master planning process, I indicated a fortnight ago, would be completed within a month. That is still the case, and the KPMG study, which has a socioeconomic focus, looking at the impact on not just the more urbanised areas of Townsville and Rockhampton, but the smaller villages and communities and towns that will come in just slightly after the master planning process.

QUESTION: This whole discussion has caused quite a lot of concern for a number of communities that were potentially to be affected. Do you not concede, though, that perhaps compulsory acquisition shouldn't have even been on the table, to even put that fear in peoples' minds without looking at those other options first?

MARISE PAYNE: Well I think the initial planning process was a very comprehensive one, it included that option, but I also think, and I've made very clear, that it's important to be very upfront with the community, and that's what we have done. The example that the Deputy Prime Minister used about Cultana, as I understand it and as I recall, resulted in 159,000 hectares of land in South Australia being advertised by public newspaper advertisement with an indication that your land would be acquired. I think the personal contact, the consultations that Defence has made, the visits that they have made, the relocation of a senior Defence official to Townsville to work on this program is a very important aspect of our engagement.

QUESTION: Can we just ask, as a moderate are you happy to see a conservative like Cory depart your party?

MARISE PAYNE: I'm never happy to see members of the Liberal Party leave the organisation. It's in my DNA; I expect that from most elected members of the parliament, and I found it profoundly disappointing that that is not the case.

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