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Doorstop interview with Councilor Graham Quirk, Brisbane
8 May 2009
GARRETT: It is terrific to be here at the Brisbane City Hall this morning with the Deputy Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and other officials to announce this $10 million investment from the Rudd Labor Government into the renovation of the Brisbane City Hall. And to say that this marks yet another investment by the Rudd Government in community projects which will deliver employment and, in the case of this renovation for the Brisbane City Hall, will provide a tremendous kick-start for the expensive and expansive work that is intended to complete the renovation of what I think is one of Brisbane's most important landmark, iconic buildings.
Over 3,000 projects will be invested in through the Community Infrastructure Program. This represents a significant investment in local jobs right around Australia by the Rudd Government. In the fiscal stimulus outlays we see a significant proportion going to infrastructure and this means spin-off benefits for tradespeople, for designers, for suppliers of material and, in the case of this particular project, I understand from the Council in the longer term some 200 to 300 jobs which will come along with this project.
So here is a building which is close to the hearts of Brisbane-ites and people of Queensland - where people become Australian citizens, where schools visit every day, where people come to concerts, the Pope's been around here; Mick Jagger has been here. It is an iconic institution for this city and it is a building of great architectural value and worth as well.
So I am absolutely delighted and pleased that we are able to provide this significant investment to the City Council. We recognise this building is an absolutely central, iconic building for the people of Brisbane. I am very much looking forward to see how the works unfold. I have had a tour of the building and I can see that it is a place of real architectural and heritage value but it is also a living and working building and we aim to provide the opportunity for Brisbane City Council to get that work done. And that means jobs in and around this city and it means a building that this city will continue to be proud of.
Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Minister, did they ask for more?
GARRETT: The community puts in its requests for investment to this fund and this is a significant investment by the government. It provides the opportunity for a continuing budget that the council will need to remainder off the works. But I think, if you look at the scale of works that is required here, $10 million is really significant figure for the Rudd Government to be providing. And, of course, my expectation is that this will kick-start additional investment as the work gets underway.
JOURNALIST: Which year does the money come in? When does the $10 million dollars [inaudible]
GARRETT: We want to see this money come through over the next 6 months. We want to see the work that has already been identified as necessary - the construction, the planning processes - to get going straight away.
It is a big project and I am sure Graham and others will have more to add about that. But what I would say is that we know that there are a range of skills, a range of employment opportunities, involved in a project of this kind; and by providing this offer of investment we will see the necessary work done on what really is an iconic building for this city.
JOURNALIST: You said the community is going to fund it. And I understand there is a $10 voluntary rate to pay. Do you expect many people to volunteer that $10?
GARRETT: I would be really interested to see what level of community support there is for getting in behind this project. I reckon that there will be heaps. Why is that? We don't have that many buildings of this age, of this architectural quality, and of this community resonance, in our cities anywhere around Australia. And the City Hall means a great deal about Brisbane-ites. I know that. I have had a look at the auditorium and what fantastic room it is. Look at the dome - it is a brilliant bit of architecture, and it is part of the heritage of this city. And I am sure that the ratepayers would love to be in a position to be able to contribute to conserving and preserving that heritage and making sure that the renovations proceed apace.
JOURNALIST: Councilor Quirk, have many other offers of money of this magnitude yet?
QUIRK: Well we haven't. At this stage we are very grateful for the contribution of the federal government. It does kick-start this campaign to achieve the $200-plus million that is required to restore this magnificent building. You might say that we were up burning the midnight oil at the moment finding creative ways to get those funds together. Sorry for the very poor pun. But nonetheless, it does give us a start and we are very grateful to Minister Garrett and Minister Albanese and the federal government for making these funds available.
JOURNALIST: Any possibility that the voluntary donation could become a compulsory donation on rate-payers in the upcoming council budget?
QUIRK: Absolutely not. We are not in the business of making contributions to City Hall compulsory. But we do believe that there will be a lot of people who really treasure this building, who know it is a part and parcel of Brisbane's character and history, that will be interested in making their own willing contribution towards its preservation.
JOURNALIST: How much will $10 million help? What will it be used for?
QUIRK: The ten million I think will be the start of the seed funding. We have already got some works going on. The main thrust of those works will commence in January next year. But, for example, in the middle of this year we will be engaging a project manager; we will have an architect engaged to steer the project. And so this will create 200-300 jobs. This money creates a great kick-start to the funds needed.
JOURNALIST: The Rudd Government has changed tack on the private health insurance rebate. How are you planning to defend broken promises when you next go to the polls?
GARRETT: The government has made it very clear that we are facing a very, very tough budget. I think Australians understand that we are in conditions which are unprecedented in terms of the challenges that we face. And our job as a government is to make sure that the national interest, the national economic interest, is properly secured for the long-term future of this country, and the budget is framed with those considerations front of mind.
JOURNALIST: Minister, yesterday the federal government poured in $36 million for the new stadium on the Gold Coast for the new AFL team down there. The QRU currently has a development application in for Ballymore here in Brisbane - I know this is not strictly your area of expertise - should that application be successful for the redevelopment, would the feds be interested in pouring money into the rugby union complex?
GARRETT: I was really pleased to see the $36 million commitment to that AFL stadium down at Carrara. I think that will provide a tremendous boost, not only to that region, but also to AFL in the state. On the matter that you have raised with me, you are right - that is something which would have to be determined in due course. Let's see what comes through.
JOURNALIST: On solar energy, it is still a very expensive alternative technology. Is the government considering moving towards a gross solar feed-in tariff system rather than the net scheme which is in place?
GARRETT: The first thing to say about solar is that this government has put more solar panels on the roofs of Australia homes than at any time, in any year, in our history. And with the nearly $4 billion investment - the Energy Efficient Homes Plan investment - we will see the largest every roll-out of energy efficiency, including solar hot water, that we have ever seen.
And we are already seeing significant take-ups by people who are very keen to get the ceiling insulation in their roofs, and very keen to get the solar hot water panels on their ceilings. We are also seeing a continuing strong demand for the solar panels rebate.
Let's not forget that what was it, some time last year, the Opposition spokesman for the environment jumped out of plane to tell Australians that the interest in solar was declining and going through the floor because of actions that this government had taken. And he was completely and absolutely wrong. Ever since then, because of our policies, applications for solar panel rebates have run consistently at record levels and they still do. We are seeing more solar on more roofs under this government than at any time in our history, and I expect that to continue.
JOURNALIST: So that is a no?
GARRETT: We are providing such significant investment when you consider the amount of both solar panel rebates that are being delivered and also the investment that is being driven through the Energy Efficient Homes Plan. And to come to the final part of your question, under the renewal energy target, we will see the provision of 20 per cent of Australia's energy from renewable sources. There will be a transition to solar credits and, again, householders, community groups, and single-standing institutions and businesses will have the opportunity, again, to have a solar investment. So the position of the Commonwealth is very clear on this. We are focused on the renewable energy target and its delivery; the existing solar panel rebates which are running at record highs; and additionally the nearly $4 billion investment in ceiling insulation and solar hot water as well.