Helping the Cowboys help their community - Transcript, Doorstop





Subjects: Labor’s commitment to help Indigenous students in remote and regional Queensland access quality education; Labor’s plans to create a fairer economy through the mutuals and co-ops sector.

CATHY O’TOOLE, MEMBER FOR HERBERT: It's really fantastic to be here today with the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh and Queensland Senator Murray Watt and Jeff Reibel the CEO of Cowboys and also in Melina from the cooperatives and mutuals association who will speak after with Andrew. We are at NRL Cowboys House, girls house specifically, which is a fantastic facility in this Townsville community providing education for young First Nations women and they do a fantastic job with young women from year 7 to year 12. The announcement that Andrew will make in a moment means a huge deal to this facility and to this community. So we'll hand over now to Andrew to make the announcement.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks very much, Cathy. Cathy has been at the forefront of addressing social disadvantage as Member of Herbert. She is somebody who is a passionate campaigner against inequality and for a fairer and more inclusive society. Terrific to be here too with my friend and colleague Murray Watt and Melina Morrison, who will say a few words in a moment about a separate announcement. 

Last year, Jeff and Fiona came to see me in Parliament House to talk about what they were doing with Cowboys House. They didn't just leave me with a the nice tie I’m wearing today, they also left me with a very clear picture about what NRL Cowboys House was doing through the Cowboys Community Foundation to address Indigenous disadvantage in North Queensland. NRL Cowboys House is a critical facility for providing a pathway to education - practical measures to close the gaps in Indigenous attainment in Australia. Cowboys Girls House has just opened and I'm pleased to announce today that a Shorten Labor Government if elected would provide $200,000 to the Cowboys Community Foundation to support the vital work that Cowboys Girls House does. This is critical work to closing the gaps and it reflects the engagement of the Cowboys in their local community. In a visit to Townsville earlier this year, I was chatting with JT about what made him feel like a Townsvillian after he moved up here from Canterbury. He said it was the way the Cowboys engaged in the community - not in a superficial way, but really deep constructive engagement, working with families to build a stronger and more connected community.

And that's what Cowboys House is all about. It's a fabulous facility which demonstrates the important role that the Cowboys play in this community and also demonstrates what a member-owned league clubs can do. This is the only member-owned club in the league, the only club that is part of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals. So through that structure and through NRL Cowboys House, they've managed to give back to the community and really to be a role model for other teams in the league. Let me now hand over to Jeff to say a few words about the important work that Cowboys House does.

JEFF REIBEL, NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS CEO: Good morning, everybody. Firstly can I say thank you to Andrew, to Cathy for being here this morning and for the support and the commitment to the Cowboys House, in particular on our girls campus. We're so proud of the work and the outcomes that we're achieving and what this commitment will actually allow us to do is actually put through a deeper and a broader health and well-being program for our students at the house. All of our students live away from their communities and this will allow, for their mental health, to be able to connect back to their communities and also continue the model of work that we deliver here at NRL Cowboys House. So again can I say thank you. This is something that is one of the most important, also our deepest, engagements into the north Queensland community and without the assistance we receive we simply couldn't achieve the outcomes and give the opportunities to these young men and women. Thank you.

LEIGH: Just before we take your questions on that announcement, I also want to say that today Labor has announced that if elected we would create a Competition and Growth Taskforce within Treasury to boost the co-operatives and mutuals sector. Four out of five Australians are members of co-operatives and mutuals and one of those organisations is the Cowboys team itself. Australians are members of co-operatives through motoring organisations like the NRMA and the RACQ, through health funds like HCF, through member owned credit unions and financial firms such as Beyond Bank. Co-operatives and mutuals provide an alternative to corporate shareholder capitalism. They provide a model of inclusive growth and one which has been vital as we've seen some of the scandals and rip offs exposed in the banking royal commission. It’s been the member-owned banking sector that has come through that far better than other parts of the banking sector. 

This taskforce would work to harmonise state and territory laws, benefiting co-operatives and mutuals. It would engage on expanding employee share ownership schemes. It’ll look at corporate governance reforms. It will ensure that under a Shorten Labor Government we see growth fairly shared across the community. Inclusive growth is at the heart of what Labor seeks to achieve. We're really proud to work with the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals from 2016 when Labor announced that we would support their fair finance reforms. Those reforms were eventually backed by the Coalition and passed the Parliament some months ago. They're a testament to the importance of the co-operatives and mutual sector and to the strong advocacy of Melina Morrison. And I’ll ask Melina to say a few words about co-operatives and mutuals and today's taskforce announcement.

MELINA MORRISON, BUSINESS COUNCIL OF CO-OPERATIVES AND MUTUALS: Thank you, Andrew and Cathy. Well, good morning everyone. I'm also delighted to be here on the grounds of Cowboys House. We're incredibly proud of this mutual 100 per cent community owned organisation, but also to be here in Townsville which is a co-operative city with legacy co-operatives - Defence Bank, Queensland Country Credit Union, ILG, many more rallying around the community and providing that deep connection that creates an inclusive economy for the local economy. We welcome Labor's announcement of the taskforce. The remit of the taskforce will ensure that the legislative and regulatory environment for co-operatives and mutuals is a fair environment for them to thrive and survive in the economy, and ultimately build a fairer economy for all Australians. Together with the recent new legislation on mutual capital that Andrew mentioned, this will help build a level playing field for co-operatives and mutuals. It will help to build this ethical business model which many consumers are seeking to engage with in this era of accountability. The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals wants to make Australia the best place to be a member focused organisation and Labor's taskforce will ensure that it has an enabling environment in which to grow and prosper for the benefit of all Australians. Thank you.

LEIGH: Thanks, Melina. We’re happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: This taskforce, is that going to work like a watchdog or is it going to be supporting the mutuals? How is it going to achieve that goal of equality?

LEIGH: It'll be supporting the growth of the co-operatives and mutuals sector. As I said, four out of five of us are members of co-operatives and mutuals. They employ 150,000 people. They are an ethical alternative to corporate shareholder capitalism. They won't replace it entirely, but for many people they're an important sector and Labor wants to remove the impediments and encourage their growth. 

JOURNALIST: Is there a cost? How much is this taskforce going to cost?

LEIGH: We've allocated $3 million over the forward estimates. 

JOURNALIST: And on this one, when will the funding be available for the support for Cowboys House?

LEIGH: That'll be in our first budget if we're elected and we'll be keen to work with Cowboys House.

JOURNALIST: And then we spoke about how it will be used to improve access to education and stuff. Specifically, what do we know - I mean, it might be a better question for Jeff -  how is that money put to work and utilised?

LEIGH: Let’s get Jeff to step in and answer that.

REIBEL: What that does mean practically for us is we’re able to deliver a broader health and wellbeing program for students here at the girls house. That’ll concentrate on their mental health. As I spoke about, they do live a long way away from their community. This will ensure that they're able to connect back with their community and ensure that we can continue to deliver that unique way that we deliver our services and outcomes here at NRL Cowboys House.

JOURNALIST: Jeff, just while you’re there, Michael Chee Kam found  guilty of common assault and only got a two game suspension whereas Scott Bolton for the same offence got a ten game suspension-

REIBEL: This is probably not the forum to discuss that and I'd be happy to average conversation with you later about that. 

JOURNALIST: Yes, brilliant. Okay.

JOURNALIST: Just in terms of your commitments to the performance centre at the stadium, what's Labor’s position on that?

LEIGH: We've certainly heard the strong pitch that's been made by the Cowboys’ leadership to Bill Shorten, to Cathy O’Toole and myself. We're considering that at the moment. Cathy, would you like to say any more?

O’TOOLE: That’s right. I have been talking consistently with the leadership team and it’s certainly on the table for discussion. And at this point in time that's where we're at.

JOURNALIST: Is there room in the budget for the $15 million?

O’TOOLE: What we are looking at is the pros and cons of the project. It was a very good presentation that was presented by Jeff and his management team, and well worthy of consideration and that’s sitting with our leadership team.

LEIGH: Any other questions? Thanks everyone.


Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.