ABC Regional Queensland Breakfast with Meecham Philpott

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Wednesday, 12th January 2022

ABC Regional Queensland Breakfast with Meecham Philpott

Discussing Labor's plan for disaster readiness and the Better Future for Queensland trip.

Labor’s plan for disaster readiness; failures of the Morrison Government during the natural disasters; Labor’s policy agenda; Federal election; Better Future for Queensland visit.
 
MEECHAM PHILPOTT, HOST:
There's actually a massive announcement that's come through from the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, who, by the way, has been good enough to give us a call this morning. Good morning to, Mr Albanese. How are you this morning?
 
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Meecham. I'm very well, mate. My pick for a song, by the way, would be 'Wide Open Road' by The Triffids, I got to say.
 
PHILPOTT: That's a very good call, actually.
 
ALBANESE: Or a great Queensland band, of course, The Go-Betweens 'Cattle and Cane' has been on as I've been driving down the coast here from Queensland town to Queensland town. I'm on day seven of the Better Future for Queensland visit. It's been really good.
 
PHILPOTT: All right. So, that explains why you're here. And obviously, we're in the run-up to the Federal election, which we still don't have a date, do we?
 
ALBANESE: No, we don't. But this Prime Minister, of course, will never make a decision today if that can be delayed until tomorrow, so I'm expecting it to be on in May.
 
PHILPOTT: Okay. On to big announcements. So, let's talk about this, because it is very topical.
 
ALBANESE: Certainly is. We will have a plan for disaster readiness. And we're announcing that today, investing up to $200 million each and every year on disaster prevention and resilient. You might remember, three years ago the Government created an Emergency Response Fund that we supported. $4 billion to put in a fund and to invest each and every year. Well, in the time since, believe it or not, that fund has grown by $700 million, because they've got $750 million of interest, but they've only spent $17 million. And there hasn't been a single preparedness project completed. It's quite extraordinary. We need to better prepare. An example of that is here in Mackay, building a flood levee along the Pioneer River. That is an example of a project that would make a difference. And right throughout the country, but particularly here in Queensland, which suffers from, of course, floods and cyclones and bushfires, of course, impact the whole country, we need to better prepare by investing in projects like flood levees and sea walls and evacuation centres and firebreaks. Telecommunications improvements, we've seen that is so important as well. And our first responders, as we've seen in Maryborough, are just magnificent. And we need to back them up with government investments to try to make sure that the impact of these disasters is lessened. We're never going to stop natural disasters in this great country of ours. But we can prepare better.
 
PHILPOTT: Now, look, I obviously understand that you're coming out and saying, 'This is what we're going to do' and your point of the current Government saying that they're not doing it. I mean, that's all part of politics. But if we give them the fair dinkum and look at the last, say, 30 years in this country, why haven't we built flood levees for Maryborough, for instance or Bundaberg? The list just goes on. It just seems insane that we've not done this work, whether it's blue tie or red tie in power.
 
ALBANESE: Well, you are right, mate. All governments need to do better. And that's why if you put in place a fund for disaster readiness, $200 million each and every year, and you're doing the projects on an ongoing basis, when there is a disaster what tends to happen is that people then focus their attention, but we need to focus their attention when there's not a disaster. That is the whole idea here behind our plan that's been developed by my Shadow Minister, Murray Watt, who, of course, is a very proud Queenslander. And he's also the Shadow Minister for Northern Australia. So, he's very conscious about what happens in the north of our country and the fact that it is vulnerable. And we have seen the terrible impact in Maryborough, where they have had a loss of life, as well as, of course, a tragic consequence for homes and businesses and the people in that great city.
 
PHILPOTT: I'm wondering, you've earmarked at money, we've got that money sitting in the bank, so to speak, to spend on this project. But does it bog down when it goes federal to state to local? Is that part of the problem of getting these projects through?
 
ALBANESE: We need to do much better and as well in making sure that we cut through some of the red tape, which is there, which is why I want to make sure that I use the experience that I've had as a Federal Minister, where, as Infrastructure Minister, I cut through red tape to make sure that projects that were announced actually got built. And that's a big characteristic, I think, of the current Government is there's a gap between announcement and delivery. I want to make sure that projects that are announced are actually delivered. And you can do it. We need to improve the efficiency of the disaster recovery processes, so that the payments that are given to disaster victims and repairs to the infrastructure are better, and the processes are simplified. You shouldn't need a degree in bureaucracy to be able to make a claim and to get compensated.
 
PHILPOTT: Because you would get, now, say, for instance, the Deputy PM was on the program yesterday. And we were talking about this very thing. And he was saying, 'Well, look, one of the best ways to get water under control is dams and that sort of thing'. 
 
ALBANESE: Did you ask him which dam he has actually built? Because he hasn't built one yet.
 
PHILPOTT: Well, I mean, but look at Rookwood Weir, which is a perfect example, down there at the back of Rocky, where the money came through from the feds, but then it just bogged down into a massive fight between the feds and the state over whether to build the dam or not. Because, at the end of the day, punters like us standing in the street are going, 'Hang on, who's running the show?'
 
ALBANESE: Traveston Dam is another example which Barnaby Joyce went out there and campaigned against. I was the Infrastructure Minister at the time. And he was leading the charge on that issue. The truth is that there's a real gap between Barnaby. He talks a lot about dams. If there was a dam every time that he said the word, then Australia would be full of dams instead of Barnaby Joyce being full of it.
 
PHILPOTT: Would that be bad if Australia was full of dams?
 
ALBANESE: We need to make sure that we build dams where appropriate. That is an important part of management, as well as making sure people have access to water. We need to make sure that when it comes to infrastructure, that there's a short gap between announcement and delivery. When I was the Minister, the best example I found was the Redcliffe Rail Line down in the southeast there. That was first promised in 1895. So, when we promised it, people were pretty cynical. Of course, today, people are riding on that train to work, because we got together, federal, state and local governments, and got it done.
 
PHILPOTT: As far as this goes, rolling this out today, is this going to be one of your pillars that you're going to take to the Federal election, I am wondering?
 
ALBANESE: It's a big issue. It's a big issue in the regions in particular, but it's an issue in a country like Australia. We have had the bushfire crisis that was quite extraordinary a few years ago. We've had floods. We've had the impact of cyclones. During this visit, we were talking to some people, of course, around Mission Beach and around that area about Cyclone Yasi. And this is a country that does have natural disasters. We need to prepare better for it. And we need to give our emergency service personnel, who do such a magnificent job in dire circumstances, we need to give them a bit of a head start and take some pressure off them as well, by making sure that we invest in good practice. A lot of it is common sense. And a lot of it, as well, if you go to areas that is what's needed. They'll tell you. People in Mackay have spoken to me about the new levee that I think should happen being referred to as 'the missing link' that's necessary. When you've got that as common phrases around a community, then it tells you that we need to act on it.
 
PHILPOTT: Look, I'll leave it there for this morning. This is interesting, though. And I dare say this is going to come up again and again. So, keep us in the loop on this one, Mr Albanese.
 
ALBANESE: I will, mate. And all the very best to you and to all of your listeners. And I just encourage people to stay safe. These are difficult time out there with some of the spread that we're seeing. 
 
PHILPOTT: It's a crazy world. 
 
ALBANESE: It is, indeed, mate. But it is always good to talk to you.
 
PHILPOTT: Thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it. Anthony Albanese there, the Leader of the Opposition, the Member for Grayndler, talking about this idea of prevent, prepare, rebuild, Labor's plan for disaster readiness.

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

Parliament House Office

PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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