Jul 10, 2012

Transcript of interview with Craig Zonca – ABC Southern Queensland Drive

Issues: Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone: 50 Year Freight Infrastructure Plan, Kennedy Highway, Calliope Crossroads upgrade, Douglas Arterial duplication, MRRT,infrastructure spend

CRAIG ZONCA:  But before getting there, the Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, has flown around the state today and on his agenda – roads. I spoke to Mr Albanese from Townsville as he was about to board a plane to Gladstone.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I woke up in Mount Isa and had a breakfast with Xstrata and representatives of the industry.

Later, we had the launch of the 50 year plan to secure the supply chain from Mount Isa through to Townsville. That’s being developed by the seven local government areas in partnership with the private sector and is being overseen by Infrastructure Australia.

That was a very successful event and followed a dinner in Mount Isa last night with all of the mayors along that 1,000 kilometre corridor. This is all about making sure that the supply chain is more efficient and maximising the benefits of the resources boom in Mount Isa and the north-west region, and also out of agriculture and other products as well.

CRAIG ZONCA:  So Mr Albanese, you say the Labor Government endorses this plan. But does that mean there’s money on the table?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Yes. Today, we announced $1.7 million for a supply chain coordinator. We’ve established the Regional Infrastructure Fund. The Regional Infrastructure Fund is funded out of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and is about putting back into those communities support for major infrastructure.

We’ve allocated $6 billion to the Regional Infrastructure Fund and we already have committed to a range of projects around Queensland – over $900 million already.

CRAIG ZONCA: You say that that money will come out of revenue from the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. What happens should the Queensland Government be successful in their challenge to the mining tax? What will happen to the money then?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don’t think there’s any possibility that will happen. I think the Queensland Government know that. I think that common sense tells you that communities deserve to get something back from the resources that are, of course, owned by the nation rather than owned by any individual.

The Minerals Resource Rent Tax is a very practical way of ensuring that does occur and one of the places that the revenue will go is into this Regional Infrastructure Fund. Frankly, I can’t understand any government at any level not supporting such a proposal.

CRAIG ZONCA:  Mr Albanese, if you ask any truck driver – anyone who’s been on the highways around Queensland – the Bruce Highway down the coast or the Warrego Highway heading west from Toowoomba – they will say that all of those roads need more money, that they need improvements.

Can you help in that regard? What is the Federal Government doing?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We are helping. We committed another $10.5 million to the Kennedy Highway today. I’ve been in Townsville and opened the Douglas Arterial duplication. That was a $110 million project.

I’m now off to Gladstone to start construction on the Calliope Crossroads. This is a $150 million project which has been talked about for a long while but is now fully funded. It will ensure that there’s an interchange including a 64 metre long bridge over the Dawson Highway.

CRAIG ZONCA:  Mr Albanese, I draw your attention to the fact the Bruce Highway – almost every afternoon when I’m on air, I’m on talking about where there is a closure on it. It could be in the northern section, the southern section of Bruce Highway due to a road accident or something else.

Given that most days there’s a closure, doesn’t that indicate that there needs to be major improvements right along the Bruce Highway?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes, absolutely. That’s why we’ve increased the spending up to $2.8 billion dollars. I mean, the former government contributed just over $1 billion dollars over double the time – over 12 years in office.

When we came to office, we had a massive infrastructure deficit. We’ve increased the spending per Queenslander on infrastructure from $143 a person up to $314 dollars per person.

Can we fix all these issues overnight? No, we can’t. But, we have made a massive contribution through the $8.7 billion we’ve committed to Queensland infrastructure. And the largest component of that is, of course, the $2.8 billion dollars for the Bruce.

CRAIG ZONCA:  Anthony Albanese, the Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister, in Queensland for a community cabinet meeting tonight – that being held in Ipswich – had also been to Mount Isa, Townsville and Gladstone during this Tuesday.