Subjects: Rockhampton Ring Road; Tourism; Newspoll.
HOST: Another week, another visit. Today it is the turn of Labor’s Anthony Albanese, who is coming to Rockhampton later on today to talk about infrastructure for the region especially the Ring Road for the Rocky region in his role as Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities, Regional Development and Tourism.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning. Thanks for having me on.
HOST: Not long since Bill Shorten was here. Can we expect in influx of Federal Labor figures through these marginal seats of Capricornia and Flynn?
ALBANESE: I think you can certainly expect a steady stream of Labor Members and Shadow Ministers over the coming weeks and months but this is pretty consistent. I have been to Rocky at least once a year for many years now and I look forward today to being there with our candidate, Russell, and it will be a good day talking about the Ring Road. But tomorrow, also, I am hosting a round table along with Russell Robertson and Senator Murray Watt about tourism, particularly about what might happen with Great Keppel, at Yeppoon, so I am looking forward to that as well.
HOST: What announcements do you have today on the Ring Road for Rockhampton given that Bill Shorten just a couple of weeks ago has already pledged funding to construct it?
ALBANESE: Well I will be reinforcing that commitment and calling upon, now that we have yet another change of Liberal Prime Minister, the Government to match our commitment to partner with the Queensland Government to build the 22km Ring Road. I funded, when I was last Infrastructure Minister, the study into the Ring Road that identified the route and identified where it would go from the Yeppen Roundabout there, which was also funded when I was the Infrastructure Minister, along the western side of the airport to another bridge crossing before reconnecting with the Bruce Highway there. The fact is that highways shouldn’t really run through the centre of cities and what we have seen is the Mackay Ring Road is being built; Townsville of course, and what should happen is that Rockhampton should have the same treatment. It will make a big difference to road safety. It will make a big difference to travel times. And it is a project that will of course create many hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs if you include indirect jobs, so during construction, but will also help to boost economic activity for the Capricornia region in the medium term once it has been done.
HOST: So we’ve got the Rookwood Weir coming and that funding has been pledged. Any other infrastructure projects for the region that you are looking at?
ALBANESE: One of the things I will be doing today is to talk with members of the business community, members of the local community with Russell Robertson, our candidate, and identifying other projects. We’ve got important funding streams available, including we have $1 billion in the Northern Australia Tourism Fund we will be talking, with particularly the people on the coast at Yeppoon, about any potential projects there. But today also I will be hosting a dinner tonight to catch up with the locals. I look forward to it. It’s a pretty miserable day in Sydney as I leave.
HOST: Well you are coming up to the best part of the world. There’s no doubt of that and talking of tourism, what do you feel could be done at a Federal level regarding Great Keppel Island?
ALBANESE: Well I have had discussions with Kate Jones who is the wonderful Queensland Tourism Minister. She is very passionate, of course, about Queensland tourism and one of the things I will be doing is sitting down with the sector to see if there is any way in which the Commonwealth can provide assistance there. Great Keppel Island for course, when I was young it was an iconic destination particularly for younger people to come to Queensland. Of course there are investment opportunities there. Tourism is critical for job creation and for the region and that Capricornia Coast region has so much to offer with a great city of Rockhampton at its core as well, so I am very hopeful that we can have some constructive proposals out of that. One of the things I will be doing is informing people of the opportunities that are there with our Northern Australia Tourism Fund, which myself and Jason Clare as the Shadow Minister for Northern Australia have been working very hard on.
HOST: Anthony Albanese is with you this morning and have you been looking at this morning’s Australian’s Newspoll that has Prime Minister Scott Morrison increasing his lead over Bill Shorten as preferred PM? So Scott Morrison now 45 per cent, Shorten just 32 per cent. What does Bill Shorten need to do to gain people’s approval?
ALBANESE: Well I think the important figure that I take from today is that Labor remains 8 per cent ahead of the Coalition. If those figures were reflected on polling day then Labor would win more than 90 of the 150 seats around Australia and certainly seats like Capricornia and others in Queensland would fall on those figures. So there is no doubt that new prime ministers have traditionally got a short-term boost but still an interesting poll there as well is that people are less likely to vote for the Coalition now because of the change of Leader from Malcolm Turnbull to Scott Morrison. I have just sat through two weeks of Parliament in which we asked every day Scott Morrison to explain to the Australian people why it is that he is the Prime Minister and not Malcolm Turnbull and he can’t explain that and I think the Australian people deserve frankly to have a say themselves. So my view is stop the polling, call the poll and give the Australian people a say in who the Prime Minister is. I think they deserve that in a democracy like ours.
HOST: And what is the Labor Party leadership doing about perhaps about the marginal parties that could very well do very well in seats like Capricornia and Flynn at the next election and I am thinking here most specifically about One Nation?
ALBANESE: What we are doing is putting out an agenda for Government. One of the things that we’ve seen, and I think closer to the poll that people will be cognisant of, is the fact that so many people have been elected for these minor parties. In Queensland’s case, of course, the number two candidate was found to not be eligible and ruled out of sitting in the Senate and then you had them replaced by someone who, on day one, on the way to being sworn in, defected from One Nation and became an Independent and then later on has joined another political party. So I think people need to be very cautious about voting for minor parties because they don’t know who they will end up with and the Senate is full of people who have changed allegiances, some of them on a whim, they have gone from being Jacqui Lambie Party is now a National and the Family First Party is now a Liberal and One Nation have lost so many. They have lost more than half their party and the thing is that Pauline Hanson’s party have had a record of getting people elected and then them collapsing within. And of course that was the experience in the Queensland State Parliament and unfortunately is has been the experience once gain in the Federal Parliament.
HOST: Anthony Albanese good to hear your views this morning on ABC Capricornia. Thanks for your time.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.