Subjects; Great Keppel Island, Rockhampton Ring Road, tourism, Wentworth by-electio
AARON STEVENS: I’m joined now by the Opposition spokesman for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Anthony Albanese. Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Aaron.
STEVENS: I’ve got to tell you, you’ve got a very busy stay in Rockhampton and on the coast today. Every person I have spoken with this morning has a meeting with you at some point in time.
ALBANESE: That’s exactly right. I’m speaking to you from Yeppoon this morning. I’m just having a quick brekky with Robbo our candidate, Russell Robertson, and Senator Murray Watt and Brittany, the State Member. We’ve got a good roundtable this morning with all the tourism operators about how we can increase jobs and economic activity here. Of course part of the discussion will be about Great Keppel and what happens there and yesterday we had a range of meetings in Rocky itself and a pretty good function last night at the racing club.
STEVENS: Fantastic. Let’s start with Keppel because money has been promised to Keppel on a state level but it’s going to take more than that. Do you think there should be a commitment on a federal level too?
ALBANESE: Well that’s one of the things I’m going to be talking to people about this morning. Quite clearly Great Keppel has suffered, both through natural disasters and through other issues over the years. It’s a great, iconic tourism asset for Queensland and particularly for Central Queensland. What we are keen to see is that it be restored to its former glory and be made even better in the future. Queensland, of course, has the commitment of $20 million for power and for water and we’re going to be talking about in what way the Federal Government could potentially help.
I had a discussion last week, before I came up here, with Kate Jones who is a very passionate advocate for Queensland tourism and we’ll wait and see what comes out of today’s discussion. But clearly tourism is one of the super growth sectors that’s been identified by all the economic studies about Australia’s future. It already contributes massively and this part of the world had 51,000 visitors from overseas last year and over half a million domestic visitors. But we can do much better.
STEVENS: Well a full strength Keppel is imperative for this region for tourism and it has to happen now. We’ve been waiting for ten years. It really needs to be fast tracked.
ALBANESE: I agree. You can’t have an asset like that just sitting idle because what that means is that is lost employment opportunities for the region. We live in a part of the globe as well that’s seen an explosion in the middle class two hours to our north and those tourists from China and India and Indonesia and other parts, as well as joining those other people who come here from the UK and the US and parts of Europe, really can see a potential explosion in economic activity here.
But you need to have the assets that add value, that turn weekend trips into week long trips and turn week trips into fortnights; that’s how you really maximise the benefit of the tourism potential that’s here on the coast.
STEVENS: It will be interesting to see what comes out of those meetings that you have this meeting. Of course one item of discussion that you’ve been very strongly involved in is the Ring Road for Rockhampton and you’ve promised it would happen in the first term of a Labor Federal Government.
ALBANESE: We have. We committed when I was last Infrastructure Minister we did the study, in 2009 we commissioned that. It reported in December 2011. Of course we funded when I was the Minister the works on the Yeppen Flood Plain and other mitigation works that made an enormous difference to Rocky including during the recent – the last time it flooded in the region. But the long term solution was identified as being the Ring Road and that’s why we’ve committed to fund it and to start that construction during our first term of office. We’re somewhat concerned that the current Government has in a number of instances promised various infrastructure projects but off in the Never Never and quite clearly it’s needed now.
STEVENS: And that’s the thing, that’s why we’re frustrated here in Central Queensland because there’s all these little carrots being dangled, but nothing’s happening.
ALBANESE: Well that’s why we’re putting timeframes on our commitments, like we did last time with the Yeppen Flood Plain. We didn’t promise it when I was Minister and then come back five years later and turn the first sod. We got on with it. We got on with those jobs in construction. I must have visited that site there at least four or five times for the announcement, the sod turn, the construction activity which went at pace and got delivered. And that’s what’s needed on the Ring Road. I frankly am surprised that a report in December 2011 – we certainly were given consideration to the timeframe – it should have been gotten on with by now. It’s been five years since the change of government and there hasn’t been any new projects commenced. Once the flood plain upgrade was completed, one would have thought that activity should have started on the Ring Road.
STEVENS: Yeah well we want to see these projects go ahead and obviously they are vital to the future of Central Queensland. Let’s talk about the Labor Party at a Federal Level. Obviously there have been the goings on for the Liberals, they’ve changed Leader, we’ve got our new Prime Minister. Has everything settled down as far as the Opposition goes?
ALBANESE: Well certainly we’ve been busy with developing policies. We had a policy last week to improve women’s superannuation. We have a policy announcement today about universities and we’ve been getting out there, whether it be on infrastructure or schools or health policy, concentrating on what the needs of the Australian people are rather than the Government, which seems to have been focused largely on itself. And the disappointing thing is, having sat in the Parliament the last two weeks sitting, Scott Morrison couldn’t answer why he was the Prime Minister rather than Malcolm Turnbull.
And of course I tend to have shadowed the National Party Leaders and Infrastructure Ministers over recent years and we’ve been through four different Shadow Ministers for Infrastructure and three different Leaders of the National Party in just the last few years as well. And I think people really want a bit of stability and the Government’s not providing that.
STEVENS: We seem to be in election mode, when do you reckon we’ll go to the polls?
ALBANESE: I doubt whether it will be soon. If Scott Morrison can survive through to Christmas I think his intention is to call the election next year. But we have the Wentworth by-election of course, where Kerryn Phelps as the Independent candidate has a good chance of winning there and if that does happen then we could well be forced into an election before the end of the year.
So Labor’s ready. We’re ready with policies. Russell Robertson and I have been here campaigning for the last two days and you’ll see a very steady stream of Shadow Ministers. Bill Shorten was here just a couple of weeks ago, of course, holding a town hall meeting and we’re ready for the election whenever it is. And I do think that there’s a case when you have an unelected Prime Minister in place in Scott Morrison to actually give the Australian people a say in who the Prime Minister should be. The only way you can do that now is to have an election.
STEVENS: Absolutely. Good to have you in Central Queensland, lovely to talk to you. Thank you for your time.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on the program.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.