Radio interview on Tasmania Talks with Mike O'Loughlin


HOST, MIKE O'LOUGHLIN: Catherine King is in Tasmania today, the Federal Minister of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Very good morning to you, Minister.


O'LOUGHLIN: I'm well thank you, waiting patiently you were, thank you for that. This is your first visit to Tassie I believe?

KING: This is my first visit as a Minister, as the new Minister for Infrastructure. I've been here many, many, many times both in opposition and when were previously in government, it's a beautiful place. I love it, how could you not, it's incredibly beautiful.

O'LOUGHLIN: Just don't tell too many people when you go back, will you?

KING: I think they all know mate, they're all coming here in droves.

O'LOUGHLIN: Yeah, we're filling up. Is it just the New Bridgewater Bridge or the Sorrell Southern bypass you're here for?

KING: No, I've had my first face to face meeting with Deputy Premier Michael Ferguson just to talk about projects that we committed to during the election campaign, making sure we're all on the same page to get those delivered. And we'll keep having talks about those and to hear about what some of the pressures are here in Tasmania from an Infrastructure and Transport point of view.

Bridgewater Bridge, fantastic, largest ever infrastructure project in the state, it was really exciting to be able to go there. You can see dredgers, right out on the water at the moment basically where the pylons are going to be they're drilling down just to check that the rock is alright for where the pylons are going to go. The site office, I think is going to start to open in the next couple of days and you'll start to see a lot of activity there.

But, I've also just been I've just been to Haywoods in Launceston - they're excellent - to have a look at the metal fabrication there for the shiploader and then I am over to Burnie Port to have a look at that as well. And I've also just been to UTAS in Launceston to look at the great work that they've done there. And the beautiful John Wardle, architecturally designed building that you've got there for your library. So, having a look at the delivery of the projects that are committed to and that I've got responsibility for at the moment.

O’LOUGHLIN: I know that our Federal Liberal Member for Bass, Bridget Archer was concerned about a community area in Exeter, she gave me a question, do you mind if I play that question from her to you? If I can, this is Bridget Archer.

FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BASS, BRIDGET ARCHER: Yeah, look, I just wanted to put on the record for Catherine, if she is not aware, there has been a long history and a lot of work gone in by this community group on this project. They have funding from the state government, they have in-kind support from local government as well. This is a really worthy project, I've secured the funding for them and they believe that we secured the funding for them,now that's been placed under review and while I appreciate that might be within the remit of the new government, it's causing unnecessary delays for a really worthwhile projects and I just would like Catherine King to understand that and also to give consideration to that because whilst they conducting that review in the lead up to the October budget, this is funding that was announced in April, and that is shovel ready and that community wants to get on and build that facility. The longer it goes on, the more that those costs will expand. And I would like Catherine King to know that and also to reassure this community that they won't be disadvantaged and that, if this project goes ahead as it should, that they won't then be in a situation where their costs have blown out and the funding won't cover it.

And this is also true, Mike for Flinders Island, I secured $600,000 there towards the safe harbor project, again, one that was worked very closely with the community and the council over over 12 months and that there's already some existing funding sitting there. This is causing an unnecessary delay for them having that review, they may not have any sight of where that is at until October and again, as we know, costs in construction are escalating. So I would like the Minister to consider that in the context of the review and also to consider that, reassuring communities that they won't be disadvantaged by the delay of the review.

O'LOUGHLIN: There you go, Bridget Archer, Catherine?

KING: My door is open and Bridget hasn't been to see me about either of those projects, she may have written to me, but I've got about 12,000 pieces of correspondence I'm working through right at the moment. That's literally the amount that's come through the door. I think people need to understand that the government basically announced a budget and then we literally went into an election campaign. So what's called the appropriation bills were not passed. So there's no appropriation for any of the announcements that they made, which is why we're having to have a budget in October, in order to appropriate money to be able to actually give to community organisations for contracts. So that's why the October budget is so important. There is no appropriation bill that passed the parliament in order for us to appropriate money for any of the projects that were in the last budget of the Morrison Government, so that's the first issue.

The second is you will know that the way in which the previous government allocated funding was deeply unfair across the country. You've heard of Sports Rorts, Car Park Rorts, a whole range of things. It's incumbent upon me to actually look across some of the commitments that the previous government made - some of them are election commitments, some of them we matched during the election campaign, some we didn't - to really try and make sure that we end this rorting that was happening under the previous government. And so I'm going through that process, but I would say that a couple of the projects that Bridget seems to have mentioned were election commitments of the previous government and they weren't matched by us. That's the nature of what happens during election campaigns. We didn't match them, they were election commitments of the previous government and we will make decisions about whether we proceed with those in the upcoming months.

O'LOUGHLIN: If I may, also being Federal Infrastructure Minister, Tasmania's bid for an AFL team. Apparently the Albanese Government said it will talk constructively with the state government about infrastructure requirements, including the new waterfront stadium which is certainly a [inaudible] issue in Tasmania.

KING: I think we're a long way away from that yet. The first thing is that the state government are trying to secure the 19th license and have those discussions with the AFL. And I don't want to get ahead of ourselves here, that's really important for the state government to be able to do that and for the AFL to act in good faith in those discussions. Of course, we'd love to see, as would everybody, to have that 19th license here in Tasmania. I know you're a footy mad state, the same as my home state of Victoria and you've provided us with lots and lots of players.

O'LOUGHLIN: Absolutely!

KING: You have, and when matches are here they are well populated. So that's incredibly important. But this is a big piece of infrastructure. I don't have a request on the table - formal request, or a business case or any of those things - from the Tasmanian state government. But of course, as I would do with any infrastructure project, whether it's a sports stadium, or a road, or a further public transport infrastructure project, we will talk constructively with the government about those when they're ready to do so. But really, the first step is securing the license.

I think we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves to try and say will you commit, $500 million or $400 million. Really it'll be up to the state government to say - in amongst the mix of a pretty tight Commonwealth budget context with a trillion dollars of debt, that we've got to start to repay - whether that stadium is the priority infrastructure project for Tasmania, or whether they're going to want funding for the Launceston Stadium, whether they're going to want funding for public transport networks or whether they're going to want funding for hospitals - not in my portfolio or under education - so they're going to have to determine whether that's the priority ask. But the first stage is getting that 19th license and certainly, I hope those conversations are held in good faith.

O'LOUGHLIN: Well the AFL says no stadium, no team, so it's a bit argy bargy isn't it?

KING: That's, as I understand it, up to the Tasmanian government to talk to the AFL about and again, I don't know how in good faith that is. As far as I understand, the stadium is not included in the Tasmanian state government bid and I think those discussions will have to be held separately.

O'LOUGHLIN: Well, a lot of places you are, you're pulled over on the side of the road, you've got wonderful places to visit up North. I do hope you enjoy the rest of your stay. It's nice to have you in Tasmania. Appreciate it.

KING: It is always a pleasure to be in this incredible part of the world.

O'LOUGHLIN: Thank you, Catherine, Federal Minister for Regional Development and Local Government.