Transcript - radio interview - ABC North & West SA, Breakfast with Tom Mann


TOM MANN: If you're listening in from outback South Australia, are there times when you feel a bit neglected in terms of facilities and infrastructure? Does it seem like all the funding goes to cities and major towns? Well, the Australian Government has just announced a series of infrastructure upgrades and new facilities for regional SA. Kristy McBain, Federal Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, along with South Australian Ministers Geoff Brock and Clare Scriven are currently touring regional South Australia and visiting several of the sites that are receiving funding. Good morning Minister, Kristy McBain.

MINISTER MCBAIN: Good morning, Tom. How are you?

MANN: I'm very well, thank you. So where are you currently in regional SA?

MCBAIN: I'm in William Creek at the moment. Beautiful location and lovely to be here last night and see the beautiful sunset.

MANN: What have you been doing in William Creek so far?

MCBAIN: We started our tour in Pimba, we went to Roxby Downs to Andamooka and then over to William Creek, speaking to local communities about some of the infrastructure needs that they have and some of the ideas they have for how to grow their economy and local community. It's been really fabulous to hear from volunteers of the progress associations in Andamooka and in Pimba. Lovely to chat to the council in Roxby Downs and last night spoke to some of the station owners and public and William Creek.

MANN: And is this your first time visiting regional South Australia like this?

MCBAIN: Yeah, it is this first time I've been to regional South Australia. I'm really impressed by how these small remote communities pull together and as we know, but not for the volunteers in some of these remote communities, they wouldn't be any services at all. So the work that they are doing to give advice to both the OCA, the state and federal governments I think is fantastic.

MANN: And can you tell me about the funding that falls under this Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program? What are some of the projects that have been announced?

MCBAIN: Yeah, so Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program is a fantastic Federal Government initiative that puts money into communities right across the country. It's untied grant funding so that these local communities can really highlight the areas and projects they need to be developed. So yesterday, $70,000 into the Andamooka Recreation Centre precinct, which was an idea of the Andamooka Progress Association and it's getting a lot of use over there. We'll add some shade sales and car park lighting to make that precinct even better. I also announced travelling dump points in various locations across outback South Australia to the value of $300,000. From Pimba to Oodnadatta, Innamincka and William Creek as well. And then today we're obviously meeting with the Royal Flying Doctor Service in William Creek and talking about a new facility here in William Creek to service the greater region.

MANN: And so what will that facility include for William Creek?

MCBAIN: So we'll invest a million dollars to support the development of a purpose built remote health clinic. It will provide a clinical setting for the Royal Flying Doctor Service to deliver its existing fly-in primary health consultations, but it will also provide an emergency service space for critically-ill patients when they're awaiting a transfer to a major hospital. It will also use telehealth technology, which will connect patients with the RFDS as well as first responders when there's that critical emergency, so they can have that information whilst they're waiting for a RFDS plane to fly in.

MANN: And obviously working with the Royal Flying Doctors means that there will be a fairly large area that is serviced. How large in the area will this new William Creek Facility service?

MCBAIN: Yeah, look at all service are obviously a pretty wide area and we know that not only will it help the local region but the many tourists that are travelling every year and that number is getting bigger and bigger every year. And also industry. We know that industry is growing in the area and we need to make sure that we've got services available. Regardless of your postcode, people need to be able to access services like primary health and emergency health. So I'm really pleased that we can partner with the Royal Flying Doctor service and also OCA to deliver this for the wider community.

MANN: And the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program is contributing to the upgrade of several outback roads that are prone to flooding. Will this include the Olympic Dam Highway, which has flooded twice in the last year and saw Roxy Downs cut off?

MCBAIN: Yeah, I travelled the road yesterday and got out with the Department of Infrastructure and Transport and had a look at some of the sections that have been significantly impacted. There's a section just outside Woomera where you can see a drainage pipe has been washed away, in some cases 100 metres down the road and obviously the shoulders are still very soft in places along the highway. There has been money committed already through the Disaster Recovery Funding Assistance Program and work is due to get underway very shortly on a couple of those sections, but we know how much of a major thoroughfare it is for locals and industry and tourists. So we need to make sure that given any different rain event or weather event, that we are there quickly to fix those issues. So really important that that disaster recovery systems funding is flowing to communities.

MANN: You're on ABC North and West and broadcasting to the Riverland this morning. My name is Tom Mann, Federal Minister for Regional Development and Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain is with me. So do you know how soon these road upgrades will happen?

MCBAIN: Yes, the talking to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport yesterday works due to start on that section near Woomera in the next couple of weeks and they're anticipating a time frame of a couple of months and there'll be a detour in place so that work can be completed as soon as possible. One of the big hold ups has been obviously supply chain issues and getting some of those drainage pipes arranged was one of the major factors in how long it has taken to repair that section. So supply chain issues have been difficult regardless of where you are in the country.

MANN: I think you touched upon the funding for the Andamooka Recreation Centre, which will see some upgrades. Can you speak about why that particular project has decided to see some funding? What does this spot mean for regional communities?

MCBAIN: Yeah, look, the Andamooka Progress Association have put together a concept plan or a master plan for their community, showing what they want to happen in the community. This was a project that they had desired to have money put towards and I think that's the most important thing we need to make sure that we are listening to local communities. And our commitment since coming to Government in May was to make sure that we are listening to communities. Not to tell communities what they need, but to actually listen to them and then enact what they think will make their communities better. So through the Progress Association and OCA, with being able to fund this, which will, as I said, mean supporting shade shelters, improvements to car parking, signage and solid street lining, which will not only be great for the community, but great for those travellers passing through the area. So it's been great to work with communities and I think that's what governments should be there to do is enhance regional communities, not change them.

MANN: And on that note of meeting with local communities and listening to them, have you been speaking to, or will you be speaking to Regional Development Officers?

MCBAIN: Yeah, we've been travelling with RDA Far North the last couple of days and I met with all RDA Chairs and CEOs in Adelaide on Monday afternoon. So it's a fantastic model in South Australia where the three levels of government will contribute to the Regional Development Australia Board in a variety of ways, but it's a very connected model here and everyone works really well together and they've been able to achieve some fantastic things. So it's been great catching up with the RDA Board on Monday and obviously travelling with RDA yesterday and today.

MANN: And what have they highlighted as major issues facing regional SA??

MCBAIN: Similar to a lot of other regional communities across the country, housing and workforce is really a major concern for a lot of the RDAs. It's really hard to grow industry or grow business or attract business to the regions when we don't have some of those workforce issues sorted out. And going hand in hand with that is obviously the housing shortage. It's hard to attract a worker if we've got nowhere for them to live. So they are concerns, as I said, right across regional Australia and something that our government is looking to address with our Housing Australia Policy.

MANN: And finally speaking on the strength of seeing all three levels of government working together. You're the Minister for Local Government and Territories. Last week nominations closed for supplementary council elections in many council regions in regional SA because they were unable to fill all these councillor positions areas including Streaky, Wudinna, Tummy Bay, Mt Remarkable and Copper Coast councils. Is this a trend that you've been seeing across Australia?

MCBAIN: Look, I think that finding the right people at the right time to fill positions across regional Australia has been a challenge and remains a challenge in some areas. In my first Local Government Ministers meeting, which I held with state and territory ministers in November last year, we identified that workforce or capability gap in a lot of our council areas. I've been speaking to Minister Geoff Brock on quite a few occasions about workforce and council capability myself. I'm a former mayor and council in a regional council, so I've kind of got a bit of a perspective on some of the things that do need to take place. I think most importantly, we rely on volunteers so much across the regions and so many of our people are feeling roles in the P&C, in the local sporting club, at the tourist information centres and progress associations, but sometimes we think someone else is going to put their hand up to help steer our councils.

It is a fantastic job. It is really getting out and making a difference in your community. I hope there has been enough people to fill those positions, but if not, I really want people to think about the possibility of putting their hand up for council. It's really a worthy position. It comes with obviously a lot of challenges, especially in regional and remote areas. But this is a very worthwhile position and I take my hat off to all those people that do put their hand up to run in any election. It can be quite a difficult and challenging period. But we really need you there to speak up for your communities and speak to other levels of government, to let us know what's happening in your communities and what needs to be done. So I really hope those positions there's been enough people to fill a council and in some cases do a council election again. And I look forward to continuing to work with councils right across South Australia.

MANN: Minister, thank you very much for your time this morning.

MCBAIN: Thank you so much, Tom. Have a lovely day.

MANN: You too. Kristy McBain, Federal Minister for Regional Development and Local Government and Territories there.