Interview with Lee Faulkner, Triple M Darling Downs

LEE FAULKNER:

And just in time for Christmas, would you believe the three wise men have turned up in my studio this morning, which is great. So it is a very good morning to the Member for Groom, Dr John

McVeigh, who we will start with. Good morning to you, John.

JOHN MCVEIGH:

G’day, Lee. Great to see you.

LEE FAULKNER:

You've got a big day today, and there's going to be something really special to be announced here in Toowoomba, something that we've been talking about for some time.

JOHN MCVEIGH:

Absolutely, Lee. Thrilled to be here with you in the studio with the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack here with us, and of course the leader of our community, Paul Antonio, the Mayor of the Toowoomba region. Big day today, the signing of the intergovernmental agreement between the Federal Government and the State Government on Inland Rail. So this project is now well and truly underway with this signing today between the Deputy Prime Minister and the state minister who will be here in town with us later in the day. And the benefits for Toowoomba will certainly now flow.

LEE FAULKNER:

Yeah absolutely, and this we- I mean, we often throw around the word game changer, but Deputy Prime Minister, this certainly is for our region, as was the delivery of the Second Range Crossing, which has just been absolutely fantastic for us. You've only got to look up towards James Street up there and not see trucks rumbling through our city. So we thank the government for their action on that, and on this Inland Rail and it must be very satisfying about to come to the Garden City today to be able to make this announcement.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well indeed. $1.2 billion went to the Second Range Crossing, and the Queensland component of the Inland Rail is going to be $7 billion. But perhaps more importantly for Toowoomba, 7200 jobs are going to be created for the Inland Rail, and many of those are going to be right here in Toowoomba. So this is going to be great for this area, for this region, and no one knows that better than John McVeigh. And he has made sure that Toowoomba is going to be part and parcel, very much centre of this huge transformational build. This is nation building infrastructure.

LEE FAULKNER:

Absolutely. When are we making the official announcement this morning?

JOHN MCVEIGH:

Well the signing will happen at City Hall. Will be watched very closely by the Mayor, Worship Paul Antonio. He's very keen on this project, obviously along with the rest of us. So very exciting morning for Toowoomba.

LEE FAULKNER:

Well it is, isn't it? I mean, we've been talking about this for how long? Ever since you and I have been talking on this program, and how great to see it coming to fruition.

PAUL ANTONIO:

Absolutely. And look, we're very thankful for the Range Crossing. But this will be- have a more profound effect than the Range Crossing. This is a thing that will provide a tremendous number of jobs long term - long term sustainable jobs - as we move towards becoming an inland port. But of course, the $5 billion that will be spent to get through the hill will certainly- we'll be using the same technique as we used with the bypass. Well we want the maximum amount of that money spent in this postcode, and we'll be working on that. And $5 billion, that's three times the size plus of the bypass. So we are expecting some good outcomes. This is a game-changing thing. This is nation building, and I'm very, very thankful that it's happening.

LEE FAULKNER:

Well, given the investment in the Second Range Crossing and now in the Inland Rail, I mean, it just shows a commitment to regional Australia by the government and that's something that you have been talking about. But you're actually delivering, which is, I think, a fantastic thing.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well John and I not only live in regional Australia, we love regional Australia, and we want more people to enjoy the benefits of regional Australia. And when regional Australia is strong, so too is our nation. I mean, everything gets created in regional Australia, let's face it. It's all the agricultural, the mining wealth comes from regional Australia, and more people need to know that, and more people need to come out here and live in places like Toowoomba. You know it is a fantastic place to live. I understand, I live in a regional city in New South Wales – forgive me for that – but, you know, I love the regions and you know I'll always, always shout from the rooftops about the value of regional Australia.

LEE FAULKNER:

Well look I've been here over two decades, but I'm a blue at heart as well as these two well know [indistinct] ...

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

You just lost half your listeners.

LEE FAULKNER:

No, no, they know. They’ve been listening to me for a long time and they’ve been- and believe me, they’ve had a lot of fun with me during the eight in a row and then another three in a row at the State of Origin, so it’s all been good. But it has been a great investment in this region and for Groom. I mean, two of the biggest infrastructure programs, John, anywhere in the country.

JOHN MCVEIGH:

That's right Lee, we've got such a diversified economy here. Education, health of course, agribusiness. We are, as the mayor knows full well, feeling the effects of drought. Obviously, he plays a leadership role in our community in times of bushfire, for example, so we have our challenges but we are the biggest private sector inland city in the country. We have tremendous potential and I'm so pleased that Michael McCormack, the Deputy Prime Minister, obviously Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, recognized Toowoomba and we continue to get the support that we deserve.

PAUL ANTONIO:

Oh well, we wouldn’t argue that there’s not a better city anywhere in the world.

PAUL ANTONIO:

No, well look, I've got to confess that last night when I was welcoming Santa Claus to town and he turned up on his sleigh directly from the North Pole, he told the crowd there that Toowoomba’s the best city that he travels to.

And we all agreed and we clapped.

LEE FAULKNER:

We certainly did.

PAUL ANTONIO:

And I’m- Michael will take that away now as Deputy Prime Minister.

LEE FAULKNER:

You can't argue with Santa. It was a great night last night, too, I've got to say. You've got something else that's happening, coming up on Sunday 1 December because we just touched on the bushfires that have ravaged part of our region.

PAUL ANTONIO:

I saw something that I was terribly proud of during the crisis we had with bushfires where everybody came together. There were so many different groups. We even had international firemen here who were helping us and they've been working in recent days falling difficult trees that have been- could potentially cause trouble. They're from New Zealand. Now look, these people put in a tremendous effort. That fire covered 20,000 hectares. That’s significant. It has a hundred-k boundary on it that is being patrolled. I know of an instance where 100 cattle were killed in one- on one property. I know of the fact that the posts have been all burnt, all that sort of thing. We know with the fact that we went within an ace of running out of- of having a very difficult time with water in Toowoomba. Had those firemen not got in and preserved the line to Perseverance Dam- we lost the line to our main dam, Cresswell. But- and I just want to pay my tribute also to those who work for the- for Ergon Energy as it is- used to be known. They went in there in difficult circumstances and they repaired that line and we're back to normal because of their efforts. The Salvation Army, 5000 meals they produced. The army here, Cabarlah signals base, provided a lot of support. I have never experienced a community coming together in that way and I'm proud of that.

LEE FAULKNER:

Yeah, absolutely.

PAUL ANTONIO:

So on Sunday afternoon ...

LEE FAULKNER:

Yes.

PAUL ANTONIO:

... there will be entertainment, there will be everything at the Crows Nest Showgrounds and we'll thank those people who've done so much.

LEE FAULKNER:

Alright, that’s going to be a great day. Activities for the kids as well. You can go along there between 4 and 8 PM this Sunday, Crows Nest Showgrounds. Take the entire family and celebrate the great work of our firefighters and the services that surround them. Deputy Prime Minister, welcome to the Garden City and thank you for the announcement that’s going to be made today and the Government's commitment to Inland Rail. We certainly appreciate it.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Yeah, thank you for your interest and I'm sure your listeners will benefit in the long run and in the short term as well from this.

LEE FAULKNER:

No doubt about it. Member for Groom Dr John McVeigh thank you for your time as always.

JOHN MCVEIGH:

Thanks so much Lee, always great to be with you.

LEE FAULKNER:

And Councillor Paul Antonio, I’ll see you tonight.

PAUL ANTONIO:

Thank you very much for calling us the Three Wise Men. I'm just- I was thankful you didn't require any order to be ...

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

[Indistinct] gold, frankincense or the myrrh but you are signing the agreement, that’s all that matters...

LEE FAULKNER:

Thank you both. Big announcement happening here in the Garden City and the signing there of the Inland Rail, which will be a game-changer for our region.