Transcript - 4BC Breakfast with Neil Breen

NEIL BREEN:

At 9 o’clock this morning, the Prime Minister will be making a major announcement.  It's about $72 billion worth of major infrastructure projects across the country.  They're not all new.  They're not all brand new.  They've been flagged for a while.  It's all about creating 66,000 jobs.  It's all about cutting red tape, getting the approval times for these projects halved, down to about 21 months.  We need nation-building infrastructure to get out of the COVID-19 crisis we're in, the financial crisis and a lot of these projects have to do with Queensland. 

On the line is the Deputy Prime Minister, we're happy to have him on the show, Michael McCormack.  Good morning, Deputy Prime Minister. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Morning, Neil. 

NEIL BREEN:

What can Queensland expect to get out of this big announcement today?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

What they can expect to get with the $1.5 billion which is going to immediately start work on priority projects identified by the Queensland Government, indeed by Local Government throughout Queensland, is work on the Gregory and Burke – well they're called Beef Roads – but certainly the Kennedy Highway is going to be, well it is shovel-ready, some of the work ready to go there.  They're going to get upgrades.  And what we want to make sure is part of that $1.5 billion, that $500 million is dedicated to safety, road safety upgrades and that's going to be so important because, as you know and I know and everybody else knows, road safety has to be of paramount importance.  It is and of course, the PM's going to also list priority projects of a large scale. 

Yes, we are going to fast-track some of those bureaucratic processes, some of those assessment approvals which, Neil, have been held up for years and years. That's not good enough. The State Infrastructure and Transport Ministers and I have met on an almost bi-weekly, if not daily basis in this COVID situation and they agree and I have to say the Queensland Government was one of the ones who have said enough is enough.  We've all said enough is enough but the people, they deserve better than this and we are not only a Federal Liberal and National Government that actually builds things but we're going to be building them sooner. 

NEIL BREEN:

Deputy Prime Minister, so many of these things just happen so slowly and then when they're approved they happen slowly. Like, will the Pacific Highway be built quickly, that's my question?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, that's the thing and the Commonwealth generally writes a very large cheque and often with a regional road it's 80 per cent of that total cost of the project and then of course, all the tendering, the contracting and the assessments are done by State and that's exactly what happens.  But what we want to do is under our new approach for this investment, these jobs are going to be brought to market early by targeting a 50 per cent reduction in Commonwealth assessment and approval times.  So we're leading the way.  It's an average of three and a half years.  We're scaling it back to 21 months.  But the States, they've shown a willingness, they've said they're going to come on board.  Well the time for talking is over.  What we need to see now is action.  So the Queensland Government, they've said they want to do it so let's see, let's see the action now. 

NEIL BREEN:

You talked about the Gregory and Burke Beef Roads, the Kennedy Highway, the Bruce Highway, is there any work proposed for the Bruce Highway?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well we've got $10 billion dedicated to the Bruce Highway.  It's one of the most important roads in all of Queensland, if not the nation and of course, work continues on the Bruce and we want to make sure that that road is what it needs to be and of course we want to make sure that – we want to see the whole Bruce replicated to that level of safety and to that level of modern road, well what's the word? Brilliance?  We need better roads. 

NEIL BREEN:

We do. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Of course, I can remember driving to the rugby league grand final in 1982 up the goat track of the Hume Highway.  Well, now it's a beautiful duplicated road from Melbourne to Sydney.  But we want to see all roads around Australia lifted to the level that they need to be because it's so important and lives on roads matter.  We've got better cars, we need the roads to suit them. 

NEIL BREEN:

One of the big projects the Prime Minister will talk about today is Inland Rail from Melbourne to Brisbane.  Can you tell us more about that?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, what we need to do is make sure that Inland Rail, which is going to get goods from regional Australia to port within 24 hours, what we need to do is make sure that we do it in good time and so we've completed the Parkes to Narromine section in New South Wales.  A lot of the Environmental Impact Statements have not been done for large sections of the Queensland section, but two thirds of the Inland Rail money is actually going to Queensland.  So there's a significant amount of money, around $6 billion, going to the Queensland section. We want to make sure that it is the best it can be and done in the time that's needed, of course, for this project, which is, of course, slated for about the mid-2020s for completion. 

Of course, understanding, too, that we are doing an independent review of one of the sections of the Condamine floodplain.  We want to get the best outcome there but Inland Rail is going to bring such benefits and I know the Allwrights of Toowoomba, they're just one.  They want to get their puffed cereal to port in record time. 

NEIL BREEN:

We want it there, too.  We want it at port, too. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

It's cheaper for them to actually freight it to New Zealand than it is to freight to Brisbane or Melbourne at the moment. 

NEIL BREEN:

Which is ridiculous. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I don't need to tell you that it's ridiculous. 

NEIL BREEN:

Yes, that's ridiculous. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

But Inland Rail is going to fast-track that and we want to make sure that the Inland Rail project is everything that it needs to be and more. 

NEIL BREEN:

The LNP leader in Queensland, Deb Frecklington over the weekend, well she tried to release the concepts for the new Bradfield Scheme, this is the big dam project, the biggest in Australia, central northern Queensland.  I won't go through all the details. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I know, I've spoken to Deb many times.  In fact, spoke to her yesterday afternoon. 

NEIL BREEN:

I know this is just a proposed thing but does this money, this infrastructure spend, is it going to take in brand new projects like that type of a thing?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Absolutely.  And we want to build dams and I want to build dams.  Deb Frecklington wants to build dams.  She is a fantastic, visionary person, Deb Frecklington and I want to be right beside her as we look at those Lakelands, Urannah, or Rookwood, you name it, we want to build it.  And, you know, the dam building is something that, as people have told us, they want to see happen particularly after the prolonged drought. 

When I mentioned this in my maiden speech 10 years ago, Neil, people just looked at me blankly and when I used to talk about it at community meetings and public talks, town hall gatherings, at small business forums in Brisbane and capital cities, you would just get glazed eyes.  I tell you what, that's not the case now. 

NEIL BREEN:

Not anymore.  Not after the droughts we've been through. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

No, no, no, people have come to realise that water is our most precious resource and we want to store it, harvest it and then utilise it to grow the very best food and fibre in all of the world and that's what our farmers here in Australia and certainly in Queensland do.  Deb understands that.  She's pushing it and I'm certainly supporting her all the way. 

NEIL BREEN:

You're the Federal leader of The National Party.  She copped some pressure this weekend, some leaking against her.  What did you make of that?  It was unedifying with an election four and a half months away. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Particularly when people are out of work through COVID-19, particularly when people are still feeling the effects of the drought, particularly when people up around Rocky are still, you know, the impacts of the bushfires started back there in Queensland, way back in October, it seems like an eternity ago, but some people are still feeling those effects and to have political parties, we saw the explosive allegations aired on '60 Minutes' last night from down in Victoria, we saw that unnecessary and unedifying situation with Deb.  I mean, get behind Deb.  She is a great, visionary person who understands what Queensland needs.  I support her and so should Queensland. 

NEIL BREEN:

Deputy Prime Minister –

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Certainly the LNP. 

NEIL BREEN:

That's right.  That's right.  Thanks for joining us on 4BC Breakfast, Deputy Prime Minister.

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