Transcript - Interview on 4RO Central Queensland Radio

MICHAEL BAILEY

Michael McCormack, good morning to you. How are you? You're on the coast. You're at Yeppoon with Michelle Landry and you're going to have a bit of a coffee break at Dingles. You will have a wonderful time.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Look, it is a good little place. It's had some nice local produce as far as poached eggs on toast. So that was good. Some sourdough and nice coffee, so I recommend the service here, it is very good. But here to support Michelle of course and she's doing a fantastic job, as always and I just bumped into the Mayor, Margaret Strelow, who was actually in the foyer of the coffee shop having a coffee there and of course, I think it's budget time for council and they're sort of working out their plans for the future and of course, federal funding is very much part of the local government funding for the future.

But we work at the moment, through the National Cabinet process there's some good relationships between all tiers of government and I have to say that's necessary and I think the public likes and expects that, certainly as we work through COVID-19. It has been a situation which has, you know, been hard-hitting for all businesses and for all communities and all families and we understand that, we're working through those issues.

MICHAEL BAILEY

Now what about the Rockhampton Ring Road? This has been dragging on for a while now. Inching closer?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I like to think inching is probably underplaying it because, you know, today the call is out to design the $1 billion Ring Road. Now when you do a project to the tune of $1 billion it's a big project. You want to get it right. You want to get the right contractors out doing the work, you want to make sure that everything is as it should be. But, the call is out there for those companies to get that work, tender for that work and this is not just going to be for the big tier one players. We want to see local businesses being able to take part in that procurement process, that's what our $100 billion infrastructure roll-out over the next decade is all about. It's getting jobs happening, it's getting local procurement, it's getting businesses and there are plenty in Rockhampton and central Queensland, I'm sure, that can participate in these sorts of projects and of course, we're also bringing forward, a bit of an exclusive here for your radio station, $8 million to progress vital works on the Rockhampton-Yeppoon road upgrade.

So we want to get it happening. We want to make sure that that important beef road, the upgrades are there, the duplications where necessary are happening and you know, it's all part of our, as I say, our record amount of money that we are spending on infrastructure.

MICHAEL BAILEY

Now the Yeppoon-Rockhampton road definitely needs an upgrade because there's lots of turn-offs there that are causing all the accidents. When do you think that may actually eventuate? Is that like a two or three-year plan?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it is and again, you can't do all the work at once. It is a stepped process and whilst I appreciate that whenever there is one of these stepped processes there are usually hold ups for people but, you know, people do exercise patience when they know that the ultimate outcome is going to be a better road, a safer road and they're going to get to where they need to be sooner and safer. That's what it's all about. This has been a road project that I know Michelle has advocated for, for a long, long time and Ken O'Dowd as well and we're delivering it.

MICHAEL BAILEY

Now, of course, the Rockhampton Ring Road, you're saying is a ten-year project, so when would we actually see some, shall we say, movement because I know when you do a lot of tendering it takes a while to get motivated and you sort of sit back and go yes, I remember hearing about this but is it going to be fast-tracked?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, yes, it is and I say fast-tracked because I know that through COVID I've been meeting with my counterparts at a State level, Mark Bailey in of course, Queensland and Ministers right throughout the nation and one thing that we have reached consensus on and is fast-tracking developments and approvals and the like. So we're not shortcutting or circumventing any processes, but we're just getting them done faster. The bureaucracy has to happen quicker and this project, when it's full steam ahead, it's going to support nearly 800 jobs.

It's going to be a massive project. But it's also complex. It's 14.7-kilometres long, it includes 6.5-kilometres of bridges so it's no small project. It's one of the biggest road projects happening in the country when it does begin and we want to make sure that we get it right. So that's why we've called out to tenders. I've spoken to the Minister this morning and let him know what's happening. He's pleased with that and we're getting things happening.

MICHAEL BAILEY

Excellent. Of course, one of Michelle’s favourite projects slowly but surely inching closer, the Rookwood Weir project, that's been a long time coming. You've had your hands on that as well, haven't you?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I have and I was there when we announced the funding $176.1 million and I appreciate the difficulties with Paradise Dam, too. That's a fair way away from here but I appreciate the Queensland Government getting a little bit nervous about what may or may not happen with Paradise Dam.

We've looking at lowering the wall, it's only 3.5 metres but it does put a different complexity over the entire project in as much as we still have that agricultural component, we still have all the things that we said we would and I stuck firm to. I know the Queensland Government came with a different price tag and it was way out of the ballpark from what we originally agreed on. $352.2 million project, it blew out substantially, hundreds of millions of dollars or thereabouts. I wanted to make sure that the agricultural component was still there. We've done that. Yes, the lowering of the wall, I don't think it takes anything away from the project. It still gets everybody on board. I know that there's a process at the moment for those irrigators and the farmers to be able to tender into the requests of a call for water.

Look, you add water, you add agriculture. You add agriculture you add jobs. I was with David Littleproud, the Agriculture Minister, in his patch just yesterday on a bulldozer, would you believe, and we actually got the thing started and we're pushing a bit of dirt around to start off the preconstruction works for Emu Swamp Dam.

We've got a plan with $3.5 billion on the table to build water infrastructure right throughout Queensland and right throughout the nation, but Queensland in particular. It's where a lot of the water is, as you would well know. But we need the infrastructure to grow agriculture.

MICHAEL BAILEY

Speaking with the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. You're getting good reaction from people who want the water allocation from Rookwood Weir because people have got some pretty big ambitious plans to turn it into a salad bowl, haven't they?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, they have and I know the first water tender out process is open. It canvassed the actual demand for the water. That tender closes on 21 July. Contracts should be in place by September. There is the demand there. There's no question. And we've got the sort of climate here. There's the good soil types, you can grow anything. You add water you can grow anything, and we can fulfil not just domestic supplies but of course, the all-important export needs and of course we all know that Queensland, indeed Australia, grows the world's best food and fibre and we want to grow more of it.

MICHAEL BAILEY

Absolutely. COVID, I should mention that, I suppose. Are you sick of it all? We shouldn't be so, you know, irresponsible, I suppose.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's been a challenge not just for Australia but for the whole world. Look, we've kept the deaths to 108. Of course we mourn and we sympathise for those families who have lost loved ones, it's very, very sad. But when you consider what's happening in Australia, yes, out of Victoria in particular at the moment we've got 170, 180 cases cropping up new every day, but compare that to other countries overseas, I mean, you know, tens of thousands of new cases every day. We've, you know, we've done millions of tests.

I know people have been very good in obeying the social distancing and doing everything else. We've had a few little unfortunate outbreaks because people didn't do the right thing, but by and large most people have. We'll get through this together. I know it sounds corny, I know it sounds glib and trite but Queensland borders are now reopened. There was a new air of optimism. I was at the opening of the runway at Brisbane Airport on Sunday. That inspired a bit of confidence and I know the fact that the borders are open and people can start to travel again and start to return to some sort of normality in their lives, it's going to make a world of difference.

MICHAEL BAILEY

I notice that Jetstar was full of passengers heading off to Cairns. Can you have a chat to them? You know, we're halfway there, if they can just pull into Rockhampton, we've got some great tourist spots here. That would be – 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

And I do think that given the fact – and this is an important point – given the fact that international aviation is going to be curtailed for quite a long time to come, so there will be the impetus for people to travel domestically. There will be, I think when we get through this second wave, if you like, I don't think we've got out of the first wave yet but when we get through this situation with Victoria at the moment and the outbreak in the pub at The Crossroads in Casula in Sydney, when we get through these outbreaks and people start to travel again, when the weather gets warmer, people are going to come to Rockhampton, they're going to come to Cairns and we're going to see a lot more Australians travelling in Australia for their holidays, particularly this Spring and Summer.

MICHAEL BAILEY

Okay, enjoy your coffee break at Dingles and thanks very much for taking time to talk to us.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's great to be up here in Michelle Landry country.

MICHAEL BAILEY

Fantastic. Just what we like to hear.

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