Transcript - Radio 4CA Interview, Cairns

JOHN MACKENZIE

Well, well, well, starting a little bit earlier today because we've got a very special guest. I'll introduce him in just a moment. If you picked up Saturday's Cairns Post, you'll know all about this. And the happiest bloke in town would have been our Mayor, Bob Manning. In an article by Bronwyn Farr, it reads, "Cairns will soon have an arts precinct to rival the City of Hobart's world class offering, with the Federal Government poised to announce a $10 million contribution towards Mayor Bob Manning's long-held cultural district dream. Now, the funds to be matched by the Council mean long-mooted plans for an Indigenous art gallery will become a reality. An arts or cultural precinct has long been desired by Council and residents, and particularly our Mayor, with packed public meetings a decade ago and concept designs bandied about over the years."

I won't go on with all the details of this but it does say they've been searching for co-funding from all levels of Government for the $40 million project. So there you've got it. Now, it says the Federal Government is poised to make the announcement. Well, they're making the announcement at this moment because I have the Deputy Prime Minister in the studio. He is also Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Leader of the Nationals. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, good morning and welcome.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

And good morning to you as well.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Now, the happiest bloke in town is our Mayor, Bob Manning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, closely followed by Warren Entsch and so between them, Bob of course had the vision and Warren's got the determination and the application to make it happen. And he's got me all the way up here to the tropical far north, although I haven't been for a swim this morning but I feel as though I have, I'm drenched.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Look, I've got to say, Bob Manning our Mayor, I think he was almost despairing at some stage because it's been a hell of a long battle.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

He's a good man, Bob. I've known him for many, many years and when he gets his mind set on something, he's hard to shake. And I know this is going to be such a boon for Cairns. And like on a day like today, when people aren't probably going to go swimming, when they're, you know, they're not limited by what they can see and do because this is a great place. But I tell you what, you have an art and Aboriginal museum precinct that it's going to attract tourists. And even people who come to Cairns, they're not all going to go swimming. Some of them are going to be grey nomads. They're going to want something other than just the normal touristy things to do.

They're going to go and want to see this international-class museum. And so that's why we're putting $10 million into it as part of the Economic Recovery Partnerships with several regions right across the country. But when they became available, I know how much Warren Entsch sort of advocated and campaigned and fought for the fact that Cairns had done it tough through COVID, through the fact they didn't have their normal international tourist visitors, and it just made sense that this area was one of those areas which was going to get that $10 million and it made sense that Bob Manning's vision could become a reality.

JOHN MACKENZIE

It's interesting, you know, because the spear-throwers came out of the woodwork. It's like every community, not everybody is into the arts. You know a lot of – I don't know, it doesn't matter, I won't nominate which particular sectors of the community – but not everyone's into the arts. They're saying "what about – what about stuff we all need out in the suburbs?"

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Yeah, but there'll be narks in heaven. I mean, seriously, if you – if you laid gold nuggets out people would complain and some would want diamonds. I mean that's just the very nature of humans. But you can't all be sport and you can't all be one thing or another. You've got to have a diverse mix of offerings to get and attract tourists and to get them back and when they go home they can tell others, "By gee, that Cairns is Cosmo. What a place to go! It's got everything." It's got everything that your little heart could desire as far as going swimming and enjoying the sunshine, not that there's much today. But it's also got that culture. It's got that feel-good culture aspect about it. It is a city with everything.

JOHN MACKENZIE

You should be advertising us. I'm going to send a tape of this discussion to Margie Osmond this morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

You should do that. Well, it is. And I love Cairns. I've come up here often. Warren Entsch is a good mate of mine. And, you know, Queensland, you know when you think of it, you do think of sitting by the beach, sitting by the pool, enjoying the sunshine. But it – it has so much more to offer. And I know, coming from a place like Wagga Wagga, they call it 'The City of Good Sport' but it has a National Art Glass Museum and, you know, and a lot of people just come for that. They don't just come to see the city where Steve Mortimer and Peter Stirling and Michael Slater and Mark Taylor came from. They come to see the culture aspect of things. And regional cities have to have a bit of everything. They have to be diverse. They have to be mixed. And that's what Cairns offers, and certainly with this $10 million investment by the Federal Government made possible because of Warren Entsch, this is going to be what it is.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Don't go away, I need to tap into your, if you like, your crystal ball. When it comes to our national borders, you are indeed the Minister for Transport.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I am.

JOHN MACKENZIE

You're talking to the people at top levels about when those borders might reopen. Now, today we're celebrating New Zealand.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

JQ201 due to land in New Zealand at 11.20 and I know – kia ora – they're going to be ready and willing and waiting, and embracing with open arms all those wonderful Aussies who are going to go across the ditch to New Zealand.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Yes. Gee, you've done your homework. You don't know when the first one's landing in Cairns, I suppose. I'm going to be talking to the airport a little bit later. But it's a fair way down the track.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Look, it is. It is, but, you know, bit by bit, baby steps we'll get there. And this is the first step along the way to some sort of pre-COVID normality getting back to where we need to be. And we opened up a travel bubble with New Zealand. Who knows, it could be Singapore next. It could be one of the South Pacific islands. It could be, I don't know, South Korea, Japan – I shouldn't start naming countries but –

JOHN MACKENZIE

Yes, you should.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, you know, we're in those discussions with Singapore at the moment. We'll work towards – when it's safe to do so. But all the way through, we've taken the best possible medical advice. That's what Australians would expect. We need to keep those health outcomes, that safety aspects of Australians. They've been magnificent, particularly regional Australians, because they've had to endure decisions made in far-off capital cities which probably hasn't had, you know, a great lot of love in places such as this.

And I come from Wagga Wagga. It's a long way from Sydney but we've also had the, you know, the effects of the shutdowns and the lockdowns in inner-Sydney. But Australians, regional Australians, have complied with what they've been asked to do and they have been magnificent.

JOHN MACKENZIE

You're going to get a wind-up in a minute but your regional development just, if you've got a moment, are we going in North Queensland?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I'm told that the departing flight, Cairns to Auckland, is on the 7th of June. So there you go. There's a first for your listeners. Departing flight, 13.50, that tells me that's 10 to two in the afternoon, arriving at New Zealand time 20.35. That tells me that's 8.35. So there you go.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Well, you're still a bit further away than we would have chosen but that's fine.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Still, it's not far away.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Fundamentally, Warren would be at you from time to time about, well irrigation needs et cetera, dams et cetera, up here.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Yeah. Yeah, Lakeland and all the rest.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Yes. Thank you. Where are we going with these? I mean, I know money's short but we've been on a long queue up here.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, money's not short. We've got three and a half billion dollars in the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. We've got the National Water Grid Authority set up. It's been in operation for well over 12 months now, headed up by Chris Lynch. I want to build water infrastructure, whether it's dams, whether it's weirs, whether it's pipelines. I want to work in good faith with Glenn Butcher, he's the new Minister for Water. I want to get things done. Let's put the politics aside. Let's put the people first. Let's put the farmers first. Let's put those irrigation needs of our farmers, because if we're going to grow agriculture, by the year 2030, have that $100 billion investment by – have that sector producing $100 billion worth of agriculture, we can't do it without having more water infrastructure.

JOHN MACKENZIE

What about getting water up over the Great Barrier Reef – the Great Range, by the way, Dividing Range. This has been around since, I think, 1938 and it's been revived recently. Has it got any chance of [indistinct].

MICHAEL McCORMACK

You're talking about the Bradfield scheme?

JOHN MACKENZIE

Yes.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Let's get water in the right places for those local areas before we start talking about getting Queensland water running out of the mouth of the Murray. That's probably not going to happen any time soon. I mean, if it was going to happen, it probably would have happened in 1938 when – when Bradfield came up with the scheme and when they revised it in 1942 – albeit, want to appreciate we were in a war situation then – it – it would have been done back then before, you know, we had all the environmentalists and before we had all those things that got in – obstacles which got in the way.

But we can build water infrastructure in the right places to harness the water where it is, to harvest it when it's dry. And, you know, we look at Australia, we've got 85 per cent of the water infrastructure down the bottom half of the country and 85 per cent of the rain falls up here. So we need to get those – get that balance a little bit better.

JOHN MACKENZIE

I'm getting the wind-up here. Just before you go –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I've got to talk to the Prime Minister at nine o'clock,

JOHN MACKENZIE

Ok.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

So I'll give your regards –

JOHN MACKENZIE

This is – this is a quick one. Opposition resources spokesman, page one of The Australian today – you'll be thrilled about this. The Opposition resources spokeswoman Madeleine King has said, "Labor will not stand in the way of new mines and believes Australia will export coal beyond 2050 as the party moves to recast itself as a middle-ground option in the climate change wars".

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Mm. Yeah, right. I'll believe that when I see it. Look, I'd like Anthony Albanese to stand up in Marrickville or Balmain or Newtown, somewhere in his electorate today, at one of those cafés and espouse – those very words and say that Labor's committed to coal, and do it in front of his own constituents. He won't. He'll say something in Moranbah and Mackay. He will say something completely different in those inner city electorates where it – where it's not popular to support resources.

We do support resources in the Liberals and Nationals. We support, moreover, the jobs that they create, the export opportunities that they generate and the power that they produce. Labor does not. It will say one thing in inner-city Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane. They'll say something completely different when they're out standing next to a hard hat and a high-vis worker out in the regions.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Talking about people doing their homework finally, to your fearless leader, the Australian Prime Minister. He's a tower of strength under this absolutely incredible weight of pressure every day, particularly from the media. And he doesn't need this.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I know the feeling. Well, there you go. But he doesn't need the notes and he's across all the issues.

JOHN MACKENZIE

I don't know how the hell he's got the energy at the moment. They're coming from every direction for him.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, he's got a brain as big as a wheat silo and – but, moreover, he's a man of integrity. He's a man of purpose. It's been very difficult since he's become the Prime Minister, of course. There have been a number of natural disasters. There's been a global pandemic which no-one would have thought, you know, would have even been possible. But he's led our Nation – but also Australians have been their best selves too. And Australians should be very mindful of the fact that they have kept this global pandemic to case rates which are very low, death rates which are – which are, you know, world's best. Yes, we've lost 910 people and we mourn for those families and their loved ones. But, you know, compare Australia to any other country, I know where I'd rather live. We've been great. Thank you to Australians. Thank you particularly to regional Australians and regional Queenslanders for doing just that.

JOHN MACKENZIE

When you walk out, you will be talking in one minute from now with Scott Morrison.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Mm-hm.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Can you pass on the fact that you just announced to the people to the people of North Queensland, "Scott, you've got a brain as big as a wheat silo". I love your regional terms. That's terrific. That's terrific.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No worries at all. Will do.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Great to have you in the studio.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks. Great to be here.

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