Transcript - Radio Interview with Neil Breen on 4BC

NEIL BREEN:

The Federal Government is ramping up pressure on the Queensland Government to back Big Rocks Weir — the dam in the Charters Towers area. The business case will be released to the Australian and Queensland governments today. This project means jobs, it means water for agriculture procedures, it’s a win for Queensland –if Queensland Labor comes to the table that is, because the Feds are going to back it.

And the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, is on the line. Good morning, Deputy Prime Minister.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Good morning, Neil.

NEIL BREEN:

Tell us about the project. You’ve just arrived in Queensland, is that correct?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

I wish. No, I’m –

NEIL BREEN:

You can’t come, can you?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Well, I can, but I’m in the central west of New South Wales, albeit in my own electorate. But it’s certainly not as sunny and warm where I am in Cowra.

NEIL BREEN:

It would be cold there.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Well, I’m going to have a look at Wyangala Dam. And I enjoy days where I look at the water infrastructure projects, but let me tell you, the wind chill factor here is taking its toll on my lined jacket.

NEIL BREEN:

I can imagine. Tell us about this project, the Big Rocks Weir project, the dam in the Charters Towers area.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Look, it’s really exciting. This project has the potential to supply a minimum of 10,000 megalitres and expand the water supply to Charters Towers, boosting higher value agriculture production in the region. It is a $60 million project and the business case released today is a very, very good business case. It’s been released today by the Australian and the Queensland governments. One of the best business cases actually that’s been produced as far as water infrastructure projects go.

When you think back, it wasn’t that long ago the Queensland government statistician said that the Charters Towers population was expected to decrease – repeat that, decrease – by the mid-2030s. These sorts of towns –I mean, it’s got 8,000-something people at Charters Towers – they should be increasing. We need to increase population in regional areas.

I know, you know, many of your listeners would know that these regional areas are some of the best places in which to live, and that’s why we’ve got dedicated policies for making sure that we grow jobs, that we grow these populations. And I know that Phillip Thompson, the member for Herbert, Senator Susan McDonald and others — Matt Canavan —we want to grow these regions. I’m spending the day with Keith Pitt who’s doing a tour of water infrastructure in his role as the Water Minister, but he’s also the Minister for Northern Australia and he knows just how important it is to get places like Charters Towers with increasing populations, because they’re great places to live.

NEIL BREEN:

Absolutely they are. So who’s going to fund it? What are the Feds going to do and what does the Queensland Government have to do?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Well, we’ve got a great big cheque of $30 million just ready to partner with the Queensland Government. Can’t build water infrastructure without state government’s say-so and state government’s funding as well. So the onus is on the Queensland Government. We’ve got 30 mil. You know, they need to stump up too. Let’s get this built.

You know, I’ve got to say, I’ve got a reasonable relationship with Anthony Lynham. We’ve worked together in good faith, as you would expect, to get water infrastructure done. You know, we’ve had some success with Emu Swamp Dam near Stanthorpe, and I know how much Fred Finlay down there, a local agriculture producer, how he and David Littleproud, the Agriculture Minister, want to get that project not off the ground but in the ground.  We want to build water infrastructure. So we have to do it, you know, with the cooperation of the states. We are willing partners and we just need Queensland Government to commit to it first.

NEIL BREEN:

Yes, well, it’s a big project and let’s hope it goes well. National cabinet’s on today. Obviously you’re not there at the national cabinet meeting, but the borders will be a big issue. What’s your take on all the debates that have been going on?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Well, look, there’s a lot of heartache and I was just listening to your few lines there with Ray Hadley there earlier. There is a lot of heartache, but no matter which border you go to —I was speaking with Anne Webster only last night, she’s the member for Mallee in Victoria — she’s got people who relate more to Adelaide than they do to Melbourne because they’re closer.

When you get situations where people’s health and lives and livelihoods are being placed at risk because of a border closure, it does bring it very much into context. And I know your show and Ray’s show have been inundated with people complaining about this. We just need practical measures. We need to get through it.

Yes, of course the Victorian situation needs addressing. Of course we want to make sure that the cases get minimised before we go reopening things and doing all that sort of caper. But, you know, we just have to be sensible and reasonable and practical and not place people’s lives and livelihoods at risk by just being too bloody-minded about these things.

And I know that’s what the national cabinet are going to do today. I know Scott Morrison – I’ve spoken to him this morning – has worked in very good faith with the premiers of all political persuasions and the chief ministers to bring about the best outcomes for all Australians. But we do need to be patient. We do need to exercise tolerance for all these sorts of things. And if people haven’t downloaded the COVIDSafe app, for goodness sake, do so.

NEIL BREEN:

Rightio, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, thanks for joining us on 4BC Breakfast. Have a good day.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Any time at all, Neil. You too.

Media contacts:

Dean Shachar, 0418 202 860