ABC Radio Darwin Interview with Adam Steer

Adam Steer: Seventeen months, pretty much a year and a half, since the Northern Territory Government and the federal government signed a memorandum of understanding for a City Deal. The Gunner Government holding out hope the Commonwealth would match their $100 million commitment to revitalising the CBD. Three federal ministers later and two prime ministers in chaos at the top later, not much has happened. Alan Tudge is the latest federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population.
Minister, good morning. You’ve been flat out since you took over this new role. We’ve finally been able to chat to you. Does this mean the deal is done? Is Darwin Cities Deal locked in?

Alan Tudge: Good morning, Adam. Yeah, the deal is getting very close, and I went to the Chief Minister just last week to outline the final proposal, that’s assuming we get agreement from in on that, which I think we will, then we’ll able to announce this very soon. I wouldn’t say that nothing has been happening over the last six or so month, instead of what has been happening in terms of putting this deal together and we’re very close to being able to announce it.

Adam Steer: But we’ve had a year and a half of ministers saying the deal will be signed soon. What is your definition of soon?

Alan Tudge: Yeah, but it’s also considerable amounts of money that we’re talking about here. Now, the Northern Territory government has already announced 100 million towards it. We’ll be announcing, obviously, something similar but we’re talking about considerable amounts of taxpayers’ money so we want to get this right. But I think the outcomes will be very warmly received.

Adam Steer: So, as you said, the Northern Territory government wants you to match that $100 million, is that what it will be?

Alan Tudge: Well, we’ll be announcing it shortly and we’ll do so this year. But we’ve been working very closely with the Northern Territory government on this and that’s- in essence, that’s what these city deals are about. They’re trying to get better cooperation and better planning between the three levels of government – the federal, state, and indeed, the local levels – and so we’ve worked cooperatively together. We’ve got a good vision, which I think we’re trying to implement through this deal, and all will be revealed in a matter of weeks.

Adam Steer: Why don’t you just announce it now? Sign it now?

Alan Tudge: [Laughs] Well, I could, Adam. I could just announce [inaudible] now on your radio station but I’m not prepared to do that just yet, in part because we haven’t signed the document. As I said, I’ve sent the final draft, if you like, back up to the Chief Minister. He’ll be taking a look at that and assuming he’s happy with the language, then we’ll be able to put this together shortly.

Adam Steer: So we can expect that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce that Cities Deal when he’s in Darwin with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe end of the month?

Alan Tudge: Well, certainly, that’s pretty exciting news for the Northern Territory in terms of  Shinzo Abe coming to Darwin. The Prime Minister will be meeting him up there and that’s a very important relationship, obviously, with Japan being one of our major trading partners. Again, I’m not going to pre-empt anything. You probably… you might be able to speculate, Adam, just let me say that.

Adam Steer: Come on, what’s stopping you now? What’s the hold up? It’s been leaked that the deal is done. What’s the road block stopping you announcing it now?

Alan Tudge: Well, it hasn’t been done and I can assure you that it hasn’t been done because I haven’t signed the document – I’ve just sent it up to the Chief Minister. But it will be a good deal and obviously the Chief Minister has foreshadowed [inaudible] that one of his ambitions was to grow the- was to revitalise the CBD, [indistinct] students the mechanism to do that. And I’m from Melbourne and we’ve got a couple of university campuses based right in the heart of city and that really does revitalise the city. [Indistinct] you’ve got  young people throughout the day, who are purchasing things, doing the cafés. They’re bringing life to the city centre and that’s what [indistinct] is.

Adam Steer: You’re on ABC Radio Darwin. Adam Steer with you this, morning. You’re also hearing from the federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Alan Tudge. Minister, just get you to hold there for a second. Graham has called in from Leanyer. G’day Graham, what’s your thoughts? Hello, Graham. You there?

Caller Graham: Yeah, mate. Yep, I’m here.

Adam Steer: Yep.

Caller Graham: Adam, look, I’ve been listening to the Minister’s talk and it reminds me very much of the issue we had with Tiger Brennan in the Howard era; and all I can I say is that we must be about almost six months away from an election and this is being held up as a carrot.

Adam Steer: That’s a good point. Thank you, Graham.

Alan Tudge, is Graham right? Waiting for a cash splash in the lead up to the next election?

Alan Tudge: No. So this has been under the [inaudible] and as you pointed out for over a year. Now…

Adam Steer: [Talks over] A year and a half.

Alan Tudge: We’ve been through this – it is a lot of money that we’re talking about and we want to get the deal done and we’re getting very close to doing so.

Adam Steer: The Territory is losing population and business down south. Instead of waiting for the right political opportunity, why not give Territorians some confidence by signing it now?

Alan Tudge: It’s going to be signed very soon, Adam, and I think that Territorians will be pleased with the outcome.

Adam Steer: In other news, you’ve just announced a migrant plan which will require new migrants to live in regional areas for five years after arriving in Australia, forcing them to live outside the big capitals to reduce urban congestion and boost regional economies. How many migrants can we expect to be redirected to the Northern Territory?

Alan Tudge: Listen, in part, that might depend on what the Northern Territory Government’s population plans are. Now, I know that Chief Minister Gunner does want to grow the Northern Territory and if he’s got good growth plans and has the jobs to accommodate the migrants, then we will obviously work closely with him to try to meet those objectives. One of the real challenges that we’ve got is we’ve got tremendous growth in the big capital cities of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane but very anaemic growth elsewhere around the country, and if we can just get a better distribution of that growth, take a bit of pressure off those big cities, then we can also support the ambitions of the Territory, of South Australia, of Western Australia and Tasmania so that they can grow as well.

Adam Steer: I mean one of the big problems or challenges that you face is how you can make sure that any migrants that you force to live in those regional areas stay there. So for example, in the Territory, they can- how are you going to make sure that they don’t stay in the Territory instead of just ticking a box and saying: yep, I’ve lived there, and then they move to either Melbourne or Sydney?

Alan Tudge: Yeah, let me say a couple of points on that. Firstly, no one’s being forced to go anywhere. We’re talking about people coming into the country in the future and people making a choice to go and live in a smaller city or a regional area and they might be provided with some incentives in order to make that choice. The second thing though is that we might put a condition upon that visa for several years. Now, we put conditions upon visas all the time including geographic conditions and by and large people abide by them. In fact there’s only about a 0.2 per cent default on conditional visas. So there’s a system already in place, it works and what I’ve been suggesting is that we could offer more incentives for people to go to some of the smaller cities and [inaudible] forms of conditions so that people hopefully make those smaller cities or the regions their home because they’re there for a few years, they get a job, the kids are going to school and they make it their life destination.

Adam Steer: What skill shortages are you aware these migrants might be able to fill in the Northern Territory?

Alan Tudge: I haven’t had a good look at the skill shortages for the Northern Territory yet. It’s something that would be negotiated with the Northern Territory government. We already do that pretty well actually through what’s called the Destination Area Migration Agreement where in essence you do sit down with the government leaders, the business leaders, and work out exactly what the skill shortages are. Because the Northern Territory group does have some quite unique ones which are separate to the rest of the country and that is why we do have that special agreement with the Northern Territory and we intend to update that.

Adam Steer: Alan Tudge, good to talk to you this morning. The Prime Minister as I said will be coming up here in about a month’s time. Are you planning to come up to the Top End any time soon?

Alan Tudge: The last time I was up there was probably a couple of months ago. I’d like to get up there again soon to discuss and talk about the implementation of this city deal and not just to sign it. I haven’t got any plans over the next few weeks but I’d like to get up there before the end of the year if I can.

Adam Steer: And just to confirm the city’s deal will be signed very soon you’re saying?

Alan Tudge: Very soon. Very soon it’s going to be signed. Certainly this year. And as I said it’s a very significant amount of money which goes into Darwin to revitalise the city centre and I think that Territorians will warmly welcome it.

Adam Steer: And that will be $100 million?

Alan Tudge: Well, that was the commitment of the Northern Territory. [Indistinct] these things are done on a sharing basis.

Adam Steer: So that will be signed our announced?

Alan Tudge: It will be both signed and announced this year.

Adam Steer: Minister, good to hear from you this morning. Appreciate your time.

Alan Tudge: Fantastic Adam, thanks very much.

Adam Steer: There’s Alan Tudge. He’s the latest Federal Minister for Cities Urban Infrastructure and Population.