4CA CAIRNS WITH JOHN MACKENZIE
WEDNESDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Anthony Albanese’s vision statement on the regions.
JOHN MACKENZIE, HOST: She’s Labor’s Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, is she ready to go? Yes, she is. Hello Catherine.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Hi John, how are you?
MACKENZIE: Where are you at the moment?
KING: I’m in Ballarat, that’s where I am at the moment. Although we’ve got the sun shining, it’s cold to be honest and obviously we’re still in lockdown, otherwise I’d be out and about with Anthony as he gives his seventh vision statement which is all focused on how we can activate the regions and help not just the recovery by grow regional Australia.
MACKENZIE: This will be no surprise to you, but we don’t envy you being in Ballarat today I’ve got to say Catherine, on various fronts.
KING: There’s a few people up there, I’d have to say, who have moved up there that I know, including one who runs your skyrail. So there’s lots of lovely, lovely Ballarat people who have made Cairns their home.
MACKENZIE: Well there you go, don’t take him back anytime soon. I think he’s a regular on this talk show, and he’s very, very content. Now Catherine, let’s have a talk about what Anthony Albanese’s doing, this major speech, it’s listed here as a major speech on regional Australia. I’ve got to say people living in regional Australia when they hear they’re getting a bit of attention from on high, get quite enthused about it.
KING: Yeah, we do and I’m proud regional Australian as well. I love living in regional Australia. I think people are mad who live in cities to be quite honest, I think most of us who live in regions do. You know what Anthony’s saying today is that what we really need to start focusing on is what we sort of call smart regionalisation. It’s not just about recovery out of this. We know that many regions, particularly those reliant on tourism have absolutely been smashed with their economies by coronavirus and bush fires before that and floods. But what we need to do is focus on recovery and focus on recovery that builds resilience into communities, but also grows economies so focuses on those things that each community is doing really well, and how do you expand the job training opportunities and growth there and what are the sorts of things that governments need to do to actually help, and think about regions as potentially the next really big area where we can grow our economy nationally. We did that after World War Two, we came in and said, look, the regions are untapped, huge untapped potential, and that’s really what Anthony is talking about today and there’s some things that we need to do to make that happen.
MACKENZIE: Catherine, how do the people that you will send up to the regions across Australia, how do you make sure that they get an accurate picture of what we need out here?
KING: Yeah, well, I guess the first thing is you have to be local on the ground. We set up Regional Development Australia to do that. It’s really been sidelined a bit in my view, since we’ve had the change of government, but we set that up, and local government. You absolutely have to work with your local councils and have people on the ground who are saying, these are the things that are going to drive our economic development. You can have, you know, all the national policies in the world, but unless you’re actually listening to locals who say this is where our needs are or local businesses to be able to say, look, you know, if I had a bit of assistance here, we would actually be able to export more or we’d be able to do some really innovative things with our manufacturing in our local community. So you’ve got to really think about it locally. And federally we’re not good at that we do have these sort of blanket policies that cover all regions.
MACKENZIE: Very interesting indeed, and state governments are guilty of it as well. One of the issues we have up here is water security, it’s not just here in Cairns, although that is starting to emerge now as concerns. We’ve only got a relatively small dam, we’ve got a population that could start growing again in numbers quite soon, and we’re going to hit strife in about 10 or 15 years as far as our city supply is concerned, but the agricultural needs are there and they are becoming quite urgent and it’s really hard for us to get attention to that issue up here.
KING: Yeah, absolutely. And again, that is the thing that we need to think about, you know, when we talk about infrastructure, we shouldn’t just be talking about roads or trains, and predominantly we talk about roads from the federal level, but it really does also have to be about what is the infrastructure that’s going to increase your growth potential in terms of your economy and what’s going to increase your productivity as a community and really focus in on those things. And what an opportunity we’ve got, you know, whilst the economy is in terrible, terrible strife, we had have people who are out of work, who are desperate for work, why are we not using that time at the moment to build resiliency into communities and to focus on that infrastructure that strategically will be where you see your next growth and you see the next opportunities for employment.
MACKENZIE: Now Regional Development Australia, talk to us about the local people that would be able to provide accurate information in this investigation to you in opposition in Canberra.
KING: So we created the Regional Development Australia committees which are basically a combination of local government plus industry leaders in the community. And, again, you know, we’ve really used those as an opportunity not just to develop plans to communities, but actually to then drive investment through communities. So the one up your way has been going for quite some time. It’s got some, I’ve lost track a bit of some of the people that are on there, but what they’ve done, they’ve had very little money basically to do very much. They’ve been doing some great planning work, but they have certainly not been a conduit for money that they used to be. They’ve not really, I think, had much attention paid to them in the halls of Canberra and it’s one of the groups that you really would think about, you know, reinvigorating, but also linking it much more strongly to your local council.
MACKENZIE: This is interesting, you’re getting out across Australia to say to people living in regional Australia, Albo is making a major speech tomorrow, please take note and try and listen to it. I think that’s a good idea.
KING: Yeah, well, it’s actually today. So it’s at 11 o’clock in Coffs Harbour, so the alert was from yesterday. And you know, this speech, it’s got a bit of interest in a couple of the big national newspapers, but often when we talk about regions, they don’t pay much attention about it in the Australian or the Australian Financial Review, they seem to be a bit city centric. We really want to say, we actually see this massive potential in regional Australia and I think that’s one of the things we’ve noticed with coronavirus, people are wanting to think about their lifestyles differently. They’re wanting to think about their interaction with work differently, and I think regional Australia is set for a really huge opportunity here, and I think people are going to, you know, whether it’s from domestic tourism travel, right the way through to people wanting to settle and start new businesses, but we’ve got to be ready and governments need to help regions get ready and take full advantage of that.
MCKENZIE: Now If you’re interested in what we’ve been talking about, 11 o’clock this morning is the time to be listening. It’ll be I presume on ABC probably on channel 24, possibly on channel 83. This has been very interesting. Catherine, I’ve got to say last time I had Anthony Albanese in the studio, I had to get a crowbar to get him out I reckon he was here for two hours.
KING: I can tell you, you can see it in his face, he loves coming up there, he talks about you. I love coming up there too I must admit, I haven’t been to Cairns for a little while but I used to spend a lot of time up there when I had a little toddler on holiday. It’s beautiful, incredible, you’re so lucky, it’s such a beautiful place. But you know, we know you need, everybody needs a bit of help at the moment and I think we’re going to focus in on that. Anthony absolutely loves it up there and we’ve got terrific Nita Green up there now as well. So when we’re out of lockdown in Victoria, you’ll see me there a bit more.
MCKENZIE: Excellent, good on you Catherine, and if you’re coming up this way, come into the studio and I promise I’ll put the crowbar down in the tool shed and leave it there
KING: Good to hear that John.
MCKENZIE: Good on you Catherine.
KING: That’s alright mate.
CATHERINE KING – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – 4CA WITH JOHN MACKENZIE – WEDNESDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2020