4CA CAIRNS BREAKFAST WITH MURRAY JONES
WEDNESDAY, 16 MARCH 2022
SUBJECTS: Labor’s $40m commitment to maritime infrastructure in the Torres Strait; electric vehicles.
MURRAY JONES, HOST: Catherine King is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. She joins me this morning. Good morning, Catherine King. Welcome to Cairns. How are you this morning?
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: I’m very well, thanks Murray. It’s lovely to be back here, though a little wet!
JONES: Well, it’s certainly a little wetter than Ballarat today, but it’s going to be at least a little bit warmer, I suppose.
KING: That it will be, I am sure.
JONES: As I just said in my preamble, you know, often actually having those links by sea is probably more important for quite a few of those communities, particularly up there through Cape York, Catherine?
KING: Look, absolutely. I’m visiting the Torres Strait today with Elida, our candidate for Leichhardt, she is just a fabulous human being, so she’s been up there a few times before. She’s been at pains to talk to me about the importance that access via shipping jetties, being able to actually get into the Torres Strait. It’s the sort of thing that communities everywhere take for granted, being able to get your groceries, you know, being able to get their water supplies, or being able to get medical supplies in and access to doctor’s appointments. We are mostly hop in our cars, if we have got those services available locally or we can get on public transport if it’s available, but in the Torres Strait it really does require maritime infrastructure. So today we will be announcing that a future Albanese Labor Government will commit $40 million, in partnership with the Torres Strait Island Regional Council to actually improve access through the Torres Strait. It’s a $40 million package to go in our budget over the first three years. I know there’s probably a lot more to be done, but $40 million is a huge commitment to actually try and fix some of those issues and that includes dredging on the marine access channels so that barges can continue to get through, some pocket dredging to facilitate barge access and also some urgent jetty repairs as well as new jetty structures in some of the communities that have no jetties currently at all.
JONES: I’ve actually only been up the Torres Strait once many years ago. I think I was only there for about four hours for a court case, as a lawyer, and then disappeared again. But one of the things that really surprised me just driving through town there on Thursday Island was seeing that most houses have a garage, but in the garage there wasn’t a car, there tended to be a tinny. I guess that underlines the reliance on the sea for transport. Look, I guess what I’m keen to maybe focus on a little bit more, and particularly in your role as Shadow Minister for Regional Development, not only are we talking about actually getting some of the daily needs into some of these more remote communities, when they start to get more and more industries actually thriving in their local areas. Getting that produce back out again, often by sea, is a far better option than taking it out by road.
KING: Yeah, absolutely. And really the role of infrastructure, you know, it’s not really just a road or a jetty. It really is enabling. It’s about how you increase the productivity of local economies, how you provide equity of access of opportunities for work, for businesses, really, that’s how I see infrastructure. So, this is really investing in these communities’ futures to say, well, you know, with the produce you are producing there, with the businesses that are there, that connectivity that we all take for granted, certainly down south we take it well and truly for granted, these communities it’s providing that sort of equivalence as best we possibly can. And that’s why the $40 million that Elida and I talking about today is so important.
JONES: Excellent. And I think then certainly the benefits that then flow into Cairns, because obviously for quite a bit of that shipping the goes through some of those smaller communities, or even all the way around the Gulf, they actually use Cairns as the home port. So, you know, there’s some real advantages there for us as well. If we can just touch on something else before we wrap up this morning. There’s obviously been quite a bit of talk in the last 24 hours or so because the election has by default started the campaigning. Talking about electric vehicles and, you know, there’s obviously a real need for electric vehicles right across the country and I think the cost of fuel in recent times, has really, really bought that sharply into focus. I should imagine that even though there are some commitments from the Queensland Government to get more of those electric vehicle recharging stations right across the state, I should imagine there are going to be some ongoing challenges further north from Cairns with respect to actually getting electric vehicles into that part of the world?
KING: The first thing is you know, at the moment, electric vehicles, the range that we have here in Australia is pretty narrow and we’re really quite a few years behind where other countries are. And if you remember last election campaign, we had the Prime Minister saying that our EV policy would end the weekend and really pooh-poohing electric vehicles entirely. So really, they haven’t had a lot of thought given to that during the years of this government that is on its 8 or 9th year. So really, the first thing we’ve done is we announced we want to try and make electric vehicle more affordable for people. There’s been tax concessions that Chris Bowen has announced. We’ve also announced as part of our infrastructure packages, that what we want to try and do is where we are building infrastructure and large-scale infrastructure, we want to try and start to build in where we can incentives to allow current service centres to put electric charging stations in but obviously there are some challenges and obviously challenges in the Torres Strait. To do something like that is really very difficult, but in other parts of the country as well. It’s trying to build that in as we’re building existing infrastructure. We’re putting those investments in, actually trying to roll out and put those services in place so that we’re not trying to retrofit. We’re not at that tipping point yet where electric vehicles are cheaper than fuel vehicles, although with the fuel price going up, which it has been for quite some time, it may well be a tipping point to many. But I also think, you know, some of the new vehicles that you’re seeing, particularly in the US, massive utes that have very high towing capacity and have very long distances that they can travel. I think they will be attractive to people but really, they’re just expensive at the moment. I think we’re really trying to get that price down, as well as build the infrastructure. So, when we are investing money in the Bruce Highway, for example, you’d really want to make sure that while you’re doing that, you’re actually trying to build the electric charging stations at the same time and working with councils as to how you might do that. We’ve certainly committed to doing that, rather than a blanket policy to say we’ll put one here, here or here, I think we should be building it in every time we build infrastructure and are ripping the tarmac out, we should be actually looking at what the opportunities are for that then.
JONES: I mean, if you cast your mind back 100 years or so, back to the beginning of last century…
KING: [laughter] I wasn’t around then surprisingly, Murray, I’m old but I’m not quite that old!
JONES: [laughter] I would never suggest that! But Henry Ford had similar challenges. I mean, you think about road networks, the fuel networks to be able to get them into vehicles, right?
KING: Absolutely, you know, the hometown I come from came from the Ballarat gold rush. Some of the laneways were just, they weren’t designed, they’re too small to get a car down. So, we still have these little narrow pockets and cobblestones that were everywhere that really weren’t suitable for cars. So, there was a big fight about that and I guess you know, electric vehicles, we’re slowly starting to say the uptake of them, but we’re a bit behind where everyone else is. And I think that’s largely because we’ve had a Prime Minister who’s been a bit of a dinosaur on this issue
JONES: Well, look, have a wonderful time in Torres Strait. Thank you so much for your time this morning. The very young, I will add, Catherine King, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Thank you so much for your time this morning.
KING: Lovely to be with you again, Murray. Bye.
CATHERINE KING – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – 4CA CAIRNS – WEDNESDAY, 16 MARCH 2022