Transcript of interview with Paula Tapiolas, ABC Northern Queensland
THU 12 JULY 2012
Subject(s): G20; Bruce Highway; Petrol prices; Closing the Gap; V8 Supercars
HOST: The Prime Minister is due in Townsville around lunchtime. Julia Gillard spent the night in Rockhampton and joins us from our Rockhampton ABC studios, Prime Minister, good morning.
PM: Good morning.
HOST: Regional Queensland is very interested in the prospect of attracting a G20 Financial Ministers’ meeting, now when are you going to announce the region that will host that meeting?
PM: Look, we’ll be working on that in the next couple of months so it won’t be too long before people know. Obviously some work’s got to be done and some assessments about where is the best place and has the necessary capacity to do it. But I do think it’s very exciting news that the G20 is coming to Brisbane, and that the Finance Ministers’ meeting will be in regional Queensland.
HOST: Will you be scoping venues while you’re in Townsville?
PM: I don’t get to do that myself, so the answer is no.
HOST: Will your people be scoping venues while they’re in Townsville?
PM: Well look, I can’t give away any secrets but it’s not part of my visit to be looking at Finance Ministers’ meeting arrangements.
HOST: What sort of capacity though would a region need to host that meeting?
PM: Well the Finance Ministers’ meeting brings together 20 Wayne Swan’s, if I can use that terminology, so we say Treasurer, but around the world they are referred to as Finance Ministers. So it’s Wayne Swan and his 19 counterparts from the biggest economies in the world, plus of course the heads of all of the very important international agencies like the IMF and World Bank. That means that you will see sizeable delegations and officials supporting the very important work of the Finance Ministers.
HOST: Several hundred people or-
PM: More in the hundreds, absolutely. Well and truly in that order and probably a bit more, rather than around 50.
HOST: And what will you be doing while you’re in Townsville today?
PM: Well I’ve got the opportunity to be blogging with the Bully, with the Bulletin, so people should get on the website and have a look at all of the details about how to get a question through and I’ll be limbering up the fingers so that I can be typing as quickly as possible to answer them.
HOST: Why not face to face contact with people?
PM: Look I’ll be going on a wander around and saying hello as well, but we find that blogging gives people a great opportunity to get their questions through, so it’ll be a mix of good old fashioned talking and taking the benefits of new technology.
HOST: Alright, well while we’re good old fashioned talking, we asked our talkback callers yesterday what they would say to you if they had a quiet five minutes to sit down with you, and I’d like you to hear what David had to say.
CALLER: Well I’d just like to see her take this opportunity to experience the Bruce Highway firsthand and leave the jet at home, get in the car and drive from Ipswich and come every kilometre along the Bruce, all the way up here to Townsville.
Pretty easy to put it on the backburner when it doesn’t affect you personally, if she was in the car for two days, and she had to make emergency stops for cars pulling off onto side streets, they don’t have a turning lane to do so, and get run off the road by trucks, hit all the potholes, pay for the maintenance, get the windshield chipped, she might be willing to listen to us a bit more on what the Bruce Highway actually needs.
HOST: Now North Queensland seems to be a broken record when it comes to the Bruce Highway, but this is the big issue for voters. Are you interested in the Bruce Highway?
PM: Absolutely and I am all ears about the needs for the Bruce Highway, and I hear about them consistently from our members in Queensland. So I certainly want to say to the people listening, I do understand the focus on the Bruce Highway.
We have been spending on the Brice Highway and we’ve got a pretty good track record, and I’m proud to stand alongside that track record, stand for it, of investing in the Bruce Highway. There is still more to be done, absolutely, but as a Government, we understand the infrastructure needs around the nation.
We’ve been heavy investors in infrastructure, we’ve more than doubled the amount of money going into roads and rail and ports here in Queensland. We’ve basically doubled the amount of money going in per head of population, compared with the previous Government, so we’re investing very, very heavily in infrastructure but there’s more to do.
Yesterday in Rockhampton I did take the opportunity to announce the guidelines for the next $4.5 billion of infrastructure funding which will flow from the proceeds from the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. And of course, that infrastructure is focused on mining communities and mining states and their needs as the resources boom brings more pressure on.
HOST: Will you ever drive the Bruce Highway in Queensland between Brisbane and Cairns? That was what David was trying to get at.
PM: Look, I’m not obviously doing that on this trip. I’m a person with a great deal of pressure on time and I think people would understand that. But just because I don’t have the opportunity to get out for a couple of days of driving myself, doesn’t mean that I’m unaware of the issue. I am very aware of the issue.
HOST: Cost of living is also a big issue in this part of the world. Petrol price today in Sydney and Brisbane is around $1.25 a litre, in Townsville it’s a $1.439. Local economists say regional Australia is subsidising capital cities. Is that price difference acceptable to you, about 19 cents a litre difference?
PM: It’s very concerning and that’s why we do resource our Competition and Consumer Commission, and particularly the petrol commissioner to make sure that pricing isn’t as a result of cartel-style behaviour, where people decide in a regional town in particular, that they’ll all put the price up and they’ll all make some money from it. So we do want to make sure that people are getting the benefits of competition in petrol pricing.
HOST: Well the Petrol Commissioner won’t speak to us; we’ve tried twice now to get him to speak to us. You’re Government promised to address this, but if the person you’ve employed to deal with won’t be open on what’s going on, how’s that progressing the situation?
PM: Well I’m surprised to hear that, because I know the Petrol Commissioner has got out in some regional communities. I was speaking to Kirsten Livermore, our member for Capricornia yesterday and he certainly visited here in Rockhampton. So we can pass your interest on and get him on the line for you.
HOST: Yes that’s right, because in the meantime, we’re still paying 19 cents a litre or so more than those capital city drivers.
PM: Well we will certainly make sure that the Petrol Commissioner is available for you.
HOST: Prime Minister, if I can take you on to indigenous employment. Warren Mundine is reported as saying he wants you to bypass the Greens and deal directly with Tony Abbott on the issue of indigenous economic development. Has he spoken to you about this?
PM: No he hasn’t, and what we do in indigenous economic development is Labor Government policies, and Labor Government plans. And we’ve, as a Labor Government, focused on delivering the Closing the Gap agenda, so that is record investments into closing the gap in education, closing the gap in life expectancy, closing the gap in employment.
We’ve got a long history of severe disadvantage for indigenous Australians, and every day we’ve been in Government, we’ve focused on making a difference to that long-term disadvantage. So to be frank, it’s nothing to do with the Parliamentary situation, it’s everything to do with the determination of this Labor Government to make a difference.
HOST: So why is Warren Mundine then saying he wants you to bypass the Greens and deal directly with the Opposition on this?
PM: Well that’s a question you’d have to put to Mr Mundine. The Closing the Gap strategy is a Labor strategy.
HOST: Prime Minister, while you do get an opportunity to look out and about, will you head to the V8 track to see what Tim may have seen over the weekend?
PM: No I won’t, I heard about it from Tim but I won’t take that opportunity myself! He’s the car enthusiast in the family.
HOST: Alright, so perhaps we won’t see you at the V8 Supercars next year?
PM: No you won’t see me at the V8 Supercars. Not my particular area of expertise, but a great event. He certainly enjoyed it and it seemed to capture the imagination all round, so that’s fantastic.
HOST: Will you be making any announcements while you’re in Townsville?
PM: Look, we do have something to say, which we’ll do when we get there. I’m being mysterious, I know.
HOST: Well it will all be revealed no doubt later this morning. Now Prime Minister, thank you very much.
PM: Thank you.