Radio interview - The Waterboys 7HOFM Hobart

21 Jan 2023
Prime Minister
Waterboys 500th episode; Prime Minister's sporting career; Rugby League; Cricket; Tasmanian AFL team bid; Macquarie Point redevelopment; Investment in Tasmania; South Sydney Rabbitohs and Hawthorn Hawks

HOST: It's the 500th episode of the Waterboys. Brent Costelloe, Blair Brownless and Cam Brown with you. And we've had some big name guests join us over our 500 episode journey. But we've arguably saved our most important for today. He's been part of our country's Federal Parliament since 1996 and last year became the 31st Prime Minister of Australia. It's my pleasure to announce that Anthony Albanese is joining us on the Waterboys. Prime Minister, good morning, and thanks so much for celebrating our special milestone with us.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. Very good to be with you, and congratulations, quite an achievement.

HOST: Thank you very much, we appreciate that. Now I did some maths overnight and worked out you're the sixth Prime Minister that's been in office since our program began in 2011. And just like us, I assume you're hoping to stay around just as long?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I hope that the revolving door of Prime Ministers is shut for a little while. I think that's what Australians are searching for, a bit more stability than we've had in politics over the last decade or so. And I think that one of the things that my government is seeking to bring to leadership is stability and order, and a government that has a clear direction. We're only seven months in of course, and as you know from the show, often there's a lot of turnover in radio programs as well so that's why your achievement is substantial.

HOST: Absolutely. Prime Minister, we are a sports show, and could you indulge us a little bit and tell us a bit about your background in sport? We know you're a mad South Sydney NRL fan, but did you love playing and watching sport growing up?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh absolutely. So I played rugby league, from Under 6s, it was sort of what you did. And I came out of the womb as a South Sydney supporter. I wasn't good enough to go on to a rugby league career, but I did go on to the South Sydney Board in the late 90s. We got kicked out of the National Rugby League competition and fought our way back. And so once that was stabilised, I then got off the board but I served for six or seven years on the board, and that was an interesting experience. But I like all sports. I played tennis as a junior, and still play tennis, I play for Marrickville in the Sydney Badge competition. And it's a great sport because you can keep playing for a long period of time. But I also enjoy AFL, I grew up as a Hawks supporter, because all the other teams in what was then the VFL clashed with Sydney teams in terms of colours or logos. But of course no other team chose brown and gold, which clashed a little bit with red and green. So they were my teams going up and they're still my teams because you can't change.

HOST: Talking to the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese this morning on the Waterboys. I wanted to hone in on cricket specifically, if you wouldn't mind. I heard you commentating recently and it seems you really have a great passion and knowledge of the game. But specifically about you playing the game, if we looked at some of your predecessors, John Howard, not so great with the ball. Bob Hawke probably should have given the hook shot away. Did you have much success with the willow or the ball in hand?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I was a trier, put it that way. But I can still get the ball the 22 yards that's needed to get to the end of the pitch. We had a little charity game here at the end of last year and I had Nathan Lyon in my team, Brett Lee was in the alternative team as the ring-in, and it was it was a good bit fun. I did manage to put Dom Perrottet, the New South Wales Premier first ball out of the park so that was the highlight of my cricket career, I think. I wasn't a good enough batsman or bowler to really go on and do anything but I was a good fielder. I was a good catcher, I could catch absolutely anything. So that was probably my best my best attribute.

HOST: Fantastic, PM on to some more serious stuff and without putting the pressure on you too much, Tasmania's fate for an AFL team rests solely in your hands at the moment, it seems.

PRIME MINISTER: I don't think that's quite right.

HOST: That's due to obviously the federal funding being required for a new stadium to be built at Macquarie Point, which is contingent on the license being issued. And apologies for the long question here, but I want to provide the background for our listeners. So we know the business case now shows a total project cost of $715 million, $375 million of that will be provided by the Tasmanian Government, $85 million for borrowings against land sale or lease for commercial uses, the AFL is chipping in $15 million, which means $240 million is required from the Federal Government and private backers. We know the business case is currently being reviewed by your government, can you bring us up to date about what you think of it and if you've had a chance to look at it, and how long it takes to actually review it and when we might get an answer on whether it's been given the go ahead or not?

PRIME MINISTER: We're examining it in the lead-up to our May budget through the Department of Infrastructure. I'm very supportive of Tasmania getting an AFL team, but I'm also very cautious about the use of taxpayer dollars and that it's got to go to the most effective form of investment. The key to the Macquarie Point proposal, and we've already put in $50 million to Mac Point way back in 2012 as an urban development project, it's such a beautiful spot there in Hobart and it is not being used most effectively, quite clearly at the moment. And it has needed some cleaning up and there's some more cleaning up to do. It's got to be a full urban redevelopment project to revitalise the city to connect up the Hobart CBD right down to the beautiful waterfront there. And I've had very constructive discussions with the Premier of Tasmania. We're continuing to engage on those issues. The plan, of course, also involves some investment in Launceston as well, in the stadium there so that games could be played there in the north, as well as in Hobart. But I'm supportive of a Tasmanian AFL team, I've been supportive for a long period of time. I think to have a truly national competition, you need a Tasmanian team to be a part of the league given what an AFL state it is. And we can see with the success of the basketball team there that Tasmanians will back in their state to participate at the highest level of sport.

HOST: Prime Minister, there has been some opposition, as you know, to the stadium here, being built, particularly from the State Labor Party, who are very strong in their focus that more money should be spent on health and housing. Now, in that May budget you just mentioned, do you think there could be some funding there for all parties to continue to support health and housing and get this stadium that we are desperately needing, as well?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, my view is, of course, it's up to the state political parties to determine their priorities, and health, of course, is the number one priority that most Australians will say is needed going forward. And that's why any stadium proposal has to look at what the return will be as well on any investment. Will it pay itself off over time by bringing people to Tasmania, by bringing that economic activity that will occur? And that's part of the analysis that my government is doing. We're working closely with the Tasmanian Government and all state and territory governments on improvements to health, we've made already significant announcements in primary health care. And we're looking towards a trial as well for how we can take pressure off hospitals, including through the creation of Urgent Care Clinics, and we'll continue to work those issues through on housing. We have Julie Collins as the minister in the Federal Government doing a fantastic job with the increased investment we're going to have for social housing, as well as our National Housing Accord, to promote further construction of private sector housing as well.

HOST: Yeah, just back on the Mac Point area, the Urban Development project that you talked about, just wanted to get a feel, what would that look like on the ground? We talked about a transport hub, does that include like ferries, is it a combination of residential, commercial and industrial areas?

PRIME MINISTER: It's a bit of everything, so that, what you don't want is a stadium, that when things aren't happening there, there isn't economic activity in the area. So that means that you need a transport hub, and of course, there's increased ferry investment has been committed to by the government, when we went to the last election. There's also the rail line that runs through the site, of course provides an opportunity for further investment. But you need to use the site to have additional housing, but also commercial activity. This is prime real estate, and you should be able to leverage up that prime real estate to make an enormous difference. You want people to be living in that area as well, so it becomes a vibrant area. And you can look at areas that have been successful, Barangaroo in Sydney, for example, is a redevelopment that has seen that increased activity occurring and it's providing a real boost to the local economy. But you can look at other areas as well, where the Sydney Olympic site, perhaps there wasn't enough thought given to what happens when there isn't an activity going on there, to make sure that it's a vibrant area with restaurants and activity and commercial goings on, so that it's not wasted space effectively, for a considerable period of time. And it isn't just Tasmania, this has been considered in Queensland, they're looking at the Cross River Rail proposal, which is about to be completed. It's been under construction for some time, but that being able to get people to and from Olympic sites, and they're looking at how it can bring Brisbane into that long-term benefit. And that's what needs to happen with this proposal at Mac Point as well.

HOST: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is our special guest on the Waterboys. Just a couple more quick ones on the stadium. Prime Minister, you've said the AFL also needs to do its bit in all of this. They've offered up $15 million so far, what's a reasonable ask for them, do you think?

PRIME MINISTER: I think they are going to be major beneficiaries of this, and I think that those discussions will take place. But I'd like to see the AFL certainly commit to maximise the support that it can give. It's been given substantial taxpayer support in the past and has benefited from the investment. And a Tasmanian team will produce returns for the AFL over a period of time. I think the AFL administration in general does an outstanding job, they're a very professional organisation. And I'll continue to have a constructive relationship with them as will my Sports Minister Anika Wells.

HOST: Yeah just speaking of Anika Wells, she said the original ask of $375 million was a lot to request, is $240 million a more reasonable amount, particularly when there's often bigger requests from other states, I suppose?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, certainly the original request was quite substantial, given that as well, as I've said, the former Labor government, way back in 2012, put $50 million into the site. It's fair to say that the Tasmanian Government hasn't maximised the use of that funding that was designed to get Macquarie Point going in terms of development. And there hasn't been much happen on the site in the decades since. I understand that planning takes time, but one would have thought in 2012 when that grant was given, certainly, state governments haven't, in my view, done enough with the site since then.

HOST: Prime Minister, we know it's Chinese New Year this weekend, and it's the Year of the Rabbit. We know your love and passion for South Sydney Rabbitohs, is it going to be their year this year, their first premiership potentially since 2014?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's an omen! The Lunar New Year actually starts tomorrow and I'll be going to events in Sydney and Melbourne over the coming days. And the Year of the Rabbit is a good omen, and I must say as well I was born in the Year of the Rabbit as well. So I'm taking it as a sign that we're going to have a very good year. But I always think if you had have asked me any January or February, how Souths were going to go, I've always thought we're gonna go exceptionally well every year, even when our team was absolute rubbish, which it was for a few years. I'm an optimist.

HOST: Prime Minister, I think you might go okay with South Sydney, but I don't think you're any chance with your AFL team Hawthorn. They're rebuilding.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, that's what we call a rebuilding phase. Let's hope it's not a rebuilding decade, but a rebuilding phase, it must be said. But they've got some good young players coming through and you've got to stay loyal. I went and joined the Sydney Swans when they came up. And I go to quite a few Swans games when I can and enjoy watching them play. But when they're playing Hawthorn, you've got to stick to your team, in my view. And I'll stick, even though these are some tough years that they've gone through, the last couple and the next couple might be challenging as well. But they've certainly given some outstanding years over the over the 80s and the 90s. And of course, the great Peter Hudson is an example of a great Tasmanian AFL product.

HOST: Prime Minister, you've been so generous with your time this morning. We really appreciate your giving up your Saturday morning and having a chat to us to help us celebrate our 500th show. Keep up the great work and thanks so much for joining us on the Waterboys.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, congratulations guys and have a great day.