Transcript - Interview with the Country Hour NT

TRANSCRIPT 

Interview with the Country Hour (NT)
27 SEPTEMBER 2018

E&OE

Subjects: Outback Way, NT Road Infrastructure

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Leader of the Nationals.

JOURNALIST:

Thank you very much for that, Minister. Welcome to Alice Springs.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Great to be here.

JOURNALIST:

What are you doing here?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

We’re here to listen to the Outback Way delegation and talk to a number of mayors and key stakeholders within the town, business people, to see what they have to say about the Outback Way, the importance of it, not just as a logistical link way but also as a tourism network. And I’ve already heard from Patrick Hill, who is the chair of the Outback Way Committee this morning just how important it is for those grey nomads, just how many of them are now descending upon Central Australia and elsewhere in the Northern Territory and indeed, going right around Australia. It seems to be thing to do is to hitch a caravan on the back of whatever and head off into the brown yonder. Certainly it’s a great thing to do for many retirees but we need, of course, the right infrastructure for those people to be able to do just that.

JOURNALIST:

Now, it’s very expensive to pave roads here in the Northern Territory. Some funding has gone towards the Plenty Highway over the last few years. Are you here with your chequebook?

 MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, we’ve always got the chequebook and we, just at the last budget, the May 8 budget, we allocated $160 million towards the Outback Way. When that lot of work’s done, you’re right, it can cost anywhere from $1 million a kilometre down to, I suppose, the cheapest is about $300,000 a kilometre, which is still a big price tag for parts of the Outback Way…when we get this lot of works completed, that will leave around 1235 kilometres of the 2720 kilometres of the total distance of the Outback Way unsealed. So, 1235 kilometres will still remain unsealed. That’s still a big stretch of road and of course, we’re working towards making the whole 2720 kilometres of the Outback Way with bitumen in such a way that it meets Australian standards because getting Australians home and where they want to be sooner and safer is all about the Government’s objectives. It’s all about why we’re rolling out $75 billion worth of Infrastructure over the next 10 years. But you’re right, as you said, it’s expensive, certainly in the Northern Territory where you’ve got climatic conditions coming into it. You’ve got the need to get people who actually know what they’re doing to build these roads and of course, it’s difficult to get that labour force. It’s difficult to get those companies, but we’re working on it and we’re confident that ultimately, eventually, the whole 2720 kilometres of the Outback Way will be sealed, as it should be. 

JOURNALIST:

The committee has often said they want the entire road sealed by 2025. That's the goal. Is that realistic?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Look, anything's realistic, I suppose, and when you've got a budget that is going well, when you've got an economy that's going well and this week, we saw the lowest deficit for our budget figures, for our economic figures, in 10 years. So, we're getting on with the job of paying back Labor’s mess. Labor left us with a mess of debt and deficit over the six years they were in and so we're busily paying that back. We're busily growing the economy. We're making sure that our policies help business have the confidence to create jobs. Our policies create the confidence for the right Infrastructure to be rolled out right across the Nation.

JOURNALIST:

But to have that sealed by 2025 which is what the committee wants: you mentioned in the last budget there was funding. Can you guarantee there's going to be another lot of funding in the next budget

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

We'll be working towards that. And you know, this is important, that's why I've come here today. I've just met Patrick Hill the chair, meeting a few of the mayors for the second and third time, so I've had discussions with them before in Queensland, in the Northern Territory, indeed in Western Australia. So you know, I appreciate this is very important not just for the people who live in and around here but indeed right along the stretch of the Outback Way and for many, many Australians right across the nation. I understand the importance of it and I'll be working towards seeing what we can do in the budget process to making sure that the funding is ongoing.

But of course the $160 million - we do these in phases because it does take phases to actually roll out the road structure. It does take a rolling phase in funding to actually build things, whether it's road, whether it's rail: I know we’re building at the moment a rail line between Melbourne and Brisbane, Inland Rail, 1700 kilometres; of course, that's just an ongoing process until 2025. These things take time and so there’s no point just plonking down a whole lot of money and just having it sit there. Right now, we're building as we go.

JOURNALIST:

You said you're meeting with a lot of tourism representatives; are you meeting with any of the cattle stations that use that road quite frequently and understand how bad the corrugation is when they're trucking cattle in and out.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I've come out just before the meeting to talk to you so I'm not quite sure exactly who's in that big forum yet. But look if I'm not today, I'll certainly be happy to come back and talk to those sorts of people, because I'm from a regional area. I understand how important the regions are. I’m a son of a generational farming family. I understand how important agriculture and farming is. So I get all that. I'm the leader of the National Party. So for me the regions are very, very important. When our regions are strong, so is our nation. That's why I'm here today. I've made this visit, I dare say a fly in; I came here last night, I'm flying out later this afternoon, but I'll be back.

JOURNALIST:

And just finally on the funding that may or may not be coming in the future for the rest of the Outback Way, where are the priority areas that we’re looking at? The Plenty Highway, or in WA? What's the priority?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Every road is a priority so it's just a matter of making sure we listen to locals, making sure we also talk to States and Territories about what their priorities are, and working with them. There's no point us prioritising a road if it's not an immediate priority for a Local Government or indeed a State Government. So we have to work with key stakeholders and often the funding for the Federal Government comes with an 80/20 split. So we provide 80 per cent. The State Government or a Territory Government provides 20 per cent. They then go and contract it out and actually get on with the job of building it. We provide the money but we need to obviously see what the priorities are, where they link up with all the rest of the priorities around the nation. It's a big nation. There's lots of roads, lots of rail, lots of aviation and maritime port facilities that need looking at and that's why I'm getting out to as many places as I can. I’m delighted to be in Alice. I haven't been here for quite some time so you know, it's built up, and I know Nigel Scullion often tells me what a great and vibrant place this is, and I’m looking forward to catching up with the CLP candidate for Lingiari Jacinta Price later on. I had Kathy Ganley, the CLP candidate for Solomon, in my office just the other day and we had a number of meetings about how we could make the Northern Territory even a greater place to live and work and invest.

JOURNALIST:

Sounds like you’ve got a busy day ahead, Minister, thanks for having a chat to the Country Hour.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Thanks Katrina, any time.

JOURNALIST:

Thank you. Thanks for that. 

[ENDS]

 

Hannah Maguire