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Transcript of doorstop interview: Mackay: 23 July 2009: Nation Building for Recovery; uranium; Australian kidnapped in Somalia; Mackay stadium project; waste water recycling project.

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Doorstop interview Mackay 23 July 2009


Nation Building for Recovery; Uranium; Australian Kidnapped in Somalia; Mackay Stadium Project; Waste Water Recycling Project

PM: It’s good to be back in Mackay, I’ve been back here many times since the election. And it’s also good to be here with the local Member, James Bidgood. In terms of local investments, I’d just emphasise what we’ve been doing in this community.

We have through the Building the Education Revolution now invested in 67 new building projects at 41 primary schools. That’s a $78.6 million investment in the primary schools of this wider region. Nearly $7 million for five science and language centres at the secondary schools in this

region, these are Government and non-Government. Also, we have made investments of course in Central Queensland University, and under the National Schools Pride Program, nearly $10 million for 176 refurbishment projects spread across 73 schools.

Can I say if you take those into account with what we’re doing on roads, what we’re doing by way of general infrastructure, what we’re doing by way of investment in social housing, we believe that this is a significant investment in this region.

One number speaks for itself. Under the Government’s national stimulus strategy, we have invested some $400 million into this region - $400 million. And around $160 million already in 08-09.

So when the global economy has been in retreat, we’ve stepped up to the plate to make a difference in this region. Unemployment is still a challenge for us all, we’re not out of the woods yet, but through the projects that I’ve run through, we’re seeking to make a difference in communities like this. Over to you, folks.

JOURNALIST: If I could just ask on the issue of uranium resources, we’ve now got four uranium mines, there’s likely to be a couple more before too long. Is it time for Australia to revisit the debate on whether or not we should have nuclear power generation in Australia?

PM: Can I say that our policy on this was made absolutely clear at the ALP National Conference a couple of years ago when I was Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party, as I still am, although my other job has

changed. And it was clear cut that we were getting rid of the three mines policy. So one thing flows from another.

But can I say this on the question of nuclear power, we have Ian Macfarlane out there saying that he wants to see nuclear power plants right across Australia. I assume that’s Liberal Party policy; after all, he is a member of the Liberal Party frontbench. But we’ve got this extraordinary situation, where the only thing the Liberal Party seem to be united on is putting nuclear plants, power plants, across the country when they can’t even have a unified position on climate change.

So, a Liberal Party divided down the middle on climate change, united about one thing, and that’s putting a nuclear power plant in everyone’s backyard. I think that speaks for itself. Anything else?

JOURNALIST: If I can just ask you briefly on the Brennan case, given he’s still being held and given there’s been a media blackout imposed, the family don’t want that imposed any more, is it time for the Government to change tack on this issue?

PM: Our mission in relation to Mr Brennan is to try and secure his freedom from Somalia. And as I indicated in my comments earlier today in Bundaberg, this is a very difficult and delicate task, involving Governments around the world, involving various agencies of our own Government, in a most sensitive operation.

I don’t propose to comment on the detail of it, because we have overriding consular responsibilities for the wellbeing of Australians in difficulty right across the world. I understand full well the deep concerns which the family have for his wellbeing. I understand those, and I sympathise with them. That is the natural response of a family, a mother,

a father who have been separated from a loved one.

Our responsibility as a Government is to work with the family and we’ll continue to do so. But our responsibility also is to exercise every possible effort in seeking this man’s freedom, and that’s going to involve sensitive and difficult negotiations in the period ahead.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just in regards to the proposed stadium for Mackay. That was promised in the 2007 federal election, how do you think the progress is going in that department?

PM: We’re working our way through it. We are a Government which honours its pre-election commitments. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to sort out the detail, doesn’t it Col?

MAYOR: And I think, Prime Minister, it’s virtually sorted out. It’s a matter of ready to start work.

PM: Yeah, yeah. So we’re pretty relaxed about all that.

JOURNALIST: So when do you think we’ll be playing football on it?

PM: You mean me personally? (laughter) Quite some time in my case.

We will have work commenced as soon as possible. But we’re working well with the Mackay Regional Council on this project. We made a commitment, we intend to honour the commitment. The important thing is to get the project absolutely right. I think we’ve worked through those details, and we’re going to get on with it, and make sure it happens.

In terms of the day and the hour, when the first ball is kicked off, I’ll leave that in the court of those who know this project more intimately than I. And I won’t be playing in the first game.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you quickly -

PM: Maybe.

JOURNALIST: Very quickly -

PM: How about slowly?

JOURNALIST: Alright, I’ll ask you slowly and quickly. I represent GROW, I’m a rural reporter, and a lot of my listeners are growers. This has massive ecological benefits, and it benefits growers as well. Last month the State Government introduced legislation into Parliament which would impose regulations on the fertiliser use of growers. It’s a big thing for growers here. Are you comfortable with that?

PM: Firstly, I’m not sufficiently briefed on what the State Parliament has passed, and who voted for what, and the passage of it vis-a-vis the use of fertilisers on farmlands.

What I can say is that, together with the Mackay Regional Council and the State Government, this is a first class project with two direct benefits for growers. One is water. And the second is the by-product that we’ve been talking about before. These are two practical contributions from us. On the matter you’ve raised, I’d rather not enter the detail, for the simple reason I’m not sufficiently briefed.

Thanks, folks.