Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop interview: Bundaberg: 23 July 2009: Bert Hinkler; overseas memorials for significant Australians; Australian kidnapped in Somalia; Jakarta bombings; Nation Building for Recovery; Indigenous housing; health and hospitals.

Download PDFDownload PDF

23 July 2009 Doorstop interview Bundaberg Subject(s): Bert Hinkler; Overseas Memorials for Significant Australians; Australian Kidnapped in Somalia; Jakarta Bombings; Nation Building for Recovery; Indigenous Housing; Health and Hospitals

PM: First of all, it’s great to be in Bundaberg, and great to be back in Bundaberg. I’ve been here many times over the years, but this is the first occasion I’ve been here as Prime Minister. And I’ve spent some time today with local Member Paul Neville, and also of course the Mayor of the Bundaberg Regional Council. And I’d thank the Bundaberg Regional Council for their kind hospitality and the civic reception they’ve hosted today.

And to underline what I’ve said before, and that is, we, the Australian Government, are looking towards working in closer partnership with local Governments across the country, and that of course means with the

Bundaberg Regional Council as well.

Of course, when Australia thinks of Bundaberg, one of the first things they think of is Bert Hinkler. And that’s why we’re at this great museum here today, honouring a great Queenslander, a great Australian, but a great son of Bundaberg.

As I said in my remarks earlier today, when people think of Hinkler, it’s not just his feats as an aviator, they also think of just the courage of an Australian pioneer, who steps out, does something different, does something unusual, and as a result changes the world. Bert Hinkler was one such person.

And that’s why we, together with other levels of Government, have been so pleased to support this Hinkler Hall of Aviation, and to properly honour Bert Hinkler’s memory.

One of the things that Paul Neville the local Member has put to me over some time now is how do we deal with the practical challenge of honouring those Australians who have perished abroad and who are

buried abroad? And Bert Hinkler is one of them. Bert Hinkler is buried in

Italy, I understand in Florence, or thereabouts? And therefore there’s a practical challenge about how do we honour the memorials for famous Australians around the world.

And in response to the representations from the local Member, what I’d like to announce today is that the Australian Government will be making an allocation of up to $100,000 a year through the Department of the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, from 2009 onwards, to provide

proper funding to support the memorials of famous Australians abroad. That includes Bert Hinkler.

In the past, a lot of the work to support the maintenance of Bert Hinkler’s grave has been done by the good local folk of this community, and Lex has already been introduced to me, and the work that he has done to make sure that Hinkler’s grave is properly maintained in Florence is to be commended.

However, I think as a nation we’ve got a responsibility as well. And that is to make sure that we are properly looking after these memorials around the world, Bert Hinkler’s of course being one of them.

So I’m pleased to confirm today that we’ve decided to allocate $100,000 a year through the Department of Environment, Heritage and the Arts, to properly maintain Bert Hinkler’s grave, and graves of famous Australians like him around the world. And I’d like to thank again the federal Member for having brought this to my attention in recent times. Did you want to add to that Paul?

NEVILLE: I’d just like to thank the Prime Minister for his generosity of spirit. He was telling me on the day I was in his office, I think it was the grave of Andrew Fisher and George Reid, two other targets, they’re two former Prime Ministers, and I think for a while Andrew Fisher even represented Bundaberg, they were very big electorates in those days. So, Lex Rowland and his association have been looking after that grave over the years, and it’s becoming a bit of a burden. And if we could modify that grave perhaps with a sheet of Australian marble or something like that, we could cut the maintenance costs down considerably. So, Prime Minister, thank you very much.

PM: Well done Paul, good on you (applause). Okay, enough from me folks, over to you.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, it’s been 11 months since Nigel Brennan was captured in Somalia, what’s since been done to bring him home?

PM: There are active and continuing contact between families and the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs. These are difficult, sensitive and complex negotiations. The Government, internally, meets regularly on this to review progress, and has engaged in a range of efforts to support this individual. This is difficult, and an ugly part of the world, but the Government is actively engaged in the support of this person. It will be, still, a very difficult process which lies ahead.

JOURNALIST: What progress has been made?

PM: On the question of the individual concerned, there are continued engagements between ourselves and various agencies, and various international agencies, in support of this individual. It’s tough, it’s difficult, it’s complex, it’s sensitive, but as with all of our consular cases abroad, we take this one seriously.

If I was to look at the consular cases upon which I have spent the most time since I’ve been Prime Minister, it is this one. And similarly with the Foreign Minister and others. It is one which the Government takes seriously, but I do not underestimate the degree of difficulty involved in this. It is very hard.

JOURNALIST: The family has spoken to Mr Brennan, and they’ve said he’s quite unwell. Clearly the government doesn’t have time on its side to bring him home.

PM: Can I say this is an exceptionally complex matter, and I think if you were full apprised, confidentially, of the details of the case, which given security concerns is probably not possible, you’d be fully seized of how difficult and complex a matter this is, given the part of the world in which he is located.

JOURNALIST: Mrs Brennan has come here today to meet with you, will you talk with her?

PM: I imagine there’s been some contact arranged through my staff. That’ll be fine.

JOURNALIST: The family’s been contacted by the Somalian President. Why haven’t you contacted them prior to today?

PM: Can I say these matters have been dealt with through the Foreign Minister, as is entirely appropriate, over a long period of time. This is a difficult, ugly and dangerous part of the world into which these folk ventured a long time ago.

The Australian Government, through all of its agencies, is actively engaged in this and will continue to be so, doing everything which is reasonably and feasibly possible to obtain his release. This is very difficult, it’s very complex, it’s very challenging. I repeat what I said before: there is no singular consular case around Australia for any Australian abroad on which I and the Foreign Minister have spent more time than this case.

JOURNALIST: One of the bombers in Indonesia may have been 16 years old or younger. What are your thoughts on that?

PM: Well, I have seen those reports. If those reports are true, it is sickening that these evil terrorists would prey on children to do their dirty work.

All Australians legitimately condemn acts of terrorism wherever they occur in the world. This most recent act of terrorism has cost three innocent Australians their lives, another is injured, and it follows on terrorist attacks in the past.

The thought that terrorists engaged in their evil business would also prey upon children defies any standard of civilised behaviour.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: I think I would not even dignify the most recent comments by Abu Bakar Bashir with a response.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, unemployment here is soaring. Your Government ranks us in the top 20 regions for unemployment. I think it’s by next year that they say 20 per cent, that the unemployment rate will be 20 per cent. Is there anything specific that you’re doing for our region?

PM: Well, I don’t know if you were at the reception that I just attended with the civic leaders. Were you there?

What I did there was run through the level of investment in this community, some 78 million dollars in the school system, and then if you aggregated the total stimulus which has been delivered to this wider region, based on numbers I saw yesterday that’s in the vicinity of 3 to 350 million injected directly as a consequence of stimulus payments, both to families, to schools and to other forms of infrastructure.

If you therefore look at the multiplier effect which that has, in direct and indirect employment, it’s significant.

Yesterday I was in Hervey Bay and visited the Fraser Coast Anglican College. I spoke there to those working on the building site. The bricks being used in that school are made in Maryborough, some of the tradies I

spoke to come from Bundaberg. There are 67 of those projects being built in this wider region now.

So you ask what are we doing about employment? I would say 67 school-based projects, each of which involves 20-25 different trades on sites at different times, and an overall employment multiplier which is significant,

as part of a total injection of three to 350 million dollars into the wider region, I’d say we’re doing some things.

But you know, we’re dealing with a global financial crisis, and that’s affecting all regions across Australia.

The other thing I’d draw your attention to is this: you mentioned priority employment coordinators and priority employment regions right across Australia.

What we hope to do in this region as well is, through our priority employment coordinator, draw on effectively, a 650 million dollar Local Jobs Fund to assist with additional projects on the ground, and that’s why we have appointed these coordinators across the country.

So you’ve got national stimulus projects at work, you’ve local projects being built like the schools I’ve just referred to, partnering also with the local regional council as I mentioned this morning here in Bundaberg, we have some 33,000 such projects being rolled out across the country in partnership with local authorities now, but as an additional level of assistance, being able to draw effectively on a local jobs fund.

That will be the mission statement of the priority employment coordinator once they’re appointed.

JOURNALIST: What does the National Policy Commission on Indigenous Housing actually do?

PM: Well, when it comes to Indigenous housing, the Government has a priority, as far as closing the gap is concerned.

Last year, you may recall that I tendered an apology to Aboriginal people.

Secondly, I then said that we would commit ourselves as a Government to a strategy of closing the gap. One of those gaps exists as far as housing is concerned, and the adequate provision of housing across Australia.

What we’ve done recently, as all governments, Labor and conservative, in Darwin, is meet as the Council of Australian Governments to sign a whole series of new partnership agreements to deal with education, health, housing, as well as other areas where the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is far too great. Housing is one such area, and of course, when it comes to this Commission, we’re always attentive to

their advice.

You had a question, I think, over there.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, before the last election you promised to fix the health system or move to take it over. Where are you in regards to that?

PM: Well, as I’ve indicated before in comments, the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission was asked by us to report, comprehensively, on long-term reform for the health and hospital system.

As you know, they delivered their reports to the Government at the end of June. You also know that I indicated we’ll be releasing those reports by the time Parliament resumes in August.

We’ll work our way through these matters systematically, calmly, methodically, because health and hospitals reform is of fundamental interest to all Australians.

Thanks, folks.