Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Queensland: Prime Minister will visit the Mayor of Kingaroy.

Download WordDownload Word



PETER THOMPSON: The Prime Minister tours One Nation territory, later today, dropping into rural Queensland, towns like Kingaroy, Wondai and Hervey Bay.  No doubt, John Howard will be hoping his quick trip will provide some much-needed bridgework with disillusioned voters who turned their backs on the Coalition in the recent State election.  Kingaroy and Wondai are in the Queensland seat of Barambah won by the One Nation candidate, Dorothy Pratt.  She picked up 43 per cent of the primary vote, forcing out the sitting National Party member, Trevor Perrett.  Federally, the towns are split between the new seat of Blair, where Pauline Hanson will stand, and the seat of Wide Bay, held by the National Party’s Warren Truss.


The PM will be hoping his visit will reinforce the Coalition’s political credentials in the region.  Locals, meantime, are hoping he’ll see, first hand, some of the area’s problems as it continues to battle after a decade of drought and low commodity prices.


The Kingaroy Mayor, Roger Nunn, will meet the Prime Minister tonight and he joins us, now, from his busy dairy farm.


Roger, good morning to you.


ROGER NUNN:  Good morning, Peter.


PETER THOMPSON: The milking’s done, I presume.  The day’s well under way.


ROGER NUNN: No, no.  We’ve delayed it to speak to you, this morning.


PETER THOMPSON: Thank you.  I hope the cows approve.


Now, what’s your main message for the Prime Minister?


ROGER NUNN: Well, I think that we’re looking for opportunity and security in our primary producing areas, and that means, I guess, that we’re looking for not so much government assistance - in some cases we do need that - but we’re looking for an understanding government, a government that is perceived to understand our problems, and our problems have been caused, as you said earlier, by the drought and commodity prices and, before that, interest rates.  But we’re looking at opportunities through strategic economic areas that will allow us to provide employment.  There are lots of companies out there that are interested in investing in our area and they just need that little bit of a help with infrastructure.  Now, as a council, we can’t provide that help.


PETER THOMPSON: Okay.  Now, can I just go back.  To some extent, opportunity and security, perhaps to the overwhelming extent, can’t be provided by government, can it?


ROGER NUNN: No, not as such, but in rural areas we have infrastructure problems.  Our road transport, our rail, our telecommunications are not really up to the standard where companies can come in and be confident that they’re going to be able to make profits.


PETER THOMPSON: Well, tell us about telecommunications in Kingaroy.  How are they not up to standard?


ROGER NUNN: Well, generally, they’re quite good, in the Kingaroy area.  Some years ago, we did have problems.  We took those up with Telecom then and they provided a new optic fire cable through our area.  However, in my particular circumstance, a lot of times, or from time to time, we can't use our phones because we have only six lines serving our community between my place and Kingaroy, and so ….


PETER THOMPSON: In spite of the fact there’s an optical cable through Kingaroy?


ROGER NUNN: Yes.  But, you know, technology is taking a long time to catch up, and I guess that’s one of the reasons why we’re very concerned about the Telstra sell-off.  Once it becomes a private company, are they going to keep looking at our areas?  They don’t make a lot of profit out of these sorts of areas.  High usage areas is where they make their profit.


PETER THOMPSON: Roger, do you have a sense that people in Kingaroy, in that region generally, are strongly opposed to the Telstra sell-off?


ROGER NUNN: Oh, I don’t think so, generally.  We do have problems.  I think it’s when you get further west you get more and more problems.


PETER THOMPSON: Now, let me pick up the other two points you made:  road transport and rail.  How are they poor?


ROGER NUNN: We looked like losing our rail system from here when the Labor Government moved to close a lot of lines in Queensland.  Now, we do have an opportunity because there’s a big company wanting to build a new railway line through here, and this is what I was saying, that there are private companies that can help us.  They want to build a standard gauge rail from the Serap(?) Basin through to a new port at Bundaberg.  Now, that sort of thing is to be applauded.  That would hook up with the recently announced link from Melbourne to Darwin and give us access to markets.


PETER THOMPSON: Do you see that Melbourne to Darwin link as being really a solid idea or pie in the sky?


ROGER NUNN: Well, it’s a bit of a pie in the sky, except when you talk to the railway people themselves and they point out how much of that infrastructure is already in place and really it’s only a matter of filling in the missing links.  Certainly, when you get up into northern-western Queensland there are some big missing links but it’s not all that much of a pie in the sky but it is something that rural communities need.  In our particular case, the Government could help by helping Sudor (?), making it easier for them to provide this big line.


PETER THOMPSON: Roger, in the wake of the One Nation vote at the State election, will people in your area be cynical about the Prime Minister’s visit?


ROGER NUNN: Oh, to a certain extent, yes, but it does give us the opportunity, though, to talk to him and we hope that he will go away with the messages that I’ve been speaking to you about, and be a little bit more friendly and listen to our problems.  As councillors, we’re very close to the community, and the higher up in government you go, of course, the further you get away from it.


PETER THOMPSON: You’ve got quite a diverse community, haven’t you, in terms of industry, and I know there’s some new growth shoots like wine, tourism - olives too, I believe.


ROGER NUNN: Yes, yes.


PETER THOMPSON: So in many respects, you’re much better off than many rural communities in the country.


ROGER NUNN: Yes.  Ours is a very rich - has very rich soil and so we’ve been able to diversify, but if everyone diversifies, we’re in exactly the same sort of position.  We lose our bigger industries like the peanut industries.  We still have to keep supplying that industry and even though the prices are so low and the seasons aren’t good, we still have to keep doing that, but where we can, where rural producers can, they are diversifying, and that’s important.


PETER THOMPSON: Just a brief,, final one.  Does the bush have a future?


ROGER NUNN: Oh, of course it has a future.  It’s the only way that Australia can exist.  You just have to have food;  you have to have the - I guess it’s our basic need.


PETER THOMPSON: Well, no doubt you’ll pass on that message again, reinforce it to the Prime Minister.  Thanks for joining us today, Roger - back to the cows, now, I guess.


ROGER NUNN:   Thank you, Peter.


PETER THOMPSON: Thanks for delaying for us.


Roger Nunn who is the Mayor of Kingaroy in Queensland, and the Prime Minister’s on his way there to places like Kingaroy, Wondai and Hervey Bay today.