TRANSCRIPT: 4RO Rockhampton, Wednesday 18 May





SUBJECTS: Labor’s positive plans for Capricornia’s schools; Infrastructure investment; Rockhampton Airport; Liberals’ unfair Budget; Youth unemployment. 

PRESENTER: Alright so to you both welcome into the studio.


PRESENTER: Obviously, Central Queensland and the seat of Capricornia, in particular, is very important in the campaign ahead.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I don't think we can win government unless we win seats like Capricornia and that's why we've selected such a fantastic candidate. Leisa Neaton's been a local for many years - she runs the biggest primary school in Capricornia. She's shown her commitment to education. I think she really makes a great contrast to Michelle Landry.

PRESENTER: We'll welcome Lisa right now. Right from the start of this campaign there's been a lot attention put on education as there should be.

LEISA NEATON, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CAPRICORNIA: Yes, Aaron - it's great to see isn't it? And certainly through the funding of the Gonski reforms, through the talk about targeted teaching in our classrooms to support our students to achieve positive outcomes, moves towards STEM education and upskilling our teachers and providing the resources to be able to move towards robotics and coding. There's lots of positives and optimism in Labor's policies.

PLIBERSEK: And you really have to ask, over the next two years alone, Capricornia gets an extra $31 million for its schools under Labor's policy. It is extraordinary to me that any Member of Parliament would be arguing against that sort of extra investment in the schools in the area that they represent and yet there's Michelle Landry actually arguing against $31 million extra funding for her schools.

PRESENTER: The other thing that was argued about in the announcement that was made when the Federal Opposition Leader was in town the other day - the attention put on Rockhampton Airport and the importance of that becoming an international airport. Where do you stand on that criticism?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's a great idea and our Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, is a strong backer of the proposal and he was up here talking about the proposal. I thought Michelle Landry's response was really curious. She said, 'that's a terrible idea, it's a terrible idea that I’ve been working on for three years that I haven't managed to get up'. So, look, I think it's obvious that this area has got huge export potential, particularly in the high value fruits and so on and if we can have the infrastructure locally to get that to markets that are prepared to pay top dollar - why wouldn't you do it?

PRESENTER: So is it the chicken or the egg? Which comes first? The infrastructure or the exports?

PLIBERSEK: I think you've got a lot of great high value exports locally and you can't export them without the proper facilities at the airport. You need the proper facilities and the personnel. I think you've got the produce.

PRESENTER: Tell me the main areas that you see that are important for Central Queensland in this campaign going forward?

PLIBERSEK: We'll be talking about education right through the campaign but today with Leisa I'll be visiting an aged care facility at Zilzie, RSL Care at Zilzie. And of course we'll be talking with the residents there about the importance of Medicare because we know that there is a big difference between the parties on Medicare. We think that your Medicare card should matter more than your credit card. That you should be able to get the healthcare you need. As a former Health Minister, I put a lot of money into the regional cancer centre in Rockhampton that I hope is making a huge difference to people. That's the kind of difference that Labor Governments want to make for people's healthcare.

We'll be going onto Keppel Bay Sailing Club this afternoon as well. We'll be talking to community organisations. I think a lot of people have concerns particularly coming out of the Federal Budget, community organisations that have lost their funding, drug and alcohol services, mental health services worried about losing funding. Basically, the fundamental inequality of this budget - where the Government says they can afford a $50 billion tax cut for big business and a $16 billion tax cut for people on more than $180,000 a year, but if you're on less than $80,000 a year, you're actually seeing cuts in this Budget. So if you're say, a working mum with 2 kids in school, you're about $4,700 worse off after this Budget because of the cuts to Family Tax Benefit, cuts to Schoolkids bonus and so on.

PRESENTER: We've got to see people put into jobs. Jobs is, I know, a huge problem around the country but particularly youth unemployment in Central Queensland is a massive issue. How do we fix these problems?

PLIBERSEK: You're absolutely dead right. Employment is the most important issue that any government can focus on - our national security and employment - making sure people have decent quality well paid jobs. Our plan for employment is to invest in the big infrastructure projects and we've already been talking about - the airport and so on, but also to make sure all our kids get the very best education so that they can make the most of their gifts, so that they're not left behind if they miss out on learning to read and learning to write and so on. By investing in education, by investing in infrastructure, a proper NBN. Rockhampton and the areas around it were promised, when Malcolm Turnbull was the Communications Minister, he said that he would honour all existing contracts for the NBN. Well Rockhampton’s been completely ‘dudded’ in that respect, the contracts haven’t been honoured. That's the way that we do business with the state, the nation and the world. I've got some tourism areas in my own electorate and I tell you what, when the internet goes down or if the internet is too slow for people from elsewhere to book a hotel room, make travel arrangements, that is a direct cost to the businesses that are missing out because the internet is letting them down. So you talk about where the jobs are coming from, I think the NBN is a big part of that story too.

PRESENTER: Leisa, we're only sort of in the first week of the campaign and already we've seen the Federal Opposition Leader, the Transport Shadow Minister and now the Deputy Leader in town. That shows great support to you but also the importance of the region?

NEATON: Absolutely, it's wonderful that Capricornia is front and centre in this election. I've been very heartened by the support from our Party members who are coming here and talking about the issues that are of concern locally. You can certainly be assured that Labor is concerned about rural and regional Queensland and we're concerned about people and that's why the Shadow Ministers are coming through, talking with me about priorities for the area and talking with locals about their priorities. I'd just like to reiterate that importance of jobs. We are well aware of it. As we've said, talking about infrastructure improvements, fast tracking Bruce Highway upgrades - this past Government has done very little in that area. Even things like overtaking lanes, black spots on the Bruce Highway - major concerns. We could be getting those projects up and running to create more jobs. When we invest well in health and education, we know those are services that lead to further employment and the sorts of jobs that we want which are well protected, well paid jobs for our citizens.

PRESENTER: What are the major conversations that you're having with people in the community?

NEATON: I've said repeatedly in this campaign, the sorts of projects that I'm really interested in are the projects that have Local Government and State Government support. No Federal Government is going to back in a plan where there isn't a business case, where there hasn't been consultation. So I'm very clearly looking at things that have been discussed over a period of time including things like the Rockwood Weir infrastructure so that we've got water security, the airport announcement that we have made recently. Also, attracting Defence jobs to the region here in Rockhampton so that we can have perhaps up to 300 full-time personnel who are stationed here in Rockhampton in Defence. Australian personnel who are buying their groceries in the local area, putting their kids into sporting competitions and contributing to the local economy. We’ve got such a wonderful environment here why wouldn't people want to come and live in Capricornia?

PRESENTER: You've mentioned some major projects there. There is another issue that is a long standing one in Central Queensland and a lot of people are asking the question of where you stand on it and that is Keppel. What's the future of Keppel?

PLIBERSEK: I think that's one that Leisa is going to respond to. But as far as I know, first of all it's mainly a State Government issue, but the approvals are in place for the work to go ahead as far as I know and I guess it's up to the developers now.

PRESENTER: Well, it just needs as much support as possible, is that fair to say Leisa?

NEATON: I've always said I'm pro-development on GKI - what a wonderful resource for our area. It’s too wonderful not to share. To me the approvals are in place, federally and at state level. It's time that Tower got on and built that facility so that we can be extending the capabilities there. But I will say, as a regular visitor to Keppel, it's wonderful to see those existing businesses making a go of it, welcoming tourists. It certainly was very busy over the Easter weekend, so it's great to see for the area.

PLIBERSEK: I think one of the other questions when you're talking about these big projects is what happens to apprentices and one of the big concerns in recent years is the big drop in the number of apprentices. In the last couple of years, Queensland has lost 24,000 apprentices and we know that Capricornia itself has lost over 800 apprentice positions. We've got to make sure that our young people are really getting the opportunities to learn a trade. We've got a Prime Minister who talks a lot about innovation and the jobs of the future - and I agree with all of that. The best way to ensure that is we invest in education - you can't have innovation without education. But we're always going to need plumbers, we're always going to need electricians, we're always going to need builders and to know that 24,000 apprenticeships have been lost across Queensland and 800 from this region alone makes me very nervous.

PRESENTER: Seems to be a lot of attention - and continues to be a lot of attention - in getting these people trained but not actually getting them into work. Isn't that what it's all about?

PLIBERSEK: There was an announcement in the most recent Budget of these sort of 12-week internships. But you can't replace a four-year apprenticeship with a four-month internship. I'm all for greater supports for people who are long-time unemployed and even a bit of nudge if they need a bit of a nudge - don't get me wrong on that. I think the problem is if you just have people going into programs that churn them through and don't have a job at the end of them, that's a real issue.

PRESENTER: Well, we did turn on the weather for you. You said it was a great place to visit, you've got the beautiful weather today.

PLIBERSEK: It's been beautiful every time I've come here. I don't know if you have any bad days but I haven’t seen them - it's always gorgeous.

PRESENTER: There was one in 1986 that I remember and one last year obviously too. Lovely, thanks for joining me in the studio, I appreciate it.

PLIBERSEK: It's a real pleasure.