SUBJECTS: Visit to Mount Isa and Cloncurry, Housing, North West Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils Conference, Regional Education, Budget.
HOST EMILY DOBSON: The Albanese Government wants to work with local councils in North West Queensland to try and tackle the lack of available housing across the region. The Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Education, Senator Anthony Chisholm, has been in the region talking with councils to see how the Federal Government can take the charge on addressing this issue. He told Julia André more.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I got invited by the North West Regional Organisation of Councils. So, Greg Campbell, the Mayor of Cloncurry, to come up and spend a day here and I’ve done a tour with him and I’ve just addressed the North West Regional Organisation of Councils as well and just gave them an update on the Federal Government’s agenda. So obviously we’re relatively new to government, so this is the first opportunity I’ve had to get out here in person and meet with the Representative Council. So, it’s a good opportunity for me and it’s been a really positive discussion so far.
REPORTER JULIA ANDRÉ: What have you been hearing from people and leaders in the region?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: It’s been very much a constructive discussion. So, people, I think, want to give the Federal Government an opportunity, they want to work with us more broadly, but there obviously are significant challenges that we face across the country and regional northwest Queensland is not immune from that. So, housing challenges, labour shortages, they’re all factors across the country, but they’re felt particularly acutely here. So, it’s been really interesting hearing from Mount Isa Council now in Cloncurry, in the surrounding areas and just the different impacts that has on communities and the flow on effects from that as well. So, it’s just good to get a first-hand experience, be here on the ground and talk directly to people about those challenges.
JULIA ANDRÉ: What kind of change can the Federal Government make when it comes to those issues in the North West?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, certainly I think what we are determined to do is play a national leadership role when it comes to housing. So, we took significant policies to the election which we think will help to start making a difference and tackle some of these challenges. But we also know that local government have a significant role to play in that because when it’s a lack of housing in this part of the world, that quite often means it’s an essential worker who can’t come here to live and provide that service to the community. So, it does take on that added significance in regional communities that you don’t have in capital or bigger cities. So, I understand that local government are doing their part and I can assure local councils in this part of the world that they’ve got a Federal Government who wants to work with them and unlock more opportunities so that we can see these areas grow and that housing isn’t a barrier to people moving here.
JULIA ANDRÉ: Who else have you met with, while you’ve been up here?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I met with Mount Isa Council yesterday and received a briefing from them and really looking forward to their hundredth-anniversary celebrations next year. So that’s quite exciting. And then I also went to the School of the Air, as well as putting my Assistant Minister for Education hat on. And that was fascinating to hear. The work that they do, educating kids right across the state and into the Northern Territory, that’s been something I’ve been meaning to for a while and that was really inspiring to see the work they do. And then the last day I’ve been here in Cloncurry, so Mayor Campbell took me out on a tour of some of the important projects that they have underway.
JULIA ANDRÉ: As you mentioned before, you had your Assistant Minister for Education hat on. Were there any challenges that you saw pop up for education in the North West?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Obviously, the real focus of the Federal Labor Government is to ensure that every child across the state gets the same access and opportunity that good education can provide. And just some of the practical things I learned from the School of the Air is around how they have to rewrite the curriculum to deliver in an online or broadcast space. So just additional resourcing that they face is something that was a real eye-opener to me. And you only get that experience when you are on the ground and talking to those people firsthand. So, it’s quite inspiring. The work that they do, and their dedication is quite remarkable and you just couldn’t imagine life without them and the service that they provide.
JULIA ANDRÉ: So, what comes from this trip?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: So, for me, it’s obviously building a good relationship with councils in this area. We want to be a Federal Government for all of Australia, so that involves working with local government in this area. The Prime Minister is a former local government Minister, so he really values the role that local government plays and we think they can be really strong partners with our Federal Labor Government that is focused on delivering significant change and benefits to regional Australia. And I think that the North West is well placed to take advantage of that.
JULIA ANDRÉ: Yeah, one of the issues that pops up quite regularly in this region is with the smaller shire councils. It’s quite a struggle to keep on top of the budget because they don’t have a lot of ratepayers funding them. Is that an issue that your government is looking at tackling?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Not so much specifically. But we understand that Federal Government support to local government is really important and the thing I’ve noticed about my interaction with local governments and local councils over the years is how they can make a little bit of money go a long way and they’re really cost-effective in delivering important infrastructure for local communities to make these places better places to live. Which is what we all want.
EMILY DOBSON: Senator Anthony Chisholm, the Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Education, speaking with Julia André.