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Interview on ABC North Queensland (Townsville)

27 October 2016

Interviewer: 
Paula Tapiolas

Subject:  Townsville City Deal; Townsville stadium; Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor; Northern Australia development; Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility

E&OE

MICHAEL CLARKE:
A lot of talk during the Federal Election about the City Deal that the Federal Government has for Townsville, but community leaders are still waiting to have it all finalised. The Federal Minister for Northern Australia, Senator Matt Canavan has spent the last couple of days in Townsville, and he's been speaking at a business breakfast this morning. He told Paula Tapiolas that his visit has centred on finalising the region's City Deal.

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Yes, I have been spending a couple of days in Townsville. Primarily I'm seeking to progress the City Deal that we are establishing here in Townsville. It's the first City Deal that we announced. Of course it involved a substantial investment through the Federal Government's contribution to the football stadium, to the Townsville East Access Rail Corridor. There's exciting developments here with urban renewal, with the stadium and the development [inaudible]. There's a lot to do, that's why I'm spending two full days here, talking to the port, talking to the University, talking to the local Council and Townsville Enterprise about what we can do.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:
So what are some of the things that are needed to progress that City Deal?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
I think what's important is we integrate these plans together, so that this City Deal becomes more than the sum of its parts. We obviously already have a substantial plan for components to do with the football stadium and the port. So we need to make sure they all integrate with other [inaudible] including the expansion and dredging potential to bring in bigger ships - that we coordinate that with the waterfront development that the city council will be progressing. So there's a lot going on in Townsville, but we a lot more out of what they're doing if we work together.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:
So what's left to do before that deal can be signed?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Well we're making sure we have the parameters of that well defined, about what is in scope so to speak. I'm talking to various partners about that. We're also looking to maximise the opportunities that the Federal Government can provide to such a deal through some of the other vehicles we have to support northern development and the development of our country. So the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility is a low concessional loan facility to develop the north. It could have a component and a role through this [deal]. That's something I'm exploring. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation as well, is a vehicle to promote clean energy right across Australia, and it too could have some role in energy efficiency options for the city. So there are major components. The Government has a lot to offer. We're just trying to ensure that our offer is best directed to Townsville.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:
And what timeframe are you working on to have that deal signed?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
We're hopeful that this deal can be signed before the end of the year. It obviously requires State and Local Governments as well to be on board with it. There will of course, through that deal, then be ongoing corporate arrangements in terms of delivering a football stadium, port upgrades and urban renewal.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:
Are there any things that you're seeking from the State and the local Council before that deal can be signed? Are there any sticking points there?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Well it's just a matter of making sure we cooperate on what we are proceeding with. I certainly pick up a level of goodwill and good faith here. I'm informed that progress has been good at an officials’ level. That's been occurring constantly. There's been a meeting earlier this week. So hopefully we can harness that goodwill and good faith, and work together. We’re from three different levels of government, different political parties, but we've got to focus on what's best for Townsville and North Queensland here.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:
And what will your message be at the breakfast?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Look simply that this is time for North Queensland and Northern Australia. It's been a tough time though for the last couple of years, but the broader trend is that northern Australia will be a more important part of our country. And we've got policies in place to make sure that happens. Townsville is a place that has been developing its whole history. It's a place that started as a port city, that was going to be outward looking. And that is still its future too, in developing the port, taking advantage of free trade agreements that we have signed in our region, and building the infrastructure we need to get all that produce and minerals out from regional Queensland, out through the coast of Queensland, and making money not just for North Queensland, not just Queensland but for the whole country.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:
You've been spending a couple of days in North Queensland. What are some of the things that our civic leaders and the business community have been asking of you?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Well I think there's a great appetite to get going here. There's obviously still a level of angst about the economic situation, but I've picked up over the last couple of months a renewed level of confidence here. Obviously the coal industry is doing better, a few coal mines have reopened in the past month. There is I suppose a sentiment that we have bottomed out, and we're on the way back up, which always helps with positivity. And there is a substantial amount of government involvement, particularly the Federal Government, a quarter of a billion dollars that we set aside to invest here in Townsville. So there's lots of opportunities. The people I've been speaking to just want to make sure we maximize the opportunity for the people of Townsville.

MICHAEL CLARKE:
That is Senator Matt Canavan, the Federal Minister for Northern Australia.

[ENDS]