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Territory FM's Territory Talk

24 October 2016

Interviewer: 
Daryl Manzie

Subject: Beef Roads, Northern Australia

E&OE

DARYL MANZIE:

The Turnbull-Joyce Government announced this morning that $30 million will be invested in key roads in the Northern Territory as part of funding for the North Australian Beef Roads and look, we’ve got Matt Canavan, of course the Minister for Northern Australia and the man that’s looking after North Australian development. He joins us to just tell us what’s going to happen with that $30 million, what roads are going to be involved, and what actually is the money going to be used for. And good morning to you Matt Canavan.

MATT CANAVAN:

Morning Daryl. How are you?

DARYL MANZIE:

I’m pretty good, and obviously people listening in the beef industry will think well that’s a plus, but I guess $30 million in terms of bitumen laying doesn’t go far. But what actually will be involved here; is it trying to sort of raise the use of roads with culverts and those sorts of things to make roads last longer in the wet season? What specifically will happen and what roads are we talking about?

MATT CANAVAN:

Well what we’ve done, Daryl, is had an extensive process with industry, with the CSIRO, looking at what would be the best roads to invest in for the beef industry across Australia. So we held a forum up in Darwin earlier this year and the CSIRO’s done some extensive modelling on how cattle are moved at the moment across Australia, and what areas of the country would be best used. Now it is right that we’re investing $100 million across the north, $30 million in the Northern Territory.

That’s not going to do everything we would like, of course, but it is going to make some difference, it is going to help the industry in particular roads. So in the Northern Territory we’re upgrading the Barkly Stock Route and the Tablelands Highway, and what that involves is – for the Barkly – is making it into two lanes and widening that road, lifting it and resealing it for 19 kilometres. We estimated that will save around 50 cents a head for each of the cattle that are transported on that route, and that’s a substantial saving to the industry and it will be another benefit for what we are seeing,  a very strong beef sector at the moment.

DARYL MANZIE:

Actually that’s a pretty significant saving, and I think you mentioned earlier the CSIRO are involved in assessing which will be the maximum in terms of economic impact, and I guess that’s pretty important. The more we can get value for the money that’s spent, the better we all are, and in the past I guess sometimes it’s been a matter of whose electorate can make the loudest noise in Canberra that got the money. It didn’t necessarily have to be an overall benefit for the economy. So this approach, this scientific approach obviously is the basis of how things are going to work in the future.

MATT CANAVAN:

That’s exactly right, Daryl, and I’m very excited about it. We did not announce this project before the election because we have not quite finished that work. So without agreeing with you completely, I do accept that if it had been announced during the election campaign there’s an element of politics that get involved in that, whereas this has been a scientific process.

The CSIRO have got a model now of every cattle movement across the country for the past ten years, and so we can look at if we upgrade this road, where would cattle move to, how much would that save the industry, and I’m looking here at another of the upgrades here, the Tablelands Highway.

Now we’ve got a big table about how much the savings will be per year. Under their model, that particular upgrade will be 40 cents a head, more than $30,000 a year for the beef industry in the Northern Territory, and that gives us a really good basis now to go forward and argue for more funding from the government because we’ve got this rigour behind it.

DARYL MANZIE:

And indeed I think that’s been lacking in the past, but this certainly … I mean, it’s well needed with - in the north, as you well know that we have a pretty savage wet season, and that obviously does create problems in certain areas where rivers flow and, you know, so I guess the investment’s got to be done wisely in a way which maximises the benefit, keeps those roads open as long as possible and then minimises the closure, they’re the sorts of changes I guess we have to expect rather than building a sort of a copy of the Pacific Highway across the beef areas.

MATT CANAVAN:

Yeah that’s right, and this does build on our other investments we’ve made. We made an announcement a few months ago to upgrade the Adelaide River Floodplain there to improve traffic and reduce the number of days affected by flood.

We’ve already announced funding for the Outback Highway outside of Alice Springs and a commitment over the next ten years to seal that from east to west. So there’s a lot going on in the north, a lot in the Territory. The Territory’s definitely getting its fair share.

It received more than a third of the funding before the election campaign and another third here today, which is higher than its proportion of the population of Northern Australia, but it’s got a lot of potential. Your government has put a very strong case to us for funding on roads in particular, and that’s reflected in the announcements today.

DARYL MANZIE:

Well look Matt, I’m very pleased to hear it announced, and I’m sure that cattlemen are also pretty happy, so mate, I’ll thank you very much for talking to us, we really appreciate it, and let’s hope we speak more about little things like this happening on a regular basis.

MATT CANAVAN:

Happy to, Daryl.

[ENDS]