Media Releases & Transcripts

Transcript - Interview with Ollie Wykeham (ABC Western Queensland)

April 10, 2018



SUBJECTS: Rural & Regional Affairs & Transport Committee, Rural Airfares


OLLIE WYKEHAM: Senator Anthony Chisholm is on the Rural Airfares and Transport Committee. Good morning Senator.

ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Good morning Ollie, good to be with you.

WYKEHAM: So Senator first why are there two kinds of forum. I know a lot of people have probably been expecting to see Senators in all the towns that these meetings but some don't have you?

CHISHOLM: I think yesterday in Barcaldine one of my colleagues National Party Senator Barry O'Sullivan organised his own community forum and fair credit to him, good on him for doing that, but today in Longreach is the first formal hearing where  we'll have Committee staff there, we'll take evidence, it'll be recorded and it'll form part of what is basically Hansard. So it's the start of the formal proceedings but there is no harm in other Senators getting out and hearing from communities because we do know this is a significant issue across many parts of Australia and indeed many parts of Queensland.

WYKEHAM: The hearings have already through large parts of Australia already is there any commonality that you're finding so far with people's submissions?

CHISHOLM: I think there is and I think that when you look at regional communities they’re obviously looking at how they can attract people and professionals and grow their population and one aspect of that is flights.  It also goes to tourism which I know is a significant issue here in Longreach. But also it focuses on kids access to schooling or if they make the sporting team being able to get down to where ever the competitions are on, so the community aspects around health, sport and education are significant and that’s come through strongly in a lot of the regional communities that this has been an issue in.

WICKHAM: I spoke to a young bloke the other day who works on the land and he was basically saying the cost is so prohibitive that he can't get out of the region, is that something that you're hearing? That regional communities are feeling even more isolated because of the costs?

CHISHOLM: Absolutely and if you think about Longreach which has been in drought now for about six years that social connectivity is so important, people being able to get around, get out of Longreach and see family or friends and catch up and really have a break from you know what is, what can be a tough life here, I think is important. And it's really important as Senators we get to the bottom of this.  Look if we can provide solutions to ensure that ability to move around and for people to live a life that makes living in Longreach and similar areas attractive is important and a key part of what we're doing.

WYKEHAM: Its twenty-five to nine this is ABC Western Queensland. My name is Ollie Wykeham and we're speaking with Senator Anthony Chisholm who is on the Rural Airfares and Transport Committee.  They're making their way through the west this week speaking to the communities and holding formal hearings on their investigations into the cost of regional flights. Senator you met up last night with the RAPAD (Remote Area Planning And Development) Group of Mayors, how did that go?

CHISHOLM: Yeah it was a great opportunity.  I was in town early yesterday and I caught up with Mayor Ed Warren and he invited me to dinner last night with the RAPAD Group of Mayors. So a couple of the mayors I've meet before but there was some I hadn't. It's a really good opportunity for me because it's not always possible to get around to all of these communities to be here and hear from them in the same room.  So we had a nice dinner and a couple beers and just enjoyed a chat.  It's really good for me just to hear first-hand from mayors what are the issues in their community and just practical ideas about what hopefully from my point of view a Federal Labor government can do to ensure that these councils are getting the opportunities they deserve.

So there really is a commonality of what they were talking about with effectively shrinking population, shrinking rates bases, tough circumstances on the land where they can’t increase rates and increasing demand for services as well.  So you really get a sense of they are being squeezed and they are looking for support from the Federal Government so that they can have confidence that they've got money that they can rely on, so that they can plan and they can order their workforce accordingly, but they can also order their community services accordingly as well.

WYKEHAM: Now we were speaking just before we came on air and you were saying that you travel on the same flights that you're investigating.  Does that give you some kind of experience of what we have, the experience that we have as resident out here?

CHISHOLM: Well look I'd like to think so. It also gives you the opportunity to talk to people and get a sense of why they're travelling and the work that they do.  For instance, the crew I was on yesterday were the QANTAS crew and talking to them about how they work within the local communities as well. I walked back to my hotel from the main street and someone kindly stopped to pick me up yesterday who happened to be Tony Austin, who runs the QANTAS Founders Museum.  So I had the opportunity to chat to him and it also showed me that it’s a very friendly town because I was also swatting flies away on my way home. So those sorts of thing you only get if you're here on the ground, so you know I didn't plan to attend the dinner with the RAPAD group but it just worked out well that I was here and that's invaluable for a Senator, for myself whose relatively new to the role to build my network but just to hear first-hand from people on the ground. The ability to be with people in the community hearing first hand and you really get a sense of what the issues are and how important they are to local communities.

WYKEHAM: I know one of the biggest fears for voters is that Senate enquires are just a chance for politicians to look at these things and get out and hear about it but then nothing really comes from it, what do you hope that you'll get out of these hearings?

CHISHOLM: So the Committee that we’re on here is the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee and it’s one of two committee I’m on, but it's got a reputation within the parliamentary circles for working in a bipartisan manner so the Labor Chair is Glenn Sterle, Senator for Western Australia and the Deputy Chair is Barry O'Sullivan an LNP Senator for Queensland and they really do try and work in a bi-partisan way so that when we get recommendations that they’re supported by the government, so the LNP and also Labor so that way you're much more likely to get a bi-partisan bit of legislation or a bipartisan commitment around policy that will withstand elections and I'd hope that when it comes to this enquiry because the issues that we're taking some are LNP areas, some are Labor areas, some are in the middle, but if we can get some community of interest and there's no real Labor or Liberal way to do this, but you're much more likely to find solutions that will be implemented long term no matter who’s in government.

And so I understand people have that view and some Committees don't work that way but I'm confident that with this one that the Senators involved will put the communities first and we'll try and reach sensible compromises so that people can see some practical solutions that are going to improve their lives.

WYKEHAM: Senator thank you so much for your time this morning, thanks for joining us on ABC Western Queensland

CHISHOLM: Thanks Ollie good to be with you





Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra