Last Friday One Cuckoo Short of a Nest conducted an interview with Liberal party MP Russell Broadbent. The interview covered issues local to Mr Broadbent’s seat of McMillan, as well as broader Coalition policies including the “Green Army” and the Coalition’s answer to the Labor government’s National Broadband Network.
The transcript for the interview can be read below.
Interview with the Member for McMillan Mr Russell Broadbent
Interview conducted: 13/8/2010
Published: 16/8/2010 at www.onecuckoosnest.com
Interviewer: William Kulich
[OCSN] Mr Broadbent, thankyou for talking to One Cuckoo Short of a Nest again so close to the election. As August 21 draws nearer I ask that you to reflect on your second term in Parliament since your return to office in 2004. What events have shaped this term?
[Mr Broadbent] Um, of course the bushfires were an event for the whole of Australia. And my response to that in the parliament and, you mentioned here in your notes, about the standing ovation being given after I’d spoken to parliament – I think that was as a response to how the parliament felt about the bushfires as much as a response to me. I painted a picture for them that hadn’t been painted before. The poetry about the fires that I presented was also a response to the twelve month anniversary to the fires, and I suggested to a local poet that having reflected on the bushfires and, and our local area particularly, and the event of the service out at um, Labertouche that day, and would he put that down in words and he did. And he did. And we went back in… twelve months later. He actually read that out and I went to hear him read that for the first time, and I read it in to the Hansard. So, there was no acclimation for me, although that did begin and shape the term. There was also the issue of us charging long-term detainees and causing them to have a debt after they were released. And I was very strong on my stand on having that debt removed, as we never received more than four per cent of it anyway, so, there was some very difficult times in this term that I responded to by my address to the parliament and those speeches are there. But I think the most important one was the 58 second statement on the bushfires after twelve months, where, in very few words and a very short time I was able to encapsulate the continuing grief that some people still feel, and for me that was the address of the term.
[OCSN] Your compassion for those affected by the bushfires is clear, what have you been able to achieve for those in your electorate affected by the fires?
[Mr Broadbent] Not as much as we had first hoped, but I have to say to you that the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd whose responses were, um, were excellent, in regards to those members of parliament whose areas were affected. We wanted to do something about boundary fencing. The Prime Minister Rudd wanted to do something to support the loss of boundary fencing, that was opposed by his beaurucrats and especially the state parliament and the state beaurucrats. So whilst we were able to support them in certain ways, we were never able to achieve what I set out to achieve on their behalf, and that is a disappointment.
[OCSN] What had you hoped to achieve? What was you plan?
[Mr Broadbent] Well the basis of the plan was that we actually paid each farmer so much per meter for the loss of boundary fencing, and that would come out of the bushfire fund. And the state government refused to acquiesce to that, which was a great disappointment.
[OCSN] Did the plan only include farmers?
[Mr Broadbent] Ah well, it was, in our area, in my particular area it was the farmers who were the most hit. It was farms where we had loss of housing, and loss of… property destruction. Whilst we don’t know the results of the trauma that people went through even to this day, we didn’t have the loss of life that we had in other areas so our focus was on property loss and some recompense that I’d hoped we could have gained and I think there was more we could have done. But the community did a lot for itself.
[OCSN] Mr Broadbent, when we last spoke you mentioned that you see climate change as an “an issue for Australia and an issue for the world.” Early in this campaign your leader Tony Abbott announced his “green army” policy, which has actually hardly been explained and has been used almost as a catch cry for the coalition’s environment policy. What exactly is this policy? Do you feel that it properly addresses the need for significant action on environmental issues?
[Mr Broadbent] Um, I think it’s a way of doing some very important projects at a local level. 15, 00 people around the country doing projects that will make a difference to climate change in the long run.
[OCSN] What are these projects?
[Mr Broadbent] They’re projects like revegetating a wetland, they’re projects like, um, it will depend, locally, but we have a number of programs that you could… where revegetation would be, um, as we’ve done with Landcare, revegetation, the upgrading of corridors, where we could have planting through corridors, and just opportunities like that where we could really make a difference to climate change by local practical proposals.
[OCSN] Aren’t there already groups that do this? Like, you mentioned Landcare.
[Mr Broadbent] Well, I’d like to see Landcare reinstated back to what it was under the Howard government. Ten million dollars has been taken away from Landcare which has been a shame, and I’d like to see that reinstated but importantly, there are projects that would come through local government or through other community interest groups, where a group of people, otherwise unemployed, would have the opportunity to do something in the environment that would make a long term difference.
[OCSN] Do you think that this is enough to address the threat of climate change?
[Mr Broadbent] No, and that’s why we have... that’s only one part of it and that’s why we have bipartisan approach to the reduction of emissions.
[OCSN] What are the other parts of the coalition’s program?
[Mr Broadbent] Well we have agreed with the current Government on the reduction of emissions and abatement and all the other programs that go with it especially in regard to renewable energy, which is the MRET (Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets) targets, and, now whilst that will increase the cost of electricity certainly renewables are an important part of the program.
[OCSN] The division of McMillan has been ignored by the mainstream media as focus has been drawn to the marginal seats in New South Wales and Queensland. You were first elected to the seat in 1996 and were defeated in the 1998 election, before being elected again in 2004 and re-elected for the first time in 2007. It’s quite clear that this seat is no safe seat. How do you feel you will fare this election? Is it going to be a tough one?
[Mr Broadbent] Well, to this point we’ve run the best local campaign possibly can in the context of the people that are resident in this electorate. To win election campaigns, I don’t believe at a local level they can be won in the last few weeks or on the day… of the election campaign – they have to be won from the three years that you are working within the electorate. People have the opportunity then to see your work, evaluate what you do and consider their vote at the election campaign whether they will vote locally or from a national perspective. And often incumbent members can attract, even though it’s minor, a personal vote. Now I’m not suggesting that personal vote here is very high, but I am suggesting to you that the incumbency of a local member, be they Liberal, Labor, National or Green… or independent for that matter, it is an important place because people do tend to take ownership of their member.
[OCSN] You mentioned that there are both local and national influences. What are the most prevalent local issues this election?
[Mr Broadbent] Well there’s two ways of looking at that. One is, the people in my electorate, such as farmers, know my, and I don’t want to be trite about this but know my record of support for them especially when they were not receiving exceptional circumstances… drought relief… were other nearby farmers were. And they know that I went out on a limb for them. People with disabilities know my record in support of them over many years and… some very specific incidences that we can talk about at another time. And also, the people in the power industry particularly know that I’ve taken a very strong stance - where I ask the question about climate change and people say to me well the first thing we do is we’re going to close down our dirty coal fired power stations. My question to those people then is alright where is the power going to come from?
[OCSN] But surely, Hazelwood, the most inefficient power station in the world, the developed world that is, should be replaced.
[Mr Broadbent] Oh, I think it could be changed to a gassified power station, therefore reducing the emissions. At this stage it supplies nearly a quarter of our power and we have to consider that in any proposal. Even the state government has said they were going to close down part of Hazelwood and then they said through minister Batchelor on ABC radio, well of course if we need the power we won’t close it down. So what we have to do… all our power stations are coming to the end of their lives, all our power stations are, and we need to consider how we are going to supply that power in to the future. Somebody has to have a vision of how we are going to use the resources that we have and at the same time have more efficient power generation to reduce emissions.
[OCSN] But what the state Government has been looking at doing is replacing part of Hazelwood with renewables. And I read somewhere that Alcoa is looking at extending Hazelwood’s service to 2036, which is still a very long time, that’s hardly near the end of its life.
[Mr Broadbent] Ah, not without changes it won’t. Not without changing it to a gas fired power station it won’t, no.
[OCSN] Tony Abbott has described himself as not being a “tech head” when questioned on his plan to upgrade Australia’s broadband. I am aware of several cases in your electorate of people being unable to get faster internet simply because of old telephone switches. Would you please explain, for Mr Abbott, what exactly will be upgraded in the Liberal’s scheme?
[Mr Broadbent] Well one of my concerns under Labor’s scheme is much of my electorate will not be receiving the broadband that they require. As proposed.
[OCSN] Why is that?
[Mr Broadbent] Because it’s to be run out to, I believe, townships and communities above 5000 people. So that’s an enormous amount of my electorate that will not be receiving the broadband run out that the Labor party is suggesting.
[OCSN] But what is the Coalition’s policy?
[Mr Broadbent] Well we’re suggesting that by 2016, 97% of Australia will be receiving between 100 megabytes, to a minimum of 12 megabytes for speed. We propose that our proposal is market based and affordable broadband, as compared to the expensive National Broadband Network which will be wasteful. And on top of that we have target mobile telephone coverage blackspots… where we need to target those blackspots and to ensure better support service.
[OCSN] In the next three years though, what are the qualifications for towns under the Coalition’s scheme? After all, the five thousand people minimum is only a short-term goal of the Labor party. What can we be expecting under the Coalition in the short term and what are the qualifications for towns?
[Mr Broadbent] Well already there are companies supplying up to… between 70 and 100 megabytes in the capital cities. Now where there is a market that can be rolled out further, and with wireless that can be given to areas that wouldn’t otherwise have it under the National Broadband Network.
[OCSN] But is this much of an improvement to what is already in place?
[Mr Broadbent] Absolutely, massive improvement.
[OCSN] Mr Broadbent, thankyou for your time.
[Mr Broadbent] Thankyou!
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