TRANSCRIPT: MIX 104.9, 11 MAY 2021

11 May 2021

Subjects: What to expect in the Budget 2021; Kakadu funding not hitting the ground; infrastructure funding

KATIE WOOLF, HOST: We are going to head straight across and catch up with the senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy. We know that the budget is being handed down tonight and there is indeed a significant spend when it comes to infrastructure. We spoke about that yesterday to the deputy prime minister. Now joining us on the line is the senator for the Northern Territory. Malarndirri McCarthy, good morning.

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Good morning, Kate. Good morning to your listeners.

MCCARTHY: Now, Senator, we know the federal budget is going to be big spending tonight when it's handed down. Well, if the announcements have so far been made are anything to go by, what are you hoping to see for the Northern Territory?

MCCARTHY: Well, I certainly would like to see a very real commitment, Katie, which means money hitting the ground. We've seen over the last couple of budgets that the Prime Minister and the treasurer are very, very much speak loudly around how much money they want to spend. But we see an underspend in these budgets. And I think that's the real concern where we still need to see where they've spent money. We've seen and understand that almost $1.7 billion across Australia in recent budgets - around infrastructure. So we need to see just how genuine these announcements will be in terms of hitting the ground as soon as possible.

WOOLF: And Senator, yesterday we spoke about Kakadu and some of the ongoing concerns out there. Glen Hingley, the general manager of Tourism Top End spoke to us yesterday. Take a listen to what he had to say.

[AUDIO GRAB] Glen Hingley: The big focus for us here is how much operational funding will come out in the upcoming federal budget, because I think that's the key to it all here, whether that's invasive weeds, feral animals, more facilities for locals within Kakadu, more visitor facilities, being able to maintain those facilities. That's the key to it. It's all well and good to announce new things, but the operational funding to take care of it, be able to have the boots on the ground, to be able to employ locals in doing which the park desperately needs to be maintained. So our focus there looking forward is we're really hopeful, albeit we're not overly optimistic that we'll see a good, solid operating budget given to Kakadu. A place that's just under a third the size of Tasmania operates on $13 million a year. It doesn't go anywhere near enough to being able to take care of one of Australia's most wonderful assets, culturally and conservationally.

WOOLF: Senator, what do you think needs to be happening here when it comes to Kakadu?

MCCARTHY: Well, Glen Hingley's correct, Katie. He raised this very concern with myself and Milton Dick MP and also with Luke Gosling just recently at a roundtable in relation to tourism. What we need to see with Kakadu is not only the Prime Minister racing there to pledge $216 to revitalise the national park, we have to see it actually hit the ground. But on top of the $216 million, as Glen has rightly pointed out, there has to be just the ongoing day-to-day care in terms of the upkeep of the park. And we have to see that come out in this budget.

WOOLF: Yeah, I was going to say, because I thought there was actually money announced last budget for Kakadu, but I can't quite wrap my head around what's going on. And you know why we continue to sort of be in this situation where the infrastructure doesn't seem to be there to support what is meant to be the jewel in our crown.

MCCARTHY: It's interesting that you say you can't wrap your head around it. I think it's a bit of a syndrome, not for you, but certainly with the Federal government announcing and reannouncing pledges. It announced the $216 million in the 2019 election. Yet we haven't seen that hit the ground in the National Park. So we have to keep the federal government on his toes on this. It cannot keep reannouncing all of these funding announcements and nothing actually changes. So you're spot on too Katie, that we're not seeing these things hit the ground.

WOOLF: Well, Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy, we might touch base again once we hear exactly what is included in that budget tonight and see how the Northern Territory fares.

MCCARTHY: No worries. Katie, and happy to talk to you after it.

WOOLF: Thank you. Thanks so much for your time this morning.