Rudd would rather be fair dinkum than commit to plans
KEVIN Rudd says he's planning to secure the future of Gladstone but when he spoke to The Observer on Wednesday the Prime Minister was focused on the past.
While Mr Rudd acknowledged our region will feel the effects of the slowing resources boom, he wouldn't commit to new initiatives to offset the bust.
"We now face new major challenges for Australia's future and the new challenge is a bit like this: right now around the world you see a slowing, a very slow economic recovery and you also see the China resources boom coming off, and in regions like this it has big consequences," Mr Rudd said.
He said the solution was diversifying the economy but was vague about what new jobs might come to our region.
Mr Rudd said distance has been the biggest hurdle for Gladstone in the past and the National Broadband Network was necessary for the future of the economy.
"We now have 4664 homes and businesses in and around Gladstone where the NBN fibre network is under construction or complete, with some 30,100 in total in and around the region by 30 June, 2016."
Asked if a 2020 connection date for some places in Gladstone was acceptable, Mr Rudd said he was just trying to be "fair dinkum" about it.
"When you're running the biggest construction project in Australia's history, you can come and make a false promise about when it's going to happen or you can be fair dinkum about it," he said.
"I'd much rather just be fair dinkum, this is massive ... every region in Australia will take time."
Though Mr Rudd warned that the tight federal budget would impact on demands for new spending, he boasted about his past investments into Gladstone schools.
"In the last few years we have invested about $150 million in the Gladstone region and built 92 new classrooms, 113 new school libraries, 28 multi-purpose facilities, eight new science and language centres and three new trades training centres," he said.
He said those initiatives, designed to offset the global financial crisis, also helped future-proof the region.
Mr Rudd said Gladstone families would be better off under the emissions trading scheme than the carbon tax and said business would also benefit from the changes.
He also hit out at the State Government, and a challenge from Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg to "reinstate $103 million in federal health funding ripped from Queensland hospitals by his fellow Queensland Labor MP Wayne Swan".
"It's time for the (Queensland Government) to own responsibility for their slash and burn of the health system, with 14,000 people sacked statewide (across the public sector)," Mr Rudd said.
On the topic of the environment, Mr Rudd said the Federal Government was doing its best to get the balance right.
"We have taken many controversial decisions in support of the environment and many controversial decisions in support of industry ... It's a rolling challenge," he said.
ALP candidate for Flynn Chris Trevor said he wasn't disappointed that Mr Rudd had not made any new funding announcements.
"It's difficult economic times and money is scarce," he said.
"I believe Gladstone is the centre of the universe but we are competing with 149 other electorates."
Mr Trevor said he believed Mr Rudd would be back in Gladstone before the election, and after this visit he expected Tony Abbott to follow very quickly.
THE Prime Minister was in Gladstone for less than 24 hours, before the hectic leader jumped in his RAAF jet for Mackay on Wednesday afternoon.
But Kevin Rudd saw plenty of our town - and pressed more than a few local paws - in the process.
After a morning constitutional around Spinnaker Park and up to Auckland Point Lookout, Mr Rudd dropped in at The Observer office for an interview - and of course, some "selfies" with staff.
He then stopped for a coffee at Chattin Café, before crossing Goondoon St to meet with councillors at Gladstone Regional Council.
On the street, he was accosted by Zinc Radio announcer Rob Kidd, who was in full New South Wales Blues garb, ahead of the State of Origin decider tonight.
Sticking to the same theme, Mr Rudd then cut a Queenslander cake with the employees at the Endeavour Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation supporting people with disabilities.
With a full media scrum, he then travelled to Calliope Crossroads, an infrastructure upgrade funded by the Federal Government.
Speaking for more than 20 minutes, his press conference - and the crossroads backdrop - was beamed live around Australia on ABC News 24.
It was an unusual location for a Prime Minister - but Mr Rudd finished up in predictable fashion.
"Having said that folks, we've got to zip," he said, and he did.