Transcript – Interview with Denis Gist, 3RPP FM

Subjects: Electorate of Dunkley, small business, budget

Denis Gist: Hello Bruce, are you there?

Minister Billson: Denis how are you and your listeners today?

Denis Gist: Oh great, we are having a ball here today. We are doing handstands and all sorts of pirouettes and what have you. But it’s been good down here. It’s very bleak and dark down here in Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula at the moment.

Minister Billson: The Mamas and Papas would have lifted you. You know – the lyric in the song. So good selection Sir.

Denis Gist: Well thank you. Had Speedy Gonzalez on before too.

Minister Billson: Is that right?

Denis Gist: Yes. Bruce great of you to make the time to have a chat with us on air and I know you are busy up there in Parliament and it sort of keeps you hopping and jumping and doing the twist but we are pleased to have you back on 3RPP again. Last time I talked with you it was just before the election. I would like to say congratulations on keeping your seat.

Minister Billson: Thank you.

Denis Gist: Congratulations also on your appointment to Cabinet as the Minister for Small Business.

Minister Billson: Thank you. It’s an incredible honour to earn the support of our community for a seventh term which is a real thrill. You know the Dunkley community runs through my veins, so it’s a real honour and privilege to represent our community and to be afforded the honour and the opportunity to serve in cabinet is a real thrill. I spend every day advocating for my community and making sure those courageous men and women in small business that mortgage their houses and take risks creating half of the private sector jobs in our country, get the support and encouragement they richly deserve.

Denis Gist: It’s very important Bruce because you are a home grown lad of course, you went to the Pines and of course in primary you were at Seaford Secondary School.

Minister Billson: Belvedere Park Primary and then off to Monterey for secondary education.

Denis Gist: Yes that’s right. So I read the bio out to the folks just before the show and its great Bruce that you are home grown, you’re a local boy and you’ve been with us for a long long time working in Parliament and for the electorate of Dunkley which is fantastic. May I ask you, how are you enjoying performing both roles there in Parliament?

Minister Billson: Look it is a balancing act. Its tough work because there’s a high expectation to be available, involved and engaged in the local community. That’s what local representatives do and I really enjoy my job. Last weekend I was down at the Mornington Seagulls Soccer Club on the weekend as they prepared to raise money for the Kanga Cup, which is an under 12s soccer competition in Canberra where 200 teams will compete.

Recently, I attended an event to recognise our SES coordinator who after 36 years of service will be retiring. That local stuff is very enjoyable but the contest is for time Denis. You can imagine while that is happening and you are out and about and involved, working with and listening to the local community, the role within Cabinet demands a great deal of attention including lots of reading and lots of thinking about what is best for our country.

On top of that are my particular responsibilities for small business, taking me around the country as well. Just last week alone, in between a lot of local election work, I was in Western Sydney and up to Cairns working with the local small business communities there. So not a lot of time for rest, plenty to do and very important to stay on the right side of the family as well Denis, so it’s a bit of a juggling act but a real honour and a real privilege.

Denis Gist: Oh it is indeed and a lot of people don’t realise just how much you do. Some think it’s an easy job and it clearly isn’t. It’s a lot of work, a lot of hours, you are forever on the move and when those parliamentary meetings go to all hours of the morning Bruce.

Minister Billson: Look it is, but I mean I’m not one to complain about that. It’s understood that it’s the demands of the role. No one conscripts us to do it; it’s something I find incredibly fulfilling, rewarding and meaningful so I love it. It’s got a lot of demands on it but that comes with the territory. It’s a rare privilege to be able to represent one’s own community and our national parliament and I try and make best use of that opportunity, that privilege and that chance to make a difference every day.

Denis Gist: I agree with you Bruce, it’s a great honour and certainly a huge responsibility. Bruce you made some pre-election commitments of more than three million dollars as part of your Dunkley Plan. Have you started work to deliver on these commitments as yet?

Minister Billson: Yeah we are getting on with them. It’s pleasing that we are making such good progress. One of the things that were of interest prior to the election was the commitment to expand and enhance the oncology day treatment centre at Frankston Hospital. That cancer treatment facility is fantastic but was bursting at the seams and the investment of $650,000 to renovate and expand that really crucial health service facility for our region is well advanced.

We’ve had some good work with the local tourism and business communities, the chambers of commerce and the councils to get proper signage along Peninsular Link. You might recall Denis, one of the reasons I was so evangelical about the Frankston Bypass, as it was known then, or the Peninsula Link as we know it today, was its contribution to people coming to our area, knowing what we offer, seeing us as an important investment destination. Yet, I must say, when that project was completed the signage was far from spectacular.

You wouldn’t know the delicious offerings that our region has available by travelling down Peninsula Link so that’s one of the reasons for constructing it. So we’ve got a tourist directional and location signage project underway. The community of Baxter understandably are very aggrieved that this asset runs straight through their township yet you wouldn’t even know Baxter existed if you just looked at the signage so work is underway to help direct tourists to our major attractions that are important for visitors, important drivers and for local jobs.

We had a Minister down recently to announce our CCTV projects and community safety initiatives which will see work carried out in main street of Mornington including security lighting, improving the camera network, activating the CCTV system that has some funding in Mount Eliza, extending the network in Frankston, dealing with the Frankston North/Mahogany area with some technology to improve safety.

Also at Seaford, which is a great place to grab a bite to eat, the beautiful coastal natural bushland area occasionally gets a few undesirables around it and some antisocial behaviour so you will see CCTV technology deployed there and a greater focus on anti-graffiti work.

Consultation is underway for the Youth Centre project in Mornington. That site is not far away from where you are Denis, in fact down the end of the very building you are sitting in. We are looking to put in place the Mornington Youth Hub to service Mount Eliza, Mornington and Mount Martha just as the hub at Hastings and at Rosebud services other areas of the Peninsula.

We’ve also got some good capital works projects underway including a big redevelopment at Frankston Foreshore, an upgrade of the function centre for the Dolphins in Frankston and some other measures that probably need warmer weather. We are improving the Ballam Park Athletics Track and also the Men’s Shed and Community Hub in Langwarrin. So we are getting on with them.

Denis Gist: Dynamic Bruce.

Minister Billson: Well there is much to do and we’ve made some good gains in other areas including the Green Army team which is set to be deployed in Seaford to work and clean up Kananook Creek north of Beach Street. They will also do important weed eradication and maintenance work on some of those linear creek reserves that run through Mount Eliza and parts of Frankston and also at Langwarrin. That’s just some of what we are on about as well as implementing our commitments.

Denis Gist: That’s fantastic and they have always said Rome wasn’t built in a day but it seems you are going to try and do it.

Minister Billson: Well the thing is to get on with implementing those commitments. That was the local plan that many in our community said they wanted and we’ve worked hard to collaborate with organisations to develop that plan but in the meantime we are looking for other opportunities. The recent announcement of the roundabout on Mount Eliza Way where there has been quite a heavy accident history is a good one and I want to make sure our community gets more than our fair share of opportunities. That means being constantly alert to opportunities to get on with priority projects and services for our community.

I should add Denis, we did promise at the Frankston Centrelink building a dedicated Seniors Aged and Carers counter down stairs so there wasn’t the need to travel upstairs to get the services that are valued and importantly delivered by Centrelink. That’s up and going and has been fabulously successful along with collocating the Medicare services there. So we are getting on with it, there is much more to do and always alert to further opportunities for our community.

Denis Gist: It is fairly family orientated down here isn’t it Bruce? I mean, we have so many families and community aspects and of course with the summer holidays, we are going to have some of those installations and facilities there.

Minister Billson: It’s important and we are also looking for those extra opportunities in the budget. You and I have talked before about how mature aged people often find it hard getting back into the workforce, that’s a project that I have worked on for a number of years in our community. Well there are some financial incentives there, $10,000 over two years for local businesses to employ a mature aged employee that’s been out of work for a while to open up those job opportunities.

There are also changes in the area of higher education. Denis you might not be aware but our post-secondary education participation rates aren’t that good at all. They are about the same level as Gippsland yet we are on the fringe of the metropolitan area. We have Monash Peninsula Campus, we’ve got outstanding opportunities through Chisholm as a Tafe complex that I think can be a good foundation for a broader range of post-secondary education opportunities, not just for school leavers but for mature aged people looking to update their skills, capacity and opportunities for the future. That’s an important area that we will keep working on as well that has been opened up by some of the broader measures that have been in the budget.

Denis Gist: There’s a lot there to benefit the people of Dunkley in that budget Bruce isn’t there? From what you are saying it is action packed.

Minister Billson: Yeah there are plenty of opportunities. We’ve got to work through them to see what we can do to make the best of those new programs. The Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Fund is important for our new and growing businesses to commercialise their ideas. Even in the area of exports Denis, I’m sure many of your listeners know we’ve got some outstanding local exporters that are taking their talents to the world and we are trying to make sure the support is there to achieve new market access and to grow their businesses. That’s important whilst we get the budget right so that important social security and safety net measures are secure and are not vulnerable into the future because of a concern about our ability to pay for them. So there is a strategic agenda there which we are implementing including local programs that are about opportunities, employment prospects and strengthening our economy and also very particular local projects that respond to local needs.

Denis Gist: Bruce you’ve recently celebrated 18 years in politics and that really is fantastic. What else can we expect to see from Bruce Billson this year?

Minister Billson: Well a lot of him – I’m not missing an opportunity. As you know my campaign slogan is positive, passionate and persistent so you know I am eternally optimistic and very upbeat about the prospects for our community and very prepared to do the work to make sure we can realise that potential and let more people know there is no better place to live than on the greater Frankston/Mornington Peninsula area.

Denis Gist: It’s fantastic. You’re representing us very well Bruce and it’s proven by the 18 years of service to the community. You keep on keeping on as the saying goes. I would love to have you back here live in the studio one day soon.

Minister Billson: Happy to do that Denis and thank you for what you are doing on 3RPP and best wishes to you and your listeners.

Denis Gist: Thanks Bruce and all the best to you in Parliament and we look forward to talking soon. Thank you for the interview today.

Minister Billson: Thank you sir.