FRIDAY, 15 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Scone Level Railway Crossing
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY; SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: I’m very pleased to be at the Scone Level Railway Overpass with the Labor Candidate for New England David Ewings. David is prepared to do something neither Barnaby Joyce nor Tony Windsor have been prepared to do and that is to absolutely commit a Labor Government to the commencement of construction of the Scone Level Railway Overpass.
It is more than three years now since I came here to announce that Labor had allocated $45million in the 2012/13 Budget to construct this Overpass.
Now here we are mid-2016 and not a sod of soil has been turned. Now there is a debate about a bypass and Labor is prepared to have that discussion. We are prepared to talk about how we might fund the bypass. But while the community decides whether it wants a bypass we need to get on with the construction here, this is a serious safety issue.
A bypass of the town will not overcome that safety issue. If the money is not there now then Barnaby Joyce should declare that to be the case. But moving on with the assumption that the money is still there - the money the Labor Government allocated - there is no reason why the commencement of this construction could not start some time very soon.
On the subject of Barnaby Joyce can I say that it is exactly 28 days yesterday since the Office of the Information Commissioner ordered Barnaby Joyce to release the letter to him from Dr Paul Grimes, the very senior and respected and professional public servant who was sacked over Hansardgate or in other words Barnaby Joyce’s significant changes to his Hansard. Barnaby Joyce needs to explain whether he has lodged an appeal against the Information Commissioner’s orders and if not why he hasn’t released the letter today. It seems he remains unprepared to release the letter and if that’s the case, the community is left with only one conclusion to draw. That is that Barnaby Joyce, the Acting Prime Minister, has something significant to hide.
JOURNALIST: What do you think he’s hiding?
FITZGIBBON: I suspect that the letter between Paul Grimes and Barnaby Joyce - which of course was written at the height of the tension between Paul Grimes and Barnaby Joyce over Hansardgate - is at the very least a character assessment of our Acting Prime Minister, one from a very professional and senior public servant. And quite possibly it's the smoking gun that demonstrates that Barnaby Joyce mislead Parliament when he said that the Hansard changes were made by his staff without his knowledge.
Now, if Barnaby Joyce has misled the House he is potentially guilty of contempt of the Parliament and of course, contempt of the Parliament is a cardinal crime in the political sense and in the parliamentary sense and Barnaby Joyce, our Acting Prime Minister, would face potentially serious ramifications if he is found to have intentionally misled the House.
JOURNALIST: The bypass overpass, you said that if the people wanted a bypass then you would be willing to look at that. Wasn’t that community consultation done by the RMS where they said they wanted both the bypass and the overpass?
FITZGIBBON: From my perspective, the RMS has only one job to do, consult the community about what sort of overpass we should have and then to get on with designing it and building it. Instead, they went off on a frolic of their own, I don’t know under whose instructions, and decided to consult the community about a dichotomy between the bypass and an overpass. It is clear that the community remains divided over the need for a bypass. Now if the community wants a bypass, if that’s the conclusion we come to in the end, then they should receive a bypass, but in the meantime there is no excuse for not simply getting on with the construction of the overpass.
JOURNALIST: What is a realistic timeframe do you think?
FITZGIBBON: Well if Labor was still in Government, if we hadn’t lost the last election, people would probably be driving over that overpass now. This is the great tragedy of all this. $45million sitting in a budget for almost three years unused, I’ve never seen such a ridiculous situation.
JOURNALIST: One of the arguments from the community at the time was that the overpass was going to have to be so large because of the mining traffic that comes through. The specifications that it would have to be built for, would mean that you would essentially lose Elizabeth Park because of the width of what they would have to do to engineer it, which is where the idea of the bypass came from, to take all of those large heavy vehicles and then have a smaller in-town rail over pass that wouldn’t impact Elizabeth Park. If you were to go ahead and build that overpass now, we would lose Elizabeth Park.
FITZGIBBON: I see this as a part of the conspiracy. The State Government was forced to say it would match the funding. I’ve never seen any evidence that that money has been put in the State Budget but that is what they declared. Now they, it seems, have done everything in their power to make sure this never happens, including these Taj Mahal versions of an overpass. I say the Commonwealth money is there, please just give the community an overpass that has minimal impact on the park and the community more broadly. Thanks everyone.
THE HON JOEL FITZGIBBON
SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY
SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS
SPOKESPERSON FOR COUNTRY CAUCUS
MEMBER FOR HUNTER
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR NEW ENGLAND