SUBJECTS: Labor’s commitment to the Singleton Bypass, Hunter’s road infrastructure.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Thanks for coming along everyone. It’s a really good day for the Upper Hunter, and it is great to get the Labor family together. I am very pleased to be joined by Melanie Dagg, Labor’s candidate for Upper Hunter in the NSW election; Clayton Barr, the Member for Cessnock, but also a senior member and front bencher with Michael Daley’s team; Peter Primrose, also a senior member of Michael Daley’s team in Sydney; and I am very pleased that Sue Moore the Mayor of Singleton has also been able to join us. Some years ago now a Federal Labor Government, and a State Labor government, got together to finally after years of inaction fund the Hunter Expressway. The Labor Government put in some $1.45 billion and the NSW Government back then put in about $250 million to complete the project. Today we are putting the partnership back together again, and we are announcing more than half a billion dollars to ensure that both the Muswellbrook bypass and the Singleton bypass are built as quickly as possible. Now, these are important commitments. We have waited too long for both of these projects in the same way as we waited for the Hunter Expressway under a Coalition government. In my time in the parliament we got four big New England highway projects to tackle. The Belford Bends deviation, some of you are too young to remember that fight, but it was promised and contracts were signed by a Federal Labor government only to see those contracts torn up by John Howard’s government. We fought with the community to secure that project; we funded it and build that project. The Scone bypass was first funded by a Federal Labor government in the 2012 budget and, as you know, that bypass is currently under construction. Today, after eight years of waiting for the Coalition NSW government to move, we are making a full funding commitment – or my colleagues are making a full funding commitment to the Muswellbrook bypass – and I am here to say we are sick of waiting for the NSW government to move. And a Labor NSW government will accelerate the process to get the Singleton bypass to that shovel-ready status so that the bulldozers can move in, and a Federal Labor government, if elected, will contribute $250 million to get on with the construction of the project. I thank my colleagues from Sydney, the NSW team for their support, and I think Mel Dagg would like to say a few words.
MELANIE DAGG – LABOR CANDIDATE FOR UPPER HUNTER: Thank you Joel, a Labor State and Federal government delivered the Hunter Expressway, as Joel said, but only a Labor Federal and State government will be able to deliver the Muswellbrook and Singleton bypass. These are both worthy projects; I am driving to and through Singleton all the time and I know that these projects are desperately needed and that is what people are telling me here on the ground as well. So this is all about Labor at a State and Federal government working together, something the other guys can’t do.
FITZGIBBON: And Sue Moore the Mayor here, like all her predecessors, has been an energetic and active campaigner for the bypass. Sue would you like to make a comment?
SUE MOORE – MAYOR OF SINGLETON: Partnerships are hugely important no matter what projects we are on. I know there are projects across Federal and State governments; I also understand there is a process for the bypass to happen and it is occurring. I am really pleased the Federal Labor has come on board with their share of the commitment or passed their share of the commitment prior to being asked by the state government in the normal process – that would be how that would occur. That is really great that has come on board.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks Sue.
SUE MOORE – MAYOR OF SINGLETON: Thank you Joel, and I understand your commitment carries forward regardless what power ends up being in power for the state government.
FITZGIBBON: Our $250 million commitment can, of course, be delivered if a Shorten Labor government is elected. But if we are not elected, as the local member and I will continue to fight and put pressure on a re-elected Morrison government to fund the project. Indeed I hope that my announcement today will put pressure on the Morrison government to make a commitment before the 2019 Federal election. I might just ask Clayton Barr make a comment from the State perspective.
CLAYTON BARR – MEMBER FOR CESSNOCK: Thanks Joel, and of course the project that we are announcing today, and funding for today, is reminding people in regional communities that our priorities are for regional communities. We are putting people first and the government at the moment have the wrong priorities with Sydney stadiums, Sydney major transport infrastructure projects, and it is all about just adding to the congestion in the CBD. What we actually want to do is fund regional NSW and help regional NSW grow and live. That’s our commitment there and they are our priorities and we are putting our money where our mouth is today.
FITZGIBBON: Anybody got any questions?
JOURNALIST: I might try one specifically at Sue: Sue you’re obviously on the ground, day in day out, hearing from locals around here how important are both the Singleton and Muswellbrook bypasses to locals and people heading up New England to the Upper Hunter communities.
MOORE: The bypass is number one on our advocacy list, we’ve got 20 points in our advocacy plan and the bypass is number one. As Melanie said, we continually hear most from our community, whether it’s people that are travelling through town or locals in town that are just congested by traffic movements, getting in around town in our day to day lives those super crunch points in the morning and in the afternoon.
JOURNALIST: How long have you been fighting for this? Let’s reaffirm how long you have been fighting for.
MOORE: Well more than a decade, probably closer to two decades that’s been talked about.
JOURNALIST: At the state level, what is State Labor looking at committing to the project?
DAGG: We are committing today $100 million towards the planning process. Obviously we don’t know the full scope of the project so that’s what this all about. We are committed to delivering the project otherwise we wouldn’t be putting forward a $100 million, that significant amount of money. So this will ensure that it is shovel ready and then we will be able to start bringing in those bulldozers and then call on our friends at the Federal level.
JOURNALIST: What do you say to Michael Johnsen’s comments that all you are announcing is a shortfall of funding?
FITZGIBBON: Well that’s just completely wrong. Which project is he talking about?
JOURNALIST: This project.
FITZGIBBON: The Singleton Project? Michael Johnsen hunts with a Liberal party in Canberra which is now been in power for six years and has done nothing to progress the Singleton bypass, nor has his friends in Sydney. So how these things usually work is the State government funds the project to be in the shovel-ready stage and then invites the Commonwealth to make a contribution. The Commonwealth hasn’t been invited to make a contribution because the NSW government under Gladys Berejiklian and Barilaro have not got it shovel ready status after eight years in power. So what we are doing from a Commonwealth perspective is two things: we are not waiting for the NSW government anymore, we are putting $250 million on the table now which we will hope will force them to follow what my colleagues are committing today and that is to finish the planning process and to stump up construction money themselves. Michael Johnsen is committing zero to the Singleton Bypass.
JOURNALIST: Do we need dual Labor to be elected at Federal and State government to get it through?
FITZGIBBON: Well, the best way to get both the Muswellbrook and Singleton bypasses done is to elect a Daley Labor Government in NSW and a Shorten Labor Government in Canberra. That gives me my best chance and gives Mel Dagg her best chance to deliver both of these projects.
BARR: Sorry, can I just add to that? Four weeks ago, the Leader of the National Party in NSW, John Barilaro, was up here and he told the community that these projects were not on the agenda for the local member Michael Johnsen. Now he has been the member for four years, and prior to that we had George Souris as a National Party member. Eight long years these guys have been in government and this hasn’t been on their agenda; and that was confirmed by the Deputy Premier, Leader of the National Party, just four weeks ago, so for Michael Johnsen to say anything about this project is abysmal.
FITZGIBBON: The fact is the local community doesn’t want to see politicians arguing about who is funding the project or how they might be funded. I just say let’s get on with it. We’ve waited six years under a Coalition Government in Canberra and eight years under a Coalition Government in Sydney. Michael Johnsen says it is not on his agenda but let’s get it on his agenda. Let’s make sure whatever happens at these elections, these projects are funded.
JOURNALIST: So would that be confirming that Singleton and Muswellbrook are both part of your plans? What sort of time frame are you looking at?
FITZGIBBON: What we are announcing today is more than a half a billion dollars to fund these projects. That stands in stark contrast to Michael Johnsen’s comments that these aren’t even on his agenda. So we are talking about a partnership today. A Daley Labor Government in Sydney and a Shorten Labor Government in Canberra accelerating these projects and getting them built as quickly as is possible.
JOURNALIST: Mel, do you want to comment on the time line?
JOURNALIST: Would you stick to the preferred route, which is through the Woodingham Flood Plain?
FITZGIBBON: The time line for all the politicians is in the hands of the RMS in NSW. A very powerful body, if you haven’t noticed. What we are saying is, here’s the money. We are ready to go. We want to spend it, we want to spend it as quickly as possible. We can only spend it as quickly as the RMS can spend the money, that’s the thing. On the bypass route, the latest public consultations on the bypass route in Singleton presents a sound option but we leave those finer details to the experts: for the RMS to design the project, it is for the politicians to fund it, and we stand here ready today, the Labor team, ready to fund both those projects. Thanks everyone.