TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop with The Hon Keith Pitt MP Federal Member for Hinkler Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Hervey Bay, Queensland
Firstly, it’s great to welcome the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack back to the electorate of Hinkler right here in Hervey Bay. Of course, with us is Councillor Denis Chapman and Mayor-elect George Seymour.
Today I’m showing the Deputy Prime Minister the potential extension for Urraween Road. This is something we’ve been fighting for some time. It’s been raised by council. It’s ready, it’s designed, we know how much it would cost. But there is nothing better than actually laying eyes on a project no matter where it is right around this country.
So as a Government we are continuing to deliver not only for the economy, but for jobs. We’re absolutely building local businesses. Right now this is about infrastructure, I’m part of the infrastructure portfolio. I’m here with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack.
Thank you very much Keith.
It’s fantastic to be here too in my first visit to Hervey Bay as the Deputy Prime Minister, but perhaps more importantly in the context of today’s proceedings, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.
Very much looking forwards to looking at the plans, looking at the intentions and talking with local officials about it.
In the Budget last week, we saw just how important roads and linkages are to the Federal Government. The Liberals and Nationals Federal Government certainly has a plan, a blueprint, for economic success, and part of that is better roads and better rail facilities: $75 billion worth of record spending on infrastructure including $24.5 billion of new money last week’s Budget.
I very much look forward to working with Keith, my Assistant Minister, who’s doing a fantastic job helping me get around the countryside, look at those important projects, look at those important proposals with local officials and making sure we deliver the infrastructure that local people, residents need, want, expect and demand to get them home sooner and safer.
But we also want to make sure we connect regions to ports, ports to markets, making sure that we get all of that right so that we can get that productivity to port, increase competition for Australian demand, Australian farmers, Australian businesses. And that’s what the Budget was all about.
As Keith has just said, it was about making sure that we have jobs for now, jobs for the future. It was all about making sure that there’s a bit of tax relief for Australians – ordinary, everyday, hard-working Australians, families, small businesses.
The fact that we’re growing and increasing jobs, that relies on small businesses having the confidence and success in themselves, making sure that they grow on what they need to do. It’s not Government that creates jobs, it’s the small businesses and medium enterprises. Making sure that they invest in themselves, making sure that they back themselves.
Keith and I have both been small business owners, where we backed ourselves, we’ve taken a risk and we take our hats off to those people who are doing just that. They’re the backbone of the economy. We want to, as Liberals and Nationals, back them all the way. That’s why the Budget was so good for them.
It’s great to be in Hervey Bay. It’s a fantastic area, and Keith Pitt is certainly working hard for residents of here and the wider region in the Hinkler electorate each and every day. He does a fantastic job supporting me in the infrastructure and transport portfolio, and I know that together we are making sure that regional Australia has that voice it needs in Canberra and has the infrastructure we’re rolling out right around the nation to boost productivity, to boost jobs, and boost prosperity.
As Keith said, the planning for this has been done. It is basically ready to go, it’s just waiting for funding. What are you hoping to do after today? Will you announce funding?
Well, I’m certainly looking forward to having a look and a talk at the local Council, local officials.
Let me tell you, if there’s a road project or infrastructure project that needs funding in Hinkler, I know Keith’s going to be lobbying hard for it. I know that we will work together to see how we can get that funding.
Really importantly in the Budget last week there was $3.5 billion dollars – billion dollars – set aside for Roads of Strategic Importance. There were other road projects as well; certainly Blackspot and Roads to Recovery funding has always been important to the Liberal and Nationals Commonwealth Government. We will be looking at what we can do as far as this road. We’ll be talking of ways and discussing how this can boost the productivity and indeed getting residents home sooner and safer.
Jackie Trad said last week Queensland just got the crumbs when it comes to infrastructure, in the Federal Budget. Also the Bundaberg Mayor had some dismay what funding went directly to infrastructure in our region. We have such a high unemployment rate here. Is infrastructure the key to boosting that in the Wide Bay?
Well, the regional jobs and investment program benefits will be rolled out not only in the next 12 months, but indeed in years to come. I know that Keith Pitt worked hard to get that funding.
I know the Roads to Recovery funding that local Councils receive and use for local roads – and also the Roads of Strategic Importance – again, I say $3.5 billion – local Councils can have a share of that.
I’m also delighted that the Building Better Regions Fund, another round of that was announced in the Federal Budget of $200 million dollars. It’s going to go to projects that are really important to regional areas. Not only that, the Stronger Communities Programme where the Federal Government partners up with local Councils and organisations projects up to $20,000, they’re really important to creating jobs.
I know Keith gets in there fighting for them, as I am.
What other projects are you and Keith talking about locally?
Well, all sorts of projects. Whether that’s local roads or other local infrastructure, I’m also looking forwards to talking to some local businesspeople tonight about what we can do as a Federal Government to help.
It’s not so much a talking tour, it’s also a listening tour. The Federal Government is always willing and able to lend a hand as far as infrastructure spending and funding is concerned, but it’s also important that we listen to the needs and wants and demands and expectations of local areas.
That’s why Keith’s in there fighting hard each and every day for local people and I’m delighted to be in Hervey Bay today to meet with as may locals as I can to do just that.
How much will this project cost if you were to fund it?
I think it’s a project up to about $20 million, but again I’m looking forward to talking with local Council officials and seeing what exactly the project entails. Making sure that we get the proper analysis done; obviously there’s also engineering details to be sorted out, but I believe the project is up to $20 million.
Driving around the Fraser Coast I suppose small businesses are some of the people that have been hit hardest. Projects like this road, just in simple terms, how would that help them? People watching this tonight, how is it going to help those small businesses?
It helps people home sooner and safer as people driving on the road.
But not only that, it also enables small businesses – no matter what they are – to get their workers to and from work sooner and safer. It enables them to, if they’re ferrying small goods or whatever they might be doing, linking services, whether they’re in the job of providing goods or in the job of providing services, if they can get to their destination sooner and safer.
That’s got to be an advantage to them because time spent in a car is time not doing what you need to do in a business – whether they’re an accountancy firm, a butchers. No matter what they are, the fact that they can use these new linkages to get to where they need to get sooner and safer for themselves and their workers, that’s a good thing.
How will you decide whether this will receive funding?
Well, again, I’ll be discussing those with Keith Pitt. He’s a fantastic Assistant Minister. We’re both in the infrastructure and transport portfolio, so we’re here talking to local officials, seeing what we can do, how we can do and when we can do it, and that will be decided very soon.
Was your party Whip Michelle Landy, right, when she expressed disgust at the weekend at the dumping of a woman Minister in Brisbane to be replaced by a man?
Jane Prentice has been an outstanding Member of Parliament since 2010 for the seat of Ryan. Jane Prentice has been a very valued colleague of mine, and she will continue to be. She’s done a marvellous job in disability support.
Fact is she’s will be replaced after the next election by Julian Simmonds, who’s put his hand up and the grassroots members of his branch and of their branch have decided he’s the one to take Ryan forward. I respect grassroots members’ decisions.
The fact is, unlike Labor, we don’t tell people what they can do and who they can have as their local representative. That’s up to the local branches. We are very democratic in that way, and whilst I appreciate that Jane has done a fantastic job and whilst I commiserate with her for losing the pre-selection, the fact is that was the decision made by the grassroots members and we have to abide by that.
The Nationals have 21 MPs and Senators. Two of them are women. Are you happy with that balance and if not, what are you actively doing to turn it around?
Well, there are pathways for women to become active members of their branches, to put their hand up for pre-selection. I was delighted that in my own seat in the Riverina in south-west New South Wales we recently had a State by-election and the five candidates for pre-selection were all women.
Steph Cooke, the one who was ultimately successful, is doing a fantastic job as the Member now. Now, I know that’s a long way south of where we are in Hervey Bay right here and now, but the fact is there is a very strong women’s network within the National Party and the LNP more broadly.
The fact is there is pathways there for women to put their hand up and to run for Parliament. I’m delighted that my Deputy, Senator Bridget McKenzie from Victoria, is doing an absolutely outstanding in the Regional Communications, Rural Health, and Sport, in those portfolios. Michelle Landry, too, is doing an outstanding job.
And of course I would encourage more women to put their hand up and hopefully get pre-selected and then elected.
The Prime Minister’s popularity has leapt up in the latest Newspoll. Do you read that as a public response to the Budget?
Well look, I don’t take too much countenance in polls. There’s only one poll that matters and that’s the poll on election day. And certainly, Keith and I both acknowledge that and recognise that.
Look, of course it’s good that there’s been a bit of a rise for Malcolm Turnbull. I tell you what, when you look at the alternative, it’s chalk and cheese.
Malcolm Turnbull is standing there for jobs, for growth, for prosperity, for small business, for tax relief for hardworking families. Bill Shorten stands there for the unions, for the green movement, inner city areas like Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney. They’re the people he’s looking after, the people who aren’t going to create jobs and wealth.
He’s going to be led by the nose by the unions. He doesn’t stand for jobs, he doesn’t stand for lower energy costs, and he certainly doesn’t understand regional Australia and certainly infrastructure.
Thank you. Keith, can we just get you for a few questions on this project now as well? What is the need in Hinkler for a project as big as this?
Well look, I’ve had a number of discussions, of course, with the CEO locally, Denis Chapman and with mayor-elect George Seymour, but this is about a strategic link, another parallel road that will get you through the city of Hervey Bay from one end to the other.
And we’ve obviously got the Esplanade, we have Main Street, we’ve got the bypass all the way around the back out to the airport. But this is a very strategic road. We’ve been fighting for this for some time.
I’m pleased that we’ve got Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack on the ground. There is nothing better than actually looking at a project with your own eyeballs. It gives you an appreciation of just how important it is, and we’ll continue to fight for that funding.
What are you hoping comes out of today, bringing the Deputy PM here and showing him the project?
Well look, as the Deputy Prime Minister has said, the Roads of Strategic Importance is worth $3.5 billion. It was announced in the Budget last week. This is clearly a strategic road and we’ll be looking to get an application put forward, but that does need all levels of Government to be on board. This is clearly not a national highway. We will need contributions from the local Government, from the State Government and hopefully from the Federal Government.
But on one other matter, while I’ve got the opportunity. I note what Jackie Trad said, but the reality is that last Tuesday night’s Budget had $20 billion worth of infrastructure spending in Queensland over the forwards, including over $5 billion of new money. Now, that is not something to be sneezed at.
This funding hasn’t been announced just yet though. Do you hope that we do get a slice of that pie in the funding for infrastructure?
Well, we don’t make decisions on the back of a drinks coaster, right? The reality is that we do need to look at these from the national interest viewpoint, from a strategic viewpoint, put forward funding buckets like the Roads of Strategic Importance. People apply, we make a considered approach and a decision.
Keith, just on the Budget, are you happy? Do you think with small business struggling – do you think it actively addresses those issues?
Well, we’ve already reduced the tax rate for small business. We are hoping to do the same thing for large business, because small business works for big business. That is the reality of what small business does. As someone who had a small business for over 10 years, I know who my clients used to be. I need them to have a strong bottom line.
And we’ve also provided tax relief for over 49,000 individuals in the Hinkler electorate that should be around $500 to $530 a year at the end of the 2019 year. That is a significant investment in the local economy, because they will spend it on the costs of living.
George, did you want to talk about a few details about the project? What is council hoping to see here if funding is allocated?
First of all, I want to thank Keith Pitt for bringing the Deputy Prime Minister to Hervey Bay today to see this site. This is a very important strategic site for the Fraser Coast Regional Council in terms of the growing city of Hervey Bay. I think Hervey Bay is significant on a national level. We have grown extraordinarily over the last 30, 40 years, and yet we have not had a new east-west road.
This is an east-west road which will ensure that there’s proper movement across the city, and it connects places like schools, hospitals, the TAFE site, with Hervey Bay. So this is, for the Fraser Coast Regional Council, this is our most significant road project at the moment. We’ve committed $7 million towards it and we’re looking for funding from the State and Federal Governments as well. We want to work really closely with the Federal Government, so it’s great to see the Deputy Prime Minister on the site here in Hervey Bay today.
You’ve committed the 7 million. Do you know how much more is needed to help complete it?
We think it’ll be about $17 million or $18 million, the whole amount. We’ve committed that money in our Budget over the next few years. We started to do the design work, but it’s a very significant project. It’ll take pressure off the State roads, Boat Harbour Drive, so we think it’s a very significant road and we’re looking for the Federal and State Governments to partner with us.
Is there any other key infrastructure projects that you guys are looking for following the Federal Budget and the looming State Budget?
We have a lot of projects that we want to look forward to in terms of tourism development, education, how to encourage the university to grow here in Hervey Bay and right across the Fraser Coast.
So we’re looking forward to working really closely with the different levels of Government. It’s not something that the council has done so well over the previous couple of years, but it’s something we want to recommit ourselves to, to working well with Keith and with our State and other Federal representatives to ensure that the Fraser Coast is meeting its growing issues.
Having the Deputy PM here less than a week after the Budget was announced, does that make you feel a little bit positive that we may receive some funding for these sort of projects?
We want to work really, really closely with the State and Federal Governments, and that’s why I’m really pleased to welcome the Deputy Prime Minister here to Fraser Coast. I think it’s a very good sign, and the Council is committed to working really closely with our colleagues in the Federal and State Governments.
This project has been needed for many, many years. The Hervey Bay City Council acquired the land. My colleague Denis Chapman has been advocating for years for this, and certainly since he was elected to Council. We’ve put money aside in our budget going forward. We know it’s needed. The community knows it’s needed, and it’s just so pleasing to have the Deputy Prime Minister here looking at the site so we can speak to him about the needs for the future.
This is Denis’ project. Denis doesn’t shut up about it.
Thank you. I’d just like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack for coming here today to look at this project.
This is a 26-year plan. It was 26 years ago this was put on the books, and it needs to be done. What happens with this project here, we’ve got a hospital just down behind us here. If someone down in Urangan needs to get to the hospital, they can come straight onto this road. It’ll take the load off coming up through the roundabouts.
Keith Pitt, I spoke to Keith about this project, and the first thing Keith wanted to do was come out and have a look at it, and I’d like to thank Keith for his representation towards us and helping this community.
This Council’s committed $7 million towards this project, and we’d like to do a joint venture with the State and Federal Governments to get this road to be put in and let’s utilise it. Because like we say, this is a city that’s grown, and so let’s grow with it.
It is a huge project – if the funding was allocated, do you know what the timeframe would be? How long it would take to complete?
Look, it could be started next year. We’ve actually got money in the budget, so it could be started within six to eight months. There’s no commitment yet. We’ve still got to approve our budget. We’ve still got to find funding from State and Federal governments, but I’m hopeful we’ll get something moving.
Timeframe wise – how long would it be before people could drive on it?
Well, that’s a hard question! Look, I’m a person that likes to plan, and this has been a project that’s been going on for at least two years now to implement it and to get the engineering process underway.
So we’re virtually just about on top of the engineering now, where we’ve found there’s significant drainage on this project. We’ve sorted all that out. Now we’re after the funding. Once we secure the funding, then the project goes out to tender and the road will be there for the community to use.
And again, I’d like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister for being here today to take in the opportunity to come down to have a look at the road for the people of the Fraser Coast.
Dom Hopkinson, 0409 421 209