Deputy Prime Minister - Transcript - Doorstop - Evans Head NSW - 24 March 2019

With:
Mr Kevin Hogan, Member for Page

E&OE

Subjects: Pacific Highway upgrade; NSW election.

KEVIN HOGAN:

This is a very exciting afternoon for Evans Head and indeed for the whole Lower Richmond because the $5 billion, in effect, we round it up a little bit, the $5 billion upgrade of the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway is saving lives. Fatalities are already down in the dual duplicated section. The jobs created while it’s being built – there are 3,500 direct jobs on this project behind me over the next 18 months still to go. Of course when it’s finished there is going to be extra economic activity; tourism for our region will expand because of this wonderful piece of infrastructure behind me.

It’s great to have you here, Michael, Deputy Prime Minister. We are doing an infrastructure road show tonight in Ballina where we are showcasing a lot of what is happening up and down the coast.

(Interruption, car horn)

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

They’re very excited about it.

KEVIN HOGAN:

While Michael was here this afternoon I did want him to show the new bit that is going to open – has opened this week but will be fully opened next week – the Evans Head overpass. This will be the overpass for people from Evans Head coming to and fro; it will go over the new Pacific Highway: Again, a great thing for the Lower Richmond.

QUESTION:

Are you doing a community walkover?

KEVIN HOGAN:

Of the overpass? No, I don’t think so. But what we could do, and I’ll say this now: We are going to try and do one on Harwood, and I don’t see why we can’t do one on the Richmond River, the one at Broadwater, because that would be really exciting too.

It’s good to see you here, Michael.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

It is good to be here Kevin. It’s fantastic to see these sorts of projects coming to fruition. It’s great to see the traffic passing over the Evans Head bridge, the Evans Head bypass making such a difference.

The Pacific Highway of course is going to reduce commuter times from Hexham to the Queensland border by more than two hours. That’s going to save lives. This is one of 25 bridges between Woolgoolga and Ballina – which is going to increase supply chain efficiencies, productivity and save lives. We’ve walked over the bridge today with Rachel Smith from the Lap Group. She has shown us just how good a bridge it is, just how good a structure it is.

I know these sorts of projects don’t happen without good local Members such as Kevin Hogan getting in there and fighting hard, making sure that we deliver as part of the record $75 billion infrastructure rollout right across the nation.

QUESTION:

What’s your assessment of what happened last night in the State election? Two Nationals seats went to Shooters Fishers and Farmers and there are still two in doubt, Dubbo and here in Lismore.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

The results are still being counted, and in some of those seats there’s still a fair percentage of votes to be counted. Postal votes, indeed a lot of pre-poll votes have yet to be counted. In some of those seats I know that more than a third of people took advantage of the extensive pre-polling period and so those votes are yet to come in. Yes, for Murray and for Barwon they are going to be tight. We had two outstanding candidates in those seats: Austin Evans, who was the sitting Member but only after a by-election, and of course we had Andrew Schier in Barwon. The fact is, we need to look at that; we need to assess what ramifications that might have Federally, but you have to also remember that this was a State election. This was the State election, fought on State issues, a contest of ideas between State Members. I think people can discern the difference between State and Federal politics.

There were still some lingering issues such as mergers of local government areas; even on polling day there was still some backlash over greyhounds and those sorts of issues. They are very much State issues. But as the Federal Leader of the National Party, I will take stock of the results; I’ll take stock of where it landed; but I’m glad I’m right here in Clarence where the sitting Member Chris Gulaptis, a two term Member, has increased his margin, increased his majority, by five per cent. And right up and down the Coast, there have been some solid showings by National Party Members who had swings to them.

A week ago there were many in the media, many in the commentariat, who were quite prepared to say that this was going to be a complete wipeout for the Coalition, that Labor was going to get back in, Michael Daley would be the Premier and anybody who entertained any thoughts other than that were quite frankly off with the fairies. Well, the opposite has proven correct.

The Liberal Nationals Government will be back in and we can continue to deliver for regional NSW as John Barilaro and his strong Nationals team has done: $4.2 billion from the sale of Snowy Hydro quarantined for the regions – not Newcastle, not Sydney and not Wollongong. The delivery of better health services: 48 new MPSs and hospitals throughout the rural and regional, country and coastal areas of NSW – that has been delivered too, thanks to The Nationals in Government.

QUESTION:

How worried are you about the Nationals results in the State election being replicated Federally?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

When you go to an election of course you are always concerned, no matter whether you are in a seat with a big margin or whether you’re in a knife-edge seat: You always try to do your best. That’s why National Party people get out on the ground. We talk to people. Moreover we listen to people to make sure that we are answering their needs. That’s why I’m here delivering today, in conjunction with Kevin Hogan my fantastic Federal colleague: more road structures, better bridges, making sure that the Pacific Highway is being delivered. They are the sorts of things that good National Party Members do. That’s the sort of thing we’re talking about today. That’s the sort of thing we will go on talking about until the May Federal election and then of course beyond; hopefully we will still be in Government so we can continue to help small business create jobs, continue to help local government areas put in that Roads to Recovery funding; continue to roll out the sorts of infrastructure that rural people want, expect, need and most importantly deserve.

QUESTION:

Yes it wasn’t a wipeout but in some seats there were double digit swings, you know over 20% out in Barwon. There is clearly, on the ground, voters do not trust Nationals to deliver what they want.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

People do trust National Party people to deliver.

QUESTION:

Well in a lot of seats that have been very safe Nationals seats for a very long time and in NSW it has just diminished, Orange and Wagga were gone even before this election, so The Nationals aren’t fully on the nose. Is that going to have implications Federally? Do you have a problem in The Nationals?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

When Paul Toole won the seat of Bathurst some years ago, there was something like a 40% swing to him. I didn’t hear the media then crying out: oh, Labor’s doomed; Labor’s gone. The doomsayers weren’t out writing Labor off. Yes it’s a wake-up call for the NSW Nationals. The fact is also you have to look at the particular issues in those seats, water being one of them, and of course the Menindee Lakes. But the fact is, with the Menindee Lakes situation, it just hasn’t rained in the catchment areas for seven years and whenever there is a prolonged dry period, farmers get agitated, rural communities get agitated. Politicians can’t fix that; political parties can’t fix that – the weather will turn, the rain will come and the Darling River will fill again. The fact is it has been dry in the Darling River many many times in the past. There have been hundreds of fish kills since 1980, perhaps not on the scale of this but also they haven’t actually videoed them and put them up on Facebook and social media and they haven’t gone viral. So there is a big difference in that.

I know they are still counting the postal votes, the pre-poll votes and many of the other votes cast at the ballot boxes yesterday for the seat of Barwon, and it may take some weeks before a final result is known – and it could well end up being retained by the National Party, by Andrew Schier following on from Kevin Humphries who did an outstanding job for and on behalf of the National Party; moreover for and on behalf of the people of Barwon.

QUESTION:

Yes there are State issues here and there are swings because of those in particular seats, not every seat, but Federally you’ve also got a Barnaby Joyce problem in The Nats, so you would have to be concerned obviously heading towards a Federal election.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I do think that we need Federally to focus on the things that matter to people. People don’t like when we navel-gaze; they don’t like when we talk about ourselves; they don’t like when we’re talking about personalities and what’s called inside the Canberra Parliamentary bubble. They want us to be focused on the issues that matter to them. The issues that matter to them are jobs, about their jobs, their kids’ jobs, their kids’ future education, their health services, their roads – they’re the sorts of things that I’ve been focused on since taking over as Deputy Prime Minister in February last year. They’re the sorts of things I’ll continue to be focused on and I know my colleagues will too.

QUESTION:

But those things clearly aren’t cutting through on the ground; there’s several seats where they’re not; are you going to change your strategy, then, heading into the Federal election?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

People said that about the Berejiklian/Barilaro Government too. Two weeks ago all the media was disastrous for the NSW Coalition. The media were quite prepared to write the Coalition off. But look what happened.

We’re still about two months away from a Federal election. A lot can change in two months. A lot can happen in two months. They say 24 hours is a long time in politics, well we have two months. And the fact is we have been a very good Government. Yes, at times we have focused on ourselves way too much, I acknowledge that. But when you look at the sorts of economic activity that is going on, the fact that small businesses are paying their lowest tax rate for 79 years, the fact that we’ve helped small business, medium enterprises and big business too – helped them create 1.25 million additional jobs: that’s the sort of delivery that people want. They want us to deliver. We have delivered. We just have to stop talking about ourselves.

QUESTION:

You can say that’s all good but you have lost two seats to the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party, a minority Government…

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

They are still counting those….

QUESTION:

…that didn’t even exist. Those two seats are gone. You might still retain…

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I don’t write them off. I haven’t actually said that they’re gone and more importantly nor has the Electoral Commission of NSW.

QUESTION:

Well regardless then, there are big swings so you can’t just say that there’s nothing to see here.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

And I certainly didn’t say there’s nothing to see here. That’s why I said at the outset that we will look at it; I will take stock of it; I know John Barilaro more importantly will take stock of it because they are two seats that he has potentially lost in the State of which he is the Deputy Premier. Of course we wanted to win every single seat, but the fact is media just a couple of weeks ago were prepared to completely write us off and said that it was going to be an unmitigated disaster.

The fact is it has not been an unmitigated disaster and I know there are a lot in the media who are probably disappointed at the fact that they went too hard too early with that call. The fact is, here, in the coastal areas, we have done well. Chris Gulaptis has increased his margin by 5%. That’s good, and there are other seats where they have increased their margins. Gurmesh Singh has retained the seat of Coffs Harbour, held by Andrew Fraser for 27 years, and I know he will make an outstanding contribution to that seat and to the NSW Parliament.

Thank you very much.

[ENDS]

Hannah Maguire