Transcript of Joint Press Conference: Announcement of 2015–16 Victorian Black Spots Projects

Interview

BPC038/2015

23 July 2015

With Sophie Mirabella, Liberal Candidate in Indi and Rod Wangman, Mayor of City of Wodonga
E&OE

Rod Wangman: It is wonderful to welcome Minister Jamie Briggs here to Wodonga today and we also see Sophie Mirabella as the candidate for Indi also in support with the minister. I welcome the minister back here. It is an interesting fact that this minister originally came from Wodonga. His first three years of his life were here so it is wonderful to have him back with us.

Importantly though, I welcome his announcement shortly about what this will mean for Wodonga in terms of the redevelopment and reconstruction of Thomas Mitchell Drive. This is an unfortunate to sad location where a fatality did occur some years ago and there's been numerous other accidents along this stretch of our roadway. Sadly those things have occurred and fortunately though in response, the black spot federal funding will come and support us with this shortly. Without saying too much more now in that regard, I welcome the minister to say and make the announcement this morning and then I might finish off with how our council will also work with the Minister and his department to ensure that this work's undertaken very quickly. Thank you, minister.

Jamie Briggs: Thank you, Mayor. It's great to be here with the Mayor and Sophie Mirabella, the Liberal Candidate in Indi. My great friend, it's great to be back after 35 years to Wodonga. We're announcing today not just the $1.7 million here for this black spot, but the $39 million across the state of Victoria for 138 projects to improve infrastructure right across Victoria, Melbourne, regional Victoria and right here in Wodonga. These projects lift productivity, they improve safety, they ensure that our road networks are as good and productive as we want them to be. Our infrastructure programme is not just about big centre point projects in our cities or in our regions; they're also about improving the regional links to ensure that we can take advantage of the great growth across our region.

The free trade agreements that Andrew Robb has signed means that areas like Wodonga can grow faster, that we can get our product to market quicker if we've got infrastructure that supports it. This infrastructure here is absolutely vital, that's why this investment today, the $1.7 million that the Wodonga Council's applied for under this year's black spots programme, which has nearly tripled compared to last year, is so important. If I can say, Sophie Mirabella has been constantly at me, and many of my ministerial colleagues about ensuring the Indi continues to get support from the Federal Government because it is such a growth area of our country. It's a pleasure to be here with her today to see this plus other opportunities that we'll see across Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla and Mansfield that we're visiting last night and today.

The Wodonga City Heart project, which is funded under the National Stronger Regions Fund, the Mayor has just explained very comprehensively about that project and how quickly it will get underway creating jobs and opportunity here in Wodonga. It is part of our $1 billion investment in the regions across Australia to ensure Australia's as strong as it can be. So, this is another step by the Abbott Government, the Infrastructure Prime Minister, focused on building a better and stronger Australia here in Wodonga, right across Victoria today and of course right across our country.

Mayor, did you want to add some final words for your perspective?

Rod Wangman: Thank you again minister. It has been enjoyable this morning to meet with the Minister to talk about the $10 million central business district project that Wodonga's been fortunate to gain. We are only one week away, I believe, in signing the final document between the minister's departmental offices and our offices of council. That means then that almost immediately we'll start with the promenade which is that key piece of infrastructure between the railway station and the Goods Shed. The reason we need to start that forthwith is that we've got development there that's ready to happen and be actioned and their expectation is that that will be ready sooner rather than later.

Following that, we certainly are making sure that the punch through of Havelock Street and also the reworking of South Street and then the last part will be the High Street revitalisation that all of those parts are taken in concert with our community. We don't want to see any disruption that is unnecessary to our traders or to the people that use and live in those street areas. We certainly, with the minister's department, have made sure that we have a plan going forward over the next three to four years to make sure that those projects are not just wonderful for Wodonga, but are delivered to the timeframes and within the budget expectations that the federal government has. So, I thank you again on behalf of our city for your support for this project and I would also acknowledge—you might have forgotten—that you were the first minister that I met when the new Abbott Government came into power and you were very good to actually allow me to come and see you about such projects, right in those early days when you were still putting your office together and that has not been forgotten so thank you for that again and your final words, Sir.

Jamie Briggs: No, thank you. Soph, did you want to say anything about this?

Sophie Mirabella: Look it's terrific to have you here, Rod, to have Jamie visiting and who knows? If Jamie's family hadn't moved when he was three he may be the member for Indi today, so it's good to have him here. It really is so important for the Government to be able to walk the talk on infrastructure because that is so key to our part of the world and roads funding is absolutely critical and to listen to the local concerns and needs and to actually put the hard dollars up is terrific to see. We will have you back again Jamie; thank you for your time and thank you for being so vigilant about pushing for the infrastructure that we do need, Rod, and it's terrific to have you. We need more; we will always need more but it's a terrific announcement. Thank you for choosing Wodonga to make the state wide announcement on road black spot funding.

Question: Do you think Sophie we'll see many more of these funding announcements during the course of the election campaign from the Libs?

Sophie Mirabella: Well, this government really did commit in Opposition—and I was part of that opposition that developed good policy—did commit to investing in infrastructure. Tony Abbott has said he wants to be the Infrastructure Prime Minister and the really good thing that I'm proud about is that the Government has stringent processes to assess applications for funding and to ensure that money goes where it is needed and where there is good argument made for it and the figures stack up. So, we will continue to encourage local councils and others to put in applications, good applications that can stack up. I will do my bit to support them and advocate to Jamie and others in Canberra. I'm confident and hopeful that those applications will stack up as Wodonga's has and we can get more investment in our region. But they are competitive and there are other electorates that do compete for this funding as well.

Question: Well, the election campaign is on, I guess. Can I ask you what you think of Clive Palmer's suggestion that Cathy McGowan becomes the new Speaker in the House?

Sophie Mirabella: Well, I think we're probably more than a year away from an actual election campaign but Clive Palmer has lots of interesting ideas and thoughts from his electorate in Queensland. I don't really want to comment on Clive Palmer because I'm focused on what's happening here in Indi and Clive's not really that relevant here.

Question: Do you think that Bronwyn Bishop should be replaced?

Sophie Mirabella: Look, I think what Bronwyn did was unacceptable. It was the wrong thing to do. The Prime Minister has said as much and effectively put Bronwyn on probation. It is disappointing and I share the anger of a lot of locals who have approached me about this because it shouldn't have happened and was not acceptable. I don't want to go into the job consequences for people, but it is very disappointing when politicians do give the public cause to say ‘oh look those poli's are at it again’. It is really disappointing because so many politicians do do good work like Jamie coming here and listening, not just to make the announcement, but listening to our local councils.

Question: You must be pretty buoyed by today's announcement [indistinct]?

Sophie Mirabella: Look, I'm pleased because I want to live in an area in a region that continues to grow. If we want to keep people here, if we want to keep young families here, if we want to make it safer for older Australians to live here, you need continual investment in infrastructure. You can't just do it in spurts and bouts, you actually have to have a strategic approach and invest that funding so that's why I'm pleased. And it's not a first and it won't be the last. We've had significant infrastructure invested here… we had $45 million to remove the rail [indistinct] out of central Wodonga. We had over half a billion dollars to finally complete the Hume Freeway. We've had tens of millions of dollars in other local roads. So, it doesn't stop, we have to continually make our case and our vision for infrastructure investment in the region.

Question: Soph, are there any thoughts on what the National Party's up to in choosing their candidate? You're on the ground here doing these sorts of announcements. Are they dragging the chain because [indistinct] they're going to be probably crucial in the whole mix of what's going to happen.

Sophie Mirabella: Look, we're in coalition in Canberra, we're in coalition in Victoria and I'm looking forward to campaigning with all the candidates especially with our National Party coalition partner. It's not really right for me to tell a Nat or any other party what timetable they should have. They'll have a candidate and it will be great to have them on the road.

Question: Can I ask Rod one more question? The Council contribution…. Will $1.7 million do the job in total?

Rod Wangman: Again, we'll start by saying this. It's really pleasing to receive $1.7 million today from the Minister's announcement. It does as our submission suggests take us from Chapel Street all the way down to the Jack in the Box creek area. So, there is a small gap in between. We're fortunate in the position that we also have the Roads to Recovery funds that's been announced for this year for council. So, what we'll work through is the tender process which we hope will be able to advanced at our future council meeting and then we'll know exactly what the final amount is to be spent on this area. But it's going to be something in the vicinity of $2.1 million, probably $2.2 million.

Question: Total?

Rod Wangman: Yes. Again, can I preface that by saying until we see the final tender results that come back in for the construction that is only my estimate.

Jamie Briggs: The other point the mayor was about to make is that the Roads to Recovery money has also been doubled for this year and next year as well, so there will be more money to finish off the job, Rod.

Question: Sorry, but there will be an expectation that council will chip in towards this?

Rod Wangman: Ah yes, yeah, and again we take the…

Jamie Briggs: It's not a requirement though, mind you, to finish the whole thing.

Rod Wangman: No, it's not, I think it'll be foolhardy for us to suggest that the duplication of the roads all the way basically from coming in from Killara all the way through into the water tower that we would have one small patch of 200-odd metres that wouldn't be worked in concert with the rest of it. So, we'll make sure through the tender process Minister that it is not just the part that we've applied for with you but it's certainly we finish the entire job off.

Jamie Briggs: Terrific outcome for the local area.

Question: So, it'll be dual lane all the way in?

Rod Wangman: Yeah, so what we'll see here is, for those who seek to try and visualise it, the Thomas Mitchell Drive works that have been done previously where we've got dual laneways with median strips with additional lighting with additional safety facilities in terms of signage and turning locations, then with service roads that are also formed up appropriately, and work in concert with the two. This has to be about increasing the safety levels and reducing fatalities, otherwise the work of the design and the application for a black spot application would have been pointless. So, I feel very confident what we'll achieve out of this is not just good for the current users, but also to make sure that the safety levels of this part of Wodonga are absolutely increased.

Question: So, just cutting it down, this is from there to there.

Rod Wangman: Yeah so, yep, so we're talking about from the roundabout up here…

Question: Oh the roundabout.

Rod Wangman: Yep, just there. All the way back to…

Question: That's at Docking Street?

Rod Wangman: No, Docking Street is the location just down there. And that's unfortunately—it was Docking Street where unfortunately the fatality occurred some years ago where a person inadvertently unexpectedly turned onto the road and was on the wrong side.

Question: So the $1.7m goes between…

Rod Wangman: Well, that's just the street just short of the roundabout up there.

Question: Oh okay, sorry, yeah, sorry.

Rod Wangman: So we're not rebuilding the roundabout. This side…

Rod Wangman: Thank you for checking though. Other questions?

Question: Sorry Sophie, is there any other announcements or issues on your agenda for the local area that we can expect to hear during your campaign for Indi?

Sophie Mirabella: Oh, look, there's a long time before the actual campaign proper, and of course I'll continue to talk, not just with councils but local other community organisations about their needs, and feed that information back to the relevant ministers in Canberra, and hopefully we can help solve a few problems. We can't solve everything but I'll do my very best to lean on old friends—well young—but you know old friends like Jamie to help us out. Because it's really important to have a deep understanding of what needs fixing, and then I feel responsible to be part of the process to help fix it.

Jamie Briggs: Can I just say on this election thing too that we are at least twelve months away from an election, and we've got a lot of governing still to do, and this is a good government doing what a good government should do. There's a second round of Stronger Regions which is due next Friday—the applications are due next Friday. We'll announce the successful applicants for that later in the year. There'll be a third round of Stronger Regions early next year. There's the Stronger Communities programme which we announced in the budget. I would urge every single community group in Indi to contact the local member who has the capacity to make the decisions about where that $150,000 is allocated. Every community group should be knocking on the local member's door seeking access to that. That money is there for community groups in Indi—and across every federal electorate across the country. So, there is a lot of government support to build our regions, so we've got the capacity. Outside of talking about election campaigns context, this is about a good government getting on and doing what we should be doing.