Transcript of Doorstop, Darwin

Interview

WTC014/2014

25 July 2014

Tiger Brennan Drive, Darwin Master Plan, MH17, MH370, Govt's $50B infrastructure plan, Australian Lamb Group suspends exports to Russia, Air Algeria crash and Roads to Recovery

Warren Truss: It's great to be in the Northern Territory again with Adam Giles, Chief Minister, Dave Tollner, Peter Styles and, of course, my parliamentary colleague Natasha Griggs, and other Members of Parliament, and ladies and gentlemen.

This opening marks another stage in the development of Tiger Brennan Drive. When I was last Transport Minister, which was before the advent of six years of Labor Government, we were talking about Tiger Brennan Drive, and I think it was talked about for a long time before then so it's especially pleasing to be back and to be participating in the opening of this key section of Tiger Brennan Drive.

This is obviously a vital road for the Territory and particularly for Darwin. It will smooth the traffic flows around the city and, of course, make access to and from the city so much easier. It's obviously a handsome piece of road construction, provides a great welcome to the city and will, I'm sure, be welcomed by commuters in the morning and the evening, and indeed those who have to drive heavy transport to take freight to and from the port and other locations.

May I thank the builders and everyone who's been associated with the project. I know that this is a transformational project for Darwin. It will make a real difference. I've heard that there's more work still to be done, and I'm sure that there'll be talks between the Commonwealth and the Territory about how those further stages can be progressed. A vital artery for the people of Darwin, and it's going to be great for those who rely on this transport network to have this magnificent piece of infrastructure to drive on in the years ahead.

So delighted to be here for the official opening. Shortly we'll be turning on the traffic lights. I hope they'll turn onto green so that everyone knows that this is all systems go for Tiger Brennan Drive. Adam.

Adam Giles: Well, thanks very much, Warren. It's great to be here with you, Natasha Griggs, Dave Tollner, Peter Styles, Lia Finocchiaro and Nathan Barrett at the opening of this $14 million section of Tiger Brennan Drive. This is just one stage in the full duplication of Tiger Brennan Drive. What we've seen here is $14 million of construction work undertaken by the Ostojic Group for Department and Infrastructure and Department of Transport. We'd like to thank them for their hard work in getting this project done.

The next stage of Tiger Brennan Drive is part of the $103 million duplication package that's out to tender right now. The duplication between Woolner Road and Berrimah Road, and that will see an enormous project completed by mid-2016. We're currently looking for that head project manager to be able to facilitate those works. I've… nearly $100 million to be able to facilitate the full duplication of the project.

As Warren said, he remembers back in the early days when the Coalition was last in when this project was talked about, Tiger Brennan Drive, and it's very fitting that we have Dave Tollner standing here as well because, fundamentally, Dave Tollner was the one who campaigned for this project all those many years ago, and here we stand now with Natasha Griggs, who's the local member, who's helped drive this. I remember being out here with Julie Bishop in the election campaign, recommitting more money towards this. Standing here with the Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, it's fantastic to see this arterial route continue to be completed.

And what we'll see once these lights are turned on is the movement of around 22,000 vehicles per day moving throughout Tiger Brennan Drive with a growth prospect of around 40,000 vehicles per day by 2030. So it's very important that we get our infrastructure right, we connect people, we connect business, because part of developing the North is making sure that we have the right infrastructure in the right place at the right time so that we can truly be Australia's gateway network into Asia.

Warren Truss: Okay, right.

Question: Just wanted to ask about the bottleneck that people are concerned about into the city around Bennett Street, what's being done to prevent that?

Adam Giles: Yeah, it's part of the greater Darwin master plan. It was a partnership between the Federal Government and the Territory Government and the Council to be able to facilitate that master plan. We're working out how we can have ease of access through future arterial works into the city, so from the next intersection into town, we've got some plans underway with the Council about how they will be facilitated, and we're identifying the next stages in bringing that to fruition.

Question: What sort of timeline are we looking for that?

Adam Giles: Well, Council are the best people to be able to talk to about that but we have some very good plans about how that network will move into the city so it can transition vehicles and pedestrians at the quickest amount of time as possible. We're waiting for council to get back to us on some time frames to be able to facilitate that.

Question: Have you got any plans to move more public servants into offices out of the CBD to [indistinct]…?

Adam Giles: Look, we are doing some work, particularly through Minister Dave Tollner, who's the Minister for Property Management and Corporate Information Services to identify how we transition some public employees to areas of the North where there are greater population or residential populations that will continue to grow.

So I'll just reframe that for you: we are looking at moving some public servants or public employees into the future as leases transition out and we see greater levels of population [indistinct] the Top End.

Question: When are those leases up for renewals?

Adam Giles: Look, I'll have to get you the exact details on those leases, but I think you can start to see [indistinct] 2017-2019, there'll be a transition of some of that property management arrangements, and we know that we need to have a diversity of employment factors available for the northern suburbs, Darwin CBD, Palmerston and the rural area from the Top End [indistinct], and that's part of developing the North and we are looking quite consciously at some of those aspects.

Question: Mr Truss, will you pay tribute to Labor who [indistinct] drove this project for six years when they were in Government?

Warren Truss: Well, this is project that's actually crossed at least three governments. It began under the Howard Government. The Labor Government has contributed to it during their time and, of course, it's been left to this government to finish it. Ironically, of course, it'll be this Federal Government that'll have to pay for it because the previous government left behind only debts and unfunded infrastructure projects. We're also committed to pay $70 million towards the $103 million cost of the next stages of the Tiger Brennan Drive, so this is a project which the Coalition Government is deeply committed.

But of course projects of this size, they do cross different governments and I acknowledge that there's a contribution from all sides of politics developing a project of this nature. The people we need to be most thankful for are the taxpayers of Australia because they're the ones that are going to pay for it.

Question: The Territory Government was critical of your government in cutting back on or denying, rather, some spending requests, particularly roads and infrastructure in the recent budget. What do you have to say to that?

Warren Truss: Well, we do have a $50 billion infrastructure plan. It's the biggest in our nation's history, but even a program of that size doesn't build all the roads that we need in this country, and so every state and also the Territory have still a long list of other projects that are important and that we will need to contribute to in the future. So this $50 billion plan, while it's bigger than anything our country's ever seen and will be responsible for bringing to fruition a range of really excellent projects in every state and the Territory is not the end of the road construction business in Australia. We'll be at that for generations to come, and that will include significant projects also in the Northern Territory.

Question: [Indistinct] the Australian involvement in the investigations of MH17?

Warren Truss: Well, Australia's continuing to play a strong role in ensuring that we understand what's happened in relation to the MH17 disaster. We're also—but our priority at this stage is obviously to recover the bodies and repatriate them to Australia. Now, we expect that that process will take some time. The process of identifying the bodies and body parts is obviously painstaking and difficult. We've heard overnight that some more bodies have been recovered.

One of our major priorities now is to get access to the site so that there can be a really thorough and detailed search so that we make sure that we have all of the people who were on the aircraft remains assembled and therefore able to be repatriated to their home countries. I expect that that process will take some time. I welcome the fact that there's seeming to be a greater level of cooperation now from the Ukrainians and the Russians to facilitate that, but it is still a warzone and we need to be conscious of the fact that when we send Australians into that area to undertake vital work, that their operations are in fact safe. So a part of our planning is to make sure that there's adequate security for people who are there, working with the Dutch who naturally are the lead country in this recovery operation, but also seeking to assist with the accident investigation. We have a number of accident investigation officers there who will be onsite and participating in that element of the recovery.

So there are substantial activities occurring. We're confident that those can be conducted now in the spirit of international cooperation, but we'll have to continue to work on that through—at the United Nations and in other places.

If I could add one other issue, I want to assure the families of those who were on MH370 that we have not forgotten the importance of maintaining the search for that aircraft. We are continuing that search, uninterrupted. The personnel who are involved in the MH370 searched are out on the ocean, we have two vessels, a Chinese vessel and an Australian vessel currently mapping the sea surface in the area where we're going to undertake the next element of the major search. We have called tenders and are close to issuing a tender for the next stage, the sonar search of that 60,000 square kilometre area.

That is all proceeding without any kind of interruption and whilst it will be a long and slow and time-consuming process, I want to assure you that no resources are being taken away from that search for the MH17 effort. They're different people doing a different kind of job and we remain just as committed, as Australia being the country responsible for the search, we are just as committed as ever to finding that aircraft and giving closure to those families.

Question: How confident are you that safety can be ensured for Australians who will be going to the Ukraine?

Warren Truss: Well it's a key element of our planning to put people in there to do their job. We need to be sure that they're sage and as you've heard we have a significant police detachment already to move into the area to provide that kind of support. There's been assurances given by leaders in that area that the zone will be safe to work, but clearly it is a war zone and we cannot therefore be sure that there won't be rogue individuals who might upset that balance of security. So clearly, any planning for the involvement of accident investigators, people who are associated with recovering bodies and other personal effects; we must be sure that they're safe and that there are not other casualties arising from this disaster.

Question: Mr Truss, the Australian Lamb Group has stopped exporting to Russia, would you encourage other businesses to take up the same kind of trade sanctions, or do you think that sort of action is pointless?

Warren Truss: Well it's a matter for individual companies to make those sorts of choices. The world has been talking about whether sanctions should be placed upon the Russians and the Europeans in particular have been acting in that regard. Over recent days, President Putin and Russian authorities have adopted a more positive approach and I welcome that and I think we should build on the assurances that have already been given about the safety of those working in the area and seek to work co-operatively on the basis of the assurances we've been given.

Question: Chief Minister, have you or will you be offering Northern Territory police who have expertise in victim identification?

Adam Giles: We've offered that quite some time ago. We were waiting for some clearances from both DFAT and from the Australian Federal Police but obviously, this is a matter for the Federal Government. We do have victim identification resources within the Northern Territory police, but as I understand it, the Australian Government and the international efforts have all those response capabilities as required but we do remain committed to providing any resources that may be required and the facilitation of that can occur at that point in time.

Question: [Inaudible question]

Warren Truss: Sorry, I didn't hear that.

Question: [Indistinct]… Air Algeria crash?

Warren Truss: No, I can't give you any additional information on that. It's certainly been a bad couple of weeks for the aviation sector and it's a tragedy to hear of another disaster; and none of them are related. These are just incidents that have occurred now in a cluster and I—we grieve also for the families of those who have been lost on the Algerian aircraft.

Question: Are you concerned any Australians were on board that plane?

Warren Truss: No, I can't confirm whether there or not there were any Australians on board. I have no reason to believe that there were, but on the other hand, that's always possible in this era of modern aviation where people travel so freely around the world.

Question: And will Australia be offering any assistance?

Warren Truss: Well, it's not an accident where we have a direct involvement, if there were to be Australians on board, well then we would have a right under the Chicago Convention, to take a role in the accident investigation and for that matter the rescue operations. But at this stage we don't have that information and so we aren't making any plans at the present time to be engaged in that accident.

Question: Labor have indicated that they're willing to pass the Roads to Recovery package in the next sitting [indistinct] separated out from the other bits and bobs tied up in the legislation. Is that something that you would agree to?

Warren Truss: Well the Labor Party has proposed pages and pages and pages of amendments, many of them not even related to Roads to Recovery, that are unacceptable to the Government. Labor knows that. This is a vital program for local government right across Australia and including in the Territory and I'm appalled that Labor and the Greens are seeking to sabotage this legislation by putting forward amendments that they know are unacceptable.

Many of them are not even relevant to the subject of the legislation. They're trying to drag in extraneous issues. It is vital for local government that this legislation be passed. The Government's had to withdraw it from the Senate because it was clear there were not going to be enough senators to vote for this legislation as the Parliament rose a week or so ago. It's high time that the Labor Party and the Greens realise that this is a vital program, the legislative changes that we are making are important.

There is no capacity for us to make Roads to Recovery payments to councils unless the legislation goes through the Parliament. The current legislation, which Labor put before the Parliament, had an expiry date. The expiry date was June 30 of this year. So we can make no payments under the Roads to Recovery program unless there's a new legislative authority and I'm appalled that Labor and the Greens and others are seeking to prevent that legislation from passing.

Thank you.