Doorstop: Community Breakfast—Toowoomba With Ian Macfarlane, Member for Groom



07 December 2015

Topics: PM's attendance at event, $1M for the Vanguard Laundry project, Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, Switch to The Nationals

Question: Alrighty, I suppose the first question I have to ask, it's the elephant in the room, is why did the PM pull out this morning?

Warren Truss: Well he's involved in making the innovation statement in Sydney later today. That's a very, very important Government initiative and he felt it was necessary for him to devote his time specifically to that.

Question: Now the announcement this morning, $1 million for this enterprise project, how did that come about?

Warren Truss: Well this is a special grant that's being made available for this project. It was an applicant for the National Stronger Regions Program, but it didn't qualify for that program. The Government recognises that this was a vital project. Ian Macfarlane had been pressing strongly to have funding provided to make this project a reality. We knew it was on a short time frame, construction had to start very quickly, so it couldn't wait for another round of funding programs, and so the decision was made that we would provide this million dollars as a special payment.

Question: What conditions have you put on the million dollar payment?

Warren Truss: Well that they build a very good project that serves the people of Toowoomba, and serves them well.

Question: Ian, you were instrumental in this, what can you tell me about your involvement.

Ian Macfarlane: Well the work that the Clubhouse does is vitally important to getting people out of the rut of being welfare reliant, and getting them into a job and giving them a purpose where they can actually contribute back to the community. Clubhouse do a fantastic job right across the mental illness spectrum; this project though will be the vanguard of getting people back into work. So it's an aptly named Laundry, it's a Laundry project which has already got commercial support. I'm totally confident of the commercial success of the project, and it's a great boost for Clubhouse.

Question: Deputy Prime Minister, do you need that community support as well for you as a Government to add some financial support?

Warren Truss: Well these sorts of projects just don't happen without the community taking the lead. The Government is merely a partner, and often a minor partner. These projects only work if there are dedicated people in the community prepared to give their own time and effort, raise their own share of the funding, and then be prepared to take the knocks, do the difficult work associated with providing these sorts of services. To be successful they must have a strong level of community support, and that's evident in this instance.

Question: You're heading from here out to Hermitage Road for the official sod-turning for the Toowoomba bypass, there's still a lot of sceptics around that are wondering whether it's actually going to come to fruition. What do you say to them?

Warren Truss: Well, it's becoming more and more obvious that there's no turning back. This is a project that I know Toowoomba's waited for for a very long time. Funding is in place, the governments are committed to building it, the contract's been let, people are already in town working on the project, and significant drilling will commence as part of this sod-turning ceremony today. And early next year, perhaps about March or April, you will see the bulldozers, the contractors, actually physically moving large volumes of earth. Then there will be two or three years of building activity ahead of it. It's a huge project, a lot of earth to be moved, huge bridges to be built, overpasses, and- to deliver the standard of road that's necessary for such a busy thoroughfare.

Question: Will those jobs come from local people?

Warren Truss: Well the contractors are committed to sourcing as much of the project as they can locally. They're committed to locating in the town, their committed to using local contractors, there are further meetings being scheduled over the next few days to engage ways in which the local contractors and suppliers can be involved in the project, and clearly there are lots of advantages to the contractors to use local people because they're on the site; they don't have to move here, they've got the equipment in Toowoomba and around, and therefore they'll have a capacity to be able to do the job.

Question: Ian, the Second Range Crossing has been a long-term project and a long time coming. Is this going to be one of your legacies when you leave politics, is that the aim?

Ian Macfarlane: Oh well I always get other people to judge your legacy, but it's a major win for the region. It's something that at times, particularly when we lost government in 2007, I wondered if we would ever get one, because it really has taken a Coalition Government in Canberra to get this off the ground. It's a project that is going to make an enormous difference to Toowoomba by cutting in half all those thousands of trucks a day that travel through town. The face of Toowoomba will change, not to mention the opportunity for economic development.

Question: Were you disappointed the PM couldn't make it today?

Ian Macfarlane: Oh well look he's doing something that is very close to my heart as the ex-science minister. Innovation and working with industry to use science to prepare it for the future is something I was very much a part of for two years. And I know how complex that announcement is, I know how vitally important it is for the industry in Australia. A billion dollars for innovation is something that industry has been waiting for for a long time.

Question: And are you a National yet?

Ian Macfarlane: Well that's a process that we're going through with the LNP, and I'll have more to say on that when the process is concluded.