Transcript - Minister Catherine King press conference

MEMBER FOR SOLOMON, LUKE GOSLING: G'day everyone and thanks for coming down to Tiger Brennan intersection, this huge infrastructure project - it's not only going to make this intersection safer, but it's also going to improve productivity and help Territory businesses get on with doing business. And this project joins the $2.5 billion of infrastructure funding in the Federal budget.

So it's awesome to have our Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Catherine King up here with us, the third minister to visit in as many days. Federal Labor is here in the Territory, we get the Territory.

Also here, Natasha Fyles, our Chief Minister, and Eva Lawler, who's running these infrastructure projects for the Territory and doing an awesome job. I want to give a shout out to the department, the Department that is doing this work as well as the contractors, Sitzlers and others that are bringing this project to life. It's going to make a big difference. It's going to mean that not only going to make Territorians safer - and Territorians know that we've lost people at this intersection. So it's going to be safer, but it's going to improve productivity because there's not going to be as much stopping and that's going to be great for business.

Federal Labor gets the Territory, gets that to grow and to make the most of our enormous potential we need infrastructure that's going to mean well-paying jobs for our citizens here in the Territory. And that's an awesome news story for everyone. For us in the Territory, but also for our nation. So I'll hand over to Catherine. Thanks very much for coming.

MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, CATHERINE KING: Thanks very much, Luke. It's fantastic to be here, but particularly with the Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, and my good friend, the Northern Territory Infrastructure Minister, Eva Lawler - there's a lot of women in infrastructure now, we're leading the way so it's lovely to have Eva, very  much as a partner and this is very much what this is about today.

Announcing the Stage Two of the Tiger Brennan Drive and Berrimah Road really improving safety, improving productivity for the Territory, investing in the infrastructure for the future. 150 jobs in this construction alone, but we also know the economic opportunities that this opens up in the Northern Territory.

This of course comes on top of the Albanese Labor Government's investment in infrastructure in the Northern Territory, over $2.5 billion of investment from roads to rail, into roads to infrastructure, right the way through to sporting and community infrastructure is we want to invest in the Territory. We want to invest in jobs in the Territory and this is what you're seeing in action today. Really important project $127.8 million for this project alone. But we're going to keep building in the Territory, we want to invest in its future, and we're very pleased to be able to partner not only with my parliamentary colleagues in this announcement, but also obviously with a fantastic Chief Minister and Infrastructure Minister.

CHIEF MINISTER, NATASHA FYLES: Thank you.  Natasha Fyles, Chief Minister. This is a significant project $128 million jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments. 20,000 vehicles use this intersection each day. Not only will that make the commute for Territorians safer and more efficient. It will enable businesses to be able to grow and we do see the vehicles, the heavy transport vehicles when they come up to the Berrima Road Hill, they have to stop to the lights and it has an impact on them.

So this is not only for everyday Territorians and the community, but also are those Territorians transporting and shaping the future. And this project is one of the largest projects Darwin, the Top End, has seen in a single project since the overpass on Bagot Road was built back in the 1980s. So, a significant project and we acknowledge the strong representation from Luke Gosling and thank the Federal Minister for Infrastructure for being here in the Top End, we do need to acknowledge it's November, we usually don't see Federal Ministers, but we've had three in three days. Thank you.

MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, EVA LAWLER: Eva Lawler, Infrastructure Minister. Fantastic Territory companies doing the work out here. I live in Palmerston, I drive into town most days. I've been watching this, I've been project managing this project from my car every morning as I drive in and out of work, but it is truly going to be an amazing project for Territorians.

So the work will see Berrimah Road become the overpass and so that gradient will only be about 2%. We see a lot of trucks using that link between East Arm and the Stuart Highway. That will make it much easier for our trucks going onto the Stuart Highway. But we will also see the traffic free flowing. So the traffic from Palmerston in the rural area, into town and out again will be able to flow freely through the dogleg that's there currently, that will go.

So we're going to be releasing a video today that describes it, that shows it to the public. I think everybody will be amazed and impressed with the work that's being done. So there'll be a lot of disruption, that will keep the disruption to the traffic to a minimum. You don't want to have those disruptions in the morning traffic when this road is busy. We do need to make it safer, but we've also got into the future a lot happening out at East Arm.

So you've got the shippers out there, we've got the fuel tanks out there,  so there'll be lots of trucks filling up out there travelling out, that needs to go out of town. So this work will provide improvement for his intersection, which is one of our busiest and possibly one of our more dangerous intersections in the Territory. Questions.

JOURNALIST: Minister King, can I ask you? How can the Federal Government justify putting one of your biggest infrastructure commitments into the Middle Arm petrochemicals and downstream gas processing industries you have planned for Darwin Harbour, when your government has really said that you're keen to reduce emissions?

KING: Well, I'll start by saying, this is the single biggest investment that the Government and Federal Government is making in new jobs and sustainable new jobs. Of course, we do this all the time in investing in industrial precincts right the way across the country. And I'm very proud that we are investing $1.5 billion in enabling infrastructure, common user facilities to really produce more jobs in the Northern Territory but particularly to open up those opportunities for green hydrogen in particular, but other renewable energy sources.

I don't accept the premise of your question. This is really about ensuring that we have sustainable energy sources into the future and the Commonwealth investment which is $1.5 billion dollars in equity, as well as a further $400 million in logistics hubs, in Katherine, in Tennant Creek and in Alice. And in this investment really will see the Territory set up for jobs growth into the future, as well as investment into renewable energy. There's no decisions yet made about who the tenants will be in Middle Arm. We're investing in infrastructure in the same way in exactly the same way we do in freight, logistics and industrial precincts right the way across the country.

JOURNALIST: Will the requirements of the funding be that some of the projects are green projects like hydrogen?

KING: We know absolutely, there is enormous jobs opportunity and jobs growth in renewables, green hydrogen. There are developments, there are businesses right now, looking for sites here in the Northern Territory to be able to develop that. We've got that right the way across the country from the Port of Gladstone, I think we've got Twiggy Forrest investing significantly there at the moment.

You want to make sure that the Territory is well positioned, particularly when it comes to things like green hydrogen, but also other renewables to make sure that you are getting your share of that, because I can tell you now, there are businesses already looking right the way around the country for opportunities and this really is making sure that the Territory and Darwin gets your share of that.

JOURNALIST: How can that project undergo proper environmental assessments if we don't know what tenants will be going in there yet?

KING: That will be a matter of both for the Northern Territory Government and also Minister Plibersek under the EPBC Act, obviously we will work our way through those. There will be a need obviously for each of the proponents, will have will also have to go through those approvals depending on where they are up to. But we are right at the start of this. This is an exciting project for the Territory, an exciting project particularly for the Top End to really grow those jobs and to make sure that you do not miss out on the energy jobs of the future.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] still getting the $300 million for its carbon capture and storage prototype in that area?

KING: That would be a question for Madeline King, the Resources Minister.

JOURNALIST: Wondering there's a lot of money being spent on this project. I know you're spending some money on projects like the Tanami and Central Arnhem Roads. How does something like this suddenly become a priority [inaubdible].

KING: Yeah, well, I was at the Tanami yesterday, which was absolutely unbelievable to see, along with Minister Lawler the incredible project that is there. We're investing over $1.5 billion in our heavy freight roads. That that includes the Tanami, Central Arnhem Roads, here in the Northern Territory. The Sturt and Dukes as well as the Augusta Highways, they are they are all recipients of significant investment from the Commonwealth because we know we want to be able to make sure that those roads are not only safe, but they're also productive and we're actually getting as much of that produce, we can on those roads and to make sure that they're safe for people to use.

We've obviously also investing over $320 million in remote roads here in the in the budget. So the Mereenie Loop Road, Santa Teresa Road and we're working through with the Northern Territory Governments, but that's what we want to do. We've got a pipeline, a 10 year pipeline of $123 billion worth of projects across the country. We want to make sure that they're being delivered and really we do that in partnership. The fact that this road is financially ready, underway, ready for that investment, I think is also part of it. [inaudible].

JOURNALIST: Are you expecting that you'll have to basically negotiate with the Greens over the Middle Arm project, because they have threatened to withhold Senate support on other legislation, if that does turn out to be a fossil fuel project? They obviously have the balance of power with other senators like David Pocock, who's also threatening to withhold support for some things and for that project, do you think you don't have to talk to them about that project?


JOURNALIST: Has the cost of this project blown out again, how did we get to 128 million?

LAWLER: So initially, this project, the costings of that were done on just as I said, having a look at what was here. So the cost increases have increased on this project. But that's for a number of reasons. One of those is there's been a whole heap of materials that have had to be extracted, but also we've seen the cost of infrastructure projects go up across Australia. So the cost of this project has increased. But that is the fact around all projects that are underway across Australia at the moment. So that's just the facts.

JOURNALIST: When will it be finished?

LAWLER: So the aim is to have this finished by third quarter in 2024. I'm pushing to have it finished well before that though, I'd like to be the Minister that opens this project as well. So it is due to be finished probably in that last quarter of 2024. And I'm going to be pushing them hard to make sure it's finished before that. I’m sure the Chief Minister and I would love to be here for the opening of this project.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

FYLES: So Territorians, more than any other Australians I believe, understand the importance of having a defence presence. We were bombed in World War Two and we've seen significant defence presence that has particularly been built under Federal Labor since the 1980s. We have, Australia as a nation, strategic allies, and we will continue to work with them, but I'm not concerned.

JOURNALIST: Why did you say on radio this morning that the Middle Arm project isn't a petrochemicals project because it's the third item listed on the expressions of interest on the Department of Business website.

FYLES: So I've met with the Environment Centre NT and they've made that claim and I have utterly refuted that claim. This is not a petrochemical plant. This is a sustainable future project that is based in renewable energy and the future. The Northern Territory has the world's largest solar project. We also have the opportunity to be at the front of sustainable clean energy. This project will not only go through assessment, but it will go through each project is identified in the precinct will go through their assessment. So Northern Territory wants to create own source of revenue to open the education and health challenges that we’ve go. We need to get on board, we need to look at the opportunities of the future. The mega trends of the future are perfectly made to the Northern Territory, data, carbon capture and storage and climate change tackling that, we have so many opportunities. So I challenge the Environment Centre to stop making mis-truths that are based on nothing but rubbish and actually get on board be fully briefed in the facts of this project and support it.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

FYLES: So what we have, is we've identified one single component of land where we can see manufacturing based off of renewable energy. And so rather than having projects scattered across our harbor, individually assessed and seeming okay, but when you put them all together, it actually is a concern for our harbour and our environment. We have identified the location, we're going through a whole of project environmental assessment, and then the individual projects will also go through that assessment. So as I said, this is an opportunity for the Northern Territory to get on board to be a part of the jobs of the future based on sustainable renewable energy. And there is much happening in this space that we can be a part of, and we thank the Commonwealth Government for their support significant investment into this enabling infrastructure.

JOURNALIST: When will the ANI solar farm be able to connect to the grid. Because there are some private solar projects that are still struggling with being able to do that.

FYLES: We've got a strong commitment to go into renewable power in the Northern Territory. And as a government we’re able to do that because we've got government owned corporations, we didn't sell off our power and water assets like the CLP wanted to, like they prepared with the structural separation. We are in control. We've got the big battery coming on board that will service 150,000 Territorians in the top end. Yes, we've had some challenges in getting some of those solar farms connected, but I anticipate that will be in the near future.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

FYLES: On the first part of your question, I'll get some information around the specifics with connection to those solar farms. The second part of the question is where you saw a change with the Northern Territory Government towards supporting a battery scheme. Yes. We know that Territorians want to do their bit. They want to have solar on their personal home rooftops but what we need to do is make sure that that is protecting our system into the future. And so we've made that change towards schemes with batteries up we've got that big battery for Darwin and Catherine which will stabilize the grid and further we're not just allowing the people of the northern suburbs of Darwin and the people of Coniston to access solar. We've got our solar going into remote communities, a trial with Wurrumiyanga so you can see because we're in control with government corporations. We are transitioning the Northern Territory from fossil fuels across to renewable power sources into the future. Thank you very much.