Transcript - media conference - Rockhampton, Queensland

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: It’s great to be here in Rockhampton for this significant announcement. We’re really pleased that we could work constructively with the State Government to get this project up and running. It’s fantastic that it will start work later this year. We know that the local community have been patient. We saw ten years of talk with a lack of action, but the Albanese Government has worked constructively with the State Government to commence work on the Rocky Ring Road by the end of this year. I want to thank Barry O’Rourke and Brittany Lauga for their advocacy for this project. They know it’s an important one for the local community. It’s going to ensure that we have a safer community, a more productive community, but it’s going to benefit economically from the jobs opportunities that will come from this Ring Road project. I’m really pleased to be here on behalf of the Federal Government supporting this project. We can’t wait to see it started and I really look forward to the improvements it will make for the Rockhampton community.

BARRY O’ROURKE [STATE MEMBER FOR ROCKHAMPTON]: Well, good morning. Here we are signing tenders and awarding contracts and we have the LNP here running around saying that the Rocky Ring Road isn’t going ahead. Just in recent weeks they’ve spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars – your dollars – saying that there’s no money in the Budget for the Ring Road. Well, there’s $100 million in the budget to be spent this financial year in delivering the Rocky Ring Road. The LNP will continue to do this. They’re going to continue to deceive the people of central Queensland. When major works are starting, they’ll be going, “Oh, no – don’t look, don’t look. You know, don’t look, it’s not happening.” They’ve had years upon years to deliver this project and they couldn’t deliver it. There’s been lots of hard work behind the scenes in getting this project to this point, and I’m absolutely passionate about delivering it for the people of Central Queensland. Thank you.

MARK BAILEY [STATE MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND MAIN ROADS]: Thanks, Barry. This is on top of a very substantial road-building record by the Palaszczuk State Labor Government here. Rockhampton Northern Access, built. Yeppoon-Rocky Road, huge upgrades are underway there. The road duplication out to Gracemere, the highway out to Lawrie Street. There’s been a very strong record of road building, and this adds to that. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: How is the pre-work going?

BAILEY: The pre-work is going very, very well. But, preparing the corridor takes a lot of work, you know, there’s all kinds of utility, relocations, there’s a lot of securing of the corridor. There’s a lot of Geotech work to be done. We’ve got to do all that ground work to get ready for the heavy work. What we’re announcing today is the heavy work component of the Rocky Ring Road beginning by the end of this year. I think everybody in the region will be punching the air to be quite frank. It’s going to be excellent for the region.

JOURNALIST: When is construction expected to ramp up?

BAILEY: The heavy construction work from the contractors and the two different packages we expect to start by late this year, and there will be about two years of work for them. This will be a constant round of construction of heavy work underway, which is a step on from the early works that we announced late last year.

JOURNALIST: Obviously, there was some money blowouts, given the fact that this project has been re-assessed and re-assessed and it’s been a long time coming. Have there been discussions with the Federal Government? Because obviously it’s priced as it is now, but with everything going as it is, have there been further discussions about who will take what part if these costs blow out again?

BAILEY: Yeah, look, you know, we’re working very constructively with the Albanese Government and it’s great to be able to pick up the phone and have a genuine conversation without lots of games, which is what we saw, over a decade of inaction under Michelle Landry and Matt Canavan. So, we’re front-end loading a fair bit of this money, although part of the 280 of course is 80 million from the Federal Government and what we know is that future stages will be negotiated as part of future budgets. Of course, the construction market at the moment is running red hot in terms of costs. So, we’ll be aiming to try to bring this project in within its funding envelope that’s been announced at $1.065 million, and that will be a source of working with contractors going forward. What we saw is a huge blowout in costs because of the fly in, fly out model favoured by the former Morrison Government, which would have meant that you had to build workers camps, you’d be flying in, flying out people at great cost to get this project done. That was clearly the wrong way to build this project and that’s something that we’ve scrapped. We’ve re-profiled the project so that there’s more jobs for longer and that they’ll be Central Queensland workers. But, it’s also brought the cost down. So, this is good, sensible management of the project because of the collaboration with the Albanese Government. I think that’s the right way to go.

JOURNALIST: There has been a lot of saying “there’s no money in the Budget for the Ring Road” and things like that. Because when you take a look at it, it isn’t a line item. Is that a discussion you might have with the Treasurer, to put the Ring Road as a line item in the next few Budgets?

BAILEY: Look, what we saw yesterday was a leaflet put out by Matt Canavan and the LNP saying there was no funding in the Budget for the Rocky Ring Road. Now here we are today announcing $200 million worth of work. I mean, the egg is not just over Matt Canavan and Michelle Landry’s face – it’s over their arms, legs, the lot. I mean, it’s just an embarrassing humiliation of these hollow people who had a whole decade to get going on this and failed. That’s their record.

JOURNALIST: Senator, can I quickly grab you and ask you practically the same question? Obviously, costs, inflation, money, everything is blowing out everywhere. Are you open to constructive discussions with the State Government if the costs do blow out further as to who will take what portion of the pie?

CHISHOLM: I don’t think it’s healthy to speculate on those sorts of issues. But we are conducting a review of our infrastructure pipeline across the country. We want to ensure that we are delivering on our promises and doing it in a way that gets good value for taxpayer dollars. I think as Minister Bailey talked through, we’ve done a really good job with this project in ensuring that we can get it started but we can also maximise the ability for local workforce as well. I think that’s a really good model going forward – to ensure that we can get these important projects underway but do it in a way that we’re sure we’re getting good value for money across the country.

JOURNALIST: As the Assistant Minister, obviously seeing these jobs and seeing a lot of them based here in Central Queensland and from the surrounding areas, that must be a very good thing to be here to be a part of?

CHISHOLM: Absolutely. It’s really exciting to see that, one, it’s a great piece of local infrastructure that’s going to make a real difference to the community, but seeing locals and knowing that they are going to be able to get good quality jobs for years is a really important part of this project and I think, as I said, a great model going forward.

JOURNALIST: Fantastic. Thank you so much.