Transcript - Doorstop, Moree NSW

MARK COULTON:

Today’s announcement is about an overpass that’s going to cross over the Newell Highway and the Inland Rail to here, where we are, which will be part of a special activation precinct (SAP) in Moree.

This is a project a long time coming; that originally the overpass was going to be in town and due to the efforts of Moree Plains Shire Council, they’ve come up with a much better option.

And ultimately this has the potential of linking the Gwydir Highway to the east and west, and providing a real bypass of the town.

A much safer access to the intermodal sites here at Moree from the highway, and ultimately from the Gwydir Highway to the west.

So it’s a $44 million project, $35 and a half million from the Federal Government. There’ll be some contribution from Inland Rail and also a contribution from Moree Plains Shire Council.

So a great example of the impact that local knowledge can have on a national project.

The Inland Rail certainly is going to be a huge bonus and a huge boost to the people of the Moree area. And it’s important right from the start that the design of the infrastructure to feed that is suitable for the longer-term aims of this community.

And that’s what this project’s doing today.

I’m very excited about it and look forward to construction commencing, along with the construction of the Inland Rail.

JOURNALIST:

Can you talk us through the timeline?

MARK COULTON:

Look, I’m not exactly sure of the timeline but today we are announcing the start of commencement of construction of the Inland Rail.

So this will be done in conjunction, and it’s important that this project is completed when this section of the Inland Rail is completed.

Because right from the start, even when not connected through to Queensland, there’s still a massive amount of produce that will come through this spot where we’re standing now.

So I would imagine that construction will be in conjunction with the construction of the Inland Rail, which is over the next couple of years.

JOURNALIST:

Perfect. So it also is kind of bypassing the centre of town. Will this – do you have any concerns about the effect that that will have?

MARK COULTON:

No. We’ve already got a bypass of the Newell Highway, a long-fought issue of more than a decade ago.  You could ask Councillor Smith about that.

By my observations, the centre of Moree has actually benefitted.

Not mixing up waste from cattle trucks with your coffee has been seen as a positive for the middle of Moree, and this will be the same.

This is not going to impact on tourists coming to town.

There’s already enough in Moree with the hot baths and the other attractions to bring people into town.

This is more about the safety of the huge logistical exercise of getting a massive grain harvest from the entire region into this site here.

JOURNALIST:

Just from the regional health perspective, can you make a comment on the efforts that you’re taking to get doctors into rural areas, like Gunnedah that is currently facing a doctor shortage?

MARK COULTON:

So I am disappointed to hear that the negotiations with Hunter New England Health have not proceeded with their original proponents. But I do back them in their decision.

The idea, when the Federal Government leased that rural health clinic to Hunter and New England Health, part of the agreement was for them to put general practitioners in there.

They said that the proponents that they looked at so far weren’t going to increase the number of doctors in town.

That’s what we need to do. So that, in broader terms, you know we’ve got a $550 million strategy that includes a generalist pathway that I announced recently, where we’re now training – we will over the next four years – 400 of our junior doctors in a broader range of skills that will enable them to work in a regional area.

The Murray Darling Medical School have already had its first intake of regional students. I was in Orange a few weeks ago. Every one of those students in the first cohort at Orange are from regional Australia and several of them are from here, from this region as well.

So we’re very confident when those ones come through.

We just have to be careful that we don’t exacerbate the problem because what we’ve been doing to fill in the gaps is we’ve been paying exorbitant fees to locums which becomes a disincentive for doctors to actually move permanently because they can make much more money by not committing.

So we’ve funded trial sites now across the country where we’re looking at partnering with the state governments to actually create an environment that’s conducive for people to actually move and work permanently.

It’s a long-term process. We are committed to it.

It’s one of the number one priorities that we’ve got.

But sometimes a short-term quick fix can actually exacerbate the problem, not fix it.