Transcript - Press Conference - North Richmond, NSW

MS ROBYN PRESTON MP, STATE MEMBER FOR HAWKESBURY: Morning everyone, I’m Robyn Preston, Member for Hawkesbury. This is a serious day for Hawkesbury, we're very excited. There's a $500 million dollar investment in infrastructure from the Morrison and Berejiklian Governments. I have got to say, Hawkesbury people are very excited to find a solution here that gets them off the roads and back to the dinner table in time at night. So I might, Councillor Sarah Richards, if you'd like to stand forward.

COUNCILLOR SARAH RICHARDS, HAWKESBURY CITY COUNCIL: Thank you Robyn. Yes, I am Sarah Richards, a Councillor on Hawkesbury City Council, and in fact a local that lives just a few streets that way. So, very invested in this project and thankful that both governments, state and federal, have come together to deliver this funding for our local community. It is my pleasure today to introduce to you the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, the Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, Marise Payne the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Paul Fletcher the Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Andrew Constance the Minister for Transport and Roads. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you Sarah. It's great to be here with so many colleagues here today for a very important infrastructure project for Western Sydney. This is part of a $110 billion investment that we're making right across the country and over the course of the last 18 months, as the Premier knows all too well, we have had many challenges to face. Those challenges, of course, have been in confronting COVID, but it has also been confronting the economic challenges that have flowed from the COVID pandemic. But a mainstay of our economic effort has been continuing to invest in important infrastructure all around the country. That is why today Australia's economy is bigger today than it was before the pandemic started. It is why there are more Australians employed today than before the pandemic started. It wasn't just because of the significant financial support provided through JobKeeper and JobSeeker, cash flow boost, these many projects, but also because of, we've maintained the pace and in fact accelerated the pace of going forward with major infrastructure works all around the country.

Now, it was [inaudible] ago that we stood here as we announced that we'd be committing to this project and we said there'd be more work to do as we would consult with the community and find the best way to ensure that we had this crossing and the various other supporting infrastructure works in a position to go forward. That work's been done. There's a bit more to do. But what we're here to announce together with the New South Wales Government is today that this will be a half a billion dollar project. $400 million of that funded by the Commonwealth Government. And the balance, 20 per cent funded by the State Government. Today, we're amping up again, some $200 million into this project to ensure that this could go ahead. This means getting people home sooner and safer. It means getting to the job site sooner and safer. It means ensuring that the village communities of this part of Western Sydney are preserved and maintained. There's still work to be done to continue to consult and work with the local community. I want to thank the Local Government. I want to thank the community groups and everyone who's worked so closely with this consultation process to ensure we've been able to get to where we are today and we need to keep going down that path to ensure we can have the support project in place for Western Sydney.

This is how you retain your triple-A credit rating. This is how you retain a strong and vibrant economy in the middle of a global pandemic which is raging around the world. This is how Australia continues to go forward and Western Sydney continues to go forward by ensuring that we keep up to the pace with projects and the infrastructure needs that are so urgent and always have been here in the growing regions of Australia and none less so than here in Western Sydney. So I want to thank Premier Berejiklian for her great support on this project. We work together on so many projects and this is just another of them, whether it's out at Western Sydney Airport, the road and rail infrastructure that supports that massive investment here in Western Sydney or indeed this one here that we announce today. But with that, I'll pass you onto the Premier.

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Thank you, Prime Minister, can I firstly thank you and the generosity you've shown in supporting 80 per cent funding of this project in the State is kicking in the 20 per cent, which is often the case. But, the Federal Government, again, has demonstrated their vision for making sure that infrastructure in New South Wales is achieved. And one thing I'm incredibly proud of is even though we have had our challenges in the last 18 months in New South Wales, there hasn't been a single day where we've had to down tools on our infrastructure pipeline, we've made sure we've kept construction sites open, we've made sure our infrastructure pipeline has been followed through with. So the people of New South Wales can be assured, that when the PM and I announce a project’s being delivered in New South Wales, it will actually happen and we're looking forward to getting on with the job and looking forward to providing relief to the community of Hawkesbury, a community that's been very patient, that's had to go through its own challenges of late. But now can be confident in the knowledge that we care about how much time they sit in traffic, we want them to spend more time with their families or at work, or doing whatever else they want to be doing, and looking forward to getting cracking on the project. I want to thank everybody who's been involved, obviously the Federal Government for their financial contribution but also, the planners at both a state and federal level that have made sure this project is coming to life.

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE: Thank you, Prime Minister and Premier, it's great to be here at this very significant announcement of $500 million in funding for this crossing at the Hawkesbury River. As the Prime Minister mentioned, when the project was first announced, there was a $250 million commitment. But a lot of consultation done on how this project could best meet the needs of both people travelling across the Hawkesbury River, but also the communities of Richmond and North Richmond. And what that has ended up with, following that extensive consultation, extensive design work is a much more extended solution, which bypasses the town centres of both communities. That's a better outcome for people who live in those communities, the significant historical communities. Also, a better outcome for those travelling on this route. There will be time savings of some 12 minutes, multiplied by the 31,000 vehicles that are using this, that's a very, very significant aggregate time saving. Now the Morrison and Berejiklian Governments working together very closely on this project as we are on so many projects across Western Sydney. Western Sydney Airport, the Western Sydney infrastructure plan and so much more. And certainly I work very closely with New South Wales Transport Minister Constance on the details of many of these projects. So I'll pass now to Andrew to tell us a bit more about the project.

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: Good morning everybody and to the Prime Minister and Premier, thank you also for backing in what is a wonderful project for the Hawkesbury. I know certainly in terms of the advocacy of both Robyn and Sarah is second to none. This is about returning the villages to the villages and getting the through traffic out of those villages. If you think about 31,000 cars and the choke point that exists currently on the road network, it's about providing that third river crossing. It's about speeding up, the through traffic. And as I said, getting village life back to local residents. This is an 11 kilometre bypass, one which will have a third river crossing of around 250 metre bridge, six intersection upgrades, of course also improvements to the existing road network. It also doubles the flood resilience as well, which is also critically important. And it is the major connection point between the Bells Line Road and of course the Sydney basin. The project itself, will start in terms of major works next next year. There is still some degree of consultation which is happening over the next month, which is really important for locals. And then, of course, at the same time completing the reference design work and getting on with the work next year. Certainly in terms of jobs, this is an infrastructure led recovery when it comes to the pandemic in New South Wales with its, you know, in excess of $100 billion over the next four years, $72 billion into transport and roads is generating some 150,000 jobs in transport, roads alone, in projects like this. This one, 850 jobs. That'll be jobs in Western Sydney, jobs for young people in particular, in some cases apprentices and trainees, who will be working for the first time on a major project like this. So, it's very exciting for all concerned. And I know from the local perspective it's one that will just ease that enormous traffic burden that exists currently.

PRIME MINISTER: Happy to take some questions. Let's talk about the project first, and if there are other matters that others wish to raise, the Premier and I don't mind responding.

JOURNALIST: Did the flood crisis of earlier this year maybe bring this project forward, was that part of the thinking?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I wouldn't say that. This project has been on the consultation path for sometime now and it's been a very exhaustive consultation process, many options have been identified and talked through and I have no doubt there are still some fine points still to be worked through. But that said, doubling the scale of this project in terms of investment from the Commonwealth and State, I think has indicated our willingness to understand what the challenges are, what the community is looking for. You make sure to design a project as best as you possibly can to ensure that it's meeting the needs of the community, providing jobs, supporting the lifestyle, which is very important in Western Sydney, in these areas, and to ensure that at the end of the day, it's helping western Sydney be even stronger than it is today.

JOURNALIST: Some of these people are upset about where this is being announced today, [inaudible], what's your message for them directly? They believe this is the wrong spot and not necessarily [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I understand and I'll ask Andrew, who is best placed to deal with that, but as I say, we'll keep trying to resolve every issue we can. It's a very important project for Western Sydney and we're keen to get going.

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: Alex, certainly, I'm going to meet with some of those residents afterwards. But the key point and the reason we're here is about that river crossing and this point, that we are now going to see another river crossing. There is no doubt with the through traffic, it is a major choke point here. And as I said before, we want to return village life to the Richmonds and North Richmonds in terms of those communities, which is what this is about. So that bridge is just there is an example of the choke point that exists currently with those 31,000 cars and that's why we're standing here.

JOURNALIST: We saw during the floods that the Windsor Bridge had been dubbed 'flood proof', and we saw that it wasn't, will this be flood proof?

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: I think it's fair to say, I mean, ultimately it's not just about bridge crossings and what have you, the entire road network is subject to floods and in particular the floods that we saw recently, major floods. So the beauty with this, this bridge is going to be six metres higher than the existing crossing. And, you know, ultimately, when you have major flood events, everything gets disrupted. But in terms of this bridge, it is higher, but we've also got the existing challenge in terms of the entire road network. And that is what we have in place, a very comprehensive strategy around dealing with the flood prone nature of the road network in Hawkesbury and making sure that when we do see major events, that we're able to see that infrastructure be resilient and be open as quickly as possible after those major events.

JOURNALIST: How many homes and businesses will be acquired to build this?

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: So, in total, there's going to be 21. We have a combination of partial acquisitions and full acquisitions, but I'm going to talk to some of those residents after this and some of those commercial property owners.

JOURNALIST: They're pretty upset. There are some homeowners here that are finding out through this press conference, basically, if they're going to lose their home.

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: So one of the challenges is, when we make major infrastructure investments like this, we have to do it in a timely and concurrent way because we have seen and we don't want to see gaming, particularly amongst developers across the city, with such a large infrastructure program. If I had a way in which we weren't able to disrupt people's lives to to build major infrastructure for everybody, I'd love to do it. I know that certainly in terms of the impact for those residents, I'm really sorry that this acquisition process has to happen. One of the things we want to do is firstly make sure that we support them with the appropriate property manager. We handle it sensitively and where possible, particularly through reference design, if there is some slight changes we can make, we'll work through that. But I'll meet with the residents after.

JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, and I note this is [inaudible], there's no toll?

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: No, there's no toll. It's like the other motorways we're building at the moment, in Gateway and M12, there's no toll on this road either.

JOURNALIST: The story today in the Herald in regard to Transurban, is a move towards distance based travelling across the board, a potential?

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: I'd say this, I mean, first of all, Transurban, like anybody else, can bring an unsolicited proposal to Government, I mean this is a response to a Parliamentary Inquiry. But I'd just say this in relation to to Mr. Minns. He belongs to a party which has delivered more toll roads than any other in the State's history, including the longest tolling concession in 38 years, but also the highest toll. So I mean, unlike Labor, this Government has put in place a regime to support motorists with tolling concession benefits, and at the same time, so many cost of living measures as well. So, ultimately unlike Labor, when he was a staffer in that Government, they tunnel funnelled on the Cross City Tunnel, they tunnel funnelled with the Lane Cove Tunnel so he hasn't got a particularly good track record. And I'd ask everyone to look at the history of the former Government in relation to tolls before taking a lecture from Mr Minns.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: Well, again, this is part of the process, so I'll have a chat to them afterwards. The community has till July to continue to [inaudible] the project. That's important. What we did first up was go out with four route options for the community to consider, part of this and again the key challenge is we do want to try and mitigate against property banking, wherever we can, because I know it's disruptive. And ultimately, I'm sorry we have to go through this, so I'll talk to those residents afterwards.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it's fair though that it's being addressed in a public manner rather than speaking to them before the announcement?

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: Well the point out of this is, we do this concurrently, because there's a principle here. We ultimately have to make the announcement jointly, because unfortunately across this city, you don't want to be giving, particularly developers the upper hand in terms of land banking, where we might actually build infrastructure. That's why we do it concurrently like this. And I know it's hard, but ultimately, we have staff who go out and knock on doors and start to talk to people about the process.

LOCAL RESIDENT: [inaudible].

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: Yeah, let me talk to you afterwards and we'll let the journos ask the questions.

LOCAL RESIDENT: [inaudible].

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: Let me talk to you afterwards.

LOCAL RESIDENT: [inaudible].

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: Let me have a chat to you afterwards, but I mean, everyone, as I said, I mean, ultimately with investments like this, everyone is seeking to a) return village life to the locals, b) deal with the through traffic. So I will have a chat to you [inaudible].

JOURNALIST: Premier, on the vaccine. You made comments too this morning in regards to Victoria’s proposal, with the Prime Minister here, are you able to talk about the allocation fairness?

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Sure. I mean, look, the PM has to worry about the entire nation, I’ve just got to worry about New South Wales. I’ve just been public about this from day dot and the PM knows, we just want to make sure that New South Wales continues to get our fair share. I mean, we’ve been through outbreaks, there’s going to be more outbreaks. We’re in a pandemic. And look, I appreciate the pain and angst that our Victorian citizens are going through, and our thoughts are with them during this very difficult time, and I appreciate that other states will potentially go through this at different times during the pandemic. We have to be open to that. But at the same time, I think as the Premier of New South Wales, the PM would expect me to say New South Wales should get its fair share during the course of the pandemic. I mean, the Avalon cluster, we had over 170 cases, 30 in one day, we’ve been through rough times in New South Wales and I just say, you know, we're trying to do the heavy lifting with bringing back 3,000 Aussies home every single week. We haven't stopped. We keep bringing Aussies home, 3,000 Aussies home every single week, and I can't tell you the stress that puts on our system to keep everyone safe. So, I think the PM would be disappointed if I didn’t speak up on behalf of my state. I’m simply saying New South Wales has done the heavy lifting. We'll continue to do that. Forty five per cent of people we’ve processed through our state quarantine system are actually citizens of other states. We do that because we're Australian as well as New South Wales citizens, and all I'm arguing, which the PM would expect me to do, is say that New South Wales during the course of the pandemic, in relation to vaccines, doesn't matter which one it is, should get its fair share.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is it fair that Victoria is now getting this advantage with the extra doses?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, a couple of things. First of all, none of the additional doses that are going to Victoria are coming at the expense of any other state. That's the first point. New South Wales is receiving over 80,000 doses of Pfizer a week this month. That will go to over 100,000 next month. There's an additional 50,000 doses that are going into the GPRC system, and that's as a result of discussions we’ve had with the Health Minister here in New South Wales. An additional 50,000 coming in this month also to New South Wales into the GP system, and I think that's a positive. And what is also very good news is that on the weekend we just went past the five million mark in terms of the number of people vaccinated with a first dose. That's one in five Australians. Now, it took us, it took us over 45 days to get to that first million. It took us 10 days to get to that last million, to get us to five million. So the time taken each, each benchmark is getting shorter and shorter and that's as the rollout continues to gather pace. Now we’re over 800,000 in a week, and that will continue. And I concur with the Premier, New South Wales has done the heavy lifting when it comes to bringing people back from overseas. Over, around 3,000 people a week, and on occasion, more than that when there’ve been special circumstances, such as when we were dealing with repatriating citizens from Lebanon during the terrible explosion last year and New South Wales was the first to provide that support. So we appreciate that. And so, we are continuing to provide those doses and providing further information on the program going out over the next 10 weeks, that should happen in the next few days. But as I said, additional 50,000 going into New South Wales in the GP system. More than 400,000 will come in this week at over 80,000 a week. And next month, that will go up to over 100,000 a week, and the key factor then is for people to come and take those doses.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, [inaudible] would you consider a dedicated quarantine facility at the Richmond RAAF base considering that it kind of fits the criteria, plenty of land, federally owned, 30 minutes from Nepean Hospital, is that something that you’d consider?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of well, I’m sure the Premier would concur with me, New South Wales is neither asking for an additional quarantining facility here in New South Wales and nor are we seeking one. 3000 people are coming through every single week here in New South Wales. And that is being done at an incredibly high success rate. So there’s no difference in our view. We’re neither seeking one, nor is New South Wales seeking one. I mean, if borders were in a position of opening in a years time, that is a different situation but if we are in a position to open borders, then the requirement for quarantine will be very, very different to what it is today and I think that is a very speculative position at this point in time. There is also the key requirement in that criteria that we tabled on Friday that it doesn't impact on other Commonwealth activity. Now, it's a RAAF base and it needs to operate as a RAAF base. It's not a medical facility, it’s a RAAF base. And it’s first job is national defence and the work it does to support emergency support and other operations that impact not just here out in Western Sydney but more broadly across the state. So there are no requests for additional quarantine facilities here in New South Wales. New South Wales has been doing the heavy lifting without complaint for many months, indeed over a year and from a national point of view, we are very appreciative of the role they played.

JOURNALIST: Premier, your thoughts on [inaudible]?

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Yeah certainly, the point I was making yesterday is not only are we bringing in 3,000 Australian citizens home every week, but currently in our hotel quarantine system, we have over 5,000 residents, 5,000 Australians in hotel quarantine at the moment. The point I was making is we are at our operational capacity, we have no capacity to do more. So if there was any proposal in the future, it wouldn't come from us because we are at stretch point now. The Health and Police have told me, the expert advice is, New South Wales once you get over the 5,000 and sometimes we have creeped up to 5,500 at any one time, once you creep up over that, you really are at a very high risk point. We never want to get to that. That’s why the point I made was, we certainly wouldn't be putting on a request to operate any additional facility because we don't have the capacity, we are at capacity now. We’re doing our bit. However, as the PM said, down the track, quarantine will look different once the majority of our population is vaccinated, and our international borders are open, that is a different question. But at this point in time, we don't have capacity to operate any more than we are doing, that's the point I was making. To equate to what New South Wales is doing, you would have to build 10 such facilities in New South Wales. So whilst no system of quarantine is perfect, it doesn't matter where it is, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, who builds it or who operates it, it's a risky proposition and we do it every day knowing it but it’s the right thing to do.

JOURNALIST: A number of backbenchers and some Ministers have serious concerns about the cemeteries reform. How committed are you to delivering it as announced and will you consider changes to appease backbenchers?

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Lookwe're always looking at every policy position on every matter and I will continue to consult with colleague on that.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on Victoria, with  the spike in numbers again today, do you think the lockdown in Melbourne should be extended past later this week?

PRIME MINISTER: That would ultimately be a decision for the Victorian Government, as it always is. The Commonwealth will determine its position through the Chief Medical Officer. We are seeing the cases that are being identified, are occurring in quarantine, and where they are presenting in other areas, they are in contained situations. Let me just sort of give you some context. Every day in the UK at the moment, there are 4,393 cases. That is in a country that has a 75.8% vaccination on first dose. 4,393 cases. In Canada, there are over 2,000 cases every single day. They have a vaccination rate of 67% on first doses. In Taiwan, we are seeing over 450 cases a day. In Korea, we are seeing over 600. In Japan, over 1,700. Here in Australia, we are living in a way with this virus like few, if any other countries other than New Zealand are, in the world. And this is a challenge in Victoria but it's one that will be overcome and it will be one that hopefully will see Victoria opened again soon, particularly for those parents who are having to keep the kids at home away from school. Kids have lost enough time out of school over the course of the last 18 months. It's very important we get those kids back to school as soon as possible. So I am hopeful that these restrictions in Victoria will be lifted as soon as possible, as the Premier herself said, when similar circumstances were faced here in New South Wales the restrictions were contained to a very specific part of Sydney, and so I would be urging that we move towards lifting those restrictions as soon as possible. We will be in a position tomorrow for Victorians affected in Melbourne, to be able to go online and make those applications for the payments I am advised, and there will be further updates provided by the Minister for Services Australia later today to confirm those arrangements.

JOURNALIST: Annastacia Palaszczuk had her injection of the Pfizer vaccine despite being over 50 because she said she wants it in case she goes to the Tokyo Olympics. You had plans to previously go to the Olympics. Are you going to go to the Tokyo Olympics?

PRIME MINISTER: No. I have no plans to go to those Olympics. I'll be looking forward to seeing the Yoshi Suga, the Prime Minister next weekend, this weekend coming, I should say, at the G7 plus meetings which will be incredibly important for Australia, incredibly important to sit down with the leaders of the greatest liberal and largest liberal democracies in the world and some of the largest economies in the world. They have a big impact on where the world is heading, so I am looking forward to those meetings, including with my very good friend Prime Minister Suga and we wish them all the best with the hosting of those Olympics. Could you imagine having gone through all those preparations for hosting the Olympic Games, and then having the world struck by a pandemic. That I know was quite heartbreaking for the people of Japan and so we wish them all the best as they persevere and put these games on. I think that shows tremendous resilience and strength on their part and I will be encouraging the Prime Minister but there are many other issues we will be discussing as well while I am there.

JOURNALIST: And you think it is appropriate to leave at the moment to go to the G7 while Victoria is in a COVID crisis?

PRIME MINISTER: These are incredibly important meetings for Australia's national interest and these matters are being well managed in Australia and I'll be in constant contact with the situation, whether in Victoria or anywhere else, but when you are sitting down with the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the President of France, the Prime Minister of Japan, our biggest allies and partners around the world, and to have been invited to do so, Australia is not a member of the G7. This is the third year in a row that I've been invited to participate alongside my global colleagues, to focus on the biggest challenges the world faces. COVID and the pandemic, the recession that it has caused, the challenges around climate change, all of this will be key factors in the discussions that we have and, most importantly, global security and regional security here in the Indo Pacific. These are important responsibilities of the Federal Government, the Australian Government, and so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to discussing and progressing these important matters with our global colleagues over the course of the next week. Thank you.