Transcript - Doorstop - Barton Highway

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good morning, and it is such a pleasure to welcome you today to Eden‑Monaro. The Barton Highway Duplication is something that our communities have been talking about for three decades, and today we see the significant milestone where we will have traffic switched on to that duplication path now.

And so incredibly proud to be joined by the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Catherine King, the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Jenny Aitchison, and my colleague and neighbour, the Member for Fenner, Andrew Leigh.

This really is a significant milestone for our community. I for one cannot be happier, and I’m sure that the thousands of motorists who travel on this road every day will be extremely happy to see the amount of work that’s been progressed, and this project now coming to life after decades of advocacy and decades of pushing politicians and parliamentarians to get this sorted.

The Albanese Labor Government and the Minns Labor Government are extremely excited to be able to deliver this project now and into the future.

CATHERINE KING: Thank you, Kristy. Thanks very much. It is fabulous to be in your part of the world, Kristy, but also here with our colleague, Andrew Leigh, and also I think this is our – first or second presser – with the new New South Wales Minister for Transport and Roads being, Jenny Aitchison, it’s lovely to have you.

Well, Barton Highway Stage 1, this is a significant milestone [indistinct] Barton Highway Stage 1. Thirteen thousand people use this road every single day. It is a significant connector for the people of NSW and the people of ACT travelling to and from work, to and from social engagements and to and from family as well.

We know that this project has been a long time coming. I do want to say thank you very much to Transport for NSW for the work that they have done, who’ve had to battle some very significant weather as this project has gone on.

I know 200,000 tonnes of earth have had to be moved through the construction of this part of the project, and this milestone today will really see Stage 1 ramp up, with the moving of traffic on to the new part of the road that then allows the strengthening and paving of the old part of the duplication [indistinct] and you can hear from behind us, as motorists are tooting away just how excited people are to have this Barton Highway Duplication well and truly underway.

Planning for Stage 2 is underway as well; we’re not far off from that. I understand on October 20 and 21, I think Transport for NSW will correct me there, but at Murrumbateman there will be some community activity there as well, so people can get an indication of what’s actually happening with Stage 2.

But the intention overall is to duplicate the entire Barton Highway. We know how important that is, but this is a significant milestone today, and it’s great to be partnering with the NSW Government, and I know that Andrew, representing the ACT here this morning, and Kristy here with Eden‑Monaro, I know how important this is to their local community.

This is the Albanese Labor Government’s [indistinct] Australian Government getting on with delivering the infrastructure that our communities need right the way across the country. And I’ll hand over briefly to Jenny, but we’ll take some questions, and then we’ve got [indistinct]. Thank you.

JENNY AITCHISON: Thanks Catherine, thanks Kristy and Andrew. It’s great to be here. As someone who grew up in Canberra and spent the first 30 years of my life here, I know just how important the Barton Highway is.

We know that transport is a social determinant of education, health, opportunity and jobs, and for communities in Yass, this is really a game changer, it means that people can get to work, get to their education and those health needs that they need.

We’re really [indistinct] ensuring as the NSW Government that safety is our number-one priority. We’re really pleased to see that this design, we have an increased median which know is a significant contributor to safety, we really want people safe on our roads, and part of that is making the road upgrades like this.

There will be more information, as Minister King has said, at Murrumbateman Field Days, this weekend, [indistinct] get along, find out more about the project, but we’re very proud, very pleased to work and partner with the Albanese Labor Government. This is a really big game changer, this is a fantastic [indistinct].

SPEAKER: Questions.

JOURNALIST: Minister McBain, can I ask, it’s pretty clear from the Referendum result that suburban middle Australia and regional areas like Eden‑Monaro have delivered this defeat. Why couldn’t you and other Labor MPs reach your own communities and convince them to vote Yes.

KRISTY MCBAIN: The Referendum was held on the weekend was one which every Australian participated and shows the fantastic democracy we have in our country. Every person had the ability to vote in a particular way on Saturday.

This wasn’t about politicians, it wasn’t about parliamentarians, this was about putting to the Australian people a request that came directly from First Nations People about recognition in the Constitution and a Voice to Parliament for listening.

Now, people determined that vote, it wasn’t up to politicians to determine whether that request [indistinct] was up to the Australian people. They have had their say, and now it is time for us to get on with the job and make sure that we close the gap for First Nations People, and that we write the next chapter for our country with First Nations.

JOURNALIST: What does that next chapter look like? What is Plan B here for addressing disadvantage?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Well, I think it’s clear that we have to listen to Indigenous communities to get better results and outcomes. I know from speaking to Aboriginal communities across Eden‑Monaro that there is a deep sense that we have to move on to the next thing now.

There is obviously going to be some hurt, for some of those communities who’ve put a lot of effort, years’ worth of effort into constitutional recognition for a Voice to Parliament, and it is now up to us to move on to what that next chapter looks like and [indistinct] with the entire country making sure that we take into account those requests that have come forward.

JOURNALIST: Minister King, can I ask you for your reflection on what lessons is the Albanese Government taking from the Referendum defeat?

CATHERINE KING: Well, we take very strongly that the Australian people get it right with referendums. This is the decision that we’ve all got [indistinct] and the Australian public has said that this is their view.

We of course don’t think this is the end of reconciliation, I don’t think it was a vote against that, and we certainly don’t think it was a vote against people wanting the gap closed for First Nations People. It just said the model that was put to them was something that they don’t agree with.

So now we’ll have to do the hard work of making sure that across every portfolio we’re working to close the gap, and I’ll certainly be doing that in the Infrastructure and Transport Portfolio working with First Nations communities to make sure we’re putting in the infrastructure and transport across Australia [indistinct] really what we’ll move on to do.

What we do, however, is respect the decision of the Australian people in this referendum. We’re getting on with the business of government as we have been doing every single day. We’ll work with First Nations communities and the Australian population to close the gap and continue the path of reconciliation.

JOURNALIST: Was The Voice the wrong model, or was it just [indistinct]?

CATHERINE KING: Again, I think there’s going to be a lot of analysis and lots of things after that, I think it was the right decision, we promised it in the election campaign.

You’ll remember this has been a very long pathway started by John Howard who said we should have recognition for First Nations People in our Australian Constitution, and Tony Abbott then established the process to determine what that model would be, and we’ve now brought that to conclusion with the Referendum we’ve had on the weekend.

We respect the decision of the Australian people as we always do [indistinct] how do we move forward in terms of reconciliation, how do we make sure we move forward as a united country to close the gap for First Nations People, and that’s something that every single Minister will be concentrating on, alongside [indistinct] every single day making sure Australia’s a better place for everybody.

JOURNALIST: A Senate Inquiry last week recommended a Qatar Airways decision. Are you reviewing the decision?

CATHERINE KING: Well, frankly, it was a complete political stunt by the Senate Committee. I have never seen anything like it [indistinct] Senator Bridget McKenzie and the way in which she conducted that inquiry and the way in which she conducted herself, frankly, throughout that inquiry.

The Senate Inquiry, again, a very politicised Senate Inquiry, is asking the Australian Government to do something the previous government was unable and unwilling to do in its nine long years in office. It did not increase Qatar Airlines’ access to Australia by 28 flights. It did not fix the slot system in Sydney; it did not fix all of the consumer issues when it came to airlines in this country.

We have a Green Paper that we put out, we spent quite some time putting together, that is focused on how we get aviation back up and running properly in this country in a way that benefits consumers, benefits competition, and frankly, I’m not going to be listening to a highly‑politicised Senate Inquiry that just saw, frankly, a ridiculous farce of Bridget McKenzie running around the country where there were empty chairs, you know, bringing people over to Western Australia, and all of the evidence has been heard from over here in the country, and so if you read the dissenting report, that’s the Government’s response –

JOURNALIST: So far [indistinct] –

CATHERINE KING: – that is the Government’s response to –

JOURNALIST: Qatar Airways have requested an explanation for the decisions – for that decision by October 12. Was that provided to the Qatar Airways?

CATHERINE KING: Under all bilateral agreements, if anyone actually bothered to read and understand how bilateral agreements work, including Senator McKenzie. Parties are entitled to request information under that bilateral agreement and my department, as is the usual process, will respond. Thank you.