Doorstop with The Hon John Barilaro MP, Deputy Premier of NSW Parkes, NSW
Journalist: Michael, what's the significance of this agreement?
Michael McCormack: Well the significance of this agreement is that now we have two States on board with the Inland Rail. The Melbourne to Brisbane Corridor of Commerce. New South Wales have signed up. I'm delighted that my friend and parliamentary colleague John Barilaro has signed the bilateral agreement this morning. This means the world for not just Parkes, not just all the regional communities along the line but indeed all of Australia because this is nation building infrastructure.
This is going to mean such a difference to the farmers, to the small businesses, but indeed to all people throughout Australia are going to take advantage of this nation building infrastructure because we're going to be able to take advantage of those free trade agreements we've been able to broker with South Korea, China, Japan, and indeed the Trans Pacific Partnership 11.
Journalist: And Victoria's signed as well?
Michael McCormack: Victoria signed some weeks ago. I was delighted that Jacinta Allen the Minister for Transport in Victoria signed up to the agreement. They were the first State. New South Wales are on board now and I look forward to getting Queensland to sign on as well. I had a discussion with Mark Bailey the Transport Minister just two nights ago. Had a very fruitful discussion with him and look forward to Queensland coming on board in the not-too-distant-future.
Journalist: Labor's released its rail plan this morning. What's your response to it?
Michael McCormack: Believe what Labor actually does not what Labor says it's going to do.
Labor often talks up a big game prior to an election. Labor often talks up a big game whenever its talking about infrastructure but you can only really trust a Liberals and Nationals Coalition, whether it's State or whether it's Federal to actually deliver the sort of infrastructure that Australians need, demand, want and expect.
Journalist: Now you mentioned before regional communities and farmers as well next week also marks the disallowance motion through the Senate for the Murray Darling Basin Plan. If it doesn't pass, what's your thoughts there, all steam ahead? If it does pass, what will that mean for the plan?
Michael McCormack: Well let's see what happens next week and I know the Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has been working very hard to make sure we get a plan which works.
The Northern Basin Review is an important part of that plan. I'm delighted that Niall Blair continues to work cooperatively with David Littleproud, two Agriculture Ministers in New South Wales and Federally, to make sure that we get certainty for our farmers, to make sure that we get assurances for our river communities whether it's in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, other irrigation areas across the Basin, whether it's in the Northern Basin, those farmers need surety.
They need the water to be able to grow the food and fibre for us to be able to take advantage of the free trade agreements that we've got with the Asian countries. But certainly we need a plan that is laid down, that is clear, and that is going to make sure that we have the sort of environmental water we need whilst making sure there is that triple-bottom-line approach so we don't destroy river communities.
Journalist: As part of today's announcement will the State Government be providing any funds for the project?
Michael McCormack: Well, look, certainly New South Wales and the Commonwealth are in agreement that this is nation building infrastructure. We are delighted that the New South Wales Government has come on board.
The important thing is that the project has already begun. We've dropped off the first steel in January to Peak Hill, with the Parkes to Narromine section soon to start. This- right where we're standing Parkes is going to be the hub of so much activity. It's going to generate so many hundreds of jobs over the build, right up to '24, '25 when the first train is going to rattle down that track taking the produce from this area and other areas from- to port whether that's Melbourne or Brisbane.
This is nation building infrastructure. I can't stress that enough. It is a Corridor of Commerce that's going to add $2.6 billion to the gross state domestic product for New South Wales let alone what it's going to do for Queensland and Victoria.
Journalist: There are calls for an independent inquiry into Inland Rail and I understand the NSW Farmers' Federation agrees, talk us through that, what's going to happen there?
Michael McCormack: Well we're pleased to be talking to the New South Wales Farmers' Federation and National Farmers' Federation. Farmers are going to be the big beneficiaries of Inland Rail.
I have appointed Warren Truss, the former Deputy Prime Minister, the former Infrastructure and Transport Minister to a three-year term as the Australian Rail Track Corporation chairman.
Warren is very much looking forward to meeting all stakeholders and to discussing with local council, with State governments the importance of inland rail and getting this job done. We've started the work. Warren Truss is certainly somebody who is very experienced, very diplomatic and I know that he's going to do a fine job as the ARTC chairman. That's why I've put him in the job.
Journalist: When can people in Parkes expect to see construction started?
Michael McCormack: Very, very soon. In fact, in this inter-governmental agreement allows us to really get the show happening much sooner. Delighted that John Barilaro has signed the bilateral agreements today.
This is what happens when States and the Commonwealth can work cooperatively together for that big vision, for that picture and this is big picture stuff. As John Barilaro just indicated this is one of the biggest builds, one of the more important builds in New South Wales since the Snowy River Scheme.
Journalist: Can you be a bit more specific on a time frame? Would you say six months, a year down the track before we start to see construction?
Michael McCormack: Construction will begin in the next six months certainly.
Journalist: What is the relationship between the inter-governmental agreement and local councils from Queensland through Victoria? What's their relationship in this agreement?
Michael McCormack: Well local council are very much part of this, they're part and parcel of it.
And just recently I spoke to the council of Narrabri and Moree. I've had many, many discussions with Parkes Council, with Forbes Shire, with Wagga Wagga City Council where they're building an intermodal rail freight logistics hub there, courtesy of a $14.5 million Federal grant.
This is nation building infrastructure that's going to provide so much value, so much input for local councils in particular. And that's why the intergovernmental agreement with New South Wales is so important because it brings all three spheres of government together, local, state and federal, working cooperatively to make sure that this nation building structure happens.
Journalist: Are there elements of haves and have nots for councils in this agreement though? Will some councils simply will miss out on some of the big spending products of the project?
Michael McCormack: All councils either indirectly or directly right up and down the line will benefit from the inland rail. All councils. And whether that stops within their Shire or whether that just rattles through and picks up some products at the next station, it certainly is going to benefit all councils, all small businesses and all farmers right up and down the line.
Journalist: And is the project on track to be finished in 2024?
Michael McCormack: Yes.
Journalist: And on budget.
Michael McCormack: Yes.
Journalist: Criticism levelled from Joel Fitzgibbon to David Littleproud over live exports, what's your response?
Michael McCormack: Well we're not shutting down live exports like Labor did in 2011. That day in June 2011 was such a blow to farmers. Not just to farmers, to Aboriginal stockmen, to construction companies that make stock crates, providing that valuable infrastructure for indeed stations in West Australian, in Queensland, in the Northern Territory.
We believe that the live animal export trade needs to obviously be done with animal welfare standards front and centre of that. And that's why Australia has an export live chain assurance scheme.
We're the only country in the world that has that scheme in place where animal welfare is looked at from the time the animals leave the farm gate to the time they arrive at their destination.
We will continue to do that and if the orders aren't filled by Australia looking after the animal welfare standard of those pride and joy of farmers, then other countries which do not have the same animal welfare standards in place will take those markets and our famers will be at a disadvantage as a result.
What we've seen from Labor is typical Labor.
Journalist: [Inaudible] how will this look in a decade's time?
John Barilaro: Well, I think in a decade's time when we look back at today we'll see what we unlocked, and this is the opportunity to grow regional communities.
Creating jobs, grow the economy, supporting businesses, and more importantly making sure we see growth in our regional communities.
With growth comes additional government services. As I said earlier, here in Parkes, this is becoming an inland freight and logistics hub.
It really will be a very different place because of inland rail and the New South Wales Government commitment, through my Office of Regional Development, will be working with councils across the State, across the thousand kilometres, to see where there is opportunity for more infrastructure we can bring in the future.
Question: Do you see inland rail complementing the draft port plan?
John Barilaro: Yeah, absolutely.
[Freight train passes]
That's economic activity happening right there, all right!
John Barilaro: Look, the New South Wales Government infrastructure strategy, transport strategy, all ties in to inland rail. We've got an opportunity now with the Federal Government to investment in that transport and logistics infrastructure to make the benefits of inland railway for communities.
But we're working with Councils where local government and communities look to their natural endowment to help get the economy going, half a billion dollars, ready and able to take advantage of what happens in the region with inland rail.
Journalist: And just again, further to that question with relationships with councils, obviously state election next year as well. Are you confident councils are happy with the intergovernmental agreement?
John Barilaro: Yeah, absolutely. [Indistinct] put to us directly about inland rail. Last year, the New South Wales Government announced a $1.3 billion regional growth fund. Half a billion of it is actually about growing local economies, and that is exactly the sort of infrastructure we want to be investing in. The most important one I think is inland rail.
Journalist: Speaking of elections, are you confident The Nationals will hold the majority of seats in western New South Wales, given a bit of a push on anti-CSG and move towards the Greens and Labor?
John Barilaro: Yeah, the demographics are changing and every election is another challenge. We take nothing for granted. But you know, I hold my seat in 2 per cent. I've held on 2 per cent in two elections.
The reality is, if we do what we say we will do we will be judged on our actions, on our word. We commit to what we've said, deliver all our promises.
I trust in the community that they will vote for the party that actually represents their values, their aspiration, and I'm confident in our track record over seven years.
By the next election, I'm confident that we've got the runs on the board but we'll be judged in due course. We look forward to the election next year.
Journalist: Don't you want to help your own local economies and your work at local council? As part of this announcement agreement today with the state government, are you providing funding for the project?
John Barilaro: Well, as I said the inland rail is being funded by the Federal Government, but our opportunity for this comes up where those where we tap in to the inland rail.
And as I said, here in Parkes they have a fantastic master plan of what the future looks like. The New South Wales government has funds to assist council to actually take that opportunity.
But yeah, absolutely. We'll see state government funds building infrastructure that takes advantage of inland rail.
Question: Now, we've had a bit of rain today but it is really dry out in this area and farmers are struggling. We've talked to a lot of farmers lately who are forced to sell their cattle, who are forced to graze them on the side of the road. These farmers say that a $20,000 loan isn't enough for them. What do you say to these farmers?
John Barilaro: Now look it is something. Last week I was up in Tamworth to visit farmers that are of course struggling through the drought. About 25 per cent of the state now have drought conditions. The winter rains don't look like they're coming. It's going to be a tough six months. We can accept that, and we're out and about.
Minister Blair as the Minister for Primary Industries in New South Wales has a series of tools and resources to try and help.
That latest announcement, the $20,000 interest free, no repayment for two years, and then low interest for five after that, is actually hasn't been sold well. Some of the farmers that I spoke to last week in Tamworth didn't realise the detail on what that could be used for.
But saying that, of my tour last week in Tamworth, I said I'd go back and we'll consider what else we can do. I'm planning to go back out to the Hunter region. Of course I'm off to Broken Hill this afternoon.
The reality is we're here to help, but we also accept it's tough times and there are a lot of farmers out there who are getting rid of stock, de-stocking, and making decisions to make sure they can survive this tough period.
But the truth of it is we're not sure how long this is going to be. We've been in drought in before. These things, they just happen for months, in some cases years. But the New South Wales Government is committed to help.
Journalist: Some farmers further west are saying that this has come a little too late for them and that they've had to deal without. Do you think the government was slow in its response to help farmers out here?
John Barilaro: Our resources and tools and a range of support by the New South Wales Government have been in place for years and years. We're quite proud of it.
Over the past four years, $208 million has gone into infrastructure to make somehow drought-proof farms. A lot of farmers have taken that on board.
But this drought has come on so quickly, to say that we're too late, well no. We're responding as it evolves. Today's going to be very different to tomorrow. Like all people here today, we've been praying for rain. Let's hope the rain can come. But in the meantime, we're here to help. Our resource is there, and we'll see what else we can do.
Journalist: Now, Member for Orange Phil Donato sent you a letter yesterday. He was outlining fodder bunkers across the Central West to help protect farmers in the future when they are going through drought. What would your response be to that?
John Barilaro: Oh, I haven't seen the letter. I know whenever Phil Donato sends a letter, he likes to play it in the media first then it probably gets to my desk.
I know with Phil it's always about the politics first. We'll respond in due course and I'm always open to ideas. I'll welcome the letter when I read it and I'll respond in due course.
Question: Just back to the rail. Are you worried about the people between Narromine and Narrabri being dissatisfied with the route?
John Barilaro: Well look, when you build nation-building infrastructure in the city, we've had a lot of infrastructure happen where we've actually impacted on people's lives and it does happen.
But when you build infrastructure like we are building the generations to come, some people are not going to be happy. But what I'm confident is ARTC and the Federal Government, they've been in consultation.
I understand New South Wales Farmers are comfortable with the process, and it's about process. At the end of the day, this is about making sure that long-term—within the next generation—our farmers are the ones that are going to benefit and we can get product to market.
Look, it is tough. Those conversations continue but I'm confident overall I will end up with infrastructure that will change this state and this nation in the future.