Press conference in Darwin

Nigel Scullion: Well, good morning. What a fantastic day it is because we’re in Darwin. So it’s a delight to welcome our Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to Darwin. He’s just opened the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association Conference here and of course, we’re all just so thrilled to see half a billion dollars of investment in some of our most important road corridors in the Territory but I’m sure Michael have more to say about that. It’s just wonderful to be here Jacinta Price, the candidate for Lingiari, and with Kathy Ganley, the candidate for Solomon. So, thank you very much, and thanks very much for coming up here, Michael. We really appreciated the announcement.

Michael McCormack: Good. Good. Well, look, firstly, I’ll acknowledge the fact that both Kathy and Jacinta are doing an outstanding job campaigning for their respective seats. What we need is representatives of the CLP in those seats; what we need is more regional representation in our Parliament; and what we need is strong people, determined people who are going to make the voice of the Top End continue to be heard in the Parliament. It’s been heard through Nigel Scullion and I absolutely, absolutely acknowledge the many years of dedicated service that he’s done for the Top End, for Indigenous Affairs, and for people in the Northern Territory in general. He has fought the good fight for them and I wish him all the very best for the future. But I also hope that Sam McMahon can take his place and certainly make sure that the Top End’s voice continues to be heard in the Senate, in Australia's Parliament.

Today, I've opened the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association Conference here—a really, really important conference, the 35th. We acknowledged Grant Heaslip and the contribution he made as the inaugural president but moreover, that pioneering spirit that goes right through the cattle industry here in the Top End. Live exports of cattle to Indonesia are so critical, so critical. They provide so many hundreds of millions of dollars to the NT economy and we want to continue that. […]

But moreover, today, I was delighted to announce some really important initiatives. First of all, $492.3 million going to five road corridors under the Roads of Strategic Importance for the Top End, for the Northern Territory—those five corridors—as part of a process that we worked with the cattle industry, we worked with agriculture, we worked with local government, and we worked with the Territory Government to identify the corridors - not necessarily national highways and byways, but those secondary roads which are feeder roads, which means such a difference to industries, particularly the cattle industry, getting stock to port and obviously to markets are quicker, sooner, safer.

That's what it's all about—and making sure that tourism routes are also opened up; making sure that Aboriginal communities in the remote Top End are also better connected with the rest of the territory; and making sure that we identify these areas along with industry stakeholders. Almost half a billion dollars going to improve those roads: the work will start now. That Roads of Strategic Importance Fund right throughout the nation, a $3.5 billion investment in regional Australia, is going to make such a difference.

We're also investing money in a CSIRO study, $3.5 million, to look at the Roper River catchment area to improve agriculture, to potentially unlock so much more of irrigation investment in the Top End. That's a significant investment too. As well, there’s $2.2 billion in a new road safety strategy. Now last year, 50 people lost their lives on roads in the Northern Territory. That's 50 too many. That’s 50 people who weren’t at home for Christmas. That's 50 people who are so sorely missed now and into the future, mourned by their loved ones, and a real loss to the Northern Territory.

We don't want to see a single person, not one person, die on any roads in Australia and that's why we're investing $2.2 billion into a new road safety strategy. So that involves money for better roads, money for better roads particularly in regional areas. A new Office of Road Safety will sit within the Infrastructure Department to ensure that we talk with people, whether it's key stakeholders such as Lauchlan McIntosh, whether it's local government people, people from the Top End. We want to hear their stories. We want to hear what we can do to improve on road safety.

Last year, 1100 people lost their lives. That number was down on the previous year. But the fact is we need to do more as we head towards vision zero, towards zero, by 2050. We want to make that an absolute national agenda. We are. That's why we're putting so much importance on this strategy. That's why we're particularly focused on regional areas because regional people are all too often overrepresented in road statistics. Those statistics, yes, they’re numbers but they're also people, they’re family members, they’re loved ones.

And so, these important announcements: road safety, the Roper River strategy as far as irrigation and water infrastructure is concerned as part of the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, that billion dollars’ worth of commitment, $1.3 billion already on the table, $500 million of new money towards building better infrastructure, and of course the Roads of Strategic Importance announcement.

It’s really good to be here in Darwin making those announcements. What better place to do it than Darwin? It’s such a vibrant, bustling place and we only want to see Darwin grow even more into the future as well as the entire Northern Territory.

Question: [Inaudible]

Michael McCormack: We're building better roads. We're making sure that small business has the opportunity to grow even further. So what we've done is we've decreased the taxation rate for small business to its lowest point since 1940. We've increased the instant asset write-off to $25,000 and extended it into the future. So we want business to grow. We have a decentralisation agenda. I know Bridget McKenzie is working with the Territory, I know she's working with businesses to see what Government Departments and indeed what private sector investment can be made, not just in Darwin but indeed the entire Northern Territory. I know how hard Nigel Scullion has worked in that regard too.


Journalist: [Inaudible]

Michael McCormack: Road funding for Queensland? Well, it’s going to be significant and the fact is we’re getting on with building more corridors through the Roads of Strategic Importance announcement. We’re getting on with building the Bruce Highway. We’re looking at the Warrego, lots of other roads in Queensland as well as part of the Northern Australian Roads Program; Beef Roads; ROSI announcements that we’ve just made. The Outback Way: we’ve invested $160 million in the Outback Way which starts at Winton in Queensland and goes all the way through to Laverton in Western Australia; put $160 million on the table for that. $33.5 million is the Queensland component. We are sealing roads that were always unsealed. We’re making sure at the same time as we build better roads and put down better facilities for our cattle industry, for our agricultural industry, we’re also making sure that the top end of Queensland gets well looked after following the recent flooding, following the recent cyclone event.

I mean there's already been hundreds of millions of dollars go out the door. I commend the Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the swiftness with which he acted in conjunction with Linda Reynolds, the Emergency Services Minister, to make sure that those farmers were well looked after, to make sure that the $75,000 that they needed right there and then, there were no strings attached, no bureaucracy, no paperwork needed, just money into their into their bank accounts so that they could try to restock, so that they could try to rebuild their lives as quickly as they can. And we will stand shoulder to shoulder with those farmers, with those communities going into the future.

I’m delighted that millions of dollars are being spent on better radar facilities. That was just announced yesterday and Jane McNamara, one of the outstanding Mayors from that area, has been on the phone to me already twice to thank me earnestly for that commitment, only brought about because the Nationals in Government were in there fighting hard and making sure that that was identified as one of the key necessary amenity infrastructure upgrades that was required after that terrible storm and flood. And we're getting on with the job of rebuilding that particular area of Queensland just like we're standing side by side with our drought stricken farmers.