Press Conference, Port Macquarie, NSW

Pat Conaghan: We’re here today down at Port Macquarie Main Beach and I’d like to welcome here today the Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack, the Mayor Peta Pinson and members of the Tidal Pool Committee.

Firstly, I'd just like to say welcome again to the Acting Prime Minister post-election.

Now, of course, we've had the election recently and the Nationals in Coalition were returned, and my view is we were returned because people were comfortable. People knew that they were in good hands. And it's because of The Nationals in Coalition that we can deliver projects such as the tidal pool of $4.47 million.

This has been something that's been ongoing for decades. Back in 1992, there was a proposal put forward and granted but never went ahead because of the funding. We have that funding now.

And if you look around, it's a beautiful day in Port Macquarie. It's winter. People are out surfing. People are out swimming. And this is exactly what the people of Port Macquarie have asked for – a tidal pool. It will be the jewel in the crown of Port Macquarie.

Everything will be done sympathetic to the environment, to the ecology, to the local area, and it'll be such a great thing for tourism, such a great thing for the people of Port Macquarie.

The young people who can use it, the elderly who can use it, those who aren't confident in going out to the surf. So it's going to be a great asset and something that will be here forever and a day for the people of Port Macquarie.

So, I'd just like to hand over to Mayor Peta Pinson for a few comments.

Peta Pinson: Great. Thank you, Pat. And I also extend my warm welcome to you, Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

Yes, it is. It's wonderful. The election's done and dusted now and the pledge of almost $4.5 million for such an asset for our community. This is not a council initiative, it's not led by the council. This is a community-led initiative.

The likes of the Tidal Pool Committee who’ve stuck in there and they’ve lobbied hard and now they're getting their just desserts with this wonderful announcement, with the funding coming through.

So I'd just like to thank you for your advocacy, Pat, on behalf of our community. But mostly, I'd like to also congratulate the members of the Tidal Pool Committee.

I'm sure that the Port Macquarie-Hastings community are really waiting for this to be delivered, and our tourism as well is going to benefit from it.

So, thank you. And Josh, I’ll hand over to you to say a few words.

Josh Rummery: I’d just like to say thank you for everyone meeting here today. This is one of our prime locations here at Town Beach.

We are considering three, so we're being very sensitive, obviously, to ecology, what the community wants, and ensuring that we make sure we do a great job for the money that's being spent here.

So we're employing the right people to do the right job for us so that when it comes the time to build it, it stacks up and everyone's going to be happy with it. So, yes, thank you very much for that.

Pat Conaghan: Fantastic. Thanks, Josh, and thank you for your service and contribution to the committee. It's extremely important to the people of Port Macquarie and of course, Michael, thank you again for your counsel and making this happen for Port Macquarie.

Michael McCormack: Thank you, Pat.

There was a tidal wave of support for this project. As I understand there were 18,000 signatures on a petition, on a support measure, to get this project happening.

It didn't happen by pure chance. It didn't happen by some coincidence. It happened because the Federal Liberal and Nationals’ Government had money there to make sure that we have a strong economy. To make sure that we're able to build the infrastructure for regional, country, coastal communities that is going to be such an asset, as Pat Conaghan has just said, for this particular community – Town Beach at Port Macquarie.

And it’s there also because of Pat Conaghan’s fighting. It's there because of his advocacy. It's there because he championed it.

That's the sort of bloke that Pat Conaghan is. He's somebody who's going to identify a project, listen to the community support, take on board what they've told him and then deliver.

It's not just a tidal pool for Port Macquarie, it's all the roads, it's all the bridges, it’s all the infrastructure right around the Cowper electorate that Pat Conaghan is going to deliver now and into the future.

That's because the community has also backed him. They've backed the Liberal and Nationals’ Government. They’ve backed what we're doing with the economy. And they've backed us to make sure that we can continue to support regional communities because that's what the National Party does. It gets in there, it identifies things that the community has said that they need and want and expect and most of all deserve.

And as Pat Conaghan has said, this is going to be such a game-changer for tourism, such a game changer for local residents, because they'll be able to come down here, swim confidently in a great little facility. It's going to be state of the art.

I know that Josh and his committee worked so hard right back to, I think, it's Ken Wilson, back to 1990, this was first looked at and the community first said that they needed a project like this. Well, it's been delivered.

Thanks to Pat Conaghan, thanks to The Nationals, and also thanks to the great community efforts that got behind this project.

Question: Deputy Prime Minister, what else has brought you to Port Macquarie?

Michael McCormack: I'm going to be talking to the oyster farmers this afternoon and listen to their concerns. We need a strong oyster community. We need strong fisheries. They've got some issues, they’ve got some concerns that they've identified that they'll be raising with me.

Certainly, we've got a new Fisheries Minister in Jonathon Duniam from Tasmania. He understands fisheries. He also will be working very closely with the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation to see what we can do to help bolster this important industry – this important industry which provides so many jobs and so many market opportunities for Port Macquarie and elsewhere, right up and down the east coast of Australia and elsewhere.

Question: What are some of those issues they’ve raised with you, these oyster farmers?

Michael McCormack: Well, they haven’t raised them with me yet, but I’m looking forward to the meeting this afternoon so that they can raise whatever issue they like.

And that's what the National Party does: we go to these sorts of meetings. They've called on us to sit down with them for an hour or so and I'll hear their concerns, and I'll take them to the Assistant Minister and we'll certainly see what we can do for them.

Question: The funds committed for the tidal pool are likely not going to be enough to complete the whole project. Will there be more money on the table?

Michael McCormack: Well, they asked for $4.47 million, and Pat Conaghan and The Nationals delivered $4.47 million.

But look, I know that Josh and his team are going to go away and they've got three sites that they're looking at. They've obviously got some other things that they need to tick off on before we actually get the first shovel on the ground.

But we'll always look at that and we’ll always take on board what the committee tells us, and if they come back and say: well look, we don't need quite that amount of money, we'll say well, we'll spend that money on something else. If they come back and say: look, it’s a little bit extra, again we'll look at that as well.

But, you know, the fact is the money that they've requested is there. It's budgeted. It’s good money. And Pat Conaghan delivered it.
I’m pleased and proud that he's been able to do that for and on behalf of the Port Macquarie community. The fact is, the money's there and we'll be delivering this project.

I’m looking forward to coming back and swimming and it won't be in budgie smugglers – you can be safe in the knowledge of knowing, Pat.

Thank you.

Question: [Indistinct] in terms of the tidal pool, there’s not really an announcement today, you’re just reaffirming …

Michael McCormack: Just reaffirming? Look, I'm coming back because it's just been about two and a half weeks since the election, and sometimes there’s this cynicism by community, sometimes even by journalists, would you believe it? I can say that being an ex-journalist, but the fact is, people just think you turn up during a campaign period. No, no, no. No, I'm going to be turning up many more times.

I'll be turning up here even more before the end of the year, because I want to make sure that the sort of commitments that we made are going to be delivered.

I want to make sure that the community knows that they put their faith and support in Pat Conaghan, I've put my faith and support in Pat Conaghan; Pat Conaghan will deliver.

And I want to make sure that the community knows that the National Party are there for them, as we always have been, not just during election time but all year round. That's what I do in my role; I'm not only The Nationals’ Leader, I'm also the Minister for Transport, for Infrastructure and perhaps most importantly, Regional Development.

So I'll be getting out and around Pat's electorate and other electorates besides. I’m on a tour this week of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, to let those electorates know that it's not just during campaign time that The Nationals turn up. We care. We turn up all the time.

Question: And when you say the money is there for the tidal pool, where exactly is there?

Michael McCormack: It has been pledged. When Josh comes back with his team and says: look, we're ready to go; we've signed all the necessary environmental and cultural and planning development tick-offs, we've got all that, we're ready to go, we've identified the site – I appreciate Josh has said that there's three potential sites at the moment – when they're ready to put a shovel in the ground, we’ll be there ready to help them.

I know Pat’s ready to and eager to make sure that this work gets started. And then what happens is the cheque goes from the Infrastructure Department, the Treasury, into the builders, into the construction company that's going to do it and it'll get done. Happy days.

Question: Pat, just quickly, a few people are questioning the idea of giving all this money to a tidal pool when roads around the area do need upgrading. What’s your opinion on that and why the tidal pool?

Pat Conaghan: Well, in the last Budget, record spending, record investment into local roads has been given, over $100 million, so local roads will be attended to.

But this is something that's been going on, as I said, for decades. So, the roads will be looked after, the infrastructure will be looked after.

But this is something special that Port Macquarie deserves and they've been asking for for a long time.

Michael McCormack: And I might just add to that as the Infrastructure and Transport Minister, in the last Budget delivered on 2 April, there was a 25 per cent increase for the 500-plus councils throughout Australia for Roads to Recovery funding.

But that's only made available because of the National Party, because we came up with that fund many years ago, when, as I understand, John Anderson was The Nationals’ Leader and Deputy Prime Minister. We knew that local councils should be able to make local decisions on roads at a local level, and so we started that fund, the Roads to Recovery funding.

We also have a lot of money set aside for Black Spot funding as part of our $100 billion of infrastructure right across the nation.

So, it's not just about roads, it's not just about tidal pools. It's about all sorts of infrastructure. And we're delivering it in record sums of money.

And that's what you can do when you have a strong economy. And that's what you can do when you've got small businesses firing and creating jobs and creating opportunities. And the Liberal and Nationals’ Government will always make sure that there’s a strong economy, and that we can invest in country and coastal communities like Port Macquarie.

Thank you very much.