Transcript - Commonwealth Avenue Bridge Announcement

ZED SESELJA

Well, look, great to be with you here. Happy Australia Day for yesterday. And it’s great to be here with my good friend Michael McCormack, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and other things, and also Elizabeth Lee, the Leader of the Canberra Liberals. And it’s great to be announcing another infrastructure priority for Canberra today – a significant new investment from Federal Government. Now, this $137 million which Michael will talk to more in a moment will go, of course, to strengthening the bridge, to improving access and to ensuring that this is a continuing asset for the people of the ACT and in our national capital for 50 years and beyond. But it is part of a huge investment in Canberra over the last few years by the Liberal-National Government. It’s an absolute bonanza. We’ve seen the Monaro Highway upgrade, the Barton Highway, the Molonglo Valley Bridge, the Tuggeranong Parkway, William Slim Drive, Kings Highway. We’re seeing investments in our national institutions, like the War Memorial, the National Gallery, in record amounts.

So this is huge for Canberra, and today’s announcement not only is an important infrastructure priority, as Infrastructure Australia as outlined, it will see 700 jobs created here in Canberra. But I think Canberrans will particularly see the benefit as they access the bridge and as they access it as pedestrians and cyclists as well. It will be a safer commute, it will be a more enjoyable commute and it will continue to be a great asset. So we’re creating jobs, investing in the infrastructure that we need here in the ACT, not just through this bridge but as part of a $1.3 billion package announced over the last few years. So, with that, I’ll hand over to my good friend Michael McCormack.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thank you, Zed. And Zed continues to deliver for Canberrans. And I know Elizabeth Lee also wants to make sure that Canberra can be its best self. As a city we saw yesterday on Australia Day, this very spot absolutely covered with families and people out celebrating all that is great about Canberra, all that is great about the national capital. And, of course, with so many families out enjoying themselves – walking, jogging, scootering around Canberra – we need better pedestrian aspects for Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. And that’s what we’re delivering, as well as strengthening it.

The bridge constructed in 1963 needs an upgrade, it needs to be strengthened, and that’s what we’re doing with $137 million as part of the $110 billion of infrastructure that we’re rolling out right across the nation, from little small towns right through to the nation’s capital. We are delivering the infrastructure that people, that Australians, want expect, and deserve. And we’re delivering in spades. Over the next 10 years there’s construction happening in every far-flung corner of this nation. And as Zed has just mentioned, 700 jobs during the construction and construction will start, of course, when all the engineering and all the other aspects are absolutely tied away, and it will take some time. But there won’t be an inconvenience to commuters, but what we will see – what we will see – when it’s finished, is a better pedestrian access to the bridge. And what we will see is the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge set up for the next 50 years.

So it’s built in 1963 – it’s even older than me – and it needs an upgrade, and we’re doing that. And as Zed has said, 700 jobs. And right across the nation there are tens of thousands of people at the moment working on construction projects because we’re delivering $110 billion of infrastructure across the nation. This is important. Zed has mentioned all the other projects that we’re doing in and around Canberra because Canberra, like every other part of the nation, is so important and so important for our infrastructure rollout. And that’s what it’s all about.

And certainly as we work through the COVID-recovery process, jobs in construction, jobs in infrastructure and jobs to provide better freight logistics – and that’s what’s this will also provide – is going to be vital to our economic recovery, to our rebuild after COVID. So that’s a good project, a good project announcement. And 100 per cent of this money – 100 per cent – is being provided by the Liberal-Nationals Federal Government. So we’re making sure that $137 million is being spent on this bridge. As I say, 700 jobs, you can’t deny that’s going to provide a big boost for Canberra. And, importantly, all the steel and the concrete and much of the construction works, much of the construction supplies, are going to come from Australian-made companies. So it’s going to be local workers, a lot of local procurement, Australian steel.

This is a good announcement. Zed has worked hard to make sure that Canberra and the ACT more broadly – as has Elizabeth Lee – is very much a part of the mix of our record infrastructure spend right across the nation. And this is what Liberal and Nationals governments do.

JOURNALIST

Senator, just on the money that’s been announced today, the second stage of the light rail from Civic to Woden is expected to go across the bridge. So why not wait for that to be approved and do one big upgrade rather than this one and then potentially another one?

ZED SESELJA

Well, certainly Michael can potentially talk to more to it, but I think the rationale goes to that obviously what’s been approved in terms of the light rail [indistinct] of the bridge. There are approval processes that they still need to go through to go across the bridge. But that is a very different project. So strengthening of this bridge is needed regardless of light rail happening. It has been needed for some time and we’re investing in the future. But light rail would necessitate really the construction of effectively a new bridge across Lake Burley Griffin. So there’s good reason to get on with this. It will be complementary, but they will be different projects.