Transcript - Connect GV Presser
I’d just like to say thank you and welcome to Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack and also our local member, Damian Drum. We are absolutely ecstatic to be able to show you what $2 million has contributed to our wonderful building. So thank you so much for making the effort to come and see your efforts and we really appreciate it.
Thanks, Caz. So it is great to be here. It’s always great to be here with Caz, whatever the issue or whatever the occasion may be. But certainly to look at this amazing facility that was put in as an election commitment and, sure enough, the fact that the Coalition was able to be re-elected enabled us to come good on that promise of $2 million.
It must also be acknowledged that that $2 million was on top of $3 million plus that the community of Shepparton had helped the committee at ConnectGV raise over a number of years. So it really was – and as I’ve said to Michael this morning, ConnectGV is one of these community-based organisations that is incredibly well backed by the community of Shepparton, by the broader community of Shepparton. It matters not whether we have people with disabilities in our family, it simply doesn’t matter. The support for Connect GV is enormous. And as Zoe and Rob were showing me, as they showed us and Michael – showed myself and Michael around this facility, what we have here in Shepparton now is a state-of-the-art, world’s best facility for everybody that may need some additional – some special help so that they can reach their potential in life. And that’s what this is all about.
And Michael, I just want to thank you very much. It’s one thing to be able to make these promises but certainly for us to have no doubt at all that you’re going to come through with the money once we were returned to Government, I just want to thank you very much.
That’s a pleasure. Thank you Damian and thank you Caz and thank you especially to Zoe for showing us through. Zoe’s just one of many people who will utilise this facility this year, next year and ongoing. And I know how important this is going to be for her and her friends. ConnectGV, it’s connecting community, it’s connecting people, it’s connecting the dots to make people’s lives so much better, so much richer. And we saw the art and craft, we saw the physical dimensions within this complex, this state-of-the-art facility, as Damian Drum has just called it. It’s amazing to see what $2 million will do backed on, of course, what he’s described as another $3 million by the community. And we look forward to seeing this facility even enhanced into the future. We look forward to seeing the old facility makes way for valuable car parking space.
It’s been a very valuable day for me – I’ve seen the Foodshed, I’ve seen FRUITCo, I’ve seen, of course, the Echuca-Moama Bridge. And what I’ve seen right through, including the Shepparton Art Museum, is a community spirit second to none in Australia. And this is what regional Australia is all about. It is about connecting community. It is about making these communities more livable. And it’s one of the reasons why so many Melbournians, so many Sydneysiders are actually choosing to come to regional Australia to live. No matter what their state of life is, no matter what their background is, they want to come to regional Australia for a better life. And no better place to do that than in regional Victoria.
And as Damian Drum has shown me today, there are so many opportunities here, so many jobs being created, so many enhancements that the community has benefited from. Yes, there’s been Government support. But it’s also the community getting in and backing its own people, backing its ideas and backing its vision. And that’s why I’m so excited to be here today. Sorry for knocking your microphone. I get a bit effusive. I get so excited about regional Australia. Anyway, any questions? And Zoe’s just as excited as I am, even though she is wearing a Richmond top. We’ll forgive her for that. Go the Hawks! Any questions?
Just with your visit to FRUITCo this morning, what was your biggest take away from that?
The sheer scale and size of it. I mean, a 35-metre-tall building which is going to provide such an opportunity to optimise each and every individual piece of fruit so that it has that production line capability, taking in many companies, taking in many workers, taking in many of those farmers who produce that fruit and the labours of their produce. But each and every piece of fruit is going to be identified and photographed in such a way that its potential will be maximised.
So this can only be good for the Goulburn Valley. It can only be good for job creation. It can only be good for market opportunities. So I’m really going to be excited to come back after the next season to see that facility in operation.
The May Budget’s coming up. Ministers are already starting to go through where money needs to be spent.
Tell me about it. I’ve sat around the expenditure review table for many, many hours in recent weeks.
Should the GV be excited about this year’s Budget?
Regional Australia should. And the budget in October last year – albeit a little bit different time of year because of COVID – was a very exciting budget for regional Australia. What we saw in that budget was the amount of infrastructure that we’re spending increased to $110 billion. So that generates employment for 100,000 people. And much of that, a lot of that, is in regional Australia. We don’t miss out. We get our fair share.
And whether it’s – I know the bypass for Shepparton that Damian Drum has been working so hard, whether it’s the Shepparton Art Museum – I went through that with Rebecca Coates. She showed me this inspirational facility that won’t be just great for regional Victoria, won’t be just great for regional Australia, won’t be just great for Australia, but, indeed, the whole world will come to Shepparton to see SAM. And why wouldn’t they – it’s going to have one of the very best Aboriginal art collections. It’s going to have so much more to draw people in.
Yes, the budget in May is going to be very exciting for regional Australia. I’ve been working very hard with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and the Finance Minister to make sure that the budget is what people would expect as we build out of COVID, as we recover from this global pandemic. And Australia has done very well. And I thank regional Victorians and regional Australians in particular for doing the social distancing, for wearing the masks when asked to do so, you know, obeying lockdown laws. They’ve been very tough, particularly here in Victoria, when some of these communities many hundreds of kilometres away from Spring Street were still under the same conditions that were in Melbourne, same conditions that were in Swanston Street or wherever else you’d like to go in inner-city Melbourne. And yet they hadn’t had a COVID case for many months, if at all. And yet they complied, they did the right thing and they kept their communities safe.
On the Shep Bypass, the State Government’s had a business case for that since the end of last year. Has the Transport Minister been in touch with your office about what money is needed to get that off the ground?
I speak to Jacinta Allan all the time and we work together collaboratively, cooperatively, to build infrastructure. And I want to see stage 1 started. I want to see that work beginning, because I know that it’s going to help create jobs and employment and local procurement opportunities for Shepparton and beyond. We’ve seen just with this facility, with the SAM facility, how many people were engaged in active employment, even through COVID, with the construction of these two facilities just to name a couple. So, yes, I do want to see better road infrastructure and that’s one of the big pieces of the puzzle.
Speaking of roads, then, with two-thirds of road deaths occurring outside of metro areas, why won’t you commit to extending the Road Safety Program past its two-year allotment?
Well, we’ll always – they are rolling programs. And we’re spending at the moment a record amount of money on regional road infrastructure. We’re spending $2 billion on a Road Safety Package right across Australia. We’re spending $1.5 billion dollars on the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure benefitting each and every one of the 537 councils around Australia. Now, I’m not going to say what’s going to happen in two years’ time, but given the fact that when I took over as Infrastructure Minister in February 2018, the infrastructure budget was $50 billion. Now it’s $110 billion. So I think you can see from that, my commitment to infrastructure. And given the fact that I am from Wagga Wagga, I am from a regional community, just like Damian Drum is, we’re proud of our regional communities. We want them to be the best they can be and we will always fight hard as Nationals to make sure that regional communities get the infrastructure that they need and deserve.
So just back to the Bypass, do you expect that business case to be released before the May Budget or the State Budget?
Well, again I’ve spoken to or messaged Jacinta Allan two or three times this week and we’ll be having those discussions. But, like I say, I don’t care what their political persuasion is; I work well with Ministers from right across Australia. Jacinta’s just one of them. And I’ve worked very well with her and that is why, because of the good relationship that we do have, that we’re able to put the National Freight Code in. When everybody thought they needed 10 rolls of toilet paper when they went to the toilet instead of just the usual one, when everybody was raiding supermarket shelves and there was a panic buy right across the country, we were very concerned that, because of lockdowns, because of border shutdowns that trucks weren’t going to be able to take those goods from the manufacturing and wholesale places to the supermarkets. But I worked well with many of them Labor Ministers and we were able to get that National Freight Code in place in hours – not days or weeks but hours. So I’ve got a good relationship with Minister Allan. I’ll continue to work with the Victorian Government, just like any other Government in Australia.
What will the vaccine rollout look like for regional Victoria now that Pfizer’s the preferred vaccine for under 50s?
Well, we’re going to make sure that we do it at the same rate that we do metropolitan Australia. And yes, it’s not an easy exercise. This is, as Professor Brendan Murphy, who was the Chief Medical Officer, Chief Health Officer, now is, indeed, the Departmental Secretary for Health. As he said, Professor Brendan Murphy himself, this is the largest peacetime logistical exercise in Australia’s history. And given the fact that Australia’s got such a large – it’s a large geographical country, it was always going to be hard to get to every nook and cranny of the nation in the time and given the amount of doses that we had and do everything without flaw, without hiccup. So we’re working towards it. We’re working with the state public health departments, we’re working with the Premiers. I know the Prime Minister has said that he’ll have twice National Cabinet meetings per week if necessary, and that’s a good thing, because we want to work with states. We want to work with communities, with GPs, with pharmacists, to get this vaccine out and to get all Australians getting that jab, getting that second jab and protecting them. Thank you very much.
Dean Shachar, 0418 202 860
Caitlin Donaldson, 0428 389 880