Transcript - Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct Doorstop

4:14PM

JASON MODICA

We’re here at Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct with our Federal Member, Anne Webster, and the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, thanks very much for coming. We’re just doing a bit of a tour to see how far we’ve come ahead in the last 18 months – or actually longer. We had Mark Eckel here, he would talk about standing out on the corner in 2003 and proposing it for the first time. So, just really proud of our Council and our staff to get to this point in time and to be able to open up in a couple of months.

ANNE WEBSTER

So great to have the Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Michael McCormack, here in Mildura with us looking at the Building Better Regions investment. The Building Better Regions Fund is one of our favourites because it gives councils the opportunity to build amazing things and the Mildura South Sporting Precinct is one of those – $17.5 million from the Federal Government with another $1 million of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure out the front on the roads itself. And it’s just been phenomenal to see the progress over this last period of time. In fact, Martin also was just telling me it was two years ago when we first did the shovel-ready moment, turning the sod and that was very exciting, but to actually be standing in here today is a real thrill. So, looking forward to July and Stage 1 actually opening. It’s just brilliant for Mildura, brilliant for the region and a real moment of pride from my point of view.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It is, indeed, a moment of pride and you can see, indeed, what can be done with $17.5 million of Building Better Regions funding. You can see what can be done when the community gets behind the council, gets behind the workers. Indeed, 237 of them on site at the peak of construction and they’ve converted an old drive-in site. I’m old enough to know what a drive-in was and certainly went to the drive-in in my youth – I won’t say my misspent youth – but I also spent a lot of time at sporting stadiums.

I’ve been to a lot of sporting country stadiums around the nation. I’ve not seen a better one. This is world class. This will attract world-class athletes. This will attract world-class events. So, I congratulate Mildura, I congratulate the Mayor, Jason Modica and certainly acknowledge the role, the effort that my good friend Dr Anne Webster has put into making this complex one of the best in all of Australia indeed, one of the best in probably a regional area right across the world. This is going to be world class. Six courts for netball and basketball, a football ground – which I know South Mildura, the mighty Bulldogs, are going to utilise to their advantage. But the Sunraysia should be very, very proud of what they’ve built here and I know that it’s going to attract people. We want to make these regional communities liveable. One of the first things that people look at when they go to a town, either to move or to holiday, is what sort of sporting amenities they’ve got. And I know, Mr Mayor, you’ve got a great aquatic centre – not that old. You’ve now got a sporting complex second to none. So well done, and thank you, Anne, for your advocacy to make this dream into a reality.

JOURNALIST

How close are you to coming up with a name for the complex?

JASON MODICA

Look, that’s still in a process at the moment and it will probably be six to eight weeks, something like that. But just to finish off – I was remiss to not thank the Federal Government for the large portion but also the $10 million from the State and the $8 million that we’ve put in. It really reflects on what the three tiers of government can do if everybody unites behind a single goal and the proof is here and it will be open shortly.

JOURNALIST

I was over at the Murray Darling Association’s National Conference listening to a presentation from Claire Miller from the New South Wales Irrigators Council. She’s of the opinion that the 2024 deadline for the Basin Plan needs to be extended saying that it’s unrealistic that the constraints are going to be achieved. Is that something that you’re supportive of?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I know that Keith Pitt, the Water Minister, the Minister responsible for this portfolio area in the Federal Government, will work closely with the states and that’s what it’s been all along. You just heard the mayor talking about a collaboration between state and federal governments for a complex such as this. There’s nothing more complex than the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and we want to make sure that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan works. We want to make sure that it’s there and it’s of course, an adaptive document. We want to make sure that it’s there working at its best for not just irrigators but for all people who live in those river communities – so important that we get it right but so important that we work collaboratively with states to make it happen.

JOURNALIST

So you can’t rule out an extension?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, that’s up to Keith Pitt. And I’ll certainly, as the Nationals Leader, work with him, work with people such as Anne Webster. You know, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is such an important document. I can remember when it went into the Parliament. I’ve been there long enough to remember when it first went into the Parliament. It wasn’t completely right then. You’ll always get people who want adjustments, who want tweaks. We want to work with states to make sure that the best possible plan can realise the best possible outcomes for those irrigation communities which rely on it so heavily.

JOURNALIST

Michael, the Budget came down last week. It seems to have been favourably received in most quarters. There is a catch, though, isn’t there? There’s a massive national debt building up – nearly a trillion dollars in 2024-25. How is the Government going to handle that?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I’ve got every confidence in Australia’s ability to pay down that debt. I’ve got every confidence in our regional communities to lead the way, whether it’s through agriculture, whether it’s through resources, whether it’s indeed, through infrastructure and construction. And certainly I know as we were travelling here we got stopped along the way and I know those workers were there because of the Federal Government making sure that we’ve got the proper roadworks in place. We’ve got the widening of the Calder Highway. You know, right throughout the Wimmera, right throughout the Mallee and right throughout the Sunraysia we’re building the roads that people expect and deserve. We’re making sure that under the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure that the 12 councils within Anne Webster’s electorate, $73.5 million they’re sharing in as part of that LRCI funding. That’s unprecedented funding.

Add on to that the $3 billion for road safety upgrades. Add on to that the other works that we’re doing through Roads of Strategic Importance, all part of the $110 billion that we’re spending on infrastructure across the nation. It was supporting 100,000 workers before the Budget, an additional $15.2 billion in the Budget supporting an additional 30,000 workers. So, there’s lots of work going on but I have every confidence in the ability of Australians’ ingenuity to help pay down that debt, whether it’s through business, whether it’s through all sorts of areas of endeavour. We will do it. And the other thing, too, is it’s been necessary spending. I don’t think there’s an Australian who wouldn’t have said that we shouldn’t have invested in JobKeeper, that we shouldn’t have upped the amount of JobSeeker, that we shouldn’t have done what we did. There was no manual that we could pull down off the shelf and say this is how we address this global pandemic, because we hadn’t one for a hundred years and certainly what happened back in 1918, ’19 and ’20 was vastly different than what’s happened in 2020, 2021. You know, it’s vastly different. We’ve addressed the issues. We’ve made sure that businesses kept open and construction such as this actually took place. I mean, we could have stopped everything. We could have pulled the plug on everything. There’d be already thousands of people out of work. That wasn’t what we were going to allow to see happen.

JOURNALIST

Speaking of confidence and pulling the plug on things, do you have confidence in the Victorian Government to complete the Murray Basin Rail Project?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, let’s see on Thursday night. Let’s see the colour of their money as far as we’ve asked for them to stump up $5 million. Not a big ask for them to match our money for the business case. We’ve stumped up $240 million and then we put down another $195 million – $200 million if you count the business case as well. So that’s a considerable amount of money. And only half a million dollars on the Murray Basin freight – on that important rail line that is going to be so vital for those communities. I’m happy in good faith with Jacinta Allan to build the rail network that those people deserve that is going to move that freight. And let me tell you, having had the meeting today with many of those stakeholders, I know they’re serious. I know the Ouyen Inc. and others besides, are very serious about their rail line, very serious about taking trucks off the road and lowering emissions and doing all the sorts of things that they told me that they want to do within a 24-hour time limit to get that product to the Melbourne Port. I know, I come from the Riverina and I know that most of the product that comes out of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area also uses the Melbourne Port. So it’s a very busy harbour, it’s a very busy port. We want to get more exports out. I was talking to Anne just along the way about the great role that Dan Tehan is doing as our new Trade Minister. So we’ve got diversification of markets. We’ve got the world’s best food and fibre. We’ve got the world’s best resources and mineral sands are a big part of that plan to grow that area even further. Regional Victoria will help us lead the way through the COVID recovery. But we need to get the commitment by the Victorian State Government to do just that.

JOURNALIST

If they don’t put in the extra five will you make it an even 10?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I’m more hopeful than that. Let’s just see what they can come up with. It’s not a big ask and we’re not going to fund absolutely everything. Our pie is only so big, too.

JOURNALIST

China’s situation is obviously a concern, the agricultural industry in particular or all exports. I was reading that, you know, grain sales, barley, for example, have you found any new markets?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we sent our first shipment of barley to Mexico not that long ago. And you know, that was made possible because of the good relationship that David Littleproud, the Agriculture Minister and the new Trade Minister have with our South American friends and we’ll continue to look for other markets. We’ll continue to look to diversify what we do in the space of trade, because trade equals jobs, and more trade equals more jobs. Now, yes, we’ve been very reliant on some particular markets and we now need to look at other prospects and to make sure that we utilise those. Because, like I say, we’ve got the best food fibre and the world knows it and the world wants it.

ENDS 4:26PM

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