Transcript - Wangaratta Aquatic Centre press conference

JOURNALIST

What are you doing at Wangaratta pool today?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we’re opening this fantastic new facility and how good is this aquatic centre? This has been the project of all projects for this city. They’ve had an Olympic pool since 1956 but it was time to update. It was time to upgrade and the whole community got behind this. Senator Bridget McKenzie, Tim McCurdy, the local Nationals State Member and of course, the Federal Government all got behind this project, as did, of course, the swimming club. They put $100,000 of their own money towards this project. And when you’ve got community organisations such as that willing to chip in, willing to do whatever it takes to get a facility such as this and get that community support garnered behind them, you end up with a fantastic facility which will be so great for not only the future Olympic champions that Wangaratta is no doubt going to produce, but also for people who are in rehab, people who are going to use the hydrotherapy pool and people who are going to bring their young ones down here and teach them how to swim.

JOURNALIST

One more question, just about the women’s march on Monday, you’ve come all the way to Wangaratta, but you couldn’t spare a few minutes to speak to your women’s march protestors?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I had a full book of appointments and I said that right from the way through. And my life these days is in 15-minute increments and I wasn’t going to turn my back on those people who had made appointments with me many weeks, in some cases months, out. I wasn’t going to say to them, “I’m sorry, I can’t any longer fit you in.” And whilst I appreciate it’s very important, the issue that they raise is very important – and I saw Janine Hendry in the Parliament, I listened to what she had to say, I gave her the respect, I just wish she had also met the Prime Minister. I wish she had have given the Prime Minister – he made that offer available to her. Unfortunately, she didn’t take it up. But look, we certainly know that their cause is important. Bridget was there, she was certainly out there listening and making sure that those voices were heard.

JOURNALIST

And I guess are you hoping in the future that you and the Prime Minister and I guess, the entire Government, can actually take some meaningful steps to show women that you care about their safety?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we are. And we’ve spent many, many hundreds of millions of dollars on making sure that we’ve got the right anti-domestic violence campaigns in place. I mean, as a Government – and it’s been a bipartisan approach too, all the way through this has been a very bipartisan approach to ensure that the right services and the right funding is there to protect women in their homes, in the workplaces. It’s so important. It’s all about respect.

BRIDGET McKENZIE

Growing up just down the road in Benalla and being part of that local swim club, our local swimming clubs in rural and regional communities are just so, so important not just to teach young people the skill sets they need to survive in the water but to give them a competitive outlet for a great set of skills. And I know I loved travelling to all different regional communities from Numurkah to Wangaratta to swim in my youth. But we were only able to train for a couple of months a year. A facility like this means that local kids and older people will be able to enjoy competitive swimming all year round, which I’m really excited about. And yes, it’s fantastic to see the next Olympic champions from the north east, you know, participating here, but I’m also looking forward to hosting Masters Games and those sort of events which will provide a lot of economic stimulus here and also provide those of us that might be past our sporting prime the opportunity to still compete against our peers.

JOURNALIST

So it really is a whole community –

BRIDGET McKENZIE

Absolutely. It’s very, very exciting. It’s not just young people that use facilities like this. You know, adults – I met a guy from Rutherglen who was still swimming competitively into his 70s. So getting out there and getting active we know gives you incredible physical benefits, health benefits, but also those social benefits are untold. And a facility like this here locally won’t just be good for local schools and young people but will support the whole region with health and economic benefits.

JOURNALIST

My colleague Helen has sent me a question, so the sports grants inquiry has found that all the projects rejected should be funded by the Government now. On reflection, do you think it was the right thing to choose the sports projects that you did in marginal electorates?

BRIDGET McKENZIE

Absolutely, I’ve made a very comprehensive submission to the inquiry. 648 local clubs right around the country received much-needed grant support. Unfortunately though, there were nearly 2,000 clubs that applied for what was $30 million. Thankfully, due to a lot of advocacy on my behalf and backbenchers of the Government, that grew to $100 million over the time of the program. So we were able to fund more than we hoped, but obviously, many missed out because it was so oversubscribed. You know, I’ve often said I would have loved to have been able to fund every single eligible project. It’s nearly 1,900 projects. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the money. So, yes, I’m very proud of the program, there’s a lot of Australians right around the country getting active as a result of our Government’s investment.

HELEN HAINES

Good morning, everyone. What a great day this is for Wangaratta. This is my hometown. I swim in these pools. My kids learned to swim here in Wangaratta, so seeing this fantastic facility is a dream come true for the people of this town, but more broadly for the whole region. And we’ve heard this morning about swimming is more than doing laps, swimming also includes rehabilitation, it includes water aerobics. So this is a facility now for all people, all stages and ages. And I’m so proud to be the Federal Member for Indi and be here today to see what’s been a long-term vision. And I pay tribute to the likes of Mr Bill Power, who was here today, aged 90. He saw a vision for this place decades and decades ago and I’m so pleased that he was here today to see that dream fully fulfilled.

JOURNALIST

Could you tell me a bit more about, I guess, the long road that it did take to get here?

HELEN HAINES

Well, I think we heard the Mayor say this morning that it took multiple attempts through the Building Better Regions Fund to get Federal Government money, attempts to the State Government. We heard that our local swimming club, they raised money over a very long period of time. So I guess the message is if you don’t first succeed, try, try again. That’s what sport actually teaches us. We don’t always win the gold medal first go. We have got one Olympian from this region. We’re hoping for many more, of course. But, more importantly, we’re hoping for everyday people now to use this facility. And as the Deputy Prime Minister said earlier, these are the kind of facilities that when visitors come to town they look around and say, “We’re not missing out here.” And I think a level playing field on all aspects of regional development is super important. So sporting precincts such as this, Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre is another one and of course, what we must have for regional development is good connectivity, good rail, good public transport and great mobile phone coverage.

JOURNALIST

And do you think you could just tell me a little bit about how facilities like this can be used not just for, like, training Olympians or that sort of thing but also like you were saying before the rehabilitation as, I guess, kind of, yes, a community service in a way.

HELEN HAINES

Well, I think that’s the thing about sport – it can be for everyone. But we need to make sure that when we have an ageing population, as we do in Australia and as we do in this region, that we give people the opportunity to get better if they’ve suffered from something like a stroke or if they’ve needed a knee replacement or the like but, more importantly, they’ll be prevented in the first place. So having all-abilities pools, having the rehab pool, having the little toddlers’ pool and then having an Olympic standard 50-metre pool means that we cover all ages and stages. And that’s what’s so fabulous about this precinct now.

TIM McCURDY

Another exciting day for Wangaratta and it has been seven years in the process. And I think the rural city of Wangaratta really needs to take a step forward for this, because they’ve been pushing this all the way. We know how important swimming pools are to our community and whether it’s people learning to swim, our kids learning to swim, whether it’s the elderly doing it for their health and wellbeing and obviously a competition pool. So, it’s great to see us all here today. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is an absolute asset to regional Australia and here we are again today opening more infrastructure. Great to see you here.

DEAN REES

I'm not going to talk about the pool – everybody’s spoken about it – I’m going to talk about the relationship we have with country people like Michael McCormack from Wagga, Bridget McKenzie from Thoona, Tim McCurdy from Cobram, Helen Haines from Wangaratta, Jaclyn Symes from the Victorian State Government. They’re all country people. They realise the importance of country life and building better communities in the country. So thank you to those guys and the relationship that we have at the Rural City of Wangaratta with our Federal Government and our State Government is second to none, hence why we put in big advocacy for funding and it’s working for us. So thank you, guys, for all your help. Cheers.

JOURNALIST

I have a question – a bit off topic – the move to the regions campaign, are you thinking that the benefits of that campaign are going to outweigh the costs of things like housing affordability?

DEAN REES

No, I don’t think it is. We’ve got huge subdivisional land up for sale. So that’s going up for sale and up for development as we speak now. We’ve geared ourselves as a local community to have the next 10 to 15 years of land available. And people are subdividing now. The more land that’s happening there keeps the prices to a minimum or a maximum – whatever you like to say it is there. But people are coming to Wangaratta because they can see the lifestyle. We probably need a second bridge crossing. Our streets are betting busier. We are having travel jams because they know Wangaratta is the best place to be outside of Melbourne. So we look forward to funding for our second bridge crossing.

JOURNALIST

So you’d say you’re pretty happy with it and it’s a great idea?

DEAN REES

Absolutely. It’s a fantastic idea. It’s worked for us. We’ve reached 40 per cent of the Victorian market there with our advertising. If you drive over the Bolte Bridge right at the moment you’ll see a huge advertising sign saying, “Come to Wangaratta.” So it’s all working for us.

JOURNALIST

And do you think people are going to make the move long-term or maybe short-term?

DEAN REES

The problem is when they come here short-term, they don’t want to go so it does become long-term. So it’s absolutely long-term. So come to Wangaratta and live these great lifestyle.

JOURNALIST

And, I mean, this pool is an investment in the future growth of Wangaratta, isn’t it?

DEAN REES

Like, I said, it’s all about building a community. Yes, it could make our next Olympian champion like Belinda Hocking. But it’s about building communities for a number of purposes. It’s not just the swimming club pool, this is for general use for everybody and it’s going to be a great thing for the future. We look forward to the second 50-metre pool in the next 10 years.

JOURNALIST

For all those people coming from Melbourne to relocate?

DEAN REES

Correct, thanks everybody.

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