Transcript: Press conference with Ms Kym Murphy, TMR Qld; Qld Assistant Treasurer Mr Glenn Butcher; Dr John McVeigh, Federal Member for Groom; Cr Paul Antonio, Mayor, Toowoomba Regional Council; Cr James O’Shea
22 November 2018
Subjects: Funding for flood mitigation projects in Toowoomba; migration; Inland Rail; rocket launch in Goondiwindi.
Kym Murphy: Good morning, I’m Kym Murphy the regional director for Downs South West of Queensland Transport and Main Roads and it’s my absolute pleasure to welcome you to this site this morning. Before we commence I’d like to acknowledge the Jarowair, Giabal people past, present and emerging; this land on which we meet today.
I’d like to officially acknowledge the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, the Honourable Michael McCormack. Welcome. The Assistant State Treasurer Glenn Butcher is representing the Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey who unfortunately is an apology today. I’d also like to acknowledge Dr John McVeigh, Member for Broome and Mayor Antonio from Toowoomba Regional Council and also the Toowoomba Regional Council portfolio lead Councillor James O’Shea today, and invited guests.
So today we’re here to celebrate an announcement and I will hand over to John McVeigh to start proceedings.
John McVeigh: Thank you Kym and good morning everyone. We are finally here. This is a project that’s been a long time coming, quite frankly. I’ve been working with the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, obviously the office as well of Mark Bailey, the State Minister, and I thank both of them first and foremost for finally agreeing to fund these projects. These projects involve these culvert upgrades here on East Creek and West Creek, on the other side of town on James Street.
This is the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the flood mitigation strategy for the whole of the City of Toowoomba following those dramatic events back in 2011. I acknowledge the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack here; Minister Glenn Butcher from the Queensland State Government as well, good to have him in town, and all the State colleagues of mine, and of course our Mayor Paul Antonio, Councillor James O’Shea, and I wanted to mention Councillor Joe Ramia as well. I mention them because Council here in Toowoomba has led such a visionary project over so many years.
The Mayor will talk about it much more comprehensively than I can but I reflect on the fact that I was on Council with the Mayor back in those days, in that flood. What Council has done since that time in flood mitigation, right across the city, the tension basin’s upstream here that caused great consternation throughout the community, channel widening, other mitigations downtown, particularly the bypass or the ring road there adjacent to the railway station for example: it has all been about protecting our community.
So Mr Mayor, I congratulate you, your leadership, all of Council in providing that leadership over what has been some years now. It’s been a comprehensive strategy and these two culvert upgrades here on James Street are the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Just to round out some of the background on this project: almost $17 million between both culverts, East and West Creek, here on Kitchener Street; East Creek was the scene of some of the tragedies that those flooding events we talked about our region. That tragedy of that mother and son being swept to their deaths here at this intersection is something we will never forget and this upgrade will prevent those sorts of concerns in the future. Equally on West Creek adjacent to the PCYC, we’re seeing a similar upgrade.
So it’s a tremendous to be here with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Glenn Butcher from the State Government to announce this funding, this joint partnership. Before I hand over to the Deputy Prime Minister: I thank him for his perseverance, his patience. He was here with me back in April of this year with the Mayor on West Creek to emphasise the importance of this project. It’s been a hard slog since then, to tell you the truth, to identify funding savings from Warrego Highway upgrades to our west and to get those funds allocated to this project; to see the State Government come on board as well is a tremendous outcome.
We’ll see construction start early next year and completed by the end of next year. We will miss this wet season but we’ll certainly be ready for the next one. I say to the Deputy Prime Minister: there are a few more road projects I’ve got to talk to you about. The Mayor will remind you as well and we’ve got other projects that I’ll continue to chip away with, but to get delivery of these projects today is a great outcome indeed. So I give you, ladies and gentlemen, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
Michael McCormack: Thank you John. I’m assuming that those other road projects that he mentioned were one of the reasons why he brought me here on the one of the back streets, one of the bumpiest roads I’ve been on in a few weeks. I said is this the best way to this particular project? And he said: it’s one of the other road projects that I want delivered, one of the other projects that I want you to fund. John McVeigh is a fighter.
The Member for Groom wears the carpet out coming into my office to make sure that he gets delivery for Toowoomba and region and make sure that it actually does get delivered.
This project is a project which shows when all three levels of Government can come together to work cooperatively and collaboratively. In that regard I’m really pleased that the Mayor of the Toowoomba Regional Council Paul Antonio and Councillor James O’Shea are here today. They’ve done the specs, they’ve done the flood mitigation study, they’ve done the engineering work and all the business cases for these projects and they have obviously a vision and a plan for the future for other projects. I commend them for the vision and planning and work that they do, not just for this culvert upgrade, not just for this replacement of the culverts but indeed for the work that they do for Toowoomba.
I also acknowledge the presence here of Assistant State Treasurer Glenn Butcher. Of course that’s one of the most important portfolios because they’re the ones with the purse strings. Glenn, thank you for coming here today. I know you’re representing Mark Bailey. I work with Mark Bailey on several projects, not least of which is the Inland Rail at the moment but I want to work with States which want to get things built, which want to get things done and we’re getting things done here today.
This is a more than $13.5 million commitment by the Federal Government on an 80/20 split with the Queensland Government. It’s a project of about $16.9 million, a project which is, you could say, long overdue. It’s a project which John McVeigh has fought hard to achieve. Today we are
delivering the announcement of the money and next year of course building will start and finish, and I look forward to returning here when the project is completed and potentially opening it because I think it’s something that the community has wanted, needed, expected and most of all deserved.
When it rains here in Toowoomba and elsewhere in regional Australia, it rains very, very heavily.
We’re going through a dry spell at the moment but we all know Australia is a country of flooding rains and droughts. One follows the other. When we do have those rains we want to make sure that our infrastructure is there to cope with it. We want to make sure that we avoid the tragedies that we sadly saw in 2011. So I commend John McVeigh for the work that he’s done to make this announcement possible. I commend for him continuing to fight for better infrastructure, for more funding for the electorate of Groom and particularly for the city of Toowoomba.
Glenn Butcher: Thanks Michael. It is great to be here today and to see three levels of Government working together for this wonderful project going forward – altogether an 80/20 split as was said with the Federal Government here today. These are the type of projects that we need this co-funding delivered for our state, in particular up here in the region. This project is a special project for this community. It’s been a long time coming, particularly after the rain event in 2011 which had seen loss of life right here behind us in this culvert.
This project will see two major projects done in one package. One here behind us in East Creek will see all the culverts go under the road, so that’s a wonderful project not only for the Toowoomba [inaudible] community for their flood mitigation strategy, but also for creating jobs. It’s great to be here today with the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, showing that we can actually have projects done collaboratively with not only the Federal and State Government, but also the local council.
I’d like to also acknowledge the Transport and Main Roads Department who are doing what they’ve done prior to getting us to this point. A lot of the design and strategy has already been done and it’s ready to go at the start of early next year and hopefully to be done by the end of next year. So it’s great team work here in Toowoomba, great work by the council to make sure that the flood mitigation strategy come together.
This is the last piece as John McVeigh said of this puzzle for this community to stop these types of events happening where we’ve got people at risk on our roads here in Toowoomba. It’s great to be here with the council, great to be here with the Deputy Prime Minister.
Paul Antonio: Thank you very much. This is a very special day in Toowoomba’s history. Can I recognise Kym and the work that she and her team have done? Can I recognise Rob Betts, one of our senior engineers who’s here, who’s been very much involved in this?
Ladies and gentlemen, that event in 2011 shocked not only to Toowoomba but it shocked the nation, it probably shocked part of the world. To see a community 700 metres above sea level experiencing what we experienced here was almost unbelievable. The damage in our region was $250 million, well beyond the scope of the Toowoomba Regional Council to fund. And Mr Deputy Prime Minister and Mr Assistant Treasurer, I thank you very much for your Governments giving what you gave.
The advocacy of our local member John McVeigh with respect to this particular project, I think it all began quite intensely in 2013: a $17 million project which is essential to protect the CBD of Toowoomba. That’s what it’s about. The work that we’ve done upstream is also involved in protecting the CBD of Toowoomba.
But don’t think you’re right off the hook to all the politicians here because the stream does continue further past the CBD, and we’ll be talking to you no doubt about that in the future.
The comment was made about three levels of Government working together. That’s precisely what’s proceeding today. I give John a pretty hard time in terms of what I want for this community. He conveys that, obviously, by the worn out carpet to the Deputy Prime Minister. I talk to the Government in Brisbane. I have a wonderful relationship with them. I think that Toowoomba is one of the powerhouses of the Australia economy. We need to make sure that we’re still doing the things that need to be done here.
I thank you very much, but just tell you this: When you want to see a good example—and I can’t help but say this, Mr Deputy Prime Minister or Mr Assistant Treasurer—there are 10 local Governments together with the State Government, together with the Federal Government, working together on a dream for South East Queensland. I’ll say little more than we would love it to be a [indistinct]. I think you’ll understand that that’s about fast rail, that’s about connectivity for the future. That’s the kind of dream that leaders like myself and these people who are with me need to have.
So, particular thanks to my good friend John McVeigh. Ladies and gentlemen, I think it’s very appropriate now that I introduce my friend and colleague from the Toowoomba Regional Council, James O’Shea. For your information, James in a previous life was heavily involved in media. He was here on that fateful day. He was here when it happened as a reporter with another young man called Robert Gills who now works for us, when those people were washed away. This is a scene of tragedy and I think this young man was there for that and I would like him to say a few words.
James O'Shea: Thank you. Thanks, Paul. I think Paul summed it up really well there. We can’t underestimate how critical this project is. As Paul alluded to I worked on that day back in 2011. We arrived at this scene and the scene is something I’ll never forget. Someone said to us, quite hysterically, people had just been swept away. We know sadly what the results of that was (inaudible), a person sitting on top of a car waiting to be rescued, so that’s the scene we saw in 2011 and that essentially has been what’s been the start of what has become a massive recovery for this city. And [indistinct] we are today. As Dr John McVeigh said, we are finally here. I think it’s wonderful that we are here.
We can’t underestimate just how critical this is to our region. In my time on this council, this has been a priority. It’s been continuously a message to take whether it be to State, whether it to be Federal Government. So, to be here today and see the Federal Government, State Government and local Government working together to achieve this project—something that is absolutely critical for this city and for this region—is something really special. Now we can get on with the job. As we’ve said many times this is a final piece of the puzzle but there are further pieces that need to be put into
place. But this one is absolutely critical and I think it’s a great outcome today that so many people here are involved; we’re looking forward to working together as all levels of Government to ensure that this is the right outcome.
John McVeigh: Thanks James. We will go to questions now with my colleagues here. But there’s one last point I wanted to put on the public record to emphasise the significance of this announcement today. Again on behalf of the Toowoomba community, alongside the Mayor and Councillor James O’Shea and all Councillors, I want to very, very passionately thank the Deputy Prime Minister and the State Minister Mark Bailey for agreeing to fund this project.
I [inaudible] the window of opportunity to secure funding for this project in (inaudible) Warrego Highway, as soon as the Second Range Crossing is completed, this will no longer be the Warrego Highway, James Street; the Warrego Highway will be out on the Second Range Crossing. But if this was no longer that highway, we would have great difficulty with securing funding for a project like this from the Federal Government and the State Government. So, again, I thank you, Michael, through you Glenn I thank Mark Bailey for agreeing to fund this project. It was very important that we were able to secure it now. So, thank you very much.
Question: I have a question for the Deputy Prime Minister. We’ve heard this week your Government’s move to cut migration. I guess there’s a lot of communities in our South West and in our region that are crying out for population; they want people to move out there. How do you think something like a fast railway link could actually help? They could live somewhere like Toowoomba but still work in Brisbane and possibly ease the pressure on our cities.
Michael McCormack: I’m not against fast rail and I’m not afraid of building things. I certainly want to get on with the job of making sure we do just that, with the co-operation of State Governments, with the co-operation of Local Governments like we’ve seen with this project here. As far as migration’s concerned we have a cap of 190,000. We’ve only actually seen in recent years about 160-163,000 migrants arriving in Australia. Sure, there are calls for cuts in migration, I understand that, but I also understand that those calls come on the back of congested capital cities.
That’s why the Federal Liberal and Nationals Government is investing so heavily in making sure that we ease that congestion but is also rolling out a record $75 million worth of infrastructure, much of which goes to regional areas for projects which are going to enhance regional communities such as Toowoomba, such as Wagga Wagga in New South Wales from where I come.
Those cities want more migrants. We’ve got regional capitals throughout Australia, indeed smaller cities as well and towns, which want more migrants—strategic and targeted migration to those particular areas to fill those jobs that are otherwise not being filled. You have a place the size of Dubbo in regional New South Wales which has an unemployment level at the moment of 1.9 per cent—that’s way below the national average.
The national average which is already at a 10-year low. But the fact is you’ve got places like Dubbo crying out for more migrants. It needs to be strategic, it needs to be targeted, and that’s what the Federal Government’s doing. But as you asked about high speed rail, that’s something that [inaudible] we need building partners not just at a state level but also a private level. We can see what we can do in the future in that regard.
Question: Are you happy with how Inland Rail consultation is rolling out in our region?
Michael McCormack: I’ve appointed Warren Truss, some months ago, as the Chair of Inland Rail and Richard Wankmuller as the Chief Executive Officer looking after this project. This is nation-building; $9.3 billion, a 1700 kilometre corridor of commerce. I’m going to Gilgandra in New South Wales this afternoon where there are also some concerns.
I look forward to returning here and John McVeigh has invited me to sit down with those people who have issues and concerns. I promised them some time ago I would be back. As soon as Parliament rises for the year, I’ll do my very best to get back here to talk to those concerned stakeholders, to chat with them about what we could to and where we’ll go with this particular project.
Question: One quick question for the Assistant Treasurer: Any idea when we’re going to find out what the toll’s going to be on the Second Range Crossing?
Glenn Butcher: Not aware of that at the moment. There’ll be a process that we have to go through to get to that point. It is a major project; these things aren’t cheap. [Inaudible].
Question: What’s your message for all the truck companies who are trying to plan for the future who are unable to do that, because they don’t know what the toll’s going to be?
Glenn Butcher: Just that they need to be much patient. We’ll get to that. This, as I said is a major road. It’s going to be a wonderful piece of roadwork for these trucks compared to what we currently have. This has been a major project, this is going to save [inaudible]. So, it’s going to be an amazing road. We will get them the information that they need as soon as we possibly can. We’ve just got to be patient.
Question: There was loss of life here in 2011, it’s now toward the end 2018; is that timely enough, to have these changes?
John McVeigh: No, it is some years down the track. There’s no doubt about that. That’s the point that both the mayor and I are working with the State Government, the Federal Government, of course. But again, I want to very firmly acknowledge the flood mitigation strategy that the Toowoomba Regional Council has put in place with the support of State and Federal Government. We have seen detention basins upstream, which caused great concern in the community.
The Mayor and Councillors have led the charge. We see channel widening throughout both East Creek and West Creek. We’ve seen that very significant inner city ring road project adjacent to the railway station, which is significant for flood mitigation works in its own right, raising that bridge on Russell Street and throughout [indistinct] on [indistinct]. So, this has been a long project, there’s no doubt about it. This is the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle and I’m thrilled that we’re finally here.
Question: How has the changes in Government slowed it down?
John McVeigh: Well, the Council has been consistent throughout. Again, I’m speaking on behalf of the Mayor and Council but I do endorse them very strongly for the leadership that they’ve shown over those years. I was on Council with Paul Antonio; he was then deputy Mayor, Joe Ramia was there, when we had Council officers assess the flood impacts and go into a very significant study looking at the channels,
looking at the freak flood event that we had and planning to prevent that in the future. That’s where we are now. You don’t do these sorts of projects overnight and the council has shown tremendous leadership.
Question: Also on one last note, yesterday in Goondiwindi was the first commercialised rocket that was launched. Can someone comment on what that means for the nation?
John McVeigh: I’m happy to make some comments; the Mayor and the Deputy Prime Minister may want to add to them. I heard Councillor Graeme Scheu this morning talking about that rocket launch and the fact that that just adds to our knowledge not only of that technology but what that technology can bring to us in terms of quite literally, the universe in the years to come.
Now one small step you might say, but Councillor Graeme Scheu, the Mayor of Goondiwindi is very proud of that. To see this sort of technology being embraced and in this case applied in regional Australia, regional Queensland in this case, Deputy Prime Minister, I think is really impressive. This is innovation at work. People are scared of the word innovation and here we can do it in regional Australia and we’ve seen that with that rocket launch just yesterday in Goondiwindi.
Michael McCormack: I know Karen Andrews, who looks after this portfolio, is absolutely committed to making sure that we have more investment in our space technologies. The Federal Government has actually set up a national space agency of sorts, and we’re absolutely committed to driving that forward in the future. There are going to be many, many jobs in space and in technologies going forward into the future.
We want more people to be involved, more young people to be involved. That’s why we’re committing so much funding to STEM and particularly to women getting involved in STEM subjects at school, young girls, to drive that initiative forward. I look forward to seeing results from that in the years to come. This is an industry which is only in its infancy at the moment and is going to create a lot of wealth, a lot of prosperity and a lot of jobs particularly as John McVeigh says for regional Australia in the years to come.