Transcript - Midway and Sorell Causeways Press Conference

1:58PM

CLAIRE CHANDLER

 Well, we knew the best way to get Tasmania back in business was to get more visitors and tourists spending their money and that’s why we’re very glad that we have here today the Acting Prime Minister of Australia, Michael McCormack, who is investing more money than just about anyone in Tasmania through the Morrison Coalition Government’s commitment to ensuring that we invest in vital infrastructure in Tasmania. Whether it is the Sorell Causeway that we are here to talking about today, the half a million dollars’ worth of investment that we made in the highway upgrade or $100 million into irrigation in this state, the Morrison Coalition Government is investing in Tasmania to ensure we can recover coming out of the COVID-19 crisis. It is a pleasure for me to be here today with the Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack and, of course, my colleague Senator Jonathon Duniam and the State Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson to discuss this very important piece of infrastructure. So I’ll hand over to the Deputy PM. Thank you.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thank you. Senator Claire Chandler with Senator Jono Duniam, they are making a real difference for Tasmania. I know whether it’s Senators or indeed, our fabulous Tasmanian Lower House MPs Gavin Pearce and Bridget Archer, they are making a real difference along with Wendy and Eric. Tasmania is well served within the Federal Parliament. Great to be here too with the Minister of Infrastructure in Tasmania Michael Ferguson. Now when you give Michael Ferguson your mobile number, you can expect he’s going to ring it because he has a big, big infrastructure campaign, a big infrastructure rollout to be doing and he rings my phone often, and he makes sure that I know what’s important for Tasmania. And Michael was just telling me that the recent Budget for Tasmania is going to roll out 25,000 jobs, building infrastructure like the Sorell Causeway, like McGees Bridge, like the duplications that we see here today which is going to bust through that congestion that does bank up of a morning and particularly during those busy peak periods. And that’s what we’re doing right across the nation with our $110 billion worth of infrastructure.

But it’s not just the big projects that we see here that Michael and Claire and Jono [inaudible] it is also the local roads and community infrastructure and for the 29 Tasmanian local councils, that means $41 million to be able to be spent on local roads and community infrastructure. When you add to that $44 million, which is Tasmania’s component of the road safety upgrades – and this week is National Road Safety Week – that means $85 million being spent on local roads, being spent on community infrastructure. And indeed, when you add the $150 million the Commonwealth is investing in the project just behind me, add to that the additional $37 million that the State Liberal Gutwein Government’s has put towards just this project and everything else that’s going on right across Tasmania, you can see why there’s going to be a workforce of 25,000 people required to get this infrastructure built. So it’s so important that we get on with it and we’re certainly going to be starting this project in coming weeks, because that stimulus money needs to be rolled out straight away. COVID-19 has hit the economy of Tasmania, it has hit Australia’s economy hard and that’s why the Federal Government is very pleased to partner with the State Government here to build the infrastructure that Tasmanians need, want, expect and deserve – not way down the track and in the never-never – but right now. That’s why we’re getting on with the job. We’re building it right now. We’re starting work right now. And I look forward to coming back here and seeing the progress of the work. With that I’ll ask Michael to make a few comments then happy to take any questions.

MICHAEL FERGUSON

Thank you, Acting Prime Minister and welcome back to Tasmania. It’s fantastic to work with you and my state and federal colleagues [inaudible]. It’s a team effort. We’re building this infrastructure, it’s the State Government working hand in hand with the Federal Government. This corridor we are upgrading from Hobart all the way through to Sorell. It’s outdated infrastructure, it needs duplication, it needs improvement and it needs congestion-relieving measures.

We’re delighted today to be signing a binding contract with Fulton Hogan who have successfully won the job to upgrade Midway Point to drive new lanes through there, so again that’s massive but also to put better control into traffic management and basically update the roundabout. This is the most exciting innovation for transport in southern Tasmania. This project taken as a whole over five years is $350 million worth of investment from the two governments. It is a part $5 billion investment the State Liberal Government handed down last week, with of course has some substantial help from federal funding. Work on the Midway Point job will begin in coming weeks before Christmas with some of the site preparation works but substantial works will begin early 2021 calendar year. I’m also very grateful [inaudible]. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s properly designed, properly engineered and safe for commuters [inaudible].

We are unembarrassed about our $5 billion infrastructure program. These are generational assets for this age and for coming generations. And they are investments that are going to create jobs during construction. Importantly, by having modern contemporary infrastructure, particularly for our land transport needs, we’re actually growing the productivity and efficiency [inaudible] for Tasmanian businesses and it will help them to sign that next lease and will help them to get that next export. It will help them to be able to put on that extra apprentice or trainee. And this is how we grow the economy. This is how we help the Tasmanian economy rise out of and recover from the pandemic. So I’m happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST

So this particular project [inaudible]

MICHAEL FERGUSON

It’s a two-year construction project. It is an important and very substantial one. It comes with an obligation on the contractor to manage the traffic flow. And today I am asking the people of the southern regions of Sorell and people who use the Tasman Highway to please account for our incredible workers. Be mindful for their safety but also factor in the extra time. We know that nobody will want to spend more time in traffic but we need to get this done. We need them to work with us and we’re asking them to prepare with us [Indistinct]. At the end of this project we will have phenomenal infrastructure, really relieving transport needs from Hobart right through to Sorell and bypass Sorell and it’s going to be a massive improvement.

JOURNALIST

[Inaudible]

MICHAEL FERGUSON

The overall project is a five year project. We’re going to be doing it in stages because we can’t tear up the entire [inaudible] at once because no one will have anything to drive on. So it’s going to be done in stages with traffic management throughout each and we’re just inviting people to be aware of that, to factor in the extra travel time and to be completed in 2025.

JOURNALIST

[Inaudible] were any concerns raised with you or your department about [indistinct]?

MICHAEL FERGUSON

I just want to say it’s my first opportunity, having been asked, how horrified I am at the monstrous acts that this individual’s been accused of. In the time that I served as Tasmania’s Health Minister no allegations were brought to my attention whatsoever. And so I am supportive of the families and anybody who has been victimised by this individual and have not had any awareness or allegations raised with me in any of those times I was on [inaudible].

JOURNALIST

[Inaudible] hard borders, is that the right decision?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, this is a decision for the Premiers. And I appreciate that many Premiers have acted very quickly. We’re getting on top of the South Australian situation. I spoke to Premier Steven Marshall this morning and he’s doing everything he can. We’ve got 104 ADF personnel supporting the South Australia’s efforts there and Premier Marshall informs me that there is a cluster of 18 people have been identified. Fortunately they’ve had good tracking and tracing componentry to their health outcomes and let’s hope that they’ve got everybody who has got COVID-19. They’ve done any number of tests just in recent days. Nearly 600,000 tests have been conducted in South Australia, but many, many thousands in the last couple of days, to try to isolate this particular outbreak. And I know that South Australia’s health people are very professional and hopefully [inaudible] they are working night and day to make sure that they do just that.

JOURNALIST

[Inaudible]

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, Premiers will do what Premiers think are right for their state. The National Cabinet processes work well. We’ve always said that we’ll take the best possible advice of the Chief Medical Officer and the health professionals – we’ve done that as a Commonwealth. [Inaudible] Tasmania has had a very, very good record [inaudible].

JOURNALIST

[Inaudible]

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well let’s see, Tasmania’s record, as far as COVID is concerned is very good. I see no reason why those flights cannot commence and why that Tasmanian bubble [inaudible]. I’m confident that will happen. I know the Prime Minister said just the other day, making sure that the Hobart Airport is what it needs to be as far all those infrastructure methods and measures are put in place there and the Tasmanian Government has been working very closely to achieve that. New Zealanders are very welcome here in Australia, particularly if they are Tasmanian tourists. The tourism industry very much needs it.

JOURNALIST

There is also concerns about international repatriation flights [inaudible]?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we’re doing everything we can for state quarantine, we’re doing everything we can with state health professionals, we are working with State Premiers, we are working through the National Cabinet process. Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister, and I are working very hard to get Australians home as soon as we can, certainly before Christmas.

JOURNALIST

[Inaudible]

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, the ADF will provide any support the Premier requires. So if the Premier thinks they need that ADF assistance stepped up then we’ll do just that. I know the Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds is making sure that if the Premiers need additional ADF support, it will be provided to them.

JOURNALIST

[Inaudible] What’s your argument for why he should remain on the front bench?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Stuart Robert is doing a fantastic job. If there’s one thing that we have seen through the Social Services Department under Stuart Robert’s mentorship is the fact that calls are now being answered by social services departments are not taking 67 minutes, they’re taking about 67 seconds. We have brought forward the timing that it takes to answer a call to somebody in need, somebody who needs that assistance and it was more than an hour when we took that government in 2013 and now it’s about a minute. So that tells me that he has made sure that the department is responding to those needs and requirements. Stuart Robert has put in place measures that were used as well by the Labor Government when it was in power. This is not an unusual thing and yes, we’ve said that we needed to fix this situation. We have addressed it and we are fixing it.

JOURNALIST

How worried are you about the Chinese [inaudible]

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We need to obliviously continue our trade with China, whether it’s Tasmania or whether it’s the mainland. All Australians, we’ve got 149.7 million reasons to continue our trade with China. It’s our largest trading partner, whether it’s agriculture, whether it’s the resources industry, we are providing goods and services that China needs, wants and requires. Yes, sometimes these days are difficult with China and sometimes it’s difficult with other trading partners as well. That’s the nature of trading. Australia is a trading nation and we will go on doing that. And I was up in the North East looking at Scottsdale there earlier today and seeing a project there that is going to provide an additional 8,600 megalitres which is going to grow agriculture in that particular region by 50 per cent on top of what they’re producing now. Now that product, those vegetables – and you drop a nail in the ground in the North East of Tasmania and you get a crowbar – we need to be able to take that produce and sell it not just domestically but to the world. So we need not just China but we need other trading partners. That’s why I’m so glad the Prime Minister has signed up to that RCEP agreement on Sunday. We are getting on with diversifying our trading markets, but China is a very important friend and trading partner of Australia and will go on being so.

JOURNALIST

What’s your advice to the Prime Minister about the best way to support the [inaudible]?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

My advice to the Prime Minister as far as the wine industry is concerned, well, drink more wine. We all need to drink more wine. It’s a great product and especially coming out of Tasmania. The Prime Minister, obviously is aware of the need to have trade and diplomatic relations with all our partnering countries, whether it’s Asia, whether it’s the Pacific, the Americans, wherever the case might be, Europe. We’ve got some great trading arrangements that we’ve actually managed to sign since coming into government in 2013. We’ve actually managed to sign some very, very good free trade agreements to grow trade and when you actually grow trade, you grow jobs. And that’s what the Liberals and Nationals do. We’re all about jobs, whether it’s in infrastructure projects here in Sorell, whether it’s growing agriculture from the $61 billion enterprise it is today to a $100 billion enterprise. That’s the goal by the end of 2030. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what we’re getting on with the job of doing. I know Jono Duniam is doing some great work with fisheries and timber and making sure that we grow our markets. Claire Chandler, well, if you listen to Claire Chandler in Parliament it’s all things Tasmania, it’s growing Tasmania, it’s growing Tasmanian jobs. That’s what Liberals and Nationals do – we get out there, we grow jobs. We push for better productivity, we push for better efficiencies and we build infrastructure.

JOURNALIST

Is there anything specific you are advising the Prime Minister about in terms of the China issues in trade?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we have those discussions all the time around the Cabinet table. I’m not going to go into what we actually discuss, but China and Australia will go on trading. As I said before, we’ve got 149.7 million reasons why we need to continue to trade with China, and China knows too, that we’ve got product and services here that they need and that their people deserve. And we’ll go on doing that, we provide the cleanest, greenest food in all of the world. We’ll keep putting it on the plates of Chinese people in Beijing and beyond.

JOURNALIST

Just back to the South Australia situation, are you confident that measures are in place that we don’t see what happened in Victoria and they do in fact, control this outbreak?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I’ve got every faith that they will, yes.

JOURNALIST

Do you think when we start to get the international repatriation flights into Tasmania, will there be enough ADF personnel to stop outbreaks from occurring?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Absolutely. Peter Gutwein and his Government have done everything otherwise and I’ve certainly got every faith in the Tasmanian health system and the contact tracking and tracing to manage the situation as it should be managed, professionally and thoroughly. Thanks very much.

ENDS 2:16PM

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