Transcript - Press Conference Moree

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We are standing on traditional custodians' land then, now and always and acknowledge what Indigenous people are going to do for this project and how they're going to benefit from this project.

I acknowledge my great friend and colleague, Mark Coulton. No-one works harder as a Local Member than Mark Coulton in the entire Federal Parliament. And I would say that – I say that with every bit of earnestness and honesty because he gets out in his huge electorate, it is such a large electorate, but he's in there fighting and advocating and most importantly, fighting and advocating for jobs.

And if there's one thing that we all know that is important this year as we hopefully come out of the back of COVID-19, hopefully come out of the back of drought and everything else that's beset regional Australia in recent years, it's jobs. And we need more jobs and this project is going to deliver at least 500 direct jobs, let alone the indirect jobs that the Inland Rail project from Narrabri to North Star is going to deliver for these regional communities.

And we've got a plethora of Mayors, I'm not quite sure what you call a collection of Mayors, but we've got Katrina Humphries; we've got my favourite Carlton, John, we've got Ron Campbell, we've got – who else have we got? Jamie Chaffey. Have I covered you all off? Good. And we've got Richard Wankmuller who is the CEO of Inland Rail and Mark Campbell who’s the CEO of the ARTC. And we've got a whole host of other distinguished guests. And certainly, each and every one of you is important because this is a momentous day.

And just consider some of the statistics around this project. There's 341,000 sleepers, many of which are just here, nearly a quarter of a million of which have come from Wagga Wagga. And I'm pretty proud of that but the rest have come from Mittagong. We've got, I just heard, 78,000 tonnes of steel. That steel is from Whyalla. It is Australian steel. So, therefore, there's jobs from South Australia, of course, taking part and feeding into this wonderful process.

We've got 171 kilometres of track, $693.8 million of activity over the next two and a half, three years, however long it's going to take to build. This is one of the largest and most complex sections of the Inland Rail because it's a working rail. Now, I know when we finished the Narromine to Parkes section it wasn't quite as long, Richard. I think I'm pretty sure in saying that.

But $110 million of local procurement to 99 small local businesses. That was the benefit of Narromine to Parkes. So, goodness knows what will be the benefit of Narrabri to North Star. These are impressive statistics. These are big numbers and we're proud of them. Mark Coulton mentioned Inland Rail in his maiden speech. He was advocating for this project way before he got into Parliament in 2007 and he's been passionate about this project because he knows the benefit of taking the wonderful produce from this region, the Parkes electorate, Northern New South Wales, North-Western New South Wales – as I say, it's a massive, massive electorate – getting it to port within 24 hours.

And of course, as Mark always tells me, you grow the best grain here. You grow the best stock here and he's nodding his head approvingly. Of course, I would argue that Riverina does pretty well too. But wherever Inland Rail extends, through the Riverina, through Mark's electorate, through Victoria, through Queensland – and that's going to be a big project too – it is going to generate confidence. It is going to generate local business activity. It is going to benefit jobs, create jobs, create opportunities and that's what Inland Rail is all about.

So, I'm pretty excited to be here today. It's a momentous and historic occasion. It's the second of 13 sections of this nation-building, nation-transforming project, which is going to benefit regional Australia like never before. Mark.

MARK COULTON

Thank you Michael and it's great to be here. Lloydie, thank you for your welcome and I know you've been working for a lot of time on the jobs project and I'm extremely confident, Lloyd, that the Moree people are going to not only get a boost of employment through construction but permanent employment that's going to come from the wealth of this line [indistinct]. So – and it might be acknowledged that the Mayors starting from the north and moving south, John, Katrina, Ron, Jamie. This project is big. It's beneficial. But it's hard. You know, anything that's worthwhile is hard.

And I want to congratulate the Mayors because they've actually taken up the challenge of leadership in their communities to get this project across the line and not quite the same everywhere along the full route, as you might understand. And so that's why, you know, this – this project is going so well because they've been able to see, right from the start, the long-term benefits. And I'm, you know, extremely confident that should I be able to come back in 50 years’ time – and that won't be possible – but this whole entire north-west is going to be very, very different to what it is now.

And so, you know, Michael, thank you for being here today. You know, Michael turned up a couple of years after me in Canberra. We're great mates. This project today is $698 million. But keep in mind that Michael is managing projects across the country of $100 billion at the moment. So, the stimulus that the Government is putting out to lift this country out of the recession that we found ourselves in because of coronavirus is largely being led by Michael and his team. So, thank you for being here today.

Michael did mention that the sleepers came from Wagga Wagga and I have known an odd sleeper from Wagga Wagga and I think that's quite appropriate. But, you know, this – we're getting a bit of a glimpse of what rail means. I stay in a motel in Narrabri and at the moment that motel is hosting three companies' train crews and that's just from the Narrabri area. There's trains that are running, I think they tell me, Katrina, 6,000 tonne capacity trains coming out of Moree now, to get this massive harvest supports as quickly as possible. And because of the big harvest, you know, like Richard, I take my hat off to your team because they work very closely with the local communities, with the grain handlers, with the farmers, to enable a production – a construction program with that, which has the least amount of disruption to getting the grain to port.

And so, this will be done in various stages and we'll see crews moving from one end to another, largely because of the timing to have the line open for the maximum amount of time. So, thank you all for being here. I'm incredibly excited. As a Mayor of Gwydir, I remember going to an Inland Rail meeting in the town of Parkes, I think in 2004. So this has been a long time coming but it's a big project. There's a lot of moving parts and to get to this point where we're actually going to see machinery working along the line is very exciting. So congratulations everyone that's here and well done. Thank you.

QUESTION

When will it be starting?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

As soon as Mark Coulton, who is the Minister for Local Government for Regional Health and Regional Communications, as soon as he gets that shovel into that dirt, the project’s on its way. It's already on its way. I mean, we've had a lot of steel dropped off. We've had a lot of the sleepers dropped off. So, work has already begun and we're all pretty excited about that. We're already seeing the benefits.

QUESTION

How long is it expected to take?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it's going to take several years. There's no question. I'm not going to put an end timeframe on it, but it is going to take several years. It is a major project. It's one of the largest infrastructure projects, just this section, in the nation right now. And Mark has just mentioned, we've got $110 billion of infrastructure rolling out right across the nation. We've building dams. We're building the Western Sydney Airport, Nancy Bird Walton International Airport. We're getting on and we're building the Melbourne Airport Rail Link. But of all of those, in regional Australia, this is one of, if not the biggest projects that we've got going at the moment. And we're extremely proud of it. And I know how pleased Richard Wankmuller and his team are to be working on this project.

MARK COULTON

Michael, can I just add mainly an explanation. There's actually – the Narrabri to North Star section has a bit from Alice Street to the Camurra Siding is actually a different project. And so, because of the complexities of crossing the rivers and the floodplains, the realignment of the Weemelah line. So we are at different stages. So some members of the Moree community are still in the very early stages of working through the project with the Inland Rail crew. So I think that's worth noting, it will come at a slightly later stage because of the complexity of that project: a couple of rivers, a couple of bridges to cross and things like that.

JOURNALIST

And what impact will it have on Moree over this time?

MARK COULTON

Look, I think – we had coffee, breakfast in a cafe here this morning. Half to three-quarters of the people in there were associated with this project. And so that's going to flow through to the local businesses, obviously the motels, fuel supplies. I’ve heard one of the well-known – I better not mention who it is – but a well-established local business not far from here, saying he believes that the Inland Rail project will give his business that big a boost that it could set him up for retirement. That's the level of excitement that we're looking at.

So all these machines, they need oil, they need fuel, they need bearings. They – you know, they need people to drive them. We need concrete, we need bobcats, we need cranes, we need fences, we need electricians, we need people that put up phone towers. The scope of this project is enormous.

JOURNALIST

Minister, if I could ask you one question while you're there as well. In a lot of regional areas you sometimes see councils competing against each other. How pleasing to see councils lined here today, all unified [indaudible]

MARK COULTON

That's great. I had to insist – because of COVID-19 – they wanted to hold hands. So you know, we had to sort of spread them out a bit. But look, I'm pleased – my electorate, I have 18 Councils plus the unincorporated area. And as the Local Government Minister for Australia, the relationship with the Commonwealth, with Local Government, is so important. You know, the councils are directly more responsible to States. But at times that we've had with the drought for stimulus, we go to the councils. COVID-19, we want to put a stimulus into the community we go to Councils.

We want to build a big project from Melbourne to Brisbane, who's going to make that happen? The Councils. And so, they are so important and I'm blessed. One of them is a bit rough around the edges, known him for a while. But, you know it’s a great partnership.

And I should mention the State Government as well. Adam is an apology today and they're doing their bit now working with the Council, with the special activation precinct. They've thrown some dollars into the port at Narrabri as well. And so, it's a real – three levels of Government plus the local community. That's what makes it happen.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Let's get on with it.

9.58AM

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