SUBJECTS: Infrastructure in southern NSW; Princes Highway.
FIONA PHILLIPS: It’s great to be here on the South Coast, on the Princes Highway, I’ve got Anthony Albanese here with me today. As a local I know how important our roads are. You know we’ve got huge problems here as anyone who would drive the Princes Highway would know. We’ve got a really important announcement today. Just like on health, just like on schools, Labor will deliver on roads. I’ll now hand over to Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much Fiona. This has been a big campaign by Fiona Phillips, and I also want to pay tribute to the local media based in Nowra and the Shoalhaven for the campaign that they have run to fix this road. Today Labor is announcing that we will bring forward three times the amount of funding across the forward estimates, across the four years to fix the Princes Highway. At the moment there is $500 million in the Budget but that’s over ten years. Over the first four years there’s $50 million. That’s not good enough. Labor will bring forward $150 million in the first four years so that we can fix the priority areas such as right here, the intersection of Jervis Bay Road and the Princes Highway. Just while we’ve been standing here we have seen people take enormous risks coming out of Jervis Bay Road turning right onto the Princes Highway. This has been the scene of so many accidents over too many years and it’s time that it was fixed. Federal Labor will do our bit with Fiona Phillips as the Member for Gilmore to make sure that this road gets fixed. What we need to do is to fix the real black spots such as this intersection here and we need to fix it soon. We will put $150 million into the Budget across the Forward Estimates as part of our $500 million contribution to fix the Princes Highway.
JOURNALIST: What exactly will these funds be going towards; will there be a flyover here at Jervis Bay turnoff?
ALBANESE: Politicians should make decisions about funds, we shouldn’t design the engineering of roads, but quite clearly it seems to me that common sense tells you what you need is a grade separation. A separation here means a flyover. We’d work with the NSW Government, because this is a state road, to deliver an outcome that’s in the interests of all motorists, including both locals and those who visit this region.
JOURNALIST: Have those discussions with the State started at all?
ALBANESE: What the State has done at the moment is have an announcement from the Federal Government of $50 million over the first four years and then $450 million over the back six years. What that means is that nothing in effect will happen during the next term of office. Quite clearly, if this has been identified as a priority, and the Princes Highway is a priority, both myself and the Deputy Prime Minister signed a commitment at the end of last year, but unfortunately the funds haven’t flowed when they’re needed. This $150 million, bringing forward three times the amount of funding for this project, means that the priority areas such as this intersection at Jervis Bay Road and Princes Highway can be begun as soon as possible.
JOURNALIST: In terms of the work that is being done though, it’s all good and well to throw the money at the RMS to do the work but this stuff takes so much time as you’d well understand, does it negate the impetus of putting the money in there because if the funds are there but the work isn’t done, can work actually start sooner?
ALBANESE: Well work can clearly commence over the next four years. It’s simply not good enough to say, we’ve got $500 million but only 10 per cent of that will flow in almost the first half of the period. Quite clearly that’s not good enough, it does need to ramp up. We accept that. But $150 million is an appropriate level to commit during the next term effectively, over the next four years, because we want construction to begin.
JOURNALIST: Why was it that the State Government spent $1 billion on the highway from Kiama to Bomaderry, but no one from the Federal Government put any money in? That’s been built over the past 8 years. Where was the money then, and why is there money now?
ALBANESE: The fact is this is a State road, but it’s up to the Federal Government to say why it hasn’t put money into this road over the last six years that they’ve been in office. The fact is that this is a priority. Both sides are saying $500 million will be contributed for the Princes Highway. The big difference is that we’ll contribute three times the amount, $150 million dollars over the forward estimates during the next term of office. What the Government is saying is elect us on May 18, elect us again in three years’ time and then maybe something will happen. Quite clearly this intersection here at Jervis Bay Road and Prince’s highway is a priority and it needs fixing, it needs fixing as soon as possible. We’ll work with the state government to ensure that that can happen and we’ll make our contribution available. Frankly, if more than $150 million dollars is necessary and can be done over the next four years then we’ll work with them in future budgets to do that. But what we’re saying today is we’ve listened to Fiona Phillips, we’ve listened to the community, and we will bring this money forward so that we can make a difference today, not off into the never-never.
JOURNALIST: But I suppose the road is going to take years and years to upgrade fully and what people are saying is they want an 80-20 funding split, and $150 million in the next term of Government is great but it’s not going to solve all of these roads’ problems.
ALBANESE: Well it is true that these problems can’t be solved overnight. But what we are doing in committing three times the amount of money during the next term than the current government has committed in their Budget is that we want to do this as soon as possible. We want to make a difference, this funding will mean that we can make a difference. $150 million is a substantial contribution in the next term. We’ll do that, and people have a choice at this election over a range of issues. The choice they have is Fiona Phillips being elected as the Member for Gilmore, which will be part of electing a Shorten Labor Government that will contribute $150 million to this road, or a Coalition Government, under whichever one of the rabble that they are, get elected in this seat if Labor isn’t successful. Then they’ll contribute $50 million. That’s the choice, just as there’s a choice on proper funding for hospitals, or the Coalition Government. Proper funding for public schools, or the Coalition Government. This election is about priorities, our priority is fixing this issue, and that’s what we’re announcing today, as a result of Fiona’s very strong advocacy for this local community, that we’ll bring this funding forward.
JOURNALIST: Will you commit to an 80-20 funding split from here to the Victorian border?
ALBANESE: What we’ll commit to is $150 million in the next term. We’re contributing $500 million which is the same amount that the current government has offered. We want to make sure that it gets done. When I was a minister we had 50-50 funding for roads, including the Pacific Highway, including the Bruce Highway. That was the position that we had.
JOURNALIST: What sort of works would be undertaken and how soon would they start if elected?
ALBANESE: Well, what you can do is identify the priority areas and the reason why we’re holding this press conference here today is because this is clearly a priority area that’s been identified as Fiona has gone around and talked to the community. Of course she’s a local because so she talks to the community every day. Warren Mundine probably doesn’t know where this is, and Katrina Hodgkinson also of course isn’t from this area. The truth is that Fiona Phillips is aware of the priority areas, this is one of them. The corner of Jervis Bay Road and Princes Highway. In the time that we have been standing here we have seen people wanting to turn right, to go north on the Princes Highway, taking enormous risks. Enormous risks just to get out of Jervis Bay Road. Quite clearly what’s needed is a separation of traffic. Here, whether that’s a flyover or some other measure. We need to separate the traffic. We need to make sure that people can get onto the highway safely without risking the lives of themselves and their families.
JOURNALIST: Why match that figure, why not take the lead and go an 80-20. Why not go above and beyond that pool of money the Coalition has promised?
ALBANESE: Well we’ve said $500 million but the difference is we are going above in this term, because the truth is that making a commitment for 2026 is nonsense. I mean this is a mob that have had three Prime Ministers in the last five years. They’ve had three Deputy Prime Ministers. They’ve had thirteen separate ministers in charge of roads, as either Infrastructure Minister, Urban Infrastructure Minister, Assistant Ministers, it’s a revolving door. The idea that that money is real in 2026, a lot can happen between now and then. That’s why we’re making a very clear commitment. $150 million which is three times the amount that the coalition government committed over the forward estimates or in simple terms over the next term.
JOURNALIST: So what will come first, the bridge or the highway?
ALBANESE: It’s not either or, both can occur at the same time. The fact is that what we need to do, is to do both. The bridge is very important and it’s a priority, and I might add that it was Federal Labor and myself who campaigned here with Fiona Phillips, prior to the last election and committed to funding of the bridge. We committed to funding the bridge because the State Government weren’t cooperating with giving us any funding details of the project.
JOURNALIST: The former member got $10 million for the environmental studies and plans for that bridge.
ALBANESE: The former member has been rejected by her own party and now isn’t even supporting that party. I think what the former member has done is put her hand up and said that the Liberal Party have failed this community. It hasn’t needed Fiona Phillips to say that, because the former member has said that and isn’t even campaigning for the party to which she belongs, because they’ve got a blow in who knows nothing about this local community. The difference here is Fiona Phillips knows about this community, she’s lived in this community, she’s wanted to represent this community and nothing else over the last five years she’s been campaigning. People can trust Fiona Phillips, she’ll make a difference, she’ll get it done, and today Fiona Phillips and Labor are promising three times the funding over the next term to fix the Princes Highway.
JOURNALIST: Where is the share of jobs. Are you going to bring them in or are they going to be local jobs?
ALBANESE: We want locals on all of our commitments, we want locals to be employed, on any Federal Infrastructure project we also want 10 per cent to be apprentices. We want there to be a long term benefit for the community which is why we’ve said 10 per cent of all workers on infrastructure projects that have Federal l funding will be required to have apprentices, to make that long term difference. To work with TAFE, to work with the local community. So if you combine it all. You’ve got a federal Labor government that will give three times the funding to fix the Princes Highway. That will provide support to ensure apprentices are working on new projects, and of course not only properly fund TAFE but will provide fee free places for apprentices so that they can undertake their training free of charge. It is absurd. That one of the issues that we have in this country is a lack of apprentices in the traditional trades as well as in the new trades that are required such as the workers that will be required for the NDIS. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.