ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well good morning. It’s great to be back here at the Glendale Interchange, but I must say, I wish I was back here looking at new construction work rather than making an announcement. I am joined today by Pat Conroy and Sharon Claydon, my two Federal Parliamentary colleagues, and Kay Fraser, the Mayor of Lake Macquarie. Today I am announcing that a Federal Labor Government would contribute $13 million for the next stage of the Glendale Interchange. This is a vital section, including building a bridge that would go over the railway line. This project is a very exciting one. It has the highest benefit to cost ratio of any project I have seen – $94 of benefit for every dollar of investment and that’s why we chose in 2013 to put money in the Budget for this project. What we want is a partnership: $13 million from the Federal Government, $13 million from the State Government and $6 million, which Lake Macquarie Council has made available, for this $32 million project. This is a project that would create construction jobs in the short term, but more importantly would create up to 10,000 jobs over the long term. Jobs in retail, jobs in industry around here, because this will be literally a jobs factory in terms of the contribution that it would make to the Hunter. If Federal and State governments are at all serious about decentralisation, about creating jobs away from the capital cities, this is precisely the sort of project they should be supporting. So today, Labor is saying that we’ll get the job done, just like we got the job done on Stage 1 of this project where we are here today. But we need to complete the project because it is of great benefit to the entire Hunter region, which is why all the councils in this region have identified this as their most important priority.
JOURNALIST: This has been on and off the table for a number of years. How can we ensure this is not going to be an empty promise?
ALBANESE: Well, what we need to do is to elect a Labor Government, because we’ll deliver it. I will sit down with the Berejiklian Government, if we’re successful, and this will be one of the first issues that I raise with them. And put the case to them that I think is irrefutable; that this investment is worthy of support. This should not be a partisan issue; it should be a bipartisan issue. One that supports jobs, supports economic activity here in the Hunter and one which facilitates a massive private sector investment. It’s precisely the sort of project that governments should be looking for. It’s the reason why my Federal colleagues Pat and Sharon and Joel Fitzgibbon are so keen on this project as well as of course Lake Macquarie Council, with their commitment of a significant investment from a local government area.
JOURNALIST: Do you really think that the Berejiklian Government will come to the party on this?
ALBANESE: Yes I do. Because I think the case is just completely overwhelming. And they need, given I think the results that occurred in the March state election, to do more outside of Sydney. They need to recognise they are a State Government, not a CBD Government, and a State Government has to look after growth in all of the regions. This would be welcomed by the private sector and essentially will pay for itself. If you have such a significant multiplier in private sector investment, that generates income back to government; back to the local council, but also to the State and Federal Governments through growth in various revenue measures. So this is a project that is worthy of support; it will pay for itself very quickly, and it’s one that should be supported. Federal Labor has been persistent in pursuing because, I can’t understand frankly why the government of Tony Abbott withdrew that funding. But then again I can’t understand why he also made cuts to education and health and infrastructure spending, and the ABC, right around the country in that 2014 Budget. But this was just one of the many mistakes that were made. And one of the things that we have seen during this Federal campaign indeed is some of the projects that were cut more than five years ago, funding put back in and pretending that they’re new investments or a new idea. Well, I don’t mind that, in terms of them claiming it. It should be, though, that we just get on with doing it, because we have had lost opportunities. And the sooner this project gets built the sooner jobs will be created, the sooner the economic growth that is needed for this region will be able to occur.
JOURNALIST: Labor has previously committed to this project. What is holding up negotiations and dragging this out?
ALBANESE: Well the fact that we haven’t been successful in terms of being elected. We put money in the Budget that was ripped out by the Abbott Government as part of their extraordinary 2014 Budget when they ripped money out of schools, they ripped money out of hospitals, they ripped money out of projects like this. This is a project that does stack up. We should get on with it.
PAT CONROY, MEMBER FOR SHORTLAND: I just want to add a couple of things from a local angle. We’ve got 10,000 workers over at the Cardiff industrial estate, over the other side of the railway line. I talk to the companies there regularly. They are itching to expand, employ more people, expand economic activity in this region. We’ve got thousands of houses going into this area. One of the key stumbling blocks is a road over the railway line, the Pennant Street Bridge. This will unlock massive economic benefits for our area; ease the congestion – if anyone has tried to get onto Munibung Road from Macquarie Road or vice-versa. It is a real critical project. That’s why all 11 Hunter councils have said it is the number one priority. And it’s the real test for any political party. If they are serious about investing in the Hunter, they’ll be investing in Glendale. If they don’t invest in Glendale they are not serious about investing in the Hunter, and that’s the key message from today’s announcement. When we were in Government last, Albo as Infrastructure Minister allocated $13 million to this project to get section one built – that’s the only reason it was built. Only a Labor Government will deliver section two with the vital bridge over the railway line.
JOURNALIST: Do we know how many jobs it could provide?
CONROY: As Anthony said, there will be hundreds of jobs in the construction phase, but more important is the economic potential. An independent study found that there would be 10,000 jobs created when we see the redevelopment of the Cardiff industrial estate, what Stockland is looking at doing at the shops over here, the houses going in, all that is dependent on getting this railway bridge built. That’s up to 10,000 jobs in the area; where we’re facing high youth unemployment, where we’ve got some really innovative companies. We’ve got companies over there building parts for jet engines for the Joint Strike Fighter, for the Super Hornet. They need to expand and they can’t unless we get the bridge built.
JOURNALIST: How long would construction be?
CONROY: I’ll let Mayor Kay Fraser as the project proponent answer that question.
KAY FRASER: Well obviously if the funding became available we would be very keen to get a tender and get this project on the road. As you are probably aware the NSW State Government has identified the Cardiff-Glendale area as a strategic centre in the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan and this is so vital to connect the Glendale shopping centre and entertainment centre to the commercial and industrial area over here. And you can see it’s just the missing link. Lake Macquarie is the centre of the Hunter; it’s got close links to all the major transport hubs, the M1, the port, up to Queensland, so it’s vital that this is completed, because without it we can’t continue to have economic development. We’re talking about affordable housing, we’re talking about the industrial area expanding and we know now that there are a great lot of people who want to leave Sydney. Sydney is booming and bursting, so they have to move somewhere else, and they are looking at Lake Macquarie. So they come to me and say, where is the land to set up a business? And I say, well there is land at Cardiff but at this stage, without this Pennant Street Bridge, we can’t deliver you the land.
JOURNALIST: Are you frustrated?
FRASER: Very frustrated, because Lake Macquarie is growing. It’s a beautiful place, it’s liveable, it’s affordable, and without this important link we can’t continue with our economic development. And we’ve got the Stockland Glendale shopping centre, who want to expand, but they are just waiting to see what is happening with the Pennant Street Bridge.
JOURNALIST: And you’ve got the money in the kitty?
FRASER: We’ve got the money in the kitty. We’ve got the Hunter Sports Centre here, so it’s an ideal location. It’s central, and it’s just what we need.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.