Subjects: Tasmanian roads announcement, MONA funding.
ROSS HART: Very pleased to welcome Anthony Albanese here today to make some very important announcements with respect to Labor’s commitment to infrastructure here, in particular in northern Tasmania. Labor has a history of investing in the long term needs of our communities; investments that are based around long term strategic investment; investments which unlock the potential, particularly with respect to the agricultural sector and our transport sector. Anthony, welcome here to northern Tasmania.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much Ross, and it is great to be back here for yet another visit to Launceston. And we had a very successful launch of Ross’ campaign last night here, and it’s great to be supporting good local members, who are such strong advocates for their local community. And Ross, and the other local members, including Justine and Brian and Julie Collins, have all been strong advocates for this package we’re announcing today – the largest ever roads package put forward by any political party in any election in Australia’s history for Tasmania – a $1.3 billion package that builds on what we did when we were last in office. When we were last in office of course, we instigated the 10-year plan to upgrade the Midland Highway. With this announcement today, we are upgrading all of the major roads in the north and the north-west of this state, and down the west coast. This initiative includes major upgrades to the Bass, the West Tamar, the Frankford, and the Murchison Highways. It includes identifying where the biggest black spots are, and making sure that we address those issues. We have been able to put together this package, because we’re making the difficult decisions to ensure that we close tax loopholes. That’s enabling us to invest in health, to invest in education, and to invest in roads here in Tasmania.
And these roads construction of course will create jobs in the short term, but more importantly will provide for safer roads for all who live here or all who visit here. So I’m very proud of this package. In the north, it includes: upgrades to The Glen Road, upgrades to the West Tamar Highway, upgrades to Palana Road, Dalrymple Road, West Tamar Highway improvements, the Sidling upgrade on the Tasman Highway, the Frankford Highway upgrade, Bass Highway Westbury to Latrobe, and the Birralee Road upgrade between Westbury and Frankford. These are the projects for the north that will make an enormous difference. In the North-West and West Coast, the Murchison Highway upgrade, the Old Surrey Road/ Massy-Greene Drive upgrade, the Lyell Highway between Queenstown and Strahan, the Bass Highway between Marrawah and Wynyard, Port Sorell Main Road upgrade, and Henty Road upgrade between Strahan and Zeehan. These projects will deliver safer roads, will deliver jobs in the short term, will boost economic productivity, and will be of major benefit to Tasmania.
REPORTER: Now if this was to all go ahead, how long will these upgrades take? Are they the 10-year mark?
ALBANESE: This is a 10-year plan, but we want to get on with it as soon as possible, like we did when we were last in Government. One of the concerns that I have is that we need the Tasmanian Government to step up. I am concerned that they haven’t stepped up to this point. We had the Midland Highway upgrade funds available when we were in office, and the rollout has been slowed down under the change of government that occurred in 2013. So these have all been identified as major black spots, and one of the things that we will be able to do, when in Government, is actually deliver faster, larger, more effective upgrades, because we can say, unlike the government, how we’re funding projects and being able to deliver on that investment.
REPORTER: Well if elected then, what roads will your party start on first?
ALBANESE: We’ll sit down with the Tasmanian Government and with local councils. Local councils will hold the State Government to account, on making sure this happens. I’m very confident of that, having spoken to a range of the mayors here in the North and in the North-West that they’re very keen for these projects to occur as soon as possible, because the Federal Government doesn’t have road gangs. We rely upon State and local government to deliver the projects. But as soon as we are elected, if we’re successful on May 18, I’ll be convening a meeting of the Transport Ministerial Council – to sit down with each of the Ministers, and to sit down collectively, and to plan out the upgrades, and to make sure they can happen as soon as possible. I know myself, I visited Scottsdale with Ross just last year, and I know that the road there for example is an absolute priority. There are priority areas. The mayors have been to Canberra to see me, and I’ve been to see them. Unlike the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government Ministers who struggle to find Tasmania, I’ve been here 10 times in the last year, sitting down with people, talking to people throughout the state, talking to people particularly in the north and the north-west, and I visited the West Coast to make sure that I build those relationships so that things can happen sooner rather than later.
REPORTER: Now you’ve just been here twice in the last week alone. Is that because you’re more popular than Bill Shorten?
ALBANESE: I love Tasmania, as does Bill and I was here with Bill on Saturday. I’ve been here more than twice. I’ll give you the big tip.
REPORTER: In the week?
ALBANESE: I was here at the Tourism Awards just a few weeks before that, here in Launceston. This is a beautiful city.
REPORTER: Have each of these projects been designed completely?
ALBANESE: Just about. This is a well-worked through package, and of course the final designs will be worked out, but by and large, these are projects that have been identified as priorities. They’re projects in which our members here in Tasmania, have worked with local government to ensure that these projects have been identified as priorities, and we want to make sure they can be rolled out. Of course that’s one of the timeline issues, is the finalisation of design. But we’re very confident in this package. It’s comprehensive, it’s throughout the state, jobs in the short term, safer roads, better infrastructure in the long term.
REPORTER: Local residents who use these roads want them fixed as soon as possible.
REPORTER: Is a 10-year plan too long?
ALBANESE: Yes it is. What we’re saying though is that we want to do it sooner than that. There’ll be additional things. When I was the Minister, there were new announcements, adding onto projects in every single Budget. And I was Infrastructure Minister for six of them, and every single one had a new package for Tasmania. So what we’re saying is that this won’t all be completed in the next term. That’s the truth. But work should commence on these projects as soon as possible. I want to see it happen as soon as possible.
REPORTER: Do you know how much will be budgeted in the first year of the $1.3 billion?
ALBANESE: All our costings will be released together prior to the election, prior to May 18.
REPORTER: Should we expect some of these highways to be converted into dual lane?
REPORTER: In regards to the MONA announcement, how should people in the north feel about that? Do you think it’ll benefit them, or just drag more people further south?
ALBANESE: No. What it will do is benefit the entire state of Tasmania. I’ve been very clear. I’ve seen the Libs have done some dodgy poll, where they speak about funding a hotel. There’ll be no public money into any hotel or any private activity. What the Commonwealth contribution will be is for public infrastructure. There’ll be an amphitheatre, for example, that will provide for public access. So that is where the Federal contribution will be. This is a more than $450 million investment. What it will do is drive investment throughout Tasmania. We had a $120 million package for tourism, $70 million of it is in the regions – $70 million including in places like Georgetown, in places like Launceston, in places like Smithton; a comprehensive package just like this roads package is comprehensive. But one of the things that MONA has done is to drag international tourists to Tasmania. And guess what? If you travel from Europe to Tasmania, you don’t stay for a night. You look for other things to do. And one of the reasons why we had such a comprehensive package, which has been described by the Tourism Council of Tasmania and the tourism sector, who we had roundtables with here in Launceston, at Cradle Mountain as well as Hobart; and what that did was they identified what their priorities were and that’s why this package has been welcomed as an absolute game changer by the Tasmanian tourism sector. And indeed it is.
REPORTER: The Mayor of Launceston (inaudible) the northern suburbs aren’t funded. Are you in a position to commit to that? I understand he’s met with Ross this week.
HART: Look, we’ve had discussions with the mayor over a long period of time. We have been listening to the mayor and other stakeholders with respect to the northern suburbs community hub. We’re not in a position to make an announcement at the moment, but there will be an announcement before the 18th of May.
ALBANESE: There’s a hint for you folks. Are we done? Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.