Doorstop Interview – Morisset – Friday 4 March 2022


SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to upgrade Mandalong Road in Morisset; Federal election.

KAY FRASER, MAYOR OF LAKE MACQUARIE: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to beautiful Morisset. I’ve got Jason Clare, the Shadow Minister for Local Government with me and I’ve got Joel Fitzgibbon, the federal member for Hunter. We’re also got Dan Repacholi who is a candidate for the seat of Hunter. This is a very exciting announcement from the Labor Party. We’ve been after this funding for around about 10 years now, and expansion and redevelopment of Morisset and the future Morisset relies heavily on the funding and investment of Mandalong Road. I’m really pleased today to have Jason Clare the Shadow Minister for Local Government to make this significant announcement today for the investment in Mandalong Road. As you know, Mandalong Road expansion will allow for four and a half thousand jobs, a number of residential housing, plus commercial and residential, plus the Morisset Country Club here. Councils just recently approved 30,000 seat capacity for an event space plus Trinity Point has lodged an application for over $700 million revenue investment for apartments and hotels. So very, very important. I’ll hand to Jason Clare. 

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Thanks, Kay. Pretty ordinary weather today but this is fantastic news. It’s fantastic news for Morisset, it’s fantastic news for the whole of the Hunter. Kay, you talked to me about this project for the first-time last year. Kay came to Canberra and made the case about why this project was important and I’m proud to be able to announce today that an Albanese Labor Government will contribute $30 million to get this project done. This really is a no-brainer. It will put Morisset on the map. It’ll create a lot of jobs in construction, and it’ll create even more jobs once it’s done. $40 million from the local government and the federal government combined to widen Mandalong Road will trigger about a billion dollars of investment by the private sector and create thousands and thousands of jobs for people in Morisset right across the Hunter. It’s a no brainer. It’s the sort of thing that should happen. It’s the reason why Dan Repacholi has been on to me and Albo arguing for this funding because he knows the difference that it’ll make here to the local community. Dan’s argued for it. The council’s put the economic case together for it, and an Albanese Labor Government will provide the money to get this project done. I think it’s a fantastic example of how an Albanese Labor Government will help to make a difference for the people here in the Hunter, making life better for people in the Hunter, creating more jobs here in the Hunter. To do that, we need to get Dan Repacholi elected, stepping into the shoes of my mate Joel Fitzgibbon. This is a pretty special press conference because Dan, with Covid, is here via zoom instead of in person. It’s the only time that I’ll appear next to Dan Repacholi and be taller than him in the press conference. I’ll hand over to Dan to say a few words from Covid isolation. 

DAN REPACHOLI, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR HUNTER: Thank you. Thanks Mayor Kay Fraser, Jason Clare, and Joel Fitzgibbon for being there today. I was diagnosed unfortunately with covid last week, so I can’t be there in person, but this is what it’s going to look like going forward, I’m sure for quite a few other people are in Australia. It was important to me was to get this announcement ahead. Mandalong Road is such an important upgrade that we need to do so over the over the last few months, the local community has told me how important Mandalong Road is to them and how needed this upgrade is. I’m proud to announce that an Albanese Labor Government will deliver this with the Lake Macquarie Council. I’d like to thank Kay and her team for the work they’ve done on this project already because it’s made it very easy for me to go to Albo and Jason and really push hard to show you what this means. I’m looking forward to a speedy recovery. I should be out in the next few days, and I’ll continually be talking to the community and just telling them how good this project is for the region, and how we’ll open up Western Lake Macquarie so much and it will be such a valuable asset in the future to this area.

JOURNALIST: Dan, while you’re here, I guess I’ll just ask you, how are you going with covid?

REPACHOLI: Very well thank you now. I spent the first three days struggling a little bit, but I’m going right now. And I’m really just looking forward to getting out of isolation and leaving my bedroom.

JOURNALIST: And Joel obviously, Labor’s hoping for not the passing of a tablet but the torch come the election, I guess. How vital would this infrastructure be? The Hunter electorate is quite massive, and its expanse following that 2016 redistribution, or whenever it was. Just how many phone calls have been put in over the years about this?

FITZGIBBON: This is an exciting announcement. This is a critical project in terms of unlocking the future economic potential for Morisset but indeed, the whole of the western side of Lake Macquarie. It’s great news for all those communities, who everyday spend too much time sitting in traffic. I thank Mayor Fraser and Jason, Anthony Albanese, Dan Repacholi, and all those who have joined with me in this important lobbying effort, this is great news for our local community.

JOURNALIST: Kay, with regards to this, you said that Morisset said is quite an important stop on the freight route. Can you elaborate on that a little bit in particular?

FRASER: It’s really one sleep or one gear shift, you would say between Brisbane and Melbourne. So, for logistics for trucks, they’d like to just have one stop. Morisset is in the centre of that. So, it’s really important for us to make sure that this Mandalong Road upgrade happens. And this also will unlock the potential for logistics to set up in Morisset.

JOURNALIST: Have you been working with all candidates on this project? As you said, it’s been in the pipeline for about him 10 years now, more in the planning stage. Are you looking at other political candidates as well to get this done?

FRASER: We’ve been talking to state and federal MPs over the last number of years and as you know, I met with Jason Clare in Canberra and spoke to him about the importance of this project, and he really took that seriously. I’m pleased to say that here we are today with the announcement.

JOURNALIST: So, this will be the duplication of the road over a very short distance. There are other areas which might need upgrades in future. Just how far off would that be?

FRASER: The work that’s proposed is to obviously dual laneway and plus new roundabouts to widen. And that will make it much easier for traffic to flow and also unlock the investment potential.

JOURNALIST: What have been some of the challenges in terms of getting this done beyond the funding, obviously, you said you’ve been liaising with transport for New South Wales. Just how far off would be project be if the funding is secured?

FRASER: Once the funding is secured well then we can start the work. It’s really important for the investment that’s here. Every time we get an application for a developed application, there’s always a hiccup with transport, because we know that there’s already gridlock. There’s already problems here. So, any large investor always comes up against the transport wall. So, as I was saying with the Trinity Point investment of over $700 million, that will be dependent on this upgrade.

JOURNALIST: Obviously, we’ve got that federal election looming and the focus will be on winning votes now. But just how important, with that growth, particularly the housing base, is this strategic project in terms of securing votes into the future beyond the election as well as well?

CLARE: I think the people here in Morisset and people right across the country want us to think long term. They want us to think about what’s the sort of infrastructure we’re going to need to set us up for the next 10 or 20 years. The infrastructure is already gridlocked here at the moment. The roads aren’t wide enough to be able to deal with the population we’ve got heat at the moment, let alone what’s going to come in the future. That’s why we’ve said this is an important project that needs to be funded. The government tends to pork barrel and pour money into the Liberal Party electorates for car parks that never get built because they think it’s a way to get votes. We’re focused on projects where the economic analysis says this is needed. We’ve got the report from the Council, which says if you’ve got $40 million to widen the road, you’ll create a billion dollars of private sector investment. That’s why I said it’s a no brainer. We’ll put the $30 million from an Albanese Labor government into our first Budget. That’s a clear message that we want this built as quickly as we possibly can. Because the sooner you build it, the sooner the jobs come that come with it.

JOURNALIST: So, what would you want to see if you are kind of bankrolling it in government? Do you have a deadline of when you’d want the work done?

CLARE: We would allocate the money in our first Budget, and we’d work with the local government, as well as the State Government. State Government is crucial here because they’ve got the people that are responsible for giving us the approval to get the work done. Also, we’ll work with all levels of government to get this built as quickly as we possibly can. Because the sooner it’s built, the sooner all of that other economic development that comes with it will be unleashed and that’s good for the local community. More jobs, more housing, more business.  That means for Morisset this is a game changer.

JOURNALIST: Obviously, the election advertising is out at the moment. And we’re seeing Dan in a lot of high-vis and mining, or what would appear to be mining get up. The coal industry has been, you know, pretty significant in terms of why we’ve got a new candidate. Labor’s also been moving forward with the hydrogen proposal and stuff like that. Is Labor sending mixed messages to people in the Hunter with that?

FITZGIBBON: What makes me really proud is that over the course of the last 26 years I’ve been in, the region has become so much more economically diverse. And Dan Repacholi is very conscious of that. We’re working with all parts of the community and business sector union etcetera to make sure that diversity in growth continues, so that we sure up our economic future, and this is a good thing.

JOURNALIST: But do you think it is mixed messages to the voters to invest in hydrogen?

FITZGIBBON: No, not at all. We know that, inevitably, our coal fired generators will close as they come to the end of their physical lives. And we want to make sure that the region remains the powerhouse of New South Wales by making sure the new forms of energy, hydrogen, solar, gas, wind, that investment takes place here in the Hunter region. That’s Dan Repacholi’s determination and I support that very strongly. 

CLARE: Joel’s absolutely right. The Hunter has always been an energy powerhouse. We want the Hunter to remain an energy powerhouse, not just now but into the future. I talked about the importance of having a Government in Canberra that thinks long term, not just about what’s it going to take to win an election, but what it’s going to take to make sure that there are more and more jobs here in the Hunter in ten years’ time. As Joel said, hydrogen is going to be a really big part of the energy solution in 10 years and in 20 years’ time, not just for us here in Australia, but potentially for export overseas. It’s either Australia that takes the lead here and becomes a major exporter of hydrogen or some other country. And it’s either the Hunter that’s the base for this or it’s another part of Australia that’s the base for it. I know Joel thinks this is as a proud New South Welshman, I think it too. We want to make sure that Hunter remains an energy powerhouse and that’s why the policy that we’ve announced with Kurri Kurri and the hydrogen element of that is so important.

JOURNALIST: Eraring is in the electorate, isn’t it? What do you make of that? Or what does Dan make of that I suppose and the situation there?

FITZGIBBON: We’ve got a very clear message to Matt Kean in New South Wales, the Minister. We are making a transition which will allow us to remain the energy powerhouse in New South Wales. But if we do this too quickly then rather than create jobs, we’ll lose jobs. And it disappoints me that Matt Kean spent eight months plotting the demise of that power generator without any consideration for the workforce. We need to make sure that people in the energy industry are taken care of and Matt Kean hasn’t given them that consideration and that is a mistake.