SUBJECTS: Labor’s $125million commitment for Stage 2 of the Barwon Heads Road duplication; the growing communities around Geelong; Omicron outbreak and Australia’s borders; Solomon Islands unrest.

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Welcome everyone. It’s fantastic to be here with the Labor Leader Anthony Albanese, and great to be here also with the Member for Corangamite, Libby Coker, who is also very much, my partner, we are partners in terms of representing Geelong, this region, in Canberra. And it’s a fantastic thing to be able to do that with a person who has done such a great job representing Corangamite and who is a very good friend of mine. There is not another person in the Parliament who has the experience that Albo does in regional Australia. Albo’s been a minister in government responsible for regional Australia. And part of that is that he very much understands our region. Albo’s very much a friend of Geelong, a frequent visitor here. This is your first time since the borders reopened a couple of weeks ago. But if we are fortunate enough, next year, to win the election, then in Anthony Albanese Geelong will have a prime minister who understands our challenges and who understands our story. And one of those is about the whole question of growth and having infrastructure which matches that growth, which is very much what today’s announcement is about. I’m a frequent driver of this road. So, I’m really excited about this announcement. It is amazing the growth along this road, particularly over the last couple of years. But I don’t want to steal Albo or Libby’s thunder. So, great to be here with Albo. I’ll hand it over to you.

Great, thanks very much, Richard. And it’s great to be here with my Deputy, and also with my dear friend, Libby Coker, who does such a fantastic job. The two of them are a powerful combination in Canberra representing the Geelong region. And as Richard said, as a former Infrastructure Minister and Regional Development Minister I understand that infrastructure must at least keep up but preferably get ahead of development, so that we improve the quality of life, particularly for those people in growing communities like this one. Today’s announcement is indeed an exciting one. This is my third visit to Victoria since the borders were opened up again just weeks ago. But the first opportunity that I’ve had to get to Geelong and I look forward to spending the weekend here in Victoria prior to the Parliament’s last sitting week.

Now families in Armstrong Creek, Barwon Heads and across the Bellarine will have quicker and safer commutes to work, to school, to recreational activities as a result of today’s announcement, which is that a federal Labor Government would contribute $125 million for Stage 2 of the Barwon Heads Road duplication. We know that by 2031 this road is projected to carry some 44,000 trucks and cars every single day. So, we know that this is a major issue for this community. There’s been significant advocacy from Libby. We understand that the population here will grow to some 60,000 people, which is why we need infrastructure. And this announcement today, building on the work that’s already underway, will make a significant difference to productivity, to safety, to improving the lives of those people in this growing community. And I’m pleased, on behalf of the Labor Party, to commit to this important infrastructure project today. One of the differences between us and the Coalition is we know that as elections approach, they’ll make a whole lot of promises. There are a whole lot of promises to Victorians that were made before the last election, for issues like commuter car parks, for road projects that haven’t even started. The difference is, we will only promise things that were certain that we can get done. And we will get this done.

LIBBY COKER, MEMBER FOR CORANGAMITE: I would like to thank Anthony Albanese, our leader. He was the first minister in Australia for infrastructure. And what that means is he understands our region and the need for investment in the infrastructure that will get people to work sooner, that will get people home to be with their families sooner. It means that we will have productivity with the jobs that will come with this investment. It is so exciting. I’ve been fighting so hard for this second stage. It will connect people from Ocean Grove, from Armstrong Creek and Warralily, from Charlemont and Grovedale. It is such an important piece of infrastructure that will take people from Geelong, a growing city, to the coast and get people to work, it is so important. So, I’m thrilled with this announcement. And we will deliver this. This is such an exciting thing for the people of our region, you just have to look around at the amount of houses that are going up every single day. And each of these families come to me and say we need a safe road that will get us to work and get us home to our families quicker. So, fantastic investment. I’d like to personally say thank you and I look forward to making it happen.

ALBANESE: Okay, we’re happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: <inaudible>

ALBANESE: The Omicron outbreak is a major concern that should be of concern to all Australians. We know the impact that Delta had when it came here. And we can’t afford to be complacent. I make this point, Scott Morrison always waits until a problem becomes a crisis. And then he waits until a crisis becomes a political issue before he acts. He must act today. Australia should place restrictions on our border with southern African countries to make sure that this variant is not able to enter Australia. And that needs to happen today. The Prime Minister can’t afford, once again, to wait for a problem to become a crisis. He needs to act.

JOURNALIST: So should Australia ban <inaudible>?

ALBANESE: We should close the border with southern African countries, just like our counterparts in advanced economies in the northern hemisphere have done. This is a variant that is of real concern. The health authorities are still examining the detail but what we should have is an attitude which mitigates risk. There is a risk here and it should be shut down and minimised and that requires strong action from the Federal Government.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about the situation in the Solomons at the moment?

ALBANESE: I’m very concerned about the situation in the Solomons. I hope that there can be a peaceful resolution of order there in the Solomons. And I know that our AFP and Defence Force personnel will be doing a great job, as they always do, restoring order and I hope that they are able to return safely to Australia as soon as possible. And I thank them for, once again, representing our nation, wearing our uniform in other countries in order to advance safety and the interests of peace in the Pacific region.

JOURNALIST: Going back to the duplication, Mr Albanese. How far does $125million get towards actually building Stage 2?

ALBANESE: With partnership with the Victorian Government that will enable Stage 2 to occur. That’s the costing that’s been done by G21 and the Geelong Council. So, we believe this will ensure the project can go ahead. We want to make sure that it happens.

JOURNALIST: Is the plan to wait for Stage 1 is finished before you start Stage 2?

ALBANESE: We’d work with the authorities and with the Victorian Government on this. What we’re saying is this funding will be available from our first budget, and it will be included in our first budget.

Thank you.

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