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Thursday, 1 August 2019
Page: 1909


Mr GEE (CalareAssistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) (10:45): I rise to support these very important appropriation bills. I'm certainly very grateful for the endorsement that the government's program received at the recent federal election. Legislation like this is going to help fund very important projects for country Australia, particularly central western New South Wales. So I'm very grateful for that endorsement and I'm very grateful that the margin in the Calare electorate increased at the last federal election to about 13.3 per cent, which was very humbling. I think that was an endorsement of the important work that this government is carrying out, and a rejection of the politics of division, which we unfortunately saw during that campaign. There is far more that unites us as Australians than divides us, and I think that Australians want to see a positive agenda. They want to see things getting done in their local communities, and that's why this legislation is so very important.

One of the very important projects which we're working on is the new crossing at Dixons Long Point between Orange and Mudgee, the new road and also the crossing over the Macquarie River. There was $16 million allocated in the budget for that. Folks have been trying to get this project done for about 160 years, and no-one's ever been able to do it. They've talked about it; there have been studies done on it; there have been commitments made by various governments, but it's never happened. Yet, in the recent federal budget, there was $16 million allocated to this project. It will cut travel time significantly between the Mudgee region and the Orange region. It will link those two regions up for tourism, for industry, for health services and for commerce, and it will help open up the central west. It's the Holy Grail of unfinished road projects in our region. I was very grateful that the Deputy Prime Minister got behind this project—he came out to see it recently—and that it did receive strong endorsement and support from local governments in the area, most particularly the Mid-Western Regional Council, which is going to be driving the project, and the Cabonne Shire Council. It was very heartening to see RMS commit to helping administer this project as well. We're going to need all parties together to finally get this done. One of the great things about being back in government is that we can now see these very important projects through.

Another very important project that we've been working on is the Orange regional conservatorium and planetarium. During the election campaign, there was a $10 million commitment to make that project a reality. Conservatoriums around the region do wonderful work. They're mainstays of country communities, and one of the reasons that people want to move to regional Australia is the strong cultural and arts scenes that our communities have, and right at the heart of these are often our conservatoriums. The Orange conservatorium have outgrown their current home. They do wonderful work and employ over 30 professionals musicians and teachers, and instruct hundreds of local music lovers each year, so they play a vitally important role in our community. They've been trying to get a new home for a long time, as has the Orange Planetarium, which seeks to educate the next generation about the stars and what lies beyond our own planet. These two bodies have come together to form a new conservatorium and planetarium, and they were absolutely delighted with the $10 million announcement during the recent federal election campaign.

I'd like to pay tribute to the work of some key people on that project. Many have been involved over the years, but I just want to mention Donna Riles, who is the music director of the conservatorium; Kelly Dent, who does wonderful work as the business manager; Trevor Hazell, who is the chair and who is well known to people in Orange for his work in our community; Dr Robin Williams, who is the deputy chair and another very well-known figure in the Orange and Molong areas and, indeed, right around the central west; and Elspeth Sullivan, who has been a tireless advocate for this project and has been one of the key drivers. I'd like to congratulate Elspeth for her work. Councillor Russell Turner has been passionate about this project as well, as has Rod Somerville, the chair of the planetarium. And of course we couldn't leave out Mayor Reg Kidd, who very warmly welcomed the news of this $10 million funding. At the time, he said:

We are excited about the substantial announcement today for the Orange Regional Conservatorium and Planetarium which when constructed will complete the world class civic square in Orange, adding to the Museum, Gallery, Library and Civic theatre …

The investment in Cultural precincts is important as it supports the long-term development of creative economies, bringing about substantial economic outputs and employment, as well as significant social benefits.

This project will benefit the region through teaching, creative development and tourism for many decades to come.

We're very keen to get cracking on this very exciting project. I want to thank all of the people who have pushed for it over many years and congratulate them on a job well done. There's obviously still more work to do, but we are very excited about what is going to be achieved through this funding.

The Bathurst Railway Museum is another very exciting project that this government has been able to fund. It's due for completion in December this year at a cost of $4.6 million, and the Australian government has invested $965,000 in this project. This is alongside the New South Wales government, and there was also assistance from Bathurst Regional Council. It's forecast to generate $6.9 million in benefits to the economy in the next 20 years. Ben Chifley is known to have helped educate younger train drivers, and perhaps some older ones as well, at that very site, so it is a very historic site. Construction is taking place at the moment. It is going to be absolutely extraordinary; a wonderful community asset.

I'd like to congratulate Mayor Graeme Hanger for his passion and drive on this project, as well as Deputy Mayor Bobby Burke. The deputy mayor was here yesterday, as was Orange mayor, Reg Kidd, working on local projects that we can achieve for our area. I'd like to also mention the general manager from Bathurst Regional Council, David Sherley, and also the council's museum unit, led by Alan Cattermole and Janelle Middleton. Well done to you both. I'd also like to make special mention of Ben O'Regan, who is the project manager; IDG Architects, led by Tony McBurney; Tablelands Builders, led by Robert Barlow; Freeman Ryan Design, who are the museum content designers; and John Holland, and Transport for New South Wales. I'd also like to make special mention of Bonny and Paul Hennessy, who have donated an extraordinary model railway, which is a reproduction of the historic Bathurst to Tarana line. As I mentioned, former Prime Minister Ben Chifley was a proud railway man, and we're all very proud of this investment in Bathurst and its history.

Speaking of railways—and there are a lot of railway fans out there, let me tell you—we've got another exciting railway project up and running in Oberon. It's the Oberon Tarana Heritage Railway. The federal government has committed $1.5 million to help restore the branch line to carry a heritage tourist train through the area. This is a very exciting project. Stage 1 involves the installation of 5.6 kilometres of new railway line, the purchase and placement of new sleepers, drainage, earthworks and labour costs.

The Oberon Tarana Heritage Railway have received grants in the past but, whilst they have the trains and some track, they haven't been able to run the trains in any meaningful way. This funding is actually going to get the trains running again. So I'd like to congratulate the president, Greg Bourne, the vice president, Martyn Salmon, the treasurer, John Brotchie, and also the committee members Graham Williams, David McMurray and Ken Lingabala and acknowledge their really important hard work and commitment. They have been passionate about it over many years, and their dream is going to be realised through this wonderful funding.

But it's not just our railways and our railway museums which are being assisted by the federal government. It's also communities right around the region, including Canowindra Showground. During the recent election campaign, the Deputy Prime Minister visited and announced $250,000 for new amenities at the Canowindra Showground. Canowindra is a wonderful town. It's a beautiful town and part of the heartland of Australia, with a wonderful main street. As anyone who lives in the bush knows, our showgrounds are the very heart of our country communities—not just shows but all sorts of activities are held there. In fact, at the Canowindra Showground this weekend, I'm starting the 24-hour Tractorthon, which Roy White is organising. The tractors will be going around the showground for 24 hours, raising money for Little Wings.

I'd like to make special mention of the show committee members and congratulate them for all of their hard work. It's a great pleasure to attend the shows out there every year, but it goes well beyond that. I was recently out there for the Canowindra Balloon Glow, where they got thousands of campers and visitors for the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge, which goes over about a week. Then there is the Balloon Glow at the end, which is quite spectacular and takes place in the evening. So thank you to Geoffrey Beath, the president, well done to you; William Watson, who is the secretary/treasurer; Andrew Holmes, the former president, and a wonderful man very committed to Canowindra and its surrounding districts, and agriculture in general—so well done to you, Andrew. I thank Wendy Bowman, who is on the committee; Darryl Fliedner, also on the committee; Sam Stranger; and Don Percival who is a committee member but also president of the Canowindra Lions Club. I want to thank the Canowindra Lions Club for all of the work that they do. They're always out at the showground working on something or supporting some very important community event. I also thank Peggy Nash, who is an honorary life member, and I thank all of the volunteers who make a contribution, both big and small, to the Canowindra Showground. It is a much loved community asset. It's a pretty town, and it's a pretty showground, and this commitment of $250,000 is going to go a long way to help bring the facilities into the modern age. When you have an event like the Balloon Glow, where you can have 10,000 people at the showground at a time, resources really are stretched, and the community has pushed for this for a long time. So it was very welcome news from the Deputy Prime Minister. It just, I think, shows what you can do when you've got your economic house in order, when you can actually run a surplus for the first time in over 12 years. You can get key projects like this done, which make a real difference to the lives of people in communities right around Australia.

It's not just the infrastructure that's being funded; it is important services—for example, the Lithgow headspace service, which we are soon to open, and which has had strong support from the minister for mental health. It's been pushed for in the Lithgow community for quite a while. There have been some tragic recent examples of young people taking their lives, and that's why getting this headspace service up and running in Lithgow has been such a priority and has been so very important, and with a commitment of just over $1 million, that official opening is going to take place and will hopefully make a real difference to the lives of young people in the Lithgow area.

We've also got great projects like the new Charles Sturt University and Western Sydney University medical school, which is going to be opening in 2021, which will train the next generation of country doctors. We've been pushing for that for many, many years. It will help, I think, alleviate the doctor shortage in country areas. We've also got the new world-class medical research centre opening in Calare, in Orange, which will bring together the best in rural research. So there are some very exciting projects there.

There is also the upgrade to Mount Panorama, the second racetrack, with $12½ million committed over the last term of government, which will transform racing not only in Bathurst but around Australia. Bathurst is the spiritual and physical home of motor racing in Australia. Again, it shows the great support you can give country communities if your house is in order, you're running a surplus and you've got great economic management.