03 February 2022

SUBJECTS: Labor's $7.5m investment in Casuarina Pool; Supply chain disruptions; COVID; Aged care; Julian Assange.

LUKE GOSLING, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Thanks everyone for joining us at Casuarina Pool. This pool behind us is 50 years old and I'm really proud to be here with my Labor colleagues, with Catherine King, who is from Ballarat Victoria and has come on to enjoy our beautiful weather. But Catherine is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, and that's what we need for the Territory. So, it's awesome to have you here. Thanks for coming up, Catherine, and supporting us with this $7.5 million commitment to the redevelopment of this pool for our northern suburbs. Also here with Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, the NT Senator, who is an avid swimmer. Malarndirri was in fact at the wonderful Parap Pool this morning swimming. We've got a new pool in Parap. The Palmerston Pool has been granted some funding so that they can redevelop, so federal Labor was committed, when Casuarina Pool missed out on some funding, to make sure that the people of the northern suburbs knew that we were committed to $7.5 million, working with the Darwin City Council so that we could redevelop this beautiful pool. It's an old pool. We'll make it a much better precinct. Everyone knows that we want to have great facilities for our kids, and this pool, once it's redeveloped, will have so much more for particularly children to do, but also the lap swimmers, and it will be a really important piece of social infrastructure for the northern suburbs. $7.5 million towards the City of Darwin's redevelopment of this pool will make it a reality. We will get it moving as quickly as possible so that the northern suburbs, like Parap and like Palmerston in the future, has an awesome pool precinct. Thanks very much for coming down, and I'll hand over to Catherine.

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Thanks, Luke. It's terrific to be here in Casuarina today with my great friends Luke Gosling and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. We've got Parliament going back next week, and it's the first opportunity I've had to be able to get back into the Northern Territory. It's almost a year ago now that I sat down with the CEO and the Mayor of the City of Darwin to ask them what were the infrastructure needs of the region and they talked a lot about this pool and its history here in the Territory, and particularly for this community here in the northern suburbs. It's a pool that has served the community really well. But, as Luke says, we've seen some investments going into Palmerston, we've seen investments going into Parap, but really the people in the northern suburbs have been missing out. So we're very pleased today to announce that an Albanese Labor Government will invest $7.5 million in partnership with the City of Darwin, making this almost a $33 million investment, in partnership between the City of Darwin and a future Albanese Labour Government to really develop this precinct and develop this pool. A resort style lagoon we're talking about here so that younger kids can swim and learn to swim in this area, much better outdoor areas for people and a much more user-friendly pool for the people the north. Part of our infrastructure investment, and I'm happy to take questions more broadly about that, is focusing on liveability. What we've learned through COVID is that people really want to be able to spend time in their neighbourhoods, having recreation opportunities. They want to be outdoors and they want to be able to do that in their local neighbourhood. So, part of the infrastructure investment we're making is in equity. We want to make sure that in the north, south, east and west, we are actually funding infrastructure investments equally across suburbs and that's really what this announcement today is about. The $7.5 million investment for the people of the north here to invest in their swimming pool. We're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: We saw, you know, one highway and rail line flooded and that led to day days of empty shelves, what will Labor do to make sure that doesn't happen again?
KING: Well, there's a couple of things. So, the first thing, is part of the reason we are seeing these events is because of climate change. So you have to have a government that is invested in actually dealing with the issue of climate change. That's the first thing, a government that is serious about climate change for people across the country. The next thing we need to do is to actually have proper disaster mitigation. The fact that the government has had a $5 billion disaster mitigation fund and they have not spent a single cent out of that fund is frankly scandalous. We've had bushfires, we have had floods, we've had substantial storm events down south as well and we haven't actually had an investment out of that. Labor has announced a National Disaster Mitigation fund, $200 million per year investing frequently is actually building back infrastructure, not building it once it's destroyed back to what it was, but actually improving it so that it is actually preventing disasters. In terms of our freight supply routes. Frankly, the infrastructure investment portfolio, the government likes to crow they've got this $110 billion program across 10 years, apart from the fact that that's a lie, they're is not strategically investing. They haven't been saying where are our vulnerabilities in terms of COVID? Where are our vulnerabilities when it comes to freight and supply routes? And they haven't been investing in things like the Stuart Highway and in things like the Tanami, in actually making sure that those roads are right and making sure that they're resilient in the future. We'll have some announcements to make around freight and supply across the north of this state and we'll be doing that with the leader of the opposition Anthony Albanese, but I do want to say it is absolutely ridiculous that we've had a circumstance where you have not been able to get food in Alice. That is just frankly, in this day and age, something that the government should be absolutely ashamed of..
JOURNALIST: Is that a commitment to upgrade the Stuart Highway?
KING: Certainly, we will be making some announcements around freight and supply chains. We're not making those announcements today, but we have heard loudly and clearly that you have to have strategic investment in improving those vital supply lines and the fact that you've had Alice and Coober Pedy running out of food on supermarket shelves because the trucks could not get through and because, frankly, the rail line has not been upgraded, is something that we should all be ashamed of. It shouldn't have happened.
JOURNALIST: There is one entry route via the east coast and the West. Is that enough?
KING: I think you have to build resiliency into the system, and I think that is what we're learning. If we've learned anything from COVID, we actually have to build resiliency right the way through our freight and supply chains. But certainly, what we've learned through this recent event, which is not, you know, this isn't new, we've had this happen before, is that if you don't invest in that infrastructure, then this will keep happening and I think you're right, having just one route will be problematic into the future.
JOURNALIST: We've had another death overnight, this time in aged care facility where the federal government is responsible for vaccinating our most vulnerable. Has the government done enough to ensure that our residents are vaccinated?

MALARNDIRRI MCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: The aged care minister, should resign. The death that we've had in aged care in Alice Springs is adding to the deaths across the country of our elders, of our old people. They should have and had to be the first people to be cared for in this pandemic. My sincere condolences go out to the families who have lost some people here in the Northern Territory. This is the fourth death and certainly the first in aged care and it's reprehensible.
JOURNALIST: The man was not vaccinated. Is that acceptable two years into a pandemic and a year after vaccines were made available?
MCCARTHY: We don't know the details yet as to why this person was not vaccinated. We also have to understand that people have had medical reasons, that I'm certainly not aware of, but I will be asking questions as we have Estimates next week.
JOURNALIST: We've spoken to people from remote communities concerned about the massive disparity in terms of the resources in Howard Springs, people are getting three meals a day, regular health checkups, versus the overcrowded houses with no support in some communities. Do you think the NT Government is getting the balance right in the way in supporting Territorians?

MCCARTHY: I've certainly been receiving many phone calls across the Northern Territory from communities and from our towns, from people concerned about overcrowding, and the fact that they're unable to isolate to be able to get through any COVID infections. This is something that the First Nations Caucus raised over a year ago when we raised it at the national level with the Department of Health and also with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt. The fact that we're still asking these questions is not good enough. This afternoon, I'll also be asking some questions of the Northern Territory health officials, because this is a serious concern for our communities across the Northern Territory.
JOURNALIST: The Government still seem to be labouring under the illusion that we have a 95% double vaccination rate, by the same measure every other jurisdiction, it's at about 87%, Is it time to sort of end that charade and acknowledge that our vaccination rate isn't what the other jurisdictions are?
MCCARTHY: I think what's important now is that COVID is right here. It's all around us. You know, my aunties, uncles, my nieces and nephews are all infected with COVID, as people in Howard Springs are infected with COVID. And I recognize that whilst the vaccination debate is still an important one, I think the practical reality for us here is encouraging the people of the Northern Territory to get through what it is fighting against now and that is the COVID infection.
JOURNALIST: The federal government has implemented biosecurity zones, but more of them today. Does that help, does it make a difference?

MCCARTHY: Well, I have been discussing this with the land councils across the Northern Territory. They have requested these zones and I understand they've done that because the communities they represent want that. Now, if this is going to assist those communities, in protecting them from COVID, then we have to ensure that they are also resourced to be capable to do that.
JOURNALIST: The fact that they had to ask the Commonwealth for help, does that indicate that the Northern Territory Government is not doing enough in some of our regional and remote areas?
MCCARTHY: Well, we do go to the Commonwealth for support. We need the support from the Commonwealth. We've always requested that in terms of quarantine, in terms of vaccination, in terms of RATs, and the fact that we're still searching for RATs in these communities is not good enough. And so the real question here is why has the federal government failed us in preparing for this pandemic?
JOURNALIST: Do you believe Julian Assange should be returned to Australia?
MCCARTHY: Look, I think the case certainly with Julian Assange is one that's gone on for too long. It obviously does need resolving, but I'd like to be able to find out what the latest situation is with Julian Assange and I'm more than happy to have that conversation when I'm aware of it.