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Statement by Andrew Woodward – Labor for Cowper

16 May 2018

The National Party amateur hour comes to Coffs Harbour – Don’t you worry about that!

While the visit to Coffs Harbour by the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, did little to shed any further light on the secrecy concerning the largely unfunded Coffs Harbour Bypass it did provide a number of confusing, bemusing, amusing and concerning moments.

In a bizarre flying visit to Coffs Harbour, the following can be confirmed:

  1. Mr McCormack said the planned start date for the Bypass is 2020 and not 2021 as he told Parliament in Question Time last week. (See Exhibit A and B)
  2. Mr McCormack confirmed the planned completion date for the Bypass is 2024 and not 2023 as he told Parliament in Question Time last week. (See Exhibit A and B)
  3. Mr McCormack invoked the spirit of disgraced National Party icon the late Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and his famous “Don’t you worry about that” phrase when trying to explain where the missing $736 million is budgeted for by telling the Coffs Coast Advocate “Certainly the money is there, the money is good. $971 million has been pledged by the government, that money will flow“. However, he didn’t say ‘when’, based on what’s been reported. (See Exhibit B)
  4. All of the above dates – 2020, 2021, 2023 and 2024, all contradict dates given by the Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker over the last week. (See previous news releases).
  5. Mr Hartsuyker has no idea when the Bypass is going to be finished. Last week he said 2023. Today at a news conference on site, as reported by the Coffs Coast Advocate, he said 2023. Yet the News Release in his name and handed to media today clearly states 2024.  (See Exhibit C and D)
  6. Mr McCormack snubbed the NSW Minister for Roads and former Coffs Harbour resident, Melinda Pavey, in a Tweet by saying the Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, was “building it”. He makes no mention of Mrs Pavey, whose agency, Roads and Maritime Services, will be responsible for delivery of the project. You would have thought the Deputy Prime Minister would have been more sensitive about acknowledgement of the work of female colleagues, in a week where the Liberal National Party is, quite rightly, under fire for dumping a female Assistant Minister for a male canidate. Neither Mrs Pavey or Mr Fraser was present at today’s event in Coffs Harbour as the NSW Parliament was sitting in Sydney. But Mr McCormack singled out Mr Fraser for mention, snubbing Mrs Pavey. (See Exhibit E)
  7. In an even more bizarre late twist, at 6 o’clock tonight, Mr McCormack’s website went live with the news release handed out to media today in Coffs Harbour. The one handed out to media (Exhibit C below) says “Construction is expected to commence in 2020 and be completed in 2024“). But the one published on Mr McCormack’s personal website has removed this sentence. (See Exhibit F)

So despite the Deputy Prime Minister’s visit, we still don’t know:

  • In which quarter of 2020 or 2021 the work will start.
  • In which quarter of 2023 or 2024 (or beyond) the project will be completely finished.
  • When the remaining mystery $736 million will be spent. (We do know $235 million to 30 June 2022).
  • The total cost of the project, that is, how much the state government is putting in?
  • The precise route.
  • The status of approvals for the project, given it won’t be “assessed” by Infrastructure Australia until June 2019.
  • The detail of what new impacts there will be on nearby residents and business; flora, fauna and ecosystems and, other transport infrastructure such as rail and local roads.

I will again restate that Labor is committed to a bypass of Coffs Harbour and supports the project in principle. However, significant issues remain and questions need answering. More than anything else, it defies belief that this project is not shovel ready so work could start this year.

This is another example of the Nationals shoddy approach to infrastructure investment. In the case of Coffs, we have nothing more than a series of vague press releases and no detail on the issues of interest to the wider community.  We deserve better – they’re totally out of touch.


Exhibit A – Mr McCormack in parliament on 8 May 2018

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Exhibit B – Mr McCormack today on ‘where’s the money coming from’

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Exhibit C – Statement today, 16 May 2018, by Mr McCormack, Mr Hartsuyker, Mr Hogan, Mrs Pavey and Mr Fraser

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Exhibit  D – Mr Hartsuyker’s comments on site as reported by the Coffs Coast Advocate

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Exhibit E – Mr McCormack’s Tweet snubbing Mrs Pavey and acknowledging Andrew Fraser



Exhibit F – Release published online at Mr McCormack’s Ministerial website LINK and on The Nationals website LINK

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Updated: 16 May 2018




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