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Full transcript of media conference by Premier Denis Napthine – 7 April 2014

Monday, 07 April 2014

Subjects: V/Line Wi-Fi announcement, mobile black spot coverage, EurekaStadium, Japan FTA, TAFE, smoking bans

E&OE

DENIS NAPTHINE:

It’s great to be here at Geelong Railway Station in the heart of Geelong with the Mayor, Councillor Darren Lyons; Councillor Ron Nelson; local members Andrew Katos and David Koch and Paula Kontelj; and Matthew, who’s going to answer any difficult questions when it comes to technical issues.

I’m pleased to be here today to make a significant announcement – not just for Geelong but the whole of regional Victoria. I am pleased to announce today that in the Budget in May, there will be an allocation of $40 million, which will provide free public Wi-Fi on all V/Line train services from Geelong and other regional centres to Melbourne so that people travelling on those services will have good quality Wi-Fi services, free Wi-Fi services and this will be a real boost to people travelling on V/Line across Victoria.

This $40 million is new money from the State Government and not only will it provide free public Wi-Fi on our V/Line services to regional centres, it will also be used to fix mobile black spots along the V/Line track. Currently, there is a significant number of spots along the V/Line pathway where there are black spots where mobile services drops out and of course, internet services drop out. So the first priority will be to fix those black spots and also to enhance our V/Line VLocity rail cars so that they’ll provide a high quality, uninterrupted, free public Wi-Fi service.

The second part of this budget announcement is to provide funding for improvement of mobile phone services in black spots across Victoria. This is across regional and rural Victoria, particularly targeting bushfire-prone areas and we’ve seen, in recent times, a number of areas where we’ve had serious bushfires and people have complained about the lack of mobile phone connection and mobile phone services which has affected the warnings that have gone out, affected the response of the local community to those bushfire threats.

So this is a $40 million package from the Victorian Government in the May Budget, but it will hopefully be complemented by funding out of the $100 million commitment of the Federal Coalition Government to fix mobile black spots across Australia. And we are certainly putting a strong case for our share of that funding, which we estimate would be about $25 million. So, we are putting our money on the table, we’re looking for the Federal Government to come on board, but we are guaranteeing that in our budget, we’ll have $40 million which will deliver, through an Expression of Interest process, free Wi-Fi services on our V/Line services between Geelong and Melbourne, Ballarat and Melbourne, Bendigo and Melbourne, Seymour and Melbourne and Traralgon and Melbourne.

So great new service for commuters and a great thing for growing populations in regional and rural area. By having better quality Wi-Fi services on trains, by having better coverage for mobile services across regional and rural Victoria, that’s another good reason why people should make the good move to live and work in regional and rural Victoria.

And I’d now like to ask the Mayor, Councillor Darren Lyons, to say a few words.

DARREN LYONS:

Thank you, Premier. Well it’s great to see so many of you down here today, another terrific announcement by the State Government. Obviously I’m very pleased to hear that the State Government’s plan to improve mobile phone coverage on the Geelong rail line. The fact of the matter is that more than 5,000 people every morning and 5,000 people every night come to and from Geelong. We are one of the fastest-growing regional cities in Victoria at a rapid rate of knots and really this announcement …

[Audio cuts out]

Wi-Fi will add the flexibility of the rail service and provide options for commuters as they work and they travel.

As I said, Geelong‘s residential growth remains above the state average. So it’s absolutely crucial that people that have the lifestyle advantages of living in Geelong and working in Melbourne have those advantages to be able to do business while they travel. The City of Greater Geelong has partnered with Deakin University and a local consortium to deliver a free Wi-Fi service in central Geelong. I announced this three months ago. So now the whole of the CBD is Wi-Fi and right down to the waterfront. Absolutely crucial in today’s private environment for young people, for travellers, but most of all, for people to do business.

This is a city that is open for business and this, Mr Premier, is Wi-Fi that is no longer a luxury, it is a measure of any modern city going forward. So, I certainly thank the State Government and I warmly welcome this announcement today. This is a real cut-through into the technology base of our future and Geelong is going to be a key player in a 21st century smart city. Thank you very much indeed.

ANDREW KATOS:

I’m really pleased with the announcement because it actually lets people be more productive on the trains. Because they’re on the train for an hour or so and they can go about their work, they can do their work …. And one thing in particular too, Deakin University and the Gordon just across here, have said to us they have a lot of students who come here from Melbourne. So they’ve been asking for this for a while and it actually enhances Deakin and Gordon. So that ability to attract more students to come and study here in Geelong. So overall with that, it’s a really great announcement and I’m very happy to be here.

DENIS NAPTHINE:

We might just wait for the train.

 

This will be on all V/Line trains from these regional centres. Certainly the VLocity trains will be enhanced in terms of the public Wi-Fi service. But this will be about fixing the black spots. There’s about 40 per cent of the total area travelled, or total distance travelled, on V/Line services from regional centres to Melbourne have mobile black spots. This will fix that so that it’ll make it more accessible for everybody, but also on the train it will be free public Wi-Fi from the regional centres to and from Melbourne.

REPORTER:

Victoria has been lagging behind, particularly European trains were Wi-Fi’s very common.

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, what we need to make sure is that Melbourne and Victoria move into the 21st century in terms of communications. And as the Mayor of Geelong has said here, there’s free Wi-Fi in the CBD of Geelong. We, as a government, have moved to provide free Wi-Fi in the CBD in Melbourne, Bendigo and Ballarat, and now having free Wi-Fi on our regional V/Line services is a step in the right direction. So the people are connected all the time, they can do business, they can involve themselves in their study, they can involve themselves in their personal emails and without any interruption, and this is real step in terms of improving access for people across Victoria and particularly, those who use our V/Line services.  

REPORTER:

What about city commuters? How close are you to fixing phone reception in the city loop and, I mean, giving access just to phone reception there?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

When you go deep underground, there are significant challenges with that. We’ll continue to work on that with the telephone companies and we’d like them to sharpen their pencils so that they can offer us a good deal for providing better reception in some of those areas, particularly in the loop.

REPORTER:

What’s the prohibiting factor with that? It is technology or is it cost? Or both?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, the technology implies a cost and there is a cost. And we think that there’ll be so much use of it that it’ll actually provide a dividend to the telecommunications industry, therefore we think they should make, the service available at a fair price. At the moment I think they’re being a bit greedy. 

REPORTER:

And what do you think of the call by some people for AOs to have guns?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, this is absolute nonsense: it’s not a call that is supported by the State Government. The State Government believes Authorised Officers do a challenging job and do it extremely well, but there is no plans, no plans –

REPORTER:

Just back on the on the V/Line Wi-Fi, do you think that’s going to result on a significant increase in patronage, as people look to try and maximise their work days?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

We believe that, as the population of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo and regional Victoria continues to grow and people see the opportunities that are available in regional centres, the patronage will grow. Having free Wi-Fi services will enhance the commuter’s experience and certainly, attract more people to V/Line services to travel to study, to travel to work and I think it certainly will boost V/Line patronage. And that’s why we’re investing in 43 new VLocity rail cars; that’s why we’re investing in the Regional Rail project to make sure we can cater for that growth in capacity.

REPORTER:

On the flip side of that, do you think that will see fewer people or reduce the stress anyway on the Westgate Freeway?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, I think that people from Geelong certainly have choices and options and when you’ve got a more reliable service, when you’ve got free Wi-Fi on the service and you can do business as you travel and when you’ve got more frequent services, certainly through the Regional Rail Link, people will be making choices about using trains rather than driving to Melbourne. I think it’s a very good choice, a very good option and with the free Wi-Fi, I think it makes it a real winner. 

REPORTER:

The Wi-Fi announcement you made in the city, I think last month, that was no cost to taxpayers, how’s the $40 million going to be used on this? Is it just to improve the black spots or …?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

There are a number ways the money will be used on, and I’ll ask Matt to comment in a minute but certainly, there’s about 40 per cent of the total distance, about 600 kilometres, where there are various black spots where we need to work with telecommunication companies to invest in new infrastructure to ensure that we don’t have drop-outs, which is essential for a free Wi-Fi service of high quality. So some of the money will go into that, some of the money will be going to other mobile black spots across Victoria and also some of the money will be for enhancements in the VLocity rail cars to provide better connectivity to the Wi-Fi service. And if Matt thinks I’ve missed anything he can add to that.

MATTHEW:

Nope, Premier. It’s a good answer. 

REPORTER:

Will stations get the Wi-Fi as well, I mean at the …

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Sorry?

REPORTER:

Stations gets the Wi-Fi?

MATTHEW:

The stations? Not in this announcement.

REPORTER:

When do you expect to have this announcement?

MATTHEW:

Just on the trains.

REPORTER:

– the first trains enabled?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, we expect that this will go through an EOI process and we expect, by the end of 2015, we’ll have Wi-Fi on some of the trains if not all the trains.

REPORTER:

Premier, will you match the Labor Party promises for Portarlington and Eureka Stadium?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, what we’re seeing at Port Arlington, unfortunately, is a cruel hoax on the people of Bellarine and Portarlington. This is comes from the same local member who suggested you should use the Alcoa berth for cruise ships, that’s how much she understands about ports and ports issues. When Labor were in office, they said to re-do the Portarlington Harbour would cost $58 million – $58 million – now they’re saying for $15 million, they’ll get a new pier, ferry berths, new aquacultures berths, extension of the breakwater and a refuelling station all for $15 million. Tell them they’re dreaming.

REPORTER:

So you won’t match the 15 they’re offering…

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, we understand the need for facilities at Portarlington. We’ll go through a proper process to examine how that is best delivered. But we won’t play political games and play cruel hoaxes on the people of Portarlington when we know a project costs at least $58 million and only deliver $15 million and tell them that we’ll deliver a $58 million project.

REPORTER:

In Ballarat, Eureka?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

In Ballarat and Eureka, we’ve got a great track record on Ballarat of delivering jobs and key infrastructure in Ballarat, be it schools and hospitals. And also sporting facilities including new world class soccer facilities, new facilities at the Ballarat Greyhound Racing Club and at the harness racing and turf club. So we’ve invested in sporting facilities and, of course, education and health facilities plus job creating facilities in Ballarat.

With regard to the Eureka Stadium-Ballarat Showground Complex, there are a number of different challenges there and we’ll continue to work with the Ballarat City Council and the broader community on their needs, whether it be the basketball facilities, the facilities for the showground, the facilities for the aquatic needs of the community and, of course, the needs of football.

REPORTER:

What’s your reaction to the Japan free trade agreement? Do you think there’s going to be many benefits for Victoria? I understand a few farmers think it’s quite disappointing.

DENIS NAPTHINE:

I think the free trade agreement is a significant step forward: it’s a great step forward for the whole of Victoria and Australia, and particularly for Victoria as a large agricultural producer. It does provide benefits for our agricultural industries: yes, many of us would have like to have seen it gone further but it is a positive step forward and I think we should work with that. I also note in the free trade agreement if Japan does any other agreements with any other countries that deliver better outcomes for those countries that Australia will be automatically matched with that which is a great outcome for us as well.

REPORTER:

What Victorian industries do you see as been the main beneficiaries?  

DENIS NAPTHINE:

I think the main beneficiaries will be the meat industry which will be a significant beneficiary with a lowering in tariffs and greater access and also in terms of our dairy industry, in terms of opportunities for our cereal producers and horticulture producers. There, just widening the access into the Japanese market is a significant step forward.

REPORTER:

Dairy producers aren’t all that happy though: do you think they missed out a bit?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, the dairy producers certainly would want greater freedom of access and I would support that, but this is a significant step forward from where we were a week ago and five years ago.

REPORTER:

Premier, those TAFE colleges that are still struggling, would you be encouraging them to merge with each other, or with a stronger provider, to ensure their survival?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

We’ve had discussions with our TAFE colleges and last year, this time last year, we put $200 million on the table for TAFE colleges to look at investments in new technologies and look at the best options for the future. So, we would say to the TAFE colleges, you need to act in the best interest of your community and your students and I believe TAFE colleges will do that.

But I make the point, we have significantly increased funding for vocational education and training, from $850 million when we came to government to $1.2 billion now. So there’s more money, more students, doing more appropriate courses in vocational education training under a Coalition government.

REPORTER:

But if half of them are still in the red, does that mean that it’s poor management at those particular colleges?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, the TAFE colleges need to examine what they’re offering and how they’re managing their facilities and they need to look at how they can best do that for the future. But let’s not get away from the fact that when we came to government there were 420,000 students doing vocational education training across the state, there’s now 645,000 students doing vocational education and training, a significant increase in the number of students doing vocational education and training. The other thing that’s important is, when we came to government, 49 per cent of those students were doing courses that were immediately relevant to job opportunities in our community. There’s now over 70 per cent. So more students –  significantly more students – doing more courses, that are more relevant to the needs of our work force.

REPORTER:

Do you think Anzac Day should remain, in an AFL sense, Essendon-Collingwood?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, that’s a decision for the AFL, not for me.

REPORTER:

Sorry, just back on the TAFE thing. Has any of that $200 million been spent?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Some of the money has been allocated. There are other opportunities for TAFE facilities to put their hands up with proposals about how they can best use that to improve the efficiency of the operation of the TAFE facility to deliver more courses to more students.

REPORTER:

I think it’s Monash Council is calling for the State Government to ban smoking in outdoor areas so that their traders aren’t disadvantaged if they do it and people go elsewhere for business. Do the government have any plans to do that?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

I missed the question.

REPORTER:

Smoking in outdoor areas. I think it’s Monash Council is calling for the State Government to ban it across the board so it’s not a council-by-council decision.

DENIS NAPTHINE:

This government has a positive track record of significantly reducing smoking rates across our community and in fact, today Victoria’s level of smoking is the lowest in recent history and our efforts to ban smoking on children’s playgrounds, children’s sporting events, from beaches. We’ve been to the forefront of reducing smoking in our community. We’ll continue to take advice from VicHealth, and other experts, about the new directions in terms of how we can further discourage people from smoking and we’ll continue to take that advice. 

[ends]

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