LUCY WICKS MP: Well, good morning everyone. This is an incredibly great day for the Central Coast; an incredibly great day for the future of the Central Coast, because I think today is the realisation of a dream that many people have asked for, have wanted, have advocated. A dream to see a public university campus established in Gosford. A dream where people here on the Central Coast no longer have look to go to Sydney, Newcastle, London or even New York to have their educational aspirations realised. A dream where we can see more people work here locally, more people be able to pursue their aspirations that they actually have in the best region in the best country of the world.

This is an absolute privilege to be standing here today, able to announce a collaborative partnership funded by the federal government, by the New South Wales government, and by the University of Newcastle to see a Central Coast medical school and medical research institute built, established and operational on the grounds of Gosford Hospital. It’s truly transformative; it’s truly ground-breaking. It means nearly 800 jobs over the next ten years, which will be directly created as a result of this historic investment in our region. It means better health care outcomes for people here on the Central Coast, in a globally connected but regionally focussed research and medical school facility.

It means better educational opportunities and aspirations for people who wish to pursue a health career here on the Central Coast and now, instead of having to go to Newcastle or Sydney, people will be able to very shortly in the next few years have the choice to study in a world class medical school alongside a medical research institute, that will be really delivering some ground-breaking, innovative and world leading research, I have no doubt.

It is an absolute privilege to stand here today and I would like to ask my colleague and very great friend Karen McNamara, who has also been an extraordinary advocate for this programme, to say a few words.

KAREN MCNAMARA MP: Thank you, Lucy. This announcement this morning is welcomed by everyone on the Central Coast and I do commend everyone whose been involved in bringing this facility here to the Central Coast. Newcastle University is one of the leaders in research in Australia, if not the world, and to have that facility here, research facility here in the Central Coast, particularly in health, is just amazing. So the Coalition Government does understand the need for top quality health care and that’s what we see here on the Coast, and even more now that we’ll have constituents here on the Central Coast access to top quality research. And who knows, even this facility might find the cure for cancer. I do welcome this facility coming here. It’s great news for everyone and also I need to commend Lucy Wicks who has fought the charge on this and who has been behind this all the way. I fully support Lucy on this and thank you very much Lucy for what you’ve done.

WICKS: Thank you very much. Could I ask Caroline McMillen, Vice Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, to also address us.

CAROLINE MCMILLEN: Thank you very much indeed, Lucy. As the university of the Central Coast, we’ve been delivering first rate education and first rate research here on the Coast for 27 years and today is a landmark event. It is an opportunity to take our record as being in the country’s top eight universities for health and medical education and research and to be part of a partnership; to be part of a vision; to have the Central Coast medical school right here.

Together with a world class research, health and medical research institute, those two together will bring that capability of being able to have students here on the Coast complete their medical degree in an environment in which the research is focussed on the health care needs of this region. This is a remarkable region; it deserves nothing less than an internationally focussed, internationally referenced health and medical education and research facility.

We’ve been able to work to have some 150 places once at full functioning; we will have 150 medical students in the facility. We will have some 400 nursing and allied health professionals also training and, of course, that means great inter-professional training and education.

This is a strong commitment by the University on the Coast and we’re looking forward to the realisation of this; such a remarkable case could not have occurred without the collaboration we have had – a partnership that has had the commitment and focus of a great local health district and we thank the Central Coast LHD for their partnership and collaboration and bringing this to bear. We have worked with the City Council and, of course, great projects need great champions. We do acknowledge the work that has been put into this by all of the champions in the partnership and I would like to acknowledge the work of Lucy Wicks. Thank you.

I would perhaps like to introduce our Faculty of Health and Medicine to give some of the nuts and bolts.

JOHN AITKEN: Well indeed this is a very important day for Gosford. What you’re seeing today is the power of partnership between Gosford Council, the university, state, and federal governments, and the local health districts. This has been a very important exercise for us. Through this, we’ll be able to train the human capital that the health service in this local region will need, as it develops its health services in the future. Through this initiative, we shall also be able to create a world class research facility which will connect Gosford with some of the leading academic centres in the world.

We’re talking here of Harvard, of Oxford, and Cambridge, and the World Health Organisation, and one of the ways that we shall initiate this whole process is to organise a conference here in Gosford where we will invite these world leaders to this region, in order to develop our programmes in integrated health care. I would like to thank everybody who has been involved in putting this collaboration together and it wouldn’t have been possible without the drive and the passion of Lucy Wicks to bring this to fruition; so thank you very much indeed.

WICKS: Can we ask Paul Tonkin, the Chair of the Local Health District, to say a few words?

PAUL TONKIN: Yes, thank you Lucy. I really need to thank all involved, from obviously the state government, to the federal government, and the University with a very significant commitment for the people of the Central Coast. We stand here today as a community and we have been blessed today.

This will take us forward; this will take us 20 years ahead of where we expected we might be in terms of the development of training facilities and certainly in terms of the development of our research here on the Coast. It’s so important that hospitals are across the full range of activity. We need to be able to attract the leading clinicians and leading clinicians want to be involved in research. And for us to have a world leading research facility in the same place they are able to practise their skills, their excellent skills, that’s what we want. That’s what we need as a community. Central Coast health has been blessed – we’re going forward in leaps and bounds lately and this is a most momentous occasion for us. We’re very grateful.

WICKS: Thank you. To now make the official announcement, it is my great pleasure to be able to welcome and thank the Minister for Education for coming to the Central Coast, I think twice in a week which is just outstanding, and Minister, thank you very much for being part of a very significant day here.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, thanks so much Lucy, Karen, Caroline, Paul, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a real pleasure to be here to announce that a re-elected Turnbull Government will deliver $32.5 million to make the Central Coast medical school and research institute, a reality. This is an important part of our plan for the Central Coast, which is part of our overall plan for Australia. We want to make sure that Australia’s economy is one that drives forward based on science and innovation. That has sound delivery in health, in education and social services. That grows jobs and opportunities right around Australia, especially in regions like the Central Coast.

Our investment here will ensure that it builds upon the investment in the redevelopment of the Gosford Hospital by creating this new medical research facility, complemented by a medical school. Ultimately, we will see some 150 doctors being trained at this new medical school, around 400 nurses and allied health professionals in training here. Doctors, nurses, allied workers all in training together, in Gosford, in the Central Coast. Of course building that knowledge, that capacity to work in an integrated manner with one another. To work alongside some of the best researchers, not just in Australia but in the world in this community. And of course to ensure that we then have health professionals that stay and work in Gosford and across the Central Coast. We know that where people study and train and learn, they are more likely to stay and work. And this is critical in a region that is seeing such growth, as the Central Coast, to make sure we deliver those health professionals for this area in the future.

I want to thank and acknowledge all of the different partners who have worked to make this happen. The New South Wales Government, Gosford Council, the Local Health Network, they have all been important and critical partners. The University of Newcastle who will transfer some of their funded medical places here to Gosford to be able to support this. And of course importantly, my colleagues and friends, Lucy Wicks and Karen McNamara who have been such champions of this project as you have heard. They have made sure this investment has occurred.

Earlier today, just along the coast we’ve heard the Leader of the Opposition speak. Mr Shorten was asked about this proposal and the announcement we’re making today. He dismissed it. He said it was something he might take a look at. Well we don’t need to take a look at it because we’ve committed the money. We’ve committed the money because hard working, Central Coast Liberal MPs like Lucy Wicks and Karen McNamara have worked to make sure the case was established, the partnership was there and that we can get on and ensure we have students studying here in Gosford from 2019.

JOURNALIST: The Opposition Leader also mentioned the doctors that go through an establishment like this, are going to come out the other end and have patients who can’t afford to see them because of changes to bulk billing and Medicare and obviously he’s on the Central Coast today advocating to save Medicare and suggesting that the Turnbull Government could possibly destroy and that Medicare and bulk billing is going to come to an end under the Turnbull Government. What do you say in response to that?

BIRMINGHAM: Well it’s complete rubbish and Mr Shorten is running a terrible scare campaign here in relation to Medicare that is just not true. Mr Shorten’s spending promise today is a spending pledge in search of a problem. Because the reality is the data shows that Bulk Billing rates have improved under the Coalition Government. They’ve improved across Australia to around 85 per cent and they’ve improved across the Central Coast equally to around 85 per cent. So the policies we have in place have insured Bulk Billing rates have been going up and yet Mr Shorten is trying to pretend there’s some sort of problem with Bulk Billing. The only problem is that Mr Shorten is trying to scare patients, scare doctors when what we actually want to is invest in local resources like this one that will ensure the availability of doctors in the Central Coast in the future. That there are local people, local student that can look to a medical school in Gosford and aspire to study at that medical school. To study locally, to train locally and then to work locally in the future.

There is no threat to bulk billing from any Liberal Government because we have guaranteed growth in bulk billing rates whilst we’ve been in office. Mr Shorten is of course a threat to the viability of Australia’s economy, to jobs and growth in the Gosford area across the Central Coast and you have to wonder of course of the scale of his spending promises, whether he could deliver the type of commitment like the one we’ve made today.

JOURNALIST: Lucy Wicks has obviously dreamed of this moment. Can you paint a picture of how hard she’s had to fight to get this money, has she been knocking on your door?

BIRMINGHAM: Lucy was knocking on my door and sitting in my Canberra Office within days or weeks of me becoming the Education Minister in the Turnbull Government. So it’s safe to say, with me, with my predecessor, with the Health Ministers, with Prime Ministers, Lucy has been relentless, as has Karen in making sure we understand the importance of this investment to the local community – the fact that it will deliver increased job opportunities, real economic dividends, as well as that opportunity for improved health and education outcomes locally.

JOURNALIST: So this is obviously your second visit in just one week, are you getting a little bit worried? Why didn’t you make this announcement when you were here on Tuesday?

BIRMINGHAM: Well we of course have a strategy that we are applying as a Coalition team. On Tuesday I was here looking at local schools, visiting importantly pre-schools, primary schools, high schools. That was really a schools focussed visit to emphasise the growing funding that we’re providing to schools across the Central Coast and right around Australia. Today, it’s a different focus, it’s about working with our tertiary education partners, the University of Newcastle in particular, and demonstrating the breadth of course of our investment in education, research and training around Australia.

JOURNALIST: So can we expect you here again?

BIRMINGHAM: You never know your luck in a big city. I love the Central Coast, I love Lucy and Karen. And I hope to certainly be back here with Lucy, Karen and everybody else to celebrate this project when we actually see real action taking ground, with sod turnings, with the development of the new medical school and research facility and ultimately with the first students coming in in 2019.

JOURNALIST: We were told obviously at the start of this campaign that we needed to be fiscally prepared and sensible with our money and that the Turnbull Government wouldn’t be throwing money around. Over $30 million is a huge investment, what makes this an exception to your promise to not throw money around should we say?

BIRMINGHAM: We are being careful and prudent, and all of our promises are fully funded and carefully assessed and analysed to make sure they’re the best possible use of money. We see a Labor Party that is committing to more than $100 billion in additional taxes and yet has a budget black hole of more than $70 billion because their spending promises outstrip even their tax promises. Now we are making sure we live within our means, that we drive taxes down particularly to inspire increased investment in small and medium sized businesses. The Central Coast is the type of community that will most benefit from our enterprise tax plans as Government, because it’s this type of community that has a real predominance of medium and small enterprises that will get the early benefits of our tax reform arrangements and will have that encouragement to invest locally to grow their businesses and to invest in more jobs locally. This project complements that. It complements it because it ensures that we have high wage jobs created here in Gosford and across the Central Coast. The teachers, the researchers, the lecturers, who will be working here are exactly the type of jobs that will then give a drive and a lift to the rest of the economy. Hence, the overall economic benefit of over $200 million locally, the delivery of around 800 additional jobs locally is a great dividend and it’s a small price to pay to get that dividend.  

JOURNALIST: So we’ve seen the Labor Party flex their muscles today with Bill in town. Why is it so important for you guys to be here?

BIRMINGHAM: Well Bill might be here locally, but he’s not talking about local things. He’s not about delivering for the local community. Lucy and Karen are delivering for the local community through this investment. Bill Shorten seems to have shrugged off the importance of this project and dismissed it as something which we know, that we believe will create jobs, create growth, will create increase educational opportunities, and better health outcomes.

JOURNALIST: How important are these two seats for your campaign?

BIRMINGHAM: Well these are two outstanding local MPs who work so hard for their community who as we can see from this announcement today, get outcomes for the local community and I’m determined to make sure that we have them both back in Canberra after July 2nd. Thanks guys.