Story Hans Lovejoy
Prime minister Julia Gillard spent time in Bangalow and Byron Bay on the weekend. It was not to chill out after an exhausting week in politics but rather to spruik some of her government’s achievements in the region.
First stop at lunchtime on Friday was the inspection of the Pacific Highway upgrade near Bangalow, where contractors Baulderstone Pty Ltd have employed 80 workers since mid last year to work on the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section.
At approximately 17 kilometres in length, it will start at the northern end of the Ballina bypass at Ross Lane and extend to the Ewingsdale interchange. The total cost is $862 million, with the feds contributing $566.1m and the state $295.9m. It is expected to be finished in the second half of 2014, weather permitting.
During the press conference at the construction site, local and national media assembled to ask questions. As was to be expected she refused to be drawn on the recent failed leadership spill, but one News Ltd journalist asked perhaps the dumbest question this reporter has ever heard: ‘With both Janelle Saffin and Justine Elliot being Rudd supporters, will the north coast see less attention from a Gillard government?’
Next it was a stroll down Bangalow’s main street, where she met with Byron Bay Public School captains Louis Robinson-Gale and Tia Gotterson, who spent about five minutes with the PM and local MP Justine Elliot, filling them in on the school’s Race to Canberra fundraising appeal. Then it was past bemused shopkeepers to a quick stop at the Utopia cafe.
The PM then spent time in the afternoon visiting Bangalow primary school, meeting staff and students and celebrating Harmony Day at their assembly.
After meeting with Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson late in the day, the PM spent the night at the [email protected] resort before heading for Murwillumbah on Saturday.