TRANSCRIPT PREMIER ANNA BLIGH’S SPEECH AT THE PROPERTY COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA’S ANNUAL PREMIER LUNCHEON THURSDAY 22 MAY 2008
Well, thank you very much, Guy, for that introduction. Guy said to me that he had a very short introduction, so I’m glad I didn’t get the long one (audience laughs). I’m not sure what else is on his list, but I’m sure I’ll hear about it when I sit down. It’s a great pleasure for me to be here with you for the Property Council lunch and it’s a particular pleasure to be here for the first time as Premier. So can I acknowledge Steve formally as the executive director, Guy Gibson…sorry, Steve Greenwood as the executive director, Guy Gibson as the president of the Property Council. Can I also acknowledge the sponsors of today’s lunch, Rider Levett Bucknall. Can I acknowledge my Caucus members who are here with me today. Stirling Hinchliffe who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure and Planning. I was very pleased to be able to put Stirling with these responsibilities because I think he’s very well placed to work particularly with the industry on those planning and development issues. Simon Finn, the Member for Yeerongpilly and Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Member for Inala. I also welcome the Leader of the Opposition in the Brisbane City Council, Cr Shayne Sutton, the Deputy Opposition Leader, Cr Milton Dick, and other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. As you all know, Queensland continues to be the economic engine room of the country and its lifestyle capital. Our economy and our way of life are again continuing to attract record numbers of people, around 1500 a week. I know you know this number but I think we have to keep reminding ourselves. More people bring more expertise, ideas, innovation and demand for our products. But they also create more pressure on our infrastructure, particularly on our roads and other transport links and particularly here in the southeast part of our state. Managing the urban traffic congestion that accompanies population is a challenge for my government, as it is for governments around the world. I want to talk today a little bit about this issue because I believe we need a transport system that keeps people and goods moving freely, a transport system that supports continued economic growth and enhances our lifestyle. When I became Premier just eight months ago, I pledged that I would keep looking over the horizon to anticipate and solve problems before they were in our lap. I recognised that the
emerging problem of congestion needed to be a priority and undertook that I would tackle it head on, and that is what we are doing. On Monday, as I hope everyone in this room is aware, I announced the preferred bidder for the delivery of Australia’s largest road transport infrastructure project to cut congestion here in our city. The project comprises a 6.7 kilometre link between the airport and the CBD. It also includes a further section of the Northern Busway and a new flyover at the Brisbane Airport roundabout. As part of that 6.7 kilometre link, the Airport Link Motorway is a 5.25 kilometre tunnel. This will be the largest tunnel project in Australia. It will significantly increase the capacity of our transport system, and increasing that capacity is absolutely critical. But it must be accompanied by other congestion-busting measures. My government believes that we have to take a holistic approach to congestion and today I want to present an overview of our broad policy response and detail just a couple of specifics. Traffic congestion is a significant and growing problem. But it’s a growing problem for urban centres around the world. Brisbane and the southeast are not on our own in dealing with this challenge. Our congestion, as it has in other parts of Australia, has increased alongside increases in our population. A few facts I think tell the story. On average, every new resident generates approximately three extra road trips per day. This means that 1500 new residents arriving in Queensland every week are undertaking an extra 4500 road trips everyday. As well as making more trips, people are making longer journeys, often during peak times because increasing most of our population growth is occurring in outer suburbs. The combined morning and afternoon peak periods account for 42 to 45 per cent of all trips in a day. In addition, there are more vehicles on the road with vehicle ownership having increased by 18 per cent between 2002 and 2006. So almost a 20 per cent rise in vehicle ownership in just four years. We’ve also seen a significant increase in public transport use. Here in the Brisbane region we’ve seen an increase of just on 30 per cent over the last three years. That’s good news. The freight task, which includes trucks carrying freight to wholesalers and retailers and rail carrying commodities to port, is also expected to double over the next 20 years. Congestion has economic, environmental and social consequences. Anybody in this room who sat in traffic on Tuesday night as a result of one accident on the Gateway Bridge knows only too well the consequences. Congestion hurts our economy by reducing productivity, delaying the transport and export of goods and delaying the delivery of services. Traffic is the biggest source of greenhouse emissions in urban environments and our health and family lives are diminished when we are
exposed to more emissions, when we spend more time travelling and stuck in traffic and have less leisure time with our friends and family. So congestion management is important for a whole range of reasons. And if we want to maintain this part of Queensland as the most liveable part of Australia, then we have to tackle it head-on. First, let me acknowledge that we’ll never entirely eliminate congestion. I don’t think there is a city anywhere in the world that doesn’t have two peak periods of traffic: in the morning and in the afternoon. And that will continue, I expect. But I think we can manage it much better than we have been. The evidence from around the world is also clear: there is no one single fix, and we can’t simply build our way out of the issue. Tackling congestion requires an integrated complementary set of initiatives that our tailored to the circumstance of each location. Just as we did with water, we need to look at both supply and demand measures. We need to cooperate and coordinate across all three levels of government, and, most importantly, we need to have community buy-in in terms of changing habits and changing demand. Cabinet has recently considered this issue and resolved to attack congestion on five key fronts. Firstly we believe that we need to build more capacity, that is our transport system needs continued investment in new roads and more public transport infrastructure which require us putting more trains and more buses onto new networks. Secondly, we believe there is considerable opportunity to improve the efficiency of our existing network by making it work smarter. Thirdly, we believe we need to increase the travel options that are available by providing better and more frequent public transport services and encouraging other modes of transport where appropriate, such as walking and cycling. Fourthly, we believe that a focus on land use and planning can make the best use of available land so that journeys are shorter and easier. And finally, we believe that we need to find smarter ways of moving people through better demand management. Can I just say firstly in relation to capacity, that we can expect to see us continue to invest in growing the capacity of our network. As I mentioned earlier, I have recently announced this week the preferred bidder to build the new airport connection to the city. This will be one of Australia’s most ambitious and complex infrastructure projects. The winning bidder is a consortium known as BrisConnections. It is a world-class consortium comprising the Macquarie Capital Group, Thiess and John Holland. In total the three road projects will cost 4.8 billion, of which the state will contribute 1.5 billion.
I should say at this point that this PPP, there are three parts to this project. The Airport Link Tunnel that I described is the only part of it that’s being done as a PPP. The outcome on this has been an extraordinary good news story for the Queensland taxpayer. The consortias (sic) were each advised that the Queensland Government had an affordability limit of $850 million in cash to contribute to the project. The winning bid came back with a state contribution of $47 million. So that’s a pretty good outcome and I think it does and I should say without change, that was without changing the toll and without changing the tolling period. So it speaks volumes for what can be achieved with an innovative private sector partnership and it also speaks volumes for what can be returned to the taxpayer by way of a good outcome. What this link will do is provide a vital connection between two of our economic centres here in the city, and that is the CBD and the airport. As Treasurer I signed off on this project being a public-private partnership in August 2006. Then as Infrastructure Minister I put the project to market in February 2007. So I’m particularly satisfied to give it the go-ahead when we ticked off on the preferred bidder on Monday. I think it’s a very exciting project and I just want to give you an opportunity to have a look at firstly just a very general overview of it and then a very specific look at the new flyover at the airport end, because I’m sure everybody in this room could tell me a story about the roundabout, the airport roundabout. So I want you to see what’s going to happen to it over the next few years. If I could just ask for the DVD to be shown, which I think is about to happen. (Break as DVD is played.) You might see that again somewhere soon (laughs). If I could just ask, we’re just going to have a look at one of the features, and that’s the flyover. (Break as another DVD is played.) Unlike the project in Sydney I should add here that this project will be delivered consistent with the Queensland Government’s policy on toll roads and that is that a freely available alternative route will continue to exist. The toll will be $4.30 in 2008 terms, but what it will allow you to do is go from Bowen Hills to the airport, bypassing 18 sets of traffic lights. I’m very confident and as were the consortia that there will be significant take-up of that opportunity. I might just say something in this audience about the infamous Pop’s Fig Tree. You might have seen reports that we’ve spent one million dollars to realign a bus tunnel to save the tree. Can I make it absolutely clear to you was already protected in the original design of this project. The tunnel, however, was realigned at engineering costs of around a million dollars to
allow two through (?) lanes of traffic during the construction phase rather than one, as originally proposed. So given it’s a four-year construction phase, getting an extra through traffic lane we thought was worth a million dollars. As an added benefit, because of alignment of that second lane, the root ball (?) of tree can be further protected and I thought that was a good outcome. This infrastructure will make a very big difference to traffic congestion. As you know, we have…this is just one piece of infrastructure in a very substantial infrastructure build across the city and across the state. It is the nation’s biggest program and it means we are spending $1.6 million every hour, every day, every week on infrastructure. The kind of money that builds projects such as the Inner Northern Busway that was taking passengers from Monday this week. It builds the Tugun Bypass that will open ahead of schedule in the very near future. And I should say that with the construction of Tugun Bypass you will now be able to go from the Brisbane Airport across the Queensland border and not hit one traffic light until you get to Banora Point over there on the wrong side of the border. It will also, it’s the sort of investment that builds the Gateway Bridge duplication project which I was very pleased to inspect with the Prime Minister and the Federal Treasurer last Friday and I look forward to working in partnership with them to deliver the missing links on both the northern and southern ends of that Gateway Arterial network. Incidentally, when the Gateway Bridge was opened in 1986, it was predicted that the bridge would carry around 27 000 vehicles a day by 2006, and in 2006 it would still have 72 per cent of its capacity remaining. If only. Today, the bridge carries so much traffic, more than 100 000 vehicles a day. As you know, we are now duplicating it. Can I say in terms of increased capacity, one of the projects that I know a number of these people this room have an interest in is a proposal for a rapid transit system from Newstead to West End. This is a project that both the Brisbane City Council and the State are currently looking to deliver a study on, and I have discussions with the Lord Mayor and I’m very confident that we’ll see some work start to occur on that in the very near future. In terms of dealing with this issue, travel options have to be part of the solution. Just building infrastructure is only part of getting this right. I previously announced a $3.5 million Smart City master plan to prepare additional river crossings and mass transit from Newstead to West End. We’re also considering mass transit projects to other growth precincts such as the Western Corridor and the Australia Trade Coast. We’ve also built the Normanby Cycle Link incorporating a bikeway,
incorporated bikeways on the new Gateway upgrade and we’re planning a bikeway link between the Pacific Motorway and the Eleanor Schonell Bridge. But let me come to land use planning because it’s in improved land use planning that I think we can make a significant difference. There is good evidence that if people live above or next to or very near high frequency, high quality transport that they will significantly cut their use of vehicles. Therefore we have work underway now on eight separate transit oriented developments, or TODs. By the end of the month we will be turning the sod at a Varsity Lakes transit oriented development. Site works have started already on the TODs at Albion and on Boggo Road sites. The South Bank South Point site has been approved by the Government and the Milton site is awaiting approval by the BCC. The precinct plan to allow for the development of a TOD at Bowen Hills is now in place and the Government is in negotiations with developers for TODs at Buranda and Park Road. Another key component of good land use planning is regulating where development can occur. To that end, as you heard Guy talk about, we have resolved to accelerate the review of the Southeast Queensland Plan. And there are a number of reasons for accelerating that. We always said when we first launched the plan that we didn’t want it to sit on the shelf, we wanted it to be a living, breathing document that kept pace with changing circumstances. And I thank the Property Council and many of your members for the discussions that you’ve had with me and other members of the government about the need for us to be on top of this and get to accelerate this part of the process so that we can be ready well and truly in 2010 with a revised plan that suits those new circumstances. So what we’ll be doing is reviewing the urban footprint and I really do encourage everybody in this room to play an active role both through the council and in your individual roles as businesses as part of that process. Last July I attended a Property Council meeting, ahh, lunch and I talked about a housing affordability policy. I wanted to just comment on a couple of things that we’re doing there. I committed to introducing a standard schedule for infrastructure charges by June this year. Can I just outline firstly that as promised, by the 30th of June there will be a new standard schedule of infrastructure charges. This will describe what can and can’t be charged for. Also, as promised, by the 30th of June there will be a standard charge for low and medium growth councils and any other council that nominates to adopt that standard charge. For any council who has lodged, currently got lodged a PIP with the State Government for assessment, and
there are 14 of these, they can either review their PIP in accordance with the standard schedule, or we will simply remove any charges that are not compliant with it and that will occur by the 30th of September this year. And finally, any council that from 30th of June on that fails to submit a PIP in accordance with the new schedule will have their infrastructure charges frozen to CPI increases only in the subsequent financial year, ’09-’10. So we look forward to working with you on some drafts of that material between now and the end of June. I should say that when I made the announcement of that policy, I was unaware of the substantial nature of the recommendations of the Local Government Reform Commission and there are a number or councils that I do genuinely believe are trying to get it right bringing together a number of councils and get their infrastructure plan in place. So we will see a little bit of time taken I think by a couple of them. We also have since in the last couple of months put in place our new, a new statutory authority, the Translink Transit Authority. I’m very pleased that respected businessman Geoff Harley has agreed to chair the authority and that he’ll be joined by a number of private sector people including Brett Godfrey to bring both commercial expertise and a real customer focus to the activities of Translink. And I’ve also established a new Urban Congestion Task Team in my department. Managing demand has to be part of the answer. As I said, just as we have with water, we need to be working with the community to ensure that cars are being used only when they need to be. To help with demand management, we’ll be introducing our Travel Smart program, a $22.6 million fouryear strategy to encourage people to walk, cycle and take public transport instead of driving. We have done a trial of this program and it’s been very successful and we will now expand it across all major parts of the southeast corner. What this program does is go directly into people’s workplaces, obviously with the active involvement and cooperation of employers, to conduct a range of activities including one-onone interviews, the development of travel plans and provision of information about travel choices. Travel Smart was trialled across some 75 000 households and workplaces across Brisbane’s northern suburbs in the past four years with some very, very encouraging results. There has been a demonstrated decreased use of cars, around 80 fewer trips per person per year, and there has been an increase of use of public transport around 18 more trips per person per year. If we can replicate that across all of the areas that we’re now going to rollout the Travel Smart program to, we could expect to see the distance travelled by people in cars reduced by at least 10 per
cent. This would not only make a difference to our roads but it could save as much as 500 000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year. We also want more people to take up alternative travel options such as cycling and walking to work. Anybody who’s been down into the Inner Northern Busway will see a state-of-the-art end of destination facility for cyclists and pedestrians. This is an Australian first. It’s a joint project between the State and the Brisbane City Council. I believe it’s such a success we need to see it replicated across the city. What we will do in our own buildings is to ensure that our…we will see two new end-of-trip facilities in the CBD at government-owned buildings at 80 George Street and the Neville Bonner Building for government workers. That will cost around $2 million, that will be in this year’s Budget and the work will start very soon. In addition, over the coming year we will be going to the market and looking for a private sector partner to develop at least one other facility to replicate the public facility in King George Square’s cycle centre, possibly down in the Creek Street precinct of the city. So for those of you who are interested in this, I’d certainly welcome any expressions of interest and you can expect to see us out there talking about it publicly. There may well be someone here today who’s prepared to partner with us on that Creek Street facility and we look forward to hearing from you. On becoming Premier, I pledged to ensure that Queensland remains a great place to live and a great place to work and raise a family, a great place to visit and a great place to do business. We have looked over the horizon to identify the challenges that confront us before they emerge. I want building infrastructure to be one of the hallmarks of my premiership. Today, what I’ve tried to do is lay out for you our thinking in the area of congestion. We believe that this is one of the most important issues that we have to make a priority and I hope that I have the support of the property council in that. Some success in this will require an effort from all of us, in State Government, local and federal governments, but also in business and in individuals. We have made probably the most remarkable change in human behaviour in this country in the last 18 months here in the southeast corner in the way that we have changed how we use water. That is about to become even more remarkable as we bring on line all of those water projects by the end of this year when this part of Australia becomes the most efficient users and re-users of water anywhere in the country. I believe we need to aspire to that sort of vision for the way that we use our road network and our public transport network and I believe it’s possible. Every one of us everyday contributes to the problem of congestion and every one of us can contribute to its solution.
So ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to answer questions about what I’ve outlined today or indeed any other issues that the council has an interest in and I thank you very much for your time. (Applause) MC: (Inaudible) in recognition (inaudible). I think there’s a very clear recognition by the property industry now that we are seeing very significant commitment (inaudible) across not only Brisbane but Southeast Queensland and indeed across the state and (inaudible). Your (inaudible) in relation to the change in terms of infrastructure charges is extremely warmly welcome and (inaudible) our strongest support (inaudible). Ladies and gentlemen, we do have about a short time for questions that the Premier has kindly agreed to answer questions only (inaudible) of course, so I do have our staff over there ready with a microphone, so just put your hand up (inaudible). Crawford: Allan Crawford from Chesterton’s. Premier, yesterday I received notice from the Department of Natural Resources that in regard to an outstanding appeal, they could no longer negotiate it with us essentially because they did not understand the changes to legislation. There is an indefinite hold on the negotiations. First I was wondering if you’re aware of that, and secondly, would you be able to do something to ensure that such a delay and excuse can’t be used. In the meantime my clients are still paying the land tax and the council rates. Allan, I’m not aware of that correspondence. If you have a copy of it here with you, I’ll take it with and deal with you directly this afternoon. (Inaudible) Great. I have some of my staff are here, so we’ll talk to you and get a copy of it and do what we can to intervene as quickly as possible. If there are any other letters in the room, we want to know about them, too. (Audience laughs) Sounds like I might have just done some lawyers out of a job. (Audience laughs) Nielson: Premier, it’s Mitch Nielson. We’ve now got federal and state governments all Labor, so there’s a real alignment of the stars if you like. Do you think this is going to help to fast track or consider removal of some of the state taxes that we thought might get removed previously when the GST came in?
(Sighs and laughs) Well, let me say a couple of things about having federal and state governments the same political persuasion first. I do think it’s important to recognise that we have a federal government now that is clearly interested in nation building. They are putting that on the agenda, they’re hanging their hat on it. They understand that in being so upfront about that, that that’s how they’ll be judged at the next election and I think that that can only be good for states like ours that actually need a federal government of any political persuasion frankly that wants to, you know, roll up their sleeves and be part of it, and I’m very keen to make sure that we use the opportunity we have to work, you know, at a joint party level. But I think even more than that right now in Queensland what is fortunate is to have both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer come from here. Not in a parochial sense, only in a sense that they actually know what it’s like. They drive that airport driveway, that airport highway. They know because they live and work and breathe it what sort of growth is happening here. It was interesting I took Senator Penny Wong on a helicopter trip around all of our water infrastructure because we’re applying for some Commonwealth grants, and I think Penny’s doing a very good job but she’s from Adelaide and I don’t think they’ve seen growth like this for some time around them neck of the woods. And frankly, while she was very interested in the water projects, if you take a helicopter from Tugun, from Brisbane to Tugun and back again, what really is an eye-opener is the amount of development that’s happening. People from Adelaide think Surfers Paradise is the Gold Coast and you know we were out in the area of the Wyaralong Dam and so you’ve got housing development all the way to the coast and you can barely see Surfers Paradise in the distance, and that was a very, very useful thing for her to see that, and that’s what she was really struck by. But to have someone like Wayne Swan, who, as I said, lives it everyday is a very useful thing and I’m not going to miss the opportunity that it presents for us. In terms of state taxes, well, I’d say that I like other premiers am probably just a little nervous at the moment in the sense that what we have out of the Budget is a Commonwealth review of state taxation. It seems to me there’s only one way that generally goes, looking at these things historically. I agree with the Federal Government that the taxation system in this country is something that should be regularly assessed and reassessed. I think it is important obviously as was done in the GST round, if there is going to be any changes to state taxation, then there has to be some way of filling those gaps because the services that we provide are by and large are services that people depend on and in fact in many cases are life and death situations. So I look
forward to what I hope is a very sensible and reasonable opportunity for us to look at those areas. I should say that we have in fact met all of our obligations under the GST arrangements. I know that there’s views about other things that could be abolished but we have in fact met all of our obligations under the GST arrangements. Barclay: Thank you. Premier, Ron Barclay from the Barclay Group. Premier, Southeast Queensland incorporates more than just Brisbane and the Gold Coast and the near Sunshine Coast. I live in Toowoomba and we have a second range crossing and a great deal of issues with the current range crossing that should be included in a near future part of the infrastructure plan rather than the far future, which I think is where it is. Can you give us some idea as to what’s going to be happening on some of those other infrastructure projects that have not got the higher priority that the current tunnels and what have you in Brisbane have? Thank you for that question, and you’re right. The proposal for a Toowoomba bypass is a very important part of not only what happens locally for the people of that region, and in my view it is an important part of the national freight link and could make a dramatic difference to the movement of goods and particularly trucks in and around that area. We are currently in the, we have funds that are currently being spent doing some geological work to identify what the costs would be with a view to doing, with a view to assessing its feasibility of a PPP. There has been discussion about whether this could be done as a toll road. Frankly we don’t know that until we have a better understanding of what the costs of drilling the tunnel would be. I’m just hesitating because I can’t remember when that study is due, but my recollection is it’s sometime around the mid to second half of this year. And when that is known, we’ll be in a position to talk to the Federal Government about either possible Auslink or Infrastructure Australia funding. We certainly think it’s an important road and we think it would make a big difference, as I said, not only locally but, importantly, nationally and that’s certainly the discussion I want to have federally. So it’s certainly on the radar. But I think until we know is this something that will only stack up with complete public contribution or a mixture, it’s very hard to put it on a timetable. Hello (inaudible). I wanted to commend you for your project, current projects but I wanted to ask a question following the past question about future projects. In 1895, Sir John Forrest in Western Australia committed in today’s terms $27 billion to build a water pipeline to Coolgardie (?). That I see as commitment. Your water infrastructure is absolutely applaudable, it’s terrific. Are you aware that the rest of the
world is leaving us behind, the Smart State, with Mr Beattie’s representation over in America. Um, in terms of, um, the global warming issue and power savings, we are not using our asset of our grid or the, um, the ability now across the world to provide power back into the grid by ordinary houses. Are you willing to make a commitment to the future for global warming and for the people of Queensland, who have been attracted to Queensland in the past by benefits of debt (?) duties through Joh Bjelke-Petersen, through petrol savings through Mr Beattie and have continued on by the power savings that they will make by the Government committing to a program to install hot water systems and voltaic (?) cells on every roof in Queensland, it will cost the Queensland Government $9 billion over a period of years. Is that the sort of vision over the horizon that you’re talking about? Bligh: Thank you for that question. I agree with you that we haven’t done anything near enough to exploit the sunshine power that we have. In fact, I did the figures, I found out the figures only recently. Queensland currently has 446 homes that are powered by voltaic cells. So that tells you something about unused capacity and where we can take this. As a very preliminary step in this direction, I announced a program some months ago, a couple of months ago, maybe six weeks ago, where we as a Government would use our bulk buying power to purchase a bulk buy of 1000 units to drive the cost of those units down and we called for expressions of interest of people who wanted to be part of that bulk buying program. I’ll be honest with you, I had a bit of an argument with Treasury because it would only work if the Government would guarantee it and underwrite it, and they were very worried that we would be left with, you know, 400 unused cells. My view was well, we’d certainly find public buildings that we could put them on. We called for expressions of interest, we had five and a half thousand people register within 36 hours and we had to shut it down. So we now are going through systematically with every one of those people. I have to say the changes to the federal rebate might make a difference but in answer to your question, yes, I want to take a much much more proactive role in this area and there are a number of things that we’re working on at the moment, including a solar thermal power station at Cloncurry. I think if we can make it work out there, then there are many small regional cities that we could actually power with solar thermal power, not just voltaic cells. So it’s about getting the right mix in the right place. We will look at the 1000 rollout, and if it works then we will certainly be looking to pick it up. Okay, yes, time for one last short and sweet (inaudible).
Premier, Darryl Tumblewood (?) from (inaudible). My question certainly will be shorter and less difficult than the last one. You mentioned that the Airport Link project is divided into three different parts. I just wonder whether you can give us a guarantee that the flyover will be completed before the tunnel is completed? (Laughs) Yes, I can. The requirement is that the project will be completed in June 2012 and it is a requirement of the contract that the flyover be completed by that completion date. So it will either come in at exactly the same time or before and we are actually having discussions with the proponents about it coming in slightly earlier. And I should say they are very well motivated about this because it’s actually resolving the flyover that will encourage pull through of the tunnel. And so they’ve got a very strong commercial motivation about making that work because unless people come out of a tunnel to a good experience, they’re not going to go into the tunnel. So I’m very confident about when and how that will mix with the rest of the project, Darryl. Thank you very much, Premier (inaudible) with those answers. (Applause)
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