Transcript - Infrastructure announcement, Melbourne

 

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well welcome everyone. What a great day. I’m here with the Treasurer and many of my Ministerial colleagues, my Victorian colleagues, to announce the Coalition’s plan for Victorian infrastructure. A plan that will see $1.5 billion invested in the roads and the rail that will ensure that Victorians are able to get to work and get to school without spending hour after hour of frustrating delay in traffic jams.

This is a great investment in the future of Victoria, in the future of Melbourne, in the jobs and the economy of the 21st century. Now I'm here today with the Treasurer Scott Morrison, the Minister for Environment Greg Hunt, the Minister for Major Projects Paul Fletcher, the Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Materiel Dan Tehan, Senator Scott Ryan the Minister for Vocational Education, and Alan Tudge the Minister for Human Services. I'm also here with Sarah Henderson the Member for Corangamite, Jason Wood the Member for La Trobe, Michael Sukkar the Member for Deakin, Helen Kroger our candidate in Bruce, Julia Banks our candidate in Chisholm and James Mathias our candidate in Holt. I should note that Darren Chester, Member for Gippsland and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport is not here today. He has had a huge part, as you can imagine, in putting this great Coalition plan together but Darren is in Perth on important business relating to the search for MH370. But he has been - he's played an enormous role in this great piece of work.

So let me go to the detail. As you know, we committed - we transferred $1.5 billion to the previous Victorian Government to go towards the East West Link and, as you know, when the Labor Party was elected they cancelled that project and spent, with Bill Shorten's support, $1.1 billion of Victorian taxpayers' money to cancel that project and the $1.5 billion has been sitting in a Victorian State Government bank account since then.

What we have done is made a clear proposal to the Victorian Premier and Treasurer today. Scott and I have signed that letter today and what we are proposing is that that $1.5 billion should be put to work for Victorians. We remain committed to the East West Link and if a future Victorian government is prepared to build it, we will commit, we will provide and we have provided for the $3 billion we proposed and offered previously. But clearly we need a Victorian government that's prepared to build it and we don't have one prepared to do that at the moment. So this is what we have proposed. We have proposed a $500 million contribution from the Federal Government to a $1 billion upgrade of the congested Monash Freeway.

What this will do is future-proof the Monash. It will provide additional lanes along 44 kilometres of that vital roadway. It will transform the commuting experience of Victorians in eastern Melbourne. It is a critical piece of infrastructure in this city.

And on the western side of the city we are offering to invest $350 million, again to be matched equally by the Victorian Government, to upgrade the Western Ring Road and once again that is a critical piece of infrastructure, of vital importance to many Victorians, to many Victorians living on the west of Melbourne and indeed out in Geelong and of course the Member for Corangamite Sarah Henderson's constituents are of particularly strong interest in that.

Regional Victoria is vital to our success as a nation, to our success in the 21st century economy. We have opened up some of the biggest markets in the world. The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement alone has seen a boom in soft commodities of a kind we haven’t seen for many, many years but we need the infrastructure, the transport infrastructure to take advantage of that.

We need the roads and we need the rail to connect to the ports and so we are also proposing a $220 million investment, again, to be matched by the State Government, to upgrade 1000 kilometres of freight rail in the Murray Basin. This will connect our farmers in the Murray Basin from Mildura all the way down to the Port of Geelong, to the Port - to all of the Ports of Melbourne and on the south coast to ensure we are able to get our goods to market, to ensure there is real competition along those transport links.

This will make a vital difference to connecting the farmers and the producers of regional Victoria to those enormous markets that have been opened up and that connectivity that linked connectivity between Geelong and Portland is going to be of critical importance. I should note that those markets were opened up by free trade agreements negotiated by another great Victorian, Andrew Robb, who was the Minister for Trade.

So that’s, there is also a commitment of another $345 million towards improving the productivity and safety of rural and regional road networks and that incorporates a $10 million contribution to the upgrade of the Great Ocean Road, so important as we've seen in recent times.

There's also a package of $75 million to address urban congestion in smaller projects and $10 million that we are proposing to the State Government should be committed to a study to ensure that the business plan for Melbourne Metro, a very important and very valuable project, is progressed in a way that ensures that we get the maximum value out of that project and ensure that the taxpayers - Federal and State, are able to get the maximum contribution from the very considerable uplift in property values occasioned by that project.

This is a plan for Victoria's future. This is a plan for the 21st century economy of Victoria. It's a plan for jobs, it's a plan for growth, it's a plan for the infrastructure we need today. On that note, I'll ask the Treasurer to say a few words.

TREASURER:

Thank you Prime Minister. It is great to be here with the Prime Minister and all of my Victorian colleagues.

This Government has a plan for jobs and growth. Infrastructure is a critical part of that plan for jobs and growth. As the Prime Minister has just said the package that we announce today connects products with markets. It connects employees with employers. It connects parents with children. It means that you get home earlier to spend time with your kids and with your family. It means you can get to work quicker. It means, as the Prime Minister said, the produce which is delivered out of our Victorian regions and to markets not just here in Melbourne and around Australia but right around the world is a result of the open-market free trade agenda this Government has been pursuing.

All of this hangs together as part of our plan, our national plan, for economic growth and jobs. Now this commitment, which goes across a range of projects, whether it’s in rail or in road, whether in rural areas or in urban areas, all of this hangs together as part of a package and I want to commend those Members and candidates who sit around and stand around us today for ensuring this composition of this package is meeting the needs of their constituents. They have been the fierce advocates on this, whether it's Michael Sukkar on the East West Link or anyone else who's with us here today and I mentioned Michael because he has been on when it comes to the East West Link someone who has really kept that very much in my mind, as you heard on Melbourne radio. So it is very important that this package meets the needs of their constituents and that's why they all join us here today in I think being part of this announcement. I also look forward to working with the Victorian Government.

Some six months ago, when I became Treasurer I came to Victoria, I sat down with Tim Pallas and we had to work through this issue of the $1.5 billion and we have done that now. Today's announcement brings that stage of that process to a completion with a letter from the Prime Minister and I going to the Premier and the Treasurer. That means that the process now of getting the project happening and underway begins, and I think that's an important next chapter. I thank the Prime Minister and my colleagues for bringing this package to fruition today. It’s a very exciting next chapter for infrastructure but an even more exciting chapter for jobs and growth in Victoria. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, Scott. I'd ask the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt - great Victorian, to say a few words.

MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT:

Thanks very much, Prime Minister and colleagues. On behalf of all Victorian colleagues and on behalf of all Victorians, I say thank you to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and the relevant Ministers. The Victorian infrastructure plan makes every Victorian a VIP under the Turnbull Government. When the East West Link was cancelled, Daniel Andrews was saying to Victorians and to Melbournians, "You're third-class." Well we don't accept that. This is a plan to help people in the north and the south, the east and the west, rural and urban Victoria. It's a plan to get the Monash moving, to get people who are locked in their cars, trapped every day with the reality of gridlocked traffic, with their families or with their jobs or at their recreational pursuits, it is about giving people back their time and it's about opening up opportunities for rural and regional Victoria.

I do want to acknowledge Jason Wood who got the ball rolling on the Monash and Dan Tehan, Scott Ryan and Alan Tudge who really took it forward and Michael Sukkar and Sarah Henderson who have been unbelievable advocates for East West Link and for the freeing up of the Ring Road. It's a great plan, it makes every Victorian a VIP under the Turnbull Government.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, Greg. Paul Fletcher is the Minister for Major Projects and works closely with the Minister for Infrastructure, Darren Chester. Paul, tell us some more about these new investments.

MINISTER FOR MAJOR PROJECTS:

Thank you, Prime Minister and certainly on behalf of myself and my friend and colleague Darren Chester, the Minister for Transport and infrastructure. We've been working very extensively with all of our Victorian colleagues, with the Prime Minister, with the Treasurer, on this plan for infrastructure for Victoria. I just want to make the point that the elements of this are, many of the elements are already under close consideration by Infrastructure Australia. So the M80 Ring Road, there's a business case there which is being considered by Infrastructure Australia. The Murray Basin Freight Rail Project, similarly, in terms of the Monash of course there's a business case already with the Commonwealth Government and Infrastructure Australia in terms of the original proposal for a $400 million upgrade of the Monash.

What we're saying today, what the Turnbull Government is saying today to the Andrews Government is, let's build on that but let go so much further, let’s deliver a much better outcome for the Monash to meet the needs of south-eastern Melbourne. As the Treasurer has said, we now look forward to working constructively with the Victorian Government to turn this into reality. What we are saying to the Andrews Government, it's time to stop talking and start building.

PRIME MINISTER:

Dan. Dan Tehan, Member for Wannon and of course Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Material to say a bit about the importance of this plan for regional Victoria.

MINISTER FOR VETERANS AFFAIRS:

Prime Minister, can I thank you and the Treasurer on behalf of regional and rural Victorians because this Victorian plan delivers for us in three key areas - jobs, growth and safety. We have the Murray Basin rail plan which will deliver jobs and growth, supporting our free trade agreements and we have the most significant package going into rural and regional roads that this State has seen in decades. $345 million which will enable our communities, our families to drive safely on our roads. This is a great announcement, this a great initiative and shows that the Coalition Government is committed to all Victorians, so thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Very good. Well thank you. So do you have some questions?

JOURNALIST:

The original business case for the East West Link showed a return of 45 cents for everyone dollar invested. How does this fit with your promise to provide rigorous and careful analysis of major projects?

PRIME MINISTER:

These projects, including the East-West Link, are all projects of national significance, of national importance. They all need to be built. I don't think many people doubt that the East West Link will be built at some point in the future. It should be built now. It should be built now. What the Andrews Government, at enormous expense, has decided to do with Mr Shorten's support and endorsement, he's written out a cheque of $1.1 billion of Victorians' taxes, to not build that road, not build that infrastructure. And even though it is perfectly clear to everyone who lives in Melbourne that it will need to be built at some point. Now what we have here is some - is other projects of considerable importance which also are projects of national significance, but I will defer to Paul for some more detail on the assessment process.

JOURNALIST:

Just quickly, it's a question of priority, isn't it? Because surely there's other projects with higher internal rates of return and benefit-cost ratios than this one. Why are you making this one priority particularly?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sorry, we don't accept the premise of your question.

JOURNALIST:

Why not?

MINISTER FOR MAJOR PROJECTS:

I'll simply add the point that the projects that are included in this list are projects which are under consideration by Infrastructure Australia. So we've gone through a planning process. These are priority projects that we believe are critical for productivity, efficiency, liveability in Melbourne and in Victoria and that's the basis on which we've identified these projects and said to the Andrews Government these are the project we wish to proceed with.

JOURNALIST:

Tim Pallas says that the State Government will have the final say on how the money is spent. Who do you think should have the final say in how the money is spent?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will have the final say on how our money is spent and I suppose he will have the final say on how his money is spent. The reality is that Mr Pallas and indeed the Premier have got to decide whether they want Victorians to continue to spend millions and millions of hours stuck in traffic jams when it is perfectly clear that upgrades to these roads are desperately required. The congestion in cities is one of the single biggest breaks on economic growth and productivity. You don't need an economic study to tell you that. You feel it. But it's a fact and the economists agree. So getting cities right is a critical part of our plan for a successful 21st century economy, and that requires investing in transport infrastructure and that is exactly what we are doing today, and I believe the Victorian Government's duty is clear to its constituents, to its residents, to its commuters, to its taxpayers, to take this opportunity and upgrade this infrastructure now. It will not only relieve congestion, improve productivity, it will mean people will get home to their families sooner. It means they will get to school, they will get to college, they will get to work sooner. It will transform lives for the better. That’s what it will do.

The Victorian Government, I am sure, when it reflects on this, will recognise that the $1.5 billion is not doing anything for anybody sitting in their bank account. It has got to be put to work. We are offering to partner with them to put it to work in a way that will improve the lives of Victorians, Melburnians. Every Victorian and Melbournian will benefit from this.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister are you really wedded to the Melbourne Metro given the $10 million is really a small amount relative the $130 million the State Government's put in for planning?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Melbourne Metro is a very promising, transformative project. There is no doubt about that. But we have very recently received a business plan from the Victorian Government. What is underdone in that business plan is the way in which we - by that I mean governments, the Victorian Government and Commonwealth Government to the extent that we support it - are able to capture some of the very considerable value that will be created in property values from the construction of that infrastructure.

We have to make - we've got to live within our means. One thing is clear, state governments don't want to put up taxes. We don't want to put up taxes. Mr Shorten obviously wants to put up taxes a lot. He wants to put up a lot of taxes. But as far as governments are concerned, none of us want to put up tax. So we’ve got to live within our means.

That means we've got to make our infrastructure dollars go further. With this type of Metro rail infrastructure, it transforms the value of real estate. It transforms the amenity of cities and it is important to do your planning and analysis carefully so that you maximise the contribution that you can secure from that, so that the taxpayer's dollar goes further. You only have to look at what has been done with the cross-city rail in London to see an example of that. We have been very old-fashioned in the way we've looked at urban infrastructure, particularly rail infrastructure in Australia.

We've got to get with the times. We’ve got to be progressive, we've got to think and plan like the 21st century economy we are determined to be.

JOURNALIST:

The business case already talks about value capture and storage for metro rail project. Why is this $10 million necessary given it's already a key component of the funding metric for the project?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a very scant attention paid to it. As you would know if you'd read it, it pays lip service to the concept. But what we need is a very careful analysis of how and where and when you can capture that value. We need to do that carefully and with some detail in order to ensure that we get the best project and that we get the best deal for taxpayers. This is all about - this is as much about equity as it is about urban design.

JOURNALIST:

Are you saying you want a greater proportion of the cost funded in this way? Because I think the state government are proposing $4.5 billion from them, $4.5 billion from you and the remaining $1.9 billion of the cost to be made up and using these sorts of funding mechanisms. Would you argue it should be greater than $1.9 billion?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm simply making the point when you're talking about sums as large as that, you shouldn't produce a business case and then an hour and a half later demand that the Commonwealth Government provide $4.5 billion. That's not treating that sort of money seriously. Frankly it's not treating the taxpayers who paid that money in taxes seriously either.

Now, I am very committed, as you know, to mass transit. The transport solutions for cities require all of the above. They require good light rail, as you have fantastic light rail in Melbourne with the trams. They require good heavy rail. They require good roads. We need to invest in all of them. But we've got to do it in the smartest way we possibly can. That means we've got to think in a 21st century way and approach infrastructure in a manner that ensures that taxpayers get the best deal - they get the best deal, they're treated equitably and that the outcome of the infrastructure is looked at as part of a city-building exercise so that we are not just looking at it like a transport engineer, with all due respect to them, may do, as how to get a piece of road or rail from A to B. You look at how we're going to build this in a manner that will maximise the amenity, the liveability of the people who live in the city where you're building the infrastructure. So this is a very - you should understand, Paul and I and all of us, are very committed to ensuring that our cities, where so much of our economy is driven, our cities are as efficient, as liveable, have the greatest amenities as possible. But that means you've got to be smart about it.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] what do you make of Barnaby Joyce's choice to travel [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

Mr Joyce, as you know, is the Deputy Prime Minister. His electorate is I think 66,000 square kilometres, about a quarter of the size of Victoria. The travel, if he had gone by road, would have been I think about four hours or a bit more each way. Members of Parliament who have large electorates have a charter allowance and that is what he was using. The aerial option for him was a helicopter or a very, very long car drive, in the circumstances.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] funding given to the western distributor in this announcement, given it is quite similar to the second stage of the East-West Link?

PRIME MINISTER:

My colleagues, who are not, they're not accepting your premise on the western distributor. But I might, I'd say we're having further discussions with the Victorian Government about that. But I might ask the Minister to say some more about it.

MINISTER FOR MAJOR PROJECTS:

Can I make the point the Western distributor proposal that the Victorian Government is negotiating with Transurban depends for its economics ultimately on toll revenues. On a similar project

in Sydney, the way that the Commonwealth approached providing support to that project was to provide a concessional loan. The point we're making is where there is a project which is supported by tolling revenues, we're interested in providing innovative financing approaches. We have discussed this in general concept, with the Victorian government. We're interested in having more detailed discussions. But as the Prime Minister says, we need to get the best possible outcome with the finite amount of money available for infrastructure. So allocating grant funding where there are not alternative possibilities, but where there are alternative possibilities for innovative financing, that is certainly a priority.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes and I made all those things clear on Neil Mitchell this morning. So thank you all very much.