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Transcript of doorstop interview: Monash Freeway Upgrade Announcement Officer, VIC: 4 September 2019: Monash Freeway upgrade; infrastructure funding; tolls; East-West link; RET; power supply; and the Biloela family

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The Hon. Scott Morrison MP Prime Minister




DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: It’s a great pleasure for colleagues and I to welcome the Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the outer South-East today, for what is a very significant announcement. Look, nothing is more important than getting things done, nothing is more important than building the road and rail, hospital and school infrastructure that we need for the future. And when you look at a growing community like this one, and indeed this entire corridor with the best part of 500,000 motorists using the Monash every day, it’s really important that we’ve committed to stage two and we’re making real progress to deliver stage two. The milestone we marked today with contracts being signed very soon and work starting in 2020 will mean that 36km of extra lanes, significant travel time savings, dealing with some real pinch points, that will be able to be achieved, that work will be done and finished by the end of 2022. If of course we can beat that timeline, then of course we will. This is great for local families to get home safer and sooner, it’s about delivering on the commitments that we made, it’s about getting on and getting things done and that really is the most important thing. Can I thank the Prime Minister on the partnership on this project and many others. There have been a lot of meetings, and a lot of discussions since the re-election of the Morrison Government about the agenda that was laid out and how we can work together to deliver those important projects large and small, projects like this all the way through to smaller but no less important station car park upgrades. Ministers have been working together very closely but I think that's what Victorians want. And now just on the issue of price and cost. We do know that there is some pressure in the market and we see that whether it's West Connex or North Connex up in Sydney. Projects as far away as Perth. There's a lot going on and that's great for jobs across our nation but it does put some pressure on prices. There is some cost pressure there, but my view on these things is pretty simple. These are not costs really. They're investments in jobs, economic opportunity for the future, and getting people home to their families safer and sooner. This is a really important project and an important milestone today and I thank the Prime Minister for his partnership. I thank him and his team for the work that's going on in lots of different areas and I think we'll have an opportunity to stand up celebrating different milestones and continuing to lay out a positive plan for our state over the months and years to come. And that is exactly what Victorians want and need. Now I think we're going to do- I’ll throw now to the Prime Minister but I think we might do perhaps separate media conferences on issues that you want to talk to me about, and issues you might want to talk to the PM about but thanks PM and over to you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot Premier. It's great to be here with Dan Andrews today and our colleagues both at a local level, to have Jason Wood here, and our Ministers and of course I'm joined here by Alan Tudge the Minister for congestion busting Urban Infrastructure right around the country. But I want to thank Dan Andrews for the partnership. It's a partnership to get stuff done, to build stuff. I mean the elections are over, the Australian people and the people of Victoria have made their judgments and their judgment is that they want us to work closely together to get these projects done and that's exactly what both of us are doing. So I want to thank him and his team and for the way they've been engaging with us whether it's on the announcement that we're making today or on the work we're doing on the Melbourne airport link, the work we're doing on getting these car parks built and many other roads, whether it's the North East Link or many other projects that are on our agenda. We are busily working through those some one and a half billion dollars is being spent here in Victoria by the Commonwealth Government, working with the State Government just this year alone, and we're investing over 20 billion dollars here in Victoria over the next 10 years. Almost half of that's being spent over the current budget and forward estimates on a whole range of projects. I also want to thank the Premier for working with us to ensure we can get more of that happening sooner. This was one of our first objectives after the election, was to sit down not only with Premier Andrews but with Premier Berejiklian and Premiers all around the country to make sure that we're getting on with these projects. It's important for our economy that we get these projects done. Our infrastructure plan which was upgraded to over 100 billion dollars in the most recent budget is an important part of our national economic plan, a plan that did foresee the significant economic challenges that we're facing globally and the need to get these infrastructure projects on the ground. This project, a couple of important numbers- 600 jobs that's an important number, 22 minutes- 9 minutes on the way in; 13 minutes on the way back in the afternoon peak. That means people will get home sooner and safer, they get to work sooner and safer and 36 kilometres as the Premier said -the section that we're now working on. With these infrastructure projects there's always swings and roundabouts. Not literally, but in terms of how that impacts on on the costs of projects. The first stage of this project actually came in under, the second stage we've had those cost pressures and the Premier's right. We're seeing those cost pressures in other projects around the country. One of the reasons for that is we're doing so much all around the country. The infrastructure investments that are being made around the country are an important part of our national economic plan and that means that we're going to see some pressures here and there and particularly as we thankfully are seeing a bit of a pick-up in mining investment around the country that will also obviously have its flow through. But you know that means there's upward pressure for wages as well and those who are working on these projects and that's certainly a welcome factor in the economy as well. So I want to thank again the Premier, I want to thank Alan and his team, and Minister McCormack the Deputy Prime Minister for how we're rolling these out. This does mean, as Woody knows out here in Latrobe, that people will be able to bust through that congestion and you know Melbourne's a great city. It's a fantastic city. I reckon it's better than Vienna any other day of the week mate- any day of the week, and Sydney is hot on the heels I've got to say. But it's a great city but to ensure that it remains a great city. Then you got to invest in these infrastructure projects and get things done and that's what we're doing together. And that's why I think Melbournians can be very confident about the future of their city with these types of projects happening and they always have the strong backing of the Commonwealth Government. So I think the Premier is going to join me. We'll take some questions on this project and then I'll take some questions with my team on Federal matters and the Premier and his team will join you for questions on state matters.

JOURNALIST: …Coming from the difficulty of finding enough of the kinds of worker you need and therefore their wages go up, or is the cost of materials as well?

ANDREWS: Well there's a couple of parts to that. James there's pressure in terms of gravel, concrete. Whole range of those very basic raw materials that build these sorts of projects there's some significant pressure there and that's why we're having a big Extractive Industries Review, working to try and have more of that supply. In terms of labour or people. We have invested in free TAFE for reason we want, and particularly these sorts of courses. We want more and more people getting the skills they need for the job they want and the job that we need them to do. So the Prime Minister and I and COAG indeed had a long conversation about skills and about how we can make that vocational education and training system as dynamic, as industry friendly, as it possibly can be. So we're training the people that industry needs and that governments need. To get on and build those road and rail projects as well as new hospitals and new schools. All of that's really important. So that's a long way of saying I suppose there's pressure in lots of different areas. But again. I don't see this as a cost. These projects are a massive investment in protecting our quality of life setting us up for the future, creating jobs and opportunities. And when it comes to this road project- getting families home safer and sooner.

JOURNALIST: But in the press release from last year was saying $711 million. Now it's 1.4 billion-

ANDREWS: No, no, it’s 1.1.

JOURNALIST: 1.1, does that mean we just got it wrong? That’s a lot of extra money.

ANDREWS: What it means is that the best of engineering advice, the best of all the quantity surveying, the people who do for a living scope out projects. Was at that time around that 700 mark, we've gone and had a tender and the tender box has come back with the result that we're reporting to you today. Now that's more, but there is significant cost pressure and the alternative is well we won't build it or we start taking lanes off it, or we make it shorter. When given the choice between making this investment or compromising our promise. We've chosen to get on in partnership, make the investment, create the jobs, build the road network that we need today and into the future. That's great news and that's exactly what Victorians voted for. And it's exactly what Victorians want. there'll be times when we don't agree on things but where we can work together well we should absolutely do that and waste no time getting on and delivering. And that's the approach I've taken. That's the work we've done these last few months and essentially all of the Prime Minister's infrastructure agenda, we're working with him, in a partnership to help deliver that because if it's good for Victoria then you can count us in.

JOURNALIST: And if the West and the Northeast are going to have to pay tolls on new roads there, why not put a toll here to recoup some of those costs?

ANDREWS: Well the people who use roads, pay tolls. And we don't put tolls on existing roads. That's been our longstanding position and that position won't be changing, that position was put to the community at the last election and the one before that. So for instance the North East Link we were very clear that's going to be a toll road. We're also very clear the Monash is an existing road- it's being upgraded. And there won't be tolls beyond the arrangements that are there now.

JOURNALIST: Are you two still cooperating with each other about Monash rail? Where the line will head in? Out through the Monash precinct?

ANDREWS: We've, we had a discussion as recently as-

PRIME MINISTER: The short answer to that is yes.

JOURNALIST: Is it going to happen? Even with the suburban rail loop going through Monash?

ANDREWS: Well I think our most recent discussion was to say look there was a Monash rail commitment and there's funding there and we're very grateful for that funding. But since that time the notion of a suburban rail loop has come forward and we're making great progress on that and you've got to look at how those two projects work together, that's a fantastic problem to have. Now we've got multiple projects in the same corridor and that's why you sit down and that's why Ministers sit down and work through those issues carefully.

JOURNALIST: So have both?

ANDREWS: Well we'll have to wait and see. We’re not today to make announcements about those projects but we will be soon.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister is there a need for both?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, clearly the commitments we've made indicate our priorities is to dealing with both the rail and the road needs here. And I mean that's been a shift for us as a Commonwealth over the last three or four years, that we have been committed to rail projects. I've got to tell you the rail project that is top of our list at the moment is actually Melbourne Airport Rail. I mean that's five billion dollars that we're both in for, and that's the biggest game-changing city transforming infrastructure project other than the you know, the Western Sydney International Nancy-Bird Walton airport that's going on in the country today. These- and you talk about nation building projects Melbourne airport rail-link is certainly one of those. And so you know rail and road are needed here in Melbourne and we're working together on both.

JOURNALIST: Monash will go ahead then?

PRIME MINISTER: Well our commitment’s there but we're working through those issues together.

JOURNALIST: On airport rail, looks like some other options are being considered that would use the existing track from the city to Sunshine, is that acceptable? Is that a project that you’re looking at? Or is there only one dedicated track from the city to Sunshine?

PRIME MINISTER: Well what we've talked about, and what we've talked about together, is ensuring that we have a quick link there, out to Tulla, and that link to Sunshine is also very important in terms of how it connects to the Geelong project as well. But again these are really big projects and we're coming to the table in good faith to solve problems and to work together.

JOURNALIST: You would support dedicated tracks [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: That's been what we've been bringing to the table.

JOURNALIST: And when you say ‘quick link’ what do you mean? How quick will the trains-

PRIME MINISTER: Well I'm not using technical language,

ANDREWS: We can't quite do a timetable yet nor can we actually- nor can we actually give you like an exact price of what a journey will cost. But you've got to build something that people use. And if it's slow and congested and ‘stopping all stations’ people won't use it so-

JOURNALIST: People have to get off at Sunshine [inaudible]?

ANDREWS: Well again. There are there are two components to this project, as you, as I think you know and understand really well- there's Sunshine to the airport and there's the city to Sunshine there's a whole bunch of engineering decisions to be made there, there's a private sector- private sector proposal that's come forward and Treasury and Finance are working through that in the normal way. There are some key decisions to be made there but, be in no doubt we will build something that is efficient, effective, represents value for money for Victorian and Australian taxpayers and is something that people use. That's what we have to do, and I'm very confident we can get that balance right.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister are you interested in potentially looking at funding for the eastern side of the rail-loop the Premier’s proposing?

PRIME MINISTER: Look we've had some discussions around these issues, but the commitments we've made are all out on the public record. So that's the extent of our commitments.

JOURNALIST: And this project now that its- what’s the- who’s paying for what now? The split?

PRIME MINISTER: 50-50. I mean that's what this is. This is a genuine partnership and. In relation to question that was put earlier. There are swings and roundabouts and infrastructure projects and this is not the only project we're working together on, the costs on these projects move around all the time and we work closely on them and that enables you to shift your resources between projects to make sure you get them all done. And you know so what do you do when you're confronted with the reality of a material impact in the price of this project, well you face it. You deal with it. You're committed to actually getting the outcome. Construction starting next year, and so the spirit in which we came to the table on this was- you know this is a really big priority. So you know, we've just got to confront that. And commit to the decision we made and both pull our weight in making sure that we address it. You know, when you're building big projects, you’re coming up against this stuff all the time. Now you could just shrug your shoulders and walk away if you like, but I don't think anyone who lives here would thank either of us for doing that, they'd expect us to sort it out and we have.

JOURNALIST: Do you call the Premier every now and then and say, why don’t you take the money for the East-West link? There’s three billion dollars sitting there, is that still happening in your bro-mance?


PRIME MINISTER: I think both of our positions on this issue are well known. We don't need to remind each other of them. But the nature of the working relationship the Premier and I- I think have, is one that we focus on the stuff we can get done together. If we spend all our time talking about the stuff we disagree on, we'd get nothing done and no one would thank us for that.

ANDREWS: That’s right.

JOURNALIST: But how do you view that the Victorian Government is actually making moves to Heritage- seeking heritage protection of the Eastern Freeway. Do you see that as a means to stop any East West Link going ahead as the state opposition-

PRIME MINISTER: No I don't. And we have discussed that-

ANDREWS: We've had a discussion about that. And just to be very clear about this, as I’ve, as the Prime Minister knows and understands, we've had a conversation about this, we are exhausting that issue. So that any claim is dealt with, the status is there and understood, so that we don't have some spurious claim lodged in six months’ time that delays the North East Link by a further six months. Now that's been reported differently. But that's what's going on here. We are confirming and providing certainty in terms of the heritage status of that. Which I don't think is particularly strong and we've made no secret of that. But sometimes you've got to exhaust these things get certainty. Otherwise others, who don't like these big projects, will use them as a tool almost to stop us delivering. That's what this is about. And I've been very clear with the PM and his team about that.

PRIME MINISTER: So to answer your question, the communication is good. And it's honest and it's upfront and it's very transparent and that's enabling, particularly our ministers, to do the detail of this work. I think very effectively and I think we’re both appreciative for the work that they’ve both done. Okay.

ANDREWS: Thanks very much for that James.


PRIME MINISTER: Well we might move to a Federal discussion and thanks very much Dan. Cheers thanks mate. Well on federal issues more broadly. I mean I've gone over our commitments in infrastructure here and Alan can answer any further questions that you have on that. But today, we've seen new record levels of bulk billing for Medicare. And the figures that have come out today up four full percentage points since we were first elected. We're very, we're very pleased about this. I mean Medicare has a strong friend in my government. And the proof of that is in these results. On the bulk billing rates that we're now seeing in this country from coast to coast. The other thing I'm pleased to say is with the last investment that is being made, that we are meeting our renewable energy target for 2020, today Australia has the highest investment per capita in renewable energy of any country in the world. In fact I understand if you put second and third together they still don't get to where we are. And so Australia is meeting our commitments when it comes to renewable energy. But we're also meeting our commitments and we're meeting our obligations when it comes to reliable energy, the reliable energy guarantee that we were able to steward through all the states and territories at the end of last year means we're getting the reliable power into the system and we're also ensuring that we're getting the renewable energy into the system, and when you go to projects whether it's battery of the nation and the link between Tasmania and the mainland, or whether it's the Snowy 2.0 or these other projects- we're making these big investments for the future of Australia's energy supply and we're working with all the states and territories to follow through on other sources of energy that can support lower costs for both energy for householders as well as importantly for industry, which is a key challenge into the future. Many other issues Josh Frydenberg Treasurer will be standing up on the national accounts this morning so I'll leave those issues to him to go into the detail of. But happy to take other matters more broadly.

JOURNALIST: On the renewable energy. Now you've met that one target. Are you going to implement new targets, new policies for the next phase of, you know, to promote further investment in the renewable sector?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the great success, and let's be clear, when we came to government in 2013 we said we're going to hit these targets. We said we're going to hit our Kyoto targets on emissions reduction, and we've put in place the policies to achieve it. Now there's a lot of noise that goes on about these issues, but the facts speak for themselves. Our government keeps and meets its commitments to the environment whether it's on renewable energy or emissions reduction. Now one of the great things about the way we've achieved this in renewable energy is renewable energy investment now stands on its own two feet. It doesn't need these subsidies into the future. It doesn't need governments telling the industry what to do. It is making its own way. Its trajectory has now been set and that means we have sustainable investment in sustainable renewable energy because it makes economic sense all on its own. It doesn't need government to hold its hand anymore. It's grown up and I think that's a tremendous thing.

JOURNALIST: What are your concerns about the Victorian Government's 50 per cent target?

PRIME MINISTER: We've been on record about those issues. And I'm not here today to provide a running commentary on the Victorian Government. I’m here to talk about what our government has done. We had our targets. We're meeting them.

JOURNALIST: You’d be aware the Energy Market Operator has predicted a worst case scenario of significant blackouts in Victoria over this Summer, if one unit goes down in one of the coal-fired generators, is that acceptable?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the sustainability of reliable power supply is a fundamental responsibility of state governments. That's what I've got to say about that.

JOURNALIST: On the economy, I know Frydenberg will be speaking about this later, but given that the retail figures are actually a whisper kind of in a negative, as flat. Does that not show that the economy is not in great shape and are you talking now stimulus. Is this stimulus that we're seeing right here?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I'll make a couple of points- the first one is that the figures that will come out today obviously relate to the June quarter, the tax cuts that we delivered actually happened in July and I saw one article today apparently claiming that things that happened in June are evidence of what happened in July. Well that's obviously ridiculous. We will watch closely as the June quarter unfolds. The impact of the measures that we put in place in the Budget in May. See the global economic headwinds we're facing right now, are no surprise to us. It wasn't the Liberal Party who went to the last election saying that taxes should increase by $387 billion. We thought that would be an absolutely catastrophic thing to do the Australian economy as we knew it was facing these challenges. So we said taxes should be cut. We said infrastructure spending should be increased. We said we should be investing more in infrastructure and skills. And these are the things that our plan is delivering. So these circumstances are circumstances that were taken into account in the May budget. So we will implement that plan and monitor closely its impact across the economy in the months ahead. So we've got a calm and measured and disciplined approach for dealing with this into the future. Yes the numbers today will be softer. They will come as no surprise to me but I think as we go into the back half of the year things will improve. Let's not forget that the German and the UK economies have had negative quarters, and they're no

slouches, those economies. And the Australian economy I believe will continue to grow and it will grow because we're making these investments.

JOURNALIST: You’re not worried about a recession at all? With those global headwinds?

PRIME MINISTER: I'll let the figures speak for themselves.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: No. Well what we've got is a plan. And the plan is being implemented, and the plan already included those measures. And one of the things that, like today's project which I know Jason is thrilled about-


PRIME MINISTER: He's been campaigning for this project, and fighting for the Monash you know all his political life. And so this is a great tribute to his efforts. But, being able to sit down, whether it's with Premier Andrews, or even the Queensland Premier, or Steven Marshall over in South Australia, and Gladys Berejiklian in New South Wales, or Will down in Tassie. And just going through the schedule as Allan has been doing, and getting as much of that happening as soon as possible. It's not extra money. It's all there. It's just making sure it happens according the timetable we've set. So it's about having a plan. We have one. We took it to the election. It was endorsed by the Australian people and we're implementing it and we will continue to manage it carefully. I mean Labor always has, at a federal level, knee-jerk reactions to this at a federal level. You know they throw their arms around and they flap about in a panic, and remember him they wanted to put three hundred eighty seven billion dollars of extra taxes on the economy. That was a terrible plan. We've already seen a rebound in the housing markets whether it's here in Victoria or elsewhere around the country. That's a positive for confidence in the economy and we need to keep building on that.

JOURNALIST: On the Biloela family, the Federal Court will to make a decision on that today.


JOURNALIST: I mean you've got everyone from Alan Jones to the Greens in agreement on this particular issue. Do you ever think you're out of step with the general public on this one?

PRIME MINISTER: It's about doing the right thing by the national interest. It's not about chasing public sentiment. Our border protection, national security is not about chasing Twitter, public sentiment, or anyone else. It's about doing the right thing. And I think what we've seen from Labor on this issue is the same mistake they've been making for almost 20 years. They've never understood this. You must be consistent. You must be consistent. Otherwise you'd just send out the invitations. I understand absolutely the motivation. And the compassion that Australians have expressed in relation to this case. I understand that. And I understand that's what motivates the suggestions that they're making. But I also know, from bitter experience, that if you make the wrong calls on these issues then you invite tragedy, and you invite chaos. And this country has lived through that on two occasions. On both occasions because of the failures of policy and particularly by the Labor Party. And I will not allow that to happen a third time on my watch. Thanks very much. [END]

Contacts: Press Office, (02) 6277 7744 The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Sydney

Press Office of the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister, Canberra