JASON WOOD MP, MEMBER FOR LA TROBE: Thanks everyone, it’s fantastic to be here in my electorate of La Trobe in the suburb of Pakenham and I thank the Prime Minister very much again for his visit here today, his second trip in recent times. To Alan Tudge who is actually now on his third trip in Pakenham and Tudgey grew up in Pakenham, so has been here many times before. To Councillor Graeme Moore and also Councillor Ross, to Colin here, Mayor of Cardinia. We've been working very closely on congestion-busting in the south east.
Can I first of all say, the great news is when it comes to the Monash Freeway, we committed $1 billion back in March 2016, so a $1 billion dollar proposal, $500 million federal funding. Stage 1 has been completed, that's from Clyde Road to the South Gippsland Highway. The second stage is South Gippsland Highway to Warragul Road and from Clyde Road right out into Cardinia Road. Recently also, we announced with Alan Tudge, money - after a visit from the Prime Minister – for McGregor Road off-ramps. The money has been fully committed.
Also when it comes to the Monash, the great news is that the Beaconsfield Interchange, that project starts at the end of this year. Again, the PM has been there and that sees the creation also of 10,000 jobs in the city. But the fantastic news here today is, we're fully committing $70 million dollars to Racecourse Road for an extra lane going right across the Princes Highway and down to Henry Road. This is a very exciting announcement and can I again personally thank both Alan Tudge and of course the Prime Minister for being here today and joining us in La Trobe.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, thank you Jason. It's great to be here in La Trobe and with our local government partners and of course Alan Tudge the Minister for congestion-busting. Now today we're making these announcements, but before I do that let me say a couple of things.
It's great to be here in Melbourne again at the opening of the AFL season. It's obviously a very exciting day for everybody in Victoria, I'm looking forward to along to the match this evening. It's also great to be here on Harmony Day. Harmony Day is a day we celebrate that we have the most successful immigrant country anywhere on earth today, the most successful multicultural country of any country on the earth today. I particularly want to commend Jason on the great work that he does here in his local community here in La Trobe, whether it's working with a local Sri Lankan or the Indian community and recently the funding we announced for the Sikh Games which has been a key issue for bringing people together.
You know, we're a stronger country when we invest in the social fabric of our nation. That makes us a more prosperous country and makes us a safer country and it means that as our country grows, we grow together, we don't grow apart. So happy Harmony Day to everyone. I know my girls this morning, back in Sydney, they'd be going off to school for Harmony Day which will be in schools all across the country today. It's a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the great strength that comes from our strong immigrant nation.
Now yesterday, Minister Tudge and I with Minister Coleman announced our serious plan to manage population growth in Australia, into the future. We’ve benefitted a lot from the growth that we have experienced, but as we also know, that growth can have some growth pains attached to it. We know that is the case here across Melbourne. That's why we've been investing in projects here, particularly in the electorate of La Trobe with Jason. $500 million on the Monash Freeway, a very significant part of that, but the programme we have to manage population growth into the future, is not only ensuring we have migration settings that are responsible, but also to ensure that we have the investment in congestion-busting infrastructure that can improve the quality of life and protect that standard of living all across our big cities. That's what we're here to announce today. Better coordination with state and local government authorities, that's on display today and ensuring we're investing in the social fabric and social cohesion of our country, so we can grow together as I said. That's on display today as we celebrate Harmony Day and other initiatives we've been announcing.
Today we're announcing $70 million dollars here for this important congestion-busting project. This is a programme which Alan can speak to more specifically, but whether it's the Monash Freeway or here where we are today, this is about ensuring that people get home sooner and safer to their families. It's about ensuring that tradies can get on site, because you don't get paid for sitting in a traffic jam. You get paid for being on site and that's true for small family businesses out there as well. So these projects make our cities more liveable. They make our cities more efficient, which is good for our economy and enables us to grow together. $330 million dollars we have delivered and we have committed to urban congestion projects here in Victoria. A third of our entire fund, is being committed to projects here in Victoria. Why? Because this is where the congestion has to be busted.
When I appointed Alan Tudge to be the Minister for congestion-busting, I wanted someone with Melbourne eyes, to put on a Melbourne problem. That's what Alan's experience has done, growing up in Pakenham, understanding uniquely the challenges being faced in our suburbs, as Jason does. These projects deliver on our plan to manage population growth into the future and I want to welcome Alan here to make a few comments on this particular project.
THE HON ALAN TUDGE MP, MINISTER FOR CITIES, URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE AND POPULATION: Thank you Prime Minister, Jason, Mayor and others. This is a great congestion-busting project in one of the fastest-growing areas of Australia. As the Prime Minister and Jason were saying, I grew up here in Pakenham. When I grew up in the early 70s, it was a small town of 2,000 or 3,000 people. I was in fact born in a hospital called the Pakenham Bush Nursing Hospital. Today this town is 50,000 people and is expected to grow another 20,000 people when east Pakenham is developed in the next few years. So, extraordinary growth and with that growth though does come congestion pain.
So this project’s $70 million dollars will ease one of the real congestion hotspots here in Pakenham. The congestion hotspot we're talking about is right here on Racecourse Road and this particular project’s $70 million dollars is going to fix up the on-ramps at the freeway exchange there with Racecourse Road, so that people can get onto Racecourse Road more simply. Because presently you have a bank-up because of people getting onto Racecourse Road. You can often have a 500 meter bank-up and that means it's dangerous on the freeway. Then there’s going to be a duplication all the way down as far as to the railway line down there. This particular intersection here with Bald Hill Road is going to be fixed. Now that intersection is a particular congestion hotspot, it has 20,000 cars going through it each and every day. It will soon have 32,000 cars according to projections from the Council. So we are fixing up that interchange, that intersection as well.
Of course it works hand-in-glove with what the State Government is doing, because they're doing the fixing up of the railway line there, so that there will be a bridge going over Racecourse Road rather than a level crossing as such. So this works hand-in-glove that. The end result of it, $70 million, fully funded, it means that this will be another congestion-busting project that we get completed. It means that people will be able to get to work more quickly, get home at night and spend more time with their families.
Can I Particularly thank Jason Wood for his work on this, he has been an incredible advocate for this project. He's worked very closely with the Cardinia Shire Council in developing this project and they've been great partners in this as well and I'd like to thank them. They're dealing with extraordinary growth down here and they need our assistance. We are delivering that assistance with projects like this to make it easier for everyday families here in Pakenham and further afield.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you Alan. I’m going to invite up the Mayor, Graeme, who has done a lot of advocacy on this project, working with Jason.
CR GRAEME ROSS, MAYOR OF CARDINIA: Thank you Prime Minister and thank you Jason Wood for the generous funding that we've been waiting for a long time in Pakenham. This is a community project that has been – we’re ready to do this straight away. What a great result we’re going to have for our community here in Pakenham. There is safety, there’s upgrades to quality and I want to thank you Alan and thank you Prime Minister for being here today. We’re stoked. I don’t need to go on about it, I just want to thank our staff who have worked tirelessly to get this down on the ground today and we’re shovel-ready. We are ready to do this project. We can’t wait for it to get underway.
PRIME MINISTER: Well thanks Graeme, I’m stoked too.
Well, the other thing that is actually really impacting on Melbourne has been the impact of housing not being able to keep up with population growth, as well. It's important - as Alan was pointing out in our population growth strategy presentation yesterday - that we need to see the housing industry continue to do well. What we've heard today from is SQM Research is they have released independent research today which has said what the impact will be of Labor's housing tax. Now that housing tax, or getting rid of negative gearing as we know it and putting up the capital gains tax, we all know what that means for people's house prices right across Melbourne. But what many renters won't understand is what that research shows today is that rents here in Melbourne could rise by as much as 15 percent. Now if you're fortunate enough to be paying say 500 bucks a week when it comes to a two bedroom flat or a house, then you'll be paying somewhere up to or around $4,000 extra a year. Obviously more than that if your rent is much bigger than that, or you have the need for a larger property.
Labor's housing tax will punish everybody, whether you own an investment property or not, whether you rent or whether you buy, whether you're an investor or you’re a first home buyer. Labor’s housing tax will hurt all of you.
It will also hurt you if you're out there working in the residential construction industry, costing tens of thousands of jobs every year. That's what the independent research says; this is a very dangerous policy, a housing tax, to be putting on the growth of Australian cities. It will slow down construction and mean that those who are trying to live with expanding population growth, will only have to suffer further difficulty because of those sort of pernicious taxes that Labor want to put on our cities and our homeowners and our renters.
JOURNALIST: If this if there is a change of government, will this project go ahead?
PRIME MINISTER: This money is committed in the Budget. The Labor Party would have to strip it out of the Budget. But our plan is to ensure they would never get that opportunity. They should not have that opportunity, because what Jason Wood has demonstrated here in La Trobe is, he promises and he delivers. $500 million for the Monash Freeway, or funding for Sikh Games to support local communities. Or indeed $70 million dollars here from Racecourse Road.
We are investing - and I should stress also we're working closely together with the Victorian State Government, it was just last week I stood together with the Victorian Premier out at Sunshine and announced that we'd signed our deal when it comes to development of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, the Tulla rail. Now, we're working together on projects and I acknowledge the work of Victorian State Government here, with the flyover they’re putting over the rail line here. Good for them. We're all going to work together to make sure we manage population growth into the future and I can assure you as Prime Minister I will work closely with the Victorian State Government, every state government regardless of what their political persuasion is, because I just want to get stuff done.
JOURNALIST: Is there any state money in this project?
PRIME MINISTER: There is no requirement to start this project, we’re fully funding this. They've put their investment into the flyover and we welcome it, working together to fund important components of this project - to deliver the outcome which is to bust congestion.
JOURNALIST: How long is it predicted to take?
PRIME MINISTER: I might ask the Mayor or the Minister to address that issue.
MINISTER FOR CITIES, URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE AND POPULATION: The money is in fact from last year's Budget, so it is there, ready to be deployed and as soon as that can be scoped up and delivered, we've got the money ready to go.
JOURNALIST: So this isn’t a re-announcement then?
PRIME MINISTER: No, it’s not. I announced in the Budget last year, a $1 billion congestion fund. We have been going through the process as of last year's Budget, of committing those funds to specific projects. In that Budget, there was no detailing of any of the projects and so what we have done, over the course of the last year is, we have worked closely with our local members to allocate that money to the projects of greatest need in breaking the bottlenecks in our cities. This is a key one which Jason has highlighted and we're backing in with $70 million. So it's real money, it’s right there. It’s ready to go, the cheque is ready to be signed.
JOURNALIST: On another issue, have you spoken to the Turkish President directly or do you intend to speak to him directly about his comments?
PRIME MINISTER: Let me make a couple of comments on this issue. Overnight progress has been made on this issue. Overnight we have already seen a moderation of the President’s views expressed in an article in the Washington Post today. I welcome the moderation in those views. There have been further meetings held between our officials and the Turkish Government and that’s the appropriate place for those to be held. There’s an OIC meeting taking place over the next few days and the New Zealand Foreign Minister will be there, our Ambassador to Saudi Arabia will be attending at that meeting and there will be opportunities for further discussion. But as I said yesterday, it’s my intention here to break any cycle of recklessness. To work through these issues practically, to register in the strongest and clearest of terms, the offence that was taken – I believe rightly – by those comments yesterday, but now, to work constructively.
I want to stress again that Australia and Turkey, the peoples of both countries have a tremendous relationship built up over generations. The Turkish-Australian community, you’ll find no finer community in Australia, one of the many, many migrant communities that have built Australia. So those issues, I think are quite separate. This is a matter that I’m confident we’ll be able to resolve and be able to work through in the best interests of the wonderful relationship that we have had with Turkey over a long period of time. So we’re making progress.
JOURNALIST: So would you follow the New Zealand lead and send the Foreign Minister [inaudible] talks?
PRIME MINISTER: Well he is attending a meeting that he was already scheduled to attend and I’ve been in contact, in discussions with the New Zealand Prime Minister as well last night. We were discussing a number of issues including our joint efforts to promote social media companies taking responsible action in terms of the posting of extremist material. I spoke to the Japanese Prime Minister last night also on this topic, to Shinzo Abe. He is the President of the G20 and I’m pleased that we’re being able to progress that issue also with our officials to see if we’re able to take that forward at the Osaka Summit. So a lot of progress made overnight on all of these issues. Our officials are doing the jobs that they’re paid to do, they’re the professionals and we’re making a lot of progress. But I think it’s very important that yesterday Australia registered our views very, very clearly and unambiguously and my colleagues know, I’m quite well-known for that. I think I made the point.
JOURNALIST: Do you feel the President has [inaudible] regretted what he said?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I’ll allow the process to follow before making any further comment.
JOURNALIST: Did the Government seek clarification through official, I guess, diplomatic channels before you hauled in the Ambassador and publically blasted the President?
PRIME MINISTER: There was a series of advice that I took before both the meeting with the Turkish Ambassador, which included direct consultation through our Embassy in Ankara.
JOURNALIST: Australians will travel to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day, do you expect those Aussies who travel there now will be safe from [inaudible]?
PRIME MINISTER: Well the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is still reviewing the travel advice. When they conclude that process, we’ll make our announcement. I have welcomed some of the more positive statements about the safety of Australians travelling, from the Turkish Government overnight. I have welcomed that, but I still think we still have a bit more distance to travel.
JOURNALIST: Do you say they should go ahead and book, if they have -
PRIME MINISTER: Well, let’s just wait for the official travel advice, I’m not going to make any further comment on that. I think the prudent thing to do is to go through the proper process and make the proper assessment.
JOURNALIST: Labor announced today they'd be looking to invest $2.8 billion into high speed rail from Melbourne up to Brisbane, is that something that is on the Government's agenda and what do you make of that?
PRIME MINISTER: I find it very hard to take the Opposition seriously when they talk about projects like that. I mean, we are building the Inland Rail now, that's actually what we're doing now, that’s our record.A Melbourne to Brisbane fast rail link is a very ambitious program and the wherewithal to do that and the timeframes around that, I think the Opposition should be very clear about.
We're focusing on projects that we know are going to make a big difference to people right here and now and that's Racecourse Road. So I mean, that's going to make a difference to people living here in Pakenham, right here, right now. Our congestion-busting projects are focused on that. But then, our visionary projects - the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, a $10 billion dollar programme that we're doing together with the Victorian Government - that is city-changing infrastructure. The North-South Rail Link that we're putting in place in New South Wales and the Western Sydney International Airport, the Nancy Bird Walton Airport, these are projects that Labor didn't move on for generations. But our government is moving on and making it happen and that includes the Inland Rail. That is a project that has been around for a long time, but it has taken our Government to make it happen. It has taken our Government to build Snowy 2.0. It has taken our Government to step up and make sure that we can see a second interconnector between Tasmania to get hydro power from Tasmania into Victoria and into Melbourne, to ensure that we don't see the brownouts that we've seen on previous occasions.
So our Government has a $75 billion dollar infrastructure plan that is being rolled out and has been for years, that is driving our economy forward. It is busting congestion and improving the living standards of all Australians.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the baby that was abandoned in Perth? Do you believe it’s time, like in Europe and the United States where we change our laws to encourage mothers that don’t want babies to [inaudible]?
PRIME MINISTER: First of all, my thoughts frankly are with the young child, the infant and that they are placed in the best of care. I have absolutely no doubt that is what has occurred. The Western Australian Government has the processes and systems in place to provide that care. I also have concern for the mother as well and that the right supports are being placed around her, if she is able to be identified and for the issue to be handled sensitively. So today I think, that's where my thoughts are and there will be time to consider other matters, I'm sure. But right now my thoughts are with the child and the mother.
JOURNALIST: Can I get your thoughts, you’re in Melbourne -
PRIME MINISTER: I’m backing Richmond, I’m in Melbourne and I’m backing Richmond tonight. I’m not an AFL fan, I don’t follow it all the time but you can pick my tips, you can see them all there. I’m in it to win it.
JOURNALIST: And the female Carlton player, the shot of a goal - I imagine - with the leg up high. She was trolled online. Have you seen that photo?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah I have and it's a great photo. I think it's a cracker photo.
JOURNALIST: And what do you think of these so-called trolls getting on board and saying despicable things?
PRIME MINISTER: I think they’re grubs. I think they're cowardly grubs who need to wake up to themselves. You know, trolls on social media, they’re nothing new these days sadly. But I think what is horrible is those trolls tend to target women. They tend to be the target for an inordinate share of the abuse that happens online. I think that's a shameful indictment on the grubs who get on there.
I mean I don’t know what's up with them, like, would they say to anyone’s face? No, they haven't got the guts to do that, they're cowards, they're weak. They are acting out some sort of hatred, in a way which really just lessens them as people and they just need to wake up to themselves. We should give them no quarter and we should treat them as the grubs they are.
JOURNALIST: Just one more, do you support the Adani mine project in Queensland?
PRIME MINISTER: We support mining right across the country, we think mining is great for Australian jobs. It's great for Australian jobs right across the country.
JOURNALIST: Fraser Anning has spent nearly $35,000 flying his family around the country last year, that is within his entitlements, but do you think that's reasonable?
PRIME MINISTER: I think he's had enough oxygen, I'm not going to give him any more.