Doorstop with the Premier of Victoria

Media release
13 Mar 2019
Sunshine, Victoria
Prime Minister
E&OE

HON DANIEL ANDREWS MP, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Well thanks so much for joining us here at Sunshine station, I’m delighted to be here today with the Prime Minster Scott Morrison, with ministerial colleagues Alan Tudge and Jacinta Allan to mark a very significant milestone in the delivery of the Airport Rail Link. For decades, people have talked about building a heavy rail link to Melbourne Airport. We’re not talking about it anymore, we’re getting on and delivering this very important project.

When you think about it, Melbourne Airport has got about 35,000 people moving in and out of it, trips each and every year. That will double over the next 20 years to the best part of 70 million trips in an out of that important asset, curfew free, a very important part not just of the Victorian economy, but our national economy as well. Getting people to and from the airport is very important and there’s no better way, no more efficient way to do that than a dedicated heavy rail link.

We’ve had discussions with the Commonwealth Government now for quite some time to determine which was the best corridor, there were are number of different options. Coming through Sunshine, through that Albion east corridor has now been decided as the preferred corridor and we can commit, we can announce today that we’ve signed an agreement between the two governments that will see between the two of us, invest some $10 billion to deliver this project. The business case, the detailed planning, where the stations will be, how it will be procured, all of that intense work, we’ve already started that process. That’ll be concluded next year in 2020 and construction will begin in 2022. The other point to note as well is not only is this a link to the airport, but Sunshine station will be one of three ‘super stations’ if you like, Sunshine, Broadmeadows and Clayton, linking all of our regional services with the Suburban Rail Loop, so that you can get to the airport but also right throughout the suburbs of Melbourne, from the regions and from suburban Melbourne, without going into the CBD.

This is essentially the western section of that Suburban Rail Loop with construction underway in 22’ and the south eastern section between Cheltenham and Box Hill will similarly be under construction in 2022 as well. Can I thank the Prime Minister for the very positive partnership that we’ve had around this project. We’ve worked hard to get to this point, this is a very significant milestone and we’re very pleased to be partnering with the Commonwealth Government to deliver a project that has been talked about for decades. It Is much-needed and will be delivered under the partnership that we’re announcing today and I think we’ve got the corridor right. This is not just about a link to the airport, it unlocks capacity for better and faster regional rail services and of course is an important part of that overall Suburban Rail Loop which is really the biggest and the most important public transport investment that our state has ever seen and one of the biggest heavy rail infrastructure projects anywhere in the world.

So PM, thank you so much for the partnership. This is exactly the way things should be done, working together, delivering the projects that have been talked about for a long time. That’s what is most important and the jobs and skills attainment, the productivity, efficiency and setting us up for the future that will come from this project is very important, I know, to all Victorians and is a nationally significant partnership as well. I might now hand over to the PM and then we’re happy to take any questions you’ve got.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much Dan, thank you Premier Andrews, Minister and Minister Alan Tudge. This is a big deal and it’s an inked deal now between the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments. $10 billion in investment in one of the biggest, game-changing, city-changing projects that we will see in our generation.

Earlier in the week, I was announcing a project with the New South Wales State Government on the North South Rail there, for the Western Sydney International Airport today. Today I'm standing here with Premier Andrews here in Victoria, on another big project which is changing the shape of our cities.

Australians, particularly those who are living in cities, just expect governments to work together to deliver these important projects. These are visionary projects and they commence with deals and agreements like this one that we've been able to sign today. This project is important of course, for one of the most rapidly growing cities in our country, a city which is constantly evolving and has massive infrastructure demands. And the partnerships that we have - not only on this, but on congestion-busting infrastructure to ensure that Australians can get home and spend more time with their families and spend less time in traffic jams and more time on site if you're a tradie – that is what all these projects do. So to have the partnership with the Victorian Government, which is delivering on the projects - and there are many that we're working on together at the moment - I think it’s incredibly important. But to realise the real benefit of Melbourne Airport, it does require of course, this rail link. It’s long overdue and I'm pleased that we're working together to now deliver on that.

It's not only important for Melbourne though, I've got to say and the state more broadly. This is an incredibly important project for the entire nation, that enables Melbourne to realise its’ potential, to cope with its’ growth and to ensure that it continues to prosper as it grows and not be held back by infrastructure or other needs that it has. So this is about realising a stronger economy nationally and a stronger economy here in Melbourne, here in Victoria. So the partnership makes absolute and complete sense and I want to thank Premier Andrews also for the way that he's engaged with this project and the very constructive relationship we've had between our ministers in getting to this day as we've signed the heads of agreement here to proceed on this partnership basis. But I also want to thank the Premier for earlier this week, we were able to conclude our City Deal down there in Geelong and that was announced earlier in the week. So, two agreements we are effectively signing today.

The other area we've been working closely on as I have been - on another topic, if you'll indulge me - is on the royal commission into disabilities. I want to thank Premier Andrews for working closely with me on this and all Premiers, Premier Berejiklian, I was talking to Mark McGowan over in Western Australia on the weekend, Premier Palaszczuk, Premier Marshall, Premier Hodgman. We've all been working together since I indicated that the Government would be moving forward with this. Today we are releasing the draft terms of reference for the royal commission into disabilities. That will be available for comment out until March 28. It is the product already of consultation within the sector and with states and territories and ministers responsible for disabilities already, which has been led by Minister Fletcher.

This royal commission into disabilities is focused on people with disabilities, it's focused on how they have been mistreated, abused, not respected, been held back, not been able to realise their opportunities to live full and complete lives in this country. In the draft terms of reference, there is no timeframe limit on going back into history, where people will be able to bring forward their stories and talk about the way that they have had to live their lives as a person in Australia living with disabilities. I think this has been an incredibly cooperative process. I want to thank all of the state Premiers and Chief Ministers for working closely with us to get to this point. The Commonwealth will be fully funding the royal commission into disabilities of course. We had to ask the question there. But the states and territories have all given me their commitment to issue joint letters patent on this issue, so that we can proceed. That was critically important to ensure the Royal Commission could go forward in this way. So another important partnership project. Once we have gone through the consultation phase, then we will move quickly to establish that terms of reference. This will include consultation with the Federal Opposition, I gave the undertaking to Mr Shorten some time ago and that they will be able to participate in process like all the other key stakeholders.

So a very important day for Melbourne, a very important day for the country as we go forward with visionary, ground-breaking, city-changing infrastructure. Thank you. Happy to take questions on this project and if there are questions on federal issues of the day, I won’t burden our state colleagues with those. I'm sure that they might want to attend to other matters.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister what’s going to happen to the $3 billion set aside for the East West Link, is that possibly going to be shifted to the airport project before [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Our $5 billion for the airport project is already in the baselines for the Federal Budget, so that $5 billion is already committed. The money is absolutely there and I put that in the last Budget.

In terms of the commitment to the East West Link, well, this is obviously a project that we have different views on with the State Government. That's okay, we don't have to agree on absolutely everything. Our commitment to that project remains at it is, but as we go forward to the next Budget, I can assure you that Victoria will be well addressed in terms of its’ infrastructure needs and we’ve been working together with Minister Tudge and I've been having good discussions with the Premier about the priorities here in Victoria. So Victoria is very high on my list when it comes to infrastructure. Why? Because it's a city that is groaning under the strains of population growth. If you want to deal with population growth, you've got to deal with infrastructure and that's what we're announcing here today and that's why we’ve had $200 million in congestion-busting projects we’ve already announced, including over $60 million for park and pide projects, with car parking at rail stations around Melbourne already.

JOURNALIST: Will the Commonwealth be looking to recoup any of it’s investment through value capture?

PRIME MINISTER: We’ve put $5 billion into the Budget on the basis of treating it as a grant. Now, we're open to working together with the State Government about what the best structure and model is to actually deliver the project, ultimately. So they're matters that will be determined as you work through the detail of how the corporate structure for this program will be run. But how have we treated it in our Budget? We’ve treated it as a grant and the $5 billion is there in hard cash.

JOURNALIST: The nine years that it’s estimated to take to build the railway, is that a recognition that [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry I missed that last part.

JOURNALIST: Is that a recognition that a pretty large tunnel will be needed through the western suburbs?

PRIME MINISTER:  I might get the Premier to comment on that because the ‘on the ground’ delivery of this project, as with all projects, are run by state governments. But today importantly we've agreed on the preferred route for this project and that enables us I think, to start getting into the detail of those sorts of issues. Premier?

PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Sure. The key point to make here I think is that a project of this size and you’re talking about $10 billion or more worth of investment, is something that does take some time. This is about the same scale if you like, in terms of dollars at least and it’s comparable to the Metro Tunnel, which as you know is one of the biggest public transport projects in the nation at the moment and the biggest that Victoria has ever seen to date. The engineers will guide us on exactly what gets tunnelled and what doesn't. The key point about this corridor coming through Sunshine is that there's already an existing rail alignment. That means that you can deliver it more cost effectively, you can deliver it more quickly.

One the nine year issue though, as with the Metro Tunnel where we're fully a year ahead of schedule, as with level crossings where we promised 20 would be gone and we've got 29 gone - if we can deliver this more quickly than the nine years, then of course we will be only too happy to do that. Ultimately, this should have been done a long, long time ago. It would have been cheaper, it might even have been quicker then. At the end of the day though, we're making this decision now and it's one that will set us up for the future. It will take some time but we're not waiting any longer. We're getting on and actually delivering this.

JOURNALIST: Will it be faster than the red bus or a taxi? 

PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Look, I think you'll have lots of different ways to get to the airport, this will be relevant for some people. Some people will choose to go this way, other people will continue to use ride sharing services, others will continue to use Sky Bus, some will drive and pay the parking fees. The issue here is to give people choice and to give people an option that they've never, ever had before. When you think about going from 35 to 70 million trips in and out of that airport every year, the airport simply won't function without this rail link. In terms of speed, that will be determined, just as price will be determined, frequency of services, where the stations will be, all of those issues are part of that very detailed business case. There's already been a preliminary one done to choose this Sunshine corridor. The detailed planning work, all of those matters and lots more, together with the engineering treatments, how we procure it and issues of value creation, value capture, all of that has already started and will be concluded next year. Then we’ll be underway and under construction by 2022.

PRIME MINISTER: Just on what you're saying there in terms of choice, the Premier is absolutely right in terms of the choices that Melburnians will make. But this will also be a very important choice for international travellers and domestic travellers coming in. So from a tourism perspective, where you go to pretty much any serious international airport anywhere in the world today, that rail option is critically important for them, as I know from my tourism background. So that option is critically important for the tourism strength, I think, that Melbourne is the world-leading destination that it is.

JOURNALIST: In terms of working this in with the Suburban Rail Loop, does that require you to have the [inaudible] rail loop plans before you start construction of the airport rail link, given the two are so closely linked and the Sunshine interchange is going to play such a critical role there?

PREMIER OF VICTORIA: No, this becomes - the real strength of the Suburban Rail Loop in many respects is that it can be done in a modular form, if you like. So we'll have Cheltenham to Box Hill underway in 2022, we'll have airport rail link, so city, Sunshine and the airport will be underway by 2022 as well and we'll be able to make that top section which probably would be two sections I would think, all of that would be able to be delivered so that it's one seamless journey, if you like, when it’s all ultimately completed. That's some time away, it's a very, very big project. The other point as well, the sequencing of this will be very important. That's why getting the planning right is obviously at the top of our list. With further electrification into the west beyond the airport rail link, so separating regional trains from metro trains so they're not competing for the same track, then we can potentially run - in fact, it is our intention - to run faster, indeed rapid, really high-speed rail into Ballarat and Geelong.

So this is the airport rail link yes, but it's done in such a way, I think, an elegant way, to make it part of that Suburban Rail Loop and part of a much better service offering for regional cities. That's important for our population growth and all of those other factors as well.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] private sector money probably, to fill out [inaudible] the project. There’s 45 billion on the table for metro trails [inaudible]?

PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Well again I wouldn’t want to be singling out or putting anyone in the box seat as it were. There is a market-led proposal, a private sector proposal that is being considered by Treasury and Finance in the usual way. That's separate to the announcement that we're making today and it would need to represent better value than what we’re putting forward today, otherwise we wouldn't do it. There may well be others and I think that the opportunity around private sector engagement is more than just the entire project. You can have different elements of the project where the private sector may well have a really important contribution to make, around property development, not so much capturing value, but actually creating it. These station boxes, wherever they might go - Sunshine is obviously going to be one of them - but there will be opportunities for us to leverage the investment that we're making on behalf of taxpayers, either to offset some of the cost or to do more. That's the great opportunity when you get the projects underway and you're not talking about them any more, and you’re actually delivering them, all sorts of things become possible.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah the heads of agreement that we've signed today I think gives the market a lot of certainty about our commitment. Our money is down and I think that that means that other proponents and participants will really get their pencils sharpened now and be able to engage in a process which I think will give us lots of options. This will be one of the most significant metropolitan rail projects anywhere in the country.

JOURNALIST: The airport train is going to link up [inaudible], does that means there’s a chance those trains will go through the [inaudible]?

PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Well part of the Metro Tunnel and why it’s so important is that there’s the issue you raise and that’s possible that will be something that will have to be worked through in terms of the detailed engineering treatment on some of that. As I said, there’s already been a preliminary business case, a lot of work went into that to choose the corridor. Then the really intensive planning, which has already started, that’s the work that will be completed next year, that’ll deal with all of those issues. The other thing around Metro Tunnel, why it’s so important is that not only are we taking the busiest line out of the loop, which is great for people travelling on that line, it also frees up enormous amounts of space within the current City Loop. So in every way, Metro Tunnel is a very, very important project and were delighted to be not just on track, but indeed a year ahead of schedule. We’ve all been out recently to see lots of tunnel boring machines, more than has ever been the case in our country really, being assembled. That is a project that is becoming very real as we get further and further into it.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister can I ask you how you think you’re travelling in Victoria politically, do you think that some of the state results could be reflected in seats like Kooyong and Higgins federally?

PRIME MINISTER: What I know about Victorians is they want us to manage the challenges of population growth. They want us to be able to ensure that the stronger economy that is being delivered over the last five years is being reinvested in the infrastructure and services that Melbournians need. So I’m going to work with anyone and everyone who is on that task and the Premier is on that task with us today. So whether it’s the projects we’re announcing today, down in Geelong or here in terms of Sunshine and the corridor and the airport rail link, or indeed if it’s the other projects, the park and ride projects at rail stations, or any of these things - these all improve the quality of life of Melbournians and that’s our focus. That’s our project. One of the reason I asked Alan Tudge to take on the job of congestion-busting as the Minister is I wanted Melbourne eyes on what is a very, very Melbourne problem when it comes to managing population growth. I commend Alan for the great work and I’ll have more to say about the work that he’s done over the next few weeks. But we’ve had a very strong focus on managing these challenges of population growth. I acknowledge and appreciate the work that the Premier has done and the ability for us to work together on it, I think we both agree that our constituents just want us to get on and do these things and that’s what we’re doing today.

JOURNALIST: Labor is talking about boosting minimum wages for workers?

PRIME MINISTER: I think we’re moving to broader topics now Dan.

PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Any other state questions of the day?

JOURNALIST: George Pell. Do either of you think that the Catholic Church and other clergy have to … what can they do to rebuild respect? And, if you want … what do you think of the Pell case?

PRIME MINISTER: Why don’t I start? I’m going to say exactly what I said on the day that the conviction was stated. Today again, there will be thousands of Australians all around the country who will be once again reminded of the terrible things that happened to them in the past in terms of sexual abuse within institutions around this country. That’s who my thoughts are with. As I said, I led the national apology to these victims and my thoughts are only with them. My thoughts are only with the victims and more importantly, they are with the survivors. Because all of these victims, we’re working to ensure that they be survivors, as so many of them have. I would just ask Australians today to get around those who have been victims of child sexual abuse and let them know that we know it happened. That we want to help you be stronger and to survive what is the most abominable thing you could think would happen to an individual, the breach of trust. Those who broke that trust, it’s up to them to restore it and to do what is necessary to achieve that. But for me, it’s about those against whom the abuse was directed and enacted. It’s the most abhorrent thing I can think of. So that’s who I’m thinking about today.

JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten [inaudible]. What do you say?

PRIME MINISTER: The Budget is in a couple of weeks’ time and we’ll be making our announcements about further projects over the course of the period leading up to the Budget and in the Budget.

JOURNALIST: Shall we talk minimum wages?

PRIME MINISTER: Okay, thanks Dan.

PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Okay, thanks very much everyone.

PRIME MINISTER: So, I think what was interesting yesterday is when the shadow treasurer’s office was asked about Bill Shorten’s supposed plan on wages, they directed all questions to Bill Shorten’s office. The shadow treasurer doesn’t even know what Bill Shorten’s plan is. Bill Shorten is trying to perpetuate a lie on Australians that he personally, through force of some mechanism which he is yet to define, can actually change people’s wages in this country.

I’ll tell you where stronger wages come from; they come from a stronger economy where businesses are growing and they can employ more people. They earn more money and they’re able to pass on wage increases, that’s how you grow wages in this country.

You don’t grow wages by increasing taxes. You don’t grow wages by suffocating your economy and you don’t grow wages, as small businesses have said plainly, by forcing small businesses to sack some workers, to pay others more.

Bill Shorten needs to come clean about this. What is he exactly proposing here? Because what is sounds like to me at the moment is he’s going to force small and family businesses all around the country to sack people, in order to possibly give some others a few more dollars. Now I don’t think Australian want to see their co-workers sacked, for them to do better, but that’s Bill Shorten’s plan for Australia; to set one Australian against another. He’s engaged in this war of envy on Australians, on the economy, on businesses, on employees. I want to see Australians work together so they’ve got shared prosperity, not setting one Australian against another in his politics of envy. I think Australians want to best for everybody. They want to be aspirational, they see the champion in every Australian whether they’re a disabled Australian who should be treated with greater respect and not subject to abuse, or other Australians who have done well, everybody can succeed in Australia. I don’t want to see some punished, for the benefit of some others, I don’t think that’s how Australians work. I think they want us to work together.

JOURNALIST: On the issue of coal you have Cabinet Ministers publically advocating for coal-fired generation, how can you tolerate this type of defiance of your leadership?

PRIME MINISTER: I think Barnaby put this matter to rest this morning. He’s a passionate fellow, there’s no doubt about that and I think he settled those issues down this morning in the comments he’s made about his missteps earlier in the week. What we need is reliable, sustainable power for the future to drive our industries. We all agree on that and we’re technology and resource agnostic when it comes to that. We want to see those projects come forward, we’ve already got Snowy Hydro 2.0 and the Marinus link which I announced a little while ago will be very important for Victoria. That Marinus link interconnector to Tasmania, there’s 400 megawatts just sitting there at the moment, which is going to waste because of the lack of interconnector capacity between Tasmania and Victoria. So these projects will free up and provide the reliable baseload power that Australians, Victorians need and indeed north Queenslanders need.

Our plans are about supporting the development of commercially viable and feasible baseload power all around the country. It could be gas, it could be hydrogen, it could be any number of sources of energy, it can be hydro as we have said and it can be other traditional sources. But at the end of the day, we’re about getting lower power prices. It’s about having sensible emission reduction targets. I’ve announced what our reduction target is, it’s the same target we’ve had for years. I’ve also announced exactly how we’re going to meet our emissions reduction target of 26 per cent out to 2030.

Bill Shorten can’t even tell you - and yesterday refused to tell you - how he will meet his 45 per cent emission reduction target. He can’t even tell you whether he plans to use the carry over credits from what we’ve already been able to achieve by exceeding our Kyoto commitments to date. Now, if you cannot tell Australians whether you’re going to use carry over commitments in carbon abatement, you do not have a policy. So Bill Shorten needs to come clean. How are you going to meet you targets Bill? How many jobs is it going to cost? Independent assessments already say that it’s going to cost wage earners $9,000 a year and hundreds of thousands of jobs. So he needs to come clean. How are you going to meet your reckless targets, Bill? You need to answer the question. I have, I did it over two weeks ago, I’m still waiting for your answer.

JOURNALIST: Is climate change a factor that you’re taking into account when you’re setting out your economic policy?

PRIME MINISTER: It always has been. I was Treasurer for three years, it has always been part of our settings, it has always been acknowledged in our policy settings. We’ve had the same target on emission reduction for years, for years it hasn’t changed and our polices to achieve our emissions reduction targets have been effective. Kyoto 1 of course was met. We had a 1.1 billion tonne turnaround to meet our 2020 targets when we came into office. We’ve had to turn it around by 1.1 billion tonnes from the deficit that was left to us by Labor, because their plans weren’t working. Our plans have worked and we will beat our Kyoto 2 targets by about 367 million tons. So we’ve demonstrated through our performance on emissions reductions. We set targets, we meet them. We’ve set a 2030 target and we’ve set out how we’re going to meet it.

Bill Shorten has a reckless target which will shut down industries, particularly in north Queensland and drive up power prices by over 50 per cent at wholesale levels. And he’s yet to tell Australians how he’s going to get there. So you know, it’s up to him, he’s got to be up front with Australians about the cost of his policies.

With what he said when it comes to wages, he needs to tell Australians; how many jobs is that going to cost? How many small businesses is it going to shut down? He’s saying to coffee shop owners and other small businesses all around the country; “Sack someone.” “Sack someone,” that’s his policy, that people should be sacked to achieve his policy.

I am for jobs and under our Government 1.27 million jobs were created already and another 1.25 million over the next five years. We’ve been the jobs Government, Bill Shorten wants to sacrifice jobs for his politics of envy.

Thanks very much.