Photo: AAP Image/Stefan Postles
CHRIS CREWTHER MP: I’m Chris Crewther, the Federal Member for Dunkley. I’m here at the intersection of Greenwood Drive and Ballarto Road with the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister Alan Tudge and the Mayor of Frankston City Council, Councillor Michael O’Reilly. I’m very pleased to be here today with the Prime Minister and the Minister to announce $30 million for intersection upgrades along Ballarto Road, including Greenwood Drive, Dion Drive, Potts Road and elsewhere. Since Carrum Downs, Skye and Sandhurst all came into my electorate, residents have raised with me on a continual basis how hard it is to get in and out of residential streets, particularly during peak hour times. Skye CFA have also raised the issue of just getting onto Ballarto Road to fight fires and that can be very difficult at peak times. So this will resolve intersections along the road, it will mean families can spend more time at home, it means safer roads and it means quicker response times for the Skye CFA along this road.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Well thank you very much Chris and to Alan and to Michael, thank you for being here with us today. Can I first of all congratulate you Chris. I mean, we can’t go and make these congestion-busting investments unless we have the people on the ground who know what they’re talking about and are in touch with their local communities. So the way the congestion-busting fund works is that Alan as the Minister for congestion busting, works with the local members to identify what those key priorities are. It can be as frustrating trying to get onto these key corridors, as it can sometimes be being on them. The congestion-busting fund, whether it’s here in Victoria or up in south east Queensland where I was last week, are all about doing two important things; getting families together at night, ensuring that parents can get home more readily and more safely and they can spend time together as a family. Secondly, it’s about ensuring that people running small businesses, tradies and others - and those that we’ve just heard from, the Skye CFA who I just met with just before coming here - can get to where they need to get to quickly and safely as well, to do the job. If you’re a tradie, you don’t get paid for sitting in a traffic jam or trying to get onto a road, you get paid for being on site. What this congestion-busting fund is delivering is exactly that.
$30 million here for Ballarto Road to do the upgrades, but also $50 million for two projects. $50 million for the Calder Corridor which I’ll ask Alan to speak to, and the Hume Corridor. These other important parts of the road network here that will enable people to be able to get home sooner, get home safer, to where they need to be.
So Alan, thanks again for the great planning work you’ve done. You’re linking all of these great projects together and it’s a great way to ensure that this urban congestion fund iS delivering exactly what it was designed to do when I handed down the Budget in May. Thanks Alan.
THE HON ALAN TUDGE MP, MINISTER FOR CITIES, URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE AND POPULATION: Well thanks very much, Prime Minister and Chris. We’ve got $20 billion worth of infrastructure projects being delivered here in Victoria. That included $7.8 billion just at the last Budget. Most of that money is going towards the big corridors, the big rail, the big road projects, such as $5 billion for the airport rail. Half a million dollars to upgrade the Monash. $225 million to electrify the line from Frankston to Baxter, which Chris has so strongly supported and many other projects. This urban congestion fund project is actually aimed at those small pinch points where, as the Prime Minister says, sometimes you spend as much time getting held up in traffic in those pinch points as you do being held up in traffic on the major corridors such as the Monash Freeway.
Today we’re announcing four projects. We’ve heard a little bit about Ballarto Road from Chris, $30 million going in there. We’re also funding two $50 million projects. The Calder Freeway, which is already heavily congested, particularly on the inbound traffic and there, we’re going to be investing money in order to improve the capacity from Gap Road all the way down to the Ring Road which is the most congested area. We estimate, the forecasts are, for the traffic to increase by 3,000 cars per hour to about 4,000 cars per hour during peak hour. If we don’t do anything, the traffic will slow by almost half. So we’re investing there to improve the traffic flow.
Then on the Hume Freeway - and everyone knows the Hume Freeway, it’s a massive corridor between here and Sydney - it’s particularly congested in the last section before you hit the Ring Road. So, another $50 million investment there to increase the capacity of that and that will complement some of the other work which we already have going on with the State Government at the intersection of O’Hearns Road and the Hume Freeway. Then this afternoon we’ll be announcing smaller projects with Kevin Andrews and that’s just a small corridor there of $10 million.
Together, these projects will really make a practical difference to the lives of Melburnians. I’m born and bred Melbourne; I know the congestion of this city. We need to be investing and we are investing and what these local projects are about, is getting people home sooner and safer.
MICHAEL O’REILLY, MAYOR OF FRANKSTON: I’ll just be very brief. First of all I’ll just thank the Prime Minister, our local member Chris Crewther and Minister Tudge for coming out today. The one thing I get as Mayor of Frankston is complaints about the traffic congestion here in Carrum Downs. There are only a few exits onto Ballarto Road and as you can see, it’s the middle of the day and we have already traffic going up and down in an extremely busy state. When this gets to rush hour, people are sitting in their cars, coming out of the intersections, constantly. So this is an amazing thing for not only Frankston City but for the people of Carrum Downs. So I thank everyone for their contribution.
PRIME MINISTER: So we’re listening and we’re doing. It’s a big priority for our Government; congestion-busting in growing cities all around the country. Let’s take some questions on the announcement today and then I’m happy to address other issues as well.
JOURNALIST: The state government says; “Thanks for this and now can we have $3 billion for the East-West Link”. Are you going to hand that over?
PRIME MINISTER: Well that currently is part of a contingency which is in the Budget and is still there, there's a Budget in April this year.
JOURNALIST: Are you able to elaborate a little bit more on exactly what upgrades are going to take place here at Ballarto Road? Is it widening, is it adding some lanes, duplicating?
PRIME MINISTER: I’d be happy for Chris to answer, explaining the details of the project.
CHRIS CREWTHER MP: So in a number of different intersections along this road, we are looking to upgrade those intersections so people can get in and out of the residential streets easier. So for example, they include lights, they include lanes so that people can actually merge with the traffic instead of sitting perpendicular with the intersection and it may include other upgrades as well to reduce that congestion. At Potts Road for example it will include lights and then the option to press a buzzer so the CFA can actually control those lights and get out to fires when they need to do that. But importantly, there are many roads along here that intersect such as Greenwood, Dion Drive, Potts Road and other intersections. We are looking to upgrade as many of those intersections as possible so people can spend more time at home with their families.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] you’ve asked the Premier to match this funding but he says he found out about it when he read it in the newspaper. Is that correct?
PRIME MINISTER: We welcome their investment in the project and we’ll work closely together with the Victorian Government. We work closely with them on a whole range of projects and I’m looking forward to working with Premier Andrews and that’s why I sent him a note after his recent re-election saying just that.
JOURNALIST: Are you meeting with him during your time in Melbourne?
PRIME MINISTER: Not today, but we catch up. I saw him just the other day actually when I was down here for the Anniversary of the Black Saturday Fires.
JOURNALIST: But a face to face meeting?
PRIME MINISTER: I don’t have one planned today, no.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, so you expect in the Budget there will be some announcement around the $3 billion?
PRIME MINISTER: I just said the Budget is in April, that’s all I said. There’s currently a contingency, that provision sits in the Budget currently on this and we’ll be looking at that. That’s there for the East West Link. That’s what it’s there for.
PRIME MINISTER: It’s a contingent liability, it’s there in the event that it’s triggered by a state government wanting to do that project, then there is the contingent commitment that we’ve made and that’s how it sits on the books.
JOURNALIST: Hakeem al-Araibi and Thailand, have you managed to speak on the phone to your Thai counterpart?
PRIME MINISTER: I have written two letters now to the Thai Prime Minister and our consular officials and others have been using every opportunity they have, to press the case to bring Hakeem home. We’ve also been pressing that case with the Government of Bahrain as well.
I’d simply say this; it is within the executive authority of the Thai Government to actually enable him, under their law, to be returned to Australia. I have pointed this out in the engagements I have had with the Thai Prime Minister and what I have also stressed is that the Australian people and the Thai people have a wonderful people-to-people relationship. I have stressed just how strongly Australians feel about this and I would be very disappointed if as a result of how this matter has handled, that the relationship between us the Thai and Australian people were affected. I would be very disappointed about that. So I have appealed to the Prime Minister to take that into account. They do have the authority to use those executive controls for him to come home. So we’re going to continue to work patiently and respectfully to secure that outcome.
JOURNALIST: Labor is calling on Tim Wilson to resign over a conflict of interest. Do you think he has a conflict of interest?
PRIME MINISTER: So the Labor Party aren't content with arrogantly dismissing thousands upon thousands, hundreds of thousands of retirees around our country who they basically want to steal money from with higher taxes. Now they’re going to throw mud at the person who is giving those retirees a voice? Labor frankly have no shame when it comes to this issue. They don’t want to listen to retirees, they have arrogantly dismissed them and now they want to shut down people who are trying to give retirees a voice.
This is classic Labor, classic thuggish Labor, throwing mud wherever they can because they do not want to face up to the fact that they’re putting a $5 billion a year tax on the retirees. It’s egregious. These people have paid taxes all their lives and what does Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten say to them? They haven’t paid any tax. I mean seriously, how offensive is that? So look, they’ll throw mud, they’ll treat retirees with disrespect. But I tell you what; those retirees will be remembering Bill Shorten when they go into those ballot boxes.
JOURNALIST: So you won’t be sacking Tim Wilson?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
JOURNALIST: It’s $160,000 in taxpayers money, is it right to be politicising a parliamentary committee?
PRIME MINISTER: I think it is great that retirees all around the country have got a voice and they can bring forward their concerns in this forum. I mean, that’s what the Parliament is supposed to be about; giving Australians a voice. Bill Shorten wants to shut them down, arrogantly dismiss them and take their money. No wonder they’re upset.
JOURNALIST: On the Royal Commission Prime Minister, why would the Government continue grandfathering [inaudible]?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I note that the Labor Party is yet to fully respond to the Royal Commission. The Government has provided a full response, we did that when we released the Royal Commission Report on Monday. The Labor Party is still using words like “in principle” and all the rest of it, so I don’t know what their response is at this time. I’ll wait to see what their full response is, when they get around to providing it.
But what I do know is that we are acting on all 76 recommendations and we’re going to do it carefully and we’re going to do it in a considered way. I’ve been a Treasurer and when you’re preparing legislation and making big changes in the financial system, you do it carefully, because otherwise, you can put the system at risk. So Bill Shorten might want to cobble together legislation and throw it around in the Parliament, that may have been how he ran things when he was the Financial Services Minister and did nothing about Storm Financial and all the other financial collapses. He didn’t call a Royal Commission, he didn’t do anything. So now, we will wait for him to give his response. But as a Government, we’ll be taking action on this for years, we will continue to take action and we’ll continue to take action on the 76 recommendations of the report.
JOURNALIST: On the Phelps bill, is it fair to say that any two doctors can sign off on an asylum seeker coming to Australia and the only way it can be rejected is if a Minister decides it’s on national security grounds?
PRIME MINISTER: What the Phelps inspired bill does is contract border protection away from the government to any two doctors. It can be any two doctors. No one has been pre-approved, it could be no one who has any sense or understanding of what the security issues are at risk. There is insufficient provisions in that bill to do any proper security assessments. But worse than that, it doesn’t provide for the usual arrangements which would enable us to reject someone coming to Australia because they have a criminal history. They may be a paedophile, they may be a rapist, they may be a murderer and this bill would mean that we would just have to take them.
So this is what will happen. If Bill Shorten does not put national security ahead of his own political opportunism, hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of single males - because there are no kids on Nauru as you know, I made that clear on Sunday, the last four are on their way to the United States - hundreds of them will have to be transferred to Australia at the directive of doctors, not the Government. This will mean we will have to reopen detention centres that we closed, like Christmas Island. We shut Christmas Island. This will cost a serious amount of money on the Australian taxpayer and it’ll undermine the successful border protection framework that has stopped the boats and ensured the integrity of our borders for the last five and a half years.
So I said to Bill Shorten last night; if you break it, you own it. And I would implore him to step back and put national interest and national security ahead of what is just flagrant political opportunism.
JOURNALIST: If you lose that vote, will that be a trigger for an election?
PRIME MINISTER: No, of course not. Why would it be?
JOURNALIST: Is it actually going to get to a vote in the next two weeks, the next two sitting weeks?
PRIME MINISTER: Well that’s how it’s scheduled, yeah.
JOURNALIST: Will you try and delay it?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
JOURNALIST: Has Cathy McGowan given you an assurance she won’t vote for the Kerryn Phelps bill?
PRIME MINISTER: Cathy is still considering her position, but let me be clear, this isn’t about Cathy McGowan. This is about Bill Shorten. This bill passes if Bill Shorten votes for it. So the border protection framework which has been so successful, which I was the architect of, if Bill Shorten wants to tear it down, he will instruct his party to vote for this bill coming back from the Senate.
So it’s on you, Bill. Here’s the test. Whichever way it goes, we will have passed the test, because we have stood up for having the right border protection framework in Australia. As for Bill Shorten, who knows what he believes?
JOURNALIST: On the banks, they had their best day on the share market in a long time yesterday. It is a sign that the Royal Commission was a bit soft on them?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I think what it showed was that Commissioner Hayne has done a very sound and responsible job. I think he has managed the issues in a very appropriate way. I think it’s a very well-considered report and it provides a lot of action for us to now follow through on, which we are doing. But equally, he has been able to do it in a way which has minimised disruptions to the financial system which has always been a key issue. We had seen as a result of the Commission a tightening in credit around the country which has had an economic impact which Australians full well know. That’s why we have to continue to manage this issue very carefully.
We will take the action that is necessary, we will do it in a responsible and measured way as the Treasurer has been indicating and illustrating. The financial system is in a safe pair of hands in terms of ensuring that it continues to perform the vital role it does in the Australian economy and the Labor Party will just frankly play politics with it. Remember, the financial system is where you get your mortgage, it’s where you get your loans, it’s how you finance your car, it’s how you run your business, it’s what your job depends on. So you don’t go around just playing around with this sort of thing. You’ve got to be very careful and considered in how you do these things and that’s exactly what the Government has done. My voice is starting to give way, so...
JOURNALIST: Are you sick a bit?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh well I’ve been up in Townsville, I’ve been down in Hobart, we’ve been travelling a lot and I’ve met thousands upon thousands of people, literally, wishing them all a happy Chinese New Year as well so you’re bound to pick up a bug here or there.
JOURNALIST: Huang Xiangmo, do you think he’ll ever be allowed back into Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: Well look, you wouldn’t expect me to comment on those issues. They’re sensitive matters. The Government has always acted consistent with the advice that we receive and that’s what has happened on this occasion.
JOURNALIST: With the money he has donated to the major parties, should it be returned?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, from the first of January this year, the bill that we put to the Parliament to outlaw foreign donations - so the Liberal Party and the National Party, that was our initiative - that came into effect on the first of January this year and we’re fully compliant with it.
We’ve introduced the law to ban foreign donations. That’s what we did, that’s the action we took. In relation to past donations, well the actions we’ve been taking in relation to this gentleman, that’s based on information that exists today. I’m not in a position to say what the position was several years ago. So where these things have happened in good faith - and we know that donations have been made to many political parties, not just one - then we have prospective laws that deal with that into the future and I think that’s the responsible way to deal with it.
JOURNALIST: Just on climate change, the Climate Council has released a report today talking about Australia’s extreme weather. What are you doing about climate change?
PRIME MINISTER: We’re going to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030 through our Emissions Reductions Fund and the many other measures that we have. We’re meeting our targets, that’s what we’re doing. We’ve set our targets, we’re meeting them. We hit Kyoto 1, we’re going to smash Kyoto 2 and we’ll meet 2030 in a canter with the measures we’ll have in place to achieve that.
So I think Australians expect their Government to take action on climate change and we are, but what we won’t do it this; we won’t put a 45 per cent target on the Australian economy that will shut down industries, that will shut down jobs. That’s what the Labor Party wants to do. It’s bad enough that they want to put $200 billion of higher taxes on Australians all around the country. A deadweight on the Australian economy, as we go into some difficult times. They want to make matters worse with a reckless target that will shut down jobs all across Australia. We won’t be doing that, we have a responsible target and we have the programs to meet them. Thanks very much.