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Transcript - 24367

Interview with Brett McLeod, Radio 3AW

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/04/2015

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24367

Subject(s): Victorian Government’s decision to spend at least $640 million of taxpayers’ money not to build a road

BRETT McLEOD:

Joining us now, Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Brett, good to be with you.

BRETT McLEOD:

Now, where abouts are you at the moment? You’re in Melbourne?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I am, and I was earlier on Hoddle Street and before that on Alexandra Parade and these are obviously streets which are clogged. Inner Melbourne is choking on its own traffic. The East West Link would have fixed all of this. It is an absolutely essential piece of infrastructure for Melbourne, for Victoria and for Australia and I am absolutely dismayed that the Victorian Government is now spending at least $600 million not to build this vital piece of infrastructure. It’s a $600 million waste of unbelievable proportions and it is an absolute jobs carnage as a result of this and I am just staggered at the short-sightedness, the wrong-headedness of the Victorian Government on this.

BRETT McLEOD:

I’ll ask you the last question I asked Daniel Andrews to get your response: what do you think this does to Victoria’s reputation – and we’ll get to the Metro Rail tunnel, they’re talking about a massive new infrastructure project – what do you think this does for particularly overseas investors looking into Victoria now?

PRIME MINISTER:

It means that the Victorian Government doesn’t honour contracts – simple as that. This was a signed contract. It was a signed contract to do something that Melbourne and Victoria and Australia absolutely need, for a project that will have to be built sooner or later and the contract has effectively been ripped up. Now, it sends a terrible signal and it means that any future deal with this Victorian Government will have a whole lot of added cost built into it because the contractors will be worried that at some point in time the Victorian Government will get cold feet and tear the whole thing up.

BRETT McLEOD:

Well there is a massive new project being announced as we speak, although the Premier did give us a preview of it, that’s the Metro rail tunnel. Estimated cost, $10 to $11 billion; estimated start date, 2018…

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s right, 2018. 2018. Three years of nothing – three years of nothing at a time when the Ford factory will be closing down, Toyota and Holden will be closing down. There were 7,000 jobs that would have been created now, or certainly well before 2018, by East West Link and they’re not happening because this Victorian Government has put its alliance with the Greens ahead of common sense.

BRETT McLEOD:

There’s also the issue of federal government money – the money that had been committed to the East West Link – $3 billion. One and a half billion had already been sent this way. What happens to that now? Daniel Andrews said he spoke to you yesterday, he called it a constructive conversation, but does that mean Victoria gets to keep the $1.5 billion already committed?

PRIME MINISTER:

Three billion dollars will be in a locked box as far as this national Government is concerned to be made available to the first Victorian government that wants to build the East West Link. So, that $3 billion Commonwealth commitment stands and as soon as a Victorian government wants to build the East West Link, that money is there for them.

Now, we did give the former Victorian government a $1.5 billion advance towards the East West Link. That money is not to be used for other projects. It just isn’t to be used for other projects. Now, there’s nothing to stop the Victorian Government coming to us with suggestions for what they think are nationally significant projects and we’re happy to talk constructively with them because we’re not going to dud Victoria, but the Andrews Government – this Labor Government – has already duded Victoria by refusing to go ahead with the East West Link and by tearing up a signed sealed and delivered contract.

BRETT McLEOD:

So, are you saying that the Government here can’t assume that $1.5 billion will be going into the metro rail tunnel?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, absolutely not – absolutely not. We do not fund urban rail projects; we fund roads of national significance and we fund nationally significant freight rail projects but we don’t fund commuter rail. Yes, there is the asset recycling fund and if the Victorian Government wants to privatise something and put the proceeds into this rail project fair enough – fair enough. But the $1.5 billion that they have got for the East West Link cannot now be simply diverted to the rail project. The fundamental point I make, Brett, is the rail project won’t start for three years – at best! So, it is three years of nothing. There’s a very serious employment issue in Victoria with major manufacturing reorganising itself. There is a shake-up in manufacturing in Victoria. We need jobs – we need jobs to make up for job losses in manufacturing. There would have been 7,000 jobs in East West Link. That is why this is such a disaster for Victoria – it really is. It is $600 million, at least, down the gurgler, all future projects will cost more, jobs have been destroyed, future jobs will not be created – this is a disaster. An absolute disaster because it is also a broken promise too. Sure they promised that they wouldn’t go ahead with East West Link but they also promised no compensation. So, in order to avoid breaking one promise they have broken another promise and frankly they would have been much better off simply going ahead with the signed, sealed and delivered contract.

BRETT McLEOD:

Now, just to clarify, on the metro rail tunnel it sounds like what you’re saying not only is the $1.5 billion not available for the metro rail tunnel – you are saying no federal government money for the metro rail tunnel?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, under asset recycling if they want to sell something and put some of the proceeds into the metro rail that is fair enough, that’s fair enough, but the $1.5 billion that we gave for East West Link is there for East West Link – full stop, end of story. And there is $3 billion, including that 1.5, that will be available for any Victorian government that wants to build East West Link, because East West Link is an absolutely essential project for Melbourne. I’ve been stuck in traffic in Hoddle Street and Flemington Road and Alexandra Parade time and time again. Every day about 100,000 motorists are stuck in traffic for 20 minutes or more on these streets and I say every day those motorists stuck in traffic jams, those truck drivers stuck in traffic jams, know who to blame – the Andrews Labor government, which was more interested in Green preferences than it was in the long term future of Melbourne.

BRETT McLEOD:

I know you’ve got to go because you’ve got a lot of premiers to meet, in fact all the state premiers to meet. Do you think you’re going to sort out the issue with COAG and who gets what out of the GST revenue because it seems like WA is willing to do everything except secede, or maybe even including secede?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m disappointed that the state premiers aren’t prepared to sit down like grown-up adult heads of government and work out a solution which is fair to Western Australia, because obviously it doesn’t seem reasonable that Western Australia at a time of collapsing iron ore royalties should only be getting back 30 per cent of the money that it puts into the GST pool. So, I can understand why Western Australia feels badly ripped off, but this is a tax which is raised for the states, to be spent by the states. Collectively it’s owned by the states and that’s why collectively the states should solve this problem.

BRETT McLEOD:

But do you think the other states should yield to Western Australia’s demand?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think the other states should sit down with Western Australia and negotiate something which is fair to everyone and plainly, any state – Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania – any of them that was only getting back 30 per cent of the money they put in would be screaming blue bloody murder. They really would. So, I think there should be a bit of sympathy and understanding for Colin Barnett and I think that the state premiers should do for Western Australia what they would demand for themselves were they in the same position. That’s to say come up with a sensible redistribution of this money.

BRETT McLEOD:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks so much.

[ends]

Transcript - 24367