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Transcript - 24456

Joint Doorstop Interview, Melbourne

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: 16/05/2015

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24456

Subject(s): East West Link

Location: Ringwood, Melbourne

MICHAEL SUKKAR MP:

Good morning.

Firstly, can I welcome and thank the Prime Minister for being here and also the State Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy, at Daisy’s Garden Supplies here in Ringwood and could I also thank the Mulcahy family for hosting us today.

We’re here to tell Labor that we need the East West Link and this is a relaunch of our "Just Build It" campaign that we launched some weeks ago trying to impress upon the state Labor Party that the people of the eastern suburbs of Melbourne need the East West Link and we had very, very good news in the Budget on Tuesday night that $3 billion will remain available to build the East West Link when a future state government chooses to do so.

So, thank you Prime Minister for ensuring that that $3 billion remains available. I can assure you that everybody in the eastern suburbs is absolutely crying out for the East West Link – so we had great news on Tuesday night.

Thank you so much. 

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks, Michael. I, too, would like to thank the Mulcahy family and everyone at Daisy’s Garden Supplies for making Michael Sukkar, the local Member and Matthew Guy, the State Opposition Leader welcome here this morning.

I’m a pretty regular visitor to Melbourne and this part of Melbourne, in particular. I’m often coming in from the airport to the city. Every Melbournian knows what it’s like to be stuck in traffic on Flemington Road, Alexandra Parade or Hoddle Street. Everyone knows the nightmare of the Eastern Freeway coming in and getting stuck at that t-intersection where Hoddle Street crosses the freeway. It’s just unacceptable in the 21st century. Melbourne isn’t a village, it’s a great international city – and that’s why it needs a proper roads system. It needs East West Link and it needs it as soon as possible.

In the Budget, we recommitted to spend $3 billion on East West Link with the first Victorian Government that is prepared to give it a go. We absolutely want this Link built as soon as possible because it is the fundamental missing link in Melbourne’s road network and it’s almost criminal that the Victorian state government is spending almost a billion dollars not to build the road that Melbourne needs.

Now, plainly, we are not going to dud Victoria, we want to see more economic activity in Victoria, we want to see more road building in Victoria, so we are continuing to talk with the Victorian Government about nationally significant major pieces of economic infrastructure, big road projects, here in Victoria and the Deputy Prime Minister was here in Melbourne yesterday to talk to the Victorian transport people about nationally significant road projects. But we really do need to get cracking.

We are prepared to look at this western project that the Victorian Government has suddenly come up with. We are prepared to look at that. The problem is that, first of all, there's no Victorian Government money in it and it's hardly a Victorian road project if there is no Victorian Government money. The other problem with it is that as far as we are aware, they want to slug motorists in the east to build a road in the west, and that's just not fair. It is just not fair to slug motorists in the east to build a truck road in the west.

So, we are very, very keen to get building here in Victoria. The Federal Government has money available to get building now. We just need the Victorian Government to give us a decent proposal and best of all to build the link, because plainly, that is the road that Melbourne needs above all else.

Matthew?

MATTHEW GUY:

Thanks, PM. Ladies and gentlemen, you are probably aware Melbourne is numerically the fastest-growing city in Australia, so it is quite astounding the Labor government here in Victoria are spending nearly a billion dollars not to build our most needed piece of road infrastructure.

In Victoria, the Liberal Party is very, very committed. We need a new port, new rail and a new road project for our city. You can get away with a city as fast growing as Melbourne and have no new infrastructure being built. Yet Melbourne will have fewer infrastructure projects on the go than Darwin and that is as a result of the Labor Party and their attitude to road funding here in Victoria.

When Labor says Liberals aren't committed to putting money into Victoria, let's put some facts out on the table. There is more than a billion dollars from the Federal Government negotiated with the previous Coalition government to build the biggest road project in Australia, and that is a commitment that was made by Liberal Governments and a commitment that Liberal State and Federal parties still have to this State.

We believe road, rail and port infrastructure for the city is so essential. To run away and play politics with infrastructure construction in Victoria as Daniel Andrews and Labor are doing is really very, very short-sighted and will leave this city a lot worse off.

I’ll just say in conclusion, Melbourne needs new infrastructure. To deny that the East West Link is an essential piece of our infrastructure armoury for the future is to stick your head in the sand when it comes to traffic problems in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Everyone who is on the Eastern Freeway, everyone on the Eastern Freeway in the morning knows that there is a traffic problem with that road. There is an issue with the ending of that road. To deny otherwise is to ignore reality and the only people who don't want to face up to reality are the Labor Party.

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok, do we have any questions?

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, the Coalition has jumped five points in the Galaxy poll since February – does that make an election likely?

PRIME MINISTER:

I might just deal with matters to do with East West Link first, and then if there are other issues we'll get on to them.

QUESTION:

Have you spoken to anyone from the state government in the past few days about the East West Link?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have had two meetings with Daniel Andrews about East West Link and I'm certainly looking forward to a further meeting Premier Andrews to talk about infrastructure in Victoria.

Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure was here in Victoria to talk to Victorian Government ministers about what specific projects they had in mind to try to get some more details about this western project, which the Victorians have put forward, which isn't actually a Victorian Government project, it's a private sector project which they want to fund with tolls on eastern Melbourne motorists to fund a western Melbourne road.

So, there's been an abundance of contact between the Commonwealth and the Victorian Government here, but all we have had in writing on the western project is a one-page letter from the premier with about four paragraphs on this western project. There's no cost benefit analysis. There's no detail. It's really just a thought bubble at this stage.

QUESTION:

Daniel Andrews seemed to be confused on Wednesday saying that Joe Hockey said one thing, you’d said another thing privately. So, will you expect the money to be paid back, that you’ve given to the East West Link or will Victoria be able to use that for the Western Distributor?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we want to spend money on nationally significant road projects in Victoria. We are absolutely committed to spending money on nationally significant road projects in Victoria, and we have got $3 billion that's available for East West Link. Now, if the Victorians come up with a decent proposal, the $1.5 billion that we gave them for East West Link could be used for that, but it's got to be a nationally significant project. It's got to be a project that has serious Victorian Government input and it can't be funded by slugging motorists in the east to build a road in the west. We want to be constructive. We want to be constructing. But the money can't just sit there idle while the Victorian Government plays politics.

QUESTION:

So when you say that they are slugging the drivers in the east – how will they be doing it for the west?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the proposal – as we understand it so far – is that this Western Distributor will not have any Victorian Government money. It will have tolls from eastern Melbourne motorists, from people living in the south and east of Melbourne, so east Melbourne tolls and the Federal Government will pay for a west Melbourne road – that doesn't seem very right.

QUESTION:

So you are saying money made from East Link and the Monash...

MATTHEW GUY:

Extending the toll on the Monash.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. 
 

QUESTION:

You say you are willing to put that 1.5 billion to a nationally significant road. Will you demand the government hand back the $1.5 billion until they prove that, until you are satisfied that it is a road you're happy with?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I can't make myself clearer – there will always be $3 billion available from the Commonwealth to the first Victorian Government that wants to build East West Link. We are so committed to East West Link that we gave Victoria $1.5 billion to actually get cracking. They decided – instead of getting on with East West Link – to cancel the project, sack hundreds of workers, forego 7,000 jobs and pay a billion dollars. That's what they decided to do. Now, they’ve still got our $1.5 billion. They can’t do nothing with it – they just can't do nothing with it. If they come up with something of national significance, a nationally significant road project, we are prepared to talk to them about using that money. But they can't keep money and do nothing with it. It's just utterly wrong to keep money that was given to them for the East West Link and use it for nothing.

QUESTION:

Is an election more likely now that things are looking better?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, we were elected to get on with governing and that's what we are doing. This week we brought down a Budget. It's a Budget which is focused on jobs, growth and opportunity. It's a Budget which was measured, responsible and fair. There is a credible path back to surplus but there is also good news for small business and for families.

Now, obviously here at Daisy's Garden Supplies you’ve got lots of tradies coming in every day and the great news for the tradies of Australia is that they can go out and buy a new ute or do anything else up to $20,000 for their business and there is an instant asset write-off. So, I say that this is one for the tradies, this Budget. It's one for the tradies of Australia, and I think it's going to be very good for our country, very good for the people of Australia who want to have a go.

QUESTION:

You visited Western Sydney and now you’re in Ringwood this morning. Are you making a point of going to marginal electorates?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm making a point of getting around the country. I'll actually be in Western Australia later today. I'll be in north Queensland tomorrow. I'm going to be right around the country explaining to the people of Australia the benefits of this week's Budget. It's going to be very good for small business. It's the best budget ever for small business. It's going to be good for families. The only one who doesn't like the Budget is Bill Shorten, and Bill Shorten can’t decide why he doesn't like it. He just can't decide what he wants. Basically, Bill Shorten has become an advocate of magic pudding economics and we deserve better from the alternative prime minister.

QUESTION:

We have been told that the US has no plans to send the B1 bombers here. What is your understanding of their intentions for Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have a very strong security relationship with the United States, and as part of our security relationship with the United States during the life of the former government the US, with the strong support of our country and the complete cooperation of our country, decided that they wanted to re-pivot to the Asia-Pacific, or the Indo-Pacific region. Part of that is rotating a marine brigade through Darwin. Part of that will also involve ships and planes rotating through northern Australia. This is a very important part of the alliance relationship between the United States and China, but the point I make about the Australia-American alliance is that it is an alliance for peace, for progress, for stability, for justice. It's not directed against anyone. It is designed to produce the regional stability, to continue the regional stability, which has been so good for every country in our region, including China, and has been so important for the prosperity of the wider world.

QUESTION:

On the Galaxy poll, Prime Minister, are you happy on how the Budget was received?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it's been a very good Budget for Australia and I think the Australian people feel much more optimistic and much more confident today than they have recently, because they know that they have got a Government that's on their side, they know that they have got a Government which is serious about helping small business, about helping families. The Jobs for Families package, which we announced as part of the Budget, is going to mean that low and middle income families in the child care system will be better off to the tune of about $1500 a year. So, it's good for jobs, good for families, good for small business, and that's good for Australia.

QUESTION:

Do you expect to have the same problems getting the Budget through the Senate like last time?

PRIME MINISTER:

I never expect that the passage of any legislation through the Senate will be easy, but if the Labor Party and the crossbench in the Senate are fair dinkum about jobs and they’re fair dinkum about families they will pass this Budget. Yes, there are some savings measures associated with this Budget, but everyone should realise by now that in the end everything has got to be paid for. We can't just put everything on the national credit card. This Budget does have good news for small business and good news for families and at the same time, we have got a credible path back to surplus. Every year the deficit drops by about half a per cent of the GDP and that's the responsible and the fair thing to do.

QUESTION:

With Labor and the Greens both opposing your changes to the paid parental leave scheme and only a couple of crossbenchers indicating their support, are you confident you'll be able to get that through the Senate?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, again, let's look at what's fair. That’s the point: let’s look at what’s fair. As far as the Government is concerned, we want everyone to have access to a decent minimum of paid parental leave. We guarantee access to 18 weeks at the minimum wage. If you don't get that from your employer, the Government will provide it. If you get less than that from your employer, the Government will make it up to you. If you get more than that from your employer – well, fair enough, that's good, that's a very responsible employer who is doing this, and you don't need the Government's safety net. And my problem with the Labor Party's position is that they are essentially saying that Commonwealth public servants should get two lots of paid parental leave from the taxpayer. Now, how is that fair? How is it fair that Commonwealth public servants should be getting two lots of paid parental leave from the taxpayer when the families of Australia are telling us that their priority right now is more child care? That's the priority right now. It's more child care. That's what we want to provide: more flexible, more affordable, more accessible, simpler child care and, yet again, the Labor Party says they support the spending, but they don't support the saving to make it happen.

So, yet again, we have got the Labor Party and Mr Shorten, it never adds up with the Labor Party. It's magic pudding economics – yesterday, today, forever; the same sort of hopeless chaos that we saw from Labor when they were in government.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript - 24456