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Transcript 15914

Joint Press Conference with the Treasurer and Premier of Queensland Gateway upgrade Project Site, Brisbane

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/05/2008

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 15914

BLIGH: Well I welcome the Prime Minister and the Treasurer here today to see the largest bridge project being built in the country. This is the sort of infrastructure that Queensland needs, this is the sort of project that we need the Federal Government to be a part of if we are going to truly build this State and truly build this country.

I'm very pleased to see them here so soon after the budget, they've got funds that they are looking for a home for and we've got ideas for them. So I'm very pleased to see that they have a sense of urgency about getting projects like this built as quickly as possible.

This project will 20 mins off the average trip time for people travelling to the airport, it will make a massive difference to congestion in and around our airport. This is a congestion busting project, that state governments spending close to $2 billion to make it a reality.

This is the sort of project that would happen much quicker and make a bigger difference sooner if we have a Federal Government like we do now, that want's to build things in this country. So welcome to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, we look forward to working with them to make more of these projects a reality here in Queensland.

PM: Thank you Premier and it's good to be here with the Premier of Queensland and with the Treasurer Wayne Swan, with Kerry Rea, Federal Member for Bonner and with Warren the Minister. And it's good to be back in Brissie for both of us.

We are proud of the fact that we've introduced a nation building budget and the engine room of the budget is infrastructure and we have committed for the time for the Australian National Government a $20 billion Building Australia Fund.

The purpose of that fund is to provide the National Government with the financial horsepower to partner with States and Territories and the private sector in building economic infrastructure of national importance. Our roads, our ports, our rail, our broadband infrastructure and beyond those funds we've also brought into being an $11 billion fund for the future investment in our Tafe's and in our Universities and a $10 billion fund for the future investment in our health and hospital system.

Today we're here at this important project, at the gateway arterial to look at how we can assist with this project going forward. The State Government has done the work so far, this is nearly a $2 billion project including the doubling of the gateway bridge. But as we look at this project if we are going to actually do something about urban congestion, we've got to make sure that this particular roadway has all the missing links dealt with.

Now right now there's a missing link to the north which goes for about 12 kilometres where we are still going to end up with a bottleneck and to the south as well for about 4 kilometres down in the vicinity of (inaudible).

These are the sort of projects which need to be worked on conjointly between the National and the State Governments. As a first step on these two missing links what we've done in the budget is bring forward $10 million to assist in planning work on those two missing links.

Secondly through AUSLINK the national road funding program. As of the 09-10 period we'll be bringing in $195 million to participate in pre construction work on those two missing links. And thirdly on the key element on the overall construction cost of constructing those missing links, that's precisely the sort of project which will be put before infrastructure Australia for analysis in terms of whether it fits the cost benefit analysis and the rigorous criteria that we'll be setting nationally for co funding from the Building Australia fund.

We believe passionately in nation building. I think the people of Australia and the people of Queensland are sick and tired of one level of Government blaming the other for urban congestion and problems with infrastructure. They are sick and tired of excuses. They'd start to like to see some answers. The Building Australia fund is about delivering those answers and we can do so in partnership and cooperation with State Governments, rather than perpetuating the politics of the blame game. Wayne

SWAN: Thanks very much Prime Minister. A modern economy requires modern infrastructure. And as a local what happens on this road everyday saps growth in the economy, it's a drag on productivity. Our Building Australia Fund will be the key to the modernisation of the Australian economy for the long term. Investment that's been denied, vital infrastructure such as this here is now going to flow from the Building Australia fund. This is indeed a nation building project and we need many more. And that's why this weeks budget was so important.

PM: Ok, over to you folks?

JOURNALIST: Premier how much money do you need from the Federal Government for these missing links?

BLIGH: The total costs of these missing links is between $2 and $3 billion so they are very big projects. We need to finish this project and what I'm very pleased about today is that the $10 million in this weeks budget from the Federal Government starts to accelerate the process of getting those missing links to become a reality.

So this planning, you cant build a road like this and fix these missing links without the first step - that's the planning money. The decision this week by the Federal Government to bring forward that planning money is the first step to these missing links. They're very big and expensive projects but that's why this Building Australia Fund is something that I as Premier am determined to get Queensland's fair share of.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) how much?

BLIGH: We'll be looking for as much as we can. Obviously the Prime Minister and Treasurer have established a fund that all states will be putting forward projects to. The States will have to indicate their priorities and they will also have to indicate where they will co-fund projects.

This is a process that we'll be part of but I am very pleased today to see that this planning money accelerates the prospect of these missing links becoming a reality.

PM: If I could add to what the Premier has said. This is a Building Australia for all Australia. Secondly we've said that in future budget surpluses we would draw on those surpluses to add to this fund. If you look at some of the data provided by for example the committee for economic development of Australia, a private body.

In terms of the infrastructure backlog in this country, it extends to tens and tens and tens of billions of dollars. It's time to turn the corner. But we'll be looking at projects to how you enhance the response to urban congestions in Sydney and Melbourne, dealing with traffic problems in Adelaide and in Perth. But also in regional Australia as well, where there are challenges.

The criteria that we've set up for handling these projects is one: State, Territories, the private sector may come forward with proposals. Two: we'll consider them of course at the level of the Commonwealth Government. Three: they will also then be considered by infrastructure Australia the body that's been set up by Sir Rod Eddington and four: it will then be examined by the loans council and five back to the Commonwealth Government for process.

This is a rigorous way of assessing the cost benefit analysis of each project. Look at projects like this, it's vital to the nations transport artery, but it's still got to go through the hoops.

JOURNALIST: So the Gold Coast will be able to share in this urban congestion money as well?

PM: Well we have said quite clearly in the Budget process that we'll invite submissions from across the country on infrastructure projects of national economic significance. That's the criteria and it's got to meet costs benefit analysis, that is what State Governments would be doing normally. What lies beyond the powers of State Governments to do. What's local Governments would be doing normally, what lies beyond their powers to do.

What normally could be funded exclusively or partially by the private sector. But taking all those factors into account what then is a productive funding role for the Federal Government. We need to have rigorous criteria to assess each project against. That's the process we've established. But it all would add up to nothing unless we are putting money on the table - $20 billion is a lot of money to put on the table, that's what we have begun.

No previous Australian Government has done so, in fact those opposing us in the National Parliament at the moment have ridiculed the idea.

JOURNALIST: Speaking of those opposing you, what do you make of Dr Nelson's idea last night (inaudible) Fuel excise?

PM: Can I say what Dr Nelson and Mr Turnbull have done is conduct a $22 billion raid on the surplus. Which means upward pressure on inflation and upward pressure on interest rates. There one other thing as well, today stunningly in a radio interview Dr Nelson has said that he put together the Budget reply last night without subjecting it to costings. In other words that what he put forward last night had not been costed.

This is an essential requirement of National political leadership. When you are putting forward an alternative budget, you've got to cost it. You cant just hope one day that it might all add up. This is economic irresponsibility 101 to put forward an alternative budget for the nation and then within 12 hours admit to the nation that you haven't costed it. I am stunned by what he said today.

JOURNALIST: But what about the idea of a reduction of 5 cents a litre. That would help motorists would it not?

PM: If you look at the overall impact on working families from what we have done on the tax changes which have been brought in. The total impact of those tax changes, some $46 billion.

Secondly the education tax refund. Thirdly the increase in the child care tax rebate from 30 to 50 per cent together with other measures which have been introduced for pensioners and carers.

These are all significant additions to the family budget. Therefore we believe that's the responsible way to go. What Dr Nelson has done instead is say I'm about to on behalf of the Liberal party trash the Liberal parties economic credibility by raiding the surplus to the tune of $22 billion - all in the cause of economic populism.

JOURNALIST: So your ruling it out?

PM: We think that the measures that we have introduced in this budget are right for providing support for working families and If you put together what's contained in the tax cuts, what's contained in the increase in child care tax rebate, what's contained in the education tax refund and other measures including our specific proposals on housing affordability, these represent significant additional dollars each for working families.

JOURNALIST: Can you see how (inaudible) be popular in the community, something like this?

PM: Well, can I say, what is the challenge in the community is first and foremost, to put downward pressure on inflation so you put downward pressure on interest rates. And delivering a $22 billion raid on the surplus, let me tell you, that puts upward pressure on inflation and upward pressure on interest rates.

JOURNALIST: We're not far from the Pine River here. Apparently Mark Latham says you were fond of telling people you could hear the banjo music playing north of there?

PM: I don't even know the reference to what he's talking about.

JOURNALIST: You've never said that to anybody?

PM: I don't even know the reference that you are referring to.

JOURNALIST: Have you ever said that there is banjo music playing north of the Pine River?

PM: I don't even understand the reference.

JOURNALIST: Just further on the Budget, then there is nothing really in there though for single pensioners, is there. Which a parliamentary committee found (inaudible)

PM: Sorry, I lost you in the traffic noise. Say again?

JOURNALIST: In terms of single pensioners, there is not much in the Budget for them. The Parliamentary committee found that they can't afford to buy meat and go to bed early because they can't afford the electricity. I mean, that -

PM: On the payments to pensioners, of course we have a pensioners bonus. We have a new utilities allowance which increases from $117 a year to $500 a year in one hit. We've also sought to increase the telephone allowance for pensioners as well. That goes up to $117 a year, (inaudible) to assist pensioners with internet connections.

These are important measures. Also in the aged pension itself, we've adjusted the calculation basis to make sure that it's calculated in the future against the most beneficial of the three indicators which exist for calculating the pension from.

I understand that this will not be regarded as enough by many. I understand that fully. And that's also why the questions of retirement income will be considered also by the Henry Commission of Inquiry into tax, income support and retirement income, which now works.

I also note, in passing, in reference to the Budget reply last night, that on the question of income support in these categories, that Dr Nelson said that he'd be seeking to use our commission of inquiry to deliver an outcome for carers. I find it interesting that on the one hand, Dr Nelson would criticise us over having a comprehensive, a most comprehensive, look at the tax and income support system in decades, and on the other hand, say that he'll rely on precisely that review mechanism to reach a conclusion as to what further support should be delivered to carers in the future.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to pensioners who (inaudible) can't put food on the table now (inaudible)

PM: Cost of living pressures are really tough, they're really difficult, and that's one of the reasons why this Budget, for the first time, increases the annual utilities allowance to pensioners from a hundred and I think seventeen dollars a week up to $500 a week, that is a significant increase, sorry a year. Therefore, we understand that pensioners are under financial pressure.

The key challenge is this. Against that which was committed by the previous Government five months ago for pensioners and carers, and against that which we have delivered in this Budget, I think you'll find that what we've delivered within this Budget at least equals what those opposite were offering. And I'm quite convinced that in terms of where we will go with the Henry Commission of Inquiry, that we will have a thorough all round examination of what we do for the future form of retirement incomes policy in Australia, including the pension.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there is a group of pensioners in Flinders Street in Melbourne taking off their shirts in protest of the Budget (inaudible). Do you think that might get you to speed up further relief for them?

PM: The key question is, five months ago when the Liberals were in office, what did they offer pensioners? Secondly, if you look at the measures that we introduced through this Budget for the same, that is the same group of pensioners, you have the measures that I ran through before.

I understand full well that people on the aged pension are finding it very difficult. That's why we need to have a complete, all round, look at this through the Henry Commission of Inquiry.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: I think it's very important to make sure that we have a thorough, long term, response to the long term challenges of retirement income policy, and that means for pensioners, it means for carers, and it means for others. And remember, I listened to Dr Nelson on the question of pensioners and carers. For 12 years, 12 years in office, where was the action forthcoming? I don't seem to have seen it. Yet, in five months, this Government has been in office, we are responsible for the accumulation of cost of living pressures on those pensioners and carers which have built up over that period of time. The responsible course of action is this: deliver the measures we promised and committed to prior to the election. And we've done that to the letter. In the case of carers, we provide, one or two additional matters as well.

Secondly, look at the overall, long term needs of pensioners and carers in the context of a comprehensive review of retirement incomes policy. That's why the Secretary of the Treasury has been commissioned to do this. It's what we intend to do.

I go back to what I said before. If you are serious about producing an alternative Budget for the country, how can the alternative Prime Minister and the alternative Treasurer, on the day the day after their alternative Budget is brought down, say to the nation at large, ‘this has not been costed'. You cannot do that. It's not responsible.

SWAN: And what that proves is that they can't be trusted to run the economy.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Well, I think you'll see funding forthcoming from the Budget when it comes to the Ipswich Motorway. That's what we committed to prior to the election, that's what we've committed to subsequent to the election, and those funds have begun to flow. That's the first point. Our commitment is to stand by what we said we'd do beforehand. And we are doing precisely that.

Furthermore, on the wider needs of the Bruce Highway, one of the other areas where we have brought forward funding for planning analysis is areas of upgrade needed across the Bruce Highway up the Queensland coast in at least four different locations. That work is underway as well.

And I contrast this again with the fact that we have not only Auslink, the previous Government had that as well, but we now have a Building Australia Fund. Now, this Building Australia Fund is new. And, it's designed to support major national infrastructure and road projects.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on Dr Nelson opposing the alcopops and the Medicare threshold as well. Will that legislation have to (inaudible) pass through the Senate after July?

PM: Look, if Dr Nelson and Mr Turnbull want to go down that road, they gotta answer this question: this $22 billion raid on the surplus that they are conducting, how do they propose to fill that $22 billion elsewhere? Because if you don't make that $22 billion up, the maths is simple: it puts upward pressure on inflation and upward pressure on interest rates.

So Dr Nelson and Mr Turnbull need to think this through very carefully in terms of the impact on working families and mortgage interest rates and remember under them they had two messages for working Australians. One, working families have never been better off. And two, at the last election, the 2004 election, that interest rates would be kept at record lows. If you want two fundamental breaches of working families, there they are. And if you add to all that, by this $22 billion raid on the surplus, which is what they are proposing, then the consequences and the flow through consequences on inflation and interest rates, are there for all to see.

SWAN: Well it's a huge raid on the surplus. And if you raid the surplus, you put pressure on inflation and interest rates. Dr Nelson and Mr Turnbull ought to explain what their alternative is.

JOURNALIST: So you don't think they're going to try and block it in the Senate?

SWAN: We don't know what they're doing. I think they've lost their way. It's pretty hard to tell what they're really up to at the moment. But, if they were to carry through on those threats, it would be a $22 billion raid on the surplus. That is utterly irresponsible given the high inflation that this Government inherited from Mr Turnbull and Mr Costello.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

BLIGH: It's not unusual for office space to be leased for a period of time. It could be that we would see this office continue to exist for anything up to three to five years depending on the final alignment and the pace of acquisitions. This has still got a long way to go before the alignment is finalised.

I think the parliament did the responsible thing moving Mr Bombolas out of an office that was inaccessible by pram, by wheelchairs, it was up, I think, three flights of stairs. It is important that Members of Parliament can be accessed by anybody. And that's what they sought to do. That was the most cost effective office space available. I understand they've got a lease that goes for three years, with an option. Offices from time to time get moved.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

BLIGH: When you're looking for office space, the Queensland Parliament is no different to anyone else. And that is, you find whatever is available within the costs that you have available to you, and you do the best that you can. And obviously the parliament is constrained by finding office space within the boundaries of an electorate.

Transcript 15914