Press Conference—Melbourne

Interview

DCI078/2017

20 August 2017

Subject: Port Rail Shuttle

Luke Donnellan: It is good to be here today with the Minister for Infrastructure Darren Chester and also Peter Anderson from the Victorian Transport Association. Today we are making an announcement in relation to the Port Rail Shuttle. In other words, this is a partnership between the state and the Commonwealth governments, to provide funding to look at getting more goods onto rail; containerised goods out of the port into the port via short haul rail. Now this is very much an exercise of trying to move some of the congestion, some of the trucks away from this area, to the outer suburban inland ports. So places like Lyndhurst, Beveridge, Somerton, Altona and like. So the expectations are that if we could actually move approximately 30 per cent of our containerised goods, imports and exports, onto rail, we'll find that we'd probably be able to move about 8000 trucks off the arterial roads around Melbourne.

This is pretty much part of a total exercise the Government is putting together. So we've got the Port leasor, who is under the lease, and he is required to actually look at a rail option to get goods in and out of this port. We've got the state and the Commonwealth governments coming together to pretty much provide funding for an expression of interest in the private sector to look at getting more containerised goods onto rail. It is very much about also looking at the West Gate Tunnel, and really very much removing trucks from this area. We know this area is very congested and if we want to see the port grow, and we expect over the next 20 years for the freight task, in terms of containers, to double, we need to actually ensure that we can get goods more efficiently in and out of this area, and provide reliable travel time journeys for both the freight industry and the like.

So very much this is the State and the Commonwealth Government working together. Putting forward an expression of interest in September to be closed by April next year and announced April next year. With the expectation that in 2019, we will have containers on short-haul trains, very much shipped through to inland ports. This very much will provide the opportunity for both the agricultural sector and industrial sector to look at using these inland ports to aggregate and disaggregate containers, and very much get goods in and out of the port more efficiently. I think with those few words, I'll hand over to Minister Darren Chester to say a few words as well.

Darren Chester: It is great to be here with Luke Donnellan and Peter Anderson. This is a great example of the state and federal governments working together to see further investment in infrastructure that will really make a difference in people's lives. We know that if you invest in good infrastructure, you can change people's lives, and you can save people's lives. We have changed lives here through reducing congestion, improving productivity, and we have saved lives by getting some of those heavy vehicles off our streets and getting that freight task on the rail. So I'm very pleased that the Federal Government and State Government are working in partnership on this project. There is $58 million on the table, and we are looking to the private sector to leverage off that for further investment in the rail network here in Melbourne.

Obviously, the Federal Government is committed to seeing more of the freight task on to rail. We announced in the Budget this year, the $8.4 billion equity investment in the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail Project, and we want to work with the Queensland Government, Victorian Government, New South Wales Government, to improve how we would move freight around the country. Because we know it allows us to reduce costs for businesses, and certainly it opens up opportunities for regional Australia. The Commonwealth Government has been very successful in negotiating free trade agreements in recent years, which gives us more opportunities. It's so important that we get our freight network working well to deliver those opportunities right throughout Australia.

Peter Anderson: Well the industry is very pleased to see a dedicated freight work to enhance the efficiency of the port. We are also very pleased to see the government working together, both the Federal and State Governments, to improve the environment upon which Victorians live. This is a great step towards the industry, also investing in its future.

Question: So how more efficient would it be to use rail rather than road?

Peter Anderson: There's no doubt great rail has a great more efficiency in terms of its environmental impact and its actual cost per kilogram to move freight. There is no doubt about that at all. That will vary upon the distance and the way upon which the freights move, to actually put a dollar figure to it. But there is an improvement. It's a proven model, there's no doubt there.

Question: What sort of particular infrastructure is going to be required around the port to get trains in and out?

Luke Donnellan: Well it's very much an expression of interest by the private sector. So potentially the port leasor could be one of those people who put forward a proposition to upgrade a particular part of the infrastructure leading into the port, which may fit in with the rail option. You've got people like Salta, who's had a keen interest in this space for many years down at Lyndhurst. They have been potentially looking at a spur line off the Pakenham Line. You've obviously got options in the west around Beveridge, Somerton, and the like. So in many ways it could be a small spur line off there. It could be, in terms of the gauges, it could be moving from standard to broad gauge. So it very much is—we're looking for the private sector to put forward propositions, and actually say to us, how will you get, I guess, more containers onto freight? What do you need to do? What is your commitment to the proposition? Very much everybody is expected to put a bit of skin into the game, to get this proposition going.

Question: Would a freight hub up at Lyndhurst struggle, given the capacity constraints that are already there on the Pakenham Cranbourne Line with suburban trains. Would you need to look at building a third line down to Dandenong to help remove that freight task?

Luke Donnellan: This is very much why before the expressions of interest, very much look at what people want to do on the freight lines, what capacity there is already. In many ways the freight options would not be looking to move during peak hour, obviously, when the capacity is most limited on the Pakenham Dandenong Line. So it would be off-peak movements. These are short haul trains, which were only about 600 metres long, in terms of the full set. So we're very much looking at the smaller, more efficient, less polluting trains to run those lines. So very much they are going to run off-peak, when we're not looking at the capacity being so constrained.

Question: And given your noise issues with Skyrail, would you want make sure those are electric freight trains, rather than diesel?

Luke Donnellan: These are a lot quieter. These aren't your usual long trains which are anything up to a kilometre plus long. These are shorter trains, newer trains, and less noisy trains. So very much they'd be moving off-peak.

Question: Ideally, when would you like to see this project finished?

Luke Donnellan: We are hoping that in terms of containers on trains, 2019, we expect, after we go through the full process. There are access issues to work through. So very much that is something that needs to be negotiated through. So that's why we're leaving some time, obviously for those negotiations to be undertaken in terms of pricing for life.

Question: How much are a problem is trucks on the streets in this area?

Luke Donnellan: Well that's very much why we're looking at this proposition in terms of the Port Rail Shuttle. But obviously we're also looking at the West Gate Tunnel. We need to get trucks more efficiently into the port. We need to be aware of the liveability issues locally. That's very much why the West Gate Tunnel and this option, is very much about moving tens of thousands of trucks off the side streets, and onto the major arterials.

Question: So how much capacity would that free up potentially on the state of Monash?

Luke Donnellan: Let's go to the West Gate Bridge, that's a 200,000 movements a day. That's very much at capacity. So we know we need a second river crossing, we know we need to get more goods onto rail, and that's very much what this is all about.

Question: This was raised several years ago. Why has it taken so long?

Luke Donnellan: Look there's many issues there. It's in terms of the pricing, the access arrangements and the like have taken some time to work through. But also we needed to have a port which was very much committed to this proposition. Under the lease, when the leasor bought the port, there was a requirement there that there had to be a rail option put forward to the State Government within the first three years. And the Lonsdale Group is actually currently working on that. I expect they will probably have a proposition at lot earlier to us than three years, and it has to be actionable within five years thereafter. But I think we'll be moving a lot quicker towards that outcome than the lease would suggest at this stage.

Question: I know there was a big push to have the Inland Rail Project sort of have a bit of hub up around Somerton and Broadmeadows, one of these inland ports given the closure of the port up there. Is that something that you take into account when looking at these propositions, both of you?

Luke Donnellan: Look we are looking at how do you maximise the opportunities to get containerised trade onto rail? So if we are looking at propositions, which are near the national line that's obviously something we considered. Obviously in terms of employment issues, yes we do expect substantial employment growth out of these opportunities in terms of inland ports. So I think they are good news. But very much that is for the private sector to put forward the proposition and for the Department to consider what's been put forward and look at how we maximise those opportunities to get containers onto rail.

Question: Darren, do you have a view on whether that's an idea with merit?

Darren Chester: Well I agree with Luke in the sense that we won't be forcing a solution on the private sector when it comes to Inland Rail. What we've done is indicated through our announcement in the Budget, that this is an investment decision that they can have confidence, have certainty in and they can do their planning around that. We believe that the private sector will take up the running and see opportunities associated with Inland Rail and in terms of intermodals along the route. We will be very keen to work with the State Government to maximise the benefit here in Victoria.

Question: Are you expecting Inland Rail to take trucks off roads as well? I mean what sort of reduction are you expecting?

Darren Chester: We are expecting the Inland Rail Project, every time a train makes that journey from Melbourne to Brisbane, will take 100 B-doubles off the road. So it is going to see massive reductions in heavy vehicle traffic along that Newell highway route. Obviously there'll be benefits there in terms of economic benefits and productivity benefits. I think there will be significant road safety improvements as well, reducing the amount of interaction between light capacity vehicles and heavy vehicles.

Question: Mr Chester, are you concerned that if the High Court rules Barnaby Joyce was invalidly elected, that there could be challenges against the decisions he's made in Parliament?

Darren Chester: We'll I'm very confident in the advice provided by the Solicitor General that Barnaby will be found eligible to continue in his role as the Member for New England and the leader of the National Party. So I will let the High Court do its job, but I'm very confident with the advice that has been provided by the Solicitor General.

Question: How would you describe Australia's relationship at the moment with New Zealand?

Darren Chester: Well we like beating the Kiwi's in sport, and after getting cleaned up at the Bledisloe Cup we're pretty depressed in Australia at the moment. We have got a great relationship with our New Zealand friends. I mean you have only got to look back at our shared military history, the Anzacs now 100 years ago, and our social, cultural and economic links. We have a great working relationship with the Kiwi's. It has been a pretty tough week in terms of negotiating these issues around the dual citizenship. I think most Australians at home are thinking, well if you're born in Australia, you're an Australian. In terms of foreign countries having citizenship laws which can impose a citizenship upon someone without their knowledge; that seems quite surprising for a lot of people and we need to get some clarity around that in the High Court.

Question: Would it give you some clear air if Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash moved to the backbench until it is sorted out?

Darren Chester: Well the advice from the Solicitor General is very much that both Barnaby and Fiona will be found eligible to continue to serve in their roles, and they are doing a great job on behalf of the National Party, on behalf of the Government, and on behalf of regional Australia. So I think this could take some time to resolve and I'd rather have Barnaby and Fiona out there in their job and delivering for regional Australia and delivering for the Coalition Government. So, I think it is appropriate they stay in their roles there.

Question: And finally, is there merit in an audit of all the Parliament's citizenship status?

Darren Chester: Well there's merit in all Members of Parliament being upfront and honest about this issue. Now the Nationals have been upfront and very honest and we have found an issue with three of our colleagues that have gone and referred themselves to the High Court. I think the Labor Party needs to come forward as well. If they have got any MPs that have any question marks about them; refer them to the High Court and clarify the situation. I mean Nick Xenophon's comments yesterday regarding Labor staff or MPs beavering behind the scenes to try and reveal something about his background, I think reflected very poorly on the Labor Party. Now Bill Shorten's looking very shifty at the moment. He is very much engaged in the dark arts of politics just ask Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. He has got some embers on his own side that we need to have a proper assessment by the High Court. It should be done as part of this process.

Question: What about having dual citizens in Parliament, what about having Australian citizens head of state?

Darren Chester: Well, I don't believe is anything is broken in our system, and I support our current arrangements.