Transcript of Press Conference: Gateway WA Project



28 January 2015

Joint release with:

Hon. Dean Nalder MLA

WA Minister for Transport


Jamie Briggs: It's great to be here with my very good friend Dean Nalder, Minister for Transport in Western Australia, and my federal colleagues Steve Irons and Ken Wyatt, and a range of state colleagues who I'll let Dean name so I don't forget any of them. It is a great example of a project which is now halfway completed. We're here at an aspect of the upgrade, the Gateway WA project, and we hope this project will be completed by mid-2016, well ahead of schedule in the original plan. This is exactly what the Abbott Government wants this year; infrastructure projects on the ground, creating jobs, delivering the economic prosperity that we want for our people. Particularly here in Western Australia and Perth has seen such amazing growth in recent years. Growth in population, which is needed to be matched by growth in infrastructure. Dean Nalder and Colin Barnett are delivering along with the Abbott Government, the Northwest Coastal to the Great Northern Highway, the North Link project, my favourite, the Perth freight link which we announced in the Budget. Billions of dollars of infrastructure spent here in Western Australia to build a stronger Western Australia and build a strong Australia with more jobs and greater economic prosperity. This is a perfect example of a project that's under budget, under time, will deliver the benefits quicker that we want to see through job creation and through greater economic prosperity. It is a real pleasure to work with the Barnett Government and in particular Dean Nalder, who has got an eye on delivering projects, not just announcing them. And that's why we're so focussed here, in Perth today, with Steve Irons and Ken Wyatt about delivering these projects for people here in WA to get more jobs and greater prosperity.

Dean, do you want to add anything?

Dean Nalder: Thank you, Jamie. This project couldn't occur without cooperation with the Federal Government, and as the representative from the Western Australian Government we're very appreciative of that support. I'd also like to acknowledge the local member Gladys Godfrey who has really pushed hard in their local communities for a focus out in the eastern suburbs, something this Government has been committed to doing is opening up the eastern suburbs, particularly this Gateway project. It is the largest project in Western Australia's history for main roads. And it is tracking and progressing exceptionally well. Some of the statistics, just to share with you and reinforce—and when I talk about it being the largest project, it has 4 million tonne of fuel, 480,000 tonne of asphalt. For cycling, there'll be 21 kilometres of additional cycling lanes that will be constructed as part of this project. During this year as we see it progress, there'll be 950,000 trees planted over the winter period in and around this project.

So again, a number of milestones are being achieved. By the end of this year, we'll see four of the interchanges completed. This will be the first one that will be finished. And an operational—fully operational hopefully by July this year, with another four by the end of this year. So it's exciting what is occurring. We see a major project this, but I think what is missed a lot of the time is the amount of local content that goes into this. This has employed upwards of a thousand people during the lifetime of this project. Right now I believe between 850–900 people are working on it. But it has involved upwards of 600 local businesses in the project. And that's what I like to see, is the local content of a major project like this that is occurring for the benefit of Western Australia. It is tracking ahead of schedule and ahead of budget which is again another exciting outcome and we're really appreciative of the department and of all the contractors, and all those involved in this project. It is also allowed, again with the support of the Federal Government, for us to tackle another interchange. So, there'll be six interchanges all up, with Roe and Berkshire, which historically has had an accident every ten days. So, it's allowed us to grade, separate that interchange. Another major interchange. So, we're very proud of what is being achieved with this project. And open to any questions on this project.

Question: [Inaudible question]

Dean Nalder: The project was originally scheduled to be completed late '16, early '17. And we're quite confident. And the advice we're receiving from the project team is that they're comfortable by mid-16 it will be completed.

Question: [Indistinct]

Dean Nalder: At least six months.

Question: How much in the budget?

Dean Nalder: Under budget we've been allowed to—or it's provided us the opportunity to a couple of other things, like we've been able to shift $45 million across to the Roe and Berkshire project. So, that's primarily the savings that have been made, and we've used that immediately to do that additional interchange.

Question: And what's the reason why it's been able to bring forward that completion date?

Dean Nalder: The advice we've received is that we had favourable weather events last year in winter. So we allow certain time delays. And they've been able to keep progress up. But the feedback that we've had from the broader community; it's been amazing this project. The feedback that we're receiving—and very little to no complaint—and the advice that I've had is that commuters or drivers are saying that even the temporary works have been better than the old works. And so for me that's the mark of a great project, when people are saying they can move through just as easily as what they could under the old road system, while we know that it's currently a temporary system, which is generally a pain for most commuters.

Question: What does this mean for the people in the area? What difference will they see exactly?

Dean Nalder: Well, basically we're creating a freeway system or an expressway system. So, it is going to be a great entry statement for people that are flying in, for tourists, and businesspeople that are flying in. But it also from a freight perspective—this is our major industrial hub. And for freight to move in and about and around our city, this allows it to free it up. So, it increases productivity for the commercial sector. 

Question: Will this be tolled as part of the railway extension?

Dean Nalder: What we've said in the past when we announced Freight Link, and we announced that we'd do a freight charge; we said that we would [inaudible] that freight charge over the whole length of the NorthLink, the Gateway, and the Freight Link.

Question: So, are you putting in any infrastructure on this project while [indistinct] construction is taking place to allow that monitoring of- I think at time you suggested GPS tracking freight. Are you looking at installing any infrastructure here while construction is underway?

Dean Nalder: What it will involve, and what we're looking at as part of the project, is a GPS being installed in every truck in Western Australia, so that it allows a number of things for us. One it will provide better planning for our roads; not just for these roads, and allowing us to establish a freight charge, but will also ensure that we have the correct planning, because we know exactly where all truck movements are. It will also- we want to make it available for the industry, the trucking industry, so that they can better monitor where their vehicles are, and for things like fatigue management. We would like to see that installed as quickly as possible. The commitment this government has provided is that the freight charge would not start until completion of all the works.

Question: Have you started consultation with the industry about how it will work and how much it will be?

Dean Nalder: Discussions at this point have been preliminary, and we've received positive feedback; but there's a lot more detail that needs to be discussed at this point.

Question: So, it's compliance, cost recovery, is it also law enforcement? Would it also be available to police?

Dean Nalder: We haven't explored any further from a law enforcement perspective. We're looking at it purely from a contribution from the industry. And now, a lot of people have compared, and I've read a lot of the articles, have compared this to instances over in the eastern states and so forth; what you must remember is by defraying it over the three projects, we'll be looking to recover around 15 per cent of the project.

So, 85 per cent of the three projects are still being funded by the federal and state government. And so our discussions with the industry has been such that we're trying to create a win-win situation. And we've been looking at the modelling as far as the economic benefits that are derived from creating a freeway system all the way through to the port, and being able to take some of that profit, or gain, to be able to fund a project like this. But the major commitment still comes from the federal and state governments contributing 85 per cent of the total project.

Question: When do you expect to settle on the cost you charge [indistinct]?

Dean Nalder: Look, we've still got a long way to go. We're in this project now- I mean we're talking, the combined project, this is a $1 billion project, we're talking $1.1 billion for the NorthLink, thereabouts, and $1.6 billion for the Freight Link project. It's massive infrastructure for the commercial or freight sector of this city, and will set up this city- it will become the spine for freight movement across this city for the next few decades to come. I think it's great investment, but to rush into decisions like what the charge will be would be the wrong thing to do. We're at this point, we're making it happen, we're seeing the gateway project well underway. We announced at the end of last year that Freight Link project, we will be progressing that one as quickly as possible. And the discussions will occur with the appropriate people within industry, and at the appropriate time we'll make the right announcements.

Question: In your discussions so far, how would you characterise them? Are you broadly on the same page, miles apart—where would you put it?

Dean Nalder: No, look, the response that we've had to date is been positive. And- but they want to see the detail, and we're not yet into that detail stage; so we need to work with them on the detail.

Question: But surely you have some idea?

Dean Nalder: Yeah, look, I've shared that we have analysed what we see as the productivity gain on a per-kilometre basis. We've talked about that being around $0.45 in the kilometre. And so we've also mentioned that we'd be looking to retain $0.30 a kilometre. But at this stage, they're preliminary at best. So, it is a bit premature to be rushing out and saying: that's the charge. But that's a guide of how we're considering it at this point in time.

Question: WA Labor is been on the record as being against Roe 8. We've seen Labor in Victoria, when they came to power, they've scrapped, tore up a contract for the East-West Link there. How would you protect the Roe 8 project leading up to the 2017 election, to make it almost impos- make sure it does go ahead and that contracts can't be torn up?

Dean Nalder: You're talking about the Labor position, but Labor's position on Roe 8 is actually quite unclear. We've heard Labor federally comment on Roe 8, but the state have been very unclear about it. But we're committed to ensure that this project is going to get moving as quickly as possible, just like what we've done with Gateway; we've made a decision, and we've got moving. And we see that- exactly the same process with Freight Link; we intend to be moving on that project well before the next election.

Question: Sorry, contracts signed and bulldozers on site?

Dean Nalder: We believe that within the next 12 months that we can be moving on the first section of Roe 8. I've stated up front that our priority is particularly the intersection on the freeway and the commencement of Roe 8, because we know that with the two hospitals there that South Street is going to potentially be a blockage point for the amount of people and traffic movement through there. So, as a number one priority, we want to get that interchange correct so that people can move in and about from the south side of the hospital. And then extending through to Stock Road. So, we expect to be moving on that within the next 12 months.

Question: Are you worried at all about environmental campaigners, potential legal challenges, [indistinct] project?

Dean Nalder: Look, I believe that this government has been environmentally responsible. It has been through an environmental process. As part of that process, we have- we will be establishing a 470-hectare offset. The total area that we'll be disturbing is 38 hectares, on memory, and so  I think 470 hectares of [indistinct] area, within the low- the planes of Western Australia, so down below the range, if you like, I think is more than responsible for this government that says this is a very important project for Western Australia, it has- if you look at the traffic modelling, the numbers are potentially are huge as Western Australia continues to grow, and is expected to continue to grow. Don't forget that we are expected to reach a population of 3.5 million in the 2040s and they're talking upwards of 5 million around the 2060 period. Now, I don't want to be specific about that; that will ebb and flow. But we must plan for the future and this government is taking a longer term approach to planning for Western Australia to ensure that we don't have the problems we faced with this recent boom, when we had massive amounts of—or a massive influx of people into Western Australia and we had to play catch up on infrastructure.

Question: When you talked earlier about the toll recovering 15 per cent of the cost, do you mean the state's contribution to Roe 8?

Dean Nalder: No, I'm talking about the state and federal contribution across the three projects. Because we're talking about defraying the cost across all three projects and so it will account for about 15 per cent of the total three projects. And therefore, 85 per cent of it is still a contribution, mainly from the Federal Government—which we're very appreciative of, thank you Jamie…and so therefore it is a miniscule amount, relative in the scheme of things.

Question: So, you're looking at a recovery of about—just basic maths—looking at about 600 mil?

Dean Nalder: Correct.

Question: And so what's the timeframe for that, in terms of recovery?

Dean Nalder: We're doing different modelling on that at the moment and we believe with GPS trackers, we can improve that considerably. There are numbers that—if you take what's occurred with previous—I'm going to get too long. We believe that we can get it down inside 10 years.

Question: Can I just ask about the taxi service fee—when exactly will that be reduced to five per cent and why is it taking so long?

Dean Nalder: Look, there's been constitutional issues with that. The advice when I first became minister was that we hoped to implement—oh sorry, can I just come back and make sure that we've finished anything to do with the highway before we take other questions? Anything else?

Jamie Briggs: No, that's good.

Dean Nalder: Okay, with the tax charge—as a State Government, we have been committed to reducing that to five per cent and the advice that I received when I first became minister was that it would take a few weeks. Subsequently, as part of that, I said we needed to watch the implementation in other states to make sure that when we do it, we do it correctly. We found that there were challenges on the constitution to get this right. Our goal is to ensure that it is delivered by March this year and so we're a long way through making sure that we can implement it and we have—we're quite openly about that.

Question: Why is Cabcharge saying February 27 is the date that they've been given?

Dean Nalder: Well, we're quite happy if Cabcharge choose a date in advance of when we want to do it and move towards that. We know that they have progressed that in other states, we'd like to see it here. I believe that 10 per cent is too high a charge and that five per cent is more reflective of what is a fair and reasonable charge.

Question: Can we ask some questions?

Jamie Briggs: Of course.

Question: Do you think Tony Abbott got it wrong with the knighting of Prince Philip?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, the Prime Minister's made some comments about this issue this morning and I support what he's said. I think he was surprised by the reaction. It was a decision he made, not a decision of the Government's making and it's been an unnecessary distraction from the challenges we've got, like delivering infrastructure projects. I think the PM summed that up very well this morning. We've got a big challenge as a government this year to fix the mess that Labor left us to create a stronger economy, to deliver the infrastructure projects, create jobs and we don't want unnecessary distractions. We want to be focused on the main game and that's what we're going to do.

Question: Do you think it's a bad judgement call then? Given the controversy and the distraction that it has caused?

Jamie Briggs: Look, it is what it is. Now we've got to get on and do the best that we can every day and if we can do that, we'll deliver a better Australia this year than we had last year.

Question: It's more than a distraction, though, isn't it? When you look at the press this morning, conservative newspapers like The Australian are pillorying the Prime Minister for this decision and the impact on the Government.

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, that's why people are paid to be commentators. I'm paid to be a decision maker.

Question: No, but I'm asking your opinion.

Jamie Briggs: Well, I don't have an opinion, I have a job to do and that's what we're doing. We're getting on and delivering jobs for Western Australians here with the Gateway Project, we'll deliver jobs with the Perth Freight Link project, which will be underway by 2016 and I'll be on Dean's back pretty much every week to make sure it is. That's the job that we're here to do. People will have a range of views on all sorts of decisions that governments make. Sometimes we get them right, sometimes we get them wrong. The main thing is, we're focused on the key issues, which is to deliver a stronger economy and to fix the budget mess that we were left.

Question: How damaging do you think this will be for the LNP in the Queensland election?

Jamie Briggs: State elections are fought on state issues and I think Campbell Newman's got an outstanding record in Queensland. He's got a plan for the future and I'm quite sure on Saturday he'll deliver a strong result.

Question: The fact that Tony Abbott hasn't joined Campbell Newman on the campaign trail, though, does that suggest that he's toxic to that campaign?

Jamie Briggs: No.

Question: And do you really think that Queensland will deliver a strong result for the Liberal National Party?

Jamie Briggs: I think last time, obviously, there was a very strong result and probably beyond expectations. So, clearly there's been an expectation that there will be some movement back. But, at the end of the day, Campbell Newman had a tough job to do, he's made a lot of hard decisions, but it's a government that's got a plan for the future of Queensland. Creating jobs, it's building big infrastructure projects, just like here in Perth, and I'm very confident that they'll be re-elected and they deserve to be.

Question: One columnist said this morning that the Prime Minister's leadership is now in terminal decline.

Jamie Briggs: Well, again, columnists are allowed to commentate, I'm part of a government that is getting on and delivering. Tony Abbott is a terrific leader; he's done an outstanding job since December 2009 when he was first elected. He has absolute support of the ministry, of the backbench, of the party. We can all do better, we can all try each day to do better and certainly, that's what I'll be doing every single day.

Question: Do you personally support Prince Philip receiving the knighthood?

Jamie Briggs: Look, it's a decision the Prime Minister made, it wasn't a decision of the Cabinet or the Government. And as I said before, it's got more attention than it deserves and it's been an unnecessary distraction. I support this project creating jobs, the Perth Freight Link creating jobs, North West Coastal creating jobs and a stronger Australia because of it.

Question: Was that a no?

Question: And will Tony Abbott lead the Coalition to the next election?

Jamie Briggs: Absolutely.

Question: Was that a no?

Jamie Briggs: Thank you guys.