Transcript of Press Conference: Start of works on Torrens to Torrens early works project

Interview

BPC035/2015

14 July 2015

Joint release with:

Stephen Mullighan MP

SA Minister for Roads and Transport

E&OE

Stephen Mullighan: Well today we're announcing the commencement of works for the Torrens to Torrens early works package. This is the third package of works released to the market, and it once again was awarded to a South Australian company—$11 million worth of work to ensure that we've got three lanes of traffic in both directions, along Park Terrace and Fitzroy Terrace. This will be a substantial improvement to the capacity of the road network while we're undertaking the works just that little bit further down on South Road. Very pleased to be here with Assistant Federal Minister Jamie Briggs. This is $11 million out of the $1.5 billion that we're spending on the North-South Corridor over the next three years. This will support jobs right now for the second half of this year, and of course will be supporting over 800 jobs both on the Torrens to Torrens project and the Darlington project.

Jamie Briggs: Thank you, Stephen. This is another step obviously in getting the Torrens to Torrens project done as quickly as we can as part of the overall plan to upgrade the entire North-South Corridor. We've got the Torrens to Torrens project all but underway, the Darlington project on the path to construction, and we'll have more to do on South Road together in the coming months and years ahead to upgrade the entire corridor. It is very important for an economy to have infrastructure that supports productivity growth, supports job creation, and supports growth in our economy. Obviously, at a time like this, infrastructure investment by the state and federal government is vital to ensure that South Australia can do better economically than we have been doing. That's why the Abbott Government's focused on working with Stephen Mullighan and the State Labor Government on delivering infrastructure, not just on South Road, but right across the state with $2 billion allocated to South Australia over the next four years. It is part of our agenda to ensure that Australia's economy is as strong as it ought to be. So, it is great to be here again today, with another step towards what will be a very successful project.

Question: One for you Jamie. As you touched on, unemployment is a significant issue here in South Australia at the moment, and I understand there have been ongoing negotiations between both the state and federal Government about other road projects which are in the pipeline, potentially Strzelecki Track and also the Northern Connector. Where are those negotiations at?

Jamie Briggs: Well, as I said, we've allocated significant amounts of money to South Australia for infrastructure, and there are other projects which we have been working with the South Australian Government on looking at, particularly on South Road. The Prime Minister made a commitment to upgrade the entire North-South Corridor in a decade. That is a substantial commitment; the North-South Road study, which the Federal Government paid for in conjunction with the State Government, showed that that would cost multi billions of dollars. So, we are working with the South Australian Government on how we can fund our portion, but also how South Australia can fund their portion. Of course, these are partnerships. On the South Road and the Torrens to Torrens project it's a 50–50 partnership, which is the usual for metropolitan roads. On Darlington, it's an 80–20 partnership. We're working with the South Australian Government on how that funding mix might work, particularly with economic value in the metropolitan area. And we hope to have something more to say about that in the coming months.

Question: What do you make of Jay Weatherill's suggestion that heavy users should be charged?

Jamie Briggs: I think it's a sensible suggestion from the Premier to look at how we fund roads. It is a discussion that the country is going to have to have as fuel excise starts to dip because cars and trucks are becoming more efficient. The method in which we fund maintenance of roads, not even new infrastructure but just the maintenance of roads, we'll need to have a broader discussion. We welcome the Premier's contribution on this. It has been something that the Minister Council have talked about for some years, and we hope now Stephen and South Australia will take some lead in those discussions to see if we can introduce a much more rational fuel charge for the heavy vehicle industry to better guide how we upgrade and maintain the existence of the road.

Question: [Inaudible question].

Stephen Mullighan: Well having an additional lane in both directions on Park Terrace will provide about a 10 per cent increase in capacity for this part of our road network. This is the next major road over from the part of South Road which is being upgraded under the Torrens to Torrens project. So, less congestion, better travel times for motorists, and relieve some pressure on the network that we know major road works can create.

Question: [Inaudible question].

Stephen Mullighan: Oh well you'll see that we've invested a lot of money, particularly in the last six years, to improve the capacity, certainly the intersection of the Brewery Corner and also here on Park Terrace, we've got a new housing development here at Bowden, providing an extra lane in each direction will provide improvements in travel times for all motorists, and relieve some pressure from the road works down the road on South Road.

Question: How important are joint-funded infrastructure projects for South Australia, particularly at this time of high unemployment?

Stephen Mullighan: Oh, they're absolutely critical. I mean, we see here today we've got a South Australian company, Bardavcol. Just on this small works package out of the $1.5 billion, 20 workers busy over the next few months, and of course that's going towards the more than 800 people who will be kept busy for the next three years building the Torrens to Torrens and the Darlington Road projects. So, at this point in time when every job is of benefit to the South Australian economy, we've got the Federal Government and the State Government lock-step delivering jobs here in South Australia.

Question: How important is it to bring forward some of those other road projects to try and fill the void in the jobs market?

Stephen Mullighan: Look I was very pleased, as was I think Minister Briggs that we were able to reach agreement and bring forward two projects on the North-South Corridor to be delivered over the next three years. We're having very encouraging discussions—that will take a little bit of time, bearing in mind that we've just had a federal budget brought down, we've just had a state budget brought down, and as two infrastructure minister's we're asking our respective treasurers for more money outside of the budget cycle. But we're working through that. If we can bring more projects forward then that's going to be a great thing, not just for South Australia and for the jobs in South Australia, but for our freight network across the country.

Question: [Inaudible].

Stephen Mullighan: Yeah, sure. We've got another meeting today with the union, all work bans on the trams have been lifted now, and we're close, we think, to finalising an agreement on the tram drivers' enterprise bargaining arrangements. I will also be discussing the arrangements with the trains, talks are progressing well so we have made substantial progress in the last week and I'm hoping we can continue that progress and settle these deals within days.

Question: How long do you think this particular work is going to take, and what would you say to motorists that are going to [indistinct]?

Stephen Mullighan: We'll be keeping lanes open during peak periods of travel, the works will be completed by December, weather permitting, and from Christmas time onwards motorists can expect a much better ride through Park Terrace and Fitzroy Terrace with the additional capacity.

Question: I've got a couple of extra questions for Minister Briggs, if you don't mind.

Jamie Briggs: Sure.

Question: [Inaudible question].

Stephen Mullighan: We still do have some overtime bans on our train network, we'd like to see those lifted, make sure that we've got as much flexibility in how we run the trains as possible. So we're continuing to have discussions with the union, and we hope that as negotiations progress this week, we would hope that we can try and lift those bans.

Question: Is it still the job security clause that's the sticking point?

Stephen Mullighan: Oh look, ever since the buses were privatised in the 1990s it's been a great concern to train drivers and tram drivers, whether work will be outsourced. We've made it clear that we're not looking at outsourcing works here in South Australia. Nonetheless, the union wants to discuss what sort of provisions would be available in that event, and we're working through that with them.

Question: Have you talked with the union to make sure that they don't take any [indistinct] strikes? Have you made some sort of agreement on that?

Stephen Mullighan: Well, as we continue to progress negotiations, as the Government changes and improves its offer and as the union gets more specific about the issues that they want to address, we are asking them to remove bans. They've been very forthcoming in doing that. With- all bans are off on the tram network, and we're working through that with them on the train network as well.

Question: Do you think you could [indistinct] agreement today with the tram drivers?

Stephen Mullighan: Oh look, we're certainly hoping to progress in negotiations with the train drivers. I mean, this is a complex negotiation. We have a negotiation between the Government and the union, then the union needs to go back to seven different groups within train operation. So that takes them some time. So while the Government might be wanting to settle this quickly, we know that it does take the union some time to canvas its members and get agreement on that, and we're just doing everything we can to support the union in its efforts to make sure we can resolve this enterprise bargaining negotiation.

Question: Minister Briggs, how critical is NorthConnex to reducing Sydney's congestion problems?

Jamie Briggs: Well, the Infrastructure Australia audits show that the Pennant Hills Road section in Northern Sydney was the most congested in Australia, so the nearly billion dollars committed by the federal and New South Wales Government will help Transurban deliver what is a terrific project, it's underway, it's creating jobs. It will mean greater productivity for people who live in the northern part of Sydney, particularly those who travel to the Central Coast every day. It's a project we're very proudly supporting along with the New South Wales Government. I think importantly to note, delivered by the private sector, not just by Government but delivered by an unsolicited bid from the private sector so this road project could go ahead.

Question: Exactly how much money will the Federal Government contribute towards the construction of NorthConnex?

Jamie Briggs: Our contribution is just over $400 million, and it's a 50–50 contribution with the New South Wales Government. And the remainder is contributed by the private sector, through Transurban, the project delivered by Lendlease. It's a great example of Australian companies delivering infrastructure with the Australian and New South Wales Government for a better Sydney and ultimately a better Australia.

Question: So, you're committed to spending your $405 million?

Jamie Briggs: Absolutely.

Question: And apart from the roads in and around Badgerys Creek… what other major Sydney road infrastructure will Canberra help fund?

Jamie Briggs: Well, we're funding WestConnex stage one, with $1.5 billion in direct grant and a $2 billion concessional loan for WestConnex stage two. We've got, as you say, $3.6 billion for the roads around Western Sydney around Badgerys Creek, the contribution to NorthConnex and of course the Pacific Highway, which is a massive contribution in New South Wales. Sydney is the hotspot; there is no doubt about it. I'm hoping other cities, like Adelaide, can catch up to Sydney, because Sydney, under the leadership of Mike Baird, is streaking ahead of the rest of the country.