Perth Doorstop Interview



07 April 2016

Topic: Cross River Rail project

Paul Fletcher: Well good afternoon. I'm very pleased to be here. I'm just wanting to make some comments about an announcement that's been made today by the Queensland Government in relation to the Cross River Rail project. Cross River Rail is a very substantial proposed rail project in Brisbane which has been in planning for a number of years. The Turnbull Government stands ready to work with the Queensland Government in relation to the Cross River Rail project. Now what's been announced today is the establishment of a Cross River Rail authority. What the Federal Government is waiting on from the Queensland Government is a business plan in relation to Cross River Rail, and work is certainly underway, we understand, in relation to the business plan.

In fact, just last week I was in Brisbane meeting with Queensland Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe, and we discussed Cross River Rail. The Commonwealth is awaiting a business case, which we're expecting by the middle of the year. Under Commonwealth processes, any business plan for a project involving a Commonwealth contribution in excess of $100 million needs to be assessed by Infrastructure Australia. So the next thing that has to happen from a Commonwealth perspective is that we receive a business plan and that there is an assessment by Infrastructure Australia.

As part of that assessment, the Turnbull Government will be particularly interested in seeing if there are options for innovative funding and financing. For example, Cross River Rail involves stations throughout the Brisbane CBD. Those will deliver significant increases in property values, and it will be interesting to see whether there are options to tap into some of that value increase to pay for the cost of what's going to be a multi-billion dollar project.

But the Commonwealth Government looks forward to working with the Queensland Government as we work through the next steps of the planning process in relation to Cross River Rail. Happy to answer any questions.

Question: So at this stage you're not willing to commit any funding in a sense because you need those other bits of the jigsaw before you can do that, is that essentially what you're saying?

Paul Fletcher: The Turnbull Government needs to go through a process in relation to Cross River Rail. It's a major, multi-billion dollar project. It's the same process we're going through on other major infrastructure projects around the country where the first thing is we need to see a business case from the state government; that needs to be assessed by Infrastructure Australia. But certainly Cross River Rail is an important project, and the Turnbull Government looks forward to working with the Queensland Government in relation to the next steps of this project.

Question: Will the Turnbull Government consider an 80-20 split, which would be about a $4 billion commitment?

Paul Fletcher: Look, I think it's premature to be talking about dollar commitments and how they may be allocated. The first thing we need to do is work through the business case, and before that happens we need to receive the business case. Now work is well underway; certainly the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has been in discussions with the Queensland department. I've met with Queensland Minister Stirling Hinchliffe and certainly there is work well underway, but that needs to be crystallised in the form of a business case to be lodged with the Commonwealth. We need to work through the assessment, and all of that needs to occur before we can get to the point of talking about dollar contributions.

Question: You sound like you're talking about potential private sector investment though, so have you got a ballpark figure on what you think the private sector could bring to a project of this magnitude?

Paul Fletcher: Certainly as a principle, the idea of private sector involvement in major infrastructure projects is something that the Turnbull Government strongly supports and strongly wishes to encourage. We issued what we call the Principles for Innovative Financing earlier this year, which very much encourages that, and we will be looking to have discussions with the Queensland Government about how the private sector can be involved, and those are discussions I'm confident we will be able to have as we get to more detailed planning stages, and as there's a business case which we can examine.

Question: At the meeting you had with the State Minister, how open was he to having private sector involvement in this project?

Paul Fletcher: Look, I had a very constructive discussion with Queensland Minister Stirling Hinchliffe, and it's my understanding that the Queensland Government shares the interest of the Commonwealth Government in looking at tapping all available sources of funding, including private sector funding. Thanks very much.