Transcript—Doorstop, Melbourne



28 April 2016

Topics: Victorian infrastructure plan

Paul Fletcher: Good morning. I just wanted to make a couple of comments following the very constructive meeting that I've recently had with my federal colleague Darren Chester, the Minister for Infrastructure, myself as Minister for Major Projects and our Victorian state counterparts, Jacinta Allan and Luke Donnellan. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the $1.5 billion offer in relation to Victorian infrastructure that the Turnbull Government made earlier this month. In the Victorian Government Budget yesterday, of course the Victorian Government stated that the offer had been accepted, and that it was now a case of working with the Commonwealth in relation to implementation.

This morning was an opportunity for the relevant portfolio ministers—Minister Chester and myself from the Commonwealth, Ministers Allen and Donnellan from Victoria—to go into a bit more detail about the way forward. We discussed the components of the Commonwealth's $1.5 billion proposal. That includes of course a $500 million contribution on the Monash Freeway, $220 million in relation to Murray Basin Rail, $350 million in relation to the M80 Western Ring Road, and other components, all of course premised on that contribution being matched dollar for dollar by the Victorian Government.

We had a constructive discussion about the way forward, there was certainly agreement in principle on the projects that have been proposed there, and now there will be more work done between the two governments. Clearly there are some projects that are very well advanced; there are others where there needs be some more planning work, for example in relation to the Monash Freeway, there's one component which is well advanced, and then there's additional work that the Commonwealth has proposed, and there'll need to be obviously a business case developed on that, and Commonwealth officials and Victorian officials will meet reasonably soon to discuss the next steps there.

But certainly a constructive discussion between myself and Minister Chester from a Commonwealth perspective and Ministers Allen and Donnellan from a Victorian perspective, and we look forward to working with the Victorian Government to get the infrastructure built that Victorians need to make their state continue to be a very liveable place, but also an efficient and productive place.

Question: So there was no real agreement on that dollar for dollar matching from the state?

Paul Fletcher: Well certainly the Commonwealth's offer is premised on dollar for dollar matching from the Victorian Government and indeed, as the Victorian Government said in the budget papers yesterday, they've accepted the proposition and now it's a question of working through the details.

Question: So by details you mean which sort of projects are funded, or …?

Paul Fletcher: Well we've put forward—the Commonwealth has put forward a list of projects—the Monash Freeway, Murray Basin Rail, M80 Ring Road, and then there's packages in relation to regional roads and in relation to relieving urban congestion. And there was agreement in principle on that list of projects. Obviously there's detail to work through, for example in relation to the Monash and how the additional funding is best put to use, and that's work of detail that will go on between the two governments.

Question: Luke Donnellan's previously described your proposal for the Monash as bird-brained. Have you given Victoria any more clarity about exactly what section of the Monash the Commonwealth wants upgraded?

Paul Fletcher: Yes, indeed, and we've been clear about the fact that we want to see extra widening of the Monash over a longer distance than the Victorian Government proposed. What we've agreed today is that Commonwealth and Victorian officials will come together to discuss that in detail, and that what needs to happen is that a business case is prepared for the extra component of the funding. Let's be clear—what the Victorian Government has proposed to date is a $400 million upgrade of the Monash, including both widening and a managed motorway component. What the Commonwealth is proposing is that we spend collectively, between the two governments, a billion dollars on the Monash, and that was certainly one of the issues we discussed today. And the next steps are, as I've mentioned, Victorian Government officials to meet with Commonwealth Government officials, and there needs to be work to develop a business case in relation to the additional work.

The key thing here is making sure that the experience for people travelling to and from south-eastern Melbourne into and out of the city is a better experience, and that involves upgrading the Monash.

Question: One thing I've never been clear on, is the $400 million included in the billion dollars, or in addition to the billion dollars?

Paul Fletcher: Well, what we have committed is, we will make $500 million available if the Victorian Government matches that with $500 million. Now, there is an existing proposal by the Victorian Government which has a total capital cost of around $400 million, and we've indicated that as part of our 500, we're happy to make 200 of that available towards that first component. Then in addition, there's this very substantial additional component, and there's now going to be work between Commonwealth and Victorian officials, and there'll need to be a business case developed.

Question: The State Government is going it alone on the Melbourne Metro Rail project; is there any chance that you would ever contribute to that project? The Government says that the door is open if the Federal Government does want to contribute down the track.

Paul Fletcher: Look, the immediate next step from the Commonwealth's perspective there is that the business plan the Victorian Government has put forward needs to go through a detailed assessment by Infrastructure Australia. That's a requirement for any proposal from the State Government for funding for a project of more than $100 million, so that work is underway. Additionally, what the Commonwealth Government has offered is a $10 million contribution towards more planning work in relation to Melbourne Metro, and we want to have a focus particularly on how do we best maximise the impacts of that project in terms of urban regeneration, value capture. We discussed that planning proposal today, and there's agreement to move forward with that planning work. So that's what we're seeing as the immediate priorities in relation to Melbourne Metro.

Question: You're not opposed to—I mean, this is a ten year project—you're not opposed to at some point in the future making a substantial contribution to the actual building of this project?

Paul Fletcher: Well look, it's certainly not appropriate to be ruling anything in or out at this stage. Indeed, when the Prime Minister was in Melbourne just two or three weeks ago, as we announced the $1.5 billion Turnbull Government infrastructure plan for Victoria, he himself noted that Melbourne Metro is a transformative project. The important thing from a Commonwealth point of view is that the first step is to assess the business case, and the second thing we've specifically proposed is we want to provide $10 million of Commonwealth money to get more detailed planning work done, working cooperatively with the Victorian Government in relation to Melbourne Metro, and particularly the land use implications and the value capture implications. That's to say to what extent will the project drive material uplifts in property values, and is there a capacity to tap into some of that towards the capital cost of the project. Thank you very much.