Transcript—Press conference with Bert van Manen and Karen Andrews



07 September 2016

Topics: Commonwealth funding commitment to upgrades to the M1 motorway.

Paul Fletcher: Well good afternoon. I'm very pleased to be here with my colleagues Bert van Manen, the Member for Forde, and Karen Andrews, the Member for McPherson, following a discussion that we've just had with representatives of the Queensland Government and a range of Queensland organisations in relation to the question of the funding for a couple of important projects on the M1 motorway running between the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Now, thanks to the terrific work and advocacy on behalf of their communities that's been done by Karen Andrews and by Bert van Manen, the Turnbull Government put on the table a very significant funding commitment in relation to the Mudgeeraba to Varsity Lakes section of the M1, where we've committed $110 million, and also the section of the M1 where it merges with the Gateway Motorway where we've committed $105 million.

And we've made that commitment on the basis that it would be a 50-50 share of the total project spend, with the balance of the cost to be committed by the Queensland Government. We made that proposal for a range of reasons, including of course the fact that consistently, over quite a number of years, both federal Liberal governments and federal Labor governments have provided funding to support upgrades on the M1 on a 50-50 basis.

Today we had a discussion with Minister Bailey from Queensland and Mayor Tom Tate and representatives of RACQ and business groups. I reiterated that the Commonwealth stands ready to provide funding on a 50-50 basis, but I did put forward a couple of suggestions on behalf of the Commonwealth in terms of how we can work constructively with the Queensland Government in relation to getting these projects underway, which is of course what the people of South-East Queensland, what the people of the Gold Coast, what the people of Brisbane want to see.

So I did suggest a couple of specific things on behalf of the Commonwealth; first that it might make sense to proceed to seeking to obtain from industry, from construction companies specific figures as to what they would charge to build these two projects, and that's important so that we're talking about a specific amount of money, a specific firm quote, rather than what we have at the moment, which is simply desktop estimates. So that might be through a tender process or a request for proposal process, and the second proposal I made on behalf of the Commonwealth is that the Commonwealth is prepared to be flexible in terms of the timing within which we pay the amounts that we have committed.

So for example, the Commonwealth would stand ready to provide our payments towards the cost of these projects earlier on, leaving the Queensland Government to make payments at a later stage. There was agreement at the end of the meeting that officials from the two governments would come together to discuss these two possibilities and come back to the two ministers with their recommendations. With that I'm going to ask first Karen Andrews to make some comments and then Bert van Manen can give some comments.

Karen Andrews: Well thank you Minister, and thank you for chairing this morning's meeting. It was a particularly worthwhile meeting; it was particularly good to get input from the Gold Coast City Council, from CCIQ and from the RACQ on two significant upgrades that the Commonwealth has already put money on the table to achieve. I'd like to restrict my comments to the southern extension of the M1, which is from Mudgeeraba through to Varsity. It's about a three kilometre section of the road. The costings, or the estimates that have come in from the State Government are in the order of $220 million.

I want to achieve two things. Firstly I want the project to proceed on the same terms as were originally agreed, which is a 50-50 funding commitment between the state and the Commonwealth, and Minister Fletcher has confirmed again today the Commonwealth's commitment to the original terms of the arrangement, which is 50-50 funding and has confirmed that that section of the upgrade area's $110 million has been committed from the Commonwealth. So I certainly want that to be achieved, but I want good value for money out of this project, and what I'd like the State Government to do now, and what they need to do is go back, reassess what the costings are and get the best possible prices so that there is good value for money for the taxpayers so that this project can proceed as a priority. Thank you.

Bert van Manen: Well I'd like to thank firstly Minister Fletcher for making this meeting available and also to my colleague from the Gold Coast Karen Andrews. It's a terrific example of what we can achieve when we all work together, and the northern part of the M1, the Gateway merge through to Springwood is a very critical piece of road infrastructure, and we have today I think made good progress at this meeting in terms of a way forward from where we are today, and that's what our communities are looking forward to.

So the Commonwealth has recommitted its funding of $105 million for its 50 per cent share of the upgrade from the Gateway merge to Springwood, and we have sought, as Karen has just outlined, to ensure that we're getting good value for money for the taxpayers' funds that we're spending on these projects, to get an idea of what the actual cost of the projects are and having the ministerial staff meeting to discuss this in further detail so we can properly understand what the commitments are.

So again I thank Minister Fletcher for organising today; I also thank Minister Bailey and the representatives from CCIQ, the RACQ and Tom Tate from the Gold Coast City Council, and I know that Luke Smith also from the Logan City Council has shared his thoughts with us, but unfortunately he wasn't going to be able to be here today. Thank you.

Paul Fletcher: Thank you Bert and thank you Karen, and so just to reiterate, a constructive meeting with Commonwealth confirmed our position that we stand ready to provide funding on a 50-50 basis in relation to the Mudgeeraba to Varsity Lakes project, there's $110 million. And the Gateway Merge section of the project, $105 million, and we proposed a couple of ways forward in terms of the suggestion that we would go out to the market to get firm prices from construction companies and indeed the suggestion that the Commonwealth stands ready to be flexible with the timing of our payments, if that would assist the Queensland Government. Are there any questions?

Question: Why shouldn't Queensland get an 80-20 funding deal?

Paul Fletcher: Well, the Commonwealth Government, be it a Federal Liberal Government or a Federal Labor Government, has consistently offered funding for upgrade to the M1 on a 50-50 basis. Let's be clear. The Commonwealth is spending around $13 billion on infrastructure in Queensland. There's a huge infrastructure upgrade program underway in Queensland, and pleasingly, during today's meeting, the representatives of the RACQ acknowledged the extraordinary amount of money that's presently being spent to upgrade Queensland's infrastructure, and of course that's very important, because Queensland is growing rapidly, it's a very large state, and so that is very important. But at the same time, we've offered our funding on a 50-50 basis, which is consistent for example with the basis on which we've offered funding to the Victorian Government under a recent package; we've offered funding to the South Australian Government on a recent project or a project that's presently underway on a 50-50 basis. So 50-50 is routinely used as the basis for the Commonwealth to provide funding, and so that's the basis on which we've provided the funding. Indeed, the Ipswich Motorway Upgrade at the moment is being funded on a 50-50 basis between the New South- between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Governments. That's the basis on which we've offered this funding.

Question: There's no budging on it?

Paul Fletcher: The commitment we've made is $110 million on Mudgeeraba to Varsity Lakes on a 50-50 basis, and $105 million on a 50-50 basis on the Gateway Merge section of the project.

Question: Okay, and what do you say to the argument that New South Wales' getting treated better just over the border?

Paul Fletcher: Look, the facts show that a very substantial amount of money is going to Queensland for its infrastructure needs, over $13 billion being spent by the Commonwealth Government for infrastructure in Queensland. Now the Commonwealth Government needs to balance up the requirements of states and territories all around Australia to build the vital infrastructure that is so important so that people can get to and from work quickly, so that freight can move around efficiently, so that our roads are as safe as possible, and there is always more that we need to do than we can fund immediately, and so therefore we need to allocate our funds very carefully. There is very substantial funding going to Queensland on a whole range of projects, and the 50-50 basis on which funding is being offered to Queensland for these two projects is consistent with the basis on which we are funding roads in a whole range of other metropolitan areas around Australia.

Question: Okay. Bert, what do you say to Pam Parker's call on you to take a stand against your Government and represent the interests of your constituents?

Bert van Manen: I've been representing the interests of the community of Forde for a number of years, and the evidence of that is that we have this funding commitment from the Federal Government, and I'm pleased that we're at this point today where we've progressed the discussion, and I think we've got some good steps to move forward with, and I'm very positive that we can continue on this journey and get to a point where these projects actually start to get built.

Paul Fletcher: If I can just build on that, Bert van Manen has done a terrific job in securing this funding commitment for the people of his electorate of Forde. Karen Andrews has done a terrific job in securing this funding commitment of $110 million for the people in her electorate of McPherson. So there is substantial funding on the table from the Commonwealth Government. What we want to do is work constructively with the Queensland Government. Let's stop playing political games. Let's get on with getting an M1- getting these M1 projects built. We've put our funding on the table. We've suggested some ways forward today, and we hope we can work constructively.