Press conference - Melbourne


KATE THWAITES, MEMBER FOR JAGAJAGA: Good morning everyone, I'm Kate Thwaites. I'm the Federal member for Jagajaga, and it is very exciting to be here today at North East Link. For people in this area, in our community this is a huge project, and it is a project that obviously, our state government and our federal government recognise how important it is to our local community and to our state more broadly. But for locals here, they know what it will be like to take trucks off Rosanna Road. They know what it will be like to be able to make that transition, to make their journey quicker through this area and safer through this area. So I'm so pleased to be here today with my colleagues, state and federal, and particularly with the Prime Minister who I know understands the significance of this project to this local area, but also to Victoria. Prime Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Fantastic. Thanks very much, Kate. And it's great to be here with the Premier of Victoria to Jacinta Allan, with the Ministers Danny and Catherine, state and federal, and with local MPs who are here at this amazing project. Next week's budget will contribute an additional $3.25 billion for this project, bringing the Commonwealth investment up to $5 billion - and what a project it is. This will have 12,000 jobs being created while this construction is going ahead. It will save commuters half an hour. It will take some 15,000 trucks of local roads, meaning better safety for everyone involved. This will make an enormous difference to productivity in this great city of Melbourne and the great state of Victoria. And it symbolises the fact that the Commonwealth is once again partnering with Victoria in infrastructure, in job creation, in building the economy here. For too long the former government left Victoria alone. The truth is that the Victorian share of the infrastructure budget at one stage, was down to eight per cent of the national infrastructure budget at a time where Victoria was busy with projects making an enormous difference to productivity, to road safety, to the quality of life of people throughout this state. Well, that's not what my government's approach is. My government will work with state and territory governments across the board on nation building infrastructure such as this project here, which is really fitting in a missing link in the Victorian road network to make sure that people can get to where they want to go sooner, in a more safe fashion and in a way that boosts economic productivity as well. So good for business, good for productivity, good for the economy, good for locals as well here in Melbourne. And I'm very proud of this announcement. It's just one of the announcements that we will have in next Tuesday's Budget when it comes to infrastructure, which is dealing with the three objectives that we have next week. One is, how do we take pressure off cost of living? Second, how do we do that in a way that continues to moderate inflation, which is a major priority, and the third is a future made in Australia. And something that Victoria, as one of the manufacturing capitals of Australia, is so important in as well. So next Tuesday’s Budget, I'm really looking forward to Jim Chalmers doing that. As Jim has released today, it foreshadows living standards increasing, because what we have is real wages growing. Real wages growing faster than inflation for the first time, something that wasn't happening a decade ago. It was here in Melbourne that I stood up with a $1 coin during the election campaign and said that, yes, we would welcome a $1 an hour increase in the minimum wage if the Fair Work Commission determined that would be the case. Our opponents said that would wreck the economy and the sky would fall in. It's not our approach. We want to see people earn more and for people to keep more of what they earn, which is why next Tuesday's budget will have a tax decrease for every single taxpayer, all 13.6 million of them, not just some. Peter Dutton wants Victorians to work longer for less. Our approaches can't be too different, and we characterise that as well with our support for infrastructure, which is about the quality of life for people who live in this growing and wonderful city of Melbourne.

JACINTA ALLAN, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Thanks, Prime Minister. Well, it's terrific to welcome the Prime Minister and our parliamentary ministerial colleagues here this morning at what is such a big and important project for our city and state and the nation. Which is why it's so welcome that we have a constructive partner in Canberra to support us here in Victoria, getting on with the projects that Victorians voted for, but most importantly too, Victoria as a growing city, as a growing state, Melbourne, as the fastest growing city, absolutely needs into the future. And this project, the North East Link project, has been talked about for such a long time, it's been talked about for decades. Indeed, it's been a dotted line on the Melways map for longer than I've been alive. It's been just talked about for decades and decades, and it's taken a Labor government to get on and deliver this project. And when you consider the benefits of this project, you can understand why it's so important that we've got on with this project and to have a constructive partner in Canberra to work with us to deliver this project. And this project is many components. There's the six and a half kilometre twin tunnels that we can see here before us with the tunnel boring machines, the largest in the southern hemisphere about to get started to do their work. But also too, it's the massive upgrade to the Eastern Freeway, forty-five kilometres of new lanes on the Eastern Freeway, the upgrade to the M80 connection to this part of the project, the M5 MCG’s worth of open space, new parks and social and recreation space for the local community to enjoy, and 34 kilometres of new walking and cycling connections as well. This is a big investment in a project, a transport project, but also too, it brings so many important benefits to the local community with getting those 15,000 trucks off local roads. And this is particularly important when you consider, as our city is continuing to grow, Melbourne’s projected to be a city bigger than the size of Sydney by the end of the decade. We know that we cannot just sit back and let the number of trucks on local roads continue to grow. The North East Link project will get those trucks off local roads and return local roads to local communities. It also too will provide for those faster travel time journeys that the Prime Minister spoke about. Provide for better, stronger connections for our freight industry, with those connections into Melbourne Airport and the Melbourne markets at Epping as well. This is such a vital project for our state, and it's great that the Prime Minister has recognised too the partnership, that this is a vital project for our nation as well. Because of those benefits, because we're a growing city and state. And for too long, for too long, projects like this, big, important job generating projects like this, were ignored by the previous Liberal National Government in Canberra. They barely knew where Melbourne was on a map, let alone support us with the infrastructure projects our city and state needs. And that's why I'm so pleased to both welcome the Prime Minister, but also welcome his constructive partnership in getting on and supporting the projects that are going to make a big difference to our economy now, as we support the 12,000 jobs that will be on this site or into the future, as productive infrastructure continues to underpin a strong and growing economy that we have here in Victoria. I'll now hand over to the Federal Minister, Catherine King.

CATHERINE KING, MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Thanks so much, Premier and Prime Minister, it's such a delight to have you here. What an amazing project we've got behind us. Obviously the biggest tunnel boring machines in the southern hemisphere, infrastructure that is so important to this state. This $3.25 billion investment we'll be making in the Budget next week, of course, brings the Commonwealth's investment in North East Link to $5 billion. Fifteen thousand trucks off the road here in this community, thousands of jobs, but also making sure that connection between Watsonia and Bulleen, where it's huge traffic snarls at the moment, is actually making a really big difference for people being able to get over from Watsonia through to Bulleen. But also as the Premier says, moving those goods around with the markets, being able to actually get all the way from Gippsland to the market in a much quicker way, taking 35 minutes off the trip. We are delighted to be partnering with the Victorian Government on this project. I do want to thank Danny Pearson, the Victorian Minister, for working so constructively with the Commonwealth. This is a partnership. When we came to office, we had inherited a pipeline where, frankly, for Victoria, I was amazed at how little the Commonwealth was putting in, to some of these big building projects that the state is so renowned for. We're seeing that across Melbourne, certainly at the moment, and across the rest of the state. And we're really pleased to be able to have the Commonwealth's contribution to $5 billion here on what is such an incredibly important project. And again, can I just shout out to the construction workforce, what an amazing job you're doing. Can I just say, these jobs are so important to this state, so important to our nation, and we just want to say to you, stay safe as you work. But really, just you should be so proud of yourselves for the job that you're doing in building the infrastructure for the future of this nation. Thanks.

PRIME MINISTER: Terrific. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I just ask Inaudible.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this project is here, it's real and it's now. We want to support this project. Victoria was being short-changed on this project, we pitched in. The fact that Victoria was getting $1.75 billion for this project, I ask you to compare that with what occurred in, where there were coalition state governments and what the federal government's share was. As I said, Victoria's share of infrastructure investment fell to just a bit over eight per cent of the national budget. Victoria is a growing state, Melbourne's a growing city. This is a great project, and we're proud to contribute to it.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the four year delay that the Treasurer in Victoria thinks is now on the cards for Airport Rail is real, and are you happy to keep paying a mediator for four years?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I'd say this, the airport should get serious about actually getting things done. At the moment there isn't an agreement with the airport. I'm familiar with airports from time to time, they think they operate in a way that forgets about their social license.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how does today's investment align with your desire to reign in cost blow outs? As you'd be well aware, this project has blown out billions and billions of dollars.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, infrastructure is costing more. It's costing more because of, and that is right around the nation, and one of the problems that occurred that Catherine King inherited was a pipeline of projects that had unfunded or underfunded projects and contributions. So I was, earlier this week I was in Rockhampton just to single out, so it wasn't just Victoria in this case that was penalised. I was there in Rocky, Central Queensland where they said they had a Ring Road where the planning was done, when I was the Infrastructure Minister was funded, then nothing had happened because it wasn't funded anywhere near what the costs were. So there's a range of reasons for that. The supply chain issues that came arising out of the long tail of Covid has had a major impact, for example. So it's in all forms of construction and infrastructure, whether they be public or private has occurred. What we've done is ensure that you can't, you know, you can't drive on a media release, what you can do is drive on a road that's properly funded. We believe this $5 billion is an appropriate contribution by the Commonwealth to what is a vital nation building project.

JOURNALIST: So there’s no money for the Suburban Rail Loop?

PRIME MINISTER: You’ll have to see next week’s Budget. But we’ve already made a contribution for the Suburban Rail Loop.

JOURNALIST: On that same vein, why is it this project can be funded, rather than something like Suburban Rail Loop where the Premier wants Inaudible.

PRIME MINISTER: Well refer to previous answers, I could say. But what we're doing here is on its merits this is a great project. This is a vital piece of the missing links that are here in Melbourne. As the Premier has said, it's not just about where we are now and the magnificent tunnels that will be built here, it's about the other upgrades that will occur, including to the M80. When I was the Minister, working with Minister Allan at that time, more than a decade ago, we did upgrades to the M80. We had money on the table for the Melbourne Metro. Melbourne Metro would have been finished by now had Tony Abbott not been elected Prime Minister in 2013. People would be riding on that rail line. What we've seen from the Coalition was Victoria being ripped off, it's as simple as that. And a bloke who thinks it's not safe to go out in Melbourne at night is unlikely to put more money in. What my government will do is make sure that every state gets its fair share of infrastructure funding and that projects can be delivered, such as this one.

JOURNALIST: Just on gas, Inaudible by 2050, is that an initiative that we do need to get us to net zero? What does that mean for Victorians power bills?

PRIME MINISTER: What it is, is consistent with the long position that we have held. My government's committed to a net zero future. Gas powered generation is something that firms renewables. So when you look at manufacturing, for example you have, just to give one example, what Rio Tinto are doing there with its processes associated with aluminium. They've just signed the biggest deal for renewables that has ever been signed anywhere in Australia. But what they regard as necessary is a firming capacity to be provided by gas. We support net zero, gas and its firming capacity as a part of assisting with that pathway.

JOURNALIST: Given the Airport Rail is going to be delayed by four years, and given that land overseen by the federal government, can you not intervene further to get the ball rolling on this project?

PRIME MINISTER: We don't control Melbourne Airport. We don't control Melbourne Airport, it is Commonwealth land which is leased. That privatisation decision was made some time ago.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how concerned are you that billionaire Kerry Stokes is using his monopoly power as WAs only printer to threaten media competition in the state and forcing the Fin Review to stop printing -

PRIME MINISTER: And you're from?


PRIME MINISTER: I just thought you should declare an interest there. Look that that's a matter, that's a matter essentially for Nine and Seven. With due respect, I'm not about to put the Commonwealth Government in the middle of that. That's two private sector companies engaging with each other. I was very pleased yesterday morning to speak at a breakfast with 1200 of my closest friends in Perth and largely from the business community, at an event that was sponsored by Nine and that was very successful.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, should chants like ‘from the river to the sea’ be outlawed like the Nazi salute?

PRIME MINISTER: I'll say this about the Middle East position, which is that the government's position has been very clear, and over the last 24 hours what we have done again is to communicate to Israel our opposition for a ground invasion in Rafah, because we're concerned about the civilian population there. They were told to move from the northern part of Gaza, they were told to move south. You then have a very crowded population, and you also have a crowded population that is not clear where they are supposed to go, given the destruction that's occurred to housing in other parts of Gaza. So we are very concerned about that. And my government's position is very clear, and it's been a long-standing position of the Australian Government to support a two state solution. The right of Israel to exist within secure borders, the right of Israelis to go about their lives in safety and security with prosperity, but also the fundamental right of Palestinians to have safety, security and prosperity as well. With systems in place that ensure that through a two state solution. That is what is required. And my government supports the freedom of expression, of course, but people should be, think through what they are saying, and we support a two state solution and support rhetorical positions that are consistent with that.

JOURNALIST: What is your governments advice to Vice Chancellors –

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve answered. 

JOURNALIST: Back on gas. Are the federal government and state governments differing opinions on gas. Should the Victorian Government be more open to gas as a position?

PRIME MINISTER: Okay, governments, in our federation, we have the federal government's responsible for what we do, and the state and territory governments are responsible for what they do. The private sector is responsible for some things as well. And we, what we seek to do is to provide a Commonwealth framework going forward. That's what we've done with our Future Gas Strategy. And I think it's a very positive announcement that we've made today. It makes it clear that our Future Gas Strategy is consistent with achieving net zero by 2050, and indeed, it's a necessary component of achieving net zero by 2050 as well. Last one.

JOURNALIST: China’s Defence Ministry Inaudible.

PRIME MINISTER: I stand by what we have said when it comes to the incident that occurred in in North Asia in recent days. Australian Defence Force personnel were engaged in international waters, in international skies, and engaged in international work, consistent with the United Nations sanctions being imposed on North Korea. It was legitimate, peaceful activity which should be respected and which I'm proud of the role that Australian Defence Force personnel play in upholding international law and international sanctions and the appropriate processes as determined by the United Nations. This action by China was unprofessional and unacceptable. We've made that very, very clear going forward. Thanks very much.