Press conference - Melbourne

CATHERINE KING: ... [indistinct]. I’ve seen what METRONET in WA has done, and it hasn’t just been about ‘let’s build a public transport system’; it has been about how do you actually build and grow new suburbs and new opportunities for people to live, work and interact with Perth differently.

And Suburban Rail is the equivalent. You’ve seen Queensland, then Minister Albanese, if we’d continued in government post 2013, the Cross River Rail and the gain. If you look at that project and the Roma Street station not that long ago, that will be the site of the Brisbane Arena as part of the Olympics build, it’s not just about an arena; it’s actually about an entire precinct of social and affordable housing. And that is what the vision of Suburban Rail is. We are, of course, partnering in that are earlier stage with Suburban Rail East, but we see, you know, what that will mean for the way in which – and it’s not just a suburban project; it’s actually about if you live in Gippsland and you’re trying to get to the Monash Children’s or the Monash University, the logistics of trying to do that this will significantly change for people, particularly in the east.

And as we move around Suburban Rail, my own interaction as someone who catches rail in – the airport rail, both of those are important. Rail, in particular, the airport rail – I’m a Victorian who talked about this forever. There is $10 billion from both different levels of government on the table. We’re wanting to get on with this. I think it’s really important that, you know, the airport is a major piece of infrastructure here in Victoria and we look forward very much at both the commonwealth and state working collaboratively with the airport to make sure that this project is delivered. It is a very important project for Victoria, but a very important project for the whole country really in the way in which the airport and rail interacts. And we’re very keen to see that done and encourage all parties to work with us to get that done.

JOURNALIST: And the SRL East business case, as you know. It’s based on the commonwealth providing a third of the funds and to date you’ve committed $2 billion. Will that remaining $9 billion be forthcoming, and what is it that you’re looking at?

CATHERINE KING: Well, there are obviously ongoing discussions for future budgets; it’s not something that you’d expect to see – we [indistinct] the $2 billion and we want to make sure we’re working through with the state in terms of how our $2 billion contribution will be. These are long-term nation-building investments that we are keen to see. But, equally, we are trying to re-invigorate Infrastructure Australia and its capacity to be a Commonwealth adviser. I think it has been very outward looking in terms of the way in which it has been trying to find what everybody else wants. What I actually need it to be able to do is to advise me when Jacinta comes, or any other State Minister comes, with a particular ask, I need to be able to have both my department but independent advice that is focused on that to me, and certainly, you know, that Suburban Rail would be one of the projects in terms of future funding that I would expect a stronger, more capable adviser in Infrastructure Australia to be able to provide that advice on going into a budget cycle. They have been completely divorced from the budget cycle and any investment decisions basically the Commonwealth has made for a long time. I want them back as part of that. And Suburban Rail obviously is one of the really big projects that will necessity the state working very closely with the revised Infrastructure Australia if we get the legislation through the parliament in the upcoming session to be able to do that.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned engaging with all relevant leaders across Australia. How does consultations with First Nations leaders play into that?

CATHERINE KING: Yeah, well, certainly one of the things that I think – let’s talk about The Voice, because I think yesterday was the most – you know, I don’t think I’ve seen – in a room making a decision and being in a press conference like the one we saw yesterday. It was an extraordinary moment and we have an incredible opportunity now in this country to include First Nations people in decisions that are made about them.

Of course, in terms of rail, we are talking about land use and interactions with country. It is incredibly important that First Nations People are part of that. But, equally – and we’re trying to connect communities, I talked a bit in my speech about the [indistinct] for remote First Nations communities and important infrastructure involve the players and in equity. But, really, this is what the Voice is about – providing for the first time and enshrined within our constitution recognition of our First Peoples, but also that meaning that as a member of the executive I have to pay due regard to them coming to me and saying, “These are things that we believe are support for us in the transport space,” and then for me to be able to consider those and add that voice and opportunity. And that doesn’t really exist at the moment. It does if I [indistinct] and people come to see me but, really, the Voice provides that real opportunity for both the parliament to think about those issues but also the executive to do so as well. 

JOURNALIST: On the issue of market capacity, the commonwealth and New South Wales have all had a delay or rescoped major projects because of those market forces, but Victoria is full steam ahead. So is it a matter of time before you also need to reschedule some of those major projects or, if not, what is it that makes Victoria impervious to those same forces that is affecting everyone else?

JACINTA ALLAN: Well, I’ll let Catherine talk to decisions that the Federal Government have made because that would – the Federal Minster is right here, so it would be inappropriate for me to answer for decisions that the Federal Government have made – perhaps I’m not entirely sure of the characterisation of those decisions. But, look, we’re really clear here in Victoria that when we make a commitment to the Victorian community we will deliver on those projects. Because for too long governments made commitments that weren’t delivered. And what we’ve seen is we came to government without a pipeline but also without the projects and without connections. And as I indicated earlier, for a growing city and state, we’ve got to make sure that we are making those decisions – sometimes difficult decisions – to build infrastructure that has long been talked about. You know, the North East Link Project, that gap in the Ring Road, which is an important freight route, important movement for people around the state, that’s been a line on the Melways map for longer than I’ve been alive. So we’ve got to get in and start delivering some of these projects that have been long talked about, because they only get more costly. If you’re wanting to look at this from a cost conversation, if we delayed things like the North East Link or the Westgate Tunnel, which is that important second river crossing, these projects will get more expensive, not less expensive. That’s the first point.

But then the second point in terms of what are some of the decisions the government makes in terms of managing the market capacity issue, it goes to the different models of procurement. It goes to how you partner with industry to deliver the projects. And two really good examples of that is the program or the alliance contract and approach we’ve used for both level crossings and our major roads projects where we’ve been able to in the case of level crossings, we are well ahead of schedule and last year’s budget we actually returned $400 million out of that program back to consolidated revenue because we were so far ahead of time and ahead of budget. That is why we were able to return those funds that had been allocated for level crossing removal back to consolidated revenue. Similarly, too, with roads, we’ve been able to deliver our road program much more quickly because we’ve got a program approach where we have industry partnership engagement in at the front end of the design and the delivery and it creates great efficiencies. And what comes with great efficiencies is a way to manage some of those budget pressures that we are experiencing, we’re all experiencing it in different aspects of our lives. And so that’s the approach that we’ll continue to pursue.

JOURNALIST: And we just heard from Minister King saying there’s no guarantee that that further funding for the SRL will be forthcoming. So how do you deliver that project if that is the case?

JACINTA ALLAN: Well, I think to be really fair to the Federal Government, that what they’ve said is that they want to put in place a better, more robust independent assessment process that projects like Suburban Rail Loop and other projects around the country are assessed against. So I wouldn’t put the cart before the horse and say that that means there is or isn’t going to be any federal funding coming for the Suburban Rail Loop, because they’ve got to go through their own proper processes. And I and Victoria really welcomes what the Federal Government are doing in terms of taking Infrastructure Australia back to that really core function – which is to be the independent assessor and adviser of these sorts of projects, not, as Catherine’s talked about in terms of where it’s gone in more recent years, particularly under a previous Federal Government that was more interested in car parks than, you know, major freight routes.

So that’s a welcomed initiative. And so, what comes as a consequence of that, of course, is that we will work in that new Infrastructure Australia and the new processes that are set by the Federal Government. You’ve got some legislation to go through the Parliament. So, we’ll let that go through. But, importantly, what we have right now is a partnership with the federal government on the delivery of the Suburban Rail Loop for $2.2 billion that was committed in last year’s federal election and then committed against in the budget. That was the biggest allocation the Federal Government made to any state project in the nation. And that means we are underway with early works. We’ve got our major contracts out to market and, importantly, we are engaging in that important pressing planning conversation which thinks about not just how we build the train line but how we also bring at the same time the investment in jobs and housing into those precincts.

CATHERINE KING: Thank you. Thanks, everyone.