27 June 2017
Subjects: Victorian infrastructure, sentencing, same-sex marriage
Prime Minister: Thank you Julia and thanks for meeting me at the tram stop, it was good.
Julia Banks MP: As I said, I haven't done that, the last time I met a man at a tram stop was 30 years ago!
Prime Minister: Fair enough, that's very good. It's great to be here with Darren Chester as well, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Darren will have a bit more to say about these projects. But what we have done today is announce that we are committing $1.5 billion, additional dollars, to infrastructure in Victoria.
Most significantly $1.42 billion towards regional rail upgrades right across the state. It's going to make an enormous difference to business, to the economy of this State, to bring all of those regional cities closer to Melbourne and Melbourne closer to them. So that you've got businesses in regional cities that can bring their workers and their customers from Melbourne and vice versa.
You know, distance is measured in minutes and hours, not in kilometres. So improving rail is critically important.
Of course one of the other elements of our infrastructure announcement is $30 million towards the completion of a full business plan to build a rail link to Tullamarine. That's long overdue. The work has to be done. We are getting on with that, to ensure that we can see how that can be done, how it can be financed, how it can be delivered.
We have a very deep and strong commitment to infrastructure in Victoria. The announcement today of $1.42 billion of federal money goes with $150 million of state money so the commitment is overwhelmingly from the Federal Government. It gives you an indication of our commitment to ensuring that Victorians have the infrastructure they need. Just as we're committed to delivering infrastructure right across the nation, $75 billion worth.
We know that this is the sinews of the 21st century economy.
But I'll now ask another great Victorian Darren Chester and the Minister to talk further about this investment in rail infrastructure and transport infrastructure in this state. Darren.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport: Thank you, Prime Minister. It's great to be here with Julia Banks who is an extraordinary champion of her local community. It's great to have a Prime Minister who is backing Victorians.
The money we announced today for the regional rail program will boost jobs in regional Victoria, but perhaps even more importantly in the longer term, is going to improve our connections within our regional towns in this magnificent city of Melbourne.
So it's great news for regional Victorians today. We want to get on with the job with the Victorian government of delivering the infrastructure Victorians want. We want to see the work start as soon as possible, as we roll out the rail projects over the next five to seven years.
Journalist: Minister, you called this regional rail program a “Santa's wish list” in April, what's changed?
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport: In April when I referred to it as Santa's wish list, I had a 1.5 page letter from the Victorian Government and no detailed plans.
Now we have been able to get detailed plans out of the Victorian Government. They have been prepared to put $150 million of their own money on top of the federal commitment. So we want to get on with the job. It's been a difficult negotiation process at times. But it's fair to say that over the last month we have made a great deal of progress. I've had enormous support from the Prime Minister himself and the Treasurer Scott Morrison for delivering this package for Victorians.
Journalist: Why did it take you so long? This stoush has been going on since the sale of the port of Melbourne?
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport: Well, let's rewind perhaps to 18 months ago, when I took over this role. The Prime Minister was very keen at that time to break the stalemate on the East West Link funding. We were able to do that last year. We secured, last year, $3 billion of joint funding for Victoria. Those projects are rolling out right now. So we've seen the work on the Monash, work on regional and rural rail activities, rural and regional roads as well. Projects like the Echuca Moama Bridge for example. So that was the first $3 billion this Prime Minister was able to secure for Victoria.
Then again, earlier this year we did have a stalemate, a dispute over funding involving the Victorian Government. We worked our way through it. We've had very productive discussions with the state Minister in the last month or so and the Prime Minister announced today, additional money for Victoria which will see more projects undertaken, creating jobs in Victoria.
Journalist: Prime Minister is this money coming for Victoria, is that from the asset recycling scheme?
Prime Minister: No, it's not. The asset recycling scheme is closed, this is money that's coming out of our infrastructure budget. We've found the funds available. I just want to say that I think the vast majority of Victorians would be delighted to see the Federal Government and the State Government working together on regional rail infrastructure and delighted to see this additional money.
So this is a very positive development and one that's going to—as Darren and Julia have noted—is going to bring these big regional towns and cities closer to Melbourne and Melbourne closer to them. It's going to tie this great state closer together. These are the sinews of the 21st century economy.
Journalist: Well, however you dress it up, sorry, however you dress it up, it's about the same amount as Victoria claimed it was owed under the asset recycling with the lease of the port. So however you dress it up it's the same amount of money, isn't it?
Prime Minister: Well, that may be the case but the answer is—again, that's an interesting calculation. The focus of Victorians is going to be on getting the jobs done, getting the projects underway.
You know sometimes there is a bit of a disconnect between what the media is interested in and what the people are interested in.
What Victorians are interested in, I know, is good infrastructure. They want to be sure that congestion is dealt with, which is why they'll be pleased to see $70 million of the interest on the East West Link money from the Federal Government is going go to projects that will relieve congestion in Melbourne.
What they want is results. They want politicians to actually cut through the commentary. I apologise, you guys are free to have the commentary but my job is to deliver for 24 million Australians, to deliver for Victorians, to deliver the infrastructure they need. That's what we are doing.
Journalist: Prime Minister aren't Victorians interested in getting their fair share from the sale of the port of Melbourne? You forgot to say [inaudible] asset recycling scheme. Victorians are going to keep asking for $600 million extra, is that money coming?
Prime Minister: What we are doing is delivering $1.42 billion towards regional rail in Victoria, combined with $150 million from the State Government. Now I'm sorry you are so negative about it. But I can tell you, you are way out of touch.
Journalist: Well I'm not –
Prime Minister: No, hang on. No, no just hear me out. I'm just saying to you, what Victorians are interested in, is getting the job done. They want the infrastructure built. They are sick of politicians arguing and point-scoring. They're sick of journalists and the media point-scoring and arguing too.
What they want us to do is get on with the job, build the roads, build the rail, deliver the services that they need. That's what my government is doing. I'm sorry if I'm not going to engage in the commentary. What I'm focused on is results.
If any of you are interested in the fact that there are 400 new jobs going to be created in the Latrobe Valley, part of a thousand jobs as part of this investment, I think that's pretty important. I think that's important. If I was in Morwell right now, I'd be delighted to hearing there is 400 jobs coming out into Gippsland, into the Latrobe Valley.
Darren and Russell Broadbent represent those communities and they are delighted too, because they are in touch with their communities. We are delivering for the 24 million Australians including the Victorians who want better infrastructure right across the country and today here in Victoria.
Journalist: But on the recycling money, don't you still owe Victoria more money?
Prime Minister: We are delivering this money today. The asset recycling scheme was closed. It had come to an end. I'm sorry, that's the fact. But the bottom line is the money is there. The issue you raise may be of interest in some quarters.
I can tell you, if you are stuck in traffic, you want the road built to relieve congestion.
If you have an inadequate rail service, you want the track upgraded.
If the station, if the platform isn't long enough and the station isn't good enough, you want it upgraded.
That's what we are doing. We're getting on with the job. We are delivering. My focus, our focus, is on the needs of 24 million Australians. We are committed to them.
I hear all the commentary. I see all the click-bait. I see all of the fake news. I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in results. That's what we are delivering.
Journalist: Christopher Pyne said yesterday there was a race to the bottom in sentencing and that sentences had become much longer, there had been pressures on judges to give longer sentences and it hadn't made us safer. Do you think the judiciary is too tough?
Prime Minister: I'm not going to run a commentary on sentencing practices. It's important that sentencing obviously reflects community expectations and does its job to punish criminals and, of course, to deter others from committing crimes. That's the object of all penalties in the criminal system.
Journalist: Prime Minister, something that Victorians were interested in a couple of months ago. The Premier called you the Prime Minister of Sydney because of the lack of funding. Now Victorians were interested in that. So what's your response to that?
Prime Minister: Good, well my response is; here is the investment. I mean this is a very substantial investment in Victorian infrastructure. It's about $1.5 billion when you add up the $30 million going towards the business case for the Tullamarine, for the rail link to the airport plus the $70 million of interest, it is over $1.5 billion of federal money. Now that indicates our commitment to infrastructure in the state.
Look, every state Premier will naturally argue for more money for their state. In the great race of life, always back self-interest because you know it's trying, so we respect and understand that. But this is good news. You know, I get told all the time: "Why can't you guys cooperate more? Why are you arguing with the states and the states arguing with you?"
This is something to celebrate. Here we are, we've reached agreement. It's a massive investment. Its overwhelmingly federal money and it is going to improve the infrastructure and the lives and the economy of Victoria so we should be pleased. So smile. Smile everyone.
You're smiling, that's good, he's smiling.
Journalist: Why isn't Mr Andrews alongside you then today?
Prime Minister: Sorry?
Journalist: Why isn't Mr Andrews alongside you? He's as far away as he could possibly be in Victoria.
Julia Banks MP: Well I'm alongside the Prime Minister and I can speak for my local community.
Journalist: I can understand that, but the Premier obviously is important in this deal, so why isn't he alongside you?
Prime Minister: Well you'd have to ask him. I spoke to him last night and he was as pleased as punch. So he's probably got something else to do than come out to Box Hill with us. But he would have been very welcome if he'd wanted to. But he was as happy as Larry when I spoke to him last night I can assure you.
Journalist: Is the government having a postal vote on same sex marriage? Is the government investigating a postal vote for same sex marriage to soften the plebiscite issue?
Prime Minister: Look, the government's position is very clear. I have answered this question frequently in the last 24 hours or so.
Our policy, which we took to the election, is that there should be a plebiscite in which all Australians have the right to vote about the issue of same-sex marriage.
Bill Shorten is the reason why the plebiscite has not occurred.
Again, I don't want to spoil this happy and convivial occasion with partisan attacks, but I'm just telling you the truth. We took a plebiscite proposal to the election. The reason it has not happened is because Labor chose for purely political reasons to oppose it. Bill Shorten himself, who is very good at backflipping of course, he in fact proposed a plebiscite in 2013. It's a perfectly democratic approach. Every Australian would have a say. If it had been held as we wanted in February, it would have been carried. I think we all accept that. In which case, same-sex marriage would be legal.
So those people who are disappointed that same-sex marriage is not legal in Australia have one person to blame and that is Bill Shorten. He is playing politics with this issue as ever. There is no issue of principle. He advocated a plebiscite himself, so he is the obstacle. What he should do is he should look at his own track record and ask himself why is he holding up this matter? Because he is the obstacle.
Journalist: Would you allow a conscious vote if it was pushed by MPs?
Prime Minister: No, our position is very clear. As I said, we went to the election with a promise of a plebiscite as the prerequisite for a vote in the Parliament on same-sex marriage. I mean, what's Shorten's problem? Does he not respect Australians? Does he not trust Australians? Does he think Australians aren't grown up enough to express a view on this?
Here is the opportunity for everyone to have their say and the matter will be settled. Shorten advocated it himself, in 2013. So this is not an issue of principle, as always it's politics.
Now, thank you all very much for being here. We could continue this press conference for longer given I have got my coat on but not all of you have. So I think we should all make sure we stay warm. Thank you all very much.
It is a great day for Victorian infrastructure, a great day as my Government commits big dollars, $1.5 billion to Victorian infrastructure, improving the economy and the lives of Victorians.
I want to thank my Victorian colleagues, Darren and Julia and all of them, for the great work they've done. I'm pleased, despite all of the predictions to the contrary, that even the Premier is happy, so that's good! That's good! Harmony prevails at least for a little while. Thanks a lot.