Announcement, Funding for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link

Prime Minister: Well good morning. I'm here with the Treasurer and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Michael McCormack, and the Minister for Revenue, Kelly O'Dwyer, and we're here to talk about a historic decision. For over 50 years people have been saying this airport, Melbourne's airport, needs a railway and, of course, it does.

The Tullamarine freeway is getting more and more congested. Too many Melburnians and visitors spend too many hours stuck in traffic trying to get to and from this airport.

A decision has to be made.

Leadership has to be shown.

Money has to be invested and we are committing $5 billion to a half share in the project to build the railway from the city to Melbourne Airport. This has been long overdue and it requires leadership. It requires investment. This is $5 billion to bust congestion. To improve the connectivity of this airport, relieve congestion right across the city, not just on the freeway, right across Melbourne.

Everybody in Melbourne uses this airport and this will make it possible to get to this airport by train.

Other great cities, most great cities, with big airports have railway linkages. Melbourne has been left behind by failures to make decisions about investment in this railway. So the time for putting this in the too hard basket is over.

We're getting on with the job, thanks to the well managed Budget that we have, bringing it back into balance by 2021, a great job Treasurer, Minister for Revenue, great job. What we now have is the funds and the ability to make this historic investment.

So I'll ask the Treasurer and my colleagues to talk about this further and then we'll take some questions. Scott, this is a big deal, $5 billion. It is going a huge economic boost for Melbourne and indeed, for the whole nation.

Treasurer: This is national infrastructure. This is not just another railway. All of our railways are important, but this is a railway of national significance. This airport is an airport of national significance and what the Commonwealth is doing, the Turnbull government is doing is recognising the national significance of this transport link and making it happen.

The reason we can make this happen is exactly as the Prime Minister said—we are building a stronger economy. We are building a stronger economy, which means a stronger budget. And without a stronger economy and without a stronger budget you can't make these sorts of investments.

This will be—this $5 billion investment in this nationally important project, the Tulla Rail—will be the single largest infrastructure commitment in this year's budget. And it will be there for Victoria and the people of Melbourne as the Deputy Prime Minister I am sure will say, well beyond the Melbourne precinct here.

This is a serious project. Our money is on the table. It is in the Budget and we are looking to form a real and new partnership with the Victorian government to make this happen. An equal partnership to see the project all the way through.

We are not an ATM, we are a partner investing together with the Victorian Government, from start all the way to finish and beyond, to make this the city-changing, congestion-busting piece of infrastructure that we know it can be. And we can make it happen because the Turnbull government are making sure we have a stronger economy and a stronger budget.

Prime Minister: Well thanks Scott. Now, DPM.

Deputy Prime Minister: It is great to be here with the infrastructure building Prime Minister, the Infrastructure building Treasurer and the Minister, Kelly O'Dwyer, who is a proud Victorian and she should be a proud Victorian today because today we're getting on with the job of building this important link, this important link, the Melbourne Airport link.

Overdue, the Prime Minister said, long overdue, but it is going to happen now with the partnership with the Victorian government. We look forward to them coming on board.

This particular land space that Tullamarine is on is twice as big as Heathrow. We need a vision for the future to make sure that the 34 million passengers using the airport this year, which is going to expand to 60 million and perhaps double in the next 20 years, have a link to the CBD that they so desperately need.

This is going to ease congestion. This is going to create jobs. This is an investment for the here and now, but certainly, an investment for the future.

And particularly, as the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, but somebody from a regional area, I'm delighted about the opportunities this is going to create for regional Australians, regional Victorians, who come to this city.

It is one of the capital cities of the world as far as sporting and culture are concerned and people love coming to Melbourne and they're going to be loving coming to this airport and then being able to go to the city on this airport link in the future.

Kelly, I might get you to say a few words.

Minister O'Dwyer: Thank you, Deputy PM. As a really proud Victorian, together with my Victorian colleagues, colleagues like Julia Banks in Chisholm, colleagues like Jason Wood in La Trobe, colleagues like Chris Crewther in Dunkley, colleagues like Sarah Henderson in Corangamite. We as Victorians know that congestion is one of the top issues for Victorians living their lives each and every day.

It is an issue that affects them as they go to work. It's an issue that affects them when they come home. It's the thing that stops them from getting to their families and we have been talking with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer about how we can bust congestion in this state.

And the Prime Minister I want to thank you for listening, for putting $5 billion for our national infrastructure project that will bust congestion in this state by building, by delivering, the Melbourne Airport Railway Link.

It will put us in the league of other international cities right across the world. In Paris, in London, in New York, that have this essential infrastructure that will enhance, not only the productivity of our state, but enhance the liveability of our city. And I want to thank you, Prime Minister, for listening to all of your Victorian colleagues, to you Treasurer, to the Deputy Prime Minister.

This is critical infrastructure. We are delighted that it has been announced here today. $5 billion, the biggest, biggest lot of infrastructure that is in the Budget that is coming up. And we want Daniel Andrews, the Premier, to come on board with this 50:50 project to make sure that this project is built because it will be to the benefit of every single Victorian.

Prime Minister: Very good, thank you. A very happy Victorian.

Minister O'Dwyer: A very happy Victorian, Prime Minister!

Prime Minister: We are all very happy about this. It is going to be such a game changer. Now do you have some questions?

Jounalist: Have you spoken to the Premier, Prime Minister and told him about this?

Prime Minister: I haven't spoken to him yet. I have sent him a letter which is very detailed and I look forward to speaking to him about it. I'm very confident he will come on board.

This is a very—this is a rational, business-like proposal. We build it as partners. We're contributing $5 billion. We expect Victoria to match that. We think there is the opportunity for partnerships with the private sector. As the Deputy Prime Minister said, there is a huge amount of land here.

The airport, there are obviously opportunities to partner with the airport in terms of further development. This can be city-shaping infrastructure. To make, not just the travel time between the airport and the city faster, but more convenient and reduce congestion. But also, add to the liveability of Melbourne which is already one of the world's most liveable cities.

Jounalist: You said yourself it has been talked about for decades. When do you expect the first train will actually arrive here?

Prime Minister: The goal would be to get the construction underway within a few years. Obviously, there is going to have to be a lot of planning. I wouldn't want to, at this very early stage, estimate a time. But as soon as possible.

I mean, look, this was first talked about in the mid-1960s. In fact there was a Bill introduced to the Victorian Parliament in 1964 about a railway out to Tullamarine—that was before they built the airport. As Kelly often reminds us, the airport was built before you were born!

Minister O'Dwyer: Before I was born! Well and truly.

Prime Minister: Sadly not before all of us were born! But anyway, regardless of what when you were born, it is vital that we get it built.

Treasurer: In last year's Budget we put $30 million into the feasibility study for this project. So this is a process we began in last year's Budget and now we're following through in this year's Budget. That feasibility study we're expecting to have some work back to us later this year around September-October and that will provide a lot more detail on these sort of issues particularly the issue of assessment of routes and there are a range of options, but the options that, you know, you need to consider in this is what's really going to change the city for the better?

What's really going to help, not only those who come into the airport here, from other places and enjoy Melbourne and Victoria more broadly, but the people who work at this airport? The people who work along the way? The people who live along the way? That's what the feasibility study will assist us well.

Jounalist: Do you think financially it will stack up?

Treasurer: Yes, I do. Of course I do. We have seen these projects be successful around the world and it is more amazing that it hasn't happened here yet, than it is now happening. But the starter's gun has been fired by the Prime Minister on this and so let's get to work and get it done.

Jounalist: If the partnership with the State Government so important and such an important part of providing that half of the funding. Why did you go to the Herald Sun before the government?

Prime Minister: It's important that we make sure that Melbournians are enthused and engaged. We want everyone in Melbourne to have their say on this. We want this to be a project that enlivens and excites the whole city indeed the whole state—and it will.

We look forward to, as we go through this process, working with the State Government. You will get lots of submissions from citizens and local government. You will get submissions from the private sector about how they can play a role.

Look, this is the new way the Federal Government works on infrastructure in cities. This is how we are working on the Western Sydney Airport and the North-South rail link in Western Sydney and in other parts of the country.

We want to work, as Scott said, as partners.

This is a project, we are not talking about cutting a cheque to the State Government and walking away. We're talking about working together. Building this as partners. This is what everyone says. Doesn't everyone say, “Wouldn't it be great if governments to work together?”

Well, that's what we're proposing to do. 50:50 and we've put our money on the table.

Jounalist: [indistinct] telling the Victorian Government what its priorities should be?

Prime Minister: The Victorian Premier himself said that the airport rail link was a high priority. In fact I referred to that in the first paragraph of my letter to him, just in case you had forgotten what he said late last year.

I am very confident that we will be working together on this, and I know this airport link has been a top priority of the Victorians and Melburnians for many years, decades in fact.

Jounalist: When did you send the letter to Premier Andrews?

Prime Minister: Last night we sent it.

Jounalist: Late last night? Around midnight?

Prime Minister: Apparently, yes. That's right.

Jounalist: But it is $5 billion investment though would that not warrant more consultation or perhaps a joint announcement with the State Government?

Prime Minister: I think you are interested in the politics and the process. Your viewers are interested in when this project will be built and being able to get out of their car and get the train to the airport, and if they are still on the roads in their car, having less congestion and that's what it's going to deliver.

Jounalist: You put $5 billion in the table and you [indistinct] so what happens if the Victorian Government doesn't come to the party and cough up the other $5 billion which is quite a significant amount?

Prime Minister: I have no doubt that the Victorian Premier was serious when he said at the end of last year that this was a top priority and he wanted this project to be built. He talked about work commencing by 2025.

We think we can bring that forward by a number of years but he has shown a commitment to it. Look, he is not Robinson Crusoe—a lot of Victorian Premiers going back to Henry Bolte have said they have a commitment to a rail link to the airport, but none of them have built it.

So what we are doing now is bringing this to a head, putting $5 billion on the table and offering to work together as equal partners in a 50:50 partnership. Now, we'll just have one more question.

Jounalist: The State Government has talked about commitment to the regional railway network, have you committed to improving the regional rail network as part of this plan?

Prime Minister: We have already committed, and I'll ask Michael to say more about that, we have already committed $1.4 billion to regional rail. But Michael do you want to add to that?

Deputy Prime Minister: With the intergovernmental agreement on Melbourne to Brisbane Freight Rail, another important infrastructure project $9.1 billion committed to that project in last year's Budget, and we have provided $135 million to the North-East rail link. And just yesterday I was with Sarah Henderson, the member for Corangamite talking about rail projects in her electorate.

We are investing millions of dollars in Victorian regional rail, because regional commuters are just as important as anyone else, and they certainly will also be able to take advantage of this amazing announcement today.

Jounalist: Can we ask you about Syria? Are you concerned by what you are seeing happening between US and Russia over Syria?

Prime Minister: Yes, of course we are all very concerned and we condemn the shocking chemical attack in Duma on the 7th of April. 49 people were killed and many others injured.

This is a shocking attack, yet again, a war crime by the Syrian government. Russia has enormous influence with the Syrian regime and they should bring that influence to bear to stop the use of chemical weapons, and the global community has rightly condemned Syria and called on Russia to use its influence to stop it.

We cannot accept the use of chemical weapons, whether it is in Syria by the Syrian regime, or on a park bench in Salisbury, England, with the use of the nerve agent by Russian agents to seek to kill the Skripals.

It is a shocking crime and one that we thoroughly and utterly condemn. OK, thank you very much.