Press conference with the Hon Steven Marshall MP, and the Hon Stephan Knoll MP
Steven Marshall: Happy Father's Day to everybody that's a father. It's a special day. I'm going to be spending a bit of time with my son and with my father and I hope everybody gets to enjoy the day. So, we'll get this press conference out of the way as quickly as possible.
Another good news day for the people of South Australia. And it's fantastic to welcome the Deputy Prime Minister back to South Australia. It's like every time you're here, we get a good announcement. So, you're welcome back…
Michael McCormack: [Interrupts] Twice in four days, Premier [laughs].
Steven Marshall: You're welcome back any time you like.
Look, this is a good news story for the people of South Australia. When the Federal Budget came out, it's fair to say that South Australia didn't receive as much in infrastructure funding as we were hoping for. The previous government hadn't done the work; they hadn't put the submissions into the federal government. And the federal government can't approve projects where the work hasn't been done.
Well, I'm very pleased to say that the work has now been done. And I want to congratulate Minister Knoll and his team within DPTI for the work that they've done since we came to office in March to present the cases to the federal government. And I want to thank the federal government for backing the people of South Australia.
And what we have is the result of two grownup governments sitting down, working out what's in the best interests of the taxpayers of Australia.
We have now been able to bring forward projects which were earmarked in the Federal Budget but beyond the forward estimates into our forward estimates, almost $400 million worth of new funding that will be announced in the Budget on Tuesday.
Projects like the Pym to Regency road upgrade, the Joy Baluch Bridge, we've already had the Gawler Line electrification announcement and of course, the wonderful announcement last week, which is the $70 million upgrade or, basically, fixing “crash corner” which has been a major problem for the people of this state for a long period of time.
So, almost $400 million worth of new money, plus the $70 million that was announced earlier in the week. It's been a great time. And it's great to have the Deputy Prime Minister here in South Australia backing our state.
Michael McCormack: Thank you, Steven. And you're right, I was here on Thursday at Port Wakefield for that announcement of $72 million of federal money combined with the Liberal government's—state government's—money here for $18 million for that Port Wakefield Overpass and road duplication.
That's what you can do when you've got a really good state government working in conjunction with the federal government, a Liberal government here in South Australia working with the Liberal and Nationals in Canberra to make sure that people are getting to where they need to be sooner and safer. Making sure that we bust the congestion. Making sure that we have that regional connectivity.
And I have to say that when it comes to Transport Ministers, there's probably no Transport Minister who I talk to more often than Stephan Knoll—he's on the phone to me all the time. And that's why we've got this announcement today of bringing forward $1.76 million. Making sure that the residents of Adelaide, that people in regional Australia are well catered for when it comes to infrastructure.
Stephan and I have been at a number of projects, we met up at the Joy Baluch AM Bridge at Port Augusta recently, we had a look at that, of course the Gawler Line rail electrification—that's an important project. The North-South Corridor is also a vital project—easing that congestion, making sure that people get home sooner and safer. Making sure that we address the freight task complexities and logistics issues that South Australia—indeed all states have. But South Australia is working hard to make sure we bring these road projects forward, making sure that we've got the right rail freight task logistics in place, and making sure that people know that we're on their side when it comes to infrastructure.
I really admire the way the Steven Marshall government has got on board, made sure that Canberra knew what they needed, what the people they represent needed, and really looking forward to continuing to work with them to certainly bring these rail, road and other projects to fruition.
Stephan, I might get you to say some remarks.
Stephan Knoll: It's fantastic today and, again, I'll echo the sentiments of the two gentlemen either side of me that this is what happens when adult governments sit down and work together.
But this announcement today really does give certainty to the construction industry that's been looking to the government to fill this pipeline of productive infrastructure. So, it builds upon the announcements that we've made over the five months since we've come to government.
And today is fantastic; $400 million being brought forward, a total of $850 million now worth of projects that we've got into the pipeline over the next four years. This is fantastic news for South Australia, it's fantastic news for the construction industry and once again another piece of pipe in the pipeline of productive infrastructure for South Australia going forward.
Question: Mr McCormack, two things, the amount that's being brought forward, is at easy that you just bring it forward?
Michael McCormack: Well, of course the planning has to be in place, the business cases have to be in place and also we have to have a readymade workforce.
But we're ticking boxes and certainly I look forward to working constructively with Stephan going forward to make sure that we get shovels in the ground. That's what it's all about, rolling out these projects as soon as we can, getting on board and making sure that we get the roads rolled out, we get the rail electrification projects happening. That's what it's all about: getting people home sooner and safer and I'll continue to work constructively with Stephan, as will our departments, to make sure that you know, as I say, we get shovels in the ground as soon as we can.
Question: So have these—all of these projects—have they been obviously a business case but have they all been costed?
Michael McCormack: Well they've been costed. The planning stages are well in progress and we look forward to, as I say, repeat again, getting shovels in the ground. This is important for South Australia, very important for congestion busting here in Adelaide.
Making sure that we get the sorts of road projects up so that we can get people around this city, tourists around to the various destinations. I know Stephen Marshall as Premier has got big plans and visions for bringing more tourists to Adelaide, more tourists to the regions, and when we do that, you need better roads.
When you do that, you need to ensure that people can get around safer and sooner and that's what it's all about.
Question: Premier, can we ask, so this 365 that's been brought forward and the projects that are in the pipeline, what's the split then Commonwealth versus what state money that we'll presumably see in Tuesday's budget.
Stephen Marshall: Yeah the split differs project to project based upon whether they're metropolitan or whether they're in regional South Australia. And that's a split that's being determined by the federal government.
The important thing is that the federal government, the Coalition, the Liberals and The Nationals working together made a commitment to us. When we went to Canberra earlier this year and we said we don't think we've got enough, they've said well you do the work. You roll up your sleeves. You present us with the business cases. If you can show us that you can bring forward those projects, then we will fund them. And that is exactly what has happened.
That commitment has been delivered with this amazing amount of new money which has been brought into our forward estimates which means not only will we have improved infrastructure here in South Australia but it is absolutely fantastic for our economy and jobs.
Question: So are we talking 50:50 or are we talking- because on the Port Wakefield project the federal contribution is far greater than the state contribution. What are we talking?
Stephen Marshall: Well as I said the federal government has a range of funding protocols that they have in place. It's nearly always 50:50 metropolitan and 80:20 when it comes to regional projects. And that's what we've been able to continue with these projects sorry.
Question: Mr McCormack, can I speak to you? Just in terms of this money, is it fair to call it new money if it was already promised?
Michael McCormack: Well there was an additional $1.76 billion in the federal budget and we've brought that money forward. That was money that was in addition to what we were already spending as part of the $75 billion that we're spending over a 10-year pipeline of investment around the nation.
This is record infrastructure spending throughout Australia, and whether it's South Australia or whatever state it is, the federal government wants to make sure that we address the freight task which is expected to double in the next 20 years.
The federal government wants to address road safety issues. It's not good enough that we're losing upwards of 1,200 people on our roads each and every year.
So we want to address those issues and also congestion issues. Now, certainly Adelaide doesn't have the congestion issues that some other capital cities have. But we want to make sure that we're planning right, we're getting the infrastructure spending right and we're looking to the future.
We're building for a better future.
Question: But just in terms of that, at the time of the federal budget, you took the benefit of promising monies even though they were in the forward estimates. And now bringing it forward, you surely can't claim it as new money?
Michael McCormack: Well it was new money in the federal budget in May. The Stephen Marshall government was elected in March, and that's why when the federal Liberals and Nationals can work constructively with the government that is not moribund about infrastructure, a state government that is not moribund about getting out and rolling their sleeves up as the Premier just talked about, making sure that as I said before in my remarks, working constructively myself with Stephan Knoll and seeing what we can do, what projects we can bring forward. Making sure that we've got the right employment, the right logistics and the right planning. When we do all that and everything lines up as it has, we can bring these projects forward and get them happening sooner.
Question: It seems three trips—and correct me if I'm wrong, you might have been here since Friday, I don't know—but it seems extraordinary to have the Deputy Prime Minister here and just the sheer coincident that we've got a state budget on Tuesday.
Michael McCormack: Well I like these two blokes. They're good fellas. And the fact is I travel a lot around the country. I was in three states on Thursday alone.
On Thursday I started here in Adelaide, I then went to Sydney; I ended up in Brisbane that night. That's what you do when you're the Deputy Prime Minister who is committed to making sure that we've got the infrastructure being rolled out around the nation as people would expect us to.
And I said again Stephan Knoll has been on the phone regularly to me. Sometimes I'm sorry that I gave him my mobile number. He rings me day. He rings me night. He wants to make sure that the infrastructure that Adelaide and regional South Australia needs is getting delivered and he's not frightened to tell me that. And I've got a great relationship with Stephen Marshall too.
But I have to say this government is getting on with the job of building the infrastructure that South Australia needs and I'm delighted as The Nationals' Leader—but I'm the Liberals and Nationals' Infrastructure Minister getting on and working constructively with these two fellows to make sure that that happens.
Question: But it seems—the timing of it seems to be as much about a feel good for Stephen Marshall's first budget on Tuesday as anything else.
Michael McCormack: I'm happy to work with any Infrastructure Minister.I have to say the first intergovernmental agreement for the Inland Rail from Melbourne to Brisbane was signed with a Labor state.
I'm happy to work cooperatively with any Infrastructure and Transport and Roads Minister anywhere in Australia to get things done. The people would expect nothing better. They expect their politicians to deliver for them. That's what we're doing here. And if it's a coincidence that I'm here for the second time in four days, well so be it, but I'm delighted to be here. I'm also delighted it's started to rain.
Stephen Marshall: Yeah, we need some rain in South Australia.
Question: Very quickly, thanks Mr McCormack.
But very quickly Premier, the Opposition today has detailed an FOI of some expenditure of your Ministers, including a $1,600 chauffeured limousine for one day. Have you got a response to that?
Steven Marshall: Well I haven't seen the press release. But let me tell you, the previous government spent $2.9 million advertising their last Budget. They shouldn't be throwing stones whatsoever. The new government is a prudent government. We're spending taxpayers' money wisely. That's 100 per cent for sure.
Question: But you promised that there would be a pulling in of expenditure. If we look at this on the surface, it doesn't look particularly prudent to me.
Steven Marshall: Well, I think Minister Mullighan—sorry, let's just get that right, previous minister—shadow minister Mullighan is got a bit of egg on his face with regards to some of the claims that he's made.
I saw on Twitter today a boozy ministerial staffers' lunch. I mean, the reality was it was a 50 or 60 person conference. There was no booze served whatsoever. I think Stephen Mullighan should get his facts straight.
He was the member of a cabinet that spent $2.9 million, taxpayers' hard-earned dollars, advertising their last hopeless Budget. You will not see that sort of extravagance from this new government.
Question: Mr McCormack, I just wanted to ask you, just as the Premier said, just referencing taxpayers, do you think it passes the pub test that Peter Dutton has granted visas to European au pairs after lobbying by people like Gil McLachlan and against the advice of Border Force officials?
Michael McCormack: Well, there is ministerial discretion with any of these decisions taken. but what Peter Dutton has done very, very well is ensure that national security is in place. You didn't see 55,000 unauthorised arrivals happening in the last five years under a Liberal and Nationals government, which places border security front and centre of everything that we do.
You didn't see more beds being placed in detention centres than in hospitals. That's what you saw under Labor. We've got our borders tight. It is Ministerial discretion that Peter Dutton has, and as he said today, the fact is many, many, Labor members of parliament have lobbied him too for Ministerial discretion in certain cases. I'll leave Peter Dutton to explain individual cases because that's important but…
Question: [Talks over] But just in terms of the taxpayers and the people of Australia, surely you can understand the public may struggle to accept the argument that au pairs from first world western countries are deserving of visas on grounds of humanitarian grounds.
Michael McCormack: Well, they're also done on a case by case basis. The department looks at these and gives very careful consideration to each individual case. But on occasion, the Minister can make Ministerial discretion decisions and he's done that.
But Peter Dutton can explain the situation for himself. But I have to say again, as an Immigration and Home Affairs, Border Protection Minister, we've made sure, under his stewardship and indeed under the previous Immigration Minister, now Prime Minister Scott Morrison, we've tightened the borders up. We've closed the borders and we've made sure that 55,000 people haven't arrived unauthorised.
That's what a good, sensible and carefully-considered government does, unlike Labor, which left our borders open. And if Bill Shorten gets elected at the next elections that's what will happen again.
The boats will resume, the people smugglers' operations will return and it will be a mess again.
Question: Just in terms of that, you've said that's a matter for the Minister's discretion. But he told the Parliament that he had no personal connection to a Brisbane family who pled with him over an au pair, but it's since been revealed that he has worked with the father in the Queensland Police Force. Has Mr Dutton misled Parliament?
Michael McCormack: Well again, that's a matter for Peter Dutton to answer that. But I say again, Ministers…
Question: [Interrupts] But you're a Minister in Parliament.
Michael McCormack: Sure I am, but again, these are very complicated and very personal cases and Ministers at times have to look at these cases on a case by case basis. He's done that. Peter Dutton can explain the situation for himself, but I say again, he's been a very, very good Minister in that portfolio.
Question: Well just finally, on his Ministerial, I guess, competence: do you think people are leaking against Mr Dutton to get back at him for his role in the leadership challenge?
Michael McCormack: Look, I don't know about that at all.
The fact is, I'll say again, Peter Dutton has been a very good Minister in a very good government.
Whether it was the Abbott Government, whether it was the Turnbull Government and now the Morrison Government, we have been a very sound government with good policies, good infrastructure rollout, jobs. If you want a job in Australia you can get one.
Question: [Interrupts] You really have no idea who's leaking against Mr Dutton if at all?
Michael McCormack: Well, it's not for me to say who might or might not be leaking. The fact is, I'll say again, I've got every faith that Peter Dutton is doing his job and doing a good job as well.