Transcript - Interview on 3AW with Neil Mitchell

NEIL MITCHELL

On the line is Deputy Prime Minister. Michael McCormack, good morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Blitz, I’d prefer that rather than blizzard, maybe, Neil. It is actually good for the country.

NEIL MITCHELL

It’s designed to snow us, that’s why I called it a blizzard. The intermodal terminal, when will it open?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, look, I’ll work with Jacinta Allan and I’ll work with the Victorian Government to that end. I’ve got a good relationship with the Victorian Government and I want to make sure that we build the infrastructure that not only Melbourne needs but indeed – having spoken to Peter Walsh any number of times – also what the regions need. Because it’s the regions where the resources and where the agriculture comes from and of course, rail is so important. Rail is a key feature of the Budget and key feature of our logistics task.

NEIL MITCHELL

Okay, well, you’re putting in $2 billion. How much does the State Government have to put in?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, they’ll contribute what they need to contribute.

NEIL MITCHELL

But it’s estimated it could cost $4 billion all up, is that right?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Yes, absolutely –

NEIL MITCHELL

So, what if the State Government doesn’t come up with $2 billion, what happens?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we’ll work with the State Government. I’m sure the PM will work with Daniel Andrews, I’ll work with Jacinta Allan. We’ll get this done, as we always do.

NEIL MITCHELL

When? I mean, again, it’s part of the Budget thing – “This is going to happen, big dollars.” But when is it? Ten years down the track?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No, no. I’m much more confident than that. Inland Rail – we’ve got mid-2020s for the Inland Rail to be up and running. That first freight train on that vital rail network, that’s 1,700 kilometres. I call it a corridor of commerce between your fine city and Brisbane.

NEIL MITCHELL

Okay, so we don’t know when it will actually start?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I’m hoping very soon because we need jobs on the ground and we need certainly the Budget to support –

NEIL MITCHELL

Yes, but it is contingent on State Government money, isn’t it? You’re putting in $62 million planning and they’ve got to put in, what, another $60-odd million?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

But why wouldn’t they want to contribute, Neil? Why wouldn’t they want to contribute to their own prosperity?

NEIL MITCHELL

Of course, they would. Of course, they would but we can’t accept this is a fait accompli. It’s a proposal that needs approval from the State Government.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

And I’m sure they will approve it. I’m sure that Jacinta Allan in good faith will continue to work with me as she has. I mean, the Victorian Government were the first government to sign that intergovernmental agreement for the Inland Rail.

NEIL MITCHELL

I’m told that the State Government prefers Truganina and you want Beveridge as this intermodal hub. Is that correct? Which do you want?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Again, we will work with the State. I’m open to both Truganina or Beveridge. I’m absolutely open and we will work with not just the Government but indeed, with communities, indeed with transport operators, with those people who are addressing our logistics freight task every day of every week. And I’ve got to say, they have been magnificent, right up there with the first health responders in addressing the issues and the challenges that coronavirus has thrown up.

NEIL MITCHELL

So if it works, what is the effect? When we get it there what does it do?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it is where we transfer freight from rail to trucks and trucks to rail. It’s what heartbeat of the Inland Rail and that’s where we make sure that we can address those export issues. Because export means trade, trade equals jobs and more trade equals more jobs. And that’s why we want to get that fine agriculture output, whether it’s from the Mallee or wherever, on to rail, to port and then, of course, to our markets overseas. If ever we had an ability to be able to sell our wares to overseas it is right now because with so many areas devastated by coronavirus far worse than Australia, they want our food and fibre.

NEIL MITCHELL

So, but from our point of view it’s trucks off the road, is it?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it is. As you’ve just mentioned, it will take trucks off roads. In fact, removing around 4,000 truck movements per day on busy metropolitan arterial roads and an estimated 5,500 per day over the next 15 years. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what we’re making sure that we’re getting on and doing. I think that will be pleasing for all road users, but also, there’s always going to be work for the Linfoxs and the Ron Finemores and all the transport companies which do such a power of good for our nation.

NEIL MITCHELL

I’ve been looking through the list of roads to be upgraded. Most of them have been announced before, haven’t they? This is just a top-up, is it?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No, no, key projects.

NEIL MITCHELL

What are the new ones?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it is a top-up, yes. Yes, you’re absolutely right because most of the roads that we’re doing is, you know, it’s additional road safety upgrades, it’s duplication, it’s passing lanes. Yes, of course, we’re not about to look at building any great new roads through any suburbs right at this minute.

NEIL MITCHELL

No, no, I understand that.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We’ll work with the Victorian Government and indeed, they have prioritised these particular roads.

NEIL MITCHELL

But, again, I mean, you’re talking about the Monash roads upgrade. That was already announced, wasn’t it? You’re just putting more money into it.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We’re putting more money into it – $203.4 million.

NEIL MITCHELL

Pakenham was already announced, Heathmont car park –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

But it is significantly more money. It is making sure that we provide the jobs that Victoria needs right now. It is supporting Victoria to the tune of $2.99 billion. So that’s a lot of money for Victoria. That’s a lot of money for those communities and when you build roads it leads to procurement. It’s not just about putting down the bitumen, it’s about the little café down the road which supports the workers, providing more egg and bacon rolls and those sorts of things.

NEIL MITCHELL

So have you given up on the East-West Link?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it’s always there. It’s always there. I’m happy to work with any state government that wants to come with us on that journey.

NEIL MITCHELL

Is the billion dollars still on the table?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Always on the table. Always there.

NEIL MITCHELL

So if somebody builds it they can still get a billion dollars towards it? It’s not disappearing in here somewhere?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No, no. We want to make sure – Paul Fletcher, the Urban Infrastructure Minister and I want to work with the Victorian Government. And if that’s a different Government in the future then so be it. But we want to make sure that we build the roads that are going to bust through congestion and are going to make sure that Victorians get the infrastructure they deserve.

NEIL MITCHELL

What about the train station car parks that were promised at the last election? There’s a bit more for that. Has that blown out, has it?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I know that is part of the Urban Congestion Fund. Those car parks, we’re working very closely with the State Government to provide those at the moment.

NEIL MITCHELL

Yes, okay, but have they blown out in cost? Why is there more money going in? Did you get the figures wrong?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

You do a figure that’s based on assumptions that are made by State Governments and sometimes there’s additional costs for EISs and those sorts of things. There’s sometimes things that pop up, indeed, when you have an infrastructure Budget or demand at the moment like we’ve got and sometimes, you know, the companies that are providing the services, if you haven’t signed on the dotted line, then that even leads to costs extensions and expansions. So, we’ll work with those companies, with those tier 1s, tier 2s and tier 3s. We’ll work through State Governments. They do all the costings and we’ll get the infrastructure built.

NEIL MITCHELL

Thank you so much for your time. The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.

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