15 May 2017
Topics: Infrastructure funding in WA
Rita Saffioti: I think this is the third meeting I've had with Mr Fletcher, and what we're doing is developing a path forward, not only about the $2.3 billion deal that we developed over the past two weeks, but also about future projects. There's a new $10 billion infrastructure fund that was announced as part of the Federal Budget only last week, and we're very keen to be part of that and actually develop our business cases as soon as possible to try and secure as much money as possible.
We have a big infrastructure task in WA and we're very keen to be part of a process that delivers more funds for WA. Like I said, the $2.3 billion project deal that we secured in the past two weeks has given the industry certainty, job security, and of course a number of projects that we'll be progressing with quickly around the state to reduce congestion. We want to keep moving forward and secure more funds for WA to develop much needed infrastructure projects, and of course our Metronet project. So very keen, another productive discussion, and very keen to move forward.
Paul Fletcher: Thank you. I'm very pleased to be here in WA, and we've just had some very constructive discussions with Minister Saffioti. Of course, the Turnbull Government is very strongly committed to infrastructure around Australia and in Western Australia. In the Turnbull Government's Budget released last week we committed to a $75 billion infrastructure spend between now and 2026–27, and that is funding that's being provided all around Australia. Of course, here in Western Australia the Turnbull Government and the McGowan Government have reached agreement, as was announced a week and a half ago or so, on a $2.3 billion infrastructure package, including significant commitments to new road funding and also to new rail funding. Indeed, over $700 million committed from the Federal Government for the rail extension to Yanchep and the Thornlie to Cockburn rail line, subject to satisfactory business cases going to Infrastructure Australia.
So today, Minister Saffioti and I have had very constructive discussions about the ways the Turnbull Government and the McGowan Government will be working together, what the next steps are in terms of developing business cases. We've also spoken about the $10 billion National Rail Program. Under that program funding starts to flow from 2019–20, and it's designed to support major transformational rail projects in our big cities, and between our big cities and surrounding regional areas. And so we've had a very good discussion this morning about the processes under that program.
I'm certainly looking forward to receiving ideas and proposals from the Western Australian Government in relation to that program, and very much looking forward to working closely with Minister Saffioti and her officials and department in relation to the $2.3 billion infrastructure package that was released a week and a bit ago. I think the people of Western Australia expect the Turnbull Government nationally and the McGowan Government here in WA to be working together to deliver outcomes for the people of Western Australia, and today's constructive discussion is all about that.
Question: Minister, how do you explain the dramatic turnaround in your Government's rhetoric in the lead up to the campaign, where you said you wouldn't work with [indistinct]?
Paul Fletcher: The package that was announced a week and a bit ago—a $2.3 billion infrastructure investment commitment with both Commonwealth money and Western Australian money—was about the Turnbull Government and the McGowan Government working together to deliver outcomes for the people of Western Australia, to deliver transport infrastructure outcomes for the people of Western Australia. I think that's what people in Western Australia, and indeed around the country, expect their Government to be doing. State governments and Commonwealth governments are working together to deliver outcomes, and a very significant package of road investment and rail investment was committed to, and we look forward to working with the WA Government to give effect to those measures.
Paul Fletcher: The Australian people and the people of Western Australia expect their Federal Government to be working with the relevant state government—here, the Western Australian Government—to deliver outcomes. So we sat down in a practical and pragmatic way with the McGowan Government, and that work was led from the Prime Minister down. Obviously, Mathias Cormann as Finance Minister played a critical role. I've met with Minister Saffioti on a number of occasions. We are working in a practical and pragmatic way together on a significant package of transport infrastructure commitments—road and rail—which are going to deliver benefits for the people of Western Australia.
Question: Have you released the $1.2 billion that's still on the table for Roe 8 to other projects, knowing that this Government's not going to build Roe 8?
Paul Fletcher: Well, what we've said is two things. First of all, that there's a commitment of $2.3 billion—that's joint WA and Commonwealth money; of that, around $1.6 billion of Commonwealth money—and that's for an agreed range of projects: Thornlie to Cockburn, the Yanchep rail extension. [Indistinct] also made it clear that a Commonwealth Government commitment to Perth Freight Link remains there, and that's available should a future WA Government wish to take that up.
But in the meantime, we've got on with a very practical and pragmatic agreement between the Turnbull Government and McGowan Government, delivering transport infrastructure outcomes for the people of Western Australia. And look, I've just had a very constructive discussion with Minister Saffioti about the ways forward, the ways that we're going to work to give effect to that $2.3 billion package, and of course the options for Western Australia to put forward proposals in relation to the $10 billion National Rail Project—with funding starting to flow from 2019–20—and that's part of the Turnbull Government's $75 billion commitment to infrastructure between now and 2026–27 around Australia.
Question: Why leave that money there if the State Government's clearly not going to go ahead with it?
Paul Fletcher: Well, that money is there should a future WA State Government wish to take it up. And so that's a commitment that the Commonwealth Government has made in relation to the $1.2 billion that we previously committed in relation to Perth Freight Link. But what we've also done in a practical and pragmatic way is sat down with the McGowan Government, reached agreement on a package of infrastructure measures—both road and rail—which will deliver benefits, and there will be construction on some of those roads beginning—I think it's correct to say, Minister—before the end of the year.
Rita Saffioti: Yeah, definitely. Yeah.
Question: Has the McGowan Government been more proactive in seeking infrastructure funding than the previous Government?
Paul Fletcher: Well, certainly the Turnbull Government worked in a very constructive and collegiate way with the Barnett Government, and we're equally working in a constructive way with the McGowan Government. The important thing is that we are delivering outcomes in terms of new and continuing transport infrastructure. So there's a range of projects that were already underway—for example, the Perth to Forrestfield Airport Rail Link. That work is obviously continuing. There's now a range of new projects that we've agreed to work on together. And so what is important is that you have a Commonwealth Government working constructively with a state government. At the end of the day, the people of Western Australia want to see the transport infrastructure improvements that are necessary as the population of Perth and of Western Australia grows. It's important that we respond to that, and the two governments are working together to do that.
Question: So in your own words, can you describe for us what you think of Metronet? It's obviously much more than a press release, isn't it?
Paul Fletcher: Well, in terms of the components of Metronet, I guess the first point I'd make is that the first of those components is for Perth to Forrestfield Airport rail link and work on that is already underway. That will be a very important project because it will produce a link—a direct link—between the airport and the city by rail. Now at the moment, there's a direct rail link between the airport and the city of Sydney. There's a direct rail link between the airport and the city in Brisbane. We've announced funding in fact in this last budget for a business case for similar—for a rail link in Melbourne and so Perth, it's very important that the city of the scale of Perth should have a rail connection in it. That's a very important component.
In terms of the other components of Metronet, there's obviously an agreed commitment as part of that $2.3 billion package over $700 million in Commonwealth money for the Thornlie to Cockburn line and for the Yanchep extension, subject to satisfactory business cases being provided to Infrastructure Australia and we've had a very constructive discussion this morning about the processes involved in developing those business cases and the importance of bringing together both land use planning and transport planning and I know that's a particular priority of Minister Saffioti.
Question: Of the $10 billion available in the National Rail Fund, how much realistically do you think WA could see come from that?
Paul Fletcher: Well, look, it's a competitive process. It's a nationally competitive process and ultimately the outcomes will depend upon the merits of the particular projects that are put forward. But certainly we've had a very constructive discussion this morning about not only the projects that form part of the specific commitment that was made in the $2.3 billion package but also about the opportunity to be putting forward projects for funding under the $10 billion National Rail Program and I certainly expect and I've got a very clear sense this morning that the WA Government will be putting forward a proposal [indistinct].
Question: So have you got a certain number in your head about which projects would be funded to be with that $10 billion?
Paul Fletcher: I think it's too early to say that. It's too early to say that but what we can say with certainty is that the WA Government is certainly eligible to apply for funding under the National Rail Program and certainly as Minister Saffioti has explained to me this morning, there's clearly an agenda and a range of projects that the WA Government has in mind.
Question: Minister [indistinct] can you see certain projects that could come out of that $10 billion project?
Rita Saffioti: Well we made a clear commitment on Metronet which included the Yanchep extension, Thornlie to Cockburn, Ellenbrook and Byford. They're projects that we want to have funding for and we're securing funding as we go. Of course, Thornlie and Yanchep are part of the $2.3 billion package and we'll be submitting business cases for Ellenbrook and Byford for that $10 billion fund.
Question: When can we expect a business case to be ready?
Rita Saffioti: Well we're preparing the Ellenbrook and Byford ones, probably be early next year I suspect. So, noting the timing of the $10 billion fund suits our timing. So we're working on those business cases now. Of course the previous government didn't do much work or any work on the Ellenbrook rail line, so we're starting from scratch and we're preparing those cases.
Question: What do the latest figures say, sorry on those two projects? What would be the combined amount of those two projects?
Rita Saffioti: We're still working through that detail. One of the key aspects in particular for the Ellenbrook line and of course for Byford is the land development opportunities. So what I'm doing is working through with my relevant agencies is actually identifying all those land development opportunities. As I've always said, Metronet is as much an infrastructure project as it is a land development project and a housing affordability project. So a key part of our business case and in particular both for Yanchep and for Ellenbrook and potentially Byford is the land development opportunities this infrastructure creates. We know we need to be much better at matching infrastructure delivery with land use planning and this gives us an enormous opportunity. As I have said for a long time there has been significant growth in the Ellenbrook corridor and what we'll be doing is making sure there's more land development opportunities to feed this Ellenbrook rail line.
Question: Given Metronet was an election commitment though, basically you [indistinct] Byford with or without getting money from that bucket of money?
Rita Saffioti: Well as part of our election commitment, as part of the entire package, we had only predicted, as I recall, about $450 million on federal funding for the entire Metronet. But what this new fund gives us the opportunity to do is prepare those business cases earlier and submit. Look, we are very, very keen to try and secure as much Commonwealth funds as we can. One of our criticisms of the previous government is I don't believe they did enough work to submit proper proposals to Infrastructure Australia and to the Federal Government. I've taken the opportunity to meet with the Federal Government on a number of occasions. I've met with Infrastructure Australia. We are serious about getting the work done and submitting to make sure we can get our fair share. I am sick of seeing money go to the other states because WA hasn't done the work and I am very keen to make sure we do the work and get our fair share.
Question: Will rain funds speed up the possibility of the Ellenbrook line?
Rita Saffioti: It does, it does, but of course we need to do the work and secure the funding and that's what I'm very keen to do. As I said, I want to be at the table, I want to be doing all I can to get as much funding from the Commonwealth as I can and that's what I'm very keen to do. We have a clear agenda, a clear program of works. It is those four new rail lines. It's also removing level crossings and this gives us an opportunity to work hard and get the funding. And that's what I'm very keen to do.
Question: Minister, are there any significant points of difference between you and the Federal Government still on any of these issues?
Rita Saffioti: Well we'll see what they say in relation to the business cases but look, what we're very keen to do and what we're—from the initial meeting with the Prime Minister is to show that we're a government serious about outcomes. And that's what I'm very, very keen to do and I think I've demonstrated that I'm about achieving good outcomes for WA. So that means we have to be serious about the work we do to put in the hard work early, develop the business cases and set a clear agenda for infrastructure development and that's what we're keen to do. We don't expect—sorry, we expect the Commonwealth to be productive with our—in that relationship. That's what they've shown to do and that's what we're going to keep continue doing.
Question: So the practical and pragmatic and constructive approach that the Federal Government is now taking—you're happy to accept that on face value?
Rita Saffioti: Well so far we've been able to secure $2.3 billion in funds for road and rail projects in two months. So so far, the pragmatic constructive approach is delivering real benefits and that's what I'm continuing to do. So what we've seen is an ability to actually achieve real outcomes for WA. Real jobs, reducing congestion, and I will continue with that approach. We believe we have a window of opportunity with this $10 billion that was announced in the Federal Budget last week. This is a new opportunity. An opportunity we are very keen to secure a major part of. That's what we want to do and as a result, we're going to work hard and try to secure as much money as possible.
Question: So all is forgiven, though, by the Federal Government previously describing it as nothing but a press release?
Rita Saffioti: I think the WA public expect a newly formed government to secure jobs and get on with it. And that's what we're doing. I'm all about looking to the future, about getting outcomes for WA. That's what I will continue to do. It is my responsibility to try and secure as much federal funding as possible to deliver our projects that assist with job creation and reducing congestion.
Question: Will you seek the full cost for Ellenbrook and Byford from the National Rail Fund or will it just be a proportion of that?
Rita Saffioti: We've always said there's a combination of funding, through value capture, state government funding and federal government funding. That's our project and that's what we'll continue to do.