3AW Drive interview with Tom Elliot

Tom Elliot: Alright, the daily commute—I was amazed when I read this—but the Grattan Institute, a supposedly independent think tank has said that since 2004; half of Melburnians still only commute 30 minutes a day to work; 90 per cent of us travel more than an hour and that notwithstanding population growth which has been immense in this city, it has had a benign impact on both commute times and the distances people travel to get to and from their place of employment. I find this hard to believe.

Joining me on the line now, the Federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population—he is a Melburnian—Alan Tudge, good evening.

Alan Tudge: G'day, Tom.

Tom Elliot: What did you think about the Grattan Institute's conclusions? Did you think our commute times have stayed steady since 2004?

Alan Tudge: Well it certainly surprised me, but I think what they've been saying is that people inevitably- they drop out of their job, they move house or they do other things to try to avoid congestion, and of course, we've had a lot of [indistinct] population coming into the inner city as well, which means that their commute times are very small and that brings down the average.

Certainly Melburnians know that we've got very serious congestion on our roads and I think you'd have to be silly to say that we don't and that's why we're investing so much money on the major infrastructure to try to address some of that congestion.

Tom Elliot: Okay. So I mean, you're the Minister, as we said, for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, so you therefore acknowledge congestion is a problem. What are you going to do about it?

Alan Tudge: Well the few things we're going to do about it.

One: we're investing records amount in infrastructure. So for example, people traveling on the Monash would have already known that that's been upgraded and that's thanks in part due to some federal money there.

We've still got money where we want to get the East West Link built; we want to continue to work on the M80 and other important pieces of rail as well. On top of that, though, we do have to try to get a broader distribution of population growth across the country, because Melbourne has been growing very, very fast, as you pointed out Tom, and yet there's other parts of the country who are crying out for more workers and want to grow more rapidly.

And so if we can support places like South Australia to grow more rapidly and slow down the growth a little bit, it will take pressure off Melbourne, then we can help Melbourne as well as help South Australia.

Tom Elliot: [Interrupts] Well couldn't you do something like speak to your colleague Christopher Pyne, who's a South Australian, and just say: righto, for the next couple of years, every immigrant to this country must go and live in Adelaide and its surrounds. Well, wouldn't that solve the problem that Melbourne and Sydney find themselves in?

Alan Tudge: Well one of the things we are going to look at is whether or not we can require migrants to go to some of the regional areas or the smaller states, because at the moment they nearly all come to Melbourne and Sydney. Most of the growth—the population growth in Melbourne—has been due to international migration.

Now, there are things that we can do and we're working on this. At the same time, we do need to be a bit careful because there's businesses who want to sponsor people into the country because they simply can't find Australians to do the jobs and we want to make sure that they can, of course, continue to grow their businesses when they can't find an Australian to do it.

Tom Elliot: Alright, thank you so much. Alan Tudge, Federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population. I apologise about the poor quality of that call.