Doorstop, Sydney

Alan Tudge: Well today I'm launching our updated Population Plan. This is a plan to underpin our future prosperity but also take pressure off our big capital cities while supporting the growth of our regions and our smaller cities. We outlined the intent of this plan just six months ago, but this detailed document goes through the elements to support that intent. Australia generally has done very well out of our population settings over the decades. It has supported our economic growth both on an absolute basis, as well as a per capita basis. It's made our cities more cosmopolitan and vibrant and it has supported growth in our regions.

But there are real challenges also which have come about from having a fast-growing population and particularly those challenges are felt in our big capital cities which have grown tremendously quickly over the last decade putting enormous pressure on our infrastructure. And many Australians who live in Melbourne, Sydney and South East Queensland in particular are really feeling the congestion pressures. So this plan outlines a series of initiatives to take a bit of pressure off those big capital cities while supporting the regions and the smaller cities, often which are wanting more people to go there and wanting to grow more quickly.

So the plan itself outlines a series of initiatives and let me take you through some of those. First up it outlines that we've reduced the migration rates from 190,000 per annum to now a cap of 160,000 per annum. And second, within that migration rate we've created incentives for new arrivals to our country, to consider going to some of the smaller cities and the regions rather than just going to Melbourne and Sydney which they tend to do at the moment. Third then, to support that, we're outlining a vision over the next two decades to connect the satellite cities of the big capital cities to fast rail. And you could imagine if you have fast rail connecting from say Newcastle to Sydney and Sydney to Wollongong or from Melbourne to Geelong, or Ballarat and Bendigo then people can live and enjoy the lifestyle of that regional centre yet still be able to access the capital city markets from that particular place on a daily basis.

The next element is continued investments in regional developments. We're doing that through decentralisation of our public service through investment in places like Adelaide of defence expenditure and of course through a number of programs which support regional growth across the country. Fifth, we're massively increasing the investment in infrastructure particularly into our big capital cities. We acknowledge that despite these settings we've put in place, our big capital cities are still going to grow and we have to plan accordingly and we need the infrastructure to keep up. Now this is primarily the responsibility of the state governments. But our Government has doubled the infrastructure expenditure to now a record $100 billion over the course of the decade to support the growth of those capital cities. And then the final element that I'll mention here today is better planning mechanisms between the Federal Government and the states and territories so that we don't have some of the challenges that we have today into the future.

We need to better align the levers which the Federal Government has with the levers which the state and territory governments have. Because at federal level we have the primary responsibility for the population growth rate, being the migration settings, while the states and territories are primarily responsible for the infrastructure, for the housing approvals and the services to support that growth. And we need to make sure those are better aligned. And so we'll be developing a population planning framework with the states and territories through the COAG process and that we hope will be approved by December.

Overall though this is a good plan to manage Australia's population growth better. It will underpin our prosperity going forward. It takes pressure off the big capital cities while supporting the growth and the aspirations of the smaller cities and the regions which want more people and often need more people for the jobs which are available. I'm happy to take any questions.

Question: Population it's an important, it's a serious concern for some people. How does a summit like today help bring about change?

Alan Tudge: Today's summit has been an excellent one in bringing many experts to the table to discuss some of the policy settings and what can be done. We heard from Rob Stokes this morning, the Planning Minister, and his view as to how cities should be managed better and indeed how Australia should be managed better. And there's further experts today including the head of Infrastructure Australia and the head of the Greater Sydney Commission and other experts will be discussing issues which need to be addressed.

Question: And on another matter, the East West Link. What route do you think the East West Link should take? Is it the one designed in 2014 or should it be the one that connects an updated route that will connect the Eastern Freeway and the West Gate Tunnel?

Alan Tudge: Well the key thing is we need an east-west road to connect the Eastern Freeway so the CityLink on the other side of town. Now this has been continuously prioritised by Infrastructure Australia. Eastern suburbs residents desperately are calling for this and we have $4 billion on the table to get the project done. Now that means that Daniel Andrews doesn't have to spend a cent in order to fulfil this project being built. So we're just pressing upon Daniel Andrews, let's at least update the business case and then get on with constructing the East West Link. We have a very good working relationship with the Andrews Government on a whole raft of other projects across Melbourne and across Victoria. But this is the one project where we want him to say yes to the East West.

Question: And could it start further east as Matthew Guy proposed last year?

Alan Tudge: We're open to all suggestions. I mean the critical thing is that you have a linkage from the end of the Eastern Freeway across to the western side of the city. The Eastern Freeway is one of the very few major freeways in Australia now which comes to a full stop at the city rather than connecting up to another freeway on the other side of the city. So that's what is required. Infrastructure Australia has emphasised this in its report just this year. As I said, we respect the fact that Daniel Andrews doesn't want to put any money into that project. Let us put the money in and let us get on with the job but he needs to give us the green light.

Question: Do you think a new and updated business case could game over the line?

Alan Tudge: Well that's the obvious next step and we would encourage him to, It's the obvious next step and we would encourage him to at least consider updating the business case because then it can look at how it would align with the other major projects underway such as the North East Link and the Western Distributor project and would also update all the financials underpinning it. But this is a project which needs to be built. As I said we're doing a lot of great projects together with the State Government, we've got a great working relationship but we just want Daniel Andrews to say yes to East West.