Press Conference

Michael McCormack: It’s great to be here with Alan Tudge, my colleague in the Infrastructure portfolio and one of my many great colleagues with whom I’ve worked so hard along with the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, along with the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to talk about infrastructure; more importantly, not just talk, but to get things done in the infrastructure space.

Tomorrow’s Budget is going to be an infrastructure Budget. We are in the age of infrastructure, the age where we acknowledge that infrastructure is going to be so important to decongest our urban communities – certainly Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane – to make sure that we bust through that congestion which is so prevalent in those capital cities. And we're also very focused on infrastructure for regional Australia. That's why as the Nationals Leader, I’m particularly delighted that there is an extra $1 billion – one thousand million dollars - for the Roads of Strategic Importance. I know how critical that is to making sure that we get the right delivery for those feeder roads - not necessarily the national highways and byways, they're also being looked after in tomorrow night’s Budget - but certainly those feeder roads which are so, so integral in making sure that we get the right connectivity, that we get the right supply chain efficiency and we can boost productivity so we can get goods to port quicker and therefore to our markets.

Obviously we're very much focused on more free trade agreements – we signed that arrangement with Indonesia just recently – to build on the free trade arrangements we’ve made with South Korea, with China and Japan, as a Liberals-Nationals Government. That’s what we do - we get things done. And with a stronger economy, and that's what we have, we can put even more money into infrastructure, more money into making sure that we grow the economy because that's what we are all about.

So we’re busting through that urban congestion, making sure that we get the right connectivity in our regions and making sure that we address the population issues that we have in this nation. It’s all about the age of infrastructure and that's what we're in. With those remarks, I'll hand over to Alan and I’m happy to take questions afterwards.

Alan Tudge: Well thanks, DPM. Today we're announcing six urban congestion-busting projects, and this is on top of the $75 billion which we've already announced in terms of our infrastructure pipeline. And I'd just like to take you briefly through all six of those projects.

We start in Queensland; we have $500 million of additional money going towards the M1 upgrade. That is a motorway which is used by up to 155,000 cars every single day and is one of the most congested motorways in the country. This is an extra $500 million which we are putting towards this. And the particular work which will be undertaken with that money is from Daisy Hill through to the Logan Motorway.

The next piece of infrastructure which we’re announcing today is for New South Wales. We're putting $200 million towards the third Hawkesbury River crossing. Again this is a bridge river crossing which has been cried out for by the local communities for years and years and years. Up to 3000 cars per hour use that bridge in peak hour traffic and it's at capacity presently. So this piece of infrastructure will provide additional capacity there and make life so much easier for thousands of residents in that area who use that piece of piece of road every single day.

In South Australia, we're adding $1.5 billion to the North-South Corridor. This is the major piece of infrastructure running all the way from the north to the south of Adelaide. In last year’s Budget, we contributed $1.2 billion. This Budget, we're putting in a further $1.5 billion, bringing us to a total of $2.7 billion for the final stage of the North-South Corridor. The previous stages are already funded, well underway and will be completed soon. This will enable the final 10.5 kilometres to be done in Adelaide, working closely with the Marshall Government. The planning work is already underway; construction will begin in 2022.

That brings us to Melbourne and Geelong, where we have three major projects which we're announcing today. The first in Geelong is the South Geelong to Waurn Ponds railway line. Now, this is a project which Sarah Henderson's been campaigning for since 2015. And in subsequent Budgets we've been adding amounts of money to it. At this Budget, we're adding a further $700 million to fully complete Stages Two and Three of the Waurn Ponds to South Geelong line. That means a full duplication of that line. Presently, it is just a single line, it is at capacity and it needs to be duplicated to add capacity. It’s a very fast growing area, it's a priority of the State Government, and so this will get the job done. And of course for Geelong, this is on top of the $2 billion which we announced just recently for the fast rail for Geelong to Melbourne to enable the 32-minute train journey into the CBD of Melbourne.

The second project is a massive suburban congestion-busting project for south east Melbourne and for the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Some of those suburbs in the south east of Melbourne and in the northern suburbs of Melbourne are the fastest growing suburbs in Australia. And this is $1.1 billion to go into particular roads in Pakenham and Cranbourne, in Narre Warren, in places like Epping. And we’ll be contributing 50 per cent of the funding for those, and the State Government has already announced that it will be contributing 50 per cent. So this is another good partnership with the State Government there as well.

The final one is a $300 million package to seal 500 kilometres of unsealed roads in the Dandenong Ranges, which for those Victorians – in fact, a lot of Australians know the Dandenong Ranges - right at the foothills, just at the edge of the suburbs - will enable 500 kilometres of unsealed roads to be sealed. We'll be working closely with the local council to complete this project over a nine-year period.  At the present rate the councils wouldn't be able to complete those 500 kilometres of roads for 80 years. We'll now be doing this in nine years and this will add safety, it adds convenience, and really it’s going to enhance the tourism experience as well for the 600,000 tourists who go up into the Dandenong Ranges each and every year. It really is one of the iconic areas of Victoria and of Australia.

So together, those six projects will really make a very significant difference to hundreds of thousands of people's lives. It'll bust congestion, it makes it easier for people to get to work and back home at night, safer and more quickly, and it's just another package of congestion-busting infrastructure which the Liberal and National Parties’ Government are able to announce. We were able to do so, as the DPM said, because we've got a strong economy. When you've got a strong economy, when your budget’s back into the surplus, it means you've got money to invest in this congestion-busting infrastructure.

Question: One for Mr Tudge. Over what period of time are we expecting the money to flow into these projects?

Alan Tudge: All of that will be revealed in the Budget tomorrow night, so I presume you’ll be in the lock-up tomorrow and the details will be there.

Question: Now one for Victoria: Infrastructure Australia has not included the Waurn Ponds Rail duplication on its priority list, saying the cost of the project outweighs the benefits. Then why are we funding it?

Alan Tudge: This is a priority of the State Government’s and we've been putting money towards this over the last few years. The State Government at the election just last August said that this was a priority for them and they called for us to make a contribution to it. And so consequently we are making that contribution. That rail line is at capacity, and yet that area of Geelong, that area of Victoria, is growing exceptionally fast. Geelong last year grew by 2.7 per cent; that’s the same rate as Melbourne which is the fastest growing big city in Australia. So we need to build further capacity; this adds an additional railway line which means that you can put more trains on the rail.

Question: How big a role did Sarah Henderson play in getting the funding for [indistinct]?

Alan Tudge: She has been advocating for this since 2015. I don't think there's been a single bigger advocate for this project than Sarah Henderson, but it's because we're in a strong financial position that we're able to put $700 million more to complete the final stages of this. If we didn’t have a strong budget, we wouldn't be able to make such big contributions to infrastructure. That's been the work of the entire team. Prime Minister Morrison, the Deputy Prime Minister here, as well as the entire Coalition team has enabled that hard work over many years to be done.

Question: Why shouldn’t this announcement, though, on the eve on an election be seen as a desperate attempt to secure Corangamite?

Alan Tudge: Sarah has been campaigning on this since 2015. I think it was the 2016 Budget that we put in $50 million. In last year’s Budget we’ve put in a further $100 million towards this. And this year’s budget we're putting in $700 million. So it's been a progression. And it was only at the last state election that the State Government finally fully committed to doing the entire project. That was last August, and this is the first Budget since their formal commitment where they called on us to back them in, and that's what we are doing: working with them, backing in their call for us to fund that project so it can be completed as soon as possible. It's already at capacity now. It needs to be done, and we want to get on with it as quickly as possible.