DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, ST ALBANS
29 April 2013
SUBJECT/S: St Albans railway crossing, Budget
BILL SHORTEN: Welcome everyone. I’m here today with local St Albans residents, I’m here with Marlene Kairouz, who is the state member of parliament for the St Albans area, with Luke Donnellan the state Labor Shadow Minister for Roads. And perhaps most importantly, I’m here with Dianne Dejanovic, who is the mother of a victim of the St Albans railway crossing.
I’m here and we are here because the Federal Labor Government, following some lobbying by myself and the support of Minister Anthony Albanese agreed to offer $90 million to pay for half of fixing up the worst, most notorious, killer railway crossing in Victoria. And we and 17,000 St Albans households are stunned at the fact that the Napthine Liberal Government won’t spend any money fixing up the most dangerous railway crossing in Victoria.
This is a killer railway crossing, it will kill again. The Federal Government is willing to pay half the money to fix it, we need the Napthine Government to put the Western suburbs on the priority list rather than just ignoring it because the Western suburbs doesn’t always support the Liberal party in either Victorian or nationally. I’d like to perhaps ask Diane to say something and then the state members of Parliament.
*Other speakers not transcribed*
REPORTER: Minister the state Government is adamant that they haven’t said no and that they didn’t want money coming from unrealised savings. Is that correct?
BILL SHORTEN: Well Anthony Albanese, the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, after lobbying by myself and local residents wrote to Terry Mulder on two occasions and he said we are willing to help fund this proposition, up to $90 million, the railway crossing, to separate the railway from the road. There was a face-to-face meeting. The Liberal Government made it clear that it wasn’t their priority and that they weren’t going to match that amount of money.
There’s one truth here. That is, this is a killer crossing, it will kill again. The Federal Labor Government is willing to put politics aside and find $90 million to do half the State Government’s work for them. It’s now time for the Napthine Liberal Government to demonstrate that they govern for all Victorians and don’t punish people because of where they live.
REPORTER: Is it going to come from unrealised savings? Will you put it in the budget?
BILL SHORTEN: Let’s be clear the Napthine Government know that they won’t match our offer of funding. If the Napthine Government are willing to say, and they can do it in one sentence, they could even just say it to ABC or 3AW. They could just say yeah we will find half the funding for this railway crossing, and then we will have a railway crossing which is safe, not deadly.
The ball is in their court. It is cheeky of the State Government to say, well, you know maybe, if, what, at some time. What I know is that this is a deadly railway crossing. Even this morning we’ve seen hair raising manoeuvres, people being caught on the tracks and what we know is that the Federal Government has come to the party, it’s now time for the State Government to do the right thing by the people in St Albans.
I will not give up until we get the money and get the State Government to pay their half of the bill.
REPORTER: Terry Mulder is calling it funny money and he is not convinced that it is ever going to be realised.
BILL SHORTEN: Terry Mulder should come out and explain to the people of St Albans why they are not keeping their promise. Anthony Albanese has been here. The Federal Government have made an offer to pay up to $90 million, half of the grade separation here. The Baillieu, or sorry the Napthine Government or the Shaw Government – I don’t know who is running them – they just need to come up with their half of the proposition.
REPORTER: Are you going to put it in the budget, your half?
BILL SHORTEN: Well the State Government has knocked back our offer at this stage. What I’m asking the State Government to do, as the local Member of Parliament here is to find 50 per cent and we’ll go back and get the 50 per cent from the Feds. But at this stage, we’ve made an offer. No one is disputing that the offer was made, no one is disputing that the offer was laid on the table for six weeks.
But infrastructure money is as scarce as hens’ teeth around Australia. It is of great frustration to me as a local member of parliament doing my job as a local member of parliament that when I can get the Federal Government to make an offer of half the railway crossing being sorted out and becomes safe the State Government says no.
Let’s be clear, it is now time that State Government says we’ll do 50 per cent of the job and we’ll do 50 per cent of the job.
REPORTER: Where would have the money come from if you hadn’t offered it?
BILL SHORTEN: It has come from our Infrastructure budget.
REPORTER: So not from unrealised savings?
BILL SHORTEN: Well no. When Mr Albanese made the offer – he attended a meeting with Terry Mulder and you can ring Mr Albanese for his version of events. He said we want to find and we will put money up to fix up St Albans, this is our priority, they said no. We didn’t ask the State Liberal Government to say no. They said no. We said yes and now time for them to say yes.
REPORTER: So are they lying when they said they turned you down?
BILL SHORTEN: When they turned us down? Yes they have turned us down.
REPORTER: Why have you waited until now to offer $90 million? It’s been going on for years.
BILL SHORTEN: Yes, it should’ve been done many years ago. You’re right. There’s no debate about that it should’ve been fixed 20 years ago. It should’ve been done when Jeff Kennett was in, it should’ve been done when Steve Bracks and John Brumby were in. Now the Federal Government has broken the Gordian knot, the difficulty, by offering half the money. What do you have to do to get the State Liberal Government to do its day job.
REPORTER: You said it was on the table for six weeks, but it’s now closed, the Government can’t come back and say actually we will take it?
BILL SHORTEN: I can tell you now. If the State Liberal Government say they will find 50 per cent, the Federal Government will find 50 per cent. Yes. If you guys can go put pressure on the State Liberal Government to find 50 per cent, I’ll work like everything under the sun.
My point is we’ve made an offer, it’s a fair dinkum offer, and it’s been on the table. When I try and get money for St Albans and Victoria we are competing with the whole of Australia. What right does the State Liberal Government have to say, well we don’t accept this as a priority. Just ask anyone who has been touched by a tragedy here, just ask anyone in St Albans. This is a real priority and we’ll keep fighting to make sure the State Liberal Government do half the day job they are meant to do.
REPORTER: What’s your response to the Treasury forecasts that the tax revenue is going to shrink by $12 billion?
BILL SHORTEN: The Prime Minister will have more to say about this in her speech today. Australia has done reasonably well since the Global Financial Crisis. Our economy has grown by 13 per cent. We’ve added nearly 900,000 extra jobs. We’ve had 10 cuts in interest rates. Unemployment, whilst is moderate, it’s still only at 5.6 per cent. The rest of the Western world would love a set of numbers like this. The fact is that with our high Australian dollar, it’s having an impact on company profits, which has an impact on the amount of taxes the Federal Government raise.
Every day for the last five and half years the Federal Labor Government has been about the creation of jobs. We have gone through the most difficult peace-time economic circumstances since the Great Depression and so we are in a difficult circumstance. Companies aren’t generating taxable revenue, anyway the Prime Minister will have more to say at lunch time about this very important matter.
REPORTER: Ms Gillard is from the western suburbs, has she said anything to you about the St Albans level crossing recently?
BILL SHORTEN: She is focused on the western suburbs. She would leave the matters of infrastructure to Minister Anthony Albanese and representing St Albans should would leave to myself and Brendan O’Connor
REPORTER: Do you know how much money there is in the infrastructure budget that could possibly go to St Albans?
BILL SHORTEN: We had an offer from Minister for Infrastructure for up to $90 million, being approximately half the cost of the grade separation.
REPORTER: Are you confident that the forecast spending cuts won’t cost jobs?
BILL SHORTEN: The big difference between Labor and Liberal at the Federal level is that we won’t cut services to the bone. We understand families still have to make ends meet. That’s why we have increased the child care rebate from 30 to 50 per cent. That’s why we are creating jobs in Australia at a time when most of the OECD nations are shredding jobs. So we will get the balance right, but it’s a difficult set of circumstances.