Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - St Albans level crossing; Labor’s plan to unlock the infrastructure that Australia needs






SUBJECT/S: St Albans level crossing; Labor’s plan to unlock the infrastructure that Australia needs; Trans-Pacific Partnership; China Free Trade Agreement; Bushfires in Victoria.

DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Well thanks very much for being here today at the Main Road Level Crossing. This is a really proud day for the west; it's a proud day for those who paid a very heavy price over a very long time for the inaction around this dangerous - this deadly level crossing. Dianne Dejanovic is here with us and I want to pay a special tribute to her, her son Christian lost his life here some 3 years ago and she has been the face of the campaign, a long running campaign and she can be very proud as I've just said to her, we're grateful for her advocacy, for her passion. We can't change the past but we can certainly make for a much better and safer future. This is perhaps the most dangerous and deadly level crossing. Lives have been lost here, there have been so many near misses you lose count of them. It's also a very heavily congested level crossing, some 20,000 vehicles, there's a couple of hundred trains everyday coming through here. This is a busy shopping precinct, as Bill Shorten the local member and Natalie Sulaymen the local member know and as Jacinta and I know, this simply is a relic of the past and it has to go. I'm really proud today to be here and mark such significant progress we're making real progress in terms of removing the station, the platform, sinking this line, getting rid of this level crossing and of course then work will begin on the Furlong Road level crossing. Both of these are being done together with two other level crossings over in the eastern suburbs. They're part of 50 level crossings that will be removed over the next 8 years under the plan we took to the election last year. These are a relic of the past. They're dangerous, they're congested, they're holding us back - but we're not wasting even one day in delivering on our commitments, because it's about saving lives, it's about making sure we've got a better road network and it's about stopping these relics of the past holding us back from running a 21st century public transport system.

Can I congratulate all the workers here, they're very committed people and they're going to do the west proud, they're going to do this community and our government proud in the work that they'll do here. It'll be done to the highest standard; this is just under $223 million of investment and just before I throw to Jacinta to talk about some of the technical elements and then I'm sure Bill will want to say a few words as well because I just want to make this point before I do that. This is a great example of what can be achieved when governments work together. When you understand that there is urgent action needed and you just get on and do things. This is of course funded from surplus money from Labor's regional rail link, and we're very grateful to a previous Labor Federal Government for partnering with the then State Labor Government to deliver RRL. There was then extra money put in by the state as well to make this possible. This is a really important project and one that Bill should be very proud of having been a senior member of that government just a few years ago.

This is dangerous, it's congested, it needs to go and that's exactly what we are doing and I'm very proud to say this is not about talking about removing this level crossing, we’re getting on and removing it, and that's something that I know will be welcomed by the local community. I might ask the Minister now just to make a few comments on timelines and things of that nature and then I'm sure Bill will want to add to those comments as well.

JACINTA ALLAN, VICTORIAN MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: Well thank you Premier. It's terrific to be here with local members and the Leader of the Federal Opposition to see the work going at a cracking pace behind us in terms of removing this dangerous level crossing here at St Albans, and the facts and figures about this crossing demonstrate just why it's so important that we moved very quickly - to start our level crossing removal program and push on with having construction under way. As the Premier said this is a level crossing that has 20,000 cars go through it every day, over 200 trains every day, and as a result the boom gates are down here for 65 minutes during every 2 hour morning peak period, causing congestion, causing frustration for the local community, but also we know it's such a safety issue as well. So work has progressed very quickly since the start of this month when the construction started on this site. We'll see buses are replacing outbound train services while this part of the construction phrase is under way till the end of the month, and this is a big job, it'll take between - about 12 to 18 months to complete this level crossing, but at the end of it the community will see and will be I'm sure very much welcoming at the difference of the removal of this level crossing will make.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Premier Andrews, thanks Minister Allen. I'd like to acknowledge Dianne Dejanovic  who's here today. She's the mother of someone who lost their life at this crossing 3 years ago. 16 people have been killed at this crossing over its history in recent decades. Today's announcement couldn't come any later than it already has, and it's Daniel Andrews and Labor who's standing up for St Albans. 210 trains cross here every day, 20,000 cars cross this crossing, 2000 plus pedestrians cross this crossing. This has been a killer crossing which because of Labor and Daniel Andrews, people in this area now can breathe more safely. It's been a long time coming. But it also reflects the importance of good public transport infrastructure and good infrastructure in this country. So this is marvellous news for St Albans, this is a Labor Government keeping faith with its election promises, and it is really good not just in terms of the human safety, but in terms of the productivity, the time people take to move around this community, the time wasted which will no longer be wasted, and of course of it's a good injection of jobs into the local economy.

Today in Brisbane I'll be announcing Federal Labor's new approach to infrastructure right around Australia. See when you've got governments like Daniel Andrews’, when you've got governments, Labor governments committed to actually solving the problems of our community, making them more liveable, dealing with traffic congestion, getting our economy moving, we can do great things. So today I congratulate State Labor, Daniel Andrews, for actually getting the work underway at this main road crossing and I acknowledge the hard campaigning of local members of parliament and of course Dianne and many others, for whom this crossing has quite tragically been a matter of life and death.

ANDREWS: Happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: You're committing to the Melbourne Metro Project today, how much funding would a Federal Labor Government be willing to chip in for that project?

SHORTEN: Well, today at lunchtime I'll be addressing the Queensland Media Club about a new way for doing infrastructure in this country, so I will come to Melbourne metro in a moment but I need to set the scene for what we're talking about. Obviously I'll go into more length at our lunchtime address in Brisbane. But there's no doubt that as the mining boom eases, we need to do more to make our cities and our regions operate. Operate better in terms of the economy and jobs but also make them more liveable. It's intolerable that people in Australia, so many people, spend so much of their time tied up in traffic. For last two years, though, under the Federal Liberal Government, we've seen a fall of investment in infrastructure so we need to do politics, business and infrastructure differently. Currently we're just not clearing the infrastructure gap which we need to. So it's most important that a Federal Government, a Labor Government, but indeed the Liberals could copy this, stop their ideological warfare against funding public transport. What's also important is that we make sure that we unlock private superannuation money, the national savings of Australia, and allow that to be able to invest in infrastructure which delivers a good return. So when it comes to the Melbourne Metro, that proposal's been to Infrastructure Australia, it has a very good benefit cost ratio or in plain English, the numbers stack up and it's good for people and it's good for business and it's good for investment. So today we'll be proposing; one, to make Infrastructure Australia turbo-charge, that's the independent body, who can make generational decisions on infrastructure; two, we'll be proposing to create a new financing corporation to be able to make available money to incentivise projects to go ahead. In terms of the final details of how much and what specific money goes into it, what we're going to do is create an independent process and we're going to work cooperatively with leaders like Daniel Andrews, who has a vision for Melbourne and the whole State of Victoria.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, if you want Infrastructure Australia to be independent, then why name the projects now?

SHORTEN: To begin with, a lot of the projects that we will be naming today are projects which the independent Infrastructure Australia has already ticked off on. See, what's really been the problem with infrastructure is if you want to build community consensus, you've got to have the best evidence and the best-case possible. We've seen the Federal Liberal Government backing proposals which never had a business case like the East West Link or the Perth Freight Link. I think people are sick and tired of politics as usual. What I promise Australians is that if we were to be elected, we would make sure that this nation gets the infrastructure it needs. Roads, tunnels, public transport. But we'd do it through an independent process where people could see the pros and the cons. What I want to do is not just rely on governments to fund these projects, but to provide a class of investment, infrastructure for the superannuation holders of Australia so they don't just have to rely on shares.

JOURNALIST: So you see a role for the private sector in funding it?

SHORTEN: Absolutely. When you look at the collapse in infrastructure investment by government in the last two years, the ABS came out and said that for the quarter just past compared to the last quarter of the Labor Government two years ago, we're 20 per cent down. Yet motorists today driving to work sitting in congestion and traffic jams, people on crowded public transport, they not only want to see long-term investment in infrastructure, they want someone to get on with it now just like Daniel Andrews is doing at the St Albans railway crossing. So what we want to do is unlock the massive national savings of this nation. Give it the chance to invest in well-funded, well thought out, profitable investments so that the national savings can be deployed to help build this nation and can deliver a decent return to the superannuation accounts of millions of Aussies.

JOURNALIST: Will the borrowings for the infrastructure fund be offset by savings elsewhere in government?

SHORTEN: We will be using the model of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and what the does is that you borrow the money and you make sure that you get a good return on the money that you invest.

JOURNALIST: You haven't listed a specific project for Perth, does that mean you're lukewarm on the Metronet proposal?

SHORTEN: No, not at all. What is means is that, that proposal has to do more work. Public transport in Perth is clearly a no brainer but we want to make sure that the projects which are proposed and the one you quoted has been put up but the Labor opposition does go through the Infrastructure Australia approach. What we are promising to do is to is in a sense create an independent Reserve Bank policy style approach for infrastructure policy just like we have with interest rates and monetary policy in this country. It’s time that the politicians took a step back and we started making generational decisions on infrastructure, that we provide an opportunity for superannuation funds to invest and again it has to be based upon good commercial principles not just politics.

JOURNALIST: Hilary Clinton has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership overnight, what's your reaction to that?

SHORTEN: My reaction to her coming out on it or to the TPP?

JOURNALIST: She's come out and basically slammed it the TPP saying that she's completely against it.

SHORTEN: Well Labor has made it very clear that the principle of trade liberalisation, in other words getting benefits for Australian’s by improving our trade with other parts of the world is one that Labor has always believed in. But we want to make sure that the detail of the arrangements matches the rhetoric and the promises. So we want the treaty and the text of the treaty to be released by the Government so we can make sure that the deal which the government is spruiking actually stacks up.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the treaty is dead if Hilary is against it?

SHORTEN: No, I think what the Americans do ultimately is up to the Americans. What motivates me is not necessarily what they say in America but what's in the best long term interest of Australians. We made it clear with the Trans-Pacific Partnership that it was important – one of the important issues – is that we didn’t give away the ability to keep downward pressure on the prices of Australian medicines by caving into large American pharmaceutical interests. Now the Government say that they’ve managed to hold the line on that, and if they have that’s good. What’s important in  a debate about trade is making sure that there’s not winners and losers, but that all Australians share in the benefits of trade – not just some people.

JOURNALIST: The China Free Trade Agreement could go to a vote next week, which way will Labor be voting?


SHORTEN: Well the actual treaty can’t go to a vote, that doesn’t have to come to the Parliament. The issue which is in the Parliament will be relevant enabling legislation, or legislation which goes to other matters which create some of the preconditions for the treaty. Labor has got a concern, let’s be straight, that on one hand we’re very keen to see the benefits of the China Free Trade Agreement – and we think there are considerable benefits. But also we want to make sure that we’re preserving Australian jobs, that we’re making sure that Australians skill standards are maintained in our trades calling such as plumbing and electrical work which is done in Australia. But none of the issues which Labor have to propose fixing up some of the supporting architecture of the treaty are deal killers. Labor intends to work with the Government to allay the concerns which are being raised in the community. So it’s still a work in progress, Labor supports the principle of the China Free Trade Agreement, we support the benefits, and there are benefits in this Trade Agreement – we just want to make sure that there’s no unintended consequences which haven’t been overlooked.


JOURNALIST: Premier you’ve been quite strong on the China Free Trade Agreement, have you spoken to Bill about your views, and how do they sit with his?


ANDREWS: I think Bill just put it very well. We want an agreement that benefits Victorian workers, benefits Australian workers, but there are some serious issues that remain unresolved. And our Trade Minister Philip Dalidakis has been speaking with his federal counterparts and some of those matters are still yet – you know, they haven’t been fixed, those concerns haven’t been dealt with. But I’d be confident that they can be dealt with, because I think everybody supports arrangements where more Victorian produce can be exported, where we can have Victorian businesses growing and basically expanding right across our region. Now this is a strong deal, but there are a range out outstanding matters – I’m confident that they can be resolved.


JOURNALIST: Premier as far as timelines with Melbourne Metro Rail, do you need Federal Government support before the federal election or are you able to just hold out and hope that Bill gets in?


ANDREWS: Well no look, what I think is important is this. What Bill has announced today is exactly what Victorians, and the Victorian Government has been calling for. We want a partnership to build a new public transport system. We want an abandonment of this ridiculous – we want an end – to this ridiculous ban on Federal Government funding going towards a better public transport system. That’s what we’ve had to endure for the last two years.  It made no sense then, and it makes no sense now. So I’m very pleased to welcome what Bill’s announced, that is a partnership with the state government to build a better public transport system. That’s what Victoria needs, that’s what Victorian’s voted for last year and it’s what critical. If London, New York, Paris, Tokyo – if all of these great cities of the world can do it, why can’t Melbourne? And if common sense tells you that a partnership between governments will mean we get a better outcome faster, well why wouldn’t you have a partnership? It’s a great announcement from Bill and I welcome it.


JOURNALIST: Just on the bushfires, there are a lot of really angry people who have been quite vocal about the fact that this was a planned burn that got out of control, obviously there’s an inquiry going on, but what’s your response to those people?


ANDREWS: They’re right to be angry,  I’m angry to. I don’t understand how this has happened, but we’re going to get to the bottom of it. They’re entitled to answers, I want answers, and the Minister Lisa Neville will be out making announcements very soon, later on this morning, about a full independent inquiry – there will be community involvement in that. This is about the community, they need these answers, I want them as well. I’m very disappointed on their behalf. I know they’re angry, I understand that. We’re going to get the answers that we need, and if issues of compensation are relevant, then we’ll be there. I said on the day, a couple of days ago, we will stand with those that have been affected, we will be there for them, and that is about answers and clarity. If there’s policy changes for the future so this doesn’t happen again we’ll make those as well, and if there’s compensation that needs to be paid it will be paid. I probably can’t be any clearer than that.


JOURNALIST: Do you think the 5 per cent target for planned burns is appropriate?


ANDREWS: Well this is not a matter of targets, this is one isolated incident, where we need to get to the bottom of exactly what judgement was exercised, and whether things were done as they should have been done. It’s very difficult to explain what happened in Lancefield last week, that’s why we’re having a full inquiry.


JOURNALIST: And on the issue, what’s your thoughts on water being banned in the Parliament, as a word?


ANDREWS: Well that’s a matter for the Speaker. I’m always up for robust debate, and I think we probably provide that most days. Thank you very much.