Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
MATHIAS CORMANN: Today is a great day for West Australian motorists. Today marks the official opening of the Kwinana Freeway widening from Roe Highway to Armadale Road from two lanes to four lanes. It is a project that has had significant support from the Australian Government. We have invested about $62 million into this project. It is great to see that this project has been delivered ahead of schedule and under budget, which means that we are able to invest in further productivity enhancing road improvements in and around Western Australia in the months ahead. 52,000 cars use this section of the Kwinana Freeway southbound every day. This is not only great news for the people on Kwinana Freeway but it is also great news for all the traffic that comes from the Roe Highway and will ultimately join in to the Perth Freight Link. It is great to be here with my good friend and valued colleague, the State Minister for Transport Dean Nalder. The West Australian State Government has done a great job with this project. We are very pleased with the way this has been delivered. It is part of our record investment in economic infrastructure, productivity enhancing infrastructure across Australia. We are making a particularly strong investment here in Western Australia, to ensure we improve the efficient traffic flow in and around all of the key areas of Perth and Western Australia. Happy to pass on to Dean.
DEAN NALDER: Thank you Mathias. Again, this has been a congestion busting initiative by both the West Australian and Federal Governments. We are very appreciative of the support we have had from the Commonwealth Government to tackle this issue. Traffic has been backed up for over a kilometre, back along Roe Highway past Carol Avenue for the last two years. We are very pleased and excited to have completed this project ahead of schedule and under budget. As Mathias mentioned, it has allowed us to continue extending the widening of the freeway through to Russell Road and that will commence in September this year, again ahead of schedule. I believe you will hear all the motorists, you should hear them in the background cheering and dooting. It is open this morning, it is allowing traffic to move freely and that’s exactly what we have desired to achieve. With that, happy to take further questions on this initiative.
QUESTION: How much further will the extension go? Will it go further down Russell Road as well in the long run?
DEAN NALDER: The objective at this stage is, because of the savings and with the support of the Federal Government we’ve been able to extend it through to Russel Road. That is an additional three kilometres so we have doubled the length of the widening. At this stage that’s all we are focussed on heading south at this point.
QUESTION: Reece Waldock has said it’s all but inevitable that we will have toll roads.
DEAN NALDER: Can we just handle this, are there any more questions around this initiative first? There you go, you would have had to restart that question anyway. Okay, so would you like to ask that again?
QUESTION: Reece Waldock said it’s not if, but when we will get toll roads, what do you think of that?
DEAN ALDER: Our Government has stated right the way through this term that we will not be introducing tolls or considering tolls for private vehicles and we stand by that.
QUESTION: Can you rule it out permanently?
DEAN ALDER: You could never rule it out permanently. There will be future governments that will take these things into consideration, but our Government has committed we will not be introducing tolls on private vehicles and we stand by that.
QUESTION: And also, just one thing about the Roe Eight thing, there have been conflicting messages between you and the Premier. Who do we trust? Do we trust you or should we trust the Premier?
DEAN ALDER: It’s not a matter of trusting myself or the Premier. We know the importance of completing the Freight Link through to the Port. If you listen to the Premier in Question Time yesterday in Parliament, he reinforced that if we do not do this project, we’re going to congest Fremantle Port to a point where it becomes blocked. So we see it as an extremely important project and both the Premier and I are committed to it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let me just make a few comments here as well. The Perth Freight Link project is not only an important project for the great State of Western Australia, it is a project of national significance and national importance. The Australian Government is investing just under a billion dollars into that very important project. We have entered into agreements with the State Government here in Western Australia. We are very confident that both phase one and phase two of the Perth Freight Link project will be delivered, that the Roe Eight highway extension will get underway this year and that construction on phase two of the Perth Freight Link project will get underway next calendar year.
QUESTION: So you’re not concerned about stage two and the timeline for stage two?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are not concerned at all. We are very confident that this very important, this world class piece of economic infrastructure, will be delivered on time and on budget. The same as this project here today has been delivered ahead of time and under budget. It is very important to understand here why this is such an important project. Australia is a trading nation. Western Australia is a trading state. We contribute nearly half of the national export income here out of Western Australia. Fremantle Port is a key piece of trading infrastructure for Western Australia and for Australia. In the years ahead, the volume of product going through Fremantle Port will only continue to increase. There will be more trucks on the road in and around Perth and in and around Western Australia. What we need to ensure, is that goods are transported through the Perth metropolitan area in the most efficient, the safest way possible in a way that causes the least disruption to communities along the way here in the Perth metropolitan area.
QUESTION: The Premier has talked about stage two in terms of if it will happen recently and equivocal about the timing, how could you, or would you pressure the State Government in any way to make sure it sticks to the timeline?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have reached firm agreements with the State Government here in Western Australia in relation to this project. It is a very important project. All of the indications that we have received from the State Government here in Western Australia is that it will be delivered. We accept and understand and support the proposition that in relation to finalising phase two, there is a process underway to ensure that the best possible route is followed for that final link between the extended Roe Highway and Fremantle Port. We support the process that is currently underway. We are very confident that this will not in any way shape or form slow down the implementation of this important project. We are confident that construction of phase two of the Perth Freight Link will start next calendar year.
QUESTION: Mathias, is the Federal funding contingent on the whole project being done?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are very confident the whole project will be done.
QUESTION: But if the State Government only wanted to proceed with the first stage Roe Eight in this term of government, would the funding be withheld?
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is not in front of us. There is no suggestion that the State Government only wants to proceed with stage one of the project. The funding that has been allocated by the Federal Government to the Perth Freight Link project was funding for the whole project. Our expectation is that the whole project will proceed. That is the agreement that the Australian Government has entered into with the West Australian Government. We are very confident based on all of the communications that we’ve had with the State Government here in Western Australia that the whole project will proceed, that the whole project will proceed consistent with the agreed timeline.
QUESTION: So if the agreement was for the whole project, obviously if only half of it were done that would be a break in the agreement would it not, between the State and the Commonwealth.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I don’t believe for one second that only half of the project will be done. We are very confident that the whole project will be delivered in full. We understand and support the fact that the State Government is doing some more work. There is some market testing underway in relation to the best possible route, for the most efficient possible route for the final link between the extended Roe Highway and the Fremantle Port. It is highly appropriate for that work to be done. But we don’t believe for one minute that this in any way shape or form puts into question the completion of the whole Perth Freight Link project, which will ensure the most efficient route possible for freight to be transported from the North, from the industrial areas around the airport all the way to Fremantle Port.
QUESTION: Dean, you’ve just heard the Minister say that he expects the whole project to be done. Can you give us a categorical promise today that the whole thing will be done in this term of Government?
DEAN NALDER: I’ll just wait for that train to pass.
QUESTION: Sorry, the question is can you promise the taxpayer that this whole project, section one too, and of course that bit, that last mile to the port, can you promise that will commence in this term of Government?
DEAN NALDER: The Government is committed to commencing both phases of the project this Government. And I stand by that.
QUESTION: This term of Government?
DEAN NALDER: This term of Government. We are committed to commencing both stages of the Freight Link project that takes it through to the Port. I just want to touch on a couple of things. There has been confusion around phase two. Some of that disruption has been caused by me because I am exploring other alternatives and looking for more efficient and effective ways of delivering to Port. That came about because the Fremantle Eastern Bypass, which has stood there for nearly fifty years was sold off by Alannah MacTiernan in the former Labor government. That in itself has facilitated the need for us to explore better ways of getting down to the Port. But we are committed for three reasons. One is the safety on our roads. We know that Leach Highway today, incidences involving trucks are more than double the rest of the metropolitan average. So we want to create a dedicated route to remove trucks off urban highways and roads. So we are committed to that. We’re also looking at the congestion issues. The Fremantle Port will continue to grow. And the number of trucks that are coming out Fremantle will double over the next ten years.
MATHIAS CORMANN: And into Fremantle.
DEAN NALDER: And into Fremantle. Trucks coming in and out of Fremantle will double over the next ten years. Therefore from a congestion perspective, we need to make sure that we have a solution for that. The third reason is around the productivity and efficiency of industry. If we can provide a freeway route through to the Fremantle Port, we know that that will drive increased productivity and profitability for industry, which is only good for jobs in Western Australia. So they’re the primary reasons why we’re committed to doing this.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Dean makes a very, very important point here. The reason why we are having this conversation about phase two of the Perth Freight Link project is because of the reckless, irresponsible and destructive decision of a previous State Labor government here in Western Australia, with Alannah MacTiernan as the Transport Minister, to sell of the land that had been earmarked for the Fremantle Eastern Bypass. That would have been the most efficient dedicated route for trucks to take into Fremantle Port. But Labor recklessly and irresponsibly made that impossible. So what is happening now is a serious effort by the State Government here in Western Australia to ensure that we have the best, most efficient route in place for that final link. The only reason why there is any conversation at all is because of very bad decisions that were made by a previous State Labor Government.
QUESTION: Are you backing Andrew Hastie as a Liberal candidate for the seat of Canning?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The pre-selection for the seat of Canning is entirely a matter for the pre-selectors in Canning. Let me just say that the circumstances in which this by-election came about are sad and tragic. We are looking as a party to select a candidate who like Don Randall will fight for the best interests of his or her local constituents. Today the Liberal party pre-selectors in Mandurah will be making a choice as to who the candidate should be representing us in this election. We will, as a Liberal party, do everything we can to win the trust of the people of Canning again, to represent them in Canberra.
QUESTION: Are you confident that the Liberals will win it?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Today we are pre-selecting a candidate. We will be making our case to the people of Canning seeking their trust to continue to represent them in Canberra. Part of that process is to select a candidate today who is best equipped to stand up for them in Canberra.
QUESTION: Is a referendum of same sex marriage something you would support?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I support the policy position that was again reaffirmed by the Coalition party room on Tuesday. That is, I support the current definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This is a matter that has come before the Parliament now, on a number of occasions. Three or four times in the short period that I have been in Parliament. I support the proposition, which we’ve also considered in the party room earlier this week, that in order to facilitate a more permanent resolution of this issue it might be best to put this question to the Australian people in one form or another in the next term of Parliament. Now, how exactly that will be done, that will be a matter that will be settled through our internal party processes over the next few weeks.
QUESTION: Mr Nalder, contracts for stage two for the Freight Link are due by the end of the year. Will that happen?
DEAN NALDER: Look, what I’ve said is that we’ve got a critical junction coming with the alternate routes that will be put back to us by proponents. We’ve tried to give the proponents as much flexibility to determine what that route should look like. But our intent is that we will be under construction next year and we will continue that. Whether some timelines get pushed back at that critical junction will be the point where we determine that.
QUESTION: So those contracts may not be awarded this year, it could be pushed back?
DEAN NALDER: No, our intent is, based on the base case, we are continuing to push ahead with December. I’ve had nothing back from the Departments that says we need to vary from that in this point in time. But I also acknowledge that we are looking at alternative routes. Once we get that information in, we’ll be in a better position to determine the exact timeline.
QUESTION: And tunnel? The tunnel is part of that Dean?
DEAN NALDER: That’s correct. Look, we are considering options including tunnels. We are looking at ways that we can deliver the most cost effective and efficient way of getting freight in and out of the harbour. Because the Fremantle Eastern Bypass was sold off, and under Alannah MacTiernan and Labor, the former State government, they commenced planning to widen and redo High Street and Leech Highway, which is why that became part of the base case for the Freight Link two, but I have never been comfortable with that for a number of reasons. The residents in Palmyra, the businesses along Stock Road, the impact on the Fremantle golf course and impact on Fremantle cemetery. So for me, it is still a base case, it may be the way we are forced to take but I’m hopeful that we can find a better solution.
QUESTION: So you’re leaning more towards the tunnel? Is that what you mean?
DEAN NALDER: I’ve always been more in favour of the tunnel if we can deliver it.
DEAN NALDER: But we need to wait for the proponents to see what they come back with before we can make a final and firm decision and that will include conversations with my Federal counterparts and looking at what is involved in that.
QUESTION: So the sell off by Labor, I mean if you did go via the tunnel would that mean any buy-backs at all?
DEAN NALDER: Look there are different scenarios and one of the things that we haven’t done is put a specific route in for the proponents that are tendering. We’ve left it totally open for them. So there is a number of different designs and things that they are looking at, which will impact differently. So until I get that back, we won’t be able to make a firm position on exactly what we’re looking at. But taking a tunnel route obviously has less of an impact on residences that would be looking to buy-back and also less of a disruption during construction period.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let’s just remember that Alannah MacTiernan was, for years, campaigning against the Northbridge tunnel. For years Alannah MactTernan was campaigning against the Graham Farmer Freeway and that is a very important piece of transport infrastructure in Perth now, which helps facilitate more efficient traffic flows from the north to the east and in all sorts of different ways. Labor is wrong on this. This is a very important project, both from an economic growth point of view as well as from a community amenity point of view. It is a project that the Australian Government together with the State Government here in Western Australia will continue to press ahead with. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question for Canberra quickly?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Sure.
QUESTION: This is from the Canberra bureau. They want to know Labor says South Australia will be a key battleground at the next election. Is that why the Prime Minister’s been there so often over the past few weeks?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are focusing on doing the job we were elected to do and that is to do the best we can every day, to put Australia on a stronger foundation for the future. We are working every day implementing our plan for stronger growth, more jobs, to repair the Budget and to ensure our nation is safe and secure. The Prime Minister of course travels widely right across Australia. If you have a look at all of the places the Prime Minister has been to in recent weeks and months, you’ll find that he has travelled the lengths and breadths of our country across all States and Territories as a good Prime Minister should.
QUESTION: Has the Government asked to have a national security announcement ready to go each week before the next election?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’m not aware. That's just gossip.
QUESTION: Further to the PM being in Adelaide. He’s has just addressed an audience in Adelaide about the importance of climate change. Is that a good idea electorally?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What we are doing, we are taking effective action on climate change. We are meeting and indeed exceeding the commitments that we made in the Kyoto Protocols. We are taking a credible and responsible target to the Paris conference later this year. But we are reducing emissions in Australia in a way that is actually also economically responsible. We are not like Labor, proposing to take $600 billion out of economic growth to 2030. We are not proposing to push up wholesale electricity prices by nearly 80 per cent. We’re not proposing to introduce a job destroying carbon tax like Labor is of $200 a tonne. Our approach through the direct action policy, our approach through the Emissions Reduction Fund is environmentally effective and economically responsible.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you’ve seen the Laurie Oakes opinion piece today but he’s quoting a senior Liberal as watching Scott Morrison who may be positioning himself for leader. What do you make of that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I’ve got to admit, I started very early this morning and I have not read Laurie Oakes’ opinion piece and I don’t make it a habit of providing a running commentary on anonymous commentary. Thank you.
QUESTION: Finally, what do you think about the derby this week. You’ve got a tip?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Go the Eagles.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you one more question. It’s just about patronage numbers on public transport. I wanted to talk about the ferry first. Numbers are down the worst over 2014-15. It’s taxpayer money. Is it time to give it up?
DEAN NALDER: No, not at all. We are looking at the patronage numbers all the time across all different routes, but we know with the ferries that we have the Elizabeth Quay works going on and we know that that is potentially having an impact. We need to complete the works there and the ferry will shift in closer to where the bus station is and the train station is. We believe that once we achieve that, that numbers will pick up immediately. It’s a service that from a customer satisfaction perspective receives 100 per cent satisfaction. It is the only service across rail and buses etcetera that receives 100 per cent customer satisfaction. So we see it as an important part of connecting the south side to the north side, but we know that we need to complete the Elizabeth Quay works and we believe that patronage numbers will increase again thereafter.
QUESTION: And just on the Joondalup line. Patronage numbers rose there, a lot of development and population growth there. Do you think more infrastructure will be needed given that those numbers are rising and others are dropping?
DEAN NALDER: In the short term, we know that increasing it through to Butler, the rail line and the Butler station, which was a project initiated by the Liberal State Government, at a $220 spend, we are now seeing over 2,000 a day boardings. That has increased through to the customer numbers that are on the Joondalup line. We are very conscious of that. There is longer term views to extend that through to Yanchep. As part of that, we need to fully understand the capacity of the line. Our next order of trains will be four door trains. This is a complex answer but four door trains will allow more trains per hour to go through our stations and therefore can increase the productivity of the lines. In addition to that, as part of the Perth Peel 2031, people might see a second corridor that heads up the north eastern side of Wanneroo. Part of that is looking at the capacity and starting to tie that in. There is more work being undertaken regarding the overall network plan for our public transport and that’s being undertaken by independent experts that will be reporting back through my Department and through the Cabinet as to what we believe are the longer term requirements of our public transport network.
QUESTION: The East Perth power station. Have you seen the Hassells Studios proposals about that?
DEAN NALDER: Sorry, I missed that, the East Perth...
QUESTION: The East Perth power station, Hassells Studios have submitted some drawing to Government about their idea for it. What do you think?
DEAN NALDER: I haven’t seen that at this point, so I can’t comment on that.
QUESTION: Alright, and your tip for the derby?
DEAN NALDER: Now that Mundy and Pavlich are back in, I think I have to go with Freo. The Eagles have got too many out with Lecras and McGovern and Selwood and Nic Naitanui being out. I think it slightly tips it in front of Fremantle. I look forward to it being an exciting game. Great thing for Western Australia. I wear a bit of both colours. I’m a politician these days and that’s what we do. But I love my footy and look forward to a great game.