Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Monday, 10 May 2021
David Bevan: The leader of the government in the Senate and the Federal Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham, joins us now. Good morning, Simon Birmingham.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, David, Ali and listeners.
David Bevan: The last state budget your colleague in the state parliament, Treasurer Rob Lucas, said, look, we are committing I think it was about two billion dollars of state money for the South Road tunnel. So that's a lot of money for the whole project was going to cost maybe nine billion. Yeah, about nine billion. He said we're hoping that the Commonwealth will bring forward money, which is currently in the out years in the in the bad lands. Now, what are you going to do for the South Road tunnels in tomorrow's budget?
Simon Birmingham: Well, David, we are going to deliver on the next stage of the South Road project, which will be the Darlington to Anzac Highway stage. And that stage includes some four kilometres of tunnels as part of part of its development. So it's a very substantial stage. We're committing some two point six billion dollars towards that stage. And that does include bringing forward spending from what had been projected in previous budgets to make sure that it hits South Australia faster and sooner and that we get that work done just as, of course, we've gotten other work done over the years, be it the Northern Connector, be at the Torrens Road to River Torrens project, or of course, the work that is happening right now in relation to the North South Corridor on the Regency Road to Pyms Street section.
David Bevan: So this is two point six dollars billion worth of federal money and it will go towards the southern tunnel. That's the big one, the four point three kilometre southern tunnel. How soon will that money start flowing? Is it a little bit next year? A little bit the year after? How will that two point six billion be spread out?
Simon Birmingham: Indeed. So was what had previously been provisioned was it was for some $875 million over the next four years. But we're now going to see is closer to one point six dollars billion over the next four years. We had previously a final year of payments in 27/28, and that'll now occur in 26/27 on our updated projection. So this is about getting this project underway, bringing forward the works to make sure that it happens sooner and faster for South Australians. It's not the only project, of course, that some $3.2 billion of new projects and additional investments that we'll be announcing for South Australian infrastructure as part of this budget, building upon a very substantial pipeline of $10.7 billion dollars since we were first elected.
David Bevan: Well, Tom Koutsantonis has called in. He's the shadow transport minister. He was tweeting, look, this isn't new money. What's Tom Koutsantonis say? Good morning, Tom.
Tom Koutsantonis: Good morning, David. Morning Simon. Look, we've been talking about the south road tunnels now for nearly three years. Those are front page of the advertiser in 2019, saying one point four billion dollars for South Road tunnels between Darlington and Torrens to Torrens. Now we're talking about not starting work for another two years. That's five years since the original announcement. So if you add up all the money of the eight point nine billion dollars allocated apparently in the Commonwealth budget, state budgets to South Road between the River Torrens and Darlington, only 10 million has been spent in the last three years. It's less than one percent of the entire budget. Just get on with it. I mean, this is this is like the QEH and the women the kids hospital and globelink. It's all talk and very little action.
David Bevan: But isn't that isn't that the point here? What Simon Birmingham is saying is that we are bringing it forward. It is going to happen. And what looked like it was a bit vague, Rob Lucas, saying, oh, we're going to try and negotiate it. It's actually happened. They have delivered.
Tom Koutsantonis: In 2023, David, two years from now. So I'm sorry for being a bit hesitant about this, but we've seen these headlines before. We've heard this talk before. What they're trying to do is trying to get rejig of a renouncement, try to get some political capital. The truth is that in 2019, they're a 10 year old that should have started this a long time ago.
Ali Clarke: All right. Well, let's go back to the Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham, to answer to that. Why couldn't it be brought forward any further?
Simon Birmingham: Well, it is being brought forward. And, in fact, what we'll see over the course of this year and I was speaking with Corey Wingard just this morning about this, is that the reference design stages will be completed in the second half of this year and early works will start or are expected to start by the end of this year. And early works in relation to a project that involves this scale of work are actually quite significant. Those early works are themselves worth $350 million and they'll be getting underway at the end of this year through into early next year, seeing that there is that work pipeline for civil contractors and for the businesses who rely upon it. We're still, of course, finishing up the stages that are currently underway. So contrary to Tom saying that somehow this is years away and South Australians are going to see the first stages of works happening. And ultimately, this is a very significant project. South Australia hasn't seen anything like this before in terms of building an infrastructure project, six kilometres of motorway involving four kilometres of tunnelling as part of that. And we're determined to make sure that it gets underway and flows through over the next few years, giving the big productivity lift that it will to businesses who need to move to and from the south of Adelaide and to commuters who need to move to and from the south of Adelaide.
David Bevan: Ok, and look, we can all get lost in figures here. But just to be quite clear, you're saying the budget tomorrow will commit one point six billion dollars. That's billion with a B from the federal government for the southern tunnel. And what there's another billion dollars after that to finish the project. But that's beyond four years. So that's where we get that two point six billion from?
Simon Birmingham: That's right, David. So because these infrastructure projects are of such a magnitude and we have to actually look years in advance, that goes beyond the ordinary four year estimates period. So and that's why in making this commitment, we've got clarity of bringing forward faster spending in the early years that show in the budget profile. But the residual dollars are still there to make sure we finish our commitment and get it done based on current projections in terms of what we'll be providing through a year earlier than we had previously estimated.
Ali Clarke: Finance Minister Simon Birmingham. Thank you, Tom Koutsantonis, their shadow South Australian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport as well.