13 April 2018
Transcript - #2018017, 2018

In the role of: Minister for Revenue and Financial Services [19 July 2016 - 28 August 2018]

Interview with Raf Epstein, ABC 774

Subjects: The Turnbull Government’s $5 billion commitment to a Melbourne Airport Rail Link

RAF EPSTEIN:

Last night the Prime Minister called the Premier Daniel Andrews, left a voicemail on his phone, after he told the Herald Sun and got a $5 billion splash on the front page of the paper. So, will it happen this time? Standing at the airport with the Treasurer and the Prime Minister was Kelly O'Dwyer – she's the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services and women's affairs as well. Good afternoon.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Good afternoon Raf – it's a great day for Victoria.

RAF EPSTEIN:

How confident are you that your children born in the last few years will actually get on this train before they finish high school?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well it's Edward's first birthday tomorrow and I am very confident that he will get the great benefit of this nation building infrastructure. This is the first time, despite the long list you went through and all the talk that's happened, this is actually the first time that we have had money on the table to build this project.

RAF EPSTEIN:

It's not the whole amount though, we need double what you have committed. Is that correct?

KELLY O'DWYER:

It's not the whole amount but what we want to do so that we can actually get delivery of the project is to have a 50:50 funding partnership with the Victorian Government, not only to build it but to own it because we know that this is the delivery model that will make it happen. For a long time state governments have said "give us the money and we'll spend it" they sometimes haven't spent the money the way that they had said or they have spent it on something else. We actually want to see delivery of this particular project because we know it will bust congestion in this state, we know that it will ensure that we will have even better transport infrastructure for the millions of Victorians who rely upon it.

RAF EPSTEIN:

I think there are lots of people who think it's a good idea, maybe the question is how serious are you really if you tell the Herald Sun before you tell the Premier? How serious are you?

KELLY O'DWYER:

As you know the Prime Minister did actually try to telephone the Premier. We want to make sure that Victorians are totally enthused about what is a really critically important project.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I take you back to the question Minister, sometimes these process stories are completely unimportant and trivial but if you are more interested in getting it on the front page of the paper than communicating to the Premier that you are willing to hand over $5 billion does that indicate that you are not serious?

KELLY O'DWYER:

No – that's not correct at all when you say that we're not committed to actually having the discussion with the Victorian State Government. I mean there was a very long and detailed letter that was actually written to the Premier and as I wrote in my opinion piece today in the Herald Sun we actually need to turn what is an important vision for world-class infrastructure in to a reality. And we need to do it by making sure that the money is available. Now we showed our bona fides on this issue last year in our federal budget when we put down $30 million as a down payment to build the business case for this Tullamarine rail link.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I ask – when do you think the first shovel is going to go in to the ground?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well look we will get we think the report back on that business case in around September or October and it could be, it would be ambitious, but it could be as early as 2020 depending on the route…

RAF EPSTEIN:

So two years – less than two years?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Depending on the route, depending on exactly what flows from that business case it could be as early as 2020 but probably a bit later than that. We now have $5 billion available for its construction and we have heard a lot of talk from the Premier saying that this is a good idea. He now has the capacity with us to deliver it and we want to see them put up real money on this project. Now of course they got $2 billion from Snowy Hydro, that's money that could go straight in to this particular project.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I ask Kelly O'Dwyer are you going to agree on the route? If I can just let people know, I don't want to get too complex, but the more direct routes are your preferred paths, I think, and they also go past the Maribyrnong defence site that you would like to sell and the Andrews Government would rather wait for the Metro Tunnel and go a different way. Who's going to decide is that consensus? Do they tell you? Do you tell them?

KELLY O'DWYER:

So we haven't actually selected a preferred route at all so it's not actually correct to say that.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Are you happy to go with the route that the Premier chooses?

KELLY O'DWYER:

We actually want to see the result of the business case process which is joint process with the Victorian Government and as I said we expect to have the results of that in September or October of this year and we initiated that in our 2017-18 Budget last year.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I just ask you about the numbers? I have no idea if it financially pays off or not – it looks like it costs $10 billion, the Metro Tunnel is $10 billion for one rail line as opposed to something that expands the capacity for the entire network is that value for money?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well I think there is no question that actually having a rail link from Melbourne Airport to the city is vitally critical infrastructure. I mean let's just think about the numbers today, we've got around about 34 million passengers that currently use the Melbourne Airport and we know that within 15 years that is going to be upwards of around about 64 million passengers, now that's on a par with Heathrow. We have got one of our busiest roads, which is the Tullamarine freeway servicing around about 210,000 vehicles today that number is only going to go up. We need to take pressure off the Tullamarine freeway, we need to make sure that more people have got public transport as an option to get to the airport. When I go to Sydney I know that I can actually get on a train and in to the city very very quickly, within about 15 minutes I can get in to the city… (interrupted)

RAF EPSTEIN:

That hasn't made money isn't that still in negative financial territory?

KELLY O'DWYER:

…that's very efficient. If you think about Paris, London, New York, all of those international airports, they all offer an option of a rail link to get in to their cities. Now we are an international city, we want to make sure our city remains one of the most liveable cities in the world and this is vital nation building infrastructure that needs to happen and thanks to Malcolm Turnbull now putting the money on the table it can be delivered.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I just ask you Kelly O'Dwyer, I've only heard one minister answer this question in the negative in the last week. Given the opportunity would you like to be leader of the Liberal Party?

KELLY O'DWYER:

[Laughs] I am very happy with the job I am doing. I am more than happy continuing in my current role.

RAF EPSTEIN:

But would you ever consider being leader of the Liberal Party?

KELLY O'DWYER:

It is not in my consideration Raf.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Never?

KELLY O'DWYER:

It's not part of what I think about day to day at all Raf. We've got a fantastic Prime Minister, someone who has announced a fantastic project for Victoria right here, right now and he has got my full support.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Thanks for talking to us.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Terrific, thanks Raf.