Subjects: Gawler Line Electrification; infrastructure; public transport.
STEPHEN MULLIGHAN: It’s great to be here this morning with Anthony Albanese as well as Nick Champion and Tony Piccolo to announce the recommencement of the electrification of the Gawler line. As we’ve said previously, we budgeted for this project to start again this year and getting on with the tender process; calling for expressions of interest on this critical project for Adelaide’s northern suburbs will mean the start of a huge boost to this part of Adelaide’s metropolitan area.
It’s great to have Mr Albanese here. Of course he has funded more infrastructure projects in South Australia than any other Federal Minister and this is why we are so keen to see the return of a Federal Labor Government and that’s to keep that strong relationship going between the State and the Federal Government to get these infrastructure projects funded, to see hundreds of people employed, delivering these projects, but also to provide a massive boost to the South Australian economy for many years to come.
The Gawler electrification project isn’t, of course, just a project about construction jobs while it’s being delivered. It’s also about improving transport services to those growing parts of the metropolitan area. We’re expecting more jobs out north and that’s particularly important once Holden stops its manufacturing operations in only a couple of months. And of course all of the housing developments that are due to occur out in the northern suburbs, not just up in Gawler, but also along the spine of the Gawler line. That’s why we’ve got Nick Champion, the Federal Member for Wakefield and Tony Piccolo, the Member for Light in the State Parliament, here supporting this critical project.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is great to be here with Minister Stephen Mullighan and also with Nick Champion and Tony Piccolo here in Adelaide, once again, talking about Federal Labor’s commitment to Adelaide infrastructure. Today in the Adelaide Advertiser it outlines very clearly the belated responses that we got to questions from Senate Estimates. That shows that Adelaide is being short-changed. It’s been short changed to the tune of billions of dollars because what we’re seeing is a Federal Government that even before this Budget in May, which delivered not one new dollar to Adelaide, was already short-changing Adelaide and South Australians.
We had a rather pathetic response from Paul Fletcher this morning in the paper saying that projects weren’t ready. Well here’s a project that is ready – the Gawler Rail Line Electrification that received from Federal Labor some $293 million of Federal funds in our budgets. Of course some $76 million of that funding was cut by the incoming Coalition Government when they came to office. This is a project that is ready to go and the Government has no excuse for not putting those funds, at least, back into the Budget that they took out, that they stole from South Australians. They could also fund the AdeLINK light rail projects. Those projects – that extension of the light rail network is also ready to go. The Federal Government has relied upon the opening of projects that were funded and commenced under the former Federal Labor Government. But what we’re seeing is now, some four years into office, a Government that lacks direction, a Government that is too interested in its internals to actually deliver the infrastructure and transport that South Australians need. Here at this station of course we see a couple of platforms down, the Noarlunga to Seaford rail, an extension funded and delivered by Federal Labor in partnership with the State Labor Government here in South Australia.
Of course, on the way up to the northern suburbs we see the Northern Expressway, we see the South Road Superway. We see the Goodwood to Torrens rail freight project -all projects funded and delivered by the former Federal Labor Government, working with the South Australian Government in the interest of South Australians.
Now is the time when infrastructure investment should be stepped up. But what we see over the forward estimates is infrastructure investments falling by more than half in South Australia from the Federal Government up to the year 2020-21. It’s simply not good enough and that’s why the Government should step up and fund projects like Gawler, fund projects like the AdeLINK light rail project, fund projects like the completion of the South Road works that are so important for productivity and jobs in the short term but also for the South Australian economy in the long term.
REPORTER: Was this a project that was ready to go in May?
ALBANESE: This is a project that has been ready to go for some time. The Federal Government delayed, withdrew the funding that was in the Budget, when they came to office, in their Budget MYEFO statement in late 2013. It’s one of the first things they did, was they cut out every dollar of rail funding that they could from the Federal Budget. They could have put it back at any time. Federal Labor recommitted our funding that had been taken out in the 2016 election campaign. They could have done it then, they could have done it in the Budget, they should do it now.
REPORTER: This could be seen as, for people who live on the Gawler line, a bigger drama than Wolf Creek.
ALBANESE: Well this is a big deal for the people who live on the Gawler line. There is an expectation that this will be delivered and the Federal Government needs to be prepared to partner with the South Australian Government. I think it’s terrific that Malcolm Turnbull comes to Adelaide and travels on trains and trams and takes selfies. What we want him to do is actually fund them. That is what is more important than taking selfies on public transport. At the moment there’s not a single dollar from the Federal Government going into South Australian public transport projects.
REPORTER: So could this be about the only thing that Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott agree upon – to put South Australia at the bottom of the heap?
ALBANESE: Well quite clearly, whether it has been Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull, South Australia has come last. They have been too busy playing politics in attacking the South Australian Government at the expense of the interests of South Australians. This is too important for partisan politics, which is why they should take up this opportunity and start funding projects here in South Australia.
REPORTER: Minister, so you are saying that this project was ready to go and it was ignored by the Federal Government in the Budget?
MULLIGHAN: Absolutely. The Federal Government has had everything they have needed to get back on board and fund this project and they continue to refuse to. It is incredibly frustrating not just for the South Australian Labor Government, but it’s frustrating for the people who live in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. These are massive improvements to our rail services and the Federal Government needs to get behind the people of South Australia and the people of the northern suburbs and fund this project again.
REPORTER: Will Stage II not be going ahead then if the Federal Government doesn’t come forward?
MULLIGHAN: What we’ve said is we have made money in our State Budget to recommence the project, to electrify the rail line out to Salisbury. But we want to finish the project. We want to get all the way out to Gawler, make sure that we not only have a complete line, but that we have all those services for the full length of the line as well and we need a federal partner for that and it is unfortunate that the Federal Liberal Government refuses to commit to this important project.
REPORTER: Without that funding what impact will that have on delivering the project?
MULLIGHAN: It massively slows it down, just like it has slowed it down for the past few years. And it means that the people in the northern suburbs, not only are they having to put up with Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott chasing Holden out of Australia, but they are now not committing to improvements to rail investment and that is a terrible thing for the people who need these public transport services improved, that need them out servicing their communities.
REPORTER: Do you think that the people of the northern suburbs, sick to death of this over a number of years, say they don’t really care about the politics, they just want to see something done and they might start pointing the finger at you, saying well you know at the end of the day you are the Transport Minister – make it happen.
MULLIGHAN: Well our money is on the table. In order to finish this project and finish it a lot more quickly we need a federal funding partner. You know it’s OK for Liberal administrations in other states and territories to pick up project funding from the Abbott and then Turnbull governments. What’s the problem with funding projects in South Australia? We’ve done all the work. We’ve put the submissions in. They are ready to be given a tick. But as we have heard today, they are not funding infrastructure properly across this country and they are punishing South Australia as a result.
REPORTER: Were those submissions in in May?
MULLIGHAN: Not only were they in in May, they were in several years before that as well. This project, the Gawler Line Electrification, the first business case went in in 2008. Another one went in in 2012. We resubmitted documents earlier this year. We resubmitted them again after the Federal Budget. I mean, there is no excuse for this Federal Government not to be funding this project. It just seems to me a matter of spite now that Malcolm Turnbull is too interested in running around taking pictures on public transport rather than funding it.
REPORTER: What explanation or justification have you been given for not receiving the funding when you put in those applications?
MULLIGHAN: There is no justification that has been given by the Federal Liberal Government. They were out there trying to claim after the Federal Budget that we hadn’t submitted business cases, which was patently wrong. And yet when it was pointed out to them that they were funding projects in Western Australia that hadn’t even commenced work on a business case, they were caught completely red-faced and that was the reason why we finally extracted a commitment from them to redirect some project savings into the Oaklands Rail Crossing. But what we need is new funding so that we can get on with these projects.
REPORTER: Is this above politics?
MULLIGHAN It absolutely should be above politics. I mean the Federal Liberal Government has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal automotive assistance and they should be redirecting that money back into the communities that are most affected by the closures of these manufacturing operations and this sort of project is an obvious one to get in behind.
REPORTER: Why did you submit a new business plan last month?
MULLIGHAN: Well, so that they had absolutely no excuse not to be funding this project. They have had submissions on this project time and time and time again. Each time they claim that they haven’t received documentation, they haven’t received a business case. We know now that they have received these business cases on an ongoing basis since 2008. That’s over a nine-year period. So as I explained at a previous press conference, we did all of those things which seemed to be important to the Federal Government. We changed the date on the front so that they’ve got no excuse not to fund this project.
MULLIGHAN: Oh yes of course. The date has changed on the front. We had to change who it was addressed to. We also had to update the costings, given that we are seeking project funds in 2017, several years after we started asking the Coalition Government to fund this project and that has unfortunately meant that we have had to change some of the costings as of course the increased price of materials and labour increases over the years.
ALBANESE: It’s no accident either that you have seen no grant funding for any projects in this year’s Budget from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth says itself that they don’t want to be just a provider of grant funding. They want something that produces a return. Now what produces a return is toll roads. You don’t have toll roads here in South Australia. The Federal Government is saying they will only fund toll roads. So when you hear them talk about not just wanting to be a post box for applications for grant funding, what you hear in reality, what that means, is no funding for public transport and no funding on the basis of the contribution that such projects make in terms of the economy.
REPORTER: If there isn’t any funding from the Federal Government would you consider private funding at all?
MULLIGHAN: Well we think that the privatisation of South Australia’s public transport networks have been a massive detriment to people who use public transport here in South Australia. We only saw recently with the re-contracting of the buses that were privatised under the former Liberal Government the sort of dislocation and downgrade of service that that caused for people catching buses. The last thing we want is for that to occur to our rail services.
REPORTER: Aside from the delay if you don’t get funding from the Federal Government, will this project every happen at all?
MULLIGHAN: What we are announcing today is that we are getting on with the process to deliver our share of the Gawler Electrification Project – the electrification of services out the Salisbury. But what we want to do is finish that job. We want to get all the way out to Gawler. But we need a Federal funding partner to do that. Federal Labor is prepared to join with the State Government. What we are asking is for a Coalition Federal Government to do the same.
ALBANESE: Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.