Sep 17, 2012

Transcript of Interview – ABC Mid North Coast

Issues: Pacific Highway Duplication

KATYA QUIGLEY: Well, Anthony Albanese is the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, and he’s refuted the Coalition’s plans over the weekend.  Minister, good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.

KATYA QUIGLEY: Fifty/fifty, 80/20, it seems like it’s a bit of a merry-go-round, but duplicating the Pacific Highway is surely the priority, especially as it is named amongst some of the worst roads in the country.

Now the Coalition says the Government’s 2016 completion date is just another broken promise, you’re saying their plan won’t have it finished in the next decade, why do you say that?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Because that’s what they say themselves.  Warren Truss yesterday morning had to concede that when he made his announcement on Saturday it was really pretty deceitful.  It spoke about the money that was allocated for the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link.  There’s only $67 million allocated before 2016 to that particular project.

So even if they were elected not once, but twice, then there’d be $67.9 million, to be precise, available prior to 2016.

Now in order to complete the full duplication, we’ve already put $4.1 billion into the Pacific Highway – the Howard Government put $1.3 billion in over twelve years – and we put $3.56 billion on the table, on the basis of a 50/50 split with the State Government.  That would enable it to be done, and we’ve confirmed that it can in fact be done.  We’ve put out a timetable of works.

We did increase our funding through the Economic Stimulus Plan, Wendy’s analysis is pretty right, except for the fact that it was actually 100 per cent.  Projects such as the Kempsey Bypass were part of the Economic Stimulus Plan because they were the only projects that were ready in terms of planning.

Since then, I have sat down on a number of occasions with [NSW Roads Minister] Duncan Gay to try and work out a schedule of works going forward.

I think the real problem with this announcement on Saturday is it’s a smokescreen.  It’s a green light for delay on the Pacific Highway because it says to the State Government: ‘Don’t bother doing anything else, that’s enough, and we’ll do something if we’re elected a couple of times into the future’.

KATYA QUIGLEY: Will the Highway be finished by 2016, or is that just something that is completely out of the ball park?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It certainly can be, and the State Government’s acknowledged that it can be, and they indeed were looking at some creative ways in which they could find funding for the Highway.  We had quite constructive discussions in good faith. I hadn’t gone out there and spoken about them in the media, and the first time I heard Duncan Gay commenting on this latest proposal was on Saturday.

KATYA QUIGLEY: Is there money in the Federal Budget to do what the Coalition wants to do?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There is no money in the Federal Budget, except for $67.9 million, if what they’re talking about, prior to 2016.

There was money allocated for the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link on the basis that the State Government would do some funding first, and then the Federal money would kick in.  Because the State Government had delayed their contribution for two years – they’re now refusing completely – that pushed our funding back, which is why only $67.9 million is available prior to 2016.

Now even the $7 billion figure isn’t enough.

KATYA QUIGLEY: Okay, minister, thanks for your time this morning, we’ll have to leave it there.  Anthony Albanese there, the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

[ENDS]