Subjects: Parramatta to Epping Rail Link; Sydney infrastructure funding
SARAH MORICE: Now, there’s been a kick in the guts for Western Sydney this morning, particularly Western Sydney commuters, with word the Federal Government has shelved the Parramatta to Epping rail link. Now $2 billion earmarked for this rail link has been shifted to fund projects that are not due to be built for – wait for this, another six years.
IAN DICKSON: Anthony Albanese’s the Federal Minister for Transport, he joins us now. Good morning Minister.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day.
IAN DICKSON: Now look, the Government’s been running a pretty strenuous hearts and minds campaign in Western Sydney, we’re told it’s going to be the battleground upon which the election will be won or lost. Why has the funding been shifted?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Because the State Government refused to spend it. We’ve had, since 2010, money on the table to build the Parramatta to Epping rail line, the State Government runs the rail system, short of breaking in to State Government owned land and building our own rail system, we couldn’t get this done because the State Government simply doesn’t support the Parramatta to Epping rail line being built at the current time.
SARAH MORICE: Minister, as Dicko was saying there, you know, Western Sydney is being hailed the hot spot for this federal election, and people in Western Sydney are being told they’re cared about, that we’re, you know – basically the governments want to do everything they can to get their vote really. That’s the message that’s been coming through.
When you hear something like this, you can understand I guess why they would be disappointed, particularly when we know this was promised just before the state election. It was a federal sweetener really, to help Kristina Keneally keep power, it didn’t work, but can you understand why people in Western Sydney will be so upset when they hear election pledges, and then they hear today those pledges are gone?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m upset too. I want this project to go ahead and if New South Wales changes its mind, and decides that it actually wants this important rail line built, then I’d be very pleased to sit down with them and make sure it gets done. The fact is that had the O’Farrell Government not shelved this project, construction would be well underway right now. One of the reasons why we made the commitment prior to the 2010 election was that there weren’t many infrastructure projects in Sydney that you could announce and actually get going during a three year term of office.
With this project, half the lines are already built; it’s a matter of extending it. This is about making sure as well that all the road and rail links don’t just go through the CBD. We need to build Parramatta as Sydney’s second CBD. I’m a big supporter of this project and I can’t understand why the State Government are so hostile to this project going ahead.
SARAH MORICE: Could it be though because they have signed on to Gonski, and as a result of that they seem to be getting a bit of funding from you guys, from the Federal Government, including things like WestConnex and the F3 to M2 link, so I guess their money’s now tied up in that? Because that was sort of all related to Gonski and, you know – you guys are giving them money to do other projects that are now becoming priorities?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well they’re getting record funding on education, record funding on health, record funding on the range of community services. And $5.5 billion we have committed to Sydney alone as part of more than $23 billion we’ve committed to New South Wales. Now during the entire Howard Government period, there was only $300 million spent on Sydney over those 12 years.
SARAH MORICE: Minister if we take that sort of funding out of it, if you were, you know, in New South Wales and you’re the Premier, and you had to decide what was more important, is it the – you know, the F3-M2 link, is it WestConnex, or is it the Parramatta to Epping railway, what would you have chosen?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the truth is that we had 80 per cent of the funding on the table for the Parramatta to Epping rail link. I certainly would have proceeded with that, construction would have been underway on that project. Then the F3 to M2 that we put funding in, in this Budget, of $400 million a couple of weeks ago, that’ll be matched by New South Wales, that’s a project where construction will commence in 2014. The WestConnex project according to the New South Wales Government – the construction time of that will start later on.
So you could have done all of it because they are staged projects. The Parramatta to Epping rail link was the one project in Sydney where construction could have commenced, indeed be well underway by now.
SARAH MORICE: Alright Minister, than you very much for your time there. Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.