Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

Funding for Springvale/Whitehorse roads intersection, road funding, pulp mill, health funding, refugees - Doorstop interview, Victoria

Doorstop Interview
Nunawading, Victoria

Friday, 5 October 2007
11.30 am

SUBJECTS: Funding for Springvale/Whitehorse roads intersection, road funding, pulp mill, health funding, refugees

TREASURER:

Today I am announcing that the Australian Government will spend $80 million to fix this intersection – the intersection of Springvale Road and Whitehorse Road – which has been voted by the RACV as Victoria’s worst traffic congestion intersection.  This is an intersection where 125,000 cars come through each day, it has two main roads and a railway level crossing.  The RACV has been polling Victoria’s redspots for traffic congestion and has named the intersection of Whitehorse Road and Springvale Road as the worst in Victoria.

Previously the Australian Government had offered $25 million in order to upgrade and fix this intersection.  And we have asked the local council to do a report on the preferred option.  But today I am announcing additional funding which will take the funding to $80 million for this one intersection. 

Both of these roads are Victoria Government state roads.  The Australian Government does not control either of them.  So in order to have this intersection fixed, we need the cooperation of the Victorian Government.  And the Victorian Government now has 80 million reasons to get on with this project and to start construction. 

I want to say that the person that has been pushing this project more than any other is Phil Barresi, the local Member for Deakin.  He has been to see me and other Ministers in the Australian Government about this project on numbers of occasions because it is the number one priority for road construction here in his electorate. 

He has been extraordinarily persistent and I want to thank him for making known to the Australian Government, on behalf of his constituents, the importance of this intersection.  And I want to congratulate him for being so successful on this project.  And I want to say today with $80 million of Australian Government money, we can fix this intersection – Victoria’s worst intersection – and improve the traffic flows for all of the constituents of Deakin and the east of Melbourne.  Congratulations Phil.

BARRESI:

Thank you.

MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC:

(inaudible) refugees coming to our country?

TREASURER:

I think we will take questions from the media please. 

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, you say the State Government has to decide what is done here.  What would you like to see done?

TREASURER:

Well plainly, the level crossing has to be fixed with a grade separation.  Either the railway line to go underneath or the road to go underneath, preferably I would think the railway line to go underneath.  And we need further works up in relation to the intersection between Springvale and Whitehorse Road.  We have commissioned a study from the local city to recommend the best option and we will of course be guided by that study.

JOURNALIST:

The Prime Minister is making road finding announcements in Queensland today.  Is it all sustainable?

TREASURER:

The Auslink Programme which I announced in this year’s Budget – a $15 billion programme from 2004 to 2009, and a $22 billion programme from 2009 to 2014 – is Australia’s largest ever infrastructure programme for road and for rail.  And that is to fund the improvement of national highway, local roads – or in this case it will be used to fund State roads.  Both of these are State roads.  The Australian Government has no responsibility for either of these roads or indeed for the urban rail track.  And so, the Australian Government is coming in with an offer to the State Government of $80 million to fix this intersection and to get on with the works.  And I think this is an offer which I hope the Victorian Government will seize, accept and get on with building.

JOURNALIST:

Given you’ve pulled half a billion dollars out of the Frankston Freeway which is just over the back here, $80 million is really nothing, is it?

TREASURER:

Well we didn’t pull anything out of the Frankston Freeway.  If the tolls were abolished tomorrow the $500 million would go on to the Frankston Freeway.  The Victorian Government as you know, rejected Commonwealth funding for a Scoresby Freeway because it wanted a tollway.  And I still want a freeway.  I only regret that we never actually got free travel on the Scoresby Freeway. 

JOURNALIST:

So you are going to put the other $420 million into local road projects here?

TREASURER:

We have already.  The Australian Government has announced the Deer Park Bypass.  The Australian Government has announced the duplication of the Calder Freeway up to Bendigo.  We have also announced works in relation to Shepparton and of course today $80 million for Springvale Road and Whitehorse Road. 

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) why are you announcing it now?

TREASURER:

Because I want to get on with work.  I want to say that the Australian Government has now allocated $80 million.  It is ready to go.

JOURNALIST:

But how can you…

TREASURER:

And it is ready to go as soon as the Victorian Government prepares the work.  This has waited too long.  This should have been done a long time ago.  Let’s get on with the work and let’s improve traffic flows, not just for the people of Deakin, but for the people of the whole eastern suburbs  of Melbourne. 

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Well of course you have to let contracts, you have to draw works, you have to begin construction.  All of that will take time.  But you can’t actually begin a project until you know how you are going to fund it and here is $80 million to fund it from the Australian Government. 

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) political stunt pre-election?

TREASURER:

Well I say to people who live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, you know how bad this intersection is.  It is the number one congested intersection, as nominated by the RACV, and here is $80 million to fix it.  I think last year I offered the Victorian Government $25 million to fix it.  They didn’t take up my offer.  Now, I have increased it to $80 million and the Victorian Government has the opportunity to take $80 million of Commonwealth money, improve the lifestyle for the people of the eastern suburbs and especially for the people of Deakin.

JOURNALIST:

Will $80 million be enough?

TREASURER:

Well $80 million I think, is a very generous offer for one intersection.  In 2004 the City of Whitehorse estimated that fixing the whole of the intersection would cost $100 million.  Now, obviously prices would have gone up since then.  But we have allowed $80 million for the Commonwealth’s share.  I think that is a very, very substantial offer for one intersection. 

JOURNALIST:

Do announcements like today now clear the way for a federal election to be called this weekend?

TREASURER:

Oh no, it is not related to that in the slightest.  This is an announcement out of our Auslink Programme which I announced in this year’s Budget.  We announced that we would engage in the largest investment in infrastructure for road and rail in Australia’s history.  This is one of the projects that has made it into the list because it is the number one problem of congestion here in Melbourne.  And this funding of $80 million for the one intersection I think, will be warmly welcomed…

JOURNALIST:

Do you expect…

TREASURER:

…by the people of the eastern suburbs.

JOURNALIST:

…the Prime Minister to announce an election date this weekend?

TREASURER:

I wouldn’t know, I am sorry.

JOURNALIST:

The Tasmanian pulp mill decision, have you underestimated a possible backlash there?

TREASURER:

Well I think the conditions that have been put on the Tasmanian pulp mill are such that it will make it the most environmentally friendly pulp mill in the world.  They are the most stringent conditions that have ever been put on a pulp mill and they will ensure that the environment is protected and they will also look after the future of those people whose livelihoods depends upon the great forest industries of Tasmania. 

JOURNALIST:

So it is important for the Tasmanian economy?

TREASURER:

It is very important to the Tasmanian economy that they have industry and it is important for Tasmanians who want jobs that they have industry.  But it can only be done in an environmentally friendly way and it will have the most stringent conditions of any pulp mill in the world. 

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, a new report came out today about federal funding for health and it claims that it has dropped over the past decade.  Your thoughts on that?

TREASURER:

Well there is no area of the Federal Government spending that has increased more than health, which has increased from $20 billion in 1996 to $50 billion – which is more than double – in the last 11 years.  And it has been increasing at record levels over the last 11 years.  Now, you have got to bear this in mind: that the Commonwealth not only funds public hospitals but private hospitals and Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme.  And it is all of those areas that are funded by the Commonwealth which are now being funded at record levels, and the funding of which has increased faster than any other area of the Federal Budget. 

JOURNALIST:

But the story (inaudible) that the Commonwealth’s share has reduced over the past decade.

TREASURER:

No, that is not true either.  The Commonwealth spends around double what all of the States combined spend on health, when you take into account Commonwealth spending on public hospitals, on private hospitals, on Medicare and on pharmaceuticals.  The Commonwealth spending is around double and has been increasing.  You have got to be very, very careful of your figures in relation to this.  Some people say well let’s take one area of the budget and exclude others, but when you take into account the totality – which is public hospitals, private hospitals, Medicare and pharmaceuticals – not only is it record spending but the Commonwealth share is about two to one, as against the States.

JOURNALIST

Do you agree with Kevin Andrews comments that African refugees haven’t been integrating like other refugees?

TREASURER:

I think it is important when Australia operates its refugee and humanitarian programme that we not only give opportunities for people who need refugee status but opportunities to those people who can integrate into Australian society.  And, I think the Government has not only operated a very generous refugee system in the past but we have got to have a mind to making sure that those people that we do take in as refugees are those people that can accommodate to Australian society and make a contribution here.

JOURNALIST:

Is the Government being discriminatory or playing the race card, as some people are suggesting?

TREASURER:

Of course it is not.  The Government operates the second most generous resettlement refugee programme in the world – in the world, is what Australia does.  And, of course, notwithstanding the fact that we take in refugees from all over the world, there is probably 20 or 30 million refugees.  Australia can’t take 20 or 30 million refugees.  So when you are making these decisions you do have to make priorities as between different levels of refugees and I think it is perfectly proper to ensure that those refugees that we take in are those refugees that can most easily adapt and make a contribution to Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Back to the health issue, should the Commonwealth take over the States given its (inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Sorry, you will have to say that again.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Wait till that semi goes past. Yes.

JOURNALIST:

As the population ages, and the system seems to be ailing, should the Commonwealth take over the States?

TREASURER:

Well, what we know about health spending is that it will continue to increase for two reasons.  One is that the population is ageing and the older you get the more medical treatment you need.  The second is that technology is bringing more treatments all the time and these treatments are more expensive.  Our Intergenerational Report has shown that there is no area of expenditure that will grow faster than health spending and we said by 2040 unless we can do something about it we are going to open up a gap of about 4 per cent of GDP.  Now what the Commonwealth will do is it will continue to make record funding, as it has been doing.  We will also have to make sure however, that we get value for money.  It is not just a question of writing a cheque after cheque after cheque, you have got to make sure that that money is used properly and that’s where improved management comes in, this is where preventative health measures come in and this is where we need good financial expertise.  Okay, thank you.

5 Oct 2007

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