SUBJECTS; Infrastructure funding; Cross River Rail; M1
AUSTIN: Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was in Brisbane city today, and he brought his chequebook. Mr Shorten says if he becomes prime minister of Australia, he’d chip in $2.24 billion to help pay for Cross River Rail. $800 million would go towards construction and a 50/50 split for running the line in the first two years. We asked Bill Shorten onto the program today. Sadly he was unavailable as was Queensland’s Treasurer Jackie Trad. Terri Butler is the federal Member for Griffith and the project, I think, would go through part of her electorate. She was at the announcement today. $2.24 billion is serious money, Terri Butler. Good afternoon.
BUTLER: It certainly is. Hi Steve, how are you?
AUSTIN: Very well.
BUTLER: It certainly is very serious money that Labor’s committing.
AUSTIN: Why make this announcement now?
BUTLER: Well I’m sure you’ve seen Bill’s been going up and down Queensland making infrastructure announcements. We think that it’s time for a nation-building government again. We think that it’s time for a government to put serious money into infrastructure and that that has to include public transport infrastructure, not just for existing users of public transport but to get more cars off the road and to reduce traffic congestion, which is what this project would do.
AUSTIN: The state government has always said whether or not federal funds came they’d go it alone. Why toss in the money? Why not let the state pay for it rather than the federal taxpayer?
BUTLER: Well we want this project delivered as quickly as possible and as smoothly as possible, because in fact it’s really overdue. It’s already overdue. We’re getting to a point where the Merivale Bridge will be at capacity within a few years. And if we can actually get Cross River Rail moving, then that can then have a flow-on effect for projects outside the Cross River Rail area. Albo has been talking, of course, to the SEQ Mayors, and this is an important project for them too, not just for its own sake, but so that they can look at what is next for rolling out infrastructure across the South East corner. That’s going to have a really important benefit for people whether you live on the existing train lines or not. We just want to see it get done. The thing is, this project has been on and off, for so long. I’m sure you remember there was a deal between Labor federally, last time we were in government, and the Newman government, to provide funding for it. Then the Abbott government got elected, the money got taken off the table, the thing got delayed, went back to the drawing board … people just want it done. I think people are sick of hearing about it; they just want to see it built.
AUSTIN: The Opposition says the money you’ve pledged, or that Bill Shorten has pledged, reveals that the real cost of this Cross River Rail project would be somewhere round about $12 billion. Is that accurate?
BUTLER: Well I don’t know where the state opposition gets its funding from – its costings from, I should say, Steve. We’ve made it really clear, this is about a long-term sustainability for this project as well. So, what we’ve pledged today is an $800 million grant over two fiscal years, and then on an ongoing basis $58 million kicked in a year over a thirty year period. The financing model would be a sustainable financing model. Obviously we would encourage looking for private partners as well, which might be superannuation funds, or might be other sources of funding. What needs to happen in this country is we need to actually invest in infrastructure. I get this from people on all sides of politics, whether you’re a left winger or a right winger, people say to me, now is the time to be investing in infrastructure. You know, you might not necessarily be someone who wants to see a lot of government spending, but even fiscal conservatives see right now as a time to be building infrastructure and investing in infrastructure. It’s not just the jobs that will be created in the construction phase; it’s the injection of funds into a productive part of the economy, which will help make the rest of the economy more productive as well. I mean, when you’re talking about Cross River Rail, you’re talking about getting people to where the jobs are quicker, as well as the jobs that are directly related to the rail project. If you could cut down commuting time for people by busting traffic congestion, by making public transport journeys a little bit shorter, then that gives everyone a better quality of life and it will lend itself to a more productive city as well. These are important investments that we should be making, and we should be making them now. The country is crying for them, I think.
AUSTIN: Twenty-five past six. My guest is Terri Butler. Terri Butler is federal Labor’s Member for Griffith. She was at the announcement today, where federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced $2.24 billion to help pay for the Cross River Rail project. Steve Austin’s my name. Infrastructure Australia: have they listed Cross River Rail as a project of national significance?
BUTLER: It was their number one priority in 2012. It’s been – as I say, the projects been kicking around for a long time, just being batted around from state to federal to state to federal. We think that it’s disappointing that Cross River Rail has, like most other or in fact all other public transport projects, not been a priority for this government. We also think it’s disappointing that Infrastructure Australia has taken its focus away from public transport projects. As I said, these aren’t just about the public transport users, it’s also about busting traffic congestion. The stat that Anthony has been talking about, that I think is a really useful one, is to say that Cross River Rail would reduce the private vehicle kilometres travelled by 526,000 per day, which would be a massive improvement in road congestion. I don’t know if you ever drive down Wynnum Road, Steve, I think I know that you drive down Old Cleveland Road a fair bit –
AUSTIN: And Wynnum Road, yes
BUTLER: And Wynnum Road. All those inner south eastern roads, that are absolutely chockers at the moment, if we could have better public transport now, you would take some of those cars off the road, and it would benefit everyone. It just needs to be done.
AUSTIN: We now have a clear point of difference between federal Labour and the federal LNP Party members. The LNP have pledged about in total $1.5 billion for the M1 both on the north and the south side of Brisbane. Federal Labour on $2.24 billion on the Cross River Rail project --
BUTLER: We’ve also said we’ll match the M1 funding they’ve announced as well
AUSTIN: So it would be even more than $2.4 billion in the pledge – how much – so you’re matching the $1 billion for the M1 as well.
BUTLER: That’s right.
AUSTIN: So where does the money come from? These are very expensive projects.
BUTLER: They absolutely are. And where the money comes from is building a more productive economy. Because, of course, when government spending is undertaken, then the way to pay for that is by having a productive economy, because as the economy grows more quickly, so too do tax revenues automatically grow more quickly. If we want a productive economy, if we want a productive nation, we need to create jobs now, we need to make cities more productive, and regional infrastructure more productive. If you want to talk about where you actually find government revenues then you have to do it by making the economy more productive which you do, which as government you can make a contribution to, by spending money in a productive way. You know, it’s not about wasting money. We have to be careful about the way we spend public money, but right now the country is calling out for infrastructure. That call needs to be met.
AUSTIN: The opposition say the fact that you’ve promised 50% of the operational costs shows that this project is way more than the $5.4 billion that state labor keeps spruiking.
BUTLER: Well I have got to admit I haven’t listed to the state opposition today, but what I imagine they’re talking about is that they’re trying to conflate the construction costs with the operational costs. You just can’t conflate capital with operational, it’s a silly thing to have done. If that is what they’re doing, they know better, and they should stop. But, you know, this kind of fight from them is just typical of what we’ve seen from the Liberals in relation to Cross River Rail. We’ve seen, as I’ve said, a federal Labor, state Liberal commitment, then federal Liberals come in, take the money off the table, suddenly it’s back to the drawing board. I think people just want to see this done, and put an end to the arguing. Just get it done. And that’s why we want to commit the money, to make sure it does get done.
AUSTIN: I appreciate your time this afternoon, thank you very much.
BUTLER Lovely to talk to you, Steve.
AUSTIN: Terri Butler is federal Labor’s member for Griffith. She was at the announcement today where Bill Shorten, federal opposition leader, announced that he would chip in, and that’s some serious chip in, of $2.4 billion, to help pay for the Cross River Rail project, and match the federal Liberal Party’s $1 billion funding commitment for the M1 between Tugun and the border. I should mention that the opposition in a statement they released today say Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to come clean on the extra ten billion in hidden costs that will be needed for cross river rail – the extra trains, operation costs, and aux works, says opposition spokesperson Tim Mander.