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Source: Australian Ministers for Regional Development

VIRGINA TRIOLI:

Big day tomorrow for the Federal Government and really for all of Australia because this is one of the most significant federal budgets that will ever be handed down. What’s the solution that you come up with to try and get a country through the recession that has hit us as a result of the pandemic? It’s a huge ask. And the story that will have to be told by the Treasurer and the solutions that will have to be found are very, very serious ones.

Alan Tudge is the Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure and, of course, the Member for Aston, and he joins you now. Minister Tudge, good morning, good to talk to you.

ALAN TUDGE:

Good morning, Virginia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

$1.1 billion for Victorian transport infrastructure will be announced tomorrow night. Take us through it.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, that’s right, and that will support 4,000 jobs, and it’s largely regional projects that we’re announcing. The next stage of the Warrnambool rail upgrade, the next stage of the Shepparton rail upgrade, bringing forward some money for the South Geelong’s Waurn Ponds rail, as well as a bunch of smaller scale projects in Melbourne itself.

The main focus, though, is on projects which can get going immediately in order to create those jobs as quickly as possible. But it’s exciting for Victoria, 4,000 jobs will be the result out of this announcement.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Do we have the workers, though, here in Victoria to fulfil those jobs and to take those places now? Australia’s heading for zero net migration. Will we have the workers here?

ALAN TUDGE:

Absolutely, and particularly in Victoria where unemployment is still going up because of the restrictions. I mean, we’ve got an abundance of labour at the moment, unfortunately, and hence the focus of the budget tomorrow is squarely going to be on jobs.

How do we generate more jobs for Australians? And, to be honest, particularly here in Victoria where every other jurisdiction has got jobs coming back as restrictions ease. Unfortunately here in Victoria, because of the restrictions, we’re still losing jobs.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

So when the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said that Victoria needed to get on with it and do more in infrastructure, when he said that over the last couple of days, to try and get the state moving, what exactly did he think was not getting done here? What did he want to see?

ALAN TUDGE:

Listen, one of the biggest ones that obviously we’ve been pushing for, for some time has been the East West Link where we have $4 billion still sitting there as a contingent liability wanting to be spent. And that’s the entire public funding for that massive project which would support another 4,000 people.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Yes, of course, but the Federal Government and the Treasurer himself have accepted that there is a difference of opinion on that they want to get it done but the State Government here doesn’t. So putting that to one side because that’s accepted as a difference of opinion, it’s not going to happen.

ALAN TUDGE:

But the Treasurer did mention that particular project specifically. And that was pre-pandemic. We haven’t had this discussion since, and when you have unemployment which is going to be above 10 per cent, possibly higher here in Victoria, which is not seen since the early 1990s, then we need to re-examine some of these things.

And if you’ve got a massive project such as the East West Link, which is sitting there where we will fund the entire public contribution towards it, then why not re-examine that. I think that’s what the Treasurer was getting at.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Sure, but, as I say, it is sort of a bit a pointless discussion because this government won’t do it, it says. So putting that to one side, give me another one. What else is missing?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, the Rowville rail, we’ve got half a billion dollars sitting on the table. We’d still like to see that underway. I’ve been having good discussions with Jacinta Allan the transport Minister here in Victoria for a long time now.

We’ve got a lot of great projects underway, and these projects which we’re announcing today have all been negotiated with her and with the State Government, so that they can get started immediately. They’re all on their wish list and jointly we want to get these projects done. We’ve got a lot of more projects that we are doing together than we have differences on. But, of course, there are some differences in some of these examples that I’ve just provided.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Yeah, I mean, look, there’s not many. The reason I ask the question is that of course we had the long list that the Premier enumerated over the weekend of what has been done here in Victoria. It just seems like it was a smack without much substance, given that, as the Premier listed, what were the figures that we’ve had 38 level crossings taken out, eight during the pandemic, two more railway stations, halfway point in the tunnel of the Metro tunnelling. It’s hard to argue, as Josh Frydenberg has, that the state hasn’t been moving.

ALAN TUDGE:

There’s certainly been some great projects which have been underway in Victoria. But there are some projects which we would absolutely like to get underway, and Josh Frydenberg was making that point.

Particularly when you’re in the middle of a pandemic, when you’re in the state which is still losing jobs whereas nearly every other state is gaining jobs back because of the easing of restrictions, then we need to be doing everything we possibly can. When you’ve got projects such as the East West Link, which are there they’re ready, fully, massive projects, $4 billion ready to go.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Yeah, I get the passion. I get your passion, but politically it’s just a non-starter.

ALAN TUDGE:

The Treasurer obviously is very keen to see the Glenferrie Road level crossing done as well. So there’s many other projects.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Well, they’re all on the list of level crossings. Now, look, if Victoria is the biggest drag on the economy right now, as the Treasurer has said, why is New South Wales getting more than double what Victoria is getting? They’re getting $2.7 billion. Don’t you put the money where it’s most needed?

ALAN TUDGE:

You would have heard the Premier yesterday, who said that they were seeking $1.3 billion from the federal government, and today we’ve announced every single one of those projects to be delivered with the exception of one, which is the Murray Darling Basin rail plan and we’re still examining that one. We’re obviously open to it, but we’re not announcing that today. But otherwise we’re delivering on the things which the Premier has asked for.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

No, look, I’ll just jump in there. I get that. But, if as a federal government and the federal government and Josh Frydenberg in particular has been at pains to say that Victoria is the drag on the country getting back and getting back into the black, if that’s the case, don’t you pour everything where it’s needed? Why 2.7 billion in the state that’s actually putting some jobs on whereas this is the place that’s not?

ALAN TUDGE:

So, well, a few points there. Firstly, we are absolutely funding the things which the State Government has requested that can be done immediately, and that is the criteria. Second, when you actually look over the next 10 years of the funding which we are providing to Victoria, we are providing about 30 per cent to Victoria whereas the population share is about 25 per cent.

And then the third point I’d say is that when you look at all of the pandemic funding that we have provided, and this has been an enormous sum, including $100 billion of direct financial support to Australians, again, close to 30 per cent of that funding has been going to Victorians. Whereas the share on a population basis would be closer to a quarter.

So on each of those bases Victoria is absolutely getting funding, and it will continue to do so. I mean, by the end of this year, Virginia, 60 per cent of the entire JobSeeker program funding will be going to Victorians.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Okay. Well, look, the trouble, of course, when we get to speak to you now these days, Minister Tudge, is that it’s very difficult to take seriously what is said by a man who’s been found by the Federal Court to have engaged in conduct which can only be described as criminal in relation to, of course, to depriving an asylum seeker of his liberty and leaving him in detention for five days. So the question still hangs over your head, Alan Tudge, about why you believe you can still hold down the job that you do when you’ve been found by one of the highest courts in the land to have engaged in conduct that is criminal?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I strongly reject those assertions made in commentary by the judge.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

I don’t think you get to reject assertions or findings by a court. There’s not assertions, they are findings by a court. Now, I don’t know if you get to reject those.

ALAN TUDGE:

They were comments by a particular judge, which I strongly reject. We’re looking at our appeal rights presently.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

I wish we all got to reject findings by a judge, but I don’t think we do, and I don’t think ministers are above the law there.

ALAN TUDGE:

And I think from memory you’re a lawyer yourself, Virginia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

No, I’m not.

ALAN TUDGE:

Apologies. But it was commentary of this particular judge.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Since when do we describe a finding by judges as commentary? That’s curious.

ALAN TUDGE:

If I can finish. He actually found in favour of our appeal. It was an appeal from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to the particular court that made some comments that I completely and utterly reject, and we’re looking at our appeal rights.

The key thing here, and this is important in terms of the facts of this case, it involved an individual who had arrived unlawfully who had committed a very serious, violent offence and was imprisoned as a result.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

We’re not pressing that matter; it’s the findings of the judge that you acted unlawfully.

ALAN TUDGE:

And consequently the government made a decision, to not grant that visa –

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

And you feel comfortable to stay in your position, do you?

ALAN TUDGE:

If I could finish –

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

You only have a few seconds Minister.

ALAN TUDGE:

Consequently, because of his violent criminal actions, the government made a decision to not grant him a visa, and that has been consistent with many other decisions that we have made to not give violent criminals visas.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

We have run out of time because we are against the news but we will let the listeners draw their own conclusions Minister, but I’m glad you joined us today, thank you.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thank you very much Virginia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI:

Minister Tudge who is the Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure.

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