Topics: East-West Link
TOM ELLIOTT: Mr Tudge, good afternoon.
ALAN TUDGE: Good afternoon Tom.
TOM ELLIOTT: Now it’s been well publicised that last year the federal government advanced the state government here in Victoria $1.5 billion for the sole purpose of building East-West Link.
New Premier Daniel Andrews has said that East-West Link under his watch will not go ahead. Are you going to ask for that money back?
ALAN TUDGE: Tom, we want the road built and we have not given up the fight to ensure the road is built. I’ll tell you why we want it. First, because it’s such an important piece of infrastructure for Melbourne to get people across from the east to the west. Second, because a contract was signed and it’s since been revealed that to break that contract will cost $1.2 billion.
That’s what Daniel Andrews is now facing. Is he going to put $1.2 billion on the bonfire? We think that would be an utterly ridiculous thing to do.
TOM ELLIOTT: I agree with you on that, but there is also no denying the will of the great Victorian people. Collectively, we voted for Labor and the Greens and we said, therefore, that East-West Link is not going ahead. So there’s a bit of a conundrum, is there not, because Victorians when faced with a choice late last year, voted Labor and voted against the East-West Link.
ALAN TUDGE: I’d say two things to that, Tom. First, Daniel Andrews promised there wouldn’t be any compensation if he breached the contract. That’s clearly incorrect, so he’s broken that promise if he does break the contract.
Secondly, we went to the federal election in 2013 on the promise to build the East-West Link. We have a mandate to ensure that it is being built and so we want to see it built, there’s $1.5 billion of federal money already there on the line.
TOM ELLIOTT: But Daniel Andrews says he’s having private meetings. He said he’s had respectful discussions, the phrase he used, with the Prime Minister and possibly with you. Are you talking about or contemplating the possibility of some other infrastructure project?
ALAN TUDGE: We will always be open to infrastructure projects which the state government puts forward to us. We’re open to discuss any good project which they put forward. But I can assure you there will always be $3 billion set aside for the East-West Link. It’s there, we want it built.
TOM ELLIOTT: I want to see it built too, but $1.5 billion has already been given to the Victorian government, if Daniel Andrews sticks with his mandate and doesn’t build the East-West Link as opposed to your mandate, will you demand its repayment?
ALAN TUDGE: I can tell you what; we will not allow that money to go towards compensation. That’s not what it’s there for. It is there for use for infrastructure.
TOM ELLIOTT: Two issues there. One is, the money is all in the same pot so I don’t think you can say your money is used for this or that, it goes into a pot, it’s either in the Victorian government’s pot or it’s not.
But you just said it’s there for infrastructure so would you contemplate some infrastructure other than the East-West Link?
ALAN TUDGE: As I said Tom, we’re open to considering any project that the state government puts forward but we’ll always have the commitment for that money to go to the East-West Link project. That is our promise and that is our commitment.
TOM ELLIOTT: So if Daniel Andrews said I want to complete the Ring Road, for example, there’s a portion of it that’s not yet built, you might say ‘okay you can do that, use this money’, but if a future government said ‘we’ll go back to the East-West Link’, you would still make $3 billion available for it?
ALAN TUDGE: That’s a hypothetical there. Our commitment is to ensure the East-West Link is built and built as quickly as possible. The $3 billion is there for it and will always be there for it.
TOM ELLIOTT: Do you really think it will be built? Do you really think you will be able to get Daniel Andrews to break an election promise?
ALAN TUDGE: He also had a promise not to pay any compensation and now this is going to cost $1.2 billion. This is the real test for Daniel Andrews because he’s got a choice here.
He can either throw $1.2 billion on the bonfire for nothing, it’s gone that money. Or, he can add $800 million and get the East-West Link built, at least stage one. Because the state contribution, Tom, was only $2 billion for stage one. The rest of it was private money and federal money.
He only has to find an extra $800 million. I’m not saying that’s an insignificant amount, it’s not, but he can get East-West Link built for that versus putting $1.2 billion on the bonfire.
TOM ELLIOTT: Can we just go back to the political situation as far as it applies federally. It’s no secret to say that your government, the Abbott government, has taken a bit of a hiding in the polls in recent months.
Do you think it would be political suicide for you to pull that money out of Victoria, that $1.5 billion? Do you think that might reflect very badly on the government you represent?
ALAN TUDGE: Tom, we will always support good projects in Victoria. That is our commitment and Tony Abbott has said that and he’s had discussions with the Premier in relation to other projects, I understand.
I don’t want to go around in circles here, but we’re open to supporting other projects, of course we are, but we do want to see the East-West Link built and there will always be that money set aside for it.
TOM ELLIOTT: Alan Tudge, thank you for your time.
ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much Tom.