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Source: Prime Minister of Australia

NICOLLE FLINT MP, MEMBER FOR BOOTHBY:  Well, good morning. I’m the Nicolle Flint, Federal Member for Boothby and I am delighted to have many colleagues here with me this morning. Of course, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister Alan Tudge, Minister Mark Coulton representing the Deputy Prime Minister, the Premier of South Australia Steven Marshall, my state colleague Stephan Knoll the Minister for Planning, Infrastructure and Transport, and James Stevens Member for Sturt, my colleague from Sturt. It is really, really exciting to be here for this significant announcement for roads in South Australia. I’ve been out at shopping centres and doing street corner listening posts every Saturday and Sunday recently and the number one issue people raised with me is congestion on our local roads. And I’m so happy to be able to tell them that the Morrison and Marshall Liberal governments are busting congestion. We’ve already fixed Oaklands Crossing. We’re here today at the very exciting Darlington Upgrade and it’s wonderful to see the pylons going in for the Flinders Link train line, which is going to transform the south. This is going to unlock billions of dollars of local investment, new student accommodation here at Flinders University, educational facilities, more health facilities, and it’s going to connect the south to the city. And I’m really, really proud of what we’ve done locally and what we’re doing for the state. I will now hand over to the Prime Minister to tell us some more. PM, thank you for being here.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Nicolle. It’s great to be back here in South Australia. It’s simply great to be with my colleagues. But I’ve got to say, it’s wonderful to be here with Premier Marshall. Premier Marshall is someone I work with. We have got a great partnership between the Commonwealth and the state government and this has been such a turnaround since he became Premier. And it means that we’ve been able to get on with solving difficult problems, take on big challenges and take up big opportunities, which we’re here to announce today. $415 million extra is going into the South Australian economy through a combination of bringing forward project expenditures on these six major projects, as well as putting new money, additional money in, to ensure that we’re getting the investment here in South Australia, the infrastructure that is needed to create these tremendous hubs that we see around us here as Adelaide continues to build and take further shape. And that needs the connections, the rail infrastructure, the road infrastructure.

For our economy after the election, one of the first things I did was to engage with all the state Premiers and territory leaders to look at how we could be bringing forward important infrastructure projects that were part of our schedule, that had had the work done that we knew would provide economic benefit and would increase the safety of those travelling around Australia and get them home sooner and safer. And today’s announcement is about realising those discussions that we’ve had with the Premier and I, as I’ve had in other states and territories where we’ve announced similar measures. Six projects here, but central to them is a significant announcement which I’ll allow the Premier to go into more detail about. We’re putting in $100 million to make South Australian roads safer, not just here in Adelaide but around the country, around the state. And this is important investment, not just in economic opportunities, creating jobs here in South Australia. But for those who are going about their daily lives, getting to and from work, they’re doing it quicker and they’re doing it safer and they’re getting home at a reasonable time to spend time with their families. This is what congestion-busting infrastructure does. But it’s also the jobs that it creates here on the ground. We have many economic challenges that face us, much of which is driven externally. But they’re also the challenges we have here and our investments in infrastructure, $100 billion going into infrastructure. You can hear it going on behind me as I speak now. This is the literal message of our government working together with the Marshall government here in South Australia to create jobs and build the infrastructure South Australia needs to grow. And with the partnership we have with South Australia, we will see that growth. Because you’ve got a Premier and a government that’s keen to create growth by working with the Commonwealth government to get things done.

So just running through those figures again – we’ve got $415 million that is going into these projects that we’re announcing today. Some $250 million of that from the Commonwealth is bringing forward investment, plus another more than $70 million dollars on top of that to go more into these projects. About $215 million dollars is going to be spent on these projects by the Commonwealth in the next 18 months. The next 18 months. So that is putting the investment where it needs to happen right now here in South Australia as we’re doing elsewhere around the country. Premier.

THE HON. STEVEN MARSHALL MP, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Well, thank you very much, Prime Minister, it’s great to have you here. We always love having you here in South Australia. And it’s like South Australia’s Christmas has come early because this is going to be a major injection to improve our roads right across regional South Australia and two important projects right here at Darlington. This is important because it will improve our productivity in regional South Australia. It will improve road safety, that’s a major issue for us. But there’s going to be a jobs bonanza, an absolute jobs bonanza for South Australia as these projects get brought forward and into production as soon as possible. The projects in country SA are around the Eyre Highway, the Horrocks Highway, and the first phase of the duplication of the road through to Victor Harbour, very improved important projects for South Australia. But equally important is more than $100 million, which is going into a series of projects right across our state, which will have road shoulder sealing as well as overtaking lanes put in place so that we can improve road safety and productivity as well as getting those great regional jobs for our state. Here at Darlington, we know that the Darlington Project is a very, very important project. And as Nicolle Flint said, this will unlock enormous opportunity and growth projects for exactly and precisely where we’re standing on this wonderful precinct. We’ve worked very closely with Flinders University, a great university in South Australia, and Flinders Medical Centre. We’ve upgraded the Flinders Link project, we’ve listened to community consultation. There will be a new station upgrade over and above what was originally envisaged in the scope. We’ve only got one chance to do this properly. So another $16 million going into that project as well as the money coming forward, Commonwealth and State, to make sure that the Darlington Project can finish by the middle of next year. Commuters want this project to be finished. They want it to be done as soon as possible. Now we’ve got the money this is great news for our state.

It’s great to have a great working relationship with the federal government. We’ve stopped all of those fake fights. And as the Prime Minister said, when he says to us, what projects have you got? If you’ve got work and you’ve done the detailed design work, bring them to us. We have now got a willing ear, a willing ear in Canberra to sit down with us, bring forward these projects and create those jobs. So we couldn’t be more excited. And now I’d like to hand over to Alan Tudge, who is also a great friend of South Australia, because he’s been the Minister for Cities and helped us very much with our transformation project at Lot 14. Minister.

THE HON. ALAN TUDGE MP, MINISTER FOR POPULATION, CITIES AND URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE: Thank you very much, Premier and Prime Minister and colleagues. Well, this is more than $400 million dollars to keep Adelaide moving and make our roads safer. And it’s been a pleasure working with the Premier and Minister Knoll in putting together this package which we’re announcing today. But I’d just like to add a little bit more detail in relation to the two projects where we’re putting in new money and they’ve been the ones which we can see right from where we stand. The Flinders Link project, which Nicolle Flint was such a great advocate for back in 2016, really kicked it off in that 2016 election commitment. It will finally connect up this university and hospital precinct to the rail network, through 650 meters of additional elevated track from Tonsley right across the North-South Corridor here up to Flinders University. That’s going to assist 25,000 students who study here. And of course, it’s going to unlock enormous potential up on this is precinct as well. The additional money is going towards a new station down there at Tonsley such that it could obviously be catered for the elevated track, which previously the previous station could not do. And then secondly, in terms of the Darlington Upgrade here, it’s obviously one part of the North-South Corridor, the southernmost part. $667 million of federal money total money going for that, 80 per cent of which is federal. And we’re putting in additional new money there as well to ensure that that project can be completed on time. 

It was mentioned before, this is a jobs bonanza. Already, 370 jobs are being created just from this project alone. The Torrens to Torrens section is already completed and we’ll soon be announcing the start of the next section as well. So that’s all up it’s more jobs, it’s congestion-busting here in Adelaide and it’s catering for the future population growth. I’d just say again, that is has been a pleasure working with the Marshall Government in delivering these projects and ensuring that people can home sooner and safer.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Alan. The Premier’s going to join me. Happy to take questions. Let’s talk about the infrastructure announcement first and then happy to…

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, in the past we’ve had a one-way road, the Southern Expressway [inaudible] but yet there is only a single track, rail track, to the University. Haven’t we learned from the past – why not do it now properly as the Premier has said?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, we’re always happy to work with the South Australian Government on the priorities they put forward. What we’re announcing today is the bring forward of infrastructure investments which I think is really important for the South Australia economy right now. The Labor Party is running around saying we should splashing cash like they did last time they were in government. That’s not how we do things. We’re measured, we’re considered. We look at the projects that have come up from the states. They’re ready to go and this gives us the opportunity to increase our investment in the South Australian economy and the national economy at the same time on the projects which South Australia have been able to put forward to us. That’s what today’s announcement is about. It’s about providing that further investment in our economy at a necessary time for Australia, consistent with everything we’ve been saying and ensuring that is going to projects that are a high-priority identified by the South Australian Government.

JOURNALIST: Premier, just for my benefit, so you mentioned the Eyre Highway, I assume that is to make the necessary amendments to the [inaudible] of the railway. You haven’t mentioned the Augusta Highway. What’s the plan with the Augusta Highway and the [inaudible]?

PREMIER MARSHALL: Well, I might get Stephan Knoll to answer that specific question.

THE HON. STEPHAN KNOLL MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT, INFRASTRUCTURE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, MINISTER FOR PLANNING: So, actually, as part of the federal election campaign and the last federal Budget together with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, we’ve announced $80 million towards the start of that duplication. In fact, we’ll have more to say on that in the coming weeks. There is now $1.3 billion worth of money being spent right across regional South Australia. About half of that from our good friends in the federal government and half from the state government to make regional roads safer and actually put back and reinvest into regional South Australia in a way that we haven’t seen for almost two decades.

JOURNALIST: Minister, do you think a double rail line up here would have made more sense?

MINISTER KNOLL: I think this is a fantastic opportunity to extend on an existing asset. What we’ve had is a train line that terminated on the other side of South Road and for everybody on this side of South Road didn’t really have access to that train station. What we’ve got is a station that is now going to unlock $1.5 billion worth of private sector investment, improve international student numbers in our city, and also improve connectivity to Adelaide. This is a fantastic project and essentially we have to work with the infrastructure that we’ve got here and build on that existing infrastructure base. But this is a fantastic project that is going to deliver better services for public transport.

JOURNALIST: Minister, on the Darlington upgrade, why does it need another $87.5 million considering it’s pretty well finished?

MINISTER KNOLL: Well, if we look back to the issues that we’ve had over the course of this project, they’ve been well documented and in fact, the money that the federal government is putting on the table with us today is about making sure that this project gets completed and dealing with some of those legacy issues that we had to deal with since coming to government. I mean, let’s not forget, this is a project that actually had major variations to it. Some six days after the contract was awarded. We’ve had to clean up that mess, we’ve had to straighten it out. But what we don’t want to see is any sort of delay to the completion of this project. The commuters don’t want it, the commuters don’t need it. What they’ve got is a state and federal government willing to work together for the money on the table to get the job done.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on a related topic for South Australia, on radio this morning despite what appeared to be promises of a decision of submarine maintenance jobs here before the end of the year, you are now saying might not be before Christmas. That’s getting towards the end of the year. So when will there be a decision?

PRIME MINISTER: When the process has been completed.

JOURNALIST: When will that be?

PRIME MINISTER: When they’ve thoroughly gone through all the issues and they have been properly assessed to advise the National Security Committee of what’s the best decision in Australia’s national security interests. I mean, these are very important decisions and they will be made in accordance with proper process and consideration of all the real and legitimate issues…

JOURNALIST: So South Australia won’t necessarily keep these jobs?.

PRIME MINISTER: I didn’t say that.

JOURNALIST: It’s a question – say yes they will or no they won’t.

PRIME MINISTER: It’s an assertion that you made.

JOURNALIST: No, no, it was somewhere in between.

PRIME MINISTER: Not one that I responded to.

JOURNALIST: You say it’s serious, I’m saying it’s serious as well.

PRIME MINISTER: Of course it is, and that’s why it’s important that the process be followed to the letter and it will be. And as I said on radio this morning, I commend Premier Marshall for not engaging in the sort of parochial politics on this but actually addressing the needs of the process. Putting South Australia’s best foot forward. He understands as well as I do that a decision of this nature has significant national security implications. And so he is respecting that process fully and as are we and that’s how it will be conducted. I think Australians should feel a sense of assurance about this. This is not a decision that we’re going to make in the backseat of a car over some opportunistic politics. That’s not what’s going to happen. It’s going to be made in the best interests of Australia’s national security.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Israel Folau has said the bushfires in the east are the result of God’s retribution for same-sex marriage and abortion laws. Do you agree with that view?

PRIME MINISTER: Of course I don’t. I thought these were appallingly insensitive comments. They are appalling comments and he is a free citizen, he can say whatever he likes. But that doesn’t mean he can’t have regard to the grievous offence this will have caused the people whose homes have been burned down, and I’m sure to many Christians around Australia that is not their view at all and whose thoughts and prayers, let me stress, of Christians, are very much with those who are suffering under the terrible burden of fire. I’ve visited these communities in New South Wales and, you know, I’ve been very disappointed at the comments that have been made all around these fires and the opportunistic politics that has occurred, the cheap points that have been made. Could they just please think about the people who are impacted by the devastating fires? We’ve got in Queensland today many fires burning, several at watch and act level. There are evacuation centres operating up there today. There is firefighting occurring across two major states and South Australia is about to face some pretty serious weather as well. So let’s just focus on those who need our help most and if people don’t have something sensible or helpful to say, can you just keep it to yourself.

JOURNALIST: So he’s misrepresenting Christianity in what he’s saying?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve made my response.

JOURNALIST: Can you promise that energy prices will continue to fall?

PRIME MINISTER: I can pledge to the Australian people that everything we do is designed to put downward pressure on electricity prices, that’s what I’ve always said. Whether it’s ensuring the better connections across our states as part of the electricity market, the work that’s being done with underwriting generation, the work that’s being done with the retailers to put downward pressure, getting rid of the bogus late payment fees and all these sorts of things which have been affecting particularly hard up retail customers. Everything we are doing – the investments we have brought into generation not just in the renewable sector but in other sectors as well. It’s all designed to get greater reliability and greater [inaudible] into electricity. As the official figures show, they have come off slightly recently. For some retail customers the saving has been much great [inaudible] out of the retail companies from factors outside our control. How long state governments in places like Victoria keep power stations open and things like that, well that’s going to have an impact and that’s a matter for the Victorian Government. We’re working very closely with NSW on a whole range of issues presently and we look forward to those discussions progressing.

JOURNALIST: Is it going to be hard for Australia to have a sense of greater dialogue with China? The Chinese Government has made it clear it’s not going to take any criticism.

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don’t think we’re going to have a problem with that because I’ve just done it. I was just sitting down with Premier Li Keqiang in Bangkok very recently where we had a very broad-ranging discussion, which not only included the many sensitive matters that come up in our discussions, but the very important economic matters that are part of our relationship. I mean, our trade with China is at very, very high levels. Our visitation for Chinese visitors and students is at very high levels. We enjoy a very productive economic relationship with China and a broader comprehensive partnership with China. And that comprehensive partnership provides the channels for us to deal with all these issues. We’re not China and China is not Australia. We’re not looking to take up their system. They’re not looking to take up ours. We respect each other’s sovereignty and Australia will always be Australia. Australians will always act as Australians. And that is an important part of the points that we make in our relationship, in the same way that China feels strongly about their system and how they will continue with their system. They’re choices they make.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I ask your reaction to Malcolm Turnbull’s comments this morning that he has no doubt he could have won the last election.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I said at the time of the change that I believed he could, too.

JOURNALIST: Just back on China, Paul Keating this morning described the Australian media’s coverage of China relations as ‘hysterical’. Is that sort of commentary…

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, could you just repeat that?

JOURNALIST: Paul Keating this morning described the Australian media’s coverage of China relations as ‘hysterical’. Is that sort of commentary helpful?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m not going to commentate on Paul Keating’s commentary on the Australian media. I mean, what  I’m doing as Prime Minister is not commentating. What I’m doing is seeking, I think, successfully to manage the many interests that are part of our very dynamic and comprehensive relationship with China, as I do with all of our other partners. With the United States, with Indonesia, with Vietnam, with Malaysia, with countries in the Southwest Pacific. In the last week, I’ve had fairly extensive meetings with both the Prime Ministers of Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands. Now, that may not rate as far as some others concerned with meetings with those leaders in China or the United States. But I can tell you, it’s very important to Australia to have a positive and engaged relationship with our friends and family in the Southwest Pacific. So it’s my job to manage these relationships, not to engage in commentary about them and to do so in accordance with Australia’s national interests, which I do in a calm and measured and focused way.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on Australians in Syria, the US has offered to get Australian women and children out of the Al-Hawl camp in Syria. Will your Government take up that offer?

PRIME MINISTER: Our assessment is done on a case by case basis, and our assessments at this point have not changed.

JOURNALIST: You’ve always maintained that the lives of Australian officials should not be placed in danger. If they were not placed life in danger, what other reason is there for not accepting the offer?

PRIME MINISTER: I don’t engage in hypotheticals on national security issues.

JOURNALIST: It’s a reasonable question, isn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s a hypothetical question and national security issues are very serious and you have to deal with the cases as they present, not hypothetically, but as they present in reality. And that’s how we’ll deal with each and every one of them.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you confident that the prisoner swap deal with Timothy Weeks will still go ahead?

PRIME MINISTER: Again, I’ve got nothing further to add on those matters. Ok, thanks very much.

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