LEON BYNER: Now, South Australian taxpayers face an estimated $500 million bill to complete the planned Darlington Interchange after the Federal Opposition’s promise of a major cash injection. As usual, we’ll have both sides of this. Let’s first of all talk with Senator Simon Birmingham. Simon, what meat can you add to the bone on this one?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, good morning, Leon, and good morning to your listeners. As many people would recall, Tony Abbott when in town over the weekend committed $500 million under a federal Liberal government towards delivering on the next stage of building the North-South Road Corridor and that stage, of course, involves implementing the parts of the so called Darlington Transport Study and so this is an important project. I would hope that it is one that all sides of politics in South Australia would welcome federal Liberal funding commitments for. Of course we have to work through exactly what the final costs are. Of course it will have to go through all of the proper processes but what’s important here is we’ve recognised that finishing the North-South Corridor is a top priority for South Australian infrastructure, this appears to be the logical next stage and we’ve made an initial contribution of saying there’s $500 million on the table to help make that happen.
LEON BYNER: Alright, the Minister, in South Australia, for Transport and Infrastructure, Tom Koutsantonis, good morning. How do you greet what Simon has just told us?
TOM KOUTSANTONIS: Well, I’m glad they’re finally investing in some infrastructure in South Australia. It’s long overdue and I congratulate Mr Abbott on coming, if you were, to the table. Unfortunately, he’s about half a billion dollars short. If he wants to do a matching program with the State Government, to do it properly, to integrate public transport and rail, the project will cost about $1.82 billion. Now, I’m happy to offer those costings to Mr Birmingham and the Liberal Party. I would have thought it would be more constructive if they had contacted the people who were going to build the infrastructure first and actually ask ‘Well, what would it cost to do the Darlington Interchange? Can we break it down into segments? Can we do one stage first and another stage second? How does that work?’ but we got no questions. Instead, we saw Mr Abbott and Mr Marshall standing on the side of the road announcing ad hoc infrastructure with, quite frankly, money that’s not enough to complete the job which would leave taxpayers of South Australia a choice – either we take their half a billion dollars and spend $1.3 billion doing it properly to make up the $1.8 billion or whether we give up on a rail grade separation and public transport infrastructure along that vital piece of infrastructure in the south – and I think most South Australians would say to me ‘do it properly or don’t do it at all’.
LEON BYNER: Simon, what do you say to that?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I’m hearing from the Minister there, Leon, what can’t be done, not what can or should be done, and what I would say to the Minister is, firstly…
LEON BYNER: No, he’s just saying that what you’re offering is short of what it’ll cost.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Leon, let’s deal with that in stages. There’s the Minister… nicely says he’ll send us some information. I’ll look forward to getting that and I hope that it is a detailed analysis of the costings and the priorities and what it is the State Government supports doing next. We will soon see the finalisation of the current stages that are being built of the North-South Corridor. What I’d like to know from the Minister is: does he support the Darlington proposal as being the next stage and will the State Government work to help co-fund that, just as they are co-funding on a 50-50 basis the Superway that’s being built at present, so it’s not at all unusual for federal and state governments to work together. The idea… you know, if Tom Koutsantonis is happy to sit down with the federal Liberal Party in confidence and have discussions about things, well, that would be welcome but it would be very unusual for those things to occur. What we’ve done here is try to make a reasonable estimate based on public discussions, gone to what is… the RAA [Royal Automobile Association of South Australia] has identified as the most important infrastructure project to come next and we’ve put money on the table to start those discussions. Now, this is the start of the process, not the end of a process, and I think it should be warmly welcomed by Minister Koutsantonis. We’re not hearing any funding commitments from federal Labor for this next stage so let’s not get confused here. This is $500 million that can come in to make a real difference to the road network in South Australia.
LEON BYNER: Alright, Tom, thanks for joining us, and Simon Birmingham, with discussion about investment in further infrastructure down south.