Topics: East West Link; Climate change 


CHRIS UHLMANN:  I am Chris Uhlmann, joined by Simon Birmingham, the Trade Minister. Minister, good morning.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good Morning, great to be with you.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Isn’t the fact we are here in Melbourne this morning a sign that your big problem in this election is the state of Victoria? 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well no it is about recognising a campaign right across the country. Scott Morrison is from Sydney in NSW, campaign headquarters is based in Brisbane, Queensland. The first debate of the campaign happened over in the West. Here we are launching our campaign in Melbourne. 

CHRIS UHLMANN: And in November you lost a swag of seats in the state election.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Every state is critical to this election, Yes Victoria is critical. Today the Prime Minister announcing a major investment in the East West Link here to make sure that we deliver the type of infrastructure that Victoria needs for the future, a huge additional investment. It will make sure that especially in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, people find it easier to get home, to bust congestion as we are doing in major investments of infrastructure right around the country.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Yes but it was that blue heartland in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne that bled bright red during the last election campaign in November. So you’re building a road out to them. Don’t you think people will see that as a bit cynical? 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well this is the ultimate commitment that our government has long championed. Sadly the State Labor Government’s refused to progress with the project. So the Prime Minister sat down, reconfigured the commitment  to make sure there is more funding available for it, that we have a  plan to get it delivered. Of course we still need the State Government to cooperate, we hope this will make Dan Andrews change his mind and ensure that he actually comes on board and helps to deliver what is very important infrastructure for people living in those suburbs.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well he didn’t last time. Of course, this morning Bill Shorten’s pledging $15 billion to the rail loop.  So why won’t he pick them over you? He is a Labor premier. 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Bill Shorten’s rail loop, is of course one Dan Andrews has said he is already going to build, so I can’t see what’s additional there. Whereas… 

CHRIS UHLMANN: More Commonwealth money?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, our commitment here is about getting built a piece of road infrastructure that isn’t otherwise going to occur. So we’re promising something that will actually make a difference. Bill Shorten’s promising to spend money on something that’s already going to happen. 

CHRIS UHLMANN: So that $4 billion is over how many years?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well it depends how quickly we can get the Victorian Government to the table. So we’ll be able to start work as soon as they are willing to come to the table. And of course, then it will take a number of years to build a major piece of infrastructure like that. 

CHRIS UHLMANN: The people in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne are also concerned about Climate change, $4 billion for a road, $3.5 billion is your Climate change commitment over the next 15 years. Do you think they might see there’s some jarring there in your priorities?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Climate change is not a matter of how much you spend on it, it’s a matter of how well you spend money to get the outcome of reducing emissions. And we’ve clearly demonstrated our $3.5 billion climate solutions package, will achieve the 26 per cent reduction targets for the Paris Agreement. It’s going to do that through a series of steps in terms of delivery of our emissions reduction fund and other pieces that are central to it. So it’s about getting the right outcome. We should want to do everything  at the least possible cost and that is one of the contrasts in this  election, that we are very careful and accountable when it comes to  taxpayers money and only spend as  much as is necessary to get the job done. Mr Shorten is the one making huge additional spending promises. 

CHRIS UHLMANN: Simon Birmingham, we’ll leave it there, thank you.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thank you Chris.