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Interview - ABC Gold Coast

20 November 2019

Bern Young

Subject: Gold Coast light rail, M1 extension, infrastructure


Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews was interviewed on ABC Gold Coast.

Bern Young: Well get ready to catch that G-Link to Burleigh Heads and back all the way up by 2023. The funding impasse is no more, with the Federal Government today finding the millions of dollars needed to get stage 3A started and finished, $157 million to be precise. It’s part of a $3.8 billion infrastructure spend being announced by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison later this morning; $2 billion of that is being spent in Queensland. So how much more will we get for the M1?

Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology and of course local member for McPherson Karen Andrews has those answers. Good morning Minister.

Karen Andrews: Good morning, how are you?

Bern Young: Very well. You were pretty adamant that light rail to Burleigh wouldn’t get more Federal funding. I remember even you suggesting at one stage they should shorten the length of the track if they haven’t got enough cash. So why the change of heart?

Karen Andrews: Look, I’ve always been committed to making sure that light rail goes through to Burleigh. And I’m absolutely unapologetic for wanting to be out there getting the best value for our taxpayers, ratepayers, making sure that the money that is being spent is being spent wisely. It’s very clear that we have to get the light rail through to Burleigh. So I’ve spoken to the Prime Minister, I’ve spoken to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge. We’ve worked through the various options. What we have to do is make sure the Gold Coast keeps moving and that it is connected to South East Queensland, so that it’s not just stand-alone, it’s clearly not isolated. So it was very important that we looked at the extension of the light rail through to Burleigh as part of the total package as well as allocating money to bring forward the work to complete the widening of the M1 from Varsity through to Tugun. So that money has been allocated in total previously, but what we’re doing is bringing forward $45 million of that to make sure that the project can be completed earlier. Now that will mean that we will need to work with the State Government to look at what timeframes are going to be, but there is $45 million from the Federal Government to make sure that we complete that widening sooner.

Bern Young: Okay. Sorry, you’ve moved on to the Pacific Motorway, hadn’t quite got to the M1 yet.

Karen Andrews: Oh sorry.

Bern Young: I was more specifically just asking about light rail. But I will get to the M1 in a moment because I’ve got a few questions around it. But I’ll just stay on light rail for the moment, as I said…it’s on isn’t it? It’s happening. I’ve done a bit of napkin maths, Minister, and I’ve backed it up with my calculator. We needed 709 million. The State’s kicking in 351. The Federal Government now 269 in total because you had said 112 originally and you’ll have to update your infrastructure website that’s still saying you’re capped at 112, by the way, I checked it this morning. But that will change today, on the Federal Government websites to 269.

Karen Andrews: It will, it will.

Bern Young: And the council, I’ve just had word through from council, they were expecting to spend $92 million. Are you aware that you’ve put in 3 million more than you actually needed to? It was 154 million we were looking for and you’ve announced 157. Who gets to save the 3 million?

Karen Andrews: Well, if we’ve overcommitted then clearly we’ll take the money back, but look this has been a lengthy negotiation between the Commonwealth and the State and there’s been agreement reached that that’s the figure that is needed to complete. Now what I would say is that it’s incumbent on all of the parties to make sure that we don’t exceed our budget and preferably bring it in below budget, so that we can use any savings on future upgrades, whether that be further south or light rail or whether it’s somewhere else that we need to do some infrastructure work for transport. So look, I’m quite comfortable with the figure that has been agreed on, but it’s part of a package that the Prime Minister is going to announce the details of later this morning, that will look at the infrastructure needs of South East Queensland. I think it's a fantastic outcome that people will be able to get on the light rail through to Burleigh. That will be terrific. Burleigh always needed to be connected. So I'm delighted about that, but I will keep pushing to make sure that we keep this as a value for money proposition for Gold Coasters.

Bern Young: Can I ask around this funding model, you know, because here you are today saying it’s very clear we've got to get light rail happening. That's what the states were saying. That's what the Mayor Tom Tate and the council have been saying. And yet there was always this stoush. And from the outside looking in, it just looks like a silly game, Karen Andrews, it looks like this game of who's got the point scoring today or who wants to look good at a certain point in a campaign. Should there not be a decision that on big infrastructure projects that are in the national interest, you would say, to keep the Gold Coast moving – you know, congestion is going to be one of the biggest evils, you might almost say, to the lifestyle and the reason why people are on the Gold Coast – why not just say, you know what, it's 60-40-10 whenever we're doing the light rail and just commit to it and no more of this, because we'll have this argument again when it comes to stage 3B won't we?

Karen Andrews: Well, the question that you’ve actually put is very complex, so I'm going to break it down and I am happy to answer it very fully because they're very important issues that you've raised. Firstly, I would say that the Federal Government is not heading into an election, so this is not a political spend. This is actually addressing the needs of infrastructure. So I think that you've got to look at it from the Federal Government's perspective that we are doing the right thing with what we’ve committed to in the past about infrastructure spend and we have sat down and worked very positively with the State Government to do what we can to deal with the increasing infrastructure problems here.

Now, my issue with stage 3A of the light rail came down to costings. So if you look at stage 2 of the light rail, it came out at a costing of around about 57 million a kilometre. The figure that we got from the State Government put the cost per kilometre at over $110 million. So there's a significant difference between 57 million and 110 million. And what I needed to do was understand how that costing difference was so great. Now, the explanation really sits with the fact that there are a significant number of stations on stage 3A compared to two - there’s eight stations compared to two. So that’s obviously a big infrastructure cost because the stations themselves are expensive. But it is still an extraordinary increase in cost and that’s why I don’t step back at all from anything that I said because I will always argue that these projects need to be value for money and it should not be a blank cheque. Our Government should be accountable for spending other people’s money which is, in the Federal Government’s case, the taxpayer.

Bern Young: Not so much a blank cheque I suppose Karen Andrews, but more the funding model, you know, that this essentially ends up being the funding model – 60:40, or 60:30, you know, whatever it is, 57:38, 10, whatever the maths is. Let me get my napkin back out to do it. Why not just have that funding model?

Karen Andrews: Look, that is something that I think it would be worthwhile looking at in the future but we still have to make sure that the costings that are put to us from the State Government are reasonable.

Bern Young: Yeah. Without a doubt. No one would argue with that because we're taxpayers at all levels – Federal, State and of course, ratepayers. So no one on the Gold Coast is arguing with wanting to get value for money. Can we move on to the M1?

Karen Andrews is with me, she's Minister for Industry, Science and Technology and of course the local Member for McPherson. A massive amount of money is being announced today. I'm going to get the nice stuff that Minister Mark Bailey had to say about this just so that you can hear that he's obviously happy with what's being announced today.


Mark Bailey: This is just excellent news for the Gold Coast. The campaign by Mayor Tom Tate and the Palaszczuk Government has borne fruit and I pay credit to the Federal Government. They’ve listened to our concerns and we've come to this fantastic agreement for the Gold Coast.

[End of excerpt]

Bern Young: Fantastic agreement for the Gold Coast, everybody's happy. But the other thing that the State Transport Minister said was this.


Mark Bailey: This is just gold for the Gold Coast. Light Rail stage 3A confirmed now from Broadbeach to Burleigh and also interchange upgrades to exit 41 and 49 for Pimpama and Yatala South in huge growth areas.

[End of excerpt]

Bern Young: Are we getting more money? You've just told us that you’re bringing forward that 45 million for the Varsity to Tugun M1. Karen Andrews, are we going to get money for those other two upgrades as well?

Karen Andrews: Look, well two things. We know that we need to do work further north because we need to connect the Gold Coast through to Brisbane, so there will be additional funding. The Prime Minister is holding a press conference in a little while and he will go through all the details of those upgrades, including the dollars that are associated with each of those. But yes, I can say that there will be more money north that will make it a lot easier for people who commute to and from Brisbane and the Gold Coast to get to where they need to be faster and safer.

Bern Young: You're obviously careful not to steal the Prime Minister's thunder on some of these announcements. I can hear that Karen Andrews but can I safely join the dots and say that we've got a State Minister who has said that those important northern Gold Coast transition points on the M1 are being upgraded and you're not denying it?

Karen Andrews: I'm not denying it.

Bern Young: Alright. I think we can safely say that there's more money to be announced today and I think the northern Gold Coast will be keen to hear that. Can I just get your point of view then on just how important it is to get the congestion issue of the Gold Coast, like how much of a focus is that for you because everybody's talking about it, Karen Andrews, congestion is a killer almost of why people live here?

Karen Andrews: Look, it is. It’s something that we need to look at. And look I've been the Member for McPherson now for nine plus years and my whole time I've talked about transport infrastructure and the need to get it right here on the Gold Coast. Transport infrastructure is enormously expensive. So we do need to get it right and congestion is an issue for us now and without the action that we're taking, it would get worse. Now I also say very clearly we are a different city to everywhere else in Australia because we’re a linear city. We don't really have the central CBD hub that everything radiates out from. So we're a linear city and even if you just look from Coolangatta to Surfers Paradise, but clearly the Gold Coast goes beyond that, it is a significant stretch that we need to maximise public transport. We want to get people out of their cars. We want them to be using public transport for a whole range of reasons. We want them off the M1, we want the congestion away from that and we're not going to be able to achieve that without the infrastructure spend that is happening now which is to get the light rail going. And we've already put money on the table to make sure that we can do the forward planning to get heavy rail to the airport. So these issues are incredibly important. And for those people that sit on the M1 trying to commute to work in particular from the Gold Coast to Brisbane, you actually have to allow now almost 50 per cent more time to get there because you don't know what the traffic is likely to be between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. So if you need to get to Brisbane at a particular time, particularly early in the morning, you need to allow really up to 50 per cent more time and that's not good enough. So what's being announced today will go a long way to dealing with those delays. So it is fantastic news for the Gold Coast as well as Brisbane people.

Bern Young: Karen Andrews I was just about to let you go because I know you've got to get on a flight. But can you just go back to what you said about heavy rail? What‘s being done regarding heavy rail to the airport?

Karen Andrews: So we announced during the election campaign that there was about $8 million that we were committing to make sure that the forward planning for heavy rail to Coolangatta Airport proceeded. So I have long backed heavy rail and we need to really start focusing on that business case and look at it. But what's important is that we have to look at heavy rail, light rail and the M1 in totality. And the heavy rail is very high on my agenda and quite frankly, everyone that I speak to is very focused on making sure that we work towards getting heavy rail through to the airport. So I will continue to do that and we have already put up the money to make sure that that forward planning happens.

Bern Young: Well I feel like we could have another discussion now about heavy rail versus light rail to the airport because it sounds like we’re going to be heading there, but we might leave that one for another day. Karen Andrews, Member for McPherson and of course Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, I really appreciate your time today.

Karen Andrews: No worries, it was a pleasure and it's great news for the Gold Coast. Yay.