Scoresby Freeway, Latham’s broken promise, Medicare Safety Net, interest rates – Press Conference, Treasury Place, Melbourne

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Scoresby Freeway, Latham’s broken promise, Medicare Safety Net, interest rates – Press Conference, Treasury Place, Melbourne




Press Conference

Treasury Place, Melbourne

Thursday, 2 September 2004



SUBJECTS: Scoresby Freeway, Latham’s broken promise, Medicare

Safety Net, interest rates


Mark Latham has betrayed the people of Victoria. He had a choice. He could

honour the Labor promise to build the Scoresby Freeway, he could honour

the agreement between the Commonwealth and the State to build the freeway

with no tolls. He could keep faith with the people of Victoria and he could

demand that Steve Bracks keep his word. Whatever trust Mr Latham expected

to try to earn in Victoria was shattered this morning because Mr Latham

has indicated that if he is elected at the next election, he will tear up

the Scoresby agreement, he will connive with Steve Bracks breaking his word,

he will not honour the promise that Federal Labor made in 2001 and he will

consign the people of Melbourne to pay tolls to use their freeway for the

rest of their commuting lives.

No Victorian can trust Mark Latham.

Now I want to show you the documentation that exists in relation to the

Scoresby Freeway. There is a written agreement for the Scoresby Transport

Corridor between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of Victoria.

It was signed in October of 2001 by John Anderson, the Minister for Transport

of Australia and Peter Batchelor the Minister for Transport of Victoria.

It is an agreement to jointly fund the construction of the Scoresby Freeway,

clause 3(d) of that agreement reads as follows: ‘Victoria undertakes to

ensure that users of the Scoresby Freeway will not be required to pay a

direct toll.’ The Liberal Government will honour this agreement. Mark Latham

says if you vote for him, he will break it.

I want to then show you the letter that Steve Bracks wrote to all of the

residents in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne in November 2002, in the material

I have handed out under the heading, ‘Bracks, Listens, Acts.’ He said this

before the State election in Victoria, ‘Labor will build the Scoresby Freeway

on time and on budget. These are not just election time promises. They are

firm commitments to you and your family and they will be honoured.’ He wrote

that before the State election in November 2002.

Now I want to show you the third document in the pack which is the ALP

Statement of 28 October 2001 by Simon Crean, Shadow Treasurer and Martin

Ferguson, Shadow Minister for Transport, before the last federal election.

It begins by saying ‘a Beazley Labor Government will deliver a total Scoresby

Transport solution, not the half-hearted solution offered by the Howard

Government.’ It goes on, I want to take you down to the fourth paragraph.

‘Federal Labor will contribute $445 million for the construction of the

$890 million Scoresby Freeway linking Ringwood, Dandenong and Frankston.

Victoria pays the remainder.’ Now that has been Labor policy from October

of 2001 until today. That has been Labor policy from October of 2001 until

today and that is, to honour the agreement which has been signed.

Our Government has put aside that $445 million, it is in the Budget, for

the construction of that freeway. Until today, the Australian Labor Party

has always said that at the Commonwealth level they would fund the Scoresby

Freeway with that $445 million. And today, Mr Latham appeared in Victoria

and he smashed the trust of all Victorians. You can’t believe Labor on road

funding. Mr Bracks did it before his last State election, the Federal ALP

did it before the last Federal Election, three years later they tell you

that those promises meant nothing.

And I don’t care what promises Mr Bracks, Mr Latham goes out and makes

now on road funding in Victoria, it is just another pre-election promise,

it is a Scoresby promise, you can not believe it. It should be given precisely

the same weight as his Scoresby promise.

Three years ago, and I say to the people of Victoria, don’t be conned,

three years ago he was telling you he would fund the Scoresby Freeway, they

signed agreements, they had that policy for three years and they broke it.

So he goes out today and says ‘Oh there will be a free road somewhere else,’

you cannot believe him on that anymore than you can believe him on the Scoresby

Freeway. Mark Latham has betrayed the people of Victoria this morning. There

is only one way that you will get a government that will hold Victoria accountable.

There is only one government that is interested in looking after the people

of the Eastern Suburbs, and I am going to make one last point here.

Where is the Labor Candidate for La Trobe on this? Susan Davies was an

Independent in the Victorian Parliament where she pledged to keep Bracks

to his promises. Bracks has broken his promise and she has joined the Labor

Party. Where does she stand in relation to this broken promise today on

behalf of the constituents of the outer Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne?


You haven’t been able to hold the Bracks Government accountable either,

I mean there is no sign that they are going to reverse the decision so that

is money that doesn’t seem to be coming to Victoria anyway.


Oh no, that money is allocated to the Scoresby Freeway and it will be spent

when we get a freeway. Now, can I just say that the Victorian Government

is not going very well on its plans to impose a toll on the Scoresby Freeway

and I will refer you to the Herald Sun, on the 20th

of July 2004, where Martin Ferguson said this of the Bracks attempts to

impose tollways, ‘it seems that the whole process is a dog’s breakfast,’

he said, ‘asked how the freeway issue would affect the Federal ALP’s chances

in the Scoresby corridor, Mr Ferguson said, “Federal Labor is hardly assisted

by the Scoresby debacle,” that is what he said, he is the Transport Spokesman

for the Labor Party. Now, at that point of course Federal Labor was saying,

don’t punish us because it was Bracks that broke the promise. Now Federal

Labor has joined the broken promise.


Are you saying that there are no other roads though, road projects in Victoria

that could possibly be deserving of this money…


Well we have announced a whole raft of projects in Victoria under the Auslink

Programme. The Hume Freeway, the Craigieburn bypass, the Albury-Wodonga

bypass, we announced the Geelong-link road, we have announced upgrades to

the Port of Melbourne. But the economic proposition, the highest economic

return for road construction in Victoria is the Scoresby Freeway, that is

why it has been signed. And here is the agreement, it has been signed, a

freeway, and you know that clause 3(d), no tolls, that was actually put

in there by the Victorian Government. So, I just ask you this, after a signed

written agreement, after a personalised letter to every householder, which

Labor has broken, who would believe Labor with a promise on any other road.

It is just the most open and shut case I have ever seen in politics.


Can you rule out any toll roads under the Auslink Programme in the future?


Well, we’ve announced our whole Auslink Programme, and that whole Auslink

Programme does not include tolls on the Scoresby Freeway.


What about…


It doesn’t…


…in the future…


I’m sorry, we have no proposals – we’ve have put it out for five or six

or more years, I forget what it is – for tolls in Victoria.


What about elsewhere?


Well, the Auslink Programme is down there and it’s been announced, it’s

out there. But when you announce a road, you generally build it, and you

build it in accordance with an agreement. Can I say one other point, there

is no other State Premier that has every tried to behave like Steve Bracks.

We have never signed an agreement with another Premier who has repudiated

it before. Now if I were a Labor Premier today I’d sign a lot of agreements

with Mark Latham, because you know he will never hold you to those agreements,

and there will be other State Premiers, Premier Carr and Premier Beattie

will be sitting down today saying to themselves, why can’t we do a Bracks?


Treasurer, the Government’s already got two final bids to build the project

as a tollway, isn’t what Latham said in the past, just a recognition of

the reality that the Government is going to choose somebody in the next

few months to build it as a tollway? Isn’t that the commercial reality of

what is happening now?


I don’t think the commercial reality is for a profitable tollway at all.

Some private operator is going to tender for a tollway, and build it and

try and make a profit. They are going to have to know that they can make

a profit, that they will get enough people to use it to make a profit. Now,

you see what the Bracks government hasn’t yet announced is where the rat

runs will be. Because in order to get people paying high tolls on Scoresby

they are going to be closing roads all over the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne,

and creating rat runs. And I think once the public sees where the rat runs

are going to be going, up and down their roads of the Eastern Suburbs, and

once they see what proposed fees they are going to be paying, and now they

know that a vote for Latham is for full fee recovery, I think that road

has got a very long way to run. A very long way to run. By the way, I put

the developers on notice, they should all be on notice, that the Commonwealth

Government does not support tolls on that Scoresby Freeway.


So what are you going to do about it?


They will get no assistance. They will get no assistance. Anybody who wants

to put a toll on the Scoresby Freeway is not going to get any assistance

from the Commonwealth.


Will they stand to get any assistance?


Well they might be looking for roads to be closed, so that people can’t

travel on free roads.


That’s a State issue…


Well, I think it has got a long way to go.


If the road goes ahead as a tollway, aren’t Victorians better off under

Latham because that’s 420 that is going to come into the State?


If the road goes ahead as a tollway under Latham, you have got to understand

this, every person, every single day of their lives on their way to work,

and on their way home from work, is going to be paying for the broken promise

of Mark Latham and Steve Bracks. Get in your car, go to work, pay for the

Latham broken promise on your way to work, pay for the Latham broken promise

on your way home from work. Pay for the con that Steve Bracks put to you,

every single day. These things don’t go away you know. They don’t go away

after three months, or six months or twelve months. They are every single

working day commuting in from the seat of La Trobe, and Deakin, and Dunkley,

and Casey, and McMillan, every single day of your life you will pay for

the broken word of Mark Latham. The Latham toll on the Scoresby Freeway.

Now that is not going to make them better off. He ought to put a big picture

of himself up on the Scoresby Freeway.


(inaudible) funding stand off with the States, that $420 million isn’t

being spent (inaudible)?


Well, we don’t accept that for a moment. No, we don’t accept that for a

moment. As far as the Commonwealth is concerned, we insist on a freeway,

and we have $445 million that can build it for a freeway, and what is more,

can I just say, Steve Bracks has $445 million to build it for a freeway.

Can anybody here tell me that Steve Bracks doesn’t have $445 million? He

has got $445 million. He has got that in his bottom line, and by the way,

it is spent over four years. Is there a reason why Steve Bracks can’t spend

$445 million on the freeway, because if there is I haven’t heard it? What

is the reason? I have never heard it. They have $445 million.


What about the $2 billion road (inaudible).


Well, then they started expanding the project, and say, oh well, you know,

this, this and this. But hang on, we have got a written agreement. He has

got the money, and we’ve got the money. The land is cleared. We should be

building this now.


Can you guarantee that the parameters of the safety net will not change

next year with regards to 80% Commonwealth (inaudible) 80% of the out-of-pocket

costs, that the thresholds won’t change, and that pregnant women 35 at birth

will be able to claim the two-thirds back?


The parameters of the Medicare Safety Net will not change.


Bernie Fraser the former Governor of the Reserve Bank says it is inevitable

that interest rates will rise after the election. Do you believe him?


Well I never comment on the future movement of interest rates, but if there

were a change of Government, yes interest rates I believe will rise, significantly,

very significantly.


Will they rise if you …


Ah, well our record is on the board. We have averaged interests rates at

7% compared to Labor at 12.75%. So I think there are two post election scenarios.

There is the low interest rate scenario of the current Government, or there

is the Latham roller coaster. That is the choice which I think is very clear

in the next election.