I'm delighted to be here today with the Prime Minister, the Federal Treasurer, the Roads Minister and local members.
For too long in Sydney we have looked at projects along the M4 and the M5 and wanted them to get done. Communities around both these roads have said when on earth is the government going to do something about it? When are they going to be expanded? When are the connections going to be improved? When is the duplication going to take place? The great news for families across Western Sydney today: the work is underway. A long time coming, but it can show that if you do the hard work, you get the budget under control, you find the money, you can actually build the projects.
The projects are going to make a huge difference – a huge difference to people's daily lives – and that's what the battle is for our Government and it is a battle for the Federal Government: how can we do things together that make a difference to people's daily lives?
This project we are welcoming, obviously, one and a half billion from the Federal Government in addition today which the Federal Treasurer will discuss, $2 billion extra money that we will receive, and that $2 billion will go to even more infrastructure that we want to build across this great city and this great state – money that goes into public transport, money that goes into more roads, money that goes into schools and hospitals. We are determined to deliver and make a difference for the people of this city and the people of this state and it is happening.
We just remember 16 years under Labor, you looked at these roads and nothing ever happened. It shows you what a difference can be done if you have the budget discipline, you find the money and you have the will to make a difference to people's lives. That's what our Government is all about, that's what the Prime Minister, the Federal Treasurer, and the Roads Minister are about and this partnership together is absolutely critical that the Federal Government have made their contribution. It has given us the capacity to get on with it and by 2019, the M4 and M5 will be done and it will make a huge difference to people's lives on the back of the joint partnership.
I'll also ask the Prime Minister to say a couple of words, but one quick point I'll also add is that we have announced today the Electricity Price Commissioner, once and for all, putting a nail in the coffin of union scare campaign on prices. Allan Fels will stand up, the transaction will not go ahead on the basis of prices going up, they will only go ahead on the basis the transaction puts no upward pressure on prices, downward pressure comes, and that's Allan Fels saying that; that's not the unions, that's not me, that is someone independent, respected across the community and the unions need to stop their dishonest campaigns that are holding back infrastructure such as this across this city and state. That's why we're so determined to do everything we possibly can to keep New South Wales working.
Mike, an infrastructure Prime Minister needs an infrastructure Premier as his partner and that's exactly what I'm pleased and proud to say I have in you: an infrastructure Premier as a great partner for an infrastructure Prime Minister. This is all about trying to do the right thing by the people of Sydney and the people of New South Wales.
This WestConnex project, it will take 3,000 trucks off Parramatta Road every day, it will take 40 minutes off the commute time of 100,000 commuters every day, it will cut out some 52 sets of traffic lights. So, this is such good news for the people of Sydney and New South Wales and Australia and it's only happening because a good New South Wales Government – a good New South Wales Coalition Government – and a good Commonwealth Coalition Government are partnering to make it happen.
As the Premier pointed out, for 16 years Labor did nothing in New South Wales to improve our transport infrastructure. For six years, the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government did next to nothing when it came to major projects. Now, our state and our country is moving again where you've got Coalition state governments that are prepared to work with the Coalition Government in Canberra.
So, I am tremendously pleased and proud to be here with Mike Baird today. There's only one thing that stands in the way of this project and that's the potential for a change of government in New South Wales. New South Wales Labor aren't committed to WestConnex. New South Wales Labor is not committed to the Western Sydney roads package, and if they're not committed to the Western Sydney roads package, they're not committed to the Western Sydney airport either. So, if you want to keep this state moving, there's only one thing to do and that's to support good Coalition governments in Macquarie Street and in Canberra as well.
We're not just turning the first sod for the mighty WestConnex project today; we're also announcing additional support for the New South Wales Government because New South Wales is reinvesting the proceeds of old assets into new assets and I'm really pleased to be with the Premier and the Treasurer to make this announcement.
Prime Minister, Premier and Duncan. Today we are announcing a commitment of a further $2 billion to infrastructure in New South Wales as a result of the asset recycling programme. That $2 billion, together with the redeployment of $13 billion from asset sales in New South Wales means that $15 billion of new additional infrastructure, meaning tens of thousands of new jobs, will be available to New South Wales. This WestConnex project, we've put already $1.5 billion of cash into this project from a federal government level and a $2 billion concessional loan. The only way you're going to get jobs created is if you start to invest more in infrastructure and, of course, governments haven't got an endless supply of money, so we need to redeploy the value from existing assets into new assets to create new jobs.
The deal that we've struck with the New South Wales Government is not the first deal. The first deal was with a Labor Government. The ACT Labor Government have already signed a deal with us and they, the Labor Government, are going to sell public housing, they're going to sell the ACT TAB and a range of other assets in order to access the plan to pay for light rail in the middle of Canberra. So the hypocrisy of Labor in New South Wales campaigning against asset sales whilst their colleagues in the ACT are the first government to sign up to an asset sale programme including the sale of public housing, is a bit rich and I think Australians will see right through it and I think the people in New South Wales will see right through it.
Finally, can I say in relation to Allan Fels, he is a champion for consumers and for households and when he was the head of the ACCC I worked closely with him. He is unquestionably independent. He's fearlessly independent and he always focuses on putting consumers first.
Thanks. Prime Minister, Premier, Treasurer, ladies and gentlemen, this is just a great day. It is fantastic. This is day one of building better roads in Sydney. This is day one of thousands of people cheering in their cars, giving us the high five, saying, "Good on you, you're finally into it you're finally doing something." It's not 'lefty trendies' in the inner suburbs saying, "No, we don't want something that will actually help them"; this is about making a difference and it is, I'm proud to say, a Government that has made a difference and will make a difference.
We promised, in Opposition, to build one of the missing links. We've not only started one but finished it – that was the M5 West where people are getting half an hour's benefit heading west already – that was the one Labor promised four times and couldn't do. We've started work on NorthConnex, that connector from the M1 to the M2. Today, we're starting work on WestConnex, the widening of the M4, a $500 million project, 7.5 kilometres that will make a 79 per cent betterment in travel times for the people that are using it. This pinch point where you go through Parramatta is notorious. People get caught going home, going to work. Going from three lanes to four lanes, will make a hell of a difference.
Right where we're standing, right where the Premier and the Prime Minister were digging in their shovels will be a new viaduct to add two lanes. $500 million worth of around about $3.6 billion going forward in Stage One. This will be built from 2015 to 2017. It's a two year project, five properties will be resumed in it, three residences and two commercial properties, one of the commercial properties we're standing on right here. It's just going to make a difference.
Our chairman this morning, Tony Shepherd, said if you think of it in terms of the Snowy Mountains project, it's double the Snowy Mountains project. Hard to believe in today's terms the Snowy Mountains project would be about $8 billion. This is about a $15 billion project to fix the roads of Sydney.
Now, it's not going to fix all our transport problems. It's about a coordinated approach from a Government that has a plan and a Government that does things. We get things to happen so we've not only got this and the one I missed out of the others is that we're about to start work on the interconnector on King George's Road on the M5 area.
So, it's all happening. It is a great day. I was pleased as hell, as I know thousands of commuters tomorrow morning will be, with this announcement.
Well said, Duncan. Ok, are there any questions?
Mr Abbott, Widodo said that there's no clemency for the Bali Nine but he hasn't ruled out abolishing the death penalty. What do you think of that?
Obviously, no one has said that the Australians on death row should be let off scot-free. They've committed a terrible crime and terrible crime deserves punishment, but while we deplore drug crime, we also deplore the death penalty and I'm making that position crystal clear at every level to the Indonesian Government.
What sort of hope are you still holding out for clemency?
We are continuing to work with the Indonesian Government to try to get them to appreciate that it's in their best interests and it's in accordance with their best values not to kill these two Australians who are actually an asset in the fight against drug crime. They've been doing very good work in the Indonesian prison system to try to turn other prisoners against a life of drug crime.
So, we're continuing to do what we can, but I'm not in the business of pedalling false hope. I'm in the business of assuring the Australian people that your Government is doing everything we can to stand up for our best values and our best interests.
Has Widodo called you back regarding the photos that surfaced of the prisoners on the plane?
I've requested a conversation with President Widodo. I've had several conversations already with him on this subject. I've requested another one. At this stage, it hasn't been able to be arranged.
What more details can you give about the two teenagers that were intercepted on Friday?
Plainly, this is another sign that the strong border protection policies of this Coalition Government in Canberra are working because these were two misguided young Australians – Australians born and bred – went to school here, grew up here, imbibed our values, and yet, it seems, they had succumbed to the lure of the death cult and they were on the verge of doing something terrible and dangerous.
So, I'm pleased that they've been stopped and my message to anyone who is listening to the death cult is: block your ears – block your ears – don't even begin to think that you can leave. We will stop you at the border on the way out. If you get out and you try to come back we will stop you at the border on the way back and, of course, we have powerful armed forces that are at work in the Middle East. Every day our strike fighters are operational over Iraq because it is in our best national interests that this death cult be stopped. We are fighting against it here, we are fighting against it there, because as long as it exists, no-one can feel entirely safe.
Prime Minister, can you tell motorists what tolls they will be paying to use a road that's currently for free?
What I want to say is that the important thing is to get this road built. That is the important thing: to get this road built. As the Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, has just said, every day motorists will be rejoicing. They will be rejoicing. They will be singing in their cars, frankly, because their cars will be moving. They will have control over their own lives again and that's what we want. We want to see people at work building these roads and then we want to see the traffic moving on much better roads so that whether you're going to work or going home, you have more time doing what you want to do and less time stuck in traffic jams.
The other point to make is that if you don't want to pay the toll you don't have to use the road. So, there's a sense in which you take your choice whether to pay your money or not, but this could only happen because federal taxpayers are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with state taxpayers under the Commonwealth Government in Canberra – the Commonwealth Coalition Government in Canberra – and the Coalition Government here in New South Wales to actually make a difference for our state and for our country.
Prime Minister, how much more can the people of New South Wales expect to see you on the campaign trail with your friend Mike Baird?
I mean, Mike is my friend. He's my colleague. We do a lot of things together. Whether it be surf patrols down at Queenscliff and occasionally try to drop in on our constituents out the back of North Steyne and elsewhere, we do quite a few things together. This is his campaign, but I am determined to do whatever I can to assist because it is in everyone's interests that the largest state in our Commonwealth is under the best possible government and that's the Mike Baird-led Coalition Government here.
And he's very popular!
Indeed he is…
…Indeed he is, and I'm always happy to have benefit by association!
Prime Minister, MH370 one year on, is hope lost? Should the search be over?
No, the search continues. We are about 40 per cent of the way through searching 60,000 square kilometres of deep ocean off the coast of Western Australia. We are reasonably optimistic of success, but if we don't succeed in this search, there is another search that we intend to make because we owe it to the families of the dead and we owe it to the travelling public to do whatever we reasonably can to resolve this mystery. It's one the great mysteries of the 21st century and I know that there will be a nagging doubt in the minds of billions of people until such time as we can find that plane.
[inaudible] search indefinitely?
It can't go on forever, but as long as there are reasonable leads the search will go on. We've got 60,000 square kilometres that is the subject of this search. If that's unsuccessful, there's another 60,000 square kilometres that we intend to search and, as I said, we are reasonably confident of finding the plane.
Prime Minister, can I ask, the two lads from Sydney airport, how long were they under surveillance and are there many others under surveillance?
At the moment there are about 400 Australian residents that our security agencies are looking at because we fear that they may be planning to do us harm. We know that there are other people who might be tempted to do silly things and these are two youngsters who, it seems, suddenly got it into their head to go and do something that is very dangerous for them and potentially very dangerous for others and I'm pleased to say that the new enhanced screening procedures at our airports, the anti-terrorist teams that we've now got at our airports appear to have done a very good job because of their vigilance.
This is the point that I want to leave people with: we have the best police in the world – New South Wales Police, Australian Federal Police. We have very effective and skilled security agencies that work in conjunction with our partner agencies right around the world. There's excellent sharing of information between these agencies and now we have much stronger border protection procedures and soon we'll be converting to Border Force which will be at least as much concerned with border protection as it will be with simply waving people through, because in the end, we want our country to be safe and secure.
We run an immigration programme which is fairly and squarely in Australia's national interests and what we don't want is people coming into this country with evil intention and we don't want people leaving this country with evil intention. So, what we've got is Australian border protection officers doing their job and we saw them at work just the other day and their work is very good indeed.