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Senate Estimates: Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee (Infrastructure Australia)

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 18 Nov 2013

Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
Infrastructure Australia

Senator RHIANNON: Assistant Treasurer, are there plans within the agency to pursue redundancies or job cuts?

Senator Sinodinos: That is a question for the secretary of the department.

Ms Mrdak : We are currently working through the implications of the resourcing reductions we will have to make as a result of decisions made by the former government as well as the current government in relation to agency resourcing. At this stage I have not reached any decision in relation to commencing of voluntary redundancies or a redundancy program. I will have to make significant reductions in staffing over a period of time. The details of that are yet to be settled.

Senator RHIANNON: You said that you are working through it. When will the announcement be made? When will you make the decision?

Ms Mrdak : I am currently undertaking a mid-year review of my internal budgets. That will be done in the next two to three works. I anticipate that, as the government completes its mid-year economic forecast process, we will be in a position to advise the department probably early in the new year in relation to what further savings we need to make.

Senator RHIANNON: Has Infrastructure Australia received the full East West Link business case provided by the Victorian state government?

Dr Deegan : We have received a briefer version of what we understand is a complete business case. That was provided some time ago.

Senator RHIANNON: Is it not correct that the full business case is now available?

Dr Deegan : It is not available publicly as far as I understand.

Senator RHIANNON: So to clarify, you understand it is available but it has not been made available to you?

Dr Deegan : I am not sure that it is available. That is a matter for the Victorian government.

Senator RHIANNON: In the version you have could you outline the cost benefit business case that is set out?

Dr Deegan : I will take that on notice. There is a fairly detailed response required to that.

Senator RHIANNON: Does the Melbourne Metro rail remain a higher priority project than the proposed East West Link?

Dr Deegan : It was advice from Infrastructure Australia to the previous government. As indicated before, advisers advise and governments decide. That is a matter for their new government.

Senator RHIANNON: So that advice still stands?

Dr Deegan : Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: At the moment you do not know whether there has been any change in position? You have not been advised?

Dr Deegan : My understanding is and the secretary has just outlined that the new government has offered to fund a great proportion of urban roads and, as the Assistant Treasurer has indicated, thereby freeing up potential capital within state governments to fund public transport.

Senator RHIANNON: Has the new government sought Infrastructure Australia's advice on the proposed East West Link?

Dr Deegan : Not at this stage.

Senator RHIANNON: Assistant Treasurer, have you seen the East West Link business case in full?

Senator Sinodinos: No, I have not. It does not really come within my portfolio responsibilities.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay, thank you. Mr Mrdak, can you confirm that the Victorian state government has sought a federal contribution to the proposed East West Link project?

Ms Mrdak : The Australian government has made a substantial commitment to funding the East West Link in Melbourne. The Australian government has made a commitment of $1.5 billion over this year and the next two financial years.

Senator RHIANNON: So that offer still stands?

Mr Mrdak : It is a commitment of the federal government, yes.

Senator RHIANNON: In terms of the funding negotiations between the Commonwealth and the Victorian state government, does the fact that that agreement is in place mean that they are now done, or is there an ongoing need for negotiations around funding?

Mr Mrdak : This is a very strong election commitment by the Australian government. We are proceeding on the basis that the government's commitment of $500 million in this financial year will be provided. We are currently settling details of that with the Victorian government as part of our negotiations on the full infrastructure investment program.

Senator RHIANNON: For Infrastructure Australia, I wanted to check again the status of tolling. Is it still the agency's position that existing motorways should not be tolled to help fund new infrastructure projects?

Mr Deegan : The advice of the Infrastructure Australia Council and indeed my office has been to consider the user-pays arrangements across existing and future road networks as part of a solution to a range of capital requirements, service levels and other issues associated with our urban networks.

Senator RHIANNON: So your default position with regard to motorways, which is that they should be tolled, remains, even though there appears to be a shift away with regard to some government policy?

Mr Deegan : Our advice—and, again, we are simply advisors—is that the best way to make these arrangements into the future is to provide a tolling arrangement attached to a service level so that the community know what they are paying for and what they are getting.

Senator RHIANNON: Mr Mrdak, I want to revisit the Moorebank intermodal and check: has any comparative analysis been done between the Moorebank intermodal and other proposals around Eastern Creek?

Mr Mrdak : In terms of the location of a freight intermodal facility?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes.

Mr Mrdak : Certainly a lot of work was done in developing the initial business case and a lot of analysis was done by the New South Wales government as part of their freight planning, which identified that Moorebank has significant advantages as an intermodal freight hub. Firstly, it is approximate to the Southern Sydney Freight Line and the freight access that provides to the port. Also, it has connections to the interstate and arterial road network in Sydney. Its availability as a large site which has good access gives it inherent advantages over a site such as Eastern Creek, which requires significant infrastructure provision and also consolidation of properties.

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