Hansard will be quite a read...Is this something you can give us links to when its ready?
Pages 30-31. Note J Allan's comments in Bold 2/3 in.
MURRAY BASIN RAIL PROJECT
Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) (11:31): My question to the Minister for Transport Infrastructure. Today the Victorian Auditor-General reported that the Victorian government has used nearly 90 per cent of the funding allocated to the Murray Basin rail project yet has completed less than 50 per cent of the works. Given the Auditor-General said that the expected benefits from the Murray Basin rail project will not occur without more funding, will the minister commit to funding the remainder of the project in the 2020–21 budget?
Ms ALLAN (Bendigo East—Leader of the House, Minister for Transport Infrastructure) (11:32): I thank the Leader of the National Party and member for Murray Plains for his question on the Auditor General’s report that was tabled in the Parliament this morning and provided some information to the house. Can I make it clear that the government has previously made a number of public comments. Indeed I think I have answered a number of questions in this place, at Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings and in other public forums about the status of the Murray Basin rail project. The member asked a question in relation to future stages of the project. When it comes to considering future stages of the project, before we can consider budget allocations for that, we need to complete the business case. As I have also said publicly previously, we are finalising that business case. This work is being done by Rail Projects Victoria, where we get our expert engineering advice for our rail infrastructure projects from. That work on finalising the business case is ongoing. Once that business case is finalised it needs to go through the relevant internal processes, cabinet processes, but also it will need to be shared with the federal government. As the member for Murray Plains knows, I have had a number of conversations with the Deputy Prime Minister about this as they are a joint funder of this project to date. We would hope for partnership with them into the future on any future investments that may be made in the freight network in northwest Victoria. In direct response to his question about the 2020–21 budget, I cannot answer that question today because it needs to go through those relevant processes. That is taking a responsible approach to both managing this project and respecting also the processes of the federal government. Can I say, though, further on the Auditor-General’s report that was tabled today, the government has made clear on previous occasions that there have been challenges with the delivery of the Murray Basin rail project. We will continue to work through those. As I have previously offered to the member for Murray Plains, I am happy to talk to him and provide him with a briefing on this at any stage. He has been privy to some conversations that I have had with the Deputy Prime Minister when we were standing on the bank of the Murray River at Echuca making an important joint announcement on the Echuca-Moama bridge, and I am happy to continue to talk to the member for Murray Plains about this project.
Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) (11:35): The Auditor-General found that during project delivery the Australian government made requests for information on the status of the project. However, the Auditor-General found that the provision of information was not forthright or timely. Has the minister provided the necessary information that the commonwealth needs to consider funding in the 2020–21 federal budget?
Ms ALLAN (Bendigo East—Leader of the House, Minister for Transport Infrastructure) (11:35): Yes, the member for Murray Plains is correct. The Auditor-General’s report does state that, and as the Auditor-General has been advised by the secretary of my department and in terms also of the way the department has responded to the report, that is not a correct position for the Auditor-General to take
, and indeed— Members interjecting.
The SPEAKER: Order!
Ms ALLAN: As I have just indicated, the member for Murray Plains has seen the way the Deputy Prime Minister and I have engaged informally on this matter. We have also been engaging formally on this matter through our departments as well. Mr Walsh: On a point of order, Speaker, the question was very specific: has the minister provided the necessary information to the commonwealth? The deadline was December. It was passed. There may be informal discussions, but there is no real business case or information—
The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Nationals! The point of order is?
Mr Walsh: I ask you to bring the minister back to answering the question that was asked.
The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House is being relevant to the question that has been asked.
Ms ALLAN: Thank you, Speaker. I have seen references to the December deadline in other public comments. There was no December deadline, so he is incorrect on that point. We are continuing to share information proactively. Indeed I met as recently as last week with the Deputy Prime Minister. I had met the week before with the Deputy Prime Minister. This issue was discussed. So we continue to work through these issues. I understand the member’s interest in this, but we are determined not to repeat the mistakes of his government on this project.