Minister Shorten Interview on ABC Radio Melbourne


SUBJECTS: Melbourne Airport Rail Link

RAF EPSTEIN, HOST: We've been speaking about Airport Rail this morning. I mentioned that the infrastructure review now means the federal government has recommended they will spend that $5 billion on Airport Rail. Bill Shorten is both a Minister in the Albanese government and a representative of those who will get benefit from Airport Rail. Good morning, Bill Shorten.


EPSTEIN: Is the new Keilor East station, would that be in your electorate?

SHORTEN: Yes, it would be.

EPSTEIN: Right. Were you surprised that the $5 billion is going to be spent on airport rail from your government?

SHORTEN: I'm pleased, we said that's what we wanted to do. There was an appropriate infrastructure review because the previous government had made a lot of promises in a lot of parts of Australia, which didn't necessarily stack up, but I always felt the Airport Rail Link does stack up. We're one of the few cities our size in the world who doesn't have some sort of rail or light rail connection between the airport and the city. So, I'm very pleased and it will be good for residents in East Keilor and Tullamarine. That part of Melbourne doesn't even have a railway station. So, I think - and you know hats off to Ben Carroll, local member there too. He's always pushed for this and I'm a strong supporter, so, I'm pleased with today's announcement.

EPSTEIN: No one gets to see the complete list of things they said yes and no to. I was told the reviewers said no and the Minister said yes. Do you know if that's the case?

SHORTEN: I don't know if that's the case, no.

EPSTEIN: Is the sticking point now the airport?

SHORTEN: I think the airport is one of the moving parts, there's the state government, there's the federal government, and there's the airport. The airport, they're very - I should say that my colleague Catherine King is regulator for airports, so just speaking as a local member, the airport's a strong and clever player. I think they want a lot of things in return for Airport Rail Link, they would say they're justified, but, you know, let's face it, as someone who's lived in Melbourne his whole life, sometimes you can't help but think that Melbourne Airport is a car park with a runway attached. And, you know, I don't know if they feel threatened by their car park revenues, I wouldn't have thought so, but they shouldn't, but it's not up to the taxpayer, the Victorian or the federal taxpayer to necessarily compensate every aspect of Melbourne Airport's business model.

EPSTEIN: Are they getting in the way?

SHORTEN: Hmmm, I don't want to go that far, but they might have an ambitious list of issues where they say oh, Airport Rail Link somehow compromises our business model. That'll all be a matter of negotiation and evidence, but I think the airport does pretty well. So, I think we do need that public transport link and the airport might have a particular definition of what that means, but, you know, when they're asking taxpayers to compensate their business, I think they'd want to have pretty good evidence. So, I'm sort of politely sceptical about the extent of Melbourne Airport's requests, but let's just wait and see for negotiations.

EPSTEIN: Geelong fast rail is not going to survive. It's on. It's been chopped, you know, on the chopping block. Gone. Finished. That's a problem, isn't it?

SHORTEN: Well, the review is an apolitical process, I mean, if they've said that it didn't stack up, then I'm not going to start second guessing the review. Again, maybe without knowing all the evidence, maybe they think it's nice to have, but there are other greater, better argued priorities. I'm not across that level of detail, I've focused on the Melbourne Airport Rail Link and what's good for people living in Tullamarine and East Keilor and Keilor Park and those areas.

EPSTEIN: So, you're a cabinet minister. I get to ask questions, but you get to ask questions as well. Would you, if you asked if the review said yes…. sorry, if you ask whether or not the review said no and the Minister said yes, would you get an answer?

SHORTEN: Maybe. But to be honest, I'm not as obsessed about the answer to that question as you might be. Look, I've got plenty on my mind at the moment. I want to fix up the NDIS, government services and want the Airport Rail Link. So, I'm not sure that - you know, the decision and the key information is out there, I think. But again, you know, that's up to other people if they want more and more detail.

EPSTEIN: They'll likely need a little bit more money and we now know, federal, state 50/50. Do you think that's likely to happen because your government would need to, I don't know, maybe need another billion and a half. So, would Jacinta Allan's government need to bring the same amount of money to the table? Is that possible? Likely?

SHORTEN: I won't talk of billions of dollars of taxpayer money for a back of the envelope discussion with a well-informed Melbourne radio station. I think it's a bit more scientific than that.

EPSTEIN: No, I hope so.

SHORTEN: Well, it is, I don't think. I know.

EPSTEIN: I hope it is. Okay. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SHORTEN: Good on you Raf, thanks. Bye.