Browsing articles in "Grayndler Hansard"
May 30, 2017

Grievance Debate – WestConnex

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:14): Back in 2012, the experts at Infrastructure New South Wales sat down to take a look at the major challenges facing Sydney’s transport network. They later produced a report about their deliberations. Under the headline ‘First things first’, the experts, chaired by Nick Greiner, a former Premier of New South Wales, said the greatest transport challenge facing Sydney was rapid growth around Port Botany and the Sydney Airport. The Infrastructure New South Wales report said:

With growth forecast to continue, investment is urgently needed in landside infrastructure to allow access to these gateways.

It was identified access to the Port of Botany as the No. 1 priority. The advice could not have been clearer. The other imperative was access to the central business district of Sydney. It was these two requirements—access for freight to the port in particular and for cars to the CBD—that led to the beginning of what was termed the WestConnex project.

What we have today with the WestConnex project, five years later, is a very different project. It is one which will not go to the port. It will not meet the very challenges that were identified as the reason for its existence. This is the worst example of planning that I have seen for a major infrastructure project. What you need to do with infrastructure is to get the plans right first, go through the community consultation process and the environmental approvals and then have funding provided. What we have with this project is literally a government which is making it up as they go along. This is a project where they literally started digging tunnels before they knew where the tunnels were coming up—an extraordinary proposition. It is a project which began with a cost of some $10 billion which has now blown out to $17 billion, which is now leading to calls for further extensions of the road network.

In the 2014 budget of the Abbott government, the one where they cut funding for every public transport project that was not under construction, there was money handed out. It was handed out as advance payments for projects that had not been through planning proposals and had not been through the Infrastructure Australia process. That included the WestConnex project, where the $1.5 billion in grant funding has already all been paid—every single dollar of it—even though the project will not be concluded until into the 2020s.

In government, we instituted a process whereby you would have milestone payments. That is the concept that you have to actually build something and achieve the milestones that have been set in order for state governments to then be rewarded with payments from the federal government. But what we saw with this project was $750 million forwarded as an advance payment. We also then saw $2 billion made available as a loan to the New South Wales government, even though the New South Wales government has got substantial revenue from the sale of essential public assets in New South Wales. This is what the Auditor-General had to say about the project. I will quote from the report released last year as a result of representations that I had made asking for an audit into the financing processes of this project. He wrote:

The WestConnex project had not proceeded fully through the established processes to assess the merits of nationally significant infrastructure investments prior to Australian Government funding being committed. This situation was identified in departmental advice to decision makers prior to decisions being taken.

So there we have the Audit Office saying that ministers ignored the advice. With regard to the milestone payments, the Audit Office found that they changed what the milestones were in order to justify the payments being made.

We also saw the ongoing complete failure of community consultation. The residents of Haberfield, St Peters, Ashfield, Leichhardt and Rozelle all tell the same story. Take just one example—that of Vince Crow, a long-time resident of Haberfield. In June 2014 Mr Crow received two letters from a representative of the WestConnex Delivery Authority. Both were delivered on the same day. The first letter said, ‘We’re going to need to buy your property,’ and the second letter, signed by the same gentleman, said, ‘We don’t need to buy your property.’ There was absolute uncertainty for this resident. The pattern of inaccuracy, unprofessionalism and miscommunication has been repeated across my community ever since. About 180 properties have already been acquired out of a total of more than 400. Indeed, there is the extraordinary circumstance whereby the New South Wales government kept secret from the community for more than two years the report they received in 2014 about compensation that people who were having their homes acquired were due.

Across my community, residents have had to fight to protect public parks and sporting fields. Ashfield Park, Easton Park in Rozelle and Blackmore Oval in Leichhardt were all defended by the local community. I made representation about all of those public parks because open space is at a premium. Worst was to come with the idea that you would create a dive site next to the Leichhardt campus of the Sydney Secondary College. This was right next to the one oval that that overcrowded campus has. It was proposed to have a convoy of trucks rolling in and out of the worksite past school classroom windows. Fortunately, the New South Wales minister, Stuart Ayres, who I approached about this, intervened and it has been ruled out as a proposal. At the same time students in schools like St Peters Public School have had to put up with the demolition of homes right near the school. This had a real impact on them. Haberfield Public School students and teachers are very worried about the impact of the project on Haberfield.

You would think, given the extent of disruption, that senior people in the New South Wales bureaucracy would be concerned about this. The Greater Sydney Commission has responsibility for planning in greater Sydney. In August 2016 the chair of the commission, Lucy Turnbull, was interviewed on ABC radio and was asked to comment on the fact that houses were being demolished in Haberfield to make way for WestConnex. The chair of the commission said, ‘I’m not aware that there are houses going to be demolished at Haberfield.’ At that very time dozens of houses, which were heritage listed in a heritage listed suburb, had already been demolished. There is complete contempt for these local residents.

Delivering major infrastructure projects is never easy. I support good infrastructure, public transport as well as good road infrastructure, but you have to get the planning right. You also have to acknowledge that, in our growing global cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, the key to dealing with urban congestion is public transport, not more and more road infrastructure. You must get the planning right, you must consult properly with the community and you must bring the community with you. In the words of the 18th century American statesman Benjamin Franklin, ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.’ The WestConnex project has now been set up under a separate authority so freedom of information laws and the normal accountability of a government agency do not apply in New South Wales. This is an example of avoiding bringing the community with an infrastructure project rather than having proper consultation.

May 29, 2017

Statements by Members – Broadband

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:37): I rise to speak about the diabolical farce that is the rollout of the National Broadband Network in my electorate of Grayndler. My office is currently inundated with requests from constituents trying to navigate the atrocious half-measure that is this coalition government’s ‘fraudband’ network. The problems are a direct result of policy failure.

Fibre to the premises—every home and every business—was Labor’s plan, a universal system that recognised that fibre in the 21st century was as important as water or electricity, an acknowledgement that high-speed broadband is essential for education and health. Under this government though, particularly under Malcolm Turnbull as the minister, he unravelled that. We have a mix of fibre to the premises, fibre to the node, fibre to the basement and hybrid fibre coaxial cable, where there was just one plan before. We have even had the purchase of some 15 million metres of copper wire to complete the NBN—a farce in the 21st century. Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Morgan Jaffit, a Brisbane based video games developer, had used registered post rather than uploading files, because that was quicker. The fact is that we need 21st century technology, and that means fibre to the premises.

May 22, 2017

Statements by Member – Public Transport

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:14): The New South Wales government’s planned privatisation of inner-west bus services will result in worse, not better, transport for commuters across the region.

As the member for Grayndler and the shadow minister for transport, I will fight alongside the public to prevent this privatisation—which Luke Foley’s Labor Party is of course opposed to—from proceeding. The sell-off of services will lead to jobs being lost, routes being cut, fares increasing and service levels dropping. Hundreds of thousands of people in the inner west, including workers, students and pensioners, depend heavily on public bus services. Any cuts to these services will have a real impact on their lives. The government claims that after their sell-off the routes and prices will not change, but we know that private bus services only operate anywhere in Sydney with massive public subsidies.

Transport Minister Constance seems to think that he can justify this privatisation by crudely denigrating the bus drivers, but the commuters of the inner west know that these drivers do an excellent job in difficult conditions. I pay tribute to the drivers on the 412 and 423, my local bus drivers. Mr Constance has launched this attack on the inner west for purely partisan purposes. The Premier needs to intervene and step in before the minister does any more damage.

May 11, 2017

Adjournment – St Mary and St Mina Coptic Orthodox Church

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:26): I rise to call for the Inner West Council, unelected as it is, to withdraw its proposed demolition of the St Mary and St Mina Coptic Orthodox Church in Sydenham in my electorate. This is the oldest Coptic Orthodox church in the Southern Hemisphere, and was the first Coptic Orthodox church established anywhere outside of Egypt.

This church was built in 1884. It was, for many, many years, a Methodist church on Railway Road in Sydenham. It was there before the airport, which, of course, had a significant impact on the practice of faith in the church, because it was directly under the newly built third runway. The church was bought by Egyptian Coptic migrants in 1968. Those migrants, of course, fled after political turmoil and persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. They put their hard-earned dollars into that church to buy it. The church holds war memorials from before that time dedicated to our brave diggers who fought for freedom in this country. The buildings around the church were demolished when the third runway was built, and a new church funded by the federal government was established in the St George area across the river. But the community had wanted the church to be maintained as a museum to the local history of, particularly, the Coptic Orthodox community, who number around about 100,000 in Sydney alone.

Recently, on 2 May, an arsonist targeted the building, causing more damage, which is the subject of a New South Wales police investigation. It is true that the building needs an upgrade, but the Coptic community have themselves raised funds and organised builders who are prepared to participate in the refurbishment of the church. The Inner West Council, of course, does not actually exist as a democratic body. The New South Wales government abolished the former Marrickville Council, and had a forced amalgamation between the Marrickville, Leichhardt and Ashfield councils into the Inner West Council, and they have had an unelected administrator since that occurred. Given that, there is no democratic process for the community to participate in stopping the abolition of this church.

The council says it will take $5 million to rebuild the church, but the Coptic Orthodox community have raised in cash and kind some $2 million to carry out the work. The Inner West Council plans tomorrow to raze the building and create a memorial area using parts of the church. The state government’s Office of Environment and Heritage has not opposed the demolition. I say to the New South Wales government of Gladys Berejiklian, if this is not heritage—a church built in 1884, the first Coptic Orthodox church outside of Egypt—then what is? The New South Wales government particularly have a responsibility because there is no elected council in place. Effectively, the administrator is a representative of the New South Wales coalition government, appointed by them as a sole administrator, and they should intervene. At a time when the Islamic State is claiming responsibility for bombings of Coptic churches in Egypt as recently as Palm Sunday, when 50 people were killed, this is a community that feels they are under siege, and I stand with the community in support of their heritage, in support of their right not only to practise their religion at the church in Bexley but also to recognise their history as an important community here in Australia.

Mar 28, 2017

Hansard – International Record Store Day – Members Statements

Saturday, 22 April will see the celebration of the 10th international Record Store Day. This was established to highlight the cultural and economic importance of record stores in an era of online shopping, file sharing and downloads. In Australia, more than 180 independent record stores will mark the event with live music, DJ performances and other in-store activities, as well as fundraising for various charities. We all know independent record stores are important in our communities as small businesses, generating economic activity and providing jobs, but the importance of independent record stores extends well beyond economics. It goes to our culture, our lived experience and the way we understand and engage with the world. That is because, in the words of the late, great Chuck Berry:

Music is an important part of our culture and record stores play a vital part in keeping the power of music alive.

We have all spent time in record stores, maybe looking for something specific or maybe just thumbing through the racks, killing time. In 2017, you can download or stream the latest song by your favourite artist without leaving your lounge chair. But you do not get the experience of seeking it out in a record store, thereby opening yourself to a world of music you might never have heard. You do not hear that song on a full album with a collection of tracks chosen by the performer to be heard in a particular order. You do not get to feel the CD or record in your hands, read the liner notes, or admire the pictures and artwork. Grinderman, a side project of Australian singer Nick Cave, put this concept this way:

Do yourself a tremendous favour and go to a record store today. The relatively mild exertion of getting off your fat, computer-shackled [backside] and venturing out to find the object of your desire, the thrill of moving through actual space and time, through row upon row of records, and the tactile ecstasy of fondling the quested treasure—all this will augment and enrich the mental associations the music invokes in you for the rest of your life.

The record store subculture is perfectly described in Nick Hornby’s awesome novel and subsequent film High Fidelity. Record stores bring people together. Back in the late 1970s, two young men were browsing in a record store in the US state of Georgia and stopped to chat: Michael Stipe and budding guitarist Peter Buck, who became friends and went on to form R.E.M.

Independent record music stores are critical to the music industry and to our communities. You will not find many recordings of local emerging bands in the big chain stores in your city, but you will find them in independent record stores. I am proud to be an ambassador for Record Store Day on 22 April.

As Tom Waits said of music stores:

Folks who work here are professors. Don’t replace all the knowers with guessors. Keep’em open. They’re the ears of the town.

Feb 28, 2017

Hansard – House of Representatives- Westconnex

I rise to express my dismay and anger about the New South Wales government’s latest proposal to convert the former tram sheds next to the Leichhardt campus of Sydney Secondary College into an industrial construction site for the WestConnex toll road project.

Last week, without undertaking any consultation with the local community or local elected representatives, the government notified residents it wanted to use this land as a dive site for the construction of the stage 3 tunnel for the WestConnex project. This exemplifies the appalling lack of proper community engagement that has caused so much resentment towards this project.

The Leichhardt campus is already overcrowded. Almost 1,000 students are packed into a site that has little open space and only one school oval. That is why the school community has been campaigning for years to have incorporated into the school the very site that Sydney Motorway Corporation are now targeting. In any normal sized school, this land would already be a part of the grounds. If built, the dive site will become a major construction site, where earth will be removed to build the tunnels that make up stage 3 of the tollway. That anyone would propose this type of major construction virtually on the grounds of a local public high school is beyond belief. Daily truck movements and tunnelling activity will expose students to noise pollution, dust and dangerous traffic conditions.

In 2010 I was proud to open the sports field adjacent to the tram sheds—prior to that, they had none—following a grant to Leichhardt council from the former federal Labor government under our Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. The grounds are heavily used by students as well as local sports clubs on weekdays and weekends. How will sport or any other outdoor activity on the current grounds be enjoyed when they are surrounded, over and under, by an industrial construction site? By any measure, the location is entirely inappropriate for tunnelling.

What is worse is that the government does not even know where the tunnel will be going. In the notification letter sent out to residents, Sydney Motorway Corporation declares that they will ‘soon release a design report that includes the latest tunnel route, all short-listed M4-M5 link potential construction sites and other details’. This is a project where they have started building the tunnel at one end without knowing where it is going or where it is coming up. They are literally making it up as they go along. Because the government does not know where the tunnel is going to end, there is also no final completion date for the project, which means the site will be in use for an indefinite period of time. There is no set end to the disruption.

Besides bad planning, the outrageous thing is that the primary motivation behind choosing Leichhardt High School, or Sydney Secondary College, as it is now known, is simply greed. The choice of site is motivated by Sydney Motorway Corporation—which will be privatised down the track, and its assets sold off—thinking that, because the tram sheds are state-owned land, they will not have to purchase more for the construction site, when other locations are available.

The minutes of a recent meeting between Sydney Motorway Corporation and the Inner West Council reveal that the New South Wales Department of Education has given in-principle support to this absurd proposal. It is a shocking betrayal of the school community for the department to secretly enter into negotiations and give tacit approval to such a dangerous plan.

The new education minister, Rob Stokes, must intervene to protect the students and staff at the Leichhardt campus from this proposal. Premier Berejiklian should intervene and rule out this proposal immediately. To think that placing an industrial construction site next to a public high school was ever a good idea is completely nonsensical, particularly when there are no entry or exit points apart from driving through an oval—the only oval—that services almost a thousand students.

Sydney does need infrastructure. But it does not need to show utter contempt for communities while it is being built, and that is what has happened with this proposal. It is total and utter contempt. It will be opposed by the local community, and the local community will ensure that this does not happen.

Nov 28, 2016

Private Members’ Business – World AIDS Day

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:12): I rise to support the motion from my friend the member for Griffith, acknowledging that this week we will hold, on Thursday, World AIDS Day, and the theme this year is: HIV is still here and it is on the move. World AIDS Day has been held every year since 1988. More than 36 million people around the world are living with HIV.

The first recorded case of HIV AIDS in Australia was in Sydney in October 1982, and the first Australian death from AIDS occurred in July 1983. Between 1984 and mid-1985, there was a 540 per cent increase in HIV infections. And there was no cure. Labor health minister Neal Blewett, with the support of the then opposition, deserves incredible praise for embarking on a world-leading, pioneering and brave campaign to promote a safe-sex message. A television advertisement showing the Grim Reaper knocking people down like pins in a bowling alley was first screened on 5 April 1987 and kicked off efforts to provide the public with reliable information on preventing HIV and AIDS.

The success of the campaign can be judged by the reduction in the rate of infections. New diagnoses of HIV—according to the Australian Federation of Aids Organisations, based in my electorate in Newtown—have stabilised at just over 1,000 per year in the last three years. HIV diagnosis among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, however, has been increasing over the last five years. Ninety per cent of people living with HIV are men.

The stabilisation follows a concerted effort to increase the scope and regularity of HIV testing. The key is awareness. Pre-exposure prophylaxis has revolutionised HIV prevention. Through its use—along with rapid HIV testing, treatment as prevention, condoms and lube, and supportive attitudes and laws—the situation in Australia has stabilised. What is more, highly effective treatment for those with HIV means that deaths in Australia are now rare.

Unfortunately, people are still dying, including my dear friend and the first out MP in Australia, Paul O’Grady, who passed away in recent times after a very long illness. When he contracted HIV he resigned from the New South Wales parliament because he was not expected to live very much longer. He of course lived for decades longer as a result of the effort of science in prolonging people’s lives and providing that treatment.

Internationally, there remains a massive challenge. In our region of the Asia-Pacific, 180,000 cases of AIDS and 1.2 million cases of HIV are reported each year. The Australian government has committed $220 million over three years towards the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This fund operates in 120 countries and is estimated to have saved 20 million lives since 2002. Australia should play a leading role in our region in tackling HIV, and this of course should be a bipartisan effort.

I want to today pay tribute to those people who in the early years had the courage to come out and say that they were HIV positive, sometimes attracting criticism and very personal derision as a result of the courageous stance that they took. Many of those people are no longer around. But, as a result of that many—hundreds of thousands—of lives here in Australia have been saved. The courage and vision that the former Labor government showed—and also it must be said the fact that the opposition of the time was prepared to support that leadership from Neal Blewett has made a real difference in our society. It is another reason why we need to be open about these issues, how we need to as a community do whatever we can to ensure that in future years we do not actually have a theme of ‘HIV is still here and it is on the move’; but that we can celebrate that HIV is in the past.

Nov 23, 2016

Constituency-statements – Westconnex

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:43): Today I rise to give voice to the concerns, frustration and suffering of my constituents in the suburb of Haberfield who are being adversely affected by the construction of the WestConnex project. Many have experienced ongoing noise pollution as a result of late-night construction works, as well as increased risk to pedestrian safety caused by large-truck movements in local streets. For several months, residents in Wattle Street and adjoining areas have been suffering from unacceptable late-night noise between 9 pm and 5 am. Older residents and families with small children have been particularly impacted and are finding the ongoing noise pollution very distressing. Residents have informed me that they have continually raised concerns with the Sydney Motorway Corporation and New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services about the impact this noise is having on their sleep patterns and quality of life.

Unfortunately, to date the response from New South Wales government agencies has been hopelessly inadequate. This extraordinary level of late-night noise pollution is certainly not acceptable. I understand that RMS would prefer to carry out works at night in order to minimise daytime disruption to traffic flows and to expedite completion of the project; however, indefinitely sacrificing the quality of life of hundreds of Haberfield residents in order to meet these objectives is unfair and unprofessional. The failure to police limits on the movement of heavy vehicles in local streets in Haberfield is also posing safety risks for residents there.

There are specified routes that trucks working on WestConnex are required to use; however, residents have continually reported to me that drivers are not adhering to this plan. In addition to that, some of the work that has been carried out in streets such as Northcote Street have occurred before the notification has gone out to residents saying that this work will occur. When this was raised with one of the workers on site, he said, ‘That way we’ll get less complaints’. And they wonder why the community are concerned about these issues! Once quiet streets, including those on which primary schools and childcare centres are located, have now become thoroughfares for large and dangerous vehicles because conditions of consent for this project are not being enforced. Added to that is the anguish caused by the fact that the head of the planning system in New South Wales, Lucy Turnbull, stated that she was not even aware that houses were being demolished in the heritage suburb of Haberfield. The New South Wales government has a responsibility to protect the amenity of people living in Haberfield; they are not doing the right thing, and they must do better.

Nov 21, 2016

Constituency Statement – White Bay

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:55):  I rise to propose specific solutions to the problem of cruise ship pollution in White Bay in my electorate. In June, I contacted the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, to offer bipartisan support for action to ensure that cruise ships on Sydney Harbour use low-sulphur fuel. At that time, the New South Wales government announced that their regulation to impose a 0.1 per cent sulphur content limit on fuel used by cruise ships in Sydney Harbour would not come into effect because recently introduced federal legislation had inadvertently made the New South Wales government’s new regulation inoperable. This New South Wales regulation remains in place, although it does not have effect in law.

Residents living close to the White Bay terminal have been legitimately concerned about the health impact of the sulphur based fuels being used by cruise ships since the terminal opened. They have been active on this issue for many years. Today I propose both a short-term and a permanent solution to this problem of air pollution. There is no reason that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority cannot immediately fix this through a marine order that places in federal regulation the same low-sulphur fuel requirements for cruise ships as previously set in regulation by the state government. I call on Minister Chester and the government to do this as a matter of urgency.

Cruise ships docked in dense urban areas need strict regulation of their emissions, but we know there is also the technology available to allow emissions from these ships to be eliminated. Ship-to-shore power must be delivered. It allows cruise passenger ships that are docked to be able to access land based power. This can eliminate the need for ships to burn fuel while in port and provide a permanent solution to the problem of air pollution from cruise ships. It is now five months since I received assurances from the minister that this issue would be addressed, but for more than five years Balmain residents have been advocating for proper environmental regulation of this cruise passenger terminal. I am pleased that the cruise ship industry has agreed to voluntarily adhere to the use of low-sulphur fuel as an interim measure, but Commonwealth action is now required to secure permanent protections. I believe that Minister Chester understands this. Where the Commonwealth makes legislation that has unintended ill effects, the Commonwealth has a responsibility to find a remedy. I am proposing a constructive way forward, but I am also putting the minister and the government on notice that if they continue to fail to act I intend to propose and fight for proper environmental protections against cruise ship emissions for my local community.

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Nov 10, 2016

Constituency Statement – Nuclear Disarmament

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:49): I rise to address the issue of nuclear disarmament. On 27 October, the United Nations adopted a crucial and important resolution to convene a UN conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. One hundred and twenty-three nations voted in favour of this resolution. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has said:

This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts.

I commend the hard work of ICAN in Australia in helping to progress the disarmament agenda. However, it is disappointing that Australia was not one of the 123 countries that voted in favour of this resolution; they did not even abstain. They were one of the few countries very much in the minority that voted against this resolution. As well as establishing the conference for 2017, the proposal also recorded the international community’s urgency in securing substantive progress in multilateral nuclear disarmament talks in the meantime. Yet, in the fortnight that has followed this important vote, and even after extensive questioning that took place in the Senate, the federal government is still to provide a sufficient answer as to why Australia was not one of those that supported a ban on the worst weapons of mass destruction.

The Labor Party’s platform affirms our belief that, as a non-nuclear armed nation and a good international citizen, Australian can make a significant contribution to promoting disarmament, the reduction of nuclear stockpiles and the responsible use of nuclear technology. Unfortunately, the recent voting record of those opposite shows that they do not share the same priorities that we do. We have now reached a time where an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations are ready to outlaw nuclear weapons, just as the world has outlawed chemical and biological weapons. The Turnbull government must stop working to undermine this process; instead, it must work with other nations. The government should commit to attending the 2017 negotiating conference. If Australia fails to participate, this will tarnish our international reputation as a disarmament supporter. This is a huge opportunity for the international community to make real progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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