Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
Feb 27, 2019

Transcript of Radio Interview – 2GB, Chris Smith Program – Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Subjects: George Pell; Dividend Imputation Reform.

CHRIS SMITH: Anthony Albanese, good afternoon.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon, Chris.

SMITH: Now as a Catholic – Question Without Notice please Member for Grayndler – what’s your response to the conviction of George Pell?

ALBANESE: Well my response is that we’ve got to think of the victim here. George Pell has been convicted in a court of law. He of course is appealing so we need to be somewhat careful given that the legal processes haven’t been exhausted. But quite clearly across the board I am very proud to have been part of a government that made what, at the time was I think a gutsy decision to call the Royal Commission into institutional abuse.

SMITH: True.

ALBANESE: And it wasn’t of course just the Catholic Church. It’s right across the churches; it was institutions like the Boy Scouts and what we heard come through that process was quite horrific. And the institutions need to wake up to themselves and recognise that they have let down their communities and they have caused literally many suicides and trauma for the individuals who were abused. They’ve caused lasting damage to them, to their families and to society.

SMITH: You just wonder whether the Catholic Church has it in them to change something that was left behind by George Pell, which is this Melbourne Response. Because there’s nothing in that, that even looks rarely or anything like an independent body to look after victims.

ALBANESE: Well they have to because they let down people. The principal of the school that I went to is in jail. You know people almost – tragically I’ve discussed this with some of my fellow students who I keep in contact with – we knew some things and it was almost like that we’ve taken for granted, you know, be careful. Don’t you know have a shower when brother (inaudible) is around and just treating it as one of the things. Now that shouldn’t be the case for a young man or young woman for that matter growing up. Let alone people who – you know my mum was a single mum who wanted to ensure that I went to a Catholic school. It was very much a part of her faith. And I must say that the school I went through were very good to me personally. And when we couldn’t afford school fees they said you know just pay what you can and I had some terrific experiences. There was one brother in particular, Brother Simpson who passed away just a couple of years ago; who I think had a big impact on my life because I grew up without a father in my life. He made me captain of the rugby league team in Year 6, in the final year of primary school, and I wasn’t the best player but it meant that, I think that’s the first time I got given a leadership position and I think that had an impact on me.

SMITH: I’ve had positive influences too within the Catholic Church, both through various priests and brothers and I think they’ve been, you know …

ALBANESE: Well they’ve been let down …

SMITH: Wouldn’t they what …

ALBANESE: There are some very good people in the Catholic Church, not just the clergy, but all those volunteers who you know – my mum was very sick for most of her life – I mean, you know my story. But while she could, she went up and cleaned the Church at St Joseph’s Camperdown, whenever she could, you know and put in. And all those people who do fantastic work in the Catholic Church, have been let down by some of the hierarchy and it requires a response from the top down. It requires contrition and it requires structural training and it requires a real response that recognises that the victims of abuse have had to suffer long-term and are entitled to proper compensation because they can’t ever really, of course, be compensated. Some of them have lost things that you can never give back. But I do think that this is a huge wake-up call for the Church and so many Roman Catholics out there will be devastated by the news that came through yesterday.

SMITH: Very true, I couldn’t have said it better. I am with the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development. We want to talk about your franking credit policy; we will do that straight after a break. Anthony Albanese on the other side and if you’d like to join the conversation 131 873.

(Break)

I’ve got Anthony Albanese with me. We are talking about something I’ve been wanting to talk to him about for quite a while, Labor’s franking credit change. One of the biggest concerns for my listeners, whenever I raise it I get a stack of callers on the board and already I’m getting emails sent to me even after mentioning it at the start of the program. Anthony, the main issue here is that my listeners in particular think that you are punishing those Australians who’ve worked very hard to secure their retirement – not a drain on the pension or taxpayers money and they want to know why are you taking away from them, the incentive for people to work hard and plan for their own retirement?

ALBANESE: Well we’re not doing that of course. And of course it is a cost to the taxpayer, it costs the taxpayer currently $6 billion a year, that will grow to $8 billion over the forward estimates and is growing exponentially. When it was introduced by the Howard Government at a time when we had the huge boom and we had money going out the door, you had one-off payments and various measures that cost just $550 million a year. It’s now $6 billion. There is nowhere in the world that gives people – essentially a tax rebate is what it is designed for imputation – it is not a tax rebate if you haven’t paid any tax.

SMITH: But the company that they have invested in has already paid that tax. So they’re being double taxed.

ALBANESE: That’s not right.

SMITH: They are owners of the company, Anthony.

ALBANESE: No one will pay a single cent more tax, that’s the first thing. No one will lose a single cent from their super. No one will lose a single cent from their pension.

SMITH: That’s irrelevant.

ALBANESE: No one will lose a single cent from their share dividends. And the fact is it’s not retrospective. The idea that you get a refund, which is essentially what it is, of your tax when you haven’t paid any tax is not sustainable …

SMITH: But the company you own has paid tax.

ALBANESE: Well you have not paid any tax. And what is happening is that this is growing to the point whereby it simply is not sustainable.

SMITH: Okay. I understand that …

ALBANESE: It costs the Budget more than we give to every public school in the country.

SMITH: But you haven’t done a calculation on the loss of investor’s money that will now stop being poured into companies around the country. Because retirees won’t do this, they won’t go there anymore they’ll go: ‘Hang on, the rules have changed I’m getting out of there’.

ALBANESE: Because what’s happening at the moment, because there is this huge bonus, is that it’s been growing exponentially. And that’s why you’ve seen this flood in, because people are getting, as I said, a refund when they haven’t paid any tax.

SMITH: Was this your idea?

ALBANESE: No, it’s not my call.

SMITH: So you’re trying to sell it. The Government says over 80 per cent of those affected have a taxable income of less than $37,000. These are your people.

ALBANESE: Eighty per cent of the benefit, 80 percent of that $6 billion, accrues to the wealthiest 20 per cent of retirees. And the top 1 percent of self-managed super funds receive a cash refund on average of $83,000. Now this is an amount at a time when the median income in Australia is $57,000. This huge, huge cash payment …

SMITH: I’m hearing you. The self-managed superannuation sector has grown exponentially. Sixty-five per cent over the last five years to more than $700 billion. That’s going to come crashing down, isn’t it?

ALBANESE: No, it’s not.

SMITH: And people will go on the pension.

ALBANESE: People are getting payments now through this system, Chris.

SMITH: But people are also relying on …

ALBANESE: People are getting payments, which is – which the average worker out there pays their taxes, their PAYE tax – that goes into consolidated revenue. And $6 billion of it is going out, not to pay for education, not to pay for hospitals, not to build infrastructure, but to people to get refunds for tax that they haven’t paid.

SMITH: Okay. But logically, if this is no longer a chance to live off the money you get from franking credits, if this is no longer an income stream for a lot of retirees. They will simply calculate their retirement so they take part pension and live off the rest of their investments. And so therefore this will be a drain on the welfare budget. Surely that makes logical sense?

ALBANESE: No. What makes sense is that a system which is not used anywhere else in the world, anywhere, not in the United States, the UK, Germany, France, Japan. Nowhere in the world does this occur. And there’s a reason for that. If you are one off, if you’re one out, then there’s usually a reason. And that’s why in 1987 when I was working in the Federal Government as an Adviser when Bob Hawke and Paul Keating introduced it, the imputation system, they certainly didn’t allow for a payment to be made if tax hadn’t been paid.

SMITH: Okay, all right. Let’s go to a few callers. Barry’s got a really good question. It was my next question, Barry, give it to Anthony Albanese.

CALLER: How are you Chris, how are you Anthony?

ALBANESE: G’day. I’m good, Barry.

CALLER: Why is the franking credit still going to be allowed in union-based superannuation funds and the self-funded can’t keep that?

ALBANESE: Well there is a different system in terms of – the same as for charities that are tax exempt they will be permitted as well – in terms of industry super funds. That doesn’t impact on people’s income in terms of it’s a different system.

SMITH: But you don’t know that. There could be members of certain unions who have an Industry Super Fund who rely on franking credits to live, you know, week by week as do investors in other super funds, non-industry super funds. Why wouldn’t industry super funds be affected the same way?

ALBANESE: Because there’s a different system. The self-managed super funds by definition are about individuals who have established their own nest egg, who make their own decisions about where their investment goes …

SMITH: Or are we just protecting union members?

ALBANESE: Not at all. What we’re doing, we have made sure for example that every pensioner or allowance with individual shareholdings will be able to benefit still. So whether it’s an Age Pension or Disability Support Pension or carer payment or parenting payment – Newstart – they will still be allowed. Any self-managed super funds as long as there is one person with, at least one, with a government pension or allowance, they’ll be exempt from the changes as well.

SMITH: But in some cases they would be used in the same way as investors use non industry super funds. That was the point that Barry was making. Chris, go ahead, Anthony Albanese is listening.

CALLER: Yeah my dad worked hard all his life, became a self-funded retiree and then worked out what he had to do to become a pensioner so that you guys couldn’t access his franking credits. And he did it – sorry to be a bit rude – he said: ‘When comrade Bowen gets in at least he can’t touch my money’.

SMITH: So in some ways it is retrospective. He had planned based on the current laws how he was going to live through his retirement and now the goalposts have changed.

ALBANESE: Well it’s not retrospective, Chris, we’ve made it very clear. Unlike …

SMITH: It’s indirectly retrospective.

ALBANESE: Can you recall Tony Abbott when he was Opposition Leader or any other opposition leader in history putting out policies including tax changes well in advance of an election? Saying what date …

SMITH: Oh it’s gutsy, it’s gutsy stuff. But you’ve copped a criticism, heaps of criticism over it.

ALBANESE: Well it’s a tough decision. But tough decisions have got to be made if we’re going to live within our means. If we’re going to be able to fund health and education and infrastructure and the last time we were in government, what we did was have the largest ever pension increase in Australia’s history. And have a look at the current mob; in their 2014 Budget one of the things they did of course they tried to cut pension indexation, that would have meant an $80 a week cut over 10 years. $23 billion that was worth, that they tried to put in. In the 2014 budget they cut $1 billion from pensioner concessions. In the 2014 Budget they also axed the $900 Senior’s Supplement to self-funded retirees.

SMITH: And it’s good to see the Labor Party realising the importance of a streamlined economy, Anthony Albanese.

ALBANESE: Well we have said across a range of measures not just what we would invest in health and education and infrastructure. We’ve said where the money would come from. And don’t forget that in 2015 the Libs did a deal with the Greens which cut the pension to 370,000 pensioners by changing the Pension Assets Test. No advance notice of that. That was the Libs in their 2015 Budget; the Greens went along with it. And then in 2016 they tried to cut the pension to another 190,000 pensioners by trying to limit their overseas travel. In areas like mine, where a lot of hard-working people of Greek, or Italian origin, or Portuguese, travel back over the summer and spend some time there. They tried to make changes that would have impacted 190,000 of them.

SMITH: But once again it’s a policy bringing those back to the pack. In other words, those that have been successful, moderately successful. They’ve been brought back to the pack against – so much for aspiration – so much for being able to achieve something. Terry is an accountant. He’s got a question for you. Go ahead, Terry.

CALLER: Anthony I’m a little taken back by your dodge of the question, of the earlier question, as to why the union funds were allowed to still get the credit. Because you clearly don’t understand your own policy. As long as you, even a self-managed fund even if they had somebody who was able to use the credits, they would still get it. It’s only somebody who’s in retirement that doesn’t get the credits. So if any fund …

ALBANESE: If you’re working, you’re paying tax.

CALLER: No. As long as there’s somebody in the fund – so if it’s a union fund and there are members who are paying tax in their super fund then you get the credits. It’s a complete snow job on people who are in retirement. It doesn’t matter – anybody can use the credits and this nonsense about, only any other country that we’re the only country in the world …

ALBANESE: Which other one does it, mate? You’re the accountant.

CALLER: Let me speak. If you take somebody like America, you take somebody like Newscorp, they don’t pay dividends. The reason they don’t pay dividends is because there’s no point because there’s double taxation. The companies keep the funds in their pool and you get your return from an increase.

SMITH: You can’t compare apples with oranges, is his point.

ALBANESE: Sir, with respect, that is a complete nonsense to suggest that international companies never pay dividends. I’m sorry, but that is just wrong.

CALLER: Do the taxation on it. If you don’t have imputation credits you pay double tax.

ALBANESE: I understand that. Which is why Labour introduced, in 1987, that system. But to argue that international companies don’t give dividends is just wrong. You’re just wrong.

CALLER: Capital growth is all I will say.

SMITH: Terry, repeat what you were about to say.

ALBANESE: You can’t point to another country in the world where you get refunds on your tax that you haven’t paid.

CALLER: So you’re happy with double taxation is what you’re saying? No, forget that …

ALBANESE: It’s a reasonable question. You said it wasn’t right, I am saying …

(Inaudible)

CALLER: Unions can claim it.

ALBANESE: I am saying to you, which country in the world has this system?

SMITH: Can I just go back to this union fun stuff. Forget about the fact that the union is regarded on the same category as a charity. Those who use their union superannuation investment in franking credits can use it the same way as someone who’s not in a super fund. That’s your point Terry, isn’t it?

CALLER: That’s the thing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s union or not, as long as some funds can use it, it doesn’t matter whether it’s union or not. Some funds are allowed to use it, other funds aren’t.

SMITH: All right, Terry, I want to move on. Are you able to spend another 10 minutes with me, Anthony Albanese?

ALBANESE: I can indeed. I’ll be late for my next thing, but it will be okay. Hopefully my office are listening.

[ENDS]

WEDNESDAY, 27 FEBRUARY, 2019

Feb 21, 2019

Future Drought Fund Bill 2018, Future Drought Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2018 – Consideration in Detail – Thursday, 21 February 2019

What you are doing, in supporting this legislation, is taking over $3 billion of infrastructure investment away. That is what you are doing. You are undermining Infrastructure Australia through the abolition of the Building Australia Fund. There is no link between the Building Australia Fund and drought resilience, just like there was no link when they tried to abolish the Building Australia Fund to fund the NDIS or to fund the privatisation of assets through the recycling scheme. This mob have hated the Building Australia Fund because it’s not a slush fund. It has to be used for infrastructure that’s on the priority list.

I say to the honourable members who have approached me about infrastructure commitments that you’ve just reduced the budget by $3 billion on infrastructure if we are elected or if they are elected, for that matter. That is what you are doing with this legislation. Bear that in mind next time there’s a request, because it’s very clear that this is a con by the government. There is no linkage between the drought fund and infrastructure except that they both have National Party ministers. That’s all it is. Michael McCormack, the Deputy Prime Minister, is so weak. He couldn’t stand up to this bloke. He has allowed him to rip $3 billion out of the infrastructure investment that is there, that is protected and that is for priority projects.

Feb 21, 2019

Adjournment – Australian Greens – Thursday, 21 February 2019

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:40): Tonight I want to take the opportunity to put on the record what the Greens party say about themselves. For many years, those of us on the progressive side of Australian politics have known about the toxic divisions within the Greens political party. Many of these divisions surround the civil war within the New South Wales Greens. This has pitted activists, focused on the environment, against the more radical fringe, which sees the party’s role as destroying capitalism. This faction describes itself as the ‘watermelons’, and they sneeringly refer to their more moderate colleagues as ‘tree Tories’.

The New South Wales Greens, state and federal, are more focused on themselves than they are on removing right-wing Liberal governments. As I’ve said many times, former Leader of the Australian Greens, Bob Brown, was a man of integrity. I had differences with him, but he left parliament with just about everybody’s respect. That high regard, of course, has never been shared by the New South Wales Greens, who have undertaken an ongoing war against Bob Brown and against all moderates and environmentalists within their own party.

An ever-increasing number of Greens party members are blowing the whistle on their own party. These are some of the things that they’ve said—firstly, Bob Brown himself, after the last federal election:

I’ve been approached in the streets in Sydney by people saying, ‘I’m a Green but I’m not going to vote for the candidates you’ve put up here in Sydney.

New South Wales MP, Cate Faehrmann, a former chief of staff to Senator Di Natale, said:

It is my firm belief that the party in NSW has been infiltrated by destructive extreme left forces who will stop at nothing …

In an open letter, she went on to say:

Honesty, integrity, due process and natural justice – these are fundamental values that any voter should expect in a political party … Currently the NSW Greens cannot claim to be meeting these most basic tests.

Of course, it was reported recently that there were detailed discussions involving Mr Brown, Ms Faehrmann and fellow New South Wales MP, Justin Field, about forming a split-away party. And, announcing his split from the Greens party in December, Jeremy Buckingham said:

… the fact is that the New South Wales Greens as an organisation is corrupt and rotten.

Later, he went on to say: ‘In New South Wales, what we actually have is a clandestine, organised program by socialist organisations to take over the NSW Greens. It’s been successful, and to move our policy platform to one of pure socialism, pure Marxism.’

When he was asked by Hamish Macdonald what he would say to people who were considering voting for the Greens party at the upcoming federal election, he said this: ‘I would say to them, especially in NSW, to take a good hard look … the Greens organisation in NSW has departed from the project that Bob Brown started all those years ago.’ And, of course, he has recently criticised his replacement on the New South Wales Greens upper house ticket—Allen & Overy corporate lawyer, Abigail Boyd, who, ironically, has worked in the interests of a number of companies at odds with the Greens party platform. He said:

The Greens have lost their focus on the climate and environment. They’ve been hijacked by phonies who see it as a path to power if they just mouth the correct ideology, regardless of how hypocritical it may be. It’s pathetic and sad to see the Greens running a candidate whose company was working for Adani, Santos, Origin and Gina Rinehart.

It’s an extraordinary proposition.’

Long-term staffer of Cate Faehrmann, James Gough, said:

While the global Green movement represents me and my political philosophy, the NSW Greens no longer do.

And, to be fair, the triumphant Left renewal faction, aligned with Lee Rhiannon, doesn’t shy away from its objectives. This is what it says that people who join up with Lee Rhiannon have to sign up to:

4. That a rejection of class antagonism, and capitalism, also depends on a rejection of the state’s legitimacy and the right of it, and its apparatuses, to impose oppression upon the working class and oppressed people in order to liberate the working class and all oppressed people. We further rejected state mediated oppression in all of its forms, and recognise that violent apparatuses like the police do not share an interest with the working class.

At the last election, Jim Casey, my opponent, said this:

I would prefer to see Tony Abbott returned as prime minister with a Labor movement that is growing, with an anti-war movement that was disrupting things in the streets …

He went on to say:

I’d prefer to see Abbott as the prime minister in that environment than Bill Shorten as prime minister without it.

The fact is that they have preselected him again to run for Grayndler. He went so well last time that they’ve backed him and have selected him again! The New South Wales Greens are out of touch with mainstream environmentalists.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): I thank the member for that very informative contribution.

Feb 20, 2019

Future Drought Fund Bill 2018, Future Drought Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2018 – Second Reading – Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:03): I, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party and the opposition, congratulate the member for Higgins, who has just given her last speech. We wish her all the very best for her and her family, and acknowledge her contribution and the sacrifice that families make when people chose to enter this House, so my very best wishes and that of everyone in this chamber.

I rise to speak on the Future Drought Fund Bill 2018. Let me begin by saying that Labor certainly supports government action to help farmers make their operations more resilient in the face of drought. Drought has been a reality of life in this nation for a very long time. Given the harsh nature of our environment in this part of the world, it is a tribute to the tenacity and, indeed, the skill of our farmers that they have been so successful. They are tough, hardworking and efficient. Their task is being made even more difficult by climate change, which the experts agree is leading to an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. We see the evidence of this on our TV screens with dispiriting regularity. We see honest people struggling hard against the elements and facing crises on an increasingly regular basis.

It’s not all about climate change, but climate change is a factor. Indeed, after years of denial, even some of those opposite accept the existence of climate change, having been dragged to reality by groups like the National Farmers’ Federation in my home state of New South Wales. And it certainly does make sense for the Australian government to work with our agricultural sector on drought resilience. We must assist our producers, who do so much for our nation. However, we must also think carefully about how we fund this important work.

The bill before us is inadequate. It asks us to create the Future Drought Fund for that purpose. Interest from the fund would be used to deliver up to $100 million a year in project grants from 2020-2021. But it wouldn’t be established by the government making an appropriation from government funds in the normal way in which it would for a purpose that it viewed to be valuable on its merits. It would be created by abolishing the existing Building Australia Fund. This was created by the former Labor government as one of our first pieces of legislation after we were sworn in on 2 December 2007 in legislation that I introduced to this chamber. The Building Australia Fund is a vital part of the Infrastructure Australia framework, because it can only be used for the purpose of projects that have been approved by Infrastructure Australia and put on the priority list.

Now, when it comes to funding infrastructure, this government regards integrity and transparency with horror. This is the third attempt to abolish the Building Australia Fund. First, we were told this was a necessary component of the asset recycling scheme, which the government set up to provide state governments with incentives to privatise public assets. It failed in the Senate. The second occasion was with the National Disability Insurance Scheme, something not linked to infrastructure at all. We were told that we needed to transfer the money from the Building Australia Fund across to the NDIS if we were going to fund disability services. Now we’re being told that, in order to fund drought resilience measures by farmers, we need to abolish the Building Australia Fund. It’s absurd. There’s no link between the two things.

We have committed the same amount of money as the government for a drought fund in the same time frame. The difference is that our money will be real. It doesn’t have to be taken from somewhere else with no relationship whatsoever. I was trying to figure out what the relationship between the two issues—the Building Australia Fund and the Future Drought Fund—is. The link is that they’re both run by the National Party, in terms of the portfolio. Quite clearly, what’s happened in the internal processes is that Minister Littleproud hasn’t been able to secure support for the Future Drought Fund in terms of additional funding. So within the National Party they have just had to transfer some money across from one fund to another—from Mr McCormack’s responsibilities as the infrastructure minister to Minister Littleproud’s responsibility as agriculture minister. That’s absurd! What next? Take agriculture funding to fund a new airport? This is not the way to do good public policy.

We could have a consensus in this parliament across both sides about the outcomes and the process if the government just had a bit of common sense and said, ‘Well, we’ll create a future drought fund, we’ll bring in legislation, it will be for that purpose and it will consist of $100 million every year from 2021,’ and we’d all agree. It would take 10 minutes and it could be in place. We could even talk about the time frame and maybe bring it forward. But, instead, we have this obsession with getting rid of the Building Australia Fund, simply because the National Party can’t use it as a slush fund for whatever projects they want in regional—or marginal, should I say—electorates.

This government is characterised, as we saw in today’s question time and in the suspension of standing orders resolution, by a misuse of taxpayers’ funds. And what they want now is to create a future drought fund that has no guidelines around it. Once again, instead of having some rigour about the use of taxpayers’ funds, we have the National Party back to its old games. Remember the Area Consultative Committees? And the old regional rorts program? On this basis there’s no reason to think that the National Party wouldn’t be about providing selective assistance to friends and mates rather than on the basis of the interests of farmers, the interests of making a difference and the interests of need.

That’s the problem with this. Based upon expert advice we’ll look to fund the adoption of new, efficient technology on farm infrastructure projects, such as better water storage, better natural resource management for farms and projects to improve soil management and to build resilience to drought, floods and the changing climate. Within 60 days of taking office we would create a panel of guardians to establish guidelines for the program. We’d include the farmer organisations in that process. The panel would include experts in water, soil and environmental science, and an economist, as well as representatives of the farming sector, local government and the Council of Australian Governments. It would report to the Minister for Agriculture and would be asked to provide a detailed plan concerning the fund within 12 months, if we’re successful. Given that the fund doesn’t come into operation until 2020-21, that is a practical, sensible suggestion. Establish a rigorous process so that the money wouldn’t be invested on political whims but on the genuine resilience projects that will make a real difference.

The government’s proposal doesn’t see any money flow until the financial year 2020-21. Our project would deliver projects as soon as the panel that I just mentioned finalised their arrangements, within 12 months of becoming government. So let’s be very clear: Labor guarantees the same level of funding as the government, delivered sooner to fund projects chosen on the basis of genuine expert advice. That is a much better approach than eliminating the Building Australia Fund, an obsession for those opposite. As part of their attack on Infrastructure Australia, for most of the term since the change of office in 2013, for most of the last 5½ years, Infrastructure Australia hasn’t had a CEO. They’ve had acting CEOs for most of that time. The major cities units, which were part of Infrastructure Australia, were abolished.

The Building Australia Fund was used for great projects like the Regional Rail Link, the biggest single federal investment in public transport infrastructure on record, in our history. It also delivered many projects of direct benefit to the agricultural sector. Take the Ipswich Motorway—in the shadow minister for immigration’s area—which is making an enormous difference to the sector to the west of Brisbane, and making an incredible difference in the Lockyer Valley and other areas. There’s also the Hunter Expressway, up to that pristine prime land up in the plains of New England and providing that linkage that’s there. The reason those projects had high benefit-cost ratios was the freight that goes on those roads—much of it agricultural produce. These projects delivered real change by boosting productivity and helping farmers get their products to market, both domestic and internationally, more quickly.

The government talks about its commitment to agricultural producers but the fact is that its record when it comes to infrastructure investment which will benefit the regions is very poor indeed, when you look at the underspends that are there. The promised spending in budgets on the Northern Australia Beef Roads Program was $145 million over recent years but the actual final budget outcome shows that just $56 million was expended. Sixty-one per cent of the funding was not used—underspent. For the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, $292 million was promised but the actual delivered was $157 million—a 46 per cent underspend. For the Northern Australia Roads Program, the government committed in budgets, on budget night, $520 million but only $288 million was actually invested—a 44 per cent reduction. With the Bridges Renewal Program—so important to lift productivity in agricultural sectors to allow for goods to get to market—again, only $220 million of the $375 million that was committed in budgets was actually spent, which was a 41 per cent reduction.

Contrast that with what we did in government: creating the Regional Development Australia program; creating the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program; committing to major road and rail infrastructure, including on the Bruce and Pacific highways; rebuilding one-third of the interstate rail freight network, making an enormous difference; and making the first serious investments in the Inland Rail project.

So we think that the government has got the detail of this wrong. We need proper guidelines and rigour, but we also need proper funding for it, because our farmers deserve that proper funding on its merits—not taking it from somewhere else, not taking it from Peter to pay Paul, but making sure that we actually deliver more investment.

Feb 20, 2019

Statements by Members – Morrison Government – Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:57): This is a desperate Prime Minister who leads a government where the member for Moore over there thinks he’s done nothing wrong by abusing his position to promote a lobster-processing business in which he has a financial interest. This is a desperate Prime Minister when a company based in a beach shack on Kangaroo Island gets a $423 million security contract. This is a desperate Prime Minister when—while he’s Treasurer—the Great Barrier Reef Foundation walks into a meeting and walks out with $444 million. This is a desperate Prime Minister when the member for Goldstein colludes with a private company that manages some of his investments, run by a fellow member of the Wilson clan, and abuses his chairmanship to a parliamentary committee to waste money on a sham inquiry. This is a desperate Prime Minister when Ministers Cash and Keenan refuse to cooperate with a police investigation and the Prime Minister comes in here and says, ‘No, they’ve made a statement, along with the Minister for Home Affairs.’ This is a desperate Prime Minister when the company Helloworld, run by Liberal Party Treasurer Andrew Burnes, gets a billion-dollar government travel contract. They say, ‘Hello, world.’ I say, ‘Hello, conflict of interest,’ Prime Minister!

The fact is: this desperate Prime Minister runs a part-time parliament that has conflicts right along the frontbench and the backbench. (Time expired)

Feb 18, 2019

Ministerial Statements – Road Safety – Monday, 18 February 2019

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:31): I’m pleased to respond on behalf of the opposition to the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement regarding the inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-20. I begin by acknowledging his personal commitment to improving road safety. He’s genuine, not just because he’s the transport minister, but it is a long-term commitment, as he said, arising out of his own experience. Of course, it is a fact that there would barely be an Australian who hasn’t been touched by trauma on our roads either directly or indirectly, which is why it requires a concerted effort by this parliament and, indeed, all parliaments, local government and the community to do what we can in our own way to make a difference.

The inquiry was called in 2017. Unfortunately, the targets that were established in the National Road Safety Strategy for the decade 2011-20 when I was the minister—and this was the internationally recognised decade of road safety—weren’t met. The target for reductions was 30 per cent. Instead, we’re on track to receive a 15 per cent reduction. While a 30 per cent reduction was an ambitious target, we should, as the minister said, always aim high. We should, though, review our progress and make changes where necessary. Of course the objective should be zero, but we need to acknowledge the fact that, for a range of reasons, somehow, after year upon year of decline in fatalities on our roads, we had a spike up just over the last few years. There’s a range of reasons, many of which were outlined by the minister of why that’s the case. The use of mobile phones, no doubt, is having an impact on our roads. I think there’s been, to some extent, some complacency. State governments ran effective awareness campaigns and perhaps that has dropped off. There was a view that, somehow, if we just kept doing what we were doing, it would continue to decline. But we need to respond, and that’s why I congratulate the government on initiating this inquiry in 2017 and the minister for making sure that not only was that inquiry received from the independent panel but we ensured that this whole parliament engaged as one. That’s what we should be doing, because public safety isn’t just about defence and our borders; it’s about the safety of the travelling public each and every day.

Road safety is, indeed, complex and difficult. Achieving improvements requires investment, perseverance and collaboration. Above all, it requires consistency and bipartisanship across the different levels of government, but we also need to engage the community in this process. Working together doesn’t necessarily preclude disagreement. We will disagree on some issues about infrastructure priorities. But we shouldn’t think for one second that what that means is that we have differences as to our objectives, because I believe that we do not. It does mean, though, that we should be prepared to discuss things based upon our consideration of the facts, but we should work together with goodwill and a sense of purpose. I’m certainly confident that the Deputy Prime Minister and myself can do that in this place.

The inquiry is a useful contribution to the road safety debate, particularly in the areas of improving data collection and the harmonising of governance between state jurisdictions. One of the things that we did in government was to move to single national transport regulators. We moved from 23 to three. We had a process, as well, of single licensing for heavy vehicles. In the long run, I’d say that state and territory governments need to acknowledge that their parochialism is just that and that it doesn’t actually have, in today’s world, as much relevance as it might have had in the less mobile world of the early 20th century. We should have single, national licences. We should have common laws so that people understand what the laws are in the different states. We should have common signage. We should do what we can to move to a national system. That’s not an infringement on state rights; it is just common sense that will make a positive difference. Again, I would call upon the state and territory ministers to put aside some of the parochialism that I have no doubt that the minister, when he has chaired the ministerial council, has had to deal with, just as I did.

We welcome the report and the 12 recommendations to improve road safety, leadership, governance, resourcing and accountability. We also welcome the fact that in response to the report, the government has commenced a road safety governance review to improve coordination between the various jurisdictions that have an influence on road safety regulation. It’s pleasing to hear of progress and continued improvements in data collection on traffic accidents and that we now have a national baseline to measure progress.

The report also outlines progress in the Australian Design Rules, in areas like electronic stability control for heavy vehicles and anti-lock braking systems for motorcycles, which are expected to save 850 lives and deliver net economic benefits that are worth more than $2.2 billion over the next 15 years. Today’s vehicles are so much safer than those of decades ago. The behaviour is also so different today. When my son was much younger, it used to always amaze me that when I got in the car and he was in the back with his friends, I’d say, ‘Have you got your seatbelts on?’ and before I could get the first two words out, they automatically had them on.

That cultural change from when I was his age and people would often drive-around without their seatbelts on, even when seatbelts were in cars, just as a matter of fact, is a major breakthrough, just as airbags and other measures have made such a difference. I’m all for a competitive motor vehicle industry where manufacturers compete to deliver the best and most popular products, but in the 21st century safety has to come before the factors that used to be there in terms of what colour a car was, how much sound made—all those considerations. Safety has to be first. And one of the things is that people are much more conscious now about those issues.

Of course, one of the things that has happened as a direct result is that many of the accidents that would have caused fatalities now just cause serious injury, because people survive. As the Deputy Prime Minister noted in his contribution, 37,000 people are hospitalised each year due to road trauma. That has a terrible impact on the individuals, their families and their friends, but it also is a loss to the national economy. This is an economic issue as well. This is waste of human life and potential, and we need to do much, much better.

There are three things that you can do: infrastructure and better roads, better design and regulations, and personal behaviour. Every report I’ve seen on road safety—and I’ve read a lot of them over the years—comes down to those three factors. When it comes to better roads, there have been substantial improvements. I’m very proud of the increased investment that we put into the Pacific Highway and Bruce Highway and the completion of the Hume Highway. I will never forget having a meeting in my office with Wayne Sachs, the chief ambulance officer from Gympie. When I asked for the figures for my department, Cooroy to Curra was by far the most dangerous part of the Bruce Highway. Mr Sachs, an ambo of many years standing, sat in my office and just pleaded for support for the upgrade of the Cooroy to Curra section. He had been to so many fatal accidents. I was very pleased to go to the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, of course, and the then Treasurer, Wayne Swan, who were both very familiar, coming from Nambour, with that section of the highway. We got it done in terms of it beginning and some being completed on our watch. Other parts were completed and were very important. I’m very proud, when I drive up the Pacific Highway, to see the difference that it made.

As the Deputy Prime Minister knows, because we have discussed it, my name Anthony comes from my young cousin, who was killed on the Pacific Highway, just before I was born, at Halfway Creek. Certainly safer roads make an enormous difference. I’ve always felt a responsibility to leave a legacy when it comes to those issues.

At the end of last year, the Deputy Prime Minister and I had a chat and I think it’s the way that parliament should work. We spoke about the Princes Highway. I’d been down the South coast and met with the editors of the newspapers who’d run a campaign—Fix It Now—on Princes Highway. The South Coast Register, the Milton Ulladulla Times, the Shoalhaven & Nowra News, and the Kiama Independent had run an effective campaign advancing the interests of their communities and serving the public interests. One of the things that arose out of that was something that doesn’t happen that often. In no context, with no urging from the parliament, we put out a joint statement. There should be more of that across the parliament, in my view. And we’ve committed to bipartisanship on that issue to see what we can do. Historically, the truth is it’s not part of the national highway. Therefore, historically, governments of both persuasions at the national level haven’t invested large amounts in the Princes Highway. That’s the truth. But there’s a clear case for us to do so, and to do so in a bipartisan way.

In recent times there has been an area of disagreement, which is the area of heavy vehicles and safe rates. The safe rates issue was pursued by me as a minister, and it arose out of a bipartisan report of the parliament from an inquiry chaired by the late Paul Neville, the former member for Hinkler—someone who had the respect of everyone in this parliament. He was a very genuine guy and a very committed representative of his electorate. The fact is that when the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was abolished and not replaced by anything—the system was left to the market—it left a gap in road safety. Whilst the market can achieve many things as a signal, one thing that characterises the free market is that it has no conscience. If a truck driver is placed under pressure to drive too long or to bid for work against a competitor and undercut them to get the work, it leads to bad practice, in terms of speeding or the use of drugs in order to stay awake, and it has an impact on our roads. I would like the issue of heavy vehicle safety and safe rates to be progressed in the future and I hope that it can be. I raise this issue in the spirit that it’s intended, which I’m sure the Deputy Prime Minister knows. We need to address that issue, because I don’t think at the moment we’re doing enough in that area.

As the minister said, one thing about regional highways is that regional Australians are overwhelmingly overrepresented when it comes to victims of road trauma. That’s why, whoever is in government, we can’t have a circumstance whereby we look at the political pendulum to determine road funding. We need to look at where the investment is needed. The Black Spot Program is very effective. The Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative is very effective. We need to make sure that the people who are delivering the programs actually get the investment done when the investment has been allocated, rather than having underinvestment and underspend in those areas.

We need always to take the opportunity to look to the future, and I congratulate the government on establishing the Office of Future Transport Technologies. It’s very important that we look at the impacts that electric vehicles and driverless cars are going to have on road safety. There are a range of other issues that we need to address when it comes to road safety as well. I’m very concerned about the increased number of fatalities and incidents involving cyclists on our roads. There has also been a significant increase in the number of pedestrians who are either killed or injured on our roads. I wonder whether part of that is the impact of mobiles—people just walking out when they’re distracted—but certainly it is a very worrying trend indeed.

When it comes to moving forward, I was very pleased that at the ALP national conference, held in Adelaide last December, we committed to the establishment of a national office of road safety. I acknowledge that the minister is looking at that as well and raised it as part of his statement. I think it is very important that there be a dedicated unit within the department to look at best practice research, data collection and what the next 10-year National Road Safety Strategy, to commence in 2021, should look like. Looking at the relationship between the different levels of government, law enforcement, motoring organisations, experts and research bodies—bringing in all the relevant stakeholders—is also very important. For all of us in a country like Australia, with our vast distances and a relatively small population for the size of our continent, roads are going to continue to be important into the future. With road safety, I want to see a return to a decline in road fatalities. I note that, in the last year, there was a reversed upward trend. I pledge, on behalf of Labor, to work with the government and have a bipartisan approach on these issues.

Feb 12, 2019

Hansard – Questions Without Notice – Liberal Party Leadership – Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:15): My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that, in a candid interview earlier this week, the Minister for Defence was reported to have said, ‘Malcolm is Aslan to me.’ Noting that the pathway to Narnia is through the cabinet, will the Prime Minister finally tell the Australian people, including the Minister for Defence, why his beloved Aslan, Malcolm Turnbull, is no longer the Prime Minister of Australia?

The SPEAKER: That question is out of order, and the member for Grayndler knows it.

Feb 12, 2019

Hansard – Statements by Members – Shipping – Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:54): Today in the gallery are Paul Mueleman, 36, of Redcliffe, and Daniel Bell, now the father of a 14-month-old child. They were workers on the MV Mariloula and the MV Lowlands Brilliance. They worked for BHP. BHP has made a decision to abandon the Australian flag, to abandon Australian seafarers in Australian jobs and to replace it with foreign-flagged vessels with foreign workers being paid foreign wages.

The Big Australian, as it is called, has been exposed to actually have a little heart and no soul when it comes to looking after the national interest. It’s in Australia’s national interest to have the Australian flag on the back of ships with Australian seafarers. It’s in the interests of our national security, but we’ve heard nothing from those opposite about this. It is in the interests of our environment and it is in the interests of our economy.

The fact is that a Labor government will end the coalition’s war on Australian shipping, with its legislation trying to introduce ‘WorkChoices on water’. We need an Australian shipping industry. It is vital for our natural interests, but it is also vital for people like the 70 Australian seafarers who lost their jobs due to this callous and outrageous decision.

Dec 5, 2018

Constitutional Recognition Relating to ATSIP Committees Report – Uluru Statement from the Heart – Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:43):  It is appropriate that I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which this parliament meets and pay my respect to elders past and present. I am very pleased to take the opportunity to speak to this report of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I believe that our Constitution is inadequate while ever the First Australians are not recognised in it. We recognised the rights of Indigenous Australians to be citizens in the famous referendum in 1967, but we need to take the next step—it’s absolutely critical.

Last May, 250 First Nations leaders met at Uluru. They delivered a historic document, the Statement from the Heart. It is a powerful document, and it included the following powerful passage:

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

Indeed, those of us who are the descendants of migrants, which is all of us except First Nations people, benefit enormously from the fact that we have, in our midst, the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet. It is something that we should cherish. It is something we should recognise.

Something that we should acknowledge is that the arrival of Europeans in 1788 brought violence, disease and hardship on those people who had been here for 60,000 years previously. We should also acknowledge how we’re enriched by that culture. The connection that First Nations people have with the land and with water is something that we can learn a great deal from, so Labor very much accepts the Statement from the Heart. We support a voice to parliament and we support constitutional change.

When the 250 First Nations leaders delivered the Statement from the Heart, the then Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, simply dismissed the call for a constitutional voice. He told the ABC:

I don’t believe that would be able to be passed at a referendum and it’s not a policy that I would support.

Instead of committing himself to listening to First Nations people, to showing leadership for our nation, his government mounted a scare campaign about so-called third chambers of parliament and rejected the proposal out of hand. That was tragic. It followed, and was reminiscent of, the Howard government’s failed recognition of an apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—an apology that was famously delivered by Kevin Rudd at the first opportunity after the election of a Labor government. As the Leader of the House of Representatives in that government, that was my proudest moment—my proudest moment, bar none.

Around the country, far from it being a time of division, it was a unifying moment in our nation’s history. People, whether they were members of the stolen generation or young kids in every school around the country, stopped to watch that apology. They were inspired by that moment.

That was important, but it was, as then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said at the time, just a first step. He said that we needed to commit to practical reconciliation, closing the gaps—in some cases extremely large gaps—between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their fellow Australians that still exist in education, health and other outcomes.

The voice to parliament could also be a unifying moment. It’s not a third chamber; it plays no role in the legislative process in terms of making law. It is simply what the title implies: a voice whereby First Nations people would be consulted on legislation that affects them. It would provide a structure for that consultation and input. It wouldn’t determine what way any one of the 150 members of the House of Representatives or 76 senators would vote on legislation, but it would allow for appropriate democratic input. That is why it is critical. That is why we have committed to consulting with First Nations people to design the voice to parliament. That is why Labor’s response has been worked up with the input particularly of Senator Patrick Dodson, widely regarded as the father of reconciliation in this country; Linda Burney, my long-time colleague and friend; Senator Malarndirri McCarthy; Warren Snowdon, the member for Lingiari; and Luke Gosling, who’s here in the chamber, the member for Solomon. They have all worked very hard to consult and to establish a process moving forward.

This report is part of that process. It is keeping the fight for constitutional recognition alive in this parliament, despite the inaction of the government. But there is much more to do. That’s why we’re committed to additional reforms proposed by the Statement from the Heart—in particular the makarrata commission for agreement making and truth-telling. That’s why we remain committed to closing the gap.

I said in this place on the 10th anniversary of the apology:

Of course, the apology was not the end of the story; it was just the beginning … it was just a step on the road to reconciliation.

I believed that then and I believe that today. The national apology was a step on this road, closing the gap means more steps on this road, and constitutional recognition is a vital step in us truly coming together as a nation. On this side of the house, Labor is committed to continuing on this journey. I know that across the parliament there are many people of goodwill who are also committed to this journey. I believe we need to advance it because it’s in the interests not just of First Nations peoples but of each and every Australian and those generations to come.

Dec 5, 2018

Constituency Statements – Westconnex – Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:43): Tonight work starts at the Pyrmont Bridge Road site for WestConnex stage 3. The project starts tonight but the community consultation processes are next week! What we have is a state government that consults the community after the work starts, and it wonders why there’s so much alienation from the state government when it comes to its infrastructure proposals, whether it be WestConnex or the light rail project. What has characterised it is a lack of proper planning, a lack of proper community consultation, and a lack of appropriate outcomes.

We know that there have been examples of houses which are seeing their walls cracked, which are seeing damage, but there’s no process, as had been called for by the shadow transport minister in New South Wales, Jodi McKay, to ensure that the community can get an independent assessment of whether the damage has been caused by tunnelling activity or not.

Surely the state government should put in place a proper process there, just like they should also put in place proper filtering of the stacks for this project. You have the state Liberal government saying there should be filtering on the North Shore in schools, but not saying that for schools in my electorate. These processes need to be looked after in an appropriate way. I call on the New South Wales government to filter the exhaust stacks and to ensure there is a proper process for residents to be able to go to if there is any damage to homes as the result of this infrastructure work.

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