Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
Jun 28, 2018

Hansard – Airports Amendment Bill 2016, Second Reading – Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:29): I’m pleased to be able to contribute to the Airports Amendment Bill 2016. In 1914, Claude Grahame-White, the English aviator and first pilot to ever make a night flight, had this to say about aviation:

First Europe, and then the globe, will be linked by flight, and nations so knit together that they will grow to be next-door neighbors… What railways have done for nations, airways will do for the world.

And how correct he was. Aviation has transformed our world, shrinking the way we perceive distance while growing the global economy. Today it supports almost 63 million jobs and generates some $2.7 trillion in global GDP.

Australia is benefiting from the growth in this sector, which contributes in excess of $30 billion every year to the Australian economy and supports more than half a million jobs. Tourism has driven a significant proportion of this growth. Over the last 20 years, international passenger movements have grown at an annual average rate of some 4.5 per cent, while domestic passenger movements have increased by 2.5 per cent.

But aviation is also pushing boundaries and unlocking new opportunities in other ways through advancements in technology. On 24 March this year, QF9 departed Perth for London, the first ever direct flight connecting Australia to Europe. This is a game changer for WA and a glimpse of things to come for Australia. Consequently, it is in this context that we must consider the Airports Amendment Bill 2016, which seeks to amend the Airports Act 1996 to streamline processes for development at and around federally leased airports.

The fact is that our airports are critical pieces of national economic infrastructure. They connect towns and cities across the nation to each other and are our gateway to the rest of the world. But their operations can impact significantly on the social amenity of the communities of which they are a part, which is why developments at our airports must be well planned and communities properly consulted. Already there is much development occurring around the nation’s major airports, including the new greenfields airport underway in Western Sydney. In addition, major developments are at different stages of progress in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, which are all getting new runways. While we need to ensure that the aviation sector continues to grow, we must also see to it that communities which live in proximity to airports aren’t disproportionately affected by this growth.

Labor strongly supports this investment in aviation infrastructure. However, this investment must be underpinned by a social compact between airports and the communities that live around them. Consequently, Labor is proposing two amendments to the Airports Amendment Bill 2016 to ensure that this occurs: firstly, that the monetary trigger threshold for major development plans be reduced to $25 million and, secondly, that the automatic approval of requests for shorter public consultation periods in relation to major development plans be removed.

As mentioned, this bill will streamline processes for development at and around federally leased airports, which Labor largely welcomes. Unlike most other infrastructure, the federal government is the consent authority for major airport development, with states and territories playing a secondary role. This has a number of implications. Firstly, under existing federal legislation, 19 of the 21 federally leased airports are required to prepare a master plan every five years, which is then subject to approval by the federal minister. What that means, literally, is that every five years you have a process whereby development not just over those five years but with a 20-year forward horizon has to be approved by the minister. It means that we have strategic direction for development around airports. It means that communities can have ongoing input into the operation of airports.

This is a critical change, and it arose from the 2009 aviation white paper, undertaken under the former Labor government. This was the first time ever that we had had a strategic plan for aviation with a green-paper and white-paper process in this country. One of the important processes of reforms that came up through that white-paper process is the legislation that we are dealing with here today in terms of moving further amendments. Importantly, the master plan update process does require that community consultation.

Secondly, major developments at airports, including certain projects that currently cost more than $20 million in construction, require federal approval of a major development plan. The 21 airports subject to this legislation are Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin, Bankstown, Gold Coast, Alice Springs, Camden, Townsville, Tennant Creek, Archerfield, Mount Isa, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, Essendon, Launceston, Parafield, Jandakot and Moorabbin. Western Sydney Airport is also included. The Airports Amendment Bill 2016 will make a number of changes to the existing approvals process. These include moving eligible airports from a five-year master plan to an eight-year cycle. However, the main gateway airports of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth will remain on a five-year cycle, as will Western Sydney after representations from Labor, because with the new airport you will need to ensure that there is closer monitoring over its initial years of operation.

Additional changes include that an updated Australian Noise Exposure Forecast will be required in each master plan—that is, you will have out there, in a transparent way in each master plan, a clear update of what the noise impact will be for each of these airports around Australia. All 21 airports will enable that process, which will, of course, need to include the community consultation as well. The legislation proposes to lift the monetary trigger for the requirement for a separate major development plan for certain major projects from $20 million to $35 million. Our amendment that we will move in consideration in detail to reduce that back down to $25 million will receive the support of the government as well. I thank the incoming minister, Minister McCormack, who is certainly more consultative than some of his predecessors. That is a constructive dialogue that has occurred with the new minister. This is essentially a CPI increase from the previous figure of $20 million to $25 million. That is a reasonable change, but I think people want to ensure that that scrutiny isn’t reduced. Hence, the figure of $25 million is a sensible resolution, and I think it’s a good sign that the minister has been prepared to accept Labor’s proposition on that. It will also introduce three-yearly cost indexation thereafter, so that will get around the issue of what the figure should be in the future. The automatic indexation removes the need to come back into the parliament and make amendments to the act. This will, of course, also allow for better definition of cost elements of the trigger.

The monetary trigger, however, already sits alongside subjective alternative triggers for requiring MDPs as well, based on significant environmental or other impacts. If anything of significance is occurring and, regardless of the value, it is going to have a significant environmental impact, the major development plan is automatically triggered regardless of the value of that upgrade of the airport by any particular project which may be under the monetary threshold. This is a sensible reform as well.

The changes will include establishing a decision time frame of 15 days for the minister to consider reduced consultation periods for major development plans. What is in the proposal originally was that a plan would be deemed to be approved if the time frame were not met. This aligns with existing provisions in the act relating to deemed master plan approval after a 50-day period. What we will be proposing in our amendment that we will move in consideration in detail is a process so that the request, rather than being assumed to have been approved, will be assumed to have been refused. What that ensures is that something can’t be approved due to omission, or due to a failure to take action, and will ensure the conscious involvement of the minister but also that those processes around the approval of the MDP are kept in place. It will enable the minister to extend, by more than once, the period during which major developments are required to be substantially completed. Failure to comply can lead to civil penalties under existing legislation. For example, when I was the minister there were occurrences whereby a project simply hadn’t been completed. What this will do is allow for that period of examination to be extended. Again, a common sense resolution that is about making a practical change to the operation of the act.

It will also allow airport operators to notify the minister if exceptional circumstances mean that a major development cannot proceed. At the moment, if an approval is given for a particular project and it can’t proceed, because of circumstances of a failure to receive financing for a project or for another reason, the act provides for civil penalties to be imposed under the existing legislation. This is also a sensible change. According to the government, these changes will relieve inefficient outcomes for the industry while lifting unnecessary and onerous administrative burdens.

Labor has supported the broad consultative mechanisms involving local community engagement, proper assessment of community impacts and reasonable mitigation measures to address these impacts. Generally, the package reduces the burden on approval for development of the affected airports and creates more flexibility around legislative time frames whilst ensuring that the protections for consultation and other measures are not diluted.

We support the amendments. We’ve put forward the two amendments to the Airport Amendment Bill. We are pleased that the government has seen the virtue of our practical amendments and will be supporting them when they are moved. The first amendment is that a major development plan must be completed in a number of circumstances, including when a monetary trigger is reached. The current monetary trigger of $20 million was determined back in 2007, so a rough guestimate would indicate that increasing the threshold to $25 million is practical. The $25 million essentially reflects the changes in construction costs over that 10-year period. The opposition looked at the ABS construction CPI, which showed that costs have increased by 20 per cent since 2007. Hence, a consistent position of applying basically a 20 per cent increase to that threshold, so a practical figure of $25 million is reasonable.

With the second amendment, the simple fact is that communities do require proper consultation. Currently, the public consultation period associated with draft major development plans, as specified in subsection 92(2A), of the act is 60 business days. However, the minister can approve a shorter period of not less than 15 business days if asked in writing by the airport operator to do so, and as long as they are satisfied that the proposed development is consistent with the airport masterplan and does not raise any issues that have a significant impact on the local or regional community. The proposed amendment inserts a new subsection 92(2BA), which would provide that if the airport makes a request for a shorter consultation period, and the minister does not make a decision on the request within 15 business days, then the minister is deemed to have approved that shorter period.

Labor couldn’t support such an amendment, because it had the potential to undermine the rights of local communities to have their say. In the words of the Bills Digest prepared by the Parliamentary Library:

This amendment seems to raise the possibility that the Minister could simply not decide on the request, and then be deemed to have approved the short period, even if the development is inconsistent with the airport master plan, or raises issues that have a significant impact on the local or regional community.

Not for the first time, the people in the Parliamentary Library who do the Bills Digest have got it right. We’re very fortunate to be able to benefit as lawmakers from proper advice.

It should be well within a minister’s capability to consider within 15 days a request for reduced consultation, and, where that doesn’t occur, it certainly isn’t appropriate that the request would be deemed approved anyway. I wouldn’t suggest that some of the ministers under this government who’ve had control of infrastructure might have slept through 15 days, but, if you were cynical perhaps, you might come to that conclusion and be concerned that it would be deemed to be approved by not making a decision. That would not be appropriate.

I’m sure that the current minister—and it’s been a revolving door; it’s got to be said. There have been four of them in the last very short period of time. I’ve got on with all of them okay, it must be said, and have had reasonable working relations with them. Nonetheless, I do not want to see circumstances whereby decisions are deemed to have been made by not making a decision. That is not a sensible way to legislate.

Of course, this Airports Amendment Bill—you will note, Mr Deputy Speaker—is the Airports Amendment Bill 2016. It’s been around for a while. That would indicate perhaps that the people who’ve had responsibility for it aren’t as dynamic as they could have been, given that it is now towards the middle of 2018, so that makes my point, I think. It’s good that Minister McCormack has gotten on top of this issue so quickly, it having just sat on the Notice Paper for so long.

I’m very proud of Labor’s record when it comes to aviation. We have always sought to balance the needs of the sector with the rights of the community. Aviation is an important economic asset for the nation. In an island continent such as ours, we by definition rely in modern times, in this century, on aviation to connect ourselves with the world, whether that be by Australians travelling to and from the world—we’re great travellers—or, importantly, by attracting tourists to come here as well and therefore creating jobs.

The aviation white paper had a range of reforms which this legislation reflects, prohibiting developments incompatible with aviation use on federal airport sites, for a start, unless exceptional circumstances exist. So the priority of airports is aviation. That sounds an obvious thing, but the fact is that, because it was federal land, a whole range of developments that were incompatible with aviation were considered to be supported in a range of airports, particularly the smaller airports, where general aviation is so important.

Secondly, we required federal airports to establish community aviation consultation groups. Before the aviation white paper and legislation, they didn’t exist in most airports right around Australia. The interests both of the airports and of the communities around them are served by proper consultation. A range of airports do it better than others, but it is important that that be mandated so that for issues such as aircraft noise and the impact on communities there is an opportunity for communities to have that direct input.

We obligated federal airports to submit more detailed master plans, so no more could you have changes made which, essentially, hadn’t been properly scrutinised. We introduced the new major development plan trigger, activated by any development with a significant community impact, regardless of size or cost. Before white paper, that was not a consideration. We established the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman. That was an important reform that has meant that communities have somewhere to go that is independent of the ownership of the airports and independent of the government. It’s important that they could have confidence that there was an office that was dealing with aircraft noise, which can be an issue not just for major airports but for the many secondary airports, particularly around our capital cities. Of course, we also banned a range of older, noisier aircraft from operating at our airports.

I conclude by saying that Labor strongly supports investment in aviation. We understand the importance of the role that aviation plays in supporting jobs. We’re committed to growing the sector. But the simple fact is that this investment must be underpinned by the social compact between airports and the communities that live around them. That’s why we’ll put forward those amendments to the Airports Amendment Bill 2016. That’s why I am pleased that the government, and the minister, in particular, have indicated support for those amendments. I commend the bill to the House with the knowledge that the bill’s flaws will be fixed by those amendments that we will move in the consideration in detail stage.

Jun 25, 2018

Private Members’ Business – Local Government – Monday, 25 June 2018

Federation Chamber
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:56): Indeed, the week after we had the Australian Local Government Association here in Canberra, it is somewhat ironic that the member for Mackellar has brought forward a motion to this parliament supporting the role of local government. What used to happen when the Australian Local Government Association gathered here, when I was the minister for local government, was that we would have them meet with the entire cabinet, as well as members of parliament, and we would have discussions with the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the finance minister, as well as the local government minister and people directly involved. They would meet for two days, with a function in the evening which would involve every single mayor and shire president around the country, regardless of what their politics were.

This was an initiative that was welcomed by local government, and in spite of some reticence, it must be said, from some of my colleagues when it was proposed. They recognised that it was extremely valuable to get that direct input here in Canberra over that period of time. We also created the Centre of Excellence for Local Government to drive best practice. We created the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, whereby every single council in the country benefited, including—in the council which the member for Mackellar spoke about—the upgrade around Narrabeen Lakes, the upgrade around the Manly foreshores, and the upgrade of the cricket pavilion at Manly in the electorate of Warringah.

We actually delivered infrastructure funding for communities, not just in marginal electorates as electoral fodder, but in every electorate around the country. We treated local government with respect. That’s why we wanted to recognise local government in the Australian Constitution. To give credit where its due, Barnaby Joyce strongly supported that, as the then federal shadow minister for local government. But the Liberals we couldn’t get across the line to recognise and enshrine respect for local government so that they didn’t exist solely at the whim of state governments, who now can cut their funding and can amalgamate councils without any reference to the actual constituents.

That’s what happened to my council, the Inner West Council. Three effective local governments in Marrickville, Leichhardt and Ashfield were amalgamated without any reference to the voters whatsoever. Indeed, we had an appointed administrator of that council, elected by nobody—no previous involvement in local government—who was effectively a dictator for the Inner West for 18 months before elections were held. That was of course under the New South Wales Liberal government, of which Mr Falinski, the member for Mackellar, is of course a great supporter.

This motion also supports the Black Spot Program, which we support, but there’s a 33 per cent underspend in that program. It mentions the Bridges Renewal Program but doesn’t mention that there’s a 53 per cent underspend in that program. It also mentions the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative. What it doesn’t mention though is that 85 per cent of that funding flows after 2023. So it will be this term, the next term and really even most of the term after that before all but 15 per cent of that funding flows.

I am a genuine supporter of local government. I think that local government, as an area of government that is closest to local communities, can play a great role in determining what the priorities of those local communities are. That’s why, under our program, the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, projects had to be nominated by local government. Under this government’s regional program, a few cabinet ministers sitting in a corner—three cabinet ministers—get to determine where all the funding went. There is no reference to the community whatsoever. Local government deserve proper respect. They deserve the sentiments in this motion, but they deserve much better from this government.

Jun 20, 2018

Aged Care (Single Quality Framework) Reform Bill 2018 – Second Reading – Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:52): I’m pleased to have the opportunity of contributing to the debate on the Aged Care (Single Quality Framework) Reform Bill 2018. In 2002, as the shadow minister for ageing and seniors, I spoke here in this parliament about the need for the government to provide a real vision for an ageing population. I said at that time:

What we actually need, if we are about building a cohesive society, is hope, a positive vision and positive action to ensure that we are indeed in a position to meet the economic and social challenges of the future.

Today, more than 16 years later, these factors remain just as important if we are to address the needs of our ageing population. I think some of the debate about the ageing of the population sees the demographic changes which will occur over coming decades as a problem. It is actually an opportunity. It is a challenge, but it’s an opportunity, if we get it right, to value the contribution of those who have helped to make Australia the great nation that it is today by providing respect to, but also learning from, those people who have real life experience. The fact is that inclusive and cohesive societies don’t discriminate against people on the basis of their age, nor on the basis of their gender, their sexuality, their race or their religion. A positive vision recognises the contribution that older Australians have made to our nation. It appreciates that the federal government must take positive action that directly improves the lives of these Australians who need care, either at home or in an aged-care facility. Most importantly, it inspires hope that all Australians will be afforded respect in their later years and can live with the dignity they deserve.

The Aged Care (Single Quality Framework) Reform Bill amends both the Aged Care Act 1997 and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Act 2013. In effect, these amendments will apply to aged-care providers under the Aged Care Act and make provision for a single set of Aged Care Quality Standards. This includes changing the function of the chief executive officer of the Aged Care Quality Agency to reference the Aged Care Quality Standards. Labor supports these changes, which will occur on 1 July 2019.

Importantly, the new standards focus on quality outcomes for older Australians living in aged-care facilities, and they reflect years of advocacy from the sector and other stakeholders. The truth is that Australia has seen shocking examples of elder abuse. Instances such as Oakden nursing home or Mitcham Residential Care Facility revealed appalling abuse of vulnerable aged-care residents. We must learn from examples such as these and always push for change so that abuse becomes a thing of the past.

During the time I was the shadow minister I had the opportunity to visit aged-care facilities right around the country, in regional areas like Rockhampton and in our cities, including all of the capital cities. What I saw was a workforce, particularly the dedicated aged-care nurses and aged-care assistants, who work with a commitment that one has to admire. They’re really helping people who need that support. But the truth is that, not just in aged-care facilities but unfortunately often even within families, elder abuse—essentially using the power imbalance that exists where an older Australian has health issues and is not able to physically or even intellectually defend themselves—is a tragedy that happens all too often.

This is about respect for our older Australians. It should be the case that quality outcomes for older Australians are part of the federal government’s policy agenda. We must invest in measures that ensure that older Australians can live with dignity in communities all around the nation, whether that be in our cities, our regional areas, or our rural communities. We simply can’t afford not to do so. The advancements in health and science mean that we now live longer. In 2012 people aged over 65 made up 14 per cent of our population, but by 2061 this figure will increase to 22 per cent. From 14 per cent in 2012 to 22 per cent just 50 years later is an extraordinary increase in the make-up of the population. Moreover, the proportion of Australians aged over 85 will also rise from just two per cent of the population in 2012 to five per cent in 2061.

Just this month I went to visit my mum’s grave at Rookwood Cemetery. She died in 2002 aged 65. She was spent, essentially, at the age of 65. She had spent an enormous amount of her last 35 years on the planet in hospital—particularly with rheumatoid arthritis, but the drugs to assist with that problem had created a range of other health issues for her. When she passed away, at age 65, that was in many ways a decision that she probably made—that she was done on this earth.

With today’s care, the generation of which I’m a part, let alone those younger generations, will not be in those circumstances in most cases. People have better access to health care. People do get that assistance. But with that comes the enormous responsibility that we have as a parliament to provide that leadership, to make sure that the investment is there and to make sure that the long-term planning is there to cater for what will be a vastly different make-up of the population than exists today, let alone existed 10, 20 or 30 years ago, when people were regarded as very senior when they got to 60 years of age. That requires a comprehensive plan, and it’s one of the reasons why I was very attracted to the portfolio of ageing and seniors, to deal with, importantly, not just aged care, which is what the portfolio was called for a long period of time. It requires planning in terms of not just health but also housing—it requires a whole-of-government approach. Adaptable housing is one of the things that we need to consider in terms of the changing make-up of the population if we’re going to allow for people to stay in their homes for longer, which, by and large, overwhelmingly, is what people want to do. We need to consider the nature of the way that communities are built, to make sure that people are in facilities where they’re not isolated and left alone. Those awful cases that happen from time to time, where someone has passed away and is not found for weeks, or, in some cases, even longer, are an indictment of our society. That should not happen.

We need a public policy response to these issues. These issues are not partisan. These are issues in which the parliament needs to engage and needs to engage constructively, in a way that commits us to the long-term thinking that long-term demographic change requires. The nature of our transport infrastructure needs to take into account the changing nature of the population. We have seen enormous advances in the way that infrastructure has developed—the fact that buses can lower themselves to make it easier for people to get on and off—but we still have huge issues of accessibility. Why are we still building train stations that don’t have lifts, that require stairs? Why is that occurring? We need to incorporate this thinking into the whole-of-government response and indeed whole of government, because it requires cooperation from federal, state and local government.

I think the problem that the government has at the moment in this area is that it’s taking retrograde action rather than proactive action. It waits for issues to be evident and then has a response. It has failed to provide the positive vision for older Australians that’s required. Indeed, billions of dollars have been cut from aged-care funding since the election of the coalition government in 2013, and it was very disappointing that the rhetoric of the government in the lead-up to this year’s budget was not matched by actual investment—very disappointing indeed. It claimed a $100 billion funding boost for the aged-care budget in the pre-budget leaks, but the truth is that there wasn’t new money in this budget—not a single dollar. It was more spin than substance. The government failed to match its rhetoric with reality.

At the same time, we know that the waiting list for home-care packages is now 105,000 people. Of these, 20,000 joined the list in the second half of 2017 alone. It is ridiculous, frankly, given the size of that waiting list, for the government to suggest that announcing funding for 14,000 new in-home aged-care packages over four years is a solution to this problem. We need to do much better than that.

A number of aged-care providers across the country are already doing everything they can to support older people, and I want to acknowledge the many aged-care workers who dedicate themselves to this. In my electorate of Grayndler, a number of aged-care providers have implemented policies that enable older Australians to live with the quality care that they need and to feel respected. I want to mention just a couple. The Marion, located in Leichhardt, has invested in safety through the Footloose Falls Prevention Expo, providing residents and staff with information and strategies to prevent dangerous falls, resulting in a 57 per cent decrease in fall-related injuries. The Montrose Aged Care Plus Centre, located in Balmain, is a specialist care home for men living with mental health challenges. The dedicated team at the centre won an award last year for its pioneering approach, which focuses on residents’ abilities rather than their limitations. That is a tremendous achievement and a great example of how we can ensure that older Australians are awarded the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Jun 18, 2018

Private Members’ Business – Great Barrier Reef

This motion is almost ironic, given the government’s record on the Great Barrier Reef, because it is this government that wants to lock in the largest removal of conservation areas anywhere in the world, in history. The Labor government instituted Australia’s marine park network, comprising the largest network of marine protected areas in the world. This government has plans to strip away swathes of protected areas from these marine parks, making Australia the only country anywhere on the globe that’s actually reducing the protection of its oceans.

While the government awarded a $444 million donation to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, it must be said that no application was received and no competitive tender process was undertaken. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is a reputable organisation, but its previous revenues, going back to 2015 of $9.6 million, and in 2016 $8 million, indicate that it is far from clear if the organisation simply has the capacity to cope with an investment of this size. It’s symbolic of the government’s chaotic management of this World Heritage listed ecosystem. The fact is this mismanagement hasn’t just been bad for the environment; it is also letting down the communities that rely on the Great Barrier Reef for their income. We need a real plan to protect the reef and to protect our oceans. Of course, part of that has to be taking action on climate change, because that is the biggest threat to the ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef. That’s why Labor’s committed to taking real action on climate change, with a commitment, for example, to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, with a commitment to actually reduce our emissions. That was happening up to 2013, but now, of course, under this government’s farcical version of energy policy, where they can’t even agree with themselves after more than five years, we don’t have an energy policy in this country, and emissions are rising again on this government’s watch. The fact is that the budget in May didn’t deliver a single dollar on new climate change policy.

So I want to conclude by echoing again the words of Sir David Attenborough, ‘Do we really care so little about the earth upon which we live that we don’t wish to protect one of its greatest wonders from the consequences of our behaviours?’ This much is clear: our reef does need protection, and this government simply isn’t up to the job of providing it. That requires a comprehensive plan on climate change. It requires a comprehensive plan to reduce run-off into the reef. It requires a comprehensive plan to support the tourism sector in Far North and North Queensland.

Jun 18, 2018

Private Members’ Business – Perth Airport

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:32): I’m pleased to have to opportunity to address the issues raised by the member for Swan, who clearly doesn’t understand the way that aviation legislation works in this country. The first part of the motion before the parliament is:

That this House:

… notes the recent decision of the Western Australia Government to grant approval for a third runway at Perth Airport …

It’s actually the federal government that is responsible for approving airport related activities under Commonwealth legislation—both the Airports Act 1996, as amended, and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The member for Swan is part of the federal government, and he’s trying to walk away from the responsibility it has for legislation and its impact. The decision as to whether the new runway is built rests entirely with the Commonwealth government. Before Perth Airport can proceed with any significant development on what is Commonwealth land—it’s Commonwealth land—it must first prepare a major development plan and submit it to the Commonwealth Minister for Infrastructure and Transport for approval.

Perth Airport released an MDP for the proposed new runway on 31 May, for 60 business days of public comment. The consultation process will close on 24 August. Subject to actual demand and airline commercial agreements, the runway is likely to open at some point between 2023 and 2028, after four years of construction. As required by the reforms put in place by the former Labor government, the MDP contains a draft airspace management plan which shows indicative flight paths. Before the aviation white paper and our amendments, this didn’t even occur. The final design of the flight paths will be consistent with the approved major development plan. The work will be finalised by Airservices in the three years leading up to the opening of the runway. What then happens, as a result of our legislation, is that every five years there’s a review of every airport’s flight paths and environmental impact, with community consultation, including the community consultation groups that were established by legislation introduced by me as the minister. That’s why those processes have taken place—just like the noise amelioration plans under legislation of the Howard government, which have defined categories for either acquisition or noise insulation, that are applied to every airport around the country. So there’s automatic insulation for homes, once a certain noise level is given, and there’s acquisition of homes once a noise level is given.

I certainly understand there’s a need to balance the needs of the aviation sector with the rights of local communities that live around our airports. Airports are not islands, and that’s why we had the national aviation white paper, the first ever. Of the 34 recommendations, many of them went to improving community consultation and the oversight of airport developments. The former government had brickworks and all sorts of activities going on at Perth Airport, rather than prioritising aviation activity at the airport that is so important for the Perth economy.

One of the reforms we put in place was to prohibit developments incompatible with aviation use on federal airport sites unless exceptional circumstances exist. We obligated federal airports to submit more detailed master plans. We introduced the major development plan trigger that will be activated by any development with a significant community impact, regardless of size or cost.

Previously, when I became the minister, I remember going to Melbourne Airport and they had a whole new operation opening that hadn’t been through any consultation process because they managed to break it up into smaller projects so it didn’t meet the trigger. What we did was ensure that community consultation will take place just like we ensured that we established the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman and outlawed older, noisier aircraft flying to major Australian airports. Chapter 2 aircraft had continued to fly willy-nilly over residential communities before we took action.

Jun 18, 2018

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 – Consideration in Detail

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:06): I rise to contribute to the consideration in detail debate for the budget, particularly with regard to tourism, because there is no doubt that this budget is a missed opportunity when it comes to tourism with the coalition failing to restore the $35 million funding cut from Tourism Australia last year.

Investing in Tourism Australia is a no-brainer. The fact is that every dollar spent on tourism advertising and marketing generates a return on investment of some $16. What’s more, we know that tourism has been identified as one of five supergrowth sectors by Deloitte. It employs more than one million Australians and, given where we’re located—in the fastest growing region of the world—there is enormous opportunity for us to grow the economy and grow jobs, particularly in our regions, if the government provides appropriate support.

Upon coming to office, the coalition cut two of federal Labor’s successful programs: the T-QUAL Grants Program and the Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund. Both of those programs supported industry development by providing grants for projects that would not only attract both interstate and international visitors but also encourage them to lengthen their stays. Communities across the nation benefited immensely from these programs. While the tourism sector is performing well in Australia, the fact is a number of challenges remain around regional dispersal and extending the average stay.

The continued success of tourism relies on a government that supports it, and the coalition should prove it does by restoring funding to Tourism Australia. It’s not just Labor saying this; the TTF, the peak organisation, said, ‘It’s dismissed as a joke by Minister Ciobo’—and I note that his attitude towards the sector is now on the record. They describe the 2018 budget as bittersweet saying:

… the Government has missed a golden opportunity to reap the benefits from substantially increasing its funding for Tourism Australia.

This follows the disastrous 2017 budget, which saw not just the cuts to Tourism Australia but the increase in visa application charges. Of course who can forget the minister’s performance in question time speaking about any increase in the Passenger Movement Charge as ‘killing the goose that lays the golden egg’?

He made a goose of himself, because immediately after that the government introduced a budget that in fact increased the passenger movement charge, in spite of the fact that there was very clearly an election commitment from both sides of politics that that would not happen.

Of course, we know that tourism does matter. When the government were elected in 2013, they forgot to appoint a tourism minister; so they have improved somewhat—they at least have someone as tourism minister now. We know that tourism generates more than $97 billion in economic activity. It’s got to be regarded that investment in tourism is just that—it’s an investment that produces a return; it’s not simply a cost. We know that there are enormous opportunities. At the last election, we were the only political party that produced a tourism policy. When we’re in government, we certainly won’t forget to appoint a tourism minister; indeed, we will make sure that tourism is very much linked in with infrastructure and transport. We know that all the great cities of the world that rely on tourism—New York, Paris, London—have very effective public transport networks, and we know that that linkage with provision of infrastructure is so important. We know also that tourism infrastructure matters in our regions. There is incredible opportunity for us to grow tourism in the regions around Australia, not just at the Reef and the Rock. More importantly, there is an opportunity to grow jobs in regional centres. So we regard tourism as a priority and we regard this budget as a lost opportunity. Indeed, the feedback from the sector is that it is a lost opportunity. Tourism is critical to Australia’s future, and it’s about time the government gave it due support. (Time expired)

May 31, 2018

Hansard – Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 – Consideration in Detail – Thursday, 31 May 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:19): If you look at Budget Paper No. 2, there are some very interesting tables that tell the story of this budget, from page 137. ‘Infrastructure Investment Programme—Australian Capital Territory infrastructure investments’—the figures there are 0, 0, 0, 0 and 0. For ‘Major Project Business Case Fund’: 0, 0, 0, 0 and 0. ‘Infrastructure Investment Programme—New South Wales infrastructure investments’, again: 0. 0, 0, 0 and 0. ‘Northern Territory infrastructure investments’, ‘Outback Way’, ‘Queensland infrastructure investments’, ‘Roads of Strategic Importance’, ‘South Australian infrastructure investments’, ‘Tasmanian infrastructure investments’, ‘Urban Congestion Fund’, ‘Victorian infrastructure investments’—you have the same pattern; the same figures. Guess what they are? Let’s see if the minister can indicate. I’ll give him a big hint: they’re all the same, mate. It’s just a dash. Not a single dollar of new investment in this budget for any of those programs—not one. All we’ve seen in this budget is an allocation of funds that have already been appropriated—allocated to some specific projects—but they’re way off into the never-never. So you have these grand announcements with big figures, like $5 billion, but there’s nothing there. Again, for the north-south rail in New South Wales, there’s nothing actually in the budget. For projects in Tasmania, there’s nothing actually happening. With regard to New South Wales, there’s nothing actually happening. There is no reason why you would have so little investment in the Coffs Harbour Bypass—why you would defer that for four years before there is any actual investment, at least outside the forward estimates. That’s the story of this budget.

The other story is the so-called ‘innovative financing’—a ticking time bomb for this government; a fiscal time bomb. The fact is that you can’t fund public transport like Melbourne airport rail off-budget, because, to fund something with equity funding off-budget, you need to achieve two primary things: firstly, the revenue for that particular piece of infrastructure has to be higher than the ongoing maintenance and operating costs; secondly, you have to have a return on capital. No public transport project in Australia currently has income—fares paid—that is more than the operating cost. The average is around 20 to 25 per cent. That’s why this is fake funding of a project, just like the north-south rail link through Badgerys Creek airport is fake funding.

This is what Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s CEO, Adrian Dwyer, said:

Ultimately there are only two ways to pay for infrastructure—tickets and taxes …

We can’t finance our way out of a funding problem.

Marion Terrill from the Grattan Institute said:

… there’s a real risk that these equity investments will end up not even making a positive rate of return, never mind a commercial rate.

…   …   …

If infrastructure projects are never going to make a commercial return, the government should stop pretending they will.

Steven Anthony from Industry Super Australia said:

We’re opening up the potential for more unfunded liabilities but we don’t need more time bombs.

Garry Bowditch from the University of Sydney said:

Prospects of commerciality and off-budget financing delivering good long-term outcomes do seem fanciful.

Over and over again—any expert. The tragedy here is that Mathias Cormann, the finance minister, knows that. That is why he opposed it. That’s why he won’t defend these projects being regarded as off-budget. It’s simply a con. A future government will have to deal with this, just like it’ll have to deal with the real economics of the Inland Rail project and whether, as John Anderson said in a report to the government, it will not produce a return on capital in 50 years. Budgets should be about real investment and real expenditure and real commitments and real rail lines and real roads. This budget is anything but that.

May 31, 2018

Hansard – Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 – Consideration in Detail – Thursday, 31 May 2018

We know that city deals should take a bottom-up approach. I know, from discussions with the Western Sydney mayors, that there’s a great deal of concern that, indeed, they’re not really partnerships; they’re more impositions from the top down. If City Deals are going to be successful, they do need to be from the bottom up and they do need to have proper funding mechanisms. If that is done properly, there’s no doubt that they can achieve a substantial amount.

Similar to the government’s announcement of the creation of the Infrastructure Financing Unit in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet last year, I’d be interested to know of the minister why that was transferred from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet into the minister’s department? What projects have been approved for private sector infrastructure investment as a result of that? It’s pretty clear that this body, a bit like some other more fanciful off-budget financing, was an attempt by the government to look like it was doing something when nothing was actually happening. What is actually happening on the ground, of course, is that we’re seeing underinvestment in infrastructure.

The budget shows that Victoria is still being short-changed. They’re receiving eight per cent of infrastructure investment in this financial year, despite being 25 per cent of the Australian population. We’re seeing that South Australian investment will fall from $832 million in the current financial year down to $236 million across the forwards in 2021-22. We’ll see funding in New South Wales fall from $2.67 billion in the current financial year to $825 million in 2021-22. In Queensland, we see many of the promised announcements being put off on the never never—projects like Cooroy to Curra and the M1 upgrade—with the overwhelming majority of the funding being outside of the forward estimates. In Tasmania, the same thing is happening, with three out of every four dollars in the budget not being there in terms of the forward estimates—being outside of that. Even in Western Australia we’re seeing funding fall from $1.16 billion this year to $411 million in 2021-22. In the Northern Territory, it falls from $222 million down to $61 million in 2021-22. In the ACT—essentially, the ACT is being ignored. The last major project in the ACT supported by the Commonwealth government was, of course, Majura Parkway, which, like other projects funded by the federal Labor government, they were happy to go to the opening of even though they opposed the infrastructure investment at the time.

This is a government that has not matched its rhetoric with real funding, with real dollars, with the real approach for urban policy that’s required or with the real approach for regional economic development that is required.

May 31, 2018

Hansard – Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 – Consideration in Detail – Thursday, 31 May 2018

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 10:36 to 11:11

Mr ALBANESE: This reduction in investment comes off the back of a reduction across the board that we’ve seen over the time of this government. Average annual investment in the nation’s transport, energy, telecommunications and water infrastructure doubled under the former federal Labor government, from $29.1 billion per year to $57.7 billion per year. That’s across the board. Investment in infrastructure has fallen by 17 per cent, to $48 billion, under the Abbott and Turnbull governments. In the case of transport infrastructure the decline has been even greater, at 22 per cent. When we were in office, we went from being ranked 20th among OECD countries when it came to investment in public infrastructure as a proportion of national income to being ranked No. 1 when we left office in 2013.

According to the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index, Australia has slipped from 18th of 148 countries in 2014 to 28th under this government. Australia is going backwards. Of course you don’t have to regard just Labor’s view. Infrastructure Partnerships Australia said:

It’s concerning to see that the Federal Budget has cut real infrastructure funding by $2 billion over the forward estimates.

…   …   …

At a time when our population is growing and our cities are more congested than ever, we need to see infrastructure dollars trending up not down.

The chief executive of the Australian Automobile Association said:

This budget fails to appropriately reinvest the taxes paid by Australian motorists …

He continued:

… land transport infrastructure commitments over the forward estimates have declined since last year’s budget …

This government has the an approach: ‘We’ll talk about what is happening in 10 years time,’ rather than talk about what is happening across the forward estimates. Take, for example, the Coffs Harbour bypass: one per cent of the funding is available in 2018-19 and over three-quarters of the investment is pushed out beyond 2022-23. That’s the case across the board. The minister raised a so-called $5 billion for the Melbourne Airport rail link, but it’s not in the budget. There’s no $5 billion in the budget. What we have is a commitment to equity funding, which I’ll talk about in my next contribution, but it’s not real.

The problem with this government also is that it hasn’t invested the money that it said it would in each budget. In its first four budgets—2014-15 to 2017-18—it said it would invest $29.6 billion. That is what it said it would invest in those years. The actual expenditure is $24.9 billion. That is a $4.7 billion cut in what was actually invested, and means a 20 per cent underspend in major road projects like the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan, black spots, bridges renewal and the heavy vehicle safety program. Now, from time to time, things will be put off because of weather or because of changed circumstances but, across the board in every program every year, this government hasn’t delivered what it said it would do. It is no wonder that the Parliamentary Budget Office found last year that, over the next decade, Australia’s investment in rail and road will halve from 0.4 of GDP to 0.2. That is precisely the opposite of what the government needs if we are going to truly have economic growth into the future. (Time expired)

May 30, 2018

Hansard – Adjournment: Government – Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (19:50): Earlier today I spoke on the condolence motion concerning the passing of former Leader of the Government in the Senate Sir John Carrick. In that contribution I outlined my respect for Sir John, a man who I came to know through his friendship with my mentor and father figure Tom Uren. One of the great privileges of my life was to travel with Tom, in 1987, and meet John Carrick, and other former prisoners of war of the Japanese, at the opening of Hellfire Pass, on the River Kwai, in Thailand. Both Sir John Carrick and Tom Uren were captured in Timor. They both went to Changi prison and they both served on the railway. Both of them can be characterised as having come back to Australia to follow different political paths—one Labor, one Liberal—but determined to serve just one interest: the national interest. Those of us here in 2018 who stand on the shoulders of these giants of the past, who have it a lot easier than the former prisoners of war, must, I believe, recommit ourselves to always serving the national interest. Reflecting on their capacity to rise above the hardships that they endured reminds us of our responsibility to use our time here to make a real difference to real people.

I’ve always believed that our task here was to deal with the necessities of the immediate whilst also not just anticipating a better future but taking steps to create that better future. That requires long-term thinking and often it requires bipartisanship on issues that go beyond a political term, or even a period of one side of politics in government. We should be proud that we do that quite often. We do it in areas of national security. We do it in areas of public safety. We understand that, in these areas, serving the public interest is our only objective.

But there are so many areas where we can do much better. Take climate change. Prior to 2007 both sides of politics went to the election committed to a market-based mechanism to put a price on carbon. The Howard government had come to that reluctantly, but responded to the Shergold report by accepting the need to do something to drive down emissions throughout the economy. After the change of government the consensus held, with the coalition backing action under Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull—a consensus that was ripped up at the end of 2009 by both Greens political party opportunism and the rise of Tony Abbott and the climate change sceptics in the coalition. The fact is that if we’re going to address climate change we need to address it as a parliament.

The same goes for Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage and recognising the First Australians in our constitution. That is going to be possible only if there is bipartisan support across this chamber. The same goes for dealing with challenges of intergenerational inequality. Every economist in the country knows that the taxation arrangements around housing that exist at the moment for investors are one of the issues that are causing housing affordability to just be out of the reach of younger generations. We should be doing something about it. It is the same with the workforce of the future. We know that new technology is having an impact on what the jobs will be in the future. We need to accept the fact that automation is here and change occurs, but how do we shape it in the interests of younger generations to make sure that we don’t exclude a whole bunch of people from their working lives?

We often can get it right. We’ve got it right in areas like the creation of Infrastructure Australia, partisan at the beginning but now supported across the parliament. We got it right in Badgerys Creek Airport, supporting a second airport for Sydney, which took a government decision, but a government decision with opposition support for it to actually happen. I think when we look at the great responsibilities and the great privilege that we have to serve in this place, we should commit ourselves to make a difference, not just for ourselves and our political parties in a partisan way but in the national interest. I think, quite often, this parliament doesn’t do that enough.


Contact Anthony

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