Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
May 24, 2018

Hansard – Questions Without Notice – Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:07): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to Budget Paper No. 2, which says the Melbourne Airport rail link should be financed off-budget instead of with traditional grant funding. Is the Prime Minister aware the Grattan Institute has said:

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

Isn’t it a fact that, if the government maintains its sham funding proposal, the rail line to the airport will never, ever be built?

May 22, 2018

Hansard – Matters of Public Importance: Budget – Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:28): There are two ways that you can invest in economic growth: you can invest in nation-building infrastructure, or you can invest in people through education and skills. When it comes to infrastructure, of course, this government does neither, and this budget of 2018 is a hoax. It is a triumph of spin over substance—not a dollar of new investment. When you look at Budget Paper No. 2, it’s there for all to see on page 137: ‘Infrastructure Investment Programme—Australian Capital Territory infrastructure investments’—zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. You go through the next table, ‘Major Project Business Case Fund’—zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. ‘New South Wales infrastructure investments’—the same. ‘Northern Territory infrastructure investments’—the same. ‘Outback Way’—the same. There is table after table. ‘Queensland infrastructure investments’—zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. ‘Roads of Strategic Importance’—zero. ‘South Australian infrastructure investments’—zero. Tasmania—zero. ‘Urban Congestion Fund’—zero. ‘Victorian infrastructure investments’—zero. Right across the board, what you have is no new investments—simply an allocation of money that was already in the budget.

And where has that allocation gone? In the next financial year, one per cent, $1 in every $100, of the new projects announced in the lead-up to the budget and on budget night are there with funding. Indeed, across the forward estimates it is 15 per cent of funding. More than 85 per cent of funding is there not for this term, not if you vote for the Turnbull government for another term, but if you vote for whoever’s in charge of the mob opposite for a term after that. It will be three terms into the future before 85 per cent of the funding flows. The fact is that we need infrastructure investment now. Congestion costs the nation some $16 billion a year right now.

But what we see at page 46 of Budget Paper No. 3 is the actual investment. It falls from $8 billion in 2017-18 across the forwards to $4.5 billion in 2021-22, a drop of almost half. That’s consistent with what the Parliamentary Budget Office found when they independently examined the budget papers after last year’s budget and warned that Commonwealth infrastructure investment over the next decade would halve from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent. And it’s consistent also with the fact that if you compare this year’s budget across the forward estimates, if you compare it with last year, it is $2 billion less, which is what The Australian reports today based upon the work and analysis that is there in the budget papers themselves. And Infrastructure Partnerships Australia—the peak organisation that I addressed last week—certainly agrees. All of the sector is onto the con that these people have been engaged in: it is a budget of deceit.

In the lead-up to the election we saw a grand announcement about Western Sydney Rail—through Badgerys Creek Airport along the north-south corridor. How much is in the budget for construction? Zero. There was $50 million for a study. That’s all it got. There was a grand announcement and a promise of fifty-fifty funding into the future, but not a single dollar. Of course, we know not that there was not a single dollar in the budget for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project—not one. It was identified by Infrastructure Australia way back in 2012 as the No. 1 project. It was funded in the budget in 2013, cut by this government in 2014, and remains cut—even though it’s a precondition for expanding the rail network in the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast as well as Brisbane. You need to do something about the capacity—just like the Melbourne Metro project is a precondition for expanding the rail network in Melbourne.

And there was another front page story—the airport rail link in Melbourne. But if you have a look at the budget papers, they say they’ll ‘have a chat to Victoria about an equity investment’. So it is off-budget funding. They think you can build infrastructure for free. The only way you can have off-budget funding of on infrastructure project is that it has to fulfil two criteria. The first criterion is that it has to have revenue—from people paying to go on the train, the toll road or whatever piece of infrastructure it is—that is higher than the maintenance cost. There isn’t a rail line in Australia—not one—that meets its operating and maintenance costs. That’s the nature of public transport. It’s an investment in our nation that boosts an economy, gets people to and from work and other activities, and produces a national economic dividend. It doesn’t produce an economic dividend to the owner of that particular piece of infrastructure, let alone be able to pay back the capital investment of a project that will cost more than $10 billion. So, once again, we have a big announcement leading to absolutely nothing—sham funding. As the Grattan Institute said:

If infrastructure projects are never going to make a commercial return, the government should stop pretending they will. And if they are worth building at all, the government should fund them transparently on-budget.

That’s exactly what any transport economist has said. That’s what everyone in the sector have said. And those opposite know that this is the case. Indeed, Mathias Cormann, the finance minister, argued this in the cabinet. When he was asked on Neil Mitchell’s radio program about this, he refused to defend this off-budget funding because he knew that it means that it simply won’t be real. The NAIF—the No Actual Infrastructure Fund—was established more than three years ago. It hasn’t got a single project in North Queensland, hasn’t got any major projects funded.

The IFU, remember that? They don’t think their acronyms through very well, this mob. The Infrastructure Financing Unit, established by the those opposite, was going to transform infrastructure investment and was going to mobilise all this private capital into projects. Guess what? Not a zac, not a road, not a railway line, nothing. And now it’s been transferred into the Department of Infrastructure.

The fact is that, even when they announce funding on budget night, the government don’t deliver. One out of every $5 that was announced in their first four budgets was never spent. There was a $4.7 billion gap between what they said on budget night 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 when you go back and look at what was actually invested. There were: underspends on roads, $2.7 billion; underspends on the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan, $700 million; underspends on northern Australia roads—beef roads, black spots, heavy vehicle safety program. From time to time, you can have delays but, the fact is, every single one of this government’s programs has seen underspends every single year.

There is a better way. Labor showed the way last time and we will again with real investment in roads, real investment in public transport, real investment in nation-building infrastructure. We lifted infrastructure investment from $132 for every Australian up to $225. Australia went from 20th to first in advanced economies in the world in infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP. We did it before and next term, when we’re on the Treasury benches, we’ll do it again. (Time expired)

May 21, 2018

Hansard – Private Members’ Business – Infrastructure – Monday, 21 May 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:16): I agree with the first part of the motion, which recognises the importance of infrastructure to the future prosperity of our nation, but, because of this government’s record, I move:

Delete all words after point (1) and substitute:

(2) condemns the Government for cutting infrastructure investment from $8 billion in 2017-18 to $4.5 billion in 2021-22;

(3) notes research from the Parliamentary Budget Office which has found Commonwealth investment will fall from 0.4 to 0.2 per cent of GDP over the next decade;

(4) condemns the Government for its incompetence in underspending by $4.7 billion on its own infrastructure investment commitments in its first four budgets;

(5) notes that off budget financing of public transport projects is misleading; and

(6) condemns the Government for failing to deliver investment to construct the Melbourne airport rail line, Western Sydney rail or Brisbane cross-river rail project.

The fact is that this budget is a con when it comes to infrastructure investment. If you look at the forward estimates for this year’s budget compared with last year’s, there is $2 billion less in this year’s forward estimates than there was last year—a $2 billion cut. If that’s too difficult for people opposite to comprehend, this year, in 2017-18, the infrastructure investment is $8 billion, and it falls to $4.5 billion; it is there in the budget papers for all to see.

There is no new money in this budget. What there is is an allocation of money that has already been included in previous budgets for specific projects. But that funding is all off into the never-never. When you look at projects like Monash, for example, which was mentioned by a previous speaker, there was $475 million. How much is it over the next four years? It is $20-something million of that. It is all off into the never, never. You had a $5 billion announcement about Melbourne Airport rail line. If you look for money for construction in the budget, there is not a dollar. There is not a dollar for construction. It is just a con—the idea that somehow it can be done for free, that somehow public transport projects in our cities make money. It is not real. You would know, Mr Deputy Speaker Howarth, that the Redcliffe rail line was built as a result of real dollars put into budgets by federal Labor, state Labor and Moreton Bay Regional Council. That’s how you build real infrastructure—with real dollars that create real jobs that can get built. That’s why, when you look at Western Sydney rail, as well—another big announcement made by the Commonwealth government but with no actual dollars for construction in the budget—not one. $50 million for a study—that is all there is there. And yet this is a rail line that is meant to be opened at the same time as the second Sydney Airport.

Once again in the budget, you see some funding, in the never-never, for Sunshine Coast rail upgrades. But you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that in order to have that, you need to have the Cross River Rail project. You can’t expand rail on the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast or Brisbane without fixing up the capacity constraints from having just one crossing across the Brisbane River.

When you look at what this government has done across the board, it is to substitute reality for just spin and rhetoric. Over the coalition’s first four budgets, if you look at what it said it would spend on budget night in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and go back and look at what was actually invested, the underspend is $4.7 billion—a $4.7 billion underspend on road projects, rail projects, black spots program, Heavy Vehicle Safety Program. On all of those programs there were massive underspends, which then disappears off to Finance and Treasury. This is a government that doesn’t have a plan for long-term infrastructure investment, that hasn’t produced a pipeline of projects, that has gutted Infrastructure Australia and, therefore, will damage Australia’s future economic growth and prosperity.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Howarth ): Is the amendment seconded?

Ms Bird: I second the amendment.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question is that the amendment be agreed to.

May 21, 2018

Hansard – Private Members’ Business – M1 Motorway Funding – Monday, 21 May 2018

That all words after 1(b) be deleted and replaced with the following:

“(c) regrets that only 1 per cent of this Federal funding is available in 2018-19;

(d) also regrets that 85 per cent of the Federal funding is outside the four-year forward estimates; and

(e) calls upon the Government to not fund projects into the never never.”

I raise this because you hear a lot of rhetoric from those opposite about infrastructure. The fact is, though, that they have been asleep for the last five years. They haven’t funded projects. Indeed, they haven’t even put back the money they’ve cut from projects such as Cross River Rail. They had an opportunity in this budget to undo the damage done by that cut in the 2014 budget. When it comes to this project, less than one per cent of the $1 billion is available for these two projects on the M1 in the next financial year, and across the four years of the forward estimates only 15 per cent of the funding is there. It’s typical of what this government says: ‘If you re-elect us next year and in three years time then something might happen after that.’

It is quite pathetic and stands in stark contrast to what we did when in office. We increased annual spending on infrastructure from $146 for every Queenslander to $270 for every Queenslander. Under our program we committed and invested some $6.3 billion in South East Queensland, more than the Howard government had spent over a similar time across the entire state. That included upgrades: $420 million for the Pacific Motorway on the Gold Coast, $195 million for the Bruce Highway on the Sunshine Coast, and $2½ billion for the Ipswich Motorway. We also invested in rail and light rail. The Redcliffe rail line, first promised in 1895, was delivered by a federal Labor government working with Queensland Labor and the local council. Importantly, the Gold Coast Light Rail, such a success in getting people around during the recent Commonwealth Games, was funded with $365 million from the Commonwealth, an investment that made a real difference in real time.

We also invested in community infrastructure in South East Queensland, including, of course, on the Gold Coast at the stadium where the Commonwealth Games were held. That was some $37 million—the largest grant out of the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. Not only has funding been cut by this government; they haven’t spent the money that has been allocated to them in the budget. Whether it’s major road projects, the black spots, the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, the Northern Australia Roads Program—all of these have seen massive underspends by the coalition government: some $4½ billion of underspends over their first four budgets. The fact is that we have called for this funding to be invested on the M1 because this is a congested corridor. The need to fix the Pacific Motorway to Gateway merge; the need for the Mudgeeraba to Varsity Lakes project; these are important projects, as well as the upgrades between Varsity Lakes and Tugun and between Eight Mile Plains and Daisy Hill. These are all critical projects. It is only Labor, though, that invests in nation-building infrastructure, whether it be roads, rail or light rail. That’s why Queenslanders are increasingly sceptical about the gap between this government’s rhetoric and its actual investment.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Buchholz ): The member for Grayndler is seeking to move an amendment to the member for Forde’s motion. Is the motion seconded?

Mrs Elliot: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question is now that the amendment be agreed to.

May 21, 2018

Hansard – Statements By Members – Visas – Monday, 22 May 2018

Federation Chamber
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:26): Last year, the Turnbull government, in conjunction with Peter Dutton, the minister for the newly formed Department of Home Affairs, announced major changes to Australia’s visa processing system—namely, to privatise the design and delivery of all visa services over the next five years. These changes will come into effect from 1 July. It is quite extraordinary that any national government that speaks about the national interest and national security is prepared to transfer that responsibility to the private sector, which, by definition, operates on the basis of profit.

This is a plan that’s opposed by the Community and Public Sector Union because it will lose up to 3,000 jobs from the Department of Home Affairs. There are also plans to introduce a tiered visa-delivery system, with premium services available at an additional price. In flat terms, this means that if you can afford to pay more you can skip the visa processing queue, which is another attack on those less fortunate from the coalition. Additionally, the $2 billion in revenue generated by the current system will no longer be available for our schools and hospitals. This is a bad plan. The government needs to walk away from the privatisation of these services.

May 21, 2018

Hansard – Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2018-2019, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019, Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2017-2018, Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2017-2018 – Second Reading – Monday, 21 May 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:59): When it comes to infrastructure investment, budget 2018 is just a con. In the weeks leading up to the budget, the government busied itself by leaking budget plans to newspapers. It attracted front-page coverage of its promises to build Melbourne Airport rail, Western Sydney rail, and the next stage of the Adelaide South Road upgrade. Australians must have been surprised by this. It seemed that finally, after years of cuts, the government had realised the value of nation-building investment. The fact though is that this budget shows that the government has not overcome its irrational and ill-advised rejection of investment in public transport to tackle traffic congestion in our cities.

This is a government where the spin is so different from the facts. There was not a dollar of new infrastructure investment in last week’s budget. Nothing for Melbourne Airport rail. Nothing for Western Sydney rail. Nothing for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project. Any new investment commitment announced in the budget does not involve new money; it’s drawn from previously budgeted funds. That’s all there for everyone to see on pages 137 to 144 of Budget Paper No. 2. On program after program, for state after state, there are lines of zeros in the forward estimates.

The fact is that most of the infrastructure investment won’t be delivered for many years to come. This budget is a triumph of spin over substance. As the second president of the United States, John Adams, once said:

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

Let’s have a look at their new announcements in the budget drawn from money that was already there—all on the never-never. A paltry one per cent to be invested over the next 12 months. Four dollars out of every $5 invested not this year, not the year after, not the year after that and not the year after that, but some time into the never-never beyond the forward estimates—more than 80 per cent. This is the never-never budget. In the meantime, actual investment is due to fall off a cliff. There’s $8 billion in infrastructure grants to the states in the current financial year. That falls each and every year to $4.5 billion by 2021-22. From $8 billion down to $4.5 billion; almost cut in half.

After last year’s budget, the independent Parliamentary Budget Office said that, over the next decade, infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP will fall again by half—from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent. It’s a bit like Mr Wimpy in the Popeye cartoons, who used to wander around saying, ‘I will gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today.’ In this case, Malcolm Turnbull tells Australians, ‘I’ll gladly build you a rail line or a new road, but just vote for me some time in the next year and then vote for me again, and then sometime after that into the never-never I might actually do something.’ This government not only is cutting investment but can’t even deliver its reduced budgets, and the budget papers show that. Over its first four budgets, the difference between what the government has announced and allocated on budget nights from 2014 through 2015, 2016 and 2017—if you look at what has actually been expended over that period of time—is $4.7 billion.

Underspending is everywhere. There has been $2.7 billion underspent on roads. The Northern Australia Roads Program is $190 million underspent. The Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan is $700 million underspent. The Northern Australia Beef Roads Program is $74 million underspent. Even essential road safety, through the Black Spot Program, is underspent. We know that there are black spots across every one of the electorates of the representatives in this chamber—every single one—and yet $100 million is underspent. The Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, established by the former Labor government, was maintained after pressure by this government. But what they’ve done is just not spent the money—$134 million. Every time you’re driving on a highway and you think, ‘That is somewhere where, in the interests of road safety, there should be a heavy vehicle rest stop,’ know this: this government has had the funds but hasn’t had the competence or the capacity to actually deliver that project. The fact is that it’s happened almost every year across almost every program. It is a rolling parade of failure. Either the government is hopeless—and we know that it is—or it seriously misleads the nation about its real investment intentions.

There’s an old saying: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. So it is with the government’s continuing attempt to move away from direct infrastructure grants to the states for major projects and towards off-budget funding. Three years ago it created the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. It spent very little besides flying board members around the southern capitals to have board meetings. This has become the ‘no actual infrastructure fund’ when it comes to actually delivering. They also cut real infrastructure investment to establish an infrastructure financing unit in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. It was given the task, which Infrastructure Australia has under legislation, of attracting private investment in public infrastructure. A year later, the IFU has not produced a single project—not one. It’s a failed experiment.

The fact is that off-budget funding can work in appropriate circumstances. An example is the Moorebank project in Sydney. I support the off-budget funding of the second Sydney airport because that will produce a return when it is leased, as other airports have been. But, in order to be off budget, a project must achieve two things. Firstly, it has to have revenue that is greater than operating and maintenance costs. Now we know that public transport projects in Australia and, indeed, around the world don’t do that. That doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile, because they contribute to the national economy by boosting productivity, taking pressure off the road network, making a contribution to economic growth and improving road safety by having less cars and heavy freight vehicles on our roads. But that does not mean that they produce a return.

Secondly, they have to produce a return on capital on the original investment. For example, in order for the Melbourne Airport rail link to be funded off budget to produce a commercial return, it would have to produce more revenue day to day than it has operating and maintenance costs and produce a return on the capital, which is likely to exceed $10 billion. It won’t do that. So this grand announcement on page 1 of the newspaper is worth precisely zero, zip, no dollars, no investment.

The criteria for those opposite, who regard themselves as mini capitalists, would ask if, to have off-budget funding, you would invest your own dollars in this business which would produce a return on your investment as well as an ongoing income stream. The answer to that is simply no. And Mathias Cormann knew that. That’s why the Minister for Finance argued against this in the cabinet processes. Everyone knows this to be the case except, perhaps, this foolhardy Prime Minister who imagines himself not as leading the nation but as the merchant banker for the nation who can somehow put together projects like this for free.

The fact is that this is sham funding. This fantasy follows last year’s $8 billion for the Inland Rail after the former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, in his 2015 study for this government said:

… the expected operating revenue over 50 years will not cover the initial capital investment required to build the railway.

And the CEO of the ARTC, John Fullerton, said to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit earlier this year:

From a strict ARTC point of view, no, the revenues that flow to us wouldn’t cover the full capital cost and provide a return.

Now, I support the inland rail project, but it’s got to be funded properly. I support Melbourne Airport rail, but it’s got to be done properly. I certainly support western Sydney rail through Badgerys Creek airport, but it also will require real dollars and real investment. And the experts all say that that’s the case.

Here’s what someone from the Grattan Institute said:

So 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.

The chief economist for Industry Super Australia, Stephen Anthony, said:

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

Adrian Dwyer, the CEO of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia says the budgets cuts infrastructure investment by $2 billion over four years. He said:

… the warm infrastructure narrative pre-budget has not been met with cold hard cash in the budget papers.

…   …   …

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 2018 budget is not an infrastructure budget. It’s an infrastructure mirage that calls us to look years ahead to an investment horizon that might never be reached. Meanwhile, average Australians looking for better roads and public transport are stuck in an infrastructure desert. This self-delusion will increase our national infrastructure deficit and at this very time refuses to fund, for example, Cross River Rail, which is a necessary prerequisite for funding Sunshine Coast rail. Unless you fix the second crossing, you can’t do anything in terms of expanding the rail network in Brisbane, the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast. And that’s why the sidelining of infrastructure Australia is such a major issue reflected in this budget.

In that announcement, with the north-south road project from Torrens to Torrens and the South Road Superway, which we have been calling for repeatedly at press conference after press conference on site to be built, finally Infrastructure Australia says it’s on the priority list on the day that it’s leaked to The Adelaide Advertiser when they’ve had the business case since 22 June last year. Such an undermining of infrastructure autonomy and credibility should not have been allowed by the government, because it’s embarrassing for IA that that occurred.

Spin doesn’t build infrastructure. Investment is required. It doesn’t build itself. Investment is required. Only a Labor government will provide that investment. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.

May 10, 2018

Hansard – Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill 2018, Second Reading – Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:19): I rise to support the Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. Jacques Cousteau, perhaps the greatest oceanographer of the 20th century, once despaired that the sea and the air had become ‘global garbage cans’. Cousteau also described the sea as the great unifier. He said that, when it came to the health of the ocean and its impact on people, all of humanity was in the same boat. He was right. When the seas are polluted, we all suffer. Other species, of course, in our oceans suffer directly, but the entire globe suffers. That is why it is so important that we accept and meet our shared responsibility to care for the health of our oceans. It’s why we established the largest ever growth in marine parks and protection of our oceans when we were last in office, a reform tragically reversed by a short-sighted coalition government. It is why it is so important that we accept and meet that shared responsibility that we have to care for the health of our oceans.

We can do this in several ways. As individuals, we must take care not to litter our beaches, throw rubbish overboard from boats or, indeed, put things into the system of drainage that end up, quite often, in our oceans. As members of the community, we need to prevent harmful substances entering the oceans as run-off from our farms and other industries. It is a fact that, if you go into any major city around Australia and look at where the factories were located, they were always on water. In my electorate, along the Cooks River, you had everything from flour mills to sugar producers to industrial factories. The reason why they were located along rivers, canals and creeks, of course, was that they were seen as areas for free waste disposal by industry. That has had an enormous impact on the quality of the water in our urban waterways but also around our coasts and our ports. We know better today, but we need to make sure that legislation points the way forward with the modern understanding that we have that the accumulation of garbage and waste in our waterways has an impact on all of us.

As a nation, Australia must always meet our responsibility to collaborate in the forums of the world to improve international maritime regulations relating to pollution. It is in that context that Labor will be supporting the Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill. This bill enacts Australia’s international obligations regarding the way in which we treat pollution from ships. Australia has been an active participant in the International Maritime Organization. When I was the minister, I directly addressed the international conferences of the IMO, because Australia is an island continent with responsibility for such a large proportion of the world’s oceans and seas—some one-sixth. Think about that: one in every six square kilometres of the world’s oceans and seas is Australia’s responsibility. That is why it is critical that we keep up with those international obligations and that Australia continue to lead on these issues.

In simple terms, this bill puts the responsibility on shippers to classify and declare waste from their solid bulk cargoes and to undertake not to dump waste that is designated as dangerous to the environment. It also prohibits the dumping of waste that is harmful to the environment in designated special areas like the Great Barrier Reef, the Torres Strait, the Coral Sea and the Antarctic zone. When many people think about pollution from boats, I suspect they think of oil spills or garbage thrown overboard, but a lot of the pollution from ships is linked to the shipping of bulk cargo: unpackaged homogenous goods like iron ore, coal, sugar, wheat and livestock. The pollution comes about through operational or accidental events during loading, unloading, cleaning or oil spills. For example, when a tanker carrying bulk goods unloads a cargo hold and is cleaned, it can release between 60 and 100 tonnes of cargo slurry—water which contains residue of the load. Most big tankers have five loads. That’s a lot of potential pollution. It’s estimated that 0.05 per cent of any given solid bulk load will be lost overboard one way or another. That’s about 2.15 million tonnes a year. The waste can also include dead livestock—a matter of real concern, given the horrific revelations that have been made about the deaths of sheep being shipped to the Middle East.

This bill seeks to place restrictions on whether such material can be released into the ocean and, if it can be released, where it can be released. It tightens the existing legislation to reflect Australia’s commitments under the latest annexure of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, also known as MARPOL—MARPOL is a convention of the International Maritime Organization—which came into effect on 1 March. The new rules classify pollution from ships as harmful if it poses an environmental threat by affecting the health or reproductive systems of plants or animals, including by causing cancer or mutations. These new rules mean this material cannot be dumped at sea. Some waste that is not designated as harmful may be released; however, this legislation quite rightly prevents it from being released in designated special areas such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Torres Strait.

The changes create a requirement for shippers to classify and declare their solid bulk cargoes as either harmful to the environment or not harmful. They will then be required to inform the master of the vessel carrying the cargo. This is about introducing responsibility chains to make sure that people are accountable. The master of the vessel will then determine the appropriate manner of discharge of the waste according to whether the ship is inside or outside one of these designated special areas. For example, while cargo residue not deemed harmful to the environment must not be dumped in designated special areas, it can be released in other places as far as is practicable from land. These are sensible changes. In a perfect world, we would never have to release any waste material into our oceans; however, we have to accept the reality that we need to move cargo by sea and that this will inevitably involve the production of waste that will make its way into the ocean. What we should do, however, is absolutely minimise it—do everything within our power to ensure that we protect our oceans. This legislation is a step forward because it bans the release of waste that is demonstrably harmful, while allowing the release of relatively safer material so long as it is outside of areas that are designated as being particularly sensitive.

This is a good outcome for Australia. As an island continent, we move 99 per cent of our cargo by sea. Sea cargo is critical to our economic wellbeing because ships carry our mineral and agricultural exports to our customers around the world. Ships also bring us consumer goods that people rely upon and take for granted, including motor vehicles.

But at the same time, Australia has some of the most environmentally sensitive marine environments on the planet. These wonderful habitats are not just environmental assets; they are, of course, economic assets. They attract tourists from right around the world. In the year to the end of February, some 8.9 million overseas visitors entered Australia, and between them they spent $41.3 billion. Tourism Australia has conducted surveys asking visitors their key reason for choosing Australia as a destination. Putting aside practical concerns like safety, the key reason given by visitors was Australia’s aquatic and coastal experiences. The main reason tourists say they come to Australia is our coastline and marine environment. This tourism industry employs around about a million Australians, large numbers of whom are located along the Great Barrier Reef coast. We owe it to future generations to protect our environment, but we also owe it to ourselves to utilise these resources to create jobs and income. The key is to get the balance right.

Another key interest for Australia in this bill is that the Antarctic region will also be designated as a special area. It’s a sensitive environment and, in many respects, it is unspoilt. Increasingly in recent years, cruise vessels have been taking tourists to the region. These provisions will reduce the tourism footprint by prohibiting vessels from releasing waste.

Australia has an excellent record when working with other nations of the world to improve international laws on pollution and maritime issues. We have always been members of the International Maritime Organization, and we play an active part, including through our High Commission in London. Usually our considerations in these areas have not been subject to partisan politics, and that is as it should be. We have a national interest here as a parliament, as representatives, as good global citizens, to make sure that Australia’s national interest is protected. This parliament has a responsibility to future generations to continue to play a central role in the protection of our environment. I commend this bill to the House.

 

May 9, 2018

Hansard – Interstate Road Transport Legislation (Repeal) Bill 2018 – Second Reading – Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:07): It’s 128 years since the ‘Father of Federation’, Sir Henry Parkes, delivered his famous speech in Tenterfield, which was seen as a landmark on the road to the creation of our nation. One of Parkes’s compelling arguments for transforming a group of colonies into a single nation was the need for a standard rail gauge between states to facilitate the efficient movement of goods and military assets by rail. In the 21st century it remains important that we do all we can to facilitate efficiency in transport not only by rail but also by sea, air and road. We must not allow red tape to add complexity and expense to the process of moving freight around our nation. This is particularly important when it comes to road transport. That is why the former Labor government created the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to administer regulation of heavy vehicles over 4.5 gross tonnes.

Prior to the COAG agreeing to this landmark change in 2011 and the regulator’s commencement in early 2013 there were six state and territory agencies involved in regulating heavy vehicles. This was inefficient. It meant that trucking companies needed to maintain squads of administrative staff to handle vast amounts of paperwork. Truck drivers would travel our road system carrying huge folders full of licences, permits and other forms. This added needless complexity to the system, but it also added costs that were inevitably passed on to the consumer. Thanks to the former Labor government’s microeconomic reform, we now have one law covering vehicle standards; mass, dimension and loading requirements; fatigue management; accreditation; and on-road enforcement. The creation of this single set of regulations, administered by a single regulator, along with the creation of single regulators in the maritime and rail sectors, will boost our national income by some $30 billion over just two decades.

The harmonisation of transport regulation was the culmination of a process of regulatory reform commenced by the Labor government in 1991 with the establishment of the National Transport Commission. When I became the minister, in December 2007, one of the first briefings I had from the department outlined how this reform was stuck in bureaucratic wrangling between the Commonwealth and the states and had not been advanced during the period of the Howard government. We had four ministerial council meetings over a series of months to make sure that we got agreement across the board for the national transport regulators. The fact is that Western Australia and the Northern Territory are unfortunately not participating in this national system at this point, but the rest of the states and territories came on board because they understood that these changes would make a real difference to our national economy.

The creation of the national regulator is the key reason the Interstate Road Transport Legislation (Repeal) Bill is before us today. Back in 1987, the Hawke Labor government created the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme, or FIRS, a voluntary alternative to the bewildering array of state and territory regulations still in existence at that time. The FIRS also applied to all heavy vehicles over 4.5 gross tonnes and established uniform charges and operating conditions for interstate heavy vehicle operators. Labor created FIRS in response to industry concerns that interstate road transport rules were restricting their business. Vehicles that operate under FIRS are required to comply with Australian design rules and other standard requirements regarding vehicle equipment and performance standards. They must also have third-party insurance. The state and territory governments administer the FIRS on behalf of the federal government, and registration charges are redistributed amongst the states to be spent on road maintenance.

The FIRS was also designed to promote road safety. Participants are exempt from standard state and territory stamp duties on newly purchased vehicles to encourage them to use newer high-productivity vehicles. This is good for our economy. Importantly, though, it is good for road safety, because the newer the vehicle the better the design standards, and it’s also good for the environment because newer vehicles produce fewer emissions and less pollution.

The bill before us today creates a process to abolish FIRS. It would amend the Interstate Road Transport Act 1985 and the Interstate Road Transport Charge Act 1985. The bill closes FIRS to new entrants and re-registration from 1 July 2018. It allows the scheme to continue for a 12-month transition period—a sensible management exercise—and it would close FIRS to all operators as of 30 June 2019. The Australian Labor Party will support this legislation. We see it as the logical next step in regulatory harmonisation. When FIRS was introduced in 1987, it represented the first step forward in the process of change, but, after more than 30 years of operation and the introduction of the national regulator, the scheme is becoming redundant. Indeed, less than two per cent of the nation’s heavy vehicles—about 14,000—operate under this scheme. An independent evaluation of the scheme in 2016 found no evidence that FIRS was achieving its policy objectives, given the changes that have been made to national regulation. It concluded that the stamp duty exemption had neither reduced the age of the heavy vehicle fleet, nor improved road safety outcomes.

It’s important to recognise that the transitional arrangements for FIRS vehicles will include a one-off stamp duty exemption for vehicles exiting the scheme. Australia is a vast continent with an ever-increasing freight task. It’s important that we invest in freight rail as well as roads to ensure that we can meet the ever-growing need for the movement of goods around our nation and to our ports for export. But it is also important that we keep moving forward on reducing regulatory complexity and that we continue to examine ways in which microeconomic reform can boost the national economy by boosting productivity. That’s why this bill is important. Our road transport system needs one set of laws, one set of registration and compliance papers, one log book and as little red tape as possible. I commend the bill to the House.

Mar 1, 2018

Adjournment – Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:59): I rise to pay tribute to the 78ers, those brave gay men and lesbian women and their supporters, who, 40 years ago, marched in favour of recognition of their rights as human beings for legal equality. This Saturday will see the 40th celebration of Mardi Gras in Sydney, and it will be a celebration of the fact that we now have marriage equality. But that is only the case because of the hard yards that were done by those brave men and women, who, of course, marched into police lines and were arrested for standing up for human rights. I pay tribute to them.
Feb 28, 2018

Questions without notice – Infrastructure

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:54): My question is again addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. I refer to the government’s own budget papers for his own portfolio, which show that federal infrastructure investment in Tasmania will fall from $174 million this financial year to $53 million in 2019-20. Is this a reflection of the fact that not a single new federally funded major infrastructure project has been commenced under either the Abbott-Joyce, Turnbull-Joyce or Turnbull-McCormack governments?
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