Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
Dec 10, 2013

Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:19): Building the right infrastructure in the right location at the right time is critical to national economic development and productivity. To secure the productivity gains that drive jobs growth you have to invest in roads, ports, railway lines and airports. Most importantly, you need to ignore the electoral map. If you make the right strategic investments the resulting productivity gains benefit every Australian—not just the communities in which you have delivered the infrastructure. It is my experience that many elected representatives dealing with infrastructure struggle with the need to take a long-term, non-partisan view. Some representatives make decisions that are based on their political interests rather than the national interest. Others, like former Prime Minister John Howard, simply ignore infrastructure spending and blame the states when anyone complains about infrastructure bottlenecks. That approach, of course, helps no-one.

Labor took a very different approach when we were elected in 2007. In line with our proud heritage we focused on nation-building. I argued in the lead-up to that election that the challenge for infrastructure was to delink the infrastructure investments cycle—which was, by definition, long-term—from the electoral cycle, which is much more short term. Infrastructure Australia was specifically designed as a vehicle to do just that.

I am here today to oppose the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill because it is a blatant coalition attempt to re-establish the old link between the political process and the delivery of infrastructure. This bill gives the Minister for Infrastructure the right to interfere with Infrastructure Australia’s considerations by nominating pet projects for assessment. It would also allow the minister to ignore entire classes of infrastructure investment, such as public transport.

I note that Minister Truss, in his contribution to this debate, claimed that the legislation was designed to increase Infrastructure Australia’s independence. Having opposed the very creation of Infrastructure Australia, in recent times the coalition have argued that they would increase its independence and strengthen it. The fact is that this legislation does exactly the opposite. It reopens the door to pork-barrelling and the short-sighted approach of the past. It can only have two outcomes: lowering growth of economic productivity and, as a consequence, reducing growth in employment.

I, of course, have seen this approach before. Minister Truss hails from the National Party—the party of the pork-barrel; the party that has always been preoccupied with supporting funding for its own electorates rather than having a broader view of the national interest. When the coalition were last in government, they had no infrastructure policy. I was the first ever infrastructure minister to represent this nation. They simply refused to invest in anything other than regional roads—except for pet projects such as regional road programs that funded Campbell Parade at Bondi Beach in the member for Wentworth’s electorate. There was no coordination of infrastructure provision. They made it up as they went along.

In fact, the Howard government’s idea of regional infrastructure provision was the Regional Partnerships scheme, found by auditors to have been rorted by the government. Who could forget the $600,000 grant to keep struggling Queensland company Beaudesert Rail afloat, against the advice of corporate administrators. There was the $426,962 given under the dairy assistance program to the Indigo Cheese factory in the electorate of Indi, which, of course, did not produce any output. Indeed, the company shut down in March 2007. Three months later, the government paid the company a further $22,135 instalment on its grant because its standards of oversight were so poor that grant recipients did not have to produce anything to continue to qualify for money. No wonder the Australian National Audit Office investigation into Regional Partnerships found that it had fallen short of an acceptable standard of public administration. That is why I was very cynical about the coalition’s rhetoric, and, unfortunately, that cynicism has come to fruition in the form of this bill.

Labor came to office determined to create a system whereby infrastructure needs would be independently assessed and where elected representatives could make decisions based on evidence about a project’s potential to lift productivity, not on the basis of their electoral strategy. When we created Infrastructure Australia in 2008, we asked it to conduct the first ever national audit of infrastructure needs in Australia’s history. We also asked it to advise on approaches to infrastructure policy. It did that at arm’s length from government and that national audit provided the basis for funding.

One of its key early findings was the development of a formula for an integrated policy approach to provision of infrastructure. It identified seven priority themes which it recommended needed to be addressed as a whole, in preference to the piecemeal approach of the past. These principles were prioritised. The first of the principles was, indeed, the development of a more extensive, accessible and globally competitive National Broadband Network. Infrastructure Australia described the importance of better broadband as ‘almost impossible to overstate’. The second principle was the consolidation of a national energy market. The third was competitive international gateways like ports and airports, including the creation of a national ports’ strategy. The fourth was the development of a national freight network. The fifth was transforming cities with effective roads and public transport. The sixth was the provision of essential infrastructure for Indigenous communities. And the seventh was adaptable and secure water supplies.

Members opposite should take note of this list. It reminds us that infrastructure comes in many forms, many of which are interdependent. That is why you need to have an integrated approach without Infrastructure Australia being directed to look just at a specific project or to not look at other projects. Take the National Broadband Network. It is not just a communications infrastructure vehicle; it also has an impact on the way that cities function. It has an impact on transport. If people can telework from home, it reduces urban congestion. That is why you need to have this integrated plan, not the cherry-picking approach that would result if this legislation is carried.

Infrastructure Australia argued that, if you wanted to improve the functioning of our nation, you needed to cover every angle, not just building roads or clearing port bottlenecks. To get maximum productivity growth, you need to adopt a holistic approach, including the functioning of our cities and regional communities, and you need to address every element critical to the infrastructure equation. Let me quote from Infrastructure Australia’s December 2008 report to the Council of Australian Governments:

In delivering this new national approach, Infrastructure Australia has not sought to predetermine any particular infrastructure outcome or solution. Rather, it has created a broad framework that was used for assessing any investment or actions.

This advice sums up the point that I am making—that adequate infrastructure provision requires a flexible approach that does not pick favourite modes of infrastructure but simply uses objective evidence to choose the best outcomes.

Labor did not give itself the ability to interfere in Infrastructure Australia. It also did not give itself the power to even direct Infrastructure Australia about what projects it could or could not consider. We asked only for evidence so that we could make evidence based decisions. As at the 2013 election, the former Labor government had allocated funding for all of the 15 Infrastructure Australia priority projects—every single one. In the same Infrastructure Australia report to COAG that I mentioned a moment ago, its chairman, Sir Rod Eddington, wrote that his organisation’s formation represented a new level of leadership on infrastructure:

It introduces a bold new approach to identifying, planning, funding and implementing infrastructure of national significance across Australia. It also introduces rigorous and robust economic analysis of infrastructure investments prior to government decision-making.

And yet Sir Rod Eddington was not even consulted about this legislation before it was introduced into the parliament. That is a fact.

This brings me to the proposed changes in the bill. Under the bill before us, Minister Truss wants to give himself very specific powers: to set time frames and the scope of audits and evaluations; to direct which matters can and cannot be considered; to order Infrastructure Australia to evaluate particular projects nominated by him; to confer tax loss concessions upon projects without reference to Infrastructure Australia; to sack members of the council of Infrastructure Australia for the ill-defined crime of misbehaviour; and to rethink the representation of state and territory governments that are currently represented on the Infrastructure Australia Council.

All of these changes are retrograde steps. Governments which give themselves poorly defined rights to sack people are in fact giving themselves the power to dispose of advisers whose advice does not suit their political line. I am deeply concerned about the bill’s provision allowing the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development to order Infrastructure Australia not to consider classes of infrastructure when it assesses the relative merits of infrastructure projects.

This provision goes to the very heart of the design of Infrastructure Australia. It will dismantle IA’s ability to give governments advice on the full range of infrastructure investment which is required to drive productivity gains and create jobs for future generations. I fear the motivation for this move is rooted in the coalition’s inexplicable and, frankly, irresponsible refusal to invest any Commonwealth funds in urban passenger rail. Our cities are congested. The Australasian Railway Association estimates that traffic congestion is costing our nation $15 billion a year and says the costs will increase unless governments take real action now to unclog our cities. An essential element of the solution to congestion is greater use of public transport. That is why in government Labor allocated money for a range of projects recommended by Infrastructure Australia, including Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project and the Melbourne Metro. In this year’s budget, $715 million was allocated for the Cross River Rail project and $3 billion for the Melbourne Metro.

Our view is that the Commonwealth needs to help states invest in urban public transport and that this investment will ease congestion and lift urban productivity. We consulted with both the Queensland and the Victorian governments on those assessments. They were found by Infrastructure Australia to be nationally significant projects. Indeed, funding for planning money for both of those projects was previously allocated, the planning was done, the projects stacked up, and yet the coalition have a view that the Commonwealth should just fund urban and regional roads and that there should be no funding for urban public transport.

The problem there is the definition of ‘nationally significant’ projects, which is why the assistant minister could not answer the question that he was asked today in parliament. The fact is that, during the term of the former Howard government, as he would be aware, the coalition government shied away from funding urban roads as well as urban rail. The Howard government funded a total of $300 million in Sydney infrastructure over 12 years. It completely vacated the field. The problem with the approach of the Prime Minister, who says, ‘The Commonwealth should stick to its knitting and invest in roads,’ is that it ignores the fact that, historically, the National Party, while they have held the transport portfolios, have also not invested in urban roads, either. They have not invested in our cities. And, as the most urbanised country on the planet, the fact is that there is a direct link between investing in our cities and growth in our regions. We need to do both and we need to have a national approach to it—something that those opposite do not seem to understand. Labor in fact doubled the roads budget, compared with the Howard government’s record.

The current government’s roads-only policy is an affront to everything we know about effective provision of infrastructure. As I mentioned earlier, when outlining Infrastructure Australia’s seven themes, you cannot drive productivity without taking an integrated approach and you cannot take an integrated approach unless you have Commonwealth leadership. A piecemeal approach, with projects as determined by the minister, without looking at alternative options, which this bill will allow, will reintroduce the very problem that Infrastructure Australia was created to overcome. This bill is proof that the coalition simply does not understand nation building.

It will take us back to the bad old days when infrastructure provision was not an integrated process but a recipe for pork-barrelling. When it comes to policy, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If you are already making a good pudding it makes no sense to change the ingredients.

Thanks to the recommendations of Infrastructure Australia, here are some of the projects that the previous Labor government delivered: the Hunter Expressway, which will be opened in coming months; major upgrading of the Pacific Highway, worth $7.9 billion, through works including the Bulahdelah Bypass, the Kempsey Bypass and the Ballina Bypass, all opened by Labor; and the Bruce Highway, with funding of $5.7 billion, including work on what the now transport minister describes as the worst road in Australia, the Cooroy to Curra section of the Bruce Highway. Minister Truss would know that because it is in his electorate. He just did not fix it during the 12 years in which he was part of the government. It took a Labor government to deliver this project. We delivered Victoria’s Regional Rail Link, again, something that the now Prime Minister seemed to be totally ignorant of, when he said in his interview where he declared that no funding for public transport would be forthcoming from a government he led: ‘We don’t do public transport projects; we don’t do them.’ There he was sitting in a studio in Melbourne, the site of the largest ever Commonwealth investment in an urban public transport project, the Regional Rail Link, a project in which today there are 3½ thousand Victorians in work, and which will benefit Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat but, most importantly, the national economy by improving productivity.

South Australia’s Noarlunga to Seaford Rail Extension project has been opened. The Gold Coast Rapid Transit project is significantly increasing the productivity of the Gold Coast. Infrastructure Australia operated in conjunction with the Major Cities Unit, and that has already been abolished by the new government as one of their first acts coming in—’No, we don’t want to be involved in cities.’ It recommended projects like the Perth Citylink project. The new member for Perth, the former member for Perth and I went to the opening just prior to the election. It is an exciting project that has transformed Perth as a major international city by uniting the city’s CBD with the Northbridge precinct. It is an exciting project boosting productivity, boosting sustainability and boosting livability in Perth. Brisbane’s Moreton Bay rail line was first promised in the Queensland parliament in 1895; delivered, though, by the former Labor government and set to be opened next year. Both projects are exciting projects and important projects.

In line with the principles for effective delivery of infrastructure, IA also produced major reports for COAG which led to important microeconomic reform, a national port strategy adopted for the first time, a national land freight strategy and a strategy to improve delivery of infrastructure to Indigenous communities. An integrated approach to infrastructure delivery also requires consultation with industry—a hallmark of Infrastructure Australia’s approach and something that industry welcomed. This was acknowledged by Ports Australia chief, David Anderson, in 2011 when he said the government was to be complimented for making a serious endeavour to develop a nationally based approach to port planning and regulation. Mr Anderson said:

The National Ports Strategy is based on the simple but effective premise that our ports will develop long term plans that will be out there for all stakeholders to view and own and that this approach will drive processes to ensure that port land and its associated freight precincts and road and rail corridors are appropriately developed and protected.

Governments that close their ears to impartial expert advice are letting down the nation. Infrastructure Australia also played a role in advising about the national transport regulators. That microeconomic reform will benefit the national economy by $30 billion over 20 years, and yet, under the approach envisaged in this legislation before the House, that will end.

Let me come to transparency. I note that the minister has said that this bill is about greater transparency, but it makes the minister the gatekeeper for publication of information via his powers to direct IA’s activities. Under existing arrangements, IA routinely published the outcomes of its considerations, providing important information to inform the public debate and sending clear signals to the investment community. If the coalition had paid any attention at all they would know that rhetoric such as ‘We’ll produce an annual report to the parliament’ already happens. There is already an annual report to the parliament and to the Council of Australian Governments. It is published on its website. Because we do not direct Infrastructure Australia on what they can look at, there are recommendations that, frankly, I do not support as the former minister. There is a recommendation, for example, about putting a toll on the Pacific Highway. I do not support that. I do not think that is viable. But it is appropriate that where you have an independent, at arm’s-length body making recommendations, from time to time there will be disagreements and governments will take different positions. That is what the Infrastructure Australia process is all about: challenging governments at the national level and at the state level to lift their game and to do better when it comes to infrastructure provision and delivery.

The changes proposed in this bill, giving the minister the ability to block the publication of project evaluations, make a mockery of transparency. On what possible basis is that acceptable from those who, in opposition, spoke about transparency? There is a provision in this legislation to block the publication of project evaluations. That is something that simply does not exist at the moment.

The minister made clear in his contribution to this debate that he wants IA to conduct more of its own research on the economic benefit of infrastructure proposals rather than rely upon work originating from state governments. Infrastructure Australia now makes assessments of the work that state governments have done. Those opposite were talking earlier in their rhetoric across the chamber about the East-West Link in Victoria, for example. The only published BCR on the East-West Link found a benefit-cost ratio of 0.5.

Mr Briggs: So you’re against it.

Mr ALBANESE: That is what the Eddington study found—0.5—and yet they will not publish any of it. You get the childish statement across the chamber from the assistant minister, saying, ‘So you’re against it.’ That is not what I said. What I said very clearly was: publish the economics of this project; let it be seen transparently—

Mr Briggs: In the middle of a tender process.

Mr ALBANESE: Those opposite say, ‘In the middle of the tender process.’ That is the whole point. You find out if it is viable before you go to tender and before you provide funding for it. The assistant minister across the chamber has a lot to learn.

I note the minister does not propose, however, to lift Infrastructure Australia’s funding at all—there is no suggestion of that—and yet they are going to replace the existing IA council with an IA board and bring it under the auspices of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997. Bodies that exist under this act cost more to run. It places obligations on reporting and compliance that are currently done by the department. He does not actually understand that is the process. IA in terms of its financial operations operates with the department for reporting and compliance requirements. That reduces the cost. Yet Infrastructure Australia will be asked to do more with fewer resources.

On top of this, the minister in this legislation proposes sacking the entire Infrastructure Australia council and creating a new board structure to which new people will be appointed, one would assume political appointees. One would assume that that is why that is occurring. It is just like the creation of the new CEO position as opposed to the Infrastructure Australia Coordinator. One assumes it is an attempt to create a system whereby the minister will be able, in the time-honoured fashion of the coalition, to appoint political cronies.

Mr Briggs: It is appointed by the board.

Mr ALBANESE: Yes, but you appoint the board. The fact is that the only person with any political background on the Infrastructure Australia council is Mark Birrell, a former minister in the Kennett government who was appointed by the former Labor government cabinet on merit. That is why we did not have a situation whereby we engaged in the sort of interference that will occur under this system. We have seen these motives before.

As I explained earlier, the Prime Minister refuses to invest in urban passenger rail, preferring to invest exclusively in roads. But even his proposed investment in roads ignores the Infrastructure Australia process. He said that the East-West project had been through a recommendation by Infrastructure Australia. That is not the case. He said it repeatedly and it is simply not true that it was recommended and on the Infrastructure Australia priority list. The WestConnex project in Sydney also has potential but it is yet to have finalisation of its route and finalisation of any costings being done. That needs to be done before federal government money is confirmed. You need to have those processes. With regard to Adelaide’s Darlington Interchange project, which was raised today, the coalition say they have got $500 million for that project. Well, where is the other $800-900 million that the project will cost coming from? With regard to the South Road upgrade, the Torrens to Torrens section has been recommended by Infrastructure Australia as the priority, an area in which preconstruction work has already commenced but will not be able to continue without federal government funding if it is withdrawn.

The fact is that this legislation is contemptuous of the evidence based approach of Infrastructure Australia. It is far more attuned to the electoral map than the national interest. If you are a nation builder, the only map you look at when thinking about infrastructure is the national map. The member for Gippsland would know full well that I as a minister dealt well with him. He was a good representative of his local community, and his claims were dealt with on their merits. If you have a look at where our road funding went, at the end of our government something like three-quarters of the funding that had been allocated had actually gone to coalition seats; three dollars in every four as the most conservative assessment that you could make. We made assessments based on the national interest. That has always been Labor’s way, with the transnational railway, the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the NBN and national strategies for ports, shipping and aviation. You need to have an integrated approach, one that is blind to modes of infrastructure, one that puts efficiency first, one whose aim is productivity and jobs. The coalition has never understood this concept in the past, and this bill shows that nothing has changed. This bill is short-sighted and it will take this nation backwards. It would be more honest if they just abolished Infrastructure Australia and the whole process.

 

Dec 9, 2013

High Speed Rail Planning Authority Bill 2013 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:03): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to be introducing the first private member’s bill of the 44th Parliament.

Nation building requires forward thinking.

Governments that take nation building seriously look well beyond the electoral cycle to contemplate the big infrastructure projects that will benefit future generations.

For many years now, it has been suggested that Australia should develop a high-speed rail line linking Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

That’s why I commissioned a study in two parts that involved extensive consultation with industry, including international operators of high-speed rail as well as significant community input to maximise the effectiveness of the study.

It was completed in two parts so that transparency could be maximised. It was published in full, including the business case for the project, consideration of environmental issues, projections of patronage, proposed route, proposed stations and proposed time lines. There are detailed maps available, indeed, whereby people can see exactly what the proposed route is.

It found that high-speed rail down the east coast of Australia is a viable proposition but that it does face challenges.

It is a nation-building project—a track covering 1,748km and passing through four major cities.

It is visionary, requiring consideration of where our society and its transport needs will be decades from now.

High-speed rail will almost certainly run up against political hurdles. It would be delivered over decades under the stewardship of multiple parliaments in Canberra and the other four jurisdictions involved.

It would also be an engineering challenge, requiring at least 80km of tunnels, including 67km in Sydney alone.

Despite all these challenges, high-speed rail also has huge potential, particularly if we consider where our society is headed over coming decades. We can anticipate that an increasing population and the growing need for a carbon constrained economy will drive the economics of this project ever more positively over time.

The study I released in April this year, which I commissioned as minister, found that high-speed rail would return, for the Sydney to Melbourne section, $2.15 in economic benefit for every dollar invested. It would be a major regional economic development initiative.

A challenge of this scale needs serious forward planning.

The first step is to begin to secure the corridor.

That is why this bill seeks parliament’s support for the High-Speed Rail Planning Authority.

This bill will establish the structure across governments to ensure we maintain the momentum generated by the recent strategic studies.

The bill would establish the High-Speed Rail Planning Authority as a vehicle for long-term Commonwealth leadership to progress this project. This is critical. Without Commonwealth leadership, high-speed rail will never happen.

The Commonwealth has to bring together the state governments, local councils, landholders, potential private sector investors and others to guarantee a cross-jurisdictional approach. And we need to develop that process now.

Inaction now means years will pass and, by the time market conditions shift to the point of supporting high-speed rail, the complex challenges I listed before could have grown insurmountable.

I am hopeful, therefore, that this bill will win support across this parliament—given the rhetoric of people across this parliament.

Planning is not a political issue. It is just common sense.

I must say I had been concerned about the future of high-speed rail given the decision of the Prime Minister in November to wind up the High-Speed Rail Advisory Group. The members of this committee included former Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer, Business Council of Australia Chief Executive, Jennifer Westacott, and Australasian Railway Association chief executive, Bryan Nye. It was chaired by the deputy secretary of my former department, Lyn O’Connell. The aim of this private member’s bill—to formally create a planning authority—is in accordance with its recommendations.

Last year Mr Fischer told The Border Mail the link would be ‘a huge leap forward’ for decentralisation and that long-term planning was vital to prevent the corridor from being absorbed by urban sprawl.

I agree.

It would be a shame to lose the momentum from the major strategic studies of the last three years.

That momentum has built up over successive phases.

Under this private member’s bill, an 11-person high-speed rail authority would bring together all affected states as well as rail and engineering experts to progress planning and, critically, focus on the corridor. The 11 members of the board are outlined in the bill. They would include:

one member from each of the states affected—Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory;

one member representing the Local Government Association;

one member nominated by the Australasian Railway Association; and

five members appointed by the minister for infrastructure on the basis of qualifications or expertise—

to make sure that you got that engineering expertise on the authority.

The authority’s roles would include consideration of:

land use planning relating to the corridor;

safety;

measures to minimise environmental impact; and

public consultation.

The states, councils and landholders along the possible route have a very direct interest in ensuring that, if this project is viable, an orderly process is in place to bring it to fruition.

Big ideas do not happen without leadership.

If we do not start planning now, our lack of foresight could ensure high-speed rail cannot happen.

High-speed rail exists in every continent other than Australia and Antarctica. It is globally recognised as an extremely effective mode of transport and a driver of economic productivity.

Society is always changing.

What might seem unlikely now could be a necessity in the future, particularly when we consider the need to reduce carbon emissions to deal the effects of climate change.

It might seem convenient now to just take a wait-and-see approach—to sit on this idea for a few years.

But I am into nation building and nation building requires planning.

Earlier I referred to the high-speed rail study phase 2 report, which I released on 11 April this year.

It said population and employment growth along the east coast of Australia in coming years would challenge the capacity of our existing modes of transport.

Travel on the east coast of Australia was forecast to grow about 1.8 per cent per year over the next two decades and to increase by 60 per cent by 2035.

The report said that east coast trips will double from 152 million trips in 2009 to 355 million trips in 2065. It is simply not possible to accommodate that growth on existing road and existing air links. That is why we need to make sure that we act now by setting up this authority.

The report found that once the line was fully operational from 2065 across the Brisbane to Melbourne corridor, high-speed rail could carry approximately 84 million passengers each year.

People would be able to travel from Melbourne to Sydney in less than three hours—the same duration of an express trip from Sydney to Brisbane.

The report found the optimal staging would involve building the Sydney to Melbourne line first, starting with the Sydney to Canberra corridor.

Later, building would continue from Canberra to Melbourne, Newcastle to Sydney, Brisbane to the Gold Coast and the Gold Coast to Newcastle.

The entire project would cost $114 billion in 2012 dollars.

The report found that fares would produce only a small investment return and that governments would need to fund most of the capital costs.

However, over time, the system could generate sufficient revenue to meet operating costs without ongoing public subsidy. And that is important.

Conclusion

High-speed rail represents a major challenge for our country.

Although there is a significant cost involved, it does have the potential to revolutionise travel in this country and to reduce carbon emissions.

And I am not just talking about travel between the big state capitals.

Consider the benefits to the regions through which the train would travel.

Consider the jobs involved in construction, the boost to tourism and to opening up dozens of communities to fast, easy high-speed transport.

Vision is important in governing nations.

Nation builders need the ability to both anticipate and create the future.

To those who are doubtful as to whether high speed rail will ever go ahead I would urge you to look long and hard at this bill.

If we do not act now, we are closing off options for future generations.

It is another way we can look at the precautionary principle.

I support this legislation. It is consistent with the reports and the independent advisory council recommendations. I commend the bill to the House.

Nov 18, 2013

Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (20:24): Everyone in this chamber, indeed everyone in this entire country, knows that they have a personal interest in the health of our environment. This is not just about the environment—of course good environmental policy is good economic policy—it is also about sustainability. We must ensure that we have a sustainable economy that acknowledges that we do live in a carbon constrained future; we must prepare ourselves for that future. We should always strive to be ahead of the curve, to be alert to global environmental issues and at all times to give the environment the benefit of the doubt.

This is also good economic policy. It is called fundamental risk management. And that is where climate change, and all issues which this parliament will consider over this year and years to come, needs to be considered. Indeed Australia being the driest continent on the planet means that we have an extra responsibility. We know what the risks of inaction are and, if we are doing our job as legislators, we should heed expert advice from the scientists and act upon it. Indeed, on the issue of climate change, I do not think there is any doubt about the need for action; there is no doubt that human activity is contributing to changes in the environment. I do not want to reprosecute that case for action today; I will leave it to the scientists who have put through the various forums—through the CSIRO in Australia or through the scientists involved in the IPCC—the facts on the table.

We must act, and we know through economic analysis and reports such as the Stern report in the United Kingdom, or indeed the work that Peter Shergold did here in Australia, that the earlier we act the cheaper the cost of action is. The alternative that has been put forward by the previous speaker, the member for Ryan, and those on the coalition benches, the so-called Direct Action plan—planting trees and storing carbon in the soil—is inadequate to address the problem. It is a bandaid on a bullet wound.

I am all for planting more trees and for soil sequestration and any other type of mitigating action that can be taken to reduce carbon emissions, but based upon what the scientists are telling us, it simply will not be enough. That is why I support a market based solution. That used to be a consensus in this parliament. John Howard campaigned in 2007 in favour of an ETS as a result of the work that was done in the Shergold report. Labor also campaigned in the 2007 election for an ETS. We did so because we understand that it is the power of the market that can drive change in our economy.

The alternative plan, the command style economy plan of the so-called Direct Action plan, simply will not be enough. Earlier this year senate officials told a Senate estimates committee hearing that the coalition’s carbon farming initiative would reduce carbon emissions by fewer than four million tonnes—that is if it is all put in place. The coalition claimed that it would reduce emissions by 20 times this amount. Based on CSIRO research, the coalition would have to utilise two-thirds of the Australian land mass to achieve the emissions reduction targets they say they support.

So let us have none of this nonsense that we have heard opposite about their wanting to get rid of the price on carbon. Indeed, under the legislation that is before this House, the price on carbon will continue up until 1 July next year. If they were fair dinkum at all, they would move so that, once this legislation is carried, then the carbon price would go. But they are not fair dinkum. It is all about politics, as it always has been with those opposite.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which we attempted to implement after our election in 2007, consistent with the mandate that was given not just to the Labor government but to the coalition opposition, was designed as a market based solution. Indeed, Malcolm Turnbull remains a supporter of that position, because he knows that the so-called Direct Action Plan is a farce, and he has said so very clearly.

It is not just the coalition, though, who bear some responsibility for walking away from action needed for this and future generations. If the five Australian Greens senators had got up off their butts and walked across the chamber to vote for action on climate change with the Labor senators and the two Liberal senators who had courage in December 2009, we would have had a price on carbon implemented through legislation then, and today it would have been accepted as a consensus in this parliament.

In the last term, we were able to pass legislation for an emissions-trading scheme with a fixed price until 1 July 2015. Earlier this year, when Kevin Rudd returned as the Prime Minister and I was Deputy Prime Minister, we committed to the abolition of the carbon tax and a move to emissions trading from 1 July 2014, embracing the power of the market in order to drive that change through the economy. That is the position that Labor took to the election and it is the position that we hold today, and yet those opposite are not only sceptics when it comes to climate change; they are also market sceptics. That is absolutely extraordinary. From time to time, the Liberal Party likes to talk about the power of the market, but on this critical issue with such serious implications for our economy, for employment and for our environment, the Liberal Party, instead of using a market based mechanism to drive that economy, prefers to subsidise the big polluters. It is a ‘pay polluters’ scheme that they want.

And where does that money—the billions of dollars that is going to be used to subsidise the big polluters—come from? It comes from taxpayers. So what they want to do is slug ordinary Australian working families in order to subsidise the big polluters. That is their plan—rather than embracing the need for a price signal, one that is understood by the business community and one that would put in place a driver of that change through the economy. Those opposite pretend that they have a mandate for this and that somehow we should just agree with their position. I say this to them. We were elected in 2007 with support for an emissions-trading scheme, which they were also elected upon, and yet they walked away from that commitment.

Yesterday, thousands of Australians marched and demonstrated their desire for action on climate change. Fair Australians who have looked at the science and considered the issues know that our responsibility to this and future generations requires more than just mitigation. They know that taking action to prevent dangerous climate change is far preferable to spending money to alleviate the result of climate change. Common sense tells you that that is the case.

This is a fundamental issue between a political party that understands our responsibility to the future, our responsibility to look ahead, our responsibility to prepare for the change that is required, and those opposite, who say, ‘There is a cost to carbon pollution, but we’ll pass that on to future generations.’ It is reminiscent of those in earlier times in our great nation who built industrial warehouses and factories alongside rivers. Why did they do that, in our capitals and regional cities? They did that because if the pollution from, for example, the sugar mill on the Cooks River, in my electorate, expunged its waste into the river then it was someone else’s problem. They passed on the cost to what is now this generation for the pollution in the Cooks River, the rivers going into Sydney Harbour and other rivers right around our great nation. We see the impact of their saying, ‘We will not worry about waste and externalities’—to put it in economic terms—’we will just pass that on to future generations.’

That is exactly what the coalition would have us do when it comes to carbon pollution. There is a cost to carbon pollution and we need to accept responsibility, not out of any bleeding heart position but because we know that the cost of acting will be far, far cheaper if we act now.

During the 43rd Parliament the Leader of the Opposition at the time, the now Prime Minister, sought power with a political strategy of just being negative. He just said, ‘We will oppose everything.’ In the hung parliament Mr Abbott was so desperate to create the appearance of chaos he refused to back anything put forward by our side of politics. The problem with that is that you now have an incoming government that does not have a plan for the future. It is just what they are against. In all of their measures—repealing the price on carbon, repealing the Mineral Resource Rent Tax, stopping various infrastructure projects going forward—there is nothing positive. It struck me when the Governor-General gave her speech to the opening of parliament last week that this is a government based upon what it is against, not what it is for.

Government requires actual solutions. It requires something more than just being negative. According to the scientists across the nation, we know that when it comes to climate change we need a positive solution—a solution that understands we must be part of international action, yes, but we also have responsibility as the highest per capita emitter in the world to take action ourselves. That is why I support Labor’s position of moving from the fixed price on carbon to a flexible price mechanism through an emissions trading scheme.

Nov 13, 2013

Statements on Indulgence – Member for Griffith

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (20:43): I pay tribute to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on this very significant day for the parliament. He is someone who respects our institutions, including this great parliament, which is why he made the appropriate decision to inform the parliament here first. Giving respect—a lesson for all of us.

Others have said that Kevin Rudd led Labor to a historic victory in 2007. That is certainly the case. Having experienced 12 long years in opposition, it was indeed a timely victory for the class of ’96, let alone the classes of ’98, 2001 and 2004. It is particularly significant for Labor. Labor governed for around about one third or less of last century. There are only three people who have led Labor to government from opposition—Kevin Rudd, Bob Hawke and Gough Whitlam—since the Second World War. That is how significant that victory was, and all the more significant because John Howard—whilst I would have a couple of differences with him—was a very formidable Prime Minister and political leader, indeed.

Kevin Rudd’s tenacity and determination on behalf of the Labor cause was something to behold and it explains some of my position around the events of 2010—a position I will hold forever—that we should respect our leaders. The apology to Indigenous Australians, the ratification of the Kyoto protocol as the first act of the Rudd Labor government, the largest ever increase in the age pension, the expansion of affordable housing, action on homelessness, the National Broadband Network are all part of the Rudd government’s legacy.

I believe the most significant part, though, was seeing Australia through the global financial crisis. That was regarded by people like Jo Stiglitz as the world’s best designed economic stimulus plan. Treasury estimates it kept 200,000 Australians in work. Running the economy is the fundamental objective of government. If you do not do that, then you cannot create the space for the social and environmental policies that you would like to do. For a Labor government there can be no greater legacy than safeguarding the jobs of Australians.

Kevin’s greatest foreign policy achievement was his international leadership in elevating the status of the G20 during the GFC. I had the honour of going with Kevin and the Treasurer Wayne Swan when I was the infrastructure minister to that first conference in London. I saw first hand a great example of Australia punching way above our weight in terms the size of the economy. I saw the work that Kevin was able to achieve in the negotiations on the floor. His leadership was quite extraordinary. I have no doubt it played a role in securing Australia’s position on the United Nations Security Council.

His dedication to nation building meant that it was a pretty good time to be infrastructure minister, because Kevin backed me up—doubling the roads budget, increasing the rail budget by more than ten times, recognising through his advocacy of projects like the cross-river rail project and the Moreton Bay Regional Rail Link—

first promised in 1895 but delivered by the Rudd Labor government and under construction right now. Kevin also continued to advocate for his local community. With an airport-affected seat, I certainly related to Kevin’s advocacy there. I am very proud that I got to serve as Deputy Prime Minister to Kevin when he returned to the Prime Ministership earlier this year. It is something that does not get taken away. I will probably regret the fact that Kevin called me Albo at that first press conference and now everyone calls me Albo. It used to be just my friends.

Kevin’s leadership during that difficult time was quite extraordinary: taking on the leadership of a party that had been through a very difficult and turbulent time, preparing for an election campaign and then campaigning right around the country with energy and vigour in a campaign in which the odds were always against us. To repeat a private conversation—I don’t do that—I said to Kevin at one stage on the day, ‘I don’t know why you’ve just made this decision; it’s not in your interests.’ He could have retired having led Labor to victory in 2007; 2010 changed, and no-one could have questioned what the outcomes might have been in 2010. He could have retired as an undefeated Prime Minister from the Australian electorate. He chose to put the party that he loves first, before his own interests and the interests of his family. And I thank him for that, because Labor is competitive.

Finally, I thank him for what he has done for our party: the democratic reforms that he championed, in having a leadership ballot of the party where more than 30,000 people got to vote in that democratic election—I believe, a process that showed that you can have a democratic election without rancour and emerge stronger as an organisation if people actually accept processes and participate in them with goodwill. We emerged, after a significant election loss, with a party that is more united, stronger and more cohesive than it would have been if that reform was not put in place under Kevin Rudd’s leadership. And it must be, as Kevin said, the first step. We also need to democratise and give greater direct participation—I think it is the way forward, not just for Labor but for all political parties. The world has changed and people demand a direct say, not just sitting in halls; that is a thing of the past. And I intend to continue to champion an extension of Kevin’s democratic reforms which he began.

He leaves the parliament with my best wishes and my enduring friendship. I also extend my thanks to Therese and other members of Kevin’s family for their contribution to the cause of Labor, and also for their contribution to the cause of our great nation, Australia. Our families give up an enormous amount for the decisions that we make to be in this place. And the sort of scrutiny of them that occurs, sometimes most unfair, is something that comes with the job. But for Kevin, who has given so much for Australia up to this point: I look forward to watching his contribution outside the parliament and on the issues he has indicated—Indigenous welfare, homelessness, organ donation and others—that I have no doubt Kevin will take up with passion and commitment. And I pay tribute to him and honour him here tonight.

Sep 19, 2013

Address to Per Capita ‘Reform Agenda’ Series

Thanks Josh for that introduction and thanks to Per Capita for hosting me today – I know you’ve encouraged so much long-term thinking on the progressive side of politics over the past seven years.

A political party or movement can only truly call itself progressive if it is rich in ideas, steeped in debate, and full of passion for the future.

I know you’ve invited Bill Shorten to address you in coming days as well and I want to say that’s a good thing: this contest is a really exciting one for everyone who’s interested in politics and ideas.

So to Per Capita today, keep up the good work.

I draw my vision for our country in four, big brush strokes.

I want Australia to have a strong economy with more jobs, low unemployment and growth.

I want us to be a nation of opportunity – one which is environmentally sustainable – and Australia must always about the fair go.

Have no doubt: That is not a vision our conservative opponents share.

In office, they will hurt jobs and growth, limit our social mobility, damage our natural heritage, and disrespect the Australian tradition of a fair go.

They’ve already begun.

Cutbacks to infrastructure including the NBN, undermining the Better Schools Plan, cutting funding to the Murray-Darling Basin, rolling AusAID into the Foreign Affairs Department, sacking senior public servants, and just today shutting down the Climate Change Authority.

Most graphically, their step back in time has been demonstrated by the appointment of just one woman out of nineteen in the Cabinet.

They have entrenched this lack of representation by appointing just one woman out of twelve Parliamentary Secretaries – thereby ensuring a lack of women at the highest levels for a political generation.

These coming years are crucial.

Yes, we have to expose the broken promises and bad decisions the conservatives will commit over the next three years – that’s our democratic duty.

Yes, we have to change the way our Party manages our own affairs, so that we have a deeper connection to the community we represent.

But there is a bigger job, a harder job, ahead of us as well:

We have to generate new ideas.

We’re going to have to knock back some interviews and doorstops.

We’re going to have to pass up some opportunities to criticise and to attack – we’re going to have to lift our eyes from the affairs of our own Party and movement.

We might even have to turn off our phones for an hour at a time.

This period of Opposition must be used to encourage new thinking on our side.

What is the future of Australian jobs and industries as the global economy is transformed in the Asian Century?

How do we complete the great economic and social infrastructure we’ve begun in the past five years – like the national broadband network, like DisabilityCare Australia?

And beyond that – what is there at the new horizon for Government in Australia in 2016 and the years beyond?

What’s the next NBN?  The next Education Revolution?

What do we want Australia to look like in ten and twenty years’ time.

Labor must always be about the practical concerns of all Australians, in the living rooms, around the kitchen tables.

It’s not about us; it’s about the Australian people.

We must connect around four themes: Jobs and economic growth, creating opportunity, a sustainable natural and urban environment, and a fair go.

A strong economy must always be a first order issue.

Our conservative opponents say they want a strong economy but they mean something different.

We know a strong economy is one which is creating high-skilled, high-wage jobs, secure jobs in growing industries.

I see an Australia in the future where everyone can say “my job is secure with decent working conditions”.

One where every parent can confidently say “my kids will find jobs when they grow up – and their living standards will be better than mine”.

To achieve these objectives we can’t hide from change. I don’t want to retreat from openness.

Our future lies in succeeding in the world, not protecting ourselves from it.

We can never just defend existing industries – we also have to reach out to new innovation and new sources of growth and jobs.

There’s a world of change surrounding us.

The transformation of global production and demand in the Asian Century has only just begun.

That reaches beyond the current transition in China from investment-driven growth to a more sustainable consumption-driven growth.

It reaches to the steady and irreversible rise of India, a nation whose own best prospects are still there in openness and growth.

Our future lies in exports, our future lies in Asia, our future lies to the north.

Beyond the mining boom, we have to turn this into an opportunity for smart Australian exporters in every industry sector.

Our own economy is already changing.

Mining investment will continue to slow.

Domestically, there will be jobs in services, in health and aged care, in tourism and education.

In the retail and financial sector, in construction and transport, new jobs will be created.

Small business will be a major driver of job creation and Labor must reach out to contractors, sole traders, and other small businesses as part of a modern Labor constituency.

Modern agriculture will contribute, but be driven by new technology – such as the “Sense-T” initiative in Tasmania using the NBN.

This takes advantage of broadband technology to know when to harvest the crop, pick the grape, or farm the salmon, to maximize primary sector productivity.

We can do more – and we bring competitive advantages.

We’re a high-wage country, with an advanced financial and accounting sector, a well-developed legal structure and a society that respects the rule of law.

That creates export opportunities in itself, in those services and in related areas.

As Infrastructure Minister, I encouraged companies like Ghella from Italy to base themselves in Australia as their base for regional operations.

We must also create opportunities for our next generation of entrepreneurs in advanced manufacturing.

Be clear about this.  Manufacturing has a great future.

That future is in smart, advanced, innovative Australian firms – the CSLs and the ResMeds, the digital media companies, and many more.

These are crucial creators of skilled work over coming decades.

Companies like Thales, who are building our Defence Force’s Bushmasters in Bendigo.

Businesses like their Bendigo neighbours Keech Australia, who can’t wait for high-speed broadband so that their electronic plans and models can be shared with their global clients instantaneously – not on a CD which has to be posted to Kazakhstan.

So many of the jobs we want our kids to do rest on their innovation, their creativity, the change and diversification that firms like that drive.

Australia needs a balanced and diverse economy for the long-term – we must not mortgage our national future to any one commodity or industry or export destination.

Whilst I support an open economy, we must ensure that any trade agreements are truly in the national interest, and make decisions based not on ideology, but on hard-headed assessment.

The role of Government is fundamentally to make sure the regulatory environment is right for the private sector to do its job.

Productivity growth is critical. The reduction in national transport regulators from 23 down to 3 is a legacy of the Labor Government that will boost national income by $30 billion over the next 20 years.

Improving productivity means investing in infrastructure and skills.

Infrastructure is an area where we can either build a great competitive advantage or genuinely fall behind.

Unlike our natural resources, it’s not a given.

But we can control it if we look beyond the short term electoral cycle towards the long term.

I was the Transport Minister who completed the duplication of the Hume.

It’s done.  Drive from here up to Sydney today – you won’t go through a traffic light from Campbellfield to Campbelltown.

We must complete the duplication of the Pacific and transform the Bruce Highway.

We must break the back of urban congestion.

We must complete the National Broadband Network.

This will call for new ways of financing, new ways of planning, and new governance structures.

We must build not just roads but urban public transport and implement the national port strategy, and the national land freight strategy.

There is a critical role for the national government in our cities in promoting urban productivity, sustainability and liveability.

If I am elected leader, there will be a Shadow Minister for Cities, as well as a Shadow Minister for Regional Development.

These tasks are complementary, as the growth of regional cities can take pressure off the major capitals, as Victoria has shown.

When it comes to opportunity, education is the key.

We can be a nation where you know that the school your child goes to has the best standards, the best teachers, the best resources, no matter what suburb or town you live in, no matter what system you choose for your child.

Where if you want a trade, you can get a training place; where if you want to expand your small business, you can get finance and skilled staff; where if you want to go to uni, you can get the kind of course you want; and where you know that your work is rewarded and that you will get a fair go from your boss.

One of the many legacies of the Rudd and Gillard Governments is that we have done vital long-term policy development for universities and schools.

The Better Schools Plan based on the work done by David Gonski and his colleagues and our reforms to university funding based on the work done by Denise Bradley really do give us a blueprint for the future in these fields, grounded in careful and considered thought.

Where I believe the next big agenda lies is in training.

Our system today reflects a classic Australian compromise. It comprises public and private, employer, trainee and Government, state and Federal … and of course the engagement of teachers and trainers themselves.

We don’t need to simplify for its own sake but we do desperately need more workers to have better skills.

We also need to acknowledge that the hiving off of the most profitable areas of training has placed real pressure on the TAFE system.

Skills are the vital element in getting unemployment down and workforce participation up.

This is an area of the highest priority.

A commitment to a strong economy and creating opportunity must also be sustainable.

This is an important economic issue – this is about our economy not just our environment.

There are significant economic opportunities in investing in clean energy and decoupling economic growth from emissions growth.

To not do so is to risk an expensive and sudden economic transition in decades to come.

Australia must keep to a market-based system to cut our carbon pollution at the lowest cost and create new opportunities.

I see a future where every industry and every government is investing in a clean energy future, where we are building low-carbon and no-carbon power, smart grids and distributed co-generation, and where we export clean energy and clean technology to the world.

We have the plan – Labor’s task in the next three years is to fight for it like there’s no tomorrow.

If we don’t, there might not be one.

Climate change is a global challenge and we must play our part.

Part of being Australian is a commitment to the fair go.

Labor Governments are at our best when we take on inequality and discrimination.

Whether it be gender, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, or who people happen to love.

That means the Federal Parliament should legislate for marriage equality.

Marriage equality will happen.  When it does, people will wonder what the fuss was about.

For our vision of the nation in ten years’ time and beyond, there are new grounds of fairness we must secure.

In coming decades, I believe how we treat older Australians is going to be vital for the future of fairness.

Millions of Australians will want security and freedom in their retirement years.

That means adequate retirement income – a good life in retirement – something Labor has worked so hard for.

With two decades of universal super now behind us, a full-time worker on a median wage can retire today with a superannuation balance of around $130 000.

We can project more than that though – in another twenty years, people retiring will have a full working life of super behind them – and a full-time worker on a median wage will retire with a balance of $340 000 in today’s money.

This is a stunning achievement and it shows what can be done by a Labor Government with a long-term vision.

These are decisions made in Government twenty-five years ago, to create universal superannuation, which will be bearing new fruit in twenty-five years’ time.

Those kinds of long-term decisions lie ahead of us in the next decade as well.

Making sure older Australians aren’t discriminated against is going to be vital to creating the opportunity for millions of healthy, educated Australians to continue their contribution to our society.

Consider that Deloitte has found that an increase of five per cent in paid employment by Australians over the age of 55 would result in a $48 billion boost to our GDP – a lift of 2.4 per cent in national income.

Or think about it this way.

Five years ago there were five working age Australians to every one Australian over 65 – and in forty years’ time there’ll be three working age Australians to every one Australian over 65.

That change is familiar to us, even if the scale is still amazing.

But think about who those over-65s are going to be: they will be the people who are starting in the workforce this year.

The best educated, the best trained, the healthiest generation of Australians, ever.

If those Australians who want to participate, but are excluded from the workforce because too many employers are allergic to hiring white hair, or are too inflexible to create the kind of job that fits an older worker, we are not serving their interest or the national interest.

Today I’ve outlined a framework for Labor – jobs and economic growth, creating opportunity, sustainability, and a fair go.

The process of democratic input into the leadership must evolve into greater democratic input to policy development.

This must respect a broad range of progressive opinion, whilst articulating common core principles.

It is more difficult to build a Coalition based upon a positive agenda than a Noalition based upon negative slogans.

But because Labor Governments are about progressive change, not entrenching existing economic and power relationships, we will benefit from embracing this challenge.

Our capacity to mobilise support for Labor will be enhanced by this process.

I am standing for the leadership because I bring to that position vision, unity and strength.

Labor in Opposition needs to focus on ensuring that at the time of the next election we have a coherent and clearly articulated alternative vision for the nation.

If that means not worrying as much about the 24 hour news cycle, then so be it.

We must always remember that Labor Governments are not the end in itself, but what they can do for the Australian people.

It is only Labor that takes on the big reforms:

The Age Pension, nation building infrastructure – from the transcontinental railway to the Snowy Mountain Scheme to the National Broadband Network, Medicare, compulsory superannuation, and access to higher education.

We have a big challenge.

Labor must change and must do better.

But if we harness the ability of all of our caucus team, our existing members, but importantly our potential members and supporters, we will maximize our opportunity to achieve government in 2016.

When we do this we can build on the legacy of the major reforms of the Rudd and Gillard Governments.

We then can also develop the next wave of reforms to make Australia a more prosperous, just and sustainable society into the future.

[ENDS]

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Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

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

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