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

Question without notice – Infrastructure

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:48): My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. I ask the minister: why is federal infrastructure funding for South Australia just $95 million in 2020-21, or just two per cent of the federal infrastructure and transport budget?
Feb 27, 2018

Statements on Indulgence – Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples: 10th Anniversary

Federation Chamber

At the time, of course, this followed years of indecision—years in which Prime Minister Howard said that it would be inappropriate for the parliament to apologise. It was argued that those who would deliver that apology were not personally responsible for taking Indigenous children from their parents over the previous decades. The events of that momentous day show how wrong that view was. It was certainly the proudest day of the 22 years I’ll celebrate as a member of this parliament this coming Friday. It was a day when we as a parliament righted a wrong. It was a day when, after years of denial, the parliament recognised the injustices and inhumanity visited upon the stolen generations.

Those who were there that day will all remember it. This was a time when the nation paused to reflect our history, and indeed that day made history. I want to pay tribute in particular to the generosity of the members of the stolen generations themselves who came to this parliament, sat around that chamber and weren’t bitter about their experience. They accepted the spirit in which the apology was given by Prime Minister Rudd on behalf of the nation. I looked up as the Prime Minister spoke, and I saw scores of members of the stolen generation weeping, sitting in their seats trembling, holding each other’s hands.

I’ve seen since, of course, the depiction of meetings out on the front lawn and right around our nation, where the response was the same. My son’s then primary school stopped to watch this historic event on a large screen. The members of the stolen generation, that day, received just a little bit of warm-hearted response that helped make them feel as though the nation understood, in a small way, the incredible trauma that had been done to them. It will indeed be remembered for a very long time. As Prime Minister Rudd said:

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

As the speech continued, everyone in the parliament knew that we were doing the right thing, as did the millions of Australians gathered around the nation. And indeed, when Prime Minister Rudd finished that address, around the nation, as well as in the chamber, they leapt to their feet to applaud.

Of course, the apology was not the end of the story; it was just the beginning. We knew at the time that the apology needed to be backed up with concrete action, that it was just a step on the road to reconciliation. Importantly, establishing the Closing the gap report to parliament was an important step forward. Some progress has been made in three out of the seven targets. They include the target to halve the gap in child mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade, the target that 95 per cent of all Indigenous four-year-olds would be enrolled in early education by 2025, and the target to halve the gap in year 12 attainment by 2020. Not on track are life expectancy, employment, reading and writing, and school attendance.

I was somewhat disappointed by some of the reporting and public discussion of the Prime Minister’s report to parliament on Closing the Gap, because there was a tone of pessimism. That, I believe, is a wrong analysis. It will take generations to close the gap—indeed, decades of bipartisanship. Let me quote former Prime Minister Rudd when he spoke at the National Press Club just last month. He said:

… these targets were meant to be ambitious; they were meant to challenge us all; because we had to shake ourselves out of our national torpor that business as usual was fine, or we could just fiddle at the edges of indigenous disadvantage.

Mr Rudd went on to say that, while we must accept our failures and act to correct them, we must also celebrate our progress. Because of Closing the Gap, more Indigenous children are finishing school. Because of Closing the Gap, fewer infants are dying. Because of Closing the Gap, more youngsters are receiving early childhood education. We have a long way to go, but we can’t give up. We have a responsibility to the First Australians, as privileged as we are to live in the nation with the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet, to close the gap across the board so that these issues of education, health, employment and life expectancy are all dealt with.

The apology and Closing the Gap are also critical to the achievement of broader reconciliation. This requires collaboration and it requires that we listen to Indigenous people. Hence the importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This calls for a voice to the parliament. Who could disagree with the concept that Indigenous Australians are entitled to put forward their view about legislation before this parliament that impacts them? What they are not asking for is a third chamber. They are asking for a voice to the parliament. It was very pleasing that Labor have said that we will work towards achieving that. I’d ask the Prime Minister to reconsider the rejection of the Uluru statement. It is important that these issues be bipartisan. We must engage with Indigenous people who have gone through a process of consultation with communities around the nation, and not just dismiss them, and certainly not misrepresent what they are asking for. We have a long way to go to achieve reconciliation in this country, but the apology was an important step. It’s one that I’m proud, as a member of the House of Representatives, to be associated with. It is very important that we have signified the tenth anniversary of this historic occasion.

Feb 15, 2018

Questions without notice – Deputy Prime Minister

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:52): My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister, and I refer to his previous answers. In his statement to the House today the Deputy Prime Minister said:

… basically, ‘Mates don’t pay for things when they’re helping other mates out …

As a cabinet minister, the Deputy Prime Minister is in the privileged position of administering government agencies. How many times has the Deputy Prime Minister used taxpayers’ money to help his mate out?

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER: No, that question’s in order. No, the Deputy Prime Minister can—

Mr Watts: It is outrageous!

The SPEAKER: And the member for Gellibrand can leave under the 94(a).

The member for Gellibrand then left the chamber.

Mr JOYCE (New EnglandDeputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Leader of The Nationals) (14:52): I thank the honourable member for Grayndler for his question. Obviously, the idea that at this point of time I could determine (a) who my mates are, (b) what payments have been made and (c) be able to deliver it now is absolutely and patently absurd.

Feb 14, 2018

Personal explanations

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:13): I wish to make a personal explanation.

The SPEAKER: Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr ALBANESE: I do.

The SPEAKER: The member for Grayndler may proceed.

Mr ALBANESE: In question time today, the minister for infrastructure quoted me in saying that there was funding for the inland rail in the 2013 budget. The minister for infrastructure says that that wasn’t true. In order to assist, I quote from the government’s own Inland Rail Implementation Group’s report, Inland rail 2015, which says:

The Deputy Prime Minister has sought advice from the Implementation Group on options for the initial $300 million in Government expenditure

It goes on to say that that was there in the 2013-14 budget, and I seek leave to table the government’s own report.

Leave not granted.

Mr ALBANESE: Further, the Deputy Prime Minister went on to say that my statement that the inland rail doesn’t go to the port of Brisbane was not correct. I quote from an article in TheCourier Mail, 14 May, by Matthew Connors, in which the Port of Brisbane chief executive Roy Cummins said:

The fact that Inland Rail stops at Acacia Ridge, and double-stacked trains will have to be unloaded there, means Brisbane residents could see millions more trucks driving through Brisbane suburbs.

I seek leave to table the article from TheCourier Mail.

Leave not granted.

Feb 13, 2018

Questions with notice – National Road Toll

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:56): My question is again addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister why, at the very time the national road toll has been increasing, after decades of decline, the budget papers show that, of the $232 million allocated to the heavy vehicle safety program over the last four years, only $125 million, or half, was actually invested? How many additional truck rest stops could have been built if this allocation had actually been invested?
Feb 13, 2018

Question without notice – Infrastructure

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:49): Thank you Mr Speaker. My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. I refer to the coalition government’s budget papers and the final budget outcome document. Is the infrastructure minister aware that the difference between what was promised in each of the budget papers and what was actually invested in Queensland’s infrastructure is $1.0289 billion? How does the minister explain this over one billion dollar cut in real terms just in Queensland’s infrastructure; and how many jobs for Queenslanders would have been created had this investment actually occurred and not just been promised?
Feb 13, 2018

Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2017-2018, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2017-2018 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:27): Australians are a reasonable people. With only one exception in our history, Australian voters have given federal governments at least two terms in office. That’s enough time to implement their policies and for evidence to emerge as to whether those policies have worked as promised. Voters listen to what we say as parliamentarians. They want proof that the government can actually deliver what it promises. They want a government with a sense of purpose, with a narrative for what it wants to do in office and where it wants to take the country. They want a government that not only anticipates the future but, by its actions, helps to create that future. What is very clear is that for this Prime Minister, in particular, his only objective has been to occupy the Lodge. You can see the lack of foresight and forward thinking when it comes to infrastructure investment, and that is what I want to concentrate on in my contribution to this appropriations debate in the parliament this evening.

The fact is that this government has cut infrastructure investment and it will continue to cut infrastructure investment into the future. The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that, based upon the government’s own figures, infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP will fall from 0.4 to 0.2 per cent over the next decade. It will halve.

If you look at the specific budget figures, you can see why that’s occurring. The estimate of what the government would invest on infrastructure in the 2016-17 financial year, as announced on budget night, was $9.2 billion. If you look at the actual investment, it was $7.5 billion—or a $1.7 billion underspend—in circumstances when, because of the mining boom moving from the investment to the production phase, we should have been stepping up investment in infrastructure. But over the forward estimates it gets worse. Over the forward estimates, the amount of infrastructure investment will fall off a cliff to $4.2 billion.

We raised these questions this week in parliament with the hapless and helpless infrastructure minister, who happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. What we’ve learnt is that the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, does not have a clue about this portfolio, despite the fact that he was appointed to the position last year after a long period of stalking the former minister for infrastructure, the member for Gippsland. We asked the minister why, for example, Victoria, home to one in four Australians, receives only nine per cent of the Commonwealth infrastructure budget. Victoria is Australia’s fastest-growing state. Melbourne is Australia’s fastest-growing city. Yet this government chooses to allocate under 10 per cent of the budget.

In fact, in his answer he raised the $1.5 billion that was forwarded under the East West Link project, determined by the Abbott government in 2014, which the people of Victoria rejected when they elected the Daniel Andrews government. It’s not surprising that they rejected it, given it had a benefit-to-cost ratio of just 45c return for every dollar that would have been invested in that project. But, of course, because of the incompetent way in which the government have dealt with infrastructure and their budgetary policies, they’d already forwarded $1.5 billion as an advance payment to Victoria for this project before it had its business case.

This is a government that says that it had a policy of only making milestone payments once something was actually being built. But that $1.5 billion was, of course, reallocated to a range of projects just last year when they realised that it was unsustainable to have that money simply sitting in the bank account of the Victorian government and not building anything, which is what had occurred over the previous couple of years. But the infrastructure minister didn’t seem to know that that was the case—just like today, when, in answer to a question from his own side, he then went through and claimed rail projects such as the Regional Rail Link that were funded by the former Labor government and projects like the M80 as well.

We also asked him why he was cutting infrastructure investment in South Australia from $921.4 million in the current year to just $95 million in 2019-20. That represents South Australia receiving just two per cent of the national infrastructure budget in spite of the fact that the government have said they support the upgrading of the entire North-South Corridor road; in spite of the fact that the project between Torrens to Torrens and the South Road Superway is the next one ready to be progressed; in spite of the fact that the Prime Minister says he supports public transport, but the Gawler line electrification is ready to go and is waiting for funding; and in spite of the fact that the South Australian government has developed the AdeLINK light rail expansion to improve mobility and deal with urban congestion in that state. His response was to simply talk about the portfolio of the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and defence spending rather than infrastructure and transport spending, which is what he’s actually responsible for. We asked why the government allocated $100 million to the Northern Australia Roads Program last year but actually spent $12 million, so there was an underspend of 88 per cent in that program at a time when they say they care about northern Australia. I note that the member for Solomon, who is in the chamber, can certainly identify roads that could have been funded in his electorate around Darwin and Palmerston and could have benefitted from that program. What we heard from the infrastructure minister was quite revealing in that he talked about the Nullarbor Plain. He wasn’t quite sure where the Northern Territory and northern Australia is. He talked about the Nullarbor, which says it all about his failure in this area.

Perhaps the worst response from the infrastructure minister, who showed that, frankly, he’s out of his depth in that portfolio, was his response to a question we raised about infrastructure investment in Tasmania. Since the change of government in 2013, we’ve seen a funding cut for the Midland Highway upgrade and a funding cut for the rail revitalisation program. Remarkably, for Tasmania, not a single new major infrastructure project funded by the federal government has begun—nothing in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 or 2018. The infrastructure minister referred to the Inland Rail project. If you look at a map of Australia, between the north island, where we are now, and the south island of Tasmania is the Bass Strait. I’ve got news for the minister for infrastructure: inland rail does not cross the Bass Strait. He should know that because, in fact, inland rail goes nowhere near water at all. It doesn’t go to the Port of Melbourne and it stops 38 kilometres short of the Port of Brisbane, at Acacia Ridge. It’s quite remarkable.

Today we asked why the government had spent $1 billion less than promised in Queensland in the past four years. Again, there was no response. There was no understanding that what we were talking about wasn’t what Labor thought should happen in Queensland. What we were talking about were their own budget papers in their first four budgets and what they said they would spend, and matching that up with actual investment. That cut is due to a failure to invest in programs in Queensland and right around the country. Money was allocated for things such as the Mobile Black Spot Program and the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program. At a time when, after decades of a declining road toll, we’ve had the road toll increase, we have an underspend of half the funds that were allocated for heavy vehicle rest stops. That is a remarkable indictment of the incompetence of this government. That is this government’s record on infrastructure.

The total underspend between the 2014-15 budget—its first budget—and 2017-18 has now hit $4.8 billion. Now, occasionally, it may well be that a road project or a rail project has to be deferred slightly because of weather events or because of circumstances beyond the government’s control. I accept that that can happen. But this is happening across every state and territory every year, for road and rail projects large and small. That comes down to a simple case of incompetence. The difference between the budget that they announced in May 2017 and the MYEFO that they put out at the end of last year showed a reduction of $914 million—and we’re not even there yet. That’s what they cut from when they made the big announcements in May, and now we see what’s actually happening. On major road projects alone, the underspend is $2.8 billion. That is why Infrastructure Partnerships Australia said, ‘The budget confirms the cut to real budgeted capital funding to its lowest level in more than a decade—using a mix of underspend, reprofiling and narrative to cover this substantial drop in real capital expenditure.’ There are two ways you can grow an economy: invest in infrastructure or invest in people through education and training. This government is doing neither, which is why it’s not creating the conditions for growth in the future economy and for future employment and opportunity for Australians.

Feb 12, 2018

Questions without notice – Tasmania Infrastruture

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:40): My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure. I refer to the government’s own budget papers 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 or the Turnbull-Joyce governments?

Feb 12, 2018

Questions without notice – Deputy Prime Minister

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:56): My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure. I refer to his answers today in which he has defended Victoria receiving under 10 per cent of federal infrastructure funding by mentioning funds that have been reallocated; argued Inland Rail would benefit Tasmania; defended South Australia receiving two per cent of funds in his portfolio by talking about his colleague’s portfolio; and, on the northern roads program being not spent, he referred to the Nullarbor. Isn’t the infrastructure minister simply not up to the job that he has been appointed to? (Time expired)

Feb 12, 2018

Private Members’ Business – United Nations World Radio Day

Federation Chamber 

That this House:

(1) observes:

(a) United Nations World Radio Day (WRD) on 13 February 2018;

(b) this year’s WRD theme of ‘Radio and Sports’ which calls on us to:

   (i) celebrate the role of radio in promoting Australian sports and the inspiring stories of our high achieving sportspeople and teams;

   (ii) support and promote the grassroots sports that anchor us within our communities;

   (iii) be inspired by the stories that challenge gender stereotypes; and

      (iv) equally cover both men’s and women’s sports events;

(2) recognises the:

(a) unique ability of sport to unite and inspire Australians of all backgrounds, and the iconic nature of many Australian sporting events;

(b) power of radio to unite, inform and entertain Australians throughout the nation and across commercial, public and community broadcasting;

(c) particular importance of publicly funded radio in regional and remote Australia, especially during natural disasters;

(d) critical importance of publicly funded radio for our culturally and linguistically diverse communities through the SBS; and

      (e) role of community broadcasters in nurturing new Australian talent including sports broadcasters, journalists and producers;

(3) acknowledges:

(a) the significant disparity between the coverage of men’s and women’s sports in Australia in radio broadcasting, as well as television, print and online; and

      (b) the need to address this disparity to encourage greater participation in women’s sports and to recognise the achievements of our women athletes; and

(4) calls for:

(a) commercial, public and community radio broadcasters to cover more women’s sports and to ensure there is a diversity of voices in sports commentary; and

(b) greater recognition of the extraordinary achievements of our women’s sports teams in the media, including by ensuring equal public funding.

Tomorrow, 13 February, marks the United Nations World Radio Day. This year’s theme is radio and sports. It’s particularly relevant to Australia this year, with its strong focus on more equal coverage of women’s sports as well as the promotion of women’s voices in sport. In Australia over the last few years we’ve seen the increasing professionalisation of women’s sport, including in the AFLW and women’s cricket. And I’m excited about the launch of the new NRL Women’s Premiership this year, following the success of the Jillaroos in the Ruby League World Cup.

But one of the challenges ahead is to ensure that as women’s sport grows they are afforded meaningful air time. The last time the data was analysed, just seven per cent of all sports coverage in Australian media was of women’s sport. That does not reflect the make-up of our society or sports participation, nor our aspirations as a modern, egalitarian nation. These imbalances have real consequences. They deny women and girls exposure to sport and the encouragement which comes from them seeing their role models work hard for their success.

Fortunately, this is beginning to change. Over the summer you could watch our women’s cricket team play in the Ashes or listen on ABC Grandstand. You can also watch the entire season of the AFLW on free-to-air and pay channels. Just yesterday, I watched a remarkable result with Ash Barty and Casey Dellacqua winning the final match to secure the tie in the Federation Cup right here in Canberra, shown live on free-to-air TV.

As well as covering the matches, there is also a role for all our broadcasters—commercial, public and community—in helping to ensure that women’s voices are not just tolerated but celebrated in sports journalism. In the words of Melbourne broadcaster, Angela Pippos, who has written a book on the subject, the sports media in Australia is still largely, to quote her, ‘Pale, male and stale’, a sad indictment!

One way to change that is to ensure there is a very strong talent pipeline, so this motion also recognises the important role of publicly funded radio, including the ABC, SBS and community radio in supporting up-and-coming talent. It’s only been in the last few decades that women were welcomed into sports media. Debbie Spillane was the first full-time female broadcaster to be hired by ABC Sport, and that was just in 1984. She told Mamamia last year that there’s a long way to go, saying:

Until women are trusted to be the person who describes the action, play by play, ball by ball, then women in sports media will always be second class citizens.

I hope that this motion will receive bipartisan support and shine a light on the work of many of our fantastic female sports journalists, presenters, broadcasters and commentators. I also hope that it will help to inspire the next generation to get involved in radio, and consider sports as a viable specialty—whatever their gender.

On this World Radio Day we can also acknowledge that radio can connect, inform, entertain and strengthen our communities in other significant ways. The thing about modern life is that mobility is increasingly important. Unlike a television screen, radio can travel with you. While you’re doing other tasks, while you’re travelling in the car, while you’re being involved around the house, the radio can connect you to people, and it can engage community feedback.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was interviewed in Melbourne on the community radio station 3KND, which stands for 3 Kool n Deadly. It’s Melbourne’s first Indigenous owned and managed radio station. As well as discussing politics and current affairs, I also chatted with Charles Pakana about sports and the fantastic connections Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have with sport. There are many fantastic elements of radio and sports. We just need to make sure that they reflect the interests, talents and real achievements of our whole population, not just a few. I hope people enjoy World Radio Day tomorrow and that it helps us to focus on the future ahead.

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