Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
Jun 20, 2017

Condolence – Mr Mark Colvin

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:37): I rise to pay tribute to Mark Colvin, who was a constituent of mine who lived in Lilyfield in the inner west of Sydney. Of all the tributes I read after the passing last month of Mark, I was most touched by a piece written by one of his colleagues, Stephen McDonnell, the ABC’s former China correspondent. Stephen wrote:

You would walk out of the office after PM had gone to air, and there he would be sitting next to a young reporter going through their story.

Stephen wrote that Mark could be overheard going through the reporter’s copy line by line. He would say:

“You could’ve flipped the piece around; what about this question instead? You’ve buried this information; here you could be a bit cheeky.”

This description of Mark as a concerned mentor speaks volumes for the man. Journalists are a bit like politicians; it is a very competitive business. They are all chasing stories and always aiming to be first. Yet here was one of the best-known journalists in the country, finished a hectic work day but still happy to make time to share the benefit of his experience with a young journalist. This does not surprise me. He was indeed a very generous man.

He was born in the UK in 1952. He moved to Australia aged 21 after studying literature at Oxford. He was certainly well read, and indeed, as others have said, he was a Renaissance man. He fell into journalism after stint as a builder’s labourer. In his early years he worked as a cub reporter on Double J. But his talent was quickly recognised. He was promoted to the ABC’s London bureau before he had turned 30. He worked in London and around the world reporting on all the iconic ABC programs, including AM, PM and Four Corners. He was the first host of The World Today when it began back in 1984.

Of course, in his later years Australians knew him as the host of PM. So many of us would end our day driving home or on public transport listening to that very recognisable voice. Throughout the 1980s he covered the biggest stories of his time, including the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland and the break-up of the former Soviet Union.

When he was stationed in Africa in 1984 he picked up a rare virus while covering the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda. The illness ended his career as a foreign correspondent and left him with health problems that continued for the rest of his life. Others have commented about his now famous kidney transplant, which is the subject of a play, titled Mark Colvin’s Kidney that is running, and will continue to run.

Mark was also someone who refused to look back. He was a keen music fan and, unlike many people as they get older, he moved with the times, keeping up with the musical trends of the day. With the same spirit he embraced social media. He was a keen Twitter user and described himself in his profile as:

Lifetime Lance-Corporal in the Awkward Squad.

So many people who use Twitter use it to attack others; Mark used it to pass on interesting information or to praise others, consistent with his generosity.

Another close friend of Mark’s was the former head of the Australian Security Intelligence Service, Nick Warner. He commented on Mark’s passing:

He never took sides, he was interested in presenting the facts, not pushing a particular line.

Indeed, Mark Colvin was universally renowned for being fair, which for a journalist is the gold standard in career achievement.

Mark died on 19 May. I express my condolences to his family, including his partner, Michelle McKenzie, who was a Leichhardt councillor on the former Leichhardt Council in my electorate in Leichhardt, and his sons, Nicholas and William. Vale Mark Colvin.

Jun 19, 2017

Statements by Members – WestConnex

Federation Chamber 

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:27): I want to take the opportunity to raise the impacts of the WestConnex project on St Peters, a community in my electorate. The fact is that St Peters has suffered substantially not just from the compulsory acquisition of tens of homes but also where the state government literally withheld a report that they had about the financial compensation that should be due to those homeowners. They have suffered from the demolition of those homes and factories in their area, much of which has had an impact on local schools, particularly St Peters Public School. But since March they have suffered from a noxious smell that has impacted the local community from the fact that much of the major works is in an old tip. Indeed, the Environment Protection Authority produced a prevention notice to contractors in March which said that they should ‘undertake all reasonable and feasible measures to prevent leachate from pooling’ and to cover or remove pooled leachate as soon as practicable. That has not happened. Children are being kept inside St Peters Public School, unable to play or go out at lunch. This needs to be fixed by the state government. and it needs to be fixed now.

Jun 13, 2017

Questions without notice – Rail

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:36): My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project was approved by Infrastructure Australia in 2012, was the subject of a detailed agreement between the federal and Queensland governments in 2013 and was funded in the 2013 budget? Why is the Prime Minister purporting to support public transport in our cities while pretending that this essential project is not ready to go?

Jun 13, 2017

Questions without notice – National Rail Program

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:28): My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that under the so-called National Rail Program not a single dollar is available in this entire term of parliament? There is nothing this year, nothing next year and nothing the year after that. Isn’t the National Rail Program in fact the new NAIF—the ‘No Actual Infrastructure Fund’?

May 31, 2017

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2017-2018 – Consideration in Detail

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:05): Infrastructure Partnerships Australia have said that 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’. That is not people in the Labor Party saying that; that is the peak industry body on infrastructure for Australia. That is what they are having to say, and I assure you, Minister, that what they say in private is less polite than that. They have contempt for what this government has done. The funding is cut in the current year by some $1.6 billion. Last year the budget papers indicated that there would be $9.2 billion expended in the current year. The actual fact is $7.6 billion. Inconveniently for the government, they produce budget papers with figures on them. The budget papers indicated across the forwards that that declines to $4.2 billion in 2020-21.

Budget Paper No. 2 has a story to tell. There is only one new investment mentioned—$13.8 million for the Far North Collector Road near Nowra. I acknowledge that that is a new project. It is the only new funded project in this entire budget over the next four years—one road. There is nothing for the Nowra bridge but this Far North Collector Road does get $13.8 million. If you look at the details, it is a mix of a return of some funding that was cut in previous budgets, such as Infrastructure Australia.

Let us look at the Infrastructure Investment Program. For Victorian infrastructure investments, page 134 indicates that there will be zero, zero, zero and zero. When you look at the Infrastructure Investment Program offsets, it shows a $1,631.6 billion cut in the year 2020-21. Let us look at Keys2Drive. I acknowledge that the government has put funding in that it threatened to cut. It is a good thing that that program has continued.

Let us look at other funding in the budget. Supplementary local roads funding for South Australia has been put in—again something the government threatened to cut—but there is no new investment. When you look at other programs, including the Bruce Highway, it clearly indicates that there are zero additional dollars. That is all from existing funds. At a time when the economy needs support for infrastructure this is an appalling budget. The government will spend less next year than this year on the Bruce Highway. For the Pacific Highway this current financial year the allocation is $1.37 billion and next year it is $710.1 million. Again that is less.

The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport raised the quite farcical National Rail Program. It is a big announcement—a $10 billion program—unfortunately, there is not a cent while they are still in government in this term. There is not one cent because there is not a dollar this year, not a dollar next year and not a dollar the year after. For the next three years, there is not a dollar of new investment for national rail. Then, in 2019-20, there is $200 million. In 2020-21, there is $400 million. So I acknowledge that they have established this program. Unfortunately, it is not for this generation. You could walk the length of the country until a dollar comes on track. It is pathetic. In this budget as well, Victoria will receive eight per cent of the national infrastructure budget. Once again, the government is punishing Victorians for having the temerity to vote in a Labor government.

(Time expired)

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:54): I rise as the shadow minister—and the minister elect, the way this government is going. I can answer the question from the member opposite, which was, ‘What will the impact be of the $10 billion national rail fund?’ The answer is zip, because there are zero dollars this year, zero dollars next year and zero dollars the year after. You do not announce a program for the next term in your first term and pretend that it is real. Then, when it is actually funded, the first year is $200 million and the next is $400 million. It is a great example of the illusion that is this government’s budget—an illusion that includes the Bruce Highway. Here are the figures—they are on page 133 of Budget Paper No. 2—on the Bruce Highway. It says:

The Government will provide $908.6 million over seven years from 2016-17 for infrastructure projects including—

And it includes the Bruce Highway projects. It says:

The cost of this measure with the exception of the Far North Collector Road will be met from within the existing resources of the Infrastructure Investment Programme.

There it is in black and white: there is not an extra dollar for these infrastructure projects—not one dollar—apart from the Far North Collector Road. That is on page 133 of Budget Paper No. 2.

Of course, before the budget we saw the establishment of the Infrastructure Financing Unit. That has now been renamed the ‘Infrastructure and Project Financing Agency’, perhaps because those opposite worked out that the acronym was not the best. Eventually, they worked that through. That is the minister’s contribution: working out that that was a bad acronym. But the fact is that the industry thinks it is totally unnecessary. This is what the industry said:

iii. We cannot identify any currently proposed infrastructure projects which are commercially viable and not already attracting finance; therefore we cannot see how the IFU will increase the pace of infrastructure project delivery;

vii. Commonwealth debt or equity investments provide an illusory benefit to the budget’s bottom line, but the Commonwealth is also taking equity or … risk on complex projects – meaning that risky investments’ in marginal projects will likely never be repaid;

1. The IFU should not be established.

That is what was said. And what this government did was take $17 million out of the construction budget administered by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to fund bureaucrats at the high end in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. They actually reduced the money that was intended for road and rail infrastructure in order to fund this unit. That is a solution looking for a problem. There is not a lack of financing available in this country for good infrastructure projects; what there is a lack of is a pipeline of projects and proper planning for projects.

One of those projects in which there is not a problem is the Cross River Rail. On 30 April 2013 I received a letter from Scott Emerson, the then minister in Campbell Newman’s government. Campbell Newman confirmed on TV on Monday night that this was a project that was absolutely ready to go and that the details had been sorted out thanks to Infrastructure Australia and thanks to negotiations between the two levels of government. There was a five-point plan, confirmed in writing minister to minister by Mr Emerson. The letter said:

the Project will be delivered largely through an availability payment Public Private Partnership;

It goes on about equal capital contributions of $750 million each. It goes on about funding the availability payment stream for the PPP component of the project on a 50-50 basis for the duration of the concession period. It committed the Queensland government to funding rail operating expenses for the project. It said:

the project will be delivered through a PPP commercial vehicle and financed by private sector equity and debt.

That is exactly what some of those opposite, who think they have discovered these things called ‘value capture’ and ‘public-private partnerships’, do not seem to understand—that it was happening and it got stopped in the 2014 budget, just like the funding and agreements for the Melbourne Metro got stopped before that budget. It is quite farcical that the government has established this unit, which will not be able to achieve anything at all, and is establishing a rail fund asking for bids when projects that were approved by Infrastructure Australia five years ago and funded in a budget four years ago remain unfunded due to this government’s intransigence.

(Time expired)

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:21): I rise to question again the gap between the rhetoric and the reality from this government when it comes to actual investment in infrastructure. One of the things the government continually does is speak about the 2013-14 budget. I have news for the government: Wayne Swan delivered that budget. That was not a budget delivered by the current government, but it adds in that figure as if it was when it was in government.

This time around, any analysis shows a $7.4 billion cut in actual infrastructure investment over the forward estimates. Yet the rhetoric of the government is about $75 billion. Well, sometimes it is. In the government’s own glossy produced as part of the budget papers, it says it is $70 billion in infrastructure commitments. Then if you go through and have a look at the details you see $1.2 billion committed to the Perth Freight Link. But then the same $1.2 billion is listed for the Metronet rail project. That is on page 10 of the budget glossy document. However, on page 8 it says there will be $700 million going towards the Metronet rail project. So it is not clear from the budget papers themselves whether it is $700 million or $1.2 billion. And then there is the same $1.2 billion double-counted for the Perth Freight Link project.

It is a bit like the Victorian circumstances where you have $1 billion and then there is $3 billion committed to the East West Link but it is the same money. It is the same contribution—the advance payment that was made from the Commonwealth to Victoria of $1.5 billion as a result of its 2014 budget. There was, further up in Queensland, $13.6 billion allegedly allocated but $844 million for the new Bruce Highway project, and we just heard from the minister that that is new money; that is a reallocation of existing funding. You see that pattern repeated throughout the budget.

Let’s look at actuals for Victoria for 2017-18 through to 2020-21. There is $791.2 million, then $568 million, then $606.3 million and then $280.7 million over the life of this budget. For Queensland $2,049 million goes down to $1,874 million, then to $1,866 million and then down to $1.652 billion in 2021. South Australia begin with $759.2 million. Then in 2018-19 they will get $434 million. In 2019-20 they will get $349.5 million. In 2020-21, they will get $95.2 million—that is the entire Commonwealth contribution for South Australian infrastructure.

Then you see the great fiddles of the Inland Rail project being off-budget.

A government member interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: I do support the project. We provided on-budget funding. We did not provide a fix or a fiddle, pretending that it would happen. This government has stopped the project 38 kilometres short of the port, thereby reducing the cost of the actual construction of the project. Then, what they do with this project is have it all funded off budget. There is not a dollar of on-budget funding, even though John Anderson’s report said that expected revenue over 50 years will not cover the initial capital investment. John Anderson said that it needed on-budget investment. That was the report to the government. It has been totally ignored. Then, we know that what they are counting is not the Inland Rail revenue; it is revenue from the whole of the ARTC. So, as a fix, they are using the profits that are made from the Hunter Valley rail network to pretend that that is the way that you finance this project. If this were a private sector operation, people would go to jail, but you, as a government entity—

Government members interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: It would! This is a corruption of the public financing of taxpayers, and that is why—

(Time expired)

May 30, 2017

Grievance Debate – WestConnex

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:14): Back in 2012, the experts at Infrastructure New South Wales sat down to take a look at the major challenges facing Sydney’s transport network. They later produced a report about their deliberations. Under the headline ‘First things first’, the experts, chaired by Nick Greiner, a former Premier of New South Wales, said the greatest transport challenge facing Sydney was rapid growth around Port Botany and the Sydney Airport. The Infrastructure New South Wales report said:

With growth forecast to continue, investment is urgently needed in landside infrastructure to allow access to these gateways.

It was identified access to the Port of Botany as the No. 1 priority. The advice could not have been clearer. The other imperative was access to the central business district of Sydney. It was these two requirements—access for freight to the port in particular and for cars to the CBD—that led to the beginning of what was termed the WestConnex project.

What we have today with the WestConnex project, five years later, is a very different project. It is one which will not go to the port. It will not meet the very challenges that were identified as the reason for its existence. This is the worst example of planning that I have seen for a major infrastructure project. What you need to do with infrastructure is to get the plans right first, go through the community consultation process and the environmental approvals and then have funding provided. What we have with this project is literally a government which is making it up as they go along. This is a project where they literally started digging tunnels before they knew where the tunnels were coming up—an extraordinary proposition. It is a project which began with a cost of some $10 billion which has now blown out to $17 billion, which is now leading to calls for further extensions of the road network.

In the 2014 budget of the Abbott government, the one where they cut funding for every public transport project that was not under construction, there was money handed out. It was handed out as advance payments for projects that had not been through planning proposals and had not been through the Infrastructure Australia process. That included the WestConnex project, where the $1.5 billion in grant funding has already all been paid—every single dollar of it—even though the project will not be concluded until into the 2020s.

In government, we instituted a process whereby you would have milestone payments. That is the concept that you have to actually build something and achieve the milestones that have been set in order for state governments to then be rewarded with payments from the federal government. But what we saw with this project was $750 million forwarded as an advance payment. We also then saw $2 billion made available as a loan to the New South Wales government, even though the New South Wales government has got substantial revenue from the sale of essential public assets in New South Wales. This is what the Auditor-General had to say about the project. I will quote from the report released last year as a result of representations that I had made asking for an audit into the financing processes of this project. He wrote:

The WestConnex project had not proceeded fully through the established processes to assess the merits of nationally significant infrastructure investments prior to Australian Government funding being committed. This situation was identified in departmental advice to decision makers prior to decisions being taken.

So there we have the Audit Office saying that ministers ignored the advice. With regard to the milestone payments, the Audit Office found that they changed what the milestones were in order to justify the payments being made.

We also saw the ongoing complete failure of community consultation. The residents of Haberfield, St Peters, Ashfield, Leichhardt and Rozelle all tell the same story. Take just one example—that of Vince Crow, a long-time resident of Haberfield. In June 2014 Mr Crow received two letters from a representative of the WestConnex Delivery Authority. Both were delivered on the same day. The first letter said, ‘We’re going to need to buy your property,’ and the second letter, signed by the same gentleman, said, ‘We don’t need to buy your property.’ There was absolute uncertainty for this resident. The pattern of inaccuracy, unprofessionalism and miscommunication has been repeated across my community ever since. About 180 properties have already been acquired out of a total of more than 400. Indeed, there is the extraordinary circumstance whereby the New South Wales government kept secret from the community for more than two years the report they received in 2014 about compensation that people who were having their homes acquired were due.

Across my community, residents have had to fight to protect public parks and sporting fields. Ashfield Park, Easton Park in Rozelle and Blackmore Oval in Leichhardt were all defended by the local community. I made representation about all of those public parks because open space is at a premium. Worst was to come with the idea that you would create a dive site next to the Leichhardt campus of the Sydney Secondary College. This was right next to the one oval that that overcrowded campus has. It was proposed to have a convoy of trucks rolling in and out of the worksite past school classroom windows. Fortunately, the New South Wales minister, Stuart Ayres, who I approached about this, intervened and it has been ruled out as a proposal. At the same time students in schools like St Peters Public School have had to put up with the demolition of homes right near the school. This had a real impact on them. Haberfield Public School students and teachers are very worried about the impact of the project on Haberfield.

You would think, given the extent of disruption, that senior people in the New South Wales bureaucracy would be concerned about this. The Greater Sydney Commission has responsibility for planning in greater Sydney. In August 2016 the chair of the commission, Lucy Turnbull, was interviewed on ABC radio and was asked to comment on the fact that houses were being demolished in Haberfield to make way for WestConnex. The chair of the commission said, ‘I’m not aware that there are houses going to be demolished at Haberfield.’ At that very time dozens of houses, which were heritage listed in a heritage listed suburb, had already been demolished. There is complete contempt for these local residents.

Delivering major infrastructure projects is never easy. I support good infrastructure, public transport as well as good road infrastructure, but you have to get the planning right. You also have to acknowledge that, in our growing global cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, the key to dealing with urban congestion is public transport, not more and more road infrastructure. You must get the planning right, you must consult properly with the community and you must bring the community with you. In the words of the 18th century American statesman Benjamin Franklin, ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.’ The WestConnex project has now been set up under a separate authority so freedom of information laws and the normal accountability of a government agency do not apply in New South Wales. This is an example of avoiding bringing the community with an infrastructure project rather than having proper consultation.

May 24, 2017

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2017-2018 – Second Reading

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:11): It was the former US President Harry Truman who once noted that, ‘It is men and women who make history, not the other way around.’ Truman said:

Progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.

The great, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating had a similar view. Keating said:

The great changes in civilisation and society have been wrought by deeply held beliefs and passion rather than by a process of rational deduction.

In the history of Australia, it has always been the Australian Labor Party, driven by our beliefs and our passion, which has changed this country for the better. We built universal health care; the coalition opposed it. We delivered access to university for all, based on merit, not the individual’s bank balance; the coalition opposed it. We created compulsory superannuation, providing for the first time the prospect of a dignified retirement for all Australians, and those opposite opposed it. Indeed, while Labor’s concern was dignity for all in retirement, the coalition’s view is best summed up by the member for Warringah, who once described compulsory superannuation as:

… one of the biggest con jobs ever foisted by a government on the Australian people.

Labor built the Snowy Mountains scheme; those opposite opposed it. Labor established Infrastructure Australia; those opposite opposed it. Labor created the National Broadband Network; those opposite opposed it. Indeed, the Liberal leader at the time ordered his shadow minister to demolish it. Of course, that was the member for Warringah and the member for Wentworth. The current Prime Minister is now pretending to support the NBN, but he made an absolute hash of the project. He is delivering a copper based, second-rate broadband rather than the fibre based, high-speed broadband our nation needs to remain globally competitive in the 21st century.

The origin of these nation-building Labor reforms, along with countless others, has been the philosophical touchstone of the Australian people. The idea that we all deserve a fair go is Labor’s guiding light. It is the notion that, whatever our gender, age, colour, background or sexuality, we all deserve a fair go.

By contrast, the Liberal and National parties have, for the entirety of their existence, devoted themselves to resisting change and entrenching privilege. Their philosophical touchtone is not the fair go; it is the law of the jungle. Fundamentally, they have been on the wrong side of history on so many issues. For them it is the law of the jungle. They do not want progress. It jars with their sense of entitlement. They do not want fairness, because it means less for their friends at the top end of town. They see economic growth as an end in itself. We see economic growth as a means to lift living standards, create opportunity and spread fairness.

Budget 2017 is confirmation that the Labor Party is leading from opposition. This is the budget of ideological retreat where the coalition is desperately seeking to narrow the rhetorical difference between itself and Labor. They have changed the rhetoric but they have not changed their lack of conviction. They say that they embrace needs based education funding, but they are cutting investment by $22.3 billion over the next decade according to their own documents. They say they support Medicare, but the budget locked in billions of dollars in cuts and maintained the freeze on the Medicare rebate in the short term. They say they understand the importance of infrastructure investment, yet the budget cuts it by $1.6 billion in this financial year alone, with annual investment to fall off a cliff over the next four years to $4.2 billion. Of course, they say they support the NBN. Yet we know that in the last week they have purchased some 15 million metres of copper wire—not fibre, copper; technology of the last century or perhaps even the century before.

The fact is they talk the talk but they never walk the walk. It is just like Malcolm Turnbull’s attitude towards public transport. He loves taking selfies on trains, trams and buses. He just will not fund trains, trams and buses.

In that context, people should be cynical about the coalition’s claimed conversion to a position of support for universal health care in this country. We know that Gough Whitlam created Medibank after the coalition opposed it not once but twice, requiring a double dissolution election in 1974 and a joint sitting to create Medibank. As soon as Malcolm Fraser was appointed as the Prime Minister after the 1975 election he of course tore down Medibank. It took Bob Hawke in 1983 to reintroduce universal health care by creating Medicare. This is what the new Liberal leader, John Howard, who is the icon of those opposite, said about it in 1988: ‘Australia’s health care system is in a shambles. The real villain is Labor’s doctrinaire commitment to a universal government health insurance system, Medicare.’ We know that, given any opportunity, they will undermine universal health care, because it contrasts with their concept of entrenching privilege rather than creating opportunity.

The same principle applies to infrastructure investment in this budget. In the weeks leading up to 9 May, the government sought to convince people it would invest in infrastructure. They went out there and created a distinction between good debt and bad debt. We heard hints of major new spending initiatives. But on budget day the cupboard was bare. They cut funding. Infrastructure Partnerships Australia is a peak representative body for the infrastructure sector in this country. The organisation is apolitical, but it is a passionate advocate for increased infrastructure development. After four years of coalition inaction on nation building, the IPA has lost patience with this mob, exposing the fact that the budget cuts federal infrastructure funding by $7.4 billion over the forward estimates. In its post-budget commentary it said: ‘Foremost, 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.’

That industry assessment comes as the Prime Minister wanders around the country claiming that he is interested in infrastructure. If you look at the budget figures, you see that just a year ago they promised $9.2 billion in the current financial year. This year’s budget papers revealed that the actual spend is $7.6 billion, representing a cut to investment in major road projects like the Bruce Highway and the Pacific Highway, a cut to the Black Spot Program, a cut to the heavy vehicle safety program and a cut to their own Bridges Renewal Program. More than two years ago, the government announced their Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, but they are yet to allocate a single dollar to a single project. In this budget, they have created a new NAIF, the ‘no actual infrastructure fund’. In fact, the only new on-budget infrastructure project over the next four years anywhere in the country is $13.8 million for the Far North Collector Road near the New South Wales town of Nowra in the marginal seat of Gilmore. This is a project that hardly anyone had ever heard of until budget night. This is what the local paper, the South Coast Register, said in its editorial of 17 May:

Interestingly the announcement in the budget was the first many of us had ever heard of the Northern Collector Road.

… former Mayor Joanna Gash never mentioned a Northern Collector Road.

Meanwhile, they do nothing about the Nowra Bridge, which is the issue that they need to address in that particular part of Australia.

Right across Australia we saw cuts. For example, in Victoria, home to one in four Australians, they continue to receive less than 10 per cent of the national infrastructure budget. In Budget Paper No. 2. it says, under ‘Infrastructure Investment Program—Victorian infrastructure investments’, there is zero this year, zero next year, zero the year after, zero the year after, and zero the year after that. Why they included that table in Budget Paper No. 2, quite frankly, is beyond me. They should have just pretended that Victoria did not exist, because that, essentially, is what they have done. Indeed, funding for ongoing projects in Victoria goes from a paltry $800 million this current year, representing under 10 per cent of the budget, to $280 million in 2020-21. That is from a position where we have already seen infrastructure investment per Victorian halved, from $201 per year under the former federal Labor government to $92 under the current government.

There is also no investment to tackle one of the most serious impediments to economic growth in our nation, traffic congestion in our cities. In spite of the government’s rhetoric, there is no new funding for public transport. Instead, we have a grand announcement of a $10 billion National Rail Program. The problem is that there is no money this year, there is no money next year, there is no money the year after, and then, the year after that, $200 million trickles down. So there is not a single dollar for a new project between now and four years time. The fact is that this budget failed by producing no funding for the Melbourne Metro, no funding for Western Sydney Rail, no funding for AdeLINK in Adelaide and no funding for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project. Indeed, the budget included nothing for cities. In spite of the rhetoric of this government, City Deals got not a single dollar. All that we have is a matching of Labor commitments for Townsville stadium, UTAS in Launceston, and an obscure Western Sydney deal with a paltry amount of funding attached.

When it comes to freight rail, they have attached more than $8 billion of so-called equity to the Inland Rail line, but the government said themselves, in a report by John Anderson, that it will not return the capital investment for more than 50 years. How can this investment be off budget? We know that the line will stop 38 kilometres short of the port of Brisbane. Now we have the Inland Rail stopping short of the port of Brisbane and not going to the port of Melbourne either, just like the Perth Freight Link project did not go to the port of Fremantle and WestConnex goes nowhere near Port Botany, Sydney, which was the basis of the project.

Respected journalist Michael Pascoe said about the budget:

Morrison has got away with rehashing Hockey’s infrastructure PR trick—think of a big number and keep adding years until you reach it.

Wake up, people! Spread over 10 years, the Commonwealth is only offering $7.5 billion a year, much of it already in Hockey’s numbers and a fair swag of that dating from Labor government commitments.

You can get away with spin only for so long. The government continue to count the 2013 budget as if they were in government at the time of that budget. The fact is that is not the case.

Then we have the Infrastructure Financing Unit. This is a solution looking for a problem. There is not a lack of available capital in this country; there is a lack of government support and a lack of proper planning for infrastructure in this country. Former US President John F Kennedy once noted that things do not just happen but are made to happen. Labor made infrastructure happen in this country. We invested in freight, we invested in roads and we invested in public transport. The fact is that this government has failed when it comes to infrastructure. What this country needs is what Paul Keating once described as the two key elements of leadership—imagination and courage—and it will get that only from a Labor government.

May 22, 2017

Private Members’ Business – Infrastructure

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:11): I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that:

(a) Australia’s cities require investment and leadership from the Government to deal with a number of pressing challenges, especially urban congestion;

(b) Infrastructure Australia has estimated that urban congestion will cost $53 billion in lost productivity by 2031 if left unaddressed; and

(c) public transport is essential for the realisation of the vision of 30 minute cities;

(2) notes that a number of factors contribute to the worsening of urban congestion, including:

(a) Australia’s transition to a knowledge intensive economy, which means employment opportunities continue to cluster in the CBDs of our cities;

(b) high house prices that have seen key workers, single person households and families on very low and middle incomes struggle to find homes close to work, resulting in drive-in drive-out suburbs in nearly all capital cities; and

(c) the rapid growth of Australia’s cities, which will see the four largest capitals—Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth—increase their population by 46 per cent and Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin increase their population by nearly 30 per cent by 2031; and

(3) calls on the Government to:

(a) use evidence-based policy to support investment in the infrastructure that is required to reduce urban congestion in Australia’s cities; and

(b) use the upcoming budget to provide investment for public transport projects listed by Infrastructure Australia as priorities, some of which have suffered funding cuts under the Coalition Government, including the Metro Trains Melbourne, the Cross River Rail, Western Sydney Rail, the Gawler rail line upgrade, and the AdeLINK tram network.

Our nation’s cities are at a crossroad. Poised for rapid population growth in coming decades, our four largest capitals—Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth—will increase their population by 46 per cent. Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin will increase their population by nearly 30 per cent by 2031.

We know that Australia’s transition to a knowledge intensive economy has seen jobs be based in the CBDs of our cities. That has meant that it is harder for key workers, single-person households and families on low and middle incomes to find homes close to work, resulting in drive-in, drive-out suburbs in nearly all capital cities. Infrastructure Australia has told us that urban congestion will cost $53 billion in lost productivity by 2031, if left unaddressed.

We need leadership from the government to deal with these pressing challenges, to improve public transport and to make sure that jobs are created close to where people live. But this is a government that is not matching its rhetoric with reality. It says it understands the importance of infrastructure investment, yet the budget cuts it by $1.6 billion in this financial year alone, with investment to fall off a cliff over the next four years, from a projected $9.2 billion this year, in the government’s own projections, down to $4.2 billion in 2020-21.

It is the same with public transport. Malcolm Turnbull loves taking selfies on trains, trams and buses; he just will not fund them with any new investment. The fact is that this year’s budget does not have a single dollar of new investment for urban public transport. There is no investment in the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, Adelaide’s AdeLINK, Western Sydney Rail or the Melbourne Metro. Indeed, despite making up 25 per cent of the nation’s population, Victoria will receive no new money from the Commonwealth over the forwards for its infrastructure investment program. The budget papers themselves show zero, zero, zero, zero, zero for the years 2016-17 to 2020-21 for infrastructure investment for Victoria. This government has contempt for Victorians, exemplified by its approach to Victorian infrastructure.

In addition, there has been a big deal made about the so-called City Deals program, but there isn’t a single dollar in the 2017 budget to make this a reality. The city deals so far are deals in Townsville and Launceston, which are simply an attempt to dress up belated matching of ALP commitments to the Townsville stadium and the University of Tasmania. In Western Sydney, the government is trying to retrofit an election announcement with substance that does not exist and no clear funding to actually get there. The City of Blacktown has actually been excluded from the City Deals process even though they will grow by 200,000 additional people from 2011 to 2036.

City Deals, when done right, provide an opportunity, in particular, for local government to work together with other levels and encourage the economic growth of a region. This government is not doing that. They have established this absurd infrastructure financing unit in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This is a solution looking for a problem. There is no lack of financing from the private sector or from superannuation funds for good infrastructure projects. There certainly is no lack of innovative financing, which is how projects like the Gold Coast light rail project was funded with support from Infrastructure Australia. This sidelines Infrastructure Australia from the process and completely creates this bureaucracy whereby the private sector are wondering what it will do. 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, re-profiling and narrative to cover this substantial drop in real capital expenditure.

The fact is that this government has abandoned cities at a time when they require leadership and investment from the Commonwealth to ensure their ongoing productivity, sustainability and liveability. This budget means it is a lost opportunity, because the coalition government simply are not up to the task of providing leadership for this century.

May 22, 2017

Statements by Member – Public Transport

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:14): The New South Wales government’s planned privatisation of inner-west bus services will result in worse, not better, transport for commuters across the region.

As the member for Grayndler and the shadow minister for transport, I will fight alongside the public to prevent this privatisation—which Luke Foley’s Labor Party is of course opposed to—from proceeding. The sell-off of services will lead to jobs being lost, routes being cut, fares increasing and service levels dropping. Hundreds of thousands of people in the inner west, including workers, students and pensioners, depend heavily on public bus services. Any cuts to these services will have a real impact on their lives. The government claims that after their sell-off the routes and prices will not change, but we know that private bus services only operate anywhere in Sydney with massive public subsidies.

Transport Minister Constance seems to think that he can justify this privatisation by crudely denigrating the bus drivers, but the commuters of the inner west know that these drivers do an excellent job in difficult conditions. I pay tribute to the drivers on the 412 and 423, my local bus drivers. Mr Constance has launched this attack on the inner west for purely partisan purposes. The Premier needs to intervene and step in before the minister does any more damage.

May 10, 2017

Matters of Public Importance – Budget

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:56): In the words of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, the peak industry body, this 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. They are onto them, less than 24 hours later. This is what Michael Pascoe had to say:

Morrison has got away with rehashing Hockey’s infrastructure PR trick—think of a big number and keep adding years until you reach it.

Wake up, people! Spread over 10 years, the Commonwealth is only offering $7.5 billion a year, much of it already in Hockey’s numbers and a fair swag of that dating from Labor government commitments. It’s less than what the state of New South Wales invests annually.

When you actually look at the budget figures you get a different story: you get that this year alone there is a $1.6 billion cut in infrastructure funding, from the $9.2 billion they set in last year’s budget. Last night, that figure for this year is now $7.6 billion. It drops to $6.2 billion, it drops to $5.1 billion and then it drops off the cliff to $4.2 billion. This is a government that is failing completely on infrastructure. They set up this Infrastructure Financing Unit in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to find a solution to a problem that does not exist. There is plenty of capital available in this country—in superannuation funds, in the private sector—for projects that stack up. However, this government has actually cut the infrastructure funding from the Infrastructure Investment program in order to fund this new bureaucracy in the Prime Minister’s office.

When you look at the budget—I follow the member for Gilmore—and you look at infrastructure investment programs and new investments, normally there are pages and pages of them. Last night there was one! One project: the far North Collector Road in the marginal seat of Gilmore—$13.8 million. I have to say, we thought it might have been in Collector, but it is not. It is this little local road near Nowra that they are funding in order to show that that is their only priority. The only road or rail line in the country that is actually receiving a cash payment from this government as a result of last night’s budget is that one. The rest of it is smoke and mirrors. Where projects for Victoria previously had $1.45 billion in the budget, the government has given them $1 billion and expects them to be grateful. That is a cut of half a billion dollars. It is there in the budget papers at item 134, ‘Victorian infrastructure investments’. I will read out the five-year plan: zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. That is what Victoria gets out of last night’s budget.

The Bruce Highway was mentioned by the previous speaker. It is all existing funding, with not one extra dollar. The Treasurer had the hide to name all these rail projects last night but not deliver a single dollar for any of them. There was not a dollar for AdeLINK, not a dollar for Cross River Rail, not a dollar for Brisbane Metro, not a dollar for Melbourne Metro and not a dollar for Western Sydney Rail. It was a con. They came in here, mentioning projects and saying, ‘There’s this $10 billion fund.’ But you look at the budget. There is nothing this year for this fund, there is nothing next year and nothing the year after, and the year after that there is $200 million, of which not a single dollar flows before the next election—not one dollar. This is a con. Projects like Cross River Rail and Melbourne Metro were already approved by Infrastructure Australia. We had money in the budget for those projects, and then we see ‘Investing in our cities’ in the glossy. Only Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney are mentioned—no other cities. Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth—

Ms Chesters interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: Bendigo? Nothing whatsoever. It is just a complete con. This is a government that does not have a plan for infrastructure; it just has one big con.

Contact Anthony

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