Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
Sep 14, 2016

Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:11): I rise to support the amended Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016. There is no doubt that the issue of budget repair needs to be dealt with. The government has tripled the deficit since it came into office. The fact is that the debt has increased since this government came into office, at a time when spending has not increased in terms of productivity-boosting expenditure such as investment in infrastructure. If, to boost future economic growth, that had occurred, then there might be some justification; but we know that in the first two years of this government public sector investment in infrastructure fell by some 20 per cent. We know that during the recent election campaign the government refused to commit to important congestion-busting investments like the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, Metronet in Perth, the AdeLINK light rail project or Western Sydney rail.

The fact is that issues around recurrent expenditure do have to be dealt with. They require tough decisions. I have been saying for some time that those tough decisions and Labor’s position on them need to be determined on the basis of Labor values, on the basis of how these changes meet the fairness test. It is very clear that the government’s earlier proposal to abolish the energy supplement for pensioners, people with disabilities, carers, recipients of Newstart and single parents was unfair. It was unfair on a range of measures. A range of compensation measures were put in place when the carbon price was implemented by the former Labor government.

We dealt with the issue of the impact on the working poor by tripling the income-tax-free threshold. Middle-class people received income tax cuts. Companies received direct support for the transition to a carbon-constrained economy. As proposed by this government, all of those measures would stay in place. All of the middle-income and high-income earners would keep the tax cuts that were part of the compensation measures. The only people who would be hit by the wind-back of those compensation measures were the poorest people in the community. What made it even worse was the fact that, as a result of the then Labor government not wanting double compensation, we discounted the next normal CPI increase for recipients of income security payments by the next CPI increase, which, of course, would have been impacted by the flow-on from the carbon price. So, in fact, these low-income earners would have been worse off in real terms than had the carbon price not been implemented, and that is why it was unfair to cut these payments by between $4 and $8 a week.

That is bad macro-economic policy because, at a time where the Reserve Bank has cut interest rates in order to stimulate demand and to use monetary policy as a stimulus, it makes no sense for fiscal policy to work in the opposite direction. That is precisely what a cut to real incomes for the poorest people in our society would have done because these people spend all of their income, every dollar, on getting by from week to week. We know that Newstart is already too low. It is not just that people in this parliament suggest that; even the Business Council of Australia suggests that. That is why this clawback of compensation was unfair, and Chris Bowen, the Shadow Treasurer, and others—Jenny Macklin in particular, who always has looking after the most vulnerable in our community at the forefront of everything that she does—deserve credit for negotiating a proposition that can now receive the support of both sides of the parliament. To give the government due credit, the fact that they were prepared to be flexible deserves acknowledgement as well.

We need to give people appropriate respect and not just regard people who are on low incomes and who are vulnerable as people who are expendable. If we do not give them a voice who will? It is the Labor Party that historically has stood up for those people and stood up for Labor values—and, once again, we have done this with this package today.

I will also mention briefly the change to ARENA funding. As a result of the measures negotiated, ARENA will have an $800 million budget over the next five years to continue its important work. This is critical work. The promotion of renewables is consistent with Labor’s position of 50 per cent renewables by 2030. We do not think this goes far enough, and it is important that there will be negotiations between the shadow minister and the Minister for the Environment and Energy in order to see if we can get further agreement in the shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewables that is so necessary. It is important to acknowledge that climate change is real. It is happening. The quicker we transition to a clean energy economy the cheaper that transition will be. Importantly, this will also support jobs, and the renewable energy sector has seen jobs triple in recent years. The work of ARENA is aimed particularly at early stage developments, and it is important that, as a result of this negotiated outcome, support for clean energy and the renewable sector has been ensured.

Sep 14, 2016

Condolence motion – Mr Bryan Nye OAM

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:19): Mr Speaker, on indulgence, this morning Mr Bryan Nye, the former chief executive of the Australasian Railway Association, who will be known to many members of this House and indeed the Senate, lost his life to the debilitating motor neurone disease. Bryan was the CEO of the Australasian Railway Association from 2003 to 2015. He was a passionate advocate for the rail industry, whether it be passenger, freight or high-speed rail. On behalf of the parliament and all who had contact with Mr Nye, we acknowledge his passing and pass on our condolences to his family, his many friends and his professional colleagues.

Sep 13, 2016

Transcript of television interview – Sky News, The Bolt Report

Subjects: Marriage equality; Omnibus Savings Bill; Newspoll

BOLT: Anthony, thank you so much for your time.

ALBANESE: Good evening Andrew.

BOLT: Given everything that Labor has said about this plebiscite to date, will it now finally decide: No, it cannot back plebiscite?

ALBANESE: I think that is certainly most likely. We’ll wait and see the legislation before caucus meets and makes a determination, but I haven’t heard anyone arguing on the Labor side, or indeed in my local community, that the idea of a plebiscite is a great idea. It’s $170 million or thereabouts. It won’t change anything. You’ll still need to have a parliamentary vote. We’re not having parliamentary votes about superannuation, education, health – issues that impact all Australians – and we have to remember that what we are talking about here won’t affect most people. It will just give some people who happen to be same-sex couples and want to have a lifetime commitment to each other through the institution of marriage the right to have that.

BOLT: And what would you like Labor to decide?

ALBANESE: I am an opponent of the plebiscite. I see no reason why of all issues this should be singled out. I see that as discriminatory in itself. This is just a fix for the issues that were there inside the Coalition Party room and I see no reason why Members of Parliament aren’t able to vote, just as we voted to change the Marriage Act under John Howard; just like we vote on individual issues in the Parliament each and every day and I think that it is incumbent upon us to play our role as members of the House of Representatives or the Senate.

BOLT: So that leads you to a conundrum. I mean, you are saying it’s got to be decided by politicians. The Liberals are saying no, it’s a plebiscite. So if the plebiscite doesn’t get up, you’ve got nothing. There will be no same-sex marriage in this term of government. Are you happy with that?

ALBANESE: Well I would prefer for there to be. But that’s an issue for the Government. There should be a conscience vote. I’ve been consistent on this for a long time Andrew including taking positions such as supporting a conscience vote. I respect the fact that some people disagree with my position on marriage equality. I’ll fight very hard for their right to do that and that is why I support a conscience vote of the Parliament. But if the Government chooses to block the right of members of Parliament to vote on this issue, well that will be a decision for them.

BOLT: OK. I don’t get why Labor thinks the Australian public is so full of hatred and so bigoted it can’t be trusted with a public vote.

ALBANESE: Well, that’s not the issue Andrew.  This issue is: Why is this issue being singled out so that we have a debate and cast a judgement essentially on people’s family status? The fact is that we don’t have plebiscites on anything. You know, we’ve had a plebiscite on conscription way back a hundred years ago. We’ve had some referendums from time to time to change the Constitution. What we don’t do is have government-funded opinion polls with government-funded campaigns for or against a proposition that won’t change a vote in the Parliament. It won’t change the legislation. You can’t get marriage equality through a plebiscite. The only way that you can get marriage equality is through a vote of the Parliament.

BOLT: Well you say it’s just a simple issue about the sovereignty of Parliament – you know the ability of politicians to decide these things but in fact Bill Shorten yesterday said he was against because gays would kill themselves. I thought that was terrible moral blackmail. You can’t be comfortable with that kind of language, surely? I mean, we don’t need that.

ALBANESE: There’s no doubt Andrew that there has been some divisive debate. During the recent federal election campaign I know that some of the material distributed to my home, that happens to be in Barton after the redistribution, caused a great deal of angst. It was about issues that don’t relate to marriage equality but indeed about what some people regard to be the nature of homosexuality, and it was homophobic material that was distributed during the election campaign in a range of electorates and indeed some people have made it clear that during any plebiscite they would  campaign not on the issue of marriage equality, but on the nature of people’s sexuality and whether that was a perversion of what they see as the natural order of things. Now that would be a divisive debate. here’s no question about that.

BOLT: All debates are divisive. But you’ve already said that was occurring even before any plebiscite – that kind of thing. A no case is really about the nature of marriage and whether weakening this tradition is good for family cohesiveness or not. No-one is going to be funding with taxpayers’ money the kind of propaganda that you are talking about.

ALBANESE: And the point that you just put is of course a perfectly legitimate point. It is not one that I agree with. But I certainly respect the view and understand the view that some people have put to me which is that they regard marriage as not a civil institution, but essentially a religious institution and two people being joined together under God’s authority rather than the authority of the state. And under those circumstances I understand that people will come to different conclusions to where I come from on this issue. But the fact is that whether there is a plebiscite or not, there will be a parliamentary vote. So why would you – I agree with you in terms of it taking up too much time in terms of front and centre. The main issues that concern Australians – the nature of the economy, where jobs are going to coming from, education, health, infrastructure – all of those issues we are not taking to a plebiscite,  we are not engaging in national debate on. What we are doing is singling out this one issue that does impact on some people. I met rainbow families today. They were visiting here in Parliament House and they were very clear that they don’t want a plebiscite, that they would prefer, if that means a delay in something that I think really is inevitable that it will occur, then that was something that they were prepared to live with. And as someone who is not affected directly by this – I’ve got a right to be married – then I will also listen to those people who do have direct consequences for their relationships as a result of whether marriage equality is allowed or not. It seems to me that if you support the institution of marriage, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want more people to sign up to it.

BOLT: So rather a delay than a plebiscite. Well. Today, Labor and the Liberals – switching to the more important things that you mentioned – Labor and the Liberals reached a deal to save $6.3 billion over four years. Now that’s about only $1.5 billion a year, let’s not get carried away here. The deficit this year – this year alone – is tipped to be $37 billion. This really is fiddling at the edges isn’t it?

ALBANESE: Well, you can certainly argue that Andrew, but this is a government that has tripled the deficit since they came to office and have increased the debt burden substantially. What we have shown today is that we are prepared to be constructive and we’ve put forward – it was Labor that initiated a number of the savings that are in place as a result of the deal essentially today – but at the same time protected fairness.
I was very concerned that some of the poorest people in our community – pensioners, single parents, disability support pensioners, the unemployed – would get a real cut in their income. And when you have had the Business Council of Australia arguing that the dole at the moment is too low in terms of for people to subsist on, then I think the idea of a further real cut was a draconian measure and I am pleased that that has been taken off the table. I also think that it was against the macroeconomic argument. When you have monetary policy – the Reserve Bank lowering interest rates to stimulate the economy – then fiscal policy shouldn’t be contractionary and work against monetary policy.

BOLT: Yes.

ALBANESE: It‘s got to work hand in hand. And of course the poorer you are – if you are a pensioner you spend your money, you don’t save it.

BOLT: It’s just that we’ve got a $37 billion, staring at a $37 billion deficit this year alone, and probably going to blow out, let’s be honest, and this deal would cut $1.5 billion a year. Where’s the next tranche of savings coming from? Is this it for Labor? You’ve closed the kitty? That’s no more? No more cuts?

ALBANESE: No, well we put forward, Bill Shorten at the National Press Club put forward, $80 billion worth of savings that Labor has proposed – constructive  positions on  superannuation – tough decisions that we were prepared to argue the case for on capital gains tax and negative gearing. We’ve shown that …

BOLT: Yes but they are all tax rises. I am talking about spending cuts. But listen, we’ve had that debate before I guess. Anthony, today Newspoll came out and had the Government and Labor tied at 50-50. Now personally I think the way the government has been going you should be way ahead. Why aren’t you?

ALBANESE: Well, we’ve just been though of course an election and what is extraordinary is that last week I don’t think was Labor’s finest and we’re still on 50-50. The Government didn’t receive a bounce at all and I think they would have been very disappointed by that. Malcolm Turnbull  got to strut the world stage in China in Hangzhou.

BOLT: You had Dastyari.

ALBANESE: Exactly. Those things normally will reflect well on a government.

BOLT: There was also an Essential Poll to be fair out today that had Labor at 52 per cent, the Government at 48 – which is a pretty good lead. I was more interested in this finding Anthony: 45 per cent of voters actually want the Racial Discrimination Act reformed to allow more free speech. Just 35 percent against and even Labor voters are basically divided – 39 percent for, 42 per cent against changing the Racial Discrimination Act. This is without any leadership from the political class apart from Cory Bernardi and those backbench Liberal senators. Why can’t Labor support more free speech?

ALBANESE: Well, I of course am a great supporter of free speech as is the Labor Party. But what we always come back to here is what is it that people want to say that they’re not allowed to say at the moment?

BOLT: Well, they (inaudible) allowed to say things like in two of my columns that have been banned Anthony and I’d tell you exactly what I wanted to say, but I can’t. So there’s two. And the students at Qld University of Technology, seven students sued under this Act.

ALBANESE:  Well yes. But in terms of the action and what the consequences are of course of that are still playing out. Look, we do need some common sense here. But we also need I think to avoid circumstances whereby we have a big debate, and I still haven’t seen, you are unable to tell me what it is that was cut out of your columns. I still haven’t heard ….

BOLT: But that is because they are banned and that’s exactly the problem you know. I could tell you what you can’t say except I would be sued if I did Anthony. This is the problem.

ALBANESE:  I think Andrew, with respect, the idea that you don’t have freedom of speech – you have this show that I appear on regularly. You have had shows on commercial TV.

BOLT: You are missing the point.

ALBANESE:  You are we well regarded columnist at the Herald Sun, you have a blog. I think the idea …

BOLT: So you think if I can talk about the weather that means I can talk about anything?

ALBANESE I think you have freedom of speech, Andrew. That’s what I think.

BOLT: Not on this issue. I might have these platforms. I can’t speak on this issue. The Queensland students don’t have these platforms and they can’t either – seven of them sued, three of them had to pay go-away money, three are before the courts now. That cannot be the Labor way.

ALBANESE: Well, I think Andrew in terms of freedom of speech and an ability of people for people to express themselves, with social media, with the number of platforms that are out there, I don’t think there’s been a, well I know, it is a fact that never in human history have individuals had an opportunity like they have to day to get their views out there into the public.

BOLT: Well, and then they get sued for it. But Anthony Albanese we’ll further that discussion elsewhere. I thank you very much for coming on tonight.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you Andrew.

Sep 13, 2016

Standing and Sessional Orders

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:59): I do indeed second the amendment. I do so with some level of surprise that the Leader of the House has brought forward such retrograde changes to the standing orders. I remember well, after the 2010 election, the group hug when Christopher Pyne, on behalf of the coalition, signed the document, Agreement for a better parliament: parliamentary reform, on 6 September 2010. That is what our amendments go to with regard to the selection committee.

During the period 2010 to 2013 we had literally hundreds of debates and votes—determinations—by this parliament about what the members of the House of Representatives thought of issues that were relevant to their electorates and issues that were relevant to the nation. At the time, the Leader of the House said this in a media release the day after the event:

The ‘Agreement For A Better Parliament’ negotiated between the Coalition, Labor and the Independents will amend parliamentary standing orders to establish a more independent Speaker, limit the power of the executive, increase the ability of parliament to scrutinise legislation, enhance the role of private member’s business and the committee system and make question time more useful and relevant.

Now, which of those positive enhancements has the Leader of the House decided is not convenient?

As a result of the changes that occurred through the selection committee and through private members business—I quote from the preamble, which was signed by Christopher Pyne, the Leader of the House, on behalf of the then opposition—

… there will be a need for recognition by all to allow more MP’s to be involved in various roles and debates, to allow more community issues to be tested through private members voting …

These were indeed very positive amendments.

They were also amendments that gave respect and standing to the crossbenchers to more fully participate in the activities of the parliament. In my view, that resulted in very good legislation, because you had consultation and you had engagement. As a result of that, we were able to pass some 595 pieces of legislation through this House without losing a single piece of legislation during that period. It was a result of a cooperative approach that respected the fact that each member of this House is representative of their electorate, has a mandate to carry out those duties as the representative of their constituency and should be treated with some respect.

When I was leader of the government in the House of Representatives, with 70 votes on my side on the floor of the House of Representatives, we did not lose a vote. In three years we did not lose a vote. This mob with 76 could not survive three days without losing a vote. That is what this shabby rort of changes to standing orders are designed to do. It is a shabby manipulation of the standing orders, so that, as the Manager of Opposition Business indicated, even if they do lose a vote, they will come back to it at another time. We know, in terms of the wording of that particular standing order, that it refers to a new division in the case of confusion, error or misadventure. We know they are confused about their policy approach; we know that they are committing errors and we know that it is a misadventure when you leave the parliament while parliament is still conducting its business. We saw that on the last sitting Thursday.

I can understand that the Leader of the House, the whip and others who missed out on voting in those procedures on that Thursday are embarrassed and humiliated. I feel their pain. I went through three years being concerned. I needn’t have bothered, because we on this side were organised about how we ran the parliament. People were happy to turn up to work and turn up to vote. We consulted and we organised legislation, but those on the other side have proven themselves to be incapable of doing so.

I do think that the Leader of the House should perhaps reconsider some of the more draconian measures that are being put forward in these standing order propositions. After all, given the Senate performance yesterday, his performance on that Thursday looks good. I am sure he has sent a card and a note to Senator McKenzie, thanking her for taking some of the pressure off him about his performance of his duties.

So I say to the Leader of the House, if you think it is smart to get a political outcome through a manipulation of rules, you should think back to the geniuses who came up with the Senate reform proposals that resulted in there being fewer coalition senators, fewer Greens senators and more crossbench senators and that reinvigorated the One Nation party in the other chamber. Think about what happens when you think you can put in a political fix rather than engage in issues of substance and negotiate your position. You should have the confidence in your position to be able to argue things on their merits; you should have confidence in your own party room, that your members will actually turn up to votes; and you should have confidence in the power of your arguments not to be frightened of having a Selection Committee that operates properly, that chooses private members’ business in an appropriate way, chooses motions to have votes on and allows for a determination in this parliament of issues that have been brought by honourable members. You should not be frightened of being able to test the power of your case, if you actually have an agenda.

For a government that had no business in the Senate and has no sense of purpose—that does not have an agenda—I would have thought that voting on private members motions and bills through a Selection Committee process might help you out. It might give you something to do. You might get that sense of purpose from non-government members. If you do not proceed like this, what people will do, what you will find, very simply—it is not up to me to give advice to the crossbenchers or other members, but I have had a bit to do with them over the years—is that private members’ motions get converted into private members’ bills, and they will end up being just a lot of bills before the parliament. That is what will happen. Whenever you try to do a manipulation and a fix you find that there is always a way around them. I note that my friend the member for Kennedy had two private member’s bills before the parliament this week. He has worked it out—he has been around this place for a while—and other people will work it out too. There are ways of getting the same outcome.

I will conclude with this: so opposed are the government to ideas that they have even knocked off the library committee. I await the reason for knocking off the library committee, but that just shows that this is an attack on the independence of this parliament, because the Library plays a very important role.

(Time expired)

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:59): I do indeed second the amendment moved by the Manager of Opposition Business. We have had barely a week of sittings, and the parliament has been reduced to a shambles by this mob opposite. We had three years of minority government; it functioned well. We were in control not just every day, not just every hour and not just every minute but every second—every second of every sitting day we controlled the agenda in this House. The other mob: three days and it fell apart.

So upset were they with each other, they were running for the doors just to get away from each other. I thought to myself, ‘What is the precedent of people running from parliament?’ I say this in the hope that those brilliant producers at Insiders will be listening and will get out the footage of the gazelle who ran away from a division to try to avoid voting during that parliament. They ran away from the parliament.

Yesterday we had scenes in the Senate where people were not running anywhere, but perhaps they should have been. I think Senator McKenzie regrets not running from the parliament. That embarrassing performance—the depiction of a government without an agenda and whose senior members were incapable of giving a stump speech about their achievements one year into the government—said it all.

The real problem here is that the Leader of the House and the Government Whip and the people who missed the vote missed the vote. They missed a vote. What should have happened then? Should there have been some punishment for the Leader of the House? Perhaps. Should there have been some punishment or penalty against the Chief Government Whip? That has happened. That is a rotating door. She is the third one they have had during their first term of office, so we know there are lots of precedents for that. No, they have not done that. There was no action against the Leader of the House, no action against the Chief Government Whip, no action against the ministers who missed the vote and no action against the backbenchers who missed the vote. The action is against the parliament itself. They come in here and they say, ‘We know the way to avoid missing a vote in parliament: we will stop the parliament sitting!’

This year we will sit for 51 days in total. We sat for three days—one day of which was ceremonial, and the second day of the actual sittings did not work out too well. So we are back here this week and then we are off again for another three weeks. This is a government in search of an agenda and in search of a reason for existence. ‘What is the purpose of Malcolm Turnbull?’ is what people are asking.

The SPEAKER: The member for Grayndler will refer to members by their correct titles.

Mr ALBANESE: The current Prime Minister. They are asking: what is the purpose of a change in prime ministers if the agenda is exactly the same as the former Prime Minister’s and if there is nothing new coming through?

During the last parliament we sat here and had debate after debate about the unprecedented, so-called proroguing of the parliament. We came in here and we had speeches, just to fill time, about the Governor-General’s speech in this chamber. The Federation Chamber, which is usually used for such purposes, was not even used. We have this pretence of a new government, to the extent of having had that proroguing of the parliament. But the Leader of the House has had very different views. This is what he used to say:

The people of Australia expect us to serve our electorates and legislate, not to spend 18 weeks here when we should be spending 20 or 21 or 22 weeks.

That was the Leader of the House, the member for Sturt. There are too many things he said, really, to go through. One of them was:

… the first point to be made is that, yet again, this government is squibbing on transparency and accountability and trying to avoid the parliament.

Well, it is all coming back now, just like, in the past, when he said:

Why doesn’t it have to sit? There are two reasons. Firstly, it does not have a plan for the future for the Australian people. Secondly, it cannot rely on its numbers in the House.

That was the member for Sturt. Well, we did all right starting at 70. They start at 76. Imagine how bad it would be—just imagine it! They would struggle to get through prayers in the morning.

The Leader of the House is a big supporter of reform when he does not have to do anything about it. This is what he said to that esteemed institution, the Institute of Public Affairs. Now, you would not say something that was untrue to the Institute of Public Affairs, because they would pick you up on it. On 30 January 2013, he said:

I have long articulated the need for the creation of a ‘take note’ session to follow Question Time. The session would consist of a thirty minute period following Question Time which would allow a number of Members to speak on the significant matter of the day.

That is what he had to say at that time. He made it very clear, and he spoke about it complementing the matter of public importance.

So, I say: today is an opportunity to make that vision of the member for Sturt a reality. He can do it. He can do it by voting for it—voting for what he said very clearly on the record. He, of course, has also backed other reforms such as supplementary questions. He has backed a range of reforms. We are not putting them all forward here, but we are putting forward the best ones. He should take up this opportunity.

What is good about it is that he can even claim credit for it. He can say, ‘I thought of it first.’ This is an opportunity, member for Sturt, to be in the vanguard of reform because the truth is that this is a parliament that is in need of some proper reform. We have got the Seinfeld Senate over there—a Senate about nothing, meeting about nothing, with no business. We have got an agenda here one sitting week after we dealt with standing orders to change the sitting times and introduce reforms so that people could essentially leave and there would not be votes, divisions or quorums called after 7.30 on Mondays and Tuesdays—something that was not controversial and something that has been welcomed. Probably government members are not aware that that change actually took place.

If you are going to fix the problem, the position of the Leader of the House does not really fix it, because it is 8 o’clock and the problem you have got is that you cannot keep people till 5 o’clock. So, if you are going to solve the problem, we really should be knocking off straight after question time! I have got a bit of Italian heritage and the concept of a nap in the afternoon in Mediterranean countries is very civilised. La dolce vita. Get on board, member for Sturt. I challenge him to actually go the full hog—do what is necessary. You then will not lose a vote. But your heart is not in this half-hearted measure. Be a reformer. Be a visionary. Have some ticker and vote for the Pyne vision.

Sep 13, 2016

Private Members’ business – Infrastructure

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:08): If words and rhetoric could be turned into bitumen we could have duplicated Highway 1 many times over the last few years. If words and rhetoric could be turned into rail track we could have solved urban congestion. The fact is that this government has failed when it comes to infrastructure.

These are the facts: according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics public sector infrastructure investment fell by 20 per cent in the coalition government’s first two years in office. For three years the Abbott and Turnbull government has failed to commence a major new project in Western Australia that was not planned by the former Labor government and funded in budgets it inherited from the former Labor government—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting Suspended from 12:09 to 12:31

Mr ALBANESE: In order to hide its inadequate action, the government has gone on a magical infrastructure re-announcement tour. That began just weeks after the 2013 election, when the former transport minister boasted that the government would deliver the Perth Gateway WA project. This was a project that, during the WA Senate by-election, the government pretended was new, but some of it had already even opened at that point. Cars were already travelling on some parts of the road.

We have seen it here again today with the member for Durack speaking about the North West Coastal Highway, the Port Hedland improvements projects, the Great Northern Highway—Muchea to Wubin—the Black Spot Program and the Roads to Recovery Program. All of those have not a single dollar of coalition government funding in them. They were all done by the former Labor government, just like we funded the Swan Valley Bypass, just like we funded, built and opened the Great Eastern Highway project in the member for Swan’s electorate. Indeed, the member for Swan was there when I, as minister, began work on Gateway WA project, and yet the government pretends that it is new. They were funded by the former Labor government, just the like duplication of the Dampier Highway, the Esperance Port Access Corridor and other projects in Western Australia. Indeed, in Western Australia there is not a major road or rail infrastructure project that was initiated by the coalition.

What we saw during the election campaign was nothing short of pathetic. The coalition allocated more than $850 million to 78 new road projects under its program. Of those projects, 76 out of 78 were in electorates held by the coalition at the time of the election, 46 of the 78 projects were in New South Wales and 11 were in Queensland. There were none in Victoria, and in Western Australia, of the 78 projects, there were three in the entire state. By contrast, Tasmania, which happened to have the three amigos—now known as the three oncers—in their marginal seats in Tasmania, had 15 project. There were 15 in Tasmania and three in the entire state of Western Australia.

The member for Durack spoke about the Roads to Recovery Program and financial assistance grants through local government. The government cut $925 million in road funding via financial assistance grants to local government when it froze indexation in 2014. Indeed, one of the worst affected electorates was Durack—$71 million in cuts as a result of that. The fact is that this government has failed when it comes to infrastructure, has failed when it comes to building important roads and failed when it comes to public transport. This is a government without an agenda when it comes to nation-building which has marginalised Infrastructure Australia and politicised the entire infrastructure agenda, which is consistent with a government that has no plan for a stronger economy, just a plan for stronger rhetoric.

Sep 13, 2016

Member statements – WestConnex

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:44): I rise to raise my concerns about the latest stage in the WestConnex project, which has been characterised by poor and ill-conceived planning. The latest suburb potentially to suffer is Leichhardt. Local residents are concerned that a site on Darley Road in Leichhardt will be the midpoint for tunnelling for the extension of the WestConnex project. Darley Road is already a very busy road. There must be proper consultation with local residents and proper planning, including a local traffic plan, to satisfy residents that there will be no adverse impacts on them.

Of even greater concern is that the nearby Blackmore Oval and/or other public space in the area will be used during construction. Active and passive open space is at a premium in my electorate. Blackmore Oval is used by a variety of sporting codes for local sport. In addition, the Canal Road Film Centre is situated behind Blackmore Oval. This centre houses 75 or more specialist businesses that comprise a big part of the Australian film industry infrastructure, which is important for our national economy. I have spoken to the federal minister responsible for urban infrastructure about these issues and have had two direct discussions with the appropriate state minister, Duncan Gay, and called on him to ensure that these issues are resolved and that Blackmore Oval is protected.

(Time expired)

May 4, 2016

Matters of Public Importance – Economy

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:43): I rise to talk particularly about infrastructure and the failure of this government to understand that infrastructure is the key to future jobs and economic growth. This is a budget that absolutely fails. It is a budget that has a $1 billion cut to infrastructure investment over the forwards alone. It is a budget that, in four years time, will see the amount of money that is allocated to rail that is not an equity injection through the ARTC fall to zero dollars.

This is a Prime Minister who came to office saying that he was going to talk about cities and urban policy. What we have seen is that his 30-minute city policy did not actually last 30 minutes. It is a 30-minute policy! In last night’s budget, not a single new project was approved—not a single new project anywhere in the country. There was no money for the Cross River Rail project. There was no money for light rail or heavy rail in Adelaide. There was no money for Metronet in Perth. There was no money for new major road projects. Just simply, there was a continuation of their magical infrastructure re-announcement tour around the country.

It is coming to an end because projects are being opened. The regional rail link down in Geelong, Bendigo Ballarat is now open. It is functioning. Projects like the Moreton Bay rail link will be opened in the next month. They were promised, funded, built and opened under a Labor government—opposed by those opposite. There is no money for western Sydney rail and no money from major road projects. We have just heard a speech from a Tasmanian. Tasmania gets under two per cent. That is its total percentage of the infrastructure budget: a cut to the rail revitalisation program and a cut of $100 million to the Midland Highway. Victoria’s percentage, to be fair, has increased. It is now up to 9.6 per cent. It is just a pity that they have 25 per cent of the population. One in four Australians are getting less than one in 10 of the dollars.

Those opposite speak about Infrastructure Australia and processes and they raise the east-west link—come in spinner. It was a project that was to produce 45 cents of benefit for every dollar invested. I have a proposition for everyone over there: you give me $100 today and I will give you back $45 tomorrow and we will call it a good deal. That is the proposition. What is more, they cut the Infrastructure Australia budget. It falls by 25 per cent in two years. One in four dollars will be cut from the Infrastructure Australia budget. What we saw last night was not budget 2016; it was fudge-it 2016, because the dollars simply do not add up. If today you are not planning for the infrastructure of tomorrow, the investment will fall off the cliff. We have already had under this government a 20 per cent decline in public sector infrastructure investment on their watch.

Dr Leigh: Twenty per cent!

Mr ALBANESE: Twenty per cent—one in five dollars—gone. That will result in lower future economic growth, lower returns in revenue, slower growth, fewer jobs. Is it any wonder that the steel industry is in trouble when investment has dropped off the cliff? This is a government that has no agenda for infrastructure and, in particular, has no agenda for our cities: $50 million for planning, that is it. What a joke of a policy. It is no wonder they are not taken seriously.

May 4, 2016

Constituency Statement – WestConnex Project

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:00): Last Saturday, I attended a public meeting in Rozelle, following an invitation by a member of the Annandale WestConnex Action Group who came to one of the street meetings that I regularly hold on Saturday mornings. It was an expression of concern by the community about the lack of proper planning for the WestConnex Project and particularly the impact it will have in Rozelle. At the moment, it is unclear how many, if any, houses will be resumed, as has occurred in Haberfield. It is unclear where the route will go. It is unclear where any exhaust stacks will be placed. And that uncertainty is creating enormous concern in my local community.

This is an example of planning gone wrong. The WestConnex Project has been funded before the planning or the business case have been conducted. We established Infrastructure Australia to get the process right—do the planning, do the business case, then receive the funding—to make sure projects actually achieve outcomes. And yet in last night’s budget it was confirmed that Infrastructure Australia’s budget will be cut by 25 per cent—precisely the wrong direction. Infrastructure New South Wales identified freight to Port Botany as the priority for roads and rail in terms of Sydney’s urban congestion challenges. The WestConnex Project solves neither.

The WestConnex Project of course goes to St Peters. I wrote to the WestConnex Delivery Authority chairman, Tony Shepherd, saying this: ‘From what has been published, the proposal to widen the M5 and dump traffic at St Peters interchange is absurd. The notion that delivering additional traffic to King Street, Newtown, and parallel congested back-routes represents proper planning is beyond belief.’ I wrote that on 9 November 2014.

It appears that the same mistakes are being made with the rest of this project. That is why I have requested an audit of the entire WestConnex Project, as well as of the government’s infrastructure plans, because it is clear that—with regard to the East West Link fiasco, the collapse of Perth Freight Link in the courts and the blow-out on WestConnex from $10 billion to $16.6 billion—this is a failure of government planning, which is why the national Auditor-General should conduct an audit into the government’s infrastructure programs.

May 3, 2016

Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Bill 2016 – Consideration of Senate Message

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:04): The opposition will be supporting this proposition moved by the minister, but we are somewhat bemused that this government that has just begun this term, because this is week 2, allegedly, of this current sitting of parliament, is frankly so incompetent that we have circumstances whereby we have this occurrence. It may well have occurred early on in my 20 years in this place, but certainly since I have held the position of Leader of the House or the Manager of Opposition Business it has not occurred. This is quite unusual. It has occurred because the government failed to understand what was appropriate when it put together the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Bill.

Due to the very strong advocacy from my colleague the member for Perth, the government has recognised that it made an error in its original drafting of the bill on the definition of ‘Northern Australia’. The substantial amendments that the government has foreshadowed will have to be moved in this House first and then carried in the Senate second. That is what should occur. Mr Speaker, I know that you and I would agree on the primacy of the House of Representatives under the Constitution. It now needs to be done through this rather convoluted procedural action moved by the government.

We certainly endorse your statement, Mr Speaker, on the constitutional issues. You are quite right, of course. But we find it extraordinary that the government had to have the Australian Constitution drawn to its attention in what is week 2 of a parliament that was convened to consider two pieces of legislation, one of which it dropped. That says it all about why this government should be put out of its misery on 2 July. It simply has not been competent to act like a government. It continues to act like an opposition in exile on the government benches.

This extraordinary proposition that is before the parliament today, which as I said the Labor Party will facilitate, is a change to legislation which has been advocated primarily by the member for Perth but supported by the Australian Labor Party to try and get this right. Of course, we facilitated the passage of the northern Australia infrastructure legislation through the parliament after it was prorogued. We put it through very quickly to try and help this fledgling new cabinet minister over here, because it is in our nature to be constructive, which is why we will support this proposition. But we say that Australia does not have long to wait before it has a government that understands the way the parliament works and is actually able to govern competently. We will have that opportunity. This bill only provides for loans for northern Australia, but it is legislation which we support, but we support it being conducted in a way that is obviously consistent with the Australian Constitution. My colleague the member for Perth will speak about the substance of these changes when the minister moves his amendments subsequent to the procedural resolutions that are currently before the House.

Question agreed to.

Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation for the bill and proposed amendments announced.

May 2, 2016

Water Amendment (Review Implementation and Other Measures) Bill 2015, Tax Laws Amendment (New Tax System for Managed Investment Trusts) Bill 2015, Income Tax Rates Amendment (Managed Investment Trusts) Bill 2015, Medicare Levy Amendment (Attribution Managed Investment Trusts) Bill 2015, Income Tax (Attribution Managed Investment Trusts—Offsets) Bill 2015, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2015, Australian Crime Commission Amendment (National Policing Information) Bill 2015, Australian Crime Commission (National Policing Information Charges) Bill 2015, Registration of Deaths Abroad Amendment Bill 2016, Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2016 Measures No. 1) Bill 2016, Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding) Bill 2015, Criminal Code Amendment (Firearms Trafficking) Bill 2015, Parliamentary Entitlements Legislation Amendment Bill 2014

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:03): I rise to speak to this motion that has been moved by the Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation. I indicate that we will not be opposing the motion, but this is quite an extraordinary occurrence. This request is a direct result of the decision by the government to prorogue the parliament; we are pretending that this is a new parliament. In the motion put forward by the assistant minister, he indicated that this motion was resuming debate on legislation considered in the last session of parliament. It is the same session. It is the same thing. Something called an election determines when sessions occur. This is still the 44th Parliament, and yet what we had a fortnight ago—a pretence that it was a new session—was a direct result of the government’s failure to manage this parliament, let alone manage the nation. We had the Governor-General open the parliament and give a speech to the parliament indicating—as is his task as the representative of our head of state, who remains the Queen of the Commonwealth of Australia—what the government’s priorities would be for this session of parliament, as if it were new. People might recall that there were two bills mentioned, but one of them was not even debated by the parliament. It got dropped off and they did not bother to pretend that that was the case. If you cannot run the parliament you cannot run the nation, and this is a government that has shown itself incapable of running the parliament.

The reason this motion is before the parliament is to give the Senate something to do. At one stage during the last fortnight we had the extraordinary circumstance where there was only one bill before the House of Representatives—my bill supporting a high-speed rail authority, which will be moved formally later today. There were the extraordinary circumstances of the proroguing of parliament and the listing of two bills, one of which was not even debated, and now the Senate has to have bills continued for debate, as if none of this had occurred. This is extraordinary, just as it is extraordinary that it appears we will rush to an election in order for the government to avoid scrutiny of its budget measures and avoid the normal processes that would take place: Senate estimates over a two-week period and a full and proper debate between now and 1 July. These are the normal processes, but, because of the government’s desperation, its lack of an agenda and its lack of a sense of purpose, it simply cannot even sustain itself in the normal three-year term, which I think most Australians would regard as being too short as it is. Certainly, we on this side of the House support four-year terms for the parliament.

This motion says a lot about this government. I was Leader of the House in the minority parliament from 2010 to 2013. With respect to my friend the member for Sturt, this mob would not make it to lunchtime, let alone to question time, on day one if they had 70 votes out of 150. They have 90, and they still cannot manage the parliament. So we have this extraordinary circumstance, due to the extraordinary generosity of my colleague and friend the member for Watson, the Manager of Opposition Business, allowing this to occur. Otherwise the Senate would be sitting over there on what they perhaps would call ‘a long morning tea break’, because there would be nothing before the Senate to actually debate—just like after the parliament was prorogued and brought back the Senate had to break not once but twice because it had absolutely nothing before it in terms of business. These are extraordinary circumstances that simply were not considered when the Prime Minister showed how clever he was by pretending that the parliament was new. It is not new. This is an old government with no agenda except a repeat of the 2014 budget.

We will not oppose this. Frankly, if this was the opposition from 2010 to 2013, or the opposition at any time that the member for Warringah was the Manager of Opposition Business, there is no way that this would have been allowed. This would have been blocked. There probably would have been suspension motions on the basis of this absurd proposition in order for the parliament to function. But, because we in Labor are responsible, we do take our obligations seriously and we are not political opportunists like those opposite, Labor will not be opposing this resolution.

Question agreed to.

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office


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