Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Interview Transcripts"
Jun 24, 2014

Interview of transcript – ABC 24, Capital Hill

Subject/s: Infrastructure legislation; fuel excise; asset recycling

CURTIS:  The Opposition has moved amendments in the Senate that have been voted for on two infrastructure bills. One is a Bill about Infrastructure Australia, the other is the asset recycling fund, which aims to give the States a bonus if they privatise some of their assets. Labor says it will insist on its amendments. I spoke to the Shadow Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese a little earlier today. Anthony Albanese welcome to Capital Hill.

ALBANESE:  Good to be here.

CURTIS:  If I can ask you first the Greens decided to now oppose the re-indexation of fuel excise. Does that come as a surprise, given that this is the party which would like to phase out fossil fuels?

ALBANESE:  Well, the Greens political party are never known for their consistency. But it’s up to them to determine their position and to explain how they have come to it.  What we did was look at the equity of this measure at a time whereby the Federal Government has cut all funding for public transport projects that were previously put in the Budget, that hadn’t commenced construction. Taking away that option of people not using their family car at a time whereby in terms of distances – the further you live away from the city, or where you work, particularly for those drive-in drive-out suburbs, people in regional communities who don’t have other options – they’re the people who will be hit by this new tax.

CURTIS: So the Greens move makes it much less likely, almost impossible for it to get through the Senate because the Palmer United Party won’t back it either?

ALBANESE:  I would have thought that’s the case. This is a Government, of course, that don’t have a mandate for this or any of the other new taxes that they’re seeking to impose on the Australian public. This is a very inequitable measure, and it’s all right for parliamentarians or corporate executives – they’ll have their corporate fuel cards, they won’t be paying it. The people who will be paying this proposed new tax are mums and dads out there in the suburbs travelling to and from work, or taking their kids to sport on the weekend.

CURTIS: Now there are a couple of other pieces of legislation which the Senate has debated and amended in your patch. One is dealing with Infrastructure Australia, the other is dealing with what is called asset recycling. If those amendments that Labor – that your side – has put up aren’t accepted in the House of Representatives will you back down or will you continue to insist on them?

ALBANESE:  We will absolutely insist on these amendments. This is flawed legislation, Lyndal. The Infrastructure Australia Bill had more than 20 amendments carried in the Senate including Government amendments. They had to amend their own legislation because the Business Council of Australia, the Property Council and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia all said to the Government “you’ve got it wrong”. They wanted to take away the independence of Infrastructure Australia. What we’ve done is make sure that independence is ensured through these amendments. They wanted to stop the publication of information and therefore transparency. They wanted to make it so that the Minister could direct Infrastructure Australia to not consider whole classes of projects – that is not public transport. Now, if we are going to deal with urban congestion in our cities you need integrated transport plans, you need to deal both road and rail.

CURTIS: On the asset recycling you wanted effectively more parliamentary oversight of what happens in that?

ALBANESE:  Exactly. We want to make sure, as well, that any project above – worth more than $100 million is – in accordance with what the Coalition said they would do – be subject to proper analysis by Infrastructure Australia, proper cost of benefit analysis, publication of that, so you have the transparency there.  Not what the Government’s done.  The Government in the Budget had funding for a range of projects like the Perth freight project, which has come from nowhere. The WA Government itself hasn’t got any funding for it. There is no plan, there is no environmental study, there is no cost-benefit analysis. The east-west project in Melbourne, they’re putting forward $1.5 billion as an advance payment for a project that hasn’t had a proper cost-benefit analysis. So they have got that wrong. And then on the policy framework, they’ve tried to remove any of the proper processes that are about ensuring that infrastructure investment went to the right project, that would boost productivity the most.

CURTIS: What would be the effect if these bills fail?

ALBANESE:   Well, that’s up to the Government. But we’re going to insist on proper processes, a proper analysis – in accordance with what the Coalition said they would do. They were on the record, on this one, prior to the election speaking about proper cost-benefit analysis, proper scrutiny of Infrastructure Australia. What they’ve tried to do is come up proposals which just suit political purposes. There is no new investment for infrastructure in this Budget. It’s all just renaming, taking project money from one to another. The asset recycling money is all from the existing Education Investment Fund and the Building Australia Fund – no new money, just moving it from one pot to another, coming up with a new name and pretending that it’s new investment. Well, we’ll scrutinise this legislation and hold the Government to account.

CURTIS: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for your time.

ALBANESE:   Good to be with you.

 

Jun 23, 2014

Interview transcript – SKY News

Subjects: High-speed rail; Labor party; federal campaign review

SPEERS: Anthony Albanese thank you for your time. This private members bill you’ve introduced today, would establish a planning authority, something Labor had promised in Government to establish.  Why is that needed if there is no decision yet on whether to actually build a high speed rail network?

ALBANESE: It’s necessary to ensure that you in the first instance preserve the corridor. If we don’t make decisions today to advance high speed rail it will be impossible tomorrow because urban growth and urban sprawl will make the corridor unworkable. That’s why we established a process, recommendations from people like Tim Fischer, a former Deputy Prime Minister, Jennifer Westacott, from the Business Council of Australia, recommended the establishment of an authority. That’s what this Private Members Bill would do, with representatives of each of the jurisdictions and private sector expertise,  to make sure that the planning work and the preservation of the corridor was there. We put $52 million in the budget to do that, and unfortunately the Coalition took that money out of last month’s Budget.

SPEERS: Sure, but urban sprawl isn’t anything new, it’s been going on and on and on for some time, why in the six years you were in Government didn’t this happen?

ALBANESE: We had the study that recommended only in June of last year. So we responded as soon as we could to that study, that recommended this process. It was a very detailed study David. It outlined, and it was all there on the website, still there on the Infrastructure Department website, a very precise corridor, a precise number of stations, even the design of the stations has all been done. You’ve got to do this planning work. This is about long term vision for the nation which would enable people to go three hours from Sydney to Melbourne or Sydney to Brisbane, but importantly also for regional cities such as Canberra, but right along the route, Port Macquarie, Albury-Wodonga, would be a real generator of that regional economic activity that would remove some of the pressure that’s on our big capital cities.

SPEERS: Can I turn to an article that’s in The Australian newspaper today by Troy Bramston, suggesting that you have been an unremitting critic of Bill Shorten and are guilty of undeniable treachery. Have you been undermining the leader?

ALBANESE: Troy Bramston is a failed factional operative who’s now become a writer of fiction. The truth is that I’ve been very loyal to Bill. Bill knows that, and he said that this morning. What this morning’s article is, is a series of assertions and hearsay with nothing to back it up. The one quote from anybody that’s in there is a quote from Bob Carr’s book that wasn’t known to me before today but Sam Dastyari has confirmed to the Senate today that that is not true. That indeed my position was –

SPEERS: Let me tell people what the quote was. The quote from Bob Carr’s diaries when he stated support for Julia Gillard he gets a call from Sam Dastyari saying that he was taking calls from Chris Bowen and Anthony Albanese that he had undermined their pro-Rudd campaign. So were you campaigning for Rudd?

ALBANESE: No and that’s not true. Sam Dastyari has confirmed that, that indeed the only conversation I had with him, which is a similar conversation I have with a lot of people around this building was that people should shut up about the internals and should get on with the business of governing. That’s what I did as Leader of the House just as now I’m getting on with the business of holding the government to account.

SPEERS: Well he also points to criticism of Bill Shorten’s decision to keep Joe Bullock at the top of Labor’s senate ticket in WA. You weren’t a fan of that?

ALBANESE: No I wasn’t and that was on the record in terms of the National Executive. At National Executive, I had a view that we shouldn’t just re-endorse the ticket prior to the court case being held. So my views are there, were known, I argued that case within the party.

SPEERS: Do you regard that as being disloyal to the leader at all?

ALBANESE: Not at all. That’s about the best interests of the Labor Party and putting my views forward without fear or favour on the National Executive. That’s something that I’ve always done. But it goes on to speak about alleged leaking. I mean that was publicly available information and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I was more supportive of Louise Pratt than I was of Joe Bullock. That’s just a fact. But it goes on also to suggest that I was responsible for an article that leaked Bill Shorten’s speech in terms of party reform. I didn’t even have that speech. Bill and I had not had an opportunity to talk due to personal circumstances, miscommunication, but I wasn’t aware of what was in his speech until I read it in the paper.

SPEERS: Do you think Bill Shorten is doing a good job as leader now and can I ask you specifically where there has been some internal tension on the issue of East Jerusalem? Has he done the right thing there?

ALBANESE: I think Bill is doing a good job. I mean there’s talk about internal tension; I’ve seen none of it. I’ve seen no debate about that issue and no difference of opinion about that issue. Bill has done a good job of holding the government to account. Straight after the leadership ballot it required two things given that Bill and I contested each other. One was it required a generosity of spirit from Bill as the leader toward myself. That certainly occurred. I was able to choose a portfolio of my own choosing. I was able to appoint staff. I was able to get on with the business of making a contribution. And secondly it required me to get on with the business of making a contribution. I’ve done that in my policy area. I think we’ve ripped their so-called infrastructure budget, the infrastructure con,  apart piece-by-piece very effectively and also, I’ve been offering strategic advice to Bill as an experienced person who was Leader of the House, the Manager of Opposition Business –

SPEERS:  – no bitterness?

ALBANESE: Not at all.

SPEERS: And what about your future? Would you have a crack again for Leader after the next election?

ALBANESE: I expect that Bill will win the next election and he’ll be Prime Minister.

SPEERS: If he doesn’t though, will you put your hand up?

ALBANESE: I expect that he will win the next election and be Prime Minister. And I will certainly be happy to serve. That will probably see out my time because I expect that it will be a long term –

SPEERS: –  you mean the next term will see out your time?

ALBANESE: No, a long term Labor Government.

SPEERS: Right.

ALBANESE: So we’ll wait and see how long –

SPEERS: – So you’re not going at the next election?

ALBANESE: David, I’ve put a fair bit of effort into building up a knowledge of this place, of developing policy expertise in the area of infrastructure, transport and now tourism. I want to implement those things. I want to see the second airport for Sydney built. I want to see high speed rail advanced. I’m here for the long haul.

SPEERS: Speaking of that experience, the national review into Labor’s performance at the last election found that disunity was a problem. Do you believe there were problems in how that campaign was fought?

ALBANESE: Given the circumstances in which there was a change of leadership just prior to the election being called, of course things don’t run as smoothly as they would had there been continuity of leadership from 2007 right through. But under the circumstances, there’s no doubt, as the National Secretary said at the National Press Club, that Kevin Rudd returning to the leadership saved 25 seats. I think that is certainly the case. Kevin Rudd lead an outstanding campaign in my view. The fact that this report has been released, whereas the 2010 report was never released. It’s been released out there essentially so people could see the minor issues that were there –

SPEERS: Sure, they might be minor but do you think you could have won the campaign, the election with a better campaign?

ALBANESE: Under the circumstances it was always the case, and the report says this, and certainly Kevin was conscious of this as well when he retook the Prime Ministership, that the odds were against Labor winning. All the polls always indicated that. But we’re in a position now, as a result of the campaign, and in particular seats, but I think the national campaign, that we are competitive. We are in a position today whereby if we get the same result at the next election that we got in 1998, Bill Shorten will be living in The Lodge. And that’s remarkable given where we were at, at this time just 12 months ago, and I think George Wright and Kevin Rudd and it must be said Julia Gillard for the way that she held herself with a great deal of dignity and support for the campaign as well. Labor united for that campaign. Had she reacted differently certainly the outcome wouldn’t have been as positive as it was. But we’re in a position to form Government. What we’ve got to continue to do now is to hold them to account, but also build new policies for the next campaign.

SPEERS: Anthony Albanese thanks for joining us.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

 

Jun 20, 2014

Interview transcript – SKY News First Edition

Subject/s: Iraq; Palmer United Party; Brandis comments on Israeli-Palestinian conflict  

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Albanese, thanks for joining us from Canberra this morning. What’s Labor’s position on this obviously very concerning and worsening crisis in Iraq? Will you back the Government in any action they might take to support the US and the al-Maliki administration in Baghdad?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ll get proper briefings and respond accordingly but of course Labor supports the US alliance. What President Obama is saying is that he’s not supporting troops on the ground. We’re talking about a limited number of US advisers. My understanding is at this stage there’s been no request for Australia to assist but it should be weighed up of course in the context of our national interest. We have an interest in the world and we have an interest in stopping the sort of extremist elements such as represented by ISIL. These people are nut jobs. These people are threats mainly to their fellow Muslims it’s got to be understood here. It is their follow Iraqis who are suffering because of the extremist ideology that this group has.

GILBERT: Does Labor feel some sort of vindication given your position on the Iraq operation initially? Do you think that this is a flow-on effect, obviously with the dismantling of the Saddam Hussein regime had enormous ramifications for that country and the region but does Labor feel some vindication on its original position on that?

ALBANESE: I don’t think it’s a case of that Kieran, because the reality of what’s going on there means that I don’t think anyone can feel good about anything that’s happening there.  What I would say is that it is a reminder that you’ve got to work through what the end point is in terms of any intervention, and we went into Iraq based on falsehoods. We were told that there was evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction. There weren’t, and that intervention has been costly in terms of lives of Australians, but lives of course of many more Iraqis in years and years of conflict. So you need to be cautious about intervention I think, and there’s no doubt that what we’ve seen in Iraq is a great deal of uncertainty which is I guess playing out at the moment. I’m very concerned about what’s going on in Syria and some of the extremist elements that we’re seeing there. I think fundamentalism is a great threat of any kind. It’s not confined of course to people who happen to be Muslim. People who are fundamentalists who believe essentially that if you don’t agree with them 100% then you’re the enemy, this sort of ideology being played out at the expense of ordinary Iraqi citizens who just want to get on with their lives.

GILBERT: Yeah, it’s a tragedy, no doubt about it, an ongoing one. Let’s turn our attention to domestic politics and policy now with reports today in the Fin Review that Palmer and his party are going to be targeted individually by the government if there is defiance from Clive Palmer post July 1. This just makes sense as a senior parliamentary tactician and as a former Leader of the House yourself who had to deal with the crossbench you would think that this is just obvious wouldn’t you that the government would look at this scenario to pick off individual Senators within the Palmer United Party if Mr Palmer isn’t cooperative?

ALBANESE: They’ve got to round up their own side first Kieran. The Coalition are struggling to get support for a range of their budget measures from their own backbench. You have senators crossing the floor, senators clearly in revolt because this budget is so unfair. There are so many measures for which there’s no mandate. No one was told before the election that there would be cuts to pensions, to education, to health, to public transport, and no wonder they’re having difficulty. I do think that this government’s really suffering from a great dose of arrogance and it’s something that the Coalition need to come to terms with, this sort of idea that the Coalition is going to split people off. We saw that during the last term where you did have a minority government. We had 70 votes out of 150 on the floor of the House of Representatives. We needed to get 5 additional votes from the 7 crossbenchers who were there at the end of that term and we weren’t defeated on a single piece of legislation, and that was in part because the Coalition took people for granted. Tony Abbott of course botched the negotiations after the 2010 elections. And it seems to me that there’s this view that they have that somehow everyone else in Australia who is upset about this unfair Budget is wrong and they’re right. I really think they’re very much out of touch.

GILBERT: I want to ask you one final issue and this relates to East Jerusalem and the policy on it. The Government, the Attorney General last night maintained the has been no formal policy shift and yesterday the Foreign Minister reassuring ambassadors from the Arab nations that there has been no formal policy shift. You and Labor would welcome that, I guess.

ALBANESE: Well of course but what we don’t welcome is this foreign policy on the run. The sort of statements that the Attorney General made were provocative, were inconsistent with the international understanding, inconsistent with what the position that Australian Governments of both political persuasions have had over many years. The government needs to start actually acting like a government rather than a sort of rabble which is what we’ve seen from the comments from Senator Brandis. I mean how does an Attorney General just make statements that have really put at risk some of our business relationships with the region by being out of step? You don’t just make these declarations.

GILBERT: But there are differences of opinion in Labor aren’t there as well in Labor as well with the Victorian Right particularly seen as very close to the Jewish and Israeli thinking on this. What do you say to the suggestion that there is a real difference within Labor on this policy as well, and this stance?

ALBANESE: Labor is very clear. Labor is a supporter of Israel. Labor is a supporter of a Palestinian state. We support a two-state solution negotiated in the interests of both Palestinians and Israelis. This conflict is of course a cause of great difficulty in the Middle East beyond as well, and the US administration is very keen to progress a resolution to this conflict long term. I mean long-term, when you have got people who live geographically so close to each other, there can’t be a resolution at the expense of either party. It is in the mutual interest of both Israelis and Palestinians to have a two state solution.

GILBERT: Anthony Albanese, I appreciate your time early this Friday morning. Thanks for that.

ALBANESE: Thanks Kieran.

 

 

Jun 6, 2014

Transcript interview on the Today Show

Subject/s: Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal leadership, Budget, Clive Palmer

WILKINSON: Well, they say a week is a long time in politics and for the Coalition by any measure this one has been a doozy, all set off by last week’s dinner between Clive Palmer and Malcolm Turnbull. Now the Communications Minister has reportedly infuriated colleagues overnight after failing to fully discount leadership speculation while Prime Minister Tony Abbott is overseas. Take a look.

TURNBULL: It is a straight question but I don’t think there is any member of the House of Representatives who, if, in the right circumstances, would not take on that responsibility. But I am very, very happy doing what I’m doing.

WILKINSON: Malcolm Turnbull there. Well, we’re joined by Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to both of you.

ALBANESE: Good morning.

PYNE: Good morning Lisa.

WILKINSON: Christopher, I will start with you. Is Malcolm Turnbull right?  Do you all harbour leadership ambitions?

PYNE: I certainly don’t and Malcolm made it quite clear last night (laughter). I can’t get a word out.

WILKINSON: You’re talking to me Christopher. You are talking to me.

PYNE:  You and 500,000 Australians. No I don’t think … Malcolm made it perfectly clear last night he thinks his leadership capacity is between nil and negligible in terms of being leader again and I think he ruled it out pretty well.

WILKINSON: He did go onto say that you can never say never in politics. I’m paraphrasing. But he said you never know what will happen in the future because politics is a changing game.

PYNE: I think that question has no right answer from when you are asked about leadership ambitions. Whatever you say feeds speculation. I think Malcolm made it perfectly clear he believes his chances of being leader again are between nil and negligible, which is not much less than that. The leadership ambitions that are on display in Canberra are the ones between old people’s choice over here and the factions’ choice Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek of course is in the background as well. I mean Labor has not settled their leadership because Anthony Albanese won the people’s vote from the branch members and Bill won the faction’s vote from the caucus and until they resolve that on our side of the House Tony Abbott’s both the people’s choice and the party’s choice.

WILKINSON: Although Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull in a popularity competition Malcolm Turnbull seems to win every time. Would Malcolm Turnbull eventually make a good Prime Minister?

PYNE: Look Malcolm has been the leader and that has ended and he’s happy being the Communications Minister. He’s doing an excellent job and I think he’s been selling the Budget as well as anybody in the Government.

WILKINSON: So why would Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones, both strong conservative supporters, attack Malcolm Turnbull. It all looks very uncohesive. Do you think he was right when he called them bullies last night?

PYNE: Well I think that’s a good question for Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones to answer.

WILKINSON: But from the sidelines, were you shocked by their level and depth of attack?

PYNE: I’m not really on the sidelines. I’m in the leadership group of the Coalition.

WILKINSON: Well then you would have an opinion.

PYNE:  So my view is that Malcolm is doing a fantastic job, he’s a great member of the team. I think the whole team is working well.

WILKINSON: But that was very unhelpful.

PYNE: Which bit was unhelpful?

WILKINSON: Well Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones. It‘s really divided the party.

PYNE: Andrew and Alan have to make their own decisions. They’re not members of our party room, they are independent media commentators and how they see things is a matter for them. My view is Malcolm is doing a sensational job as Communications Minister, he’s doing a great job as a member of the advocates of the Coalition and he should be allowed to get on with his job.

WILKINSON: Anthony Albanese, you must be loving this.

ALBANESE: Well, the fact that Christopher has said that Tony Abbott’s the people’s choice. The last poll showed that Tony Abbott was not only less popular than Malcolm Turnbull, but “don’t know’’ and “someone else’’ got more votes than Tony Abbott as preferred leader of the Liberal Party. Christopher got…

PYNE: I got 1%.

ALBANESE:  It was actually less than 1%.

PYNE: That was the Today Show staff.

ALBANESE:  You were you an asterisk Christopher, I’m afraid. Sometimes it’s best to not be in the poll.

PYNE: He is cruel, isn’t he?

WILKINSON: There is talk though this morning, I mean, we have one of the front pages here, of a possible cabinet reshuffle. Is that on the cards?

PYNE: No, it certainly isn’t.

WILKINSON: Definitely not?

PYNE: Definitely not. Just more speculation. We’re trying to get on with the Budget ….

ALBANESE: The reason why this is an issue, to get away from all the personalities, is that they’ve had a shocker of a budget. If the budget had had any credibility, any common decency, other than attacking the Australian values on education, on health support for Medicare, on pensions, then you wouldn’t have this speculation. It’s because they have got the policy wrong that the personality issues are rising to the fore.

WILKINSON: What do you think of the sideshow politics that are going on at the moment with Clive Palmer?

ALBANESE: Well that’s a part of it as well. Clive Palmer is a populist. Clive Palmer is a former life member of the LNP. He knows this is a shocker. It’s a shocker particularly in regional Australia. Who voted for a new tax on petrol? Who voted for a cut to pensions? Who voted for a charge every time you go to the doctor? Who voted for cuts to education? Nobody and Clive Palmer knows that. So he is, he’s an opportunist, he’s trying to fill a gap that is there of people who are traditional Coalition supporters who are angry with them, and the dinner with Malcolm Turnbull, I suspect, was just part of feeding into that.

WILKINSON: Well we’re just a couple of weeks away from the big change in the Senate where we know that Clive Palmer is going to get control of the Senate and his party. So I would like you both to finish off with this sentence: Clive Palmer taking over control of the Senate fills me with…

PYNE: Hope for the future.

WILKINSON: Anthony?

ALBANESE: He is already trying to suck up.

PYNE: Is that how you are finishing the sentence?

WILKINSON: It probably works.

ALBANESE: With concern.

WILKINSON: So you have hope for the future with Clive Palmer having that sort of control?

PYNE: I have hope for the future Lisa that a new Senate not controlled by the Green left, which it has been under Labor and the Greens will recognise the need to do things like balance the Budget, to live within our means, to deliver the kind of taxes and infrastructure that we need in Australia.

WILKINSON: You would trust that to Clive Palmer?

PYNE: I think that the Senate will work very well with the Government. In higher education in my area, for example, I’m looking forward to working with them to bring about reform to the higher education sector because we are getting on with the job.  Anthony Albanese has never delivered a tough budget.

ALBANESE: I’ll make this point. This is karma coming home. For the last parliament they said we don’t negotiate with anyone, we don’t deal with anyone, how  dare Labor talk to the crossbenchers. Guess what they are not only talking to them they are taking them to dinner.

WILKINSON: Thank you both gentlemen, have a good weekend.

 

May 26, 2014

Transcript of press conference

Subject/s: Senate Estimates – East-West Link, Infrastructure Australia, Budget infrastructure video, John Fitzgerald, Perth Freight Link.

ALBANESE: Today we’ve had the Senate estimates into infrastructure and transport. And it’s been a shocking day for those people who had hoped the incoming government would take infrastructure policy development seriously.

What we’ve seen is that the independent process that was established of IA giving advice to government and that being then followed by investment by government has been broken.

This is a government that has made purely political decisions.

In the budget of course we know that they simply took money off some existing projects in terms of rail projects but also some road projects confirmed such as the M80 in Victoria and put them onto its own projects rather than providing new investment.

Apart from that they’ve been running around the country claiming projects as new.

Even projects like the Majura Parkway here in the ACT, they have tried to take some credit for. All they had to do was look to their right as they drove in from the airport to Parliament House last night or this morning and they’d see a project that was two years underway and more than half completed.

This morning though we’ve had some quite extraordinary revelations.

With regards to the East West Link in Victoria, we had evidence from John Fitzgerald who is the Acting Infrastructure Coordinator.

Mr Fitzgerald put out a release on the 29th of April saying that it was a ‘meritorious project’.  Today he indicated that as a Victorian official of Treasury but also as a private consultant for KPMG doing work on this project, he advocated for the project.

You can’t be an advocate and an independent adviser to government.

And indeed he indicated that he would be at Infrastructure Australia he thought for a period of 6 months leave from his existing job at KPMG and I’d ask people draw their own conclusions but certainly the government needs to assure people that appropriate protections have been put in place to make sure that that independent role of the public service is kept intact because the integrity of the system requires that.

With regard to the East-West project, today also we learnt what we didn’t know on Budget night. We didn’t know because it was kept from the Australian people.

The fact that the East-West Stage 2 project in Victoria has not had a business case, hasn’t had proper environmental assessment, but was given $1.5 billion of commitments out of the Federal Government for a project that is due, according to their own papers, to commence in the financial year 2015-16.

Now the government says that it has some ‘fiscal issues’, that it ‘needs to be careful with Australians’ money.

But what it’s doing is giving $1 billion over the next 8 weeks for a project that not only wont commence in 8 months or 18 months, but is from today more than two financial years off even commencing and has not had a business case.

The funding profile of a billion dollars being giving this financial year prior to June 30 must be seen as providing assistance to their friends in the Victorian Government because the only thing that that billion dollars will produce before it starts, if it ever does, if it ever has a business case, if it ever gets environmental approval sometime after 2015-16 is interest to the Victorian Government interest lost for the Australian Government.

Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann have to explain why it is after last week’s horror Budget they’re putting a billion dollars into someone else’s bank account for no production whatsoever.

Secondly was the extraordinary WA Freight Link project. The old Roe 8 that they’ve renamed.

Now I was Infrastructure Minister for 6 years. I’ve had lots of meetings with WA Ministers particularly Troy Buswell but WA officials.

At no stage was this project on the agenda.

When it was announced on Budget night the WA Freight Logistics Council said they didn’t know where this had come from. It had been rejected due the issues that it had, a similar project, as not achieving the outcomes desired and because of environmental impediments some years ago by the WA State Government.

And yet $925 million of taxpayers money allocated. Today in Senate estimates the Senators weren’t allowed to see the business case.

They weren’t allowed to see any modelling that had been done on traffic projections.

They weren’t allowed any information because they said it was commercial in confidence.

It’s pretty clear that this is a project that hasn’t been properly worked up and the answers from the officials made that absolutely clear where they said it was in an early stage.

Well I’ll give a big hint to the Government. What they should do is do the work first and then provide then funding.

Not provide the funding, and then go back and backfill and build the case for it and see whether it works or not. But that’s what we’ve seen from this government.

All that we’ve seen from the government I think to is highlighted by the evidence today that some $70,000 was spent on a video that was sent out by Jamie Briggs at 4.30pm on Budget night in order to spruik the government’s message that somehow it was doing something other than just relocating money and trying to take credit for projects that were already underway.

$70,000 for a video that’s been seen 2000 times.

That’s about $35 a view at the moment it cost for this political propaganda from the government. The government needs to address substance rather than just spin when it comes to infrastructure. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: So are you actively saying that this Acting Infrastructure Coordinator is not independent?

ALBANESE: No I’m saying that very clearly he has indicated that he is on leave from his existing job at KPMG that does work and provides advice on infrastructure.

So if he’s going back there we need to make absolutely clear that the lines need to be drawn and we need to make sure that any issues of conflict of interest need to be dealt with by making sure that he is not involved in projects of which he has had previously a commercial role in KPMG, particularly because he’s going back there.

I’m not against people going from the private sector into the public service.

That can be a good thing to bring that experience and Mr Fitzgerald in the contact I had with him was a professional public servant from Victoria.

But we need to make sure particularly given the extraordinary controversy that is there over that East-West project.

Controversy that I think after today with a billion dollars just being put into a bank account for a project that won’t even be commenced for years is quite extraordinary.

JOURNALIST: Benefit cost ratio, business case essentially for the East West Link, do you have concerns about that?  Some estimates say it’s sort of $1.40 for every dollar spent, others put it at about 80 cents for every dollar spent.

ALBANESE: Well the evidence this morning was about two pieces of work. One that put it at 80 cents for every dollar spent, the other that indicated it was 50 cents for every dollar spent before the work was done on that particular project. Now that is of real concern.

The whole idea of IA was that you would have independent analysis showing whether there was a positive economic analysis and then the funding would go toward the projects which would deliver the greatest productivity benefit, the greatest number of number of jobs and the greatest growth for the Australian economy.

This is not a pro-growth budget, and one of the areas in which this is highlighted is the choice of projects that have been made in terms of taking money for example off the M80 that had a $2.20 return for every dollar and putting it onto a project where really the best cast scenario is 0.8. And it was also indicated today that even for the first section of the project a full business case has not been seen and no independent analysis has been done by Infrastructure Australia or the department about this project .

JOURNALIST: Are you surprised about how the Roe 8 proposal in WA there wasn’t the full business case put together before it was announced and it appears that only parts of pre-existing cost-benefit analyses were cobbled together.

 ALBANESE: Well look, there are no traffic projections, there’s no business case, there’s no environmental assessment. Where did this come from? You know, you can’t decide infrastructure projects on the back of a napkin between a few people sitting around having a chat. You’ve got to have proper analysis.

It is very clear that the proper analysis has not happened here. It is very clear that in terms of the other sections of Roe that have already been completed were done because they were priority projects.

And there’s a real question about what will happen at the Port of Freemantle comparatively to the Port of Kwinana in terms of where the growth will be and therefore what should be prioritised in terms of investment.

But it was quite extraordinary today that you have $925 million being committed for this project a small amount of which I think in the order of about $70 million or thereabouts will form a part of the larger project but with no analysis.

We did the Gateway WA project that is under construction now. Right now more than 2000 people are being employed on that project. Once again where Mr truss and his errand boy Jamie Briggs think is somehow a new project.

Well I say to Mr Truss take the errand boy over there, have a look at the project, you’ll see that it’s underway, people are working, there are cranes are in the sky. Indeed, one of the ramps is already open. We did that because it had a positive economic benefit.

Proper cost-benefit analysis, proper environmental assessment, funding there in partnership with the state government.

Here we have a lump of money from the federal government that they say they’ve committed. They’re no sure where the rest of the money will come from. They can’t tell anyone information because suddenly it’s a state secret. Well I’ve got news for the government. This is taxpayer’s money and they deserve to know exactly how it is that this has come about, and to know about the detail. This is a very controversial project due to the issue of the wetlands and where the project will go through. They couldn’t even say this morning whether it’ll go along the ground or whether it will be an elevated roadway.

Now I don’t blame the officials for that. I blame the federal government that has come into a government with a plan to get there but not a plan to actually govern once they got there after they were elected last September.

JOURNALIST: Infrastructure Australia obviously has no influence, no power. What can be done to fix that or should we just get rid of them altogether?

ALBANESE: Well they used to have influence and power. They had 15 priority projects and we funded every one of them. Including the Majura Parkway. Including the Goodwood to Torrens Freight project in SA, including the Pacific Highway, the Hunter Expressway that’s now open. Investment was going towards projects that were properly assessed. Now IA needs to be free of political interference, it needs to be listened to. It needs to be able to assess projects prior to funding being delivered.

That’s why projects like the Regional Rail Link in Victoria, $3.225 billion of the Commonwealth’s money, the largest ever investment in public transport, that has kept the Victorian economy going in recent years. More than 3000 people employed at its peak. New stations, upgrades, places like Footscray West Station. All being upgraded and a big benefit to the economy of Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat. That’s why we did the proper work on the Melbourne Metro. $40 million for the planning work, so you get all the detail right.

We’ve got all the detail right, but as the answer from Infrastructure Australia itself that was published in the SMH today shows, the fact is that the Commonwealth not funding rail projects at all is distorting the market and will lead to state governments also not making a contribution to rail because if you’re a state Treasurer and you have a road project worth a billion dollars and a rail project worth a billion dollars and if you pick the road projects you’ll get co-investment, you’ll get greater economic activity of two or three or million billion in your state but if you pick the rail project you’re on your own. Guess what? You’d be a complete nong to pick the rail project because you need that co-investment.

JOURNALIST: Can I just clarify one more thing Mr Albanese because they mentioned your name this morning in Senate estimates about a meeting with Deegan earlier this year. Anything unusual about that?

ALBANESE: I have meetings with people all the time. I’ve had meetings with Mr Mrdak as well.

JOURNALIST: Do you have concerns about the circumstances in which the new person was appointed to the role?

ALBANESE: That’s a matter for the new government to deal with, but you do have two people being appointed to the same job. Mr Deegan is still the Infrastructure Coordinator. And someone  else has been appointed Acting Infrastructure Coordinator, and we’re told today from his own evidence, Mr Fitzgerald that he was just on leave from KPMG. Thanks very much.

 

 

May 21, 2014

Transcript interview – Sky PM Agenda

Subject/s: Budget; Senate; GST.

DAVID LIPSON: We’re joined now by the Shadow Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese. Thanks for your time this afternoon. We will get to the GFC in a moment but I want to start with Martin Parkinson’s speech today. He said that we’re at a critical juncture and pointed to the unpopular reforms of the 80’s and 90’s which transformed the economy and set the nation up for decades of growth. Is Labor getting in the way of tough but important economic reform?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well where’s the economic reform in this Budget? Economic reform isn’t punishing those in the community who are the most vulnerable. Economic reform isn’t inhibiting productivity by cutting gall funding for public transport projects and doing nothing about freight rail. Economic reform is not what we see in this Budget. What we see is a mean spirited, ideological crusade from Tony Abbott, from the Coalition, with all of their prejudices laid bare. If they’re serious about economic reform we’re certainly up for that debate as Labor has always been. But one of the things we see is a retreat from some of the economic reform that is necessary. Martin Parkinson I’m sure would agree that one of the economic reforms that is needed is moving to a carbon constrained economy. This mob want to  write off clean energy from any legislation or any description, they want to wind back on those reforms, and we don’t see a reformist Budget which is why it’s been rejected so whole-heartedly by the Australia people.

LIPSON: Do you think if there is a blockage in the Australian Senate, as appears almost inevitable now, that Australia’s triple A credit rating could be put at risk?

ALBANESE: Well it is of course the former Labor government that delivered the triple A credit rating. That’s in spite of the fact that the Liberal party spent year after year talking down the economy. The problem for the Coalition is that since September they’ve still maintained themselves in that negative Opposition mode. They’ve talked down the Australian economy. They haven’t had a vision for the nation. They have engaged in increased expenditure like the Paid Parental Leave scheme. More than $5 billion each year and growing is the projection there.

LIPSON: But if you’re blocking all their savings aren’t you partly responsible for any of the fallout of such a move, and also, by blocking so many measures, aren’t you just as bad as what you yourself coined the Noalition in the last term of Parliament?

ALBANESE: Well David they are the government. They are still acting like the Noalition. They’ve knocked back saves like, just to give one example in superannuation, if you earned more than $100,000 in terms of income from your superannuation then you would be taxed appropriately. So they’ve gotten rid of the high end for the people who have multiple millions of dollars in superannuation. At the same time they’ve cut the low income superannuation contribution. A very stark example of how they’re punishing the most vulnerable in our community. At the same time it’s a free-for-all if you’re at the top end. That is not the action of a government that is prudent in terms of fiscal measures. There are a range of savings that we made in terms both in terms of last year’s Budget but also in the economic statement that we made prior to the election being called and they’ve just dismissed them all – thrown them all away. I mean remember the fuss over the idea that people who are not entitled to claim for their car for work should have the law apply appropriately.

LIPSON: Let’s stick with the here and now and one of the most prominent areas of the debate is the GST. Now, Tony Abbott says it’s up to the states to make the case. But why can’t we have a sensible adult discussion about the GST because everyone from Tim Costello on the left to Ian McDonald on the right and everyone in between as well are calling for such a discussion.

ALBANESE: Well because what we’ve got is a government characterised by its dishonesty. Characterised by saying we’re not breaking any promises when it is obvious to every mum and dad in the street that they are breaking promise after promise after promise. And then setting it up saying we’re not about increasing GST, that’s to do with the states – what nonsense. The GST is a federal tax. What Tony Abbott has done is rip $80 billion out of education and health. Done so in a way with no notice, done so in direct contradiction to what he said not just at the election time, but even at the COAG meeting that was held weeks ago. The Premiers and Chief Ministers weren’t given notice.

LIPSON: But they would have had the same problems in addressing the structural fiscal imbalance, so that would have had to come from somewhere so why not the GST? Doesn’t matter who’s collecting the tax does it? The states or the federals?

ALBANESE: We introduced measures, David, in the economic statement. They’re measures which the government has chosen to oppose. Not only that but to add on top tens of billions of dollars of additional expenditure through additional measures including the Paid Parental Leave scheme. So in terms of the public, I think they’ll have a look at this and they’ll say the federal government rips all this money out, gets its mates in state governments to say. I mean have a look at Mike Baird, he was going to take on the Federal Government, he was going to stand up for NSW. Two days later he’s there all smiles and cuddling up to Tony Abbott. Then on Sunday he’s doing a press conference saying, oh, well, we really are going to get angry and shake our fist at the federal government. I mean where are they, the Coalition? Have they sat down in a back room somewhere and sorted out this three scene play that we’re seeing acted out by the Coalition? The GST is fundamentally a regressive tax. I tell you what, it doesn’t make a difference to me, but it makes a difference to pensioners and those on low incomes in my electorate.

LIPSON: Anthony Albanese, unfortunately we’re out of time. Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon.

ALBANESE: Thanks David, pleasure.

 

May 12, 2014

Transcript of radio interview – ABC Radio National with Ellen Fanning

Subjects: Budget, roads funding, WestConnex; fuel excise; home insulation; Royal Commission

FANNING: Well as we just heard the Federal Government is promising the biggest increase in roads funding in Australian history.  $40 billion will be spent over six years on new road construction, matched by another $42 billion from the states and the private sector.

But the Opposition believes that little of that money will be new, and it says three road projects will be funded by taking more than $4 billion out of urban rail projects.

Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and he’s in our Parliament House studio this morning. Good morning to you.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you Ellen.

FANNING: Mr Albanese, isn’t the proof that this is new money the fact is that it’s funded by measures that previously didn’t exist – Federal and State Government asset sales and private sector money, as well as that regular increase proposed for the petrol tax.

ALBANESE: Not at all Ellen. If you have a look at the announcements that the Government’s been making, they’ve been re-announcements of projects that were already included in the budget. Projects like the F3 to M2 which they’ve just renamed in Sydney- the Northern Link.

Producing a new name does not create a new road and what’s we’ve seen is a series of re-announcements.  They’re ripping billions of dollars out of public transport: $3 billion from Melbourne Metro, $715 million from the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane,$500 million from public transport in Perth, additional money in South Australia and in Victoria they’re ripping money, $500 million out of the M80 road project, now that had been through the Infrastructure Australia process, it has a positive benefit-cost ratio, that is, it will actually boost productivity- and they’re giving it to a road that, the East-West, that has not been through that process, has not received the approval of Infrastructure Australia.

And as a result what we’re seeing, potentially, I’m not convinced there will be any new money tomorrow night, that there won’t simply be more shuffling.  It’s interesting that they’re talking about six years rather than four years of the forward estimates.

Wait for the spin tomorrow night that says, oh yeah the money is there but it’s out five and six years away, rather than actually there in the forward estimates.

FANNING: Nevertheless there are three enormous projects that Labor never funded when you were Infrastructure Minister, the East-West Railway, the WestConnex and the Toowoomba Range Crossing.

ALBANESE: Well that’s not right Ellen. Take WestConnex for example, we funded the work in terms of planning.  $25 million was already spent from us and $1.8 billion was included in last year’s budget for the WestConnex project.

FANNING: The Federal Government leaks this morning suggest the Federal Government is going to announce its share of the funding for Stage One and Stage Two of that road. Now they’re massive new commitments, as well as the East-West and the Toowoomba Range Crossing. They’re new projects.

ALBANESE: Well that’s $1.8 billion for WestConnex. But we did say this Ellen; that it needed to go through the proper planning process as the Government said they would for all projects above $100 million.

And we want to make sure that WestConnex actually took people into the city and freight to the port. At the moment it’s a bit of a road to nowhere, it does neither of those things.  It moves the congestion just down the road from Strathfield on the M4. It puts a new toll on an old road, the existing M4, and it doesn’t go anywhere near the port.

Now, the role of the Federal Government through Infrastructure Australia is to make sure that we get bang for our buck, that we get better value, that you have that proper analysis.

And what we’re seeing from this Government is an abandonment of that, and an ideological position that means that they’re cutting all funding from public transport. Now if you do that, you’re cutting the options that are there, that are necessary, to deal with urban congestion.

And what’s worse, they’re then, whilst taking away the option of public transport for those in our outer suburbs, they’re putting a new tax hike on petrol so that every time working families fill up to get to work, or fill up to take their kids to footy or sport on the weekend, they’re paying an additional tax to the Government.

FANNING: Just very briefly on this, we were speaking earlier to the Australian Automobile Association; the NSW Government has done all the reasonable surveys on WestConnex. It would seem from the outside, that notwithstanding a full cost-benefit analysis by Infrastructure Australia, these roads are needed and that once they’re completed in four stages, one, two, three and all the rest of it, they will do what is necessary.

ALBANESE: Well Ellen, what is necessary, with regard to WestConnex, is that freight gets to the port. If the road doesn’t go to the port, indeed dumps out traffic the other side of the airport, an already congested area, than it won’t achieve its objective.

We’re fully in favour of infrastructure investment, that’s why we put aside the $1.8 billion for the WestConnex Project. But we do say that it’s got to be got right.

And of course the East-West project in Melbourne as a result, we now have a very inferior rail project being proposed in Melbourne that appears to have been done on the back of a napkin, as opposed to the Melbourne Metro project where we’d already spent $40 million on getting it right, on making sure that it dealt with the congestion that was there and the city rail line.

Now if you don’t deal with rail issues, you cannot possibly address urban congestion in our capital cities by a roads-only approach. And by the Federal Government not funding rail, that leaves that to zero.

But what’s worse is that it’s saying to State Governments, if you want any Federal money, then invest and prioritise roads not rail. That’s leading to a reduction in rail investment from State Governments. And we saw that in last Friday’s budget in Western Australia where they walked away from previous commitments that they had to rail as well as to light rail.

FANNING: Let’s skip through a couple of issues in the 90 seconds we have left, if you’ll be brief. Will Labor block the increase in the fuel excise in the Senate?

ALBANESE: We’ll have a look at the budget and we’ll make our decisions collectively, as a Shadow Cabinet and as a Caucus.

FANNING: The budget is proposed will abolish or merge another 70 plus Government agencies. Mathias Cormann says Government is way too big. Did it become too big under Labor, just briefly?

ALBANESE: Well the theme of this budget is they don’t like the public sector, they don’t like public health, so they’re walking away from universality of Medicare, they don’t like public transport.

There’s a theme Ellen, it’s that they don’t like the public.

FANNING: The Home Insulation Royal Commission, Kevin Rudd will appear as a witness this week, so too Greg Combet and Peter Garrett.  Is it appropriate they should front up and answer those questions?

ALBANESE: Oh look, they’ve already been eight inquiries on these issues. The Queensland Coroner’s inquiry has gone through extensive examination. What we’ve had is recommendations that have all been adopted. This is a Government that is addicted to playing politics, and they’re continuing to do it on a range of areas. What we will do is not be distracted and continue to hold the Government to account in its budget week.

FANNING: And very briefly, and finally, the Royal Commission into alleged union corruption will hold its first hearings today.  It’ll hear from Ralph Blewitt, the former union official, evidence about the slush-fund scandal that dogged Julia Gillard. How much peril do you foresee here for Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten, just very briefly?

ALBANESE: Well, and again Ellen, the day before Parliament goes back there’s this hearing. One wonders why when apparently it’s then going to adjourn for some time. We’ll be concentrating on the issues of concern to Australians, which is about the cost of living, which is about the impact of the broken promises that will be sprayed out for all to see tomorrow night, and we’ll be concentrating on that and won’t be distracted on what happened sometime at the end of the last century.

FANNING: Thank you very much Mr Albanese.

ALBANESE: Ciao

 

May 12, 2014

Transcript of doorstop

Parliament House doors

Subject/s: Budget, public transport, fuel excise

ALBANESE:  There’s been a lot of talk and rhetoric from the government about infrastructure in the lead up to the Budget.

But what we’re really seeing is that projects that are already funded in the Budget are being re-announced.

Indeed, there have been more cuts coming that we know of than new projects announced – cuts to public transport in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane.

You can’t deal with urban congestion if you are cutting funds for public transport in order to provide additional funding to roads.

To deal with urban transport congestion you need to look at transport strategies in an integrated way. That’s why the former government created Infrastructure Australia.

This government knows that. That’s why they said they would have proper cost-benefit analysis for all projects above $100 million.

And yet they are abandoning that principle in the lead-up to their very first Budget.

They’re prepared to provide funding without getting the cost-benefit analysis done for projects such as the East-West Road project in Victoria.

There we are seeing the consequences of the abandonment of Federal involvement in public transport. Not only does in mean that Federal money is withdrawn. It means that state governments, faced with a choice of funding a road project or a rail project are choosing road projects so that they can gain additional funding from the Federal Government.

That leads to a distortion of the market. It also leads to results that do not produce the best results in terms of productivity and in terms of dealing with urban congestion.

We’ve seen it already in Perth with the abandonment of public transport commitments that the WA State Government had given.

We’re seeing it in Brisbane where the Cross-River Rail project has been abandoned for an inferior project that will not deal with the rail congestion issues which are important not just for Brisbane, but for the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

And we saw it last week in Melbourne where the Melbourne Metro project, that had been through a $40 million proper planning exercise that was supported by the former Federal Government and the Victorian State Government has been abandoned in favour of an inferior proposal that doesn’t even take passengers through the city and doesn’t deal with the congestion on the city circle area.

That’s why this government’s approach is very short-sighted. We’re seeing cuts to public transport but without a plan for dealing with urban congestion

REPORTER: We saw yesterday reports of investment of about $80 billion.

ALBANESE: No … you’ve picked up on that figure so I’ll start to pick up the journos already. If you say someone else is going to provide money – the private sector and the State Government – that’s not Federal Government investment. What they’re talking about is a figure that’s very similar to the figure that was already in the Budget.

So I’m not convinced there is any new money at all. They have raised a few new projects – the East-West Project in Melbourne it is true, and the Toowoomba bypass were both not included in previous Labor Government budgets.

But every other project that they’ve raised is already in the Budget, including the WestConnex project.

So forget all the rhetoric. Have a look at the detail of the proposals and what you’ll see is very little additional money for roads but more money than that additional money from urban public transport projects – $3 billion from the Melbourne Metro, $715 million from Cross-River Rail, $500 Million from Perth public transport projects – just to name three.

REPORTER: Are there any suggestions, details from the Budget that we’ve heard so far that Labor will flat-out reject in in Parliament?

ALBANESE: Well we’ll wait and look at the Budget as a whole. But what we know is that this is a Budget of broken promises , that this is a Budget that targets the most vulnerable.

Take one area. They say this is a Budget that we need to get back into surplus as soon as possible. Well, why have they intervened to cut measures such as Labor’s measure which would vary the superannuation contributions in terms of tax regimes for those earning above $100,000 from their superannuation investments?

That would have applied to just 16,000 people. You would have to have an enormous amount in super in order for that to occur.

And yet they are abandoning that proposal at the same time as they are abandoning Labor’s government support for the low-income superannuation contribution.

It’s just one example whereby this Government is hitting the most vulnerable.

If you look at the Budget you have public sector cuts that are clearly coming because they don’t like the public sector. You have cuts to public health through abandoning the universality of Medicare because they don’t like public health; cuts to public education by abandoning the Gonski reforms; cuts to public transport; cuts to public broadcasters though the ABC  and SBS.

There’s a theme here. They don’t like the public.

What we see is time after time the most-vulnerable people being targeted by measures in the Budget.

Conservative governments have traditionally been attached to smaller government. What they want is micro government.

They want cuts to the most-vulnerable people in our community with new taxes including a new tax every time working families fill up and the bowser.

REPORTER: How do you think Labor is going to fare with the Royal Commission into union corruption?

ALBANESE: I’m interested in what will occur tomorrow night in terms of the Budget and the impact on working families. That’s my priority and that’s the Labor Party’s priority in this building.

If some people want to talk about what happened last century, that’s up to them.

But what we’re concerned about is working families and the impact that Budget measures will have. We’re not going to be distracted as the government is attempting to do by political exercises.

REPORTER: You said that this Budget targets the most-vulnerable. Do you think that cuts to, or freezing, MPs’ pay rises and cuts to salaries of quote unquote fat cats mitigates that argument somewhat.

ALBANESE: No, not at all. I refer you to Tony Abbott’s comments of 2008.

REPORTER: Regarding the fuel tax increase … the fact that the Treasurer says it will be spent on roads, isn’t that an encouraging sign?

ALBANESE: In a big Budget whenever you talk about money being spent somewhere, what you can do is just reduce the amount which you were going to spend and increase it back to the original level by the hypothecated amount. When you have a significant roads Budget was the Federal Government always does, you can always say that is the case. What working families will know is that just as appropriately it could be that it’s being spent on the unaffordable paid parental leave scheme.

What they know also is that this is a government that is abandoning funding for public transport. That’s leading to state governments reducing funding for public transport. At the same time as they are taking away those options to the private motor vehicle they are whacking a higher tax on that private motor vehicle.

So for those people in our commuter suburbs this is an inequitable measure because if you live in the outer suburbs of our capital cities, or indeed in places like the central coast of NSW and have to commute to Sydney for employment, you in many cases don’t have other options other than the private motor vehicle. And if that’s the case, that is why it is an impost on working families.

The top end of town including MPs, I might say, have petrol cards. They won’t be paying the additional tax hit on petrol. But working families, whether they are going to work or taking their kids to sport on the weekend, will pay it each and every time they fill up.

Thank-you

 

May 9, 2014

Transcript of press conference

Sydney

Subjects: Infrastructure Australia’s independence, Tony Abbott’s broken promises, Budget 2014-15, offshore processing; WestConnex  

Today I’m releasing Labor’s amendments to the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013. They’re aimed at ensuring that Tony Abbott’s plan to destroy the independence of Infrastructure Australia is not successful. This legislation was rushed through the House of Representatives last year. But it will be debated in the Senate next week.

Labor will move amendments consistent with the recommendations and the input and submissions from the Business Council of Australia and from the Urban Development Institute of Australia, from TTF, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia. Right across the board there has been concern at this attempt to take away Infrastructure Australia’s independence. Our amendments will do two fundamental things.

Firstly it will ensure that the minister can’t direct Infrastructure Australia to not look at certain classes of infrastructure. We know that that’s code for IA not being able to look at public transport projects. If you’re about raising productivity in our cities, then you have to look at an integrated transport agenda. You can’t look at just roads or just rail. You have to look at how a city functions and ensure that you invest according to what will produce the best benefit. Infrastructure Australia was designed to do just that.

What’s more, we will ensure through these amendments that IA processes are transparent. That the publication of the cost-benefit analysis is available for all to see. This isn’t just an academic exercise. It’s about making sure taxpayer dollars as well as private sector investments is directed to where it will produce the most economic benefit. These are common sense changes. These are changes that are in line with the policy that the conservatives took to the last election and therefore they should support them in the Senate. If not, we will pursue them and seek the support of the crossbenchers.

Can I say also that this occurs in the context where we’re seeing some of the consequences of the government’s flawed approach to infrastructure policy being played out in the budget process. In the budget what we’re seeing is a pattern of behaviour. It’s a pattern of broken promises. Day after day leaks have occurred showing that this is a government not committed to keeping the fundamental promises it made prior to the election.

They don’t like public servants, so they’re going to get rid of them. They don’t like public education, so they’re trashing the Gonski reforms. They don’t like public healthcare, so they’re introducing a new tax every time someone visits the doctor, and therefore undermining the universality of Medicare. They don’t like public broadcasters, so they’re attacking the funding and independence of the ABC and the SBS. And they don’t like public transport, so what we’re seeing is all funding already committed in the budget being withdrawn. There’s a pattern here. It seems they just don’t like the public.

What’s more, we’ve seen another one of these broken promises today through the imposition of the fuel tax increase. That is a change that would have an impact on every single Australian family. Every time someone gets in the car to go to work. Every time someone gets in the car to drive the kids to sport on the weekend. For a government which has railed about carbon pricing, this is carbon pricing on steroids. It would have a far greater impact than the existing process, which has no carbon pricing on motor vehicles for personal use. What’s worse about this is that every time we see a broken promise, Mr Abbott is saying that he’ll keep his commitments.

It’s a bit like a Monty Python sketch. Arms lopped off, legs lopped off like the Black Knight, saying ‘it’s just a flesh wound!’. Well there’s more than a flesh wound to Mr Abbott’s integrity because of these broken promises. He can’t keep saying he’s keeping his commitments when legs and arms of his policy fundamentals are being lopped off at a rate greater than a Monty Python sketch. We will hold the government to account in their budget next week.

Today we’ve seen an example of what the implications are behind their infrastructure funding changes. Because the government has ripped out $3 billion of funding for the Melbourne Metro, we now have a situation where the Victorian Government have announced a budget with a metro that’s an inferior proposal, about which their own advocates and infrastructure minister have now confirmed there is no business case made.

He says the business case is just ‘the common sense case’. Well what Australians want is for the state governments, the private sector and the federal government to work through processes led by Infrastructure Australia to make sure there is proper cost benefit analysis. Not flawed projects or second rate projects for first rate cities like Melbourne and Brisbane.

This is very similar in Brisbane where I expect that Tuesday’s Budget will rip away money that’s been allocated for the Cross River Rail project, because the state government is going with an inferior BaT proposal that and won’t solve the urban congestion issues of that growing city.

We do need to get serious about infrastructure, but getting serious about infrastructure means not cutting all public transport funding, not re-announcing previously existing projects that were already funded in previous budgets, and then on the one or two new projects that are being funded, including the Victorian East-West road project, refusing to publish any business case or analysis that says that the project stacks up.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the Budget, where would you have been looking for cuts? There’s not that much to be trimmed. The public service is already meeting efficiency dividends. Where would you find savings?

ALBANESE: The first thing I would have done is not take away the savings that had been made by previous Labor Government decisions. We have to remember that due to the Abbott Government’s decisions an extra $86 billion has been added to costs. They came into government and made a number of changes to tax regulations that had been implemented by the former Labor Government, they then found additional money for the Reserve Bank, and they found $5 billion, growing each year, for their expensive Paid Parental Leave scheme. So the argument about the need to cut does not stack up when at the same time they’re adding to expenditure through a program like the Paid Parental Leave scheme.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned what you wouldn’t do but what cuts would you agree with?

ALBANESE: We made some decisions to ensure we were a responsible government. This government has taken away some of the tax measures that ensured compliance in terms of tax policy. What we will do is look at the Budget and determine as a party what our position on individual items in the Budget will be. We’ll do that after Tuesday night when we’ve seen the Budget, but what we’ve seen already is the failure of the government to have a coherent approach when it comes to infrastructure. Even in terms of some of the infrastructure development that’s there.

Take for example the Swan Valley Bypass project, which we had agreement with the WA Government for 50/50 funding. They are saying that they’ll fund 80/20 even though the State Government of WA only requested half the funding for that project. But then they’re taking half a billion dollars out of public transport projects in Perth. The problem for the government is that you can’t deal with urban congestion in our cities if you say that the government’s role is just to fund roads. They say that frees up money for the state governments to fund public transport.

But if you are a Treasurer sitting in any state government of any political persuasion today, and you know that you have a billion dollar road project and a billion dollar rail project and the road project you’ll only have to put in $200 million because the Commonwealth will fund 80%, or $800 million, so it’s $200 million on the State Government’s bottom line, but if you agree that the rail project is the priority, you have to pay the entire billion dollars, then you are distorting where the investment goes.

And you are not dealing with urban congestion in a way in which Infrastructure Australia, the Business Council of Australia, Urban Development Institute, everyone in this country who is concerned about cities and urban congestion understands that it has to be dealt with.

JOURNALIST: Today there will be a high court challenge to offshore processing. Recently we’ve had the tragic death of Reza Berati. Is it time for Labor to have a rethink of its policy and what it introduced in government seeing as we’ve seen situations like that unfold?

ALBANESE: What needs to happen with regard to immigration policy is transparent. The tragedy of Reza Berati’s death needs to be properly examined. We need to have responsibility in terms of what occurred there.  Confidence in the system requires a transparent process that acknowledges the people smugglers business leads to tragedy at sea, and we need to do what we can to ensure there’s an orderly migration process. I believe we can fulfil our international obligations and at the same time ensure we have due process, and respect every person rather than the way it’s been conducted in recent times, which is a real lack of transparency from the government. So it’s hard even for the Opposition to make some judgements when we’re not being told the facts.

JOURNALIST: Inaudible

ALBANESE: Our Immigration spokesperson, Richard Marles will talk about the detail. But we don’t know, at least as far as I know, about how many of the applicants have been approved, how many have not been approved, what has happened to the people who have been approved, and what has happened to the people who have not been approved. They’re all details that I can’t comment on because we don’t know what the facts are. The government needs to be transparent about this if people are to have confidence in the system.

JOURNALIST: Can I just take you back to the Budget for a minute. The fuel excise, do you think that it should be linked to spending on roads, and if not, any other specific areas [inaudible]

ALBANESE: The Federal Government at the same time is saying ‘we won’t fund Cross River Rail, we’ll rip out $715 million dollars from the budget. We’ll rip out $3 billion from the Melbourne Metro project. We’ll rip out $500 million from Perth public transport light rail and the airport link. We’ll rip out money from public transport in Adelaide. We’ll do all of this which will mean that less people have the option of taking public transport, and at the same time we’ll put up the  cost of private motor vehicles.’

I think there’s a pretty obvious contradiction there. One of the concerns with tax is you have to make sure that it’s equitable. If you are a working family who needs to get to work and you don’t have any other option than a car to get to your workplace, or to travel from an outer suburban community, their petrol costs are higher than people who live, for example in my electorate of Grayndler where there are public transport  options.

So I’m concerned about the equity component here as well. I want to see what the specifics are of the proposal next week. But I firmly believe that there’s a contradiction if the government is increasing the cost of private motor vehicles at the same time they’re ripping money out of public transport and therefore not just making sure that federal government money doesn’t go into public transport, but resulting in inadequate public transport solutions being implemented by state governments as well.

The consequences for the way our cities run really needs to be examined and we’ll be holding the government to account for any proposals that they put forward in Tuesday’s Budget.

JOURNALIST: The budget looks pretty good for NSW in terms of WestConnex and in terms of infrastructure for Badgerys’s Creek. Would you agree?

ALBANESE: Well when’s the money flowing? And with regards to  WestConnex, we have yet to see a business case for a proposal. It also has issues that Labor has raised in government and we continue to raise them in Opposition. WestConnex needs to deal with two issues. One is getting people into the city. The other is getting freight from the port. At the moment the proposal doesn’t get people into the city and doesn’t get freight from the port. So you need to make sure that you take into account proper solutions. That’s why the advice of bodies like Infrastructure Australia, at arm’s length are so important.  The NSW Government set up Infrastructure NSW and the Chair’s gone, the CEO’s gone, and the process has stalled. When was the last time anyone heard from Infrastructure NSW? I think that’s a pity.

 

May 7, 2014

Transcript of press conference

Subjects: Broken promises, Budget, infrastructure, tourism, asylum seekers.

ALBANESE: We have a situation whereby Tony Abbott has broken more promises than any Prime Minister in Australia’s history in his first six months.

He has breached the commitment that he gave to the Australian people and what it shows is that he had a plan to get into government, but he doesn’t have a plan to govern.

Behind us we see Tiger Brennan Drive. We duplicated, with the Northern Territory Government of Chief Minister Henderson, the first section of the Tiger Brennan Drive.

We put into the Budget funding for the third section to complete the full duplication of Tiger Brennan Drive – $70 million from the Federal Government, and there was matching funding of $33 million from the Territory Government.

What we’ve seen since the election of the Abbott Government is just re-announcements. Whether it be that $70 million or the $90 million for the Regional Roads Package that we put into last year’s Budget.

And yet we have re-announcements from Warren Truss as the minister and from other figures in the Abbott Government.

What the Northern Territory needs from next Tuesday’s Budget is new money and new announcements, not just re-announcements of projects that are already fully budgeted for.

But that’s part of the theme of the Abbott Government; letting Australians down by making cuts and any new initiatives not being new at all, just re-announcing old fully funded projects.

When it comes to the Budget what we see is a series of cuts.

This is a government addicted to attacks on the public sector.

They don’t like public broadcasters through the ABC and SBS.

They don’t like public education so they are abandoning the Gonski reforms.

They don’t like public health so next week could well see the end of the universality of Medicare.

They don’t like public transport so they are cutting public transport investment right around the country.

There’s a bit of a theme here, this is a government that doesn’t like the public. It’s a government that established a Commission of Audit, which itself – if it wasn’t true, it might be humorous – went more than $1 million over budget.

And yet that recommendation will hurt some of the most vulnerable people in our community; those that rely upon Medicare, those that rely upon decent funding for education to provide that future opportunity, our pensioners and our retired Australians who are being told that they shouldn’t have a decent standard of living, that it isn’t what they are entitled to.

Those Australians on the minimum wage where the recommendation is that there should be a cut to the minimum wage, not just this year, but next year and every year for a decade.

This is a mean-spirited government and next week they will be judged on all of the promises that they made and how it matches up with what is actually in the Budget.

But perhaps the most obvious example of all is this great big new tax which they are calling a “levy”.

They can’t even be honest and front up to the Australian people and say: “We’re putting on a new tax”.

Having talked up the so-called budget emergency in spite of the fact they inherited record economic activity, compared with the rest of the globalised world. With economic growth, with low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates and a Triple A credit rating, they’re now using it for their ideological attacks on things they don’t like and have never liked.

(TAPE BREAK)

The Commission of Cuts recommended a halving of the funding of Tourism Australia. Tourism creates 16,000 jobs here in the Northern Territory – almost $2 billion of economic activity – and it’s an important part of the economy here in Darwin and throughout the Territory. I think that the combination of a mean-spirited Federal Government with a chaotic CLP Government – it’s difficult to call it a government because it seems to be in a constant state of chaos – that combination I think is very dangerous indeed.

And Australians more and more, including in the last few days when I’ve been in the Territory, are rejecting the fact that Tony Abbott and his team said one thing before September 7 and another afterwards. Nova?

PERIS: I’d just like to reiterate how much Territorians are hurting with the CLP Government coming into power 18 months ago promising Territorians to reduce the cost of living. What they’ve done is increase the cost of living. They’ve cut education, which is the Territory’s future.

It was fantastic to have Anthony Albanese to come here to the Northern Territory to spend the last couple of days with me and to see firsthand how important infrastructure is and how important housing is to our remote communities and how important tourism is to the Northern Territory.

It’s fantastic to have you here in the Northern Territory and you know, we can only brace ourselves for what’s going to happen next week.

REPORTER: Nova, what’s on your wish list for next week? (Inaudible) What would you most like to see funding earmarked for?

PERIS: I think anything to do with primary health. That needs to be maintained. We’ve done a significant amount of work, especially in remote communities, with primary health and we can’t afford to go backwards in that area. Pensioners, we need to look after them, and with regards to education and infrastructure. The Labor Government did put a significant amount of money into infrastructure here in the Northern Territory and we need to maintain that.

REPORTER: For a long time the Liberals claimed that Labor broke their promises, so what kind of lessons do you thing Labor can give the Liberals around the debt levy?

ALBANESE: Tony Abbott talked himself up prior to September 7. There wasn’t a day went past when he didn’t come up with his three-word slogans.

The problem we are seeing is that he promised very little but that which he did promise, he’s breaking. There can’t be any more fundamental promise that he made during the last election because he did it on 150 occasions at least, he said there wouldn’t be any new taxes. And yet what we are seeing is changes to taxation. He said that pensions wouldn’t be affected and yet what we’re seeing is a recommendation from his handpicked Commission of Cuts that would have an enormous impact on Australia’s pensioners, including changing the assets test.

We now know why this 900-page document was kept secret until just prior to the Budget, why they were too embarrassed to release it prior to the WA Senate by-election, because it presents a recipe for that the agenda of this government over coming years.

Now no doubt some of the changes they won’t make in next Tuesday’s Budget and they’ll say: Oh well, we’ve only done half the measures. But what Australians will know now is what is coming and they’ll know that Tony Abbott is prepared to breach fundamental promises that he made to Australian people.

He talks up a big game on infrastructure. Yesterday with the Victorian Budget we saw with the changes that were made to the Melbourne Metro there, what the impact of his cuts is. Throughout the country we’re seeing just re-announcements of old projects such as the next section of Tiger Brennan Drive, which I announced the funding for here with then Chief Minister Paul Henderson  a couple of years ago. That funding is in the Budget from this year, from 2014. It is ready to go. The preliminary work has been done.

What people in the Northern Territory need are new projects going forward and it will be a real test next week to see whether that occurs.

But I believe that Australians are entitled to be pretty disappointed that the government that they thought they were voting for they certainly haven’t got. And it’s a government with wrong priorities.

At the same time as they are targeting universal health care, targeting education, targeting pensioners, targeting the ABC, what they are doing is introducing a scheme worth over $5 billion every year for their unaffordable, extravagant paid parental leave scheme that isn’t necessary – a scheme that comes on top of their opposition for many years to any paid parental leave.

And of course we know that the Labor Government introduced a perfectly adequate scheme that has been assisting tens of thousands of Australian families since it was put into place.

REPORTER: What’s your response to the claims this morning that three asylum seekers were (inaudible) turned back to Indonesia?

ALBANESE: I haven’t seen the detail of that and I think it’s important when it comes to those issues that we respond to the facts.

One of the difficulties here is that the facts have not been clear since September. Australians are entitled to know what is being done in their name.

Scott Morrison‘s lack of transparency when it comes to dealing with immigration issues, his standing behind the military rather than actually fronting up as a government minister should do and answering questions about what exactly is going on, is of real concern.

It’s still unclear about the consequences for their proposed visit to Indonesia, of the Prime Minister, which Tony Abbot pulled out of. What’s very clear is that we need transparency. That is a fundamental requirement of our democracy and it’s not happening at the moment.

Thanks.

 

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

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

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