Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Media Release"
Aug 31, 2017

Labor welcomes Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef launch

Labor welcomes today’s unveiling of the Citizens Gateway in Cairns, which marks the official start of the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef movement.

A new organisation, the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef aims to create a global community committed to a more sustainable future where each individual recognises the role they can play in the preservation of the world’s largest living wonder – the Great Barrier Reef.

Just last month a delegation of senior Labor Shadow Ministers met with representatives from the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef to discuss the campaign and the significance of the Reef.

The fact is, the Great Barrier Reef is not only a national icon, but it also underpins local economies and communities.

A recent report by Deloitte confirms this, placing the value of the Reef at $56 billion and revealing that the Reef contributed $6.4 billion to the Australian economy in 2015-16, supporting 64,000 full time jobs.

Labor recognises the Federal Government has a role to play in the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef and is also committed to taking action on climate change.

In contrast we have seen the Liberal National Government remove critical protections for the Coral Sea, trash Labor’s land clearing laws and fail to put forward a climate change policy.

To make matters worse for those working in the tourism sector, the Liberal National Government has cut funding for Tourism Australia by $35 million over the forwards and increased visa application charges.

Communities around the nation, including those here in Tropical North Queensland, rely on tourism for their local economy.

Labor will take real and strong action to protect our Reef, our jobs and our economy and congratulates Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef on their campaign milestone today.

 

Aug 25, 2017

Value capture con exposed

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s rhetoric on infrastructure has been exposed as just a con to mask his political decision to support Tony Abbott’s cuts to funding for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and other public transport projects around the country.

Mr Turnbull’s demand that state governments utilise “innovative” funding arrangements such as value capture to help pay for major new infrastructure has been exposed, with the agency charged with assessing projects revealing that it does not consider such arrangements when evaluating project business cases.

Since taking office Mr Turnbull has refused to fund major public transport projects, insisting that states seeking funding must include in their business cases options for value capture, under which they would seek to recover some of the increase in land values caused by the construction of the project.

Money raised in this way would be used to meet the construction costs.

However, while Mr Turnbull cites value capture as a criterion for project selection, Infrastructure Australia, which conducts assessments of project business cases on his behalf, does not take it into account.

In a recently produced written answer to a question before a Senate Budget Estimates Committee, Infrastructure Australia said it “does not take account of funding sources, including value capture, in its economic evaluation of project business cases’’ (answer to Question on Notice Number 17, Senate Budget Estimates 2017-18).

I have long suspected that Mr Turnbull’s endless talk about “innovative’’ financing arrangements such as value capture is a smokescreen for his cuts to infrastructure investment, particularly when it comes to public transport projects like Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Project.

This admission from Infrastructure Australia that they don’t take into account value capture confirms that the Government’s rhetoric is not matched by its actual processes.

Even if a state provided a business case that did include proposals for value capture, it’s not relevant to Infrastructure Australia’s analysis.

The Turnbull Government has refused to invest in Cross River Rail, despite Infrastructure Australia having approved a business case for the project in 2012.

This refusal has provoked outrage in Queensland, given the Federal Government happily funded projects like Sydney’s Westconnex, Melbourne’s East-West Link and the Perth Freight Link without even having seen business cases.

The Government appears willing to hand over money with no questions asked if a project suits its political purposes, but will bend over backwards to contrive reasons to reject projects it sees as less important.

It is time for Mr Turnbull to stop making up excuses not to invest in infrastructure and work with state governments to deliver projects in the public interest.

In particular, he should get behind urban rail projects to help tackle traffic congestion, which the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics has calculated costs the national economy $16 billion a year in lost productivity.

 

Aug 19, 2017

Coalition cuts Pacific Highway by $600 million this year

The Turnbull Government has cut investment on the Pacific Highway duplication by $600 million this year, raising doubts about whether the project will be completed by 2020 as promised.

While Budget documents show that the Commonwealth invested $1.37 billion on the Pacific Highway in the year to June 30, investment will fall to $710 million this financial year.

The Government’s decision to hit the brakes on the project underlines the gap between its rhetoric on infrastructure and the reality of cuts, re-announcements and inaction.

Despite Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull’s big talk about nation building, analysis by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office has found that over the next decade, investment in transport infrastructure expressed as a proportion of GDP will halve to 0.2 per cent.

That’s a stark contrast with the performance of the former Labor Federal Government, which delivered record investment in railways, roads, ports and other public assets.

That included $7.9 billion on the Pacific Highway over six years – six times the amount provided by the former Howard Government in half the time.

Today I inspected the completed and ongoing Pacific Highway work on the Mid-North Coast that was funded in the budgets of the former Federal Labor Government.

While it was pleasing to see the outcome of these investments, I’m worried Mr Turnbull’s go-slow approach will see him struggle to meet his commitment to duplicate the Pacific Highway all the way to the Queensland border by 2020.

Finishing the Pacific Highway duplication will not only achieve improvements in road safety, but will also deliver productivity gains that will drive economic and jobs growth across New South Wales.

Mr Turnbull should get on with it.

Aug 16, 2017

City deals at the Liberal’s whim

Last night the Liberal Government’s ad hoc approach to our nation’s cities was exposed in the Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Committee’s public hearing with the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet.

Representatives from the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet confirmed that not only is there no clear source of funding, but that there is also no process in place to guide selection of future City Deals.

Decisions about which cities are the subject of City Deals are entirely arbitrary.

What’s clear is that if it’s a City Deal you are after then you had best just cross your fingers and hope for the best.

The fact is that Mr Turnbull’s City Deals are a far cry from the UK model it seeks to replicate.

City Deals originate from the United Kingdom as vehicles for co-operation between national and local government on shared economic development goals.

The national government delivers infrastructure funding based on these shared objectives and shares any resulting revenue increases with the councils.

Labor supports greater investment in our cities but what we have seen in Australia are political fixes.

The three City Deals proposed in last year’s federal election campaign, in Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney, all came in response to actual infrastructure investment commitments by the Labor Party.

The Prime Minister should provide real investment instead of more rhetoric so our cities can continue to grow and be great places to live and work.

Aug 8, 2017

Bruce Highway go-slow continues

The Turnbull Government is continuing its go-slow approach to upgrading the Bruce Highway, with new official figures showing that nearly halfway through its 10-year upgrade program, it has invested only a quarter of its promised budget.

Prior to coming to office in 2013, the Government claimed it would spend $6.7 billion on the Bruce Highway in the decade from 2013-14 onwards.

However, new figures obtained by the Opposition under the Senate Budget Estimates process show that four years into the program, the Government has spent $1.7 billion.

The Bruce Highway is Queensland’s most-important piece of road infrastructure and is central to the movement of freight and people up and down its coast.

While the Government says it is committed to upgrading the highway, the figures show its actions don’t match its rhetoric.

It’s time to stop the go-slow program and get on with improvements that will enhance road safety and deliver productivity gains that will drive economic growth, particularly in regional Queensland.

The Coalition has form when it comes to underspending on the Bruce Highway.

The Howard Coalition invested $1.3 billion on the road in nearly 12 years in office. By contrast, the former Labor Government invested $5.7 billion on the Bruce Highway over six years.

 

Aug 4, 2017

Labor thanks Mark Birrell

Labor pays tribute to the retiring Chairman of the board of Infrastructure Australia, Mark Birrell, for his long service to nation building in Australia.

Mr Birrell was one of the first board members of Infrastructure Australia when the former Federal Labor Government created the organisation in 2008 to advise government on infrastructure policy and provision.

Working with governments on both sides of the political fence, Mr Birrell has been integral in advocating an evidence-based approach to infrastructure provision in Australia.

Under his leadership, the board has maintained Infrastructure Australia’s National Infrastructure Priority List and overseen important research and policy development that have enhanced the ability of governments to achieve greater value for money in major projects.

The recent Infrastructure Australia report about preservation of corridors for infrastructure is consistent with Mr Birrell’s long-held views.

He came to this important role after leading industry group Infrastructure Partnerships Australia as its founding chairman after time in the Victorian Parliament during which he served as Minister for Major Projects.

I thank Mr Birrell for his service and wish him well in the future.

Jul 27, 2017

Cheap excuses won’t solve traffic congestion

The Turnbull Government should stop the excuses and get behind the much-needed Cross River Rail project in Brisbane.

News yesterday that Infrastructure Australia has refused to back this important project is extremely disappointing given the same organisation approved its business case in 2012 and declared it “ready to go’’.

On the basis of that approval, the former Federal Labor Government and the former LNP Queensland Government reached a deal to deliver Cross River Rail in 2013 – a fact former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman confirmed on Sky News on May 29 this year.

Indeed, the project would be nearing completion today if incoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott had not scrapped it later in 2013 and transferred the funding to toll road projects in Sydney and Melbourne. Those road projects were funded without business cases, no questions asked.

Since ousting Mr Abbott, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has claimed he wants to invest in public transport but failed to provide a dollar of new investment.

Mr Turnbull likes to take selfies on trains, trams and buses. He should invest in trains, trams and buses.

Failure to deliver a second rail crossing of the Brisbane River in Brisbane CBD soon will act as a hand brake on economic and jobs growth, not just in Brisbane, but right across South East Queensland.

The Queensland Government understands this and is going it alone on the project, which will create 8000 jobs during construction and take 19,500 cars a day off the city’s roads.

While Mr Turnbull is happy to hand out money to projects in southern states with no evidence of their value for money, he is stonewalling on Brisbane’s infrastructure needs.

The only thing stopping Commonwealth investment in the vital Cross River Rail project is politics. Queenslanders deserve better than that.

Jul 25, 2017

Perth Citylink sets the standard

Today I inspected the Perth Citylink project – an exemplar for public transport investment in our cities which proves the importance of inter-governmental co-operation on major infrastructure projects.

The former Federal Labor Government invested $236 million in the project to link the CBD with Northbridge, working closely with the WA State Government.

We also invested in other road and rail projects including NorthLink (formerly known as the Swan Valley Bypass), Gateway WA, the Great Eastern Highway upgrade, Muchea to Wubin upgrades and the Great Northern Highway, North West Coastal Highway and Bunbury and Esperance upgrades.

This co-operation is in stark contrast to the Federal Coalition Government, which has spent too long working against the WA Government.

I was pleased to tour the new underground bus station today with the Minister for Transport, Rita Saffioti.

With our cities growing strongly, governments must invest in public transport.

Infrastructure Australia has said that traffic congestion will cost the nation $53 billion a year in lost productivity by 2031 without action now. In Perth alone, the cost of delays in urban transport will blow out from $2 billion in 2011 to $16 billion by 2031.

Yet recent analysis of the 2017 Budget by the Parliamentary Budget Office found Commonwealth investment in infrastructure expressed as a percentage of GDP will halve in the next decade from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent.

After years of cuts and inaction the Federal Government must lift infrastructure investment to boost productivity and drive economic and jobs growth.

This is a particularly important in WA as the economy continues its transition out of the investment stage of the mining boom.

Jul 20, 2017

Coalition talks about a plan for a plan

The Turnbull Government’s Cities Performance Framework interim report released today is nothing more than a plan for a plan.

What’s more the ‘Framework’ that the report purports to establish will be, at best, a poor imitation of the annual State of Australian Cities report published by the former Federal Labor Government and scrapped by the current Coalition Government.

The State of Australian Cities report was first introduced in 2010 to “track and compare cities’ performance in order to make the best policy and investment decisions for Australia’s future”.

These reports were downloaded millions of times and considered a highly valuable resource by stakeholders and policy makers because of the breadth and depth of issues each report encompassed.

In contrast, the “Framework” proposed by the Coalition is far less comprehensive, making no mention of important issues such as the impact of climate change on our cities as well as the challenges of our ageing population.

The Property Council has also identified a gap in terms of data on housing supply, with its Chief Executive, Ken Morrison, saying today that it “is a critical part of the housing affordability equation, and we again call on the Turnbull Government to reinstate the National Housing Supply Council to plug this gap.”

What’s more, the “Framework” won’t even be released until the end of this year.

In the meantime, Australian cities continue to grapple with critical issues including urban congestion, housing affordability and rapid growth in outer suburbs.

Urban congestion alone will cost the nation $53 billion a year by 2031 if left unaddressed.

Australian cities can’t keep waiting for the Coalition Government to act on its rhetoric.

Our cities need real investment, and the evidence-based research that underpins this investment, now.

Labor understands this and that’s why when we were in Government, in addition to producing reports, we also:

  • Established the Major Cities Unit;
  • Released Our Cities, Our Future: a National Urban Policy For a productive, sustainable and liveable future which articulates the Commonwealth’s objectives and priorities for our major cities;
  • Created the Urban Policy Forum made up of national leaders in cities policy to advise and guide future policy;
  • Committed more to modernising and extending urban passenger rail than all our predecessors since Federation combined;
  • Funded the Liveable Cities Program to make our cities more productive, sustainable and liveable;
  • Established a National Smart Managed Motorways Trial to retrofit smart technology to improve traffic flows along congested motorways and city roads;
  • Placed the need for infrastructure planning reform on the agenda of COAG with the establishment of the National Planning Taskforce;
  • Required all State and Territory governments to have in place strategic plans for their capital cities to guide future growth.

 

Jul 14, 2017

NAIF toll roads proposal is absurd

The absurdity of the Turnbull Government’s approach to infrastructure has been underlined by its bizarre proposal to build toll roads in Australia’s north through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

Anyone who knows anything about the economics of financing roads would know toll roads will not stack up in the relatively sparsely populated areas of northern Australia.

This absurd proposal is the latest manifestation of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s campaign to cut Commonwealth infrastructure investment.

His approach is further illustrated by his creation of the new Infrastructure Financing Unit (IFU) to promote methods of financing.

The IFU has been rejected as needless by economists and the peak infrastructure sector body Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, which has repeatedly called on the Government to lift its own level of investment.

However, a report released last week by the Parliamentary Budget Office noted that Commonwealth infrastructure investment expressed as a proportion of GDP will halve over the next decade from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent.

While private investment can be used to help deliver major projects, the fact is that private investors will only invest in projects which, like toll roads, produce revenue streams.

The former Labor Federal Government invested $5.5 billion on roads in Northern Australia. But since 2013 Mr Turnbull has cut infrastructure funding to the bone.

The NAIF, created amid fanfare more than two years ago, has yet to invest a single dollar in a single project.

NAIF is an appropriate acronym for the Government’s infrastructure agenda, except it should be called the No Actual Infrastructure Fund.

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(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

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

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