Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Media Release"
May 23, 2018

Media Release – Turnbull Maintains Funny Money Fantasy on Melbourne Airport Rail – Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today refused to respond to serious concerns about the efficacy of his plan to build a train line from the Melbourne CBD to the city’s airport without actually spending any money.

Prior to the delivery of Budget 2018, Mr Turnbull attracted widespread media attention by vowing he would invest $5 billion in the Melbourne Airport Rail project.

But the Budget included no funding for construction, with Mr Turnbull claiming the rail line could be delivered off-budget via an equity injection.

It is a basic principle of budgeting that for projects to be taken off-budget, they must be able to produce a return to the Budget to cover both the cost of their construction and their operating costs.

While equity funding can deliver some projects, it does not work for public transport. While public transport boosts economic productivity, passenger trains do not produce commercial returns.

This is why a range of experts have questioned Mr Turnbull’s approach. For example, the Grattan Institute has warned: If infrastructure projects are never going to make a commercial return, the government should stop pretending they will.”

Today in Question Time I asked Mr Turnbull to respond to these concerns.

He defended the equity funding proposal.

The Coalition has been cutting infrastructure investment in Australia for nearly five years while pretending otherwise.

But Mr Turnbull’s funny money plan for the Melbourne Rail Link sets a new benchmark in public policy fantasy.

The Prime Minister must explain how he intends to fund his $5 billion Melbourne Rail investment.

If he continues to maintain his sham funding proposal, Australians are entitled to conclude the rail line to the airport will never be built.

May 22, 2018

Media Release – Senate Hearings Demolish Budget Infrastructure Spin – Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Testimony by Government officials at Senate Budget Estimates hearings has shredded Malcolm Turnbull’s deceitful spin concerning infrastructure investment in Budget 2018.

Despite the Prime Minister’s best attempts to deceive people into believing he has increased investment on railways and roads, two days of hearings have established that the Budget did not include a dollar of new money for infrastructure.

Indeed, Commonwealth grant funding for infrastructure will decline from the promised $8 billion in 2017-18 to $4.5 billion by 2021-22.

All new projects announced in the Budget will be funded with money that was already in the Budget.

However, the delivery of these projects has been pushed off into the Never-Never, with only 15 per cent to be invested over the next four years.

That means 85 per cent of the funding won’t be spent before the next election or the election after that.

If Mr Turnbull was serious about nation building, he would be building new railways and roads to boost productivity and drive economic and jobs growth.

Instead, he is attempting to build a case for re-election based on deception and spin because he has no infrastructure record to defend.

Other key facts established by the Senate Estimates hearings:

  • Annual Federal infrastructure investment in New South Wales will decline by 70 per cent over the next four years.
  • Annual Federal infrastructure investment in Western Australia will decline by two-thirds over the next four years.
  • Annual Federal infrastructure investment in South Australia will decline by 80 per cent over the next three years.
  • Annual Federal infrastructure investment in the Northern Territory will decline by 80 per cent over the next four years.of media release
May 21, 2018

Opinion Piece – Rail must be at the Centre of Freight and Supply Chain Strategy – Monday, 21 May, 2018

The freight and logistics sector is the lifeblood of the Australian economy.

It is critical that the Federal Government support the sector with appropriate infrastructure investment, while also providing policy leadership and working with industry and other levels of governments to facilitate the efficient movement of goods around the nation.

In that context, it is good that the Federal Coalition Government is working on a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, to be finalised later this year.

However, it must be noted that the former Federal Labor Government produced such a strategy  – the National Land Freight Strategy – in 2012.

Developed by Infrastructure Australia with input from the National Transport Commission, industry and the states and territories, it was a blueprint for a streamlined, integrated and multimodal transport system. It also complemented the National Ports Strategy which we had published that same year.

In 2013, the incoming Coalition ignored the strategy, before deciding three years later to start afresh.

Putting aside the waste of five important years, it is right thing for the Commonwealth to finally seek to provide leadership in this important area of economic policy.

Getting freight distribution systems right boosts productivity and that drives economic growth and, most importantly, job creation.

Australia’s existing freight and logistic network is struggling to cope with the demands already being placed on it, let alone the added demand that’s expected in the years ahead.

Australia’s population is expected to grow by 400,000 people a year.

That’s a lot of extra consumers who will expect the shelves of their favourite shops and local supermarkets to be filled with the products and brands that they enjoy.

Then of course there will be the growing demand from industry to supply the raw material and capital equipment required to make those consumer goods in the first place and for exporters to get their products to market as quickly as possible.

As the work load increases, we must look rail to lift its share of the freight task compared to other modes of transport.

That is not to diminish the indispensable role of road transport. Road, air and seat transport will all play their part.

But when it comes to moving large volumes of freight over long distances, rail
has significant advantages that we must exploit in coming decades.

Rail does the job at a lower cost and more safely.

It is also the most energy-efficient mode of land transport, meaning less pollution and a smaller carbon footprint.

In fact, rail produces three times less harmful carbon emissions than road.

Having more freight carried by rail also translates into lower highway maintenance costs, less congested urban arteries and fewer road accidents.  Just one 1800 metre can replace as many as 100 trucks.

When you add up these competitive advantages, it is clear that a growing role for rail must sit at the centre of the new freight strategy.

That makes it critical that we get the planning right for projects like the Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne.

We must also continue to invest in clearing bottlenecks that hold back productivity.

The former Labor Federal Government focused heavily on rail, delivering the biggest investment in Australia’s freight rail infrastructure in more than a century.

We rebuilt a third of the interstate Network – or some 3,800 kilometres of track.  This work included re-railing, installing new passing loops and extending existing ones, and replacing the ageing timber sleepers with 3.4 million Australian-made concrete sleepers which don’t buckle on hot days.

But we also invested in eliminating bottlenecks.

In Sydney, for example, we built a new 36 kilometre dedicated line between Macarthur and Chullora, thereby separating freight from passenger trains.

Previously, freight trains endured frustrating delays getting into and out of
Sydney due to limited tracks and the priority given to passenger trains, particularly during peak periods.

This $1 billion piece of infrastructure tripled the capacity of this vital rail corridor.

We made further investments in Sydney, such as the Moorebank Intermodal, and in other cities around the nation.

I’m proud of that record. But more needs to be done.

We need to invest in new lines, continue to eliminate bottlenecks and be prepared to use technology to improve the efficiency of existing lines.

The modernisation of the nation’s rail freight infrastructure is a project that serves the national interest. It must continue.

This is an edited transcript of Mr Albanese’s speech to the Australian Logistics Council’s Forum 2018, delivered in Sydney on March 7, 2018.

This appeared in the May-July 2018 edition of Track and Signal Magazine.

 

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2018

May 21, 2018

Transcript of Television Interview – SKY News, David Speers PM Agenda – Monday, 21 May, 2018

Subjects: Senate Estimates Commitee hearing on faster rail.

DAVID SPEERS: .. A million dollar grant to a business to do a business case on a, not a High Speed Rail, Link but a fast rail link between Melbourne and Shepparton. With me now to talk more about this is the Shadow Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese. Thanks for joining us.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Thanks David.

SPEERS: This is a  $5 million – well, to be clear it is $20 million that went to three different companies. So one of the companies we are talking about here, that you are concerned about, has received presumably somewhere in between $5 million and $20 million?

ALBANESE: Around and about. They didn’t seem to be able to provide the precise details.

SPEERS: You are a big fan of High Speed Rail. But what is wrong with this?

ALBANESE: I’m a huge fan of High Speed Rail and we had a proper study – $20 million into High Speed Rail down the east coast from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra. It identified a route. It identified regional economic growth as one of the great benefits of High Speed Rail. What we have here is quite extraordinary though. Here we have $20 million set aside in last year’s Budget, in 2017, for studies into faster rail and this proposal; it’s not just that it has a hole in it, it’s that it is one big hole – an idea of having faster rail from Melbourne to Shepparton but the company that is involved here – the company of Nicholas Cleary, a former senior New South Wales National Party person – CLARA – doesn’t have, it would appear, the money to back up the joint funding that is required. It only has $422,000 in capital in its accounts.

SPEERS: To do the …

ALBANESE: To do the study. The idea was matching funding. That doesn’t appear to have been there. They don’t have all of the land options in place for the corridor that is being picked to Shepparton and indeed there’s a lot of speculation around Shepparton that some of this corridor is on a flood plan and it relies …

SPEERS: That could be problematic.

ALBANESE: Could be a problematic.

SPEERS: Let me just break this down, this guy Nick Cleary, his company is Consolidated Land and Rail Australia. – CLARA. So he has been given several million dollars from the Government. He is obviously very keen on making a buck out of High Speed Rail. He has been buying up a lot of farmland.

ALBANESE: Well he has been buying options.

SPEERS: Options. Right.

ALBANESE: But it is very unclear as to whether all of the options are there. The department couldn’t really say that. The department couldn’t really say what the financial state of the company was. The department couldn’t really say what was happening with regard to the route of this and it relies upon this idea  – the whole CLARA proposal is much bigger.

SPEERS: It is. I was having a quick look at this.  He has plan for eight inland cities.

ALBANESE: Eight. That’s right.

SPEERS: Inland cities?

ALBANESE: We are in Australia’s major inland city right now. It is Canberra.

SPEERS: Yes.

ALBANESE: And there are others as well of course – Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga. Shepparton is one.

SPEERS: The guy is dreaming big though. He’s thinking big. He is thinking we can build these cities and a rail link and we’ll …

ALBANESE: Well this is Utopia after a very long night. The idea of eight cities in inland Australia where there are currently none? What people who have looked at this proposal in local government have come back with almost universally is saying: “Hang on a tick here, why don’t you do something about building up Albury-Wodonga or Canberra for that matter or Goulburn?”

SPEERS: And have the train go through?

ALBANESE: And have the train go through or on the border of. This is an idea …

SPEERS: I mean, you have been Minister. You’ve obviously had people come to you with ideas, you know: Oh we’ll build these inland cities, we’ll …

ALBANESE: I have had all sorts of …

SPEERS: Being a fan of High Speed Rail, I am sure plenty have come to you …

ALBANESE: I have seen some very ambitious plans.

SPEERS: So what’s going on here do you think?

ALBANESE: That’s what the Department has to answer, of how it is. What they did – there was a competitive bidding process. The bids included pretty sensible propositions for the Sydney-to-Canberra route, for example, that didn’t rely upon whole new cities being built. This relies upon that. It relies upon the options being there, it relies upon whole new planning mechanisms – by and large, in Australia, given how long we have seen European settlement, there is a reason why cities that have thrived and have grown are located where they are.

SPEERS: You obviously don’t think he should have been given several million dollars?

ALBANESE: No, I certainly don’t.

SPEERS: Why do you think it has happened? Are you alleging some political payoff here?

ALBANESE: I want answers to it. It is unusual that Mr Cleary is a former National Party official. Certainly there were a range of people from across the spectrum that were …

SPEERS: He’s got a few working with him, Steve Bracks I think …

ALBANESE: Resigned. Resigned from the Board. Barry O’Farrell resigned from the Board. There have been a  range of people have resigned, well before this grant was given.

SPEERS: So you think tax payers should be steering clear of this bloke?

ALBANESE: I think that if someone tells you something that you, in your guts know is too good to be true, it usually is. The fact that this project relies upon two new cities, that it goes as well – if you’re thinking about High Speed Rail and where the big population bases are, your starting point is not Shepparton, as the first High Speed route in Australia …

SPEERS: It’s a great place.

ALBANESE: It is a fantastic place, I love Shepparton. I like lots of smaller places around. The first High Speed Rail should also not be to Orange, which is also a great city in New South Wales …

SPEERS: A lovely place.

ALBANESE: … or Dalby in Queensland. It needs to be based upon populations. That is why Sydney-to-Canberra makes sense, that’s why Sydney-to-Melbourne makes sense, Sydney-to-Newcastle. Even Melbourne-to-Geelong where there is proposals, makes a lot of sense, and it would have saved Bronnie from getting her helicopter.

SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, thank you.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

 

 

May 15, 2018

Media Release – Budget Infrastructure Investment is Years Away – Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Four out of five dollars announced for railways and roads in last week’s Federal Budget won’t be delivered for at least four years.

The Budget documents shows that of $19.3 billion worth of new infrastructure projects announced last week, only 1 per cent of the funding will be spent in 2018-19.

Only about 20 per cent will be invested over the next four years.

In the meantime, actual Federal infrastructure investment will fall off a cliff, from $8 billion in 2017-18 to about $4.5 billion by 2021-22.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull used the pre-Budget period to mislead the electorate that he supported a range of infrastructure projects, including a rail line to the Melbourne Airport and Western Sydney Rail.

But the Budget included no money for the construction of any project over the Forward Estimates.

And in the case of the Melbourne Airport Rail, Mr Turnbull claims he will fund the project “off-budget’’, despite the fact that such accounting treatment requires that the project makes a financial return to the Budget.

The fact is public transport projects do not generate enough revenue to cover either their operational or their capital cost.

May 11, 2018

Opinion Piece – South Australia dudded again on infrastructure – The Advertiser – Friday, 11 May 2018

On Tuesday night, Scott Morrison tried to con South Australians.

Attempting to gloss over his Government’s woeful record on investing in the state’s railways and roads, the Treasurer said he would provide funding for Adelaide’s Gawler Line Electrification project.

Mr Morrison presented this investment as though it was new and that South Australians should be grateful for his generosity.

What Mr Morrison didn’t mention is this important public transport project was funded five years ago by the former Federal Labor Government.

But in 2013, the incoming Coalition Government scrapped it.

Mr Morrison’s apparent view that no-one would notice his attempt to rewrite history tells you everything you need to know about the Coalition’s treatment of infrastructure in the 2018-19 Budget.

The Budget was about spin, not substance.

Proof can be found on page 141 of Budget Paper Number 2.

It reveals that this year’s allocation for South Australian infrastructure projects is zero.

Next year is also zero, just like the subsequent three years — zero, zero and zero.

The Budget did not include a single new dollar of rail and road funding for South Australia, despite the Government producing a glossy brochure to suggest it was providing $1.8 billion in new funding.

The truth is that all of that money comes from unallocated funds set aside previously.

But the real rub is that there is no indication of when this funding will be delivered for projects like the Gawler Electrification project, the next stage of the ongoing North-South Corridor or the upgrade of the Joy Baluch Bridge at Port Augusta.

There is no funding for them over the next 12 months. And the Budget documents indicate that of this promised $1.8 billion, less than one out of ten dollars will be available over the next four years.

Of course, any infrastructure investment is welcome, given that since the Coalition was elected, it has slashed investment in everything from major rail and road projects down to small Financial Assistance Grants for local government for road maintenance.

Based on this week’s Budget papers, the Commonwealth will invest $832 million in South Australian infrastructure in 2017-18.

But that will fall off a cliff in coming years to $504 million in 2018-19 and $311 million in 2019-20.

By 2021, the South Australia will receive just $135 million in Commonwealth infrastructure investment. That is three per cent of the Budget for a state which has seven per cent of the national population.

The business community was not taken in by the spin.

In a joint statement the State’s leading industry lobby groups — the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy, South Australian Freight Council, Royal Automobile Association and Civil Contractors Federation South Australia described the Budget as “a misleading, untimely and inauspicious deal for South Australia”.

The other big infrastructure news out of the Budget was confirmation of the Coalition’s inability to deliver whatever it promises to spend each year on infrastructure.

Over the Coalition’s first four budgets, the difference between infrastructure funding allocated to SA in the budget papers and the amount actually delivered is $425 million.

That includes $225 million for railways, $74 million for roads and nearly $13 million for rebuilding bridges.

The Government can’t even get it right on road safety. In its first four budgets the Coalition undertook to invest $21 million on the Black Spot Program, which delivers safety upgrades to sections of road where there have been serious accidents involving injuries or deaths. But it ended up spending $2.6 million less than promised.

Had the investment been delivered as per the undertaking, it could have funded literally dozens of extra projects, creating economic activity in regional areas but, more importantly, improving safety.

SA needs a Labor Government to deliver the railways, roads and other infrastructure it needs to boost productivity and promote jobs and growth.

This piece was published in The Adelaide Advertiser on Friday, 11 May 2018.

May 9, 2018

Media Release – Coalition Undervalues Tourism Again – Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The 2018 Budget is a missed opportunity for tourism, with the Coalition Government failing to restore the $35 million in funding it cut from Tourism Australia last year.

Investing in Tourism Australia is a no-brainer.

The fact is that every dollar spent on tourism advertising and marketing generates a return on investment of $16.

What’s more, tourism has been identified by Deloitte as one of five super growth sectors and it employs more than one million Australians.

Tourism plays a critical role in the nation’s economy and its success is underpinned by the hard work of many organisations and businesses.

The sector and the many communities whose local economies rely on tourism, deserve proper support and investment from the Government.

While the announcement of funding for regional tourism is welcome, this comes far too late.

Upon coming to office, the Coalition Government cut two of Federal Labor’s successful programs – the T-Qual Grants Programme and the Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund.

These programs supported industry development by providing grants for projects that would attract both interstate and international visitors and encourage them to lengthen their stays.

Communities across the nation benefited immensely from these programs.

While the tourism sector is performing well in Australia, the fact is that a number of challenges remain including around regional dispersal and extending the average stay.

The continued success of tourism relies on a Government that supports it and the Coalition should prove it does by restoring funding to Tourism Australia.

 

May 9, 2018

Media Release – Infrastructure Con Job Laid Bare in Budget Fine Print – Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Last night’s Budget includes no new money for infrastructure, despite the Turnbull Government’s overblown rhetoric in the days leading up to its release.

Every project announced in the Budget will be funded from previous allocations, putting the lie to weeks of pre-budget hyperbole in which the Government pretended it planned to lift investment after years of cuts.

The infrastructure Budget is a triumph of spin over substance.

It does not include one extra dollar of new investment over the Forward Estimates, a fact made clear between pages 137 and 144 in Budget Paper Number 2.

Indeed, Commonwealth infrastructure grants to the states will fall in each of the next four years from the promised $8 billion in 2017-18 to $4.5 billion in 2021-22.

This confirms research by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, which has warned that Commonwealth infrastructure investment over the next decade will fall from 0.4 per cent of GDP to 0.2 per cent.

The Budget documents also highlight Malcolm Turnbull’s extraordinary level of deceit in recent weeks as he attempted to fool Australians about his actual investment intentions.

For example, last month Malcolm Turnbull promised he would invest $5 billion building a train line from Melbourne to the Tullamarine Airport.

In fact, the Budget allocated no money to this project.

Instead, the Government confirmed it wants to fund the project off-budget – a funding method it knows will not work for an urban rail project because it will not provide the required financial return to the Budget.

Similarly, in March Mr Turnbull said he would invest in a Western Sydney Rail line to Badgerys Creeks as part of his Western Sydney City Deal.

But last night’s Budget included no money to build the railway line, just $50 million to prepare a business case.

The Budget documents also showed that in 2017-18, the Government failed to deliver the infrastructure funding it promised in last year’s Budget, continuing its ongoing record of non-delivery.

Over the Coalition’s first four budgets, the difference between the amount the Government promised to invest and what it has actually delivered is $4.7 billion.

 

 

May 8, 2018

Opinion Piece – Anthony Albanese: The one thing to look out for in this Budget – Tuesday, 8 May 2018

AMERICAN shyster Charles Ponzi famously used fraudulent accounting and slick narrative to sustain a mirage of activity and report positive financial returns to investors, who later lost all their money.

The 2018 Federal Budget is talking a big infrastructure game, but indications are it will have more to do with Charles Ponzi than delivering real infrastructure projects or economic productivity.

American shyster Charles Ponzi

Since taking office, the Federal Coalition Government has gone to great lengths to create a mirage of infrastructure investment without actually providing direct funding.

Instead it has used mechanisms like equity funding and talk of “innovative’’ financing to create the false narrative that we can meet our infrastructure needs without having a short-term fiscal impact.

But let me explain a few realities about infrastructure.

Infrastructure cannot pay for itself.

Either governments pay by allocating taxpayer’s money in their budgets; or else users pay via electricity bills or motorway tolls, for example.

Capital city rail systems need taxpayer funds from the Budget.

Capital city rail systems need taxpayer funds. Picture: Brendan Esposito

This is because the payment of fares by commuters usually covers less than half of the operating costs and recovers none of the construction cost.

In the same way, most city, regional and local roads are not tolled, so they can only be funded from government budgets.

Thankfully, in Australia we do not charge patients or school kids for admission to public hospitals and schools. That means the money to pay for new and expanded public hospitals and schools can only come as a grant, from government budgets.

While some of these projects might be delivered through a public-private partnership with private investors, they are repaid for their investment by payments from a government budget.

Infrastructure is built only when state or Federal governments either write a cheque themselves, or allow someone else to directly recover the cost and profit from users.

In short, infrastructure is not free. Because the right projects boost productivity and economic growth, they produce a long-term return to the government, but one that is not hypothecated or direct.

Malcolm Turnbull has been promoting the infrastructure spend in this Budget. Picture: Peter Rae

Good projects are also good for sustainability and liveability.

So what do Charles Ponzi and the Turnbull Government’s infrastructure agenda have to do with each other? Each relies on accounting tricks and narrative to mask reality.

Last year, the Turnbull Government took the razor to infrastructure investment.

According to the peak industry body Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, the 2017 Budget slashed “real budgeted capital funding to its lowest level in more than a decade.”

But rather than be honest about it, the Turnbull Government expanded its clever accounting and slick narrative, glossing over its infrastructure cuts with an illusion of activity.

Treasurer Scott Morrison will hand down the Budget tonight. Picture Kym Smith

This approach was exemplified by the off-budget accounting for Inland Rail as an equity injection, in spite of clear and unequivocal advice the project is certain to not pay for itself.

This was capped off by the creation of a new ‘Infrastructure Financing Unit’, reporting directly to the Prime Minister, that would “work with Commonwealth Agencies, the private sector, states and territories on funding and financing opportunities such as public private partnerships, concessional loans, equity injections and value capture.”

A year on the IFU has started no new projects and there are none on the radar.

It no longer reports directly to the Prime Minister or even to a cabinet minister.

Instead it functions as a kind of internal management consultant.

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese. Picture: Daniel Munoz

The earlier Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility also shows the illusory value of

‘innovative’ government finance.

At the time of its creation, the Government claimed the NAIF would provide $5 billion of taxpayer’s loans to infrastructure projects critical “to fast tracking growth and unlocking the north’s economic potential.”

Sensibly, NAIF included protections to stop taxpayers being a ‘lender of last resort’

to marginal projects that would fail.

NAIF was a triumph of illusion over reality. It has funded bureaucrats and board

meetings in southern capital cities but not new projects.

It is seen as the No Actual Infrastructure Fund.

You can only play tricks once or twice before people catch on; as the saying goes ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’.

A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister announced a supposed $5 billion for a Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

Close scrutiny should be applied to whether this announcement has a corresponding $5 billion in the accounts on Tuesday night.

Will we see funding for the Western Sydney Rail? Picture: Dean Lewins

Instead, it will likely be referred to as an offer of ‘equity’, ‘investment’, ‘partnership’, or some other fancy term.

The same goes for the much-needed Western Sydney Rail, connecting the new airport along the north-south corridor at the centre of the Western Sydney City Deal.

It is unclear whether this project will attract a real funding commitment.

If infrastructure needed nothing more than a cheap taxpayer loan, it would be easy and Australia wouldn’t have struggled with infrastructure for a more than a century.

To pretend otherwise is either dishonest, or delusional.Metro rail in our cities, safer roads and modern hospitals and schools only happen when the Federal Government is willing to put real money, not infrastructure Ponzi schemes, on the table.

Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Infrastructure Minister

This piece was originally published in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, 8 May 2018

May 7, 2018

Transcript of Doorstop Interview – Townsville, Queensland – Monday, 7 May 2018

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP
TOWNSVILLE
MONDAY, 7 MAY, 2018

Subjects: Budget, infrastructure, tax cuts, Labour Day.

CATHY O’TOOLE, MEMBER FOR HERBERT: It’s great to have Anthony Albanese here with us today, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Tourism and Transport. Very clearly in Townsville we want to see a Budget that includes infrastructure. And that infrastructure for us is about long-term water security, hydro-electricity in the Burdekin Falls Dam and the expansion of the port – three critical infrastructure projects that Labor has committed to and we want to see that evident in the Budget that will be handed down tomorrow. But I will hand over to Anthony to fill you in in the broader infrastructure issues.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s great to be back in Townsville, the capital of the north. The fact is that tomorrow’s Budget is an opportunity for the Government to actually match its rhetoric with some real funding, When we were last in Government we did the Townsville Ring Road, we did the Douglas Arterial, we did the approaches north and south to Cairns. We invested in infrastructure. Indeed, we more than doubled the infrastructure budget here in North Queensland.

This Government has had a lot of rhetoric but they have been prepared to go along and open projects that were begun by the former Labor Government, such as the Ring Road. But they haven’t put the actual investment in and when it comes to issues like the Port Channel widening, this is a vital issue. This is about increasing our trade. This is about improving our national position in terms of maximising the benefit of that trade right here in Townsville. The fact is that this Government’s only significant investment is of course the money for the stadium that they got dragged kicking and screaming to after more than a year after Labor committed to that project. And then they called it a City Deal. Well, the fact is that an actual City Deal would have a comprehensive plan of funding.

Tomorrow night’s Budget will be an opportunity nationally as well for the Government to actually invest in infrastructure with real dollars for real projects in real time. What we have seen so far from the Government leaks is repetition of rhetoric rather than actual achievement – the sort of rhetoric that we saw two years ago with the creation of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, the NAIF, which is really known now as the No Actual Infrastructure Fund.

Years later not a single project for Queensland has been funded out of that facility, a big fanfare, a big $5 billion figure, not meaning anything at all and we are seeing that replicated with projects and announcements like Melbourne Rail to the airport which they are saying would be an equity injection, rather than an actual grant.

We are seeing it in terms of Western Sydney Rail through to the new airport, where they say that they support that project, but the fact is that $50 million for a business case means in actual fact zero dollars for actual construction of that rail line that should be under way right now so that it can open prior to the airport. Right across the nation whether it be here in Townsville in Northern Australia, or in our capital cities or in our regions, this is a Government that has masked its cut to infrastructure with rhetoric.

Its infrastructure budget was due to be in 2020-21 just $4.2 billion and it was due to decline over the decade, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office, which is independent, to 0.2 per cent from 0.4 per cent as a percentage of our national GDP – to be cut in half. So they have a lot of catching up to do. We await tomorrow night’s Budget to see whether it delivers, not just here in Townsville but right around the nation.

REPORTER: Mr Albanese, the Government have just come out this morning and touted their infrastructure credentials, saying that it will be the focus of this Budget. Are you confident of that? They have announced a pretty big figure.

ALBANESE: Well they announce lots of figures that aren’t real. One of the things that they have done as a government is to, instead of talking about the four-year Budget forward estimates, they have talked about over ten years and they have also included funding for things like the NAIF – $5 billion. I leave it to people in North Queensland but right across northern Australia to judge what benefit has there been from that $5 billion announcement that isn’t in tomorrow night’s Budget, wasn’t in last year’s, but was in the year before. So we now have, more than two years since that announcement, not a single project for Queensland.

So big figures are fine, but if they don’t actually lead to construction and actual infrastructure, then they mean absolutely nothing and that shows the failure of this Government because that Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility is flawed. It is for loans, not for grants. The truth is that if private sector projects are viable and will produce a return on investment, then they don’t need a loan from the Government. There is plenty of capital and loans available to the private sector for good infrastructure projects that produce a return right now. What government can do is to facilitate projects and to invest in projects that make a difference to the national economy.

One of those is of course the Townsville Port Channel widening. The others are the water projects and the energy projects that have been identified here in North Queensland that Labor has committed to. What we will be looking for tomorrow night is the difference between the actual investment that is occurring and the Government’s rhetoric and we will be looking very closely at that and whether there is actual benefit from the announcements that have been made.

And I refer you as well to the front page story about Western Sydney Rail through to the airport, a grand signing of a document between all the mayors in western Sydney and the Commonwealth and State governments. You couldn’t fit all the politicians in the screen and yet what we know now is that all there is $50 million for a business case. Well why wasn’t the business case done already? The business case largely has been identified through the studies that have been done into Badgerys Creek Airport. So the gap is there between the Government’s rhetoric and the reality.

What the Australian economy needs is actual road projects, actual rail projects that are ready to go. Here in Queensland of course the Cross River Rail Project is ready to go. Labor has committed or recommitted funding to that project. That was a project that was funded by the former Labor Government and Campbell Newman’s Government and had that funding withdrawn and as a result has been delayed for years. Now that is a project that is a pre-condition for the project where they have announced some funding for rail further north towards the Sunshine Coast. But if you don’t do Cross River Rail you can’t do the Sunshine Coast project because it is essential to build the capacity not just for Brisbane but for the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

REPORTER: Mr Albanese, the Government are arguing that the Port of Townsville is a state-owned asset, it generates profit and that instead of paying dividends to its shareholders – the Treasury, those profits should be redirected back into the Port expansion. What do you make of that?

ALBANESE: Well this is a Government that has a terrible record when it comes to ports. In tomorrow night’s Budget they will announce the final mile from Mascot through to Port Botany of the project that they cut when they came to office in 2013 and they will pretend it is a new project. What it is is a project that has been delayed for five years and has therefore seen increased costs to the taxpayer as a result of that cut. Of course we know in the Port of Darwin it has been flogged off, allowed for by the Coalition Federal Government, to overseas interests clearly against Australia’s national interests and here in Townsville they are not acknowledging the contribution that the port makes to the national economy. Now the Government, the Federal Government, gets a dividend from boosts in exports and boosts to the national economy. They should put some of that back through the channel widening. This is a project that is ready to proceed. It’s a project in which Labor has committed and the Government should commit funding to it tomorrow night.

REPORTER: Mr Albanese, the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, foreshadowed tax cuts in the Budget. Would there be any circumstances where Labor would oppose them?

ALBANESE: Well we will wait and see what is in tomorrow’s Budget. But what we know is that since 1980 if you actually look at taxes as a proportion of the GDP, the political party that is the high-tax party is the Liberal-National Party Coalition. They are the party that have presided over increases in taxes. Labor will examine any proposals that are there in the Budget tomorrow and make our announcements when we do a Budget reply on Thursday or at some stage before the election. But one thing is very clear – Labor has got more policy out at this stage of the electoral cycle than any Opposition in living memory. We have out there clearly outlined our policies on changes to the imputation, on changes to capital gains and negative gearing for investment properties, on changes to the amount of tax that can be written off for accountants’ fees. We have got that out there in a very transparent manner and we will be very transparent about all of our tax policies prior to the election.

I’m proud to have great honour of speaking at the May Day march here in Townsville. May Day is a day in which we recognise and celebrate the fact that all of the gains that have been made for working people have been made through the trade union movement and through collective action. Measures such as the shorter working week, penalty rates, leave for holidays, wage increases, occupational health and safety. All of those issues have been dealt with as a result of the actions that we celebrate today.

Today is also a reminder that the work is not done. We see attacks on penalty rates, we see real wages declining for the first time in decades. So today is a day to once again recommit to actually making sure the economy works for people, not the other way around. Economic growth is to benefit working Australians. We are not seeing that at the moment. What we are seeing is a Government that has produced ideological attacks on trade unions and on workers. They are seeking to undermine the superannuation industry, seeking to undermine penalty rates, to reduce working conditions of working Australians and today we are celebrating the gains of the past but also committing ourselves to have further gains into the future.

O’TOOLE: Once again here on Labour Day we can see a great crowd of people coming together. Here in Townsville we have the highest rate in the state of $53 million in unpaid or underpaid superannuation. For us that is over 22,500 residents, That is completely unacceptable. Labour Day is about celebrating the past and the achievements of the past, but it is also about how do we take up the fight for these battles – wage theft, privatisation, cuts to penalty rates, working conditions, simply unacceptable to the workers of Townsville, where we also see a high unemployment rate for young people and our general population.

The unions have worked incredibly hard to deliver us probably some of the best working conditions in the world and they are being eroded by this Turnbull Government and that must stop. The people in this community will not tolerate their wages and conditions being further reduced and cut. Also we will not tolerate cuts to jobs and cuts to services particularly when we look at the aged care industry and the national disgrace that that is at the moment. So there is a lot of work to be done and the people in this community stand proudly today on Labour Day to support our union movement and say thank you for the hard work that they have delivered since the 1850s.

[ENDS]

MONDAY, 7 MAY, 2018

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