Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Media Release"
Sep 14, 2017

Nats can’t even deliver own bridges program

The Federal Coalition Government has ripped off rural and regional Australia to the tune of $80 million by drastically cutting investment in its own Bridges Renewal Program.

In 2013 then Nationals Leader Warren Truss promised a Coalition Government would spend $180 million over its first four years in office upgrading bridges in rural and regional communities.

Four years later it has invested $100 million – $80 million less than promised.

Despite this, the Government shamelessly continues to offer up the Bridges Renewal Program as one of its signature infrastructure achievements.

Australians have become accustomed to the Coalition’s endless cuts to infrastructure programs created by the former Labor Government.

But it is now clear the Coalition has no reservations about cutting its own signature program.

This clear breach of election promises highlights how ineffective the Nationals are when it comes to delivering for rural and regional Australia. Time and again they make big promises, only to capitulate to the Liberals around the Cabinet table.

The Bridges Renewal Program was a good idea. Improving old bridges in rural and regional areas would dramatically improve road safety and boost productivity.

But the Government has failed to back its rhetoric with the necessary investment.

Sep 13, 2017

Government resurrects Workchoices on water

The Turnbull Government has relaunched its attack on Australian maritime jobs with legislation that will make it easier for shipping companies to sack Australian crews and replace them with overseas mariners earning third world wages.

The Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill resurrects the Government’s WorkChoices on Water legislation, rejected by the Senate in 2015 because it would have destroyed thousands of Australian jobs.

The legislation would have allowed overseas vessels paying their crews as little as $1.25 an hour to undercut Australian vessels paying their crews Australian-level wages.

After its Senate defeat, the Government promised that any new attempt at shipping reform would involve widespread consultation in a spirit of bi-partisanship.

However, early today Transport Minister Darren Chester broke that promise by introducing his new legislation without consultation with the Opposition and, more importantly, the maritime sector.

The Government also rejected Labor’s attempt to delay the full debate on the new legislation to allow for the consultation that was promised.

While the Opposition has not had time to review the new legislation in detail, it is clear the changes would make it easier for overseas-crewed vessels to obtain temporary licences which allow them to operate in Australian waters on temporary jobs where no Australian vessels are available.

Since the defeat of the WorkChoices on Water legislation, the Government has been abusing the temporary licence system, issuing licences in circumstances where the work was not temporary and in which Australian vessels were available.

Mr Chester’s new changes appear seek to legitimise this abuse in a fresh attempt to destroy Australian jobs.

It is in Australia’s national interest to genuinely revitalise Australian shipping.

The industry not only provides jobs for Australians who pay tax in Australia, but its existence also serves our national security and environmental interests.

Australians want to see more Australian-crewed ships working around our coast and around the world.

But the Turnbull Government wants to replace the Australian flag on the back of ships with the white flag of surrender when it comes to Australian jobs.

Sep 13, 2017

State of Australians Cities report should be reinstated

Leading urban planning expert, Professor Barbara Norman, yesterday called for the reinstatement of the State of Australian Cities report citing its immense value to all levels of government.

Speaking at a public hearing for the Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities’ inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities, Professor Norman said:

The State of Australian Cities report – that series – provided valuable data over time. That seems to have come to a halt and I think that’s a real pity because that’s the sort of urban data that a national government can provide to states and local governments over the long term and is valuable.

The Coalition’s abandonment of the State of Australian Cities report represents a missed opportunity for Australia to lead the way on best practice and innovative use of national data.

Professor Norman said the United Kingdom had even worked out how to make money from their data. She said:

The UK Government has set up something called Geovation…What they’re doing is not only providing a service to sub national governments, or data over the long term but also providing the opportunity for grants with innovative partnerships with the private sector to use that data for infrastructure planning, for all sort of purposes.

The annual State of Australian Cities report was established by the former Labor Government.

It produced a comprehensive analysis of statistics and trends about the demographic and planning challenges facing major Australian cities.

The Coalition Government abolished the report despite the fact it was downloaded three million times when published by the former Labor Government and considered to be a tremendous success and great resource by industry and policy experts.

The Coalition should reinstate the State of Australian Cites report so that policy makers and governments can have the data they need for evidence-based decision making.

Sep 11, 2017

Coalition Must Lift its Game on Road Safety

The Turnbull Government must refocus on road safety to address the disturbing reversal of the decline in the national road toll.

It should start by reversing its cuts to the critical Black Spots Program, designed to deliver safety improvements to the most dangerous traffic hot spots in the nation.

Despite having vowed it would invest $220 million on Black Spots in its first full three years in office, the Coalition has spent $115 million – $105 million less than the amount promised.

Reversing these cuts will not only provide more jobs in road construction, but also improve road safety on hundreds of dangerous sections of road around the nation.

The Government should also address safety in the trucking industry after last year’s abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, created by the former Labor Government to remove incentives for truck drivers to speed or cut corners to earn a living wage.

While the Government played politics on scrapping the RSRT ahead of last year’s Federal election, it has failed to outline any alternative policy to maintain safety on our interstate highways for truck drivers and other motorists.

It has also cut $107 million out of the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, created by the former Labor Government to build new roadside facilities for truck drivers, including rest stops.

And despite promising in May to conduct an inquiry on road safety which would report its findings by November, it was only late last week that the Government appointed a panel to conduct that inquiry.

Sep 11, 2017

Labor Backs Early Action on Driverless Vehicles

Labor welcomes today’s release of a Parliamentary committee report recommending that the Government act now to prepare Australia for the advent of driverless vehicles.

As the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources report points out, automation of transport offers major potential benefits for the Australian community, including making our roads safer and less congested while boosting productivity.

But the process of change must be carefully managed, particularly when it comes to the effect of driverless cars and heavy vehicles on employment.

Across the globe, the pace of technological change is accelerating so quickly that there is a clear and important role for Government intervention to manage change in the public interest.

The Committee’s idea for the creation of a Commonwealth body to work with state and territory governments on automated transport with regard to issues including public engagement, employment ramifications, standardisation of road infrastructure, insurance and security issues makes perfect sense.

The Committee is also correct to point out the need for Australia to embrace change as a positive by seeking opportunities for the creation of new, highly skilled jobs related to transport automation.

While the widespread use of driverless cars is some years away, this report provides a great blueprint for how our nation can get out in front of change and harness it in our national interest.

 

Direct quotes attributable to Anthony Albanese

The transition to driverless cars and heavy vehicles in Australia will take years, but it is critical that governments start planning now so that we can maximise the benefits while mitigating any negative effects.

It’s important that all levels of government, along with employers, trade unions and other interested groups, work in a spirit of bipartisanship to make change a positive force for our country.

One of our key concerns must be lifting investment in education and training to ensure that as driverless cars eliminate jobs performed by people, the workers are given skills to allow them to move to other jobs.

Direct quotes attributable to Ed Husic

This is yet another report highlighting the urgency for government preparedness in the face of massive technological change likely to impact on Australian jobs.

We know roughly 250,000 people owe their living to driving – truck drivers, taxi drivers and bus drivers.

This report is a solid contribution but must not meet the fate of similar reports that recommend actions this Government should take to prepare us for the future of work but are left to gather dust. It’s critical that the Government acts on this report.

There is a lot of work to be done to prepare us for the future of work more broadly and specifically for a world of driverless vehicles. Government must lead the way to develop national data and privacy policies, standardised infrastructure and make sure pilot programs inform those decisions.

Sep 7, 2017

Labor Supports Tourism Sector on Gold Coast

 

Tomorrow morning I will be on the Gold Coast along with Peter Dutton being interviewed for the Today Show.

The Today Show regularly travels to different destinations across Australia, promoting tourism and the jobs that this creates for local communities and the economy.

The Gold Coast is, of course, an iconic tourist destination in Australia and it is the hardworking locals that underpin this success.

However just this week the Coalition’s Tourism Minister, Steven Ciobo, has blamed the Gold Coast tourism sector for a decrease in bed nights and spend, saying they ‘must do better.’

It is astonishing that a Member of Parliament, let alone a Minister, would take aim at the very community they represent.

The fact is that the Coalition Government has failed to give the tourism sector the support it needs.

It has cut $35 million from Tourism Australia’s budget over the forwards, despite the fact that for every dollar invested in tourism promotion the return on investment is 16:1.

At the same time the Coalition Government will also receive a $410 million increase in revenue from increasing visa application charges.

This is precisely the opposite of what the tourism sector asked for to make visa fees competitive with other potential destinations.

It also comes on top of their increase in the Passenger Movement Charge last year, which broke an election commitment they gave just months earlier.

It is good that the Today Show is promoting tourism on the Gold Coast.

The Tourism Minister and local Member Steven Ciobo should give it a try.

THURSDAY, 7 SEPTEMBER, 2017

Sep 6, 2017

Coalition develops sudden interest in New England infrastructure

The Turnbull Government has suddenly started rolling out long-stalled road projects in Barnaby Joyce’s seat of New England in preparation for a possible by-election.

Mr Joyce’s eligibility to sit in Parliament will be the subject of a High Court case next month after news emerged early in August that he was a citizen of New Zealand.

In recent weeks the Government has called tenders for three road projects on the New England Highway – the Bolivia Hill Upgrade and the Tenterfield and Scone bypasses.

These important projects should have been delivered years ago. Funding was allocated by the former Federal Labor Government in either 2013 or earlier.

But it is only now, under political pressure and facing a possible by-election that the Coalition Government has attempted to create the impression that it is acting.

While any progress will be good news for the people of New England, the Government’s sudden interest highlights the way in which it allocates infrastructure investment according to its political objectives, rather than on the basis of need.

Sep 4, 2017

Labor takes High Speed Rail bill to Senate

Labor has today introduced into the Senate a Bill to create a High Speed Rail Authority to begin detailed planning on a High Speed Rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

Despite a 2013 feasibility study concluding that High Speed Rail was viable and would produce $2.30 in public benefit for every dollar invested, the Turnbull Government has done nothing to progress this visionary project.

Indeed, the Government has even refused to facilitate debate into a Private Member’s Bill which Labor has introduced to the House of Representatives several times since 2013.

Today Senator Farrell tabled an identical Bill in the Senate.

It would create a High Speed Rail Authority which would work with the governments of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory on detailed planning and corridor acquisition.

Creation of such an authority would reflect the findings of an expert panel which the former Labor Government appointed in 2013 to assess the positive findings of the feasibility study and recommend the best way forward.

That expert panel included former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott and the former head of the Australasian Railway Association, the late Bryan Nye.

Labor calls on the Senate to facilitate debate on this Bill so we can progress this important nation building project in the national interest.

High Speed Rail would allow people to travel between capital cities in as little as three hours.

It would also turbo charge the economic development of the regional centres along its route, including the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

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.

 

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

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