Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Media Release"
Dec 10, 2013

More Coalition disarray over road funding

WEST Australians deserve clarity from the Abbott Government over critical major highway upgrades in their state amid ongoing disarray among its senior ministers over their intentions on road funding.

In Question Time today, Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs described proposed upgrades of the Great Northern Highway and the North West Coastal Highway as important projects.

But when he was asked if the Abbott Government would fund the projects to commence next year, as Labor had provided for in the 2013/14 Budget, Mr Briggs said: “Stay tuned’’.

This lack of a firm commitment is at odds with Mr Briggs’ claim on November 6 that the Government was committed to funding the highway projects.

As the Finance Minister said before the election, we are committed to those projects – the Great Northern Highway and the North West Coastal – because they are extremely important projects.

Jamie Briggs interview, 6PR, November 6, 2013 

His comments are also at odds with Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss’s advice to Parliament on November 21 that the government had not allocated funding for the projects.

These ministers appear to have no idea what they are doing. They are meant to be working together, but they can’t get on the same page.

People in WA deserve something more concrete than these mixed messages.

The Abbott Government has also cut $500 million to public transport projects in WA.

It is now very clear the Coalition has come to office with no plan to govern beyond trashing anything associated with Labor.

These two highway projects, together worth nearly $500 million, are aimed at lifting safety standards on these roads and boosting WA’s economic productivity.

Efficient roads improve economic productivity and that creates jobs. Safer roads save lives.

Given that funding of these projects is in the existing Budget left by the former Labor Government, Mr Truss and Mr Briggs should just get on with the job.

 

Dec 10, 2013

Truss bill will gut Infrastructure Australia

Warren Truss is seeking to engineer a return to the political pork barrelling of the Howard era with legislation preventing Infrastructure Australia from providing unbiased advice to government.

The Infrastructure Minister’s proposed changes will undermine Infrastructure Australia’s independence, risking the productivity gains and new jobs that come from proper planning for the delivery of new roads, railway lines and other critical projects.

Labor created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 to assess the nation’s infrastructure needs and prioritise big projects on the basis of their likely contribution to lifting national productivity.

The new approach was in part an attempt to stamp out the pork barrelling of the Howard era through programs such as the discredited Regional Partnerships Program.

However, Mr Truss’s Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013 will undo Labor’s reforms, giving him the power to direct Infrastructure Australia’s considerations by telling it which projects to assess and which to ignore.

It will allow Mr Truss to order Infrastructure Australia to assess his pet projects or to totally ignore projects that do not suit his political ambitions or agenda.

The previous Labor Government did not issue orders to Infrastructure Australia.

We wanted it to produce independent analysis as a basis for non-political government decision-making.

 

Dec 9, 2013

Labor introduces high-speed rail bill

Labor has introduced a Bill to Parliament to begin preserving the corridor for the future construction of a high-speed rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne.

Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese’s Private Member’s Bill would also create an authority to oversee planning for the project.

Mr Albanese introduced the Bill to the House of Representatives today, calling on Parliament to begin planning now for the project, found to be viable in a study he released in April.

“We can anticipate that an increasing population and the growing need for a carbon-constrained economy will drive the economics of this project ever more positively over time,’’ Mr Albanese said.

“A challenge of this scale needs serious forward planning. The first step is to begin to secure the corridor.

The Bill would establish an 11-member planning authority including representatives of the Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victorian governments as well as representatives of local government, the Australasian Railways Association and other industry experts.

“Planning is not a political issue,’’ Mr Albanese said. “It’s just commonsense. Big ideas don’t happen without leadership.

“The states, councils and landholders along the possible route have a very direct interest in ensuring that, if this project is viable, an orderly a process is in place to bring it to fruition. 

“Vision is important in governing nations. Nation builders need the ability to both anticipate and create the future.

The High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 Report, found population and employment growth along the east coast of Australia in coming years would challenge the capacity of our existing modes of transport.

Travel on the east coast of Australia was forecast to grow about 1.8 per cent per year over the next two decades and to increase by about 60 per cent by 2035.

Further, the report said that east coast trips will double from 152 million trips in 2009 to 355 million trips in 2065.

Road and air travel alone will not cope with this growth.

The report found that once the line was fully operational from 2065, high-speed rail could carry approximately 84 million passengers each year.

People would be able to travel Melbourne and Sydney in less than three hours – the same duration of an express trip from Sydney and Sydney-Brisbane.

The report found the optimal staging would involve building the Sydney-Melbourne line first, starting with the Sydney-Canberra sector.

This would produce a positive economic benefit of $2.15 for every dollar spent.

Later, building would continue from Canberra to Melbourne, Newcastle to Sydney, Brisbane to the Gold Coast and the Gold Coast to Newcastle.

The project would be a significant regional economic development initiative and would pass through centres including the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, the Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury Wodonga and Shepparton.

Mr Albanese’s High Speed Rail Authority Bill 2013 is the first Private Member’s Bill to be presented to the 44th Parliament.

 

Nov 28, 2013

Labor to fight for high-speed rail

Labor will introduce a Bill to Parliament to begin preserving the corridor for the future construction of a high-speed rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne.

Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese’s Private Member’s Bill would also create a special authority to oversee planning for the project.

Mr Albanese announced his plan in Sydney today at the AusRAIL conference, hosted by the Australasian Railway Association.

Mr Albanese also told the conference Tony Abbott’s refusal to fund urban rail public transport in cities would damage the Australian economy and cost jobs.

“High-speed rail is a visionary project that could change the face of transport in this nation and reduce our carbon emissions,’’ Mr Albanese said.

“If we don’t start planning now for the possibility of high-speed rail it will never happen.’’

In government Labor conducted a feasibility study that found a high-speed rail link from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra would cost $114 billion and, if operational by 2065, would carry 84 million passengers a year.

Mr Albanese said that while the project had its skeptics and would need significant private investment, it made sense to secure a corridor now, rather than have to pay more down the track when the need for the project became more urgent.

“This is about the Commonwealth accepting its responsibility to provide leadership for a project of national importance and moving forward in an orderly way to progress the planning,’’ Mr Albanese said.

The Bill is in line with recommendations made by the High Speed Rail Advisory Group, which included former deputy prime minister and railway expert Tim Fischer, Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott and Australasian Railway Association chief executive Bryan Nye.

It will propose the establishment of an 11-person authority including representatives from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT as well as representatives of the Commonwealth, local government and the Australasian Railway Association.

The authority would report to Parliament annually about its progress.

In his speech to the ARA, Mr Albanese also questioned Mr Abbott’s refusal to contribute to important passenger rail projects like Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Project, the Melbourne Metro, the Perth Airport Link and Adelaide’s Tonsley Park Public Transport Project.

Mr Abbott believes the Commonwealth has no role to play in urban public transport and will instead confine his government’s infrastructure spending to roads.

Describing Mr Abbott’s position as “economic folly,’’ Mr Albanese said urban congestion was an acknowledged brake on economic productivity and job-creation.

Allowing urban congestion to intensify unchecked would damage retard job growth.

“Mr Abbott’s doctrinaire, anti-public-transport approach will damage the economy by stalling productivity growth,’’ Mr Albanese said.

 

Nov 28, 2013

Federal key to urban growth – Opinion – The Australian

In a heavily urbanised nation like Australia, the development of our cities is critical to growth in national productivity.

Our cities are home to two-thirds of our population and much of our economic activity. So if we want productivity gains and jobs we must ensure they operate as efficiently as possible.

That’s why I am dismayed about the Abbott government’s opposition to the very existence of an urban policy, and its ill-advised insistence that the commonwealth has no role to play in the provision of urban public transport.

Every Australian understands traffic congestion is a drag on their individual efficiency. The Australasian Railways Association says it’s costing the national economy $15 billion a year.

The 2013 edition of the State of Australian Cities report highlighted the challenge facing cities by noting there is significant jobs growth in the centre of cities, particularly in high-paying, technology related jobs. But it also said our population growth was happening on the edges of cities, not in the inner urban areas where the jobs are.

Economists tell us that two policy responses are needed. First, endeavor to create jobs closer to where people live in outer-urban communities. Second, make our cities more productive by increasing their density, particularly around transport corridors.

The experts describe increased urban density as a virtue because it promotes the generation of hubs that drive increased economic activity. And if increased density comes with better public transport, the resulting improvements in quality of life attract more people to the inner city, creating a multiplier effect on productivity.

But greater density increases traffic congestion. We cannot just wish that away. That’s where governments need to provide leadership and why Tony Abbott’s ideological difficulty with investing in infrastructure is so potentially damaging. He believes the commonwealth has no role in the provision of public transport infrastructure and should stick to its knitting. Instead, he wants to leave cash-strapped states to handle public transport.

In government, we took an integrated policy approach that involved working with councils to encourage urban density.

We also worked with states to commit to modern, efficient public transport solutions to traffic congestion and finalised changes to tax arrangements to encourage greater private sector investment in infrastructure.

I’ve got nothing against roads. But the health of our cities requires more than politically motivated commitments for favourite road projects. It requires leadership and policy agility. It’s simple: if we want the economic benefits that can come with greater urban density, we have to meet the resulting need for better public transport or else the increasing density will become a burden, not a productivity driver.

In government we funded vital urban public transport projects including the commonwealth’s single largest investment in urban rail, the Regional Rail Link.

We also provided money in the budget for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project, the Melbourne Metro, the Perth Airport Link and an upgrade of Adelaide’s Tonsley Park rail line.

The Prime Minister’s rejection of these commitments means the modern infrastructure agenda is already losing steam. The government’s position is shortsighted and dangerous. It’s an abdication of responsibility and a failure of leadership. It’s also hypocritical.

Mr Abbott made traffic congestion an issue in the recent election campaign. It seems he agrees our nation needs to tackle urban congestion. He just doesn’t want to pay for it.

Nov 26, 2013

Multicultural funding threatened

Vital funding for multicultural programs across the Inner West is in danger of falling victim to Tony Abbott’s axe.

Earlier this year, the former Labor Government delivered $100 000 in grants for community organisations in Grayndler through the Building Multicultural Communities Program.

Worst hit will be Addison Road Community Centre, home to 22 separate organisations with a combined 22 000 visitors each week, which could see these vicious cuts take away $60 000 to upgrade its main hall. 

Australians were promised a ‘government of no surprises’, but without warning multicultural organisations are being threatened with Tony Abbott’s axe.

This funding was delivered in the budget and grant recipients had been notified by the Department that their funding was on the way. Suddenly, in recent days they have been told their funding is now “under review” – code for “about to be cut”.

Grants recipients under threat:

 

ADDISON ROAD   CENTRE FOR ARTS, CULTURE, COMMUNITY AND ENVIRONMENT LTD $60,000
APIA LEICHHARDT   TIGERS FOOTBALL CLUB INC $8,900
ASHBURY BOWLING   & PANARCADIAN FED CLUB LTD $9,823
CHINESE MIGRANT   WELFARE ASSOCIATION INC $10,000
ETHNIC CHILD   CARE, FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES CO-OPERATIVE LTD $2,264
SYDNEY LATIN   AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL INC $8,910
Nov 25, 2013

Chaotic Coalition clueless on road funding

Tony Abbott must clarify his intentions on funding of major road projects amid chaos among his Ministers over the future of the Commonwealth’s multi-billion dollar capital works program.

It is becoming clear the Coalition is clueless on road funding after Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs gave contradictory answers on consecutive days to questions about funding arrangements for a series of road projects in Tasmania.

Asked yesterday whether the government would honour previously approved contributions to Tasmanian road projects including the $500 million Midland Highway Package, the $17.5 million Huon Highway upgrade and the $25.6 million Brooker Highway upgrading, Mr Briggs said:

 

The projects were not properly funded by Labor as they were paid for out of a mining tax that didn’t raise any money.                        

                                                   Hobart Mercury, 26 November, 2013

That’s just factually wrong.

In fact, the projects were to be funded out of general revenue under Labor’s Nation Building program. The money is in the Budget.

This morning Mr Briggs went into damage control, telling ABC radio in Hobart that all money in the Budget forward estimates for Tasmanian roads would be honoured.

But that’s what Mr Briggs said recently about funding for critical safety upgrades in West Australia, only to be slapped down by his boss, Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss, who told Parliament last week that no money had been allocated.

It’s clear these ministers are making it up as they go along.

It is incredible that after more than two months in office, Mr Briggs has such a poor grasp of the facts in his portfolio.

And it is even more incredible that the government is still unable to provide funding certainty to communities across the nation expecting road upgrades.

Upgrading roads improves road safety, provides jobs in the construction sector and increases the nation’s economic productivity, which in turn creates more jobs.

People are entitled to conclude that after focusing so much on negativity in Opposition, the Coalition has come to office with no plan for our nation’s roads.

 

 

Nov 25, 2013

Abbott axe hanging over Tasmania

Tasmanians face the loss of $160 million on federal grants for critical road projects because Tony Abbott refuses to honour road grants approved by the previous Labor government.

The Prime Minister must intervene now to provide certainty for these projects, including the Midland Highway package and the Huon Highway upgrade.

These projects were approved and fully funded under Labor’s Nation Building Program and will deliver safer, more efficient roads for the people of Tasmania.

Their completion will also create jobs and activity in the construction sector as projects funded under Round I of the Nation Building Program wind down.

Tasmania deserves its share of commonwealth road funding, both to improve roads but also to generate economic activity and jobs.

The state can’t afford delays as Mr Abbott struggles to get his act together in government after having promised Tasmanians the world during the recent election campaign.

Mr Abbott needs to give Tasmania certainty now, so planning momentum can continue and we don’t miss seasonal windows to build.

Mr Abbott, are these much-needed projects going to proceed, or will they fall victim to the Abbott Axe?

Projects at risk

  • Midland Highway Package – Coalition cuts by $100million
  • Brooker Highway safety upgrades – $25.6M
  • Huon Highway – upgrade of Huon Highway and Summerleas Rd intersection – $17.5M
  • Tasman Highway on/off ramps at intersection between Tasman and East Derwent highways – $13M
  • Domain Highway/Brooker Highway interchange $4M

 

 

 

Nov 21, 2013

Abbott must rethink future of Workforce Forum – Opinion

In the complex area of maritime policy, any government worth its salt listens carefully to industry experts.

Industry input is particularly important when it comes to ensuring our nation produces workers with the right skills to crew our ships and run our ports.

This is because efficient ports are critical to the economic health of a trading nation like Australia, which relies on exports and moves 99 per cent of all of its products by sea.

That’s why I was shocked recently to hear that Tony Abbott had decided to scrap the Maritime Workforce Development Forum.

This decision is ill-advised and short-sighted.

The forum was specifically designed to advise government on workforce issues and its abolition risks preventing the creation of jobs and thereby damaging the economy.

A strong maritime sector is important for our economy, for national security and for our environment.

The Prime Minister should reconsider this decision.

Labor established the 11-member forum last year as part of a $12 million reform package to revitalise the maritime sector, which had been in decline after years of government inaction on regulation and skills training.

The forum included eight private sector representatives covering rail, ports, shipping, engineering and logistics as well as a representative of the Royal Australian Navy and two union representatives.

We asked the forum to advise us on how to deal with a skills shortage which had been driven partly by the ageing of the maritime workforce.

In May this year, the forum produced the first industry consensus on skills training in the nation’s history, a reform blueprint for a mandatory training standard applied on a national basis.

The emphasis was on productivity and jobs.

Our nation must have highly skilled seafarers to crew the national fleet and, over time, to fill critical roles such as port masters, pilots and marine safety inspectors.

And with 42 per cent of seafarers aged 51 years or over, it is vital we train the next generation of maritime workers.

But maritime reform is not just about jobs in ports.  Millions of people earn their living producing exports and they all have a stake in efficient ports.

Inefficient ports prevent the efficient flow of these exports and this, in turn, outs these jobs at risk or, at the very least, inhibits further job growth.

That’s why the industry participated enthusiastically in the Maritime Workforce Development Forum, realising we wanted their input into how to best address workforce issues and create a platform for the maritime sector to flourish in the future.

The industry was also keen to ensure the forum remained in place to oversee the implementation.

No government can ignore advice from industry experts about how to deliver on the industry’s skills needs.

And no government should reverse measures simply because they were initiatives of its predecessor.

In this case, the workforce forum was the vehicle for genuine consensus in this critical industry.

I urge the new government to utilise that vehicle for the good of the nation.

It is bad enough that Mr Abbott, who says he wants to be known as the infrastructure prime minister, appears not to understand the impacts of this decision.

But you would think that Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss, as the Leader of the Nationals, would want to do everything possible to lift the efficiency of ports on behalf of primary producers who earn their living selling their goods overseas.

For the sake of the industry, for the sake of exporters and for the health of the national economy, Mr Truss must press Mr Abbott to think again.

 

**An amended version of this article was published in The Australian today.**

Nov 21, 2013

Coalition in disarray over road funding

Tony Abbott must intervene to overrule his squabbling senior Ministers and deliver funding certainty for critical major highway upgrades in West Australia.

In Parliament today Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss confirmed his government had not allocated funding for the much-needed upgrading of the Great Northern Highway and the North West Coastal highway.

The previous Labor Government had committed funding in the 2013/14 budget to both projects.

Mr Truss’s refusal to commit to these projects in Question Time today put him at odds with Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs’ November 6 guarantee they would proceed.

As the Finance Minister said before the election, we are committed to those projects – the Great Northern Highway and the North West Coastal – because they are extremely important projects. 

Jamie Briggs interview, 6PR, November 6, 2013 

Which is it, Mr Abbott? Will these projects fall to the Abbott axe, or won’t they?

It is becoming increasingly clear the Coalition has come to office without a plan beyond axing anything related to the previous Labor Government.

These two projects, together worth nearly $500 million, are aimed at lifting safety standards on these roads and boosting WA’s economic productivity.

Efficient roads improve economic productivity and that creates jobs. Safer roads save lives.

Mr Abbott and his Ministers should roll up their sleeves and get on with it.

 

 

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

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

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