Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Media Release"
Mar 12, 2014

Abbott must put safety first

Tony Abbott must guarantee there will be no reduction in funding for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau in the budget in May.

After Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss’s confirmation that staffing cuts of up to 20 per cent are on the table, the Prime Minister must intervene in the name of safety.

The ATSB employs 110 people who investigate accidents, safety concerns and near misses in air, sea and rail transport.

While the Abbott Government has made clear it wants to cut government spending to the bone in the May Budget, transport safety should be quarantined from the Budget razor.

The travelling public deserves to have the confidence that our nation observes the highest transport safety standards and retains a capacity to properly investigate accidents or near-misses.

Public safety should be any government’s first responsibility.

This vital work of the ATSB cannot be compromised in the search for spending cuts for their own sake.


Mar 9, 2014

Abbott owes WA an explanation

TONY Abbott must explain to Western Australians why he plans to rip nearly $500 million out of the existing federal budget for urban rail public transport projects in Perth.

While the Prime Minister lectures state governments and even foreign governments about the need to invest in infrastructure to boost economic growth, he’s limiting growth in the WA economy by refusing to address Perth’s traffic congestion.

The previous Labor government allocated nearly $500 million for public transport in Western Australia to help ease congestion, including for the Perth Light Rail Project and the airport link.

But Mr Abbott has refused to honour the fully funded commitment and will take back the Labor funding in his May Budget.

Mr Abbott believes that the Commonwealth should fund road building while leaving states to invest in public transport.

This is an absurd position – a recipe for gridlock and a return to the blame game so favoured by Coalition governments.

Mr Abbott’s approach will deny the economy of Western Australia the critical productivity gains that can be gained by reducing traffic congestion.

Improving productivity by reducing congestion will boost economic growth and create jobs for people in Perth.

Mr Abbott’s cheap excuse for his refusal to invest in urban rail is that if he focuses on roads, the Barnett Government will be able to focus on railways.

But he knows that early in January WA Treasurer Troy Buswell, made clear he had no capacity to invest in public transport.

“We won’t be at the hall for that dance,’’ Mr Buswell said.

If Perth is to remain a liveable, productive city, governments need to invest in which ever mode of infrastructure will have the greatest effect on improving urban amenity and lifting productivity.

Mr Abbott would prefer to blame state governments for problems and avoid any financial commitments than actually make a difference to people’s lives.


Mar 5, 2014

Qantas Senate Inquiry with Sterle

Labor has lodged a motion for a Senate Inquiry into Qantas this afternoon. The notice of motion is below.

Notice of motion
Reference to Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee

Senator Sterle

On the next day of sitting to move –

That the following matter be referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and report by March 27 2014:

(1) The Committee must consider what initiatives can be taken by Government to ensure Qantas remains a strong national carrier supporting aviation jobs in Australia, including:

  1. a debt guarantee;
  2. an equity stake;
  3. other forms of support consistent with wider policy settings.

(2) In conducting the inquiry the Committee should consider:

  1. any national security, skills, marketing, tourism, emergency assistance or other benefits provided by a majority Australian-owned Qantas;
  2. the level and forms of government support received by other international airlines operating to and from Australia;
  3. the ownership structures of other international airlines operating to and from Australia;
  4. the potential impact on Australian jobs arising from the Government’s plan to repeal Part 3 of the Qantas Sale Act; and
  5. any related matter.


Mar 4, 2014

Labor has a long-term vision. What about the Liberals? – Opinion – The Guardian

Short-term thinking is the greatest enemy of good government. Whether politicians are dealing with complex policy problems or trying to communicate with the electorate, it makes sense to establish a clear, long term narrative underpinned by forward-looking policies to deliver on its vision.

That’s my starting point as I consider what lessons the Labor party can draw from last year’s election loss. I accept the verdict of critics who say the Rudd and Gillard governments over-emphasised the 24-hour news cycle. We worried too much about the media, and that was a mistake.

However, I insist that Labor policies in areas like health, education, the environment and infrastructure development fitted squarely with the Labor tradition of long-term thinking. I also insist that our economic stimulus response to the global financial crisis was an action of which we, as a nation, can be proud.

The very best Labor governments in our nation’s history distinguished themselves by thinking big and, wherever possible, resisting the temptation to overemphasise short-term political considerations.

When Bob Hawke and Paul Keating took office in 1983, they set about implementing an economic reform agenda they knew would take years to put in place. They stuck to their long-term vision and delivered years of stunning economic growth. When Ben Chifley began building the Snowy Mountains Scheme, he was not only providing a critical economic stimulus for post-war reconstruction. He was nation building, investing in a way that would stimulate the economy of the day while adding to the national platform for future economic growth.

As contemporary Labor plots its political recovery, we must embrace and modernise the best of our tradition. While policies need constant updating, we must never abandon our commitment to long-term policy making rooted in our progressive principles.

There’s no better example than investing in roads, railway lines and ports. When Labor took office in 2007, our nation was burdened by a debilitating infrastructure deficit. Australia was ranked 20th out of 25 OECD countries for investment in infrastructure as a proportion of GDP. Who could forget the images of massive freighters lining up for days outside the nation’s ports because growth in exports had exceeded investment in those ports? Over Labor’s six years in office, we cleared the bottlenecks with record infrastructure investment which created tens of thousands of jobs. Indeed, by the time we left government, we had climbed from 20th to first in the OECD in infrastructure investment.

The work we did in upgrading 7,500km of roads, 4,000 km of railways track and crafting development strategies for aviation, ports and freight will continue to create jobs for years because they have are continuing to drive productivity gains. Increased productivity equals more jobs.

Labor also created Infrastructure Australia to audit and rank competing infrastructure priorities on the basis of their potential to add to national productivity. This created a system where the government could use Infrastructure Australia’s independent advice when making investment decisions. We did just that, investing in every single one of the 15 projects recommended by Infrastructure Australia as having the greatest potential to boost economic productivity.

Previously, in the absence of evidence-based decision making, governments were tempted to consider their political interests when spending on infrastructure, rather than the national interest. Disconnecting the long-term infrastructure investment cycle from the short-term political cycle was classic systemic reform for the benefit of the long-term. Regrettably, the current government is in the process of unwinding this critical reform.

Labor’s record investment in education was also geared to the future. Introducing a needs-based funding system for schools was about ensuring that all Australian children had access to a great education. But beyond that, it was about delivering a well-educated workforce for the future – one able to help drive the productivity gains needed to support an ageing population.

Then there is climate change – the ultimate in long-term thinking. Labor believes in sustainability. We believe in acting on climate change, not just talking about it. We see ourselves as having a responsibility to not simply pass on the cost of avoiding dangerous climate change to the next generation. We believe that anyone who seeks the privilege of governing this nation ought to see it as their duty to think in the long-term.

That’s one of the greatest divides in Australian political life. Labor looks to invest in the future. Our opponents tend to operate on a shorter timetable, offering their versions of solutions for today to secure power as an end in itself, not as a pathway to a better future.

The current government’s approach to public transport is an excellent example. Our cities are suffering from traffic congestion which urban planners agree requires greater investment in public transport, particularly better train services. They also require an integrated transport strategy, not one which excludes some modes of transport.

Projects like the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail have been identified by Infrastructure Australia as priority projects, and were funded in the 2013 budget. Taking the right decisions right now will pay off in the future, while making politically timid compromises will short-change the future. The same can be said for long-standing proposals for a high-speed rail linking Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra. The high speed rail study showed a positive economic benefit of $2.30 for every dollar invested. It makes sense to secure the corridor now, before it is consumed by urban sprawl and made unviable.

My private member’s bill currently before the parliament would do just that, creating a high speed rail authority to co-ordinate action across government jurisdictions and engage with the private sector.

That’s long-term thinking.



Mar 3, 2014

Labor to protect Infrastructure Australia

LABOR calls on Tony Abbott to scrap his plans to remove the independence of Infrastructure Australia after a torrent of criticism from infrastructure experts.

Today I moved a motion calling for the withdrawal of the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013, which would expose IA to manipulation based on the political whims of the government of the day.

In submissions to a Senate inquiry examining the legislation, groups including the Business Council of Australia, the Urban Development Institute of Australia and Infrastructure Australia itself have criticised the Bill as an affront to the organisation’s independence.

The experts confirm that this legislation is flawed. It should be withdrawn now.

Decisions about billions of dollars of spending on roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure are too important to be politicised.

Labor created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 as an independent body to research the nation’s infrastructure needs and rank them according to which would have the greatest impact on improving national productivity.

Importantly, IA publishes its findings – a critical transparency measure allowing the public to see the hard evidence the governments use to inform decision-making.

However, Mr Abbott’s legislation would empower the government to prohibit publication of IA’s findings and order IA to exclude from its considerations particular classes of infrastructure.

The move is a blatant attempt by Mr Abbott to silence IA over his ridiculous refusal to invest in urban passenger rail.

It will also open the way for a return to the pork-barrelling that plagued the previous Howard Government.

Given the depth of opposition to the changes, today I moved in Parliament for the Government to shelve the legislation pending a more-detailed inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure & Communications.

Labor believes the government should leave Infrastructure Australia alone so it can get in with its job.

But if the government truly believes there is need for reform, it should seek the views of independent experts to ensure future decisions about infrastructure are made in the public interest – not in Mr Abbott’s political interests.


Feb 25, 2014

Public transport is the low-hanging fruit – Opinion – Crikey

Guest writer Anthony Albanese says Melbourne Metro, Brisbane Cross-River Rail, Perth Airport rail link and Adelaide’s Tonsley Park public transport project all warrant funding from the Commonwealth


In the never-ending search for the productivity gains that drive jobs growth, public transport is low-hanging fruit.

Traffic congestion is a hand brake on productivity. Ease congestion and you can secure stronger productivity growth. That means jobs.

It’s up to governments – all governments – to fight for the productivity gains that can be secured from delivering integrated transport systems utilising efficient roads, railway lines, ferry services and light rail systems.

Those integrated systems take account of moving both freight and people.

This isn’t rocket science.

But it is somehow lost on Tony Abbott, who is planning to strip billions of dollars out of the Commonwealth Budget which had been earmarked by Labor for public transport projects.

Mr Abbott insists that states build railways and that the commonwealth should “stick to its knitting’’ and spend only on roads.

As a result, major public transport projects are falling over like dominoes across the country.

The Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail project, Adelaide’s Tonsley Park public transport project and the Perth Airport link all received budget allocations from the previous Labor Government.

But Mr Abbott has already indicated he will cut the funding because of his ideological distaste for investing in rail.

This will hurt commuters – whether they drive or use existing public transport – and it will have even more serious consequences for productivity growth.

The consequences of Mr Abbott’s attitude are playing themselves out right now as state governments scramble for ways to improve their public transport systems without the benefit of commonwealth investment.

In Brisbane, Premier Campbell Newman has designed a second-rate alternative to the Cross-River Rail project – one that cannot begin to deliver the same level of benefits as the original plan.

In Melbourne, Premier Denis Napthine, a one-time supporter of the Metro, is now looking for cheaper, alternative routes even as he and Treasurer Joe Hockey are promoting infrastructure investment as a way to create new jobs for displaced car workers.

In Perth, Treasurer Troy Buswell, facing heavy pressure on his own budget, said recently that he could not fund public transport projects without commonwealth assistance.

There is a common feature about all of these projects which Mr Abbott has refused to fund: They would all boost the economic productivity of their respective cities.

In recent days, as Mr Hockey chaired a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers in Sydney, he argued strongly for infrastructure investment as a means of driving global growth.

He’s right. But even as he champions infrastructure investment, he is framing a Budget that withdraws infrastructure investment in the very area where productivity gains are easy pickings – public transport in cities.

In their quest for budget savings, Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott are selling out long-term economic growth in favour of what they see as the political gain in cutting any spending associated with the previous Labor Government.

But the public transport projects were funded in a Labor budget that was also designed to return to surplus in the same length of time that Mr Abbott says he will deliver a surplus.

Mr Abbott’s position says more about his lack of vision than his fiscal rectitude.

In his heart, Tony Abbott does not like public transport. In his book Battlelines, he wrote that it was:

  • … generally slow, expensive, not especially reliable … a hideous drain on the public purse.
  • …there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car, and cars need roads.

Mr Abbott also wrote that many people:

  • “underestimate the sense of mastery that many people gain from their car. The humblest person is a king in his own car…. For people whose lives otherwise run largely at the beck and call of others, that’s no small freedom.

The humblest person might be king or queen in his or her own car, but this regal vibe will fade in the face of worsening traffic congestion.

Coalition governments have never favoured public transport.

Neither does the Coalition see a role for itself in providing national leadership in urban policy.

Efficient cities can drive gains in economic productivity and job creation. Conversely, inefficient cities can be a drag on economic and productivity growth.

But Mr Abbott has no urban policy.

Upon taking office, he abolished the Major Cities Unit, which was responsible for working with the states to develop integrated policies for urban growth that covered public transport, town planning, employment and sustainability.

This highlights the basic flaw in Mr Abbott’s approach to public transport and cities policy: he doesn’t understand that these issues are not just about amenity, but also about economic development.

And for a man who claims the economy is his main concern, that’s a very unsophisticated and self-defeating approach”.


Feb 25, 2014

Abbott abandons cities

Tony Abbott must clarify whether he has sacked members of the Urban Policy Forum.

Last night in Senate estimates Infrastructure Department Secretary Mike Mrdak confirmed that the Urban Policy Forum had not met since the Coalition took office and was ‘unlikely to meet again’.

I established the Urban Policy Forum in 2012 to bring together government, industry and planning experts to provide the Commonwealth with advice about urban policy.

[Media release:]

Just last year I spoke of the importance of sound evidence-based urban policy as the cornerstone of productive, sustainable and liveable cities.


Nothing has changed.

You cannot grow the economy and improve people’s quality of life in the absence of sound urban planning.

Since taking office, Mr Abbott has scrapped the former Labor Government’s Major Cities Unit, refused to invest in urban public transport and abandoned any Commonwealth involvement in cities.

Feb 21, 2014

Joe’s all talk, no action – Opinion – The Australian

THERE’S something very hollow about Joe Hockey’s attempt to provide leadership to the G20 finance ministers on the need to encourage more private investment in infrastructure.

The Treasurer’s aim is laudable – it makes sense for the G20 to discuss ways of making it easier to unlock billions of dollars in superannuation funds to bankroll the construction of roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure.

But there’s a glaring flaw in Hockey’s argument: while he champions private-sector infrastructure investment, his own government is making decisions right now that will alienate investors by ending the transparency in our infrastructure market.

Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss is amending the laws that govern Infrastructure Australia to gut the existing transparent process for assessing the nation’s needs.

The new regime will replace the current evidence-based decision-making process with one based on party politics.

Truss’s changes will repel private-sector investors – the opposite of what Hockey says he wants.

When Labor created Infrastructure Australia in 2008, it was designed as an arms-length government adviser that would work with the states to assess and rank the nation’s competing infrastructure proposals on the basis of which had the most potential to lift national productivity.

IA was to provide the evidence base for government decision-making – just the facts, with no political seasoning.

Governments would, of course, make the investment decisions, but IA’s information was to be published so everyone – governments, citizens and investors, could assess the facts.

For investors, this would provide greater certainty about the national infrastructure agenda and the place within it for their potential investments.

However, Truss’s amendments to IA’s operations process, which passed through the House of Representatives late last year and are now before the Senate, would end this transparency by empowering the government to order IA not to publish the findings of its own research.

They would also allow Truss to order IA not to investigate the investment-worthiness of certain classes of infrastructure projects, such as public transport.

This appears to be an attempt by the Coalition government to prevent IA from providing it with advice that does not suit its political objectives.

So while Hockey lectures the G20 ministers about the need to harness private investment for national infrastructure, his colleague Truss is removing the transparency provisions in Australian legislation that provide comfort for investors here.

The government’s actions simply do not align with Hockey’s rhetoric.

Perhaps this is why groups including the Business Council of Australia and the Urban Development Institute, as well as IA chief Michael Deegan, have made submissions to the Senate inquiry, rejecting Truss’s legislative assault on transparency and evidence-based decision-making.

Put yourself in the position of an investor. Investors need to assess risk. They want more information, not less.

There’s another difficulty with Hockey’s attempt to present himself as a credible global authority on infrastructure needs – his own actions.

Right now, the Treasurer is ripping billions of dollars out of the existing federal budget for Australian infrastructure projects.

Hockey and Tony Abbott have made it clear they will not honour existing budget allocations for congestion-busting urban passenger rail projects such as the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Project.

These very projects were identified by Infrastructure Australia as providing significant productivity benefits and as being appropriate vehicles for private-sector investment.

What’s more, their public-private-partnership funding models would have benefited from the 2013 budget measures to encourage superannuation funds to invest in infrastructure.

The Infrastructure Tax Incentive, which came into effect last year, is designed to support new private-sector investment of up to $25 billion.

The measures include raising the value of carry-forward losses by the 10-year government bond rate and removing other impediments to private-sector investment in infrastructure.

Even as Hockey highlights the centrality of infrastructure investment in maintaining global economic growth, he is withdrawing public investment and seems to be unaware of Truss’s crippling IA amendments.

The Treasurer should be championing Labor’s 2013 reforms to attract private investment, as well as the fact that Australia is now ranked first in the OECD for infrastructure investment, compared with 20 out of 25 OECD countries in 2007.

The confusion over the government’s policy intent is another symptom of the fact that the Coalition wasted its time in opposition with a campaign of negativity when it should have been developing a cogent national policy program.

Abbott and Hockey had a plan to win government – but no plan to actually govern.

That’s why Hockey and Truss can’t stay on the same policy page.

Truss should now dump the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Act (2013) in the national interest.

If we truly want to attract private investment in our infrastructure, the last thing we need is a return to the pork-barrelling heritage of Truss and his Nationals colleagues.

As for Hockey, he should remember a universal truth: actions speak louder than words.

Anthony Albanese is opposition spokesman on infrastructure, transport and tourism.


* Published in today’s edition of The Australian



Feb 20, 2014

Abbott must explain Perth public transport cuts

THE fresh Senate election in Western Australia will give Tony Abbott the opportunity to explain to Perth residents his bizarre refusal to act on traffic congestion in their growing city.

Since taking office Mr Abbott has insisted he will not invest in urban rail services to improve public transport because he believes it is a matter for state governments.

The Prime Minister has used this ideologically rigid position to justify cutting $500 million in funding in the existing Budget, allocated by Labor, to develop public transport in Perth through the Perth Airport Link project and possible light rail.

WA Treasurer Troy Buswell has made clear his government cannot invest in these projects without a contribution from Canberra.

So unless Mr Abbott comes to the party, as Labor is prepared to, there will be no improvements to public transport in Perth.

When Mr Abbott campaigns in WA for the upcoming Senate election re-run, he should tell WA voters why he is not prepared to tackle traffic congestion in their community.

Traffic congestion is a nuisance for commuters and a hand brake on growth in economic productivity and jobs.

Under Mr Abbott, commuters will spend more time commuting in their cars – time they could better spend with their families.

Mr Abbott might be content to play the blame game with state governments, but voters expect leadership, not buck-passing.



Feb 18, 2014

Big-talking Hockey raids infrastructure budget

Labor applauds Joe Hockey’s attempts to prod NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell into spending up to $1 billion in already-allocated commonwealth infrastructure funding.

But if Mr Hockey wants to be taken seriously, he should explain why he is planning to rip billions of dollars in fully-funded infrastructure spending from the existing Commonwealth Budget.

Despite Mr Hockey’s claimed enthusiasm for infrastructure investment, the Abbott Government is planning to withdraw existing budget allocations for major projects including the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail project and Adelaide’s Tonsley Park public transport upgrade.

It has already slashed $150 million in existing, properly awarded community infrastructure grants – one for each council in the nation – that were designed to generate economic activity and create jobs.

Mr Hockey is right to say Mr O’Farrell has failed to utilise up to $1 billion in commonwealth allocations for major NSW transport projects like upgrading the Pacific Highway.

But Mr Hockey can’t have it both ways. He is raiding the existing Commonwealth Budget’s infrastructure allocations in his search for cuts and any cost.

Mr Hockey’s idea of leadership on infrastructure is to demand that other governments and the business sector do the heavy lifting while he rips money out of his own Budget that was to have been spent on the same kind of investment he demands from others.

Properly targeted spending on roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure lifts the nation’s capacity, driving productivity gains that deliver jobs.

Labor also welcomes news that Mr Hockey will meet business figures on Friday to discuss ways to expedite private investment in infrastructure.

But he should open that meeting by explaining why he is legislating to politicise the now-independent Infrastructure Australia, which Labor created in 2008 to advise the government on the nation’s infrastructure priorities.

Legislation before the Senate would allow the government to control Infrastructure Australia’s research agenda and order it not to conduct research into certain classes of infrastructure.

It would also allow the government to prevent the publication of IA’s advice – a clear attempt to empower itself to hide advice that does not meet with its political objectives.

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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