Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Media Release"
Feb 3, 2014

Business lobby accuses Abbott of secrecy

The most-powerful business lobby group in the country has backed Labor criticism of Tony Abbott’s plan to gut the independence of Infrastructure Australia.

The Business Council of Australia has warned in a submission to a Senate Inquiry that proposed changes to legislation governing Infrastructure Australia will allow the government to limit the scope of IA’s operations and censor its independent findings.

But, like Labor and a range of expert groups in the planning sector, the business community can see that amendments before the Parliament will not promote sound decision-making about spending on roads, railways, bridges and other infrastructure.

Instead they will promote secrecy and allow the government to dictate the infrastructure agenda in accordance with its political aims, rather than the national interest.

Labor created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 as an independent adviser to government. Its task is to assess and prioritise Australia’s infrastructure needs according to which have the greatest potential to boost national productivity.

But changes before the Parliament allow Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss to prohibit the publication of IA’s findings and to order it to exclude entire classes of infrastructure from its considerations.

These changes are designed to empower the government to tell IA what it can and cannot consider.

They are also designed to prevent embarrassment over Mr Abbott’s absurd refusal to invest in urban passenger rail, which IA and anyone serious about urban policy knows is a key contributor to productivity growth in our cities.

Labor calls on Mr Abbott to dump his reform package and leave IA to get on with its job free of government interference.

Billions of dollars in scarce public funds are spent on infrastructure.

Governments need independent, non-political advice so they make informed decisions and the community should be able to see that advice in the name of transparency.

It should be noted that Infrastructure Australia has been critical of the failure to present proper business cases for projects including the East-West link in Melbourne, which Mr Abbott has said he will fund without a business case.

As the BCA submission notes: “It would be a concern if evaluations are not published because the demonstrated economic or social value is at odds with a decision by government about whether or not to support  particular investment. Publication of evaluations should be the norm except where there is a justifiable reason not to do so.’’

The BCA submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013 is at:


Feb 3, 2014

Coalition backs Labor’s Tasmanian jobs package, cuts roads funding

Tony Abbott has backed a series of major Labor grants designed to invigorate the Tasmanian economy and create hundreds of new jobs, despite his Coalition having attacked them as wasteful when it was in Opposition.

However, Mr Abbott has also slashed proposed spending on the upgrade of Tasmania’s Midland Highway project, offering $400 million, when the previous Labor Government had committed $500 million.

Today Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs also re-announced a $3.5 million job-creation project for Huon Aquaculture, which is part of Labor’s $100 million jobs and growth fund for Tasmania.

The project will improve the company’s capacity to process fish and create 100 construction jobs and 60 full-time ongoing positions.

But last year a Tasmanian Senator told The Australian the funding was “a disgusting display of pork-barrelling of the highest order”.

Senator Richard Colbeck also issued a media release saying that the package was “a sleazy $100 million election slush fund’’

Senator Colbeck should clarify whether he now supports the funding and Huon Aquaculture, while Mr Briggs should get to work and deliver the funding for the other 30 projects that were included in the package so businesses can get on with creating jobs.

Also today, Mr Briggs said he had committed $25 million for the Brooker Highway and $17.5 million for the Huon Highway.

Both these projects were fully funded by the previous Labor government. The only thing that has changed is that the government has short-changed the people of Tasmania by the $100 million on the Midland Highway project.

Mr Abbott and his ministers are clearly more interested in rebadging Labor’s projects as their own than actually getting on with the job.

It’s clear that Tony Abbott had a plan to get into government, but he does not have a plan to actually govern.

Jan 31, 2014

Truss cuts regional airport funding

Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss has today confirmed he will cut funding to regional airports, stifling jobs and economic growth.

Mr Truss today announced $8.9 million over two years for the Regional Aviation Access Program that was fully funded in the 2013 Labor budget.

However, at the same time he has cut larger grants to regional airports which were also fully funded in the 2013 Labor budget.

Critically this includes $10 million allocated to extend the runway at Whitsunday Coast Airport to cater for larger international aircraft such as A330s.

This airport services one of Australia’s top tourism destinations and is a key driver of local jobs and economic growth.

Rather than invest in important regional airport upgrades, Mr Truss has instead cut funding down to just $8.9 million.

Federal Labor invested more than $260 million to build and upgrade regional airports – more than thirty times as much.

Jan 30, 2014

Research highlights Abbott’s folly

THE folly of Tony Abbott’s refusal to invest in public transport has been underlined by new research that finds investing in urban passenger rail would be the most cost-effective way to ease traffic congestion in Brisbane and Perth.

A study released today by the Australasian Railway Association finds that investing in passenger rail to attack congestion in Brisbane would be 57 per cent cheaper than investing in roads.

The study finds that for Perth, a rail solution would be 38 per cent cheaper than building more roads.

Labor believes in a properly integrated transport system incorporating all modes of transport – roads, railways, light rail and ferries.

But Mr Abbott refuses to invest a cent into urban rail and will fund only roads.

He has already axed fully funded Labor investments in Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Link and the Melbourne Metro – decisions that will worsen traffic gridlock and inhibit economic and jobs growth in these cities.

It’s time Mr Abbott got over his senseless antipathy toward public transport and showed some leadership.

A forward-looking, holistic approach to urban transport will make life easier for residents while also boosting urban efficiency.

If Mr Abbott is serious about lifting economic growth and creating jobs, he must understand that transport – in all its forms – is a critical driver of economic productivity.

However, he seems more interested in attacking the ABC than he is in addressing issues that really matter to Australians, like public transport, health and education.

NOTE: A link to the Australasian Railways Association research can be found at:


Jan 30, 2014

Australia is a proud shipping nation and should remain one – Opinion – The Guardian Australia

The IPA’s call for a free-for-all on our coastal shipping routes seems to be based upon a simplistic view of maritime work along those lines: if it’s a third world flag, you can pay third world wages 

This summer I joined record numbers of Australians to visit the National Library in Canberra to see the remarkable Mapping our World exhibition.

The exhibition’s portfolio of historic maps from previous centuries charts the development in European understanding of the Australian continent, and clearly demonstrates the centrality of maritime exploration in first discovering and then mapping our Great Southern Land.

Countless other Australians have been spending the summer by the coast catching up with family and friends, enjoying our abundant natural assets. But as important as the coast is for recreational activities, it also plays a key role in driving economic prosperity.

Australia is an island continent and 99% of its trade is by sea. There is no nation on earth in which a viable shipping industry is so important.

It is remarkable, then, that the right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has declared that an Australian-based shipping industry is unnecessary in recent lobbying for the dismantling of Labor reforms designed to guarantee the future of a viable Australian maritime sector.

In a recent article in The Australian, the IPA called for the Coalition government to scrap laws that mean that when foreign-flagged vessels operate between domestic ports in this country they are required to pay Australian-level wages.

It calls tax measures designed to remove disincentives to Australian shipping a “subsidy”. These measures arose from an extensive consultative process with the sector chaired by the treasury department.

When Labor took office in 2007, we were determined to reinvigorate Australian shipping given that the merchant fleet had declined by more than half to just over 20 ships during the Howard government.

We chose not to implement protectionist measures such as those in place in the United States, which exclude foreign-flagged vessels from domestic trade.

Instead, we provided incentives to enable Australian shipping to compete on a level-playing field with foreign competitors. Labor recognised that, even though these reforms were important for the economy, the arguments for maintaining a healthy Australian maritime fleet were much broader.

Australian seafarers make an important contribution to national security in a country with thousands of kilometres of uninhabited coastline.

An Australian industry is also important for the environment given the frequency and disastrous environmental impact of incidents around the world involving ships with flags of convenience. None of the serious maritime incidents I had to deal with as transport minister off the pristine Queensland or Western Australian coastline involved an Australian flagged and crewed vessel. A more serious incident on our coasts could cost many hundreds of millions of dollars.

A viable Australian maritime industry is critical for the 10,000 jobs that currently exist, but also to provide the skills base which is the foundation of our maritime sector.

Our industry develops the skills and experience needed to safely operate our ports, which together handle 10% of global trade. It provides the basis for our role in global maritime safety where we are the custodians of one sixth of the world’s surface.

The IPA’s call for a free-for-all on our coastal shipping routes seems to be based upon the view that crew on ships performing domestic tasks in Australia should be paid as if the work is being conducted in the country represented by the flag on the back of the ship.

In other words: If it’s a third world flag, you can pay third world wages.

That makes no more sense than allowing construction companies, or, for that matter, universities, to bring in workers to compete side-by-side with Australians but be paid one tenth of the wages for the same task.

It is a proposal to destroy our Australian industry which would lead to increased costs in the long term, not to mention the loss of the local fleet’s contribution to national security, environmental protection, employment and skills development.

Labor’s reforms to reduce costs for shipping, including tax incentives, depreciation, the promotion of an international register with competitive policy settings and workforce development were carefully worked through with all stakeholders following a unanimous parliamentary report. It is ridiculous to label these carefully considered reforms as “red tape”.

These reforms, implemented in full less than two years ago, should not be dismissed by ideology, but be given an opportunity to work in the national interest.


* This opinion piece appears in The Guardian Australia today

Jan 30, 2014

Abbott claims credit for labor projects

TONY Abbott continues to seek credit for major road projects delivered by the previous Labor Government as he seeks cover for his own cuts to infrastructure spending.

Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs was today falling over himself to spruik the benefits of two significant Labor infrastructure projects in Brisbane – the Legacy Way road tunnel project and the new northbound lane of the Gateway Motorway.

Earlier this week Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss did the same when visiting the Swan Valley Bypass project in Western Australia and the upgraded Port Lincoln airport in South Australia.

Labor planned, funded and started work on each of these projects.

Mr Abbott is claiming them as his own because his only agenda on infrastructure is to slash spending.

Since taking office, the Coalition has axed infrastructure spending by billions of dollars, cancelling major projects like the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project and Adelaide’s Tonsley Public Transport Project.

It has also cut funding to community infrastructure grant programs.

Meanwhile, Mr Abbott is legislating to gut Infrastructure Australia, created by Labor to independently assess and prioritise which roads, railway and other infrastructure projects will have the greatest effect in lifting national efficiency and productivity.

Changes before Parliament, widely criticised by planning experts, will allow Mr Truss to control Infrastructure Australia through such means as preventing it from publishing its independent, non-political views on the nation’s real infrastructure priorities.

Tony Abbott and his pork-barrelling colleagues have no genuine program for nation building.

Instead they appropriate Labor’s good work and present it as their own, including the $210 million Cape York Infrastructure Package, which they shamelessly re-announced on January 17, 2014 – more than six months after Labor first unveiled it.

Since the new year Abbott Government ministers have packed their schedules with visits to Labor-funded projects including work on the Princes Highway East in Victoria and the Pacific Highway on the NSW North Coast between Tintenbar and Ewingsdale.

Jan 29, 2014

Abbott seeks to gag independent adviser

URBAN planning experts have accused Tony Abbott of seeking to conceal deliberations about billions of dollars in public spending on roads and public transport.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia says proposed legislative changes to the operation of the independent Infrastructure Australia will make its operation “unacceptably opaque’’ and “open to subjective influence’’.

The assault on transparency follows Mr Abbott’s decision to ignore IA advice to invest in major urban public transport projects including Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail project and the Melbourne Metro.

Mr Abbott refuses to work with the states to invest in public transport to ease traffic congestion in our cities.

Even worse, he wants to silence the independent experts who understand the importance of urban public transport to national productivity and jobs growth.

Mr Abbott’s tactic is simple: If you don’t like the advice, gag the adviser.

Labor created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 to provide independent, fact-based advice about which infrastructure projects have most potential to boost national economic productivity and drive job creation.

In office, Labor funded all of the 15 major projects on IA’s priority list – roads, railways lines and other projects.

We disconnected infrastructure planning from the political cycle because we wanted to end pork-barrelling.

Mr Abbott now wants a return to the old days where decisions about spending were made according to the electoral map, not the national interest.

His approach will worsen traffic congestion and prevent our cities, particularly Brisbane, developing and maintaining a proper, integrated transport system of the 21st century.

Efficient transport systems deliver economic growth and prosperity, which is what Australians need most given increasing pressure on the cost of living.

Last week IA head Michael Deegan warned in a submission that Mr Abbott’s changes would undermine IA’s independence.

NOTE: Submissions to the Senate inquiry on the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013 can be found at:



Jan 28, 2014

Truss jets in to claim Labor projects

Infastructure Minister Warren Truss visited Port Lincoln Airport today to inspect the newly upgraded Port Lincoln Airport, funded by a $5.5 million grant from the former Federal Labor Government. The project has created up to 30 permanent full time jobs.

While I welcome the fact that Mr Truss has spent the new year touring Labor funded projects around the country, many of which he initially opposed or criticised as being wasteful, his time may be better spent explaining why he is now cutting grants to upgrade regional airports that were fully funded in the 2013 Labor Budget.

This includes $10 million that Labor allocated in the 2013 Federal Budget to upgrade the Whitsunday Coast Airport, which was set to create 50 local jobs and provide a huge boost to the thriving local tourism industry, with a runway extension catering for larger aircraft such as A330’s.

Labor’s press release confirming the funding to Whitsunday Coast Airport is available here:

Mr Truss has also cut Port Lincoln Council’s grant of $109,915 for local community infrastructure that the council was allocated under Round 5 of the Regional Development Infrastructure Fund.

Labor introduced the fund to boost jobs and local infrastructure, and improve the quality of life for local communities. Mr Truss announced on 4 December 2013 that the Abbott Government would cut the grants, even though they were included in the 2013 Budget.

The press release by Mr Truss confirming the Abbott Government has cut community funding in every local council area is available here:

Whilst it is one thing to tour the nation celebrating the completion or commencement of Labor funded infrastructure projects, he should explain the cuts he has made to community infrastructure.

Mr Truss even visited Cairns to re-announce Labor’s Cape York Infrastructure Package which was funded in the 2013 federal Labor budget and visited the work on a range of Labor funded projects, such as the Princes Highway East in Victoria and the Pacific Highway on the NSW North Coast between Tintenbar and Ewingsdale.

At each visit Mr Truss has neglected to mention that funding was approved by past Budgets under the former Labor Government.

Jan 23, 2014

Abbott blind spot on public transport

Recent progress on the Regional Rail Link is already showing the benefits that come from federal and state governments working together to fund urban public transport, Shadow Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese said today in Melbourne.

Visiting West Footscray station with Member for Gellibrand Tim Watts, Mr Albanese said that the Regional Rail Link had created thousands of jobs and would boost productivity, as well as reducing travel time for residents of Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.

“Congestion is a handbrake on the economy, and right now it’s costing Australia $13 billion every year, making people’s commutes longer and hampering productivity” Anthony Albanese said.

“By refusing to fund public transport Tony Abbott is just making it worse. We know that just building more roads alone just means more congestion over time. You’ve got to have public transport as well.”

The Regional Rail Link is also benefitting drivers with 25,000 drivers using Anderson Road no longer waiting for trains at a Sunshine level crossing following its removal as part of the construction program.

The Regional Rail Link is Melbourne’s first new major rail line for 80 years.

The previous Federal Labor Government provided $3.2 billion funding for the project – the largest Commonwealth investment in urban public transport in Australia’s history.

Member for Gellibrand Tim Watts called on the Prime Minister to maintain funding for the Melbourne Metro, urging him not to cut the $3 billion that Labor included for the project in the 2013 Federal Budget.

“Denis Napthine said that a Federal Liberal Government was ‘prepared to have ongoing discussions on key infrastructure like the metro rail tunnel’ but Tony Abbott just isn’t listening” Tim Watts said.

“If the Prime Minister is serious about boosting our economy and improving quality of life he would maintain the funding for the Melbourne Metro.

“If he cuts the funding, he’s consigning every Victorian commuter to more congestion, and more time stuck in traffic instead of at home with their families.”

When complete, Regional Rail Link will provide capacity for an extra 23 metropolitan services during each morning and evening peak period, allowing more Victorians to use sustainable public transport.


Jan 21, 2014

Labor reforms keep Australia moving

One year after Australia’s new transport regulators opened for business, Labor’s historic reforms are helping to increasing productivity and efficiency and reducing paperwork and compliance costs, while keeping workers safe on the job.

The changes are expected to boost national income by $30 billion over the next two decades including $12.4 billion in productivity gains in the heavy vehicle transport industry, which moves over 70% of Australian domestic freight.

The reforms, delivered by Labor in government after five years of intense negotiations with states and territories, replaced separate 23 state and territory regulators with just three national agencies.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is Brisbane based and next month will introduce a single national heavy vehicle rule book replacing multiple sets of regulations on road access, vehicle configuration, and fatigue management.

The Adelaide-based National Rail Safety Regulator has introduced a single annual accreditation fees for operators, a national safety compliance system and a new rail communication and a new signalling system replacing 22 previous systems.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority continues to be headquartered in Canberra, with seafarers no longer burdened by seven different marine regulatory systems, replaced by a single set of rules for all domestic commercial vessels.

It is also more than six months since the Navigation Act 2012 commenced, replacing the century old Navigation Act 1912 with a modern maritime safety regime. Almost all of Australia’s exports are shipped, making a safe, efficient system vital.

It took a Labor Government and a great deal of hard work to deliver these reforms.  Lasting, effective reform requires vision, collaboration and the ability to unite a broad range of stakeholders under a common vision.

In contrast, Tony Abbott’s continued attack on good reforms, starting with his so-called ‘review’ into the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, simply to pursue his ideological agenda will damage our competitiveness and fairness as a nation.

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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