Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Speeches"
Feb 14, 2018

Speech to Barbara Norman Book Launch – ‘Sustainable Pathways for our Cities and Regions’ – Canberra

It was Barack Obama who said, ‘climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here and it is happening now.’

Indeed, research from the Climate Council revealed that 2017 was a record-breaking year for heat and extreme weather.

The fact is that rising average temperatures and extreme weather events are placing immense pressure on the productivity, liveability and sustainability of our cities and regions.

And what we know is that business as usual won’t cut it.

We must take action to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

So thank you Professor Barbara Norman for inviting me to launch your book, which considers the enormous challenge at hand for governments and the urban policy sector.

It very usefully proposes a set of seven sustainable pathways.

These encompass planning within planetary boundaries, the need for a long-term vision, integrated planning, national sustainable development strategies, net zero carbon precincts, innovative platforms for collaboration and evaluation, as well as green growth.

This is important because issues of urbanisation and climate change go hand in hand.

While cities cover less than two per cent of the earth’s surface, they consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of all carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

When I was Infrastructure Minister, the world tipped over to become more than 50 per cent urban.

Now, with the world on track to become 70 per cent urban by 2050, it’s pretty obvious these figures will continue to rise.

As Professor Norman puts it in her book, ‘planning for a low-carbon and resilient urban future is now our greatest global challenge’.

Australian cities are not exempt.

All capital cities are projected to experience significant population growth between now and 2031.

By then, the populations of our four largest capitals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – will have increased by 46 per cent, and Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin are expected to grow by nearly 30 per cent.

Sustainable development must be amongst our first priorities as we seek to accommodate this growth.

But, as highlighted by Professor Norman, we must do this in a way that is fair.

It must also be democratic and participatory.

In doing so, we can ensure people and the communities in which they live are at the forefront of this process.

The Commonwealth has a central role to play in leading this change.

It is significant that Kuala Lumpur recently finished hosting the ninth World Urban Forum – the first time for our region.

It is disappointing that the Federal Government did not send a delegation.

This follows on from the Federal Government’s decision to not send a Minister to the UN Habitat Conference held in Quito in 2016.

These multilateral forums provide opportunities we simply cannot afford to miss.

The fact is; Australia is not alone in the challenges we face.

We should be learning from other countries in our region, and indeed from across the world, sharing examples of best practice when it comes to urban policy, or innovative solutions that are actually working.

We should be participating in conversations about how to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals with the New Urban Agenda in our cities and regions.

These are both ground-breaking agendas that have the potential to transform how we approach nation building.

But we have to take part.

What’s more, and as is noted by Professor Norman, the implementation of these agreements is dependent on national urban policies or sustainable development strategies.

I’m proud that as a Minister in the former Federal Labor Government I released Australia’s first national urban policy called ‘Our Cities, Our Future’.

We also created the Major Cities Unit, established the National Urban Policy Forum and released the National Urban Design Protocol.

Our policy recognised that a silo approach, whereby government departments and ministers don’t talk to each other, won’t work for our cities.

Similarly, a multi-level governance framework is also critical and COAG, as well as the Australian Council of Local Government that we established, play an important role in this space.

And when it comes to place-based decision-making, I’ve always advocated that communities and elected local governments know best, which is reflected not just in the principles underpinning the ACLG, but also a number of programs that we funded including the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program.

This book tells us a story of what we could, as a nation, achieve with an integrated, sustainable approach to planning and development.

It tells us that our cities and regions, whose successes and failures are intertwined, can be places of opportunity for any person.

It tells us, really, that we are a nation standing at a crossroads.

One path leads us to cities and regions that are productive, liveable and sustainable, but we can only get there with leadership and investment from the national government.

The other is troubling to think about.

That’s why I’ll continue to talk about cities policy, and I encourage you all to do the same.

It’s also why contributions, such as this book are so important.

We are very lucky to have in Barbara someone who understands the need to ensure that an analysis of our cities is not just academic.

Barbara’s work with this book, and in all her contributions to urban policy in Australia, has been geared at making a genuine, practical difference for which I am very grateful – and I’m sure these are sentiments echoed by everyone here today.

Nov 24, 2017

Speech to AusRAIL – Infrastructure: The Great Enabler – South Brisbane

It is good to be back at Ausrail.

The great thing about the Australasian Railway Association and the rail industry in general is its willingness to look forward with optimism.

Too many people in this country look for excuses to resist change.

They put it off or pretend it is not an issue.

Forward thinkers accept change is inevitable and, as you are doing again this year at Ausrail, collaborate to harness it to their advantage.

Some of you look a bit tired today as the conference winds down.

No wonder.

I can see you have been busy exploring ideas about the ways in which the digital revolution is affecting your industry now and how it will continue to provide challenges into the future.

Across the board, from new technology, to supply chains, signaling systems, productivity and, perhaps most importantly, safety, you’ve been looking at how to best harness change for the good of your companies, your industry and the community in general.

I congratulate the ARA for staging such an important event.


While I am handing out plaudits, let me also commend the ARA on your call at this conference for the preparation of a National Rail Industry Plan for this country.

Our rail network, the sixth largest in the world, has served us well throughout our history.

It has been central to our economic development and it will continue be critical in the future.

Indeed, busy times are ahead, with $46 million of new rail investment planned for the next decade alone.

In that context, your suggestion of the need for an industry blueprint to take us forward is spot on.

The projects coming down the pipeline involve huge challenges.

But they also offer great opportunities.

Australia needs a plan to exploit those opportunities in the national interest.

We must ensure that Australian manufacturers are positioned to produce the new rolling stock that will be required for these new projects.

This requires collaboration between Governments and industry on procurement policies, as well as research and development.

It will also require investment in skills training.

Ensuring that Australians are involved in building this rolling stock is only half the job.

We also need to ensure that in the process, we train as many new apprentices as possible, so we build future skills capacity in advanced manufacturing including in regional Australia.

To that end I was encouraged by the recent announcement by the Palaszczuk Government that if it is re-elected on Saturday, it will ensure that rolling stock is produced in Maryborough, rather than offshore, which was the approach of its predecessor.

We must also co-ordinate the activities of the various state governments on procurement so we can iron out peaks and troughs in demand.

The right plan would also harmonise safety regulations and advance ongoing work being led by Victoria toward harmonizing standards relating to bogies and glazing.

There’s a clear role here for Commonwealth leadership.

Recently the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee recommended the creation of a National Rail Manufacturing Plan, including a specific procurement policy to address some of the issues I just mentioned.

The committee’s report included as an appendix part of the ARA’s impressive document A National Rail Industry Plan for the Benefit of Australia.

Its inclusion in the Senate’s report is a measure of its quality as a piece of policy work in the cause of microeconomic reform.

While the Senate Committee report focused largely on manufacturing and procurement, your plan is impressive because it also examines rail’s broader importance.

The first of the five key requirements in your plan is the need for greater recognition of “the importance of rail for Australia’s infrastructure development, urban planning and freight movements’’.

I could not agree more.

Too many policy makers in this country underestimate the role that rail can play not just in providing transport, but also in addressing some of the great economic and human challenges of our time.

For example, traffic congestion is reducing the quality of life of millions of Australians in our big cities. It is also acting as a handbrake on productivity and economic growth.

As your report notes, every passenger train reduces the cost of congestion to the economy by up to $8500.

Rail is also considerably safer than road travel.

It also produces lower levels of carbon emissions.

It can also be a catalyst for regional economic development through projects like High Speed Rail.

On top of this, people who use passenger rail gain health benefits walking to and from train stations, producing measurable economic benefits that are quantified in your plan.

Unfortunately, many policy makers addressing transport challenges don’t factor these benefits into their considerations.

That often leads them to make the wrong decisions.

The ARA’s National Rail Industry Plan for the Benefit of Australia should be required reading for every planner and policy maker in the nation.


Your report used the term “enablers’’.

I often think of infrastructure generally as the Great Enabler.

When governments invest in the right projects, they enable economic growth and development.

They unleash potential.

In the case of public transport projects, they enable people to develop their own potential by providing access to employment and educational opportunities.

Governments should always be careful with money.

But they should understand that when they invest in the right rail and road projects, they are not just investing in concrete and steel, but also in people.

The current Federal Government’s ongoing cuts to infrastructure investment indicate that they don’t quite understand this concept.

On an aggregate basis, government investment is increasing.

With traffic congestion now costing the economy $16 billion a year, State Governments are getting on with important projects like the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Link and Perth’s Metronet.

But it is the states that are bearing the burden.

In its Fiscal Outlook report last month, the independent Parliamentary Budget Office noted that state net capital investment would peak at 0.9 per cent of GDP in 2018-19 before falling to 0.3 per cent in 2020-21.

By contrast, Commonwealth infrastructure investment, in my view already way too low, will fall from 0.4 per cent of GDP to 0.2 per cent of GDP.

The PBO figures reflect this year’s Federal Budget papers, which show that Commonwealth infrastructure grants to the states will fall off a cliff in coming years, from the $9.2 billion promised in the 2016 Budget to $4.2 billion by 2020-21.

That’s why, after several years of appealing to the Commonwealth for collaboration on urban rail, the States have given up waiting.

Here in Queensland, for example, the State Government has been forced to go it alone on the Cross River Rail project.

The Commonwealth has simply refused to get behind this project, which was approved by Infrastructure Australia in 2012.

As Infrastructure Minister in the previous Federal Labor Government, I reached a funding arrangement in 2013 with then Liberal National Party Premier Campbell Newman to deliver the project using a mixture of grants, value capture and availability payments.

Yet the Newman Government reneged on its own commitment after Tony Abbott said Coalition policy was strictly in favour of a roads-only approach.


Instead of lifting infrastructure grants to the states, the Commonwealth is seeking increased private investment in public infrastructure projects.

I am worried that this trend will distort infrastructure development toward projects that provide private commercial returns, like toll roads, and away from rail.

We saw that approach in 2013, when the incoming Coalition Federal Government cancelled all Commonwealth investment in urban rail that was under construction and transferred the money to toll road projects.

This shift is continuing with the Government’s recent creation of the Infrastructure Financing Unit (IFU) within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, also known as the Infrastructure and Project Financing Agency.

The IFU’s job is to attract more private money into public infrastructure projects using “innovative financing’’ arrangements like value capture and availability payments.

The IFU is a solution looking for a problem that does not exist.

It is an attempt to sideline Infrastructure Australia, which already has the capacity to provide advice on financing and the legislative mandate under Part 2, Section 5, of the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008.

Indeed, the former Labor Government worked with Infrastructure Australia in 2013 to deliver the Melbourne Metro and the Cross River Rail projects.

Creation of the IFU also downplays the role of the states, which have experience of working with the private sector on financing.

Let me be clear here: I support innovative financing.

We didn’t just talk about it.

We did it.

The Gold Coast Light Rail Project is a prime example

The Melbourne Metro and Cross River Rail arrangements would have been other examples, had they been allowed to proceed under the agreed timetables.

But those who believe you can deliver an effective and integrated transport system without Government investment are kidding themselves.

In its pre-Budget submission earlier this year, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia made the same point as it rejected the need for the creation of the IFU.

The IPA said: Commonwealth Government funding support is needed for infrastructure. Commonwealth financing is not.’’

If we only ever built projects that could generate a financial return, we would only ever build toll roads, not railways.

In Sydney at the moment there is a proposal to extend the F6 to the city’s south via construction of a toll road.

Recent media reporting has revealed that when planners within the Government were told to develop the toll road proposal, they were ordered not to test it against the option of rail.

This was in spite of the fact that completing the Maldon-Dombarton rail freight project, with relatively minor upgrades to the Illawarra passenger line would be cheaper and produce greater travel time reductions.

That is absurd.

Governments should not make decisions about major projects based solely on whether they can provide a return to an investor, but based on their capacity to make a return to the national economy.

My concern with the creation of the IFU is that it will entrench the type of thinking that says infrastructure is only worth building if it can attract private investment.

A Labor Government will abolish the IFU.

We’ll allocate its resources back to Infrastructure Australia to support its activities and reinstate the Major Cities Unit to focus on the productivity, sustainability and liveability of the nation’s cities.


The Federal Government’s other investment strategy at present is the use of an equity injection into the Australian Rail Track Corporation to progress the proposed Inland Rail Line from Brisbane to Melbourne.

Delivered properly, Inland Rail would be an enabler.

It could drive export growth and boost rural and regional communities.

This is why the former Labor Government invested $600 million upgrading sections of existing railway lines that will be part of the project and allocated $300 million in our last Budget to progress the project.

The equity investment model has its place as long as projects have the capacity to make a return to the Budget.

The problem with Inland Rail is that it does not meet this important requirement.

In his 2015 Implementation Study into the project, former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson noted that Inland Rail’s operating revenue over 50 years would not cover its construction cost.

Mr Anderson wrote: “Hence a substantial public funding contribution is required to deliver Inland Rail.’’

The Government ignored this advice.

It is basing its approach on the returns for equity for the ARTC as a whole rather than for the Inland Rail project itself.

In other words, the Government is fudging to justify its failure to meet Mr Anderson’s recommendation that it provide a substantial contribution to the project.

There’s also new controversy concerning the route.

In September Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester released a route for the project north of the Queensland border.

In October the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Senate Estimates Committee heard this decision had been made on the basis of assumptions, rather than actual costings.

At the same time, eight Nationals backbenchers signed a letter demanding a change of route and warning the proposed line would cause flooding.

There’s a golden rule for delivering major infrastructure projects: You’ve got to get the planning right.


It is equally important that we get the planning right for the new Western Sydney Airport.

The project offers a great opportunity to recast the economic and social equation in Western Sydney.
To achieve this vision, the airport must be more than just a terminal and runway.

Handled properly, its development will be a catalyst for the development of thousands of jobs in aviation-related industries like tourism, education, advanced manufacturing, logistics and residential development.

Getting it right requires construction of a North-South line Rail line in Western Sydney.

That line must be operational when the airport opens, not sometime years down the track, as has been the Federal Government’s intention.

Federal Labor has already proposed the construction of a North-South line that will not only provide access to the airport, but also make it easier for people to move around the entire Western Sydney region.

The project would extend Sydney’s South-West Rail link from Leppington via Bringelly to the new airport and also involve construction of a new outer orbital train line from Macarthur in the south to St Marys in the north, which would also service the airport.

A second stage would complete Sydney’s outer orbital rail link with construction of a new line connecting St Marys to the Sydney Metro Northwest at Rouse Hill, scheduled to open in 2019.

I can’t overstate the importance of the Western Sydney Rail.

To this point in history, Sydney’s public transport system has developed on a wheel-and-spoke model centred on the Sydney CBD.

Because of this, connectivity within the region itself is sub-standard.

With investors lining up to deliver major projects in the region, we must build this rail line to ensure that the people of western Sydney can access the opportunities this investment will create.

As an example, the proposed Sydney Science Park is an ambitious $5 billion project near the airport that promises to turn 280 hectares of paddocks into an epicentre of research, innovation and education.

It will bring more than 12,000 knowledge jobs to the region – well paid jobs in a region that needs them.

It will also host Australia’s first kindergarten to year 12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics school, and house more than 10,000 residents.

Just as I want to see adults accessing new jobs in Western Sydney, I want their children to access that school.


Just as a Western Sydney Rail Line would be a game-changer in Sydney’s West, a High Speed Rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra would turbo charge economic growth of regional centres along its path.

I’m talking about communities like the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Wagga Wagga, the Southern Highlands, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

Quicker access from those centres to capital cities would make them more attractive places to establish businesses.

I am disappointed that there has been no action on High Speed Rail since 2013.

Infrastructure Australia appears to share that view.

In July it released a report urging the Government to preserve or protect the corridor for the project before it is built out by urban sprawl.

The report also called for corridor preservation for a range of other rail projects including the Outer Sydney Orbital, the Outer Melbourne Ring, the Western Sydney Freight Line, the Hunter Valley Freight Line and the Port of Brisbane Freight Line.

It said preservation or protection of these corridors could save taxpayers as much as $11 billion down the track in land purchase and construction costs.

A future Labor Government will advance High Speed Rail.

Indeed, I have a Private Member’s Bill before the Parliament which would deliver our commitment to create a High Speed Rail Authority.

We could pass that legislation next week at the sittings that have been scheduled since 2016.

Of course, that would require a Government that hadn’t given up on actually governing.


Before I finish I would like to briefly mention my concern about proposed changes to maritime laws because of the way they might affect your industry.

The Federal Government has legislation before Parliament which will significantly relax conditions under which overseas-flagged ships can operate in Australian waters.

The changes would expose Australian vessels paying Australian-level wages to more competition from overseas vessels with crews that are paid lower wages.

Understandably, the owners of Australian vessels are deeply concerned that the changes will put them out of business.

But of course, giving overseas vessels a leg up over local operators would also have consequences for your industry.

In a submission responding to a discussion paper on the proposed changes, the Freight on Rail Group outlined the risk very clearly.

Exemptions would allow foreign ships to incur substantially lower wages, conditions and associated workplace relations cost when compared to rail, road and Australian-based costal shipping companies.

It’s hard to believe that the Government wants to legislate to put Australian companies at a competitive disadvantage in this way.

The Government tried to introduce similar reforms in 2015 but failed to win the necessary support of the Senate crossbench.

I want to assure this audience that the Opposition will not support any piece of legislation that would undermine freight rail.


Once again let me congratulate you on Ausrail, and particularly for your work advancing the case for the creation of a National Rail Industry Plan.

Your contributions to the public debate, as usual, are positive, constructive and clearly motivated by your industry’s desire to advance the national interest.

Governments come and go. Policies change.

In the past decade they seem to have changed more frequently than not.

But when it comes to commonsense advocacy in the cause of national progress on rail, the ARA is a welcome constant in the public debate.




Nov 20, 2017

Speech to The National Growth Areas Alliance – Growing Gains, not Growing Pains – Eumemmerring, Victoria

John Irving, the American author, put it best – “living cities don’t hold still”.

Indeed, our cities are constantly changing.

People move in and suburbs grow. Houses and apartment blocks fill pockets and our streets suddenly become a little busier.

But the truth is that this pace of change does not share itself equally.

It is in our outer suburbs that the effect of rapid population growth is felt most keenly.

For instance, the suburb of Clyde in the local government area of Casey is a 30-minute drive from here depending on where exactly you’re going – and even longer in peak hour.

In 2016 it was Melbourne’s fastest growing suburb.

It’s expected to be home to 140,000 people by 2041 as development continues to swallow existing greenfield sites.

However, it’s not the only outer suburb surging ahead in population growth.

Other local government areas with significant growth over the past decade include Whittlesea, which increased by 62 per cent, Cardinia by 69 per cent and Wyndham by 98 per cent.

And this is a pattern replicated in major cities around the nation.

Herein lays the challenge for governments, planners and policy makers. They advocate for smart growth.

Edward McMahon summed this up as: “Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how.”

But for our outer suburbs the challenge extends beyond the task of protecting against the destruction of existing community character.

We must also look at how we can build community character too.

The idea of “place-making’’ has a weight of theory behind it, but it is the practice of this that is most important.

When we think about place, we must put the concept of community first.

As Jan Gehl said, “first life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works’’.

Getting this right requires investment and it requires leadership.

If we fail to achieve this, the consequences are simply far too steep.

They include increased urban congestion, overflowing commuting carparks and schools and childcare facilities that struggle to keep up with demand.

The very simple fact is when we invest in the infrastructure that underpins a community, we invest in each and every one of its people.


Several factors have contributed to the emergence of population growth hotspots.

The first is that Australia’s transformation to a knowledge intensive economy has seen the CBDs of our cities become the heart of the nation’s productivity.

While most of this job creation has been in inner areas, population growth has been in outer communities.

In some cities this has led to obvious spatial economic inequality.

In Sydney, Geoff Roberts from the Greater Sydney Commission refers to this as a “latte line’’.

Depending on whether you live north or south of the line you are either more likely to be a “have’’ or a “have not’’.

The fact is, higher house prices in the inner and middle rings of our nation’s cities also mean that many people cannot afford to live close to where they work even if they wanted to do so.

There is no sign of this abating, with all capital cities projected to experience significant population growth between now and 2031.

By then, our four largest capitals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – will have increased by 46 per cent, and Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin are expected to grow by nearly 30 per cent.

But it’s much more complex than this.

There are a number of demographic factors that underpin this growth, which are changing the face of our cities.

The first notable change is that increasingly, younger families are living in outer suburbs.

This has, of course, placed increased pressure on health and education facilities.

In its research, the Grattan Institute found that between now and 2021 high schools will need to accommodate more than twice as many students as they did between 2011 and 2016.

Unsurprisingly this is accentuated in outer suburbs.

Second, the number of people living by themselves has also grown.

Currently one in four Australians live alone. However, by 2030 this is expected to grow to 30 or 40 per cent of households.

This brings me to the third issue, which is our ageing population.

The Commonwealth has projected that by 2057, the number of people aged 65 years and older will have doubled.

These three factors combined have very specific implications for our cities and their supporting infrastructure.


With interest rates at record lows, there has never been a better time for actual Commonwealth investment.

However what we have seen instead from the Coalition is a pattern of underspending, which has serious implications for down the track.

In infrastructure, it is not uncommon for money allocated one year to be delayed into the following year because of factors like weather delays or difficulty finalising contractors to complete work.

But when this happens, the extra spending is delivered in the following year.

Instead, the Coalition is drastically underspending its infrastructure Budgets year after year with the figure increasing each year.

A recent Senate committee heard the annual underspend has increased each year, beginning with $829 million in 2014-15, moving to $1.2 billion in 2015-16 and then $1.7 billion in 2016-17, leading to an accumulated underspend of $3.9 billion.

It appears the tactic here is to promise big on Budget night, when Australians are watching the Treasurer’s Budget speech, but then fail to deliver what was promised in the hope nobody will notice.

This deceptive behaviour lets down Australians.

The fact is, investing in the right railways, road and other infrastructure generates economic activity in the short and medium term, and boosts economic productivity in the longer term.

That’s why, when we were in Government, we invested more in urban public transport than all our predecessors combined since Federation.

The other issue I want to quickly touch on is value capture, which, contrary to what many in the Government seem to think, is not a new idea.

Indeed, the London Underground was financed using value capture.

However, my issue with value capture is this: anyone who pretends that clever financing arrangements or value capture will meet Australia’s current and future infrastructure needs without significant Commonwealth investment is kidding themselves.

There is no substitute for actual Commonwealth investment.

That’s why, at the last Federal Election, Labor committed to a number of projects advocated for by the NGAA.

This included Bridge Inn Road at Mernda, upgrades at Craigieburn Road and O’Herns Road, Thompsons Road and the Monash Freeway here in Melbourne, as well as the Metro project to increase suburban rail capacity.

We committed to upgrade Appin Road and Western Sydney Rail.

To the Gawler line electrification in Adelaide.

To Cross River Rail, the Pacific Motorway-Gateway Merge project, Darra to Rocklea on the Ipswich Motorway in Brisbane.

To the Greater Hobart Transport Plan.

And Perth Metronet, Wanneroo Road and Roe Highway upgrade as well as the Armadale Road Bridge.

Real commitments to make a real difference.

We know our growth areas need improved rail and road connections, and we will continue to work with the NGAA and local communities to identify priority projects.

Planning for projects that we know will be needed, such as the M9 Outer Orbital in Sydney should be underway right now.


Over the course of this year I’ve met with a number of local councils, including many of you in this room today.

I understand you have questions about the City Deals program, both in terms of the Government’s approach, but also in terms of where Labor’s thinking is heading on this issue.

My view is that when done right, City Deals do have something to offer.

My concern, however, is that the Government has used this as a distraction from their failure to provide real investment in our nation’s cities.

Here’s what we know about the City Deals program so far:

We know that the three City Deals proposed in last year’s federal campaign in Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney all came in response to actual infrastructure investment commitments by the Labor Party.

We know that there is no process in place to guide the selection of future City Deals.

And, we know that there is no real funding for the program.

The fact is these City Deals are a far cry from the UK model they seek to replicate.

City Deals originated from the United Kingdom as vehicles for co-operation between national and local government on shared economic development goals.

There, the national government delivers infrastructure funding based on these shared objectives and shares any resulting revenue increases with the council.

Labor supports greater investment in our cities; we don’t support political fixes that don’t achieve outcomes.

And I think when it comes to the question of what Labor will do, you only need look at our track record from when we were in Government to know we will invest not only in infrastructure for our cities, but also the policy and research that underpins this.

That’s why we will reallocate the funding for the Infrastructure Financing Unit to Infrastructure Australia and to recreate the Major Cities Unit to drive evidence-based policy making.


Enormous potential exists in our outer suburbs, but the biggest handbrake on this is undoubtedly congestion.

It’s a tragedy that many people spend more time commuting to and from work than they do at home with their family.

We already know that analysis by Infrastructure Australia indicates the cost of urban congestion will rise to $53 billion a year by 2031 unless we act now.

There has been a great deal of talk recently about the 30-minute city and, indeed, I raised this in 2014 in my first speech as the Shadow Minister for Cities.

Last month, the NSW Government released its Draft Greater Sydney Region Plan 2017, which aims to achieve three 30-minute cities by 2051.

The problem is that people in our outer suburbs cannot wait until 2051 for critical infrastructure.

Indeed, Liverpool Council has already raised the fact it houses 100 new residents every week and has 18,000 new dwellings in the development pipeline.

The fact is many of the outer suburbs, such as Liverpool, are happy to assist in accommodating our growing population.

But without the right infrastructure in place, their capacity to do so is severely limited.

That’s why I intend to keep advocating for a rail line servicing the Western Sydney Airport from day one.

Each day, more than 300,000 people commute away from the region for work.

The airport provides a much needed economic catalyst for the wider Western Sydney region, but making sure people can access the jobs this opportunity brings is essential.

That’s why Councils have identified the north-south corridor connecting Rouse Hill, St Mary’s, the Airport, and the Macarthur region as essential, as well as extending the South-West line from Leppington.

I also just want to briefly mention one of my other portfolios.

Opportunities for economic growth in our outer suburbs also lie in tourism.

Penrith City Council, for instance, has seen a significant increase in both international and domestic visitors.

This has boosted the local economy by more than $26 million.

Outer suburbs often function as gateways to the wider regions.

So if we’re serious about encouraging regional dispersal, enticing visitors away from the CBDs of our cities, then we should also think about the role outer suburbs play in this.


American President John F Kennedy was absolutely right when he said:  “We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.”

Delivering for our growth areas is good social policy because it promotes inclusion.

It is also essential economic policy because it maximises productivity of our cities, as well as sustainability and liveability.





Nov 14, 2017

Speech to the Bus Industry Confederation National Conference – ‘Collaborating for change – toward better Australian cities and regions’ – Hobart

It’s great to be here today once again speaking to the Bus Industry Confederation National Conference.

This Conference will examine the impact of technological change and how your industry can harness the fruits of innovation in transport.

This is an important contribution to ensuring governments adopt the right policy settings and make the right investments to back your efforts.

Today I want to address some of the mistakes of the recent past that have worked against the development of properly integrated transport systems, particularly in our cities.

Before I expand on that, I want to recognise the role the Bus Industry Confederation has played in advancing debate on cities policy in this country in recent years.

I’m proud about the former Federal Labor Government’s efforts to enhance the productivity, sustainability and liveability of the nation’s cities.

We picked up the policy tradition pioneered by Gough Whitlam and Tom Uren in the 1970s.

Not just in theory, but in practice.

With investment.

We invested more in public transport in 6 years than all previous Governments combined since Federation.


Also a fact is that your organisation played a critical role in framing the public debate, both before Labor won office 10 years ago and since.

You have been ahead of the curve.

Your advocacy has ensured that all political parties are now talking about cities and the way we move around them, even if for some, the talk is not matched by action or investment.


Back in 2014 I addressed the National Press Club about Labor’s approach to urban policy and released our 10-point Plan for Better Cities.

As part of that I expressed my support for the concept of the 30-minute city – one in which most of a citizen’s needs could be met within 30 minutes’ from their home by foot, bicycle or public transport.

I know that your 2016 discussion paper on this matter aimed even higher, aspiring to a 20-minute city.

I share your optimism.

But in the business of politics I’ve always found it wise to under-promise and over-deliver.

The secret to achieving a 30-minute city is for governments – federal state and local – to work together.

It is also to engage constructively with the private sector and communities.

It’s not enough to simply agree in rhetorical terms that we all want to improve the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities.

It makes no sense for one level of government to decide that it has all the answers on cities when its vision is not shared by the other levels of government.

Enhancing productivity, liveability and sustainability in our cities should be a given.

The past few years provide a stark example of what can go wrong if someone decides that they know best.

In 2013, incoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott cancelled all Commonwealth public transport investment.

This decision was based partly on the view he had outlined in his 2009 book Battlelines, in which he argued that Australians did not want public transport.

Mr Abbott wrote that there weren’t enough people wanting to go to the same location at the same time to justify any other mode of travel than the private motor car so roads should be the sole focus of investment.

His Government reallocated all the public transport investment that had been put in place by the former Labor Government to toll roads – roads that Mr Abbott had promised as part of his election campaign.

This was an absurd proposition.

The result of Mr Abbott heading off on his own frolic was that states and councils had no Commonwealth support for their efforts to deliver on public transport.

Nor was there any policy leadership from Canberra on integration of different modes of transport or on other relevant policies areas like planning, provision of open space and urban design.

Although states are now going it alone on projects like the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, the result of Mr Abbott’s folly was five wasted years.

Five wasted years during which traffic congestion has worsened, reducing economic productivity and the ability of our cities to drive economic growth and job creation.

There’s always room for different perspectives.

But ultimately, we all know that effective cities require integration of transport modes. And these modes must also connect through active transport.

That’s how we tackle traffic congestion and boost productivity.


The current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, came to the leadership declaring he supported public transport.

But while he enjoys taking selfies as he rides on trains, trams and buses, Mr Turnbull has yet to provide significant new investment in trains, trams or buses.

Looking forward I am concerned that under Mr Turnbull’s leadership, the Government is again veering off in a different direction.

This shift is not about the type of infrastructure we need, but how it is financed.

In this year’s Budget the Commonwealth slashed its level of direct infrastructure grants to the states.

In the next four years Commonwealth direct investment in infrastructure will fall off a cliff from a promised $9.2 billion promised in the 2016 Budget to $4.2 billion by 2020-21.

The Government proposes to instead focus on equity injections for projects like the Western Sydney Airport and the Inland Rail project.

But it is also seeking to shift the burden of funding public infrastructure to the private sector.

The Government has sidelined the independent Infrastructure Australia and created the new Infrastructure Financing Unit, which it has tasked with using innovative financing arrangements to enlist more private investment for public infrastructure projects.

There is a place for financing mechanisms like value capture and availability payments in funding major projects.

Indeed, in 2013, the former Labor Government used such mechanisms to set up funding arrangements for the Melbourne Metro and the Cross River Rail Project in Brisbane – projects cancelled by Mr Abbott in 2013.

However, it is dangerous to adopt the view that private investment in public infrastructure can replace public investment in infrastructure without having a major impact on reducing the productivity benefits of overall transport investment.

This Government is making the mistake of considering infrastructure projects through a frame of whether they can provide a return for private investors.

If we did that we would distort our transport systems. We’d have an abundance of toll roads and a shortage of railways.

It’s the wrong approach.

The correct frame through which governments should consider infrastructure projects is not whether they can provide a return to a private investor.

It is whether a project can provide a return to the national economy.

That return includes a whole range of issues.

They include the ability of projects to deliver productivity gains for the broad economy.

But there’s also the issue of inclusion and equity – issues that your organisation has highlighted many times.

Not everyone owns a car.

People who don’t own a car still need to move around.

They need to work to contribute to the economy and support themselves and their families.

They need to access education that will allow them to improve their circumstances and, over time, make a greater contribution to the economy.

Meeting these broader social concerns is in fact an economic policy – one that the Government’s approach ignores.

This does not serve the public interest.

It’s also at odds with the approach of the states, which people look to for the delivery of effective transport systems.

There’s a live example of the folly concerning a proposal to extend the F6 south of Sydney toward the Illawarra as a toll road.

Recent media reporting has revealed that when Government bureaucrats were considering improved connectivity between Sydney and Wollongong they were told to ignore the option of rail.

This is in spite of the fact that completing the Maldon-Dombarton rail freight project, with relatively minor upgrades to the Illawarra passenger line, would be cheaper and produce greater travel time reductions.

They were told to deliver a toll road regardless.

That’s absurd. It looks at only half of the economic equation.


So my message today is that we don’t need a completely new model of infrastructure investment.

What we need is genuine collaboration across Government and the private sector in the public interest.

We need to forget the politics. Forget the ideology and the experiments.

We need to work together and base our investment decisions on evidence.

That’s why it is disappointing that the Government has sidelined Infrastructure Australia.

The former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia to create an evidence-based approach to infrastructure delivery.

The very design of this independent organisation was based on getting the politics out of infrastructure delivery.

And importantly, project assessment was designed to include the consideration not only of the cost and benefit of a project, but the way in which that project enhanced the existing transport system.

That kind of approach will deliver a 30-minute city.

Maybe even a 20-minute city.

A Labor Government will abolish the IFU and allocate its funding back to Infrastructure Australia for the re-establishment of the Major Cities Unit, which will focus heavily on the productivity, sustainability and liveability Australia’s cities.


Let me turn now to our regions.

Cities are important but passenger transport in just as important in our regional areas.

In my view it’s an area in which the Federal Government needs to be more involved.

I don’t just mean funding regional roads, but thinking more seriously about regional connectivity – villages to towns to regional centres to cities.

These links are important.

Once again, it’s not just about equity and service provision; it’s about productivity and economic activity.

Regional connectivity delivers real economic benefits.

While cities make up 80% of the value of our GDP in our knowledge centres, our growing regions are becoming more important in this sense and that is why it is important to keep people connected through good rail services and, where they are not available, coach services.

At the same time we need to make sure the people living in the country are not left behind.

We need to make sure that young people in regional areas have the same opportunities as those in cities.

That means offering transport choices for them to get to school, to TAFE, to employment, to sport and social activities.

The same goes for single mums and the elderly.

Your industry acts as a social safety net for thousands upon thousands of people.

That’s a fact we have to keep top of mind, especially in these times of transport disruption and new commercial mobility services moving into areas that are traditionally public transport space.

We must not lose sight of the important role public transport plays in the social transit space.

It is not all about mass transit – I know BIC is doing some interesting research work in the social transit space and regional transport that I look forward to receiving when it is complete.

The theme of this Conference, Moving People – Mobility as a Service is really all about where bus, public transport and services fit in the mix of mobility options that are being presented to us today.

Buses are the work horse of public transport in every capital city today.

I can’t see that changing in the future.

Buses move more people than rail every day.

With a growing and ageing population and increasing urbanisation a reality, mass transit is going to be a key to making our cites and growing regions liveable and workable.

Buses will be a big part of that mix.

Looking ahead to autonomous vehicles, which maybe not as far away as some think, we are going to have to be cognisant of the labour challenges this places on all industries.

About 100,000 people earn their living driving in this country.

Much as factories of the past have become mechanised and run by robots, driverless vehicles will have an impact on your workplaces.

And a move to electric and hydrogen vehicles will change the nature of your workshop and mechanical repair requirements.

These are things that BIC is already looking into as outlined in your submission to the Federal Inquiry into the Social Implications of Autonomous Vehicles.


It’s a good thing that your industry is already thinking about these types of issues.

Once again, your industry is ahead of the game.

The job of elected representatives is to keep up with you.

I aim to do just that.


Oct 29, 2017

Speech to Australian Alumni Association of India – New Delhi, India

Australian alumni, ladies and gentlemen.

I am honoured to be leading Australia’s Parliamentary Delegation to India.

My Parliamentary colleagues and I are delighted to be here this evening for the launch of the Australian Alumni Association of India’s new website.

This event tonight is a recognition of the growing strength and unity of the Australian alumni community in India.

I congratulate the pioneers of Australian Alumni Association chapters in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi.

Your efforts, commitment, creativity and enthusiasm for this endeavour are greatly appreciated.

More than 2.5 million international students have studied in Australia in the last fifty years.

At the end of June 2017 there were more than 59,000 Indian students studying in Australia, an increase of 10 per cent since the previous year.

This has made education our second largest export to India by value.

There are good reasons for this.

Australia provides quality education and an enriching cultural experience.

Our institutions are world-class.

Six Australian universities are ranked in the world’s top 100 universities according to the QS World University Rankings.

But it is the quality of life while you are studying in Australia which is the secret formula that sets us apart from other study destinations.

I am so pleased that so many of you are keen to share your experiences of studying, living and working in Australia.

You have become Australia’s most effective Ambassadors.

As the Shadow Minister for Tourism I know that no advertising campaign for Australia can compete with a personal endorsement from a graduate who has spent time in our wonderful country.

You are now part of our extended Australian family. So on behalf of my colleagues and the Australian Government I say a big thank you.

Thank you for choosing Australia originally, but particularly for ensuring that the personal connection is a lifetime one.

The launch tonight of the AAA’s website will help to connect you with each other and to Australia.

I strongly encourage you to register and to spread the word to other members of our extended Australian alumni family.

Thank you.


Oct 18, 2017

Speech to Australian Airports Association – ‘On safety, vigilance is everything’ – Parliament House, Canberra

Let me start by congratulating the Australian Airports Association and the NZ Airports Association for staging Airport Safety Week.

In Parliament, every MP and Senator has a very clear understanding of our collective responsibility as regulators of aviation safety.

Aviation safety is indeed a matter of life or death.

That’s why we take a bipartisan approach.

We understand that when it comes to aviation, our responsibility is to the safety of the 169 million passengers who fly around Australia and New Zealand each year.

To secure the highest possible levels of a safety, it is critical that we work in partnership with all groups – airlines, pilots and crew, air-traffic controllers, unions and, importantly, the 359 airports in our two countries and their staff.

That’s why it is gratifying to see events such as Airport Safety Week.

This event provides an excellent example of how your industry doesn’t offer platitudes about safety, but takes serious concrete steps to promote it and to remind all industry participants of the need for constant vigilance.

This is illustrated by the short video on the Australian Airports Association website promoting Airport Safety Week.

It speaks of the practical issues that people who work around airports should keep in mind for their own safety, and for that of the travelling public.

These include managing fatigue by taking proper breaks, ensuring you have the appropriate equipment and clothing and reporting any issue of concern to supervisors.

These are simple matters.

But when you think about it, the simplest of safety lapses in and around airports can have disastrous consequences.

There’s very little margin for error. That’s why I commend your organisations for your proactive approach.


Yours is the sort of diligence we aim to emulate in Government.

That was certainly the aim of the former Labor Government, which I was proud to serve as Minister for Transport.

We took a reformist approach which was evidence based, with the development of Australia’s first ever aviation White Paper to guide the industry’s future growth.

It included specific measures aimed at addressing skill shortages, lifting investment and improving planning.

We strengthened the independence of the industry’s safety regulator – the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) – by creating a board of experts to set the organisation’s long-term strategic direction.

The changes, which came with a 30 per cent budget increase, equipped CASA with the necessary legal powers to expand its surveillance program and deal decisively with safety breaches.

We also enshrined the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s independence when it came to investigating accidents by establishing it as a separate statutory agency, with a full-time chief commissioner and two part-time commissioners.

We introduced random drug and alcohol testing across the industry.

One of the greatest challenges we faced over those six years was the rising threat of terrorism, an issue that continues to dominate the thinking of regulators around the world.

In doing so, we faced conflicting needs.

The first was to make aircraft and passengers as safe as possible.

The second was to expedite movement of aircraft, people and goods through our airports.

Of course, safety was and always must be the overriding imperative.

But we did our best to work with the airlines, the airports and their employees to deliver the required levels of security without unnecessary imposts on travellers.

We rolled out the latest security technology at our major airports including next-generation body scanners, multi-view x-ray machines and bottle scanners capable of detecting liquid-based explosives.

We also increased policing, improved cargo screening, worked internationally to promote greater co-operation and tightened arrangements around the Aviation Security Identification Card Scheme.

The Labor Government also focused heavily on regional aviation infrastructure, investing $260 million on new and upgraded airport facilities in recognition of the increasing demand for air travel between our capital cities and regional centres.

In the years since 2013 we’ve continued to work with the current Government in a constructive manner.

That is as it should be.


The old saying goes that it is better to be safe than sorry.

But it is just as important to resist complacency.

It doesn’t matter how many times our safety systems work when a single failure can lead to catastrophe.

That reminds me of a lesson about complacency from the world of shipping.

A journalist once asked a ship’s captain if he was confident that his newly launched vessel was safe.

The Captain said: “In all my experience I have never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about.’’

He continued: “I never saw a wreck and have never been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort.

“I will say that I cannot imagine any condition which could cause a ship to founder.

“I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel.’’

His name was Edward John Smith.

He was the Captain of the Titanic.

A reminder that we should be ever vigilant and never complacent.

Sep 8, 2017

Speech to the Hong Kong 20: Developments and Opportunities Business Forum – Hong Kong and its Lessons for Australia – Doltone House, Sydney

The year 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under the “one country, two systems” formula.  And in the two decades since that momentous event the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ has continued to successfully blend Eastern culture with Western values.

To be sure, it’s impossible not to be impressed by what one sees and feels in Hong Kong.  And I say that having experienced it for myself when I visited in 2015.

Because of its openness, dynamism and vitality, this metropolis has transformed itself into an international financial, shipping and commercial centre.  Whereas half a century ago manufacturing was at the heart of the City’s economy, the service sector now accounts for 93 per cent of Hong Kong’s GDP.

As noted by the territory’s former Financial Secretary:

“The ‘Made in Hong Kong’ label has been replaced by ‘Financed in …’, ‘Designed in …’, ‘Conceptualised in …’ and ‘Made by Hong Kong’.”

Today, Hong Kong is home to the world’s 6th largest stock market. It boasts the world’s 4th largest shipping register, and its international airport is the world’s busiest airfreight hub.

Above all, it is a magnet for people with imagination, vision and big ideas.


For proof of this you need only look at the major infrastructure they are building, projects that when completed will further drive Hong Kong’s economic development and link it more closely with the mainland.

They include an expansion of Hong Kong International Airport with the construction of a third runway on 650 hectares of reclaimed land and a mega 29 kilometre bridge connecting Hong Kong with the western part of the Pearl River Delta region.

Then there are the rail projects that Mr Leong’s MTR Corporation is delivering.

Firstly, a new cross-boundary Express Rail Link that will plug Hong Kong into China’s 16,000 kilometre High Speed Rail network and secure the territory’s position as the southern gateway to the mainland.  Once commissioned towards the end of next year, this link will, for example, cut travel times between Hong Kong and Guangzhou in half.

Secondly, in line with the Government’s policy of using rail as the backbone of Hong Kong’s transport system, MTR is currently expanding the rail network by 25 per cent, with new and extended lines having been commissioned in just the last two years – and there are more to come.

By 2021, the network will consist of more than 270 kilometres of track serving neighbourhoods where 70 per cent of the population live.

The Hong Kong authorities get it.

To make a modern city work you need to invest in rail infrastructure.

Such an investment is not only one of the most effective ways of reducing congestion and averting gridlock; it also delivers significant environmental spin-offs and helps prevent people and communities becoming socially isolated and economically disadvantaged.


But building rail lines is expensive.

And here again there are lessons we can learn from our Hong Kong friends.

MTR has pioneered the use of “innovative” financing.  Their “rail plus property” business model allows them to fund rail upgrades from the revenue stream derived from developing the land around and the airspace over stations for housing and commercial activities such as shopping malls and offices.

I am not suggesting that this model can simply be replicated here in Australia.  However I do believe that we have the intellectual capacity amongst both our policy makers and investment community to successfully adapt the principles that underpin it to develop a distinctly Australian approach to financing the infrastructure needs of Australian cities.

One project where such an approach could be applied is the much-needed Western Sydney Rail Link via the Western Sydney Airport.  Indeed, given much of the corridor along which the line would run is greenfield government-owned land, this project offers the greatest opportunity to test the potential of value capture within an Australian setting.

That’s why I have been so insistent that this vital piece infrastructure needs to be built alongside the residential and industrial developments that are planned instead of retrofitted after that growth has occurred, most likely at significantly greater cost to the taxpayer.

As Peter Newman, professor of sustainability at Perth’s Curtin University, has said:

“If you want to get money for the private sector you have to run it as a redevelopment project rather than as a transport project.”


As well as delivering the public transport infrastructure that’s key to Hong Kong’s economic productivity, MTR under Mr Leong’s leadership is also focussed on “creating communities”.

Quality of life matters.

And that brings me to urban policy more broadly.

A productive, efficient economy that produces jobs and prosperity is vital.  But equally, we also want a richer society – one that takes full account of the human elements of city life.

This is a view shared by the Hong Kong Government.

In the words of one of its senior officials:

“…we need to continue thinking as an international city, living as an international city, learning as an international city, and enjoying the high-quality lifestyle of an international city.  Only then, can we expect to nurture, to attract and to retain the best talent and to continue providing the opportunities that they expect.

“One good example is our approach to developing key areas of Hong Kong.  The development-first approach has been instilled with a new mindset of people-first development.”

As a metropolis with very limited land resources, Hong Kong faces a particular challenge fulfilling the growing aspirations of its 7.3 million residents for more living space and a better quality of life.  But as I have seen firsthand, Hong Kong is meeting this challenge head on, and in doing so is playing a leading role in driving the transformation of the global built environment.

The Government’s cutting-edge approach to balanced development is embodied in its “Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030”, a vision-driven, pragmatic and action-oriented plan.  It covers various aspects of the built environment, from land use planning to building design to the use of the latest energy-saving technology.

Importantly, the plan also recognises that preserving and creating green space, as well as places to enjoy cultural, sporting and leisure activities, is an integral part of a liveable metropolis.

And a good example of where this plan is already reshaping the city is taking place around one of Hong Kong’s best-known and most valuable natural resources: Victoria Harbour.

Indeed, there is one thing that Sydney and Hong Kong definitely have in common: both have the good fortune of being founded on harbours that are unique in terms of their size and beauty.  Victoria Harbour is a natural wonder that puts Hong Kong among the world’s great waterfront cities – and is a source of pride for the city’s residents.

And the $3.5 billion redevelopment of West Kowloon will make it even more accessible to locals and tourists alike.  The site is being converted into a world-class creative and cultural hub called “City Park”.

As well as green space, this new district will feature 17 arts and cultural venues, including a museum of contemporary visual culture and several performing arts and concert halls.

Once completed, you will be able to stroll along piazzas, take in an open air performance, or simply relax and enjoy stunning views of Hong Kong at one of the many cafes and restaurants.  All of this within walking distance of the West Kowloon terminus of the new Express Rail Link that I mentioned earlier.


I want to conclude today by emphasising that Australia has extensive and deep social, political and economic links with Hong Kong.  We have long recognised Hong Kong’s importance and acknowledged its extraordinary success at navigating the many challenges it has confronted over the past two decades, from the Asian financial crisis to the SARS epidemic to the global financial crisis.

As well as being Australia’s 5th most important source of total foreign investment, Hong Kong is our 15th largest market for goods exports – and an important market for our services.

What’s more, more Australians are living in Hong Kong than any place in the world, outside of Australia and – of course – London.

For our business community, Hong Kong is an important bridge into greater China and the wider Asian region.  That’s why over 600 Australian companies from a diverse range of industries including information technology, banking, accounting, legal and retail do business in Hong Kong, with many of them basing their regional headquarters in the territory.

For Australian companies it makes total sense to have a presence in the heart of the Asian region in what is the Asian Century.

Consider this one fact: between now and 2040, the world will need $118 trillion of new infrastructure to keep pace with population growth and urbanisation, with more than half of that need coming from Asian countries alone.

Without a doubt, this will offer immense commercial opportunities for Australian architects, engineers, construction firms, financiers and the resources companies that dig up the raw materials necessary to build the railways, roads, ports, power plants, telecommunication networks, dams and housing that will be required over the coming decades.

It is now up to us to grasp those opportunities.

Simply put, we need to adopt the imagination, boldness and entrepreneurial spirit that has long characterised the Hong Kong people and business community. Indeed, there is an old Chinese proverb that should guide our national efforts in the decades ahead.  Roughly translated, it tells us: Do not be afraid of a long road to success only be afraid of a shortage of ambition.





Aug 25, 2017

Speech to Queensland ALP Business Forum – Building Queensland’s Future – Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre

Good government is about planning and building for the future.

Indeed, in the highly competitive, globalised world of the 21st Century, the prices consumers pay, the profits businesses make, the quality of life people enjoy and the export income that’s generated will more than ever depend on the adequacy and quality of a nation’s roads, railways, sea and air ports, electricity grids, and telecommunication networks.

Simply put, infrastructure matters.

And that truism is even more apt if you are wanting to exploit the economic potential and connect the communities of a vast, decentralised and fast-growing state like Queensland.

But those very characteristics of this state make infrastructure provision particularly challenging for any Queensland government.

As we all know, Queensland is a big place – bigger than the UK, Germany, France and Italy combined.  And unlike the other states in the Commonwealth, its population is far more dispersed, with more than half of Queenslanders living outside of metropolitan Brisbane.

On top of that the state’s population will continue to grow at a faster rate than Australia overall.  In the ten years to 2016 Queensland’s population grew by 21 per cent to 4.85 million people.  By the early 2030s, 6.5 million people – or more than one in five Australians – will be calling Queensland home.

The bottom line is this: while it is of course the responsibility of the State Government to take the lead when it comes to identifying Queensland’s long-term infrastructure needs, it is also the case that modernising the state’s infrastructure is ultimately a task too big for them alone to achieve.

It will require a partnership between the state and the private sector.

And it will require a national government that’s prepared to play its part.


Unfortunately, in recent years Federal infrastructure investment has been in decline.

In 2016-17 alone, the Turnbull Government slashed the Federal infrastructure budget by $1.6 billion, with almost a quarter of that cut falling on the state of Queensland.

They cut funding for major road projects, including the Bruce Highway Upgrade.

They cut funding for fixing dangerous blackspots on local roads.

And they even cut funding for building new roadside facilities such as rest stops for truck drivers.

And despite all their spin in the lead up to this year’s budget about “good” debt versus “bad” debt, that downward trend is set to continue.

Over the next four years, Federal infrastructure grant funding – the money that goes to the states, territories and local government to deliver major road and rail projects – will fall from $8 billion this financial year to $4.2 billion in 2020-21.

In the words of the peak industry body, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia:

“…the Budget confirms the cut to ‘real’ budgeted capital funding to its lowest level in more than a decade – using a mix of underspend, re-profiling and narrative to cover this substantial drop in real capital expenditure.”

The fact is Federal grant funding is vital – and less of it will mean less infrastructure.

But it gets worse.

According the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, Federal investment in the nation’s transport infrastructure, expressed as a proportion of GDP, will drop from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent over the coming decade.

That’s a 50 per cent cut.

At a time when the investment phase of the mining boom is winding down, the current government should be building national capacity.  Instead, they are cutting investment in the infrastructure that would do precisely that.


However, the Prime Minister thinks he has found the silver bullet that will more than make up for the cuts he is making to the traditional sources of Federal infrastructure funding – namely, the creation of the Infrastructure Financing Unit within his own Department.

According to the Department’s website:

“The new agency will work with Commonwealth Agencies, the private sector, states and territories on funding and financing opportunities such as public private partnerships, concessional loans, equity injections and value capture.”

But this new bureaucracy is a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Firstly, it duplicates what already exists at a Federal level. Infrastructure Australia already has the legislative mandate to advise government on how projects can best be financed.

Secondly, public private partnerships, value capture and equity injections are not new. The fact is state governments, together with the private sector, have long been pioneers in the development and implementation of these types of so-called “innovative” financing arrangements.

What’s more, the former Federal Labor Government also made use of such arrangements to deliver major projects such as Northconnex and the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal in Sydney, as well as Legacy Way here in Brisbane and the Gold Coast Light Rail.

And under the agreement I struck with the former Queensland LNP Government back in 2013, a combination of innovative financing arrangements – together with traditional grant funding – was to be used to deliver the Melbourne Metro and Cross River Rail.

For the reasons I have just outlined, the next Federal Labor Government will abolish the IFU and redirect the resulting savings into Infrastructure Australia.  This will in part be used to re-establish the Major Cities Unit to drive policies that will improve the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our nation’s urban communities.

Another concern I have about this Government’s decision to withdraw public investment and make the private sector do more of the heavy lifting when it comes to infrastructure provision is the effect it will have upon what gets built in this country.

If whether or not a commercial return can be realised is the sole or even the primary criterion by which the merits of proposed projects are judged, than we will inevitably see a distortion in the infrastructure market away for urban passenger rail and towards toll roads.

The fact is public transport does not produce an immediate commercial return.

That’s why, when governments are weighing up roads against rail, they need to consider the full range of benefits rail delivers including those benefits that are not relevant to private investors such as its economic, social and environmental spin-offs.

For example, rail helps tackle traffic congestion which in turn lifts national productivity.  And as well as reducing carbon emissions, putting freight on the back of trains makes our roads safer by take trucks off them.

So yes, the private sector does have an important role to play in closing the infrastructure funding gap.

But governments cannot avoid the fact that they will have to invest directly if they want projects, particularly urban passenger rail projects, to happen.


And that brings me back to Cross River Rail.

In Federal Labor’s last Budget in 2013 we announced that we had reached an agreement with the then Queensland LNP Government to deliver the project in partnership with the private sector.

The deal was done – a fact publicly confirmed by former Premier Campbell Newman earlier this year.

This of course followed Infrastructure Australia’s approval of it in 2012 as a ‘ready to go’, nationally significant project and significant planning work by the Bligh Labor Government.

Cross River Rail was then and remains today a no brainer.

As well as creating almost 8000 jobs during its construction, this new piece of rail infrastructure will:

  • Ease traffic congestion by taking up to 18,500 cars a day off the major arterial roads;
  • Increase network reliability;
  • Improve access to the CBD;
  • Allow for more frequent services on all suburban lines, including to and from the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast; and
  • Ensure South East Queenslanders can get to and from work quicker.

Without transformative projects like Cross River Rail, the economic cost of traffic congestion here in Brisbane and across the South East Corner will increase almost five-fold to $9.2 billion a year by 2031.

Yet four years after withdrawing every dollar of Federal funding from the project and redirecting that money to new toll roads in Sydney and Melbourne, the current Federal Coalition Government continues to make excuses as to why they won’t contribute anything toward it.

And earlier today I exposed yet another one these excuses as the dishonest distraction it always was.

For more than two years Malcolm Turnbull and his ministers have repeatedly claimed that the Queensland Government’s business case was deficient because it did not adequately detail if and how innovative financing arrangements such as value capture could be used to deliver the project.

However, Infrastructure Australia has never needed this information.

And we know this because Infrastructure Australia has told us so.

In response to a question posed by a Labor Senator during the most recent Senate Estimates hearings about the need for business cases to fully consider value capture opportunities, Infrastructure Australia responded:

Infrastructure Australia does not take account of funding sources, including value capture, in its economic evaluation of project business cases.

They could not have been clearer.

The reality is, while Malcolm Turnbull likes taking selfies on trains, tram and buses, his policy towards Federal funding of public transport projects remains exactly the same as his predecessor’s.

By contrast the Palaszczuk Labor Government is providing the leadership Queenslanders want when it comes to public transport infrastructure.

In particular, I welcome their decision to simply get on with the job of building this new rail line – and to go it alone if necessary.


Another area of infrastructure where the Palaszczuk Labor Government is filling the void created by a complete lack of leadership from the Turnbull Government is energy.

I am pleased to report that despite the dysfunctionality and policy inertia that currently characterises the nation’s capital – a combination that has directly led to escalating energy prices – the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well here in Queensland.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to see that spirit firsthand and meet some of the people building this nation’s energy future with strong encouragement from and the active support of Premier Palaszczuk and her ministers.

Firstly, I visited Genex’s Kidston Solar Project located 280 kilometres north west of Townsville on the site of the now abandoned Kidston Gold Mine.

Stage 1, which involves the installation of 537,000 photovoltaic cells mounted on a tracking system that follows the sun across the sky, is already under construction.

Once commissioned early next year, this facility will generate 50 MW, enough electricity to power more than 26,000 homes.

The second stage will involve the construction of a 250 MW pumped storage hydro project and an additional solar project with a generation capacity of 270 MW, which will make it the largest solar farm in Australia. More important, this integration of solar and pumped storage will provide stability to the grid and a pathway to the 24/7 supply of renewables.

The second place I visited will soon become the site of the Kennedy Energy Park. Located outside of Hughenden, this ground-breaking project will combine solar, wind and battery storage to create renewable energy on a scale comparable to the State’s large coal-fired plants like Tarong and Stanwell – that’s is enough electricity to power up to 1 million homes.

Without a doubt, it is a site of some of the world’s best wind and solar resources.

While both projects have been strongly backed by the Palaszczuk Labor Government, it is also worth noting that both might have withered on the vine if not for the financial support of the Clean Energy Corporation (CFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).  Established by the former Federal Labor Government, these are two national institutions which the current Federal Government has repeatedly tried to abolish.


Lastly, for those wondering what to expect on infrastructure from the next Federal Labor Government, I would simply point them to our record between 2007 and 2013.

During that period we restored national leadership through the appointment of Australia’s first ever Federal Infrastructure Minister and the creation of a Federal Infrastructure Department.  We ended the Commonwealth’s self-imposed exile from our cities and re-engaged with state, territories and local government on urban policy.

We established Infrastructure Australia to break the link between the three or four year electoral cycle and the investment cycle, and bring a strategic, objective, and evidence-based approach to the assessment of projects and the nation’s longer-term infrastructure needs.

And when we return to government we will restore its independence and will listen to its advice.

When it came to actual investment, the former Labor Government doubled the roads budget, increased investment in rail ten-fold and committed more to urban public transport than all our predecessors since Federation combined.

Here in Queensland we more than doubled annual spending from $143 to $314 per Queenslander.

In South East Queensland alone, we committed $6.3 billion to major infrastructure projects – more than what the Howard Government had spent across the whole of the State.

As part of this unprecedented capital works program we upgraded the major roads connecting Brisbane to Ipswich in the west – a $2.5 billion investment in the Ipswich Motorway; Brisbane to the Gold Coast in the south – a $455 million investment in the Pacific Motorway; and Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast in the north – a $195 million investment in the Bruce Highway.

In particular, you may be interested to know that the upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway remains South East Queensland’s largest ever Federally-funded road project.

We also cooperated with the Queensland Government to fix congested sections of the Gateway Motorway, and construct a new interchange at the intersection between Mains and Kessels Roads.

And as I mentioned earlier, we partnered with the private sector and Brisbane City Council to deliver the $1.5 billion Legacy Way.

Beyond Brisbane and the South East Corner, we made an unprecedented $5.7 billion investment in upgrading the State’s most important regional road: the Bruce Highway. That was four times what our predecessors invested over 12 long years of neglect.

In fact, two-thirds of the infrastructure investment we made in Queensland went into the State’s rural and regional communities.


In short, the next Federal Labor Government – like the last one – will follow the example set by our great nation building predecessors – visionaries such as Andrew Fisher who gave us the transcontinental railway; Ben Chifley who turned the Snowy Hydro dream into a reality; and Gough Whitlam who transformed the outer suburbs of our cities.

Labor will plan and build for our nation’s future.

That’s what Labor Governments do.

Aug 18, 2017

Speech to Australasian Railway Association Rail Freight Conference – Intercontinental Hotel, Sydney

On 17 October, Australia will celebrate the centenary of the opening of the transcontinental railway.

This nation building project, the vision of Labor Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, connected our east and west coasts in 1917 after five years of construction.

In many ways the completion of the line marked Australia’s coming of age.

It opened up new and previously uncontemplated opportunities for travel, trade and economic development.

As Fisher said in Port Augusta when construction commenced, the best thing the Parliament could do for posterity in those early years of nationhood was to open up Australia by building railways and ports.

He said: “Of that Parliament, the people who live afterwards would say that it made easier the road and lighter the load, and enabled them to progress by honest industry.”

Andrew Fisher was right.

Over the past 150 years, rail has done more to promote economic development and commerce than any other technology.

In 2017, when we can fly to the other side of the world in a day, it would be tempting to write off rail as a quaint relic of the past.

But that would be a mistake.

Today, right around the globe, rail’s influence is growing, not declining.

It continues to underpin industrial growth, particularly in the developing nations of the Asian and African continents.

It is a central component of China’s multi-billion dollar Belt and Road initiative, which will link a huge economic zone connecting Asia, Europe and Africa.

In America, new lines are under construction in California and Texas.

And across Europe, Asia and North America, governments are investing billions of dollars in High Speed Rail lines as a genuine alternative to air and road travel.

Rail also maintains its importance in Australia, handling half of the domestic freight task.

That task grew by 50 per cent in the decade to 2016 and is forecast to grow by another 26 per cent by 2026.

Likewise, passenger rail stands as a potent weapon in the battle against traffic congestion in our cities, which is eroding our quality of life and acting as a hand brake on national productivity and economic growth.

Rail also offers huge opportunities in terms of regional development, both through freight projects like Inland Rail and the most visionary project of all – High Speed Rail down Australia’s eastern coast.

My message is that the future of rail is bright …,

…. as long as we make the necessary investment to maintain and expand our rail systems.


To set the scene, let me offer a brief overview of this year’s Federal Budget.

Pre-Budget posturing about the difference between good and bad debt raised hopes within the sector that the Budget would include an increase in infrastructure investment.

It did not.

The Government cut $1.6 billion from the infrastructure budget in the year to June 30 this year.

And over the Forward Estimates investment will decline every year from $7.6 billion in 2016-17 to $4.2 billion by 2020-21.

Analysis of long-term trends by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office shows that over the next decade, Commonwealth investment in transport infrastructure, expressed as a proportion of GDP, will fall from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent.

That’s cutting it in half.

At a time when the investment stage of the mining boom is winding down, our government should be building national capacity.

Instead, it is cutting investment.

In its Budget response, the infrastructure sector’s peak representative body, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, warned that the Budget would take real, budgeted capital funding of infrastructure to its lowest level in more than a decade.

The organisation also accused the Government of trying to hide its cuts with a mixture of “underspending, re-profiling and narrative’’.

That was a polite way of saying the Government is making things up.


The decline in funding can be traced to a major policy shift away from provision of federal infrastructure grants to the states.

Instead, the Government proposes to seek more private investment for public projects using what it describes as innovative financing arrangements like value capture and availability payments.

To that end, it has created an Infrastructure Financing Agency within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

It ought to be noted here that value capture, equity funding and availability payments are not new.

As you know, they’ve been around for decades.

They were used by the former Federal Labor Government on a range of projects, including Northconnex in Sydney, the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal, Legacy Way in Brisbane and the Gold Coast Light Rail project.

Such innovative mechanisms were also included in the former Labor Government’s 2013 agreements with the Victorian and Queensland Governments to deliver the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail.

The Coalition scrapped both when it came to office.

The IFU is not needed.

It is a solution looking for a problem that does not exist.

It will duplicate the existing role of Infrastructure Australia, which already has the legislative mandate to advise on financing arrangements.

Infrastructure Australia’s job is to assess business cases of projects.

If they stack up, it has the capacity to work with states or private sector proponents on financing options. That’s happened before and it can happen again.

Creation of the IFU also downplays the considerable financing expertise that exists in state governments, which have traditionally handled such matters.

Prior to the Budget, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia told the Government not to create the IFU.

Instead, it called on the government to stop cutting infrastructure grants to the states.

A Labor Government will abolish the IFU.

We’ll direct its funding back to Infrastructure Australia, including re-establishing the Major Cities Unit to drive policy aimed at improving the productivity, sustainability and liveability of the nation’s cities.


In recent months the Prime Minister has said many times that he wants state government proposals for public transport projects to incorporate value capture.

However, using the Senate Budget Estimates process, the Opposition has confirmed that, despite this requirement, Infrastructure Australia has not considered value capture in any of its assessments of projects on its Infrastructure Priority List.

So we have a situation where the Prime Minister is publicly rejecting projects like Brisbane’s Cross River Rail because he wants value capture, when Infrastructure Australia’s assessment processes don’t even examine value capture.

I am also aware that despite that fact, Infrastructure Australia wrote to the Queensland Government on May 19 this year complaining that the business case it produced for the Cross River Rail project address issues of value capture.

It’s hard to see why they would be asking for information on value capture if it is not relevant to their assessment of the project’s business case.

This makes me wonder whether all of the Government’s talk about value capture is just a smokescreen from a government that is not prepared to invest in public transport projects.


Another concern about the new approach toward less public investment and more private investment is the effect it will have upon what gets built in this country.

It will distort the infrastructure market towards toll roads and away from urban passenger rail.
This is because toll roads generate commercial rates of return.

Public transport is a more difficult proposition for the private sector because it does not produce immediate commercial rates of return.

When weighing up roads against rail, we need to consider the full range of public benefits provided by rail including public benefits that are not relevant to private investors.

Rail helps tackle traffic congestion and thereby lifts productivity.

Trains, whether they carry freight or people, take trucks off the road and reduce overall carbon emissions.

He is a real-life example of the outcomes of this policy distortion.

Fairfax Media has established that the NSW Coalition Government ordered its bureaucrats to ignore rail as an option when considering ways to tackle traffic congestion and improving commuting times between Sydney and Wollongong.

This instruction left the bureaucrats with one option – constructing the F6 Motorway and putting a toll on it.

But documents obtained by Fairfax included a Transport Department paper headed “Failure in Critical Options Analysis’’ which attacked the toll road idea on the basis that a rail option would be cheaper.

It said completing the Maldon to Dombarton freight line would remove coal trains from the existing Illawarra line, freeing up space for passenger trains.

This, combined with construction of the Thirroul Rail tunnel between Waterfall and Wollongong, would reduce travelling time from Wollongong to Central Station by a third to 60 minutes.

Yet the NSW Government deliberately shut off the rail option.

This is absurd.

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics tells us that traffic congestion is costing the nation $16 billion a year in lost productivity.

We won’t tackle this problem simply by building more toll roads.

We could get cars off the roads by investing in public transport, particularly in new suburbs not currently served by trains.

We could get even more trucks off the road by proceeding with freight rail projects like the Port Botany Freight Line duplication between Mascot and the Port.


Labor supports the proposed Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne.

In Government, we invested $600 million upgrading parts of the existing rail network that will form part of the Inland Rail route.

And in the 2013 Budget, we allocated $300 million to complete the detailed planning and get the project under way.

But in 2017, I am concerned the Government is jeopardising Inland Rail by refusing to commit the necessary grant funding to make it a reality.

When it took office in 2013, the Coalition appointed former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson to prepare an implementation study.

The resulting report noted that even over 50 years of operation of Inland Rail, revenues will not be sufficient to cover its construction costs.

Mr Anderson wrote: “Hence, a substantial public funding contribution is required to deliver Inland Rail.’’

But the Government ignored Mr Anderson.

Its proposal to fund this project is based entirely on an equity injection into the Australian Rail Track Corporation, with no grant funding.

For equity funding arrangements to work, a project must be able to stand on its own and generate a return to the Budget.

However media organisation Crikey recently reported that when it asked the Government how Inland Rail could make a return to the Budget, it was told the existence of such a return was not based on Inland Rail as a discrete entity, but on “returns for equity for ARTC as a whole rather than for the Inland Rail project’’.

This was a critical admission.

It tells us the Government is cooking the books to make Inland Rail stack up.

Unwilling to provide the required component of direct grant funding as per Mr Anderson’s advice; the Government is asking all users of the ARTC’s freight rail system to subsidise Inland Rail.

That is a fiddle.

My other concern is the fact that on current planning, Inland Rail will stop 38km from the Port of Brisbane, at Acacia Ridge.


Getting the planning right on rail requires us to think well ahead.

That includes taking steps to prevent future rail corridors being built out by urban sprawl.

I found myself nodding in agreement recently when I read Infrastructure Australia’s report urging governments to act now to protect corridors for seven projects on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list.

Those projects included High Speed Rail down the east coast, the Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line, and Port of Brisbane Freight Line.

Infrastructure Australia said that if these corridors were protected now, we could save taxpayers up to $11 billion by avoiding cost overruns, delays and community disruption when projects are being delivered.

The report said:

If we protect infrastructure corridors we will reduce project costs and especially minimise the need for underground tunnelling, where the cost to government and therefore taxpayers can be up to ten times higher than it would have been.

Infrastructure Australia’s report represents common sense.

The former Labor Government tried to preserve the corridor for the proposed High Speed Rail Line between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

In 2013, having established via a feasibility study that the project would return $2.50 for every dollar invested, we appointed an independent expert panel to recommend the best way to proceed.

That panel included the Business Council of Australia’s Jennifer Westacott, former Deputy Prime Minister Tom Fischer and the late Bryan Nye from the ARA.

The panel recommended we move quickly to protect the corridor.

Accordingly, we allocated $54 million in the 2013 Budget to create a High Speed Authority to preserve the corridor and progress the project.

Unfortunately, the incoming Coalition Government scrapped that plan.

This was incredibly short-sighted.

Infrastructure planning requires that governments think in the long-term.

It’s not just about cutting ribbons at opening ceremonies for new projects. Part of the job includes putting in the detailed work today to make tomorrow’s projects possible.

If we fail to act on securing the High Speed Rail corridor, the project will, over time, become unviable.

If we fail to secure corridors for freight rail projects, we risk increasing the future cost of delivery to the point where these important projects become unviable.

We should establish a High Speed Rail Authority to secure the corridor and advance planning. We should also invite expressions of interest from international companies with relevant expertise in building and operating High Speed Rail.

More broadly, we should take Infrastructure Australia’s advice and consider corridor preservation for all projects in the Infrastructure Australia Priority List.

We should do this in a spirit of bipartisanship.


For those who wonder what approach a Labor Government would take on freight rail, I simply point our record in Government between 2007 and 2013.

We rebuilt over a third of the network – 3,800 kilometres of existing track – and laid 235 kilometres of new track.

Our work cut travel times along the Melbourne to Brisbane corridor by six hours, and between Perth and the east coast by nine hours.

We separated freight and passenger rail lines by delivering the Southern Sydney Freight Line – a dedicated freight line between Macarthur and Chullora that provides access for up to five freight trains per hour in each direction and, for the first time, 24-hour access to Port Botany through southern Sydney.

Likewise we invested $840 million towards the $1.1 billion Northern Sydney Freight Corridor project, delivering a dedicated line between North Strathfield and Gosford, which will take up to 200,000 trucks off the roads a year.

We upgraded the Port Botany Rail Line increasing the number of containers that can be transported along the line from 700,000 to around 1 million a year.

With Port Botany freight expected to grow at 7 per cent per annum, we put in place the Moorebank Intermodal project, which will generate more than $11 billion in economic benefits.

The former Labor Government also reformed transport regulation.

We replaced 23 separate state, territory and Federal agencies that previously regulated heavy vehicles, rail safety and maritime safety, along with their costly and confusing array of regulations, with just three national regulators each administering one set of modern, nationwide laws.

That reform will boost national income by up to $30 billion over the next 20 years.

A logical next step in micro-economic reform is to streamline procurement of rolling stock to boost the domestic rail manufacturing and maintenance industry, which employs almost 20,000 Australians and contributes $1.75 billion to the national economy annually.

Under current arrangements states are doing their own thing on procurement, with 36 different train models in our public transport fleet, many being purchased overseas.

For example, NSW recently placed a $1.7 billion order for new Waratah trains with a Chinese manufacturer, and their new $2.3 billion intercity trains are to be built in Korea.

Surely it would better to standardise the rolling stock platform used in this country instead of designing a new model each time a government decides to acquire new trains or trams.

With governments nationwide planning to spend more than $46 billion on new urban rail infrastructure and rolling stock, our goal must be to keep as much of that investment that we can here in Australia.

If we do that we can improve rail capacity while also boosting jobs growth.

The time has come for a serious examination of the merits of establishing a national public transport authority in which the Commonwealth partners with the states to maximise opportunities for local manufacturers and suppliers.


When things go off the rails in any undertaking, I’ve always found it is useful to return to first principles.

So let me offer an actual policy solution to the problem of attracting more private investment into public infrastructure projects.

Back in 2008, I had the great privilege of taking the legislation that created Infrastructure Australia through the House of Representatives.

In my second Reading speech on the legislation, I made a comment that is just as relevant today.

I said:

Infrastructure investment needs to be determined objectively and according to long-term need, not short-term political interests, thereby creating an environment conducive to greater private investment in public infrastructure.

So nation-building requires not only foresight, but a more national co-ordinated approach to infrastructure reform and investment – something the business community has long championed.

Businesses don’t want advice from politicians about how to finance major investments.

What they want is bipartisan commitment to a pipeline of projects that have been assessed and embraced on the basis of need, not politics.

They want a predictable roll out of projects on the basis of need so that a change of government in Canberra does not mean properly assessed projects are dumped and replaced with other projects for which there is no commercial case.

That was the whole idea behind the creation of Infrastructure Australia.

It’s disappointing that the current government has found itself unable to stick by such principles.

But the bottom line here is that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

We’ve already got a model for a better way to go about nation building.

We should just use it.

Jul 18, 2017

‘Positive politics in the age of disruption’ – Address to 34th Annual Earle Page Political Lecture, University of New England

Thank you for the honour of giving the Earle Page Political Lecture for 2017.

Here I am as a former Labor Deputy Prime Minister, in New England, the seat of the current Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader, Barnaby Joyce, giving a lecture named after Country Party Leader Sir Earle Page who rose to be Prime Minister, even if just for three weeks.

It struck me that my very presence giving this lecture could be seen as a metaphor for what is my theme – positive politics in the age of disruption.

We certainly live in a period where politics as usual has been turned on its head.

Traditional allegiances are far less entrenched.

In the United States, we’ve seen the rise of President Donald Trump.

In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is within reach of becoming Prime Minister.

In France, Emmanuel Macron has been swept into office, winning an enviable majority of seats.

Time and again we have seen orthodoxy abandoned in favour of candidates and platforms of the right, left and centre.

But what these movements have in common is they have tapped into an increasing dissatisfaction with the outcomes of economic globalisation.

This is despite the substantial benefits we’ve seen accrue from globalisation, which has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.

Products in Australia once considered luxury items are now available much more widely.

When I was a child we had a home phone, unlike many of our neighbours in our public housing community.

We had an honesty system in place, with a money box next to it, for people to deposit a coin for its use.

Now in Australia there are more mobile phones than people.

Plane travel is five times more affordable than it was 20 years ago.

Australians have never been better educated and we are living longer.

But the simple fact is that some have benefited from globalisation more than others.

And the consequences of this are broad reaching, with many turning to ballot boxes at election time to express their resentment.

The current political shake-up can be traced in an immediate sense to the Global Financial Crisis.

Millions of people lost their jobs, many their homes, because of a series of events for which they were not responsible.

By and large those who were responsible escaped comparatively unscathed.

It was a stark demonstration of the inequality of power distribution in society.

It led to a critique of neo-liberal economics and a recognition that without government intervention, markets can create bad outcomes and almost always create unequal outcomes.

Unpredictable election outcomes and expressions of dissatisfaction with the prevailing order exemplified by Brexit have been described as politics in the age of disruption.

This has led many active participants and commentators to be negative about the future.

I think this assessment is wrong. And self-defeating.

In our pursuit of change it can feel like every time we take one step forward, it’s followed by two steps back.

But as Barack Obama once said, ‘if you’re walking down the right path, and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.’

Tonight I will argue that in the words of musician Ian Dury, there are indeed “reasons to be cheerful’’.

Of course there are many across the political spectrum who define present circumstances negatively by romanticising the past.

For progressives who, by definition, believe in the better instincts of humanity, this is very much a contradictory trait.

I have been in many debates with people who have asserted with despair: “Labor isn’t what it used to be”.

My response is that it is true that we no longer support the White Australia Policy; it is true that we are now moving towards equal representation for women; and it is also true that we now support equal rights regardless of sexuality.

Political parties evolve with society and my argument tonight is that over time that change is progressive.

This approach is consistent with a faith in humanity.

Progressives consistently fail to celebrate our victories.

Sometimes this is because we have already moved on to the next challenge.

If you’re about defending existing power relationships in society, you don’t have that issue.

You celebrate the past almost by definition.

To inspire the next generation, including students at this university, we should seek to understand the past, celebrate the gains of the present, and both anticipate and create the future.

Social change doesn’t just happen.

It is made to happen.

I believe that an analysis which is optimistic about future prospects is a pre-condition for inspiring that positive change.


In Australia, it is fair to say that recent years have seen an increase in negative politics on a superficial level.

We’ve had changes of Prime Minister, with two replaced in the first term after their election.

The question is: will this instability become a permanent feature of the political landscape?

There is no doubt that the pace of the media is having an impact.

Complex issues cannot be addressed in 140 characters.

The immediacy of online news websites means that no one wants to miss a big event so detailed discussion of ideas is reduced to political power plays.

It makes a mature discussion of challenges more difficult.

This can advantage the Opposition, but a plan to get into government does not equate to a plan to govern, as we saw with Tony Abbott.

Labor has been determined to not repeat this mistake and has worked hard on comprehensive policy plans.

Bill Shorten deserves credit for leading from Opposition on difficult issues such as reform to negative gearing and capital gains tax to improve housing affordability.

The Australian people are desperate for an end to disruption.

I believe that is why Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to the Prime Ministership was welcomed so strongly.

His statement that he would treat the population like adults and move to less divisive political leadership appealed to a public that had been exhausted by what it perceived as consistently negative politics.

It was indeed positive politics in the age of disruption.

Unfortunately it has become all too clear that the internal compromises he made to secure support have led to the current disappointment.

Both major parties clearly have a vested interest in renewing faith in mainstream politics.

I want to outline some of the long term challenges that Australia faces, which, if we can work through as a nation, will be critical in changing politics in Australia for the better.

I would argue that these are consistent with the politics of the last century, which has seen the promotion of progressive ideas that are seen as radical at first, then accepted over time as a result of community support.

Medicare, compulsory superannuation and expanding access to education are fundamental issues that were fought strongly by the forces of reaction but are now cemented as part of the Australian ethos.

When governments attempt to attack the Australian consensus and wind back the gains of the past, as the 2014 Budget did, they meet strident opposition.

Nowhere is this stronger than in social policy.

Whilst there is more to be done, removing much of the discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity and sexuality has already made a fundamental difference.

The first woman elected to the House of Representative from NSW was my predecessor as the Member for Grayndler, Jeannette McHugh, in 1983.

Think about that for a moment.

Not a single woman from this, our most populous state, in 83 years.

Since then 107 women have been elected to the House of Representatives across Australia and, at the last election, we elected the first Indigenous woman in Linda Burney.

The refusal to offer an apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people eventually was overwhelmed.

Kevin Rudd’s apology will go down as an important step in reconciliation and certainly the finest moment in the Parliament so far this century.

In my first term in 1998 I introduced a Private Members Bill to give same-sex partners access to their superannuation.

It was blocked from a debate or vote.

I found out later that some colleagues from interstate assumed I was gay, for the simple reasoning that it would explain why I was raising the issue.

A decade later the Labor Government removed 84 areas of discrimination in legislation against same-sex couples in numerous areas including immigration, health and education.

This was largely uncontroversial and received bipartisan support.

And the unfinished business of marriage equality now has a majority of support both inside and outside the Parliament.

The recent Budget saw the Coalition adopt some of the central principles at least rhetorically, that have been advanced by Labor in recent years.

While the change of rhetoric is welcome, what is also required is a change of substance.

This included an acceptance that Australians see Medicare as the central component of the provision of universal health care.

That school funding should be needs based.

That the NDIS is critical reform.

That infrastructure investment in our regions and cities which boosts economic productivity is “good debt”.

This is a start – and motivations have been rightly questioned – but while words can be positive, it is of course actions that really count.

It does seem to me that stating that these principles have been broadly accepted at least in the rhetorical sense, should be a source of pride for those who have been long term advocates for these positions.

And it certainly does not mean that there are not arguments to be had about the sincerity of this broad adoption, let alone the practical implementation of those principles.

The principle of universal health care needs to be supported by the Medicare Rebate and hospital funding being improved.

The principle of needs-based education funding must be supported by resourcing to allow the “full Gonski” to be delivered.

And we need to enhance the role of early childhood education in realising the potential of our younger generations.

The principle of infrastructure development needs to be supported by real investment, not the cuts that were in this year’s Budget.

The rhetorical acceptance of these previously contested positions such as needs-based education funding, should facilitate a focus on how to achieve these objectives.

Moving on from old arguments should also permit greater consideration of the long term challenges which face Australia.

Tonight I want to discuss just a few of these: infrastructure including the National Broadband Network; climate change; and inequality.


On infrastructure the Government raised expectations prior to the Budget by accepting what economists, the Reserve Bank, the Business Council of Australia and Labor have been saying for some time.

That borrowing for productivity boosting infrastructure is sound economic policy.

This is particularly the case given the context of the resources sector moving from the construction to the production phase, low interest rates and the high infrastructure deficit.

We know that in the short term infrastructure creates jobs and generates economic activity.

In the long term, infrastructure boosts productivity, producing revenue for the Government and a return to the national economy.

The former Labor Government doubled the roads budget, increased the rail budget more than tenfold and invested more in public transport than all previous Governments since Federation.

Our major reform was the creation of the independent advisory group, Infrastructure Australia to ensure the right projects were funded with the right financing and proper planning.

This region benefited greatly from the Hunter Expressway, a $1.7 billion investment which was a central component of the economic stimulus plan

The New England Highway, benefited from $40 million of upgrades to sections both north and south of Armidale.

It is often said of politicians that “they need to get out more”, and when it comes to regional infrastructure that is true.

Tony Windsor and I drove the Highway to the Bolivia Hill Blackspot which, once visited, ensured that funding flowed for it, as well as for the Tenterfield Bypass.

We also invested in Roads to Recovery, the Black Spot Program and upgraded the Livestock Selling Complex here in Armidale, to make it safer for truck drivers and workers.

Right across the country there are good examples of projects that connect people and freight to regional centres.

The Inland Rail Project is one which has bipartisan support.

While we were in Government, $900 million was allocated to upgrade existing track and secure the corridor, following on from our landmark study.

The recent Budget committed substantial funding to the ARTC for the project, but every dollar of it as equity funding.

This contradicts former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson’s review which found that it would not produce a return on capital for 50 years.

I am concerned that the need for grant funding has been ignored and that this will undermine the project in the future, as will the fact that current plans have it stopping at Acacia Ridge, some 38 kilometres short of the Port of Brisbane.

Projects should be transparent about their finances.

The economic development of regional centres such as Parkes along the route, the pressure taken off the coastal routes and the safety, environmental and economic benefits of replacing heavy vehicle movements with rail all combine to mean that Inland Rail deserves support.

It will fail if its financing is based upon false premises and there is not transparency.

Passenger rail is another significant priority for regional communities.

The Regional Rail Link, in Victoria, allows commuters from Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong rapid access to Melbourne on a new rail line that is separate from the existing Melbourne passenger train network.

The Regional Rail Link was the largest ever Commonwealth investment in a public transport project.

The big game changer is the proposed High Speed Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

This project demonstrates that carefully targeted Commonwealth investment can make a real difference when it comes to strengthening links between cities and regions, lifting productivity for both.

It could transform the economies of those regional centres along the route including Lismore, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, Goulburn, Wagga Wagga, Albury and Shepparton.

It is positive that the Government has recognised rhetorically that there is a role for the Commonwealth in investing in regions AND cities, in road AND rail, and in moving freight AND people.

However, by creating an Infrastructure Financing Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department, it has sidelined Infrastructure Australia. Its insistence that projects must produce a commercial return means that the market will be distorted to fund just toll roads.

This will have a devastating impact on regional Australia, as demonstrated by last week’s absurd proposition that the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility be used to fund toll roads in Far North Queensland.

The Infrastructure Australia model is important because it is designed to break the nexus between the short term political cycle and the long term infrastructure investment cycle.

Long term investment certainty is required for visionary projects that will make a real difference to our future prosperity.

The Western Sydney Airport is an example of a project that could not proceed without bipartisan support.

This project is not only important for the economic transformation of Western Sydney; it is critical for regional NSW to have continued access to Sydney for its people and its produce.


Of course in the Digital Age, the easiest way to overcome the tyranny of distance which disadvantages our regions is access to a 21st century National Broadband Network.

That means fibre to the premise, not copper.

Right here in Armidale was the first mainland community to receive the rollout of the NBN.

If a business here in Armidale can have the same access to markets and customers as a business based in Sydney or the world, it moves from a position of locational disadvantage, to one of advantage due to lower overhead costs.

The same advantage applies for this outstanding university.

High-speed broadband is essential for uploads, not just downloads.

It is also about more than enhancing productivity.

It is about the provision of health and education services.

But it is also an enabler for creating opportunity and equity.

This makes it an essential component of economic and social policy for the future.


Climate change is our biggest intergenerational challenge.

Right now we have an opportunity with the Finkel Review to draw a line in the sand and move forward in a bipartisan way.

While the Government has agreed to 49 of the 50 energy suggestions in the Review, it hasn’t yet reached a decision on a Clean Energy Target.

To be clear, this is not our preferred path forward – that is for an Emissions Intensity Scheme.

But Australians need the current policy paralysis in the energy sector to come to an end and we will work with the Government to achieve this.

Since the price on carbon was abolished, wholesale energy costs have doubled.

The policy uncertainty has stifled investment, undermined the national energy market and is hurting vulnerable Australians who cannot afford to pay their energy bills.

Alan Finkel himself, the Chief Scientist of Australia, has said that putting a Clean Energy Target framework in place would see investment restart, pollution reduce, job opportunities increase, and a reduction in wholesale power prices.

These are all great outcomes.

The fact is most Australians understand the arguments for action.

The world is moving toward a low-emissions future.

Three quarters of Australia’s coal and gas-generation are already operating beyond their design life.

With Australia’s capacity for innovation and our abundant natural resources we should be a world leader in renewable energy.

This policy area exemplifies the need for a consensus about at least the framework moving forward.


It is the poorest people in our communities who bear the brunt of our most significant challenges.

This includes those challenges I have raised – the provision of infrastructure, digital connectivity, the impact of climate change and the transition to renewable energy.

As governments develop policy solutions, we must consider equity issues, or else political disenfranchisement across our nation will only deepen.

The fact is inequality in Australia is at a 75-year high.

An Oxfam Report recently found that the two wealthiest Australians own more than the poorest 20 per cent of the population.

And, at a time when real wages are falling and the Reserve Bank Governor has said that we need to increase wages, we’ve seen cuts to penalty rates actually reduce the real wages of some of our most poorly paid.

The former RBA Governor, Bernie Fraser, has referred to a “danger point’’ where the gap between the rich and poor could grow so much it would have “awful’’ far reaching consequences.

There is a spatial dimension to inequality in Australia.

Research conducted by the Parliamentary Library found that out of the bottom 10 electorates for total personal median income, nine of these were regional.

All nine of the electorates with the highest median income were urban, within short distances to CBDs.

I’m also concerned that we face a very real scenario in a number of communities across Australia where the only way for young people to own their home is to inherit one.

The latest Census data shows lower home ownership rates and a decrease in the number of people who have paid off their mortgage.

Rental stress is also a growing problem.

The percentage of households now paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent has also increased, rising from 10.4 per cent to 11.5 per cent.

Successful societies are inclusive.

You should not be able to judge an individual’s economic status by their postcode.


Given this picture of inequality in Australia, it is tempting for some to turn to negative politics and blame a group, or particular policies, for an individual’s lived experience falling short of their expectations.

Such an approach is short sighted.

It is the easy choice, not the right choice.

There’s another way forward.

Politics at its best offers hope not fear, and aims to lift people up.

We need to ensure that as our nation’s wealth grows, the benefits are shared more equally.

The common aspiration that we share, that our children may enjoy greater opportunity and quality of life than we had, with a natural environment at least as good as we enjoyed, is not too much to ask.

Those of us who are concerned that the age of disruption could lead to a downward spiral of respect for our institutions and capacity to deliver real solutions to challenges, have a responsibility to engage positively to avert such a scenario.

We must secure outcomes in the national interest.

That includes real needs-based funding for education, investment in infrastructure and the digital economy, regional economic development and strong and decisive action on climate change.

We must continue to be the land of opportunity.

If we deal with these challenges we can create a more positive political culture and indeed give people “reasons to be cheerful”.


Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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