Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Speeches"
Nov 16, 2018

Speech – John Button Lecture – Thursday, 15 November 2018

I am honoured to have been asked to deliver the John Button Lecture for 2018.

Tonight I want to discuss progressive political change and offer some views about how it is achieved.

Secondly, I want to address the changes in technology and political discourse that have transformed the nature of political engagement over recent decades since John Button’s period as Minister, to what some have called the “age of disruption”.

If ever there was anyone who understood the power of policy to change lives, it was John Button – Australia’s greatest Industry Minister.

John’s ambitious industry policy program across a range of sectors during the period of the Hawke Government helped to set up Australia to succeed in the global economy of the 21st century.

We in Labor are justly proud of the economic achievements of the Hawke-Keating era. They set the scene for 27 years of continuous economic growth.

John Button manned the engine room of that reform process.

With Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and the rest of that formidable team, John created opportunities for literally millions of Australians.

It was not easy.

His victories sometimes came in the face of opposition from business, the bureaucracy, and some in the labour movement concerned about the impact of change.

He had to work doubly hard to ensure his reforms were gradual and included measures to minimise job losses and offer retraining opportunities and adjustment packages.

He understood that change was constant and inevitable, but its consequences were not. The Labor Government worked with unions and many in civil society through the Accord process to manage change in the interests of working people.

John Button, working off Bob Hawke’s model of consensus-building, revolutionised a range of Australian industries, starting with steel.

Then came automobiles, pharmaceuticals and textiles, clothing and footwear.

The objective was an interventionist industry policy that would allow these sectors to compete in a global economy.

At the same time Labor was increasing the social wage, introducing Medicare, compulsory superannuation and enhancing the urban and natural environment.

It was addressing entrenched disadvantage by increasing Year 12 completions from 3 to 8 out of every 10 students and opening up access to university.

It was supporting women’s campaigns for gender equality and promoting respect for multiculturalism and opportunity for the First Australians.

This record stands in stark contrast to the rabble that is the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government which seems bereft of an agenda besides entrenching privilege and occupying the Ministerial Wing.

Five years without troubling the scorer, except perhaps for throwing in the towel on the car industry that John Button did so much to reform.

Australia does have marriage equality.

But Malcolm Turnbull had so little authority in his own party room that he had to outsource that decision to the Australian people by holding an unnecessary voluntary postal survey.

The lesson here for contemporary Labor is simple.

The path to achievement in Government is policy development that both addresses the urgent necessities of immediate challenges, but does so in a manner that both anticipates and creates the future.

At our best, Labor does not just seek to win power. We wield the power of the state in ways that change our nation for the better.

REACTIONARIES

By contrast, our opponents fear change.

Their whole ideology is based on maintaining the status quo.

The most extreme among them, like Tony Abbott, are not even conservatives, but reactionaries bent on destroying the hard-won gains of the past.

That’s why, for example, Mr Abbott, the most divisive political figure of his generation, held a Royal Commission into trade unions.

He’s offended by collectivism. He feels threatened by it.

For him, everything is about reconstructing an imagined past – a place of knighthoods and the preservation of privilege.

The problem isn’t so much that Tony Abbott wants to live in the 1950’s; it’s that he wants the rest of Australia to go back there and keep him company.

But with all that looking backwards, neither Mr Abbott – nor his successors Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison – left themselves any time to confront the issues of the present, let alone the challenges of the future.

Take climate change.

It’s real. We must reduce carbon emissions.

But as of today, the Government of Australia has no policy on climate change.

They used to have proposals for emissions trading, then an Emissions Intensity Scheme, followed by a Clean Energy Target and then numerous versions of the National Energy Guarantee. And Labor was ready to work with them in the national interest.

But since the last spin of the revolving door outside the Prime Minister’s office, they have just given up.

Australians want a Government equipped to deal with the challenges of today and to build a better tomorrow.

Instead, they are led by a Government with no ideas.

A Government that is frightened of the present, but terrified of the future.

The problem is a reactionary ideology, coupled with a lack of preparedness for Government.

When Mr Abbott took office in 2013, he had plan to get rid of Labor, but no plan to govern.

Likewise, Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott, but also had no plan to govern.

There was a time when Mr Turnbull had policies. He used to be in favour of an Australian republic and genuine action on climate change.

But he was so possessed by his sense of destiny that he would be prime minister, that he was prepared to trade in all of his principles in return for the keys to the Lodge.

And we all know how that ended up.

As for Scott Morrison, it remains a mystery why he is Prime Minister, much less what he stands for.

In the weeks since the Morrison Coup he has shrunk in the job and increasingly looks like the product of marketing, rather than conviction.

VICTORIA

This brings us to the current election here in Victoria.

An election with much at stake.

Where the hard right wing elements of the modern Liberal Party are on the march, recruiting thousands of new members modelled on Donald Trump’s usurping of mainstream views on the conservative side of politics.

The Branch that produced Ian MacPhie and Petro Georgiou, now produces James Paterson, Michael Sukkar and Sophie Mirabella.

And we have the extraordinary circumstance of the Liberal Party not nominating a candidate in the Electorate of Richmond, abandoning their supporters in a strategic act of contempt.

This has exposed the informal alliance of the Liberals with the Greens political party that we saw demonstrated when after the 2014 election they combined to elect a Liberal to preside over the Legislative Council.

It also represents an acknowledgment by the Liberal opponents of progressive reform that it is Labor that is the vehicle for that change.

Whereas the Liberals seek to use government to promote a reactionary agenda, the Greens Party seek to wait for whoever is in Government to make decisions and then determine whether to support or oppose them.

They are the observers and would-be judges of Australian politics, rather than the participants.

My friend Richard Wynne is a participant in the tradition of John Button, Brian Howe, my mentor Tom Uren and many others in the progressive Labor tradition in a Government led by Daniel Andrews, who is leading the nation with his progressive economic, social and environmental agenda.

Richard is making a real difference, with real policies, improving the lives of real people in the Richmond community and beyond.

The new high school on the gasworks site in Fitzroy, Collingwood Arts Precinct, upgrading Victoria Park, better bike paths, enhancing the Yarra River with trees on its banks, not high rise development, are all real measures that make a difference.

As will the massive expansion of rooftop solar, as well as the Royal Commission into Mental Health, the expansion of social housing and the massive investment in public transport through the Metro and other game changing initiatives.

All of it being made possible by having the fastest economic growth of any State as well as the highest jobs growth.

Only Labor in Government can deliver on these reforms and the Andrews Government needs Richard Wynne around the cabinet table arguing for a future progressive agenda.

THE NEW POLITICS

This brings me to the new politics in context. By that I mean not just in Victoria, or even Australia, but the phenomenon we have seen globally in western democracies.

The polarisation in global politics has seen the demise of many of the historically successful progressive political parties such as France’s Socialist Party, Pasok in Greece, the Partito Democratico in Italy, the Social Democrats in Germany and many other affiliates of the Socialist International.

In many countries parties of the radical right have emerged with disillusioned working class people as their social base. The disruption of economic change in these economies has incubated a group of people who are angry that change has not benefited them.

Opportunist politicians such as Donald Trump have found an audience from those looking for answers as to why their expectations of quality of life have not been met.

On the progressive side of politics, some have retreated into the comfort zone.

Social media has aided this process.

It is easy to forget that at the time John Button was advancing his agenda, emails, the Internet, Twitter and Facebook did not exist.

Social media means that every consumer can also be a news producer. Algorithms are designed to encourage people to engage with the content of people who share their world view.

The term, “everyone thinks” is more and more common, as genuine political discourse and problem solving is discouraged.

Alternative views are not just dismissed, they are not even considered.

This creates a shock when the outcomes of elections are not what was anticipated, the most notable of which is the election of Donald Trump as US President.

To a lesser extent the fact that many Labor electorates in suburban areas returned solid votes against marriage equality surprised many activists.

I argue we need to talk with people who disagree with us. Engage. Debate. Advance.

To put it simply, we need to argue our case – every forum, every opportunity.

Conducting politics in an echo chamber does nothing to advance a progressive agenda.

If you have faith in your ideals and policies, there is nothing to fear from debating them.

What’s more if one of the distinguishing characteristics of being on the left of the political spectrum is a faith in humanity, there is an obligation to engage as broadly as possible.

Too often progressives have romanticised the past, while dismissing the recent gains that are made.

Marriage equality, the rights of First Nations and representation of women in Parliament have seen significant reform in recent years.

The gains of the Andrews Labor Government have been dismissed by the Greens Party as inconsequential.

As we have seen on issues like Climate Change, gains can be reversed if you don’t have long term Government.

And one of the consequences of the increased polarisation of politics is that compromise and searching for outcomes are seen as weakness.

Australian politics and climate policy would be very different today if the Greens Party Senators had voted for a price on carbon in 2009.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme was economy wide and had fewer concessions that the Emissions Trading Scheme that was eventually adopted. It also had a more ambitious emissions reduction target.

Penny Wong led an extensive consultation process with industry, unions, the environmental movement and the broader community to produce a comprehensive plan.

On the crucial votes all that was required was for the five Greens Party Senators to vote with Labor and the two Liberals who crossed the Senate floor and the system would have not only been adopted, it would still be reducing emissions today.

Instead opportunism and transactional politics took priority over long term reform.

A major lesson of the Hawke and Keating legacies, is that long term Government entrenched Medicare as the cornerstone of health policy and compulsory superannuation as a key element of economic policy.

MODERN LABOR

As the moderates in the Liberal Party concede ideological ground to the reactionaries, there is an opportunity for Labor to gain hegemony as the future Party.

The Greens have a common characteristic of defining themselves by what they are against.

It’s not enough to say what you want someone else to stop.

You have to be able to say what you are going to advance.

And Labor is leading the policy debates about the future whether in Government under Daniel Andrews here in Victoria, or from Opposition under Bill Shorten in Canberra.

Chris Bowen’s great policy work in areas including negative gearing, tax avoidance and family trusts have shown Labor is prepared to be bold in advancing a progressive economic agenda.

In health, education and across the board, Labor has done what Mr Abbott failed to do – we have used our time in Opposition to create a program for a better Australia.

In infrastructure we have plans for public transport including the Suburban Rail Loop, including the Airport Rail Link, and building on the Melbourne Metro.

We will once again lead on urban policy through City Partnerships focussing on productivity, sustainability and liveability. We will improve the quality of our urban waterways and promote green space.

We recognise the diversity of our community is a strength to be cherished, not an opportunity to promote division.

And we will through our actions promote discussion of further ideas, rather than yelling.

POLITICS

Should we be privileged to return to Government, our immediate challenge will be transit swiftly away from being in Opposition.

When you are in Government, you actually have power to do things; to make a real difference.

So you need to make an intellectual and tactical transition of the kind the current Government has failed to do.

Next time you turn on Question Time watch and see how minister after minister in the current government, when asked to respond to a reasonable question, will blame the former Labor Government.

This after five years in office.

It’s a pattern reflected in their media messaging, where their focus is about trashing our achievements rather than writing their own story of positive reform.

This Coalition has never looked like a Government.

It has operated as an Opposition in exile.

The current Government has made the mistake of believing Australians are as interested as they are in the preoccupations of the Menzies Institute, the Institute of Public Affairs or the hard right echo cave that is Sky News After Dark.

It is indeed a mistake for anyone in public life to think their Twitter feed is representative of broad public opinion.

Complex issues cannot always be reduced to 280 characters.

What characterises the most valued reforms is the consideration of detail, and successfully arguing the case.

Maintaining a serious and reformist Labor Government across many electoral terms requires a vision and clear objectives, but it also requires outcomes.

My view of what Australians want is pretty simple.

We want fulfilling lives in which we can find work and the means to live and raise our families.

Labor’s direct and enduring connection to the trade union movement means we can never forget people want to be respected at work and have pay and conditions that show they are valued.

Australians want to create a world in which our children have more opportunities than we enjoyed.

In practical terms, that means government should focus on basic services like health, education, workplace training and housing affordability.

They also want future generations to inherit a natural and urban environment that is in better than they enjoyed.

GETTING THINGS DONE

There are many lessons to take from John Button’s political activism.

The first is that we must mobilise support for reform.

Engage with working people to ensure change benefits them as change occurs.

Engage with business to promote employment and fairness.

A big lesson of the Hawke era is the value of consensus building.

Through the Accord, Bob Hawke got business and trade union leaders to sit at the same table and recognise their shared interests.

Compare that mature and constructive approach to the division promoted by the current Government.

It attacks unions, rather than engaging with them.

It cuts services relied upon by Australians, particularly disadvantaged Australians, while arguing for tax breaks for the rich.

And when the First Australians offered to collaborate on reconciliation via the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Malcolm Turnbull falsely claimed they were asking for a third chamber of Parliament, which was never the proposal.

Governments should promote consensus and seek to create prosperity that can be shared among the many, not monopolised by the few.

But the Coalition’s business model has been division.

Instead of working with institutions, they want to tear them down.

Ruthless partisanship is a failed model of Government.

It produces plenty of heat. But no light.

It saps your energy, but gets you nowhere.

Part of their problem is a slavish devotion to the fantasy that the free market holds the solution to everything and that everything will work out perfectly if only governments would get out of the way.

But the market has no conscience.

There is a role for government intervention in circumstances where market failure is working against the public interest.

That is why Labor seeks government – as participants, rather than observers.

Not as an end in itself but to improve the lives of the many, rather than the few.

Nov 13, 2018

Speech – Maintaining Skills in Australian Aviation to Protect the National Interest – Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

SPEECH TO AUSTRALIAN LICENSED AIRCRAFT ENGINEERS ASSOCIATION

 I’m glad to have the opportunity to address the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association.

It’s a chance to outline the Labor Party’s thinking on aviation-related issues in the lead-up to the next federal election.

It’s also an opportunity to hear the concerns of your organisation.

This is important.

Aviation is a globalised industry. It is constantly evolving.

The challenge for regulators is to ensure that as aviation evolves – change does not erode existing standards, particularly when it comes to safety.

That’s where your profession plays a central role.

You possess the specialist expertise that can help governments and regulators understand and respond to the full impact of change, without the overlay of commercial pressures.

Indeed, I note that your motto is: To undertake, supervise and certify for the safety of all who fly.

The ALAEA is of course a professional organisation that represents the industrial concerns of your 3,000 members.

But your advocacy takes on extra importance given your crucial expertise on issues of safety.

We need to hear your input.

But it’s not only about safety.

I’m concerned about the way in which the globalisation of the industry threatens the maintenance of aviation skills that a sovereign nation like ours must preserve in the national interest.

We must ensure that we do not allow the evolution of aviation as a global business to lead to the loss of the strategic aviation skills and experiences vital to our nation’s future.

STRATEGICALLY IMPORTANT INDUSTRIES

To give you some context about the importance of maintaining skills, let’s take a brief look at the Australian shipping industry.

In the past five years, the Federal Coalition Government has twice attempted to destroy the Australian domestic shipping by exposing it to unfair competition from overseas-flagged vessels paying their crews third world wages.

Its proposed legislation essentially came from a position that lower shipping costs were more desirable than the maintenance of a local industry.

This was a ridiculous proposal.

It would have put Australians out of work.

But worse still, it would have resulted in the demise of a strategically important industry as well as the skilled workforce it trains and employs.

Given the synergies between our merchant fleet and our Navy, this would have been a betrayal of our national security interests.

It is simply common sense that an island nation would want to maintain a growing and home-grown maritime skills base.

Fortunately the Senate rejected the Government’s so-called reforms – or what I dubbed ‘WorkChoices on Water’.

Equally critical to our national security and economic sovereignty is aviation.

Indeed, for a country like Australia, which inhabits a vast island continent located in a remote part of the globe, there are only two ways to facilitate the mass movement of people and commerce both domestically and internationally – one is by sea and the other is by air.

The fact is the aviation industry underpins Australian business and tourism, adding more than $16 billion to the national economy annually and directly employing over 88,000 Australians.

It is an industry that not only connects us with each other, but also with all of the economic opportunity and cultural experiences the globalised world of the twenty-first century has to offer.

Furthermore, defence experts have long recognised the importance of maintaining a domestic aviation workforce.  This ensures Australia has a pool of highly skilled labour that can be quickly mobilised during times of war or other national emergencies.

And lastly – but most importantly – a strong, locally trained domestic aviation workforce is the best way to ensure that we do not put our world class safety record in jeopardy.

It is a hard won safety record that’s second to none.

Simply put, the national interest requires that Australia maintain a solid domestic aviation skills base.

And while the industry is composed of many highly skilled occupations – pilots, air-traffic controllers, firefighting and rescue personnel – none are more critical than the aircraft maintenance engineer.

Your members quite literally keep the planes in air.

AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE

But your part of the industry is under serious pressure. An ageing workforce, outsourcing and offshoring are all raising doubts around the very future of aviation maintenance here in Australia.

The latter of these – offshoring – does cause me some particular concerns.

This practice has resulted in job losses at Australian-based maintenance facilities and fewer training opportunities for aspiring Australian apprentices.

I note also, that as recently as August this year Tigerair Australia had to ground one of its jets after it returned from a maintenance facility in the Philippines with undetected faults.  Despite having been serviced at a Singapore Airlines owned facility, it was discovered that the plane’s cargo bay smoke evacuation system had not been installed correctly.

Later, it was discovered that a flight attendant’s seatbelt had not been properly bolted to a seat.

At the time, your secretary, Steve Purvinas, described the work as having been of the standard of a “home handyman”.

Steve went on to warn in a Sydney Morning Herald article:

“What concerns us most is other latent defects, hidden now, but waiting to resurface at 30,000 feet. They didn’t know about the seatbelts. What else don’t they know?”

Increasingly, airlines have turned to offshore facilities to conduct their heavy maintenance, and I know that the implication of this trend has long been on your organisation’s radar.

I not only share your concerns now, but I acted on them in government.

Indeed, it was one of the reasons the former Federal Labor Government took the decision to commission the development of Australia’s first Aviation White Paper, a road map to help secure the future of the industry while maintaining the highest safety and security standards.

Released in 2009, it addressed areas including industry skills and productivity, consumer protection safety and security, regulation and investigation, air traffic management, airport planning and aviation’s role in reducing global carbon emissions.

It also addressed the issue of overseas maintenance, noting that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority needed to be certain that overseas maintenance was conducted to standards acceptable in this country.

Publication of the paper came with extra financial resources for CASA to recruit additional specialised technical staff to enhance oversight of priority areas including standards of aircraft maintenance undertaken outside of Australia.

Five years on from the change of government, I am disappointed that the four Coalition aviation Ministers that succeed me have done little to advance this issue.

There is no excuse for such a hands-off approach.

As we have seen with shipping, the Coalition appears to operate on the basis that transport industries exist only as line items on some other business’s balance sheet, rather than as vital, strategically important industries in their own right.

A LABOR GOVERNMENT

For reasons of national security, economic sovereignty and safety, Labor will never waiver from the principled position that Australia needs a strong, competitive home-grown aviation industry.

And that must include aircraft maintenance.

The skills and expertise possessed by your members is an important national asset.

Accordingly, we need a set of policies that will not only bring back aircraft maintenance jobs to Australia, but develop our capacity to sell those services and expertise to the world.

Our starting point will be the previously mentioned White Paper.

And I do not underestimate the challenge.

In fact, it has been succinctly summed up by Australian Industry Standards, the government funded body established to develop the skills standards across a range of Australian industries, including aviation.

Echoing my earlier comments, this independent body has concluded:

“The offshoring and/or outsourcing of aircraft maintenance functions by Australian airlines in recent years has had a significant effect on the maintenance engineering training landscape. Several generalist engineering training providers have stopped their aviation courses.

“There is significant concern within the industry that closing engineering training facilities will impede the ability of training providers and maintenance businesses to rebound or take advantage of international growth opportunities.”

Little wonder then that what remains of the local workforce is fast approaching retirement, with the average age of a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer now exceeding 50 years.

One of the first things Labor would look to do is establish a Strategic Aviation Workforce Development Forum and task it with developing strategic responses to the skills issues facing the aviation industry, and building productive working relationships across the industry and with training sectors.

Based on a recommendation in the 2015 University of NSW Business School report entitled The Future of Aircraft Maintenance in Australia, the Forum would seek to bring together representatives from employee organisations, the airlines, the GA sector, manufacturers of aircraft systems/components, aero-skills training providers, and the Australian Defence Force.

Your profession is not a sun-setting industry, and the next Federal Labor Government will explore ways to create new long term career opportunities right here in this country.

But government alone cannot achieve this.

All aspects of the Australian aviation industry, including our airlines, also have a role to play.

Our long term national interest demands nothing less.

THE IR LANDSCAPE

I will now make a few comments about the broader industrial landscape.

What Australia needs most right now is co-operation in the national interest.

For five years the Coalition Government has pursued an ideological crusade to undermine unions and professional organisations like yours.

Its belligerence has been matched only by its indifference to the real challenges facing Australian families, including low wages growth.

Indeed, while the Government has talked up its economic management, the lived experience of Australian workers has been one of hardship and, in many cases, pay cuts.

A Labor Government would shift the industrial relations equation back to the middle-ground.

We want Australian businesses to be successful in the national interest.

But we believe that the products of prosperity should be shared by the many, not monopolised by the few.

Labor would restore the link between wages and productivity.

We would ensure collective bargaining is not undermined by corporate gaming of our IR laws including by preventing the use of sham enterprise agreements and employers simply terminating agreements instead of bargaining.

Additionally, Labor is committed to:

  • Restoring penalty rates and preventing award variations from reducing take home pay;

 

  • Introducing an objective definition of casual employment;

 

  • Stamping out sham independent contracting;

 

  • Introducing a national labour hire licencing scheme to better regulate dodgy labour hire companies;

 

  • Ensuring that labour hire is not used to undermine pay and conditions of direct employees through our same job, same pay policy;

 

  • Introducing a package of reforms to address illegal “phoenixing”, including a director identification number and stronger penalties against directors who avoid liability for employee entitlements.

CONCLUSION

I end today on a positive note.

While aviation faces challenges, I’m optimistic about its outlook.

But we need to develop our potential.

We need an ambitious, flexible business community with an eye for innovation.

We need organisations like the ALAEA which are prepared to not only pursue the immediate industrial concerns of their members, but also to collaborate on the long term challenges and opportunities.

But above all, we need a government that is completely focused on its role in working with industry and labour to create a vision for a better future and take the steps necessary to achieve that vision.

Labor stands ready to do exactly that.

ENDS
TUESDAY, 13 NOVEMBER, 2018

Nov 12, 2018

Speech – Remembrance Day, Centenary – Sunday, 11 November, 2018

PETERSHAM TOWN HALL, SYDNEY
SUNDAY, 11 NOVEMBER, 2018

REMEMBRANCE DAY, CENTENARY

Today, the 11th of November 2018, marks the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War One – Remembrance Day.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month our entire nation takes pause to recognise and honour those who lost their lives or were injured serving our country in the line of duty. Not only during World War One, but all conflicts where Australians were and are involved.

This morning we are gathered in Petersham Town Hall, in the heart of the Inner West, to commemorate those lost to our local community in times of war.

Men like Walter Ernest Brown.

Mr Brown, a grocer, lived in Petersham and enlisted to fight in World War One on the 26th of July 1915, aged 30.

Brown first served in Egypt in the Imperial Camel Corps and later transferred to the 20th Battalion, comprised of men from the suburbs of Marrickville, Petersham, Leichhardt, Bexley and Hurstville and headed for the Western Front.

Brown fought in the Battles of Morlancourt and Villers-Bretonneux.

On the 6th of July 1918, Brown and his unit were pinned down by a sniper post near Accroche Wood.

Brown located the position of the snipers and ran towards their post alone, with two grenades in-hand. Brown threw the first to no effect. He then threw himself into the sniper post, knocking down one enemy soldier and threatening the remaining men with the final grenade. The 13 men, including one officer, surrendered and were captured by Brown.

Corporal Brown received the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award within the British and Australian honours system, on the 7th of October 1918 from King George V for his efforts. Brown returned to the front until Armistice Day, but his story did not end when the First World War concluded.

Brown returned home to work and married his wife, Maude Dillon, on the 4th of June 1932.

In 1940 Brown enlisted to serve in World War Two, lying about his age and stating that he was 43-years-old, not 57.

On the 14th of February 1942 Walter Ernest Brown was fighting in Singapore when the order to surrender to the Japanese came through. Brown turned to his mates and said: “No surrender for me.” He picked up several grenades and ran to meet the enemy.

He was never seen again.

Today, we remember Corporal Brown.

We honour Corporal Brown.

The Bindoff family lived at 17 Windsor Road in Petersham. Alfred Edward Bindoff, a railway signalman, was married to Phoebe Alice Butler, a Budawang Aboriginal woman from Yuin country on the South Coast of New South Wales.

Married in 1893, they had seven children. Alfred and his three sons – Harold, David and Edgar enlisted. Only Alfred and Harold would return home.

Edgar was the first member of the family to enlist on the 28th of January 1915. He was also the first to fall.

On the 13th of September 1915 at Lone Pine, Gallipoli, Edgar George Bindoff, aged 20, succumbed to wounds sustained on the battlefield and died.

After Edgar’s death, his father Alfred, and his brothers David and Harold, aged 18 and 22 respectively, immediately enlisted, sailing to the front on the 30th of September 1915, a mere 17 days after Edgar’s death.

At the age of just 18, David Bindoff was killed in action in France on the 27th of July 1916 during the Somme Offensive.

The Bindoff family were among several Indigenous men from Petersham who fought in World War One. The neighbouring suburbs of Marrickville, St Peters and Leichhardt also had a number of Indigenous volunteers, a small and largely unrecognised proportion of the local population.

The contribution of Indigenous soldiers is still not fully recognised. Legislation at the time prevented Indigenous people from enlisting. Some Army recruiters adopted a variable approach to Indigenous volunteers, both accepting and, at other times, rejecting them. Many volunteers pretended to be of Southern European Ancestry to enlist.

Just think about that.

The fact that Indigenous volunteers were required to lie about their ancestry to fight for their own country remains a sad and shocking part of our history.

Today, we remember the Bindoff family and all Indigenous Australians who have fought for our country, past and present.

Indeed, we remember all Australians lost to us in conflict; whose selflessness and ultimate sacrifice, secured our future.

Across World War I, out of a population of less than five million at the time, 61,522 Australians lost their lives.

During my most recent visit to Canberra, I stopped at the Australian War Memorial to visit the 62,000 poppies display.

Spread across the memorial gardens, the hand-made display of thousands of red flowers commemorates the recorded number of Australian casualties sustained throughout World War One.

62,000 hand-made red poppies.

The culmination of a project began by Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight, who crocheted 120 poppies to plant at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne on the 11th of November 2013, in honour of their fathers.

Twenty-five years ago today, Prime Minister Paul Keating gave his remarkable eulogy at the internship of the Unknown Soldier at the Australian War Memorial.

In this historic Town Hall where I had the honour of hosting Paul Keating two years ago, I wish to quote an excerpt from that speech.

“He may have been one of those who believed that the Great War would be an adventure too grand to miss. He may have felt that he would never live down the shame of not going. But the chances are he went for no other reason than that he believed it was his duty – the duty he owed his country and his King.

Because the Great War was a mad, brutal, awful struggle, distinguished more often than not by military and political incompetence; because the waste of human life was so terrible that some said victory was scarcely discernible from defeat; and because the war which was supposed to end all wars in fact sowed the seeds of a second, even more terrible, war –  we might think this Unknown Soldier died in vain.

But, in honouring our war dead, as we always have and as we do today, we declare that this is not true.

For out of the war came a lesson which transcended the horror and tragedy and the inexcusable folly.

It was a lesson about ordinary people – and the lesson was that they were not ordinary.

On all sides they were the heroes of that war; not the generals and the politicians but the soldiers and sailors and nurses – those who taught us to endure hardship, to show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together.

The Unknown Australian Soldier we inter today was one of those who by his deeds proved that real nobility and grandeur belong not to empires and nations, but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend.

That is surely at the heart of the ANZAC story”.

I hope that in another 100 years’ time this Town Hall is again as full as it is today.

With people once again remembering the sacrifice of soldiers and civilians alike in wars long past, both won and lost.

And I truly hope that in 100 years there is also silent gratitude, that there has not been another significant armed conflict to commemorate.

It is vital that we as a nation remember the sacrifice of veterans, and their families, current serving members of our armed forces and civilians, affected by war.

It is also vital that as we remember their sacrifice, we also hope for a present and future without war.

Today, we honour those who have served.

We honour those who continue to serve overseas and at home.

Lest we forget.

ENDS

SUNDAY, 11 NOVEMBER, 2018

Oct 31, 2018

Speech to The Western Metro Forum – Meeting the Transport Challenges of a Growing Sydney – NSW Parliament House, Sydney – Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Thanks for the invitation to make a contribution to today’s important Forum on the Western Metro.

I am pleased to have worked with Jodi McKay to bring stakeholders together.

Federal Labor has committed to partner with a Foley Labor Government to deliver this vital project.

At this moment in the history of Australia our cities are in a state of transition.

There was a time in Australia when you could live close to an Australian capital city CBD in a house on a quarter acre.

But in 2018, strong population growth is taking us into a new era featuring higher population densities and a mix of detached housing, apartments and town houses.

While that transition is manageable, the impediment we face is that in many respects our transport infrastructure is designed for the old Australia, not the nation we inhabit in the 21st century.

That is why traffic congestion is emerging as one of the great economic and quality-of-life issue of our times.

We know, for example that the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics puts the annual cost of congestion in terms of lost productivity at $16 billion.

That’s a lot of money.

But for millions of Australians, the macro-economic element is not the issue.

For them, traffic congestion is a ball and chain that is ruining their lives and forcing them to take long daily commutes, often on expensive toll roads.

Many have no access to public transport as an alternative and, increasingly, have to pay considerable tolls, just to get on with their daily activities.

It is a tragedy that many Australian commuters spend more time travelling to and from work in their cars than they spend at home playing with their children.

That’s not what Australians expect out of life.

And it’s not what they deserve in a nation like ours.

It is time for governments to work together to confront this serious problem in the national interest.

In the past, too many leaders have chosen to turn away.

For example, when Tony Abbott took office in 2013, he immediately cancelled billions of dollars’ worth of public transport investment that had been put in the Federal Budget by the previous Labor Government.

That included removing funding for the Parramatta to Epping Rail Line that would have been opening soon. That project would have opened up access for Western Sydney to the high-value jobs around Macquarie Park and taken pressure off the Western Line.

Mr Abbott’s reason, as he outlined in his 2009 book Battlelines, was that he believes Australians don’t want to use public transport and enjoy the freedom that comes with being what Mr Abbott called “kings in their cars’’.

To Mr Abbott, the car represents individual freedom, whereas public transport represents collectivism.

This is perhaps the starkest example of the hard right of the Liberal Party’s ideological antipathy towards anything public – public transport, public education, public health, even public broadcasters – and, of course, public servants.

It is regrettable that Mr Abbott’s two prime ministerial successors have failed to reverse Mr Abbott’s cuts.

The practical result of this ideological position has distorted the infrastructure priorities in Sydney away from public transport, towards toll roads.

And that has meant a rush in planning so that the Westconnex project no longer resembles the priority identified by Infrastructure NSW to improve freight movements around the Port. Indeed it has become a road to more roads under the NSW Liberal Government.

Westconnex has been poorly planned, is massively over-budget and has been imposed upon communities with inadequate consultation.

One day it will appear in planning textbooks as an example of how not to deliver a major project. It is perhaps the only project in the world where they began tunneling, without knowing where the tunnels would exit.

But putting that aside, the problem for Sydney is that there has not been sufficient investment in rail.

Major global cities need public transport to function.

That’s where the Western Metro can help.

The proposal is for a 25km underground rail line with new stations, linking the Sydney CBD to Parramatta via the Bays Precinct and Sydney Olympic Park.

This is an important project that would be a game changer for Parramatta and the jobs hubs around Olympic Park and the Bays Precinct.

It would not only make it easier for commuters to get to and from work, but would also strengthen links between the Sydney CBD and the Parramatta CBD.

This project can be a genuine catalyst for the creation of more jobs closer to where people live, which is a critical requirement to deal with the demographic pressures we are facing.

In recent years most of the jobs growth in our capital cities has been in our CBDs.

That’s part of the reason for the traffic congestion.

Where we can, we need to encourage strong jobs growth in secondary CBDs because that will mean fewer people will have to travel into the City.

It is a good thing that the NSW Government is working on planning for the Western Metro and that it has indicated it will provide funding.

Luke Foley understands the extent of Sydney’s traffic congestion crisis.

And he understands that we won’t solve it without genuine collaboration from all levels of government.

As for Federal Labor, our intentions are clear.

At this year’s NSW ALP Conference in April, Labor Leader Bill Shorten committed $3 billion to the Western Metro.

Bill also committed a further $3 billion for the Western Sydney Rail Line, a north-south link through Western Sydney which will connect the new Western Sydney Airport to the Sydney passenger network.

These projects will make a real difference to Sydney.

They will help ease congestion.

They will also boost productivity.

If delivered properly, they will stimulate economic and jobs growth and help to transform the way this city works.

The Federal Government has yet to match Federal Labor’s commitment.

It should do so now.

If there is one thing that has gone wrong in this country in the past decade it has been the rise of the politics of division.

When it comes to infrastructure, partisan politics has been allowed to trump common sense and prevent progress on issues that actually matter, such as Australians being able to get to and from work in a reasonable time.

The bipartisan support for Western Sydney Airport is providing the confidence for a massive investment pipeline in the Aerotropolis and along the north south corridor that will provide high value jobs in the region.

This is Government working as it should.

Dealing with urban congestion requires a similar commitment to outcomes rather than politics as usual.

We all know that both the Western Metro and Western Sydney Rail are required.

So we should work together to get on with the job.

Oct 16, 2018

Speech to Maritime Industry Australia Ltd SEA18 Conference – Australian Shipping: Charting A New Course – Canberra – Tuesday, 16 October 2018

As recently as thirty years ago the Australian registered trading fleet consisted of almost 100 vessels, operating both domestically as well as on international trading routes.

Today, the figure stands at just 14.

These are worrisome statistics that signal a crisis.

Despite our proud maritime history and natural advantages, such as being the largest island continent on Earth with the vast majority of our cities situated on the coastline, we have all been witnessing the demise of a strategically important industry.

Importantly, this is not a time for partisan finger pointing.

Indeed, I readily acknowledge that the situation we confront today has developed under governments of both persuasions, driven by a range of complex factors including changes in trade patterns, globalisation, unfair competition from sub-standard and subsidised shipping, and flag competition from open registers.

But what certainly hasn’t helped is the failure of our political system to achieve bipartisan support for a long-term strategic vision of the importance to Australia of our shipping and wider maritime-related industries.

As a result, policy settings have chopped and changed from government to government.  This has had the effect of creating uncertainty and deterring investment in Australian flagged vessels.

Worse still, the sector often appears to be invisible to some policymakers and the general public.

Nonetheless, it is one that my colleagues and I are passionate about.

Labor does not accept that the long decline in the Australian merchant fleet should simply be allowed to continue.  As inhabitants of an island trading nation, it is inconceivable to us that we would even contemplate abandoning our historic involvement with the sea.

Australia needs a vibrant and strong maritime industry.

And our position is based on sound reasoning.

ECONOMIC SOVEREIGNTY

Firstly, Australia is highly dependent on international shipping services for our continued economic development.

It is a fact that each year 99 per cent of our imports and exports are transported in the hulls of some 5000 ships.  However, with the exception of just four, every single one of those ships is foreign-owned, foreign-flagged, and overwhelmingly, foreign-crewed.

And even when it comes to those four vessels, the operators have announced they will be removing them from service over the next few years.

Australia is now almost entirely at the mercy of the commercial whims of foreign shipping companies.  Currently, less than 0.5 per cent of Australian seaborne trade is carried by Australian ships.

That is a risky position to be in.

To be sure, no other major developed nation has attempted to engage in such unilateral economic disarmament.

For example, when countries such as the United Kingdom, Norway and the Netherlands were experiencing similar declines in their national fleets and began to rely on foreign ships and seafarers for the carriage of their trade, their respective governments stepped up.

Their policy responses included:

  • Favourable tax regimes for ship-owners;
  • Cost-offsets in employing domestic seafarers;
  • Ship-financing schemes;
  • Encouragement of training and career development; and
  • Establishment of second registers.

In each case, the result was a return of tonnage back to their national registers.  Indeed, when the UK Government introduced a tonnage tax in 2000, its fleet almost doubled in size in just the next seven years.

So while our domestic industry has been sinking, other countries have been employing policies that have not only kept their industries afloat, but led them to prosper.

Norway is another case in point.

Norway has a resources-based economy like us, but a population one-fifth the
size of ours, yet it has the 13th largest merchant fleet in the world employing over 100,000 people.

Australia, by comparison, is much further down the global ranking.

Despite having the fifth largest shipping task in the world, we don’t even make it into the top 35 countries.

The bottom line is that, unlike here in Australia, the political leaders in countries like the UK and Norway have made a conscious policy decision to assert greater control over their economic sovereignty.  They want to safeguard their exporters’ access to global markets and not to be completely reliant on the ships of another nation.

They are also determined to be players in a global industry that is expected to double by 2030, offering major commercial opportunities for their existing maritime businesses and generating wider economic, employment and technological benefits to their economies.

Then there is the need to maintain a pool of people with seafaring skills and experience to fill jobs in the shore based maritime-related sectors of the economy, most notably ports.  The fact is a strong and growing merchant fleet provides the most cost-effective means of training the workforce of the future.

NATIONAL SECURITY

In addition to reasons of economic sovereignty, revitalising our domestic shipping industry would present an opportunity to enhance the scope and nature of the Australian maritime industry’s capacity to support Australian Defence Force operations.

It would also provide more career opportunities for both parties.

Indeed, defence experts have long recognised the importance of maintaining a domestic maritime workforce.  It would ensure Australia had a pool of highly skilled labour that could be quickly mobilised during times of war or other national emergencies.

That has certainly been the history, with Australian merchant ships and their Australian crews playing crucial roles in many of our nation’s armed conflict including both World Wars and later the Korean War.

The ADF even utilised civilian shipping for its mission in Timor-Leste.

Just yesterday MIAL itself underlined the potential synergies between the Defence and merchant fleets with your appointment of the former Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett as a member of your board.

As Vice Admiral Barrrett said when his appointment was announced:

“There are new opportunities in the maritime arena which will demand greater understanding and collaboration between industry and defence.  I hope to contribute to that.”

LABOR’S 2012 REFORMS

It was for these economic and national security reasons that the former Federal Labor Government was so determined to rebuild the Australian maritime industry.

At that time, our particular focus was on the coastal shipping aspect of the industry.

This was an obvious starting point.

Not only was the number of Australian flagged vessels involved in this trade declining, but the total amount of goods being moved by ship around our coastline was also in free fall.  Indeed, shipping’s share of the domestic freight task had halved from around 40 per cent in the early 1990s to just 20 per cent.

After extensive consultations with all sections of the industry, and drawing on the experiences of other maritime nations, which I touched on earlier, we put in place far-reaching measures designed, not as a form of protectionism, but to simply level the playing field.

Importantly, Labor’s changes did not preclude the use of foreign vessels.  They simply required firms needing to move freight between Australian ports to first seek out an Australian operator.  When none were available, foreign vessels could be used so long as they paid Australian-level wages on domestic sectors.

For Australian shipping companies the package included a zero tax rate, more generous accelerated depreciation arrangements, rollover relief for selected capital assets, new tax incentives to employ Australian seafarers and an exemption from the Royalty Withholding Tax for ‘bareboat’ leased vessels.

To further strengthen the local industry, an International Shipping Register was created, allowing operators of Australian flagged vessels to employ mixed Australian and foreign crews on internationally agreed rates and conditions.

But our efforts to revitalise the industry didn’t stop there.

We also enacted the first major rewrite of the nation’s maritime laws in almost a century, made sure oil companies pay for any and all damage their ships may cause, and developed Australia’s first National Ports Strategy.  And we replaced a myriad of confusing, often conflicting state and territory based laws and regulations with just one national regulator administering one set of modern, nationwide laws.

However, for Labor’s suite of reforms to work, they needed time.

Unfortunately, even before they took effect the Coalition sought to undermine them.

Their attacks were calculated to create uncertainty and doubt in the minds of those considering investing in the Australian industry as to the durability of the regulatory changes and the new tax incentives.

LABOR’S PLAN FOR SHIPPING

So the question now turns to what the next Federal Labor Government will do.

In answer to that, I will firstly return to where I started my speech today – and that is the need to not only build consensus across the industry, but bipartisanship within the Parliament. It is undeniably the case that reviving Australian shipping will simply not be possible in a single parliamentary term or even the tenure of any one government.

It will need long term policy certainty and the genuine support of both sides of politics.

And while they weren’t perfect nor satisfied everyone, Labor’s starting point will be our 2012 reforms.

From there we will seek to build, drawing on the proposals outlined in the Coastal Trading Green Paper developed under the leadership of Maritime Industry Australia in consultation with the providers and users of shipping, as well as the maritime unions.

There are two particular proposals worthy of consideration, the first of them being the establishment of a “strategic fleet”.

Under such a proposal, the Government, acting in the national interest, would support  the creation of a fleet of vessels in areas of strategic importance to the Australian economy such as the importation and distribution of liquid fuel, namely crude oil, aviation fuel and diesel.

The vessels would be Australian flagged and Australian crewed, and while they would operate commercially, they would be available to be seconded by the Defence Forces for operational requirements in times of crisis.

They would also provide a platform for the training of future seafarers.

This approach would enhance Australia’s economic sovereignty and security.

The second proposal worthy of consideration is a Seafarer Income Tax, a regime that would effectively exempt those Australian seafarers working for foreign international shipping companies from paying income tax here in Australia.

This would bring us into line with the situation that already exists in most other maritime nations including Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, Norway, the UK, South Korea, Thailand, and The Philippines.

Such a regime would create greater career opportunities for Australian seafarers.

The fact is at the moment, very few Australian seafaring officers, in particular, are working internationally for the simple reason that international wage rates are lower than Australian wages, and on top of that they are required to pay income tax, which most of their international counterparts do not.

Simply put, Australians working internationally get less take home pay then those from other countries they work alongside.

Further, this measure would also in part address the significant shortfall in berths able to be utilised on Australian vessels for Australian seafarers to fulfil their sea time requirements by encouraging trainees to accept appointments on foreign vessels.

In short, this proposal would help provide the strategic maritime skills and experiences our nation needs.

Beyond considering the Green Paper proposals, Labor will also:

  • Ensure that the national interest is prioritised when it comes to licensing foreign ships to work in Australia;
  • Stop the abuse of temporary licences that has occurred in breach of the existing legislation;
  • Streamline regulatory processes where possible.

And we will reinstate the Maritime Workforce Development Forum and task it with developing strategic responses to the skills issues facing the maritime industry, and building strategic, productive working relationships across the industry and with training sectors.

CONCLUSION

My core message to you today is that the next Labor Government will work with you to prevent the demise of not only a proud, but strategically important industry.

Labor will never waive from the principled position that Australia needs a strong, competitive, growing and home-grown maritime industry – and we will be taking a set of policies to the next election that will help achieve just that.

Simply put, we want to see more Australian seafarers crewing more Australian flagged ships carrying more Australian goods around our coastline and to markets overseas.

Our long term national interest demands nothing less.

Oct 9, 2018

Speech to 2018 Australasia Bus Conference – Cairns, QLD – Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Thank you for the invitation to address the 2018 Australasia Bus Industry Conference.

It is always a pleasure to speak at a Bus Industry Confederation event – an organisation that plays an instrumental role in advocating for the bus and coach sector.

Indeed, your sector has always been well organised.

This is partly because it is so well represented at a national level through the hard work of people like Michael Apps and Wayne Patch, who play a leading role in the bipartisan Better Cities Group.

Your engagement across all levels of government and with other industry organisations has become even more important as we progress through the 21st century – a time of monumental change that has affected the way we live, work and play.

Perhaps the most significant change occurred in 2008, when I was serving as the nation’s first ever Infrastructure Minister.

This is when the World Bank confirmed that for the first time ever, the world’s population tipped over to become more urban than rural.

It’s a trajectory that has and will continue.

By 2050, the world is expected to become 70 per cent urban.

And, here in Australia, our urban population is one of the fastest growing in the OECD.

Managing this growth requires a safe and efficient public transport system.

As you know through your work, our public transport network underpins the movement of people in cities and towns across the nation.

Buses are an integral part of this network, providing jobs for the more than 42,900 people who work as bus and coach drivers, while ensuring we all reach our destination.

Indeed, since the last census, bus use has increased in Australia with more than 320,000 people in 2016 using buses to travel to work.

With the right investment, I’m confident that more and more Australians will choose public transport as their preferred means of travel.

But we must also recognise that the transport sector is susceptible to disruption and that there will be significant changes in the decades to come.

That’s why this conference’s focus on future mobility, connectivity and technology in the bus and coach sector is so important.

We can’t stop change.

But we can make it work for us.

LABOR’S RECORD

When people ask what a future Labor Government would do, I point them to our strong track record of investing in towns and cities across the nation.

As well as establishing institutions such as Infrastructure Australia and the Major Cities Unit to break the nexus between the three or four year electoral cycle and the much longer investment cycle, the former Federal Labor Government also:

  • Restored national leadership by appointing Australia’s first ever Federal Infrastructure Minister and the creation of a Federal Infrastructure Department;
  • Built and upgraded 7,500 kilometres of road including completing the duplication of the Hume Highway, accelerating the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to dual carriageway, and improving the safety and flood immunity of hundreds of kilometres of the Bruce;
  • Rebuilt a third of the interstate rail freight network – some 4,000 kilometres of track; and
  • Committed more funding to urban public transport than all our predecessors since Federation combined.

It’s this record that will provide the template for what we will do the next time.

In short, there will be two key elements to Labor’s infrastructure agenda for the nation.

Firstly, if we are to maximise its economic, social and environmental dividends, infrastructure policy has to be got right – and that starts with a genuine commitment to a long term strategy based on an objective, evidence-based assessment of the nation’s infrastructure needs.

In practice that will involve returning Infrastructure Australia’s to the centre of the government’s decision making process – and respecting it’s advice.

To that end, we will provide it with the resources it needs to perform its core functions, including assessing projects, producing an infrastructure pipeline and recommending financing mechanisms.

The importance of having an effective Infrastructure Australia cannot be overstated.

Secondly, we will reverse the projected decline in Federal investment and provide real funding to the real projects that have been identified and properly assessed by a re-empowered Infrastructure Australia.

Not only will we proceed with all the new projects announced in the 2018 Budget, we will add to them to create a more ambitious capital works program, particularly in the area of urban public transport.

This includes Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and Sydney’s Western Metro.

Labor understands that as one of the most urbanised nations on the planet, Australia’s continued prosperity will largely depend on how successful we are at making our cities work better.

And that demands investment in both their road and rail infrastructure.

MOBILITY

It is highly relevant that we are in Cairns today.

Our regional cities and towns, in particular, grapple with the challenge of mobility and an ageing population.

Low volume markets may not produce the same return as high volume markets in capital cities, but they are just as important.

We need to ensure people have access to services, supermarkets and each other.

This strengthens communities and breaks down social isolation.

The value of regional bus operators cannot be overestimated.

We must continue to support them and recognise the fundamental role these bus operators play in the viability of our regional economies, supporting the health and access opportunities of people living in regional Australia.

But mobility is not just important for those living in regional communities – it also matters for visitors.

Coach travel is enjoyed by almost half a million international tourists and more than 1.5 million domestic travellers.

Just look at the thousands of tourists travelling by bus between Cairns and Port Douglas or from their hotel to activities.

Tourism is a super-growth sector for Australia, but regional dispersal remains one of our greatest challenges.

We need to consider how we can improve coach access in our cities and regions so that visitors can be more easily transported from hubs like airports or cruise terminals to tourist destinations across the country.

I am familiar with the national strategy for regional land transport tourism that the Bus Industry Confederation has developed and I commend you for your contribution to this important policy debate.

CONNECTIVITY

The bus and coach sector are also essential when it comes to ensuring effective urban connectivity.

Recently, the Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities released the ‘Building Up and Moving Out’ report.

While I don’t agree with all the recommendations, the report makes an important contribution to the nation’s ongoing debate about how to best manage population growth in our cities.

Of particular significance to this conference is recommendation 11, which focuses on the need for cities to have an efficient public transport network.

It suggests that governments should collaborate to ‘embrace innovation’, create a ‘more sustainable model of urban transport connectivity’ and ‘promote investment in the development of a public transport network capable of meeting the goal of a 30 minute city.’

Just like the Bus Industry Confederation, I am also an advocate of the 30 minute city, and of course buses are part of this equation.

The current Federal Government talks a lot about ‘congestion-busting’.

Adopting this recommendation and investing in public transport infrastructure, rather than just talking about it, would make a very real difference.

Our cities can’t afford more rhetoric – our cities need their national government to take action.

Keeping the wheels turning, literally, so that cities continue to perform as economic powerhouses is one of our biggest challenges.

Traffic congestion is already costing the national economy $16 billion a year in lost productivity.

And, according to analysis by Infrastructure Australia, this cost will rise to $53 billion a year by 2031 unless we act now.

But it’s not just about lost productivity; it’s also about quality of life.

Because most job creation has been in inner areas, growth in population has been in outer communities there has been disconnect between where people work and where people live.

This has led to the development of drive-in drive-out suburbs, where people spend more time commuting to and from work then they do at home with their families.

TECHNOLOGY

The truth is that technology will assist us in overcoming some of our urban challenges.

Technology has facilitated the greater use of bus lanes, which have in turn led to express routes.

These have the added advantage of reminding motorists sitting in traffic of the advantage of taking the bus as it goes past them.

The Managed Motorways Program, which Labor initiated and invested significantly in, is a great example of incorporating intelligent transport solutions into urban motorway networks.

These included entry ramp signalling, variable speed limit signs, CCTVs and digital message signs that provide motorists with live updates on traffic conditions and delays.

But technology is also disruptive.

We know it will impact the transport sector and, indeed it already has.

This includes the rise of car share, with the introduction of Uber and other, similar companies.

Today in Australia there are 3.8 million regular Uber riders and 62,000 active driver-partners.

The taxi industry has, understandably, resisted Uber.

But that has made no difference. The share economy is driven by the Internet, which makes regulation difficult.

But these changes still require a government response.

As Stephen Hawking said, “we are not going to stop making progress or reverse it, so we must recognise the dangers and control them”.

In addition to recognising dangers, we should also be looking at how we can make these advancements in technology work for us.

Not just for some of us, but for all of us.

Automation is one area where this will be key.

Research from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia indicates that up to five million jobs could be affected by automation by 2030.

Governments need to be forward thinking about how to best manage this change.

If it is managed well, the changing nature of work has the potential to improve the quality of life of people, especially those who work in the transport industry with new, high-skilled and well paid jobs.

But if managed poorly, the gap between the haves and have nots will only widen.

And as Michael Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Atlassian, told a recent Senate Inquiry on this very issue, “hope is not a tactic”.

We need to actively and genuinely pursue a strategy aimed at ensuring those people who will be displaced by new technology have the skills they need for the jobs of the future.

The fact is that the Federal Government’s cuts to vocational education actively undermine our ability to achieve this.

Investment and leadership from the national government is critical.

So too, is collaboration.

Tackling issues such as automated transport offers a great opportunity for genuine collaboration between governments, employers and trade unions in an area that is undeniably in their common interest.

Over the past ten years as the Minister and Shadow Minister for Transport I have regularly met with transport workers.

The passion transport workers have for their industry is obvious and it is this passion that is so important as we plan for the future of work.

This type of planning is currently underway in Singapore, which has launched its ‘Land Transport Industry Transformation Map’.

This strategy seeks to leverage emerging technology to improve the land transport system, grow productivity and enhance the commuter experience, while also future-proofing the workforce through up-skilling and re-skilling programs.

For the bus and coach sector there are a number of opportunities in this space.

The truth is mass transit will always have a role to play.

We will always want to reduce congestion, not grow it by having more cars on the road – automated or not.

Dedicated bus lanes can carry 8,000 people an hour.

In contrast, cars can only move less than 1,000 people each hour.

Your sector is already talking about what other opportunities might exist.

For example, Michael Apps in his comments to the Senate Inquiry into cities observed that automation could enable buses to compete directly with rail.

He said, “Autonomy is going to drive a whole different outcome … platooning bus seats, or platooning vehicles that operate on a dedicated route but have the capacity to hive off to service individual suburbs…”

As many of you know, platooning is an application of automated driving technology that uses wireless communications to allow two or more vehicles to safely travel closer together.

While travelling in a platoon, the lead vehicle communicates with following vehicles, sending commands about when and how to undertake steering, acceleration and braking.

As well as improving safety, these systems will reduce costs of fuel consumption, in turn reducing pollution.

Vehicle platooning in both passenger and freight applications is projected to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 20 per cent.

That’s important.

Sixteen per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from cars.

And transport emissions have the highest rate of growth.

Electric vehicles will help reduce emissions.

In Australia this is already being done.

Adelaide has updated its O-Bahn Busway to include a number of electric buses.

The Australian company tasked with manufacturing these buses, Tindo, has since been contracted to produce additional buses across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

In great news, this has required the company to expand its staff from 29 to 79.

This highlights additional opportunities in manufacturing, which is significant considering Australia’s vibrant bus manufacturing sector.

CONCLUSION

The Bus Industry Confederation is right to highlight mobility, connectivity and technology as its key pillars.

As the nation’s demographics shift and as advancements in technology continue to gather pace technology will shape the way people access services and connect to their community.

Government should work with the sector to ensure that this change is constructive and that the worst potential consequences of disruption and automation are avoided.

For my part, I am committed to working with each of you to ensure that the bus and coach sector remains strong.

This is particularly important given its crucial role in underpinning the success of Australia’s cities and towns.

 

Oct 3, 2018

Speech to Patrick Deegan’s Campaign Launch – Lismore, NSW – Wednesday, 3 October 2018

It’s great to be here in Page.

This is a wonderful part of the world – fantastic weather, a clean environment and wonderful people.

But this part of the world also faces some real challenges.

Page is the 5th poorest electorate in this country.

Down the road there’s Cowper, the 6th poorest.

And Lyne is the 2nd poorest.

There’s a common denominator here – they are all held by the Nationals.

The fact that three of the sixth poorest electorates in Australia are in this part of the world tells you everything you need to know about the quality of representation being provided by the Nationals in the Parliament of Australia.

They are ineffective, directionless and divided.

They are almost as divided as their political overlords in the Liberal Party, who are still unable to explain to the people of Australian why they sacked Malcolm Turnbull and why they are on to their third Prime Minister in five years.

They are a rabble.

It’s all about the internals, never about the people of Australia.

Australians deserve better.

The people of Page deserve better.

Patrick Deegan will do better.

He’s from Casino. He’s a family man.

He and his wife Gail have raised four children in this community.

As a social worker and a local, Patrick has a deep understanding of the challenges facing families in this part of the world:

  • Accessing medical care.
  • Getting their kids educated and into the workforce.
  • Struggling with inadequate roads.
  • Trying to run businesses in the 21st century using 19th century copper-based broadband technology.

Patrick understands these problems and, as a part of a Labor Government, he wants to take genuine action to address them.

Page is a seat that Labor has held in the past.

If we campaign hard and present a positive plan for the future, we can win it again.

Kevin Hogan has failed this electorate.

Mr Hogan knows what we all know – that the Morrison Government is on the nose.

On one hand, he says he is sitting as a crossbencher because he says he is dismayed by the rotating door to the Prime Minister’s office under the Coalition.

But on the other, he lacks the courage to stand up as a genuine Independent and still calls himself a National.

Mr Hogan is having a bob each way.

But now it seems that even the Nationals don’t want him.

At the recent preselection meeting in Casino, even though he was the only contender, some Nationals wanted to delay the preselection so they could find someone better.

When Mr Hogan put his name forward, people in his own party said they would prefer an empty chair.

The same thing happened to Tony Abbott.

Indeed, in conservative preselections across the country, the Empty Chair is attracting very strong support.

THE CASE FOR LABOR

Kevin Hogan deserves to go.

His attempts to overcome his confusion about who he is are embarrassing.

But that’s not the main reason he should go.

His real failing is his inability to get outcomes for the people of Page.

Take my portfolio of Infrastructure and Transport.

In this part of the world, roads are critical.

But when it comes to infrastructure, this Government has been a failure:

  • Parliamentary Budget office says infra structure investment will fall from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent over the next four years.
  • Over the coming four years, the amount of Federal infrastructure funding going to New South Wales will plummet by 70 per cent from $2.6 billion in 2017-18 to $825 million in 2021-22:
  • Out of this year’s Budget allocations, 85 per cent of infrastructure investment is off on the Never Never.
  • No progress on High Speed Rail.
  • Underspend of $4.9 billion over four Budgets including, in NSW alone, $33 million on Black Spots.

Compare that to the performance of the previous Labor Government:

  • Twentieth to 1st in OECD for infrastructure investment expressed as a percentage of GDP.
  • Pacific Highway – Howard spent $1.3 billion over 12 years of neglect. We invested $7.6 billion over six years.
  • Ballina Bypass, Devil’s Pulpit, Sapphire to Woolgoolga, Woolgoolga to Ballina.
  • It took a Federal Labor Government to get action on the Pacific Highway.
  • And it took a Federal Labor Government to promise, fund and build the Alstonville Bypass.

WE ARE READY

While Canberra has been operating like a three-ringed circus for the past five years, Labor has been diligently working on a plan for government.

Across our portfolio areas, we’ve been developing plans to get Government in this country back on track.

We will:

  • Reverse the Coalition’s cuts to health and education.
  • Provide adequate investment for nation building infrastructure.
  • Rebuild the TAFE sector.
  • Reform negative gearing and Capital Gains Tax to make housing more affordable.
  • Act quickly to resettle asylum seekers who have been kept in permanent incarceration in third nations.
  • Take genuine action to reduce carbon emissions, cut power prices and transition to a low-emissions future.

That last one is critical.

Communities around the nation want action on carbon emissions to protect the environment on behalf of future generations.

And businesses want policy certainty.

Yet after five years, the Government has thrown its hands into the air.

It has declared it not only can’t achieve action, but can’t even agree on a policy.

This mob have to go.

But for that to happen, we must win seats like Page.

Patrick Deegan will stand up for this community and make a real difference.

He’s progressive.

He’s experienced, he’s determined and he will be effective.

It’s with great pleasure that I launch his campaign.

Sep 21, 2018

Speech – Finding Common Ground in the National Interest – Friday, 21 September, 2018

A LESSON IN LEADERSHIP

Let me begin with a quote:

“IPA … has been fundamentally about using information and data to better inform the national infrastructure debate, allowing the sector and wider community to better discern infrastructure fact from fiction.”

Those, of course, were the words of someone who is very familiar to most people in this room: Brendan Lyon.

In his decade at the helm of IPA, Brendan took a nascent industry body and transformed it into one Australia’s most respected and effective public policy organisations.

Under the leadership of Brendan – and now Adrian Dwyer – IPA has more than fulfilled the mission expressed in the quote I opened with, and in so doing, highlighted the virtues of stable leadership.

To be sure, Federal politics could take a leaf out of IPA’s book.

Consider this: during Brendan’s ten-year tenure as CEO, there were six Prime Ministers.

And Adrian – who has only been in the role for a short period of time – is already onto his second Prime Minister, and second Infrastructure Minister.

While the comings and goings in Canberra have not been good for the nation’s body politic, the stability at the top of IPA has been a key to its success.

That stability has enabled the organisation to recruit professional, dedicated staff, to develop a strong policy platform and an extensive body of research, and to build trusting relationships, not only within the sector, but also within the corridors of power around the country.

I say these things knowing that we don’t always agree on everything.

Nor should we.

I believe the long-term national interest is best served when we debate our differences and challenge each other’s ideas.

Any such debate needs to take place within a framework of civility and mutual respect.

Sadly, too much of our public discourse these days lacks those two basic elements.

Indeed, the predicament facing modern democracies was best summed up by former President Barack Obama who, in his last speech in office, made the following observation:

“…in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritise different goals, and the different means of reaching them.  But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.”

Finding that elusive “common ground” is what makes forums like this so important.

Once again, IPA has managed to bring together some of Australia’s most senior political, public sector and business leaders to engage with each other and discuss the national reforms that will fix our infrastructure.

And the need to achieve a consensus around the way forward is more urgent
than ever before, particularly after five years of policy drift and complacency at the national level.

Simply put, Australia is at a critical crossroads.

As noted in a report released just this week by the House of Representative’s Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities entitled ‘Building Up and Moving Out’:

“Australia is undergoing rapid change.  Population growth, urbanisation, the ageing of the population and the transformation of the economy towards service and knowledge-based industries are causing profound changes in the urban and regional landscape.

“The outcome of these changes will depend on how they are managed.”

And it goes without saying, managing those demographic, spatial and technological changes will not be easy.

It will require national leadership with a clear, coherent vision of how we as a people can shape a better future rather than allow the forces I have just mentioned shape it for us.

There is, however, one more important ingredient to success.

Real leadership requires not only a vision and agenda for the future, but also the maturity to reach across the aisle and build bipartisanship wherever possible.

The fact is, overcoming the big infrastructure challenges facing Australia – be it in the areas of energy, telecommunications, water, and transport – will simply not be possible in a single parliamentary term or even the tenure of any one government.

Reform – real reform – takes time to deliver the desired change.

ENERGY POLICY IN DISARRAY

And if you want an example of where naked partisanship has wrecked a prevailing consensus in this country and harmed the national interest, one need look no further than energy policy.

In 2007, in what at the time was a major breakthrough, both sides of politics acknowledged that the most cost-effective way of reducing harmful emissions was to put a price on carbon.  And both major parties went to the election that year committed to implementing an emission trading scheme.

Unfortunately, that consensus only held for two years before the denialists in the Coalition, and the purists in the Greens Political Party, tore it down.

Once in government the Coalition then proceeded to dismantle the market-based mechanism that was working – emissions were falling; investment in the energy of the future was increasing.

Since then we have witnessed a debate – mostly within the Government itself – that has plumbed new depths of the absurd, and no amount of spin and denial can conceal that sad reality.

We have even witnessed the so-called party of free markets arguing for new taxpayer-funded coal-fired power stations and for governments to have the power to order private companies to divest themselves of particular assets.

We have had the Emissions Intensity Scheme, the Clean Energy Target and various version of the National Energy Guarantee – all proposed, considered and then rejected by the Party that proposed them it the first place.

As a result, our country is now in its fifth year without a coherent energy policy.

That’s five years without the regulatory certainty investors have rightly sought in order to make the investments that would have increased the supply of affordable, reliable electricity into the national grid.

Little wonder industry and households are now suffering under higher prices.

Then, when you thought the situation could not get more depressing, the Government has in recent weeks simply given up the charade of trying to have an energy policy.

It is now official: the Coalition’s policy is not to have a policy.

They have thrown their hands up in the air, admitting that governing is all too hard – and that’s despite Labor’s repeated offer to work with them to put in place measures that would be in the long term national interest.

And understandably, the Coalition’s capitulation to inertia has been condemned by the business community.  In the words of the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott:

“Without locking-in this overarching framework, investment uncertainty will continue to be unresolved and the national electricity market will remain unfit-for-purpose.”

CITIES

Let me turn to our cities – and here I am glad to report that there is now broad political agreement that the national government has a role to play in making our cities work better.

It is a consensus that was hard won.

Indeed, one of Tony Abbott’s first acts as Prime Minister was to abolish the Major Cities Unit and retreat from our cities.

He also disbanded the Urban Policy Forum, scrapped the annual State of Australian Cities report and cancelled all public transport projects not already under construction, including the Metro here in Melbourne.

Thankfully, the Abbott years were only a temporary setback.

But while his successors have accepted the principle of Federal involvement in building more productive, sustainable and liveable cities, their actions have lacked substance.

Take for example Malcolm Turnbull’s signature policy, City Deals.  In the view of the bipartisan parliamentary report I referred to earlier, while the program “excited much interest”, it had delivered “limited results”.

We must and can do better.

And that starts with having the right processes.

That’s why I recently announced Labor’s commitment to replace City Deals with a City Partnerships program that will foster more genuine collaboration between the three levels of government.

To achieve this we will:

  • Re-establish the Major Cities Unit within the independent Infrastructure Australia and task it with recommending and assessing the progress of City Partnerships.

 

  • Establish an expert panel to update strategic planning guidelines for cities as well as develop guidelines for City Partnerships, in consultation with the Minister, which include benefits to the economy.

 

  • Refresh the National Urban Policy, which I released as minister in the former Federal Labor government, to ensure City Partnerships align with its objectives in areas like sustainability and smart technology.

The challenges facing our cities are complex.

But if we are to unlock their potential, and the potential of those living in them, then we must take a holistic and strategic approach that is underpinned by evidence and good governance.

INFRASTRUCTURE AUSTRALIA

Another idea long championed by Labor that now enjoys bipartisan support is that of Infrastructure Australia and the need for an evidence-based approach to assessing the nation’s immediate and long term infrastructure needs

But here again the Coalition has adopted the principle but not the substance.

While it is true they retained Infrastructure Australia, it is also fair to say that it has been effectively sidelined.

The most recent example of this was their decision to strip it of its role in advising governments on how projects can best be financed.

They handed that responsible over to their new Infrastructure Financing Unit, even though IPA, amongst others, bluntly told the Government that such a body was completely unnecessary.

More than 12 months later, and as predicted, the unit has not brought forward the delivery of a single new project.

INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCING

That brings me to the broader issue of infrastructure financing.

And it is here that the Coalition has been challenging the long standing political consensus and collective wisdom, seduced by the idea that you can build things for free; that you can essentially substitute “innovative” financing arrangements, such as value capture, public private partnerships and equity investments, for grant funding.

Don’t get me wrong.  Labor readily accepts that these types of arrangements can play a role in closing the infrastructure funding gap.  Indeed, when we were last in office we employed innovative funding solutions to deliver a number of major projects.

That included the Legacy Way road project in Brisbane; the NorthConnex road project and Moorebank Intermodal in Sydney; and the Gold Coast Light Rail.

And if successful at the coming Federal Election, we will join with the State Government to deliver South East Queensland’s number one infrastructure priority, Cross River Rail, via a public private partnership.

So yes, the private sector does have an important role to play in building public infrastructure.  But governments cannot avoid the fact that they will have to stump up taxpayers’ dollars if they want projects, particularly urban public transport projects, to happen.

As IPA has pointed out:

“Commonwealth Government funding support is needed for infrastructure – Commonwealth financing is not.

“If the budget seeks to materially increase the pace, quality and scale of national infrastructure investment we respectfully submit that Government policy needs to return to real options, which include grant funding…”

The bottom line is that grant funding is vital – and less of it will mean fewer infrastructures.

But that’s precisely what the Coalition is promising to deliver if re-elected.

As confirmed in the 2018 Budget Papers, Federal infrastructure grant funding will fall over the next four years to its lowest level since the early 2000s, declining from $8 billion in 2017-18 to $4.5 billion in 2021-22.

The independent Parliamentary Budget Office has concluded that grant funding, expressed as a proportion of GDP and based on current budget allocations, will halve over the next decade from 0.4 per cent  to 0.2 per cent.

That’s a 50 per cent cut.

As well as cutting grant funding going forward, the Government’s infrastructure program thus far has been plagued by project delays, missed deadlines and botched program rollouts.

Too often grand announcements are made then nothing happens.

Indeed, over its first four budgets, this Government has invested $4.7 billion less than it promised.

That’s a massive 20 per cent underspend.

And thanks to the Senate Estimates process, today I can reveal that during the course of the last financial year 127 projects around the country were running behind schedule, largely the product of poor planning and inadequate project oversight.

Given the totality of the Coalition’s record, it is not surprising that over their time in office Australia has slipped from 18th to 28th on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index when it comes to the adequacy, quality and efficiency of our infrastructure.

So, that’s my take on where we stand today as a nation.

And given the events of recent weeks, and the resulting division, chaos and suspicion that now grips the Government benches, I am sad to say, I cannot see the situation improving much, at least not in the short term.

FEDERAL LABOR’S APPROACH

To those who ask what a future Labor Government would do, I would point them to our record the last time we had the privilege of governing this great nation, as well as to the fact that if we are successful at the coming election you will have in me a minister that is experienced and a known quantity.

The truth is, while prime ministers may have come and gone, there has been one fixture in the Federal Parliament over the past decade and that has been Labor’s infrastructure spokesman.

I have, in fact, held this portfolio for almost as long as IPA has existed.

As well as establishing institutions such as Infrastructure Australia and the Major Cities Unit to break the nexus between the three or four year electoral cycle and the much longer investment cycle, the former Federal Labor Government also:

  • Restored national leadership via my appointment as Australia’s first ever Federal Infrastructure Minister and the creation of a Federal Infrastructure Department.

 

  • Built and upgraded 7,500 kilometres of road including completing the duplication of the Hume Highway, accelerating the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to dual carriageway, and improving the safety and flood immunity of hundreds of kilometres of the Bruce;

 

  • Rebuilt a third of the interstate rail freight network – some 4,000 kilometres of track; and

 

  • Committed more funding to urban rail infrastructure than all our predecessors since Federation combined.

All up, we more than doubled annual Federal infrastructure spending from $132 to $265 per Australian, taking Australia from 20th out of 25 OECD countries to number 1 when it came to investment in public infrastructure as a proportion of national income.

And we did all that because of and in spite of the fact that our government was confronted with the most severe and far reaching global economic downturn since the Great Depression of 1929.

It’s this record that will provide the template for what we will do the next time.

In short, there will be two key elements to Labor’s infrastructure agenda for the nation.

Firstly, if we are to maximise its economic, social and environmental dividends, infrastructure policy has to be got right – and that starts with a genuine commitment to a long term strategy based on an objective, evidence-based assessment of the nation’s infrastructure needs.

In practice that will involve returning Infrastructure Australia to the centre of the Government’s decision making process – and respecting it’s advice.  To that end, we will provide it with the resources it needs to perform its core functions, including assessing projects, producing an infrastructure pipeline and recommending financing mechanisms.

The importance of having an effective Infrastructure Australia cannot be overstated.

While the quantity of available investment is important, so too is ensuring that taxpayers get value for money.  It is imperative that funding go to projects that will fix an identified problem; projects where the planning has been done; projects offering the highest economic, social and environmental returns.

Simply put, the more zeros on a project’s price tag does not automatically mean the project is a better solution than a cheaper alternative.

Secondly, we will reverse the projected decline in Federal investment and provide real funding to the real projects that have been identified and properly assessed by a re-empowered Infrastructure Australia.

Not only will we proceed with all the new projects announced in 2018 Budget, we will add to them to create an even more ambitious capital works program, particularly in the area of urban public transport.

As I mentioned, a future Federal Labor Government will invest in Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project.  In Sydney we will partner with the State to build the Western Metro as well as ensure the new Western Sydney Airport is connected to the City’s passenger rail network from the day it opens.

Labor understands that as one of the most urbanised nations on the planet, Australia’s continued prosperity will largely depend on how successful we are at making our cities work better.

And that demands investment in both their road and rail infrastructure.

But importantly, our infrastructure agenda will not be just about investing in the transport links which move people and freight from A to B quickly, reliably and at lowest cost.

On energy, we will end the years of policy confusion and establish a clear mechanism that will drive down emissions while providing the investment certainty that will led to lower electricity prices for businesses and households.

On communications, we will have a broadband network build on 21st Century fibre not 19th Century copper, a network that will not only revolutionise the delivery of essential services such as health and education, but also unleash the growth potential of our regions.

And that’s only for starters.

We will have much more to say about infrastructure between now and election day.

After all, Labor is the party of nation building.

CONCLUSION

Let me conclude by stating a truism: Good government is about planning and building for the future.

Indeed, in order to drive long-term economic growth, build inclusive communities and transit to a low carbon future, it is imperative that infrastructure policy be got right.

Achieving this will require collaboration between governments and with the private sector.

But above all, it will require bold thinking and long-term vision.

In short, Australia needs real leadership.

Our long term national interest demands nothing less.

And I am confident that is precisely what the next Labor Government will deliver.

ENDS
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2018

 

Sep 21, 2018

Speech – Vision: The Key to Nation Building – Friday, 21 September, 2018

VISION: THE KEY TO NATION BUILDING

SPEECH TO IRISH-AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
MELBOURNE – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2018

Thanks for the invitation to speak to you today about the important issue of infrastructure investment in this country.

It’s a good opportunity to survey the current infrastructure landscape and also to outline Labor’s approach should we be privileged to form government after the next federal election.

Let me start by talking about the essential ingredient of any effective infrastructure policy.

It’s vision.

Jonathon Swift once said: “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others’’.

When it comes to infrastructure, vision is about imagining a better outcome and taking the necessary steps to achieve that vision.

Good infrastructure policy is about responding to capacity constraints.

But great infrastructure policy – the kind we should aspire to – is about anticipating future needs and delivering responses before they become obstacles to economic growth.

Great infrastructure policy is forward-looking and creative.

It creates prosperity.

Take the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

This visionary piece of nation building has created and sustained hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country.

In the words of another great Irish thinker, George Bernard Shaw: “The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react’’.

CHALLENGES

The next Labor Government will have two challenges when it comes to infrastructure.

The first is to address under-investment under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government.

Earlier this month analysis by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office found that on the current trajectory, Federal infrastructure grants to the states, expressed as a percentage of GDP growth, will fall by half from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent over the next four years.

In the lead-up to this year’s Federal Budget, the Government attempted to address public concern about traffic congestion by announcing a range of public transport projects around the nation, including the proposed rail line to Tullamarine Airport.

However, 85 per cent of its proposed investment won’t appear for at least four years.

While the investment is needed now, the Budget documents show it has been pushed off into the Never-Never.

The Coalition’s cuts have been felt hardest here in Victoria, which last year received just 8 per cent of Federal infrastructure grants despite being home to a quarter of the national population.

The second challenge facing a Labor Government will be to move the policy focus from a game of catch-up to the use of infrastructure investment as a facilitator of future growth.

This will require a significant shift.

It will require better planning, increased investment, as well as genuine co-operation with other levels of government and the private sector.

But perhaps most importantly, it will require a serious regional development program to promote growth in rural and regional Australia so it can take some of the pressure of growth off capital cities.

TRAFFIC CONGESTION

In 2007, one of the first decisions made by the incoming Coalition Government was the cancellation of all Federal investment in public transport not already under construction.

With the stroke of a pen, then Prime Minister Tony Abbott scrapped billions of dollars’ worth of planned investment in rail projects in major cities, including the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, as well as projects in other capital cities.

It came just months after the independent Infrastructure Australia produced research that showed that unless Governments acted, traffic congestion would cost the nation $53 billion a year in lost productivity by 2031.

For the past century, Australia has been one the world’s most urbanised nations.

Four out of five of us live in cities.

Until recently, our population was small enough that people could live in capital cities while still enjoying the space that comes with living in a house and yard.

But this is changing.

Accelerating population growth, combined with strong jobs growth in and around central business districts, means our cities are not just developing outwards, but also upwards.

This fundamental transformation of Australian cities must be accompanied by transformative infrastructure investment, particularly in public transport.

Labor has already committed to work with the Queensland Government on Cross River Rail, which would dramatically increase the capacity of the south-east Queensland rail network.

We’ve also announced investment for the proposed Western Metro from the City to Parramatta, as well as Western Sydney Rail – a new line running from north to south through Sydney’s west via the new Western Sydney Airport.

We’ve announced support for the Perth METRONET, the Sunshine Coast’s Beerburrum-to-Landsborough line duplication, and, back here in Melbourne, the Frankston to Baxter Upgrade, as well as an extension of the Number 11 tram route.

Decentralisation must be part of the response to crowding in Australian cities.

However, decentralisation won’t happen unless there are jobs in regional centres, along with efficient rail links to capital cities.

On jobs we’ll collaborate with state governments, councils and the private sector to identify and invest in projects that will stimulate growth.

Our City Partnerships program, which will replace the existing City Deals framework, will work from the bottom up, on the basis that local communities are always better placed to understand local priorities than bureaucrats in Canberra.

A Labor Government would also advance a High Speed Rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

High Speed Rail would revolutionise interstate travel.

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

All of these centres would be better placed to attract business investment and new residents if they were within a short train ride of a capital city.

PROCESS

Finally, I’d like to talk about process.

Good process is an essential prerequisite for good outcomes.

In 2008 the former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia as an independent advisor to government.

Its job was to independently assess proposed infrastructure projects on the basis of cost-benefit analysis and create a pipeline of projects both sides of politics could support on the basis of demonstrated economic benefit.

The Coalition has undermined this process.

Mr Abbott ignored Infrastructure Australia’s recommendations to fund projects like the Melbourne Metro, instead funding unassessed toll roads like the ill-fated East-West Link here in Melbourne.

Later, Malcolm Turnbull tried to sideline Infrastructure Australia by creating the Infrastructure Financing Unit to work with industry on innovative financing mechanisms for private investment in public infrastructure projects.

But Infrastructure Australia already performed this role.

You don’t hear much about the IFU any more. It has been a failure.

I’m also concerned that Infrastructure Australia is aligning its research outcomes with the Government’s political agenda.

As an example, let’s consider the history of the Cross River Rail Link in Brisbane, which would add a second rail crossing over the Brisbane River in the city’s CBD.

When Infrastructure Australia produced its 2012 National Infrastructure Priority List, Cross River Rail was classified as “ready to go’’ and rated the nation’s  most-immediate infrastructure requirement.

Now, since the Coalition has refused to back the project, it has somehow fallen down Infrastructure Australia’s list of priorities.

A Labor Government will restore Infrastructure Australia’s independence and return it to the centre of the infrastructure development process.

We’d also recreate the Major Cities Unit within Infrastructure Australia, which was also abolished by Mr Abbott in 2013, to bring renewed focus on the productivity, sustainability and liveability of Australian cities.

CONCLUSION

This country stands at a critical stage of its development.

We have two choices on infrastructure.

On one hand there is the current path.

It is based on the view that building railways and roads is some kind of expensive inconvenience that should only be undertaken when serious capacity constraints erode profits and generate intolerable political pressure.

One the other hand, we can embrace nation building as an opportunity to address capacity constraints while also creating the foundations for long-term, sustained economic growth.

Indeed, Treasury estimates that good infrastructure investment has an average multiplier of four times its cost over the 25-year life of an asset.

So I’m for the latter.

It will require a careful program of evidence-based decision-making, sustained investment in both cities and regions and creative thinking in the national interest.

ENDS
FRIDAY, 21 SEPTEMBER, 2018

Sep 16, 2018

Speech to Country Labor Conference – Labor will Deliver for Rural and Regional Australia – Forster, NSW – Sunday, 16 September 2018

I’m proud to have the chance to once again address the great NSW Labor Country Conference.

This gathering of true believers is without doubt one of the finest events on the Labor calendar.

I want to thank each and every one of the delegates for the work you do in promoting Labor’s cause.

As the Shadow Minister for Regional Development, I’m acutely aware of the importance of country NSW.

Country NSW is hurting.

It’s gripped by drought.

While Australians have been getting behind our farming communities by contributing to relief efforts, we all know what is really needed – rain.

Let’s hope it comes soon.

But that won’t solve everything.

Country NSW is hurting from the neglect of Coalition governments at the state and federal level.

The electorate where we gather today – Lyne – has the second lowest average income in the country, according to the last census.

Just to our north, the electorate of Cowper is the sixth poorest in the country.

And one electorate further on is Page – the fifth poorest electorate in the country.

It is an indictment of the National Party that the Mid North Coast to North Coast region includes three of the six poorest electorates in our nation.

We can do better.

Labor will do better.

For evidence, look at our record.

In the period of the former Government we rolled out investment in this region to improve infrastructure, create employment and boost incomes.

Our investment in the Pacific Highway was critical.

Just to our north is the site of the Clybucca bus crash, Australia’s worst road disaster.

It took a Labor Government to upgrade the section from Frederickton to Eungai.

It took a Labor Government to deliver the Kempsey Bypass, which includes Australia’s longest bridge span.

It took Labor to deliver upgrades including the Bulahdelah Bypass, Kundabung to Kempsey, Warrell Creek to Nambucca Heads, Nambucca Heads to Urunga, Sapphire to Woolgoolga, Devils Pulpit, Ballina Bypass, Tintenbar to Ewingsdale and the Banora Point upgrade.

Indeed, we invested $7.6 billion over six years compared with the $1.3 billion the Howard Government invested over 12 years of neglect.

In this year’s Budget the Government said it would advance the Coffs Harbour Bypass.

But what we know is less than a quarter of its investment will appear in the next four years.

As with 85 per cent of this year’s infrastructure Budget announcements, actual delivery of the funding has been pushed off into the Never Never.

We also know that even when this Government allocates infrastructure investment, it is too hopeless to actually deliver on its promises.

Since the Coalition was elected, the difference between infrastructure investment announced and that actually delivered is $4.7 billion, including nearly $1 billion in New South Wales alone.

They are not just a divided rabble, they are completely incompetent.

The former Labor Government also invested in the National Broadband Network.

As Communications Minister, I turned on the NBN in Coffs Harbour.

This was  not just about overcoming the tyranny of distance, but ensuring that fibre to homes and businesses would enable the delivery of education and health services directly to the people of the North Coast.

We also advanced the High Speed Rail project that would make an enormous difference. It would transform regional NSW.

But under this rabble, we see a State and Federal Coalition that is struggling to find a reason for its existence.

In Canberra we now have what I call the ATM Government – Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

It’s like a bad ATM though.

It’s an ATM that you can’t get anything out of.

This Government is busted and at the next election it can be put out with the trash.

We have a Government dependent upon the member for Dickson, who should be referred to the High Court over whether he is even eligible to sit in the Parliament, let alone be a minister.

We have last month’s Prime Minister tweeting that this referral should occur.

We have last month’s Deputy Leader suggesting that potential criminal conduct has occurred with the bullying of female MPs during the Government’s internal meltdown.

We have ministers who are simply not on top of their briefs.

We have John McVeigh, who was Regional Development minister last month after being promoted from the backbench earlier this year, now demoted to the far back bench – all in his first term in Parliament.

I’d like to take the credit for claiming scalps of ministers I have shadowed, but before I can remember their names, they are gone.

We have the third of the four infrastructure ministers I have shadowed in the past two years being appointed as the Envoy for Drought.

This absurd appointment suggests this month’s Prime Minister has a lack of confidence in the actual Minister for Agriculture, Mr Littleproud.

So there’s plenty to work with.

What the Wagga Wagga by-election showed, coming after the National Party’s loss in Orange, is that this Coalition is on the nose.

Luke Foley can become Premier next March on the back of wins in regional NSW.

And Federally, many regional seats, not just those that have traditionally been marginal like Page, but others as well, could fall to Labor at the next election.

For that to happen, those of us who have the honour of serving in Parliament as Labor representatives have a great responsibility to be as committed, as diligent, and as effective as our branch membership is in the great regions of NSW.

Thank you and I will see you on the campaign trail.

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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