Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Speeches"
Jun 22, 2018

Speech – Gough Whitlam and the Party of the Fair Go – Shellharbour Workers’ Club – Friday, 22 June 2018

In his first speech to Parliament, my late friend and mentor Tom Uren spoke about his experiences as a former Prisoner-of-War of the Japanese during World War II.

He recounted his experience in an anecdote that is as powerful today as when he first delivered it.

Tom said:

In our camp the officers and medical orderlies paid the greater proportion of their allowance into a central fund. The men who worked did likewise.

We were living by the principle of the fit looking after the sick, the young looking after the old, the rich looking after the poor.

Tom went on to describe an alternative approach he observed a few months later when 400 British POWs arrived and were temporarily housed in tents near the Australian camp.

The officers selected the best, the non-commissioned officers the next best, and the men got the dregs.

Soon after they arrived the wet season set in, bringing with it cholera and dysentery. Six weeks later only 50 men marched out of that camp, and of that number only about 25 survived.

In just a few sentences, Tom Uren cut to the heart of what Australians understand as the ‘Fair Go’.

The ‘Fair Go’ is an Australian phrase that is beautiful in its simplicity and where two words encapsulate a deep philosophic belief.

Too often such phrases lose all meaning through overuse.

But Australians understand what the ‘fair go’ means.

And Tom Uren lived and breathed its truth.

Which brings me to the man whose legacy we honour tonight.

Gough Whitlam sought to enshrine the essence of the fair go in the way in which we order national affairs in this country.

Gough was born into relatively comfortable circumstances.

From the perspective of traditional Labor, Gough’s lack of a trade union background made some colleagues joke he was born on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’.

But he despaired when he looked around him and saw how many of his fellow Australians were denied the same opportunities that he enjoyed, due to the circumstances of their birth.

To many conservatives, then and now, individual disadvantage is just rotten luck, or even worse, self imposed.

What a miserable and narrow view. It is held by those without empathy to understand poverty, disadvantage or inequality.

Gough understood that uplifting the working class and improving opportunities for women, migrants and the First Australians was critical to the nation’s future capacity.

As he summed up perfectly in his 1969 election campaign launch.

“When government makes opportunities for any of the citizens, it makes them for all the citizens.

We are all diminished as citizens when any of us are poor.

Poverty is a national waste as well as individual waste.

We are all diminished when any of us are denied proper education.

The nation is the poorer – a poorer economy, a poorer civilisation, because of this human and national waste.”

This was an extraordinary and audacious declaration of political intent.

Gough imagined a better Australia.

And he took concrete steps to realise his vision.

  • Universal Health care.
  • Access to university education based on merit.
  • The Racial Discrimination Act.
  • Indigenous land rights.
  • Serious policy on the productivity, sustainability and liveability of cities.
  • Support for the arts.
  • An outward looking foreign policy including engagement with China.
The achievements were enormous. They unleashed the ambition and potential of an entire people.

They still resonate today.

All of the Whitlam reforms were important. But the cumulative value of Gough’s legacy exceeds that of the sum of its parts.

Paul Keating once described the Conservative Government of the post-war years as ‘asleep at the wheel’.

A description that applies equally today, it must be said.

After 23 years of Conservative rule, under Whitlam, Labor was brave.

Brave about our ambitions.

Brave in the face of our critics.

And unstintingly brave in the pursuit of our shared vision of opportunity for all.

In 2018, Gough’s legacy calls out to us down the years, reminding us of what is possible when Labor is at our best.

After nearly six years of government by a frightened, divided and negative Coalition, Labor must be at our best if we are to secure victory at the next Federal election.

Whilst our times and our challenges are different, we must continue to embrace the reformist spirit that drove Whitlam and Tom Uren.

It is the spirit that has driven Labor for a century.

Tonight, let’s discuss contemporary lessons for Labor from the Whitlam era.

The overriding lesson is that Labor must always be in the ideas business.

Our conservative opponents seek power for its own sake. They rarely think beyond tax cuts for the wealthy and slashing spending on education, health and essential services.

Our opponents think that if Government just gets out of the way, the market will sort things out.

Labor sees Government as the great enabler of opportunity and supports intervention when markets fail to produce outcomes which serve the national interest.

Some in the Coalition pretend modernity and change in areas like technology, culture, gender and sexuality, the environment, and in industry and international relations just isn’t happening.

Others in the Government want to actively resist and not only stop change, but turn Australia back towards an imagined past.

Consider Tony Abbott.

Mr Abbott is not just frightened of the present, he is terrified of the future.

The problem isn’t that Tony Abbott wants to live in the past, it’s that he wants the rest of us go back there just to keep him company.

From the moment he became Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott’s only desire was to wipe out the reforms of the previous Labor Government.

He had then and has now no agenda of his own.

He amplified fears, created doubt and harnessed division.

He had a plan to take government, but no plan to govern.

That’s why his administration collapsed.

Mr Abbott failed to understand that Australians are fundamentally a positive people, who want to see their nation moving forward to a better future.

In 2018 there is no doubt that the pace of change is accelerating and many Australians are apprehensive about this.

Technological change affects where and how we work.

Social change alters concepts of the roles and legitimate expectations of segments of our diverse society.

Demographic change alters the face of our communities.

Climate change is already impacting our environment and energy use.

Governments can’t stop change. They must manage it in the national interest.

They must bring the community on the journey, rather than pander to fear of change.

As Gough Whitlam once said:

A conservative government survives essentially by dampening expectations and subduing hopes.

Conservatism is basically pessimistic, reformism is basically optimistic.

So Labor must always be optimistic.

We must always outline a vision for progress – a plan to advance our nation.

We must never make the mistake of hoping to slide into Government off the back of our opponents’ failures.

It’s not good enough to say: “Elect us because the other mob are useless’’.

That is true of course. But from Bill Shorten right through Labor’s team, that is not our approach.

Labor’s path to government must be paved with policy.

Bold policies such as reform of negative gearing and other taxation reform proposals from Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen show that modern Labor is acting in the reform tradition.

Like Gough, we must imagine a better future and then take the necessary actions to both anticipate and create that future.

We must be determined to avoid allowing tactics to marginalise strategy.

We must stick to our values and craft responses to the real challenges that affect Australians in their daily lives.

We must be brave enough to offer visionary leadership – but smart enough to know that effective reform requires that we bring the people with us.

The key to an effective plan for Government is an understanding of the aspirations of our fellow Australians.

We in Labor must always ask ourselves: What do Australians want out of life and how can we help them achieve it.

If you asked Malcolm Turnbull or Scott Morrison what Australians want out of life, they’d say more money.

And if you asked Tony Abbott, he would probably say Australians want a return of Imperial Honours.

I’ve got a different view.

Australians do care about quality of life.

But they define quality of life as something more than the value of their share portfolio or how much money they have in the bank.

Australians want happy and productive lives.

And like every parent in every generation they want to build a society where their children have more opportunities than they enjoyed themselves.

The opportunity for a rewarding job, a great education and access to top-quality health care.

They also demand a critical safety net. Australians see human dignity as a birthright, not an optional extra. People don’t tolerate poverty, in the land of plenty.

Maintaining a connection with working Australians must begin with cherishing and maintaining our enduring links with the Australian trade union movement.

Unions are our link to workplaces. And our workplaces link us to families.

The conservatives will always wage war against organised labour.

They can’t conceive of the idea people might work together towards a shared vision.

Their creed is self-interest and the law of the jungle – the political philosophy of selfishness propagated by the likes of Friedrich Hayek.

They are wrong.

While Australians have personal aspirations, they extend beyond individual needs to family, community, environment and indeed, to encompass a fair nation.

That’s who we are.

Labor must also recognise the importance of party branches to our understanding of what is happening in our country.

This is not 1950, when most Australians were members of trade unions.

Indeed, many people from working class backgrounds are not members of unions because they were beneficiaries of Gough Whitlam’s education reforms.

They became the first people in their families to go to university, work in the professions and non-unionised industries, or start their own business.

We cannot afford to ignore this demographic.

We need the energy and ideas of our membership.

Their engagement enriches our platform and makes us a stronger, more broadly based political force.

Labor must empower our membership by giving them more direct say in elections for public office and internal positions.

Labor must also maintain our internal processes that emphasise policy making from the bottom up.

Policy ideas that come from branch meetings or workplaces are gold.

Sometimes they are ahead of their time. But they are always valuable.

For example, just last year, the nation voted for marriage equality.

But the fight for this reform began years ago.

It took long-term advocacy to deliver this change.

Let me pay tribute to my friend and our host tonight, Stephen Jones.

In 2012 Stephen’s Private Member’s Bill that would have delivered marriage equality was defeated.

But only five years later, 60 per cent of Australians backed the idea at a national ballot.

It’s now law.

My point here is the push for reform came from the community and made its way up through the party and ultimately through Parliament and into law.

Labor listens to the currents of emerging ideas.

That’s Labor at our best – listening to the drumbeat of human empowerment and arguing the case.

By contrast, the conservatives lack our broad base.

Their platform is not created by the energy of their members, but by the strictures of their ideology.

Because they are subservient to traditional established power structures, they are too often clueless about what is really happening in this country.

This happened in 2005, when John Howard actually believed that Australians supported WorkChoices.

He was wrong.

Today, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison appear to be utterly convinced that Australians believe in trickle-down economics.

They are just as wrong.

And just last weekend, the Liberal Party showed how disconnected they are by voting to privatise the ABC.

Perhaps the worst example of just listening to those who share your views, is Peter Dutton’s indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

Everyone in this room knows that asylum seeker policy is difficult.

We are a nation state.

No mainstream politician believes in open borders, but a policy that uses its prolonged treatment of detained people as an ongoing deterrent to others has a deep flaw at its heart.

Labor supports offshore detention and regional processing, in order to stop the people smuggling trade.

But we call out the Government’s failure to settle refugees in third countries, despite the clear offer of assistance from countries including New Zealand.

You can be tough on people smugglers without being weak on humanity.

You can protect our borders without losing our national soul.

A strong economy is the foundation of a successful Australia.

Without economic growth, we can’t spread opportunity or fairness.

Labor is the better manager of the economy.

When last in office we saw Australia through the Global Financial Crisis, with what has been recognised as the world’s most effective economic stimulus plan.

We achieved this, while retaining a Triple A credit rating from all three international agencies.

Spending as a proportion of GDP exceeded 25% just twice, compared with the fifth straight Budget of the current Government.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating’s time in office provides an excellent blueprint for effective economic policy as an enabler of reform.

Bob and Paul understood that making the Australian economy stronger and more resilient would provide them with the means to deliver social reform.

They understood the message at the heart of the Tom Uren allegory.

That by protecting all, you protect each.

Floating the dollar, reducing tariffs and opening the Australian economy to the world were difficult.

These visionary reforms generated economic growth that continues unabated 27 years later.

Consider for a moment the achievements made possible by this growth.

Medicare, doubling Year 12 completion rates, expanding tertiary education, compulsory superannuation.

Hawke and Keating also understood the importance of long-term government.

If you are in the reform business, you need to occupy office for several terms so the roots of your policy can grow deep and withstand the storms of conservative Government.

That’s what happened to Gough, when the Fraser Government abolished Medibank, which Bob Hawke reintroduced in 1983 as Medicare.

By the time John Howard took office after 13 years of Labor Government, Medicare was entrenched.

In recent months there have been welcome signs of improvements in the global economy.

Our national challenge is to continue to drive sustained economic growth.

The ingredients to sustain growth are investing in education and infrastructure.

Investing in education empowers individuals. Education is also a benefit to the entire community because it boosts national capacity.

I cannot understand why the current Government is content with a situation in which there are 140,000 fewer apprentices today than there were under the former Labor Government.

According to the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, infrastructure investment will halve over the next decade as a proportion of GDP from 0.4 to 0.2%.

Investing in the right nation building projects creates jobs and economic activity in the short-term.

But over the long term, they lift productivity, which in turn establishes a basis for higher rates of growth and job creation.

Malcolm Turnbull likes taking selfies on trains and trams, he just won’t invest in them.

The next Labor Government will invest in public transport in our cities.

Under-investment in public transport is reducing Australia’s quality of life.

It is a tragedy that many Australian parents spend more time in their cars than they spend playing with their children.

Labor will build the railways and roads Australia needs.

And in the process, we will revitalise Australian manufacturing.

The various rail projects being planned by state governments in this country will require the construction of at least 1000 new trams and train carriages in coming decades.

We should build them here.

Labor’s National Rail Industry Plan will focus on building the skills and capacity to build this rolling stock here in Australia.

In the process, we will be developing a national skills base that can expand into other sectors of advanced manufacturing.

I’m ambitious for Australian cities.

They are undergoing a fundamental transformation caused by population growth.

In Government, Labor will engage heavily with other levels of government as well as the private sector to manage this transformation in the public interest.

That must include ensuring that our cities provide public housing, accommodation for the elderly and the public facilities that enrich communities.

But great cities also contain galleries and music venues, pubs and bars, sporting events and community markets. They are places where people enjoy living and which enrich and celebrate life.

Gough Whitlam knew this.

He understood that you can have both roads and art galleries, sewerage pipes and Blue Poles.

Successful cities are not disconnected enclaves of privilege and disadvantage.

Great cities are diverse, vibrant, and above all, inclusive.

Regional Australia, including great regional cities like Wollongong, must not be treated as second best.

The Whitlam Government understood very well the benefits of decentralisation and the need to deliver complimentary policies for urban and regional development.

Regional and rural Australia is suffering, with access to health and education being compromised.

The effects of climate change hit hardest there.

Labor understands the importance of high speed broadband in overcoming the tyranny of distance for those outside our capital cities.

We should never forget the origins of our Party can be traced to Barcaldine.

The next Labor Government will invest in regional infrastructure and our regional cities to underpin economic growth and expand opportunity.

Successful Labor Governments collaborate with unions, the business sector and civil society to achieve positive outcomes in the national interest.

Strong leaders like Hawke and Keating understood that engagement with interest groups is a crucial pre-condition for change.

It’s a pity Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t get it.

He not only refuses to engage with unions; he wants to destroy their legitimacy.

Mr Turnbull and his ministers consciously set business and unions against each other.

But division is worse than doing nothing.

It saps national energy. It gets you nowhere.

A better course would be to seek to enlist competing interest groups as partners in progress by encouraging collaboration and compromise.

That’s the approach of the best Labor Governments.

Our job is not to sow discord. It is to bring people together in the service of the national interest.

Labor doesn’t have to agree with business on issues such as company tax rates, but we do have to engage constructively with business large and small.

We respect and celebrate the importance of individual enterprise and the efforts and importance of the business community.

In my own area of infrastructure and transport, I have maintained a close working relationship with the sector, which has broadly supported our agenda and called out the gap between Government rhetoric and action.

Working with industry helps us to understand its perspective and also helps business to understand ours.

Across the board Labor will continue this engagement whilst also representing those who work in those businesses.

One of the great privileges of my life occurred in 1987, when I accompanied Tom Uren to the opening of the Memorial at Hellfire Pass on the Burma-Siam Railway, with his fellow former Japanese Prisoners-of-War.

One of the remarkable men I met was a giant of the Liberal Party, Sir John Carrick, who passed away just last month.

In my view, along with Menzies and Howard, one of the three most significant Liberal Party members.

Indeed, we spent several hours talking about his life and our very different philosophies on an extended journey along the River Kwai.

Spending a few hours with this great man brought home to me how important comradeship and its political equivalent – bipartisanship, is to a civil political life.

Some of the issues I have spoken about here tonight would best be solved by bipartisanship. Climate change, education and infrastructure, Closing the Gap.

But this relies on qualities that few in the current Government possess. They can barely achieve bipartisanship within their own Coalition and are not capable of the kind of magnanimous generosity that bipartisanship requires.

That Carrick and Uren possessed.

That is a shame.

We can and must do better.

Gough Whitlam built a better Australia.

The cumulative value of his legacy does exceed the sum of its parts.

His gift to 21st Century Labor is the vision, compassion and love for his nation that drove his contribution to public life.

If I may for just one moment I would like to echo the great man’s rallying cry.

It’s Time.

For quality jobs,

For education and training,

For healthcare,

For infrastructure and nation building,

For women to be equal,

For diversity to be respected,

For Aboriginal Australians to tell us what they need rather than for us to tell them what is in their interest.

For the rights of workers to organise for their collective interest through unions,

For our farmers and our business community to have certainty,

For our environment to be cherished,

It’s Time for a ‘fair go’ for all Australians.

Labor is not a grab bag of ugly neo cons, weak liberals and agrarian socialists fighting like cats in a bag.

We are not a single issue party that puts abstract policy ahead of the working lives of people.

We are not bitter, frightened xenophobes.

As Gough Whitlam understood, if changing lives for the better is your ambition, Labor remains the only game in town.

The Party of mainstream Australia.

The Party of courage and ambition for our nation.

The Party of the fair go.

Jun 20, 2018

Speech to Master Builders Australia – ‘Investing in The Public Interest’ – Parliament House – Wednesday, 20 June 2018

In the weeks leading up to the Federal Budget, it’s always instructive to have a close look at the Budget submissions of important industry groups like Master Builders Australia.

Your organisation can always be counted upon to cut to the heart of issues affecting infrastructure policy in this country.

This year, I found myself agreeing with your pre-Budget calls for action in areas including housing affordability, red tape reduction and skills development.

But I was particularly taken by your call for the Government to deliver stable infrastructure investment to provide certainty.

I quote from your website:

“The model for delivery of publicly funded infrastructure must be sustainable and delivered in a consistent way that incentivises greater participation from both State and Territory Governments and the private sector.”

Budget 2018 delivered neither stability nor incentive.

It delivered cuts, delays and a funny money funding model for Melbourne Airport Rail that assumes railway lines build themselves.

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you today so I can take you through the figures and also give you a glimpse of how the next Labor Government will take a different approach.

BUDGET

In the weeks leading up to the Budget, leaks to newspapers suggested the Government was going to reverse nearly five years of cuts to infrastructure investment.

But when the Budget was produced the picture was different.

  • Nothing for construction of Melbourne Airport Rail
  • Nothing for construction of Western Sydney Rail.
  • Grants funding falling off a cliff from $7.2 billion in 2017-18 to $4.5 billion in 2021-22.
  • Not a dollar of new infrastructure investment anywhere in the Budget.
  • Indeed, Pages 137 to 144 of Budget Paper Number 2, tell the story – zero after zero after zero for state after state in program after program.

To be fair, there were new projects from previously appropriated but unallocated funds.

But the funding is on the Never Never.

  • Only 1 per cent to be invested in the next 12 months.
  • 85 cents in the dollar won’t be invested until 2022-23 at the earliest.

If the people of Australia want to see the projects announced in Budget 2018 under construction, they will have to re-elect the Turnbull Government not once, but twice before most of the money will flow.

After the 2017 Budget, the independent Parliamentary Budget Office produced an important report about the trajectory of infrastructure investment under the Coalition.

It found that Federal infrastructure grants to the states, expressed as a percentage of GDP, will halve from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent within a decade.

So despite the pre-budget spin, nothing has changed.

Budget 2018 was a triumph of spin over substance.

Australia needs new infrastructure investment now, not a decade from now.

We need it in our cities to tackle traffic congestion.

Infrastructure Australia warns that without action now, traffic congestion will cost the nation $53 billion by 2031.

We need to invest in our cities.

We need to invest in our regions, to drive economic growth and promote decentralisation.

And we need it in our rural areas, to ensure that producers can get their products to market or to our ports as quickly as possible.

OFF-BUDGET

I want to turn now to the Government’s ongoing obsession with off-budget funding of projects.

For several years the Turnbull Government has attempted to attract more private investment in public infrastructure projects.

That’s a worthy aim if you can get the formula right.

But the Coalition can’t get it right.

Three years ago it created the Northern Australia Infrastructure Financing Facility. It has not delivered any major projects.

The NAIF has become known as No Actual Infrastructure Fund.

In last year’s Budget there was the IFU – the Infrastructure Financing Unit.

It has not financed a single project.

This year’s new idea is the notion that public transport projects can build themselves without public investment.

The Budget documents say the $5 billion promised for Melbourne Airport Rail Link is likely to be provided in the form of an equity funding arrangement.

This is an extraordinary proposition.

Off-Budget funding can work for some projects, like toll roads or in the case of the Moorebank Intermodal. Indeed, I support its use for the Western Sydney Airport.

But for this method to work, projects must cover not only operating expenses, but also a commercial return on the capital investment.

There is no public transport service in this country that covers its operating expenses, let alone the cost of construction.

Melbourne Airport Rail is a worthy project.

But the Federal Government’s proposed funny money funding model won’t deliver this project.

It is sham funding.

Concern about off-budget funding extends beyond the Opposition.

Adrian Dwyer, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia CEO:

“Ultimately there are only two ways to pay for infrastructure – tickets and taxes.  We can’t finance our way out of a funding problem.  I’m worried that what we might see in budgets is a financial vehicle for a project when that isn’t right for the project.”

Marion Terrill, Grattan Institute:

“If infrastructure projects are never going to make a commercial return, the government should stop pretending they will.  And if they are worth building at all, the government should fund them transparently on-budget.”

While the Government talks a big game on infrastructure, Labor in Government will deliver real money for real projects that will make a real difference.

When people ask me what a Federal Labor Government would do, I simply say look at our record.

  • Average annual investment in the nation’s transport, energy, telecommunications and water infrastructure increased from $29 billion under our predecessors to $57.7 billion.
  • Per capita transport infrastructure investment climbed from $132 to $265.
  • We doubled the roads budget.
  • Built or upgraded 7500km of road.
  • Invested more in public transport than all other previous Commonwealth Governments combined.
  • When Labor took office Australia was 20th in a list of developed nations in terms of infrastructure as a proportion of GDP. When we left office, Australia was 1st.

The next Labor Government will continue to build on our record as the party of nation building.

Your industry has a direct interest here.

Right now, your industry is building the homes our nation needs to meet Australia’s strong population growth.

You are building houses in the outer suburbs and apartments closer to city centres.

But the Federal Government is not backing you by providing the infrastructure investment required to service these communities.

INFRASTRUCTURE AUSTRALIA

Infrastructure Australia is a proud creation of the former Labor Government.

  • It has introduced evidence-based decision-making.
  • Better decisions and greater value for money.
  • I have concerns about Government attacks upon IA’s independence, particularly relating to Cross River Rail.
  • But it’s a good thing that the Federal Government has retained Infrastructure Australia. It serves the public interest.

Considering the positive effect that Infrastructure Australia has had in imposing a greater level of rigour on funding decisions, it makes sense to expand its mandate.

The next Labor Government will introduce new pre-conditions for Federal infrastructure grants to better serve the public interest.

These include:.

  • The training of apprentices.
  • The use of smart technology.
  • Integration of transport projects with active transport options.

And on procurement.

One of the key concerns raised with me by mid-tier construction firms is their inability to access work on major public works projects.

The problem is that states tend to let contracts for entire projects, which are of such scale that only very big firms can tender.

I want to see smaller companies, particularly local companies, have a genuine opportunity to get a piece of the action.

A Labor Government will require states to create such opportunities in contracts that would require lead contractors to reach down the chain to smaller companies.

When Governments spend large amounts of taxpayers’ money on major projects, they take the opportunity to extract full public benefit.

Public benefit is served not only by the completion of new railways and roads, but also by involving local businesses and workers in delivery of the project.

As a bonus, there is no shortage of evidence to suggest that greater involvement of mid-tier construction companies leads to savings to the public purse by fostering greater competition.

CONCLUSION

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

I like to turn it around into the positive.

When you plan well, you are planning for success.

Once again, thanks for inviting me to speak to you today.

Your organisation was established 11 years before Australia even was a country.

You’ve contributed to the building of a nation, and I look forward to continuing to engage with you in the public interest.

Jun 4, 2018

Speech to Australian Financial Review Infrastructure Summit- Towards More Effective Infrastructure Policy – Monday, 4 June, 2018

Thanks for the opportunity to address you today and can I congratulate the Australian Financial Review for staging this important summit to examine the critical policy area of infrastructure.

There’s always a lot happening in national affairs.

But it’s often the case that the media’s understandable and necessary focus on the daily cut and thrust of the political battle leaves little room for serious debate about policy issues that affect Australians in their everyday lives.

Infrastructure is one of those important policy areas.

Australians want and deserve railways and roads that serve their daily travelling needs.

Businesses want and deserve efficient transport networks so they can get their goods or services to markets as quickly as possible.

If we get it wrong on infrastructure policy, we degrade our national quality of life and inhibit business activity.

But if we get it right we all win.

We enhance our quality of life by facilitating faster movement of people and goods.

And we boost productivity, which in turn drives job creation and economic growth.

This summit provides a good opportunity for me to provide feedback on Labor’s view of the 2018-19 Budget, delivered just a few weeks ago.

And, more importantly as we move steadily toward an election year, it’s a chance for me to sketch out the broad outline of the direction of infrastructure policy under a Federal Labor Government.

BUDGET 2018

About a year ago the independent Parliamentary Budget Office produced an important report that charted the future direction of infrastructure investment in this country.

Based on analysis of the 2017 Budget papers, the PBO said that over the next decade, Federal infrastructure investment expressed as a proportion of GDP will decline from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent.

That’s half – quite a reduction in a nation which we all agree is suffering from an infrastructure deficit.

This at a time when we should be increasing investment in the right projects.

That is a view shared by industry groups like Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, which has consistently called for increased federal grants to the states and territories.

For a few weeks in April and early May, it looked as they might get what they were hoping for.

Suddenly newspapers were full of reports about new rail and road projects.

There was the front page news of a $5 billion Federal contribution for a passenger rail line from the Melbourne CBD to the city’s airport.

There was another front pager about how the Government would build Western Sydney Rail to the Western Sydney Airport as part of a new City Deal it had signed with the NSW Government and Western Sydney councils.

Then there was to be funding for the Adelaide’s South Road project, the Coffs Harbour Bypass, Perth METRONET and railway improvements between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.

However, with due respect to our hosts today, it turns out that you can’t always believe what you read in the newspapers.

When Budget 2018 was delivered, there was no money for the construction of Melbourne Airport Rail.

There was no money for the construction of Western Sydney Rail.

In fact, there was no new money, full stop.

Pages 137 to 144 of Budget Paper Number 2 tell the story.

In program after program and from state after state, the 2018 Budget allocations feature zero after zero after zero.

To be fair, there were new projects – all to be funded from previously appropriated funding.

But critically, the lion’s share of the funding won’t be delivered for years.

Only 1 per cent will be invested in 2018-19.

85 per cent won’t be invested until beyond the Forward Estimates.

This means Australians waiting for progress on important rail and road projects will not get it this year. Not next year. Or the year after. Not even the following year or the one after that.

Voters will have to re-elect the Coalition not once, but twice more before the bulk of the money will appear.

…Very optimistic for a mob that have had four infrastructure ministers in less than two years.

CUTS

In the meantime, Federal infrastructure grants to the states and territories are about to enter freefall.

In 2017-18, the Government promised to distribute $8 billion in infrastructure grants.

In the following years that will fall to $6.3 billion, $5.6 billion, $5 billion and then to $4.5 billion by 2021-22.

Looking across the four-year Forward Estimates in this year’s Budget, there is $2 billion less for project delivery than was the case only 12 months ago.

Federal infrastructure investment is on a very sharp downward trajectory.

There was a time in this country when Government Budgets were about what would happen in the next four years.

But under the current Government, the investment horizon now stretches to a decade and sometimes beyond that.

Budget 2018 was not a blueprint for nation building investment in the national interest.

It was a political document – a triumph of spin over substance.

Australia needs infrastructure investment now, not a decade from now.

We need it in our cities – to tackle traffic congestion that costs the economy more than $16 billion a year in lost productivity.

We need it in our regions, to drive economic growth and promote decentralisation.

And we need it in our rural areas, to ensure that producers can get their products to their markets or to our ports as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

FANTASY LAND

Part of the decline in Federal grants is attributable to the Government’s attempts to attract more private sector investment in public infrastructure projects.

That’s a worthy aim if you get the formula right. The former Labor Government used value capture and availability payments to deliver major projects.

The Coalition Government is struggling to find a workable model.

Three years ago it created the Northern Australia Infrastructure Financing Facility.

The NAIF, these days often referred to as the No Actual Infrastructure Fund, has failed to deliver a major new infrastructure project.

Last year the Government established the Infrastructure Financing Unit, designed to use “innovative financing mechanisms’’ like value capture to secure private investment.

After a year of operation, the IFU has not produced a single new project.

This year’s new idea is the fantasy that public transport projects can build themselves without public investment.

A case in point is the proposed $5 billion investment toward the construction of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link that I mentioned earlier.

Despite the alleged commitment, there is no money in the Budget for construction of this project.

Instead, the Government claims it will fund the project off-budget using an equity funding arrangement.

This is an extraordinary proposition.

Off-Budget funding can work for some projects.

It can work for toll roads.

And indeed, the former Labor Government used an equity funding model to deliver the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal.

But the golden rule for projects to be taken off-budget is that they must be able to provide a commercial return to the Budget.

That return must cover not only operating expenses, but also a commercial return on the capital invested.

There is no public transport service in this country that covers its operating expenses, let alone the cost of construction.

The Melbourne Airport Rail Link is a worthy project.

It is supported by the Victorian State Government of Daniel Andrews, although his immediate priority is completion of the Melbourne Metro.

But the Federal Government’s proposed funny money funding model is a sham.

It is the funding commitment you make when you don’t actually want to commit funding.

COMMENTARY

No wonder this approach is attracting criticism from independent experts.

The Grattan Institute’s Marion Terrill, commenting on the Melbourne Airport Link proposal, warned there was a risk the project would not even make a positive rate of return, let alone the commercial rate.

Ms Terrill said:

“If infrastructure projects are never going to make a commercial return, the Government should stop pretending they will. … And if they are worth building at all, the Government should fund them transparently on-budget.”

Adrian Dwyer, the head of peak industry group Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, said:

“There are only two ways to pay for infrastructure – tickets and taxes. We can’t finance our way out of a funding problem.”

UNDERSPEND

Let me turn quickly to the other big problem with infrastructure policy in 2018: the escalating crisis in project delivery.

In each and every year the current Government has been in office, it has failed to spend the money it has allocated to infrastructure projects.

Over the first four budgets, the difference between what the Government has promised and what it has actually invested is $4.7 billion.

That’s 20 percent of allocated funding not delivered.

Underspending is everywhere – across program after program, in state after state and year after year.

For major roads, the Government has promised to invest $16.5 billion but has delivered $13.8 billion.

The $2.7 billion shortfall represents a cut of 16 per cent.

When it comes to the Northern Australia Roads Program, the $190 million underspend is equivalent to 65 per cent of the Budget.

One third of all funding allocated to the Black Spot road safety program has also not been delivered as promised.

We can all have our views about whether the Government is providing enough funding for rail and roads.

But when one out of every five dollars budgeted is not being spent, we’ve got a crisis in program delivery.

I’ve been raising this issue for a couple of years now.

The problem has persisted under the revolving door of Infrastructure Ministers since the last AFR Summit.

LABOR’S ALTERNATIVE

When people ask me what a Federal Labor Government would do in the area of infrastructure, my answer is simple – look at our record as a guide to how we would act in the future.

The previous Labor Government delivered record infrastructure investment.

On our watch, annual Federal infrastructure investment increased from $132 per Australian to $265.

We doubled the roads Budget and built or upgraded 7500km of road.

We rebuilt a third of the interstate rail network, some 4000km of track.

We invested more on public transport than all previous Federal governments combined.

Importantly, the former Labor Government also transformed the process by which we assess projects and allocate funding through the creation of Infrastructure Australia as an independent adviser to Government.

In Government we invested in every one of the priority projects identified by IA.

Prior to that reform, governments would allocate funding for projects according to their political whims.

The creation of Infrastructure Australia introduced an evidence-based process.

It broke the nexus between the short-term electoral cycle and the long-term infrastructure investment cycle.

So the short answer to what Labor would do in government is simple – we’d pick up where we left off.

Our immediate focus would be to increase investment in public transport projects like the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, Western Sydney Rail and Perth METRONET.

Traffic congestion is harming national productivity and steadily eroding the quality of life of Australians.

It was partly caused by that great wrecker Tony Abbott, who took office in 2007 and immediately scrapped the billions of dollars that had been allocated to vital public transport projects.

Mr Abbott’s bizarre ideological antipathy for public transport, combined with the current Prime Minister’s self-delusion that train lines can somehow build themselves, means this country is way behind where it should be on urban rail.

We confront this shortage at the very time when population growth and increasing population density in our cities means people will increasingly rely on public transport to get around.

BIPARTISANSHIP

One of the smartest things the Coalition Government did when it took office was to retain Infrastructure Australia as its independent adviser on major projects.

I have concerns about the extent to which the Government has sought to sideline and politicise Infrastructure Australia.

But let me put those concerns aside and acknowledge the Government has kept this important organisation, created by the former Labor government a decade ago.

We would return Infrastructure Australia to the centre of policy making, including on financing options in accordance its the legislation.

The policy architecture is already in place.

The pipeline exists, even if, under the current Budget, the funding does not.

As an aside, let me note an example of bipartisanship on infrastructure policy that will deliver real results for Australians and the Australian economy: construction of the Western Sydney Airport.

For years needless politicking prevented the development of this important piece of infrastructure.

Both sides of politics feared that backing the idea of a second Sydney airport would expose them to election scare campaigns.

But a few years back a few of us on both sides of politics quietly took a joint decision to put politics aside and act in the public interest.

As a result, work is underway on the new airport as well as associated road infrastructure.

We are working together to deliver not just an airport, but an aerotropolis that will transform the Western Sydney economy and create thousands of well paid jobs for its residents.

Bipartisanship is producing real results for the community.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t differences. The commencement of rail connections needs to be urgently progressed with real investment.

There is an important lesson here that should be applied to many other policy areas.

Australians, including our business community, understand that the nature of politics means different political parties will have different views on issues.

They understand that this is an important feature of democracy.

But what they don’t like, and don’t deserve, is needless political division that prevents the delivery of sensible outcomes that serve the national interest.

REFORM

We know that the idea of analysing the costs and benefits of major projects helps governments pick the right projects and achieve better outcomes.

Knowing that this system is effective, we should now consider broadening it.

Under a Labor Government we’ll enhance Infrastructure Australia’s role in ways that can secure better outcomes.

For example, we know that smart technology can dramatically improve the effectiveness of our transport system.

Managed motorways programs including smooth entry points, variable speed limits, and lane directional changes can make a huge difference to travel times.

Under a Labor government, state governments seeking Commonwealth grants for new roads will need to demonstrate that they have incorporated smart technology into the design of their projects wherever possible.

We will require proponents of projects to consider incorporating active travel options such as cycling and pedestrian access into their plans.

We know also that the impact of climate change requires that we think harder about sustainability.

This could include use of renewable energy, or whether the design of projects caters for the shift toward electric cars by providing re-charging options.

We can also harness the Infrastructure Australia process to enhance skills development and improve procurement processes.

For example, when it comes to the construction of the Western Sydney Airport, Labor has made clear that we will require at least 10 per cent of construction jobs be filled by apprentices.

This means we will not only get new airport, we’ll use the opportunity to develop our national skills base, which will have knock on benefits for the economy.

Requiring states to take the same approach to other major projects will go a long way towards reinvigorating Australia’s training system, which, regrettably, has been badly run down under the current Government.

On another point, I am often approached by medium-sized construction firms concerned that they can never get a piece of the action when governments call tenders for major infrastructure projects.

The most common complaint is that the contracts are on such a large scale, they can’t bid for the work, meaning the work ends up going to a handful of our biggest contractors.

I would encourage states and territories to work with industry to craft creative procurement plans that spread the benefit of major government contracts more evenly across the infrastructure sector.

As a bonus, there is no shortage of evidence to suggest that greater involvement of mid-tier construction companies leads to savings to the public purse by fostering greater competition.

These are just a few ideas.

You’ll hear more from me about Infrastructure Australia’s mandate closer to the election.

But my basic point here is simple: Better planning delivers better outcomes.

Through the Infrastructure Australia process, we have an opportunity to improve the quality of project planning to achieve outcomes that better meet the expectations and requirements of both the public and business community.

CONCLUSION

Once again, let me thank the Australian Financial Review for staging this summit.

Infrastructure policy is always important.

But in 2018, with our population growing quickly, our cities in transition and our businesses as anxious as ever to reduce costs and boost productivity, we face some real challenges.

For my part, I believe governments have two choices on nation building.

We can be passive and react only after problems arise.

Or we can seek to image a better future and take real, practical steps to create that better future.

That requires planning, collaboration and a willingness to put the national interest first.

In government, Labor intends to do just that.

ENDS
MONDAY, 4 JUNE, 2018

 

Jun 2, 2018

Speech to the Italian National Ball – Co.As.It: 50 Years of Bringing People Together – Sydney – Saturday, 2 June 2018

I am pleased to be here tonight, representing Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition.

There’s an old Italian proverb that goes, ‘a tavola non si invecchia’.

In English this means, ‘at the table you don’t get old’.

But what it really reflects is the value of friends and family coming together over a meal to share the stories of the day.

As we gather here tonight, as friends over dinner, I want to recognise Co.As.It’s long history of bringing people together.

Fifty years ago, almost to the day, Co.As.It was established by community members with the support of the Italian Government in Sydney.

While its initial aim was to assist the growing number of Italian migrants following World War Two, today it has evolved into an organisation that both promotes the Italian language and culture, but also provides important community services.

Co.As.It makes a difference.

It preserves and promotes the history of Italian migrants in Australia through the Co.As.It Family History Group, which I addressed in Leichhardt in September last year.

Community Care Workers visit the homes of elderly Italo-Australians to help with light housework and meal preparation, making it easier for people to stay in their homes, and importantly their communities, for longer.

Its diversity of programs tackle real challenges – gambling, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health and provide support for young people and their families.

But there is so much more work that Co.As.It does, every day, improving people’s lives.

Tonight’s COASIT Ball also marks the Italian National Day, which recognises the founding of Italy as a republic following the 1946 referendum.

It also symbolises the birth of a new nation.

Indeed, days of national significance like the Italian National Day serve as a reminder to all of us that while we reflect on our past we need to build for the future.

I’m very pleased to join you here tonight and thank Co.As.It for its fifty years of outstanding service in our communities.

Buon anniversario di cinquanta anni a Co.As.It e auguri a tutti per la festa della repubblica.

May 15, 2018

Speech to Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Lunch – Getting It Right On Nation Building – Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Thanks for inviting me to address you today, so soon after the Federal Government’s delivery of the 2018-19 Budget.

Can I begin by paying tribute to the leadership of Brendan Lyon over the last decade. Brendan is a man of integrity, vision and intellectual depth who has the national interest as his motivation in his working life.

Anyone who has visited the IPA office and seen the respect for Brendan from his team knows he is also a pretty good bloke and I wish him well in both his career and his personal life.

Today is an opportunity for me to outline Labor’s Budget response on Infrastructure and offer some insights into the approach of a future Labor Government.

But before I do that I want to congratulate Infrastructure Partnerships Australia for the strength and integrity of your post-budget analysis and general advocacy for your sector.

As we all know, the weeks leading up the delivery of the Budget featured leak after leak designed to create the impression of a big increase in increased infrastructure investment.

There were some journalists and business people, who accepted what they were told at face value.

They didn’t wait to examine the fine detail once the Budget documents were released.

But just like last year, IPA looked beyond the narrative to identify the facts as expressed in the Budget documents, noting for example that in this Budget, the Government cut Federal infrastructure investment by $2 billion over the next four years.

As your CEO Adrian Dwyer noted in IPA’s media release on Budget night, “the warm infrastructure narrative has not been met with cold, hard cash in the Budget papers’’.

He went on to add:

“At a time when our population is growing and our cities are more congested than ever, we need to see infrastructure dollars trending up not down.” 

It won’t surprise Adrian or anyone here to hear me say that I agree.

But putting my views and interests aside, it’s critical for our democracy that representative groups like IPA are prepared to be honest in their analysis of claims that are made by people in power.

The sector must continue to engage in a debate based on facts.

When it comes to budgets, what matters is not rhetoric, but the numbers in the documents.

Those numbers can represent real dollars, real investment, real jobs – and if it’s the right project, real future economic growth.

Now, because I know you’re busy people, I always try to have a moment in my speeches to IPA that is memorable, to lift it up above the noise.

Today, that moment is to quote the Buddha, who once said:  “There are only three things in the world that cannot be hidden – the sun, the moon and the truth.’’

The IPA has consistently had the courage to call out political spin.

You call it as you see it, just as you did when I was Infrastructure Minister in the previous Federal Labor Government.

I didn’t always agree with your views, but I respected them and continued to engage with you.

IPA’s intellectual integrity in promoting a fact-based public debate about infrastructure serves the public interest and is a credit to your organisation.

BUDGET AT A GLANCE

That’s your view of the Budget.

Here is mine.

The Budget is a con job – a triumph of spin over substance.

In the lead-up to its delivery, the Government sought to pretend that it was about to reverse its five years of cuts and start investing in the future.

But once the documents hit the desk, we learned the Budget did not include a dollar of new funding for infrastructure over the Forward Estimates period.

There was nothing to build the rail from to Melbourne Airport.

Nothing for the Western Sydney Rail beyond a small amount for a business case.

Nothing for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail.

New projects announced in the pre-Budget period will all be funded from previous allocations.

We can see this clearly on pages 137 to 144 of Budget Paper Number 2.

On program after program and for State after State, there are lines of zeros in the Forward Estimates.

Let’s be honest. This was framed as a pre-election Budget.

It more about politics than policy.

It is commitments on the never-never.

It’s a bit like Mr Wimpy in the Popeye cartoons who used to wander around saying:  “I will gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today’’.

But in this case Malcolm Turnbull tells Australians: I will gladly build you a new road or a train line five years from now if only you vote for me in the next election – and the one after that.

The Budget documents show that of $19.3 billion in funding announced for new specific projects, a paltry 1 per cent will be invested in the next 12 months.

One per cent.

Over the Forward Estimates, less than 20 per cent of the funds will available for construction.

Put another way, four out of every five dollars allocated to infrastructure projects last week won’t be invested for at least four years.

Not before the next election, nor the election after that.

In the meantime, actual investment will continue to fall off a cliff.

In 2017-18 the Coalition Government promised to distribute $8 billion in infrastructure grants to the states.

But that will fall steadily over the following years to $4.5 billion by 2021-22.

The fact is that little has changed since a year ago, when the independent Parliamentary Budget Office calculated that over the next decade, infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP will fall from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent.

That’s half.

UNDERSPEND

It is also clear from the Budget Papers that even when the Government allocates funding, it lacks the ability to translate the promises into bulldozers on work sites.

In each of its first four Budgets, the Coalition has not delivered the full amount of funding it announced.

Indeed, over these four Budgets, the difference between what the Government allocated and the amount actually delivered is $4.7 billion.

Underspending is everywhere.

Roads – $2.8 billion

Rail – $200 million.

The Black Spots Program – $100 million.

The Northern Australia Roads Program – $132 million.

You might understand this sort of failure if it were a one-off.

But this has happened every year.

Across almost every program.

It is a rolling parade of failure.

It indicates the Government is either unable to administer its programs, or it is seriously misleading the nation about its real investment intentions.

OFF-BUDGET INVESTMENT

There’s an old saying that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

So it is with the Government’s continuing attempt to move away from direct infrastructure grants to the states for major projects and toward off-Budget funding.

For several Budgets now, the Coalition has been experimenting with new financing approaches to avoid providing infrastructure grants to the states.

Three years ago it created the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility.

The NAIF has spent little beyond fees and travelling expenses for its directors to attend meetings in southern capitals.

It has become the No Actual Infrastructure Fund.

Last year, the Government created its Infrastructure Financing Unit to supposedly attract more private investment in public infrastructure projects.

Yet again, sidelining Infrastructure Australia, which is tasked with examining financing options for projects.

As IPA said last year in its pre-Budget submission, there is no shortage of financing available for good projects.

Your submission noted that what was needed was not financing assistance, but Commonwealth infrastructure grants to make projects stack up.

A year later, the IFU has not produced a single project.

It has been moved out of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and into the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

It’s a failed experiment.

Let me make something clear. There are circumstances in which off-Budget funding through equity investments makes sense.

The former Labor Government used an equity model to fund the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal in Sydney.

But the test of applicability for this type of funding is simple – off-Budget projects must produce a return to the Budget.

That return must exceed running costs, but also a make a return on capital investment.

In the days before the Budget, the Government told the Melbourne media it would invest $5 billion in a rail line from Melbourne’s CBD to the airport at Tullamarine.

While this project had previously been talked about, the funding announcement came out of the blue.

The first the Victorian Government heard about it was when Mr Turnbull’s office sent Premier Daniel Andrews a letter after he had already leaked his plan to the newspapers.

But when the Budget Papers were released, there was no funding for construction.

We are asked to accept the notion that the Commonwealth contribution to this project may come via an equity injection.

This is absurd.

Public transport projects don’t make money.

They are critically important, because they reduce traffic congestion and help drive economic growth.

But neither the costs of their operation, nor their capital investment, can be covered by operating revenue.

It is sham funding.

It is the funding that you put in place when you don’t actually intend to deliver a project, but you want people to think you will.

INLAND RAIL

The Melbourne Airport fantasy follows last year’s $8 billion equity injection to the Australian Rail Track Corporation to fund the Inland Rail Link between Melbourne and Brisbane.

Once again, it is clear that Inland Rail will not make a return to the Budget – a point noted by former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, in his 2015 Implementation Study for the project.

Mr Anderson noted that: “The expected operating revenue over 50 years will not cover the initial capital investment required to build the railway”.

This fact was reaffirmed earlier this year when the CEO of the ARTC, John Fullerton, told the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit: “From a strict ARTC point of view, no, the revenue that flows to us would never cover the full capital cost and provide a return.”

As I have said in previous speeches to IPA, Labor supports Inland Rail.

It’s a visionary project that has the potential to make a real difference to the ability of producers to get their goods to market and, in that context, makes economic sense in the long-term.

But the fact is Inland Rail will cost public money.

It won’t build itself.

COMMENTARY

Expert analysis in the days after the Budget focused on the uncertainties surrounding off-Budget funding.

Marion Terrill, of the Grattan Institute, warned that airport rail lines were expensive and stood no chance of generating a return to the Budget.

Ms Terrill said:

“”There’s a real risk these equity investments will end up not even making a positive rate of return, never mind a commercial rate. 

“”If infrastructure projects are never going to make a commercial return, the Government should stop pretending they will.

“”And if they are worth building at all, the government should fund them transparently on-budget.

“”If the numbers on these projects don’t stack up, future taxpayers will be on the hook for today’s bad decisions.” 

The Chief Economist for Industry Super Australia, Stephen Anthony agreed.

“We’re opening up the potential for more unfunded liabilities but we don’t need more time bombs,” Mr Anthony said.

The University of Sydney’s Garry Bowditch said the off-budget financing options seemed “fanciful’’.

And for the industry view, Adrian has said on behalf of the IPA:

“Ultimately there are only two ways to pay for infrastructure – tickets and taxes.

“We can’t finance our way out of a funding problem. Im worried that what we might see in budgets is a financial vehicle for a project when that isn’t right for the project.” 

INFRASTRUCTURE AUSTRALIA

Let me turn briefly to Infrastructure Australia.

The former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 to provide independent advice to Government on projects that are under consideration for Commonwealth funding.

Our aim was to take the politics out of decision-making concerning project funding.

To break the nexus between the short term political cycle and the long term infrastructure investment cycle.
That means the organisation’s independence is critical.

I’m concerned that after five years of Coalition Government, Infrastructure Australia’s independence is being undermined.

For instance, back in 2012, Infrastructure Australia produced an infrastructure priority list which named the proposed Cross River Rail project in Queensland as that state’s number one priority.

This important second rail crossing of the Brisbane River in the Brisbane CBD was assessed by Infrastructure Australia as “ready to go’’.

It was on that basis that the former Labor Government reached deal with the-then Newman LNP Government in Queensland to deliver the project.

But that collapsed when Tony Abbott took office and withdrew all Commonwealth investment in infrastructure not already under construction.

But on the most recent national Priority List, Cross River Rail is well down the list of priorities.

That doesn’t make sense – until you consider the fact that the Turnbull Government has made clear that it does not see Cross River Rail as a political priority.

Instead, it proposes to invest in rail projects further north, on the Sunshine Coast.

This ignores the fact that you can’t increase capacity to the Sunshine Coast without Cross River Rail.

I also worry that Infrastructure Australia appears to be timing the release of its analysis of projects to suit the Government’s timetable.

Prior to the Budget, Infrastructure Australia produced a positive assessment of the long-proposed next section of Adelaide’s North-South Corridor, from Regency Rd to Pym St.

This was released the very day the Government was dropping a story to the Adelaide Advertiser that it would provide funding for the project.

The South Australian Government submitted the business case for this project to Infrastructure Australia on June 22 last year – more than ten months ago.

Labor will use upcoming Senate Budget Estimates hearings to examine the simultaneous timing of the release of the assessment and Government’s funding announcement.

A BETTER WAY

Over the next 12 months you can expect to hear more from me about how a Federal Labor Government would approach the infrastructure portfolio.

But whenever I am asked about how I would approach a return to Government, my response is simple: look at the record.

We established Infrastructure Australia and ensured its independence.

The former Labor Government doubled the roads budget.

We built or upgraded 7500km of road.

We rebuilt more than a third of the nation’s rail network – 4000km.

We invested more on urban public transport than all previous Commonwealth governments combined.

We implemented national laws covering heavy vehicles, maritime and rail safety laws; slashing regulators from 24 to 3.

We published first ever National Freight and National Port strategies – long term blueprints to guide investment in the nation’s port, roads and railways.

We increased spending on road, rail and public transport infrastructure from $132 per Australian to $225.

When we took office, Australia was 20th on a list of advanced nations in terms of infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP.

When we left office, Australia was 1st.

Our investments did cost money.

But they also facilitated ongoing economic growth by boosting productivity.

We created a pipeline of projects that should have attracted broad support on the basis of analysis of costs and benefits and their value to the economy.

In 2018, one of the biggest risks to ongoing economic growth in this country is the Coalition’s refusal to provide the investment required to deliver and continue to develop that investment pipeline.

Rather than investing in future growth, this Government is falling over itself to avoid investing.

The 2018 Budget is not an infrastructure Budget. It is an infrastructure mirage that calls us to look years ahead to an investment horizon that might never be reached.

Meanwhile, average Australians looking for better roads and public transport are stuck in an infrastructure desert.

This self-delusion will lead to increase our national infrastructure deficit.

CONCLUSION

Once again, let me thank you for inviting me here today. It’s always good to engage with Infrastructure Partnerships Australia – as I like to think of you, the good IPA!

Rest assured that in the coming months, as Labor finalises our policy approach to the next election, I will continue to engage with you in the national interest.

And in Government, I would ensure a constructive working relationship with you.

May 11, 2018

Speech to Australian Smart Communities Conference Smart Cities Need a National Policy – Smart Cities Need a National Urban Policy – Friday, 11 May 2018

Melbourne

Just last week I was in Taiwan where the delivery of high speed broadband, use of technology for payments and information flow and data analysis in cities like Taipei are just a given factor in their future economic development.

Of course there are examples of smart technology everywhere.

For instance, residents in Tel Aviv can sign up for a Digi Tel Card, which provides them with live updates about what is happening in the city.

And the communication goes both ways. Should a resident notice an issue with a playground, or broken signage, they can feed that information back to city authorities through the app.

Here in Australia the City of Newcastle is set to run a series of Internet of Things (IoT) trials.

Soil monitoring sensors will soon be installed at a sports ground in the city’s west.

These will measure the field’s moisture and potentially enable savings to be made when it comes to water costs and maintenance.

Helpfully, the sensors will allow sports organisations to remotely determine if the field can be played on hours in advance of competitions.

As part of the trial, bin sensors, smart lighting control and parking sensors will also be tested at the sportsground, before being rolled out across the city.

Like it or not, technology is changing the way we live, the way we work and the way we play.

Keeping pace, not just as individuals but also as cities and towns, remains a challenge.

It is up to policy makers, experts and government to ensure that all people benefit from advancements in technology.

But while there are many examples in cities and towns across Australia of smart technology being used effectively, there is no unifying framework at a national level to facilitate a genuine smart cities agenda.

The fact is that while a one off program can provide targeted investment that gets projects and trials off the ground, it is no driver of change.

And what’s more, without a national urban policy, it is very hard to have a smart cities policy.

That’s why I’m announcing today that a Federal Labor Government would embed a smart cities agenda in our national urban policy.

This builds on our legacy from when we were last in Government where we released ‘Our Cities, Our Future’ – Australia’s first ever comprehensive national urban policy.

It also comes in addition to previous commitments that Federal Labor would require all projects submitted to Infrastructure Australia to  show what provision for smart infrastructure has been included to ensure maximum benefit is achieved from any investment.

DEFINING SMART CITIES

Despite significant investment in smart technology from both the public and private sector globally there is still a great deal of scepticism about the term ‘smart cities’.

Prominent architect Jan Gehl tells his students that, ‘whenever you hear the word “smart,” beware, because that is somebody who wants to sell as many millions as possible of some new gimmick. And he is not necessarily giving you a better quality of life’.

Not unreasonable advice.

Perhaps the initial challenge with smart cities is defining exactly what we mean by this.

And, most importantly for all of you, defining what the national government means when it talks about smart cities.

On one hand we have a technical response, where a ‘smart city’, according to IBM, is ‘one that makes optimal use of all the interconnected information available today to better understand and control its operations and optimize the use of limited resources’.

But the truth is such a technical response overlooks both the complexity of cities and the potential of those people living in them.

In my view, a simpler and more practical approach paints a clearer picture while ensuring we don’t overlook a city’s most valuable asset – its people.

So I believe smart cities can be summed up as follows: those that use the latest technology and urban design techniques to deliver on three key objectives – productivity, sustainability and liveability.

And this is why embedding the smart cities concept in Labor’s national urban policy is so important.

Yet the challenges that most constrain our productivity, sustainability and liveability are not new.

Issues around the impact of climate change on our urban environment, housing affordability, urban congestion, ensuring cities have an efficient public transport network and that people have access to employment centres have challenged us for decades.

Smart technology certainly offers a new opportunity to address these.

While we can’t expect it to solve everything, it certainly can help.

But a silo approach won’t get us there.

And that’s why it’s important we acknowledge that a truly “smart” city has a few additional defining characteristics, particularly when it comes to governance.

Stephen Hawking once said, ‘intelligence is the ability to adapt to change’.

Smart cities are adaptive cities; they don’t just respond to the issues of the day but anticipate the challenges of the future.

They achieve this by being resourceful with evidence-based decision making, having an overarching strategic vision and an integrated planning approach.

Innovation is supported at a community and a company level.

And, most importantly, smart cities put people first, while collaborating across the different levels of government and with the private sector.

Genuinely achieving this is the challenge at hand.

But having a consistent, unifying national framework in the form of Labor’s proposed National Urban Policy is a good place to start.

IMPROVING PRODUCTIVITY IN OUR CITIES

Four out of every five Australians live in cities, which produce 80 percent of the nation’s GDP.

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.

How, what and when we choose to invest in infrastructure has very real implications for the future.

The provision of infrastructure can no longer be considered a second order public policy priority.

In 2018, an effective infrastructure policy is fundamental to an effective economic policy, an effective housing affordability policy and an effective environmental policy.

But the key word here is ‘effective’.

If we are to maximise its economic, social and environmental dividends, infrastructure policy has to be got right.

This starts with a genuine commitment to a long term strategy based on an objective, evidence-based assessment of the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Technology has an important role to play in this space, which is why we have said it must be considered in any proposal submitted to Infrastructure Australia.

We know it has the greatest potential to unlock significant efficiency gains.

In practice this means fitting new technology to improve traffic flows along major motorways, using higher productivity vehicles, creating dedicated freight routes and separating passenger trains from freight trains.

There are a number of examples I can point to where this has already occurred.

For instance the former Labor Government invested in the Managed Motorways Program, which incorporated 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.

And in Victoria we committed $9.9 million in our last Budget to upgrade the Intelligent Transport System along a 4.1 kilometre section of the Monash Freeway.

While in the scheme of things that was a relatively small amount of funding, it would have generated an extraordinary $11.50 of benefits for every $1 invested, according to Infrastructure Australia.

Unfortunately, this was one of those worthy projects cancelled by the incoming Coalition Government, which has seriously underinvested in infrastructure.

Indeed, this week’s Budget, which includes no new money for infrastructure, speaks for itself with page after page listing zero, zero, zero, zero into the forwards.

The fact is that every project announced in the Budget will be funded from previous allocations, putting the lie to weeks of pre-budget hyperbole in which the Government pretended it planned to lift investment after years of cuts.

The infrastructure Budget is nothing more than a triumph of spin over substance.

It does not include one extra dollar of new investment over the Forward Estimates and, indeed, Commonwealth infrastructure grants to the states will fall in each of the next four years from the promised $8 billion in 2017-18 to $4.5 billion in 2021-22.

Not only is the Coalition cutting investment in coming years, but it has failed to deliver what it actually promised in its first four budgets.

Over the Coalition’s first four budgets, the difference between the amount the Government promised to invest and what it has actually delivered is $4.7 billion.

It’s just not good enough, particularly when you take into the account the multiplier effect of investment in good infrastructure.

The Government’s underspend means we are potentially missing out on a whole swathe of private investment.

The need for investment in infrastructure has never been greater, but the Government must play its part by fronting up with real investment and offering private investors the certainty they need.

There are a number of examples elsewhere in the role where governments have thought deeply about how they can lead in this space.

For instance, in the UK, a partnership has been established between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Cambridge.

Called Digital Built Britain, it will function at both a theoretical and practical level, developing standards to improve how new technologies, data and analytics are used when it comes to planning, building and maintaining social and economic infrastructure.

SUSTAINABILITY

But an essential part of cities being productive is dealing with the issues of sustainability.

2017 was Australia’s third hottest year on record. Not surprisingly, the other two hottest years – 2016 and 2015 – also broke a number of world records.

While heatwaves and extreme weather events take a toll on everyone, the fact is that it is those living in our outer suburbs, as well as the elderly, who are disproportionately affected.

We need to be doing everything we can to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

It is one of our greatest global challenges.

Smart technology has a key role to play in enabling greener, more resilient cities.

This is particularly important when you consider the fact that while cities cover less than two per cent of the earth’s surface, they consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 percent of all carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

However developments in technology now mean that we can not only monitor a building’s impact on climate change, but through smarter design we can actually reduce it.

For instance, just two kilometres from here on Little Collins Street, the façade of Melbourne’s Council House 2 dominates the streetscape with its timber slats, which open and close in response to the movements of the sun.

It was the first building to receive Australia’s 6 Star Green Star – Office Design rating and is designed to work as an ecosystem.

Down the road from here, the renewal of the Queen Victoria Market precinct saw  the City of Melbourne become the first Australian local government to receive the 6 Star Green Star – Communities accreditation.

There are plenty of great examples of innovation, across Australia and abroad.

Vertical forests in Milan, Singapore and Sydney act as a sponge, absorbing and purifying water before it is reused.

Renewables, too, are playing an important role.

In just the last three years, the number of cities around the world sourcing more than 70 percent of their power from renewables has more than doubled to 100.
Given the challenge at hand, it is a responsibility of government to ensure it provides leadership on climate change.

This not only grows market confidence in renewable energy at a macro level, but can impact on individual behaviour and decision-making at a micro level.

We have the potential to transform a city’s impact on its environment from both the bottom up and the top down.

And this is why we will ensure sustainability remains a core pillar of our national urban policy, while also embedding a smart cities agenda.

LIVEABILITY

The very simple fact of cities, however, is that their success is entirely dependent on people.

People flock to cities for jobs, to pursue education and training opportunities as well as for access to restaurants and a range of cultural activities.

But people abandon cities because of the obstacles it throws up – lengthy commutes, the high cost of living and poor amenity which includes environmental issues such as air quality.

Liveability matters.

Smart technology can assist with this.

Many local councils are already using technology to allow residents to inform them if maintenance is needed in public spaces.

But there is more that can be done.

For instance, NGO Plan International Australia has released a new online interactive map called ‘Free to Be’ for Sydney, New Delhi, Kampala, Lima, and Madrid.

It allows women to map where in the city they feel unsafe.

The challenge of data however, and there is plenty of it, is what we actually do with the information we have.

In this particular case Plan International Australia has already said it will work with local councils and other relevant authorities to see what steps can be taken to make our streets safer.

We need to make sure that as we collect data we continue to close the loop, using the information we have to generate better outcomes for people.

However, we also need to be mindful that smart technology is not a silver bullet.

Building truly liveable communities that are socially cohesive places depends on face-to-face interactions.

And overcoming spatial inequality requires targeted investment in infrastructure from both government and the private sector.

CONCLUSION

In order for there to be a smart cities policy, we must first have a National Urban Policy.

Labor is committed to integrating a smart cities agenda in our National Urban Policy because we know that technology has a key role to play in improving the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities.

 

Mar 23, 2018

Speech Qantas Perth – London inaugural flight – ‘QF9: A game-changer for the nation’ – Perth

History is made in fascinating ways, but aviation has always charted its own path.

Pushing boundaries…

Unlocking new possibilities…

Shrinking the globe…

In 1947 it took four days to fly from Australia to London – a trip known as the Kangaroo Route because of its many stops.

QF9, tomorrow’s inaugural flight from Perth to London, has reduced this to 17 hours with zero stops.

The first direct flight connecting Australia to Europe.

It’s an historic moment for aviation and it’s a game-changer for Western Australia.

Congratulations Qantas on this momentous event.

And congratulations WA on securing this flight.

WA already has a great relationship with the UK.

Indeed, more international tourists visit WA from the UK than anywhere else, making up about 15 percent of the source market.

But non-stop flights will transform the dynamics of Australian tourism.

And now, WA will benefit from the increased numbers coming to this destination, which is fantastic in its own right.

It will also benefit from those Australians who choose to stop here for a few days on their way to Europe and inbound travellers who do the same, even though their final destination is on the East Coast.

A huge boon for hotel owners and tourism operators.

It also opens up new opportunities for regional Western Australia, home to many superb tourism attractions…

For instance, Broome with its white stretches of coastal and the spectacular wilderness of the Kimberley…

The Pilbara region and its red dirt landscape…

The silent majesty of Ningaloo Reef’s whale sharks…

And no visit to WA would be complete without stopping by the Margaret River, home to some of the world’s best wine and craft beer.

It strikes me just how far aviation has come, even in recent years.

Flying has not always been this easy, or affordable.

Indeed, the first time I flew on a plane, I was 21 and heading to Canberra for a Parliamentary sitting week. I’d just started working for Tom Uren.

Flying has opened up our eyes and our imagination.

Today, because of aviation, more people than ever before can access new experiences.

Whether it’s exploring the vast expanse of Australia, or visiting towns and cities overseas, flying makes this achievable.

So I’m looking forward to this inaugural flight, which marks a milestone.

And I have to say I’m also looking forward to the Qantas safety video – the best of its kind in the world.

The video on domestic flights, of course, combines a critical safety message with a stellar showcase of tourism destinations from around the nation.

And I understand the 2018 video on the new 787 Dreamliner shows the diversity of Aussies living abroad.

Qantas has always sought to convey the Australian spirit to its travellers. It’s done this well.

It is also an honour to join you in London as we promote Australia as a tourism destination to the world.

There truly is no place like home.

Mar 22, 2018

Speech to launch Record Store Day 2018 – ‘Record Store Day and the Power of Music’ – Red Eye Records, Sydney

Thanks for that introduction. Last year when I was asked to be the Record Store Day Ambassador I was rapt. I am a genuine fan of music and I’m in awe, it must be said, of musicians like Amber Lawrence and Dan Sultan, who’ve just been announced as ambassadors for Record Store Day, which will be celebrated on April 21.

Dan is a mate of mine and a great bloke. He has performed as a backup singer at the Corner Hotel in Richmond, when I DJ’d  there as a fundraiser for Reclink – which is another organisation that brings together young people and musicians and artists to promote social change and connect to marginalised young people through music.

One of the reasons why I was pleased to participate is that music is more than just something you experience for three or four minutes. Music is a part of people’s identity. It is part of their lives. I hear so many people making comments like “I remember when I saw this band’’, or “I remember when I went into this record store”, “I remember when I bought this record’’.

In my early days, I went to school at St Mary’s Cathedral up the road here, and I would go into Phantom Records or Red Eye Records which has been around for almost as long as I have. I always loved seeing and getting to touch the records. When Frog asked me to go into Songland in Canberra and bring some of my personal collection, I brought a Phantom Records Compilation, which had all sorts of bands like the Sunnyboys, Le Hoodoo Gurus and Flaming Hands – that era of music that was very exciting.

It was also, I think, the height of the live grassroots music scene. Happily, live music is making a comeback. I represent the Inner West and the number of music venues that are opening up, be they new venues or old venues like Marrickville Bowlo. There is a poster over there for the Celibate Rifles playing at Marrickville Bowlo. The Oils played at Marrickville Bowlo, just a fantastic event. It’s quite useful the fact that we have these little devices, mobile phones, and if we’re interested in music, I am on Spotify as well,  and if I’m interested in an artist, I can download and listen to a couple of tracks and see if I like a particular artist.

But to me there is nothing quite like an album. You can touch it. You can feel it, and you can listen to the songs in the order in which they were meant to be heard.

That is part of the experience and part of the artistry. You can look at the cover and the artwork, the design, the creativity that is reflected in a record in particular.

CDs are okay too, but there is nothing quite like vinyl and putting the needle on a piece of vinyl and hearing that authentic music as it was meant to be heard.

So Record Store Day a fantastic initiative. It is a global movement and it’s fantastic that there is so many new artists will be making new releases, or re-releases, in John Farnham’s case of course, and that people will be coming together all over the world, on Saturday, the 21st of April.

Last year I was just stunned by how big it was, how many people were going into these independent record stores and for some of them experiencing them for the first time.

As the Ambassador I think one of the highlights was – we’ve got a Polish Club 10-inch here – and one of the highlights I think was playing Polish Club on Channel Ten’s morning show, Studio Ten. I doubt whether Polish Club expected to be played on vinyl on commercial television at 9:15am on a Friday morning. But one of the things that Record Store Day does is provide that opportunity. I appeared on Sunrise, The Today Show, I did a lot of radio and hopefully did my bit, and got positive feedback. So many of my mates said: “I got out my old records, I went and bought a turntable and got engaged in that whole movement.’’

Now the Lead Ambassador this year is someone who is, unlike me wanting to be involved in the music industry, the real deal. For me, if it was a choice between being a muso and being Deputy Prime Minister, I would have taken being a muso any day. There is no question that is what I would have wanted to do.

Lack of talent got in the way there. Not even the man I am about to introduce would have been able to overcome that lack of talent that I had.

He is a rock industry legend. Even though over the years he has promoted some of Australia’s and the world’s biggest artists through Frontier Touring, in recent times as well, he has established another organisation that promotes more independent and up and coming bands as well.

Michael is someone who I think is without peer, in terms of a promoter of rock music here in Australia and getting global artists to come to Australia as well and connect them up.

One of the things about the big artists when they’ve come as well is that so many bands when I look back, the first time I saw them was as a support act for one of the big international stars. That’s why there is such a strong link between the Australian music industry and someone who is connected up internationally with Elton John and Radiohead and the other big artists that Michael has promoted.

So I can’t think of anyone better, when we’re talking about promoting Record Store Day, than one of Australia’s greatest ever promoters – Michael Chugg.

Mar 15, 2018

Speech to Green Cities – ‘Energising Communities”- Melbourne

Not all years are remarkable, but 2008 certainly was.

In that year we watched in trepidation as Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions collapsed, triggering the GFC.

The nation paused as Kevin Rudd delivered the historic apology to the Stolen Generations.

And many of us celebrated as Barack Obama made history as the first African American to be elected President of the United States of America.

It is no wonder, perhaps, that one world event sidled past largely uncommented upon.

In 2008, which is also when I was serving as the nation’s first ever Infrastructure Minister, the World Bank confirmed that for the first time ever, the world’s population tipped over to become more urban than rural…

A trajectory that is significant because one decade on it has surged ahead.

Indeed, the world is on track to become 70 percent urban by 2050.

Countries around the world are grappling with this rapid urbanisation.

Here in Australia, all of our capital cities are projected to experience a significant rise in urban population between now and 2031.

Projections are that by then, the population of our four largest capitals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – will have increased by 46 percent.

Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin are expected to grow by nearly 30 percent.

Many of our cities are already feeling the pinch of urbanisation.

Urban sprawl, congested roads, overcrowded public transport, declining housing affordability and an unequal distribution of employment opportunities are just a few of the challenges experienced every day by people living in our cities.

To make matters worse, these factors combined have taken a toll on our natural environment.

And, at the same time, they also pose a threat to public health through an increase in pollution and the subsequent loss of green space as a result of urban development.

On the one hand, cities are the engine room of our nation’s economy, places of opportunity and hope for many people seeking prosperity and advancement.

But on the other hand, our cities have both an impact on climate change, which in turn impacts on our cities.

Cities may cover less than two per cent of the earth’s surface; however they consume 78 percent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 percent of all carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

And that’s why greening our cities goes beyond the aesthetic.

It is an absolutely fundamental part of our response as a nation to the challenge of climate change.

Yet as urbanist Jane Jacobs said:

“There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans”…

A good reminder that in our haste to respond to a growing urban population we cannot forget those communities that already exist.

After all, these people will be the most impacted by any change.

This is why the theme of today’s conference – energising communities – is so important.

The fact is that without all of us, our local communities included, working together towards greener cities, achieving this goal becomes so much harder.

 

UNPACKING LIVEABILITY

Just these last few weeks there has been a great deal of media coverage about liveability in our major cities following the release of the Infrastructure Australia ‘Future Cities’ report.

Here in Melbourne, The Age has looked at the challenge of the daily commute for people living in outer suburbs.

In Sydney, the Sydney Morning Herald has canvassed reasons why people leave the city, with their research revealing that locals are moving to other parts of Australia.

This in itself is not a bad thing.

Indeed, growing our regional cities must be part of any national strategy to accommodate an increasing population and ensure a more equal distribution of the economic dividends from this growth.

However, one researcher for the SMH described this phenomenon as such:

“Sydneysiders as they move out of this place haven’t given up on city living, they’ve just given up on this city.”

Now this is of concern. Real concern.

The fact is our cities are in a state of change and how we respond will make all the difference.

It’s a serious responsibility, but also a unique opportunity for local councils, policy makers and industry to leave their mark and create a positive legacy.

So people don’t think that moving away from cities like Sydney or Melbourne is the only way to have true quality of life.

Best practice must be at the heart of any strategy.

We need to make sure that development in our inner and outer suburbs reflects an understanding of how people live.

This means well placed development that incorporates access to amenities like public transport so that people can get to work as well as parks and sporting facilities for kids so they can be active and healthy.

It means development that has thought about local road networks and the impact additional traffic might have on an area.

And, above all, it means development that does not seek to replace what is special in a community, but rather preserve and enhance it.

So that we create places that cultivate social cohesion and promote opportunities for neighbours to come together.

Indeed, as Jan Gehl said:

“Only architecture that considers human scale and interaction is successful architecture.”

Developers need to show they understand the area in which they seek to build or otherwise community dissatisfaction and resistance will continue to be an issue.

It’s true that we need to have a mature, whole of society discussion about how we manage growth.

But we can’t put problems down to the NIMBY effect alone, and I have read a number of recent opinion pieces in this vein, including one from the Grattan Institute which said:

“Opposition to development is rising again. Unless today’s generation of politicians stares down the NIMBYs, Sydney will repeat the mistakes of the past, and housing affordability will get worse.”

My concern is that comments such as these puts all the responsibility on existing residents to change their behaviour, without also looking at the need for the developer to work with communities and local councils to achieve genuinely good outcomes.

It also disregards the sense of pride people have in place and their community which, if anything, we should be looking to harness as we seek to shape future neighbourhoods.

And it ignores the role state and federal governments can play in making sure supporting infrastructure is in place – particularly in instances where growth corridors are being driven by the government.

There are many examples where development has been done well.

Harold Park in Sydney’s inner west is one such place.

An old racetrack and tramshed, the latter of which had fallen into disrepair.

Mirvac, by working with the councils and local community, has revitalised the site which today features well designed, medium-density housing in tree-lined streets.

The Tramsheds are now home to restaurants and cafes, with the nearby Jubilee Park giving people space to exercise and catch up with friends and family.

This same company, Mirvac, has experienced the flipside of this with its initial plans to build 28-storey towers in Marrickville, where nothing of the kind exists and has attracted widespread community protests.

In what has been a public relations debacle every street in south Marrickville has corflute posters which say ‘Marrickville not Mirvacville’.

I’m pleased that they are now reassessing their plans and looking to involve the community more closely in any future proposal.

It’s simple – working with people is the best way to get good outcomes.

 

GREENING OUR CITIES

But there are lots of ways to make our cities more liveable and research suggests greening them is key.

In addition to combatting some of the worst effects of climate change, green cities can make people happier and healthier.

Achieving this, of course, goes beyond just a bricks and mortar approach.

I was pleased to see a focus on green and blue networks in the Western Sydney City Deal.

As part of this a ‘blue and green grid’ will ensure existing waterways across the Hawkesbury catchment area are protected and places of amenity.

Urban waterways have so much potential, yet too often are underutilised.

Recently, Labor announced we would invest in the restoration of urban rivers and corridors in Merri Creek, Darebin Creek and the surrounding catchment area.

In my own electorate, the Cooks River, which winds its way through the inner west, benefited from investment when we were last in Government.

While there is still a way to go, cleaning up the river has transformed the area into a place of recreation and natural beauty.

And of course, when it comes to energising communities, local projects such as urban waterways and parks are a great place to start.

Indeed, many groups already exist that are dedicated to the protection of the natural environment in their urban areas.

Around the world there are a number of innovative ideas aimed at bringing nature into the built space.

For instance in Berlin, at the old Tempelhof airport site, urban farms give people living in nearby apartments a chance to tend their own allotment and mingle with others in their neighbourhood.

It’s a trend that has caught on.

Today Europe’s biggest urban farm can be found on the rooftop of a concrete building in The Hague that is also home to a fish farm.

Vertical forests in Milan, Singapore and a number of other cities, including Central Park in Sydney, act as a sponge, absorbing and purifying water before it is reused.

Community gardens are multiplying in Australian suburbs. In my local community, Marrickville West Public School has a community garden tended lovingly by volunteers, which provides both fresh food for local residents and educational benefits for the students.

Renewables, too, are playing an important role.

In just the last three years the number of cities around the world sourcing more than 70 per cent of their power from renewables has more than doubled to 100.

Smart technology is also enabling greener cities.

It plays a dual role; maximising the potential of pre-existing assets while identifying new opportunities. Infrastructure is an important beneficiary of this.

 

CONCLUSION

It was Shakespeare who wrote:

“What is the city but the people?”

Our cities are diverse, complex places steeped in their own history.

Each neighbourhood recognised for its own character.

To ensure our cities are productive, sustainable and liveable we must work with people, energising communities, to achieve the best possible outcomes.

And as our cities continue to grow in size, we must ensure they are places of sustainability, incorporating best practice into their design.

Greening our cities must be at the heart of our strategy when it comes to dealing with the effects of climate change ensuring that, at the same time, we don’t leave our citizens behind.

 

Mar 7, 2018

Speech to Australian Logistics Council Forum 2018: Towards a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy – ‘Getting the National Freight and Supply Strategy right’ – Royal Randwick Ballroom, Sydney

Today I want to open with a quote from a politician I’m not usually taken to quoting: Margaret Thatcher.

In 1985 the then British Prime Minister made the following observation:

You might have heard a lot lately about ‘infrastructure’ – the new ‘in’ word.  Some of you might even ask exactly what it is.  You and I come by road or rail.  But economists travel on infrastructure.

What a difference 30 years makes.

Today, the meaning and importance of infrastructure is understood well beyond the economics profession.  Indeed, to paraphrase another Prime Minister of yesteryear, Paul Keating: I’ll guarantee if you walk into any pet shop in Australia, the resident galah will be talking about infrastructure policy.

That is a good thing.

The fact is, in the highly competitive, globalised world of the 21st century, the prices consumers pay, the profits businesses make, the quality of life people enjoy and the export income Australia earns will more than ever depend on the adequacy and quality of our roads, railways, sea and air ports, electricity grids, and telecommunication networks.

Or to put it another way, investing in good infrastructure generates long term economic and jobs growth, lifts productivity, creates inclusive communities, builds a low carbon future, enables businesses to grow, and gives our exporters a competitive edge.

The provision of infrastructure can no longer be considered a second order public policy priority.  In 2018, an effective infrastructure policy is fundamental to an effective economic policy, an effective housing affordability policy and an effective environmental policy.

But the key word here is ‘effective’.

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.

Towards another National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy

That brings me to the purpose of today’s gathering, namely to identify the key policy reforms and investment decisions that should be reflected in the final version of the Government’s 20 year National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

Without a doubt, the freight and logistics sector is the lifeblood of the Australian economy and I welcome the Government’s commitment to looking at how it can better support the vital job you do, including through improvements to the infrastructure you rely upon.

However, I would also note that the current Government was fortunate enough to inherit a long term comprehensive plan that would have achieved precisely that.

Developed by Infrastructure Australia with input from the National Transport Commission, industry, as well as state and territory authorities, the National Land Freight Strategy, which I released as Infrastructure and Transport Minister in 2012, was a blueprint for a streamlined, integrated and multimodal transport system capable of moving goods quickly, reliably and at lowest cost.

It complemented the National Ports Strategy published that same year.

The work had been done.

All the current Government had to do was pick it up and implement it.

Instead at first they chose to do nothing.  Then in November 2016 – more than three years after coming to office – the then Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester had a eureka moment.  He finally saw merit in national leadership and long term planning.

To be blunt, the process we are now going through is little more than an exercise in reinventing the wheel and slapping a slightly different name on it.  Worse still, by the time the Government finally releases its strategy, which is not expected until the end of this year, we will have wasted more than five years.

The Challenge

So let’s turn to the future and what Federal Labor believes an effective National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy should contain – of course, building on the work we did when last in government.

Our starting point is that Australia’s existing freight and logistic network is struggling to cope with the demands already being placed on it, let alone the added demands expected in the years ahead.

For one thing, Australia’s population is expected to grow by 400,000 people a year.  As former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry has pointed out, that is equivalent to “building a new city the size of Sydney every decade; or building a new city the size of Newcastle or Canberra every year.”

That’s a lot of extra consumers who will expect the shelves of their favourite shops and local supermarkets to be filled with the products and brands they need and enjoy.

Then of course there will be the growing demand from industry to supply the raw material and capital equipment required to make those consumer goods in the first place.  Meanwhile, our exporters will continue to expect their products be quickly and reliably transported to customers around the globe.

Simply put, the national freight task is set to become even greater and more complex.

And that fact is borne out by the statistics.

For example, according to Infrastructure Australia container movements across the nation’s wharves will increase 165 per cent between now and 2031.  Over that same period, non-containerised trade is projected to grow by 138 per cent.

But it’s not just our ports that are getting busier; so too are our roads and rail lines.

The volume of freight needing to be transported around the country on the back of trucks and trains will almost double over the next two decades.

And we should not forget the increasing role our airports are playing in the distribution of freight both domestically and internationally.  Indeed, Sydney Airport already rivals Port Botany in terms of the value of trade flowing through it, with much of the outbound freight being Australia’s highly sought after agricultural products such as meat, vegetables, fruit and seafood.

Our challenge is to meet this growing freight task head on; to build and maintain a modern, well-planned, efficient and safe freight and logistics network which supports rather than hinders Australia’s future economic development.

That will require an investment by the nation’s freight and logistic operators in emerging technologies and new, innovative ways of servicing the customer.

The role of government, on the other hand, is to not only establish the regulatory framework that will unlock that private sector ingenuity, but to also identify, plan and invest in the long term, system wide solutions that will support the growth of the freight and logistics sector as a whole.

And the national government has a particularly unique role to play in this endeavour.

Traditionally, infrastructure policy has been segmented by mode – road, rail, aviation and shipping – as well as by jurisdiction.  But it is a tradition that has failed to adequately serve the national interest, often pitting modes and states against each other in a zero sum game.

One national, integrated network

Accordingly, the first prerequisite of an effective National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy is to remedy the limitations of our Federated structure of government.  That means ignoring state and territory borders, and identifying the existing and yet-to-be built roads, rail lines, intermodals, ports and airports which together would form a truly national and integrated freight network.

Importantly, this prioritisation process would protect current and future transport corridors and other strategic pieces of land from urban encroachment.  Ports, airports, intermodal, highways and rail hubs would then be able to expand when required – and do so at a lower cost and with minimal impact on the community.

What’s more, the backbone of any national freight network of the future must be rail.  Just as rail needs to be at the heart of moving people around our big cities, it also needs to take on an even greater role in the movement of freight around our country.

That is not to diminish the indispensable role of road transport.

Indeed, when last in government Federal Labor doubled the roads budget.  In just six years we built and upgraded 7,500 kilometres of road nationwide, 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.

But when it comes to moving large volumes of freight over long distances, rail has significant advantages.  It can do the job at a lower cost and more safely.  And it is the most energy-efficient mode of land transport, meaning less pollution and a smaller carbon footprint.

In fact, rail produces three times less harmful carbon emissions than road.

The more freight carried by rail also translates into lower highway maintenance costs, less congested urban arteries and fewer road accidents.  Just one 1,800 metre train can replace as many as 100 trucks.

It was for all these reasons that the former Federal Labor Government delivered the biggest investment in Australia’s freight rail infrastructure in more than a century.

First and foremost, we rebuilt a third of the Interstate Network – or some 3,800 kilometres of track.  This work included re-railing, installing new passing loops and extending existing ones, and replacing the ageing timber sleepers with 3.4 million Australian-made concrete sleepers which don’t buckle on hot days.

In addition, we addressed a number of major bottlenecks in the network.

This included the biggest bottleneck of them all: Sydney.

For decades freight trains endured frustrating delays getting into and out of this sprawling city due to limited tracks and the priority given to passenger trains, particularly during peak periods.  The solution was to build a new 36 kilometre dedicated line between Macarthur and Chullora, thereby separating freight from passenger trains.

This $1 billion piece of infrastructure tripled the capacity of this vital rail corridor.

What’s more, this new line in Sydney’s south was complemented by a $1.1 billion upgrade to the rail corridor through the City’s northern suburbs to Newcastle as well as the duplication of the line to Port Botany, Australia’s second largest container port.

To further support the growth and smooth operation of Port Botany – and reduce traffic congestion – we also established the Moorebank Logistics Park under the leadership of Kerry Schott.

Located next to the Southern Sydney Freight Line in the City’s South West, this facility will comprise:

  • An import-export terminal with a capacity to handle up to 1.05 million containers annually;
  • An interstate terminal with a capacity to handle up to 500,000 containers annually; and
  • Up to 850,000 sqm of warehousing where containers can be unpacked before delivery of their contents to their final destinations.

When completed, this new intermodal, which is being delivered as public-private partnership, will take up to 3,000 trucks a day off Sydney’s road network, create around 6,800 jobs and produce more than $11 billion in economic, social and environmental benefits.

But our investment in rail didn’t stop there.

In Victoria we upgraded the rail connection to Geelong Port.  In South Australia we untangled the passenger and freight lines near Adelaide’s CBD.  In Western Australia we improved rail access to Esperance Port, and restored and upgraded the State’s Grain Rail Network.  In Tasmania we initiated the Freight Rail Revitalisation Program, which is replacing 290 kilometres of ageing track.

And we connected Queensland to the Interstate Network for the first time.

As a result of this extensive capital works program travel times from Perth to the east coast were cut by nine hours and by seven hours between Melbourne and Brisbane.  This in turn has led many businesses to re-evaluate the benefits of rail.  For example, a couple of years ago Woolworths made the decision to transfer 34,000 tonnes of dry goods from road to rail.

Today, around half of the domestic freight task is performed by rail.

However, while Federal Labor did do much during our previous six years in office to reverse decades of neglect, I am also the first to acknowledge that there is still much more to be done.

The modernisation of the nation’s rail freight infrastructure must continue.

I now want to quickly turn to another safe, environmentally sustainable mode of transport that could be doing more of the heavy lifting when it comes to the national freight task – and that is coastal shipping.

As a vast island continent with ports around our coastline, it defies logic that in
2018 this industry is no bigger than it was 40 years ago.  In fact, in recent years it has been in decline, with just 17 per cent of the domestic freight task now being carried in the hull of ships.

Worse still, our proud Australian flagged merchant fleet, as well as the skilled workforce it trains and employs, is fast disappearing.  Today, much of the freight that does go by sea is being transported by ships that are foreign flagged and foreign-crewed.

Preventing the demise of this industry was a priority of the former Federal Labor Government.  Motivated by sound economic, environmental and national security reasons we put in place a package of reforms designed to level the playing field between Australian shippers and their international competitors.

This package included a zero tax rate, more generous accelerated depreciation arrangements, rollover relief for selected capital assets and new tax incentives to employ local seafarers.  We also created an International Shipping Register which allows operators of Australian flagged vessels to employ mixed Australian and foreign crews on internationally agreed rates and conditions.

These measures were based on the extensive reform programs that had already been successfully implemented by other maritime nations such as the United Kingdom, Japan, China and Denmark.

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

Unfortunately, even before our reforms took effect the Coalition was undermining them with attacks calculated to create uncertainty and sow doubt in the minds of those considering investing in the Australian industry.  But not satisfied with white-anting Labor’s reforms in Opposition, once elected the Coalition moved quickly to scrap them altogether and dismantle what remains of the domestic industry.

All of us want to reduce the cost of doing business in Australia – but not at any cost, particularly if that cost is the destruction of a strategically-significant industry and the loss of a highly-skilled workforce.

The Coalition’s 2015 legislation put ideology ahead of the national interest, and was rightly rejected by the Senate.

Nonetheless, the Coalition’s antagonism towards maritime in general, and our domestic shipping industry in particular, continues to this day.  And there is no better example of this than the fact that the “National Key Freight Routes Map” which appears on the Department of Infrastructure’s website does not have one shipping route on it.

The bottom line is: there is a very real difference between the two sides of politics when it comes to shipping.  The Coalition doesn’t believe Australia needs a viable, competitive and growing domestic industry.  Federal Labor does – and we will be taking a set of policies to the next election that will help rebuild the Australian industry.

Simply put, we want to see more Australian seafarers crewing more Australian flagged ships carrying more Australian goods around the Australian coastline.

Better use of our existing infrastructure

The second prerequisite of an effective strategy is recognition that it is often far smarter and cheaper to get the most out of our existing infrastructure than to always build anew.

In practice this means fitting new technology to improve traffic flows along major motorways, using higher productivity vehicles, creating dedicated freight routes and separating passenger trains from freight trains.

Technology, in particular, has the greatest potential to unlock significant efficiency gains.

That’s why, for example, we invested in the Managed Motorways Program, which sought to incorporate 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.

In Victoria we committed $9.9 million in our last Budget to upgrade the Intelligent Transport System along a 4.1 kilometre section of the Monash Freeway.  While in the scheme of things that was a relatively small amount of funding, it would have generated an extraordinary $11.50 of benefits for every $1 invested, according to Infrastructure Australia.

Unfortunately, this was one of those worthy projects cancelled by the incoming Coalition Government.

Fewer, smarter regulations

The third prerequisite of an effective national strategy is a commitment to a seamless national economy, with the aim of enhancing long term productivity growth and freeing up the movement of interstate trade.  Primarily, this will involve further reforms to the way your sector is regulated.

In government, we made significant progress in this endeavour.

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

And let me tell you, that was no easy feat. It involved many rounds of negotiations between myself and state and territory ministers, in many cases against determined resistance from their bureaucracies that were more interested in protecting their fiefdoms than advancing the national interest.

Unfortunately, that reform agenda has stalled.  It needs to be restarted.

Investment

Lastly, a strategy without real dollars attached is simply a statement of good intentions.

Building and maintaining a freight and logistics network fit for purpose requires consistent investment and while the private sector does have a role to play in closing the infrastructure funding gap, governments cannot avoid their responsibility to invest in projects which benefit the economy as a whole.

But at a time when the Federal Government should be lifting its investment in the nation’s infrastructure, it is actually planning to cut it.  According to their own Budget Papers, grant funding will almost halve from $8 billion this financial year to $4.2 billion in 2020-21.

What’s more, last year’s Budget committed grant funding to just one new project nationwide – and it was $13.8 million for the Far North Collector Road near the NSW town of Nowra in the marginal seat of Gilmore.  It was a project most people had never heard of until Budget night.

Little wonder then that the pipeline of Federally-funded projects is fast drying up.

With few exceptions, the major Federally-funded road and rail projects now under construction around the country were first identified and then funded by the former Federal Labor Government.

According to the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, Federal investment in road and rail projects, expressed as a proportion of GDP, is projected to drop from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent over the coming decade.

That’s a 50 per cent cut.

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

But while the quantity of available investment is important, so too is ensuring that the taxpayer gets 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.  As I mentioned earlier, equipping an existing motorway with intelligent transport systems can achieve a similar outcome sooner and at a fraction of the cost of building a whole new motorway.

However too often politicians are bedazzled by mega-projects and commit billions in the absence of a rigorously, independent assessment and before the planning work is done.

And just a few kilometres from here is a perfect example of what I am talking about.

I give it to the NSW Government; with Westconnex they have certainly come up with the most expensive road project in the nation’s history, a project where they literally started digging the tunnels before they knew where those tunnels would come up.  It’s a project that has taken on a life of its own.

Even now the detailed planning remains a work in progress.

But here’s the kicker, despite having bulldozed hundreds of houses and creating anxiety among just about everyone in the local community that their home, school or park will be next, this $17 billion (at a minimum) mega-project will not actually achieve what it was meant to, namely easing congestion around and improving access to Sydney Airport and Port Botany.

It stops well short of both.

It will now take yet another multi-billion project to finish the job.

In the years to come Westconnex will be studied by academics, engineers and planners for how not to deliver a major project.

Another mega-project that could well go the same way as Westconnex is Inland Rail.

As I have already said, Federal Labor is a strong advocate of freight rail and we support the Inland Rail project.  After all, it was the former Federal Labor Government that committed $900 million to upgrade the existing track that will eventually form part of the line and to progress the project to the construction stage.

However, in their desperation to find pre-election photo opportunities, the Government is saying there will be a sod turning later this year to mark the start of work on the Parkes to Narromine section.  It appears the delivery of this project is now being driven more by the electoral cycle than what is required to ensure its ultimate success.

The fact is the final route alignment has still not been finalised; environmental approvals have still not been sought, let alone approved; hundreds of land resumptions have still not occurred; and details of the public private partnership that will deliver the most challenging part of the project – the section through the Great Dividing Range in South East Queensland – have still not been released.

What’s more, a significant proportion of the ARTC’s revenue is generated on track leased to it by the NSW and Victorian governments, including the profitable Hunter Valley Coal Network.  To provide the company with the long term financial certainty it needs before proceeding with the project, it is seeking to have those leases extended until the end of the century.

Those negotiations are still ongoing.

Most significantly, there are still serious questions over how this project can be fully funded via an ‘off budget’ $8.4 billion equity injection into the ARTC, given the Government’s own 2015 Implementation Study chaired by John Anderson concluded that “the expected operating revenue over 50 years will not cover the initial capital investment required to build the railway”.

This fact was reaffirmed only a couple weeks ago by the CEO of the ARTC, the company tasked with building the line.  Appearing before the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, John Fullerton said:

“From a strict ARTC point of view, no, the revenue that flows to us would never cover the full capital cost and provide a return.”

The Government needs to take a step back and ensure they have got the fundamentals of this project right from the outset.  Otherwise in the years to come Inland Rail will be studied alongside Westconnex for how not to deliver a major infrastructure project.

Conclusion

In conclusion I want to congratulate the Australian Logistics Council for organising this event and bringing together such a talented group of professionals from across the nation’s freight and logistics sector.  I greatly respect the experience, the expertise and the leadership right here in this room.

I also acknowledge the work the ALC has done over many years to build consensus within the sector and across the political system around public policy issues important to the future of our country.

The fact is there is too much partisanship today; too many people are simply spoiling for a fight and are prepared to put tribal loyalties ahead of the national interest; too often a good idea is shot down for no other reason than it was proposed by someone in the other party.

Now, I am not saying we have to always agree on everything, and I have just outlined some of the key points of policy difference between Labor and the Coalition in the areas of infrastructure and transport.

However, I do want to signal today my willingness to work with the current Government to find common ground, and ensure we end up with a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy that prepares Australia for the future challenges and best serves your businesses, your customers and of course, the wider Australian community.

Australia’s long term national interest demands nothing less.

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Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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