Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Speeches"
Jul 31, 2018

Speech to Committee for Greater Frankston – Investing in Greater Frankston – Langwarrin, VIC – Tuesday, 31 July 2018

I would like to thank Labor’s candidate for Dunkley Peta Murphy for organising today’s forum with the Committee for Greater Frankston.

In 1962, John F. Kennedy commented that neglecting cities would be at the government’s peril, ‘for in neglecting them we neglect the nation’.

While our urban life has changed enormously over recent decades, this observation is as true today as it was 50 years ago.

Australia is one of the fastest urbanising countries in the OECD and our economy relies upon the success of our cities.

Indeed our cities, which are home to almost 90 per cent of Australia’s population, generate 80 per cent of our GDP.

But these thriving, growing cities require investment to secure their productivity, sustainability and liveability…

To ensure that they continue to be places of opportunity for all people.

If people can’t access employment, training or educational opportunities, if people are stuck in their cars for hours commuting to and from work, and if people cannot afford a roof over their heads, then they can’t achieve their potential.

And of course this means that, in turn, our cities don’t fulfil theirs.

Successful cities are inclusive cities, with diverse vibrant communities – not disconnected enclaves of privilege and disadvantage.

You should not be able to tell someone’s income by their postcode – whether that is 3000 (Melbourne City) or 3200 (Frankston North).

These values underpin Labor’s national urban policy agenda.

We recognise that the Federal Government has a particular responsibility to invest in our growth corridors.

Too often we see the population of our outer suburbs increase before the necessary infrastructure such as public transport and social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals have been put in place.

This bad planning leads to bad outcomes and a higher cost of retrofitting infrastructure to try to catch up with the community’s needs.

We recognise that if we are to achieve genuine positive change then we must work from the bottom up.

This means working with communities and local councils as well as the private and not for profit sectors, and, of course, state and territory governments.

That’s why earlier this month we announced our City Partnerships policy, which aims to achieve precisely this.

INVESTING IN GREATER FRANKSTON

Frankston is a perfect example of an urban area that would benefit from this type of investment.

Once a fishing village, proclaimed a city in 1966, Frankston continues to build on its legacy, providing a home and a thriving community for its diverse residents.

Urbanist Edward McMahon once said that, ‘growth is inevitable and desirable…the question is not whether your past of the world is going to change. The question is how’.

And what I know from my conversations with Peta Murphy over recent years and with you – councils, the Committee for Greater Frankston, local businesses and community members – is that you already have a fair idea of what you’d like to see happen in this area.

It is clear that the significant investment in infrastructure projects from the Andrews Labor Government – level crossing removals, the Frankston Station redevelopment, the Chisholm TAFE redevelopment – are having a transformative impact on the Frankston region.

But you need a Federal Government that listens and provides the necessary investment to underpin your vision for this diverse and vibrant region.

The challenge across this area is surmountable but not insignificant.

Job growth lags behind other urban areas, with fewer than 28 local jobs per 100 residents across Frankston.

Residents can access less than ten per cent of Melbourne’s job market in a reasonable commute time.

We need more of these jobs to be here and to be local.

And insufficient parking at Frankston Station means the car park is full before 7am, leaving people to scramble for somewhere to leave their car in nearby streets or in parking at Kananook and Seaford stations, which are also over capacity.

Federal Labor will build upon our previous investment across this region, as occurred when I last had the privilege of serving as the Infrastructure Minister in the former Labor Government.

Indeed, we invested millions of dollars in local roads, including funding to fix dangerous black spots.

We invested in Frankston City Council’s ‘The Principal Pedestrian Network Demonstration’ project through our Liveable Cities Program.

We provided the Council with funding for the construction of a new Community Learning Hub to provide family support programs and skill development opportunities for the community.

And it was Labor who also previously invested in the Peninsula Aquatic and Recreation Centre and who funded the local trade training centre at Chisholm TAFE.

But there is much more to be done.

We’re committed to increasing public transport services around the nation, including between capital cities and regional centres.

Consequently, a Shorten Labor Government will move quickly to deliver the much-needed Frankston to Baxter Rail Upgrade.

The truth is that the recent funding for this project by the Coalition is over ten years.

There is no money for 2018-2019 and more than 70 per cent of this promised funding will not be available until years five to 10.

This falls well short of the Coalition’s claim to be delivering the extension of the line to Baxter.

Labor has advocated for the electrification and duplication of the Stony Point Line to Baxter to improve train services for commuters across Dunkley and on the Peninsula.

I stood at Frankston Station with Peta Murphy before the 2016 election had been called and committed to funding a business case immediately upon the election of a Labor Government.

And that’s because we know the benefits of this project speak for themselves: better services, greater accessibility to public transport, reduced travel times, and more parking but most important of all – ensuring commuters get home earlier so they can spend more time with their families.

LABOR’S CITY PARTNERSHIPS POLICY

Projects such as these can also function as a catalyst for greater economic growth.

Our City Partnerships policy aims to unlock the potential of our urban areas to ensure our cities are productive, sustainable and liveable places for all.

As part of this policy we will work with local government in a way that is genuine, in a way that supports expertise such as yours and in a way that brings people, so that together we can build a strategic vision underpinned by real investment in our cities.

City Partnerships will engage all three levels of government through genuine collaboration, as well as the private sector, to set out a strategic vision for our cities.

Importantly, it will be policy driven from the bottom-up through organisations such as yours.

We will link City Partnerships to a renewed National Urban Policy that gives greater consideration to smart technology and sustainability.

We will require City Partnerships to assess what gains can be made through productivity uplift and the additional revenue that will flow to the Federal Government as a result.

We will provide a rigorous and transparent approach to investing in infrastructure; ensuring evidence-based decision making guides the Commonwealth’s allocation of funds.

And we will re-establish the Major Cities Unit within Infrastructure Australia, tasking it with independent oversight of this program, including recommending City Partnerships to the Minister.

But we also want to ensure that industry expertise is more effectively utilised and that City Partnerships align with strategic planning guidelines.

This is why we will establish an expert panel to update strategic planning guidelines for cities as well as the development of guidelines for City Partnerships, which include an assessment of benefit to the economy.

It will consider ways in which the community and stakeholders can be more effectively engaged in the development phase of City Partnerships.

CONCLUSION

Labor is committed to unlocking the potential of our cities – inner urban areas, regional cities, outer suburbs and growth areas – by bringing together all levels of government, the private sector and community in a way that is meaningful so that we achieve genuine structural change.

But of course in some places, such as here in Frankston, genuine collaboration between many of the stakeholders is already in place.

I want to congratulate the Committee for Greater Frankston, Paul Edbrooke, the State Member for Frankston and Mornington Peninsula Shire Councils and local businesses for the work they do in engaging the community and developing a true vision for this region.

I look forward to working with you all and with Labor’s candidate for Dunkley Peta Murphy to deliver positive outcomes for Frankston.

Jul 18, 2018

Speech to the Inland Rail Conference – Getting Inland Rail Right – Parkes – Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Let me start by congratulating the Australasian Railway Association and the Australian Logistics Council for staging this important conference.

With day-to-day politics dominating the media, it’s always a good idea to take time out for serious consideration of policy issues that bear upon the national interest.

When we are talking about construction of a 1700km freight rail line servicing some of our nation’s most-important agricultural precincts, the national interest looms large.

Inland Rail will become one of the nation’s most important pieces of infrastructure.

It will still be in use a century from now.

That means we need to get it right.

That’s why as the Federal Minister I commissioned the comprehensive study into the project. The Labor Government subsequently invested $600 million in upgrading the existing tracks that will form part of the route and allocated a further $300 million in the 2013 Budget to progress the project.

Today I reconfirm Labor’s support for this classic nation building project.

It’s the sort of infrastructure that will drive development by improving access to reliable freight transport, particularly for primary producers.

Quicker passage of goods to port reduces costs, which will make our producers more competitive and give them greater resources to invest in increased production.

The productivity gains will fuel job creation and economic growth in communities that are crying out for economic stimulus.

Nowhere is this more the case than right here in Parkes, which is set to become Australia’s most important inland logistics hub, given that it is where the East-West route will meet Inland Rail.

However, as is the case with all major infrastructure projects, it’s important to get the details right.

Governments like to make big announcements.

But what is more important is ensuring the projects that they announce are viable, properly financed and subject to achievable deadlines.

That’s where Labor has some issues with Inland Rail.

For a start, the project is behind schedule.

According to a Coalition media statement from 28 August, 2013, construction of Inland Rail was meant to commence within three years: by the middle of 2016.

Two years on from the expiry of that deadline, the final route alignment has still not been finalised and environmental approvals have not been sought, let alone given.

We also have no 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.

There is also the fact that the project does not go to the Port of Brisbane.

It stops 38km away, at Acacia Ridge.

It was only in this year’s Budget that the Commonwealth turned its attention to this problem by jointly funding a $1.5 million study with the Queensland Government.

That was a good decision, if somewhat late in the process.

Of course, it also doesn’t go to the Port of Melbourne.

Just because it’s called Inland Rail, that shouldn’t be taken so literally that it doesn’t go to a port.

Other issues about the route, including the section between Narromine and Narrabri, must also be resolved to ensure it maximises the benefit of the project, while minimising any negative impact on the communities which will be affected.

FINANCING

Most worryingly, doubt remains about the Government’s plan to finance Inland Rail via an $8.4 billion off-budget equity investment into the Australian Rail Track Corporation.

The problem here is that for a project to be financed off-budget, it must be able to make a return to the Budget.

That is, a commercial rate of return on capital investment as well as on operating and maintenance expenses.

But, as was clear from the 2015 implementation study into the project, conducted by former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, Inland Rail’s revenues will not cover its capital cost over 50 years of operation.

It is clear from Senate Estimates that the Government is considering ARTC’s overall revenue, including the profitable Hunter Valley Coal Network, rather than this project itself, to avoid any investment contributing to the Budget bottom line.

Of course, it is also the case that the long-term lease arrangements between the ARTC and both the Victorian and NSW Governments have not been finalised, which is essential for Inland Rail to have the certainty the project needs.

I’m not the only one to have made these observations about uncertainty over financing.

Yet the Government has been reluctant to even discuss the issue.

That uncertainty must be resolved.

We need greater transparency over planning and an honest conversation about the project and how much grant funding the Government expects will be required to make it a reality.

We all know that Inland Rail isn’t going to build itself.

It’s important that all of us – elected representatives, industry and, most importantly, the community – are fully informed upfront about the real financing profile.

RAIL RENAISSANCE

Of course there is nothing new about rail being seen as a driver of economic development.

This has been a critical element in industrialisation and modern history.

From bridging the Australian continent, opening up the American West and, more recently, driving economic development of our Asian neighbours, rail has been history’s greatest facilitator of progress.

In the 21st century, even though it has more competitors in the transport sphere, rail keeps rolling on.

Indeed, it is having something of a renaissance.

Across the globe, urban rail and high speed rail are being rolled out as nations and cities modernise their transport systems to bring them up to task for the 21st century.

Here in Australia, states are investing in projects like the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and Perth’s METRONET and planning is under way for Western Sydney Rail and the Melbourne Airport Rail Project.

When you add Inland Rail and High Speed Rail to the equation, it is clear that this nation is going to invest many billions of dollars on rail in coming decades.

To serve the national interest, we must maximise the involvement of Australian industry in these projects.

In coming years we will lay thousands of kilometres of track and will require vast amounts of rolling stock.

That’s a huge challenge.

But if we are smart, we will turn the challenge into an opportunity by planning now to give Australian companies a piece of the action.

We should be using Australian standard steel.

And rather than buying the new rolling stock offshore, we should build it here.

If we approach this challenge properly, we can use the coming revolution in rail to re-energise Australian manufacturing.

We can train thousands of young Australians so they have skills fit for the 21st century, not just in rail, but across a range of advanced manufacturing applications.

That’s why a Labor Government will implement a National Rail Plan.

Our plan includes establishment of an Office of National Rail Industry Co-ordination to undertake a national audit of the adequacy, capacity and condition of passenger trains nationally.

The Office will work with states to develop train priority plans, including a proposed delivery schedule for the next 10 years to iron out peaks and troughs in procurement.

Labor will also reinstate the Rail Supplier Advocate, abolished in 2013, to help small and medium-sized businesses get their foot in the door for government contracts.

LABOR’S RECORD

Labor’s National Rail Plan builds our long-standing support for rail and its place in driving productivity and economic growth.

The former Labor Government rebuilt 4000km of the interstate freight rail network.

We began the process of separating freight and passenger lines in Sydney and Adelaide and put in place the arrangements for development of the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal.

On public transport, we invested more in urban rail than all other Commonwealth governments combined since Federation.

The biggest public transport investment from any Federal Government was our contribution to Victoria’s Regional Rail Link which untangled suburban and regional passenger rail lines in Melbourne, to the benefit of Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.

CONCLUSION

Once again, thanks for inviting me to this conference. I have come to Parkes today to recommit Labor’s support for Inland Rail. I do so with because I believe in its potential to serve the public interest for decades to come. I hope that future generations will look back at decision makers of our time and thank us for our vision.

However, for their sake, it’s this simple: We must get this project right.

 

Jul 11, 2018

Speech to The Sydney Institute – ‘Partnering with Our Cities’ – Wednesday, 11 July 2018

There’s a reason why people say that all politics is local.

That’s because it is.

The condition of local roads, the evenness of footpaths…

Availability at the local childcare centre or school…

If there is a corner store or shopping strip close to home…

Whether the bus comes on time and if there is somewhere to play sport…

These local issues determine the quality of life for our citizens.

Importantly they also feed into our nation’s larger economic narrative, determining whether our cities and towns function well and if they are places of opportunity where people can live out their aspirations.

These aspirations extend beyond individual needs to family, community, environment and indeed, to encompass a fair nation.

Because the quality of life for every individual cannot be isolated from the wellbeing of the community in which that individual resides.

The productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities depends on a range of factors, including how easy it is for people to get around, access to jobs, education and training, urban amenity and quality of life.

But we know that the shift from a traditional manufacturing economy to a knowledge-intensive economy means that job opportunities have been increasingly concentrated in the CBDs of major cities.

This has implications for housing affordability and our transport networks.

We know that rapid urbanisation is placing immense pressure on our outer suburbs.

Often these areas don’t have the necessary infrastructure and services in place to support population growth.

We also know that the end of the resources boom has left a number of regional cities and surrounding towns facing increasing unemployment and declining local economies.

And if we add to this equation, the rise in automation and shifting demographics, then we start to comprehend the challenge at hand.

Our nation is undergoing a period of significant change.

And this change can be hard for people who must adjust to the upheaval it brings.

Author Mary Shelley wrote that, ‘nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.’

This is true.

It is also true that within change lies opportunity and it is the responsibility of government to seek this out.

Managing this change will not be easy.

But one thing is certain: a failure to plan and build the infrastructure that will be needed will leave many people and communities socially isolated and economically disadvantaged.

American economist and urbanist Edward Glaeser worded it best when he said, ‘people, not structures, really determine a city’s success.’

Successful cities are inclusive cities, with diverse, vibrant communities – not disconnected enclaves of privilege and disadvantage.

Collaboration across all levels of government is critical if we are to overcome spatial inequality, which is already being felt in parts of our cities.

Someone’s postcode should not determine their income.

This principle has been at the centre of the dispute just a couple of kilometres from here about whether public housing should be maintained at Millers Point and The Rocks.

The expulsion of people from their homes has not only had a devastating impact on them, but I would also argue the surrounding local community is all the poorer for it.

A few weeks ago the Australian Local Government Association held its annual conference in Canberra.

Colloquially this week is referred to as a Mayor-a-Minute.

With almost 300 local councils and 800 delegates in town, to tell you the truth, it’s impossible to meet everyone.

Of those I did meet, including the Shire of Murray from WA, the City of Melbourne, Lake Macquarie and other Hunter Valley Councils, it is clear to me that many local councils are thinking comprehensively about what they can do to positively shape the economic future of their region.

They are thinking strategically about how innovation can be used to advantage the people they represent through job creation.

And they are thinking about how they can work with neighbouring councils, engage the private sector and bring together all levels of government to achieve positive structural change that empowers a broader geographical area – not just their own.

This truly is nation building, from the bottom up.

The national government can and should do more to support these ambitions.

I commend the current Government for their participation in urban policy, particularly in contrast with the former Abbott regime.

The reality is, however, that their City Deals Program is a poor imitation of the UK model it seeks to replicate, with funding commitments that are determined from the top down and tied to the electoral cycle.

That’s why tonight I’m announcing that a Shorten Labor Government will overhaul and replace the Coalition Government’s City Deals program with a new, more rigorous program called City Partnerships.

This is consistent with Labor’s approach to depoliticise infrastructure by making generational evidence-based decisions.

Labor will work with local government in a way that is genuine, in a way that supports their expertise and in a way that brings people together, to build a strategic vision underpinned by real investment for our cities.

So that we can ensure their ongoing productivity, sustainability and liveability.

Australia is not the only country grappling with urban population growth.

However, the reality is that we are one of the fastest urbanising OECD countries.

Almost 90 per cent of all Australians live in urban areas.

What’s more, projections from Infrastructure Australia indicate that by 2031 the populations of our four largest capitals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – will have increased by 46 per cent.

Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin will grow by nearly 30 per cent.

Regional cities are also growing rapidly, with an extra one million people expected to call these cities home by 2020.

And although there are significant potential benefits that come from this increased urbanisation, including a greater contribution to GDP, we also know that the negative side effects are taking a toll on our cities.

Urban sprawl, growing congestion on roads and public transport, declining housing affordability and an unequal distribution of employment opportunities, particularly in outer suburbs and growth areas have an impact on people’s quality of life.

Our natural environment is suffering through increased pollution and the loss of green space when urban development is poorly planned.

And our agricultural food bowls, which play a critical role in supplying our cities, are also under pressure.

The national government has a responsibility to work with the state and local governments to address these problems.

Given that major cities are increasingly important actors in their own right within the global economy, we must ensure they are competitive.

Sub-national activities by state governments influence economic development, investment facilitation and trade outcomes as well as the local innovation system.

To improve our national economic performance we must be more strategic in the way we approach issues such as congestion, for freight as well as commuters, urban renewal and employment clusters.

And of course in doing so, we make our cities better places to live – for everyone.

But climate change complicates this policy challenge because of its significant impact on the urban environment through the Heat Island Effect, higher sustained temperatures and extreme weather events.

While cities cover less than two per cent of the earth’s surface, they are responsible for about 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Getting planning and infrastructure right within our cities is critical if we are to reduce Australia’s harmful carbon emissions, meet the Paris targets and move toward a zero emissions future.

Consequently, we need considered policy responses from governments, not just Band-Aid solutions.

And because the nature of Australia’s federation means that all three levels of government have both distinct and overlapping roles in urban development, collaboration and alignment are needed to maximise the effectiveness of investments and policy.

When Labor was last in Government we established the foundations for this collaboration and alignment.

We created the Major Cities Unit and Urban Policy Forum to ensure our policy was informed by expert opinion and underpinned by an evidence base, including through the annual State of Australian Cities report.

We established the Australian Council of Local Government to bring local councils into the conversation.

We also created the Centre of Excellence for Local Government at UTS to promote best practice.

Through COAG we conducted a review of capital city strategic planning systems – this was chaired for former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe with Lucy Turnbull as Deputy Chair.

And we released Australia’s first ever comprehensive National Urban Policy, which identified three key pillars of productivity, sustainability and liveability.

The City Partnerships program will build on this approach.

City Partnerships will engage all three levels of government through genuine collaboration, as well as with the private sector, to set out a strategic vision for our cities.

This will be linked to a renewed National Urban Policy.

I am pleased that there is bipartisanship on the need for Federal Government engagement in our cities.

However, the truth is that the current City Deals program falls short of what is required to deliver real change.

The lack of rigour and independent oversight means City Deals are subject to political whim.

The absence of transparency and clear guidelines has left local councils unsure as to how they can best participate.

And limited engagement with the private sector and the lack of clarity around funding of projects means that all levels of government are missing out on potential value uplift.

The fact is City Deals have either been in marginal electorates framed around single election commitments or are simply missing depth and detail.

This is the case for the Western Sydney City Deal, where not only was Blacktown Council excluded for no good reason but it also has a still unfunded rail project as its centrepiece.

Just this month Bill Shorten announced at the NSW ALP conference that Federal Labor would partner with the NSW Government to provide real investment for Western Sydney Rail, consistent with our determination to make public transport a defining priority for a Shorten Labor Government.

But it’s not just me providing criticism of City Deals tonight.

Stakeholders have also echoed precisely these criticisms.

For instance, Marcus Spiller, Principal and Partner at SGS, commented that the City Deals program comes ‘perilously close to the Commonwealth picking individual project winners rather than facilitating structural change.’

Romilly Madew, CEO of the Green Building Council, said that, you should meet these targets… it shouldn’t be just, ‘here’s the money’, as part of a City Deal. They should also have to meet a whole lot of requirements.’

And Adam Beck, Executive Director at the Smart Cities Council pointed out that, the City Deals process, from what I understand, has no industry committee, no outside support… Working it out together in collaboration, is the only model.’

We can, and must, do better.

City Deals originate from the UK.

They’re intended to provide a mechanism through which various levels of government can work together to develop area-based strategies that improve overall economic growth.

Part of this process involves setting targets in areas like employment, affordable housing and sustainability.

In large cities such as Melbourne or Sydney, the City Deals concept can be applied to sub-metropolitan areas, regions and precincts.

The Western Sydney City Deal is an example of this.

But it also provides a model through which growth corridors and regional cities can receive greater support and investment.

This is particularly important given these areas face substantially different challenges to inner cities.

Ultimately, City Deals are intended to provide a long-term vision for how structural change can be achieved.

This can encompass the built form, economy and community, depending on the needs of the area.

In turn, this enables consideration of long-term benefits such as an increase in land value and improved productivity as a consequence of greater investment.

Funding from all levels of government can be pooled and / or aligned, and in some instances also accompanied by co-investments by the private sector.

In some cases ‘earn-back’ and other innovative financing models have been used.

Most crucially, City Deals are underpinned by the idea that investment should be guided by the level of government that sits closest to the people.

They encourage a bottom up strategy that recognises local government as genuine partners well placed to lead structural change and foster local community ownership.

This innovative approach to multi-level governance is particularly applicable to Australia’s federal system of government.

Despite local government lacking constitutional recognition, it plays a critical role in shaping our cities, particularly through strategic land-use planning and development facilitation, public works and its ability to drive community engagement and ownership of projects.

State governments are also critical, with oversight of strategic land-use planning activities, the operation of transport systems and providing most of the funding for infrastructure and major facilities.

However, given the significance to the national economy, the Commonwealth must also have an active role in urban policy, using the various levers at its disposal.

Bringing all levels of government together is important.

And that requires national leadership.

The Property Council has identified critical foundations for improving Australian cities as including, ‘a national framework that actively shapes urbanisation to achieve long-term goals’, and, ‘long-lasting agreements, deals and partnerships between different levels of governments’.

But of course we know that the most important lever remains direct, targeted investment in nationally significant infrastructure.

The Commonwealth also controls other policy and regulatory levers on both a supply and demand side, which include taxation and immigration, the national coordination of housing supply through the Housing Supply Council, which Labor will re-establish, and funding to the states and territories for key services such as housing and homelessness.

In addition to this, the Commonwealth owns strategic parcels of land in major cities and plays a role in supporting important economic infrastructure such as hospitals, universities and airports.

To date, all states and territories have shown interest in the current City Deals program.

So we know there is a willingness to collaborate.

But we have to get the framework right.

Our proposed City Partnerships will strengthen this process by better engaging local government and the private sector and ambitiously structuring collaboration to achieve clearly defined outcomes and targets.

City Partnerships will also build on our proud urban policy legacy.

Since World War Two, every Labor Government has made an important contribution to Australia’s urban development and progress.

In 1945 Ben Chifley commenced post-war reconstruction with large-scale investment in public housing.

Gough Whitlam connected Western Sydney and other suburban areas to sewerage and also established the Department of Urban and Regional Development.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating invested in the Building Better Cities Program.

And the Rudd-Gillard Government put in place a large number of policies to support the development of cities.

In recent years, however, we have seen how the short-termism of the electoral cycle sometimes functions as a handbrake on necessary national economic reform.

Big decisions can be suspended or delayed.

And, immediate political priorities can get in the way of the long-term national interest.

We need to overcome this challenge.

City Partnerships provides a model through which this can be achieved.

Our policy comes from months of consultation with local government and experts from across the sector.

We have listened to councils talk about the need for all three levels of government to work together, but in a way that is meaningful.

Where local government is treated as a genuine partner, rather than as just another stakeholder.

And where all the cards are on the table from the outset and priorities are determined in collaboration.

Around the nation, local government is already thinking about how a model such as this might work.

In the Hunter Valley – Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Newcastle, Port Stephens and Cessnock Councils have come together to advocate for completing the delivery of the Glendale Interchange.

They are after $13 million for the next stage, which will create 6000 jobs and unlock $700 million of investment, including an expansion of Stockland Glendale.

It’s more than just an infrastructure project.

It will act as a catalyst for the entire region; transforming the way people get around, attracting businesses, creating jobs and facilitating urban renewal in the Cardiff industrial area.

In Western Australia, the City of Stirling is thinking about how it will house a growing population and ensure there are jobs within its local community for residents.

The City of Stirling is planning now for the future and considering what infrastructure is required to support this growth through its Stephenson Avenue urban regeneration project, which Bill Shorten and I announced founding for in April this year to add to commitments already made by the Council and WA Government.

Stage 2 of this project will include a light rail connection from the Stirling City Centre to the iconic Scarborough Beach.

This project will provide more than 82,000 new ongoing jobs, unlock $16 billion worth of private investment and create over 30,00 new dwellings which will generate the capacity to house over 63,000 new residents.

The Council of Mayors for South-East Queensland, which encompasses ten local government areas, has put aside parochialism to give substantial consideration to the future of its region.

And in 2014, before the Coalition Government even announced its City Deals program the Council of Mayors had started work on a model for Queensland.

Possibly one of the most significant achievements from my time as the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development was the establishment of Infrastructure Australia in 2008.

This set an important precedent for a rigorous and transparent approach to investing in infrastructure, ensuring evidence-based decision making guided the Commonwealth’s allocation of funds.

We remain committed to this approach.

That’s why we will re-establish the Major Cities Unit within Infrastructure Australia and task the Major Cities Unit with independent oversight of this program, including recommending City Partnerships to the Minister.

The Major Cities Unit will also take responsibility for refreshing the National Urban Policy that Labor released when in government to ensure City Partnerships align with its objectives, for example, in areas like sustainability and smart technology.

We will ensure City Partnerships are underpinned by a strong evidence base and proper analysis to maximise return on investment and social outcomes.

We understand that City Partnerships must be tailored and flexible, but we expect them to set out a strategic vision that aligns with the National Urban Policy and delivers on pre-determined performance indicators.

Effective City Partnerships can only be delivered through genuine collaboration with all three levels of government and the private sector.

Hence, City Partnerships will demand bottom up strategies that recognise the role of local government as genuine partners as well as land-owners and investors so they are well placed to drive structural change.

There is also an opportunity for the Major Cities Unit to consider how City Partnerships can leverage equity investment from government financing bodies, such as the CEFC, which have policy goals that cities can play a role in meeting.

An expert panel will be established to update strategic planning guidelines for cities as well as the development of guidelines, which include benefit to the economy, for City Partnerships in consultation with the Minister.

This will ensure industry expertise is more effectively utilised and that City Partnerships align with strategic planning guidelines.

It will consider ways in which the community and stakeholders can be more effectively engaged in the development phase of City Partnerships.

It will also consider ways in which collaboration across local governments, including with Council membership organisations such as WSROC in Sydney and the Council of Mayors in South-East Queensland, as well as with the private sector can be incentivised and rewarded.

To ensure transparency, these guidelines will be publicly available and applications from any city or cities welcome.

The program will apply not just to capital cities, but also to regional cities as part of our ongoing commitment to regional development.

City Partnerships will also be required to focus on what gains can be made through productivity uplift and the additional revenue that will flow to the Federal Government as a result.

This mirrors international examples where, in developing a strategic vision for a particular area, governments were required to consider broader economic objectives including employment and other earning opportunities.

City Partnerships also provide a unique opportunity to address spatial inequality in our cities by driving and facilitating investment in outer suburbs and growth areas to enable them to become more productive, sustainable and liveable.

Renowned urbanist Jane Jacobs once declared that, ‘lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration.’

City Partnerships aim to achieve precisely this.

We want to unlock the potential of our cities – inner urban areas, regional cities, outer suburbs and growth areas – by bringing together all levels of government, the private sector and community in a way that is meaningful so that we achieve genuine structural change.

My mentor and former Deputy Labor Leader Tom Uren previously said that with urban policy we could no longer, ‘deal with things in boxes anymore.’

If anything, cities are even more complex now, than they were then.

And with advancements in technology we will always experience change.

But getting processes right provides us with the best opportunity to deal with this head on and ensure our cities are productive, sustainable and liveable…

Not just for those that can afford it, but for everyone.

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

Jul 10, 2018

Speech to General Aviation Summit -‘Securing Australia’s General Aviation Future: Together’ – Wagga Commercial Club, Wagga Wagga

Aviation matters.

That’s even more so for a country like Australia, which inhabits a vast island continent located in a remote part of the globe.  It not only connects us with each other, but also with all of the economic opportunity and cultural experiences the globalised world of the 21st century has to offer.

This year alone, the world’s airlines will carry more than three billion passengers – equivalent to about half of the Earth’s population.

And by value, a third of the goods traded internationally will be transported by air.

However, without General Aviation, this mass movement of people and commerce would not be possible.  The fact is, you, along with the organisations and businesses you represent here today, school the pilots and train the engineers that makes all this possible.

But the role of General Aviation doesn’t stop there.

Your industry is as diverse as it is important.

From balloons to microlights, helicopters to business jets, hobbyist to professional pilots, you have a rich history in this country, directly employing over 3500 Australians, and performing essential services such as charter flights, search and rescue, fire-fighting, surveying and aerial photography, lifesaving aeromedical care, and aircraft maintenance.

That’s why the former Federal Labor Government, in which I had the privilege of serving as Aviation Minister, developed this nation’s first ever Aviation White Paper, which had as one of its stated objectives the “maintenance of a safe, efficient and innovative General Aviation sector”.

This document provided a comprehensive and balanced framework, bringing together all aspects of aviation policy into a single, coherent and forward-looking statement.

Importantly, it included initiatives designed to give your industry the certainty and incentive to plan and invest for the long term.

In particular, we:

  • Introduced more generous accelerated depreciation rates for aircraft as an incentive for owners to upgrade their aircraft;
  • Reduced the number of 24-hour restricted airspace areas from 81 to 15;
  • Committed to the continued operation and growth of secondary capital city airports;
  • Ensured the master plans of secondary airports maintained a strong focus on aviation development, not non-aeronautical uses that could compromise future aviation activities;
  • Lessened the financial burden of regulation on the sector by restricting increases in CASA regulatory service charges to rises in the Consumer Price Index.

However, I appreciate that the transition to more commercial charging arrangements, which began in the 1980s, has been challenging.

Nonetheless, I remain very optimistic about your industry’s future.

In fact, I come here today with a clear message: Labor wants your ranks to grow.

We want more people taking to the skies, either as a career or simply for the sheer joy of flying.

Plus, if we get the policy settings right, your industry has the potential to become a major new source of export dollars for Australia.

Indeed, Australia’s favourable weather, relatively uncongested skies and proximity to the booming economies of Asia are competitive advantages which put us in a strong position to become a training ground for the region’s future pilots.

We need to build a stronger General Aviation industry so that we can grasp such opportunities.

It comes down to a simple idea: partnership.

A partnership between policy makers, regulators and the industry; one built on mutual respect and shared goals.

We all agree that safety must come first in an industry where there is no margin for error.

However, the message I am getting loud and clear from sections of your industry is that as things stand, a pure focus on safety has in some cases led to over-regulation and added unreasonably to your costs.

It is only through working together that we can properly assess whether we are getting it right on the balance between safety and cost.

My concern at present is that while there are plenty of claims being made about such matters in the media and elsewhere, people are talking over each other.

What we need is a mature, positive conversation.

The starting point to a fair assessment of the existing regime is a clear understanding and acceptance of the different pressures faced by the regulators and the regulated.

CASA and the Transport Minister have very clear pressures on them.

Their business is safety.

If there is a tragic accident, it is the regulators who must account for what went wrong.

It is they who have to meet the public’s expectation for adequate safety regulation.

Because of this, regulators will always naturally tend toward a conservative view on safety standards.

However, there’s always a risk that in creating an aviation system that is conservative on safety, we fail to understand the impact that we are having on operators.

I can understand why operators trying to make their businesses work might want to suggest changes that they feel will reduce unnecessary regulation without putting lives at risk.

I understand such sentiments, particularly when they come from operators with excellent safety records.

There are always going to be tensions between regulators and the industry.

If that tension is based on a partnership that puts the public interest first, it’s positive tension that should deliver the best outcome.

That’s why I emphasise the need for a positive partnership.

I am here today to listen to the concerns of the General Aviation sector.

I’ve got an open mind on these issues as long as safety is not compromised.

And I’m sure you would agree with that.

This is not about left versus right or old versus new.

I want to make clear to everyone in this room that I take a bipartisan view to aviation safety.

The job of Transport Minister is a difficult one.

I’ve done it before and would like to do it again.

But in Government or Opposition, I will work closely with Michael McCormack.

Many of Michael’s political views might not be the same as mine, but I respect the great responsibility he bears and I accept that he is completely sincere in the way he is approaching his role.

I have indicated to Michael, as I did to his predecessor, that I am willing to support legislative reform that would explicitly recognise the regulatory arrangements, whilst prioritising safety, must also ensure that CASA have regard for:

  • The maintenance of a strong, efficient and sustainable aviation industry (including a viable general aviation training sector) and;
  • The need to enable more people to benefit from civil aviation.

These should be the next most important considerations.

I think the new Minister wants to get the balance right as much as you and I do.

I support his decision to establish an industry-led General Aviation Advisory Group, which is currently chaired by the CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Martin Laverty.

This was a positive step towards giving the industry a voice in government.

I’ll keep working in a bipartisan way on these issues.

Simply put, the future of General Aviation in this country should be above politics.

Lastly, I am particularly keen to engage with the people in this room on any ideas you may have on how, collectively, we take General Aviation forward.

After all, it is you that have been fighting passionately for the future of your industry; tirelessly promoting General Aviation in all the forms represented here today – and doing so without great fanfare and often little recognition.

Together, we can secure Australia’s General Aviation future.

Again, thank you for inviting me here today.

Jun 27, 2018

Speech to the Australian Bus and Coach Industry National Dinner – ‘Buses & the Journey to a Better Future – Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight at the Australian Bus and Coach Industry National Dinner.

In a country as vast as ours, the bus and coach industry plays a critical role when it comes to keeping the nation moving.

Our heavily populated urban cities…

Our regional and remote towns…

And of course the millions of international visitors we receive each year all rely on buses and coaches to get around.

American-English poet T.S Eliot once declared that, ‘the journey not the arrival matters’.

Now I would contend that the arrival is of some significance.

But anyone who has travelled by bus or coach in Australia understands that there is something to be said for the journey, which brings people together and allows you to take in the sights without the pressure of driving yourself.

Just last week I read an opinion piece by Peter Fitzsimons about a bus driver in Sydney who, on a regular midweek evening trip home, suggested turning off the interior lights when on the Harbour Bridge so that everyone could see the Vivid Lights of Sydney.

We all have good stories from our travels, whether that’s simply to school or work, or further afield with long distance coach travel.

Put simply, buses contribute to the success of the nation.

And I am pleased to see such a critical industry constantly working for better policy outcomes.

The two conferences – Coach Connections and the School Bus Summit – display the diversity of the bus industry sector.

Indeed, the bus industry plays a critical role in our education system, our tourism economy and our cities and regions.

Whether it’s a coach in Townsville transporting tourists to regional destinations…

Or a bus in Hobart, taking commuters to work and students to school…

Or in Bathurst, a bus transporting an older person from home to medical appointments and social events…

Buses serve every city and every region and are integral to the way Australians live our lives.

SCHOOL TRANSPORT

For many people the school bus is their earliest memory of public transport.

For myself, I was a 459 or 470 student in Sydney.

But the way students travel to school is changing.

Consequently integrating school transport with our broader public transport network makes economic sense.

Crucially, it also teaches young Australians how to move around our city using active transport, which creates the public transport patrons of the future.

I am glad to see that you have dedicated time to enhancing this travel to learn concept.

We know that public transport is still not the preferred option for many school students travelling to and from school.

The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and National Secondary Students’ Diet and Activity Survey found that only 12 per cent of students between ages 9 and 10 use public transport for all school travel.

This only increases to 32 per cent for children aged 12 to 17.

So we must make public transport viable, safe and effective for students, to create lifelong public transport users and I am heartened that you continue to pursue this goal.

TOURISM COACHES

Australia’s tourism economy has been identified by Deloitte Access Economics as a super growth sector.

It generates more than $100 billion in economic activity for Australia.

And each year the number of international visitors to Australia grows.

Indeed, this figure reached nine million for the year ending April 2018, an increase of 6.3 per cent from the year before.

Domestic and international visitors are drawn to regional Australia for the Great Barrier Reef, for Uluru, the Bungle Bungles, Blue Mountains, Monkey Mia and the Barossa Valley.

We are a land of unparalleled physical beauty.

These remarkable destinations support local economies.

And it is the people in this room who make these destinations and the economies they support thrive.

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

This sector is a critical building block in Australia’s tourism future.

But there are still gaps to be filled, particularly when it comes to promoting regional dispersal.

While more domestic travellers visit regional Australia than capital cities, less than half of Australia’s international tourists visited regional Australia in 2016.

We need to make sure regional tourism is offered strategy and vision.

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

A national strategy for regional land transport tourism, as suggested by the Bus Industry Confederation, is one approach worth investigating.

Such a strategy would connect different levels of government needed to enhance our regional tourism economy, promoting not just flying between Australia’s icons but travelling through Australia, enhancing regional communities across the nation.

CITIES DEVELOPMENT

A thriving public transport network is at the core of a successful city.

Buses can and must play a part.

If we are to achieve a 30 minute city, not just for the inner suburbs but for people living in the outer suburbs of our major cities, we need a strong bus network that transports people from their home, to work or school, or to a transport interchange.

Buses play a critical role in reducing urban congestion, which benefits not just the productivity of our cities, but also their sustainability.

That is why the work of your organisation in thinking strategically about the future of our bus system is critical to the success of our cities.

However our cities are changing.

While much of this change is disruptive, and presents challenges for the concept of mobility as a service, we should be thinking about how we can use technological advancements to our advantage…

So that it is an opportunity, and not a threat and I know the Bus Industry Confederation has a strong focus on this future mobility challenge.

Smart technology has the ability to radically shape how people live, move and work in their cities.

For instance, the ability to pay for public transport on a smartphone, smart watch or directly by credit card could make moving around the city more seamless for residents and visitors.

In its 2018 Budget the Queensland Government committed $371 million to trial this new smart way to pay and develop the service over the next four years.

But we can and must go further in ensuring smart technology works for residents, businesses and government nation-wide.

To maximise the benefits of these technological advancements we have to be strategic.

Small trials of technological innovation should not exist in silos across the country.

Collaboration is required between different levels of government, the public and private sector as well as across jurisdictional boundaries to make technology work for us.

That’s why Labor is committed to a National Urban Policy and will embed a smart cities agenda in our focus.

REGIONAL ACCESS

We also know that regional bus operators across the country are critical despite often running low volume services.

Regional bus operators move students from home to school, helping ensure students have easier access to education.

They also connect older regional Australians to medical appointments, social events and other critical services – reducing social isolation for older Australians in regional communities.

Your sector keeps these communities moving.

We must continue to support regional bus operations.

They are fundamental to the viability of our regional economies, supporting the health and access opportunities of people living in regional Australia.

CONCLUSION

Thank you for taking the time over these two days to turn your minds to some of the biggest policy challenges we face.

Supporting education, growing tourism in regional and remote Australia and keeping our cities moving is critical to our national success.

The work you all do, in moving children, commuters, domestic visitors, international tourists and all people young and old, supports these sectors.

I have read your draft policy document from today’s Coach Connections Summit and want to commend you for your focus on regional tourism.

Travelling across Australia is such an important experience, for both domestic and international visitors, and I look forward to working with Michael and the Bus Industry Confederation to grow regional dispersal.

I also look forward to continuing to work with you on shaping the future of public transport, which our cities depend on for their productivity, liveability and sustainability.
 

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.

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