Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Speeches"
Jul 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Traditional allegiances are far less entrenched.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now in Australia there are more mobile phones than people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

By and large those who were responsible escaped comparatively unscathed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This approach is consistent with a faith in humanity.

Progressives consistently fail to celebrate our victories.

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

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

You celebrate the past almost by definition.

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

Social change doesn’t just happen.

It is made to happen.

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


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

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

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

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

Complex issues cannot be addressed in 140 characters.

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

It makes a mature discussion of challenges more difficult.

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

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

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

The Australian people are desperate for an end to disruption.

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

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

It was indeed positive politics in the age of disruption.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nowhere is this stronger than in social policy.

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

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

Think about that for a moment.

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

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

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

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

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

It was blocked from a debate or vote.

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

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

This was largely uncontroversial and received bipartisan support.

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

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

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

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

That school funding should be needs based.

That the NDIS is critical reform.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

That borrowing for productivity boosting infrastructure is sound economic policy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Inland Rail Project is one which has bipartisan support.

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

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

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

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

Projects should be transparent about their finances.

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

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

Passenger rail is another significant priority for regional communities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

That means fibre to the premise, not copper.

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

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

The same advantage applies for this outstanding university.

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

It is also about more than enhancing productivity.

It is about the provision of health and education services.

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

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


Climate change is our biggest intergenerational challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are all great outcomes.

The fact is most Australians understand the arguments for action.

The world is moving toward a low-emissions future.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a spatial dimension to inequality in Australia.

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

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

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

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

Rental stress is also a growing problem.

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

Successful societies are inclusive.

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


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

Such an approach is short sighted.

It is the easy choice, not the right choice.

There’s another way forward.

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

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

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

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

We must secure outcomes in the national interest.

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

We must continue to be the land of opportunity.

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

Jun 29, 2017

‘Investing in the national interest’ – Speech to Australian Financial Review National Infrastructure Summit, Sofitel Sydney

A policy-based debate on infrastructure is an important discussion to have at any time.

But right now, it is more important than ever.

Real Commonwealth investment in infrastructure is falling off a cliff, despite increasing demand for better railway lines, roads and ports.

Our cities are choked by traffic congestion. It costs us $16.5 billion a year.

Our exporters need better access to our ports to get their goods to market.

And our regional communities need investment to drive growth and job generation.

Labor’s solution is sensible Commonwealth investment in projects positively assessed by Infrastructure Australia.

We want to work with the states and, where possible, the private sector, to deliver productivity enhancing projects that will underpin future prosperity.

The Turnbull Government is taking a different approach.

That approach is based on cutting Commonwealth investment, pretending the private sector will somehow make up for the cuts and hiding its cuts and inaction behind a veil of rhetoric about concepts like good debt versus bad debt, innovative financing models, value capture and City Deals.

Some of these concepts are worthy of examination.

But none of them are new.

And none of them can replace a core requirement – actual Commonwealth investment.

My message today is simple.

Anyone who pretends that clever financing arrangements or value capture will meet Australia’s current and future infrastructure needs without significant Commonwealth investment is kidding themselves.

In taking this approach, the Turnbull Government is ensuring that the infrastructure deficit becomes worse.

Our nation needs a Government prepared to invest in infrastructure in the national interest.

I’m not the first to call out the Turnbull Government.

The peak lobby group for the infrastructure sector, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, last month issued a devastating critique of the 2017 infrastructure Budget.

Responding to the Government’s absurd claim that it has increased infrastructure investment, the IPA said:

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

I know that two Government Ministers and an Assistant Minister addressed this forum yesterday.

Today, let’s deal in facts.

It’s a fact that the Budget cut infrastructure outlays by $1.6 billon this financial year alone compared with its own 2016 Budget figures.

It’s a fact that investment will collapse each and every year over the forward estimates period from the promised $9.2 billion in the 2016 Budget to $4.2 billion by 2020-21.

It’s a fact the only new project being funded on Budget over the next four years is the $13.8 million Far North Collector Road near Nowra in the marginal Liberal seat of Gilmore.

It’s a fact that the Budget did not include one new dollar of public transport investment.

It’s a fact that the Government’s $10 billion National Rail Fund, offered by Mr Turnbull as a way to fund urban rail, won’t produce a dollar this year.

Not next year.

Not even the year after that.

It’s a fact that there is no shortage of private capital available in this nation for investment in good infrastructure projects.

But, as the IPA has pointed out, financial wizardry alone won’t be enough to unlock that private sector investment.

The fact is that with interest rates at record lows, there has never been a better time for actual Commonwealth investment.

This is reinforced by the resources sector moving from the investment to the production phase.

That is a fact.


Prior to the Budget I was heartened by a shift in the Government’s rhetoric on infrastructure.

Suddenly, after years of attacking all debt as evil, the Coalition seemed to accept that it can make sense to borrow to fund good projects that boost productivity.

Labor and the business community have been making that point for years.

And in the past 12 months, Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe has repeatedly called for increased Commonwealth infrastructure investment.

But, when the Budget finally appeared, it was a bit like the last visit of Halley’s Comet to our part of the solar system.

Lots of hype, but ultimately disappointing.

The Commonwealth should be working with the states and the private sector to deliver infrastructure.

Instead Mr Turnbull is withholding actual investment and offering long-established concepts like value capture and innovative financing mechanisms as if they were somehow new.

They aren’t.

Value capture, for example, was used to build the London Underground.

It has also been widely used in Australia, predominantly by local government in the delivery of affordable housing and community infrastructure.


What the Budget did include was funding for the proposed Infrastructure Financing Unit within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The IFU’s job will be to work with the private sector to broker innovative financing arrangements for private investment in public infrastructure.

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

It will replicate the role of Infrastructure Australia, which already possesses the capacity and the legislative mandate to involve itself in financing.

In its pre-budget submission, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia implored the Government not to create the agency.

It said:

We cannot identify any currently proposed infrastructure projects which are commercially viable and not already attracting finance.

Therefore we cannot see how the IFU will increase the pace of project delivery.

Commonwealth Government funding support is needed for infrastructure. Commonwealth financing is not.’’

The IPA represents the nation’s big infrastructure investors.

They ought to know what will give them the comfort they need to invest.

But Mr Turnbull thinks he knows better.

His approach also assumes the states have no financing expertise.

That smacks of arrogance.

Infrastructure is part of the core business of state governments.

That’s why the former Federal Labor Government worked with the Victorian and Queensland governments to seal innovative agreements to deliver the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project.

Value capture and availability payments were integral to these arrangements.

They were hammered out with help from Infrastructure Australia, but scrapped when the Coalition took office.

Similar co-operation between the public and private sectors produced Northconnex in Sydney, the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal, Legacy Way in Brisbane and the Gold Coast Light Rail project.

Indeed, the Infrastructure Australia legislation is very explicit about its mandate to advise on financing projects.

Part 2, Section 5, of the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008 states that Infrastructure Australia has the function of providing advice on “mechanisms for financing investment in infrastructure.’’

The NSW Coalition Government’s Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Andrew Constance, recently told the Australian Financial Review that states want investment, not new processes.

“We are keen to see real money on the table,’’ Mr Constance has said.

“We are not wanting to treat Canberra as an untapped line of credit … we would prefer to see real money going into our well assessed pipeline of projects that work.’’

The Grattan Institute’s infrastructure expert Marion Terrill is also unclear about the purpose of the IFU.

Ms Terrill has told the Australian Financial Review:

I just don’t see what problem (the IFU) solves.

Working out what are the problems and developing proposals to address them and selecting the best one of those – all of that is a state government job, not a Commonwealth job.

Let me say again – the IFU is a solution looking for a problem.

It is simply not needed.

It’s an attempt to reinvent the wheel from a Prime Minister who seems to imagine he is still in the investment banking business.

Today I announce that a Shorten Labor Government will abolish the IFU.

We’ll reallocate its budget to Infrastructure Australia to enhance its core roles of project assessment, development of a project pipeline and provision of financing advice.

This is consistent with the announcement of an enhanced role for Infrastructure Australia which Bill Shorten announced at the Brisbane Media Club during the last term and which Labor took to the election.

Labor recognises that a mix of direct investment, private financing, and risk mitigation are needed and that Infrastructure Australia is the appropriate body to provide that advice.

This reallocation of funding will also be used to re-establish the Major Cities Unit in Infrastructure Australia to drive Commonwealth policies to boost the productivity, sustainability and liveability of the nation’s cities.


Another key Budget announcement was the $8.4 billion equity injection for the Australian Rail Track Corporation to deliver the Inland Rail link.

The allocation is off-budget. This means it must produce a return to taxpayers.

But this is another con.

To get this project happening, the Government needs to provide grant funding.

That was the explicit advice of former Coalition Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson in the implementation study he prepared for the Government for the project in 2015.

Mr Anderson warned that Inland Rail’s operating revenue over 50 years would not be enough to cover construction costs.

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

Mr Anderson was ignored.

Let me stress at this point that Labor supports Inland Rail.

In Government, we invested $600 million upgrading sections of existing railway lines that will be part of the project.

We also allocated $300 million in our last Budget to finalise the route and complete the necessary planning and pre-construction work.

But four years later I’m concerned about the course the Government is taking on Inland Rail.

The Government has not been transparent about its financing of the project.

Crikey journalist Bernard Keane reported that the Government had said the project would stand up based on “returns for equity for ARTC as a whole rather than for the Inland Rail project’’.

This is important.

As this audience would know, projects cannot be considered as equity injections which are off Budget unless it is determined they will provide a commercial return to taxpayers.

But in the case of Inland Rail, the equity injection into the ARTC is justified on the basis of all of the ARTC’s freight activities, not upon expectations of the Inland Rail project itself.

In other words, Inland Rail, on its current funding model, doesn’t stack up.

My second concern about Inland Rail is practical.

Despite being in Government for four years, the Coalition has not addressed the major impediment to the success of Inland Rail.

I’m referring to the fact that on current planning the line will stop 38km short of the Port of Brisbane, at Acacia Ridge.

It’s a bit like the failed Perth Freight Link, which would have stopped 3km short of the Port of Fremantle.

Or like Sydney’s Westconnex, which was originally proposed to take trucks to Port Botany but which goes nowhere near Port Botany.

If the Government is serious about Inland Rail, it needs to get the planning right.


One of the biggest economic challenges facing our nation is traffic congestion in our cities.

If we do nothing, traffic congestion will cost the nation $53 billion a year by 2031.

We need to address congestion by building better roads and better public transport.

Prior to the 2013 election, the former Labor Government allocated significant investment for public transport projects around the nation including the Melbourne Metro and the Cross River Rail Project.

But incoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott scrapped the lot in 2013.

Since 2015, Mr Turnbull has presented himself as an advocate for public transport, at least in rhetorical terms.

But he has failed to allocate any new money for public transport.

Mr Turnbull likes to take selfies as he rides on trains, trams and buses.

But he won’t invest in trains, trams or buses.

Just a couple of weeks ago the Queensland Government announced it would go it alone on the much-needed Cross River Rail project to provide the Brisbane CBD with a second crossing of the Brisbane River.

Mr Turnbull has refused to invest in the project, claiming Infrastructure Australia has not yet approved its business case.

The fact is that Infrastructure Australia approved the business case in 2012 and named Cross River Rail the nation’s top infrastructure priority.

Mr Turnbull is simply stalling.

He tells us Cross River Rail could be funded from the new National Rail Fund.

However, as I mentioned earlier, the fund will produce no money this year.

No money next year.

And no money the year after that.

This fund is not a serious investment vehicle.

It’s a political fix.


Given that four out of five Australians live in cities, there is a strong case for Commonwealth involvement in urban policy more broadly.

Federal Governments need to work with states and local government in areas like planning, urban renewal and with regard to that BBQ stopper, housing affordability.

The former Labor Government did just that.

We created the Major Cities Unit to research the issues facing urban Australia and work with the government on policy solutions.

Tony Abbott abolished the unit in 2013 and withdrew from the urban policy space.

Just as with public transport, Mr Turnbull took over from Mr Abbott talking about how he would re-engage with cities.

But he has failed to act beyond proposing what he describes as City Deals.

City Deals emerged in the United Kingdom as vehicles for co-operation between national and local government over shared economic development goals.

Under the UK model, the two levels of government employ regulatory reform and joint investment to boost economic activity.

Critically, if the process works and results in increased tax revenue to the national government, some of those receipts come back to the councils for investment in other productivity enhancing projects.

It is central to the design of these agreements that they include very clear financial incentives for councils to think outside the square.

Mr Turnbull’s City Deals bear little resemblance to the UK model.

Take a look at the Townsville City Deal.

Its text purports to establish agreement over shared economic goals that are presented as new but, in fact, are as old as Castle Hill, which overlooks Townsville.

For example, the document identifies the fact that Townsville ought to be seen as the industrial capital of North Queensland.

That’s been recognised for more than a century.

It says Townsville is a key centre for the defence sector.

It has been for many decades.

It says that the Townsville Port is a key piece of economic infrastructure.

That’s not news. It’s a motherhood statement.

Getting all levels of government to sign up to motherhood statements is not reform.

It is a repackaging of the self-evident.

The only initiative within the Townsville City Deal is Commonwealth investment in construction of a new rugby league stadium close to the Townsville CBD as headquarters for the North Queensland Cowboys rugby league team.

This is a great project that will boost the local economy.

At the beginning of last year, Labor committed to invest in the new stadium.

The Coalition, unwilling at that time to offer money, instead offered a City Deal, which it finalised more than six months after the election to provide political cover for its matching of Labor’s commitment.

In the same way, the Government offered a City Deal for Western Sydney during the election campaign after failing to match Labor’s commitment to invest in the Western Sydney Rail project.

It also offered a City Deal for Launceston in response to Labor’s plan to invest in an expansion of the University of Tasmania campus in Launceston.

It seems that wherever the Government wants to play catch up to Labor, which has continued to provide leadership from Opposition, it raises the concept of a City Deal.

Once again, the Government is substituting style over substance.


Before I wind up, let me give the Government credit where it is due by restating Labor’s support for the Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.

It is a good thing that the Government has decided to build the Western Sydney Airport itself after the Sydney Airport Corporation’s decision to pass up on its option to build the airport.

Building a major new airport is so politically fraught that it will never be achieved without bipartisanship.
Labor sees the construction of the new airport as an opportunity to transform Western Sydney.

But to make that a reality, the airport needs to be connected to the Sydney rail network from the day it opens.

The Government’s plan to leave a hole under the airport for construction of a train station at some undisclosed time in the future makes no sense.

It lacks ambition.

That’s why Bill Shorten and I announced in April that a Labor Government would provide initial funding to work the NSW State Government to get the project started.

It’s also why last week, in his NSW Budget response, Labor Leader Luke Foley backed that idea and also proposed the creation of a Western Sydney Airport Authority to ensure the Commonwealth, the NSW Government and affected councils work together to maximise the benefit to the local community of job creation, skills development and proper regional economic planning.


An old Chinese Proverb says that talk doesn’t cook rice.

In the same way, talk doesn’t build railway lines.

Talk doesn’t build roads.

It doesn’t tackle the traffic congestion that makes it hard for parents to get home from work in time to play with their children.

And talk doesn’t provide private infrastructure investors with the certainty they need to decide to risk shareholders’ money on major projects.

When it comes to infrastructure investment in Australia, we need real investment in real projects that will produce real productivity gains.

Jun 28, 2017

Speech to Cross River Rail community forum – ‘Delivering Brisbane’s public transport needs’ at Coorparoo School of Arts and Memorial Hall

As one of the most urbanised nations on the planet, Australia’s continued prosperity in the competitive, globalised world of the 21st century will largely depend on how successful we are at making our cities work better.  After all, they generate 80 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

But right now, here in Brisbane and across the south-east corner, the roads are becoming gridlocked, with Infrastructure Australia forecasting that in the absence of real action the economic cost of this traffic congestion within the region will increase almost five-fold to $9.2 billion a year by 2031.

On top of that, the city’s buses are more crowded than ever and its passenger rail network is near capacity.

And this is the situation even before we get to the challenges that lie ahead, such as population growth.

Indeed, over the next few decades the population of South-East Queensland is projected to increase by 2.2 million people.  By the early 2030s, 5.5 million people – or almost one in six Australians – will be calling this part of our country home.

Managing that population growth 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.  And that would inevitably harm the productivity and performance of the Australian economy.

Regrettably, while the current Prime Minister’s rhetoric may differ from that of his predecessor, his Government nonetheless continues to ignore the needs of the four out of five Australians who live in our cities.

The 2017 Federal Budget delivered no new policy initiatives and no new investment in our urban infrastructure, most notably public transport.

To the contrary, as a result of last month’s Budget, Federal infrastructure grant funding – the money that goes to the states, territories and local government to deliver major road and rail projects – will fall to its lowest level in more than a decade.

It will go from the originally promised $9.2 billion this financial year to $4.2 billion in 2020-21.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

In the assessment of the peak industry body Infrastructure Partnerships Australia:

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

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

The former Federal Labor Government understood this. That’s why we more than doubled annual spending from $143 to $314 per Queenslander.

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

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

You may be interested to know that the upgrade and widening of the Ipswich Motorway remains South East Queensland’s largest ever Federally-funded road project.

We also cooperated with the Queensland Government to fix congested sections of the Gateway Motorway, and construct a new interchange at the intersection between Mains and Kessels Roads in Macgregor.  And we partnered with the private sector and Brisbane City Council to deliver the $1.5 billion Legacy Way.

But equally importantly, Labor also understood that if we are to build productive, sustainable and liveable cities where communities can grow and prosper, the national government needs to invest in both their road and rail infrastructure.  That’s why as well as doubling the roads budget, we committed more to urban public transport infrastructure than all our predecessors since Federation combined.

And South East Queensland was one the biggest beneficiaries of that commitment.

Together with the State and the Moreton Bay Regional Council we built the Moreton Bay Rail Link, a rail line first mooted more than a century ago in 1895.  And Federal grant funding was vital to getting the Gold Coast Light Rail off the drawing board and up and running.  It has transformed the way people get around the Coast.

And then there was Cross River Rail.

In our last Budget in 2013 we announced that together with the Queensland Government – then led by Campbell Newman – we had agreed on an innovative funding solution that would have allowed this project to be delivered in partnership with the private sector.  Both levels of government had committed $715 million in grant funding.

The deal was done – a fact publicly confirmed by Campbell Newman as recently as last month.

This of course followed Infrastructure Australia’s approval of the project in 2012 as a ‘ready to go’, nationally significant project.

Yet upon being elected, the current Coalition Government – led at the time by Tony Abbott – withdrew every dollar of Federal funding for the project.

It was Mr Abbott who had said previously: “It’s important that we stick to our knitting, and the Commonwealth’s knitting when it comes to funding infrastructure is roads”.

That funding was redirected to new toll roads in Sydney and Melbourne.

Four years later, the need to deliver Cross River Rail has only grown more urgent.

That is a view shared by the experts within the independent Infrastructure Australia.

According to their latest Infrastructure Priority List, which was released in February: “The current rail connection into and through Brisbane’s CBD is expected to reach capacity by the early to mid-2020s, while parts of the road and bus network are close to or at capacity.”

Cross River Rail is a no brainer.

Given the existing Merivale Bridge is reaching capacity, a second rail crossing of the Brisbane River is urgently needed.

Continued delay will only inhibit economic growth right across South East Queensland and undermine the international competitiveness of the region’s businesses.

As well as creating almost 8000 jobs during its construction, Cross River Rail will:

  • Relieve the bottleneck in the inner city and boost the capacity of the entire South East Queensland rail network, allowing for more frequent services on all suburban lines;
  • Take up to 18,500 cars a day off the major arterial roads; and
  • Improve access to important public facilities such as hospitals, universities and sporting venues.

In short, this new piece of rail infrastructure will ease traffic congestion, increase network reliability, improve access to the CBD, and allow people to get to work and home again quicker.

That’s why I welcome the Palaszczuk Labor Government’s recent Budget and their decision to simply get on with the job of building this new rail line – and to go it alone if necessary.

However, not everyone in Canberra was pleased with this decision.

The Leader of National Party, and man likely to soon be the new Minister for Infrastructure, Barnaby Joyce, ranted against the Queensland Government’s decision to fund the project.  In the words of Mr Joyce: “What we did hear in the Queensland budget was a lot about Cross River Rail.  For the Labor Party, it was always a budget for inner suburban Brisbane.”

What a bizarre and ignorant statement.

The fact is Cross River Rail will benefit the entire South East Corner.  In particular, it will provide more peak hour train services into Brisbane from both the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

Here’s the bottom line: Malcolm Turnbull likes taking selfies on trains, tram and buses.  But he refuses to invest in trains, trams or buses – a failure that will only lead to more gridlock, worsening congestion and a poorer quality of life in our cities.

Again, like with so many issues, while the Coalition may have adopted Labor’s rhetoric they are not prepared to make the investment that is required.

This country needs real national leadership – and when it comes to nation building infrastructure such as Cross River Rail only Labor has a proven track of delivering just that.

Jun 19, 2017

Speech to Queensland local government breakfast – ‘Partnering and investing in local government’

Before I turn to the substance of my speech I want to take this opportunity to recognise and pay tribute to the extraordinary response from local councils across Queensland to the devastation wrought earlier this year by Cyclone Debbie.

Your quick and effective actions ensured that your local communities were able to get back on their feet as quickly as humanly possible.

I know Queenslanders are no strangers to wild weather – but each time they are tested they prove their resilience and willingness to come together to support each other and rebuild their communities.

In 2017, local government is more than ever about far more than collecting the rubbish, fixing pot holes, trimming the grass along footpaths, and catching stray cats and dogs.

In hundreds of different ways, you and your colleagues help build our civil identity, shape the physical character of our suburbs and regional communities, and contribute to the economic development of our country.

Local government is not simply an adjunct to state and territory governments.


That’s why the former Federal Labor Government – in which I had the privilege of serving as Local Government Minister – was so committed to partnering with the local government sector to address the challenges confronting our nation, which at the time included the most severe global economic downturn since the Great Depression.

This commitment to a new partnership between the national government and local government was epitomised by our decision to convene the Australian Council of Local Government.  This annual event brought mayors, shire presidents and councillors from around the country to the nation’s capital, giving them direct access to ministers and their senior bureaucrats.

For the first time, local government had a real voice in Commonwealth policy-making.

Unfortunately the Coalition never appreciated the importance of this two-way consultative forum, often deriding it as a “talk-fest”.  In government, they have simply refused to reconvene it.

That refusal has and will continue to lead to poorer policy outcomes for local communities and the nation as a whole.

The fact is local government is the front line in our democracy.

And you will no doubt be pleased to know that Essential Research’s most recent “Trust in Institutions” poll found that local government was once again by far the most trusted tier of politics.

That’s not surprising.

For one thing, you are directly responsible for many of the services that people use and rely on every day of the week.  Indeed, local government is involved in many of the most personal moments in our lives: celebrating marriages at the town hall or in the local park, looking after our children in child care, getting approval to build our dream home, and even becoming an Australian citizen at a council ceremony.

Therefore, it is a serious oversight that the founding document of our democracy – the Constitution – does not acknowledge the role of local government nor fully reflect the modern structure of government in Australia.

In government we sought to rectify this anomaly.

In May 2013, the then Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus introduced a bill into the House of Representatives that would have sought the agreement of the Australian people, via a referendum, to make a modest, common sense change to our Constitution.

Based on advice from an expert panel led by the former Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court, the Hon. James Spigelman, the proposed change would have inserted into the Constitution a clear statement that the Commonwealth can grant financial assistance to local government to help them pay for local services and infrastructure.

What’s more, constitutional recognition would also help prevent state and territory governments running rough shod over the views of local communities when it comes to council amalgamations and re-organisations – as we have most recently witnessed in my home state of NSW.

Sadly, over the past four years, this long overdue reform has been left to wither on the vine.

For our part, Labor has long championed constitutional recognition of local government as Australia’s third sphere of government.  And while acknowledging it has been twice rejected at a referendum due to a lack of bipartisan support, we are firmly of the view that the time has come for this issue to again be put before the Australian people for their consideration.


In addition to partnering with local government, the former Federal Labor Government was also committed to investing in it.  And that investment was not just in the services they deliver, but equally importantly, in their efforts to create strong, diversified local economies.

You simply can’t have a strong national economy if you don’t have strong local economies.

Local government is an important economic actor.

Not only does local government directly employ almost 200,000 Australians; you also play a significant role in maintaining and building the infrastructure our nation needs.

For one thing, you are responsible for the upkeep of more than 650,000 kilometres of the nation’s roads, upon which tens of billions of dollars of economic activity flow.

All up, local government’s total asset stock is worth almost $250 billion.

To help maintain and upgrade this vital infrastructure, we established as part of our highly successful Economic Stimulus Plan the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program – the biggest ever Federal investment in local government’s community and economic infrastructure.

This $1.1 billion program delivered some 5000 small and larger scale projects such as new and upgraded public libraries, community centres, child cares facilities, parks and sporting facilities.  And at time when they were most needed, it created thousands of jobs and helped to keep Australia out of recessions.

Importantly, every local government authority received funding and every one of them determined where the money was spent, based on an assessment of what the priorities of their local communities were.

On top of that we increased Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) – an initiative first put in place by the Whitlam Labor Government – by 20 per cent.  And we boosted funding for the Roads to Recovery program substantially.

In contrast to this record investment, the current Coalition Government has abolished the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, and ripped nearly $1 billion out of the budgets of local governments nationwide through their three-year freeze on the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants.

The figure for Queensland is almost $200 million.

This is a permanent funding cut, one that has meant that local governments around Australia have been forced to reduce services, increase fees and put off much needed capital works.  This cut has been particularly hard on rural councils and shires due to their smaller rate bases.

But the cuts don’t stop there.

As result of last month’s Federal Budget, Federal infrastructure grant funding – the money that goes to the states, territories and local government to deliver major road and rail projects – will fall off a cliff over the next four years.

It will collapse from $7.6 billion this financial year to $4.2 billion in 2020-21.

In the assessment of the peak industry body Infrastructure Partnerships Australia:

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

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

Indeed, the record levels of grant funding under the former Labor Government allowed us to partner with the Queensland Government, the private sector and Brisbane City Council to deliver the $1.5 billion Legacy Way road project.  It also allowed us to partner with the Queensland Government and the Moreton Bay Regional Council to build the long-talked about Moreton Bay Rail Link.

And the provision of Federal grant funding was vital to getting the proposed Gold Coast Light Rail off the ground in partnership with the State Government, the private sector and the Gold Coast City Council.  This $1.2 billion piece of infrastructure has transformed the way people get around the Coast.

So yes, while the private sector has a role to play in closing the infrastructure funding gap, governments cannot avoid the fact that they will have to stump up taxpayers’ dollars if they want projects, particularly urban public transport projects, to happen.

There is no magic pudding or silver bullet.


Lastly, I just want to touch on the current state of urban policy.

As one of the most urbanised nations on the planet, we understood that Australia’s continued prosperity would largely depend on how successful we are at making our cities and large regional centres work better.

Importantly, our approach to building more productive, sustainable and liveable urban communities involved investing in both their road and rail infrastructure.  That is why we doubled the roads budget and committed more funding to urban public transport infrastructure than all our predecessors since Federation combined.

In addition, we:

  • Created the Major Cities Unit;
  • Established the National Planning Taskforce;
  • Required state and territory governments to have strategic plans for their capital cities as a condition of future Federal infrastructure funding;
  • Commissioned an annual State of the Cities report.

In short, the former Federal Labor Government ended the Commonwealth’s self-imposed exile from our urban communities and re-engaged with the states, territories and local government.

Regrettably, one of the first acts of the current Coalition Government upon being elected was to abolish the Major Cities Unit and again retreat from our cities.  In the eyes of the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the challenges confronting our cities were someone else’s problems to fix.

Now while the current Prime Minister’s rhetoric may differ from that of his predecessor, his Government nonetheless continues to ignore the planning needs of the four out of five Australians who live in our cities.  The 2017 Federal Budget delivered no new policy initiatives and no new investment in our urban infrastructure, most notably public transport.

Instead it has sought to mask its inaction with vague promises about City Deals.

City Deals originate from the United Kingdom as vehicles for co-operation between national and local government on shared economic development goals.  The national government delivers infrastructure funding based on these shared objectives and shares any resulting revenue increases with the councils.

Mr Turnbull’s City Deals bear little resemblance to the UK model.

Indeed, the three City Deals proposed in during the 2016 Federal election – Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney – all came in response to actual infrastructure investment commitments made by the Labor Party.

In their current form, City Deals are a political fix, not serious urban policy.


I just want to conclude by saying that my passion for local government goes right back to my first job in politics, working for Tom Uren, the architect of the Whitlam Labor Government’s urban development agenda, and later Local Government Minister in the Hawke Labor Government.

And that passion has not waned in the years since.

Importantly, I want to thank everyone in this room for being willing to stand up, to put in the time and effort to represent your communities.  I can assure you that I will continue doing everything I can to support what is an indispensable part of our political system – our local governments.

May 26, 2017

Address to Google Digital Skills Forum – Balmain

Just the other week in Perth I spoke at a conference about the pace of technological change.

We know that change can improve our lives and we know it frees us from certain kinds of labour.

But, of course, change has no conscience.

It does not care or even consider its impact on people.

And this is where we come in.

The fact is that governments, business leaders like you, and industry leaders such as Google have such an important role to play when it comes to making sure people continue to have access to the opportunities they need to stay ahead in a fast-paced world.

So congratulations for thinking ahead. I want to recognize the hard work of Google, the NSW Business Chamber, the Leichhardt & Annandale Business Chamber and the Balmain Rozelle Chamber of Commerce in organising today’s training session.


It is a pleasure to be here in Balmain – the old, industrial working heart of the inner west.

I grew up near here, in Camperdown.

Like many of you I have observed Balmain and Camperdown transform over the decades.

In many ways these suburbs are emblematic of our nation’s economic transformation from industrial to knowledge-intensive and skills-based.

Old workers cottages now sell for well over $1 million.

Warehouses have been filled in with designer apartments.

And our local businesses are increasingly diverse.

They reflect the assortment of needs each person in our community has.

But of course a number of local businesses have endured the test of time and I want to acknowledge one, in particular; the iconic Brays Books on Darling Street.

I remember the emergence of e-books. Many said then bookshops were dead.

However in the US independent booksellers are thriving and here, in Australia, book sales have picked up since 2015.

The simple fact is, reading an e-book isn’t the same as a physical book.

And that’s one of the reasons why bookshops are still here.

But it’s also because businesses like Brays Books adapt to change.

Brays today has Facebook, Twitter and a blog.

And I know the inner west is home to many businesses that have popped up inside people’s houses.

These business owners are creative. They are responsive to technological change and determined to succeed.

And with higher internet uptake in our area than any place in Australia, online presence and accessibility is crucial for our businesses.

What’s more, the benefits that come with the conversion of White Bay and Glebe Island into a technology hub must also not be lost.

I will continue to advocate for government action to achieve this.


The Commonwealth should be doing everything in its power to support the development of small business.

After all they underpin both the economy of places like Balmain, but also the nation.

We should be investing in creativity and leading the way internationally when it comes to small businesses.

But of course politics can get in the way of the basic realities that confront us and affect the way we live.

Let’s take the NBN for example.

Labor had a plan for high-speed, fibre-to-the-premise, broadband for Australia.

We were determined to do it once, do it right and do it with fibre.

We had funded it, and we were building it.

The Coalition, in contrast, always had another plan.

First Tony Abbott appointed Malcolm Turnbull as Shadow Minister for Communications saying, “Who better to hold the government to account here than Malcolm Turnbull … who has the technical expertise and business experience to entirely demolish the government on this issue.”

Then, after the Coalition was elected in 2013 it declared the NBN could not be funded off Budget.

Sometime after that the Coalition changed its rhetoric – adopting the principle, but none of the substance, abandoning fibre-to-the-premise for its significantly inferior hybrid model.

The result is Fraudband, not high speed Broadband.

And earlier this month it has been revealed that Malcolm Turnbull has purchased 15 million metres of copper wire for his second rate network.

Fifteen million metres.

Enough to wrap around Australia.

They have increased the cost and decreased the speed.

Our businesses need better than this from the Commonwealth.

They need reliable, fast broadband so that they can be connected to this increasingly technological world.


In some ways, today’s children are already being schooled to think differently from previous generations.

They are already experts in coping with change, because during their short lives, it has been a constant.

For example, anyone who uses a computer knows the software is constantly upgraded and updated, requiring us to amend our habits when it comes to simple functions like creating and sending documents.

While many older people find that frustrating, for young people it is a natural part of life.

In the future workforce, jobs will evolve in the same way.

The role you take on one year could evolve considerably in a very short time to something that looks quite different.

While today’s young people are already thinking in more flexible ways, I worry about older people losing their jobs now and in the next few years.

I worry about their ability to reskill, both in terms of personal mindset and in terms of the opportunities that will be available to them.

In particular, I worry about what will become of low-skilled workers who occupy the jobs that will be eliminated first.


And that’s why today’s Digital Skills Workshop is so critical.

It encourages business owners and leaders like you to not only continue to adapt, but also to come together and talk to each other about the change we face.

I look forward to continuing to work with you in my capacity as the Member for Grayndler and wish you all the best.


May 18, 2017

Speech to Transport Workers Union National Council – The role of government in managing change – Freemantle

It was the sixth century Greek philosopher Heraclitus who noted that the only thing that never changes in life is change itself.

More recently, former US president John F Kennedy put it another way when he said: Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

Our generation has seen more change than any previous generation in human history.

Remember when there was no Internet? When the only way to receive information was on the telephone on your desk or face to face?

It’s not that long ago. Less than three decades ago, in fact.

When I was at school and wanted to do some research for a school assignment, I went to the library and looked in an encyclopedia.

When today’s children need information, they don’t have to leave their desks. The sum of human knowledge is available at their fingertips.

I remember when the arrival of the fax machine was a major breakthrough. Faxes were promoted as the tools that would liberate offices by making it easier to communicate.

But in a dramatic demonstration of the accelerating pace of change, the fax machine is already a museum piece.

Indeed, when you think about how the pace of change has quickened in the past five decades, it is mind boggling to imagine what the world will look like 50 years from now.

Don’t think about that for too long. It will make your brain hurt.

But consider this: Change has no conscience.

Change can improve our lives. It can free us of certain kinds of labour.

It can make life easier in any number of ways.

But change is a bit like the free market. If you leave it to its own devices, people can get hurt.

That is where the state needs to come in.

We need to accept that we can’t stop change.

But we need to manage change so that it serves people, rather than victimising them, particularly working people.

That’s why I am so pleased that the TWU has taken the trouble to sit down today and consider the place of its members in the new economy.

Our friends in the business community are doing their jobs by looking for ways to use technology to cut costs to the benefit of their shareholders.

It is a credit to the TWU that you are doing your jobs by thinking about what will happen to the workers who will be displaced by change in coming decades.

That’s fitting. Your members are in the firing line.

A simple example of what is at stake here is the shift to automated transport, which offers a future in which cars drive themselves.

At some levels, this change will offer many benefits to the community – greater road safety, less traffic congestion and lower carbon emissions.

But as you know, a quarter of a million Australians feed themselves and their families by working as drivers.

We need to think right now about what we will do to ensure that those people are retrained so they can continue to contribute to society through the workforce.

More broadly, we must ask ourselves what we need to do now to reshape our workforce and our culture to a point where they are supple enough to cope with the increasing pace of change.

I’m no futurist.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers here.

But what is clear is that the Turnbull Government doesn’t have a plan to manage change.


I would like to take this opportunity to offer my observations on last week’s Federal Budget, including the way it affects the industries of concern to the TWU.

Budget 2017 was an overwhelming victory for the Australian Labor Party and the broader labour movement.

It was the Budget of ideological surrender.

After years of negativity and culture wars, the Coalition used the Budget to offload much of its ideological baggage and embrace Labor values on some core issues – at least at a superficial level.

They have finally accepted that Australians support universal health care.

…That Australians see needs-based school funding as a right, not a favour.

…That the NDIS is critical reform.

…That it is the responsibility of government to build for the future, investing in the railways, roads, ports and other infrastructure needed to sustain growth and progress.

That’s the good news.

But the bad news is that while the Coalition has raised the ideological white flag, their rhetorical conversions have not come with investment.

For example, they say they embrace needs-based education funding.

But they are still cutting investment by $22 billion over the next decade.

They say they support Medicare.

But the Budget locked in billions of dollars in cuts and maintained the freeze on the Medicare rebate in the short term.

They say they understand the importance of infrastructure investment.

Yet the Budget cuts it by $1.6 billion in this financial year alone, with investment to fall off a cliff over the next four years.

It’s all a bit like Malcolm Turnbull’s attitude to public transport.

He loves taking selfies on trains, trams and buses.

But he won’t make new investments in trains, trams and buses.

It’s also similar to the debate over the National Broadband Network. First Tony Abbott appointed Malcolm Turnbull to “destroy” the NBN.

They declared it couldn’t be funded off Budget.

Then they adopted the principle – but not the substance.

The result is Fraudband, not high speed Broadband.

And this week it has been revealed that Malcolm Turnbull has purchased 15 million metres of copper wire for his second rate network.

Fifteen million metres.

Enough to wrap around Australia.

They have increased the cost and decreased the speed. Only Labor can be trusted to actually deliver on the policies that change the nation for the better.

However, we in the Labor Party and the broader labour movement should celebrate our victories.

It reminds us once again that the Labor Party, working with the union movement, is the driver of progress in this nation.

The conservatives have always resisted change. They’ve always tried to convince Australians that there is something wrong with collectivism and reform that delivers equity.

Medicare, compulsory superannuation, workplace fairness, the NBN, access to university based on merit – they opposed the lot.

But again and again, our leadership, informed by everyday Australian values like the Fair Go, has forced them to shift.

The way forward for Labor is to accept their rhetorical conversion and triple our pressure for investment, while continuing to argue the case for further progressive reform.


One major disappointment in the Budget was its lack of action on road safety.

Mr Turnbull’s abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in 2016 was wholly political.

Everyone here knows the tribunal was created by the former Labor Government.

We worked with your union and other key players in the sector, including employers and experts, to eliminate incentives for drivers to work long hours and adopt unsafe driving practices in order to make a living.

In creating the tribunal, our shared concern was to save lives.

In abolishing it, Mr Turnbull’s concern was to win votes by union bashing.

In Government we pursued this reform, whilst also using new technology to improve road safety. Measures such as changing Australian Design Rules to mandate Front Underrun Protection Systems in heavy vehicles are making a difference.

To the Prime Minister’s discredit, last week’s Budget did not contain a single new road safety initiative at a time when the road toll is on the rise, reversing decades of decline.

Even worse, it cut funding for road construction and maintenance.

It cut the Black Spots program, the Bridges Renewal Program and the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Maintenance program.

There was no new investment in urban rail to tackle the traffic congestion that is a hand brake on productivity growth and a hazard to your members.

Indeed, there was only one new on-Budget project in the entire Budget over the next four years –$13.8 million for the Far North Collector Road near the NSW town of Nowra in the marginal seat of Gilmore.

This is a project no-one had ever heard about until Budget night.

The business sector saw the infrastructure budget as a dud.

The peak industry body Infrastructure Partnerships Australia offered a devastating critique.

It said:

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

At a time when Australia needs to lift productivity to drive jobs growth outside of the mining sector, a drop in real capital expenditure to its lowest point in more than a decade is that last thing we need.


Turning back to the issue of managing change, the Budget also did nothing to lift our ability to ensure that the workers of tomorrow will be able to cope with the challenges of the New Economy.

Those challenges are intimidating already, but will only escalate in coming decades.

We are already all aware of the massive changes unleashed upon the taxi industry by the rise of share economy options like Uber.

A company that is not even ten years old has revolutionised casual travel. More than 40 million people worldwide use Uber once a month.

Uber has 58,000 drivers in Australia and nearly three million frequent users.

The company’s growth has been extraordinary and it stands as a great example of how in the 21st century, progress is nearly unstoppable.

The taxi industry has, understandably, resisted Uber.

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

But these changes still require a government response.


If you think Uber was disruptive, consider the shift to automated transport, which, I am certain, is one of the biggest challenges facing your union.

A recent paper by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, notes that automated vehicles will offer better road safety outcomes, more efficient transport networks, less pollution and greater liveability in our cities.

Platooning is an application of automated driving technology that uses wireless communications to allow two or more vehicles to safely travel closer together.

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

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

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

That’s important.

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

However, as I mentioned earlier, the Department noted that about a quarter of a million Australians earn their living from driving trucks, buses and taxis in 2015.

They will be displaced.

Workers in associated industries may also be affected – insurers, smash repairers and parking inspectors.

Then there’s the car manufacturing and sales industry, which will be transformed by the arrival of driverless cars.

On the positive side, there will be jobs for those who maintain the automated transport system, plus perhaps opportunities for new businesses that will use automated vehicles as a platform to deliver new kinds of services.

But even if you account for the considerable amount of media and industry hype surrounding automated transport, it’s clear that the rise of driverless vehicles will dramatically change the Australian workforce in coming decades.

We might not like it.

But change is going to happen.

The question for today is what we can do to ensure that as a society, we reap the economic benefits of this automation while avoiding its worst potential consequences.

If we let the market rip, the worst case scenario is a situation where companies and their shareholders thrive because of the reduced costs, while their former employees are discarded.

The real danger here is that rather than making life easier for everyone, automation will widen the gap between the haves and the have nots.

We all want a better world, with less work and more free time.

But we have to manage change in a way that is fair.

We want the benefits of the new world to accrue to the many, not just the few.


In that context I find it incomprehensible that the Turnbull Government is cutting funding for schools and universities and has gutted the vocational training sector over the past four years.

It is obscene that the Coalition has cut the number of apprentices in this nation by 130,000 since taking government.

Our national focus should always be firmly fixed on preparing our young people for work – providing them with the skills they need to contribute to society and raise their own families.

But the acceleration of change makes this more important than ever.

A business as usual approach won’t work.

Our education and training systems need systemic change, as does the way in which Australians themselves think about work.

Labor has proposed a practical approach in my portfolio which would ensure a minimum of one in every 10 people employed on Commonwealth funded infrastructure projects being an apprentice.


In the 20th century, people were raised to believe that if they worked hard at school and/or university, they could find a good job and stay in that job until retirement.

But in the 21st century, we must accept as a starting point that people will have multiple careers.

A child born today should have the expectation that his or her first job will probably be made redundant within a decade or two after he or she starts work.

So it’s critical that we teach people to embrace the idea that they will have to constantly upgrade and modify their skills in a process of lifelong learning.

We need to get over the idea that once you’ve done a degree or an apprenticeship, you will be set for life.

Indeed, the real aim of 21st century education and training should be teaching people how to keep learning for their entire careers.

This will require significant additional investment in training.


In some ways, today’s children are already being schooled to think differently from previous generations.

They are already experts in coping with change, because during their short lives, it has been a constant.

For example, anyone who uses a computer knows the software is constantly upgraded and updated, requiring us to amend our habits when it comes to simple functions like creating and sending documents.

While many older people find that frustrating, for young people it is a natural part of life.

In the future workforce, jobs will evolve in the same way.

The role you take on one year could evolve considerably in a very short time to something that looks quite different.

While today’s youngsters are already thinking in more flexible ways, I worry about older people losing their jobs now and in the next few years.

I worry about their ability to reskill, both in terms of personal mindset and in terms of the opportunities that will be available to them.

In particular, I worry about what will become of low-skilled workers who occupy the jobs that will be eliminated first.

Here’s a simple example.

Next time you go to a supermarket, you’ll be encouraged to take your own goods through the checkout, to scan them and pack them yourself, ostensibly for the sake of your own convenience.

While this will cut wage bills for supermarket chains, it eliminates jobs.

Once the supermarket chains have trained us all to avoid the few remaining checkouts operated by people, there will be fewer jobs available for unskilled workers.

That’s why Governments need a major new focus on retraining.

There are far too many people in their 40s and 50s in this country who lose their jobs and never work again in a full-time role.

If a breadwinner loses his or her job, they still have to pay the bills. They can’t take three years off to go back to university.

So we need to develop ways in which older people, particularly unskilled workers, can retrain over time – perhaps even before their job becomes redundant.

As a community we must accept that if the benefits of change are to be shared fairly, many Australians will not only need access to re-training, but will also need income support while they undertake that training.

That will cost money. There’s no way to avoid it.


Another important aspect of this entire debate relates to the power of the individual in the workplace.

Increasing automation will lead to reduced job security and more part-time work, creating greater challenges for the trade union movement to protect the rights of workers.

No doubt such considerations are part of the reason that the TWU is holding this forum.

Industrial relations is your business and I would not presume to tell you how to do it.

However, let me conclude by repeating my earlier comments.

Australians are an egalitarian people.

As we saw with the Budget last week, the forces of conservatism and self-interest are always going to struggle to capture the imaginations of people who live their lives according to the concept of the Fair Go.

The Tories will always preach individualism. They will always seek to promote self-interest.

But they will also inevitably be forced to more progressive positions.

That is because while Australians celebrate individual success, it is part of our culture to reject the idea that it is acceptable to leave people behind.

In the 21st century, the forces of the free market will attempt to use technical change to favour the few over the many.

They will want to bank the financial gains of change and reject the idea that some of those benefits must be used to manage its effects.

We must resist that.

We must put our faith in people, by fighting for a world in which people come first.

May 5, 2017

Speech to Implementing the New Urban Agenda Conference


Every night from a tenth floor window of a building in the Rocks a red neon sign beams SOS across Sydney Harbour.

Save our Sirius.

The building catches your attention, but it is not conventionally aesthetic.

Its brutalist concrete blocks stacked side by side loom over the bustling restaurants and shops that draw in tourists and locals alike.

For so long this part of Sydney was its working heart.

Sirius, the building, just like its surrounding area in the Rocks and Millers Point has a place in Australian history.

And, until recently, it also had an established community.

The sell-off of Sirius and nearby public housing at Millers Point is a familiar tragedy that we’ve seen play out before.

As ninety year old Myra Demetriou, who has lived in the area for more than sixty years, said:

“They don’t think people like me should have these views.”

She says this as a matter of fact.

It’s based upon an elitist assumption that damages not just Ms Demetriou but damages the character of the city I am passionate about.

Like these residents I was raised in inner city public housing.

My first political campaign was in the late 1970s.

I fought with my mother and our community to reverse the Sydney City Council’s decision to sell its housing estate in Camperdown, along with other inner Sydney communities.

We were fighting for more than bricks and mortar.

It was our home.

The decision-makers responsible for selling public housing in Millers Point and the Rocks are forgetting one important thing.

These are not just physical structures.

They are people’s homes.

A living, breathing mixture of people that, critically, adds to the diversity of our cities.

As we respond to the challenges of urbanisation we must not diminish the rights and dignity of the vulnerable in our communities.

Successful cities are inclusive cities, something that is recognised by the New Urban Agenda, which states:

“There is a need to take advantage of the opportunities of urbanisation as an engine of sustained and inclusive economic growth, social and cultural development, and environmental protection, and of its potential contributions to the achievement of transformative and sustainable development.”

I am pleased to speak about Habitat III and implementing the New Urban Agenda.

Australia has committed to this very important Declaration that seeks to navigate the urban challenges we face, not only here, but in every nation around the world.

The New Urban Agenda is a roadmap for sustainable development.

What’s more, it puts people front and centre.

Exactly where they should be.


Four out of every five Australians live in cities.

By 2031 our four largest capitals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – will have increased by 46 per cent.

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

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

Whilst most job creation has been in inner areas, growth in population has been in outer communities.

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

This has impacted on the quality of life for many.

Mortgage stress.

Rent stress.

Urban congestion on our roads and packed public transport during peak hours.

Critically, there is also the issue of sustainable development.

We cannot talk about urbanisation without also talking about climate change, which is taking a toll on urban infrastructure.

Increasingly there is debate about how we can use urban design to make our cities more sustainable.

This includes more efficient energy and water use, the integration of active transport and maximising our green space to reduce the Heat Island Effect.

We need to replicate the many examples of best practice that are available, whether they are from our own cities, or internationally, from places like Singapore.

The New Urban Agenda is important because it provides a framework for dealing with these issues.

It is no accident that it is connected to the UN Sustainable Development Goals agreed upon in New York in September 2015.

The 17 global goals and 169 targets build upon the previous Millennium Development Goals.

Combined, the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework for countries to progress not only their nation’s economy in a changing world, but also the aspirations of their people.


How well we manage urban population growth will, in part, depend on how we use these examples.

It also depends on our willingness to participate in multi-lateral forums such as UN-Habitat.

UN-Habitat has an extraordinary history.

The first conference, held in Vancouver in 1976, sought to respond to concerns over rapid, uncontrolled urban growth, especially in developing areas.

Governments, armed with recommendations, then set out to influence human settlement across their cities.

The second UN-Habitat conference, held in 1996 in Istanbul, assessed what progress had been made in cities around the world since 1976.

It also produced the Habitat Agenda, a strategic plan adopted by 171 countries containing more than 100 commitments and 600 recommendations.

The third conference, hosted last year in Quito drew 36,000 people from 167 different countries.

36,000 people.

167 countries.

An exceptional level of international engagement.

And from this a New Urban Agenda was adopted.

Australia was represented by Gillian Bird, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN.

But as capable as Ms Bird is, I cannot understand the Government’s decision to not also be represented at Ministerial level.

This follows in the steps of the Howard Government’s decision to not send a Minister in 1996.

UN-Habitat is the most important international urban conference of our time.

It has charted the progress of the world’s cities for more than forty years.

By 2050, the world’s urban population is set to double.

Indeed, as of 2008, for the first time, a majority of the world’s population lived in urban areas.

There were more than 400 cities over one million, and 19 over ten million.

This is why now, more than ever, participation from the Federal Government is critical.

As Gillian Bird said in her statement on the New Urban Agenda:

“The global urbanisation trend is one of the most profound transitions in human history and has occurred in less than a century.”

The fact is that while many people in our middle class have grown their wealth as a result of urbanisation, other people have simply seen their poverty entrenched.

Indeed, wealth in Australia is highly concentrated.

A recent report from the Australian Council of Social Services shows that the top 10% of Australian households own 45% of all wealth in our nation.

The dividend of Australia’s growth need to be shared more fairly.

A person’s background should not preclude them from the opportunities they need to fulfil their ambitions.

Aspiration is indeed for everyone.


This is why the New Urban Agenda is so important.

At the heart of this Declaration lies the principle, ‘leave no one behind.’

Successful cities are not disconnected enclaves of privilege and disadvantage.

They are diverse and their diversity can be harnessed to drive great social outcomes as well as the economic productivity that sustains our lifestyles.

The New Urban Agenda recognises this.

It provides a vision; a set of principles, commitments and recommendations to guide inclusive growth in our cities.

Our national government should play a leading role in implementing the New Urban Agenda.

But the very first step towards achieving this is to break down what can, too often, be a department by department, silo-driven approach.

We must instead put forward a holistic vision that genuinely understands how our cities work.

However the Coalition Government is intent on putting in places structures that achieve the exact opposite.

Most recently the Coalition outlined its plan for an Infrastructure Financing Unit in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, not in the Department of Infrastructure.

And indeed, this new Infrastructure Financing Unit will do precisely the job Infrastructure Australia is supposed to be doing.

It is a retrograde step that separates project assessment from project financing.

In contrast, when I was the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport I released Australia’s first ever national urban policy – Our Cities, Our Future.

It recognised that urban policy cannot be separated from other policy.

That our cities are intimately connected to the environment, water, communications, housing, employment, health and education.

But we have to do more than just talk about it.

Cities require investment.

When we invest in our cities we not only grow their economic potential, but also the nation’s.

Australian cities produce 80 per cent of our GDP.

Indeed, Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, had this to say in his closing remarks at the conference:

“We need to approach urbanisation not as a cost, but as an investment, because the cost of urbanisation is minimal in comparison to the value that it can generate.”


An important part of this is ensuring we get the urban planning and infrastructure right.

But the issue goes beyond return on investment.

It’s also about the fact that how we plan our cities and where we invest in infrastructure has a very real impact on people’s lives.

Policy failures in this space have meant that in cities, like Sydney for example, housing has become extraordinarily costly.

Those that can’t afford to live close to the city are pushed to outer suburbs whereas areas that are serviced by good public transport and infrastructure have seen prices rapidly increase.

As a consequence home ownership is declining.

Between 2002 and 2014, home ownership in Australia fell from 71 per cent to 67 per cent.

Young home buyers have felt this keenly.

For those aged 25 to 34, home ownership rates fell by nearly 10 percentage points in this period to less than 30 per cent.

In turn, the rental market is feeling the pressure.

A joint report released in February this year from Choice, National Shelter and the National Association of Tenants Organisation revealed that, between 1994-5 and 2013-14, the proportion of Australian households who rent has increased from 25.7 to 31 per cent.

Of these, 63 per cent of renters are aged 35 or above.

Renting as such is not a bad thing for those live in a property that suits their needs and have a positive relationship with the agent or landlord.

But, for others, the instability that can exist means it often is harder to lay down roots in a community.

What’s more, as the cost of renting increases disproportionately to wages growth, more Australians experience housing stress.

Consequently, urban growth must be managed properly.

Yet the emergence of a few demographic trends across the nation complicates how we approach this.

First, the number of single person households has increased since the 1970s.

We know this trend will continue.

ABS data indicates that by 2036 more than 3.4 million people will be living alone.

A significant number of these people will be older and female.

That brings me to my second point.

Our ageing population.

Population projections by the ABS indicate that by 2064 more than 23 per cent of Australians will be aged 65 and over.

What’s more, those aged 85 and over will have increased to five per cent.

The bottom line of this is that Australia’s housing needs are diverse.

Consequently, the types of dwellings that are built must be varied to meet the needs of all types of households.

But we need to do more than just this.

Developers, community housing providers and governments should be incorporating the aims of the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals in their work.

In doing so we recognise that the decisions we make shape the social fabric of our communities and impact the liveability, sustainability and productivity of our cities.

The Commonwealth cannot ignore the fact that it has a national role to play in housing policy, both in terms of housing affordability, and affordable housing.

I am proud to have been part of a government that recognised this.

We introduced the National Affordable Housing Agreement.

The National Rental Affordability Scheme.

The Social Housing Initiative through our plan for nation building.

What’s more, we were really starting to see these policies make a tangible difference in communities around Australia.

It is unfortunate that in recent years the focus on affordable housing has dropped off.

This is symbolised by the absence of a Federal Minister for Housing.

And, despite the recognition that excesses in negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts are not sustainable, the Government still has not acted.

Housing policy must be consistent.


As the New Urban Agenda states, we have an ‘historic opportunity to leverage the key role of cities and human settlements as drivers of sustainable development in an increasingly urbanised world.’

Here in Australia, rapid growth in our cities’ populations is taking a toll on our unique natural assets and agricultural lands.

So is climate change.

As a priority, we need to include as much green space as possible in city plans.

Not only do we know that this makes people happier and healthier, but it also offsets some of the worst effects of climate change.

Heat waves, in particular, are a serious challenge facing Australia.

In outer suburbs, which tend to be further away from coastlines, the Heat Island Effect means residents in these areas, especially the very young and elderly, are at risk.

I am pleased that many local governments are already taking a leading role in tackling this issue.

For instance, here Melbourne, the city’s Council is working to lift tree canopy from 22 percent in all public places to 40 percent by 2040.

Similarly, the City of Sydney’s urban forest is aiming to grow its urban forest by 50% by 2030.

Many of you will be aware of the 100 Resilient Cities Network pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Cities apply to join the Network and develop resilience strategies.

So far, both Sydney and Melbourne have signed up.

Sustainability is at the heart of Melbourne’s strategy.

The city aims to create a healthier environment by enabling its natural assets and ecosystems to thrive, whilst accommodating its growing population.

This is particularly important because Melbourne is particularly dependent on its food basin.

Forty-one percent of Melbourne’s fresh produce is currently grown within 100 kilometres of the city.

However, as Melbourne expands, the consequent loss of agricultural land could reduce this figure to 18 percent by 2050.

The New Urban Agenda, in combination with the Sustainable Development Goals can guide both urban regeneration projects, but also greenfield development.


We have more information at our fingertips than we have ever had before.

But it’s how we use this information that determines just how ‘smart’ our cities really are.

We know that use of smart technology can make our use of resources much more efficient, whether that is in energy, water, or the functioning of our roads.

Smart technology is about more than enhancing productivity.

It also is an enabler for creating opportunity and equity.

That is why I regard fibre to the home and business as being an essential social policy, not just an economic one.

When I visited Singapore last month, I was struck by the fact that their model was almost identical to the model that the Rudd Government began with the national broadband network.

Of course Singapore, as a city-state does not have the challenges that the roll-out of high speed broadband had in a vast nation such as ours.

They did however face challenges associated with high rise residential development.

I was struck by the fact that Singapore’s global average peak connection speed of 135 megabits per second means it is ranked first in the world.

In contrast, Australia has fallen further down the rankings since the abandonment of fibre as the basis of the NBN roll out.

There is no excuse for Government not being able to connect our cities and towns to high speed broadband in this day and age.

High speed broadband is such a critical part of ensuring access to employment, education and training opportunities, as well as the provision of health services, while connecting people to each other and the wider world.

We cannot afford to fall behind.


Can I conclude with making a point about process, or, as Jane Jacobs said, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

This is not merely an academic point.

People like Myra Demetriou, who continues to resist her eviction from her home in the Sirius Building in the Rocks, will never attend a conference such as this.

But their engagement as we determine the future of our cities is just as essential as the contribution which those in this room will make.

Part of what makes an inclusive city is true democratic participation in the shaping of our cities.

After all, this is one of the reasons why cities are so attractive as meeting places.

Cities provide a space for the agglomeration of ideas; they are a hive of economic activity and, a source of opportunities for people – so long as they can access them.

Apr 30, 2017

Address to Meetings and Events Australia Annual Conference

International Convention Centre, Sydney

Over the next month, Sydney’s International Convention Centre will host a range of events.

In early May the International Film Festival and Awards of Australia will recognise celebrities who have contributed to the development of Indian cinema.

The Snow Travel Expo 2017 brings more than 50 ski resorts from around the world to Australia and showcases the latest skiing equipment.

Later in May, CeBIT 2017 highlights the latest business technology innovations, with a focus on start-ups and entrepreneurs.

These are just some of the many, extraordinarily diverse events that will feature at the Convention Centre in coming weeks.

And, importantly, every event brings thousands of people to Sydney, who would not necessarily otherwise visit.

Not only does this contribute to Sydney’s economy through money spent at hotels, restaurants and shops, but it also provides critical business for everyone associated with the events sector.

Caterers. Sound. Lighting. The set-up team. Cleaners. Security. The pack-up team.

And this is why the business events sector is so critical.


So I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about this at the Meetings and Events Australia annual conference.

Since its creation in 1975, Meetings and Events Australia has represented a range of businesses and individuals that produce, manage, support, and supply events held across the nation every year.

Today, you have more than 600 member organisations.

It’s an extraordinary achievement and I want to recognise the commitment of Meetings and Events Australia, as well as every person across the sector, who work hard each day to ensure smooth running events and exhibitions around Australia.


I am aware that your sector is looking for government support to enhance the opportunity of successful bids for international conventions and we will be awaiting details in the Government’s Budget next week.

The Commonwealth has an important role to play in supporting and growing this important industry in Australia.

The fact is this is a highly competitive sector, and it can be challenging for Australia to win business against regional competitors.

We need to ensure Australia remains a premier destination for meetings, expos, conferences and exhibitions.

And why shouldn’t we be first choice for these events?

Our vastness means Australia is quite unique.

Nowhere else in the world could you choose between sunny Queensland; the nation’s capital of Canberra; Melbourne with its graffiti lanes and coffee culture; Sydney, with the world’s best harbour; Perth, with its superb river front and beaches; Adelaide, the gateway to one of the world’s great wine regions; Tasmania with its pristine natural environment; or any of the great regional centre including Cairns, Newcastle, Darwin and Geelong.

Of course, these are only several of the many places events are held.

The fact is; events and exhibitions are an integral part of Australia’s tourism sector and deserve to be recognised as such.

Tourism in Australia has been identified by Deloitte as one of five super growth sectors.

It employs more than 1 million Australians directly and indirectly.

At the start of this year it was reported that tourism had overtaken coal to become one of our biggest exports.

Business events in their own right add significant value to the economy.

The latest Business Events Study revealed that in 2015-16 business events generated $30.2 billion in direct expenditure and created more than 190,000 jobs.

Overall, business events contributed $24.9 billion to Australia’s GDP.

What’s more, with more than 37 million people attending more than 400,000 business events across Australia annually, there is a real opportunity at hand.

We should be working closely with the business events sector to promote longer stays.

After all, depending on where you’ve travelled from, it can be a long flight to Australia.

It’s in everyone’s interest to encourage people to make the most of their stay.


Of course events, exhibitions and expos can also grow more than the economies of our major cities.

These events make a significant difference to regional and rural economies.

Each year in January thousands make the journey to Parkes for the Elvis Festival.

Many of these people travel in costume on NSW’s regional train service.

This year the festival was expected to inject more than $11 million into the local economy.

Right around Australia, local communities, peak bodies, and governments are taking steps to promote events in regional areas.

Last September, 20 national business event planners participated in the 2016 Alice Springs Stampede.

It seeks to promote Alice Springs as a business events destination.

What’s more, it’s estimated the Stampede has resulted in events that have generated $8.8 million in visitor spending.

Business Events Victoria has released a planner’s guide.

It promotes towns like Horsham, which is 300 kilometres from Melbourne because of its access to the Grampians National Park and unique venues.

And even after the devastation of Cyclone Debbie, north-Queensland is open for business and we should do what we can to support its economy.

These are just a few examples that show the practical steps we can take to grow this vital industry.


Since the election I’ve held a number of tourism roundtables.

At these I’ve had the opportunity to listen to a range of people from across the sector – hotel owners, tourism operators of small and large businesses, and of course those in the business events sector.

What strikes me is how passionate everyone is about the future of tourism.

How committed they are to growing the industry.

Their understanding of the extraordinary contribution tourism makes to small local economies, but also the larger Australian economy.

But then sometimes when I speak to people outside of the tourism sector about tourism, I’m not convinced they always get the full picture.

That while tourism in Australia is about our pristine beaches, our rainforests and deserts, it’s also about much more than that.

It is a massive source of employment for so many Australians and those Australians working in tourism take their jobs very seriously.

We need to be doing more to support that.

This means more investment in education, skills and training.

I understand that at this conference, the outcomes of a Meetings and Events Australia skills shortage survey will be released.

I look forward to working with you to develop ways we can fill any gaps that are identified.


Now, there’s a reason why I hold the Tourism portfolio in addition to Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development.

This decision ensures a focus on cross-portfolio and agency cooperation and engagement.

It provides a strategic advantage for the tourism sector, by linking it with interdependent areas of government.

It also means tourism has a seat at the Cabinet table.

We also understand that ensuring the right infrastructure is in place is essential to growing tourism.

Our airports and public transport systems have a significant impact on whether or not people enjoy their stay in Australia.

And regardless of where you’ve travelled from our bus, train, tram and ferry networks should be easy to navigate.

This includes in our two biggest cities; Sydney and Melbourne.

The fact is international cities need world class public transport.

Think of the signature international examples: New York Subway, the Paris Metro and the London Tube.

We should be on that list.

This means the national government needs to invest in public transport.

What’s, more, our airports need to be part of this focus on infrastructure.

After all, airports are the first experience anyone has in Australia unless, of course, you’ve come by cruise ship.

Currently our four largest cities are all undergoing aviation expansion, with plans for new runways in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Sydney will have a whole new airport.

But there’s more that can be done.

For instance Cairns Airport has plans to expand. It is the sort of project that could make a good candidate for Federal Government concessional finance.

At the election we put forward our plan for a $1 billion Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund. It was to back projects like this.

Along with our major capital airports’ physical expansion, there are increasing opportunities for other airports to host international flights.

Recently we’ve seen Canberra open up its airport for international flights to and from Singapore and New Zealand.

We’ve seen it at Cairns, Townsville and the Sunshine Coast. Last year Cathay Pacific picked up freight from Wellcamp Airport near Toowoomba and took it directly to Hong Kong.

And in the future we could include international flights to and from airports at Avalon, Newcastle and Hobart.

This would be of enormous benefit to the business events sector here in Australia, making it easier for people to fly directly to their destination.


While the business events sector already makes an enormous contribution to the Australian economy, it is clear there is room for growth.

The Federal Government has a critical role to play in achieving this.

I look forward to working closely with you and wish you all the best for your conference.

Apr 4, 2017

Address to the Lee Kuan Yew Forum

Chairman and distinguished guests.

It is a tremendous honour to be here tonight.

Three years ago now, in 2014, I last visited Singapore to attend the World Cities Summit.

There I had the privilege to hear from leaders across the world, including Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who spoke about the challenges of rapid urbanisation.

Across the Asia-Pacific, including in Australia, our cities are growing at an exponential rate.

How well we manage this growth will, in part, depend on how we use the many examples of best practice that exist across our region.

I have always been fascinated by Singapore.

It provides a global model for urban policy, particularly when it comes to public transport.

In fact, Mercer’s 2017 Quality of Living Survey ranks Singapore first for best city infrastructure.

Singapore is also leading the world when it comes to urban greenery.

Well on its way to achieving its vision of a City in a Garden, Singapore ranked first in a recent study on urban tree density.

Just this afternoon in a briefing on your National Broadband Network, it reinforced to me why a Fibre To The Home model with universal access is best practice and sees Singapore ranked 1st in the world for high speed broadband.

Your delivery model is almost identical to that which the Government I served in Australia began after our election in 2007.

There is much Australia can learn from Singapore.


Australia and Singapore have long had an excellent relationship.

This was reinforced in October last year when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed our Parliament.

Singapore is our fifth largest trading partner and our largest trade and investment partner in south-east Asia.

The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement plays a significant role in facilitating this.

Currently an update to this agreement is undergoing domestic treaty processes both here in Singapore and in Australia.

It provides a framework for bilateral investments.

The update also increases the recognition of a number of Australian qualifications, providing more opportunities for Australian workers in the areas of education, law, e-commerce, telecommunications and professional services.


Our cities are at a turning point.

The nature of our investment now will shape the cities of tomorrow.

Tackling the immense challenge of climate change through sustainable development is pivotal.

Just like in Singapore, Australian cities face the very serious issue of heatwaves.

In our cities, particularly the outer suburbs, which tend to be further away from coastlines, the Heat Island Effect means residents, especially the very young and elderly, are extremely vulnerable.

Urban canopy plays a critical role in reducing heat.

But a holistic strategy is also needed to ensure long-term change, which Singapore has considered through its water strategy, efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and its use of technology to ensure energy efficiency.


Last year in Quito at the Habitat III conference a New Urban Agenda was adopted with a specific focus on sustainable development.

Government participation in multi-lateral forums such as these is important.

Singapore has long been active in this space.

In his national statement at Habitat III, Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development said:

“We believe that the unique conditions and needs of each country should be recognised. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for all cities and all states, there is room for us to work together to share best practices and support each other to implement the New Urban Agenda.”

I, too, hold this view and believe we should all take interest in how countries around the world adapt and change.

This is particularly the case in such a transformative time as the 21st century.


When it comes to technology, we only ever move forward.

Access to data has transformed our capacity to understand the functioning of cities.

But it’s how we use this data that determines just how ‘smart’ our cities really are.

I understand Singapore is developing its digital twin called Virtual Singapore.

A 3D model and data platform of the whole city-state, it will be used for everything from testing how new traffic technology might work to simulating disasters.

As our cities expand, we also need to be innovative about how we build infrastructure, and how we finance it.

This is critical in Australia as each city faces its own infrastructure challenges but must grapple with the fact resources are limited.

Singapore, Asia’s infrastructure hub, has taken a leading role in the region bringing together expertise, building talent and sharing best practice.


In closing, I would like to thank you again for your warm welcome here in Singapore.

Singapore has demonstrated itself to be an exemplar when it comes to urban policy.

When governments invest in urban development we create cities that are diverse and vibrant places, rich in human experience.

I look forward to learning more on issues of sustainable development, innovation and infrastructure in the coming days.

Feb 23, 2017

Speech to Western Sydney Aerotropolis Summit


It’s great to be here today to see the level of interest in the development of the Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.

It’s has taken decades to achieve the political bipartisanship necessary to get this important project under way.

That’s a credit to people on both sides of politics.

Bipartisanship has cleared the way for governments, councils, businesses and communities to contemplate the massive economic opportunities that come with the construction of an airport.

That’s why today is so important.

When it comes to the Western Sydney Airport, we must get the planning right.

It is critical to the national economy.

As the 2012 joint study into Sydney’s aviation needs found, Sydney Airport is constrained by its land mass.

It is one half and one third of the size of the Melbourne and Brisbane airports respectively.

Sydney Airport is the nation’s busiest airport in terms of passenger movements yet it sits on the smallest land area for a major airport. Indeed, the Badgerys’ Creek site is almost twice the size of KSA.

Four out of 10 aircraft that travel in this country pass through Sydney Airport, so a delay at Kingsford Smith has huge knock-on effects across the nation.

When KSA sneezes, the rest of the nation catches the flu.

The Western Sydney Airport will offer great new options for travellers and airlines, while boosting tourism.

But if we get the planning right, the airport will provide unprecedented opportunities for airlines and aviation-related companies to expand in the vicinity of Badgerys Creek.

That means jobs – high value jobs for the people of Western Sydney, an area that has been crying out for new employment opportunities.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The task ahead is not just to build a runway and an aircraft terminal.

That’s only half the job.

We must extract maximum community benefit from this project by making it a catalyst for development of thousands of jobs across a range of industries.

We need to create an aviation precinct so successful that it transforms the entire region.

We must consider the Badgerys Creek site not as Sydney’s second airport, but as the airport for Western Sydney.

We want the Western Sydney Airport to be so successful that its success unleashes waves of prosperity across a range of sectors including research, tourism, education, advanced manufacturing, logistics and residential development.

We must develop an aerotropolis.

And at the same time, we must ensure the airport is developed to world’s best practice in terms of environmental impact and that the impact on residents in its vicinity is minimised.

None of this will be easy.

But if we get it right, the possibilities are substantial.


The case for the construction of the Western Sydney Airport has been established beyond doubt.

We know that Kingsford Smith Airport is near full capacity.

According to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Western Sydney Airport is expected to handle five million passengers in its first year of operation, rising to 10 million passengers a year within five years, 37 million a year by 2050 and 82 million a year by 2063.

It is also estimated that if we fail to build the airport, the NSW economy will lose $17.5 billion a year in gross state product by 2060.

In the process, we would forgo the creation of 57,000 jobs in NSW and nearly 78,000 nationally by 2060.

When I was younger, air travel was the province of the rich.

Working people travelled by air only to attend weddings or funerals, or to do their one off backpacking trip to Europe, the USA or Asia.

But in the 21st century, relatively low airfares and increasing disposable incomes have combined to drive huge demand for air travel.

In 1988 I saved up for the big trip to Europe.

The airfare was $1900 return to London with Qantas. Today, almost three decades later, it is possible to get a cheaper fare.

If only house prices had a similar story.

Patronage nationally is expected to double in the next two decades. Then double again by 2060.

Today, national sporting codes are thriving as a direct result of the reduction in the cost of air travel.

Western Sydney is home to 2.2 million people or almost 10% of Australia’s population. This will grow to over 3 million by the 2030’s.

Without a Western Sydney Airport, residents will continue to have to travel to Kingsford Smith Airport for their aviation needs, clogging roads that are already heavily congested, particularly around peak hours.

It can take longer for commuters to get to Mascot than they spend in the air travelling to Melbourne or Brisbane – and the taxi fare can be more than the airfare.

Anyone who has cause to use the existing airport would know it is already frequently subject to gridlock.

That’s bad for commuters and bad for the economy.

The case for the Airport is further strengthened by the research into its anticipated effects on the economy of Western Sydney.

It will create 11,000 construction jobs in the building stage. There will be 9000 direct jobs associated with the completed airport, plus thousands of indirect jobs to be created in the region.

In terms of enhancing aviation and giving Western Sydney a significant economic injection, this project is vital.


Often, public consultation about major projects goes no further than addressing contentious issues like noise and traffic.

While we must understand and engage with community concern on these issues, the employment opportunities at Badgerys Creek also demand genuine and intense community engagement.

The conversation must begin now about how we can ensure that as many of the new jobs as possible can be filled by people from Western Sydney.

It’s not just jobs building the airport; it’s jobs building the associated road and rail infrastructure and then it’s ongoing jobs created by the airport as a catalyst.

Some of those jobs are underway with the associated road construction. Others are some time off when skills and apprenticeships will look different from today’s training and employment pathways.

These jobs should have a training component which provide transferable skills for local young people and re-skilling opportunities for mature age workers.

We need to collaborate on a jobs and skills plan that provides a skilled workforce capable of contributing on this and future projects.

This effort should engage the entire community including councils, business groups, schools and universities, TAFE, unions and others.

For example, we know that during the construction stage, there will be strong demand for builders, electricians and the full range of tradespeople required to deliver such a large project.

We need to act now to consider how we can maximise access to these jobs for people from Western Sydney.

The project should result in hundreds of young people from Western Sydney being engaged on the construction site as apprentices, learning the skills that will set them up for long-term careers.

At his speech at the National Press Club Labor Leader Bill Shorten pointed the way, committing a future Labor Government to ensuring 10 per cent of the workforce on Commonwealth-funded infrastructure projects should be apprentices.

The Western Sydney Airport is the perfect opportunity to apply this principle.

We need to think now about the extent to which schools and TAFEs in Western Sydney are equipped to prepare today’s young people for the apprenticeship opportunities that beckon.

Likewise, we must think now about what industries have potential to flourish once the airport begins operations and the skills required to ensure their long-term profitability and competitiveness.

Given the changing nature of work, we must ask ourselves what skills will be required to fill those jobs.

We must collaborate with TAFE colleges and the University of Western Sydney to encourage them to focus more heavily on those skills.

I want to see the establishment of a Centre for Aviation Excellence near the airport.

It could involve government and private sector investment in innovation and skills development. Science, technology, engineering and maths should be integrated into the centre, including into the apprenticeships of the future.

That’s just one idea.

But it’s a reminder of the core proposition that must be our guiding light over the next two decades.

We are not just building an airport, but building a better future for Western Sydney.

I see many people here today who are already thinking in this direction.

On Tuesday I spent time with western suburbs-based company Celestino and Penrith Mayor John Thain and his team to discuss the 2500 hectare Sydney Science Park in Luddenham just north of the Airport site.

This is an exciting development which is encouraged by the Airport that will provide 12,000 jobs for the region.

It is a visionary project as a centre for innovation, education and research that will also have 3400 dwellings on site.

It goes beyond the concept of simply providing jobs, to being a whole-of-community-approach that will be productive, liveable and sustainable.

It will encompass the smartest buildings in Australia with the highest green star rating possible.

A deal has already been done with Catholic education to provide for Australia’s first K-12 STEM school in the country, which will accommodate 2000 students.

This is exactly the sort of project that exemplifies the multitude of business opportunities associated with the Airport.

Given that 300,000 people commute away from Western Sydney for work and the youth of Western Sydney have aspirations to live and work locally, the Sydney Science Park is precisely the sort of development driven by rail access and the airport that will shift economic activity and employment closer to where people live.


Delivering the Western Sydney Airport project has been needlessly complicated by the former Howard Government’s decision to give the Sydney Airports Corporation the first right of refusal over construction and operation of the airport.

This was part of the deal to lease Kingsford Smith Airport.

It was not a part of the original consideration, and it is up to others to justify this provision.

Nonetheless, the current Coalition Government is delivering on its contractual obligation to negotiate with SACL, as it should.

This is a commercial negotiation.

Having been involved in commercial negotiations while in government, I know it will be unhelpful for me to provide commentary on what should happen at this point.

Instead, let me be crystal clear.

Federal Labor strongly supports the Government securing maximum public benefit on price, design and operating parameters.

I note that the Government said in December that SACL had four months to decide whether to exercise its option over this project.

I urge the Government to press on and resolve this matter as soon as possible.

If SACL chooses not to exercise its option, Labor would support the Government pursuing other options, such as forming a company to build the airport itself.

That company could later be sold to a private operator.

This model is similar to that is being used to deliver the Moorebank Intermodal project established by the former Labor Government.


While Federal Labor supports the development of the new airport, bipartisanship should not preclude differences of opinion, particularly on planning issues that are critical to the airport’s success.

Labor welcomes the Government’s 2014 decision to begin upgrading roads around the site.

However, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the Government is unwilling to guarantee the airport will be connected to Sydney passenger rail network from the day it opens.

On current planning, construction of the Western Sydney Airport would include provision for the retrofitting of a passenger rail link at some unspecified time in the future.

We’ve heard vague plans about a rail connection, but no details or firm commitments.

That’s not good enough.

This lack of resolve threatens to limit the potential of the project.

If we expect people to use this airport, it should be accessible by public transport.

But there are strong economic reasons for a rail link.

It would allow us to maximise opportunities to access value capture to help pay for construction.

The airport operator will have an opportunity to develop a world-class piece of infrastructure.

Frankly even if the Airport was not being built, north-south connections for Western Sydney make sense.

The station to the north of the Airport would be located at the Science Park I have mentioned.

If the Airport is connected to rail from day one, the benefit of that connection can be reflected in the operator’s lease negotiations with other businesses.

There is no time for delay.

We need to commit to rail now, so that these economic benefits are factored into negotiations at the earliest possible stage.

The most obvious option of a rail link is an extension of the existing passenger line from Leppington through to the western line near St Marys via Badgerys Creek.

This would allow passengers as well as workers at the airport and associated businesses easier access and complete a loop line around Sydney, improving public transport services throughout the region.

Indeed, completion of the loop would be necessary even without the development of the airport.

The existence of the rail link would also increase land values of the nearby state-owned employment lands.

We’ve heard a lot of talk about value capture recently.

But there have been few examples of its utilisation.

The Western Sydney Airport looms as a perfect candidate.

It simple. The amount of value captured – and the benefit to the public purse and the quality of the project – will be higher with a rail connection than without one.

Beyond the contractual implications that come with a rail connection, the experts tell us that the development of an aerotropolis is all but impossible without public transport.

John Kasarda is the Director of the Business School at the University of North Carolina.

In some circles he is known as the Father of the Aerotropolis because of his extensive work in the economics of airport development.

In a report published for the NSW Business Council published in 2015, Dr Kasarda insisted that the success of an aerotropolis depended on good surface transport.

Dr Kasarda describes surface transport as the “the skeleton’’ upon which muscle can attach and grow around airports.

He also links the quality of surface transport to the willingness of private sector to invest, noting that airports which successfully minimise last-mile costs are more attractive to investors looking to minimise risk.

Similarly, a report by David Klingberg, the CEO of David Lock Associates, also describes improved rail capacity as critical to the development of the aerotropolis model.

Mr Klingberg points out that the lack of a rail connection to the Western Sydney Airport would make it difficult for people to move between it and the Sydney CBD and the existing Kingsford Smith airport.

Mr Klingberg’s advice is simple: “It needs to be done once – and done properly’’.

Building a Western Sydney Airport that is ready for connection to rail some time far off into the future will limit the success of this important project.

It will limit job creation.

Western Sydney needs a world-class airport – not a second-rate facility that fails to realise its potential because governments lacked the vision to invest in the infrastructure required to support its growth.


While there is substantial road construction taking place associated with the Airport, there is a need to plan for future economic growth.

The construction of the M9 or outer ring road has been identified by planners as necessary infrastructure for Western Sydney.

It would connect the region directly with the Central Coast and Illawarra and allow for productivity benefits by being located outside the existing M7 motorway.

Infrastructure Australia identified its importance as a national project.

The planning and pre-construction work should be progressed in the 2017 Budget.


Thanks to the vision of the Hawke Labor Government in securing the Badgerys Creek site in 1986 and limiting surrounding development, the airport will be located well away from residential development.

However, aircraft still make noise.

It is important we engage very closely with surrounding communities to develop a world-class noise mitigation plan, including the creation of a night time no-fly zone.

Last year, Bill Shorten and I announced Labor’s plan for a no-fly zone between 11pm and 6am.

It will be possible to ensure simultaneous operations for take offs and landings to the south-west of the runway, stopping flights over residential communities at night.

I’m pleased to say the Government, after initially rejecting this idea, has embraced it.

That’s another example of bi-partisanship in the public interest. This project is simply too important to be compromised by political posturing.

We can also reduce noise through innovative design.

In 2003 sound engineers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport noticed a significant reduction in aircraft noise each autumn, when farmers began ploughing their fields.

Convinced the furrows were absorbing noise, the airport hired a landscaper to replicate the effect all year round by digging 150 symmetrical furrows in a nearby 32ha site green belt known as the Buitenschot Land Park.

It looks not unlike the design of a radio or recording studio.

Since the park opened a few years ago, aircraft noise has dropped by half, with noise hitting the furrows and then being bounced toward the sky.

And in a double pay-off for the community, the park has become a popular recreational area, featuring bikeways and walking tracks.

That’s the kind of thinking we need at Badgerys Creek.

We are working with a Greenfields site here. There will be no excuse not to embrace world-class design principles.

Equally, the process of consulting the local community must also be world-class.


Let me leave you today by pointing out a significant challenge related to the airport that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Aircraft need aviation fuel. A Boeing 747, for example, requires 12 litres of fuel per kilometer travelled.

There are only two possible ways to get aviation fuel to Western Sydney.

One is by using trucks, which will add to traffic congestion. The other is by building a pipeline.

This is a serious issue and it needs to be confronted now, in consultation with the community.


There’s an old saying that if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

It reminds me of a concept put forward by the US time management expert Alan Lakein, who once wrote:
Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.

In 2017, we owe it to future Australians get the planning right for the Western Sydney Airport.

We have bipartisanship.

We have the vision.

What we need now is the resolve to turn that vision into reality.



Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office


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