Browsing articles in "Speeches Archive"
Oct 16, 2018

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

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

Today, the figure stands at just 14.

These are worrisome statistics that signal a crisis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australia needs a vibrant and strong maritime industry.

And our position is based on sound reasoning.

ECONOMIC SOVEREIGNTY

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

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

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

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

That is a risky position to be in.

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

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

Their policy responses included:

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

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

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

Norway is another case in point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NATIONAL SECURITY

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

It would also provide more career opportunities for both parties.

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

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

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

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

As Vice Admiral Barrrett said when his appointment was announced:

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

LABOR’S 2012 REFORMS

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

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

This was an obvious starting point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LABOR’S PLAN FOR SHIPPING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond considering the Green Paper proposals, Labor will also:

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

Our long term national interest demands nothing less.

Oct 3, 2018

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

It’s great to be here in Page.

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

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

Page is the 5th poorest electorate in this country.

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

And Lyne is the 2nd poorest.

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

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

They are ineffective, directionless and divided.

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

They are a rabble.

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

Australians deserve better.

The people of Page deserve better.

Patrick Deegan will do better.

He’s from Casino. He’s a family man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Hogan has failed this electorate.

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

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

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

Mr Hogan is having a bob each way.

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

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

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

The same thing happened to Tony Abbott.

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

THE CASE FOR LABOR

Kevin Hogan deserves to go.

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

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

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

Take my portfolio of Infrastructure and Transport.

In this part of the world, roads are critical.

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

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

Compare that to the performance of the previous Labor Government:

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

WE ARE READY

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

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

We will:

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

That last one is critical.

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

And businesses want policy certainty.

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

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

This mob have to go.

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

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

He’s progressive.

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

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

Sep 21, 2018

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

A LESSON IN LEADERSHIP

Let me begin with a quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nor should we.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simply put, Australia is at a critical crossroads.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENERGY POLICY IN DISARRAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CITIES

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

It is a consensus that was hard won.

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

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

Thankfully, the Abbott years were only a temporary setback.

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

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

We must and can do better.

And that starts with having the right processes.

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

To achieve this we will:

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

 

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

 

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

The challenges facing our cities are complex.

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

INFRASTRUCTURE AUSTRALIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCING

That brings me to the broader issue of infrastructure financing.

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

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

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

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

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

As IPA has pointed out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a 50 per cent cut.

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

Too often grand announcements are made then nothing happens.

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

That’s a massive 20 per cent underspend.

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

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

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

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

FEDERAL LABOR’S APPROACH

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s only for starters.

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

After all, Labor is the party of nation building.

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

In short, Australia needs real leadership.

Our long term national interest demands nothing less.

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

ENDS
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2018

 

Sep 21, 2018

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

VISION: THE KEY TO NATION BUILDING

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

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

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

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

It’s vision.

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

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

Good infrastructure policy is about responding to capacity constraints.

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

Great infrastructure policy is forward-looking and creative.

It creates prosperity.

Take the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

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

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

CHALLENGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This will require a significant shift.

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

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

TRAFFIC CONGESTION

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

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

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

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

Four out of five of us live in cities.

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

But this is changing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High Speed Rail would revolutionise interstate travel.

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

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

PROCESS

Finally, I’d like to talk about process.

Good process is an essential prerequisite for good outcomes.

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

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

The Coalition has undermined this process.

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

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

But Infrastructure Australia already performed this role.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

This country stands at a critical stage of its development.

We have two choices on infrastructure.

On one hand there is the current path.

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

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

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

So I’m for the latter.

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

ENDS
FRIDAY, 21 SEPTEMBER, 2018

Aug 29, 2018

Speech to the Ports Australia Conference – Inertia – The Enemy of the Public Interest – Wednesday, 29 August, 2018

INERTIA – THE ENEMY OF THE PUBLIC INTEREST

 

SPEECH TO THE PORTS AUSTRALIA CONFERENCE
DARWIN CONVENTION CENTRE
WEDNESDAY, 29 AUGUST, 2018

Thanks for inviting me to address you today after what could only be described as an tumultuous fortnight in Australian politics.

The cutting down of the fourth consecutive Prime Minister to have led a political party to victory in a general election has shaken public confidence in our political system.

It has also caused real frustration to those of us who are concerned with the national interest.

Australians have a right to be concerned when ideological battles and internal rivalries dominate events so overwhelmingly that they prevent the pursuit of the public interest.

That’s what has happened in recent times.

Ministers have not focussed on governing and the result has been policy inertia.

This is certainly the case when it comes to ports, which are central to the economic well-being of a nation that moves more than 90 per cent of its exports by sea.

The efficiency of ports, as well as the efficiency of the transport corridors that lead to them, should be a top priority for our nation.

Yet in recent years, there’s been very little progress in terms of policy development or government investment.

We’ve seen increasing encroachment on road and rail corridors, even though the former Labor Government, in 2010, produced a National Ports Strategy that provided a blueprint for the sensible advancement of the sector.

Today, that important strategy is on a shelf somewhere collecting dust along with its companion plan, the National Freight Strategy.

Also gathering dust is the important Infrastructure Australia report, produced early in 2017, which warned of the need for governments to adopt a national program of preserving rail and road corridors, particularly those leading to ports, to prevent them being built out by residential and other incompatible developments.

These policies were a response to serious challenges for our nation.

They pointed to ways to improve outcomes for port operators and users.

In recent years these challenges have been the subject of too much talk and too little action.

We can only hope that this changes under the Morrison Government.

Today I want to outline the approach that a future Labor Government would take to get ports policy back on track.

PORTS

Labor’s approach begins with an appreciation that prosperity in an exporting nation such as Australia is dependent upon an efficient transport system.

Indeed, the combined value of our sea-going exports is over $400 billion annually.

That’s about a quarter of our gross domestic product.

Australia’s shipping task, dominated by bulk exports, is the fifth biggest in the world.

It is therefore a no-brainer that Australia should prioritise the development and maintenance of efficient transport corridors to our ports.

We would be fools to pretend that our transport system will look after itself or that somehow the “invisible hand” of the market will deliver the productivity gains we need to drive prosperity and boost export income.

Even that champion of limited government – Adam Smith – noted in The Wealth of Nations that governments must see themselves as having a responsibility to facilitate efficient water transport.

Writing in 1776, Smith noted that a wagon drawn by eight horses and attended by two men could carry a four-ton load between London and Glasgow and back again in about six weeks.

By contrast, he wrote, a ship with a six-man crew could carry 200 tons over the same route in the same period of time.

In Smith’s time, it made sense to ensure that ports were fit for purpose.

It still does.

This is not an issue of political ideology. It’s just common sense.

FORMER LABOR GOVERNMENT

In the years before the 2007 election of the former Labor Government, it became clear that the nation’s infrastructure was inadequate for its export task.

The previous Howard Government had presided over a period of prosperity driven by the mining boom.

But despite windfall tax revenues flowing into Treasury coffers, the Government failed to prioritise greater investment in nation-building, productivity-enhancing infrastructure.

The public finally came to understand the issue when the media began publishing photographs of bulk freighters lining up for days outside ports such as Dalrymple Bay awaiting loading.

At the same time, there was a growing public appreciation of the need to prioritise transport corridors to and from ports in order to prevent bottlenecks.

One of the incoming Labor Government’s first acts was to create Infrastructure Australia as an independent adviser to government when it comes to long-term planning and the assessment of project proposals.

Infrastructure Australia was also tasked with policy advice and research, including conducting the first full audit of the nation’s infrastructure.

That first National Infrastructure Audit identified glaring gaps between ports and long-term planning for landside connectivity via road and rail.

Bottlenecks were holding up export goods and costing exporters and ports billions of dollars a year in lost revenue.

We then asked Infrastructure Australia to work with the National Transport Commission to develop the nation’s first-ever National Ports Strategy and National Land Freight Strategy.

The aim was not a Federal takeover of roles that traditionally sat with state and local governments, but to provide policy leadership to help them align their decision-making processes with the broader national interest.

Our particular concern was the development and maintenance of efficient transport corridors to boost productivity and underpin ongoing export growth.

Key principles of the National Ports Strategy included:

  • Better long-term planning on the waterfront;
  • Better planning in the vicinity of ports including the implementation of buffer zones to prevent urban encroachment;
  • A streamlined and consistent environmental approval process; and
  • A greater focus on performance through the use of data and international benchmarking.

Port owners were required to publish master plans, to be updated every five years, which not only considered the ports themselves, but also supply chains and the needs of specific industries.

In addition, the former Labor Government began to address the infrastructure deficit that we inherited.

We rebuilt a third of the Interstate Rail Network – or some 3,800 kilometres of track.

The work included re-railing, installing new passing loops and extending existing ones, and replacing the ageing timber sleepers with 3.4 million new Australian-made concrete sleepers which don’t buckle on hot days.

As a result of this work we reduced the travel times from Perth to the east coast by eleven hours and by nine hours between Melbourne and Brisbane.

We also eliminated freight rail bottlenecks around our ports.

In Sydney, for example, we began upgrading and duplicating the rail connection to Port Botany to speed up the movement of freight into and out of what is the nation’s second largest container port.

Unbelievably, this vital project was put on hold by the incoming Abbott Government – and is still yet to be completed; the bottleneck remains.

And we also reduced red tape, by cutting the number of transport regulators from 23 to three, including in area of maritime safety.

COALITION GOVERNMENT

In 2013, I ended my time as Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister satisfied that the Labor Government I had been part of had established the building blocks to lead to further improvements in and around ports.

However, five years later, progress has stagnated.

There has been very little new freight rail investment by the Coalition.

And the policy recommendations outlined in the national port and land freight strategies have not been acted upon.

It took more than three years in office before the Government rediscovered the transport and logistics sector and began its Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities.

This work, which will not be completed until May of next year, is reinventing the wheel.

The work has already been done.

The blueprint exists in the National Ports and National Land Freight strategies.

So when everything is boiled down, by the next election we will have clocked up six wasted years.

That’s six years in which we could have done the long-term planning necessary to support the growth of your ports.

The record on Federal infrastructure investment is little better.

The independent Parliamentary Budget Office has calculated that over the next decade, Commonwealth infrastructure grants to the states will halve from 0.4 per cent of GDP to 0.2 per cent.

When it comes to specific grants aimed at improving landside access to ports, the quantum of funding is lamentable.

But the lack of planning is even worse.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

Not long after taking office, the Abbott Government provided $3 billion to the NSW Government to deliver the Westconnex toll road project.

Westconnex was put forward by Infrastructure NSW as a way of easing congestion around and improving access to both Sydney Airport and Port Botany.

Now it doesn’t go to the Port or the Airport.

The cost of project has blown out several times and now stands at $16.8 billion.

In future planning text books, Westconnex will be cited as the rolled gold example of how not to plan an infrastructure project.

Perhaps even worse is the current Federal Government’s mishandling of the proposed Inland Rail project between Brisbane and Melbourne through the nation’s eastern agricultural food bowl.

It has taken the term “Inland” literally, as it doesn’t go to either Brisbane or Melbourne Port.

It stops 38km short of the Port of Brisbane at Acacia Ridge.

An Infrastructure Australia report entitled Corridor Protection: Planning and Investing for the Long Term, published last year, found that it would cost $1.3 billion to build a dedicated rail line to the Port of Brisbane if work began immediately on protecting and acquiring the corridor.

Then there was the ill-fated Perth Freight Link – a proposed toll road to the Port of Fremantle.

This project appeared out of nowhere in the 2014 Budget.

No serious planning had been conducted on it, including by the Western Australian Government.

Indeed, the WA Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, Jim Chown, said in June 2014 that there were “no design plans … worthy of public scrutiny’’.

The toll road would have stopped 3 kilometres short of the Port.

It was cancelled by the incoming McGowan Labor Government in 2017.

The common denominator amongst the projects I have just highlighted is poor planning.

All were chosen to meet short term political imperatives rather than demonstrated public interest outcomes.

They confirm that unless you get the planning right, you risk wasting public money.

Something as central to the nation’s economic wellbeing as getting our exports on to ships as quickly as possible requires good public policies and strong public institutions.

It requires industry consultation and close co-operation between different levels of government.

That brings me back to the National Ports Strategy and Infrastructure Australia.

GETTING THE PLANNING RIGHT

If Labor is privileged to form government after the next federal election, we will use the National Ports Strategy as our initial guide.

We will of course take on board the current Government’s work on its freight and supply chain inquiry.

As Minister, I will reinvigorate the Transport and Infrastructure Council, the forum that brings together Commonwealth, State and Territory transport and infrastructure ministers, as well as the Australian Local Government Association.

And one of its first tasks will be to properly co-ordinate the activities of governments, most notably when it comes to long-term land use planning around ports and corridor preservation.

We will also restore Infrastructure Australia to the centre of policy making and provide it with the resources it needs to perform its core functions, including assessing projects, producing an infrastructure pipeline and recommending financing mechanisms.

And we will respect its independence.

Over the past several years, Infrastructure Australia’s Priority List seems to have progressively morphed into a retrospective vindication of the Government’s political priorities.

A Federal Labor Government will listen to the experts.

In a democratic system, it is important that elected representatives be accountable for decisions on big infrastructure projects.

But if their only reference when it comes to making those decisions is their political instincts, then there is a very good chance they will get it wrong.

Achieving outcomes that serve the public interest demands arm’s length, objective advice.

It demands that we examine projects from the perspective of how they will promote or detract from productivity and economic growth.

The whole idea of creating Infrastructure Australia was to break the nexus between the political cycle and infrastructure investment cycle.

A Federal Labor Government will also get serious about corridor acquisition.

The Infrastructure Australia report that I referred to earlier noted that protection and early acquisition of the seven corridors identified as national priorities on its Priority List, could save Australian taxpayers as much as $11 billion in land purchase and construction costs.

The argument is simple: if we know we are likely to build a particular project in the future, we should take steps sooner rather than later to secure and protect the land that will required.

If we don’t, we will simple pay more in the future.

Infrastructure Australia’s report recommended action now to secure corridors for projects including the Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring Road, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line, and the Port of Brisbane Freight Line.

MARITIME

Before I wind up today, let me briefly address issues relating to the Australian maritime sector.

I note that this conference will focus on this topic later today.

I understand that Ports Australia supports the Government’s Coastal Shipping legislation.

Labor opposes this legislation.

It is designed to remove the Australian flag from around our coast.

That would be a betrayal of the national interest.

There are strong economic, environmental and security reasons for Australia having a shipping industry.

Economically, the changes would put Australians out of work and see them replaced by overseas mariners who do not pay taxes in this country.

On the environmental front, all the major maritime accidents that have occurred in our waters in recent decades, including on our precious Great Barrier Reef, have involved foreign-flagged and foreign manned vessels.

National security is also enhanced by having Australian-flagged merchant fleet work around our coastline.  Indeed, there are real synergies between our merchant seafarers and our navy, not just in terms of our security interests, but also in terms of skills development.

Importantly, these skills are also transferable to those who work in our ports and harbours.

A Labor Government will not be party to destroying a proud Australian industry.

We want to see more Australian seafarers crewing more Australian flagged ships carrying more Australian goods around the Australian coastline.

We want a strong domestic maritime sector, one that provides careers for our young people and develops the skills needed in and around our nation’s ports.

Our long-term national interest demands nothing less.

Given the reduction of our national politics to a Monty Python sketch, I say to you today in reference to this legislation: This parrot is dead. It’s not pining, it’s passed on! This is a late parrot! It’s a stiff!

Labor stands ready to be constructive but we will not entertain destroying Australian jobs and nor will the Greens Party, One Nation, the Katter Party or Centre Alliance.

CONCLUSION

Once again, let me thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.

The success of your industry is critical to the success of our island continent.

Your work allows us to dispatch our exports to a world that is desperate for our minerals and food products.

And it provides the gateway for the imported goods which we rely upon for our high standard of living.

I wish you the best for the rest of your conference.

And I look forward to addressing you again in the future, hopefully without the word ‘Shadow’ in front of my job title.

ENDS

WEDNESDAY, 29 AUGUST, 2018

Jul 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

It will still be in use a century from now.

That means we need to get it right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governments like to make big announcements.

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

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

For a start, the project is behind schedule.

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

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

We also have no details of the public-private partnership that will deliver the most challenging part of the project – the section through the Great Dividing Range in South East Queensland.

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

It stops 38km away, at Acacia Ridge.

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

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

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

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

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

FINANCING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That uncertainty must be resolved.

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

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

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

RAIL RENAISSANCE

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

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

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

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

Indeed, it is having something of a renaissance.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a huge challenge.

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

We should be using Australian standard steel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LABOR’S RECORD

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

 

Jul 17, 2018

Speech to the M1 Forum – Confronting the Challenge of Growth in South East Queensland – Loganholme – Tuesday, 17 July 2018

I’d like to acknowledge Labor’s terrific candidate for Forde, Des Hardman, for organising today’s forum and for his tireless advocacy for action on infrastructure for this region.

Good government is about planning and building for the future.

Indeed, central to keeping South East Queensland moving must be a commitment to delivering modern, well planned infrastructure.

In that respect there is no more important piece of road infrastructure than the
Pacific Motorway.

The Pacific Motorway – the M1 – connects Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, to the State’s second-biggest and one of its fastest-growing cities, the Gold Coast, and onward to northern NSW.

Each day 155,000 vehicles use the M1.

That makes it the busiest road in Queensland and one of the busiest in the country.

The M1 is also a vital section of Australia’s east coast freight and logistics network.

It is used by heavy vehicles needing to access the Acacia Ridge Intermodal, Port of Brisbane, Brisbane’s CBD and Brisbane Airport.

The road is set to become an even more important freight route, with heavy vehicle traffic expected to increase annually by between 3 and 4 per cent, compared to growth of between 1 and 2 per cent in overall traffic volumes.

And it is a key gateway to the Gold Coast for international and domestic tourists.

FEDERAL LABOR’S RECORD

Because of all of these reasons, the former Federal Labor Government had a clear vision: an M1 which supported, rather than hindered, Queensland’s economic development.

We backed that vision with real money for real projects that have made a real difference.

All up, we invested $455 million on the road, matched dollar-for-dollar by the then Bligh Labor Government.

As part of this unprecedented capital works program, we:

  • Widened from four to six lanes the section between Worongary and Mudgeeraba, as well as the section between Nerang South and Worongary;
  • Rebuilt the Coomera, Nerang South, Mudgeeraba, Robina and Varsity Lake interchanges; and
  • Upgraded the Springwood South to Daisy Hill section.

Collectively, these upgrades to the M1 eliminated choke-points, eased congestion, improved safety, and ultimately, helped to keep people and freight moving.

This investment was part of the $6.3 billion the former Federal Labor Government committed to major infrastructure projects across the South East corner.

That was more than what the Howard Government spent across the entire state of Queensland over a similar period of time.

Labor’s other transformative projects included:

  • A $2.5 billion investment in the Ipswich Motorway between Dinmore and Darra, an upgrade that remains South East Queensland’s largest-ever Federally-funded road project;
  • A $195 million investment in the Bruce Highway between Caboolture and Caloundra;
  • Construction of the Redcliffe Peninsula Link, a rail line first mooted more than a century ago in 1895;
  • Gold Coast Rapid Transit: A 13km light rail network connecting Griffith University to Broadbeach. Delivery of the $365 million investment was the most significant Commonwealth investment ever in light rail;
  • Construction of a new interchange at the intersection between Mains and Kessels Roads in Macgregor; and
  • The $1.5 billion Legacy Way: A 4.6 km tunnel connecting the Western Freeway at Toowong with the Inner City Bypass at Kelvin Grove.

All up, we more than doubled annual Federal investment from $143 to $314 per Queenslander.

COALITION RECORD

Despite all their talk, it took the Liberals in Canberra more than an entire
term in government to commit anything meaningful to the M1.

We’ve had five wasted years, during which the pressure on this vital section of the National Land Transport Network has being growing and congestion has been worsening.

Despite all the hype that surrounded this year’s Federal Budget, the Budget Papers’ fine print revealed that only 10 per cent of the funding allocated to new Queensland projects will be available before 2022-23.

Simply put, Queenslanders hoping for the extra rail and road funding promised in the days leading up to the 2018 Budget will have to re-elect the Coalition not once, but twice more before the bulk of the money flows.

This is simply absurd. It’s investment on the Never-Never.

The situation with respect to the proposed M1 upgrades is not very positive either.

Of the $1 billion committed to widening the Motorway between Varsity Lakes and Tugun and between Eight Miles Plains and Daisy Hills, just 1 per cent will be available in the current financial year to advance those projects.

Eighty-five percent of the funding won’t be available until after the four-year Forward Estimates.

Again, if you are a motorist or a truck driver, you will have to wait for years before the Turnbull Government delivers the faster, safer, less frustrating driving conditions you require and deserve now.

A LABOR GOVERNMENT

Over the next few decades the population of South East Queensland is projected to increase by 2.2 million people.

Indeed, 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 growth will not be easy.

But the business-as-usual approach of the Government is not an option.

Infrastructure Australia is forecasting that without action now, the cost of this traffic congestion within the region will increase  to $9.2 billion a year by 2031.

A significant proportion of that blowout will be the result of the increasing capacity constraints along key sections of the M1.

While it is of course the responsibility of the State Government to take the lead when it comes to identifying Queensland’s long-term infrastructure needs, it’s also the case that modernising the State’s infrastructure – including the M1 – is ultimately a task too big for it alone to achieve.

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

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

That’s precisely what Federal Labor is offering.

We will work with the Queensland Government to fast track, as much as possible, the proposed M1 upgrades – Varsity Lakes to Tugun; Eight Miles Plains to Daisy Hills – and begin the necessary planning work on future upgrades.

As well as helping to tackle congestion, there is also an important safety dimension to these upgrades.

Each year there are 12,000 road accidents reported on the Motorway.

But as well as upgrading the M1, Federal Labor also understands that if we are to build productive, sustainable and liveable cities where communities can grow and prosper, governments need to invest in both their road and rail infrastructure.

That’s why the next Federal Labor Government will back Cross River Rail.

We will invest $2.24 billion of Federal funding to deliver the project in partnership with the Queensland Government.

This transformative project will unlock South East Queensland’s urban rail network and deliver more trains, more often for commuters, including to and from the Gold Coast.

This in turn will take pressure of the region’s major arterial roads, including the M1.

CONCLUSION

Let me finish by paying tribute to the Deputy Premier.

In her first Budget as Treasurer Jackie proved once again that when it comes to infrastructure, you can always rely on Labor to deliver.

We are the party of nation building. The others talk, we build.

Only Labor – both Federal and State – has a plan to keep South East Queensland moving.

It’s a plan that recognises that the difficult task of renewing and expanding this region’s transport infrastructure requires a genuine partnership between governments.

The long-term national interest demands nothing less.

 

 

Jul 11, 2018

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

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

That’s because it is.

The condition of local roads, the evenness of footpaths…

Availability at the local childcare centre or school…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This has implications for housing affordability and our transport networks.

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

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

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

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

Our nation is undergoing a period of significant change.

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

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

This is true.

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

Managing this change will not be easy.

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

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

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

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

Someone’s postcode should not determine their income.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This truly is nation building, from the bottom up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The City Partnerships program will build on this approach.

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

This will be linked to a renewed National Urban Policy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stakeholders have also echoed precisely these criticisms.

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

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

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

We can, and must, do better.

City Deals originate from the UK.

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

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

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

The Western Sydney City Deal is an example of this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bringing all levels of government together is important.

And that requires national leadership.

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

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

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

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

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

So we know there is a willingness to collaborate.

But we have to get the framework right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big decisions can be suspended or delayed.

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

We need to overcome this challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s more than just an infrastructure project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We remain committed to this approach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City Partnerships aim to achieve precisely this.

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

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

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

And with advancements in technology we will always experience change.

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

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

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

Jul 10, 2018

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

Aviation matters.

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

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

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

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

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

Your industry is as diverse as it is important.

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

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

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

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

In particular, we:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It comes down to a simple idea: partnership.

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

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

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

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

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

What we need is a mature, positive conversation.

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

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

Their business is safety.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I’m sure you would agree with that.

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

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

The job of Transport Minister is a difficult one.

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

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

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

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

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

These should be the next most important considerations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, thank you for inviting me here today.

Jun 27, 2018

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

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

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

Our heavily populated urban cities…

Our regional and remote towns…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SCHOOL TRANSPORT

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

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

But the way students travel to school is changing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOURISM COACHES

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

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

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

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

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

We are a land of unparalleled physical beauty.

These remarkable destinations support local economies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CITIES DEVELOPMENT

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

Buses can and must play a part.

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

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

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

However our cities are changing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REGIONAL ACCESS

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

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

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

Your sector keeps these communities moving.

We must continue to support regional bus operations.

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contact Anthony

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Email: [email protected]

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