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Dec 3, 2018

Statement – Gareth Evans Delivers Second Annual Tom Uren Lecture – Sunday, 2 December, 2018

Today Labor Party branches in my electorate of Grayndler hosted the second annual Tom Uren AC Lecture, which was delivered by former Labor Foreign Minister Professor Gareth Evans.The text of Professor Evans’ speech Australia in the World – It’s time to Punch our Weight, follows.
SUNDAY, 2 DECEMBER 2018

AUSTRALIA IN THE WORLD: IT’S TIME TO PUNCH OUR WEIGHT

2018 Tom Uren Memorial Lecture by Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, hosted by the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Balmain Town Hall, Sydney, 2 December 2018

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I am delighted to be here at the invitation of Anthony Albanese, and in the presence of Penny Wong, who are both going to be playing critical leadership roles in the Shorten Labor Government – a government to which Australia is now looking forward with mounting impatience, and desperately needs, including for all the foreign policy reasons I will be spelling out today.

I have gone on public record a number of times – to the bemusement of some people, but not anyone with eyes to see – saying that I really do think that the current Labor team will prove in office to be at least as good as, and maybe significantly better than, the fabled ministry of the Hawke-Keating years of which I was privileged to be a part, which is now almost universally accepted as the gold standard of Australian government. It’s impossible not to be impressed by the extraordinary quality shining through the current Labor front bench, not to mention quite a few of those waiting hungrily behind them. And Albo and Penny – you hardly need me to tell you – are two of the brightest stars in that whole stellar cast. It’s a privilege to be sharing a platform with them today.

And it’s also a privilege, and a pleasure, to be giving this lecture in honour of the memory of Tom Uren, one of the great, iconic figures of the Labor movement: a superbly creative and path-breaking Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam Government, elected 46 years ago today; Deputy Leader of the Party in the mid-1970s; my colleague as Minister, variously, for Local Government, Territories, and Administrative Services in the Hawke Government from 1983 to ‘87; affectionately-regarded Father of the House of Representatives from 1984 until he retired from politics in 1990; and of course, throughout his political life, a very uncompromising hero of the Left and an inspiration and mentor to an army of idealistic young Labor activists, not least our host here today.

Back in those days of the 1970s and 80s, before we all became progressives together, when there really were heavy-duty ideological issues dividing significant sections of the Party, I have to acknowledge that Tom and I did not have a complete love-in during out time together in Parliament. I don’t think we were ever far apart on peace and disarmament issues, and certainly got on fine for most my brief and less than glorious career as Attorney-General, when my quixotic enthusiasm, inter alia, for implementing Lionel Murphy’s unfinished human rights and law reform agenda was getting up the nose of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating and quite a few of my other factional colleagues.

But we slugged it out when I was Resources and Energy Minister on issues like uranium sales to France. Again, he thought that I was part of the axis of evil on East Timor, about which he felt passionately: I felt passionately too about the need to redress the terrible wrong of Indonesia’s invasion in 1975 and, as has been publicly acknowledged for many years now by my friend Jose Ramos Horta – who gave the inaugural Uren Lecture last year – worked very hard as Foreign Minister to do just that, but Tom was one of the legion who remained to be persuaded.   And we never saw eye to eye on issues like government process, where I had played a leading role, in the transition to government period, in getting adopted new rules on Cabinet-Ministry-Caucus relations in order to overcome the manifest dysfunctionality of the Whitlam Government, but Tom remained an unabashed supporter of extreme Caucus democracy: as he writes in Straight Left, ‘I never believed in the principle of Cabinet solidarity’.  I hope in this respect there are some limits to Albo’s discipleship!

I think Tom always saw me as basically a captive of the forces of right-wing darkness, but that was always a misperception (and I don’t think you’ll hear much evidence otherwise in what I have to say today).  I certainly was no friend of the Hartley-Crawford loony Left in Victoria, whose dinosaur legacy kept twitching for quite some time after the 1969 federal intervention, but nor was I ever comfortable with the extreme social and foreign and defence policy conservatism of the NSW Right, Tom’s real bete noire. The truth of the matter is that the centre of gravity of the Victorian Branch was always two or three standard deviations to the left of that of the NSW Branch, and our Labor Unity group, the so-called Victorian Right, was in fact pretty indistinguishable from the mainstream NSW Left, certainly as it became under John Faulkner, and colleagues now like Albo and Tanya Plibersek. Anyway, whether Tom agreed with me then, or you agree with me now, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

For all that we might have disagreed about various things, Tom and I did have one rather unusual little bond in common. He and my mum have both recently became exhibits, would you believe, in the Woolworths Head Office Company Museum – Tom because of his very successful post-War career, before entering politics, as a Woollies store manager in Lithgow (believed to be the firm’s only boss ever to join the Shop Assistants Union!), and my mother because she became, at the age of 20, before I was born, with all the men away in the war years, one of Woollies’ youngest ever store managers, at the Smith Street Collingwood branch.

Quite apart from that rather implausible tie of sentiment, I remain undiminished in my admiration for the contribution Tom Uren made to Australian public life – his character and instincts honed by his harrowing wartime experience as a prisoner in Changi, his commitment to the core values of the Australian Labor Party absolutely unwavering, and (for all the occasional triumph of his inner pugilist) his essential human decency always shining through. I hope I can do justice to his memory today.

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Punching Below our Weight. One of the many unhappy realities about life under the present Coalition Government is that when it comes to Australia’s place in the world, protecting and advancing our national interests in the international arena, we have been punching way below our weight.  In a world, and a region, which is becoming alarmingly more uncertain and fragile, it has never been more important to recover the credibility and effectiveness in foreign policy of which we have shown ourselves eminently capable in the past, and which I’m sure that under a new Labor government, with Penny Wong as Foreign Minister, we can and will again.  It’s time for Australia to punch not above our weight, but at the very considerable weight we already have.

To be as fair as I can be – and I have always believed in maximum possible bipartisanship in the conduct of our external relations – the present Coalition government, at least under Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop, has done some positive things. Although there was no Coalition enthusiasm for nominating for UN Security Council, when we got there in 2013-14 Australia was generally a very constructive contributor on a number of global security issues (not least with our leadership on the path-breaking resolution on humanitarian access in Syria). We have played an important leadership role in the General Assembly on a normative issue very close to my heart, the responsibility to protect (‘R2P’) peoples against genocide and other mass atrocity crime. Some mportant bilateral agreements have been successfully concluded and advanced. A serious commitment has been made to the Asian education of next generation Australians through the new Colombo Plan. And, very recently there have been some significant steps taken, with strong support from the Labor side, to significantly refocus on, and upgrade, our relations with our Pacific Island neighbours  – albeit driven much more by strategic anxiety about China’s growing influence than genuinely neighbourly instinct, which has not gone unnoticed in the region.

But, and it’s a very big ‘but’, along the way we have gone missing on arms control, dragged our feet on climate commitments, and have exposed ourselves to a great deal of criticism for this government’s behavious on many fronts. Among other things:

  • being caught eavesdropping on the Indonesian President and his wife and refusing subsequently to apologise;
  • prosecuting whistle-blowers now for exposing the equally egregious eavesdropping on Timor-Leste’s cabinet in 2004;
  • the extreme isolation of the positions we have regularly taken on Israel-Palestine, taken to grotesque extremes this year with our vote, alongside only the United States, in the Human Rights Council against establishing an independent commission of enquiry to report on the Gaza massacre;
  • and taken to even more counterproductive extremes with Prime Minister Morrison’s enthusiasm for relocating our Israel Embassy to Jerusalem – alone in the world with the US and Guatemala – in response to no conciliatory move whatever from Israel that could possibly help advance the two-state solution, comprehensively alienating our Muslim neighbours, and putting at extreme risk not only an important bilateral trade deal, but our whole critical relationship with Indonesia;
  • the international shame of some aspects – most notably the Manus and Nauru detention centres – of our asylum seekers policy (although I have to unhappily acknowledge our side, while we have been modifying our position recently and hopefully will further do so in government, has been part of the race to the bottom on this issue );
  • our unwillingness to seriously call out or respond punitively to major human rights abuses in Cambodia, Myanmar and elsewhere in our region;
  • the unbelievably savage slashing of our forward aid commitments, now at their lowest level (at 0.22% of GNI) since our development assistance began, and heading for a disgraceful 0.19%; and
  • the way in which we are now beginning to stumble into zero-sum game territory in managing relations with our major economic partner and our major security ally, unnecessarily clumsily putting ourselves in the freezer with China for most of the last two years, while putting too many eggs into a US basket where they are all too likely to be broken.

Australia’s Strengths. In confronting the many external challenges we will face in the future – and I will be saying a fair bit more about what they are and how I think we should be responding to them – I think it is important to begin with an understanding of the very real strengths and capabilities Australia has, and how we have exercised them in the past.

There is a lot to be said for modesty in the conduct of foreign policy, as in life itself, and there are obvious constraints limiting the exercise of Australia’s diplomatic authority. We are not a great or major power, with economic or military might to match.  We are somewhat geographically isolated, though much less than in the past.  As a rusted on US ally – at least until now – with an unbroken record for more than a century of fighting Washington’s wars alongside it, we are not always seen, especially by the global South, to be as independently minded as we like to think of ourselves. Memories linger of our past racist policies, and we have to be more careful than most about charges of double standards or hypocrisy if our immigration or other policies are either wrong-headed or misunderstood internationally.

But against all this we have wonderful strengths: assets and capabilities giving real weight to our standing and reputation – some of them inherent or of very long standing, some much more recently acquired. We are by most measures the thirteenth largest economy in the world; by any measure we are the sixth largest by landmass and with the third largest maritime zone; we are one of the most multicultural countries in the globe, with a very large pool of fluent Asian language speakers – hundreds of thousands of  Chinese-Australians alone – constituting a fantastic but so far under-appreciated and underutilised resource; and we have, belated though it may be, a strong commitment to our Indigenous people, as the whole world applauded with our apology to the stolen generation.

We bring to the table a unique geopolitical perspective, bridging our European history and our Asia-Pacific geography; Australians working in international organizations, both official and non-governmental, and Australian peacekeepers, have won almost universally outstanding reputations; we have had a strong and longstanding commitment to a rule-based global and regional order; and we have had a long record  of demonstrated national commitment to the United Nations system in all its security, social and economic justice and human rights dimensions.

Beyond all that, we have been seen for many decades as a creative middle power with global interests and a long – though certainly not unbroken – record of active and effective diplomacy, on global and regional as well as bilateral issues. What should give us confidence in facing the future is how well, particularly under past Labor governments – but, to be fair again, not exclusively so – Australia has played that international role in the past, in defending and advancing our national interests: our national security interests, our national economic interests, and (the third pillar too often neglected by conservatives) our national interest in cooperatively advancing global and regional public goods. This third pillar is what I like to call our national interest in ‘being, and being seen to be, a good international citizen’: Penny prefers the expression ‘constructive internationalism’, but it’s the same basic idea.

A Past Record to Build On. While Australian political leaders were not entirely absent from the world’s stages in our first decades – most obviously (though not very helpfully for our reputation), with Billy Hughes’s performance at Versailles after World War I – Australian foreign policy, in the sense of a desire to pursue our interests combined with some independent capacity to do so, really only dates from the early 1940s.  And the creation of any kind of systematic Australian foreign policy really came only with H.V. Evatt, whose most striking contribution was his internationalism. The part he played in the founding of the United Nations is the stuff of which legends are made, and rightly so – especially in his fight for the rights of the smaller powers against the great powers in the respective roles of the General Assembly and the Security Council, and in his faith in the UN as an agent for social and economic reform and as a protector of human rights.

But there were of course aspects of Evatt’s worldview, very much shared by the Labor Party of the time, which were not remotely broad-minded. Right up until the Whitlam era, White Australia and the prejudices which nourished it, and the perception of the world (and particularly our own region) as a dangerous place from which Australia needed to be protected, were very strong strands in the party’s thinking. The early support from Evatt and Chifley for Indonesia’s independence struggle against the Dutch was the closest we came to understanding the new forces at work in our region, and our need to reposition ourselves accordingly. This never became, however, a sustaining or dominant theme in our foreign policy at the time, and it certainly did not become one in the conservative era that followed, from 1949 to 1972.

There wasn’t much left of Evatt’s cooperative internationalism by the end of Menzies’s and his successors’ long reign. It is true that with the Cold War rendering the UN more and more impotent, and multilateral processes generally more and more sterile, there wasn’t much to pursue – other than as a regional extension of alliance relationships. And true it is that we developed, particularly under Casey, cordial diplomatic relations with the emerging new nations of the region; that Spender’s Colombo Plan made a very useful contribution to our long-term relations with Asia; that McEwen deserves credit for the 1957 treaty with Japan and the optimism and foresight that went with it; and that men like Hasluck, and particularly Gorton and Holt, had a quite open-minded international outlook.

But against all this there has to be weighed Menzies’s excruciating Anglophilia; the maintenance until the late 1960s of the full vigour of the White Australia policy; the stridency of our support for Verwoerd’s South Africa; the intensity of our antagonism toward China; the totality of our dependence upon the US; and the ultimate comprehensive misjudgement of our intervention in Vietnam. All this combined to reinforce the image, and the reality, of an Australia largely isolated and irrelevant in its own region.

The Whitlam Government well and truly broke this mould, undaunted by Cold War constraints and showing a great capacity, as Evatt had done, to match Australian foreign policy to the mood and needs of the time. Recognising China; bringing home our last troops from Vietnam; finally burying the White Australia policy; taking France to the World Court for its nuclear tests in the Pacific; and accelerating Papua New Guinea’s independence, were just some of the decisions in that tumultuously active 1972-75 period which set Australia on a new, confidently optimistic internationalist path.

While the Fraser Government which followed from 1975-83 was more than happy to re-embrace Cold War verities, and all the East-West division of friends and enemies that went with it, it is to the credit of Malcolm Fraser himself that on the issues which mattered most for Australia’s long-term capacity to advance its interests, especially in the region, Whitlam’s policies were not only continued, but reinforced. Certainly both Fraser and his Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock both understood, as many in the Coalition for a very long time did not, the critical importance of abandoning government-legitimised racism in any form whatsoever, at home and abroad, not least in his embrace of Vietnamese refugees, in fact less reluctantly than Whitlam.

The Hawke and Keating Governments that took us through the next thirteen years renewed that spirit of activist, optimistic adventure, which had so characterized the Whitlam period, but – at least as I remember it! – in a rather more focused and systematic fashion. And we were able to achieve a great deal, including helping create the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) and other new, cooperative, regional economic and security architecture; crafting the peace plan for Cambodia; securing the conclusion of the Chemical Weapons Convention and advancing some major nuclear weapons objectives; playing a central role throughout during the Uruguay Round trade negotiations; building, with France, a strong coalition to save the Antarctic environment from mining and oil drilling; and in being a key player in crafting the financial sanctions strategy which finally brought down apartheid in South Africa.

Throughout John Howard’s long term, to 2007, foreign policy was dominated by the Prime Minister himself, and that was not to Australia’s advantage. He was over-focused on hard rather than soft power, deeply comfortable in following the US alliance lead wherever it took us, unadventurous in seeking global or regional policy change, profoundly uninterested in the UN and the whole idea of transnational problem-solving by creative multilateral cooperation, and generally inward-looking. In his relationships with our Asian regional neighbours, and especially China, the wheel did turn back in his latter years, and his government did make major contributions to regional stability with Australia’s role in leading the East Timor and Solomon Islands peacekeeping operations. But Howard remained manifestly uncomfortable with the whole idea of our primary relationships needing to be in our own region, and quite unaccepting of the notion that our geography now mattered more than our history.

When the Labor Government was returned in 2007, with Kevin Rudd the dominant foreign policy player – as Prime Minister, Foreign Minister under Julia Gillard, and then as Prime Minister again making common cause with Bob Carr – I think it is fair to say that those who Manning Clark used to describe as the ‘enlargers’ rather than the ‘straiteners’ were back on centre stage in the conduct of our international relations. That was most evident in Rudd’s work on climate change (for all the domestic horror that issue generated for him); in playing a brilliant role in getting Australia into the G20, playing a blinder there in forging a response to the global financial crisis,  and building its role  in global economic management and potentially on a wider front; in trying to give serious content and energy to a new global debate on nuclear disarmament;  in creating (albeit after a few diplomatic slips along the way) important new regional architecture in the expanded East Asian Summit; and in moving to claw back a seat at the table for Australia in the UN Security Council. It was also evident in Australia’s support – driven by Carr, and supported by Rudd in backbench exile, but opposed by Gillard – for moves toward recognition of Palestinian statehood in the UN General Assembly, which I hope very much will be embodied in our National Platform at the ALP National Conference later this month

The two year Abbott administration, from 2013 to 2015, was back to the early Howard days, with the US alliance relationship front and centre, little regional focus, and multilateral diplomacy seen as of second or third order importance (except insofar as it involved the ‘Anglosphere’). Things improved a little under Turnbull, but with Julie Bishop as Foreign Minister, generally professionally competent though she was, maintaining an essentially transactional rather than any kind of creative or adventurous policy-focused approach; with Scott Morrison now showing himself to be totally cloth-eared on  anything to do with foreign policy; and with Marise Payne as his Foreign Minister, however decent her instincts might be, being an almost invisible bit-player, the overall record of the present Coalition government has been at best limp, and at worst very damaging for Australia’s interests.

Foreign Policy Challenges.  There is no doubt an incoming Labor government will face an international environment, both regionally and globally, more challenging than it has been for a very long time. Big and often disconcerting geopolitical shifts have been occurring, most of them faster and going further than almost any of us would have believed possible not very long ago. They include China’s rapid rise; America’s rapid comparative decline; North Korea’s rapid acquisition of nuclear weapons capability; ASEAN’s loss of a significant amount of its coherence and credibility at a time when both have never been more needed; the re-emergence of our own immediate South Pacific region as a potential playground for major power contest; India’s long awaited emergence as a major player; Russia playing the role of regional hegemon and global spoiler whenever and wherever it can (although, we often forget, its economy remains no bigger than Australia’s); Europe struggling to maintain its own coherence in the face of Britain’s Brexit brain-fade and  surging  nationalist and populist sentiment across the continent; and a deteriorating worldwide commitment to multilateral problem solving, with diminishing confidence in the capacity of a global rules-based order to constrain those who are big and strong enough to think they can act unilaterally. And that list doesn’t even mention what is happening in the Middle East, Africa or Latin America.

Any one of these challenges could occupy us for the rest of the afternoon, but it is the contest between the United States and China which is dominating almost everything else, and certainly concentrating the minds of Australian policymakers more than anything else.

China’s economic rise has been breathtaking in its speed and magnitude, and is now being accompanied by much more geopolitical assertiveness.  Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, the longstanding injunction of Deng Xiaoping for China to ‘hide its strength, bide its time and never take the lead’ internationally has now been completely abandoned. China wants to be a global rule-maker, not just a rule taker. It is no longer prepared to accept second-rank status in international financial and policymaking institutions. Its economic strength is now being parlayed into geopolitical influence on a massive scale across the Asian continent and its maritime surrounds, including the Pacific, through the Belt and Road Initiative. Strategically, China wants its own space in East Asia, and is no longer prepared to play second fiddle to the United States. Militarily, while its expenditure and overall firepower does not match America’s, and catch-up globally will be a long time coming, there has been a very significant modernization and expansion of its capability, certainly along the East Asian littoral, and into the Indian Ocean. Most disconcertingly, some expansionist territorial claims have been pursued, most notably in the South China Sea, with the continuing creeping militarisation of the reef installations in the Spratlys.

As China’s authority has been rising, that of the United States has been manifestly waning, notwithstanding the enormous economic and military power the US continues to have, and the alliances and partnerships it continues to maintain. Its President has forfeited by his behaviour any claim to personal respect, and he Trump administration has squandered US credibility, not just in Asia but worldwide, at multiple levels. By tearing up the painstakingly negotiated and so far totally successful nuclear agreement with Iran; by insulting and alienating his NATO partners, and making clear in multiple ways that he regards allies as expensive encumbrances rather than assets; by walking away from the Trans Pacific Partnership, trying to destroy the WTO, and showing less understanding than a junior high-school student of the economic benefits of international trade; and by mounting a host of other assaults on multilateral institutions and processes, above all walking away from the Paris Climate Accords.

 

Responding to the Challenges. So how should Australia, and in particular an incoming Labor government, be reacting to these and other stress-generating international developments in our own region and beyond?  I have been carefully reading Penny’s speeches, and those of Bill Shorten and Richard Marles and others with external responsibilities:  they are all on the case, and there is very little, if anything, in what they are saying with which I would want to argue. But given that as a political has-been, with my diplomatic future behind me,  I have a little more freedom than they do to cut to the chase in a pre-election environment, let me spell out in my own words what I think should be the primary elements in our policy response in government.  In short, there are four of them: Less America, More Self-Reliance, More Asia and More Global Engagement.

 

Less America. I am not suggesting for a moment that Australia walk away from the US alliance, from which we unquestionably benefit in terms of access to intelligence and high-end armaments, and – however flimsy the ANZUS guarantee may prove to be in reality – the notional deterrent protection of America’s massive military firepower. Continued counter-balancing US engagement in our region is certainly highly desirable, but less reflexive support by Australia for everything the US chooses to do is long overdue. As I have often said, ‘Whither thou goest, there I goest’ might be good theology, but it is not great foreign policy for a country that values its independence and wants international respect.

My own experience strongly suggests that periodically saying “no” to the US when our national interests are manifestly different, makes for a much healthier and productive relationship than one of craven dependence. While Simon Crean’s position in 2003 that we would not support the US invasion of Iraq in the absence of a UN mandate gave Kim Beazley and Kevin Rudd, among others, the vapours, he was absolutely right and I hope we would take that stance again if a similar situation arose: I am glad to see Bill Shorten effectively saying as much in his major foreign policy speech last month.

The bottom line is that neither we nor anyone else in the region should be under any illusion that, for all the insurance we might think we have bought with our past support, the US will be there for us militarily in any circumstance where it does not also see its own immediate interests being under some threat. While that was almost certainly also the reality under previous administrations, it has been thrown into much starker relief by Trump’s ‘America First’ approach, and it should not be assumed that anything would be very different in a post-Trump era. I think the reality is, as my ANU colleague Hugh White has repeatedly put it, that ‘we need to prepare ourselves to live in Asia without America’.

None of this positioning is as breathtakingly adventurous, or politically dangerous, as it might once have been.  Recognition that the US is a much less reliable ally than it once may have been is alive and well in Europe, is creeping into the writing even of the conservative commentariat here (certainly that of Pope Paul Kelly, if not Cardinal Greg Sheridan), was clearly a subtext of the Government’s own Foreign Policy White Paper last year.  While Penny and her colleagues will no doubt use more polite language than I am presently capable of, I don’t think the ALP should feel too bashful about joining the crowd.

More Self-Reliance. Preparing ourselves to rely less on America certainly means being more of a diplomatic free agent: adding to our reputation and credibility with an activist foreign policy that is creative, proactive, value-adding and unconstrained by the constant urge to look over our shoulder to Washington. But more than that, it does entail, in military terms, building defence capability that involves not only more bucks than we are usually comfortable spending but getting a bigger bang for each of them. It certainly means maximising our capacity to protect our shores and maritime environment (including the South West Pacific) from hostile intrusion, but also means having a capacity to engage in military operations wider afield if there is a good national interest (including responsible global citizenship) reason for doing so.

While defence expenditure has been increasing – with both sides of politics committed to maintaining it at a credible 2%, or slightly more, of GDP – given the size of our continent, our capacity to defend ourselves against any really existential threat is limited. I am optimistic enough to believe that in today’s world the costs and risks of waging war so wildly outweigh any conceivable benefits for any significant player that the likelihood of a major conflict in the foreseeable future is actually very low.  But defence planning always has to be based on worst case assumptions, taking into account potential adversaries’ capabilities, not just known intent, and in that context we are going to have to get used to doing more.

More Asia. This to me has two dimensions: on the one hand, strengthening our relationships at all levels with key regional neighbours like India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea, as a collective counterweight to a potentially overreaching China; and on the other hand trying to develop a more multidimensional relationship, not just a one dimensional economic one, with China itself.

As much as I would welcome Australia developing an even closer relationship with ASEAN as a whole – with all its potential for harnessing the region’s collective middle power energy and capacity – and to see that relationship perhaps extending in the future to some form of associate membership rather than just partnership, I suspect that for the foreseeable future internal divisions, and the organization’s culture of extreme caution, make that unlikely, and that our efforts in South East Asia should be focused on its two heaviest players, Indonesia and Vietnam, as well as our traditional partners Singapore and Malaysia. Which means, among other things, that just about the last thing we should be doing is gratuitously putting any of those relationships at risk by the kind of unbelievable folly involved in Morrison’s Jerusalem Embassy thought-bubble.

So far as China itself is concerned, it is critical – and I am glad to see last year’s Foreign Policy White Paper spelling this out quite clearly, and this focus becoming evident in policy statements from our own side – to approach the relationship in a spirit of multi-dimensional engagement. We should be trying to build mutually beneficial connections at multiple levels, not just see the country as a one-dimensional economic partner, crucial for our prosperity but to be treated warily and confrontationally on anything to do with security issues in the hope and expectation, almost certainly now misguided, that the US will do the heavy lifting for us on that front. None of this means becoming Beijing’s patsy, any more than we should be Washington’s: we should not hold back in making clear our own commitment to democratic and human rights values, and should be prepared to push back strongly when China overreaches, as it has in the South China Sea.

But it does mean recognizing the legitimacy of many of China’s own security and economic national interest claims, including the essential legitimacy of the scale and ambition of the Belt and Road Initiative: with us being a little less anxious about its regional security implications, and being prepared – with appropriate commercial caution – to be an active participant in the enterprise.  And it certainly means recognizing the legitimacy of China’s demand to be now not just a rule-taker but a participant in global rule-making. In that context, one of the most productive ways of building content into Australia’s relationship may be to work more closely with China on the whole range of global and regional public goods issues – from climate change to nuclear arms control, from terrorism to health pandemics, from peace-keeping to responding to mass atrocity crimes – on many of which issues China has in recent times been playing a more interested and constructive role than has generally been recognised. Some will say Xi Jinping’s rapid occupation of the climate space abdicated by the US, and rush, similarly, to champion the virtues of free trade, was just cynical opportunism, but I don’t think we should necessarily assume that: we should be out there exploring the options.

More Global Engagement. I strongly believe that this should come back into focus as a sustaining theme of Australian foreign policy, picking up the idea that what I have been calling ‘good international citizenship’, that Penny calls ‘constructive internationalism’,  really is itself a core national interest, sitting alongside the traditional duo of security and economic interests.  The willingness of ALP governments in the past to take seriously the pursuit of global and regional public goods, even when there was no direct or immediate economic or security return, has been a fundamental point of differentiation between us and most of our conservative opponents for decades now, and it’s time in my judgement for this to take centre stage again.

Australia has been at its best, and our standing in the world highest, when we play to the national strengths I described at the outset, and have projected ourselves effectively on to the world stage as a country deeply committed to our common humanity and determined to do everything we can to make the world safer, saner, more prosperous and just.

In the contemporary world, every state’s security, prosperity and quality of life is best advanced by cooperation rather than confrontation, and Australia should be a relentless campaigner for just that. There are many public goods issues on which we could make a positive difference, using our own strengths as a capable, credible middle power and the strategies of international coalition building that are the essence of effective middle power diplomacy.

To take just one example, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, where we have played a major role in global agenda setting in the past with the Canberra Commission initiated by Paul Keating in 1996 and the Australia-Japan Commission initiated by Kevin Rudd in 2009, and can play a major role again, including – I don’t think it’s too naïve to hope – by working with China, which has long been among the least enthusiastic of the nuclear-armed states.

I don’t disagree with Penny and Richard Marles when they say that the recently negotiated UN Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty – the Nuclear Ban Treaty – is aspirational rather than remotely operational in its present form, and is never likely to win the support of any of the present nuclear-armed states. But I do think we should be more prepared to knowledge the normative – moral, if you like – significance involved in two-thirds of the world’s countries participating in its negotiation, and not in any way accept that support for the Ban Treaty somehow undermines the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): it does not.

My own view is that the most useful way forward – and this is a cause in which Australia could unquestionably play a global leadership role under a Labor government – is to develop a broad-based international coalition aimed at bridging the widening gulf between those who clamour hopelessly impractically for global zero now, and those who want to do nothing at all about nuclear disarmament. This is not the occasion to spell it out in detail now, but I think the beginning of wisdom here is a serious step-by-step process of the kind proposed in the Rudd Australia-Japan Commission I co-chaired, focusing initially on the ‘4 Ds’ – Doctrine (‘No First Use’), De-alerting (to build in launch-time delays and reduce the possibility of catastrophic error), Deployment (reducing the number of weapons actively deployed) and Decreasing overall numbers to a small fraction of the 14,500 presently in existence. We know that complete elimination of nuclear weapons is going to remain out of reach for a very long time, but we just have to do something to reduce the salience and legitimacy of the most indiscriminately inhumane weapons ever invented, and the most immediate risk to life on this planet as we know it. The other great existential risk is, of course, climate change: but nuclear weapons can kill us a lot faster than CO2. Nuclear disarmament is core business for any Labor government worth the name.

My own strong belief is that Australians just don’t accept that we are another also-ran, and that any government which adopts a posture which concentrates just on our more obvious bilateral relationships, and just on our immediate neighbourhood (though I support completely the re-engagement and re-focus on the South Pacific which has been capturing so much attention recently),  and  which remains myopic about what is capable of being achieved if we engage in a whole variety of multilateral forums with the skill and stamina which has served us so well in the past, will be a government that will simply not be playing the confident external projection role which most Australians want it to

Our track record over many decades overwhelmingly shows that Australia and individual Australians are decent and committed international citizens, independently minded – and with a real egalitarian streak, something which plays well with a great many other countries with our strong record, everywhere from peacekeeping missions to diplomatic forums, of neither sucking up to the powerful nor kicking down at the powerless.

Playing to that instinct of decency, focusing on cooperative problem solving, working through forums like the G20 and East Asia Summit  and APEC where as a result of past Labor government efforts we have a top-table place, using all the energy and creativity that has traditionally been associated with Australian middle power diplomacy at its best –  and above all with ALP governments – will be far and away the best way of ensuring in the years and decades ahead, in a region and world in which the tectonic plates are shifting and every possible kind of uncertainty abounds, that this great country of ours not only survives but thrives.

I have total confidence that with Bill Shorten leading a new ALP government and Penny leading our external relations team, Australia really will be in fantastically good hands, fully realizing our capability in a way that we have almost completely failed to do over the last five years, and doing so in a way that will bring real and lasting benefit not only to our own people, but those of our region and the wider world. This will be great Labor government, of which Tom Uren would be proud, and we will all be proud.

Nov 28, 2018

Speech – Investing to get Rail back on Track – Wednesday, 28 November, 2018

Thanks for the opportunity to address AusRail 2018.

It is now nearly 11 years since I was appointed Labor’s spokesman on transport and infrastructure.

Eleven years as either the Shadow Minister or Minister.

And on each and every day, I have learned something new.

Either I am very committed to the portfolio, or I am a glutton for punishment.

Let me start today by acknowledging that during those 11 years, the ARA has been a constant voice for serious debate on infrastructure and transport policy and the ways in which rail can best serve the national interest.

You’ve always been constructive.

Always positive.

Never partisan.

We have usually, but not always, agreed.

But your advocacy has been of real assistance to me, as have events like AusRail, which have allowed me to develop a serious dialogue with your industry and an understanding of its issues from your perspective.

So thank you.

The value of your advocacy has been highlighted again today by yesterday’s release of your research by BIS Oxford Economics.
It provides a compelling case for greater collaboration between government and industry to address the looming skills shortage in the rail sector.

This is an important contribution to public discourse.

I would like to offer strong in-principle support for this report and its recommendations, particularly the establishment of a Rail Industry Skills Development Strategy.

You are certainly on the right track, so to speak.

This year’s AusRail takes place at a time of significant political activity in this country.

We’ve just had the re-election of the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria with an ambitious infrastructure program and now the campaign for the NSW state election will begin to gear up.

And then the big dance – the Federal election, probably on the 18th of May.

Today I want to focus on the obvious – what you might expect from a Federal Labor Government.

Simply put, we would build more rail – a lot more rail.

CURRENT LANDSCAPE

Over the past five years the Coalition Government has cut infrastructure investment overall, but particularly in rail.

The process began as soon as it took office in 2013, when Prime Minister Tony Abbott cancelled the billions of dollars put into the Budget by the former Labor Government for projects like the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and the Parramatta to Epping line.

Mr Abbott did this for purely ideological reasons.

As he outlined in his 2009 book Battlelines, Mr Abbott believes Australians don’t want to use public transport because: “Mostly there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car and cars need roads.”

Instead of investing in rail, Mr Abbott diverted the money to toll roads, two of which he was unable to get off the ground.

That was five years, or two prime ministers, ago.

Mr Abbott’s successors Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison seem to have less antagonism toward rail, but have nonetheless failed to reinstate the bulk of his cuts.

There was some new investment in the 2018 Budget. But 85 per cent of that funding will not appear until beyond the Forward Estimates period.

Indeed, the independent Parliamentary Budget Office says Commonwealth infrastructure grants to the states expressed as a proportion of GDP will halve over the next four years to 0.2 per cent.

So we not only have a reduction in total infrastructure investment, but it has been skewed toward toll roads and programmed off into the Never Never.

Recently, the Coalition appears to have shifted its rhetoric in response to growing public concern about the erosion of quality of life caused by traffic congestion in our big cities, particularly in Sydney, Melbourne and South East Queensland.

But its response has largely focused on the hot button political issue of immigration levels.

Immigration levels are relevant to urban growth.

But whatever factor drives population growth, governments must respond to it with commensurate infrastructure investment, or else cities become more congested.

This isn’t rocket science.

Yet the Coalition has failed to invest at a rate appropriate to the growth of our cities.

I go back to that short-sighted decision by Mr Abbott in 2013 to cancel all Federal investment in public transport.

At a time of strong population growth and worsening congestion, this was just madness.

If that had not happened, important projects like the Melbourne Metro and Cross River Rail would today be nearing completion.

DISTORTION OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE MARKET

Worse still, conservative governments have in recent years become so obsessed with “off-budget” and “innovative” financing of projects that they have chosen to overlook the benefits offered by rail in favour of toll roads.

For example, last year it was revealed that the NSW Coalition Government ordered its bureaucrats to ignore rail as an option when considering ways to tackle traffic congestion and improve commuting times between Sydney and Wollongong.

The bureaucrats were told to design the F6 Motorway as a toll road, even though a Transport Department paper advised that a rail option would be cheaper.

Departmental documents said completing the Maldon to Dombarton freight line would remove coal trains from the existing Illawarra line, freeing up space for passenger trains.

This, combined with construction of the Thirroul Rail tunnel between Waterfall and Wollongong, would reduce travelling time from Wollongong to Central Station by a third to 60 minutes.

Yet the NSW Government wanted a toll road.

A Federal Labor Government would end these distortions.

We would invest in the projects that best serve the public interest.

PROPER PROCESSES

Now, I can’t change the past.

But I can offer a better future.

Our starting point would be the restoration of proper process when it comes to assessing infrastructure proposals.

When we were last in government we created Infrastructure Australia to independently assess infrastructure proposals on the basis of value for money and whether they would fit within the existing infrastructure landscape.

The aim was to create a pipeline of worthy projects that could attract bi-partisan support across parliaments.

We wanted to break the nexus between the political cycle and the project development cycle.

Regrettably, the Coalition has spent five years undermining Infrastructure Australia.

First, Mr Abbott ignored its recommendations to invest in urban rail.

In 2012 Cross River Rail topped Infrastructure Australia’s priority list, which it declared viable and ready to go.

Not anymore.

Because this project does not fit in with the Government’s political agenda, the figures were reworked and it slid down the list.

At the same time, projects not even assessed by Infrastructure Australia, like the ill-fated Perth Freight Link, received funding.

Then came Mr Turnbull.

He tried to sideline Infrastructure Australia by creating his own Infrastructure Financing Unit, which he said would work with government and industry to utilise innovative funding mechanisms to increase private investment in public infrastructure.

The problem was that Infrastructure Australia already had the expertise and the legislated role to provide such advice and had done so in the past.

The IFU has failed to deliver a single new project.

Not one.

A Labor Government would abolish this waste of resources.

We’d restore the independence of Infrastructure Australia and re-establish within it the scrapped Major Cities Unit to focus on the productivity, sustainability and liveability of Australian cities.

Elected representatives must always be responsible for making funding decisions because it is they who are accountable at the ballot box.

But when it comes to major infrastructure projects, taxpayers rightly expect decisions to be based on evidence, not political whims or rigid ideology.

REAL INVESTMENT

Of course, while proper assessment processes and an effective, respected and independent Infrastructure Australia are vital, they must be backed with real dollars from government.

And the good news here is that despite the decision of the current Federal Government to largely vacate the field, state governments of all persuasions, together with the private sector, have been stepping up.

Over the course of the past decade we have gone from a situation where there were few projects on the drawing board to a pipeline of heavy and light rail projects worth some $46 billion.

In the area of urban rail, there are major network upgrades and expansions planned, or in some cases already underway, in every mainland capital city.

In Brisbane, major works will soon commence on Cross River Rail.

In Sydney there’s the Metro, CBD and South East Light Rail and Parramatta Light Rail.

In Australia’s fastest growing city, Melbourne, work is ramping up on the Metro Tunnel and the removal of level crossings.

Meanwhile here in the nation’s capital, Canberra, the first stage of its new light rail network connecting the fast growing area of Gungahlin to the City is progressing apace, with planning on the next stage well advanced.

In Adelaide, the completion of the long-delayed electrification of the Gawler Rail Line will soon be underway, while in the West, the McGowan Labor Government is steaming ahead with METRONET.

This is Perth’s most ambitious public transport program, the first stage of which – the Forrestfield-Airport Link – is on track to be completed in 2020.

On top of all these public sector projects, the resources sector is also expected to invest heavily in coming years, building new and extending existing rail lines to transport their valuable commodities to port for exporting.

To round out the picture, a change of government at the next Federal election will result in a further injection of real investment in the nation’s rail infrastructure – and the money will begin to flow in our very first budget.

Federal Labor’s position is clear: for sound economic, social and environmental reasons, rail must play a central role in not only moving freight around our country but also people around our cities.

Rail will be at the heart of a Shorten Labor Government’s infrastructure agenda.

When it comes to moving people, rail offers greater value than roads.

Cars are among the most inefficient modes of transport.

According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, for each lane 3.5 metres wide, cars can transport 2,000 people per hour.

Trams can move 22,000 people per hour in the same amount of space and trains a massive 88,000 people per hour.

In the case of freight, rail also offers advantages over road, not the least of which is safer roads and fewer carbon emissions.
Indeed, just one 1,800 metre freight train is equivalent to removing 70 B-Doubles off our roads.

I don’t argue that we should never build a new road.

But if we are to keep our nation moving we need to invest in both roads and rail.

That’s why, as well as proceeding with all the projects currently in the Federal Budget, we will add to them to create an even more ambitious capital works program, particularly in the area of urban public transport.

For one, we 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, as a part of a north-south line through Western Sydney.

The latter project, in particular, would help unlock the full potential of Western Sydney, a region that is already home to two million people – nine per cent of the Australian population – and the country’s third largest regional economy.

According to an analysis conducted by Deloitte and Arup:

“The economic benefits of the corridor are clear.  From 2024 to 2040, north-south rail will add $44.7 billion in benefits to the economy, reaching $3.6 billion per year in 2040.

“There can be no doubt that a north-south rail solution is crucial to the sustainable development of the Western Sydney Growth Corridor and its future as a smart city.”

This statement could not be clearer about rail’s potential to transform cities.

Lastly, we will partner with the recently re-elected Andrews Labor Government to build what will be Victoria’s biggest and most transformative public transport project, the Suburban Rail Loop.

This new 90 kilometre underground rail line will run through Melbourne’s western and eastern suburbs via the airport, linking all of the city’s major train lines.

The $50 billion project will allow commuters to travel between suburbs without having to come into the city, thereby reducing travel times and making it much easier to get around for work or leisure.

Expected to be used by 400,000 passengers a day, the new line will also take pressure off existing lines and 200,000 cars off the city’s road network.

As well as investing in the infrastructure itself, Federal Labor is also determined to ensure that the rolling stock required for these new projects is built in Australia, rather than sourcing it from offshore.

This is an issue the ARA highlighted at AusRail a year ago.

And in response, Federal Labor announced earlier this year that if elected we will work with the states and territories through the Council of Australian Government to develop a National Rail Procurement and Manufacturing Strategy.

As part of this strategy, future Commonwealth grant funding for rail infrastructure projects will be linked to objectives such as work being undertaken in Australia, rather than commissioning overseas companies, and cooperation between jurisdictions on procurement.

Simply put, a Shorten Labor Government will ensure that more trains are built locally by Australian manufacturing workers.

LONG-TERM VISION

Add to this the long-term projects like a High Speed Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.
You have heard me say for years that High Speed Rail would revolutionise interstate travel.

But its other big benefit would be to promote decentralisation, which this nation desperately needs as our capital cities struggle to cope with growth.

Today we meet in Canberra.

Imagine the potential for economic development in this city if people could travel from Canberra to the Sydney CBD in less than an hour.

Suddenly, establishing businesses here or moving here to work would be far more attractive.

High Speed Rail would turbo-charge development opportunities for the other regional communities along its path – cities like the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, the Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

Successful decentralisation requires fast connections between regional centres and capital cities.

That’s why High Speed Rail is so important.

In Government, Labor would move quickly to create a High Speed Rail Authority to work with the Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victorian governments to commence detailed planning and corridor acquisition.

It would also put in place an expressions-of-interest process to seek feedback from international rail companies with expertise when it comes to building High Speed Rail projects.

A Labor Government would also support the further development of the proposed Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne.

We see great potential in this project.

That’s why we supported it with investment when we were last in Government.

However, over the past five years the Coalition has failed to confront key impediments to Inland Rail, including the fact that on current plans, it does not connect to the ports of either Brisbane or Melbourne.

I know it’s called Inland Rail.

But this shouldn’t be taken literally.

It shouldn’t mean it doesn’t go to our ports.

The Government has put massive effort into promoting its commitment to Inland Rail as part of its political strategy in regional areas.

But it has failed to use its five years in office to put in the hard work necessary to give all Australians a clear picture of the actual cost and viability of the project.

The Government has also failed to address widespread concerns about the credibility of its Inland Rail funding model, which assumes the project can be funded via an equity injection without government grant funding.

For such arrangements to stack up, projects need to be able to make returns to the Budget.

And even the Government’s own implementation report concluded that won’t happen for at least 50 years.

WORKFORCE

From the roll call of rail projects currently on the drawing board, it is clear this nation is headed towards a golden era for rail.

But that brings me back to the BIS Oxford Economics research released by Danny Broad yesterday.

As your research indicates, this industry faces a serious skills shortage.

Training of train drivers, controllers, track workers, signalling engineers and technicians, maintenance workers, electrical technicians and tunnellers is not keeping up with growing demand.

The challenge is further complicated by the ageing of the existing workforce and the emergence of new technologies in your sector that require new skills not previously required in rail.

The research warns that by as early as 2023, the peak of the construction phase, we may have a workforce gap of up to 70,000 workers.

This will not only slow down progress, but also drive up prices as projects fight against each other for scarce labour.

It’s already the case that states within the commonwealth are aggressively attempting to poach each other’s workforces.

The current situation is the end result of poor long term planning by governments and a reduction in investment in training and skills development by both government and industry.

The conservatives have trashed the TAFE system. What now remains in states like NSW is little more than a shell of a once great institution.

Today in this country there are 130,000 fewer apprentices than there were under the previous Labor Government.

All up, Federal funding for TAFE and skills training has been cut by $2.8 billion.

It has cut nearly $4 billion from our universities.

Most worryingly, and this is the point of your research, there seems to have been little serious effort to plan for future workforce needs despite the obvious signs that rail was entering a renaissance period in this country.

We cannot ignore the skills challenge before us. Addressing it must be a priority.

But in doing so, we need to accept that we cannot import our way out of this skills challenge.

Instead, Labor will never waiver from the principled position that the national government’s first priority must be to train and skill up Australians to fill Australian jobs.

Accordingly, a Shorten Labor Government will adopt the central recommendation arising out of the report released by the ARA and establish a Strategic Rail Workforce Development Forum.

It will be tasked with developing strategic responses to the skills issues facing the industry, and building productive working relationships across the industry and with TAFE and other training providers.

The resulting skills development strategy will not only aim to boost the national training effort, but also to ensure that the training is fit for purpose.

That simply makes common sense.

Before leaving the issue of skills, I will say this: the challenge facing your industry is far from unique.

Indeed, your concerns about a lack of proper long term planning and investment in skills are reflected in other strategically important sectors of the transport industry.

The same issue has been raised with me by aviation maintenance engineers, who warn that the increased offshoring of aircraft maintenance is leading to a reduction in critical skills development in this country.

The same concern is also reflected in maritime, where the conservatives want to legislate the local industry out of existence, leaving only foreign-flagged vessels with seafarers earning third world wages to move goods around our coasts.

This is no way to run a modern economy.

The lack of proper investment in our people is undermining Australia’s economic sovereignty and security.

INTERVENTION

Recently I was honoured to deliver this year’s John Button Lecture, which honours the memory of the man whom I believe was the nation’s greatest industry minister.

During the Hawke era John Button used the power of government to create industry plans in areas like steel and automobiles that were central to the opening up of the Australian economy and dragging it into the 21st century.

Button’s work helped establish the conditions for 27 years of continuous economic growth in this country.

John Button understood there was a role for government to work with industry, unions and other interested groups on long-term policy settings.

While much of his work is related to tariffs and exports, the same spirit is required when it comes to skills training.

It is hard to believe we have a situation where we know our future training requirements, but have failed to act to meet those requirements.

Labor accepts absolutely that markets can drive the creation of prosperity which leads to higher living standards and the expansion of opportunity.

However, we also understand that there are times when it is appropriate for governments to intervene to secure national interest outcomes.

I often say that one of the weaknesses of the market is that it has no conscience.

Your report also shows us that markets, left to themselves, have no vision.

They don’t consider future needs.

That’s the job of governments working with industry.

The current Government’s hand-off approach, combined with its cuts to skills training, has failed to meet the future needs of your industry.

A Labor Government will intervene.

We’ll work with you to look to the long-term and put in place the policies needed to produce the skilled workforce your sector requires.

There has always been a role for government in industry policy.

But in the 21st century – a time of accelerating technological change – forward-looking industry policy is needed more than ever.
As Stephen Hawking said:

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

CONCLUSION

Hawking was right.

There’s no need to panic about the inevitability of change.

The point is that you need to plan to cope with its effects.

I said when I started my contribution today that the obvious question for your industry is what would change under a Federal Labor Government.

I’ve outlined some of our approaches today. And we will have more to say in the lead-up to the election.

But sometimes the past can illuminate the future.

To get a real idea of where a Labor Government might take transport policy, particularly when it comes to rail, let me conclude by pointing to our record last time we were in Government.

We lifted federal infrastructure investment, expressed on a per-capita basis from $132 per Australian to $265.

We rebuilt a third of the interstate rail network, or 4,000 kilometres of track.

We committed more federal investment for urban rail than all previous federal governments combined since Federation.

Once again, thank you for years of serious and productive engagement.

I very much hope that I will be able to join your for AusRail 2019 – hopefully without that pesky word “shadow’’ in front of my ministerial designation.

ENDS
WEDNESDAY, 28 NOVEMBER, 2018

 

Nov 19, 2018

Speech – Growing Our Outer Suburbs Fairly – Monday, 19 November, 2018

SPEECH TO THE NATIONAL GROWTH AREAS ALLIANCE
2018 CONGRESS

CAMPBELLTOWN
MONDAY, 19 NOVEMBER 2018

GROWING OUR OUTER SUBURBS FAIRLY

###CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY###

INTRODUCTION

I’m very pleased to be with the NGAA again, this time in Campbelltown with my friends and colleagues Anne Stanley and Mike Freelander.

A little over 160 years ago Campbelltown Train Station opened and at that time it was the end of the line, with the journey from Sydney taking 1 hr and 45 minutes.

Since then Campbelltown has changed significantly.

From wheat crops to grapes, dairies, the 38 post World War I soldier settlements and the steady churn of small businesses that kept the town moving as Sydney stretched out towards it.

In the early 1960s Campbelltown was designated a satellite city by the New South Wales Planning Authority and a regional capital for the south west of Sydney.

Back then, its population was just under 20,000.

But this quickly grew to 43,000 in 1974 and 144,000 in 1996.

Today the population is just over 167,000.

This is expected to grow to more than 273,000 people by 2036.

Campbelltown has always been a centre for growth.

It services the much larger Macarthur catchment area, providing employment opportunities across a range of sectors.

But with greater south-west Sydney also anticipated to grow by more than double again and Western Sydney as a whole expected increase its population from two to three million people, governments cannot afford to be complacent.

The truth is that while thriving growth areas such as Campbelltown continue to build upon their success, they require, first, a strategic vision and, second, significant investment in order to secure their productivity, sustainability and liveability.

This is because we need to position growth areas to maximise the benefits that come with increased urbanisation, while also efficiently dealing with the challenges.

As Socrates once said, “by far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities.”

So this is not a new problem.

Too often we see the population of our outer suburbs increase before the necessary infrastructure such as public transport and social infrastructure like schools, hospitals and recreational space are put in place.

For instance, in the Macarthur region some of the recent developments like Oran Park, Gregory Hills, Bringelly, Appin, Wilton and Cobbitty are also the areas with the least public transport.

Locally, this has led to worsening traffic congestion and placed increasing pressure on essential services like hospitals and schools.

This year was the 50th anniversary of the electrification of the rail line to Campbelltown, but even simple measures such as the extension of electrification to the south west and the completion of the Maldon-Dumbarton rail connecting Macarthur to the Illawarra have been ignored.

What’s more, planning for a future M9 motorway has been a complete debacle and has now been temporarily shelved.

Ultimately, bad planning leads to bad outcomes and a higher cost of retrofitting infrastructure to try to catch up with the community’s needs and fulfil their expectations.

What’s more, if people can’t access employment, training or educational opportunities; if people are stuck in their cars for hours commuting to and from work, and; if people cannot enjoy their quality of life, then they can’t achieve their potential.

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

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

We must ensure our cities are places of opportunity – for all people.

This perspective underpins Labor’s national urban policy agenda.

We recognise that the national government has a particular responsibility to invest in our growth corridors.

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

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

However, Labor’s City Partnerships proposal and commitment to investing in growth areas is about more than just levelling the playing field.

It’s about creating new places of opportunity, beyond the CBDs of our cities, and ensuring they are productive, sustainable and liveable both now, and for the decades to come.

ARE WE THERE YET?

This is the third year in a row I have addressed the NGAA conference – and the first with Bronwen Clark officially at the helm.

The 2018 conference theme is, ‘ten years on; are we there yet?’

The simple answer is no.

But we shouldn’t dismiss the gains that have been made.

There is now broad bipartisan agreement that the national government must be engaged in urban policy.

This is underscored by the recently released, cross-party House of Representatives Committee report ‘Building Up and Moving Out’, which is the product of extensive consultation and provides numerous recommendations on the way forward.

Your organisation, along with others, has helped us reach this point.

We also have a greater awareness across the sector, in the media and communities, about the impact our urban challenges, such as congestion, housing affordability and sprawl, are having on everyday life.

This includes the Heat Island Effect, which is scorching our outer suburbs because of higher inland temperatures.

Yet with this comes questions not just about whether we’re there yet, but where it is we want to go and how we plan to get there.

And I think we all agree that each person in society should have access to the opportunities and services they need to advance themselves.

But I am concerned by the failure of some people to consider communities as a whole – colourful, vibrant tapestries composed of different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds – and the positive contribution this diversity has already made to the nation we are today.

If we are to be truly successful in our endeavour to make cities better places for everyone, then we can’t let ourselves be side-tracked by a divisive debate around immigration.

It only entrenches fear and division in our neighbourhoods and this dog-whistling must be called out for what it is.

We must work together – across governments, across politics, across industries and across communities.

LABOR’S LEGACY

Since World War II, every Labor Government has made an important contribution to Australia’s urban development and progress, including in our outer suburbs.

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 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 our cities.

These included:

  • Establishing Infrastructure Australia to provide independent advice to government about the merits of major projects;
  • Creating the Major Cities Unit and Urban Policy Forum to ensure policy is informed by expert opinion and underpinned by an evidence base, including through the annual State of Australian Cities report;
  • Establishing the Australian Council of Local Government to bring local councils into the conversation;
  • Creating the Centre of Excellence for Local Government at UTS to promote best practice;
  • Conducting a review of capital city strategic planning systems through COAG – this was chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe with Lucy Turnbull as Deputy Chair;
  • Releasing the Urban Design Protocol after consulting extensively with industry, which promotes guidelines for sustainable urban development and;
  • Releasing Australia’s first ever comprehensive National Urban Policy, which identified three key pillars of productivity, sustainability and liveability.

BEYOND THE NEXT DECADE

Labor will build on this urban policy legacy if we have the privilege of being elected at the next Federal Election.

But we’ll also take action on climate change.

Invest in advanced manufacturing.

Properly and fairly fund our schools, universities and TAFE.

Improve housing affordability for those currently locked out of the market.

Support the growth of business.

And upgrade health services around the nation.

The difference between us and the current occupants of the ministerial wing is not just that we understand inaction has serious consequences for our nation, but also that we’re prepared to do something about it.

And we know that people in regional towns and cities, as well as those in major cities and growth corridors need this action now because the culmination of inaction or bad policy in each of these areas is devastating.

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

Wanneroo, in Western Australia, will become Perth’s most populated local government area by 2050.

Wyndham, in Victoria, is expecting its population to grow by more than 74 per cent by 2036.

Managing this will not be easy.

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

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

Put simply, if we fail to plan, we are planning to fail.

GENUINE PARTNERSHIPS

If we get the planning right, particularly in our growth areas, then we can improve quality of life for people and make our cities more efficient.

But 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 policies.

Labor’s City Partnerships policy 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 that focuses on the three pillars of productivity, sustainability and liveability.

To help achieve this we will re-establish the Major Cities Unit within Infrastructure Australia and task it with independent oversight of the program, including recommending City Partnerships to the Minister.

Guidelines for City Partnerships will be developed in consultation with urban policy experts and we’ll make sure that these are publicly available so that any city, or group of cities, can apply.

We want people 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 could be achieved by setting targets across areas such as employment, education or health.

Importantly, City Partnerships provide an 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.

Ultimately, we want to unlock the potential of our cities by bringing together all levels of government, the private sector and community in a way that is meaningful so that we can achieve genuine structural change.

Our approach emphasises collaboration.

It is a product of extensive consultation with stakeholders, including hearing about the experience of local councils with the current City Deals program, which we know has failed 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 in the dark about how to best be involved.

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

We know that here in Western Sydney, local councils were asked to sign on to a City Deal without knowing what the content of it would be.

Blacktown Council was completely left out of the picture.

Here, Macarthur received no additional investment for major infrastructure, despite its growth.

And the rail project at the centre of the city deal remains unfunded by the Coalition.

We must do better – our growth areas need us to do better.

The original intention of the UK City Deals was to provide a mechanism through which various levels of government can work together to develop area-based strategies that improve overall economic growth.

It’s particularly relevant for growth corridors, as it provides a model through which they can receive greater investment.

Given these areas face substantially different challenges to inner suburbs, the strategic and targeted approach of this program matters.

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

But, 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.

Not just another stakeholder.

And through this process all cards are put on the table from the outset and priorities determined in collaboration.

From the conversations I have had 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.

It’s nation building – from the bottom up.

But the national government must do more to support these ambitions and that’s precisely what our City Partnerships program intends to do.

INVESTING IN OUR GROWTH AREAS

But real investment in our growth areas is also required.

That’s why we have already committed $3 billion towards the construction of Western Sydney Rail.

This project will reduce congestion and car dependency,  by connecting the communities of Western Sydney to each other as well as the region’s new Western Sydney Airport.

Western Sydney Rail alone is expected to take 1,000 cars off the road every time a train leaves the station, and Deloitte estimates the project will add over $44 billion in benefits to the economy by 2040.

Elsewhere around the nation we’re committed to investing in projects like Cross River Rail in Queensland, which will benefit the entire South East Queensland growth area.

This complements our significant investment in improving the road connection between the growing suburbs of Brisbane and the Gold Coast through our $1 billion upgrade to the M1.

Additional investment in Perth METRONET will connect the north-eastern suburbs around Ellenbrook to the city’s heavy rail network, linking passengers to the major employment hubs of Malaga and Morley along the way.

This will build on Labor’s legacy of investing in rail and road projects around the nation.

Indeed, the former Federal Labor Government invested more in urban passenger rail than all our predecessors since Federation combined.

Projects, like the Regional Rail Link through Victoria’s burgeoning western suburbs is an excellent example of delivering public transport in anticipation of residential development.

The Gold Coast Light Rail, or as the locals affectionately call it, “the G”, is a transformative piece of infrastructure has helped change the way people get around the Coast.

But it is important to remember that even when governments deliver new projects, the job isn’t necessarily over.

Right now, in parts of Australia in 2018, a lack of car parking at train stations is emerging as an unwanted impediment to efforts to tackle traffic congestion, which costs the nation about $16 billion a year in lost productivity.

Unless governments act on parking, we risk creating a situation where commuters give up on public transport because it is too much trouble.

Federal Labor has part of the solution.

In Government we would create a $300 million Park and Ride Fund to work with state and local governments to expand community car parking at public transport hubs.

Already, we’ve announced ten park and ride projects, including at Mango Hill, Narangba and Northgate in Brisbane’s outer northern suburbs; Gosford, Woy Woy and Tuggerah on the NSW Central Coast; Riverwood and Schofields in Sydney; and Tarneit and Frankston in Victoria.

The rationale is simple – if we want commuters to use trains, train stations must be accessible.

It’s not enough just to build rail networks. We must also ensure they are easy to use.

In an ideal world, commuters would live within walking distance of train stations and have no need to park and ride.

Indeed, that is the situation in many long-established urban areas of Australia.

But outer suburban areas are often served by a single train line that draws in commuters from far and wide.

When it’s too far to walk to the station, parking becomes critical.

Traditionally Federal governments have left park and rides to state and local governments.

But after five years of under-investment in infrastructure by the current Federal Government, traffic congestion looms as a genuine threat to national economic growth and our quality of life.

The emergence of the parking problem points to a broader challenge relating to population growth and development in urban Australia in coming decades.

And to truly deal with traffic congestion, we must ensure we provide the infrastructure investment needed to support this growth.

CONCLUSION

Today the train from Sydney to Campbelltown takes just over an hour – and up to an hour and a half on weekends.

But the changing nature of our cities means that it is no longer just about how people get from outer suburbs to the CBD.

It’s also about how people connect to their surrounding suburbs and how we can grow more opportunities locally as our cities expand.

Collaboration across all levels of government, with the private sector and communities, as well as strategic investment, is required to support this shift.

I look forward to continuing to work with you to invest in our growth areas and ensure they are places of opportunity – for everyone, not just some.

Nov 16, 2018

Speech – John Button Lecture – Thursday, 15 November 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Button manned the engine room of that reform process.

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

It was not easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australia does have marriage equality.

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

The lesson here for contemporary Labor is simple.

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

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

REACTIONARIES

By contrast, our opponents fear change.

Their whole ideology is based on maintaining the status quo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take climate change.

It’s real. We must reduce carbon emissions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we all know how that ended up.

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

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

VICTORIA

This brings us to the current election here in Victoria.

An election with much at stake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE NEW POLITICS

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

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

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

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

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

Social media has aided this process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MODERN LABOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLITICS

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

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

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

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

This after five years in office.

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

This Coalition has never looked like a Government.

It has operated as an Opposition in exile.

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

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

Complex issues cannot always be reduced to 280 characters.

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

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

My view of what Australians want is pretty simple.

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING THINGS DONE

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

The first is that we must mobilise support for reform.

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

Engage with business to promote employment and fairness.

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

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

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

It attacks unions, rather than engaging with them.

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

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

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

But the Coalition’s business model has been division.

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

Ruthless partisanship is a failed model of Government.

It produces plenty of heat. But no light.

It saps your energy, but gets you nowhere.

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

But the market has no conscience.

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

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

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

Nov 13, 2018

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

SPEECH TO AUSTRALIAN LICENSED AIRCRAFT ENGINEERS ASSOCIATION

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

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

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

This is important.

Aviation is a globalised industry. It is constantly evolving.

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

That’s where your profession plays a central role.

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

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

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

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

We need to hear your input.

But it’s not only about safety.

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

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

STRATEGICALLY IMPORTANT INDUSTRIES

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

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

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

This was a ridiculous proposal.

It would have put Australians out of work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your members quite literally keep the planes in air.

AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A LABOR GOVERNMENT

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

And that must include aircraft maintenance.

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

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

Our starting point will be the previously mentioned White Paper.

And I do not underestimate the challenge.

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

Echoing my earlier comments, this independent body has concluded:

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

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

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

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

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

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

But government alone cannot achieve this.

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

Our long term national interest demands nothing less.

THE IR LANDSCAPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labor would restore the link between wages and productivity.

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

Additionally, Labor is committed to:

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

 

  • Introducing an objective definition of casual employment;

 

  • Stamping out sham independent contracting;

 

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

 

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

 

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

CONCLUSION

I end today on a positive note.

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

But we need to develop our potential.

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

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

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

Labor stands ready to do exactly that.

ENDS
TUESDAY, 13 NOVEMBER, 2018

Nov 12, 2018

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

PETERSHAM TOWN HALL, SYDNEY
SUNDAY, 11 NOVEMBER, 2018

REMEMBRANCE DAY, CENTENARY

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

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

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

Men like Walter Ernest Brown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was never seen again.

Today, we remember Corporal Brown.

We honour Corporal Brown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just think about that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

62,000 hand-made red poppies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, we honour those who have served.

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

Lest we forget.

ENDS

SUNDAY, 11 NOVEMBER, 2018

Oct 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a lot of money.

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

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

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

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

That’s not what Australians expect out of life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major global cities need public transport to function.

That’s where the Western Metro can help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for Federal Labor, our intentions are clear.

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

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

These projects will make a real difference to Sydney.

They will help ease congestion.

They will also boost productivity.

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

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

It should do so now.

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

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

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

This is Government working as it should.

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

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

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

Oct 16, 2018

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

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

Today, the figure stands at just 14.

These are worrisome statistics that signal a crisis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australia needs a vibrant and strong maritime industry.

And our position is based on sound reasoning.

ECONOMIC SOVEREIGNTY

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

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

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

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

That is a risky position to be in.

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

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

Their policy responses included:

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

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

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

Norway is another case in point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NATIONAL SECURITY

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

It would also provide more career opportunities for both parties.

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

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

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

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

As Vice Admiral Barrrett said when his appointment was announced:

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

LABOR’S 2012 REFORMS

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

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

This was an obvious starting point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LABOR’S PLAN FOR SHIPPING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond considering the Green Paper proposals, Labor will also:

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

Our long term national interest demands nothing less.

Oct 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

 

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