Browsing articles in "Speeches Archive"
Dec 7, 2017

Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 – Consideration in Detail

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (09:55): Those great philosophers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards once sang: ‘You can’t always get you what you want, but you get what you need.’ This bill is what people need. They do not need delay or for the bill to be put off or for a series of amendments to be carried by this House that then get referred to the Senate, begin the whole debate all over again and return to this House at some time in the future.

What my community want, as they have clearly indicated, is to get this done. That’s what Australians voted for in overwhelming numbers. Is this bill perfect? No. It’s a product of a consensus. It is a product of a collective effort by people of goodwill, across the Senate, to ensure that reform can move forward. During the voluntary postal survey, I and other advocates of a vote for yes, in response to the misleading campaigns of those who suggested that this would have all sorts of unknown consequences to the lives of people who won’t be impacted by this legislation at all, clearly said: ‘There is a bill already. It’s a bill in the name of Dean Smith in the Senate.’ It’s a bill which has received, quite remarkably, unanimous support and consensus in the Senate.

I say to the member for Melbourne that there’s a time when you don’t think, ‘Oh, I can make this improvement here so that it satisfies all of my wants.’ This bill is it. This isn’t a time for grandstanding. This isn’t a time for trying to ensure there’s product differentiation. This is a time for national unity. This is a time for support by people of goodwill, across this parliament, and I pay tribute to people on the other side of the chamber—people I don’t normally agree with—because it’s hard. It’s easier if you’re in a party looking for purity all of the time on every issue and you say, ‘I think maybe there might perhaps be consequences to this, though I don’t think they’re real,’ which is what the member for Melbourne just indicated, and it is what he indicated in his second reading speech. He spoke about these amendments as restating things that are already in the Sex Discrimination Act. He said that this amendment would seek to change the title of the bill. Guess what? Do a survey of Australians and see how many people know the title of any particular bill, and I’d be amazed if you still want to hold up marriage equality in order to make change that is not of substance.

That’s a fundamental area of disagreement that I have and why I’m in a major party, the Australian Labor Party. What I do in this place is come in here to make a real difference to real people and to real lives. That is what this legislation will do. That is why all of the amendments to this legislation should be rejected, whether they be the amendments we’re considering now or future amendments moved by some of the opponents of marriage equality seeking to make changes which are not necessary. These issues were considered during the Senate processes. We have an outcome—we have an outcome that will produce marriage equality and can do it today. The big campaign of marriage equality was ‘let’s get this done’. Let’s not delay, let’s not look for areas of disagreement, because that’s simply not productive. I say to the member for Melbourne that I think it’s unfortunate that these unnecessary amendments are being moved. I won’t be supporting them. I call upon other members of the House not to support them, not to support the other amendments and to get this done today.

Dec 4, 2017

Debate on Senate Motion Regarding New Zealand’s Offer to Settle Refugees

Message No. 253, 29 November 2017, from the Senate was reported informing the House that the Senate had agreed to the following resolution:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i)      The New Zealand Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, has continued to pressure Australia to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees who are currently in offshore detention;

(ii)     New Zealand will begin work to expedite processing refugees if, and when, the offer is accepted; and

(iii)    Prime Minister Ardern stated: “We made the offer because we saw a great need. No matter what label you put on it there is absolute need and there is harm being done’’; and

(b)     Calls on the Government to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees and negotiate conditions similar to the United States refugee resettlement agreement.

The Senate requests the concurrence of the House in this resolution.


MR ALBANESE: I rise to support this resolution from the Senate.

I do so and say to the Government that this is an opportunity for it to rise to the occasion. There are many things that this resolution is not about. This resolution does not stop offshore processing. This resolution does not assist people smugglers.

This resolution is consistent with getting an outcome. At the end of the day, the Government is responsible for outcomes, not just rhetoric. The PNG court determined in April 2016 what the closing date of the Manus facility would be.

In April 2017, the Government came to an agreement with the Government of Papua New Guinea that it would close. Yet, the UNHCR has indicated that the alternative facilities simply weren’t all ready at the time of closure.

What you also have is men who have been in detention for four and a half years with still no security as to what the future is for them.

People who commit crimes, serious crimes, are often not detained for that period of time. A majority of these people have been found to be refugees. That is, they have been found under our international obligations to be deserving of Australia’s care. It has been found that we have a responsibility to these people.

We simply cannot have the approach of the Minister, which is to say: “This is nothing to do with me. This is something to do with the Government of Papua New Guinea, nothing to do with Australia’’.

The fact is that you can be tough on people smugglers without being weak on humanity. We on this side of the House take that approach. What we won’t do is just wash our hands of the responsibilities that Australia clearly has.

The Minister says that he won’t consider the resettlement option in New Zealand now. But he leaves it open for the future. He indicates that’s correct.

If not now, when? What is to be gained, apart from politics, in leaving these people in further uncertainty when the New Zealand Government – under both the conservatives, under the leadership of John Key, and now under the leadership of Jacinda Ardern – has offered to assist these individuals but also, frankly, to assist Australia?

If the Minister says we have no responsibility, if he doesn’t think that this is impacting on Australia’s standing in the world, then he is wrong. I say to him, with respect – he might disagree with that assessment; people can look at objective facts and come to different conclusions – but it is a fact, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, that this is impacting on Australia’s standing in the world.

It is also a fact that John Howard, a person he admires, led a government where John Howard, in spite of the rhetoric, said that the people who were on the Tampa would never settle in Australia and never settle in New Zealand – that they’d be sent home. The fact is that many of those people are today settled here in Australia as Australian citizens and many of those people settled in New Zealand.

Very clearly it would be possible for these people to come to an arrangement, which New Zealand has indicated would be possible, whereby they commit – they’ve said they would want to if they were settled in New Zealand – to stay there because they would feel welcome there because of the actions of the New Zealand Government and the New Zealand Opposition.

A good friend of mine, Father Dave Smith of Holy Trinity Church in Dulwich Hill, visited Manus Island a few weeks ago. It is interesting to look at the interviews that Father Dave, as he’s known, had with the people there.

This is someone who travelled there out of his view of what a Christian should do. I have disagreements with him on some issues politically, it must be said, but there is no question whatsoever of his genuineness. There are so many Australians who are looking for a genuine outcome when it comes to this situation. The fact is that a genuine outcome is settlement in third countries.

If the Government can say it’s OK for people to settle in the United States and that that wouldn’t provide a pull factor, but somehow New Zealand is not okay, then that is an extraordinary proposition. If the Minister doesn’t think that it’s possible to deal with the issue of the relationship of New Zealand visas into Australia, then I think he’s wrong there.

Quite clearly, with a little bit of leadership rather than ongoing rhetoric – and I disagree very strongly with some of the characterisations that have been made personally against the Minister. I don’t think that adds to the debate at all. I’m not seeking to do that here at all. What I am seeking to do is to say that these people, who have been in detention at what was intended to be a processing centre to then settle people in third countries, not in Australia, have now been there for four and a half years, and that is just too long. That is having an impact on their mental health as well as their physical health. It would for anyone.

When I was at my good, old Catholic school, one of the values that I was taught was about putting yourself in other people’s positions. I say to the Minister – put yourself in the position of those people. The Minister needs, frankly, to act with a little bit more maturity rather than the sort of knee-jerk: “Let’s hold these people almost as political hostages’’. That is unacceptable.

The fact is that these people need a solution. That is why we are prepared to support this resolution. We are trying to help the Minister find a way out of his predicament, frankly, because, at the moment, the way isn’t just to stay in a circumstance whereby he says: “’Oh well, this is all about Labor.’’ This is about the Minister. He has a responsibility. This resolution provides a way forward.


Dec 4, 2017

Marriage Equality Speech – House of Representatives

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:06):  I’m proud to stand in support of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 moved by the member for Leichhardt in this parliament today.

In June 1990, my courageous friend Paul O’Grady, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, came out as a gay man. He was most certainly not the first gay man elected to the New South Wales parliament, but it took until 1990 for someone to have the confidence to declare their sexuality openly. When I discussed this move with Paul, he said very clearly, ‘I am who I am.’ It was an act of courage that made it much easier for other people in the same circumstance as Paul to openly declare their sexuality. In 1993, three years later, he and his partner, Murray, were attacked and harassed on William Street. Paul O’Grady, a member of the Legislative Council, dialled triple 0. He tried to convince the person on the other end of the phone that he was being threatened by a gang of youths in what was known colloquially as ‘poofter bashing’, which occurred then and still occurs today. He was hung up on, a member of the Legislative Council.

When we talk about discrimination and the fear in society created by intolerance and hatred, it is important today to recognise the courage of those gay men and lesbian women over decades in which debate was far different to what it is today. People like Paul, I think, couldn’t have imagined us having a debate in the parliament with such broad support for marriage equality across the political spectrum. So today I begin by paying tribute to people like Paul; to people like Craig Johnston, a Sydney city councillor; to people like Lex Watson, the academic; to people like Julie McCrossin; to all those people who marched in 1978 in the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. They marched not in a parade that was being cheered and shown on national television; they marched in a parade towards a confrontation with police, who locked them up, who assaulted them and who abused them.

Part of the reason that today is so important is that today, in supporting this legislation, we are saying that we are a tolerant nation, that we are a respectful nation and that we are a nation that is stronger because of our diversity. I think it is unfortunate that we will be one of the last advanced industrialised nations to recognise marriage equality when this legislation is passed. Nonetheless, catching up with the rest of the world is a good thing. I pay tribute to all those who did the hard yards—the really hard yards—to get us to this place.

In 1996, in my first speech in this chamber, I mentioned removing discrimination on the basis of sexuality. In my first term of parliament, after consultation with the gay and lesbian community, I moved the Superannuation (Entitlements of same sex couples) Bill in this chamber. It says something about where the debate was then compared with now that we couldn’t even get a debate on that issue; that legislation wasn’t even supported by every member of my own party. But what it did was lay some groundwork for a debate within my party about the need to tackle discrimination. And, of course, eventually, under the first term of the Rudd Labor government, we removed some 84 pieces of discrimination that were in legislation. This was discrimination not just in areas like superannuation, but in social security, immigration and health care.

When I was first elected, there were very real circumstances of partners of loved ones being denied access to their partners when they were in hospital. There were issues whereby couples who shared houses were thrown out of the house that they had lived in with their partner because of non-acceptance by the family of that partner. The scourge, of course, of HIV-AIDS was still having a massive impact—including, of course, taking the life of Paul O’Grady, who showed his courage once again in openly declaring that he was HIV-positive and therefore being able to lead a campaign for the care that was required. Of course, Neal Blewett, as health minister in the Labor government, led the world in responding to the HIV-AIDS epidemic, literally resulting in thousands of lives being saved.

So, today, this is unfinished business on that march towards equality, in the march towards respect for each other. It is a reminder that society does move forward, although not always in a straight line. Opponents of progress do fight for the status quo. Reactionaries do seek to turn back the gains of the past. But here in this parliament progress is moving forward. Human rights are moving forward. Parliament is not leading in this case, of course; we’re following. We are following the voluntary postal ballot that was held.

I am very proud to support this legislation, and I won’t be supporting amendments to this legislation. This has been through the process of a Senate committee. This itself is a compromise to this legislation. It’s one that will not have an impact on religious freedom.

Part of the reason that today is so important is that today, in supporting this legislation, we are saying that we are a tolerant nation, that we are a respectful nation and that we are a nation that is stronger because of our diversity. I think it is unfortunate that we will be one of the last advanced industrialised nations to recognise marriage equality when this legislation is passed. Nonetheless, catching up with the rest of the world is a good thing. I pay tribute to all those who did the hard yards—the really hard yards—to get us to this place.

In 1996, in my first speech in this chamber, I mentioned removing discrimination on the basis of sexuality. In my first term of parliament, after consultation with the gay and lesbian community, I moved the Superannuation (Entitlements of same sex couples) Bill in this chamber. It says something about where the debate was then compared with now that we couldn’t even get a debate on that issue; that legislation wasn’t even supported by every member of my own party. But what it did was lay some groundwork for a debate within my party about the need to tackle discrimination. And, of course, eventually, under the first term of the Rudd Labor government, we removed some 84 pieces of discrimination that were in legislation. This was discrimination not just in areas like superannuation, but in social security, immigration and health care.

When I was first elected, there were very real circumstances of partners of loved ones being denied access to their partners when they were in hospital. There were issues whereby couples who shared houses were thrown out of the house that they had lived in with their partner because of non-acceptance by the family of that partner. The scourge, of course, of HIV-AIDS was still having a massive impact—including, of course, taking the life of Paul O’Grady, who showed his courage once again in openly declaring that he was HIV-positive and therefore being able to lead a campaign for the care that was required. Of course, Neal Blewett, as health minister in the Labor government, led the world in responding to the HIV-AIDS epidemic, literally resulting in thousands of lives being saved.

So, today, this is unfinished business on that march towards equality, in the march towards respect for each other. It is a reminder that society does move forward, although not always in a straight line. Opponents of progress do fight for the status quo. Reactionaries do seek to turn back the gains of the past. But here in this parliament progress is moving forward. Human rights are moving forward. Parliament is not leading in this case, of course; we’re following. We are following the voluntary postal ballot that was held.

I am very proud to support this legislation, and I won’t be supporting amendments to this legislation. This has been through the process of a Senate committee. This itself is a compromise to this legislation. It’s one that will not have an impact on religious freedom.

In conclusion, can I say that this legislation is a good moment in this parliament. Some of the best moments since I’ve been here, whether I’ve been on the majority or minority side, have been conscience votes. I think we should have more of them, not less, frankly, whereby parliamentarians can make their contribution. I want to say that it’s particularly good to be with people like the member for Sydney, the member for Melbourne Ports and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Penny Wong, in particular, who has shown such courage over a long period of time, in internal and external debates, to get us to the position we’re in today. The member for Leichhardt has also shown great courage in advancing this issue within his party, and I pay tribute to him and others who have been prepared to really push this issue and ensure this reform happens.

It is, however, of course, the Australian people who have led the parliament on this issue. I’ve been convinced for some time that a majority of Australians had shifted their view to favour marriage equality some time ago. I hear many Australians say: ‘I didn’t used to support marriage equality. I do now.’ I don’t know of anyone who has said it to me the other way around—who has changed their mind from ‘yes’ to ‘no’. Australians want us to live and let live. They’ve decided that as individuals we have no right to cast judgements on love as it is felt by others. I commend the bill to the House. (Time expired)


Dec 4, 2017

Statements by Members – Petition: Small Breweries

Federation Chamber
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:13): I begin my contribution by tabling a petition of 1,477 signatures calling for an end to the current unfair tax treatment of small brewers in Australia. I do that to support the craft brewing sector, a sector that, I know, has got some bipartisan support in this parliament. The petition recognises the inequity which is there for how the Commonwealth excise is calculated between small- and large-scale brewers, disadvantaging the smaller craft brewers. In simple terms, this means that the current rate of federal excise charged for a keg containing 50 litres of beer is less than the rate charged for a keg containing 30 litres. With excise making up approximately 40 per cent of operating costs for most craft breweries, this must change.

Craft breweries are growing. There are now over 400 around Australia. They are small businesses employing people in local communities and providing a centre for community activity in our suburbs and in our regions right around Australia. They will contribute some $35 billion to the overseas market by 2020. The sector has become an economic powerhouse. With proper support from the federal government, there is enormous potential for future growth. It should get that support.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Claydon ): The document will be forwarded to the Petitions Committee for its consideration. It will be accepted subject to confirmation by the committee that it conforms with the standing orders.

Feb 18, 2008

Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples

Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples

18 February 2008

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (7.18 p.m.)—I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which this House stands, the Ngunnawal people. The Indigenous people of the land in which my electorate of Grayndler is now located bore the brunt of the European colonisation of this country. The Cadigal and Wangal clans have lived in what is now inner western Sydney for thousands of years. Within a few years of the first fleet’s arrival at Port Jackson many had died from diseases to which they had no immunity or from starvation as European farming practices encroached on their traditional lands. Others were killed resisting the invasion of their country. This tragic story was repeated throughout Australia over the subsequent 150 years. But of course many Indigenous Australians survived. They found ways of accommodating white settlement. They worked as unpaid labour on pastoral stations or lived on missions, for example. With varying degrees of consent, the two populations became intermingled. To the eternal shame of this nation, past governments saw the persistence of Indigenous Australia, its refusal to peacefully die out, not as a triumph to be embraced but as a problem to be overcome.

The removal of children from their families purely on the basis of their race occurred over much of the 20th century and is well within living memory for many Australians. Child removal continues to have devastating repercussions in the appalling levels of family dysfunction, violence, alcoholism, abuse and social disadvantage suffered by many Indigenous people and communities. To those who still think that stolen children were given a better start in life by being removed from their families, look at the facts in the Bringing them home report. I have no doubt that many of Grayndler’s 1,500 Indigenous constituents are members and descendants of the stolen generations. I would like to express how sorry I am for the terrible wrongs that were perpetrated on them by past governments and to pledge to work with my colleagues to overcome the inequality and suffering that they endure.

I would also like to pay tribute to the capacity of Indigenous Australians and their cultures to survive in spite of the history of child removal. On Wednesday in this parliament, I was pleased to see many of my constituents and friends: Linda Burney, the first Indigenous state MP, elected as the member for Canterbury and now a minister in the Iemma Labor government; Shelley Reys, one of the conveners of Reconciliation Australia; Leah Purcell, a great actor and artist; and the footballers and friends of mine through the South Sydney connection, David Peachey and Dean Widders. They were so overwhelmed and pleased to be here on Wednesday. Whether it was the people who were here, the people watching in Martin Place or the people at my son’s school, Dulwich Hill Public School, who watched that magnificent moment in Australian history, I think it was indeed a time unsurpassed, and I was proud to be a member of the House of Representatives.

I was also proud that on Tuesday we had the first welcome to country to open the parliament. As Leader of the House, I saw what this parliament can be. I would like for there to be discussion about ways in which we can give an appropriate formal recognition to the first peoples of this land in the opening of parliament, not just a recognition of our Westminster traditions, which are also very important to us. The parliament can be a place for all Australians, but it can only be that if we acknowledge our true history.

The apology showed an understanding that is grasped by most Australians. It is unfortunate that it was not done at the time of the Bringing them home report. If anyone wanted to find an example of the change that has descended on this place, they need only listen to the words of the Prime Minister and look at the expressions on the faces of those who attended the galleries last Wednesday.

As for the Prime Minister’s announcement of a joint policy commission to deal with the challenges we face in a bipartisan fashion, I welcome it. Those of us on the Labor side of the House felt no part in the refusal of the previous government to apologise, or in many aspects of its Indigenous policy. We did not agree. If there remains a simmering tension between the direction the government takes and the views of the opposition, real progress will be difficult and easily reversed. Real progress on the issues of infant mortality, of the life expectancy gap and of our coming together as a nation must transcend the changing of government and, as the Prime Minister says, move beyond our mindlessly partisan politics. A very positive step was the fact that the motion before the parliament last week was seconded by the Leader of the Opposition and that, with a few exceptions, it was greeted with goodwill and spirit across both sides of the chamber.

The new government is intent on focusing now on the priority of closing the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. We will do this by halving the gap in mortality rates for children under five within a decade and halving the gap in literacy and numeracy achievements for Indigenous children within a decade. The government will honour its election commitment with an extra $261 million for child health and early development to help achieve this goal. The government will also ensure that remedial initiatives such as Link-Up, family history programs and Bringing Them Home counsellors are adequately resourced to meet demand, committing $15 million to support this work.

I firmly believe that last week saw this parliament at our best. It saw the people of my electorate certainly and, I believe, the nation embrace the leadership that the new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has brought to the nation. I certainly know, because I saw him crafting the last draft of that speech, that we now have a Prime Minister whose gut instincts, compassion and preparedness to show leadership to the nation and to appeal to our better instincts were on full display in the speech that he delivered so eloquently on the floor of the House of Representatives last Wednesday.

May 3, 2007

Speech to WA Labor Business Roundtable: Meeting Australia’s Infrastructure Needs


Anthony Albanese MP

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Water

WA Labor Business Roundtable

Parmelia Hilton Hotel, Perth

3 May 2007

I’d like to acknowledge the Western Australian Branch for organising this Labor Business Roundtable here in Perth as a forum to promote the regular activity and connection between the Labor Party and business.

I’d also like to acknowledge my Parliamentary colleague and friend Senator Ruth Webber, and my future colleague Peter Tinley the outstanding candidate for Stirling.

There is nowhere better to discuss infrastructure and the challenges ahead than Western Australia.

I have a long commitment to developing sound policy on infrastructure. Indeed my first speech in Parliament was about infrastructure.

Eleven years ago, we were in a better position than today.

It is extraordinary that there is no official up-to-date record or database of the state of the nation’s economic infrastructure assets.

The Business Council of Australia, Engineers Australia, CEDA and others have all urged the Federal Government to plan for Australia’s future infrastructure needs. To do that one must start off with a record of what we have and were the gaps lie.

In 1995 John Howard gave a number of headland speeches, and in one of those he said he was “struck by the need to improve the coordination of infrastructure policy at the Commonwealth-State level”.

However, there has been no serious attempt to address that over the last 11 years. Later this year you will hear a negative mantra from the Howard Government about the prospect of Labor Governments at both the State and Federal level.

I see this as an opportunity because what we will have, if Kevin Rudd is elected as Prime Minister, is a once in a generation opportunity to stop the blame game and put in place the appropriate reforms to our Federal-State programs in areas where we have overlap, duplication, and conflict with regard to jurisdiction.

We do have too many regulatory bodies and overlapping regulation has to be tackled. We will have an opportunity to do just that.

You may expect from my title as Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Water, that there if there is a Shadow then there must be a responsible Minister. There isn’t of course a Federal Minister for Infrastructure and that says a fair bit about the Howard Government’s priorities and their tendency to buck pass responsibility, not just to the States, but also between Ministers within the Government.

It is an important statement by Labor that we will have a Federal Infrastructure Minister, responsible for the overall coordination of our infrastructure program. Coordination and leadership are desperately needed given the challenges that Australia confronts.

Australia is ranked 20th out of 25 OECD countries for its spending on public infrastructure as a proportion of GDP.

The BCA estimates there is a $90 billion deficit in infrastructure in Australia. One could have an argument about whether that precise figure is correct or not, but what matters is that it is extraordinarily large and it is a constraint on productivity.

There is a clear case for the Federal Government to invest in infrastructure.

Investment in infrastructure generates higher returns than investment in other areas.

The Howard Government has accepted significant tax returns from resource rich states particularly from WA, but hasn’t returned even a small portion through investment back into critical infrastructure.

Saul Eslake from the ANZ Bank estimates that over the last 4 years there has been a windfall of some $263 billion to the Federal Government over and above what was originally estimated in the budget. This is an extraordinary figure that should have been invested to ensure that economic prosperity outlasts the mining boom.

We know that productivity growth has slowed over the last decade. Our productivity has fallen from 85% of US levels in 1998 to 79% in 2005. We’ve almost completely lost the relative gains we have made from the productivity boom of the 1990s. Slowing productivity, capacity constraints and our trade deficit all put inflationary pressures on the economy. And of course we have had consecutive interest rate rises – four since the last election.

We must ensure strategic investment in the good times, look after us in the not so good times.

The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia has clearly indicated his view, by encouraging government spending to be directed to the productive side of the economy – giving a clear message to the Treasurer as he thinks about next Tuesday’s budget.

Tuesday really is a test for the Howard Government. Will we see a massive election spending spree or will we see expenditure directed towards the productive side of the economy.

Labor has a clear position on these issues.

Last Friday I released the Report of the ALP Inquiry into the Financing and Provision of Australian Infrastructure at the ALP National Conference.

The report is consistent with Labor’s historical position as the nation building Party.

It has been the Labor Party that’s been prepared to take that vision forward because we see infrastructure as a platform for future growth.

We have outlined four key areas of infrastructure investment that are required.

Transport, including urban transport issues; Energy including ensuring our growth is sustainable and consistent with tackling climate change; Communications, where we have outlined our detailed broadband policy; and Water where we need to adapt to the impact of climate change and ensure water security into the future.

We believe there is a fundamental difference between our approach and the approach of the current government.

The current government sees spending on infrastructure merely as a cost, we see it as an investment – an investment that can increase GDP, business activity, export growth and living standards.

Under a Rudd Labor Government, Australia would have better long term planning and a Government that would play a leadership role in infrastructure.

To drive this, Labor would establish Infrastructure Australia. This would be a Commonwealth Statutory Authority and would coordinate the planning, regulation and development of infrastructure. This policy reflects a very conscious effort to take the politics out of infrastructure decision making.

Infrastructure Australia would conduct a national audit of our infrastructure assets and this would be used to identify gaps and to devise a National Infrastructure Priority List. Unfortunately, at the moment spending on programs is often determined and prioritised according to the margin in a particular electorate. 

We simply can’t afford to have National Party pork barrelling distorting decisions away from the long term national interest.

Infrastructure Australia would report to COAG about the nation’s infrastructure priorities and improve coordination between all tiers of Government.

It will involve representatives from the private and public sector, academics, and the relevant professions. And it will ensure that infrastructure decisions are guided by independent objective advice not short term politics.

I also want to take the opportunity to discuss infrastructure financing.

On the issue of financing there is, from time to time, controversial debate about Public-Private Partnerships. And the question has been raised about Labor’s approach to financing infrastructure and PPPs.

Firstly, it is important to say that we don’t regard direct public investment in infrastructure in the same way that the current government does. We see it as an investment and not merely as a cost. We recognise that if you put money into infrastructure, you increase economic returns to the government and, over the lifetime of the project, that investment can certainly be a benefit to the bottom line of the government’s economy and therefore the nation.

However, we also see a critical role for the private sector in the provision of infrastructure and acknowledge that the best approach can also be a combination of both public and private involvement.

Ideology alone should not determine which option is taken up. What governments need to do is look at specific projects, look at the financing options and then come up with the best option available. There are PPPs that are working extremely well and have ensured that the Commonwealth or States can provide infrastructure a lot earlier than would have happened if we simply relied on the public sector. The provision of schools in NSW provides an outstanding example of that and many roads projects including the M7 Westlink are examples of where PPPs have worked extremely well.

The other opportunity for financing is through infrastructure investment by superannuation funds. There is a natural synergy between superannuation which is about long term, secure investments with a consistently good rate of return, and infrastructure assets.

At the moment because significant opportunities aren’t being provided in Australia for capital available through superannuation funds to be invested in infrastructure, some of that capital is moving off shore.

The essential components are there: the nation has an infrastructure deficit, an ever-expanding pool of money, and good economic and social reasons for superannuants to get a social benefit from investment here in Australia.

Labor has been very encouraged by the meetings and discussions we’ve had with people involved in the superannuation industry about how we could encourage investment in infrastructure in Australia and we’ll be having more to say about that in the run up to the election.

And of course, we also build a nation by investing in our major cities – the economic powerhouses of the nation and where most Australians live.

The challenge of climate change means we must go further than ever before in promoting sustainability in our homes, our neighbourhoods and across our cities.

In December last year, Kevin Rudd announced the Major Cities Program to boost investment in major Australian cities. Australia is one of the most heavily urbanised countries on earth and the development of our cities desperately needs the involvement of the Commonwealth. Insufficient planning and investment in city infrastructure cuts economic growth and limits our quality of life.

Labor has a proud history of engagement in our cities, most recently with the “Better Cities” program. Better Cities saw the development of East Perth and Subiaco into the vibrant areas they are today.

There must be a renewed commitment by the Commonwealth to invest in Australian major cities.

Just this week, Kevin Rudd, Peter Garrett and I announced Labor’s Solar, Green Energy and Water Renovations Plan for Households – a scheme that offers practical solutions and makes it easy for every one of us to be water and energy efficient in our very own piece of infrastructure- the family home.

I’d like to conclude by spending a few minutes on WA infrastructure needs specifically.

There is nowhere better to come to talk about infrastructure challenges than here in WA.

The Labor Party has acknowledged the State’s special status when Kevin Rudd announced in February his intention to establish a specific fund for infrastructure investment in WA over the next 20 years. By setting aside 25 per cent of future Commonwealth Petroleum Resource Rent Tax revenue from the Gorgon Gas Development, additional resources will be invested in meeting infrastructure needs.

This specific policy recognises the extraordinary contribution this State makes to the national economy.

The announcement attracted positive media attention, although on the east coast the Treasurer, Peter Costello derided Kevin Rudd for giving special treatment to WA and wrongly said it would come out of the existing Commonwealth –State Grants.

There is a special case for WA to receive benefit given that a significant portion of the benefits to the economy is derived from here. That to me just seems to be common sense.

Let’s look at this in context. Last year, Canberra took $28 billion from Western Australia in taxes and royalties, but only returned $24 billion in funding and services.

By recognising WA’s contribution to the national economy through the creation of the Western Australian infrastructure fund, a Rudd Labor Government will be benefiting the nation, not just this great State.

There seems to be an attitude, nowhere better exhibited than in the area of water infrastructure, where we see the Commonwealth prepared to be a cheer squad for the Carpenter government and acknowledge that it’s been ahead of the game in terms of provision of infrastructure, yet not provide any federal support.

On the issue of water, the WA government acknowledged early on, the need to get ahead of the game in providing for the diminishing water supply.

However, the Federal Government needs to do much better than just give praise. It needs to provide support for water infrastructure. The Commonwealth Government set up a $2 billion dollar fund in 2004, and as of 2 weeks ago, more than $1 billion of that remained unspent.

It shouldn’t have taken an election year to get action on our water crisis and it shouldn’t take an election either to acknowledge that climate change is actually real and that we need to have adaptation to it in our economy.

Labor has already acted to relieve pressures caused by the water crisis. In WA we have committed to funding $49 million in the Harvey Water Piping Project. Also, it was Labor’s commitment to invest in the Managed Aquifer Recharge on the Gnangara Mound that has pushed Howard Government into finally committing part of the unspent Australian Water Fund on this important project.

I look forward to continuing to build relationships. I’ve got other meetings with businesses today here in WA as well as campaign activities with my friends from the electorate of Stirling and Cowan.

Infrastructure also fits with the theme that will be at the heart of the coming election. The Howard Government has been in office for 11 years, has run out of new ideas and is not up to the challenges of the new century.

Labor will be putting forward at the next election a dynamic team led by Kevin, committed to pursing the future agenda. That’s the divide in Australian politics. A tired Howard Government that’s out of ideas, out of touch and out of time and a Labor Party committed to nation building and securing our economic prosperity.

On the issue of climate change, on the issue of infrastructure provision, on the issue of skills and education for the nation’s people – the common theme is that Labor is prepared to meet the challenges of the future.

In these key areas we have a responsibility not just to ourselves today, but a responsibility to future generations and this challenge is highlighted by our approach to infrastructure.

Thank you again for the opportunity to talk with you this morning.

Apr 28, 2007

Speech to the 44th ALP National Conference – The Uranium Debate

Speech to the 44th ALP National Conference – The Uranium Debate

Anthony Albanese MP


28 April 2007

Delegates, we’ve got a new logo design at this conference, but there’s still no ‘U’ in Labor, nor should there be a U-turn on our ‘no new mines’ policy.

Uranium is a moderate export earner – less than 1% of our mineral exports –but it’s a big principle in this party. It’s a big principle because it goes to the issue of what our values are.

Labor as a party doesn’t just look at economic transactions between economic entities. We look at the social and environmental implications of our political decisions.

I won’t cop criticism from Senator Evans or Stephen Smith about inconsistency regarding our economic position. I won’t cop criticism because we recognise that once you sign a contract, because of issues of sovereign risk, because of issues of compensation and because of legal issues, we respect it.

The Labor Party leadership across the ideological spectrum is economically responsible, so don’t criticise us for balancing up that economic responsibility with what we think is good social and environmental policy.

Delegates, my amendment is a pragmatic amendment. It’s one that says many of the initiatives put forward in the Rudd amendment are terrific amendments.

We support them and we know that Kevin as the Prime Minister of Australia will be committed to taking action on proliferation. But ours is an amendment that says: don’t put the cart before the horse.

It says, let’s put in place the nuclear proliferation issues and let’s put in place a resolution of issues of nuclear waste before we simply say that we’ll expand the number of new uranium mines.

It comes down to a very simple principle, delegates, and that is what’s got to be addressed by those opposing my amendment, and that principle is this: you can guarantee that uranium will lead to nuclear waste; you can’t guarantee it won’t lead to nuclear weapons.

Delegates, the light on the hill is not the glow of radiation from a nuclear waste dump.

If you look at weapons, you know from Mohamed ElBaradei that the [Non-Proliferation Treaty] regime has collapsed. He says it. The people running it tell us that’s the case.

Al Gore tells us that each and every single proliferation issue while he was Vice President of the United States related to a civilian nuclear reactor program. We know that with the issue of Iran, that’s going on right now. You don’t put more fuel on the fire; you fix the system first before we have the debate about consideration of new mines.

And the waste issue – you can’t just wish it away. After 60 years of operation, the nuclear industry does not have a single operating nuclear waste repository anywhere in the world. And here in this Party, whose state governments, state governments around the nation, have opposed nuclear waste dumps for low level waste from medical research facilities, for us to pretend that’s not the case is absurd.

And you don’t have to believe me – believe George Bush on this, because the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is the world’s greatest nuclear advocates putting their hand up and saying, ‘The reason we want to have a system by which uranium exporters take back the waste, is because proliferation and waste aren’t working’.

I say this: if you’re cautious about further involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle, vote for my amendment.

If you think that it’s pretty arrogant to suggest that we know what changes will happen to geology, climate and politics over the next 240,000 years, if you think there might be doubt about it, vote for my amendment.

If you think it actually matters that every person in this room knows that the ALP members at the rank-and-file level support my amendment, then vote for it. I think it does matter.

And I conclude with just two points. One is that it’s not a solution to climate change, and the Leader Kevin Rudd outlined that. You double uranium, you double the number of nuclear reactors, you reduce greenhouse gases emissions globally by 5 percent. We need a 60 per cent reduction.

And let’s not get conned into the distraction of John Howard’s nuclear fantasy. Let’s put out a consistent clear position that says we don’t support any further involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Vote for my amendment.

Apr 27, 2007

Labor – Australia’s Nation Building Party – Speech to ALP National Conferenc

Labor – Australia’s Nation Building Party

Speech to ALP National Conference

Anthony Albanese MP

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Water

Manager of Opposition Business

27 April 2007

Labor has always been Australia’s nation building Party.

No other area better demonstrates policy failure and the inability to secure our future prosperity than the Howard Government’s approach to infrastructure.

Infrastructure planning and spending is not keeping pace with economic activity or the population that drives it. After 11 years, the Howard Government doesn’t have a national integrated strategy for infrastructure, and we have inconsistent and overlapping regulations.

The Business Council of Australia has found that we have a $90 billion infrastructure deficit. This comes in spite of the estimate by ANZ’s Saul Eslake that, over the last 4 years, the Federal budget has received an additional $263 billion in tax revenue over its original estimates because of the resources boom.

In 2004 Australia was ranked 20th out of 25 OECD countries for its spending on public infrastructure as a proportion of GDP.

There is a fundamental difference between Labor under Kevin Rudd and the tired, conservative Government of John Howard. The Howard Government sees infrastructure merely as a cost, Labor sees infrastructure as an investment.

The infrastructure deficit in transport, energy, telecommunications and water is a threat to the future prosperity of the nation.

This Platform provides for a coordinated approach to planning and investment of nationally significant infrastructure.

Federal Labor will establish Infrastructure Australia, a Commonwealth Statutory Authority to coordinate the planning, regulation and development of infrastructure. Infrastructure Australia will ensure there is a coordinated and objective approach to infrastructure provision involving all three tiers of government and key stakeholders.

Infrastructure Australia will be charged with undertaking an audit to assess the adequacy, capacity and condition of Australia’s infrastructure assets. And the results of this important audit will be used to develop a National Infrastructure Priority List.

Labor is already meeting the nation’s infrastructure challenges. We are taking immediate action to address the worsening water crisis and to ensure there is sustainable water supply across the nation.

Labor has already committed to invest in water infrastructure, including the Queensland Western Corridor Water Recycling Scheme; Western Australia’s Gnangara Mound Aquifer Recharge Project; the Harvey Water Piping Project south of Perth; South Australia’s desalination plant to take pressure off the Murray; and the Goldfields Superpipe for Bendigo and Ballarat.

Just last month, Labor announced we would build a new national broadband network in partnership with the private sector that would deliver a minimum speed of 12 megabits per second for 98 per cent of Australians. That is over 40 times faster than most current internet speeds.

And we will ensure the remaining two per cent of Australians, in regional and remote areas, have improved services. We will have a competitive assessment of proposals to roll out an open access fibre-to-the-node broadband network. And we will put in place regulatory reforms to facilitate the roll out of the broadband network.

We will use existing government investments in communications to provide a public equity investment in a joint equity venture of up to $4.7 billion in the new broadband network. This would include drawing on the $2 billion Communications Fund and the Future Fund’s 17 per cent share in Telstra.

The Howard Government is out of ideas, out of touch, and out of time. So much so, they criticised our proposal, claiming that Labor was raiding the Future Fund to pay for broadband infrastructure.

Delegates, ask yourselves, if the future is not about broadband and improved communications infrastructure, what is it about? Broadband is essential for our future. It is critical to improving business efficiency and providing educational opportunity. Broadband creates new markets and new jobs. It is about a creative, smart future for our nation.

Delegates, only a Rudd Labor Government has a plan for Australia’s future. Delegates, only a Government stuck in the past would criticise this proposal.

And where many of us live, our urban infrastructure is critical. The challenge of climate change means we must go further than ever before in promoting sustainability in our homes, our neighbourhoods and across our cities.

In December last year Kevin Rudd announced the Major Cities Program to boost investment in major Australian cities – the key drivers of our national economy.

The withdrawal of the Commonwealth from any involvement in our cities has been irresponsible.

Labor has a proud history of engagement in our cities, most recently with the “Better Cities” program.

This Platform provides a comprehensive approach to sustainable cities. The Platform outlines a comprehensive National Housing Strategy to challenge poverty and exclusion in our urban and regional communities.

Australia is one of the most heavily urbanised countries on earth and the development of our cities desperately needs the involvement of the Commonwealth. Insufficient planning and investment in city infrastructure cuts economic growth and limits our quality of life.

Labor understands there is a substantial productivity benefit from more efficient and accessible cities, which must remain globally competitive without compromising their liveability.

With this Chapter, I’m also moving the reception of the Report of the Inquiry into the Financing and Provision of Australian Infrastructure.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Chair of the Inquiry, Steve Heffernan and the Committee members for their outstanding efforts. They produced a comprehensive report, including a number of recommendations which the have been adopted in this ALP Platform. Complex issues relating to the financing of infrastructure in Australia were thoroughly explored by the committee.

They received numerous submissions, undertook extensive consultations Australia wide, examined innovations here and abroad, and drew on international expertise.

In relation to financing options including the merits of public versus private infrastructure financing and provision, it was concluded that irrespective of what the financing options are used, it is imperative that there is adequate accountability and transparency. Labor agrees with the Inquiry’s core principles that we don’t ideologically support or reject particular forms of financing including Public-Private Partnerships.

We advocate the sensible evaluation of infrastructure projects against potential financing options to determine the most appropriate procurement method.

Labor in Government will review existing policy to facilitate greater involvement by superannuation funds in financing and delivering infrastructure.

There is a natural synergy for superannuation funds to play a greater role in infrastructure financing given the long term nature of the investments and the security that it provides. If we do not increase opportunities in Australia, superannuation funds will increasingly invest off-shore.

This approach builds on Labor’s proud history as the Party that introduced the compulsory superannuation system in 1987.

Labor’s common sense approach to infrastructure means that, in the long run, the best strategy to be able to meet the challenges of an ageing population is to boost productivity.

In conclusion, the message I have today is that a Rudd Labor government will get Australia moving again.

We will provide the national leadership that is required on infrastructure.

We’ll develop a coherent plan to develop our infrastructure and make Australia competitive again and dynamic into the future.

Infrastructure issues transcend jurisdictions and infrastructure types and so require planning and policy coordination.

Infrastructure Australia will make sure that we get the process right.

And it will see an end to National Party pork barrelling which has dominated so much infrastructure spending rather than identifying our urgent priorities in the interest of the nation.

The four key areas that have been identified – transport, energy, communications, and water – are all critical.

Labor’s nation building agenda provides the vision and ambition that is necessary to lock in Australia’s future prosperity and unlock this nation’s great potential.



Apr 2, 2007

Speech: Australian Water Summit: Labor’s national leadership in water policy

Speech to the Australian Water Summit – Labor’s national leadership in water policy

Anthony Albanese MP – Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Water

2 April 2007

Check against delivery

This speech is also available as a PDF: Labor’s national leadership in water policy – Speech to the Australian Water Summit.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today about Australia’s water challenges.

Addressing Australia’s national water crisis is an urgent task, requiring consistent long-term policy and leadership from all levels of Government, particularly from the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth has a leadership role in helping ensure every Australian – whether they are in rural or urban Australia – have a sustainable supply of water. That has been Labor’s consistent approach.

Today, I’m here to talk about the need for consistent national leadership in water. And I do so proudly knowing that Federal Labor Governments have always walked the walk, not just talked the talk.

Federal Labor Governments have consistently implemented programs to develop urban infrastructure and ensure urban water supplies.

In 1943, the Chifley Labor Government invested in our cities by establishing the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement.

In the mid-70’s, after decades of neglect, the Whitlam Government took an active role in urban and water infrastructure – ensuring the outer suburbs of Sydney and other growth areas of our cities had sewerage and other basic water services.

And in the late 1980’s, Brian Howe and the Hawke/Keating governments gave us urban renewal and revitalised our cities.

We take that important infrastructure for granted today, but it was Labor that delivered regular water supplies and services to many urban areas. That water infrastructure wasn’t always there – it didn’t just happen. It was delivered because of Labor’s commitment to a leadership role for the Commonwealth in urban infrastructure.

And let’s not forget that the first time governments began taking the water quality and salinity in the Murray Darling Basin seriously was in 1973, when the Whitlam Labor Government initiated the River Murray Working Party.

And in 1994, the Keating Labor Government initiated further significant water reform, using the COAG process to commit to water reform.

They included broad issues of water management, including environmental allocations of water. This was revolutionary thinking at that time, and very controversial to some, who wanted unfettered access to the Murray Darling flows. It is from this seed that the National Water Initiative grew.

Those policy issues have been of critical importance.

The Murray

As a nation, our water supplies have been taken for granted: over-allocated, undervalued and misdirected.

Australia’s water resources are highly variable and range from heavily regulated rivers and groundwater resources, to rivers and aquifers in almost pristine condition.

Over 65% of Australia’s water run-off is in the sparsely populated, tropical north. But Australia’s large urban areas are in southern Australia and irrigated agriculture is principally located in the Murray Darling Basin, where only 6.1% of the national run-off occurs.

In February it was revealed that inflows to the Murray River had slumped further, falling to just 30 gigalitres in January 2007.

That figure for January was 12 per cent of the long-term median inflow for January, and was almost half of the previous record low of 52 gigalitres in January 1983.

Southern Australia and the city of Adelaide are moving into uncharted territory in terms of the amount of water available to irrigators and for domestic and industrial use.

The Howard government has sat back for 10 years and watched while the Murray River has been reduced in some places to a trickle.

This giant river that sustains the nation has been reduced to the point whereby it needs dredging more often than not just to leave the mouth of the river open. It’s clear to me that we need to consider a minimum annual flow to the mouth of the Murray.

Climate Change

Common sense tells you that the Murray River’s problems, and water supply issues generally are linked to climate change. Of course, you can’t solve the water crisis without tackling climate change.

John Howard is only doing something on water and climate change because he is worried about the election. He has been far too slow to act and doesn’t really believe that climate change is a threat. Indeed, senior Government Members have often dismissed the link between our water crisis and climate change.

Practical immediate action and long term vision on both water security and climate change – that’s Labor’s agenda. But where has it been on the Howard Government’s agenda?

We all know John Howard is sceptical about whether climate change is real. And, in 11 Budget speeches, the Treasurer Peter Costello has not mentioned the words “climate change”. Not once. Bearing that in mind, it is somewhat ironic that today, I understand, Peter Costello will be launching the Government’s inter-generational report.

Labor believes climate change is the ultimate intergenerational equity issue. Our response to climate change will determine the quality of life of our children and grandchildren.

It has been said that “coming events cast their shadow before” – therefore, we have dark shadows gathering around us indeed.

The attempt to compartmentalise the water crisis from climate change shows the Howard Government just doesn’t get it. The challenges of the new century such as climate change are simply beyond the grasp of our current Prime Minister.

And if any speaker from the Government says that “Australia is leading the world on climate change”, please laugh politely, even if you think climate change humour isn’t all that funny.

The National Water Plan

There is no doubt that the decision by NSW, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT to refer their authority over the Murray Darling Basin to the Commonwealth represents a very significant reform. Bilateral discussions between Victoria and the Commonwealth are taking place. Federal Labor looks forward to a positive outcome.

At a Federal level, Labor has consistently called for a national approach to water policy including:

• Commonwealth leadership on water;

• the appointment of a Minister for Water,

• the creation of a single Commonwealth water authority,

• the commitment of more funds for water management and efficiency programs right across Australia,

• the development of water trading and economic instruments to drive reform; and

• the existing $2 billion Australian Water Fund to be used on practical projects.

The Prime Minister’s announcement in January was consistent with many of these objectives and therefore received Federal Labor’s support.

However, it was reasonable for all the stakeholders to scrutinise the National Water Plan and continue to ensure that the details are got right. Critics of the lack of detail were from right across the spectrum and included the National Farmers Federation and the irrigation industry.

It is clear from the evidence that more effort went into writing the Prime Minister’s speech than making sure the Plan dealt properly with water planning issues, and the governance and financial arrangements for the Basin.

It is worth remembering that none of the National Water Commissioners were briefed until the morning of the speech. Ian Sinclair has stated the Murray Darling Basin Commission was not asked for advice. Irrigators and farmers were not consulted. And the States and Territories were given contrary advice at the time of the November 2006 Melbourne Cup Day water summit.

Critically, the Prime Minister’s announcement did not go to Cabinet, nor was it properly costed or modelled by the Departments of Finance or Treasury. The Department of Finance was asked to “run an eye lightly over” the costings less than a week before the announcement. To top it off, the acting Prime Minister for most of January, the National Party’s Mark Vaile, was not briefed on the plan until the last minute.

I believe the reason the $10 billion announcement was not taken to Cabinet, not costed by Treasury or Finance and not shown to the Acting Prime Minister was simply because John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull did not trust the National Party. Maybe they were right.

Following the script written by narrow sectional interests, the National Party has continued to undermine John Howard’s $10 billion water plan.

Since the announcement in January, the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party, Mark Vaile, Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran, Bruce Scott, and Senator Barnaby Joyce have all publicly undermined the Prime Minister’s water plan. The National Party members oppose the plan to address water over allocation and are resolute that buying back water entitlements should only be a "last resort". Expert scientific advice is critical to the success of national water reform, but National Party members are also opposed to the CSIRO’s involvement in water allocations.

The Commonwealth Government should be purchasing over-allocated water entitlements and, as the Prime Minister said on 25 January,

We could muddle through as has occurred in the past, but frankly, that gets us nowhere. Without decisive action we face the worst of both worlds.

John Howard must keep his commitment made on 25 January “to invest up to $3 billion in buying back water entitlements and assisting irrigators in the unviable or inefficient parts of schemes to exit the industry.”

John Howard has got to decide what’s more important, the national interest or the National Party. But this dilemma for John Howard may not be easy to fix. The National Party and its sectional interests are at the core of the water problem, and they are also at the core of the Howard Government.

The future direction of water policy in Australia

So what of the future direction of water policy in Australia.

Labor strongly supports the principles of the National Water Initiative. It emphasises the need for cooperative effort, in the national interest. The National Water Initiative highlights the importance of community education about the delicate water balance of this nation. It recognises the importance of investment in water infrastructure to deliver efficiencies and water savings. The principles behind the National Water Initiative are therefore very sound.

It puts public and environmental needs into an economic system – it attempts to establish structures to manage growing demand for water and a diminishing supply, in a way that uses water efficiently and productively. The fact is we need to get the price right for all our natural resources.

Australia needs new ways of working with water and a policy framework that guarantees river health and greater certainty and security for investors, farmers and communities.

While current policies include broad principles around allocating water for the environment, restoring flows to stressed rivers and water quality objectives, they remain general and unspecific.

The time has come for some clearer national goals, targets and benchmarks in river health, water recycling and water quality. That requires leadership from the national government. And that leadership must also be directed towards meeting the urban water challenge.

Meeting the Urban Water Challenge

John Howard has made it quite clear he does not see a leadership role for the Commonwealth in urban water. While seeing a strong role for the Commonwealth in the Murray Darling and other irrigation areas, on 25 January John Howard stated it was

"less obvious that the Commonwealth should be directly involved in the provision of urban water."

The Prime Minister’s speech made his view clear that if the Commonwealth handles the Murray Darling, then the States should handle urban water on their own.

Labor takes a different view. On this issue, we always have. Labor believes that the Commonwealth has a responsibility to provide leadership and assist in securing water supply for the 17 million Australians who live in our capital cities and towns on the coast.

Water use and water supply in urban Australia is a national crisis. It requires a national response. Labor doesn’t just see clean water as an expenditure of money, we see clean water as an investment in the future of Australia. Urban infrastructure is important for the jobs and lifestyles of those who live in our major cities – but it’s much more than that. Urban infrastructure is critical to improving productivity and economic growth. And investment in urban infrastructure is essential in the creation of sustainable cities that can adapt to climate change.

Kevin Rudd’s announcement of a “Major Cities” Program envisages a renewed role for the Commonwealth in our cities – in the provision of transport, energy and communications, as well as water infrastructure.

It is consistent with Kevin Rudd’s nation building agenda, including the roll out of broadband across Australia that will deliver broadband services 40 times faster than most current speeds. Broadband is enabling infrastructure. It enables productivity gains, creates new markets, fosters new businesses and creates new jobs.

The Howard Government can’t have it both ways. In their criticism of Labor’s Broadband commitment we have been accused of economic irresponsibility and been told that it is not the government’s responsibility to provide such infrastructure. According to the Howard government such spending should be confined to the private sector.

Yet, this government has allocated funds to some 17 different broadband programs which have done little except leave Australia’s broadband technology falling further and further behind.

This Jekyll and Hyde approach to infrastructure policy is not good for Australia.

The real economic responsibility issue here is not Labor’s proposal to use Future Fund resources for infrastructure investment.

It’s theHoward government’s failure to equip Australian businesses with the 21st century infrastructure they need to succeed in a highly competitive world.

Labor regards provision of infrastructure for communications, transport, energy and water as essential for securing our prosperity beyong the resources boom.

Water infrastructure

We have a national plan in the National Water Initiative and we have funding through the Australian Water Fund, but unfortunately not enough is happening.

It is extraordinary that since the $2 billion Australian Water Fund was set up in 2004, more than half of the funds remain unallocated.

Last year’s budget figures showed that the Government allocated $337 million to the Australian Water Fund but spent just $77 million – less than one quarter.

We have been frustrated that good projects have been unnecessarily delayed.

States requesting funding support from the Australian Water Fund for good water projects, such as south east Queensland’s Western Corridor water recycling scheme, have been subjected to a wall of bureaucracy and red tape.

Please compare the Howard Government’s intense requirement for details for projects under the Australian Water Fund to its slip-streamed approach to the approval of the Prime Minister’s $10 billion water plan.

And please note that the Howard Government refused to support water recycling in Toowoomba until there was a referendum.

But when Queensland Premier Beattie showed leadership and said they would put purified recycled water back into the drinking supply for south east Queensland without a referendum, John Howard was on Brisbane radio within the hour to commend him.

This Jekyll and Hyde approach to important water policy is not healthy.

The community does need to be closely consulted, and there needs to be proper financial checks for water projects.

But politics needs to be put to one side. Australia’s water crisis is too important for those games.

Labor has announced it supports the nation building projects such as the Queensland Western Corridor Water Recycling Scheme, Western Australia’s Gnangara Mound aquifer recharge project and Harvey Water Piping Project and South Australia’s proposed desalination plant in the Upper Spencer Gulf.

As most of you would be aware, Labor has set a 30 per cent waste water recycling target by 2015.

A Rudd Labor Government will support practical, nation building projects to help deal with Australia’s water crisis in our major coastal cities where 17 million Australians live.


In delivering a sustainable national water policy Labor has four significant advantages over our opponents.

Firstly, we believe there is a constructive role for the Commonwealth Government in urban water infrastructure. Labor’s record of action and achievement show that we mean it.

Secondly, we are not at the beck and call of the National Party. When it comes to dealing with sustainability and long-term water security for our agriculture and our rivers, we put the health of the rivers and sustainable water supply first.

Thirdly, we won’t engage in the blame game as an excuse for inaction. A Rudd Labor Government will co-operate with the States, and we will show national leadership.

And fourth, but not least, Labor understands that climate change is the moral challenge of our generation.

Further significant water policies will be announced by Labor in the lead up to the election. But be assured – a Rudd Labor Government will be true to Labor’s heritage.

The national interest will always come first for Labor. It always has.

Labor firmly believes that the Commonwealth has an important leadership role in ensuring each and every Australian – whether they are in rural or urban Australia – has a sustainable supply of water.

Labor will also ensure that our river systems receive a sustainable environmental flow, so they can return to health.

We must develop the economic mechanisms which deliver a sustainable water supply and ensure future generations can live and prosper.

The time has come to meet the challenges of the new Century – avoiding dangerous climate change and securing water supply for all Australians.

Labor is up to this challenge.

Mar 29, 2007

Adjournment – Howard Government Policies

ADJOURNMENT – Howard Government Policies

29 March 2007

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (4.30 p.m.)—After 11 years in office, the Howard government has run out of ideas. Today and yesterday, the Main Committee had no government business to debate. The Main Committee did not sit today as usual, and yesterday it sat for only 90 minutes of three-minute members’ statements. It considered no government legislation. This is a government that has run out of steam. In contrast, over the past 12 weeks, Labor has announced a raft of new policies: a $4.7 billion plan to deliver a national broadband network to Australian households; Labor’s education revolution; Labor’s new directions in clean coal; Labor’s green car innovation fund; and Labor’s support of solar energy in Australian homes.

One would think the Leader of the House would busy himself with ensuring that there is a rich and full parliamentary agenda—but we do not have it. Instead, we have a government that is clearly out of touch, out of ideas, out of legislation and out of time. We know that it has been obsessed by the Work Choices legislation. For years the Prime Minister has wanted that to happen, and finally he got it through. This week the Prime Minister told us that working families in Australia have never been better off. These are the same working families that are under more financial pressure, the same working families that are struggling with four consecutive interest rate rises, the same working families trying to break into an unaffordable housing market, the same working families who, on AWAs, have had at least one protected award condition removed—for example, the families that we heard about today who are working at Darrell Lea and whose conditions are being cut back and their wages frozen for five years.

The Prime Minister has shown us that he is dangerously out of touch, because he has simply gone too far. When it comes to these industrial relations laws, the Prime Minister has gone that one step too far. Indeed, he has changed. Ten years ago on 27 May 1997, the Prime Minister said to the then Leader of the Opposition:

… you will never get from this Prime Minister an arrogant dismissal on the basis of ‘You have never had it so good’ …

That has gone the way of the ‘never ever’ GST promise.

This week coalition members, including the Prime Minister, have been desperate to say that industrial relations was not on the minds of voters when they cast their vote at the New South Wales election on the weekend. Perhaps most extraordinary is the member for Hinkler who, in his adjournment speech last night, said:

The other thing I want to talk about is the myth that floats around this place about the New South Wales state election, that somehow this was a defeat for the coalition.

He actually said that, Mr Speaker. He went on to acknowledge ‘In technical terms it was’. No, it was not. The coalition was soundly defeated. The Liberal Party failed to win a single seat off a Labor government that had been there for 12 years.

It is clear that the new Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations does not even know the detail of his legislation. This week parliament has also seen a significant step forward in the debate on climate change with the visit here by Sir Nicholas Stern. Sir Nicholas Stern has been saying that, according to the most comprehensive economic analysis, the cost of inaction on climate change will be the same as that of both world wars and the Great Depression combined. It will be the Great Depression but with a lot worse weather.

Sir Nicholas Stern suggested that it was time for action, that we have a window of opportunity in the next decade. Stern says ratify Kyoto. Labor will; the Howard government will not. Stern says cut emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. Labor will; the Howard government will not. Stern says introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme. Labor will; the Prime Minister will not. The fact is that John Howard is not listening to the message of not just Sir Nicholas Stern and other prominent economists but also businesses here in Australia.

The Prime Minister has failed to meet the challenges of the new century. He has failed completely to take up the great challenges of dealing with a fair workplace, climate change, our water crisis and our skills crisis. That is why it is so significant that today for the first time— (Time expired)




Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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