Subjects: WA election, Perth Freight Link, housing affordability and superannuation, craft beer industry, penalty rates.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Anthony Albanese, live from the nation’s capital. Thanks very much for your company.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
VAN ONSELEN: You were the Infrastructure Minister for six years; you never looked into the Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme. Why were you asleep at the wheel Anthony Albanese for all those years?
ALBANESE: Well that’s not the case. The fact is that Infrastructure Australia hasn’t even been consulted on this. What we’re having here is a feasibility study. We welcome the fact that there’s a feasibility study but it’s some time off. In terms of the issues that have been confronted, they have largely been created as well by the fact that the Government’s energy policy has been all over the shop. They said that they wanted to get rid of the price on carbon. Since then of course energy prices have doubled, have gone through the roof. They said they wanted a national energy market, but we’ve had chaos with circumstances whereby in South Australia the Pelican Point plant was ready to go and the national energy regulator told them not to turn it on, which is one of the contributing factors of the blackout that occurred in South Australia.
So the Government is playing catch up. The Government has put forward this plan. We recognise that there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is some time off and it, of course, doesn’t add to supply. What it does, of course, is essentially create a big battery that will ensure that there can be more efficient use of the energy that is produced.
VAN ONSELEN: That said though, I mean just very quickly on the polls, they’ve done well, better, it’s all relative, in today’s Newspoll post the Snowy Hydro Scheme announcement just before Newspoll went in the field. They’re back to 52-48. I mean, how can a Government be only four points behind you guys with a Prime Minister increasing his preferred PM lead and net satisfaction lead over Bill Shorten at a time when they’ve got the penalty rates problems, the internal fights, the same-sex marriage stoush? Problems with an energy debate against South Australia. You name it; they’ve got it as far a problem goes. And in the wake of what happened over in WA, Anthony Albanese, and despite all of that they’ve had a pick up.
ALBANESE: What the Government doesn’t have of course is a sense of purpose, is a narrative, is a reason for being. It’s like Malcolm Turnbull is in the Lodge to stop Tony Abbott being there. And apart from that it’s difficult to see what the Government’s plan is on the economy, on social policy, on environmental policy. It is all over the shop. Indeed in West Australia they did have a shocker of a result and we know that penalty rates had an impact there. We know also their failure to have plans, their Perth Freight Link was a dud project and now they’re threatening the West Australian Government with withholding $1.2 billion of Federal funds because they don’t like the outcome.
VAN ONSELEN: Do you think they will actually follow through on that though? I mean they did the same thing in Victoria and then buckled. Do you think they will buckle in the west?
ALBANESE: They absolutely need to recognise and respect the outcome of the WA election. West Australians voted for Mark McGowan’s transport plan, the centrepiece of which is METRONET; is an expansion of the rail network. And of course that expands into a whole lot of areas that are impacted…will be an issue in the next Federal election, will be very contestable for us, including in seats like Hasluck and Pearce. If they continue to prevaricate and take this position of intransigence and frankly arrogance then they’ll pay a price for it. What they should do is cooperate with the State Government like they should be cooperating on energy policy, on health policy and education policy and getting some things done. This is a Government that has excuses; it essentially is a Government that behaves like an Opposition in exile on the Government benches. Well if they’re not prepared to govern, we on our side are.
VAN ONSELEN: What about Paul Keating’s intervention in the Sydney Morning Herald today, talking about you know how scandalous the idea is that the Government could perhaps be looking at, we’re led to believe, that you can draw off your super to be able to pay for a home. It was his policy back in 1993 at the election and super was less then than it is now.
ALBANESE: That’s not right. Paul Keating has been very consistent when it comes to superannuation policy and indeed Malcolm Turnbull when he was asked about the idea of using superannuation for the housing market dismissed it as an idea some years ago. We need to value the contribution that superannuation makes to retirement incomes. This is a policy that would undermine that, would undermine the job of investment managers whereby you’d have two tiers and they couldn’t be certain of how much was in a fund at any particular time. What we need is less change when it comes to superannuation, not more. And we certainly need it to not be undermined. All that it would contribute, of course, as well is to an increase in housing prices and therefore would be counterproductive.
VAN ONSELSEN: What’s this business about you writing an opinion article defending craft beer and wanting it to be taken seriously?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that there are now around about 400 craft brewers around Australia. There’s 11 in my electorate. What they are doing is small business creating local jobs and potentially, or as well, there’s tourism benefits. There’s a couple of walking tours around my electorate. But it is a growth not just in our capital cities – in areas like Orange and Newcastle in regional NSW, in Ballarat, in Victoria. This is a major growth industry. It’s now captured 10 per cent of the national beer market but potentially as well it’s an export. There’s incredible figures about the growth that will happen in consumption of premium beer in China for example. And the Australian product is quality, does have potential growth for our national export market. So this is a growth whereby the policy-making is behind.
VAN ONSELSEN: In what sense?
ALBANESE: At the moment for example there’s two issues. One is red tape and the amount of time they have to spend filling in forms. But the second, which is pretty clear, is that if you sell beer in a 50 litre cask, then it attracts a lower rate of tax than if it is in a smaller cask in terms of made available to the pubs through kegs. And what that means is that the smaller craft brewers who might want to produce a premium product in smaller kegs aren’t able to do so and the big players get an advantage out of that.
So what the craft brewing industry is asking for is a bit more of a level playing field; is support also from local and state government in terms of planning regulations. A lot of these companies are establishing in former industrial areas and are coming up against bureaucrats who don’t want them to open at particular times. But these are all creating local jobs and it’s a great example of the changes in our economy whereby more and more small niche businesses providing a product or a service are the future of employment growth in our local communities. And in addition to that of course, local communities very much enjoy going to some of these establishments rather than the big beer barn of the past. It’s a good thing. Governments and policy makers should catch up with this development and my piece today is pointing that out.
VAN ONSELSEN: Just quickly is one last question if I can Mr Albanese. What about this story splashed on the front page of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph talking about I guess the inconsistency there of dodgy union wage deals and the Prime Minister – I’m going to talk to Senator Cash shortly – the Prime Minister coming out and putting forward legislation to deal with this.
ALBANESE: Well what that story misses of course and what the penalty rates dispute in the Parliament is about, and Bill Shorten’s Private Members Bill that he moved this morning is about addressing, is the fact that for many years under enterprise bargaining you have had a trade-off available so that you could say you will reduce your penalty rates but for an overall increase in other conditions, be it your general wage rates throughout the week, the number of shifts that you hold, the other leave entitlements for example.
VAN ONSELSEN: But this story is suggesting that’s not happening. That seems to be the essence of their proposed legislation isn’t it, to try to ensure that when that doesn’t happen it gets dealt with?
ALBANESE: Well I think the story hasn’t looked at the full details and the Shop Distributive Association – the union concerned with these particular agreements that have been raised – has put out a pretty comprehensive rebuttal of that where they have gone through what the trade-off is. But the problem with the Fair Work Commission decision is that it is just a cut in wages, it’s a cut in wages with no benefit so people who were earning x amount of dollars now earn x amount of dollars minus 25 per cent with no trade-off in conditions at all and that’s quite extraordinary. That’s why people didn’t see this decision coming from the Fair Work Commission because as long as we have had arbitration and conciliation in this country and various tribunals to make decisions, what they haven’t done is just cut real wages. What they have done is consider agreements in the workplace. That’s always been available and that’s why the Government’s argument in the first place about the inflexibility of workplaces doesn’t reflect the reality of enterprise bargaining which can be to the benefit of employees and employers.
VAN ONSELSEN: Anthony Albanese, always appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us on Newsday today.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Subject: Energy policy.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, good morning to you both.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Will. Good morning David. Good morning Anthony.
HOST: I believe congratulations are in order Penbo.
HOST: They are. Thanks for that. Good on you. Thanks for that guys. Now setting that aside …
HOST: Now you guys can get to grill him today. He tried to move that on very quickly there you notice.
ALBANESE: Is it a boy or a girl?
HOST: Don’t know. We’re not going to find out either.
ALBANESE: Have you got any names picked out?
HOST: Christopher? Actually I like the traditional names so I reckon both of your names are good, Christopher and Anthony.
PYNE: Oh that’s very sweet. Congratulations.
ALBANESE: How nice of you.
HOST: I don’t think Albo would work as a name with respect Albo.
ALBANESE: It would work for a pet.
HOST: We’ve already named them. The cavoodles are taken care of. Hey look, just on this power announcement, we had the Premier on just after 7 o’clock this morning. To you Chris Pyne, what is the actual nature of the legal advice that the Commonwealth is seeking at the moment. Does it go to these sorts of override powers that Tom Koutsantonis is looking at getting?
PYNE: Well before I answer that I would also like to congratulate the two of you on your increase in the ratings which I understand is powering up the ladder.
HOST: This is an orgy of self-congratulations.
ALBANESE: I think we’ve paid a role in that.
PYNE: Yes, that’s why I mention it.
HOST: All right.
PYNE: Well, I think Josh Frydenberg has been talking about the issue of legal advice and it goes to whether South Australia can actually leave the national electricity market in the way that they are saying they will. I mean, South Australia signed a legal agreement with the Commonwealth and with all of the other states. Whether they can direct the national market to provide South Australia with power in the way that they are claiming is a moot point and that is what Josh Frydenberg is checking out. But of course the wider issue is that we have a $550 billion admission of failure after 10 years of energy adventurism from the Labor Government which is absolutely shocking for the South Australian taxpayer quite frankly.
HOST: To you Albo, hearing Bill Shorten yesterday holding South Australia up as some kind of model when it comes to energy policy, I reckon a lot of our listeners would have been raising one eyebrow given the political heat that Jay Weatherill has been copping. Does the Shorten Opposition, given how well it is travelling in the polls, need to be taking risks like that, hitching its wagon to Jay Weatherill when it comes to energy.
ALBANESE: Well I tell you what, I am going to stand up for Adelaide and South Australia even if Christopher Pyne won’t. I mean, how outrageous was it that there was energy available through the gas-fired power plant but the National Energy Market regulator, which reports to the federal minister, wouldn’t turn it on? That’s what happened here. It was a failure and Jay Weatherill and Tom Koutsantonis and the South Australian Government are showing the sort of leadership here that frankly Malcolm Turnbull should be showing. We’ve had blackouts in NSW as well. NSW relies more than any other states upon coal-fired electricity and we have had companies as well as residences off the grid and that is a problem, a failure nationally, and the Government federally should stop playing politics with this and work with South Australia as well as with other state governments to find solutions.
HOST: Chris Pyne, how do you reconcile the difficult position the State Liberals are in with the Federal Liberal Party over the releasing of gas supplies in this country?. It’s a State Liberal position not to allow coal seam gas extraction in the south east yet today you’ve got the Prime Minister meeting with the heads of the industry in this country to try and allow domestic supply to meet domestic demand.
PYNE: Well Will, it’s horses for courses. The State Opposition, they have announced a policy that covers the south-east of south-Australia. It doesn’t cover the whole state. It doesn’t cover offshore gas reserves. And what he Federal Government is trying to do of course is to explain to the gas producers, the suppliers – there’s nine significant gas suppliers – that their first priority of course is to guarantee gas here in Australia. And I think Malcolm Turnbull will be having some very firm discussions with them today and I look forward to the outcome. But what it goes to in South Australia, and Anthony was talking before about NSW etcetera, nobody in the country has had the embarrassment that we have had in South Australia. I’m a very proud South Australian – I’m a fifth generation South Australian. That doesn’t mean I have to pretend that the State Labor Government hasn’t made a complete stuff up of energy and electricity in this state where you’ve got businesses having to hire their own generators, the Department of Defence having to build their own diesel generators at Osborne to do our ships and submarines that that I brought to the state. I mean lots of people have done lots of things for our state and bringing in subs and the frigates has been a big part of that. But the reality is that the State Labor Government has had an experiment in power ….
ALBANESE: Well Labor didn’t privatise the system. The Liberals did that.
PYNE: Nobody (inaudible) even the State Labor Government has given up blaming privatisation.
ALBANESE: The Liberals privatised the network.
PYNE: In 1990. In 1990.
ALBANESE: Yes that’s right and we have circumstances whereby Australia will pretty soon be the world’s largest exporter of gas and yet we’re saying we don’t have enough gas for manufacturing industry in Queensland, New South Wales and other states. I mean, why is it that that’s the case? That defies common sense.
HOST: Hey Albo, can I ask from your perspective on the left of politics, how comfortable are you with what appears to be now the insertion of an intermediate step between the transition from coal to renewables? It seems now the lesson of South Australia is you can’t set a renewable energy target of 50 per cent and simply go from coal providing baseload power to renewables providing that much of the state’s needs; there needs to be an intermediate step and it appears to be gas.
ALBANESE: Well gas will be a part of the system for some time and I think there will be increased use of gas; that’s why an emissions intensity scheme will sort this out. Why is it that you have the energy sector, you have the regulators, you have the economists, you have everyone who looks at it saying this is what we need. And the Federal Government floated it as well of course, with Josh Frydenberg in December, but they ruled it out because of politics. What industry is saying is let’s get the politics out of this and actually talk about solutions, rather than looking for conflict. And this is a Government that is flailing about, got smashed in Western Australia, the Coalition on Saturday, and they are looking for arguments. They’ve forgotten they are the Government and they should be about solutions.
HOST: Although in Western Australia on Saturday the Labor Party ran a million miles from setting a formal renewable energy target because of what’s been happening here in SA, which I guess shows …
ALBANESE: They didn’t run on new coal-powered fire stations, let me tell you.
PYNE: Yes the Labor Party in WA had a policy of a 50 per cent renewable energy target and they abandoned it because of what’s happened in South Australia is we’ve been the national experiment, the Premier’s own word, and the experiment has failed. It cost the South Australian taxpayers $550 million to fix it and the South Australian Labor Government is flailing about and unfortunately we in the national Government are going to have to step in and work with the South Australian Government on an issue that they should be managing themselves.
ALBANESE: You run the national energy market Christopher.
HOST: We’re going to have to leave it there guys. This fight could go on for days, but we will resume it next week. Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese; always great to catch up for Two Tribes. Thanks guys.
The Turnbull Government has pushed construction of the Inland Rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne off into the never-never despite having promised to have commenced construction last year.
In a clear illustration of everything that is wrong with the Coalition’s infrastructure program, The Australian today reports that Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester has told the Australian Logistics Council: “My challenge in this term of government is to build momentum on this project and make its development inevitable”.
This is a massive climb down from the Coalition’s 2013 election promise for “construction to start within three years’’.
The Coalition made delivery of Inland Rail one of its key election promises in the 2013 and 2016 federal elections to win support in regional Australia.
For more than a decade, it has argued that the Inland Rail project would be a boon for industries up and down the nation’s east coast.
But it has yet to lay a single sleeper. This is a broken promise from an incompetent Government.
Its failure comes despite the fact that the former Labor Federal Government invested $600 million on upgrading parts of the existing rail network that would be part of the line and allocated $300 million in the 2013 Budget to advance the project.
Four years later, nothing has happened.
It’s another example of the huge gap between the Coalition’s rhetoric on Infrastructure and its record of non-delivery.
Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher has finally acknowledged the critical design flaw in the Coalition’s Perth Freight Link – that it will not actually take traffic to the Port of Fremantle.
In an interview with Sky News yesterday Mr Fletcher insisted the toll road was “very much a link to the port’’ but conceded that on its current design, it would stop 3km short.
Mr Fletcher said: “At some point in the future, certainly, it’s very likely that you would address that remaining gap,’’ Mr Fletcher said.
Mr Fletcher’s comments highlight the deplorable lack of planning that has gone into the Perth Freight Link, which the Federal Coalition funded in its disastrous 2014 Budget despite having no evidence that it represented wise investment of public money.
It is to Mr Fletcher’s credit that he is at least prepared to recognise the truth about this flawed project, unlike Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester, who were not even aware the road would not go to the port when they were asked about the issue in Parliament last month.
The Perth Freight Link is a dud. It is also damaging the environment, with a Senate committee this week calling for work to be halted after it heard of repeated and serious breaches of environmental guidelines in construction of the Roe 8 section.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must ask the Barnett Government to immediately halt work on the Perth Freight Link after a Senate committee heard evidence of serious repeated breaches to environmental guidelines in its construction.
The Coalition should also heed the committee’s call for an inquiry into this dud project by the Australian National Audit Office.
WA’s embattled Barnett Government is building the Perth Freight Link through the environmentally sensitive Beeliar Wetlands. The Commonwealth is contributing funding, even though the toll road will not even deliver on its stated aim of taking freight to the Port of Fremantle – stopping 3km short.
In a report tabled today the Senate’s Environment and Communications committee said it had heard evidence that work on the project had “repeatedly and in serious ways’’ breached environmental guidelines and that these breaches were having “profound consequences, not only for the health of the natural environment, but also for the health of communities that live near the Roe 8 works’’.
The Prime Minister must take this report seriously and halt works pending an investigation to ensure contractors are abiding by conditions of approval.
The future of the Perth Freight Link has become a key issue in the campaign for Saturday’s WA state election, with the Commonwealth insisting that if Labor wins, it will withdraw $1.2 billion in infrastructure investment from WA.
It is of real concern that the works under way are outside the conditions of approval and have damaged the environment. Labor strongly supports the ANAO examining the Perth Freight Link. Previous inquiries have been highly critical of the lack of proper process surrounding two other Coalition-funded toll road projects – Melbourne’s East West Link and Sydney’s Westconnex.
The Turnbull Government has not even finalised the proposed route for their Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne despite having promised to have commenced construction by August of last year.
In its 2013 election campaign, the Coalition vowed it would begin construction of this critical freight line through Australia’s eastern states by August, 2016.
But at Senate Budget Estimates Committee hearings in Canberra today, Australian Rail Track Corporation CEO John Fullerton, whose organisation is delivering the project, said no land had been acquired and the alignment had not been finalised.
This is yet another example of the Turnbull Government’s inability to achieve progress on major infrastructure projects.
The former Labor Government invested $600 million on existing railway lines that will form a part of Inland Rail and left a further $300 million in the Budget to take the project forward.
Four years later, not an additional sleeper has been laid.
That is despite the Government campaigning on delivering this project in the 2013 election and again in last year’s federal poll.
This is not good enough.
At a time of transition away from the investment stage of the mining boom, the Government should be increasing investment to maintain economic activity and jobs growth in the short term and to boost national economic productivity over the long term.
But infrastructure investment has tumbled since 2013, with total public sector infrastructure investment down 20 per cent in the Coalition’s first two years in office.
Bureau of Statistics data released last month show the value of work conducted for the public sector has been lower in each of the 12 quarters presided over by the Coalition Government than in any of the 21 quarters under the Labor Government after its first Budget in 2008.
It’s time for the Turnbull Government to stop talking about Inland Rail and start delivering on its election commitments.
Subjects: Tony Abbott, Liberal Leadership tensions, penalty rates
LISA WILKINSON: And they are here and there are political fireworks this morning with Tony Abbott’s strongest ever attack on the Government or more particularly Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, warning he must change policy now or risk losing the election. Take a look:
ABBOTT COMMENTS TO ANDREW BOLT: Plainly there are lots of people concerned about our direction and plainly the risk is that we will drift to defeat if we don’t lift our game.
WILKINSON: So, what do our pollies think? The Minister for Defence, Christopher Pyne, is in Adelaide this morning and here in the studio, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese. Good morning to both of you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Lisa.
WILKINSON: Christopher, you won’t be surprised I’d like to start with you this morning. Now Tony Abbott says lift your game or face defeat, and the polls do certainly do back that up, has he got a point?
PYNE: Well look, all the views of backbenchers are very welcome in the Government and he is a backbencher and he is free to state his views, but look, we won’t be going down the track of putting a freeze on immigration for example, which Tony Abbott wants to do, because it would be catastrophic in places like Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, most places outside the capital cities for example.
We won’t be slashing spending. Tony Abbott tried that of course in the Budget of 2014 during his leadership but of course a whole lot of zombie legislation sat in the Senate, unable to be passed. We’re getting on with the job Lisa of creating jobs, of dealing with cost of living issues because of rising electricity prices and unstable energy, because of some of Labor’s policies of the past. We’re dealing with childcare affordability and accessibility. We’re not going to simply get distracted by some of these issues. The public want us to get on with good government and that’s what we’re doing.
WILKINSON: Well he’s watching it all obviously from very close quarters and he describes the current situation as a collision of toxic egos and someone’s vanity project. This is getting very personal.
PYNE: Well look Lisa, as I said the worst thing we could do is get distracted. The Government is working very well in Canberra. The Cabinet is very united behind Malcolm Turnbull…
WILKINSON: But he’s not making it look that way, this has got a feeling of a remake of the Rudd, Gillard, Rudd years. Have you got a plan to make it stop because he really hasn’t stopped since he lost office?
PYNE: Well that’s a matter for Tony Abbott and I think the Australia public are factoring that in to their equation. They’re pretty happy with the Government, they are pretty happy with Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. The last time Tony Abbott was leader one of the last polls had him at 30 per cent to Bill Shorten’s 48 per cent as preferred Prime Minister. So we are on the right track with Malcolm Turnbull and with the Government’s policies, more important, we are focussing on the bread and butter issues that the Australian public are interested in, like childcare, like jobs, like ensuring that they have the kind of standard of living and cost of living that they can afford. And we’re not going to be distracted – like I’m not distracted from building a national defence industry which is good for our country.
ALBANESE: The Government is a shambles, Lisa, and I’m almost reluctant to intervene in this blue between a virtual Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne. But the fact is that Tony Abbott is stepping in because there’s a vacuum, because the Government doesn’t have an agenda, doesn’t have a sense of purpose, and Tony Abbott’s solution is to say “take what I did in the 2014 Budget and go more extreme, go harder”. He just hasn’t got the message at all. Tony Abbott is delusional and the government is dysfunctional.
WILKINSON: All right, well let’s move on, and a major political battle has erupted over the weekend wages issue after yesterday’s historic ruling by the Fair Work Commission to slash penalty rates. Now Anthony, Bill Shorten is the person solely responsible for reviewing the penalty rates as Workplace Relations Minister back in 2012. He backed the review and then last year as Opposition Leader he pledged that he would accept the decision and yesterday he said he’d do everything to block it. What gives?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that this is a disastrous decision for hundreds of thousands of Australians who rely upon penalty rates in order to pay their bills, in order to pay their mortgage.
WILKINSON: But it was an independent review and Bill Shorten back it.
ALBANESE: This is a disastrous result and outcome. Bill Shorten made it very clear that he couldn’t conceive of a decision by the Fair Work Commission, I mean we have had a hundred years of Industrial Relations Commissions decisions, this is the first one that has ever actually cut pay rates. This is a real cut to the standard of living from some of the lowest income people in society, whether they be people struggling to work, do the second job, whether they be students, whether they be people just trying to get by, and we rely upon penalty rates. This is mean-spirited, and some of the commentators out there who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars are talking about what a great decision this is for jobs. I think there’s no self-awareness amongst some of those people.
WILKINSON: All right. Unfortunately –
PYNE: Bill Shorten knows all about –
WILKINSON: You’ve got a very quick word Christopher, very quick.
PYNE: Bill Shorten knows all about taking away people’s penalty rates because his AWU did that to the Clean Event workers when he was the Secretary.
WILKINSON: All right, we’re going to have to leave it there, we have run out of time. Gentlemen, always good to see you.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
WILKINSON: See you next Friday.
ALBANESE: See you at the next brawl.
PYNE: Looking forward to it.
ALBANESE: We await Tony Abbott’s comments during the week.
PYNE: It’s Pyne v Albo, not Pyne v Abbo.
Malcolm Turnbull must use the resumption of Parliament to take action on High Speed Rail and ensure no further delays on this critical project.
The Coalition should support my Private Member’s Bill, introduced in November last year, which would create a High Speed Rail Authority to start detailed planning work on a High Speed Rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.
I have now introduced this Bill on four occasions but the Coalition Government has taken no action to date on progressing High Speed Rail in Australia.
This is despite members of the Coalition expressing support for High Speed Rail over the last year.
This includes the Member for Bennelong, John Alexander, and former Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, who said Australia should take the opportunity now to build High Speed Rail while interest rates are low.
High Speed Rail would revolutionise interstate travel, allowing people to travel between capital cities in as little as three hours.
It would also turbo charge the economic development of the regional centres along its route, including the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.
The former Labor Government conducted a feasibility study into the project which found it was viable, producing, for example, more than $2 in public benefit for every dollar invested in the Sydney-to-Melbourne corridor.
In response, we appointed an expert panel including former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, Business Council of Australian chief executive Jennifer Westacott and the late Bryan Nye, of the Australasian Railways Association, to recommend practical measures to advance the project.
The panel recommended the creation of a delivery authority to work with the governments of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory on detailed planning and corridor acquisition.
My Private Member’s Bill would establish that Authority.
During the recent federal election campaign, Labor announced we would create the Authority envisaged in this Bill and require it to move toward an Expressions of Interest process to capitalise on strong interest in the project from international railway companies.
I call on the Government to support my Private Member’s Bill so we can progress this important nation building project.
Subjects: Labor Loves Live Music, marriage equality, US Alliance, Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership
ALBANESE: Thanks for joining us. I’m here at the latest Labor Loves Live Music event. This is a pub, the Harold Park Hotel, in Forest Lodge. I grew up around the corner from here and when I was in my late teens and early twenties, still living around the corner from here, I’d come up here on a Friday or Saturday night to see live bands play. But recently the pub has been stopped from having live music on a Sunday afternoon that finished before 8pm. This is ridiculous. It’s part of the shutdown of this global city of Sydney that’s happened under the Baird and now Berejiklian governments. What we need is cities which are vibrant, which are dynamic, which create employment and which are good places to live. That’s why people live in cities; so they can gather together as communities and to support the cultural life of a city that’s so important.
That’s why I support Luke Foley’s plan for 24-hour public transport to be available on Friday and Saturday nights. That’s why I support the concept of having a live music licence to encourage live music to be played in suburbs throughout Sydney.
It’s so important for how our cities function that live music is encouraged, rather than stopped, by one or two residents who are recent arrivals to a particular community. And that’s why the Labor Party is encouraging the live music scene, and why the Labor Party, nationally, is supporting the arts; whether it be live music, whether it be theatre, whether it be the publishing of Australian stories through books and our opposition to the Federal Government’s plan that it has announced through the Productivity Commission reports to shut down, essentially, Australian publishers. We stand with Australian authors, Australian publishers and, indeed, the Australian printing industry in support of the creative sector. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Liberal MP Tim Wilson has told the ABC that he thinks Trump’s immigration ban is, I guess, it’s not anti-Muslim and it has some merit. What do you think?
ALBANESE: Well I guess Tim Wilson needs to have a look at what President Trump has said himself. Seven countries have been singled out for being predominately Muslim nations. Indeed, US justices have intervened to say that such a ban is unlawful because it is discriminatory. Now if you substitute any other religion for Muslims, then I think people would be horrified and would draw their own conclusions, if it was that of another religion as well.
But I think here in Australia we have supported non-discriminatory immigration policies. I support that, the Liberal Party has supported that historically and I’d be disappointed if there was any move away from such a policy for this nation.
REPORTER: The Greens Leader, Richard di Natale, has put forward an idea that maybe we should reconsider our relationship with the US. Do you agree with that?
ALBANESE: The US alliance is important. There is bipartisan support for it, as there is a need for support for engagement with our region and support for our engagement through multilateral forums, in particular the United Nations. They’re the three pillars of foreign policy; alliance with the United States, engagement with our region and support for engagement with the world through the United Nations and international and multi-lateral forums. All three are important. That doesn’t mean Australia shouldn’t stand up for our own interests within the US alliance, within our region and within global forums. And Australia, under the Labor Party, has always done that. So we support Australian interests, but we also support strongly the US alliance.
REPORTER: On another topic, Christopher Pyne has said that Bill Shorten was the reason why we don’t have marriage equality, because he blocked the plebiscite. What do you think of those comments?
ALBANESE: You can contrast Christopher Pyne’s comments today with the comments that he made when he was in his party room opposing the idea of a plebiscite. He was one of the people in the party room, along with other senior Liberals including the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who opposed the plebiscite and wanted to get on with a vote of the Parliament with a conscience vote from across the Parliament.
That’s the way that marriage equality should occur, and it should occur as soon as possible. If we have a conscience vote in the next fortnight we can get it done. And if we get it done people will wonder what the fuss was about. Because it won’t take away any existing rights from heterosexual couples and people who are married. It will simply give a group of people who happen to be in same-sex relationships and who want to declare their love for their partner and their lifelong commitment in front of family and friends. That will strengthen the institution of marriage, if more people are able to participate in it, and it’s why the legislation should be put to a vote and it should be put to a vote in the next sitting fortnight.
REPORTER: Parliament resumes on Tuesday, how are you feeling about going into 2017? Is Labor looking to implement a whole bunch of changes?
ALBANESE: Labor will be aggressive in pursuing our agenda. It’s very clear that the Government doesn’t have a sense of purpose about it; that Malcolm Turnbull is someone for whom becoming Prime Minister was the end game in itself but he doesn’t have a reason for being Prime Minister. Therefore it’s up to Labor to step up to set the political and policy agenda in 2017. We’ll be doing that, just as we did in 2016.
Setting the agenda about housing affordability, about education and training and giving skills to Australians. Setting the agenda about employment, setting the agenda about infrastructure projects including support for public transport. Setting the agenda for social reform, including support for marriage equality. Setting the agenda on healthcare, with Medicare at its core of our health policy in this country. Setting the agenda across the political spectrum because the Government doesn’t have any idea, and this is a Government that has given up on governing.
It is simply concerned with dealing with its own internal politics and whether Malcolm Turnbull will see this year out as the Leader of the Liberal Party. It’s very clear that Tony Abbott and the conservative forces within the Liberal Party are on the march, and it’s very clear also that Malcolm Turnbull hasn’t had the ticker to stand up for them on all those issues he has held dear for a long period of time; be it action on climate change, be it action on marriage equality; be it action on public transport. And that’s why Labor will be setting the agenda in the Parliament this year. Thanks.
The Government must do more than just talk about infrastructure – Opinion Piece – Huffington Post Australia
When governments are seeking to lift economic growth, one means at their disposal is to invest in infrastructure. If they choose the right projects, they can have an immediate impact on job creation and economic activity. In the longer term, the right railways, roads and port projects boost productivity, reducing costs for business and setting the scene for future waves of economic growth.
That’s why there is increasing public pressure on the Turnbull Government to increase its investment in Nation Building – pressure that has increased since last week’s National Accounts showed that the economy contracted in the September quarter and warned that: “Public capital expenditure detracted 0.5 percentage points from growth as it declined from elevated levels in the June quarter”.
Experts such as Reserve Bank chairman Philip Lowe and his predecessor Glenn Stevens, as well as state premiers, business people and senior economists, have all suggested the Government lift its infrastructure investment to boost economic activity. Yet last week at the Council of Australian Governments meeting, Malcolm Turnbull swept away such appeals.
This follows an election campaign where the Turnbull Government failed to commit to any major new infrastructure projects but preferred local road projects which would normally be delivered by state governments or even local government.
Mr Turnbull should think again.
To lift infrastructure investment, Mr Turnbull could start to make a real difference if he simply delivered his own Budget.
In its 2014 Budget, the Coalition committed to an infrastructure program that it said would include $8 billion in investment in 2015-16. But the Treasury’s Final Budget Outcome document for 2015-16 shows the Turnbull Government invested only $5.5 billion in that period. That’s an underspend of $2.5 billion.
Indeed, the underspend was more like $3 billion, because the Government included in its figures a $490 million payment to the Western Australian Government as GST compensation. So that is $3 billion promised which, had it been actually delivered, would be driving economic activity right now, right around the nation.
It would be supporting jobs in construction and engineering. It would be providing business for suppliers of concrete, steel and other products. It would be facilitating the training of apprentices. And remember, this is not new money. It is money that has already been budgeted.
This underspending is not a function of the rephasing of projects from one financial year to another due to incidental delays. The 2015-16 underspend followed a $1 billion underspend the previous year.
What is happening here is that, for a range of reasons, the Government has been unable to actually invest the money it has already put aside. Those reasons include the Government’s 2013 decision to scrap billions of dollars of investment in public transport projects that were ready to go and divert the money to toll road projects that were not ready to go. Had the government proceeded with those projects they would be underway now, supporting jobs and growth.
Instead, most of the Coalition’s favoured toll road projects have failed to get off the drawing board and it has fallen far short of its budget on investment in ongoing major projects such as the Bruce and Pacific Highway upgrades.Reduced activity equals reduced economic growth.
Major projects such as the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project, Melbourne’s M80 project, Adelaide’s light rail and Perth’s public transport network are ready for more investment.
The work of Infrastructure Australia has meant that there are projects which have been recommended and positively assessed that are ready to go. But there is also some low-hanging fruit that it is incomprehensible has not been funded by the Government.
For example, a $13 million investment on the Glendale Interchange in the Hunter region, which I visited last week, would be the catalyst for 10,000 jobs and more than $1 billion of private sector investment. It has been identified as the Hunter region’s most important project driving investment in the residential, commercial and retail sectors.
And yet the Government has failed to grasp this opportunity.
Mr Turnbull should immediately task his various ministers responsible for infrastructure investment with initiating talks with the states over how it can deliver its budgeted investment in the national interest. And if anyone worries that the money might go to the wrong projects, they shouldn’t.
The former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia to examine and assess the value for money of major infrastructure proposals. The Coalition has supported the Infrastructure Australia model.
Governments don’t create jobs and growth simply by talking about infrastructure. They have to actually invest.