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Oct 24, 2017

Coffs Bypass still in the slow lane

The Federal and State Coalition Governments have still had no formal discussions concerning funding the Coffs Harbour Bypass on the Pacific Highway.

Senate Budget Estimates Committee hearings in Canberra late yesterday heard that there was no chance that the project would commence any time before 2020, if at all.

In further proof that the Federal MP for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, has no clout within the Turnbull Government, the committee heard no detailing planning had been undertaken and that the New South Wales Government was only now beginning to turn its mind to the preparation of a business case for Commonwealth consideration.

Officials from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development said that when the NSW Government produced a business case, the Government “might consider’’ a funding contribution.

But nothing would happen until the completion of the ongoing duplication of the Pacific Highway to the Queensland border, which is scheduled for 2020.

The Committee also heard that the Department had no idea how much the bypass would cost.

Oct 18, 2017

Transcript of radio interview – Nights with Michael McLaren, 2GB

Subjects: Urban policy; over-development in Marrickville, population density; parks; decentralisation; penalty rates; shipping; immigration.

MICHAEL McLAREN: Well Anthony Albanese was 100 per cent correct when he said today – well one issue guaranteed to spark animated discussion at a barbeque or pub in Sydney, is whether our city can accommodate more people and where they are going to live. One hundred per cent correct. Writing in the Telegraph, Albo laid out a vision of a bigger more heavily populated Sydney being a possibility, however, only if, hand in hand with quality planning.

But if you ask me it’s a bit of a courageous vision because, as I read the public’s mood on this most-debated of issues, the average Sydneysiders I think have had enough of the developments, the increased density, the sprawl and everything that goes with it, no matter how well designed the new block of flats happens to be next door. People are simply saying enough is enough. That’s what you have said on the open line, and recent polls back this up.

A ReachTEL Poll of course just this month showed two thirds of those surveyed said their city is full. And this wasn’t a partisan response, both Labor and Liberal voters singing from the same hymn sheet. Yet ironically their political representatives are in unison here as well, but of the opposite opinion. I mean, you would be pretty hard pressed to find one local Liberal or Labor MP who is prepared to stand before a microphone and agree with their voters and call for a tap on the brakes of all of this population growth. To a man and a woman in Canberra they seem to be believers in a bigger Australia – more people, larger cities, greater urbanisation, even if done with good planning.

And look I have to say this as well. I think the elephant in the room with all of this is immigration. I have to admit I do find it extraordinary, in all the talk about full cities and unwanted development and all of this, that there is hardly anyone willing to have a frank and honest discussion about what’s largely feeding all of the development and that is incredibly high migration numbers.

Per capita Australia is running one of the largest immigration programs anywhere in the developed world. We saw our biggest intake in eight years last year. Adding extra pressure to Sydney and Melbourne is the fact that nearly 80 per cent of these new arrivals gravitate to just those two cities, Sydney and Melbourne. No wonder the conversation is particularly acute around the barbeques of Sydney, as Anthony Albanese correctly says. He joins me on the line, Mr Albanese, good to have you on the program.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be here. Thanks for having us.

McLAREN: Look, I think you wrote well, but it’s a courageous vision, particularly say the MP for Grayndler telling people that, you know, we can have greater density, more people and if we plan right it will all go OK. I mean a lot of people in your neck of the woods aren’t too keen to see greater density.

ALBANESE: That’s right, and I have no doubt that is the case. But it’s also the fact I wrote that the community will only accept any increases if developments are of good quality; and if they see an improvement in their lives – if, because of increased density they have more access to public transport, more access to community infrastructure, more parks to play in, more quality for their life.

There’s a development currently proposed in Marrickville. It’s just outside my electorate because of boundary changes, in a place called Carrington Road, Carrington Road Precinct. Now this is an old industrial area where at one stage GMH had some work there, a lot of industrial work in the motor vehicle industry and other manufacturing. Now as times changed a lot of that is now in the creative sector. They produce materials that are used in plays and in performances and in TV shows. They manufacture still, but it’s a different sort, and there are a lot of people work down there. Now they have proposed around there – there’s currently single and two-storey buildings, homes, and the industrial area has two or three storeys.

They are talking about 28 storey units, where there is one road in, one road out. It’s on a flood plain. It frankly is just an absurd proposition and that is being rejected. There is a public meeting tomorrow night at 7:30 at Marrickville Town Hall. I’ll be speaking at it, and one of the things I am trying to say as well to the business community, including those people who are involved in development, is that people will accept some increased density, particularly around railway lines. There’s examples of developments around Marrickville that are OK. But what they won’t accept is completely changing the character of their local community.

McLAREN: Well I agree 100 per cent, but Anthony, it seems that the two can’t ever go hand in hand because with all of the development I’ve seen; be it in say Epping or Eastwood in the north west of Sydney, some around your area, you know Canterbury Road and all that stuff, it doesn’t matter where you go, the moment the developing gets underway the character changes.

ALBANESE: Well Canterbury Road is diabolical.

McLAREN: It’s appalling.

ALBANESE: And subject to an ICAC investigation at the moment, some of that development. Now at Canterbury Racecourse there’s talk about Canterbury Racecourse being used for development. Now if the Canterbury Racecourse site doesn’t produce community infrastructure facilities, playgrounds; there aren’t enough playgrounds and parks for kids to play sport on the weekends. It’s a crisis and we now have, my son plays football down at Mackey Park in Marrickville, they have people scheduled in; one group from 5-6, the next from 6-7. It’s just diabolical.

McLAREN: I mean Dick Smith is right, I think, when he says, you know we increasingly are treating hens with great respect, getting them out of the batteries and shoving them into free range, give them a good life and we’re paying more for the eggs. Yet we’re doing the opposite with the humans. We all grew up in Sydney; you, everybody else, grew up in houses or if we were in flats they were three storeys at the most and there was, as you say, the park around the corner, the bowling club and the golf course. And now we’re all going into battery farms. I mean (audio failure)…

ALBANESE: (Audio failure)…Kids could get out on the weekend and it’s one of the other BBQ stopper on a weekend is how do we get our kids playing sport and not looking at screens? That’s a common topic. I mean, one of the things we do have to do is talk as well about whether it’s appropriate – you’re right about people heading to Sydney and Melbourne. We need to take pressure off them, that’s one of the reasons why I’m a big advocate of High Speed Rail.

We have areas where we could grow our economy where the overheads, the day-to-day living expenses for housing and other activity is less than it is in the big capital cities. High Speed Rail is the big game changer along with, if we were doing a proper National Broadband Network, for encouraging that jobs and economic activity in our regions and I’m continuing to push that as well.

McLAREN: Well I mean not everyone in Labor obviously agrees with that. I spoke with Bob Carr, the former Foreign Minister just the other week about this and he said, we’ve tried decentralisation, a lot of the time. He gave examples of migrant communities that have settled in Perth, within a year they ended up in Fairfield in Sydney. I mean, we can sort of build the infrastructure and build those veins of transport to try and pump people out of the city centre and into regional centres, but can’t guarantee they’ll go. We could be spending billions here only to make railway lines to nowhere.

ALBANESE: The economy will drive that change and I mean there are examples where you’ve had jobs created in the regions. Canberra where I’m talking to you from …

McLAREN: Canberra is the obvious one.

ALBANESE: What’s happened, and we’re not talking just public service jobs – one of the things about the Canberra community that’s interesting is how many people who work, particularly from southern Europe who worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme settled in Canberra and are still here. And the next generation is here and Canberra is a great example of, it’s Australia’s largest inland city, of course, as well as being the bush capital, of a city that has grown, has a thriving private sector economy, not just public sector economy. And one that has a great quality of life.

McLAREN: But mind you Anthony, you know this as well as I do; you take away the public sector, you take away the parliamentary infrastructure of Canberra and it’s curtains.

ALBANESE: Well, it’s interesting to see the growth that’s occurred here, particularly over the last couple of decades, there has been an enormous growth and diversification of the economy of Canberra. When Parliament sits, it’s true, the population grows, not just with politicians of course, there is a small proportion of that but the others who come to talk to us or who are associated with the work here. But it does have a thriving economy.

One of the things we need to do as well is to ensure that we can have jobs created closer to where people live and I raised the issues of universities and tertiary facilities such as Westmead Hospital. It is a great example whereby the number of PhDs and people in high-value jobs who live around Westmead Hospital who work there – it has been real catalyst for that job creation and of course the airport, the Western Sydney Airport, needs to be not just a runway and a terminal; it needs to be a catalyst for creating jobs in high-value manufacturing, in logistics, in infrastructure, in tourism particularly along the north-south corridor.

McLAREN: Yes, that’s correct. And it needs to be linked by rail, I don’t deny that.

ALBANESE: Absolutely – north-south rail.

McLAREN: Yes. I don’t disagree. Just before you go though, it’s compelling what you wrote in The Telegraph, although I think a lot of readers will be saying: That’s nice Anthony, but I don’t agree.

ALBANESE: Sure and I respect that. But one of the things you’ve got to do and one of the things I think I am known for is trying to put out ideas and contribute to debate. I think The Telegraph deserve a fair bit of credit frankly for debate that they have about Sydney and its infrastructure needs and the nature of the city.

McLAREN: Yes, I don’t deny that, but you say the truth is by international standards Sydney has relatively low population density. True. But I mean that is what makes it a great city in many respects compared to say Shanghai. You say we need to do something about housing affordability. That has got to be addressed. And you say communities will accept increases in density if developments are good quality. But nowhere in the piece, and this is what disappointed me out of it all, was that “I’’ word – immigration. And this seems to be the thing from Canberra. I don’t understand why, because, as you know, housing is a market like any other market, driven by supply and demand. There is lots of supply coming on. The problem is there is too much demand. What is driving demand? Largely immigration, I mean we’ve got hundreds  – 200,000 people every year lobbing into the joint, most going into Sydney or Melbourne – disproportionate pressure on your city in the areas that you represent, yet no one really in Canberra, bar say Tony Abbott or Pauline Hanson, Cory Bernardi, are willing to even utter the “I’’ word. I don’t know what it is. Is everyone afraid that the moment that you talk about immigration you are going to be branded racist instead of looking at the numbers? That’s what is behind all of this development.

ALBANESE: Well I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a sensible discussion about immigration and we should have it at appropriate levels and we should have a discussion about the impact on the economy.

McLAREN: Well is 200,000 an appropriate level?

ALBANESE: Well, I am not in a position to sort of put a precise figure on it. I am not the immigration spokesperson.

McLAREN: Sure, but it is the thing that underpins everything that you have just written about.

ALBANESE: One of the things that I do say and that I do argue the case for is that immigration in general is positive; that in terms of the impact on the economy you have to look at the ageing of Australia’s population. If we don’t have immigration coming in, people who are prepared to contribute to the economy and of course they create jobs as well …
 
McLAREN: Yes, but Anthony, they get old as well, they get old as well, and then they need the pension. So what are we going to bring in more people? It’s Ponzi scheme.

ALBANESE: We have an ageing of our population right now and with the baby boomer demographic now ticking over into retirement over the recent period and it is something that we have to address …

McLAREN: But you can’t address it Anthony by bringing in lots of young people from abroad because they stay, they then get old. So what do you do then? They go on the pension you’ve got to bring in more young people from abroad. They then get old; you’ve got to being in more. I mean it’s an unsustainable economic model.

ALBANESE: At any particular period in time there will be about a million Australians who are travelling overseas as well. We do live in a globalised world.

McLAREN: Well no-one denies that.

ALBANESE: If we bring in people as well who will contribute to the economy; we need to get the immigration mix is important as well …

McLAREN: But you know GDP per capita is flat. GDP per capita, despite this rapid population growth, is flat. So we are bringing in more people. Federally the GDP numbers look good – consecutive quarters of economic growth. Well, if you are not getting economic growth with a booming population, you are doing something wrong, but per head of population people aren’t seeing the benefits. People aren’t getting richer with more people. This is another problem. This is why people are saying it’s not working.

ALBANESE: Oh look, I think there is no doubt that there is enormous pressure on people, particularly with real wages in decline in effect and that is a product of a range of factors – the de-unionisation of the workforce and casualization of work is, I think, placing real pressure. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve raised the issue of concern about the impact of penalty rates. So many people rely upon penalty rates to pay the mortgage, to put food on the table, to look after their kids’ school fees.

McLAREN: But if course when there are three people going for every job rather than two, there is downward pressure on wages. If you want to recalibrate that statistic you’ve got to cut immigration.

ALBANESE: And that is one of the reasons why when we look at immigration as well, we have been concerned about some of the abuses that are there over 457s visas …

McLAREN: And fair enough.

ALBANESE: … and a range of those areas where there are Australians who could do the job. That’s why labour market testing is important to see, which is pretty simple. If an Australian can do the job, they should do the job. That’s why, in my area, I am very concerned that this Government has a conscious policy when it comes to coastal shipping of replacing Australian ships around our coast with Australian workers being paid Australian wages and conditions with foreign wages and conditions which drive down the employment levels, particularly in regional communities, but have a real impact on wages and conditions because of the difference between what we expect as Australians and what occurs in places like The Philippines and other places where you have flags of convenience.
 
McLAREN: That’s right. Yes. Look we are out of time. We could talk for another 20 minutes. You’ve got to go. I’ve got to go. But we’ll talk again in the future Anthony. Thank you so much for your time.

ALBANESE: Great to talk to you as always.

 

Jun 29, 2017

Labor to abolish Infrastructure Financing Unit

A Shorten Labor Government will abolish the Coalition’s new Infrastructure Financing Unit and reallocate its funding to Infrastructure Australia.

The IFU is a solution in search of a problem.

It is unnecessary to create a new bureaucracy within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to advise on financing big projects when Infrastructure Australia already has the expertise and the legislative mandate to advise on project financing.

On top of this, the infrastructure sector says the new agency is not needed.

In its pre-Budget submission peak industry group Infrastructure Partnerships Australia said it could not identify any currently proposed, commercially viable infrastructure project not already attracting finance.

Imploring Mr Turnbull not to create the IFU, the IPA submission said: “Commonwealth Government funding support is needed for infrastructure – Commonwealth financing is not.’’

Malcolm Turnbull is creating the IFU to sideline Infrastructure Australia and divert attention from his cuts to infrastructure funding, which IPA analysis says will hit a 10-year low over the next four years.

Just like his chatter about “innovative financing arrangements,’’ Mr Turnbull is using the IFU to conceal his cuts.

Australia does not need a new bureaucracy.

It needs a Labor Government to invest in the railways, roads and other critical infrastructure that will boost productivity and underpin economic growth.

A Shorten Labor Government will abolish the IFU and reallocate the $7.4 million saved to Infrastructure Australia to enhance its ability to deliver on its core functions of assessing projects, producing a pipeline of projects and recommending financing mechanisms.

The money will also be used to re-establish the Major Cities Unit, scrapped by the Coalition, within Infrastructure Australia.

The former Labor Government created this unit to research and advise on policies aimed at improving the productivity, sustainability and liveabilit

Apr 21, 2017

Transcript of radio interview- Radio National with Fran Kelly

Subject: Housing affordability, citizenship changes, Record Store Day

FRAN KELLY: Music lovers are in for a treat tomorrow with the 10th International Record Store Day. It’s the annual celebration of local record shops. Here in Australia, more than 180 independent stores will mark the occasion with a range of events, new releases, performances, all aimed at keeping alive the power and the passion of music. This year, the official ambassador for Record Store Day is none other than DJ Albo, aka Labor MP Anthony Albanese. He joins us in the breakfast studio. Anthony, happy Record Store Day!

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Fran. Looking forward to tomorrow.

KELLY: Before we get to the tale of Record Store Day, can I talk to you about some Labor policies that Labor’s unveiled? Some might have heard Chris Bowen earlier on AM. New measures designed to improve housing affordability, it’s a bit of a holy grail in capital cities in Sydney and Melbourne at the moment. Now, Labor’s plans seem to be mostly about imposing new taxes on foreign investors, on owners who leave their properties vacant. They’re two of the key changes that Labor’s spruiking. New taxes are dangerous ground for an opposition, aren’t they?

ALBANESE: These are sensible measures, put together with the changes we announced more than a year ago on capital gains tax and negative gearing for investors for new properties. The fact is that we put forward those policies and it was a risky thing to do. It was a brave thing to do, but it was the right thing to do. The government itself said there were excesses in negative gearing and in the market before they ruled it out, which was as soon as we announced our policy. What we have today is measures that have been recommended by the government’s own review in terms of the super changes for self-managed super funds using investment into property and they’re sensible changes, it’s indeed the only one of the recommendations that the government hasn’t implemented from that review.

KELLY: Given your experience last time with negative gearing and capital gains tax, Labor put out your policy and then the government backed away from it because they didn’t want to endorse Labor policy. If you really want to get these changes up, shouldn’t you have waited to see what the government’s putting up in the May Budget? We know it’s going to have a housing affordability policy as the centrepiece of the Budget, rather than put all these measures out in the knowledge that it will force the Government to back away from them?

ALBANESE: Someone’s got to lead in this country.

KELLY: It’s only a couple of weeks to the Budget.

ALBANESE: We’re leading from Opposition. They’re a government that acts like an opposition and that’s why we’ve put forward these practical suggestions. We’re concerned about policy. Meanwhile, we’re watching once again Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull in a downward spiral bringing the government with them, distracted by their internals. We’re putting out good policy, we’re prepared to argue the case for it. It’s well before the next election and we’re only six months since the last election, a bit more than that, but we’re putting out serious policy and that’s a good thing. That’s what oppositions should be. That’s what oppositions should do.

KELLY: Another policy question on the notion of citizenship. We’ve been speaking with Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, she led the review into citizenship laws 18 months ago, got feedback which the government has put out, and we now know some of the elements the government is going to change in the test. You work in an electorate that has a high migrant population, it’s really been brought up on migration, and people taking citizenship vows. From your experience and those you speak to, do you believe the citizenship laws need to be changed? Are there gaps?

ALBANESE: If there are sensible suggestions – obviously new citizens would benefit from better English, in terms of being able to participate in society – that’s something that we can look at. At the same time we need to value our multiculturalism as an asset for Australia. There’s no better time to be a Federal MP than on Australia Day, being there at the citizenship ceremonies which take place. People who’ve come for economic reasons or in some cases, because they didn’t have a choice to leave their homeland, making Australia their home. It’s what’s built this country and I think that anything that strengthens that is a good thing. These debates shouldn’t be partisan. We’ll have a look at any practical suggestions which are made but we do need a balance, and I know Concetta Fierravanti-Wells is a supporter of multiculturalism, and that’s an important thing.

KELLY: Let’s go to Record Store Day. Ten years ago they started promoting the of cultural and economic importance of these indie record shops. In the era or file-swapping and mass music downloads, why is the local record store needed and why is it so special to you?

ALBANESE: I think when International Record Store Day was founded people had this idea that maybe people would just get music sitting at home, downloading an individual track and that would be the experience of people’s engagement with music.

KELLY: It is the experience for many.

ALBANESE: It is, but it doesn’t replace going into a record store, whether it’s a CD or an album, getting a hold of it, listening to the tracks from go-to-woah, beginning to end. There is a revival of albums being played – Patti Smith last week playing the whole Horses album on this tour. Spiderbait playing Ivy and the Big Apples from go-to-woah at the Enmore Theatre and around Australia. People understand that albums fit together as a whole and that they also get to read the liner notes, they get to see who wrote and produced the albums.

KELLY: Sure, but who’s doing that now? It’s one thing for your generation, my generation to remember the hours spent loitering in the record shop, checking out new releases, checking out the cover artwork, all of that. Doesn’t mean young music lovers who aren’t getting their music that way aren’t loving the music any less or missing out, does it?

ALBANESE: They are doing it now. Young people are rediscovering record stores.

KELLY: Are they? Is that who’s hanging out in the record stores that I’m in?

ALBANESE: They’re doing probably similar things to what you and I did in places. They might be different record stores.

KELLY: Sitting in the booths, remember?

ALBANESE: I was hanging out at Phantom Records in Pitt Street in Sydney. Red Eye, it’s been going for a very long time here in Sydney and right around Australia, not just in the capital cities but in the regional towns as well. It’s a meeting place, similar to the revival or the resurgence of coffee shops. People want that social interaction. When you go into a record store, you talk to the man or woman behind the desk, they’ll tell you about the latest sounds. You have, of course, a revival of vinyl, something I didn’t see coming.

KELLY: They reckon they’re going to sell 40 million units this year of vinyl.

ALBANESE: It’s phenomenal. New bands – Polish Club, an inner west band sent me a copy of their new vinyl album this week. It’s terrific.

KELLY: So you’re a bit of a hunter and collector of vinyl?

ALBANESE: I am indeed and thank goodness I kept all my old vinyl. I’ll be at The Record Store in Darlinghurst tomorrow. One of the things that they do is repair old record players and provide new needles and fix it all up, so people are taking their old turntables in but people are also purchasing turntables. It’s a big growth industry and the thing about a local record store, something you don’t get online is that you get info about local bands’ new music. They’re small businesses, they employ locals. Most people who run these indie record stores of course, don’t make a fortune, they just love music. That’s why they do it.

KELLY: You moonlight as a DJ at fundraisers –  some for your colleagues, some for charity. You obviously love music, especially Australian music, I understand from the 80’s and the 90’s. You’ve chosen a track for us today  that you think sums up the spirit of Record Store Day. What is it?

ALBANESE: It’s Spiderbait, Buy Me a Pony which is from the album that they’ve been out there playing. This is a band that comes from Finley in regional New South Wales and their gig at the Enmore Theatre is probably the biggest concert I’ve been to with Spiderbait. 20 years ago they were playing The Annandale and little pubs. Now they’re in bigger venues and they’re back and it’s a good thing.

KELLY: Alright, let’s hear Spiderbait. Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us and congratulations on being the official ambassador for Record Store Day tomorrow.

ALBANESE: It’s a good bit of fun. Get out there and get to your local record store tomorrow.

KELLY: Okay, let’s check out Buy Me a Pony.

Apr 5, 2017

Government must heed RBA warning on infrastructure

The Turnbull Government must respond to the advice of Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe about the link between inadequate infrastructure investment and high housing prices by lifting rail and road investment in next month’s Budget.

In a speech in Melbourne last night Mr Lowe said an imbalance between population growth and housing construction had been “compounded by insufficient investment in the transport infrastructure needed to support our growing population’’.

Mr Lowe continued: Nothing increases the supply of well-located land like good transport links. Under-investment in this area is one of the factors that has pushed housing prices up”.

This is the latest of several recent warnings from the RBA about the need for increased infrastructure investment, which would boost economic activity and support jobs as well as easing pressure on housing prices and delivering long-term productivity gains.

Since taking office, the Coalition has cut infrastructure investment but pretended otherwise with frequent re-announcements of old projects funded by the former Labor Government.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show total public sector investment in infrastructure declined by 20 per cent in the Coalition’s first two years in office.

The figures also show that quarterly total public sector infrastructure investment has been lower in all 12 quarters under the Coalition than in every single quarter under the former Labor Government.

After years of pretending to have increased investment, it is time for the Turnbull Government to actually invest in new rail and road projects.

Australians are spending too long in traffic jams and, as Mr Lowe pointed out last night, the lack of adequate infrastructure is affecting housing prices.

Apr 3, 2017

Government failing on infrastructure

The peak business group for the infrastructure sector has slammed the Turnbull Government’s infrastructure funding model, which is expected to be a centrepiece next month’s Budget.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s damning criticism of the proposed Infrastructure Financing Unit comes as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull continues to fail to match his rhetoric on infrastructure with actual investment in railways, roads and ports.

In April last year, Mr Turnbull announced he would create an Infrastructure Financing Unit within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to work with the private sector to enlist private investment in infrastructure using “innovative financing solutions’’.

But the respected IPA has warned that this approach would put public money at risk by effectively turning the Government into a “lender of last resort’’.

There is a contradiction in the Government’s position on this fund. On one hand it wants financing to be available where private financing is not. But on the other hand, it claims this unit would work on projects that would be taken off Budget as they would produce a return for government.

The IPA is correct to point out there is no lack of finance available for good projects in Australia. It is also correct to call for an increase in actual government investment.

Mr Turnbull’s move to create the financing unit within his own department will also sideline Infrastructure Australia and the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

This makes no sense. Part of Infrastructure Australia’s role is to make recommendations on financing of projects.

The IPA’s embarrassing assessment of the Infrastructure Financing Unit follows the failure of Mr Turnbull’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, announced two years ago.

The NAIF has yet to invest in a single piece of infrastructure. The only money going out the door at the NAIF is to cover the expenses of its directors.

The twin failures highlight Mr Turnbull’s tendency to make grand announcements on infrastructure to avoid actually investing in the railways and roads Australians need.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show total public sector infrastructure investment fell 20 per cent in the first two years of the Coalition Government.

The ABS figures also show that quarterly total public sector infrastructure investment under the Coalition has been lower in all 12 quarters during its term in office than in every single quarter under the former Labor Government after its first Budget in 2008.

Australian needs a Government prepared to actually invest in infrastructure, not just talk about it.

Mar 31, 2017

Victory for common sense at Leichhardt school

I welcome today’s announcement by Westconnex Minister Stuart Ayres ruling out creating a construction site next to the Leichhardt campus of Sydney Secondary High School.

This reckless proposal would have caused considerable disruption to the education of the almost 1000 students at the High School.

I congratulate the P&C, staff, students and the broader school community for their strong campaign against this absurd idea.

I am proud to represent an active and spirited community prepared to work together to defend its interests.

This outcome follows wins for the community with the saving of Blackmore Oval in Leichhardt, Ashfield Park and Rozelle’s Easton Park from being sacrificed for the Westconnex project.

Sydney needs infrastructure. But it should not be done at the expense of proper community consultation and the best possible outcome.

Mar 20, 2017

Television interview – PVO Newsday – Sky News

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.

Mar 15, 2017

Radio interview – 5AA – Two Tribes segment

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?

PYNE: Christopher?

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.

Mar 9, 2017

Government backtracks on Inland Rail promise

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.

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(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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