Subjects: Infrastructure investment; Badgerys Creek; urban policy; election; Labor Party.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: As I mentioned earlier, we’re in the key seat of Macarthur this morning. These days, the seat is mostly urban, and is based largely on the Campbelltown council area. Liberal Russell Matheson has held the seat since 2010. But Labor is hopeful its candidate can overcome the 3.3 per cent margin required to win the seat. As a sign of how closely fought the campaign in this seat has been both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have visited several times. Out here, the notion of the much talked about ’30 minute city’ is particularly appealing. Today, Labor is announcing new infrastructure projects as part of its $10 billion investment facility, administered by Infrastructure Australia.
For more, I’m joined live on the line by the shadow minister for infrastructure and transport, Anthony Albanese. Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Michael.
BRISSENDEN: So this announcement today is not new money. You have already announced the $10 billion infrastructure funding model but what’s new in today’s announcement?
ALBANESE: What’s new is that we’re releasing a comprehensive plan for infrastructure as well as for shipping and aviation. That’s something that the current government simply hasn’t done. It’s extraordinary that they seem to have a ‘make it up as you go along’ policy when it comes to infrastructure. Now we have a $10 billion infrastructure financing facility to promote private sector investment in infrastructure.
But we’ve also outlined, in practical terms, measures that will improve the commute for people in Western Sydney. Projects like Western Sydney rail from Campbelltown, up through the north-west via the new Badgerys Creek airport. It’s essential that Sydney’s transport stops being a hub and spoke approach with everything going to the city. That’s a recipe for clogged roads and for congested rail lines. We need to have those north-south routes, are critical.
We also need to upgrade roads like Appin Road that we’ve announced, a dangerous road connecting Campbelltown with Wollongong where there’s been multiple fatalities over the years and we’ll do that in conjunction with the private sector, promoting development.
But we also need to get trucks off the road through rail freight projects and we’ve announced Maldon-Dombarton rail line between the central west area through to the port at Port Kembla and of course, the Port Botany rail freight project, both of which are aimed at getting freight onto rail and getting trucks off our roads, getting less congestion there in southwest Sydney and indeed throughout the Sydney region.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, both sides in this campaign or in the lead up to this indeed have talked about this notion of the ’30 minute city’. Now will anyone here stuck in traffic this morning actually live to see that reality?
ALBANESE: Well, I certainly hope that it does. Badgerys Creek airport needs to be more than just a runway and a terminal. It needs to be a catalyst for jobs in Western Sydney. Now just to the north of the site you have the Western Sydney employment lands. There’s exciting projects there such as for a science park. The catalyst that it will provide not just for the obvious sectors, the logistics sector, the tourism sector, but for high value jobs so that similar to the way that Ryde has been transformed around the Macquarie Park region, there’s no reason that Badgerys Creek airport can’t transform the region. The key is to have jobs created closer to where people live to make sure that public transport access is available to all and to make sure that we actually get the planning right. Too often what happens…
BRISSENDEN: Both sides agree on this though, don’t they? I mean the Coalition has a big plan for infrastructure in this region using Badgerys Creek as a hub as well.
ALBANESE: But they don’t have any substance behind it. What they have is copying the city’s policy headlines that we announced at the National Press Club way back in 2014 but since then, there’s been no action. I was very pleased when Malcolm Turnbull announced that there’d be a minister for cities and that the Commonwealth would re-engage with urban policy when he became the Prime Minister. But since then he’s downgraded that position to a parliamentary secretary role and he’s had no money for important public transport projects like Western Sydney rail though Badgerys Creek. He said that he supports it, he just hasn’t put any dollars behind it.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, not everyone wants new roads, do they? As you well know the WestConnex project in your own electorate is particularly contentious and it’s reported this morning that Labor’s using the caretaker provisions of this election and using them not to allow the Federal Government to sign off on the project. Is that true?
ALBANESE: Well, that’s a nonsense of course. If anyone’s delayed the project it’s Greg Hunt. The documents, according to the paper, say that it was approved by the State Government on April 20. Greg Hunt sat on that for six weeks before he wrote to the Shadow Environment Minister during caretaker period providing 1000 pages of documentation. The truth is that what you don’t have is major projects approved during caretaker periods. That’s what the convention is there for, to ensure that any issues that require detailed examination don’t occur during caretaker. That’s what’s happened here.
BRISSENDEN: You support the project though, do you?
ALBANESE: Well, what I support are good outcomes. I support ensuring that, and we indeed funded the M5, looking at how to get that to the port. That is what I support. I support good road projects and good rail projects but of course, we do need to make sure that we get it right and of course, there’s an audit office report enquiry into this project because of the way that it’s been mishandled by the Commonwealth and state governments.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, just quickly, polls suggest you probably won’t do as well as you may have hoped here in Western Sydney. Has Brexit helped reinforce the Coalition’s message about economic uncertainty in this final week?
ALBANESE: Not at all. What it’s reinforced is that what happens when you have the conservative side of politics divided and kowtowing to the far right. That’s what happened with David Cameron. That’s what Malcolm Turnbull has done within his own party. It’s a recipe for a disaster when it comes to the national interests being served. It’s a recipe when you don’t have leadership.
David Cameron didn’t show leadership when during the election campaign he promised the referendum and we ended up with the Brexit, with a great deal of uncertainty for Britain’s economy as a result and that’s what we’re seeing with Malcolm Turnbull whereby he’s failing to show leadership, he’s failing to stand up for his own views and he’s showing that he’s a captive of his own party and in particular, the more extreme elements of his own party on a range of issues.
BRISSENDEN: Just quickly, if you do lose do you expect Bill Shorten will face a leadership spill and will you be putting yourself forward?
ALBANESE: I expect to win. That’s what I’m doing each and every day. Three sleeps to go and my sole focus, as with the entire united Labor team, is on a Labor victory. I mean the big difference in this election campaign is Labor is totally united, we’re all working for a Bill Shorten prime ministership and we’re all working for the cause of Labor. The other side are all over the shop.
BRISSENDEN: Anthony Albanese, thanks for joining us.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
BRISSENDEN: Shadow minister for infrastructure and transport Anthony Albanese there.