- Federation Chamber
- Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:26): A key issue in the recent Queensland state election was the future of the Cross River Rail project. The Labor team of Annastacia Palaszczuk, re-elected as Premier, promised to build Cross River Rail. Jackie Trad, the re-elected Deputy Premier, as the infrastructure minister, promised to build it. The coalition opposed it. Labor won a decisive victory, picking up seats, particularly in South-East Queensland. What the Cross River Rail project will do by providing a second river crossing is expand the capacity of the entire rail network, not just in Brisbane, but for the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. This is a project that was approved by Infrastructure Australia in 2012. It was the No. 1 project on the Infrastructure Australia priority list. So we put funding in the budget for it in 2013. Indeed, we had an agreement with the Newman government and with Scott Emerson as their transport minister to fund it: $715 million from both levels of government and an availability payment model to ensure financing for a project that would create thousands of jobs in construction, lift productivity and address the issue of urban congestion. We know that urban congestion cost the Australian economy $16.5 billion in 2015 alone. That’s why this project should be funded. The agreement with Campbell Newman’s government was based upon that mixture of grants as well as innovative funding mechanisms like value capture for the new stations around Woolloongabba and along the route.
Tony Abbott, when he became the Prime Minister, scrapped that arrangement—he came to office saying that he would withdraw all funding from any public transport project that wasn’t under construction. He said in 2009 in his book Battlelinesthat this was an ideological position. He said:
Mostly, there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car, and cars need roads.
That was the philosophy outlined in Tony Abbott’s book Battlelines. He became Prime Minister and he put that philosophy into action. He had no understanding of cities and that the need to move vast numbers of people can only be done through public transport. There is of course a role for roads. That’s why we funded the Ipswich Motorway and that’s why we funded upgrades to the Gateway Motorway and other road projects in Brisbane and South-East Queensland, such as the Pacific Motorway.
But Cross River Rail is the game changer. With the change in prime ministership, we now have a Prime Minister who likes taking selfies on trains; he just won’t fund them. He should fund this project because it has been voted for by the people of Queensland over and over again. Indeed, the former Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Scott Emerson, who I sat down and negotiated the arrangements with, lost his seat in parliament. He was one of the people who fell over due to their failure in the Queensland election. I’m conscious of the fact that Tim Nicholls, the extraordinary leader of the LNP in Queensland, this numpty, won’t even concede defeat even though it is very clear that he has lost the election and that the Palaszczuk government has been re-elected. Queenslanders got it right on Cross River Rail. It’s now time for the Commonwealth government to come to the party and to help fund this project and to do what the current Prime Minister says he supports—engage in cities policy, engage in urban policy, support public transport and fund the Cross River Rail project.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.