Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:39): On Saturday the Baird government wants the voters of New South Wales to step into the unknown. They want them to vote them back into government even though there is an ASIC investigation into Mike Baird’s office over the removal of the headline ‘Bad for the budget’ from a report about electricity privatisation. Mike Baird has refused to answer questions about that unprecedented intervention to doctor a report. The people of New South Wales deserve better. The people of Victoria had to wait for the Tories to lose office before they found out that the East West Link had a cost-benefit analysis of 0.45. Infrastructure has to be transparent. What we are seeing is that they are hiding from the people of New South Wales. This morning, Mike Baird reaffirmed that there is no plan B—all of their promises fall over if they cannot get electricity privatisation through the upper house. The upper house members will know it is bad for the budget according to their own independent analysis. Voters will also know that there is a two-for-one deal on Saturday—get rid of Mike Baird and you will get rid of Tony Abbott. If you want Bill Shorten as the next Prime Minister—or Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop—vote Labor this Saturday. (Time Expired)
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:18): I rise today to pay tribute to the students and staff at my old school, St. Mary’s Cathedral College, in Sydney. On the first day of the new school year, his fellow students learned that Jacques Pacifique had had a relapse of the leukaemia that had been in remission for five years. His fellow students decided, in a great spirit, to show solidarity with their mate. They went to their teachers and decided collectively to engage in the World’s Greatest Shave. Sixty-five year 12 students shaved their heads and five teachers did the same. They have raised $50,000 so far for the Leukaemia Foundation.
They got a lot of support from the community. The Bulldogs—the great supporters of Camp Quality who do such great work in the local community—sent along Josh Reynolds, and the Western Sydney Wanderers sent along Ante Covic and they assisted in shaving these young student’s heads. The wellbeing master, Daniel Khoury, deserves congratulations for overseeing this process. It is such a heartening sign to see such school spirit at my old school. I wish Jacques all the best for his health and with what he is going through. His fellow students are in contact with him in between his treatments. On behalf of everyone in the parliament, I say best wishes to Jacques and well done to all of his mates.
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:20): I am pleased that the community-based Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville, in my electorate, has apologised for refusing to allow the Jewish student group Hillel to use its space on the basis that it was pro-Israel. I was disturbed to read newspaper reports about this earlier this week. They said that after Hillel sought permission to use the space for a cultural event the Red Rattler had informed Hillel via email:
Our policy does not support colonialism/Zionism. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonisation and occupation of Palestine.
Australia is a multicultural community. Multiculturalism is our strength. In the inner-west of Sydney, we live in harmony. Different people of different beliefs live side by side. We are enriched by our diversity. Many people came to Australia from strife-torn regions where people do not enjoy the same level of safety and harmony that we enjoy in this country. There is no place, in Australia, for the lack of tolerance shown by that email to this Jewish student group. This should not be confused with a proper debate about solutions for the Middle East. Like many people, I was deeply concerned by television images of Israeli bombs levelling schools on the Gaza Strip last July and August, in the latest manifestation of this conflict. I stated then that that was wrong. I believe that is the case today. I believe there needs to a Palestinian state, but I also believe that Israel has a right to exist in peace and security. A two-state solution is the way forward.
From what I can see, the Hillel group is an international organisation that seeks to bring together Jewish university students for social events, leadership training and cultural events. From what I can see, it is a group promoting friendship and celebrating cultural traditions. The Red Rattler is a community-based theatre in my electorate. It has been used by a range of communities and some political parties. It is important that tolerance be celebrated, and that where intolerance is shown people are prepared to speak out about it. I am pleased that the statement from Red Rattler’s directors says that they welcome organisations from all cultures, and they have invited Hillel to hold a forum there. Former US President John F Kennedy once made a critical point about tolerance that is worth reflecting on today. He said:
Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:26): Next Wednesday I will have the honour of cutting the ribbon at the launch of a new trigeneration energy system at Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club. This was funded with a grant of over $580,000 from the former Australian Labor government. Trigeneration is the simultaneous production of three forms of energy—electricity, heating and cooling—from a single system. It is nearly three times more energy efficient than a coal fired power station. This will cut the energy costs for this local community based club by up to $185,000 every year. It will have significant benefits for the environment. It will reduce carbon emissions by 1,590 tons per annum. This is the equivalent, this one plant, of taking more than 350 cars a year off the road.
The expected return on investment for the trigeneration system is 35 per cent per annum. This is good investment —good investment in our environment and good investment in improving the economic capacity of Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club. This is a club, like many other RSLs, that makes an enormous contribution to the local community, whether it be hosting schools, such as Ashbury Public School—I attended the presentation day there last year—whether it be sponsoring local sporting organisations such as Hurlstone Park Wanderers Football Club or Summer Hill Cricket Club, or whether it be putting money back into the community for junior sport.
This club also was the venue, appropriately, given the impact on climate change and reducing omissions of this trigeneration energy system, of a climate change forum that I hosted last year with Labor’s climate change spokesperson, Mark Butler, and with Amanda McKenzie, the CEO of the Climate Council. It was attended by about 300 people who participated in a discussion about how we could have an impact locally, as well as about the broader implications of climate change for our way of life into the future. The club itself anticipates complete cost recovery from the trigeneration system within four years.
One of the best functions it has been my honour to attend was held last year as part of the lead-in for the Anzac Centenary commemorations. The main speaker was Brendan Nelson, who is now, of course, in charge of the Australian War Memorial. There were representatives of local schools and local community based organisations, as well as veterans and families themselves.
It was a great example of the role that a club can play in harnessing community capacity, in making sure that we recognise our history. In particular, this year we are recognising the sacrifice made by those brave men and women in our Defence Force who defended our nation and suffered such dreadful losses during World War I and during engagements ever since. Our thoughts are also with our Defence Force members who continue to serve us, at risk to themselves, in theatres such as Afghanistan today.
This is a great project. It is great management by the Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club. I pay tribute to them for their vision and I look forward to participating in this event next Wednesday.
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:13): In the current global political atmosphere, we hear a lot about ethnic and religious tension. That, of course, is understandable. Recent incidents here and overseas have had the effect of making some people feel uncomfortable. There are, indeed, a few lunatics in our midst who want to promote division and disharmony—but I reject such sentiments. Today I want to highlight the positive side to the ethnic and cultural development that has underpinned the development of our great Australian society.
I count myself very lucky to live in the inner west of Sydney, a multicultural heartland where neighbours live side by side in harmony. What I see are good people who care about each other and their communities, people with goodwill raising their families and living their lives in peace. I see people who are prepared to maintain the vibrant cultures from their birth lands but mesh them with Australian values of freedom and the fair go to create a kind of cultural alloy that is as strong as it is interesting. I see beauty in people’s faces, whatever their colour, and music in their voices, whatever their language.
To go into a local school in my electorate is to see the success of modern multiculturalism. To have my son return home from school with a few words of Chinese or Vietnamese or Arabic or Greek benefits not just him but also the whole the community. There is nothing unusual about my electorate. There are electorates right around the country that are just like that. Most people in the community take the same view. The message is simple: we should stiffen our spines as we resist hatred. Diversity is strength; tolerance is natural. We are all part of the same human family.
I will be enjoying that diversity in coming weeks. Just a couple of weeks ago I celebrated the Lunar New Year in Ashfield, which has a large Chinese and Vietnamese community. It was a fantastic celebration, with the local kids from Ashfield Public School, whatever their ethnic background, participating in a Chinese song and dance routine in Mandarin. In a couple of weeks time I will be at the Bairro Portugues celebration of the Portuguese community, which is based in Australia at Petersham—a ‘little Portugal’—in my electorate. It is a street celebration that grows each and every year. The Ashfield Carnival of Cultures will be on 22 March. This is the 18th year that it will be held. More than 20,000 people attend that celebration. Diversity is our strength. We must ensure that we protect it, defend it and promote it.
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (19:50): I was surprised last December when in a media release from the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss, and his assistant, Mr Briggs, they stated, along with their magical infrastructure reannouncement tour trying to claim a range of projects that were funded by the former Labor government, that Infrastructure Australia had appointed a new CEO. I was surprised by that because no announcement had previously been made of who that was, and in fact that was not the case. Michael Deegan, the infrastructure coordinator, left Infrastructure Australia on 7 February 2014. More than a year later there has been no-one in charge of Infrastructure Australia. There have been three acting CEOs or coordinators, but no-one in charge. It is no wonder that the infrastructure process has been abandoned that was established and supported by the business community and by all who are concerned with infrastructure development in this country.
Indeed, we have seen in two examples the consequences of a lack of proper process from this government. One of those is now subject to an Australian National Audit Office inquiry into the approval and administration of the Commonwealth grant funding for the East West Link project in Victoria. We now know this has a cost-benefit analysis of 0.45, or 45c of benefit for every dollar that would be invested—and not just $3 billion allocated by the government, but $1.5 billion paid in the last financial year. This was for a project that was not due to commence for some period of time, in contravention of the government’s policies that it would make milestone payments—upon actual construction. And, secondly, there would be an Infrastructure Australia assessment and a cost-benefit analysis published for all projects above $100 million. Both of those have been breached.
In New South Wales, the WestConnex project has had $2 billion made available through a loan concession to New South Wales. During the last financial year—for a project, again, where a hole has not been dug—$500 million has been paid into the bank account of New South Wales. And that is before the proper process has happened. Indeed, the New South Wales Auditor-General said this in his report, WestConnex assurance to the Government, released at the end of last year:
The preliminary business case … had many deficiencies and fell well short of the standard required for such a document.
That was on page 3. And:
… we have seen no evidence of an independent, arm’s length review of the traffic analysis used for the final business case, by someone technically qualified to do so, before the business case was presented to the Government.
We did not find peer review outputs for land use, urban planning or transport planning.
That was on page 26 of the New South Wales Auditor-General’s report. That is of great concern for those who want to ensure that there is proper value for taxpayers’ money and that infrastructure of projects achieve their objectives. In this case the objective is allowing access to the city for people who live in Western Sydney and allowing freight to get to the port for the important freight task that will grow at Port Botany. Those are the objectives and it needs to be outlined how they will occur.
The minister himself on last night’s Channel 7 News was interviewed by Lee Jeloscek, and he was asked this: ‘How many at the moment use the M4 and the M5?’ His answer was: ‘Um, sorry, I haven’t got those numbers with me.’ The next question was: ‘So, how many tunnel stacks will there be for stages 1, 2 and 3 of the WestConnex?’ Mr Gay’s answer was: ‘Look, I couldn’t tell you the exact number.’ Another question was: ‘How many drivers a day are expected to use the WestConnex when it’s operational?’ Duncan Gay: silence, laughs.
But it is no joke. Infrastructure development must be done properly—not just rhetoric and handing over money for projects that are not ready to commence, that have not been through proper processes, that do not achieve the outcomes they were intended to reach. This government needs to get its act together on infrastructure development, and these projects show exactly why.
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:51): I am pleased to support this motion moved by the member for Melbourne Ports in this parliament today. The great, late Nelson Mandela once famously said:
Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does … Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.
Last year, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in Reclink’s Community Cup in Sydney. This Reclink Community Cup event is, of course, a much larger event in Melbourne. My team, the Rock and Roll Walers, coached by Jason Evans and skippered by Mark Evans, took on the media industry based Sailors, captained by Adam Spencer, at Henson Park in my electorate of Grayndler. It was my Aussie Rules debut. I took a mark, somewhat surprisingly, which features, for those doubters, on YouTube. This was the highlight of my short Australian Rules career and, given that the KPI I had set myself was simply to be able to walk off the field, I was pretty pleased. Yet for the third year in a row my team, the Walers, lost.
The real winner of the day, however, was undoubtedly the community. The money we raised went to Reclink, a Melbourne based charity that works in partnership with over 450 charities from around Australia. It is a charity that until the coalition’s first budget in May last year received funding from the Commonwealth government.
Reclink has a long and proud history of coordinating sporting and cultural programs for those less fortunate. It provides a valuable link between vulnerable people and their community in towns and cities across Australia. Reclink makes a difference for youth at risk, those experiencing mental illness, people with a disability, the homeless, and people tackling alcohol and other drug issues and social and economic hardship. In the year 2013 to 2014, Reclink Australia delivered over 115,000 participation opportunities for sport, recreation and arts. Reclink helps facilitates pathways for education and employment, often giving people a confidence in themselves they previously struggled to find. Reclink believes there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that, for every dollar invested by the federal government in the Reclink National Program, there is at least a tenfold equivalent dollar benefit to the community. That makes the federal government investment of $560,000 per annum value for money in economic terms, as well as priceless in social terms. I would like to recognise the hard work of the team behind Reclink Australia and congratulate founder Peter Cullen for all that he has done to make communities around the nation a better place.
The Senate select committee into the Liberal government’s budget cuts recommended that the government reinstate Commonwealth funding for Reclink Australia immediately. Today, the coalition should do just that. Brian Millett, a participant in the Reclink program, spoke to the Senate select committee about his friends and the positive impact of Reclink in their lives. He said:
Wednesday is football and they cannot wait for Wednesday. They belong there; they have a connection there. That is what I needed. I needed that gap filler to get me there.
It seems that the coalition know the price of everything and the value of nothing. You do not create stronger communities by tearing them apart.
I call upon the coalition to immediately reinstate funding to the Reclink national program and express some disappointment that there are no coalition speakers on this motion that has been moved by the member for Melbourne Ports and seconded by the member for Lalor in this House today. That is extraordinarily unusual. It is the case that people front and put their argument when debates occur in this parliament. To simply withdraw from the debate, to have nothing to say, does not do anything to give credit to the coalition government. However, all will be forgiven with the stroke of a pen if they fix up this funding shortfall and reinstate the cuts that they made in last year’s unfair budget.
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:12): I join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in supporting this condolence motion for my friend and comrade Tom Uren. Tom Uren saw deprivation in his early years, and then the worst of humanity. Born into the Depression in 1921, he left school at the age of 13 because his father could not get employment. He was a great sportsman. He represented Manly, unfortunately, in rugby league, but he also fought for the Australian heavyweight boxing championship. He was also a surf lifesaving champion at Freshwater. He had a lot to look forward to; and then, of course, World War II intervened. He put his nation before himself and, like so many other young men and women of that time, he enlisted. He went to Timor and was captured. He served in Timor, in Singapore, on the Burma-Siam railway and in Japan as a prisoner of war of the Japanese. Those people who read Richard Flanagan’s extraordinary book would respond to it as I did: you just wonder how these men came through that process without being bitter about the world and their place in it.
He was an extraordinary man. If he can be characterised by anything it is by his faith in humanity and his fellow man. He came through that process with love and used to speak—unusually for a man—about his love for people. It was genuine, and he received love in spades in return.
He was, in my view, the most significant grassroots campaigner in the history of the Australian Labor Party, given the longevity that the issues, be it the anti-Vietnam war moratoriums, which he and Jim Cairns led, his role on the environment—well ahead of the pack; well ahead of the intelligentsia—he understood a love for our natural and our built environment or whether it be issues of justice for our veterans. He was very proud that his last victory was to convince Prime Minister Gillard to grant justice to the surviving former prisoners of war of the Japanese. That occurred in 2012.
He leaves a tremendous legacy: the greening of Western Sydney, access to sewerage for people in our outer suburban communities, the first significant investment in public transport by a national government, the Australian Heritage Commission, the Register of the National Estate and the saving of the Sydney Harbour foreshores. Wherever you look around this country, particularly in outer suburbs and our regional cities, Tom Uren leaves a legacy of which he and his family can indeed be proud as both a minister in the Whitlam government and a minister in the Hawke government.
When he was nominated for the Companion of the Order of Australia I contacted Tony Abbott, the then Leader of the Opposition, and told him—as I told Bob Brown, the leader of the Australian Greens—that Prime Minister Gillard was supporting that nomination. All three of them enthusiastically and genuinely supported that nomination. He was someone who, in the noise of politics and conflict and petty squabbles that go on, soared above the political landscape—in this building and out there in the community.
To Christine, Ruby, Michael and Heather—and all of his family—I pass my condolences to you. His state funeral was a very historical event. I think it was wonderful to see Sir John Carrick, a good comrade of Tom’s as a prisoner of war. They led parallel lives of different political viewpoints but both are people, for those of us who have come after them, to whom we owe eternal respect for what they did for our nation.
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (09:57): The second President of the United States, John Adams, once remarked that ‘facts are stubborn things’. ‘Whatever our wishes, inclinations or passions,’ Adams said, ‘we cannot alter facts.
We cannot change evidence.’ That is a good rule for people who are involved in infrastructure. That is the rule that we established through the creation of Infrastructure Australia: to get proper advice from experts based on cost-benefit analysis—based on the benefit to productivity guiding where infrastructure investment went.
The Abbott government has ignored that. The experts at Infrastructure Australia urged the government to invest in the Melbourne Metro. We had already spent $40 million on getting the planning right. We urged it to invest in the M80 program. One billion dollars had already been spent on improvements to the ring-road around Melbourne —much needed and of much benefit—but it was cut in the budget this year. And then we have the Managed Motorways Program, benefiting the Monash Freeway to the east of Melbourne, where there was a $68 million cut in the budget even though it had a cost-benefit analysis of 5.2, or a $5.20 benefit for every dollar invested.
The government backed the East West Link project in spite of the fact that the cost-benefit analysis was 0.5— or, if you add things in, 0.8. Last Saturday, the voters of Victoria rendered a judgement about those actions by electing my friend Dan Andrews as Premier of Victoria.
Today I also want to talk about the WestConnex road project in Sydney. The WestConnex project, as I said on 12 March last year as the Minister for Infrastructure, needed to achieve three objectives. I told the House about three commitments that we made: one, the M4 has to take people into the city; two, the M5 has to take freight to the port; and, three, you cannot have new tolls on old roads.
That position was right then and it is right today. At the moment, the proposition that the WestConnex project will channel traffic to St Peters, to the west of the airport, to the most heavily congested areas of Sydney, and then traffic will have to funnel its way through Gardeners Road or King Street, Newtown, will ensure that this is a road to a traffic jam. This is contrary to the advice of Infrastructure Australia and the advice from Infrastructure New South Wales that, in its 2012 report, said first things first and that better port access was the top priority for New South Wales. I urge the government to ensure that they get this right.
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:11): It is with sadness that I rise to speak of the passing of Brian ‘Chicka’ Moore and to pay tribute to his enormous contribution to Rugby League in this nation and particularly in the inner west of Sydney. Brian passed away this week at the age of 70, after a long illness. Brian was very much a passionate Rugby League man. Many people know that I am passionate about my support for South Sydney. Brian was just as passionate about his support for and participation in the Newtown Rugby League Football Club. When he began playing for them they were, of course, the ‘Bluebags’; they were later known as the Newtown Jets.
Brian was a devastating player. I never missed a Newtown versus South Sydney game on the hill at Henson Park. One of the great experiences for kids was old-school footy at Henson Park in Marrickville, in my electorate. The King George V stand fitted hundreds of people, but there were thousands standing around and sitting on the grass watching Rugby League when Newtown had a home game.
Brian was a tall, hard-running centre with strength and speed. He did play for Australia, but many good judges argue that he would have been a permanent fixture in the test team were he not a player in the same era as people like Reg Gasnier, Graeme Langlands, Paul Sait and a range of very good players who kept him out of the test team. But he did play for New South Wales between 1963 and 1970, and he toured with the Kangaroos in the 1967-68 tour. He did not play any tests on that tour, but he was Australia’s top try scorer—a remarkable feat, given that he did not play in the test. Later he became Newtown’s last first grade coach in 1983 when they left the main competition. Newtown still play in the New South Wales Cup and are still followed by many loyal supporters. It is still a good day at Henson Park watching Newtown go around.
Brian was also a police officer, as many of the Rugby League greats of that era were. They did not get paid well enough to have Rugby League as their full-time job—so they had other jobs. He was a police officer and he was a mentor of many younger people coming through. Indeed, in 2008 he was inducted into the New South Wales police team of the century and in 2009 he was awarded the New South Wales Police Medal for diligent and ethical service during his time in uniform. One of the obituaries on the Newtown website says:
Arguably the finest moment of his career came in 1973 when he almost single-handedly helped Newtown to a remarkable comeback win over St George in the final of the 1973 Wills Pre-Season Cup.
‘Newtown were down 15-2 at halftime and the heat was horrendous,’ says respected rugby league historian Terry Williams.
‘They won 17-15 and that was largely on the back of Chicka. He basically took St George on on his own. In attack he cut the Dragons to pieces out wide and when they had the ball he became a road block.
Chicka Moore was a great character. He very prematurely, at a young age, became bald and his figure stood out on the field. As a young man in his 20s he played 173 games for Newtown and scored 90 tries, and he was a great player and a great character in Newtown. I pay my respects to his family and all of his friends.