MONDAY, 7 MAY, 2018
Subjects: Budget, infrastructure, tax cuts, Labour Day.
CATHY O’TOOLE, MEMBER FOR HERBERT: It’s great to have Anthony Albanese here with us today, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Tourism and Transport. Very clearly in Townsville we want to see a Budget that includes infrastructure. And that infrastructure for us is about long-term water security, hydro-electricity in the Burdekin Falls Dam and the expansion of the port – three critical infrastructure projects that Labor has committed to and we want to see that evident in the Budget that will be handed down tomorrow. But I will hand over to Anthony to fill you in in the broader infrastructure issues.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s great to be back in Townsville, the capital of the north. The fact is that tomorrow’s Budget is an opportunity for the Government to actually match its rhetoric with some real funding, When we were last in Government we did the Townsville Ring Road, we did the Douglas Arterial, we did the approaches north and south to Cairns. We invested in infrastructure. Indeed, we more than doubled the infrastructure budget here in North Queensland.
This Government has had a lot of rhetoric but they have been prepared to go along and open projects that were begun by the former Labor Government, such as the Ring Road. But they haven’t put the actual investment in and when it comes to issues like the Port Channel widening, this is a vital issue. This is about increasing our trade. This is about improving our national position in terms of maximising the benefit of that trade right here in Townsville. The fact is that this Government’s only significant investment is of course the money for the stadium that they got dragged kicking and screaming to after more than a year after Labor committed to that project. And then they called it a City Deal. Well, the fact is that an actual City Deal would have a comprehensive plan of funding.
Tomorrow night’s Budget will be an opportunity nationally as well for the Government to actually invest in infrastructure with real dollars for real projects in real time. What we have seen so far from the Government leaks is repetition of rhetoric rather than actual achievement – the sort of rhetoric that we saw two years ago with the creation of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, the NAIF, which is really known now as the No Actual Infrastructure Fund.
Years later not a single project for Queensland has been funded out of that facility, a big fanfare, a big $5 billion figure, not meaning anything at all and we are seeing that replicated with projects and announcements like Melbourne Rail to the airport which they are saying would be an equity injection, rather than an actual grant.
We are seeing it in terms of Western Sydney Rail through to the new airport, where they say that they support that project, but the fact is that $50 million for a business case means in actual fact zero dollars for actual construction of that rail line that should be under way right now so that it can open prior to the airport. Right across the nation whether it be here in Townsville in Northern Australia, or in our capital cities or in our regions, this is a Government that has masked its cut to infrastructure with rhetoric.
Its infrastructure budget was due to be in 2020-21 just $4.2 billion and it was due to decline over the decade, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office, which is independent, to 0.2 per cent from 0.4 per cent as a percentage of our national GDP – to be cut in half. So they have a lot of catching up to do. We await tomorrow night’s Budget to see whether it delivers, not just here in Townsville but right around the nation.
REPORTER: Mr Albanese, the Government have just come out this morning and touted their infrastructure credentials, saying that it will be the focus of this Budget. Are you confident of that? They have announced a pretty big figure.
ALBANESE: Well they announce lots of figures that aren’t real. One of the things that they have done as a government is to, instead of talking about the four-year Budget forward estimates, they have talked about over ten years and they have also included funding for things like the NAIF – $5 billion. I leave it to people in North Queensland but right across northern Australia to judge what benefit has there been from that $5 billion announcement that isn’t in tomorrow night’s Budget, wasn’t in last year’s, but was in the year before. So we now have, more than two years since that announcement, not a single project for Queensland.
So big figures are fine, but if they don’t actually lead to construction and actual infrastructure, then they mean absolutely nothing and that shows the failure of this Government because that Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility is flawed. It is for loans, not for grants. The truth is that if private sector projects are viable and will produce a return on investment, then they don’t need a loan from the Government. There is plenty of capital and loans available to the private sector for good infrastructure projects that produce a return right now. What government can do is to facilitate projects and to invest in projects that make a difference to the national economy.
One of those is of course the Townsville Port Channel widening. The others are the water projects and the energy projects that have been identified here in North Queensland that Labor has committed to. What we will be looking for tomorrow night is the difference between the actual investment that is occurring and the Government’s rhetoric and we will be looking very closely at that and whether there is actual benefit from the announcements that have been made.
And I refer you as well to the front page story about Western Sydney Rail through to the airport, a grand signing of a document between all the mayors in western Sydney and the Commonwealth and State governments. You couldn’t fit all the politicians in the screen and yet what we know now is that all there is $50 million for a business case. Well why wasn’t the business case done already? The business case largely has been identified through the studies that have been done into Badgerys Creek Airport. So the gap is there between the Government’s rhetoric and the reality.
What the Australian economy needs is actual road projects, actual rail projects that are ready to go. Here in Queensland of course the Cross River Rail Project is ready to go. Labor has committed or recommitted funding to that project. That was a project that was funded by the former Labor Government and Campbell Newman’s Government and had that funding withdrawn and as a result has been delayed for years. Now that is a project that is a pre-condition for the project where they have announced some funding for rail further north towards the Sunshine Coast. But if you don’t do Cross River Rail you can’t do the Sunshine Coast project because it is essential to build the capacity not just for Brisbane but for the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
REPORTER: Mr Albanese, the Government are arguing that the Port of Townsville is a state-owned asset, it generates profit and that instead of paying dividends to its shareholders – the Treasury, those profits should be redirected back into the Port expansion. What do you make of that?
ALBANESE: Well this is a Government that has a terrible record when it comes to ports. In tomorrow night’s Budget they will announce the final mile from Mascot through to Port Botany of the project that they cut when they came to office in 2013 and they will pretend it is a new project. What it is is a project that has been delayed for five years and has therefore seen increased costs to the taxpayer as a result of that cut. Of course we know in the Port of Darwin it has been flogged off, allowed for by the Coalition Federal Government, to overseas interests clearly against Australia’s national interests and here in Townsville they are not acknowledging the contribution that the port makes to the national economy. Now the Government, the Federal Government, gets a dividend from boosts in exports and boosts to the national economy. They should put some of that back through the channel widening. This is a project that is ready to proceed. It’s a project in which Labor has committed and the Government should commit funding to it tomorrow night.
REPORTER: Mr Albanese, the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, foreshadowed tax cuts in the Budget. Would there be any circumstances where Labor would oppose them?
ALBANESE: Well we will wait and see what is in tomorrow’s Budget. But what we know is that since 1980 if you actually look at taxes as a proportion of the GDP, the political party that is the high-tax party is the Liberal-National Party Coalition. They are the party that have presided over increases in taxes. Labor will examine any proposals that are there in the Budget tomorrow and make our announcements when we do a Budget reply on Thursday or at some stage before the election. But one thing is very clear – Labor has got more policy out at this stage of the electoral cycle than any Opposition in living memory. We have out there clearly outlined our policies on changes to the imputation, on changes to capital gains and negative gearing for investment properties, on changes to the amount of tax that can be written off for accountants’ fees. We have got that out there in a very transparent manner and we will be very transparent about all of our tax policies prior to the election.
I’m proud to have great honour of speaking at the May Day march here in Townsville. May Day is a day in which we recognise and celebrate the fact that all of the gains that have been made for working people have been made through the trade union movement and through collective action. Measures such as the shorter working week, penalty rates, leave for holidays, wage increases, occupational health and safety. All of those issues have been dealt with as a result of the actions that we celebrate today.
Today is also a reminder that the work is not done. We see attacks on penalty rates, we see real wages declining for the first time in decades. So today is a day to once again recommit to actually making sure the economy works for people, not the other way around. Economic growth is to benefit working Australians. We are not seeing that at the moment. What we are seeing is a Government that has produced ideological attacks on trade unions and on workers. They are seeking to undermine the superannuation industry, seeking to undermine penalty rates, to reduce working conditions of working Australians and today we are celebrating the gains of the past but also committing ourselves to have further gains into the future.
O’TOOLE: Once again here on Labour Day we can see a great crowd of people coming together. Here in Townsville we have the highest rate in the state of $53 million in unpaid or underpaid superannuation. For us that is over 22,500 residents, That is completely unacceptable. Labour Day is about celebrating the past and the achievements of the past, but it is also about how do we take up the fight for these battles – wage theft, privatisation, cuts to penalty rates, working conditions, simply unacceptable to the workers of Townsville, where we also see a high unemployment rate for young people and our general population.
The unions have worked incredibly hard to deliver us probably some of the best working conditions in the world and they are being eroded by this Turnbull Government and that must stop. The people in this community will not tolerate their wages and conditions being further reduced and cut. Also we will not tolerate cuts to jobs and cuts to services particularly when we look at the aged care industry and the national disgrace that that is at the moment. So there is a lot of work to be done and the people in this community stand proudly today on Labour Day to support our union movement and say thank you for the hard work that they have delivered since the 1850s.
MONDAY, 7 MAY, 2018
Subjects: Vinyl records, Budget, infrastructure, bipartisanship, Sydney Airport, banks, Newstart, GST.
REPORTER: In Townsville Albo, afternoon Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Indeed and I just heard your statement about what was coming up on the show. I actually have the vinyl. It’s a purple cover, purple and silver, of the original Australian cast recording for Jesus Christ Superstar with Jon English and Trevor White. I’ve got it somewhere at home I am sure.
REPORTER: You haven’t turned it into a pot plant holder or anything have you?
ALBANESE: No, I kept all my vinyl thank goodness. I was faithful that it would come back and it certainly has.
REPORTER: All right. Budget tomorrow Anthony Albanese. I’ve just seen that the Coalition Government reckons they will return to a surplus a year ahead and we could even have in the bank $7 billion. Initial reaction Anthony?
ALBANESE: Well we will wait and see the reality. They have been good at predicting. These are the same people who, when Joe Hockey came to office, said they would have a surplus each and every year and what we have seen is that The debt has doubled. It’s now out to over half a trillion dollars. They used to talk about a debt and deficit disaster when it was over $200 billion. It’s now double that at over $500 billion and they don’t talk about it anymore. So we will wait and see how it actually matches up with reality.
REPORTER: Yes. Anthony. They keep saying there is quite a difference between your lot – the Labor side of politics – and the Coalition side of politics. They reckon they can deliver lower taxes and better, if you like, living style. They reckon you would take us for a ride and you always overspend.
ALBANESE: The problem with that is that the facts are very different. You know that the ten best years for lowest tax-to-GDP ratios since the 1980s have all been under Labor governments – all ten of them. So this is a government that has increased the tax-to-GDP ratio, that has increased the deficit, increased the debt and what they haven’t had, we had when we were in government of course, the fact is we had to deal with the Global Financial Crisis. They have had good international conditions, rising commodity prices. They haven’t had either what we had, which was floods in Queensland and bush fires which were devastating in Victoria, but also added to fiscal pressures. This Government have had a dream ride and they have blown it, which is why I think what we are seeing now is a bit of desperation.
REPORTER: Yes, but surely Anthony Albanese we should be able to somehow get some bipartisan agreement on policy. I mean, this is a country should one side of politics make the decision, now as you know they have locked in this 23.9 per cent attached to the GDP. You don’t think that should be. There must be some middle ground where something must be harmonious and a compromise made given the fact that we are one country, surely one side shouldn’t be announcing policy without going to the other side?
ALBANESE: Well that is higher of course than what we had during that period in which we were in office. Look, I certainly am someone who is prepared to engage in constructive dialogue with the Government. There are two pieces of legislation in my portfolio tomorrow, one in the area of shipping and one in the area of heavy vehicles, both of which I will be giving second reading speeches supporting that legislation. Some of the big issues on infrastructure – it has taken bi-partisanship to ensure that there is a second Sydney airport. l’d like to see a bit of bi-partisanship on High Speed Rail, on a range of those big, visionary programs. What we haven’t had from this Government is any attempt at bi-partisanship. They seem to be driven totally by politics.
REPORTER: Now you are talking about Badgerys Creek which has been kicked around and into the high grass for so many decades Anthony Albanese. Do you think that regional airports around Australia, in fact NSW, will suffer if we’ve got to fly from a regional airport in NSW and we’ve got to fly into Badgerys Creek and we are looking for a doctor’s appointment in Macquarie St, it’s going to take us two hours to get into town.
ALBANESE: Well they will still be able to fly of course into Kingsford Smith.
REPORTER: Will there be (inaudible) there?
ALBANESE: There should be regional slots guaranteed into Kingsford Smith. But also it’s a fact that many people in Western Sydney want to fly to regional areas and it’s also the case that with what should happen with the aerotropolis around Western Sydney – it can’t be just a runway and a terminal; it has to be a catalyst for investment, for high value jobs in Western Sydney and that means people wanting to fly and to go to the science park up at Luddenham, to go to work and meetings at the high-value manufacturing sector in aviation, in renewable energy, in logistics and freight sector. That’s what I want to see, is an airport that creates jobs for people in Western Sydney.
REPORTER: OK. They reckon the income tax cuts anticipated in the Budget, they are looking at the tax cuts. That’s what they propose. You don’t like that?
ALBANESE: What we are concerned about is not tax cuts for working people …
REPORTER: But for the banks?
ALBANESE: Well what we are concerned about is the $65 billion of tax cuts for corporate Australia that there’s no evidence that there will be a flow-on in terms of increased wages.
ALBANESE: … or benefits to working people. That’s the concern.
REPORTER: In the grant of the working people Anthony, should we raise the Newstart allowance?
ALBANESE: I certainly think that Newstart Allowance is too low. That’s my view. I think that people would struggle to get on with that sort of income. It simply hasn’t kept up. The fact is that our first objective should be to get people who are on Newstart into jobs. But whilst they are on Newstart, we’ve got to make sure that they are able to live and live in a way that actually assists them to get into work, allows them to stay healthy and not be below the poverty line.
REPORTER: Of course the Coalition reckon Anthony that you cut the tax and we will spend more. Is that a logical circle?
ALBANESE: Well, how does that fit with the top-end-of-town business, which is their priority for big business tax? We certainly have always been of the view that if you put extra dollars in the pockets and the wallets of low and middle-income earners, they will spend it. They will create more jobs. The problem for this Government is that under its watch real wages are actually declining.
ALBANESE: And they are particularly declining for those at the lower end. And if they are unsure about the consequences of that, they could ask the people cleaning their offices in Parliament House, because they cut their wages as one of the first things that they did when they came to office.
REPORTER: Yes. I mean that old thing about could you live on $40 a day, that was proposed last week and then we found out I think the politician who said that has got a couple of million dollars invested into investment properties. Is that on old test on what you could do Albo? Could you live off $40 a day?
ALBANESE: Well no I’d struggle. That’s the truth. I know what it is like. I grew up in a single-parent household. I know what it is like to struggle with every single cent and dollar. Now the fact is that politicians are well remunerated. We work hard, but we don’t have the same issues that people who wonder whether they will be able to buy, you know, a big box of Wheet-Bix or a little one because they can only afford the money that they have in their pocket and I think it is our responsibility as politicians to always try and step into others’ shoes who are less well off than us.
REPORTER: Yes, but you’ve got to be bipartisan to do that. A couple of quickies before I let you go Anthony Albanese. Live exports: down and out, or up and running?
ALBANESE: Well when you look at Joel Fitzgibbon’s announcement I think it is the right approach.
REPORTER: You are agreeing with him?
ALBANESE: I am agreeing with Joel Fitzgibbon. I think that what we have seen is quite horrific and it’s unacceptable …
ALBANESE: … on our watch to see that sort of mistreatment of animals.
REPORTER: So would you end it?
ALBANESE: Well you can’t just sort of end it full stop.
ALBANESE: What Joel has called for is a phasing out for serious discussion with industry as well about how as well we can benefit in terms of additional jobs by value-adding.
REPORTER: GST. Where do you want it to go?
ALBANESE: Well that’s a matter really for the states of course. It’s the state-based tax and no changes can be made without agreement from the states. It’s significant I think that the Labor states as well as Labor opposition leaders in Coalition-held states and territories have agreed that there needs to be a change in the tampon tax so that people aren’t treated unfairly because they happen to be women.
REPORTER: All right. Tomorrow night as the Treasurer stands to his feet you will be sitting on the Opposition benches and I guess you will be yelling out “no’’, “woeful’’ and all that sort of thing?
ALBANESE: No. We’ve got to behave during the Budget speech.
REPORTER: Have you? What will you do when Bill stands to his feet on Thursday night?
ALBANESE: We’ve got to behave during both. I think the Treasurer and the Opposition Leader are entitled to be heard with some respect and I think that will happen. The Speaker, I am sure, will tomorrow lay down the law and that is a good thing.
REPORTER: Will Bill Shorten take the Opposition Labor Party, the Federal Labor Party to the next election Anthony?
ALBANESE: Yes he will and he’s campaigning extremely well. Labor is ahead in the polls and we have managed to I think set the agenda. I think if you look at our team across the board we are ready to form Government and across the board I think person-for-person I’d much rather be on our side and have confidence in the way that we’d manage the economy and the various policy challenges which we are facing than the other mob.
REPORTER :Anthony Albanese, member for Grayndler, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Cities, Transport and Regional Development. Shadow Minister for Tourism as well enjoying Townsville as we always will, I will let you get back to the business.
SYDNEY – WILLIE THE BOATMAN BREWERY
FRIDAY, 4 MAY, 2018
Subjects: National Rail Plan, craft beer.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This morning in Melbourne, Bill Shorten, the Labor Leader, announced our National Rail Plan. This is an important plan to keep jobs here in Australia. What we know is that right around the country we’ve had train sets purchased, for light rail here in Sydney, that don’t match up; for heavy rail here in Sydney where the trains are too long or too wide for the platform and the tunnels. We have had similar occurrences from trains that have been purchased for the rail sector in Queensland. We can do better than that and Labor’s plan for national rail is about keeping manufacturing here. The Government acknowledges that the defence industry is important for maintaining jobs and skills here and a manufacturing base. Rail is exactly the same and the fact that this policy is supported by industry, by unions, by the freight sector and logistics sector – it is something that should be in the Government’s Budget next week.
Something that is in the Government’s Budget next week that we know about is reform when it comes to craft beer and this has been a great victory by the team behind me here and craft breweries right around Australia. There are over 400 craft breweries around Australia. They are small businesses. They employ local people. They bring communities together. They are a focal point for their communities. The people who go into the craft brewing industry are small business owners. They are not people who make a hell of a lot of money. Sometimes they don’t make much at all. What they do though, is bring communities together, employ local people and boost local economies.
It’s not just direct either. Behind us we also have Dave from Dave’s Brewery Tours. You have to wait a few weeks to get on to one of the tours here in the Inner West of Sydney, but they are also expanding out to Newcastle and into other parts of New South Wales and Australia.
This has been a strong campaign. It’s a campaign in which we have had motions in Parliament, petitions collected by brewers right around Australia and it is just about a fair go.
When people understood that your local craft brewery wasn’t able to get the same treatment as big foreign owned brewers, they knew that wasn’t fair and the fact is that the equalisation, making sure that the same tax applies regardless of whether a keg is 50 litres or 30 litres or 40 litres, will mean that those quality products that craft breweries produce will be taxed at the same treatment.
In addition to that, increasing the rebate from $30,000 to $100,000 will make an enormous difference. It will mean that these employers put on more local people right around the country. One of the things about the craft brewing sector is that it isn’t just in areas like the Inner West of Sydney, although I happen to think this is the best place. It is right around the country, right around regional Australia. Every regional town just about now has a craft brewery. They are employing local people. They are bringing people to that local town. They are producing quite distinctive product. And so this is a great day for people power. It is a day on which I have already had a discussion with the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, and said that this is a good thing that will happen in next Tuesday’s Budget and I want to thank all those who campaigned. We have had probably half a dozen of these press conferences hosted at the local brewers who are here and here we have Willie the Boatman, we’ve got Shark Island, we’ve got Batch, we’ve got Yullies, we’ve got Wayward, we’ve got the people from Sydney Beer Week, Young Henrys, Rocks Brewing, Bucket Boys. We’ve got a great collection here.
But wherever you go, whether it is in the suburbs or the regional towns of Australia, people will be having a quiet one tonight and having it at a cheaper rate once this change comes through. So congratulations to everyone. This is a great industry and this measure will ensure will ensure that it grows, employs more people and helps to build the community. I think a couple of the team wanted to have something today.
PAT McINERNEY, WILLIE THE BOATMAN BREWERY: Thanks Albo. This is a really good day for small business in Australia. The $70,000 that we get from our excise rebate will mean that my business partner and I will be able to invest more in equipment and hire a lot more people and all of our employees come from our local area. So this is a great day. This is something that Anthony has worked closely with us on and really championed it. So cheers to Albo.
DAN HAMPTON, YOUNG HENRYS: We are from young Henry’s. We’ve been around for about six years. We know the challenges and we have been watching people work really hard to have a voice and so I think more than anything this is a good step toward the craft beer scene in Australia having a voice. We hire over 80 people in the local community here and so being able to put back to those staff, being able to put back to the community – we do lots with arts and music – to do all these things is huge. It’s very good news to wake up to.
ALBANESE: I think this is one of the only times or perhaps the only time I am going to get to have a beer at a press conference. It is after 12. Cheers!
FRIDAY, 4 MAY, 2018
Subject: WA infrastructure.
OLIVER PETERSON: We’re joined now by Labor’s Shadow Infrastructure Minister. Albo, good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
PETERSON: Have you been trumped? Has the Labor Party been trumped by the Government’s cash splash here in the west?
ALBANESE: Not at all. The fact is that we have with our Fair Share for WA Fund committed $1.6 billion over two years. The Government has committed $3.2 billion over 10 years. They weren’t even saying what their timeline is, of when money will flow for these projects. So WA has been dudded by the Prime Minister again. They haven’t delivered on what they said they would do which is to fix up the shortfall that’s there to bring WA up to the equivalent of 70 cents. That’s what we’ve said we would do in our first Budget. What we have here is a whole range of projects which as you know, myself and in some cases Bill Shorten as the Leader have announced over the last year. Projects like Ellenbrook, Midland, the Byford Extension, the Mitchell Freeway Extension, Stephenson Avenue, have all been announced previously by Federal Labor, our commitment to those projects. And at five minutes to midnight, after five years of inaction, they’ve decided Western Australia counts. The Prime Minister dropped in for a day, for the first time in a very, very long time.
PETERSON: So, Anthony Albanese, does the Labor Party now need to play catch up? Will there be more infrastructure announcements here in WA?
ALBANESE: Well, there’s no catch up. We’re ahead and we’ll stay ahead. $1.6 billion over two years is the equivalent of $800 million additional on top of our normal infrastructure commitments to WA over each of two years. Now, if the Government was fair dinkum about $800 million a year then the figure would have been $8 billion today, not $3.2 billion. So what they’ve done is extend this policy out over a long period of time. What we know is that WA has a shortfall right now. It’s improved a little bit, by a few cents in the dollar, but it’s still way behind and it’s still not good enough. We think that 70 cents as a minimum is a reasonable starting point and that’s why we make these commitments. I’m very pleased that we’ve embarrassed the Government into matching the commitments that we’ve made.
PETERSON: It’s interesting indeed, I think the fight is certainly on here in WA, there’s a few sweeteners for voters here in Perth that we’re starting to obviously have our ears at the ready listening to what you’re promising, listening what the Government is promising. I wonder if it is going to shape or change people’s votes. Anthony Albanese, thanks for your time on Perth Live.
ALBANESE: Great to be with you.
Subjects: NDIS, tax, negative gearing.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Welcome back to the show. Plenty going on in politics this morning. Joining me now is Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne in Adelaide. Morning guys.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Karl, good morning Anthony.
STEFANOVIC: Let’s start with you, Christopher. Scott Morrison told Today yesterday that we can afford the NDIS now without a Medicare levy. This morning we learned the gap will be larger than $7 billion. Do you know how much that gap will be, Chris?
PYNE: Well the good news Karl, is that we are able to not have to raise the Medicare levy in order to pay for the NDIS because of our good economic management of the country and the Budget.
STEFANOVIC: But do you know how much the gap will be?
PYNE: Well, I think there’s speculation about the gap. The Treasurer has made it quite clear that there is no gap, that we actually have the revenue, that the revenues are growing. We’ve managed the economy well. We’ve managed the Budget well. So the good news is unlike Labor who want to increase or raise six new taxes, we have no plans for increasing taxes. In fact, quite the opposite. We’re trying to reduce the tax burden.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, I’ll get to that in a second but do you know why the costs are blowing out for the NDIS? I’ll tell you. More children than expected are entering the scheme. Fewer than expected are leaving it. The states have to come up with funding. They have to come to the party. Essentially there are no guarantees because you have such little control over costs.
PYNE: No, the truth is the NDIS is a very important reform to support people with disabilities and we are very confident that while of course it is only just beginning, and therefore there’s issues that always need to be worked out, we can fund it. Now, Labor didn’t fund it. We are funding it and we’re doing it without an increase in the Medicare levy which is good news.
STEFANOVIC: Anthony, you blocked the Medicare increase. Are you partly to blame here?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Christopher argued week after week, year after year, that it wasn’t funded and today with no difference, no policy change, it now is funded. The truth is we always funded the NDIS when we were in government. What show that is true, is the fact that now they say with no changes, it now is fully funded. They can’t have it both ways. This is a Government that is all over the shop.
STEFANOVIC: Christopher, you can’t guarantee the costs aren’t going to blow out. That is the problem and therefore funding can’t be guaranteed.
PYNE: The point is under Labor they did not have the allocation of revenue that is necessary.
STEFANOVIC: But how can you guarantee the funding if you don’t know what the costs are going to be?
PYNE: We manage the Budget and we’ve worked out the cost and we’ve got the revenue. Labor didn’t have the revenue and didn’t know the cost and they were making speculative claims about how much money they had…
ALBANESE: Complete nonsense. Go back to what you were saying last week…
STEFANOVIC: So Christopher just back on your earlier point. You won’t be introducing any new taxes?
PYNE: Well, I don’t know what is absolutely in the Budget of course because we won’t be deciding that until closer to the date.
STEFANOVIC: Oh, come on. You won’t be introducing any new taxes, will you?
PYNE: Well we don’t speculate about the Budget, Karl. You know that so it’s a very, very unfair question.
STEFANOVIC: It’s a pretty easy question, are you going to be increasing…
PYNE: We don’t speculate about the Budget but I can tell you what, we don’t increase taxes. Labor does.
PYNE: Labor has six new taxes…
ALBANESE: Taxes have increased as a proportion of the economy under you.
STEFANOVIC: Alright, alright.
PYNE: We are always reducing income tax, reducing company tax. That’s in our DNA. Labor loves tax. We don’t.
STEFANOVIC: That’s ‘in your DNA’?. What about oil and gas giants? They’ll be forced to pay more tax, won’t they? You’re changing the uplift concessions which determines tax deductions, so they will be paying more. That’s an increase, isn’t it?
PYNE: That’s possibly a good idea, Karl, when you look at it…
STEFANOVIC: But it is an increase, isn’t it?
PYNE: When you look at Qatar, Karl..
STEFANOVIC: You said you don’t increase taxes. You’re doing it!
PYNE: Are you becoming a shock jock, Karl? What’s going on here?
STEFANOVIC: No, I’m becoming a truth jock.
PYNE: You’ve been having your vitamins this morning.
STEFANOVIC: I’m becoming a truth jock and that is the truth, isn’t it? Oil and gas companies will be paying more.
PYNE: We had a review of the PRRT because this country has not been achieving anything like the revenues from gas that a country like Qatar has been…
STEFANOVIC: So you are increasing taxes?
PYNE: …and that suggests to us…
ALBANESE: Of course they are.
PYNE: …that it needs to be reviewed, and it’s not a new company tax cut, not a new income tax, it’s actually making sure we get the most out of our gas reserves.
ALBANESE: Under this mob, taxes are up as a proportion of the economy. Taxes are up, the deficit is up, debt is up to half a trillion dollars under them.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, you’re not of the woods either at this morning. You guys love to make it hard for your own heartland. What about this; you’ve got dramas with almost two thirds of all investors who negatively gear on less income than $80,000 a year. That’s teachers amongst those, with the highest numbers who gear properties. That is your heartland, why do you want to slash it?
ALBANESE: Guess what, Karl? Not one of them will be impacted. There’s no retrospectivity in our proposals. Our proposals will continue to allow negative gearing but for new properties, so you actually get support for the construction sector and for those jobs.
STEFANOVIC: What about all those teachers who have them now?
ALBANESE: They’re not impacted. No one’s existing arrangements are impacted by any of our proposals.
PYNE: It’s only the new people with income under $80,000 dollars who get hurt under your policy.
ALBANESE: They don’t get hurt. What they’ll do is, if they want to negatively gear – you’ve had a good crack this morning, Christopher…
PYNE: Well, I’ve been fighting with Karl, actually.
ALBANESE: If they – well, just stick that. You haven’t gone well there, so don’t pick another fight.
PYNE: You answer the question.
ALBANESE: When it comes to negative gearing, the fact is that people will be able to invest in new construction. That makes sense, Karl. Why would you have existing investors competing with first home buyers for existing property?
STEFANOVIC: Alright, I’ll let you get out and sell that message because it seems a bit hard for me to understand, but I’m no expert.
PYNE: We’ve known all along this would happen.
ALBANESE: No impact on existing properties. Zero. Really easy.
STEFANOVIC: We’ve got to go. KFC is celebrating 50 years.
Subjects: Medicare Levy, tax cuts, Banking Royal Commission, infrastructure, immigration
GRAHAM RICHARDSON: On my right is Anthony Albanese. Actually, he should be on my right the way he goes on these days. But there he is. Anthony, welcome to the program.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don’t know about that Graham, but good to be here.
RICHARDSON: Well I worry about it. Maybe if have gone further to the Left though? That may be the case.
ALBANESE: That can happen.
RICHARDSON: You may not have moved, but I may have.
ALBANESE: Eventually you realise the correctness of the Left position.
RICHARDSON: I’ve seen the light. Well, I’m not quite there yet, but we will see. Look, just minutes before we came into the studio, literally I think about 10 minutes before, I was told that the Government has just announced that they are abolishing the Medicare Levy, which of course I think you have been asking them to do for quite some time.
ALBANESE: Well we have for some time. It’s quite absurd and untenable for a Government that is going to a Budget where we know they are going to be saying we want some income tax cuts at the same time as they were putting this Medicare Levy on for the NDIS but across all income levels. What Labor has said is that we are happy to look at the levels of $87,000 and above. We are also of course happy to look at maintaining, or putting back, what was called the Deficit Levy because the deficit has actually got worse under this mob.
RICHARDSON: Much worse.
ALBANESE: The level of debt has just about doubled. It’s now over half a trillion dollars and for those people on above $180,000, we think they could afford to pay that until such time as the Budget returns to surplus.
RICHARDSON: Well, I don’t care whether I pay it or not but I know that if you are going to have an income tax cut, you can’t give a two cent cut. You are going to have to give something decent to make it worthwhile then one would imagine that Scott Morrison was going to get rid of this anyway. I mean as soon as they announced they were going to have tax cuts I assumed this would go.
ALBANESE: Well you can’t give with one hand and take back with another.
RICHARDSON: Some people can.
ALBANESE: You can try. But the truth is they haven’t got away with it, like they haven’t got away with theirbig end tax cuts of $65 billion for companies. People again this week we have seen surveys that show that what people want is investment in education, investment in health, investment in early childhood …
RICHARDSON: Health was way in front actually.
ALBANESE: Investment in infrastructure. And that usually is the case. People know that there are massive pressures on their own Budget and what they have now, I mean it is going to be interesting to see, in a Kelly O’Dwyer-type way, them argue that the banks, the Big Four, should be entitled to this company tax cut. I mean, how do you do that?
RICHARDSON: It’s going to be very difficult. I have been arguing against you up until the last ten days. My view was you couldn’t gouge out any particular sector. But now I think the banks have earned our wrath. They have earned our ire and they have not earned a tax cut. That’s for sure.
ALBANESE: Well they have had a shocker. But the truth is if the Government was smart, what they would do is to take the company tax cuts off the table and they would do it at the Budget, because I can’t see how it is going to get through the Senate. I think in spite of the fact that Pauline Hanson has betrayed once again her own battler base in favour of the big end of town, I can’t see it getting through.
RICHARDSON: It’s interesting you said that because I interviewed Scott Morrison on this show two weeks ago and put that to him directly and said why don’t you get the numbers out of the Budget because it is pretty obvious it’s not going to happen? But his view was that Malcolm Turnbull says you never know what will turn up with the Senate numbers. That was his great saying. I said to him then that he had another saying which is that the trajectory is clear, but he didn’t seem to like that part of it so I moved on. But it is obvious that the tax cuts are coming. But it is not obvious to me how you pay for them and I am still wondering. I note as, you probably have, that tonight Scott Morrison has said that receipts, I think he said revenue is $4.8 billion up because you’ve got more jobs and more people paying and I suppose less unemployment payments.
ALBANESE: And you have had a turnaround in some of the commodity payments as well.
RICHARDSON: Yes. Coal has gone up, iron ore has gone up.
ALBANESE: Yes. That has produced more revenue for the Government.
RICHARDSON: Does that mean they can afford the tax cuts?
ALBANESE: Well we will wait and see what the Budget numbers show. But what they can’t afford to do Graham is to continue to stand for the top end at the same time as working people out there, the people I seek to represent, are really struggling. They are struggling with their electricity bills. They are struggling with paying fees for their kids.
RICHARDSON: They are struggling with no wage increases.
ALBANESE: They are struggling with everyday costs of living. And at the same time as you have these companies doing quite well many of them in terms of record profits, you have remuneration to the top end being pretty good – a lot of largesse, ordinary people out there are suffering effectively a real wage cut.
RICHARDSON: Well that bloke Mellor, who AMP have just sacked. I mean they had already sacked him. He has been sacked twice the poor bugger.
ALBANESE: I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him.
RICHARDSON: While the share price was plummeting last year, so before these revelations remember, the share price has only had on direction – south – and he got paid $8.1 million for presiding over that last year – $8.1 million for failing. It’s not bad, is it?
ALBANESE: Yes it’s not a bad wicket and I think that people see that and they know themselves that they are not getting wage increases to keep up with inflation and they know that Scott Morrison is relying upon the trickle-down effect – if we just look after the big end, somehow it will all flow down and the average worker out there, struggling, will be better off. Well the average worker doesn’t buy it. That is why this Government is in real strife I think frankly. This Budget is the last Budget before an election. I think the election will be next year, but his will be the last Budget regardless of what the timing is, whether it is later this year or early 2019 and the Government has to turn around its fortunes. That Kelly O’Dwyer interview I think will be one of those totemic things that you will keep seeing. I notice it was on Sunday and I’ve seen it three of four times now.
RICHARDSON: Well I had to play it.
ALBANESE: Of course you had to.
RICHARDSON: It was fascinating television really.
ALBANESE: Of course you had to.
RICHARDSON: How anyone could be that stupid is beyond me.
ALBANESE: It was a train wreck. I have seen a lot of Insider interviews. That was the worst I have seen. But it was so bad because of what in represented, because of what it told people – that she just couldn’t bring herself to say one, that she was wrong, but secondly, also to acknowledge as Mathias Cormann did then, that actually the behaviour that we have seen come out is just quite extraordinary. The fellow who was giving financial advice to the former Labor Council official Donna McKenna, you know, people ringing up impersonating her is just beyond belief.
RICHARDSON: Yes, well at the end of the show I do a review of the week and I’ve got that included because it’s quite extraordinary the lengths to which they have gone. But also, I think, as I’ve remarked in other places, it was the way in which this evidence has been delivered. There was never any, ‘I’m really sorry that we did this’. I didn’t get any sense with these witnesses of saying that: ‘Gee I know this is terrible, for any role I had in it I’m truly sorry’. They seem to say: ‘Yes so what?’
ALBANESE: Well I tell you what Graham, if a working class kid I grew up with went into a dock with former High Court Judge and said: ‘Yes, I knocked off this and I got someone to impersonate this person and we did this’, they wouldn’t leave through the front door.
RICHARDSON: No, they would leave in handcuffs out the back.
ALBANESE: They’d leave in a paddy wagon. That’s what would happen.
RICHARDSON: This is the problem though. It just seems to me that because ASIC, and Tony Abbott has suggested they should be abolished, I’m not sure they need to be abolished, but they need to be fixed, because obviously they have failed dismally in their role…
ALBANESE: He did cut their funds substantially in his first Budget. He ripped the guts out of it. So he in part is responsible for the position that ASIC find themselves in.
RICHARDSON: But ASIC have been really soft and they have used enforceable undertakings rather than taking anyone seriously. And enforceable undertakings are just ignored by all and sundry. They’re a joke. They were never enforced by ASIC and they were always ignored by the other party that signed them. But it just seems to me that there’s no sorrow and people just seem to plough on as if this is just an inconvenience, this Commission. It’s in the road for a while, it will go. I think some of them will go with it. Now getting back to your portfolio, which I haven’t even asked you about yet, it seems amazing to me the way the Government is handling infrastructure. It seems to me that you throw these massive amounts of money around as if they’re like confetti. So rather than have it as some sort of great structured thing, I think it was last week, there’s an offer, bang, for transport to Tullamarine. A couple of billion, just bang.
RICHARDSON: Five. Now how do you get that much to be able to throw around?
ALBANESE: There’s a problem with the Government’s approach to infrastructure. They’ve sidelined Infrastructure Australia. They say, Tony Abbott said, he wanted to be the infrastructure Prime Minister, but the first thing he did was to stop funding of all public transport projects that weren’t under construction. Infrastructure funding is due to fall off a cliff. In 2016-17 it was meant to be, they were meant to spend, $9.2 billion. They only spent $7.5 billion. But that falls to $4.2 billion over the forward estimates. So it gets cut in half. And over the next decade, as a proportion of the economy, it falls from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 percent according to the Parliamentary Budget Office. Now that’s cutting it in half.
What that means is that their rhetoric about growth and jobs – how do you get future growth? You invest in infrastructure. So what we’re seeing now is, because they’ve fallen behind, they haven’t worked with Infrastructure Australia, they don’t have a pipeline of projects coming out. You have these statements being made without anything to back them up. And what was extraordinary about the Melbourne Airport decision, I certainly think Melbourne Airport needs a rail link, and I know the Victorian Government have been working on that, but Malcolm Turnbull, when he announced $5 billion, said it was an equity injection, rather than a grant. And we’re not sure what that means. Nor does the Victorian Government know what that means. Because we all know that public transport projects don’t produce a return on capital in themselves …
RICHARDSON: No, you don’t make money out of them.
ALBANESE: That’s right. But they boost the economy, which can make money and grow out of it.
RICHARDSON: Of course, and isn’t it the case that we’ve been falling behind badly on this. It seems to me that obviously while we’re not China, we don’t have a billion people and all the rest of it, they are building infrastructure all the time because they know that’s the only way that they’ve got a future. We just seem to take it for granted that things will be okay. I don’t think they are okay.
ALBANESE: Well they are not okay, which is why there is pressure in our cities. There’s congestion. People are worried about population growth – that whole debate is in the context of infrastructure fails. Fortunately we’ve seen the Government move to Labor’s position of saying with the second Sydney Airport, you’ve got to have rail there from day one. Let’s not repeat the mistakes that have been made in the past. And you need links in a city like Sydney that go north-south in Western Sydney. This Government has now announced half the line, rather than the whole line through to the Macarthur region to give support to people around Campbelltown.
RICHARDSON: Well you can take the train half way and hitch the rest. There’s always that.
ALBANESE: That’s right. People need access to those high-value jobs. Now some of the work that Lucy Turnbull is involved with, the Greater Sydney Commission, there’s been some good work done there. You do need to address the fact that we have drive-in, drive-out suburbs where people spend more time going to and from work in their cars than they do at home with their kids. That means a number of things. One, it means better public transport. It also means creating jobs close to where people live. And that’s the sort of vision that we have. That’s why outer suburbs need to be a concentration and that’s why as well you need to concentrate on public transport because in the big cities you can’t solve urban congestion with roads. You do need roads, but you need…
RICHARDSON: Without rail, you can’t solve anything. Mind you, if you look at New South Wales and what’s happened with the light rail here, I wonder about that as a solution because if you look at that it’s just a mess beyond belief.
ALBANESE: But isn’t that an example of just bad planning? When people realise as well that you’ve got a section of light rail that now operates, this new section that’s being built is a different gauge. They won’t be able to work together.
RICHARDSON: So the Dulwich Hill line can’t work together? I didn’t realise that.
ALBANESE: No. So if you want to go from Dulwich Hill to the footy, you’re going to have to get off one tram and get on another tram because they don’t work together.
RICHARDSON: That’s crazy.
ALBANESE: And that in part is because, just like the trains that the Berejiklian Government have ordered don’t fit the stations in the Blue Mountains, they’re going to have to change the tunnels, fix the stations. Just like in Queensland, the trains that were ordered by Campbell Newman’s Government don’t fit the model as well that’s there. That’s why we need in this country, one of the things that we can do that would create jobs here, is have a manufacturing plan that supports a national rail manufacturing strategy and that’s something that’s been – there’s been a Senate committee report. Kim Carr’s been very active on that and has done some really good work on that. The unions support it. The Australasian Railway Association supports it, the industry, and it would be a very good step forward.
RICHARDSON: I think it would be a great step forward given the decline of manufacturing. Now, they keep telling me I have to give up on you, but I won’t just yet, because there’s one question, a little more difficult than some of the others that I want to ask you. Both sides of politics, seem to me want to shut down a real debate on immigration. But the punters out there, they see it as a problem. Newspoll this week’s got 56 per cent saying it’s too high, 28 per cent saying it’s just right, and 10 per cent, mainly the Green voters, one would assume, saying not enough. Now, a majority of Labor voters unquestionably think that, yet you do have great ethnic support and it’s pretty risky for Labor to stand up and say we want to cut the numbers. Where does this debate go in the Labor Party?
ALBANESE: What you’ve got to do is have a sensible debate that debates the issues rather than debates – quite often it can be derailed by talking about a particular race or a particular group. So we need to avoid that.
RICHARDSON: We’ve got to talk about Budgets, jobs.
ALBANESE: Non-discrimination. The second thing is, how do we grow? The fact is that we need migration in this country because of the nature of the population. The ageing of the population means we need to have younger people in the workforce or simply we won’t be able to manage the economy. That balance needs to be made. So migrants contribute to the economy and there was an important study that showed that last week.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a debate about the fact that the migrants are all settling in Sydney and Melbourne, that that’s producing real pressure on infrastructure in the suburbs. It doesn’t mean that we can’t have a debate about proper planning. One of the things I’m concerned about is that in our outer suburbs of course we had growth whereby suburbs, housing had been built without thinking where people would work, where their kids would go to school, where they will play on the weekend, where the hospitals are – all those facilities.
There’s a similar thing happening in the inner and middle rings now whereby you have – go and have a look at Wolli Creek, close to the airport there. All of that development – not one new oval for a kid to kick a footy, not one new public school, not one new private school, for that matter, in that area. How’s it going to work? That creates real pressure and that will, I think, make it susceptible to politicians who come up with easy answers, which is just, you know, ‘stop the world, we want to get off’. So we can’t go down that way, but we can’t also avoid having a proper debate about growth, about where people are living and about quality of life and we should be able to do that in a way that’s respectful.
RICHARDSON: Let’s hope we can. I have to say, you’re a very convincing person sometimes. It worries me. Anthony Albanese.
Subjects: Pacific Highway, Coffs Harbour Bypass, Federal election, Banking Royal Commission.
CAMERON MARSHALL: I spoke earlier to Anthony Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Andrew Woodward is a very good candidate I think, our Federal candidate for Cowper. He is a serious candidate. It remains to be seen whether Rob Oakshott will have another crack as an Independent or what will happen in this seat. But I think people in Coffs and Port Macquarie are sick of being taken for granted frankly. If they compare what we did when we were last in office for this region, particularly the work we did on the Pacific Highway where virtually the entire area covered by your listening audience was funded, the duplication and the construction, either completed or at least begun when we were in office during that six years.
The Howard Government spent $1.3 billion over 12 years. We spent $7.6 billion over half that time. And people know that. The Pacific Highway is an area that was dear to my heart. I was named Anthony after my young cousin who died just before I was born at Halfway Creek so I was always very conscious about the Pacific Highway. I had relatives at Halfway Creek and used to go up there for school holidays, catch the train, or go up if one of my cousins was driving up I would go up on the highway. And it was as shocking road. I well remember Tony Abbott before he became Prime Minister coming up here and promising the Coffs Harbour Bypass. During the first term it was going to be underway and of course it hasn’t happened.
MARSHALL: Is that going to be a priority if Labor were elected, to get that job done?
ALBANESE: Well what we want is for the Government to actually deliver on its own commitments. We’ve got a Budget coming up in just a few weeks and we will wait and see what is in the Budget. But frankly they have done very little for this community. There has been no advance on issues like High Speed Rail where we did the study that showed that these communities would be transformed by having stations at places like Taree, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour. The study was done. The High Speed Rail between Sydney and Brisbane would transform the regional communities along the route.
MARSHALL: Now you represent business as well. What about small business? Is there anything on the table for small business? What do you think needs to change to improve or help small business?
ALBANESE: Well there is a range of things. Firstly, in terms of the policy that we have allowing for greater depreciation of any capital investment and allowing that instant write-off of 20 per cent of any new investment would make a huge difference. One, it would encourage that investment which would tend to be from local suppliers as well, so it has a multiplier effect. I think small business would really benefit from that change that we have announced.
Secondly, the ongoing issue of the National Broadband Network – making sure that business can be connected up and can have access to those markets is critical. And thirdly, in terms of our overall approach to the economy, one of the reasons why I think the economy is going slower than it should be is the decline in real wages. When you have effectively wages not being able to keep up with inflation, what that means is there are less people spending money in local shops, in retail, in hospitality, in all of those areas which are critical.
My area of tourism as well is I think an area where you could see substantial employment growth here on the coast. This presents a wonderful opportunity to attract visitors from all over the world, but particularly from our region, where you have this explosion in the middle class. People want to visit Sydney and they want to visit the big capitals. But they also I think want to have access to areas that are very different than the crowded Asian cities where they are from and a place like Port Macquarie or Coffs Harbour or some of the smaller places – Urunga – would provide I think very attractive destinations.
MARSHALL: The Banking Royal Commission underway at the moment – you are somebody that advocated for that. Are you surprised by the revelations that are coming out daily?
ALBANESE: No I am not. This is why we wanted a Royal Commission – precisely this. Good policy comes from evidence and what we are seeing here is the evidence of the abuse of their market power of the big financial institutions whether it be the big banks or institutions like AMP where we have seen the CEO resign and fall on their sword. Now we had more than 20 attempts to have a Royal Commission that were voted against by Malcolm Turnbull and by all of the Coalition. We kept the pressure on. We campaigned on it in the lead up to the last Federal election and since then we kept the pressure on because we knew that market power was being abused, that consumers were suffering. And what we have seen are reports about consumers being charged for products that they never received, consumers being charged and losing money after they had died – just breathtaking really the activity. And one by one we have had these financial institutions in the dock having to be accountable for their actions. What we haven’t heard from as much yet is from the victims and when that happens, I think people will be truly shocked.
I just know that over a period of time I have got more and more local people coming in who were victims of scams but also just victims of what seems to be everyday practice of these financial institutions. It is not good enough and it is extraordinary that they have had to admit lying to ASIC. That is a breach of the law and now we have the same people who said it was a waste of time, it was a stunt, doing press conferences – Scott Morrison and Kelly O’Dwyer and the rest of them – described it as reckless, our support for a Royal Commission. What was reckless was pretending that a Royal Commission wasn’t needed. Out of this will come real change and these institutions being held to account for the first time in a long while.
MARSHALL: The next Federal election – what do you think it will be decided on and what role do you think this Mid North Coast region might play in the outcome?
ALBANESE: Elections are always decided on the economy and in part the next election will be about: Is your priority for tax cuts for big corporations which will benefit shareholders, many of which are sitting in Washington or London or Rome or Beijing or whether it is about a priority of education, health, child care. Aged care will be a big issue. We have seen essentially increasing reports of mistreatment. Issues like nurse to patient ratios in aged care – an issue that needs to be dealt with, an issue though that costs money. So the next election will be about priorities, whether if you give tax cuts – $65 billion – to the big end of town, it will trickle down and people will be better off, or whether you are better off saying: No, that won’t work, we need to properly fund education. We need to properly fund health care and aged care. We need to properly fund child care and early childhood education. We need to fund infrastructure that builds the economy for the future. That will be, I think, will be the fundamental divide that we are seeing take shape now.
The Mid North Coast will be very important. Luke Hartsuyker has represented Cowper for a very long time. I think people are entitled to say: What has he achieved during that period of time? Could we do better? I think people are entitled to have a look at what happened when the seat of Lyne wasn’t held by the National Party. Was there more focus on the seat then than there is now? Were more resources given to schools, hospitals, infrastructure, the airport? I think the answer to that is yes and there is a message there which is that if the region just elects a National Party people because they think that is what is best for the region, then they need to actually look at the experience and think about those issues and I know that is something that Andrew Woodward will be campaigning very strongly on as the Labor candidate for Cowper.
Subjects; The Coalition’s abysmal record on infrastructure investment, World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Ranking 2017-18, banking Royal Commission, foreign investment
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Government is talking big on infrastructure prior to next month’s Federal Budget. But the fact is it is coming off a disastrously low base whereby they have cut infrastructure funding, which is due to fall from $9.2 billion that they predicted they would spend in 2016-17. It drops off to $4.2 billion in 2020-21. The Parliamentary Budget Office has estimated that infrastructure investment will halve from 0.4 to 0.2 percent of GDP over the next decade. And the World Economic Forum has found that Australia’s position, in terms of infrastructure ranking around the globe, has fallen from 18th to 28th under this Government’s watch.
That stands in stark contrast to when the former Government was in office. When we came to office in 2007, Australia was ranked 20th in the OECD for investment in infrastructure as a proportion of the national economy. When we left office, Australia was ranked first.
So they inherited this work, but they haven’t built on it. They cut all funding from all public transport projects that weren’t under construction when they came into office. And they simply haven’t done the work to create a pipeline of projects. So there is a lot of work to be done in next month’s Budget, but the Government should be fair dinkum about the low base in which they find themselves.
The other thing they should be honest about is that they haven’t even invested what they themselves said they would. Some $5 billion of underspends in their first four years in office. That is they said, on Budget night in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, they would spend a certain amount, but they haven’t done it. That’s meant a slowdown in road projects. That’s meant underspends in projects like the Black Spot Program and Roads to Recovery: local road programs that improve road safety. This is a Government that has a terrible record, that’s been through a range of infrastructure ministers and is looking for ways to pretend they’re doing things when they’re not really.
That’s why we’ll examine also very closely statements such as that $5 billion will be available for the airport link in Melbourne, that it would somehow be an equity investment – that is one that produces a return to Government. If that’s the case, it won’t be real investment because the truth is that public transport doesn’t produce an economic return on its investment directly. What it does do, is produce a return to the national economy by boosting productivity and boosting overall economic activity. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Pauline Hanson says she doesn’t think a company tax cut will boost wages but will lead to an increase in jobs. Do you agree?
ALBANESE: Pauline Hanson, of course, has once again shown that in spite of her rhetoric she doesn’t stand up for working people or low and middle income earners. Low and middle income earners have been watching the banking Royal Commission with some horror in the last week. What they know is that this is a Government that’s determined to give a tax cut to the big end of town, including to the big banks, unlike Labor that has a plan to actually invest in education or to invest in health, invest in infrastructure, invest in early childhood education. Pauline Hanson betrays the people who voted for her time and time again by siding with the Coalition Government.
JOURNALIST: Do you support foreign owned companies like Chinese Westside Corporation getting Federal Government grants to develop domestic gas supplies?
ALBANESE: These are matters that are dealt with appropriately by the Foreign Investment Review Board. And when the FIRB deals with, and other regulatory bodies deal with, these issues what they do is look at the Australian national interest and we should always look to the Australian national interest. We do need foreign investment in this country, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the national interest.
JOURNALIST: There are concerns Chinese Westside Corporation has links to the Chinese Communist Party. Is that a worry?
ALBANESE: When you look at Chinese based companies, the fact is that due to their political system every company in China would have some links to the Chinese Government, which is the Chinese Communist Party. That’s almost a tautology to suggest there is a big distinction by the very definition of their political system.
Subjects; Banking Royal Commission; Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission; Record Store Day
GEORGIE GARDNER: Joining me now to discuss that and other issues is Christopher Pyne in Adelaide and Anthony Albanese who joins us from Sydney Airport this morning. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Georgie. Nice to be with you.
GARDNER: Lovely to have you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
GARDNER: Now Christopher, obviously deeply disturbing stories of banking misconduct and yet you didn’t think the Royal Commission was necessary. Why did the PM resist this Commission for so long?
PYNE: Well Georgie, we’re seeing a lot of evidence being presented in the Royal Commission which is very disturbing and that’s why the Government is taking action to strengthen ASIC’s powers even more than we already have. We’ve already given ASIC $100 million more money to pursue bad practices and we’re changing the laws to give them the power that they need to be able to pursue bad banking practices.
GARDNER: But why did it take so long, Christopher?
PYNE: Well, because we were acting without the Royal Commission anyway but the Royal Commission is providing more information to the government and the public. But we certainly weren’t waiting for the Royal Commission to take action in the banking sector. Banking is a big part of our economy. And so these stories are going to come out and that’s a good thing that they are. And that’s why the Government was acting well before the Royal Commission. Labor by contrast voted against taxation changes for foreign multinationals. We still got them through but Labor does a lot of arm waving and hand wringing and huffing and puffing but they didn’t actually do anything about it. We are.
GARDNER: But can you understand why this sort of leads people to think that a Liberal Government is in bed with big business? I mean it doesn’t help your case for getting corporate tax cuts through the Senate, does it?
PYNE: Well, I don’t think anybody thinks that the Liberals and the National Party support some of the practices that have been exposed in the Royal Commission. I mean, the good thing about Royal Commissions is they give people the opportunity to air some of these issues and for the Royal Commissioner to make recommendations. And we will follow that. We’ll wait for those recommendations before we act hastily. But as I reiterate, we have been taking the necessary action, taking tough action and we’ll continue to do so because we want to stand up for consumers and small businesses. We’re not interested in standing up for bad practices.
GARDNER: Anthony, it is such a protected industry. Are these penalties too little too late?
ALBANESE: They are, and this is a Government that ran a protection racket for the banks and finance sector. They voted against the Royal Commission on more than 20 occasions, even when members of their own backbench were crying out for this Royal Commission they were describing it as a stunt; as reckless; as something that wouldn’t achieve anything; as just populist nonsense, according to Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull and indeed Kelly O’Dwyer. What we see now is vindication of Labor’s strong stance. We took a Royal Commission to the last federal election. We’ve campaigned on it ever since. And what we’re seeing now is the evidence out there for all to see. Good policy comes from the evidence. We haven’t heard yet from many of the victims of these practices. But what we’ve heard is senior executives fessing up to what are extraordinary rip offs of ordinary Australians and their savings.
GARDNER: Yeah, and sadly I think there is plenty more to come. Absolutely appalling stories coming out. Let’s move on. All this week we have been covering the aged care crisis here on The Today Show. You’d both be well aware of the countless cases of abuse; of death; of neglect at nursing homes right around this country. It affects everyone and Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt unveiled of course on this show the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Christopher, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt told us there is no crisis. Do you agree?
PYNE: Well I saw your interview with Ken this week, Georgie and it was an excellent interview and Ken’s doing a fantastic job. I used to be the Minister for Ageing in the Howard Government. I can tell you it’s a very, very tough area of government policy. What we’re trying to do is bring together all the different agencies into one agency to cover both qualification for licenses and then the oversight of those licenses. The vast majority of nursing homes, aged care facilities – and my mother and mother-in-law are both in aged care facilities – are doing a great job and they’re fantastic. But there are occasions of bad practice and that’s unfortunately human nature and that’s why you have to find out as soon as you can about them, crack down, stay on top of them, investigate, turn up without notice and make sure that people are following the standards. If they’re not, you have to close them down and throw the book at them. And that’s what we’ve been doing, that’s what Ken Wyatt will continue to do. Can we stamp out every single instance of somebody being a bully in a nursing home and hurting people? We probably can’t, in the same way as we can’t stop every single bag snatch that happens in Martin Place or in a Parramatta supermarket but we can try and do our very best and that’s what these laws will do.
GARDNER: Alright, it is a disgraceful situation and Anthony these reforms of course are part of the solution. But what else needs to be done? What about enforcing patient-staff ratios for instance?
ALBANESE: That requires funds, Georgie, and what we’ve seen from this Government is cuts. They’re not prepared to pay nurses and aged care assistants the money that they need. They’re not prepared to enforce proper patient-staff ratios to ensure that patients can get the care that they need. Our older Australians have made this country they deserve dignity in their later years and they deserve better than they’re getting from this Government. There is a crisis in aged care and the Government needs to deal with it.
GARDNER: All right, well we’ll be watching you both very closely on that topic because as you are well aware, we have been absolutely inundated with people with horrific stories on that matter from right around the country. So interested to watch you on that. We are out of time sadly. Enjoy your weekend. And we will see you next week.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
PYNE: Look forward to it.
ALBANESE: Hey Georgie, it’s Record Store Day tomorrow so go into your local record store and participate. There’s a free ad for no one in particular.
GARDNER: All right. We love spinning records on this on this program. There’s no doubt about it so thank you for the heads up Anthony Albanese.
KARL STEFANOVIC: I wonder what Christopher will be buying.
PYNE: A bit of Dvořák.
STEFANOVIC: A broken record!
GARDNER: Nothing wrong with a bit of Dvořák on a Sunday afternoon.
PYNE: Nothing wrong with Dvořák, exactly.
STEFANOVIC: I prefer a bit of Jimmy Barnes myself, but anyway. It’s good to see you’re still in touch, Chris.
GARDNER: You can love classical music and be in touch!
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. Bit of Rachmaninoff early in the morning, eh?
Subjects; Cannabis; Richard Di Natale; Greens Political Party; SA redistribution; ALP National President
HOST: Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us each and every Wednesday morning for Two Tribes. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
HOST: We want to kick off today guys by talking about this policy idea floated by Richard Di Natale, the Leader of the Greens. We got a whole bunch of texts about it this morning from our listeners. This is the idea that cannabis should be fully decriminalised in the way it has been in several parts of the United States. Starting with you Chris, in your capacity as the Government spokesman, what do you make of that policy?
PYNE: Well I don’t support legalising cannabis. I think for medicinal purposes we have a regime which I’m glad to see that we put in place, which has been largely bipartisan, I think, to ensure that those people who need to use cannabis for a medicinal purpose have the capacity to do so, but that’s very much a different product. I see cannabis a gateway drug for young people into heavier drugs. I was responsible for drugs in the Howard era, illicits drug that is and we had a tough on drugs policy and it’s always [inaudible] giving up and saying it’s easier to legalise drugs than it is to try and stop people from getting into them, is not the way that we would want to go.
HOST: What about you, Albo? What are your thoughts on this, particularly you know, representing a seat as you do that’s an inner city seat with a fair bit of Green influence? Is it something that the Left faction is a little bit more open to maybe, in the ALP?
ALBANESE: I just think this is yet another ‘look at me’ moment from Richard Di Natale. The Greens are really struggling. They had a shocking result in Tasmania and in the Batman by-election they went backwards. Richard Di Natale went to the National Press Club two weeks ago and this was his big plan for 2018, to make the Reserve Bank a lending bank, which was frankly a stupid idea. And the other idea of giving welfare to everyone through universal basic income whether you are Gina Rinehart or unemployed, you get the same amount of money. People were laughing at the bloke so now he’s come out with something else, which frankly is a matter for state jurisdictions. South Australia in the past has looked at this. These are all state matters. This has nothing to do with the Commonwealth. Something that does have something to do with the Commonwealth is what Christopher said, medicinal use of cannabis for people who need it to treat a medical condition. That was bipartisan. It is just still being put in place, those mechanisms. And I would have thought that is the area in which the Commonwealth has responsibility, is acting responsibly, it is bipartisan. Let’s see how that goes rather than something that really is just about the fact that the Greens Party are really struggling, just as Nick Xenophon’s team, whatever they called these days, struggled in South Australia as well.
HOST: The party formerly known as Nick.
PYNE: It is now called something else. They’ve had four different names.
ALBANESE: What is it called?
PYNE: Alliance Central or something. It’s got different names. Before it was No Pokies.
ALBANESE: The ‘Look At Me’ Party. The problem with these minor parties is that they often come out with stuff; I mean it will be something else in a week. There’s no concerted campaign here. There’s no leader to it. It’s just a thought bubble, just like the thought bubble at the National Press Club a couple of weeks ago on a universal basic income, which would cost the Budget an absolute bomb and wouldn’t target welfare to where it’s actually needed. When you look at the detail of the Greens policy, you have big problems. They also have policies on ecstasy and on a whole range of harder drugs as well. Once people actually examine the policies, as they did in the Batman by-election, head to head, they don’t stack up.
HOST: Yeah, we’ll be getting him on at some point, giving him a chance to explain it.
HOST: Albo, you mentioned state matters and Chris Pyne to you, I just wonder how we make sure our state continues to matter given we have had one seat removed on account of the federal redistribution that we just had. One marginal seat as we head into a potential federal election season. How do we make sure South Australia doesn’t slide off the map?
PYNE: Well, we’ve had one seat removed out of 11 because we’ve had stagnant population growth and for the last 16 years we’ve had a State Labor Government that said that they were happy with low population growth and the result of that of course is a stagnant economy, young people leaving the state and you can’t lie with statistics. We’ve lost [inaudible], Western Australia has the same number of seats as South Australia, and you both had 13. Now we’re going to have 10 and Western Australia will have 16. So the numbers tell the story. You need a growing economy, a growing population. You need migration to the state bringing fresh ideas and fresh people to help grow our economy. You won’t lose an enormous amount of influence in South Australia because Tasmania has a lot less members than South Australia. The ACT don’t, but everybody in Australia and in Canberra recognises that every state, every person in our country is important and we get strong results, like the $90 billion submarine and shipbuilding part of the economy that I brought to the state as the Minister for Defence Industry. We’ve got significant investments in infrastructure here, like the North-South Corridor.
HOST: But will that stay, is that going to continue though Chris? Because thinking back to the Howard years, when Mr Howard was PM, Makin, Hindmarsh, Adelaide and Kingston were all very volatile marginal seats. Now, apart from arguably Boothby, there’s not a marginal seat left in South Australia. So if you’re trying to win government, you need to win it in Western Sydney, in Albo’s neck of the woods. You need to win it in regional Victoria; you need to win it in regional Queensland and suburban Brisbane. Where’s the political incentive? Because politics is all about winning the maximum number of seats. Why are you going to fund a South Road upgrade in a seat like Hindmarsh in three or six years’ time when we don’t have any marginal seats up for grabs?
PYNE: Because it’s the right thing to do, if that’s the policy that we settle on as being the right thing to do. I mean, policy is not just driven by population and by who lives where. It’s driven by what’s required for the country, that defence industry infrastructure, the economy, and we’ve got Simon Birmingham here as a Cabinet minister, myself, Anne Ruston as a minister in the Government. At times in South Australia’s history we’ve had one or two ministers, other times we’ve had four and now we have three. These things go up and down, they don’t determine whether a state is important or not.
HOST: Hey Albo, what should become of Mark Butler, the incumbent member for Port Adelaide?
ALBANESE: We had this debate, I remember, when we were talking about Sturt and whether it would disappear, but people don’t disappear.
PYNE: They had me buried, Albo, but don’t worry.
HOST: Didn’t Labor formally propose that Sturt get abolished?
ALBANESE: I was confident you’d still be there, like a cockroach after a nuclear war.
PYNE: That’s not very nice! Crawling out from under the rubble.
ALBANESE: I can assure you that Mark Butler will still be there in the next term.
HOST: Would he make a good National President of the Labor Party too, Albo?
ALBANESE: He will make a good National President, he is the current National President and he’s standing again…
HOST: Better than Wayne Swan?
PYNE: What about this rigging going on?
ALBANESE: …for election and he’s a very strong candidate. We’re not supposed to comment publicly more than that under the rules but…
HOST: Why’s that?
ALBANESE: Because that’s the rules…
PYNE: Marxist-Leninist state.
ALBANESE: …that you’re not supposed to engage in public debate. But I think…
HOST: You’re a ‘rules were made to be broken’ kind of a guy though, aren’t you Albo?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s very clear who I’m supporting in the ballot. I think that Wayne Swan is a good person as well. But Mark Butler’s the incumbent. I did launch his campaign in Sydney a couple of weeks ago.
HOST: It was a dead giveaway in terms of who you were backing.
ALBANESE: That was a bit of a giveaway.
HOST: That’s right, nothing gets past us. Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese, always great to catch up you. We’ll do it again next week. Thanks guys.