HOST: Anthony Albanese, well known to this program. Albo, Happy New Year.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Happy New Year to you.
HOST: Now your proposal, a lot of money to be spent doing this. The State Government unlikely – given their comments leading up to the last election with Labor’s plans to take a tram, for instance, to Norwood up the parade – unlikely to greet this favourably at all.
ALBANESE: I think the State Government needs to have a rethink as they have on other areas. (Inaudible) before the election, but now are attempting to claim, essentially, Jay Weatherill’s legacy when it comes to renewables in South Australia. And public transport is another area. If we’re going to deal with urban congestion, if we’re going to move people around our capital cities, then public transport is the key. There has been good work done and that has continued, particularly on the North-South Road Corridor. And we of course expanded the heavy rail network from Noarlunga to Seaford. But light rail really does make sense for Adelaide. It’s a very efficient way of moving people around. Adelaide has enormous advantages with its wide streets. It’s a well-planned city; the best really in Australia. With the possible exception of Canberra, that’s fully planned. But we should take advantage of that, it’s a very cost-effective option as well.
HOST: You talk about wide streets and they on the whole are. But they’re not through (inaudible) Unley Road, they’re not through Prospect, along Prospect Road – really narrow through there. Won’t that just push cars onto already congested roads, like Goodwood Road, like Churchill Road or Main North Road – people trying to avoid the tram line through what is essentially a really narrow shopping strip of Unley and Prospect?
ALBANESE: Well of course tram lines – one of the advantages is that they can coexist with traffic and that occurs, of course, in many places, particularly the world’s largest tram network in Melbourne. That’s not very well known, but Melbourne really appreciates the fact that, unlike a lot of other cities, they didn’t replace existing light rail. Here in Adelaide though you have the prospect of a progressive rollout, so it can be done in an orderly way. The planning was done. The fact is that the current Federal Government allocated almost $200 million in its last Budget; not announced but allocated. So the money is there to at least commence the rollout of these projects. The planning work has been done. And I think that would be a very positive thing in terms of improving the liveability of what is already a great city to live in there in Adelaide.
HOST: Is taking a tram though to Mitcham where, as a caller just before the news – in fact it was Michael Pratt a former federal MP here in Adelaide – says that you’d be building a tram line literally right next to an existing train line which runs right alongside the top end of Belair Road there, as Unley Road turns into Belair Road. And also taking the tram onto the existing train line at Outer Harbour that’s just a waste of money isn’t it? We’ve got a perfectly functioning well-organised train line running to Outer Harbour 25 kilometres out of the city. Why would you want to wreck that infrastructure and rebuild there?
ALBANESE: Well there is a debate that you can have. Of course the function of light rail is different from heavy rail. It’s very much an efficient on-off service. When I was in Adelaide for the ALP National Conference just before Christmas, I caught the light rail outside the convention centre back to my hotel every day. It’s a very efficient way of moving people around and there should be a debate in Adelaide about its roll out; about what the priorities should be, which extension should be done first. But that should be done in the spirit of an acknowledgement that it’s a positive thing to expand public transport.
The concern is that essentially the Marshall Government, it would appear, just opposed a whole range of good initiatives because they were from the other side of politics. And I think what people want to see, particularly when it comes to infrastructure and transport issues, is projects that aren’t the whim of one side of politics. They just want things to be done. A similar thing happened in terms of the North-South Road. It would be further advanced had not the incoming Federal Government said: ‘No we don’t want to do Torrens to Torrens first, we want to look at Darlington’, even though the fact is that the pre-construction work had been done on Torrens to Torrens. So that project was delayed unnecessarily due to politics.
All I’m saying here, is that the planning has been done. Let’s have a sensible approach, and the fact that there is some federal money on the table from the current Government, it seems to me that it would be absurd for the South Australian Government to say: ‘No, we’re not interested’. Of course this follows the rather bizarre decision of the South Australian Government to cut funding to the Overland Rail from Melbourne through the regional areas. And of course the Victorian Government had to step in, essentially, to prop up that particular rail line that is so important for those regional communities and for tourism.
HOST: What’s your timeline on this? So if you win in May, how long will the money be there for? I mean you can’t come in and build it; you can put the money on the table, can’t you?
ALBANESE: Exactly. I mean I will sit down constructively, as I did the last time (inaudible). In order to get things built and get things done right around the country. These issues shouldn’t be partisan and I would say to the Marshall Government, that they need to be constructive about this. So they need to acknowledge that the extension of light rail in Adelaide is a lot easier than places like Sydney, where they are trying to reintroduce light rail. You do have the key network there. But the extension does make sense and I think it has public support.
HOST: All right. We’ll soon find out, we’ll open the lines on that. Anthony Albanese, thanks so much for your time this morning.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Subjects: ALP National Conference, trade unions, nuclear disarmament, infrastructure.
DAVID SPEERS: Anthony Albanese thanks very much for your time this afternoon. Let’s just pick up on the Labor conference. A lot of concern amongst employer groups about where the party has landed on industrial relations. Will there be industry-wide bargaining under a Labor Government?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well one of the things that Bill Shorten has said is that he will get together, in the first week he is talking about, with employers, with unions and actually work on a consensus model rather than the antagonistic model that has been pursued by the Coalition Government. The truth is that the current bargaining system isn’t working. That’s why we are seeing record profits but real wages actually in decline. The Reserve Bank and every economist in the country has identified low wage growth as being a real problem for our national economy.
SPEERS: Sure, but you’ve got to spell out before the election what you are going to do with industry-wide bargaining.
ALBANESE: And we will be spelling out all of our policies before the election. But what we are saying is that the current system quite clearly isn’t working. That is what the Reserve Bank is saying.
SPEERS: But is more union power the answer here? Giving them greater access to work sites, industry-wide bargaining, getting rid of the ABCC, these sorts of things?
ALBANESE: Well it is very clear that the decline in union membership is a part of the explanation for the decline in real wages. If you have circumstances whereby unions aren’t able to bargain and represent workers, what we know is that the power relationship between an individual worker and an individual employer is not an even one. That’s why trade unions exist.
SPEERS: You are quite open about the fact you want unions to be bigger and more powerful in Australia?
ALBANESE: I think unions play an absolutely critical role in civil society and I think a strengthening and growth of unionism would be good for our national economy.
SPEERS: Let’s deal with a couple of the other things that were decided late yesterday. You were involved moving a motion on the Nuclear Ban Treaty. Would a Labor Government sign this UN Nuclear Ban Treaty?
ALBANESE: Well what we have said is that we would sign and ratify after considering a range of factors including the effective examination to make sure that the structures were in place, to make sure that it was happening, to make sure that it was consistent with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
SPEERS: So you would want the nuclear states themselves to agree to this as well? None of them have.
ALBANESE: Well what we want to see is a pathway and one way in which you encourage people to join a collective organisation is to join yourself and part of the problem that we have seen with the Nuclear Ban Treaty is that Australia, like in so many areas, has withdrawn from the process, didn’t participate. We are on the sideline.
SPEERS: But would we sign up if the US doesn’t?
ALBANESE: Well the truth is that the US was very reluctant to sign up to past global agreements, such as banning land mines. Does anyone today say that that was a bad thing? That was a very ambitious proposal when it was put forward.
SPEERS: So we would sign this without the US?
ALBANESE: That’s a matter for a future government decision. But like all of the Labor Party platform, what we do is set out our principles and then Labor governments make decisions based upon advice.
SPEERS: That’s the same with Palestine too.
ALBANESE: It’s the same with all of our platform. That’s the way it works. The platform sets out the principles to guide Labor in government and I think yesterday’s adoption of support for what began with ICAN, began with people 10 years ago in Melbourne forming the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, they won the Nobel Peace Prize 10 years after they were formed in 2017, and this year I think it is a significant step forward and it is not surprising that over 80 per cent of Australians say they support eliminating nuclear weapons. I can’t understand anyone who would say, I’ve got to say, “I think nuclear weapons are a great thing’’. I think everyone wants to see …
SPEERS: Sure, but you’d put a lot more pressure on the Americans if you say we are going to sign it with or without you.
ALBANESE: Well, we have declared Australia’s position in terms of where Labor wants to see the world going.
SPEERS: With respect, you have said you will work with allies and take advice.
ALBANESE: Of course and we always do. But that doesn’t mean that we have a subservient relationship. I mean, I think our US alliance is absolutely critical and the resolution recognised that yesterday. But at the same time what we don’t do is give any other nation a right of veto. We have had very clearly differences with the United States as we do for example as a party when it comes to the embassy in Jerusalem issue and that is not a bad thing.
SPEERS: A final one in your portfolio area. It seems as we head into the election neither side is going to dramatically cut the migration intake right? So dealing with congestion in Sydney and Melbourne comes down to more infrastructure?.
SPEERS: What would Labor do to ease these congestion pressures?
ALBANESE: It comes down to not just better infrastructure but how you do it as well – the quality of it. What that means, in effect, is the quality of planning. The problem that we have had in our cities is that we have had housing growth without considering how people will get to work, what the social and community infrastructure is – education and health – and around that how we create a 30-minute city. We have seen also a failure to invest in public transport.
SPEERS: Will you do a lot more on public transport?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. We committed more to urban public transport between 2007 and 2013 than had been committed in the previous 107 years. We changed the way that the Federal Government deals with public transport. The Howard Government – zero. Not a dollar. Not a public transport anywhere in the country.
SPEERS: Are you going to give it priority over roads?
ALBANESE: The truth is if you are going to deal with urban congestion, you need to do both, but the priority has to be public transport. You can’t solve it with just roads, with just private motor vehicles. What you need to do if you are talking about moving large numbers of people, then you need public transport to do it.
SPEERS: Anthony Albanese. Thanks you very much for joining us and throughout the year – a very Merry Christmas.
ALBANESE: Merry Christmas to you David. Thanks you for having me on the program throughout the year. I will see you in 2019.
WEDNESDAY, 19 DECEMBER, 2018
Subjects: Christmas; defence; ALP National Conference; Leadership spill; Russell Crowe.
HOST: I think they promised Christmas carols, or carolling at least, last week. Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, good morning to you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen and happy Christmas to your listeners.
HOST: That’s very kind of you, Chris. Happy Christmas to you as well. G’day Albo, how’re you going there mate?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, I’m going very well. It’s the slow end of the year. I’ll be in Adelaide Friday, until next Tuesday.
PYNE: You sound like a three-toed sloth. Why are you speaking so slowly?
HOST: You’ve got to be careful coming to Adelaide at the moment, Albo. You guys were going to put the Space Centre in Canberra weren’t you?
PYNE: They were, that was their announcement. That was Kim Carr’s announcement. It was going to Canberra.
HOST: We’re space mad this morning – Kim Il-Carr.
PYNE: Kim Il-Carr.
ALBANESE: Space mad.
HOST: Have you got space fever, Chris?
PYNE: I’m very excited, there’s another hive in South Australia, the Australian Space Agency coming to Lot 14. We worked closely with Steven Marshall, of course, and the Federal Government to achieve that. Comes on top of a Centre for Defence Industry Capability based in Adelaide. Again, something that I delivered as the Minister for Defence Industry. Tomorrow we’ve got big announcements about the ships and the submarines, two of the biggest projects in Australia’s history. The offshore patrol vessel started its construction in Adelaide more than a month ago. First Pacific patrol boat delivered to Papua New Guinea and the two joint strike fighters landed on Monday, so I’m having a great week.
HOST: Christmas has come early.
PYNE: Christmas has come early. It’s going to keep coming if you re-elect the Liberal Party.
ALBANESE: Well, he’s certainly had jam for breakfast.
PYNE: What did you have? Did you have Valium? He’s just looking forward to the ALP National Conference on the weekend.
ALBANESE: It’s breakfast radio, so I’ll leave it there.
HOST: So Albo, are you coming over for what? This is the ALP Conference. My mail is apparently business observers are falling over themselves to see you guys in action.
ALBANESE: They are, actually.
HOST: Strange way to spend your money.
ALBANESE: It’s pretty full. People want to chat to us. Why wouldn’t you when there’s a rabble on the other side?
HOST: Are you going to be on your best behaviour?
ALBANESE: Well it makes a change to the interruption. I mean, yesterday we had news that Craig Kelly was actually going to join the National Party in order to avoid having to face a Liberal if he lost pre-selection and that’s why Scott Morrison intervened. I mean this is just bizarre stuff.
HOST: On a serious note though, for you guys, partly because they’re so open in their structure, Labor Party national conferences, and I would have gone to about five I reckon, they can become a bit unruly. There’s often an opportunity for the Leader to be embarrassed by members of the party not singing from the same song sheet. Is there a chance that might happen, particularly on the question of border protection? Are you lock-step with Bill Shorten on that issue?
ALBANESE: Look, the party, in three days, 400 delegates, will always be a little bit untidy. That’s the truth. That’s the benefit though of being transparent about the fact that we’re a party of ideas. People who’ve been elected are accountable to the people who voted for them. We now have direct elections so people will have run on a platform from their particular electorate that they’d raise an issue in a certain way, and they’re entitled to do so. But what will come out of the process is a platform that unites the Labor Party, that everyone then can get behind and – that’s not the policy, of course, but that’s the basis of the values that we take forward and the Parliamentary Party makes up the specific policies that we take to the election. And of course we already have more policies out there than any Opposition in living memory ever has.
HOST: Being our final Two Tribes for 2018, it’s time to get a little bit wistful. Christopher Pyne, what were your highs and lows of the year?
PYNE: One of the highs of the year was Steven Marshall getting elected in South Australia in March. That was definitely a high. Getting the biggest ship building and submarine building projects underway in Australia’s history has been a high, it’s going very well. And if the worst happens and Labor wins, it’s going to be hard for them to undo it, given that they did nothing in six years. I am very pleased to have locked that in. And the lows, well, I never see any lows. I only see happy sides.
HOST: That is a cop out.
PYNE: Silver linings to every cloud.
HOST: Would you like us to nominate a couple for you?
ALBANESE: The Government falling apart?
PYNE: I’m a glass half-full man. One of the lows, of course, was Labor ending the year dismantling the offshore processing. Which is going to let the people smugglers back in again.
HOST: What about that little period where the Prime Minister vanished again?
PYNE: When was that? when did that happen? I can’t remember that. I block out anything unhappy. I’ve got my happy face on like the mother in Strictly Ballroom.
HOST: What about you, Albo? Your low would probably be the excellent result Bill Shorten got in that by-election earlier in the year, wouldn’t it?
ALBANESE: Not at all, I always support the Labor team. I think it is the case, though, that one of my highs is having the benefit of listening to Christopher’s extraordinary optimism, as all around him goes to absolute rubbish.
PYNE: Absolute nonsense. We’ve got you right where we want you.
ALBANESE: It’s quite extraordinary, how you get on 55 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote.
PYNE: You’re not on the ropes, you’re on the canvas.
HOST: It’s only a flesh wound, Albo.
PYNE: They’re going to have to help you up at some point, I think.
HOST: It’s like a rumble in the jungle, a parallel universe. The Scott Morrison rope-a-dope. He’s just going to lunge any minute now.
PYNE: You’ll be surprised.
ALBANESE: It’s going so well.
PYNE: I wouldn’t get overconfident, Anthony. You’ve lost from here before, I’ve seen it.
ALBANESE: It’s gone so well.
HOST: Hey guys we’ll wrap it up. But can we just say, this is our last segment for the year, so to you, Chris, and to you, Albo. It’s not always the easiest segment to manage but we really do appreciate the candour that you bring in your discussion of national affairs, and the good humour. It’s a lot of fun catching up with you every week. You’re two of the genuine heavy hitters of politics and you know it’s great having you on. Our listeners appreciate it and we appreciate it too. So have a great Christmas.
ALBANESE: You know what I think a high was? When, after one of our segments, Russell Crowe Tweeted out: “That’s what politics should be, people having disagreements but being respectful’’.
HOST: That was pretty cool.
ALBANESE: A whole lot of retweets and coverage, and I think that’s what Christopher and I try to bring.
WEDNESDAY, 12 DECEMBER, 2018
Subjects: The Overland Great Southern Rail.
LEON BYNER: Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
BYNER: Anthony, interesting we had a conversation recently and you said: “Leon, the Vics aren’t going to save the Overland. They’re not going to do that. Why would they do anything for South Australia?’’
ALBANESE: Well, what we have here is a humiliation for Steve Marshall. It’s quite extraordinary that Daniel Andrews’ Government effectively are subsidising the South Australian Government as well as their own. And I just thought at that stage the Victorian Government hadn’t made the decision. They obviously have been put in a position whereby, because of South Australia’s intransigence on this issue, the route would have fallen over had someone not picked up South Australia’s share of the tab. And they’ve done it. And good on Daniel Andrews for doing it. And every South Australian should be happy about this today because it’s really important for those regional economies.
BYNER: Well, it’s interesting that the Victorian Government are expanding their regional rail network. We seem to be going in the other direction where we’re selling off rail stock. There’s a line for example to the Barossa, but we’re not interested in doing anything to try and make that work. There’s a point here that I should raise. A couple of people have had a go saying: “Oh Leon, what are you talking about, the train wasn’t viable so why should we put in money?’’ I thought: Hang on a minute. Okay, I’ll accept that if that’s the game. Then I found out that we are spending, in South Australia, $300 million a year on buses and rail, right. But the subsidy for that is most of that $300 million. So if it’s about viability and you’re using that argument, what do we do about the transport services here that lose a heap more than the Overland does?
ALBANESE: Look, public transport, by-and-large nationally, no matter what state you look at, or what city, or what region; contributes around about between 20-25 per cent of the cost of operation and maintenance is made through the fare box. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad economics because the benefit isn’t direct. The benefit is to those jobs that are created. The benefit of people being able to get to work, get to recreational activities, get from A to B.
That’s why governments operate public transport networks. And it’s just absurd. It’s a bit like arguing that roads run at a loss in South Australia because of the maintenance costs that council, the State Government and on the major roads, the Federal Government contribute. I mean it’s an absurd argument. And the fact is that railways are absolutely critical. And the 21st Century is the century of rail. It’s back, whether it’s High Speed Rail, regional rail, suburban rail networks, light rail. We know that is how you can move people around for their everyday lives and that’s how the economy runs.
BYNER: All right, so just from your perspective, why is it good for South Australia that another government has picked up the $300,000 or so, to make sure the train keeps going? What’s the benefit?
ALBANESE: Because places like Murray Bridge and other places along the route will get jobs created. Because people who live in those regional towns will be able to travel to Adelaide or to Melbourne, to see family, to do work or to engage in recreational activities. As the Tourism Shadow Minister, this route provides an absolutely vital connection and it’s particularly important in terms of regional development. The fact is, that many people rely upon this route. It also works to connect people up from Victoria who want to travel on the Ghan or on the Indian Pacific and that adds up. So that has indirect benefits along the route there as well. This is absolutely vital, this service. And good on Victoria for kicking the can for South Australia. But I do find it is astonishing that the South Australian Government for the sake of $300,000 is put in this position as if they can’t afford it. It is a matter of priorities. And I think it’s quite sad the way that Liberal governments seem to have in common not being prepared to fund rail projects in our cities and in our regions.
BYNER: Anthony, thanks for coming on this morning.
WEDNESDAY, 12 DECEMBER, 2018
Subjects: The Overland Great Southern Rail.
LEON BYNER: Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese – Anthony, Merry Christmas and thanks for coming on today. Can you shed any light on this?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Merry Christmas to you, Leon. Unfortunately I don’t think that information is correct. What the Victorian Government are saying to me is that they are doing more than their bit, which is a fair statement. They have a million-dollar-a-year subsidy. They have had that for some time. They’re saying that unless South Australia will continue with that subsidy – they’re not asking for anything new here. So that’s $330,000 a year the South Australian Government puts in. It gets more than that back if you take into account the fact that it’s taking cars off the road – off local roads that require maintenance and upkeep. If you think about the jobs that are created because of the stops at Murray Bridge, at Bordertown, Horsham and all along the route in both South Australia and Victoria. And it is quite an extraordinary decision. About 30,000 people take this journey every year. Why the South Australian Government have had such a hostile response from the Liberal Government, reminds me of Tony Abbott’s hostility to trains that he had when he was elected to government.
BYNER: Well, again I can tell you that the public sentiment, Anthony, in Adelaide – judging by the very big response we’ve had – is that we need to keep the Overland.
ALBANESE: It’s beneficial for the economy, it’s important for tourism, it’s important for those regional communities. It’s a no-brainer. I just can’t understand why the State Liberal Government is so hostile to it. Particularly if you look at the sort of people who take the journey as well, which is another factor, plenty of them are older – from South Australia, from Victoria. People who for various reasons want to take the train rather than drive. Many of them aren’t people who live close to the airport. They take it from one of the regional destinations or to one of the regional destinations along that route. Once train services cease to operate, this is the experience everywhere, if you look at (inaudible) once they stop it’s very hard to get them back. And they’re due to stop at the end of this year 31 December , when it is scheduled to make its last journey. And that of course is right in the middle of the holiday season.
BYNER: I noticed yesterday there was a flurry of enthusiasm from a number of very dedicated rail groups saying that this is imminent and it will happen. But you’re saying at this point not so?
ALBANESE: You need dollars for this to operate. The Marshall Government have withdrawn their funding, or are saying they will. They made that decision very recently on 28 November, so just last week. And what the Victorian Government are saying to me is that they can’t do it on their own. It’s very much proportionate – they’re doing the heavy lifting at the moment. Of course the Commonwealth stopped its subsidy in 2016 under the Coalition Government. If you have circumstances whereby it is only Labor Governments that will fund these rail lines and when there is a change of government, then you have a withdrawal. Then what you will have is a decimation of our rail system particularly in regional communities.
BYNER: Anthony, thank you for joining us. You may want to stay on the line. Just quickly let’s talk to Steve. Steve, what’s your latest on this?
CALLER: Well, the information that I’ve gathered from transport related – transport people both in SA and especially in Victoria, is that is exactly what’s going to happen. The Great Southern Rail are promoting a new rail experience from Brisbane through to Adelaide via Melbourne. It will take about three nights their campaign says. It takes coach transfers to go and visit the Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road and all that sort of stuff along the way. That can’t happen if the Overland is not there, and the people that I have been liaising with on social media from Victoria, are very confident. And these people have been pressed quite a lot by a lot of other people, including myself, as: ‘Is your information correct?’ And they are most adamant that it is, that there will be an announcement shortly. But whether it maintains the name The Overland remains to be seen. But a service will more than likely continue by the sounds of it. And there seems to be a feeling that there’ll be an announcement probably today or over the weekend, maybe Monday, along those lines. And it will come under the ownership of the Victorian Government i.e. B Line.
BYNER: Okay. So you’re pretty sure of this. Let’s talk to Shadow Treasurer Steve Mulligan. Steve, can you add anything to this?
STEPHEN MULLIGAN: Well it’s absolutely imperative that Stephan Knoll does his job as the Transport Minister and maintains these regional rail services. This is not the commuter service. This is an important tourism service. It delivers a huge economic benefit to South Australia. There are tourists who travel over from Melbourne to Adelaide, either a holiday in Adelaide or even to catch it again up to Darwin. So it’s an important tourism link and of course it provides all those other services that both Shadow Minister Albanese and your caller Steven have spoken about, providing benefits to towns along the route. I think there are eight or nine stops along the road in regional South Australia and Victoria. It is a mere pittance. We are talking, the Government subsidy of between $330,000 and $350,000 a year, which is one senior public servant executive salary. In fact it’s less than that Leon. It’s the decision that needs to be made and if Mr Albanese is correct, for the sake of a few hundred thousand dollars, in a $1.5 billion transport budget in South Australia, we lose this service. And Victoria doesn’t bump up their money because they’re getting sick and tired of doing the heavy lifting while South Australia is not putting any money in. Then this is going to be a disaster for our tourism industry, for rail service and those communities that rely on this service along the route.
BYNER: Steve Mulligan stay on the line. So, Steve Lucas, are you sure this is not connected at all to the Indian Pacific? I just want to clarify something here, that this is definitely a Melbourne-Adelaide service.
CALLER: Completely a Melbourne-Adelaide service because of B Line. I don’t know whether you’re aware, B Line line run an extensive country rail network, both with their rail and also coach services under the B Line banner. And we’ve even got B Line coaches that come to Adelaide. And in conjunction with their new – I think it’s called the Southern Experience or something, they’re going to call it – is they will utilise their B Line coaches to transfer people down to the Twelve Apostles and various other places around for that experience. Like Mr Mulligan has just said, the Overland is part of the rail experience, just like the Ghan, just like the Indian Pacific and numerous other rail journeys around Australia, most of them on the eastern seaboard. And the Overland, whether it remains under the name Overland, I’m fairly confident a service will still remain because the people that I’ve been speaking to on social media are being pressed: ‘Are you sure it is?’ And yes they are most sure. So they haven’t backed away from it and a couple of their sources are a bit like mine. We’ve got people in certain areas, in the area of business and around the place. And from a Victorian level say, and they’re [inaudible] and that new service that they’ve been starting to promote, that’s from Brisbane, Melbourne to Adelaide – can’t happen unless you actually have the passenger rail link from Melbourne to Adelaide.
BYNER: Alright. Well, Steve it’s interesting because yesterday we had Alex who rang in and said virtually the same thing, it was one group, we’re getting this all over the place. Now Anthony Albanese – election next May. What is the Federal Government, if it’s Labor, what’s their attitude going to be on trains?
ALBANESE: Well, we fund rail. That’s why we did the [inaudible]. That’s why we have for the last two elections, campaigned with Steve Mulligan to actually deliver on expanding light rail there in Adelaide. The fact is, with respect to Steve, talking to people on social media, I’ve just spoken directly to the Victorian Government. And the idea …
ALBANESE: Just think about this, the idea that Victorian taxpayers should fund things in another state, I reckon would be a triumph of hope over experience. The South Australian Government unfortunately have to come to the party or else I can’t see the circumstances whereby Victoria will say yes: ‘We all operate this system and provide all of the subsidy for another state’. I just can’t see the circumstances in which that happens. And that’s why the South Australian Liberal Government there really have a responsibility. Steve Mulligan said this is not a huge amount of money in terms of the state transport Budget. And the Marshall Government should walk back from what was, a real error of judgement.
BYNER: Anthony Albanese, thank you.
FRIDAY, 7 DECEMBER, 2018
Subject: High Speed Rail.
HOST: We’ve been seeing in the news an announcement from the State Government saying that they can’t afford to wait for the Federal Government to fast track the much discussed High Speed Rail project. Four routes were proposed and announced by Premier Gladys Berejiklian, including one to Canberra via Goulburn. But that is about as close as it got to our region. Meanwhile the Federal Government’s proposed routes from Sydney to Melbourne do include stops in Wagga Wagga and Albury-Wodonga. So are the two governments getting in the way of each other? And what about this new feasibility study from the State Government? Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Transport Minister and I spoke to him earlier.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we’ve actually had the study and the New South Wales Government worked with that study into High Speed Rail when we were in government. It was a two-part study. It was at a cost of $20 million. It identified Wagga Wagga as one of the stations for High Speed Rail on the route between Sydney and Melbourne and one of things that it found was that it would really stimulate economic activity where there were stops in Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga – they would be the two stops from Canberra through to Melbourne and then there would be another one in Victoria at Shepparton. Wagga Wagga was identified as an appropriate stop. It is the capital if you like of the Riverina there and the study was done. The route has been identified. What we need to do is to get on with advancing the project.
HOST: So on that route does that mean that the fast rail would go from Sydney to Canberra and then around to Wagga? There wouldn’t be any skipping of Canberra?
ALBANESE: That’s right, yes. It would be Sydney, Southern Highlands, potentially a stop in south-west Sydney, but then Southern Highlands, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga, Shepparton, Melbourne. And one of the things that it found was that that would produce a benefit of almost $2.50 for every dollar of investment. One of the things that lifted up the economic benefit case was the economic development of regions, particularly Wagga Wagga and other places along the route, also the route between Sydney and Brisbane. We had a vote yesterday in the Parliament which was supported by 73 members and opposed by 72 Coalition members. So it went through, but it didn’t have support of enough, an absolute majority of Members of Parliament, because some people are away. So it didn’t get to 76. But that indicated that there was the support thanks to support of independents including Cathy McGowan, who seconded my motion in the House of Representatives, for this project to proceed.
When we had the study I set up a High Speed Rail Advisory Group to make recommendations on how to advance the implementation and that included Tim Fischer, of course the former member for Farrer, who is very familiar with the Riverina region and he, along with Jennifer Westacott from the Business Council and other experts, all recommended that what you need is an authority to firstly preserve the corridor – so purchase of any properties that are needed along the route, to then go to market and call for expressions of interest for construction of the project because there are many international consortia who have been involved successful in building and operating High Speed Rail projects in every continent on the planet except for Australia and it is time that we got it done.
HOST: So what would the potential difference be between a new feasibility study from the State Government and the studies that have already been done?
ALBANESE: Well I don’t think anything will come out of this State announcement except for a press release. I mean, they have appointed some individual to look at it. We had Aecom do the oversight of the study. It involved an 18-month process. It was comprehensive. It even had the design of stations included in it. So this is a bit of a thought bubble for different parts of New South Wales, excluding the Riverina interestingly. But one of the things that the study showed is that you need to have High Speed Rail on the route where the population is and there is no doubt that Sydney to Melbourne is the biggest of those and not just in terms of those two capital cities that will grow to eight million people each over coming decades, but the major regional centres that areas along the route that would grow including of course the national capital here in Canberra.
HOST: How does a potential set of routes that we saw put forward by the State Government yesterday affect the Federal Government plan?
ALBANESE: I don’t think it will have any impact on anybody frankly. The State Government were clearly just looking for an announcement. There are improvements that could be made to existing rail routes such as down to the Illawarra that have been identified by the Government’s own departments. There are improvements that could be made on the western route. But the idea that this will amount to anything I think is very optimistic indeed. The routes that have been identified – the major routes between Sydney to Melbourne and Sydney to Brisbane, clearly if you look at High Speed Rail around the world that’s the sort of distance that really makes it economically viable, that 800km to 900km, because that is what is competitive in terms of time and in terms of experience.
People would much rather spend under three hours on a train doing work, not with the lost time of hanging around waiting for the plane to board and then boarding and sitting on the plane and waiting for bags – all of that means that effectively it would be more efficient to catch the train rather than air travel and that is the thing that drives High Speed Rail and that is why we looked at the international examples right around the world for the most effective way in which to proceed.
South America, North America, Africa, Asia and Europe are all building increased numbers of High Speed Rail routes. Australians are great travellers of course and Australians who travel from London to Paris by train or Rome to Milan or, in our region, Tokyo to Osaka or Beijing to Shanghai, all come back saying: “Why aren’t we doing it here in Australia?’’ And that is why I sought bipartisanship. That is why I appointed Tim Fischer, a former member of the National Party, to make these recommendations. He is a genuine enthusiast for rail, but he is also a practical bloke as well. And that is why I appointed Jennifer Westacott to make sure that there was a signal out there that the business community was serious about the improvements to our national economy that could come with High Speed Rail.
HOST: So you don’t think any action from the State Government at this stage could affect the way ultimately that High Speed Rail is built? For example, their route suggested that it could only go to Canberra via Goulburn. Couldn’t the Federal Government just say: “We will deal with the further bit that goes to Melbourne?’’
ALBANESE: Well there’s no money behind the State Government announcement. There is no money. There is no plan. There is no timetable. What they should do is go back, just have a look at the work that has been done. There is a great deal of cynicism about new studies because it has been studied over and over and over again and what we need is actually some practical steps to drive this plan. And the State Government, what they should be doing is lobbying the Federal Government to say let’s get on with how we preserve the corridor and let’s provide some funding from the different levels of government to do that step because unless we do – Infrastructure Australia produced a report just last year to the Federal Government that said the cost increase of not preserving the corridor now but delaying for ten years down the track or some period down the track and then deciding to get on with High Speed Rail would be $22 billion of additional costs. So it’s time that we dealt with this in a bipartisan way. You can’t build High Speed Rail in one term of government. It will take many terms and no doubt changes of government which occur of course from time to time and that is why it needs that bipartisanship and that is what my High Speed Rail Authority is aimed at doing upon the recommendation of Tim Fischer and Jennifer Westacott and the Australasian Railway Association and local government. You need a mechanism to drive this project.
HOST: That’s Anthony Albanese there, who is the Shadow Minister for Transport speaking to me earlier.
WEDNESDAY, 5 DECEMBER, 2018
Subjects: Liberal leadership; climate change; encryption.
HOST: I remember the good old days when Two Tribes were just that little bit more tribal. We could toss out leaders easily. Now it’s all so, need consensus, it’s all too difficult. You guys have sanitised this whole thing. Good morning to you Albo and Christopher Pyne.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning.
HOST: So Chris walk us through the logic behind the meeting on Monday night. Obviously you guys are trying to draw a line under the leadership merry go round.
PYNE: Well I think that’s what the Australian public want us to do. And Labor did it a few years ago by introducing rules that made it very hard to remove the leader in a Parliament. And we adopted ourselves on Monday night a rule that would require effectively a two-thirds majority of the party room to change the rules that the Prime Minister once elected can serve an entire term without facing a challenge.
So I think that gives a lot more certainty to the public that they could vote for Scott Morrison and when he’s elected Prime Minister he would remain in that role for at least the term that he’d been elected to. And I think that’s what the Australian people are crying out for. We’ve changed the Prime Minister every Parliament for the last four Parliaments. I’ve been in nine Parliaments, that’s almost half of them and Labor and Liberal have both done it. It’s time to put an end to it.
HOST: What’s your assessment of it from the Opposition benches Albo? You were actually sort of part of the new rules on the Labor side when you were the members’ choice as Leader. But the caucus vote held sway and Bill Shorten got the job. What do you think of what the Libs have done?
ALBANESE: Well I seconded the proposition to change our rules in the Caucus to provide some certainty and to ensure that there was more stability and that was what it was aimed at. That is what it has achieved. The problem for the Government, is that they have their fourth choice as leader as the current Prime Minister. I mean a majority actually supported Malcolm Turnbull. Peter Dutton was the second choice. Julie Bishop was the third choice and Scott Morrison was the fourth option. And the problem that they have made is that …
PYNE: That’s made up quite frankly.
ALBANESE: Well it’s not. Julie Bishop ran and people like you engaged in a WhatsApp exercise of putting moderate voters who supported Julie Bishop on to Scott Morrison so she would be eliminated and Morrison would be elected. So, we have a disaster in the Coalition. The problem they’ve got is that whoever leads them, they’re voting for a rabble of a team who we’ve seen this week — former Prime Minister Turnbull out there saying what a majority think which is that they should be taking action on climate change. They should be supporting their policy of a National Energy Guarantee …
PYNE: We are.
ALBANESE: And they’re just a joke at the moment, frankly.
HOST: Let’s give Minister Pyne a chance to respond to that.
PYNE: Well we are taking action on climate change because it’s absolutely vital that we do so. And that’s why we’ll reach the Kyoto targets, the Paris targets by 2020-21. By 2030 the extra target, the 26 per cent cut in our emissions. We are doing the right thing. We have reduced our emissions per head by 50 per cent since we began the measures that the Government has instituted to reduce our carbon. It is the right thing to do.
Labor would have us believe there’d been nothing happening at all on climate change in 10 years. It’s completely false. It’s just one of the myths that Labor puts around. It’s not true. And I and most of my colleagues are very actively engaged in supporting policy that will reduce electricity prices like the Big Stick Legislation that we’ll be introducing today, that will allow us to make energy companies divest assets if they don’t do the right thing. They’ve had a great run, the energy companies, for a long time. The consumer has been a loser from that. We are taking the action to allow us to divest the assets and Labor should support it. If they did it, we could do it. We could pass it this week. But Labor is not supporting it. And that is why it’s not passing this week. If Labor changes their mind, the energy prices could be coming down even further than they already have.
HOST: Minister Pyne, the Labor Party has moved on encryption law and it looks like an agreement’s been struck there. Can you explain to our listeners what the laws regarding encrypted communications will mean you can do in the future that you can’t do now?
PYNE: Well, it means that the Government legal agencies will have the power to obtain warrants issued by either the Attorney General or by myself, depending on the agencies involved, to effectively intercept encrypted messages that they have not been able to do before because of the technologies that are used to protect those messages. And that means that we will be able to catch would-be terrorists, paedophile rings that use WhatsApp or Telegram or other encrypted messages to communicate with each other, organised criminals. So the technology has changed but the laws allowing our legal agencies to pursue them have not changed and we’re updating them. And I’m glad Labor’s supporting that finally.
HOST: What was your issue with them Albo? And why have you swung around to back the Government?
ALBANESE: Well, the issue was protections. Under the law as it was drafted there weren’t enough protections in there. You could have had mine or your messages — information intercepted by any of, for example any of the ICAC-type agencies that are there around the state, and you wouldn’t even know about it. So what has happened as a result of some mature negotiations by the Attorney General and the Shadow Attorney General to get an outcome, is an oversight by a Judge, a former Judge and a technological expert, a step in-between so that it’s not just a free-for-all. What we want to do is to target, of course, terrorists or people who would do us harm or are engaged in the sort of activity that Christopher spoke about, paedophiles, et cetera, whilst at the same time not destroying the freedom of people to engage in everyday activities. So we wanted to ensure that there were protections built in. Labor’s now satisfied that has occurred. So we’ll be supporting the legislation as amended.
HOST: Good stuff. Rare outbreak of consensus in what’s been a fairly divided couple of weeks in Canberra.
ALBANESE: The divisions are all on their side. We’re just watching with popcorn. We got the popcorn out.
HOST: It is Christmas time.
PYNE: Christmas cheer Anthony.
ALBANESE: Maybe we could sing next week for being the…
HOST: Last one for the year. Maybe you can play your favourite carols and you can do a rendition.
ALBANESE: That would be terrific. We’ll go and practice after Question Time.
HOST: Do a duet.
PYNE: We’ll practice in the courtyard, they’ll by trying to shut us down.
ALBANESE: And the clicks you’ll hear all over Adelaide will be radios being turned off.
HOST: Chris Pyne, Anthony Albanese, Two Tribes. The last one coming up next Wednesday.
HOST: That’s right.
HOST: The carol edition. Yes the Two Tribes edition you didn’t know you had to have.
HOST: They can’t do Baby it’s Cold Outside though, because that’s been banned and more importantly, it would just be weird.
WEDNESDAY, 5 DECEMBER, 2018
TUESDAY, 4 DECEMBER, 2018
Subject: High Speed Rail.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I am very pleased to be joined here by the Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, and just a little while ago we moved in the House of Representatives a suspension of standing orders that would ensure that the High Speed Rail Authority Bill was voted on and carried by the Parliament today.
This is a Bill whose time has well and truly come. We know that today the Premier of New South Wales is in the newspaper speaking about having some feasibility studies and looking at where routes might be for High Speed RaiI. I say to the Premier of New South Wales she doesn’t have to do that. There has been an extensive study done by the former Labor Government. It was done in two stages. It involved state governments. It involved local government. It involved international expertise and it was widely recognised as being comprehensive. It went down in detail to the actual design of rail stations and what it found was that not only is High Speed Rail viable and an economic benefit to the nation for the routes between Sydney and Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane, but that it would super charge regional economic growth, which is why I am so pleased that Cathy McGowan has been such a passionate supporter of this project.
Now this project shouldn’t be partisan. That is why I asked Cathy to second today’s motion in the Parliament, to indicate the breadth of support which is there. And of course in the High Speed Rail Authority that we planned to set up, I intended to ask the High Speed Rail Advisory Group that recommended the structure to participate. That included Tim Fischer, the former Deputy Prime Minister and a real rail advocate and enthusiast. It included Jennifer Westacott from the Business Council of Australia, showing how important the economic case was for this project. It included the head of the Australasian Railway Association, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, representing employees, local government.
It is one thing to talk about the need for High Speed Rail. The other thing though that is critical is actually putting in place the planning, preserving the corridor, getting that done. That is the first step. The real tragedy is that if we don’t do that the cost will be many tens of billions of dollars – not according to myself or Cathy – according to Infrastructure Australia in a report to the Government of just last year.
So we have an opportunity today to get something done. To show the Parliament at its best, doing what the Australian people want us to do – not squabble and fight, but recognise what is in the national interest and move forward in a comprehensive and, indeed, a cohesive way as a Parliament. This is a project that won’t be solved in just one term of Parliament. That’s why I have always looked for bipartisan support and I thank Cathy for seconding the motion and we’ll be pursuing it. The vote will be after Question Time and it’s an opportunity still for the Government to get on board, maybe take attention away from fighting each other for just a minute, vote for this and get something done for the nation.
MCGOWAN: Thank you. So my call to the Government – if not now, when? And to the people of regional Australia, if this Government doesn’t do it, then who is going to have the vision for the regions? When I got elected, I’m always saying I’m putting my electorate first. And we desperately need better infrastructure. And I’m really pleased we’ve been able to do some work on our current train line and get some of the mud holes fixed up.
But what we actually need is a long-term plan and we need to get the authority organised between Melbourne, Albury-Wodonga, Wagga Wagga and Sydney and further north. And I cannot see the argument of why you wouldn’t do it because it’s exactly as Anthony Albanese says: If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it? And it just becomes so expensive.
So I’m a really pragmatic Member of Parliament and I’m really pleased to be working with Anthony Albanese on this and I really put a call out to the Government to come and join us on this nation-building activity. And the first thing we need to do is get the corridor organised and agreed to. We’ve done all the work, we’ve got all the expertise in and now we just want some bipartisan work to say, yes we’ll put the authority in place and we’ll do the work in a non-political way, which is I think what the people of Australia want and certainly what the people in my electorate want.
ALBANESE: Thanks Cathy, happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Cathy, you know the rail line down Albury-Wodonga, that’s just been a debacle it seems, hasn’t it? Is that because it’s owned by three different bodies or how many are responsible for all that?
MCGOWAN: Public transport is an issue in Victoria, but no more so than in my electorate of Indi where we have got a railway line that has had so many problems. It’s owned by the Australian Rail Track Corporation, it’s operated by V-Line and also NSW Railway and I’ve been really successful in my time here of getting $235 million to get the mud holes fixed up. But we’re nowhere near solving the problem of public transport.
So it’s one of the reasons why I’m such a great fan of doing the long-term planning and getting the corridor organised because, assuming that I can continue to do my work and get our train line fixed up, that will only take us back – and my community tell me – to the Ned Kelly days and now we’ve got to move into the 21st century and have something that actually is going to connect us up to the cities.
So there’s no planning for regional transport and I have to say even in Victoria with the last election with the Labor Party how seriously they’ve let down the regions. They’re doing work around Melbourne and out to the airport, but if you put the marginal seats or the very safe National Party or Liberal seats, we’re just completely off the agenda. So that’s why coming to Canberra and to work on a national approach to this is so important for me. But surely we’ve got really big problems in the regions with our current transport and my community keeps saying: ‘Well fix up the slow rail before you do the fast rail’. And I’m saying there’s no reason why we can’t do both – fixing up the slow rail and doing the planning for the fast rail in the future.
ALBANESE: It’s absurd that here we are in Canberra where it takes longer to go from Canberra to Sydney by rail than it did many, many decades ago. It’s quite appalling that that’s the case. But the difference is with High Speed Rail if you put Canberra under an hour from Sydney, Newcastle under an hour from Sydney, Albury-Wodonga under an hour from Melbourne, you change the economics of those regional cities.
We talk about urban congestion and pressure that’s on. We have to get serious about decentralisation. Decentralisation doesn’t mean moving 10 public servants to Armidale. That does nothing. What does drive that economic change and decentralisation is turning what is a tyranny of distance into a comparative advantage and that’s what regional High Speed Rail would do and that’s why this is such a visionary project.
And I must say over the years – Paul Fletcher: “We have seen a number of proposals in recent years for High Speed Rail and the benefits are easy to visualise’’. Michael McCormack, the current Transport Minister: “High Speed Rail could open new opportunities for regional Australia’’. Angus Taylor: “Now more than ever we need to talk about the future of the Hume Corridor and High Speed Rail’’. John Alexander: “Well connected cities and regions mean the opportunities can be distributed across a wider population. High Speed Rail can bring distanced communities within close proximity of each other’.
What I say to those Members is that words are good, but sitting on the right side of the Parliament in the division would be even better and there is an opportunity this afternoon to advance this project. Gladys Berejiklian, the Premier of New South Wales, has made an announcement with no route, with no funding, with no planning. That’s not good enough. The planning has been done. The route has been identified. Let’s get on with preserving the corridor and advancing this project.
JOURNALIST: Is it a bit like the Snowy Hydro Scheme – long-term thinking, but now with short-term governments they don’t think?
ALBANESE: Well there is no doubt that one of the issues that we have to deal with infrastructure in general is breaking the nexus between the short-term political cycle and the long-term infrastructure investment cycle. That is why we created Infrastructure Australia – to get that long-term vision and there is no doubt that a project like this will occur over many terms of government and that is why we are seeking cross-parliamentary support for this.
Members say they support it. Let’s get on now, today, with seeing this as a project which is advanced, not what has happened up to this point. I have had to introduce this Bill five times to the Parliament. We provided funding to the authority in the 2013 Budget. It was abolished by Tony Abbott’s Government. Today we can reverse that and get on with the business of High Speed Rail. Thanks very much.
McGOWAN: Thanks very much.
TUESDAY, 4 DECEMBER, 2018
Subject: High Speed Rail.
ANNA VIDOT: The New South Wales Government says a fast rail network around the state will help transform New South Wales. You looked at this in a much broader perspective in 2011. What’s changed?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We had a serious look at it, not just a media release. We invested $20 million in the study that looked at international experience, that looked at the route of a High Speed Rail network between Brisbane, through to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.
ANNA VIDOT: Surely it would have started with a media release though. Isn’t that what the NSW Government is intending to do?
ALBANESE: Well, they haven’t put any money in.
VIDOT: As yet.
ALBANESE: They’ve got one person in charge who’s an expert. If they looked at the study that had been done, what you need essentially is population and it looked at the economics of High Speed Rail and whether it would work or not – the feasibility of it. With the greatest of respect some of the routes that have been identified, certainly to the west of the state – it certainly would not stack up in terms of the economics of High Speed Rail. Canberra to Sydney does stack up, as it does right through to Melbourne as part of the route. It found that the cost would have to be pretty similar to air travel. It found that for distances essentially of just under 1000 kilometres High Speed Rail was ideal. But one of the things that lifted up the benefit, as opposed to the cost, of the project was the benefit for regional economies along the route. In particular the Southern Highlands, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton, in between Sydney and Melbourne.
VIDOT: So do you think that perhaps the NSW Government could benefit from looking at your past research, or have things changed too much?
ALBANESE: No. The research stacks up. It was looked at again by Infrastructure Australia last year. They found the cost of a failure to preserve the corridor, the entire corridor from Brisbane to Melbourne, could be $22 billion additional cost, unless that was done. I have a High Speed Rail Authority Bill. What I did was, after the study, I had an advisory group that included Tim Fischer, the former leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister and a great rail enthusiast. I had Jennifer Westacott, the head of the Business Council of Australia, just to make the point that this was a hard-headed economic analysis. We had the head of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, Bob Nanva, the head of the Australasian Railway Association, a representative of local government. And it looked at how this project could be progressed, and what it suggested was that you needed an authority because it crosses jurisdictions both local government – of course many jurisdictions, but particularly the four states and the territory down the east coast. And it needed that to get the planning right and to get on with the preservation of the corridor, as the first step and then what you would do is to go out to market. There’s lots of international experience. The effectiveness and efficiency of High Speed Rail is increasing, at the same time as the costs are coming down. And it’s being rolled out in every continent – inhabited continent – on the planet, except for Australia.
VIDOT: Mr Albanese, when I spoke to Andrew Constance the NSW Transport Minister earlier, he was discussing how initially the idea will be to have faster rail. So improvements and upgrades to the current tracks as they stand. Is that something that we need to start seeing some work on sooner rather than later? You keep talking about a High Speed Rail, but is that something that’s very, very far off into the future?
ALBANESE: Well, that would be welcome. And there are a number of things that could be done to improve the network. In particular if he is talking about down to the South Coast and the Illawarra, the building of Maldon to Dombarton, taking those freight trains away from that track and doing some work just south of the National Park, would make an enormous difference, and that study is being done by the transport department. There are things that we could do. There is work that has been identified between Sydney to Canberra, that would improve the route. But if we’re serious about making rail competitive with air travel and really making a difference, then what we need to look at is to be ambitious. The rest of the world is doing it, there’s no reason why we can’t do it from Sydney to Canberra, for example, would mean that this great national capital would be under an hour from the CBD of Sydney. Now what that does is change the economics of businesses being located here, from one of disadvantage to one of all of a sudden having an advantage, because of the lower establishment and operating costs of businesses here compared with in Sydney. But it also would mean for the people of Canberra, much more attractive, or the people from Sydney for that matter, they could travel up very quickly to events that are in either city. Be it something at the National Museum, or the National Gallery, or the Sydney Opera House. It would change the way that the two cities relate to each other.
VIDOT: My guest here on ABC Radio Canberra Drive is Anthony Albanese, the Federal Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. We’re taking a look at the fast rail network, something that the NSW Government has announced it will look at come the next election or post the next election. A couple of text messages here, Mr Albanese, Ron from Bungendore says: ‘My parents used to talk about the highway to the coast being upgraded to two lanes both ways from Canberra to Batemans Bay. They finally admitted that it would not happen in their lifetime and it has not,’ Ron says: ‘This fast rail will not happen in my lifetime and I hope to be around for the next 40 years.’ I think there’s a lot of sentiment like that. I know that it was talked about when I was in high school, this particular issue.
ALBANESE: I understand why that cynicism is there, and that’s one of the reasons why, when I was the Minister I appointed a committee – that wasn’t a committee for Labor, or a committee for the Coalition – it attempted to get the head of the business community for Australia, in Jennifer Westacott, a former leader of the National Party in Tim Fischer. There were no former Labor MPs on the committee that I established. I wanted to try and create momentum for beyond one term, or beyond any particular party being in office because this is a project that won’t be done in one or two terms. And that’s why today, to bring on the legislation that I have before the Parliament about establishing the authority, now I’ve moved and there’ll be a vote in the Parliament very soon to try and bring on a vote on that deal. And it was seconded by Cathy McGowan the Independent Member for Indi because I’ve tried to reach out. Many people across the Parliament, if you took a conscience vote, if you like, particularly for members on the east coast: ‘Do you support High Speed Rail?’ it would be overwhelmingly carried. And we need to take that sentiment and turn that sentiment and aspiration into a reality, and that takes a structure and that structure is having an authority that will drive this project.
VIDOT: Both the New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and the Transport Minister, Andrew Constance, say this is not an election stunt, that they’re looking ahead to the future and it’s a matter that’s important to people living in the regions as you just said. You’ve spent a lot of time travelling. Is that what you’re hearing from people?
ALBANESE: Oh absolutely. It would make an enormous difference to the regions. Both the route in inland NSW, between Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, but also up to Newcastle, which would also be under an hour from Sydney. But towns like Taree and Port Macquarie, Lismore and the Gold Coast would be transformed by such a project. One of the things that we’re talking about, those of us who live in the capital cities, is urban congestion. And we need to do something about decentralisation. Decentralisation won’t be driven by moving 15 people from a government department from Sydney to Armidale. How it will be driven is by making the economics of private sector investment and economic activity better in the regions than it is in those capital cities. I think that is the way that you really promote that change and people in the regions get it. My in-laws will be travelling up to Port Macquarie from Sydney at Christmas time, and it’s a dreadful drive, that’s the truth , as much as the highway has been improved, when all the cars are there wanting to head up the coast at the same time. If you could jump on a train and be there in half the time that it takes you to drive, that would be of enormous benefit.
VIDOT: I don’t think anyone disagrees with you on that one. Anthony Albanese. Would you be, is this something that’s going to be back on the agenda if Labor wins government in 2019, dare I say it, after May.
ALBANESE: It certainly will be on the agenda. And the bells that you may be able to hear ringing in the background, are for the Division to get the vote on the High Speed Rail Authority.
VIDOT: Then I will let you go.
TUESDAY, 4 DECEMBER, 2018
Subjects: Federal Election; Craig Kelly; student protest; Fairgrounds Music Festival; Tom Uren Memorial Lecture
RICHARD PERNO: Do you know who Tony Albanese is? Tony Albanese. Have you ever been called Tony?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No one calls me Tony. My mother used to – when I was a little kid, I still remember my late mum, if anyone called me Tony she’d say: “If I wanted to call him that I would have called him Tony, it’s Anthony”.
PERNO: It’s Anthony. I can imagine you as a little kid, shorts way down to your knees, Bermuda socks up to your knees, they were grey – weren’t they? A little bit of dribbling because you couldn’t control yourself, a nice little shirt on.
ALBANESE: Oh come on, now you’re being mean.
PERNO: A nice little tie. What were you like as a kid, a rat bag or a nice bloke?
ALBANESE: I was a little bit naughty, you won’t be surprised.
PERNO: I won’t be surprised.
ALBANESE: I went okay.
PERNO: It’s all clear. Green lights for Craig Kelly and Co. Anthony Albanese, Member for Grayndler the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Tourism. You must be licking your lips just sitting back and watching the Libs implode.
ALBANESE: It is pretty amazing that you’ve had this intervention to save Craig Kelly who frankly has spent his entire time in Parliament really running down his own side and creating internal havoc for them. And someone like Jane Prentice who I think should be a Minister in the Coalition Government, that was knocked off by a bloke who used to work for her. She is on the front bench as a Parliamentary Secretary, no one lifted a finger. Ann Sudmalis sits in a very marginal seat, in Gilmore, not too far from us here in Canberra. No one lifted a finger. They don’t even have a candidate. She’s been knocked off by nobody and sent to New York, to the United Nations General Assembly, where she can’t cause any difficulty. But Craig Kelly gets saved. It’s beyond belief, really. Of course you’ve had Malcolm Turnbull’s extraordinary intervention yesterday and this morning, about that issue and about when the election should be held, next year.
PERNO: Well, there was chatter and then it became confirmed he was on the ABC this morning saying: “Yeah I got to admit, Scott Morrison and I decided on March 2”. They should get to an election as soon as the Christmas break is over. We heard it loud and clear, Anthony.
ALBANESE: Well, I think March 2, would be a good idea not the least of which it would put the Government out of its misery and at least stop them fighting each other.
PERNO: Put the sick dog down, do you reckon?
ALBANESE: Secondly, it’s my birthday. It would mean that I got lots of birthday wishes on that day, as I went around the polling booths and it would give me an extra pitch to voters, to vote for me, given it was my birthday. You would have to be pretty mean to vote against someone on their birthday, I reckon.
PERNO: I know, mate.
ALBANESE: I’m in favour of the 2nd of March.
PERNO: Okay, 2nd of March for Anthony Albanese’s birthday. But quite frankly, Anthony Albanese, it seems that major parties are on the nose, given how many independents we have been voting for in the last couple of elections. Would you agree?
ALBANESE: Well certainly I agree that the major parties need to do much better. But what we’ve been seeing in recent times, is essentially Liberal seats, what should be Liberal seats. Wentworth which has, of course, the most expensive real estate in Australia, along Point Piper and Vaucluse and suburbs like that. You’ve got Mayo, which was held solidly by the Liberal Party forever and you’ve had the electorate of Indi based around Wodonga and Shepparton – all three are now held by independent progressive centrist women. It says something about the Liberal Party – it’s a problem that they had I think in Victoria. If you say to people: ‘Well Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t a real Liberal and anyone with those sort of views anyone who thinks we should act on climate change isn’t a real Liberal,’. then what you’re saying isn’t just to the people you’re fighting with in the party room. The problem is saying to people who voted Liberal their whole life that you’re not one of us.
PERNO: Anthony, is Cathy McGowan not going to run?
ALBANESE: I think she’s running.
PERNO: We got wind of it last week that maybe there was a bit of a doubt there, somewhere.
ALBANESE: She looks pretty keen around the corridor. That’s new to me. She was talking to me just a little bit earlier about High Speed Rail and the need to progress it. She’s keen on it going through her electorate between Canberra and Melbourne.
PERNO: High Speed Rail. I’m not going to get you on that, because that’ll get you off the tracks. Did you see that? The kids were revolting last week and going on strike. What did you think about that?
ALBANESE: I think that if young people have a concern about the state of the world that – after all they’re going to be around for longer than you and I – then I think that is a good thing.
PERNO: Didn’t we all protest when we were at school against the – Vietnam – you know, there was all of that protest going. But did you hear the Prime Minister? He was asked about that too, Anthony Albanese, what did you think about that? He said: ‘I reckon the kid should be in school learning not protesting’. He’s not connecting, is he? He’s out of touch.
ALBANESE: Well what school is about? It’s about learning from textbooks, but it’s also about learning about life. And one of my first demonstrations was in 1975. So I would have been, just turned 12 years old, when the Whitlam Government was replaced. So it happened that with the coup of November 11, it just so happened that I went to St. Mary’s Cathedral, which is the back of the cathedral in the city, and the big demo was at the Domain. And certainly myself and a whole lot of classmates went across to that very historic event. And when we got back to school no one got into trouble. It was seen as – you know we didn’t have permission – but we saw that as being more important. And the few hours I missed out on school there, I learnt a lot more than I would have sitting at a desk.
PERNO: I just think that Scott Morrison was saying the kids should be in school learning and not outside protesting. I know where you were on Saturday. I know where you were Anthony Albanese.
PERNO: Anthony Albanese was seen in Berry. Attending the Fairgrounds Music Festival, appearing in conversation with the British musician this fellow, author and political activist Billy Bragg. That’s where you were, wasn’t it?
ALBANESE: It was great fun. It was a really interesting discussion. The organisers were a bit shocked by the many hundreds of people who tried to turn up that couldn’t fit in because people were really engaged. And we had a discussion for an hour – talked about everything from his music, to Brexit and what was happening with the European Union, what was happening in the state of the world and it was a good discussion. I’ve known Billy, showing my age here, I met him when I was President of Young Labor. I organised for him to come and do a talk on his first tour of Australia That was back in 1987. So when I thought about that, it was a bit of a shock that we’ve known each other for 31 years. But it was something a bit different. Many of these musical festivals are fantastic for employment and the regional economies, of course. Canberra has a fantastic Folk Festival. And they create jobs and economic activity and it was good that it was just the day after Tony Burke released our contemporary music policy in Sydney. So people were interested in that, as I went around the festival as well. And most of these festivals have a talk component and this was a real family event, the Fairgrounds Festival. They had over one thousand kids registered aged under 12, and it was a good thing to see families out there enjoying the weekend.
PERNO: Anthony Albanese, Berry is a good example of a little town that thought it was going to die because of the highway not going through it. They reinvented themselves and it’s a true big artisan town now, it’s a great little town.
ALBANESE: Oh it is a fantastic town and a friend of mine Rick Gainford owns one of the Bed and Breakfasts there, and it’s certainly going gangbusters. It was certainly very full on the weekend.
PERNO: Full in more ways than one. And yesterday you also hosted the annual Tom Uren Lecture?
ALBANESE: That was very good. I did that in my electorate, drove back to Sydney Saturday night and I hosted Gareth Evans, of course, the Chancellor of your great Australian National University, here in Canberra. And Gareth talked about Australia punching at our weight in international affairs. He was introduced by Senator Penny Wong – so we had the former Foreign Minister and the person I hope is the next Foreign Minister, in Penny. We had over 500 people there, and it shows that people are interested in the state of the world and that they are prepared to come along on what was a very warm Sunday afternoon to hear Gareth.
PERNO: Cheryl Kernot wasn’t in the audience, was she?
ALBANESE: I think I’ll let that one go through the keeper. Gareth Evans has enormous respect. And he is one of – not just Australia’s great statespeople, but internationally he is very highly regarded for the work that he did with Cambodia, the work that he did on nuclear disarmament, the work that he did in lifting Australia’s profile in the region.
PERNO: All right. Seriously, Anthony Albanese, would you take on a Federal election, March 2, on your birthday? Is the Labor Party ready?
ALBANESE: We’re ready. We’re more than ready. We’ve got an enormous amount of policy out. I think more than any Opposition has in – certainly in living memory and we’re ready to contest. And I think it’s pretty clear that the Government isn’t able to govern – just normal functions of government aren’t happening at the moment. And the fact that they themselves have essentially moved Parliament to part-time – when we get up this Thursday, if the election is held in May, it will mean that there are just ten sitting days in eight months. That’s just us not doing our job, frankly. And it’s bad for the Canberra economy as well.
PERNO: That’s it, too. All the pubs and the cafes go dry. Anthony Albanese Member for Grayndler, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Tourism – this thing called a fast train, that one day I might talk to you about. Enjoy the rest of your week, and we’ll catch up before Christmas. Thank you, Anthony.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Richard.