Speech to Australian Smart Communities Conference Smart Cities Need a National Policy – Smart Cities Need a National Urban Policy – Friday, 11 May 2018
Just last week I was in Taiwan where the delivery of high speed broadband, use of technology for payments and information flow and data analysis in cities like Taipei are just a given factor in their future economic development.
Of course there are examples of smart technology everywhere.
For instance, residents in Tel Aviv can sign up for a Digi Tel Card, which provides them with live updates about what is happening in the city.
And the communication goes both ways. Should a resident notice an issue with a playground, or broken signage, they can feed that information back to city authorities through the app.
Here in Australia the City of Newcastle is set to run a series of Internet of Things (IoT) trials.
Soil monitoring sensors will soon be installed at a sports ground in the city’s west.
These will measure the field’s moisture and potentially enable savings to be made when it comes to water costs and maintenance.
Helpfully, the sensors will allow sports organisations to remotely determine if the field can be played on hours in advance of competitions.
As part of the trial, bin sensors, smart lighting control and parking sensors will also be tested at the sportsground, before being rolled out across the city.
Like it or not, technology is changing the way we live, the way we work and the way we play.
Keeping pace, not just as individuals but also as cities and towns, remains a challenge.
It is up to policy makers, experts and government to ensure that all people benefit from advancements in technology.
But while there are many examples in cities and towns across Australia of smart technology being used effectively, there is no unifying framework at a national level to facilitate a genuine smart cities agenda.
The fact is that while a one off program can provide targeted investment that gets projects and trials off the ground, it is no driver of change.
And what’s more, without a national urban policy, it is very hard to have a smart cities policy.
That’s why I’m announcing today that a Federal Labor Government would embed a smart cities agenda in our national urban policy.
This builds on our legacy from when we were last in Government where we released ‘Our Cities, Our Future’ – Australia’s first ever comprehensive national urban policy.
It also comes in addition to previous commitments that Federal Labor would require all projects submitted to Infrastructure Australia to show what provision for smart infrastructure has been included to ensure maximum benefit is achieved from any investment.
DEFINING SMART CITIES
Despite significant investment in smart technology from both the public and private sector globally there is still a great deal of scepticism about the term ‘smart cities’.
Prominent architect Jan Gehl tells his students that, ‘whenever you hear the word “smart,” beware, because that is somebody who wants to sell as many millions as possible of some new gimmick. And he is not necessarily giving you a better quality of life’.
Not unreasonable advice.
Perhaps the initial challenge with smart cities is defining exactly what we mean by this.
And, most importantly for all of you, defining what the national government means when it talks about smart cities.
On one hand we have a technical response, where a ‘smart city’, according to IBM, is ‘one that makes optimal use of all the interconnected information available today to better understand and control its operations and optimize the use of limited resources’.
But the truth is such a technical response overlooks both the complexity of cities and the potential of those people living in them.
In my view, a simpler and more practical approach paints a clearer picture while ensuring we don’t overlook a city’s most valuable asset – its people.
So I believe smart cities can be summed up as follows: those that use the latest technology and urban design techniques to deliver on three key objectives – productivity, sustainability and liveability.
And this is why embedding the smart cities concept in Labor’s national urban policy is so important.
Yet the challenges that most constrain our productivity, sustainability and liveability are not new.
Issues around the impact of climate change on our urban environment, housing affordability, urban congestion, ensuring cities have an efficient public transport network and that people have access to employment centres have challenged us for decades.
Smart technology certainly offers a new opportunity to address these.
While we can’t expect it to solve everything, it certainly can help.
But a silo approach won’t get us there.
And that’s why it’s important we acknowledge that a truly “smart” city has a few additional defining characteristics, particularly when it comes to governance.
Stephen Hawking once said, ‘intelligence is the ability to adapt to change’.
Smart cities are adaptive cities; they don’t just respond to the issues of the day but anticipate the challenges of the future.
They achieve this by being resourceful with evidence-based decision making, having an overarching strategic vision and an integrated planning approach.
Innovation is supported at a community and a company level.
And, most importantly, smart cities put people first, while collaborating across the different levels of government and with the private sector.
Genuinely achieving this is the challenge at hand.
But having a consistent, unifying national framework in the form of Labor’s proposed National Urban Policy is a good place to start.
IMPROVING PRODUCTIVITY IN OUR CITIES
Four out of every five Australians live in cities, which produce 80 percent of the nation’s GDP.
Keeping the wheels turning, literally, so that cities continue to perform as economic powerhouses is one of our biggest challenges.
Traffic congestion is already costing the national economy $16 billion a year in lost productivity.
And, according to analysis by Infrastructure Australia, this cost will rise to $53 billion a year by 2031 unless we act now.
How, what and when we choose to invest in infrastructure has very real implications for the future.
The provision of infrastructure can no longer be considered a second order public policy priority.
In 2018, an effective infrastructure policy is fundamental to an effective economic policy, an effective housing affordability policy and an effective environmental policy.
But the key word here is ‘effective’.
If we are to maximise its economic, social and environmental dividends, infrastructure policy has to be got right.
This starts with a genuine commitment to a long term strategy based on an objective, evidence-based assessment of the nation’s infrastructure needs.
Technology has an important role to play in this space, which is why we have said it must be considered in any proposal submitted to Infrastructure Australia.
We know it has the greatest potential to unlock significant efficiency gains.
In practice this means fitting new technology to improve traffic flows along major motorways, using higher productivity vehicles, creating dedicated freight routes and separating passenger trains from freight trains.
There are a number of examples I can point to where this has already occurred.
For instance the former Labor Government invested in the Managed Motorways Program, which incorporated intelligent transport solutions into urban motorway networks.
These included entry ramp signalling, variable speed limit signs, CCTVs and digital message signs that provide motorists with live updates on traffic conditions and delays.
And in Victoria we committed $9.9 million in our last Budget to upgrade the Intelligent Transport System along a 4.1 kilometre section of the Monash Freeway.
While in the scheme of things that was a relatively small amount of funding, it would have generated an extraordinary $11.50 of benefits for every $1 invested, according to Infrastructure Australia.
Unfortunately, this was one of those worthy projects cancelled by the incoming Coalition Government, which has seriously underinvested in infrastructure.
Indeed, this week’s Budget, which includes no new money for infrastructure, speaks for itself with page after page listing zero, zero, zero, zero into the forwards.
The fact is that every project announced in the Budget will be funded from previous allocations, putting the lie to weeks of pre-budget hyperbole in which the Government pretended it planned to lift investment after years of cuts.
The infrastructure Budget is nothing more than a triumph of spin over substance.
It does not include one extra dollar of new investment over the Forward Estimates and, indeed, Commonwealth infrastructure grants to the states will fall in each of the next four years from the promised $8 billion in 2017-18 to $4.5 billion in 2021-22.
Not only is the Coalition cutting investment in coming years, but it has failed to deliver what it actually promised in its first four budgets.
Over the Coalition’s first four budgets, the difference between the amount the Government promised to invest and what it has actually delivered is $4.7 billion.
It’s just not good enough, particularly when you take into the account the multiplier effect of investment in good infrastructure.
The Government’s underspend means we are potentially missing out on a whole swathe of private investment.
The need for investment in infrastructure has never been greater, but the Government must play its part by fronting up with real investment and offering private investors the certainty they need.
There are a number of examples elsewhere in the role where governments have thought deeply about how they can lead in this space.
For instance, in the UK, a partnership has been established between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Cambridge.
Called Digital Built Britain, it will function at both a theoretical and practical level, developing standards to improve how new technologies, data and analytics are used when it comes to planning, building and maintaining social and economic infrastructure.
But an essential part of cities being productive is dealing with the issues of sustainability.
2017 was Australia’s third hottest year on record. Not surprisingly, the other two hottest years – 2016 and 2015 – also broke a number of world records.
While heatwaves and extreme weather events take a toll on everyone, the fact is that it is those living in our outer suburbs, as well as the elderly, who are disproportionately affected.
We need to be doing everything we can to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
It is one of our greatest global challenges.
Smart technology has a key role to play in enabling greener, more resilient cities.
This is particularly important when you consider the fact that while cities cover less than two per cent of the earth’s surface, they consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 percent of all carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
However developments in technology now mean that we can not only monitor a building’s impact on climate change, but through smarter design we can actually reduce it.
For instance, just two kilometres from here on Little Collins Street, the façade of Melbourne’s Council House 2 dominates the streetscape with its timber slats, which open and close in response to the movements of the sun.
It was the first building to receive Australia’s 6 Star Green Star – Office Design rating and is designed to work as an ecosystem.
Down the road from here, the renewal of the Queen Victoria Market precinct saw the City of Melbourne become the first Australian local government to receive the 6 Star Green Star – Communities accreditation.
There are plenty of great examples of innovation, across Australia and abroad.
Vertical forests in Milan, Singapore and Sydney act as a sponge, absorbing and purifying water before it is reused.
Renewables, too, are playing an important role.
In just the last three years, the number of cities around the world sourcing more than 70 percent of their power from renewables has more than doubled to 100.
Given the challenge at hand, it is a responsibility of government to ensure it provides leadership on climate change.
This not only grows market confidence in renewable energy at a macro level, but can impact on individual behaviour and decision-making at a micro level.
We have the potential to transform a city’s impact on its environment from both the bottom up and the top down.
And this is why we will ensure sustainability remains a core pillar of our national urban policy, while also embedding a smart cities agenda.
The very simple fact of cities, however, is that their success is entirely dependent on people.
People flock to cities for jobs, to pursue education and training opportunities as well as for access to restaurants and a range of cultural activities.
But people abandon cities because of the obstacles it throws up – lengthy commutes, the high cost of living and poor amenity which includes environmental issues such as air quality.
Smart technology can assist with this.
Many local councils are already using technology to allow residents to inform them if maintenance is needed in public spaces.
But there is more that can be done.
For instance, NGO Plan International Australia has released a new online interactive map called ‘Free to Be’ for Sydney, New Delhi, Kampala, Lima, and Madrid.
It allows women to map where in the city they feel unsafe.
The challenge of data however, and there is plenty of it, is what we actually do with the information we have.
In this particular case Plan International Australia has already said it will work with local councils and other relevant authorities to see what steps can be taken to make our streets safer.
We need to make sure that as we collect data we continue to close the loop, using the information we have to generate better outcomes for people.
However, we also need to be mindful that smart technology is not a silver bullet.
Building truly liveable communities that are socially cohesive places depends on face-to-face interactions.
And overcoming spatial inequality requires targeted investment in infrastructure from both government and the private sector.
In order for there to be a smart cities policy, we must first have a National Urban Policy.
Labor is committed to integrating a smart cities agenda in our National Urban Policy because we know that technology has a key role to play in improving the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities.
History is made in fascinating ways, but aviation has always charted its own path.
Unlocking new possibilities…
Shrinking the globe…
In 1947 it took four days to fly from Australia to London – a trip known as the Kangaroo Route because of its many stops.
QF9, tomorrow’s inaugural flight from Perth to London, has reduced this to 17 hours with zero stops.
The first direct flight connecting Australia to Europe.
It’s an historic moment for aviation and it’s a game-changer for Western Australia.
Congratulations Qantas on this momentous event.
And congratulations WA on securing this flight.
WA already has a great relationship with the UK.
Indeed, more international tourists visit WA from the UK than anywhere else, making up about 15 percent of the source market.
But non-stop flights will transform the dynamics of Australian tourism.
And now, WA will benefit from the increased numbers coming to this destination, which is fantastic in its own right.
It will also benefit from those Australians who choose to stop here for a few days on their way to Europe and inbound travellers who do the same, even though their final destination is on the East Coast.
A huge boon for hotel owners and tourism operators.
It also opens up new opportunities for regional Western Australia, home to many superb tourism attractions…
For instance, Broome with its white stretches of coastal and the spectacular wilderness of the Kimberley…
The Pilbara region and its red dirt landscape…
The silent majesty of Ningaloo Reef’s whale sharks…
And no visit to WA would be complete without stopping by the Margaret River, home to some of the world’s best wine and craft beer.
It strikes me just how far aviation has come, even in recent years.
Flying has not always been this easy, or affordable.
Indeed, the first time I flew on a plane, I was 21 and heading to Canberra for a Parliamentary sitting week. I’d just started working for Tom Uren.
Flying has opened up our eyes and our imagination.
Today, because of aviation, more people than ever before can access new experiences.
Whether it’s exploring the vast expanse of Australia, or visiting towns and cities overseas, flying makes this achievable.
So I’m looking forward to this inaugural flight, which marks a milestone.
And I have to say I’m also looking forward to the Qantas safety video – the best of its kind in the world.
The video on domestic flights, of course, combines a critical safety message with a stellar showcase of tourism destinations from around the nation.
And I understand the 2018 video on the new 787 Dreamliner shows the diversity of Aussies living abroad.
Qantas has always sought to convey the Australian spirit to its travellers. It’s done this well.
It is also an honour to join you in London as we promote Australia as a tourism destination to the world.
There truly is no place like home.
Speech to launch Record Store Day 2018 – ‘Record Store Day and the Power of Music’ – Red Eye Records, Sydney
Thanks for that introduction. Last year when I was asked to be the Record Store Day Ambassador I was rapt. I am a genuine fan of music and I’m in awe, it must be said, of musicians like Amber Lawrence and Dan Sultan, who’ve just been announced as ambassadors for Record Store Day, which will be celebrated on April 21.
Dan is a mate of mine and a great bloke. He has performed as a backup singer at the Corner Hotel in Richmond, when I DJ’d there as a fundraiser for Reclink – which is another organisation that brings together young people and musicians and artists to promote social change and connect to marginalised young people through music.
One of the reasons why I was pleased to participate is that music is more than just something you experience for three or four minutes. Music is a part of people’s identity. It is part of their lives. I hear so many people making comments like “I remember when I saw this band’’, or “I remember when I went into this record store”, “I remember when I bought this record’’.
In my early days, I went to school at St Mary’s Cathedral up the road here, and I would go into Phantom Records or Red Eye Records which has been around for almost as long as I have. I always loved seeing and getting to touch the records. When Frog asked me to go into Songland in Canberra and bring some of my personal collection, I brought a Phantom Records Compilation, which had all sorts of bands like the Sunnyboys, Le Hoodoo Gurus and Flaming Hands – that era of music that was very exciting.
It was also, I think, the height of the live grassroots music scene. Happily, live music is making a comeback. I represent the Inner West and the number of music venues that are opening up, be they new venues or old venues like Marrickville Bowlo. There is a poster over there for the Celibate Rifles playing at Marrickville Bowlo. The Oils played at Marrickville Bowlo, just a fantastic event. It’s quite useful the fact that we have these little devices, mobile phones, and if we’re interested in music, I am on Spotify as well, and if I’m interested in an artist, I can download and listen to a couple of tracks and see if I like a particular artist.
But to me there is nothing quite like an album. You can touch it. You can feel it, and you can listen to the songs in the order in which they were meant to be heard.
That is part of the experience and part of the artistry. You can look at the cover and the artwork, the design, the creativity that is reflected in a record in particular.
CDs are okay too, but there is nothing quite like vinyl and putting the needle on a piece of vinyl and hearing that authentic music as it was meant to be heard.
So Record Store Day a fantastic initiative. It is a global movement and it’s fantastic that there is so many new artists will be making new releases, or re-releases, in John Farnham’s case of course, and that people will be coming together all over the world, on Saturday, the 21st of April.
Last year I was just stunned by how big it was, how many people were going into these independent record stores and for some of them experiencing them for the first time.
As the Ambassador I think one of the highlights was – we’ve got a Polish Club 10-inch here – and one of the highlights I think was playing Polish Club on Channel Ten’s morning show, Studio Ten. I doubt whether Polish Club expected to be played on vinyl on commercial television at 9:15am on a Friday morning. But one of the things that Record Store Day does is provide that opportunity. I appeared on Sunrise, The Today Show, I did a lot of radio and hopefully did my bit, and got positive feedback. So many of my mates said: “I got out my old records, I went and bought a turntable and got engaged in that whole movement.’’
Now the Lead Ambassador this year is someone who is, unlike me wanting to be involved in the music industry, the real deal. For me, if it was a choice between being a muso and being Deputy Prime Minister, I would have taken being a muso any day. There is no question that is what I would have wanted to do.
Lack of talent got in the way there. Not even the man I am about to introduce would have been able to overcome that lack of talent that I had.
He is a rock industry legend. Even though over the years he has promoted some of Australia’s and the world’s biggest artists through Frontier Touring, in recent times as well, he has established another organisation that promotes more independent and up and coming bands as well.
Michael is someone who I think is without peer, in terms of a promoter of rock music here in Australia and getting global artists to come to Australia as well and connect them up.
One of the things about the big artists when they’ve come as well is that so many bands when I look back, the first time I saw them was as a support act for one of the big international stars. That’s why there is such a strong link between the Australian music industry and someone who is connected up internationally with Elton John and Radiohead and the other big artists that Michael has promoted.
So I can’t think of anyone better, when we’re talking about promoting Record Store Day, than one of Australia’s greatest ever promoters – Michael Chugg.
Not all years are remarkable, but 2008 certainly was.
In that year we watched in trepidation as Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions collapsed, triggering the GFC.
The nation paused as Kevin Rudd delivered the historic apology to the Stolen Generations.
And many of us celebrated as Barack Obama made history as the first African American to be elected President of the United States of America.
It is no wonder, perhaps, that one world event sidled past largely uncommented upon.
In 2008, which is also when I was serving as the nation’s first ever Infrastructure Minister, the World Bank confirmed that for the first time ever, the world’s population tipped over to become more urban than rural…
A trajectory that is significant because one decade on it has surged ahead.
Indeed, the world is on track to become 70 percent urban by 2050.
Countries around the world are grappling with this rapid urbanisation.
Here in Australia, all of our capital cities are projected to experience a significant rise in urban population between now and 2031.
Projections are that by then, the population of our four largest capitals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – will have increased by 46 percent.
Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin are expected to grow by nearly 30 percent.
Many of our cities are already feeling the pinch of urbanisation.
Urban sprawl, congested roads, overcrowded public transport, declining housing affordability and an unequal distribution of employment opportunities are just a few of the challenges experienced every day by people living in our cities.
To make matters worse, these factors combined have taken a toll on our natural environment.
And, at the same time, they also pose a threat to public health through an increase in pollution and the subsequent loss of green space as a result of urban development.
On the one hand, cities are the engine room of our nation’s economy, places of opportunity and hope for many people seeking prosperity and advancement.
But on the other hand, our cities have both an impact on climate change, which in turn impacts on our cities.
Cities may cover less than two per cent of the earth’s surface; however they consume 78 percent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 percent of all carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
And that’s why greening our cities goes beyond the aesthetic.
It is an absolutely fundamental part of our response as a nation to the challenge of climate change.
Yet as urbanist Jane Jacobs said:
“There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans”…
A good reminder that in our haste to respond to a growing urban population we cannot forget those communities that already exist.
After all, these people will be the most impacted by any change.
This is why the theme of today’s conference – energising communities – is so important.
The fact is that without all of us, our local communities included, working together towards greener cities, achieving this goal becomes so much harder.
Just these last few weeks there has been a great deal of media coverage about liveability in our major cities following the release of the Infrastructure Australia ‘Future Cities’ report.
Here in Melbourne, The Age has looked at the challenge of the daily commute for people living in outer suburbs.
In Sydney, the Sydney Morning Herald has canvassed reasons why people leave the city, with their research revealing that locals are moving to other parts of Australia.
This in itself is not a bad thing.
Indeed, growing our regional cities must be part of any national strategy to accommodate an increasing population and ensure a more equal distribution of the economic dividends from this growth.
However, one researcher for the SMH described this phenomenon as such:
“Sydneysiders as they move out of this place haven’t given up on city living, they’ve just given up on this city.”
Now this is of concern. Real concern.
The fact is our cities are in a state of change and how we respond will make all the difference.
It’s a serious responsibility, but also a unique opportunity for local councils, policy makers and industry to leave their mark and create a positive legacy.
So people don’t think that moving away from cities like Sydney or Melbourne is the only way to have true quality of life.
Best practice must be at the heart of any strategy.
We need to make sure that development in our inner and outer suburbs reflects an understanding of how people live.
This means well placed development that incorporates access to amenities like public transport so that people can get to work as well as parks and sporting facilities for kids so they can be active and healthy.
It means development that has thought about local road networks and the impact additional traffic might have on an area.
And, above all, it means development that does not seek to replace what is special in a community, but rather preserve and enhance it.
So that we create places that cultivate social cohesion and promote opportunities for neighbours to come together.
Indeed, as Jan Gehl said:
“Only architecture that considers human scale and interaction is successful architecture.”
Developers need to show they understand the area in which they seek to build or otherwise community dissatisfaction and resistance will continue to be an issue.
It’s true that we need to have a mature, whole of society discussion about how we manage growth.
But we can’t put problems down to the NIMBY effect alone, and I have read a number of recent opinion pieces in this vein, including one from the Grattan Institute which said:
“Opposition to development is rising again. Unless today’s generation of politicians stares down the NIMBYs, Sydney will repeat the mistakes of the past, and housing affordability will get worse.”
My concern is that comments such as these puts all the responsibility on existing residents to change their behaviour, without also looking at the need for the developer to work with communities and local councils to achieve genuinely good outcomes.
It also disregards the sense of pride people have in place and their community which, if anything, we should be looking to harness as we seek to shape future neighbourhoods.
And it ignores the role state and federal governments can play in making sure supporting infrastructure is in place – particularly in instances where growth corridors are being driven by the government.
There are many examples where development has been done well.
Harold Park in Sydney’s inner west is one such place.
An old racetrack and tramshed, the latter of which had fallen into disrepair.
Mirvac, by working with the councils and local community, has revitalised the site which today features well designed, medium-density housing in tree-lined streets.
The Tramsheds are now home to restaurants and cafes, with the nearby Jubilee Park giving people space to exercise and catch up with friends and family.
This same company, Mirvac, has experienced the flipside of this with its initial plans to build 28-storey towers in Marrickville, where nothing of the kind exists and has attracted widespread community protests.
In what has been a public relations debacle every street in south Marrickville has corflute posters which say ‘Marrickville not Mirvacville’.
I’m pleased that they are now reassessing their plans and looking to involve the community more closely in any future proposal.
It’s simple – working with people is the best way to get good outcomes.
GREENING OUR CITIES
But there are lots of ways to make our cities more liveable and research suggests greening them is key.
In addition to combatting some of the worst effects of climate change, green cities can make people happier and healthier.
Achieving this, of course, goes beyond just a bricks and mortar approach.
I was pleased to see a focus on green and blue networks in the Western Sydney City Deal.
As part of this a ‘blue and green grid’ will ensure existing waterways across the Hawkesbury catchment area are protected and places of amenity.
Urban waterways have so much potential, yet too often are underutilised.
Recently, Labor announced we would invest in the restoration of urban rivers and corridors in Merri Creek, Darebin Creek and the surrounding catchment area.
In my own electorate, the Cooks River, which winds its way through the inner west, benefited from investment when we were last in Government.
While there is still a way to go, cleaning up the river has transformed the area into a place of recreation and natural beauty.
And of course, when it comes to energising communities, local projects such as urban waterways and parks are a great place to start.
Indeed, many groups already exist that are dedicated to the protection of the natural environment in their urban areas.
Around the world there are a number of innovative ideas aimed at bringing nature into the built space.
For instance in Berlin, at the old Tempelhof airport site, urban farms give people living in nearby apartments a chance to tend their own allotment and mingle with others in their neighbourhood.
It’s a trend that has caught on.
Today Europe’s biggest urban farm can be found on the rooftop of a concrete building in The Hague that is also home to a fish farm.
Vertical forests in Milan, Singapore and a number of other cities, including Central Park in Sydney, act as a sponge, absorbing and purifying water before it is reused.
Community gardens are multiplying in Australian suburbs. In my local community, Marrickville West Public School has a community garden tended lovingly by volunteers, which provides both fresh food for local residents and educational benefits for the students.
Renewables, too, are playing an important role.
In just the last three years the number of cities around the world sourcing more than 70 per cent of their power from renewables has more than doubled to 100.
Smart technology is also enabling greener cities.
It plays a dual role; maximising the potential of pre-existing assets while identifying new opportunities. Infrastructure is an important beneficiary of this.
It was Shakespeare who wrote:
“What is the city but the people?”
Our cities are diverse, complex places steeped in their own history.
Each neighbourhood recognised for its own character.
To ensure our cities are productive, sustainable and liveable we must work with people, energising communities, to achieve the best possible outcomes.
And as our cities continue to grow in size, we must ensure they are places of sustainability, incorporating best practice into their design.
Greening our cities must be at the heart of our strategy when it comes to dealing with the effects of climate change ensuring that, at the same time, we don’t leave our citizens behind.
Speech to Australian Logistics Council Forum 2018: Towards a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy – ‘Getting the National Freight and Supply Strategy right’ – Royal Randwick Ballroom, Sydney
Today I want to open with a quote from a politician I’m not usually taken to quoting: Margaret Thatcher.
In 1985 the then British Prime Minister made the following observation:
You might have heard a lot lately about ‘infrastructure’ – the new ‘in’ word. Some of you might even ask exactly what it is. You and I come by road or rail. But economists travel on infrastructure.
What a difference 30 years makes.
Today, the meaning and importance of infrastructure is understood well beyond the economics profession. Indeed, to paraphrase another Prime Minister of yesteryear, Paul Keating: I’ll guarantee if you walk into any pet shop in Australia, the resident galah will be talking about infrastructure policy.
That is a good thing.
The fact is, in the highly competitive, globalised world of the 21st century, the prices consumers pay, the profits businesses make, the quality of life people enjoy and the export income Australia earns will more than ever depend on the adequacy and quality of our roads, railways, sea and air ports, electricity grids, and telecommunication networks.
Or to put it another way, investing in good infrastructure generates long term economic and jobs growth, lifts productivity, creates inclusive communities, builds a low carbon future, enables businesses to grow, and gives our exporters a competitive edge.
The provision of infrastructure can no longer be considered a second order public policy priority. In 2018, an effective infrastructure policy is fundamental to an effective economic policy, an effective housing affordability policy and an effective environmental policy.
But the key word here is ‘effective’.
If we are to maximise its economic, social and environmental dividends, infrastructure policy has to be got right – and that starts with a genuine commitment to a long term strategy based on an objective, evidence-based assessment of the nation’s infrastructure needs.
Towards another National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy
That brings me to the purpose of today’s gathering, namely to identify the key policy reforms and investment decisions that should be reflected in the final version of the Government’s 20 year National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.
Without a doubt, the freight and logistics sector is the lifeblood of the Australian economy and I welcome the Government’s commitment to looking at how it can better support the vital job you do, including through improvements to the infrastructure you rely upon.
However, I would also note that the current Government was fortunate enough to inherit a long term comprehensive plan that would have achieved precisely that.
Developed by Infrastructure Australia with input from the National Transport Commission, industry, as well as state and territory authorities, the National Land Freight Strategy, which I released as Infrastructure and Transport Minister in 2012, was a blueprint for a streamlined, integrated and multimodal transport system capable of moving goods quickly, reliably and at lowest cost.
It complemented the National Ports Strategy published that same year.
The work had been done.
All the current Government had to do was pick it up and implement it.
Instead at first they chose to do nothing. Then in November 2016 – more than three years after coming to office – the then Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester had a eureka moment. He finally saw merit in national leadership and long term planning.
To be blunt, the process we are now going through is little more than an exercise in reinventing the wheel and slapping a slightly different name on it. Worse still, by the time the Government finally releases its strategy, which is not expected until the end of this year, we will have wasted more than five years.
So let’s turn to the future and what Federal Labor believes an effective National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy should contain – of course, building on the work we did when last in government.
Our starting point is that Australia’s existing freight and logistic network is struggling to cope with the demands already being placed on it, let alone the added demands expected in the years ahead.
For one thing, Australia’s population is expected to grow by 400,000 people a year. As former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry has pointed out, that is equivalent to “building a new city the size of Sydney every decade; or building a new city the size of Newcastle or Canberra every year.”
That’s a lot of extra consumers who will expect the shelves of their favourite shops and local supermarkets to be filled with the products and brands they need and enjoy.
Then of course there will be the growing demand from industry to supply the raw material and capital equipment required to make those consumer goods in the first place. Meanwhile, our exporters will continue to expect their products be quickly and reliably transported to customers around the globe.
Simply put, the national freight task is set to become even greater and more complex.
And that fact is borne out by the statistics.
For example, according to Infrastructure Australia container movements across the nation’s wharves will increase 165 per cent between now and 2031. Over that same period, non-containerised trade is projected to grow by 138 per cent.
But it’s not just our ports that are getting busier; so too are our roads and rail lines.
The volume of freight needing to be transported around the country on the back of trucks and trains will almost double over the next two decades.
And we should not forget the increasing role our airports are playing in the distribution of freight both domestically and internationally. Indeed, Sydney Airport already rivals Port Botany in terms of the value of trade flowing through it, with much of the outbound freight being Australia’s highly sought after agricultural products such as meat, vegetables, fruit and seafood.
Our challenge is to meet this growing freight task head on; to build and maintain a modern, well-planned, efficient and safe freight and logistics network which supports rather than hinders Australia’s future economic development.
That will require an investment by the nation’s freight and logistic operators in emerging technologies and new, innovative ways of servicing the customer.
The role of government, on the other hand, is to not only establish the regulatory framework that will unlock that private sector ingenuity, but to also identify, plan and invest in the long term, system wide solutions that will support the growth of the freight and logistics sector as a whole.
And the national government has a particularly unique role to play in this endeavour.
Traditionally, infrastructure policy has been segmented by mode – road, rail, aviation and shipping – as well as by jurisdiction. But it is a tradition that has failed to adequately serve the national interest, often pitting modes and states against each other in a zero sum game.
One national, integrated network
Accordingly, the first prerequisite of an effective National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy is to remedy the limitations of our Federated structure of government. That means ignoring state and territory borders, and identifying the existing and yet-to-be built roads, rail lines, intermodals, ports and airports which together would form a truly national and integrated freight network.
Importantly, this prioritisation process would protect current and future transport corridors and other strategic pieces of land from urban encroachment. Ports, airports, intermodal, highways and rail hubs would then be able to expand when required – and do so at a lower cost and with minimal impact on the community.
What’s more, the backbone of any national freight network of the future must be rail. Just as rail needs to be at the heart of moving people around our big cities, it also needs to take on an even greater role in the movement of freight around our country.
That is not to diminish the indispensable role of road transport.
Indeed, when last in government Federal Labor doubled the roads budget. In just six years we built and upgraded 7,500 kilometres of road nationwide, including completing the duplication of the Hume Highway, accelerating the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to dual carriageway, and improving the safety and flood immunity of hundreds of kilometres of the Bruce.
But when it comes to moving large volumes of freight over long distances, rail has significant advantages. It can do the job at a lower cost and more safely. And it is the most energy-efficient mode of land transport, meaning less pollution and a smaller carbon footprint.
In fact, rail produces three times less harmful carbon emissions than road.
The more freight carried by rail also translates into lower highway maintenance costs, less congested urban arteries and fewer road accidents. Just one 1,800 metre train can replace as many as 100 trucks.
It was for all these reasons that the former Federal Labor Government delivered the biggest investment in Australia’s freight rail infrastructure in more than a century.
First and foremost, we rebuilt a third of the Interstate Network – or some 3,800 kilometres of track. This work included re-railing, installing new passing loops and extending existing ones, and replacing the ageing timber sleepers with 3.4 million Australian-made concrete sleepers which don’t buckle on hot days.
In addition, we addressed a number of major bottlenecks in the network.
This included the biggest bottleneck of them all: Sydney.
For decades freight trains endured frustrating delays getting into and out of this sprawling city due to limited tracks and the priority given to passenger trains, particularly during peak periods. The solution was to build a new 36 kilometre dedicated line between Macarthur and Chullora, thereby separating freight from passenger trains.
This $1 billion piece of infrastructure tripled the capacity of this vital rail corridor.
What’s more, this new line in Sydney’s south was complemented by a $1.1 billion upgrade to the rail corridor through the City’s northern suburbs to Newcastle as well as the duplication of the line to Port Botany, Australia’s second largest container port.
To further support the growth and smooth operation of Port Botany – and reduce traffic congestion – we also established the Moorebank Logistics Park under the leadership of Kerry Schott.
Located next to the Southern Sydney Freight Line in the City’s South West, this facility will comprise:
- An import-export terminal with a capacity to handle up to 1.05 million containers annually;
- An interstate terminal with a capacity to handle up to 500,000 containers annually; and
- Up to 850,000 sqm of warehousing where containers can be unpacked before delivery of their contents to their final destinations.
When completed, this new intermodal, which is being delivered as public-private partnership, will take up to 3,000 trucks a day off Sydney’s road network, create around 6,800 jobs and produce more than $11 billion in economic, social and environmental benefits.
But our investment in rail didn’t stop there.
In Victoria we upgraded the rail connection to Geelong Port. In South Australia we untangled the passenger and freight lines near Adelaide’s CBD. In Western Australia we improved rail access to Esperance Port, and restored and upgraded the State’s Grain Rail Network. In Tasmania we initiated the Freight Rail Revitalisation Program, which is replacing 290 kilometres of ageing track.
And we connected Queensland to the Interstate Network for the first time.
As a result of this extensive capital works program travel times from Perth to the east coast were cut by nine hours and by seven hours between Melbourne and Brisbane. This in turn has led many businesses to re-evaluate the benefits of rail. For example, a couple of years ago Woolworths made the decision to transfer 34,000 tonnes of dry goods from road to rail.
Today, around half of the domestic freight task is performed by rail.
However, while Federal Labor did do much during our previous six years in office to reverse decades of neglect, I am also the first to acknowledge that there is still much more to be done.
The modernisation of the nation’s rail freight infrastructure must continue.
I now want to quickly turn to another safe, environmentally sustainable mode of transport that could be doing more of the heavy lifting when it comes to the national freight task – and that is coastal shipping.
As a vast island continent with ports around our coastline, it defies logic that in
2018 this industry is no bigger than it was 40 years ago. In fact, in recent years it has been in decline, with just 17 per cent of the domestic freight task now being carried in the hull of ships.
Worse still, our proud Australian flagged merchant fleet, as well as the skilled workforce it trains and employs, is fast disappearing. Today, much of the freight that does go by sea is being transported by ships that are foreign flagged and foreign-crewed.
Preventing the demise of this industry was a priority of the former Federal Labor Government. Motivated by sound economic, environmental and national security reasons we put in place a package of reforms designed to level the playing field between Australian shippers and their international competitors.
This package included a zero tax rate, more generous accelerated depreciation arrangements, rollover relief for selected capital assets and new tax incentives to employ local seafarers. We also created an International Shipping Register which allows operators of Australian flagged vessels to employ mixed Australian and foreign crews on internationally agreed rates and conditions.
These measures were based on the extensive reform programs that had already been successfully implemented by other maritime nations such as the United Kingdom, Japan, China and Denmark.
However, for Labor’s suite of reforms to work, they needed time.
Unfortunately, even before our reforms took effect the Coalition was undermining them with attacks calculated to create uncertainty and sow doubt in the minds of those considering investing in the Australian industry. But not satisfied with white-anting Labor’s reforms in Opposition, once elected the Coalition moved quickly to scrap them altogether and dismantle what remains of the domestic industry.
All of us want to reduce the cost of doing business in Australia – but not at any cost, particularly if that cost is the destruction of a strategically-significant industry and the loss of a highly-skilled workforce.
The Coalition’s 2015 legislation put ideology ahead of the national interest, and was rightly rejected by the Senate.
Nonetheless, the Coalition’s antagonism towards maritime in general, and our domestic shipping industry in particular, continues to this day. And there is no better example of this than the fact that the “National Key Freight Routes Map” which appears on the Department of Infrastructure’s website does not have one shipping route on it.
The bottom line is: there is a very real difference between the two sides of politics when it comes to shipping. The Coalition doesn’t believe Australia needs a viable, competitive and growing domestic industry. Federal Labor does – and we will be taking a set of policies to the next election that will help rebuild the Australian industry.
Simply put, we want to see more Australian seafarers crewing more Australian flagged ships carrying more Australian goods around the Australian coastline.
Better use of our existing infrastructure
The second prerequisite of an effective strategy is recognition that it is often far smarter and cheaper to get the most out of our existing infrastructure than to always build anew.
In practice this means fitting new technology to improve traffic flows along major motorways, using higher productivity vehicles, creating dedicated freight routes and separating passenger trains from freight trains.
Technology, in particular, has the greatest potential to unlock significant efficiency gains.
That’s why, for example, we invested in the Managed Motorways Program, which sought to incorporate intelligent transport solutions into urban motorway networks. These included entry ramp signalling, variable speed limit signs, CCTVs and digital message signs that provide motorists with live updates on traffic conditions and delays.
In Victoria we committed $9.9 million in our last Budget to upgrade the Intelligent Transport System along a 4.1 kilometre section of the Monash Freeway. While in the scheme of things that was a relatively small amount of funding, it would have generated an extraordinary $11.50 of benefits for every $1 invested, according to Infrastructure Australia.
Unfortunately, this was one of those worthy projects cancelled by the incoming Coalition Government.
Fewer, smarter regulations
The third prerequisite of an effective national strategy is a commitment to a seamless national economy, with the aim of enhancing long term productivity growth and freeing up the movement of interstate trade. Primarily, this will involve further reforms to the way your sector is regulated.
In government, we made significant progress in this endeavour.
Indeed, we replaced the 23 separate state, territory and Federal agencies that previously regulated heavy vehicles, rail safety and maritime safety, along with their costly and confusing array of regulations, with just three national regulators each administering one set of modern, nationwide laws.
And let me tell you, that was no easy feat. It involved many rounds of negotiations between myself and state and territory ministers, in many cases against determined resistance from their bureaucracies that were more interested in protecting their fiefdoms than advancing the national interest.
Unfortunately, that reform agenda has stalled. It needs to be restarted.
Lastly, a strategy without real dollars attached is simply a statement of good intentions.
Building and maintaining a freight and logistics network fit for purpose requires consistent investment and while the private sector does have a role to play in closing the infrastructure funding gap, governments cannot avoid their responsibility to invest in projects which benefit the economy as a whole.
But at a time when the Federal Government should be lifting its investment in the nation’s infrastructure, it is actually planning to cut it. According to their own Budget Papers, grant funding will almost halve from $8 billion this financial year to $4.2 billion in 2020-21.
What’s more, last year’s Budget committed grant funding to just one new project nationwide – and it was $13.8 million for the Far North Collector Road near the NSW town of Nowra in the marginal seat of Gilmore. It was a project most people had never heard of until Budget night.
Little wonder then that the pipeline of Federally-funded projects is fast drying up.
With few exceptions, the major Federally-funded road and rail projects now under construction around the country were first identified and then funded by the former Federal Labor Government.
According to the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, Federal investment in road and rail projects, expressed as a proportion of GDP, is projected to drop from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent over the coming decade.
That’s a 50 per cent cut.
The fact is Federal grant funding is vital – and less of it will mean less infrastructure.
But while the quantity of available investment is important, so too is ensuring that the taxpayer gets value for money. It is imperative that funding go to projects that will fix an identified problem; projects where the planning has been done; projects offering the highest economic, social and environmental returns.
Simply put, the more zeros on a project’s price tag does not automatically mean the project is a better solution than a cheaper alternative. As I mentioned earlier, equipping an existing motorway with intelligent transport systems can achieve a similar outcome sooner and at a fraction of the cost of building a whole new motorway.
However too often politicians are bedazzled by mega-projects and commit billions in the absence of a rigorously, independent assessment and before the planning work is done.
And just a few kilometres from here is a perfect example of what I am talking about.
I give it to the NSW Government; with Westconnex they have certainly come up with the most expensive road project in the nation’s history, a project where they literally started digging the tunnels before they knew where those tunnels would come up. It’s a project that has taken on a life of its own.
Even now the detailed planning remains a work in progress.
But here’s the kicker, despite having bulldozed hundreds of houses and creating anxiety among just about everyone in the local community that their home, school or park will be next, this $17 billion (at a minimum) mega-project will not actually achieve what it was meant to, namely easing congestion around and improving access to Sydney Airport and Port Botany.
It stops well short of both.
It will now take yet another multi-billion project to finish the job.
In the years to come Westconnex will be studied by academics, engineers and planners for how not to deliver a major project.
Another mega-project that could well go the same way as Westconnex is Inland Rail.
As I have already said, Federal Labor is a strong advocate of freight rail and we support the Inland Rail project. After all, it was the former Federal Labor Government that committed $900 million to upgrade the existing track that will eventually form part of the line and to progress the project to the construction stage.
However, in their desperation to find pre-election photo opportunities, the Government is saying there will be a sod turning later this year to mark the start of work on the Parkes to Narromine section. It appears the delivery of this project is now being driven more by the electoral cycle than what is required to ensure its ultimate success.
The fact is the final route alignment has still not been finalised; environmental approvals have still not been sought, let alone approved; hundreds of land resumptions have still not occurred; and details of the public private partnership that will deliver the most challenging part of the project – the section through the Great Dividing Range in South East Queensland – have still not been released.
What’s more, a significant proportion of the ARTC’s revenue is generated on track leased to it by the NSW and Victorian governments, including the profitable Hunter Valley Coal Network. To provide the company with the long term financial certainty it needs before proceeding with the project, it is seeking to have those leases extended until the end of the century.
Those negotiations are still ongoing.
Most significantly, there are still serious questions over how this project can be fully funded via an ‘off budget’ $8.4 billion equity injection into the ARTC, given the Government’s own 2015 Implementation Study chaired by John Anderson concluded that “the expected operating revenue over 50 years will not cover the initial capital investment required to build the railway”.
This fact was reaffirmed only a couple weeks ago by the CEO of the ARTC, the company tasked with building the line. Appearing before the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, John Fullerton said:
“From a strict ARTC point of view, no, the revenue that flows to us would never cover the full capital cost and provide a return.”
The Government needs to take a step back and ensure they have got the fundamentals of this project right from the outset. Otherwise in the years to come Inland Rail will be studied alongside Westconnex for how not to deliver a major infrastructure project.
In conclusion I want to congratulate the Australian Logistics Council for organising this event and bringing together such a talented group of professionals from across the nation’s freight and logistics sector. I greatly respect the experience, the expertise and the leadership right here in this room.
I also acknowledge the work the ALC has done over many years to build consensus within the sector and across the political system around public policy issues important to the future of our country.
The fact is there is too much partisanship today; too many people are simply spoiling for a fight and are prepared to put tribal loyalties ahead of the national interest; too often a good idea is shot down for no other reason than it was proposed by someone in the other party.
Now, I am not saying we have to always agree on everything, and I have just outlined some of the key points of policy difference between Labor and the Coalition in the areas of infrastructure and transport.
However, I do want to signal today my willingness to work with the current Government to find common ground, and ensure we end up with a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy that prepares Australia for the future challenges and best serves your businesses, your customers and of course, the wider Australian community.
Australia’s long term national interest demands nothing less.
There are many sayings about tourism and travel, but I like the one that goes, ‘travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.’
Indeed, in Australia travel is always an enriching experience.
Our beaches are regularly ranked amongst the best in the world.
Our cities are incredibly vibrant and exciting.
Our outback offers a landscape unrivalled by anywhere else.
Whether it’s WA’s brilliant coastline, the expanse of red desert that dominates Central Australia, the rainforests of Tropical North Queensland, the rolling hills of wine country in the Hunter Valley, mountainous Tasmania, the sun setting over the Top End, or Kangaroo Island in SA – there’s something here for everyone.
And of course our history, which dates back at least 65,000 years, means we are home to the world’s oldest living culture.
Today, our first people continue to play an integral role in sharing this past and teaching not only us, but international visitors as well, about the importance of appreciating and caring for the land.
And as the challenges associated with climate change continue to grow, this is more important than ever before.
So I congratulate each of the Award nominees and recipients. The incredible diversity of the Australian tourism sector is certainly on show tonight.
Tourism has been identified as one of Australia’s super-growth sectors.
It underpins the local economies of towns and cities across the nation, generating more than $100 billion in overall economic activity.
And each year as the number of visitors to our shores increase – 8.8 million in the year ending December 2017, up 6.5 per cent from the year before – it’s clear that the work you do is making a difference.
It’s also significant that the awards are here at Perth Stadium – one of the first corporate events to be held here.
Quality infrastructure such as this is an essential part of the tourist experience.
Just the other week I visited the iconic tourist destination, Scarborough Beach, with my colleague and Member for Perth Tim Hammond.
There the City of Stirling is continuing its work to revitalise the area.
This will see WA continue to build its prominence as a world-class surfing destination.
Investment such as this becomes even more important in the light of several emerging trends, including an increase in independent travel from international visitors, particularly those from China.
But there’s also much to see outside our big cities.
If we can encourage visitors to get out into regional Australia, we can increase the average number of nights visitors stay as well as their expenditure.
Here in WA, nearly 1 million international visitors visited the state in the year ending September 2017.
And the new Perth-to-London direct by Qantas, starting next month, will bring enormous tourism benefit to WA, as people take the opportunity to stop over to and from Europe and see what WA has to offer.
WA received a huge boost from Roger Federer’s famous ‘quokka selfie’ on Rottnest Island. More than half a billion people in 45 countries saw this photo.
If just 1 per cent of those who saw this decided to come get a selfie of their own, that would result in five million visitors.
Get that quokka a contract.
We know that tourism marketing works, with return on investment delivering $16 benefit for every $1 invested.
But while we continue to promote Australia to international markets, there’s also an opportunity to increase our domestic visitor market, both intra-state and inter-state, as well through tourism promotion.
Prominent WA author Tim Winton had this to say about Australia:
“It’s good for the spirit, to be reminded as an individual or a community that there will always be something bigger, older, richer and more complex than ourselves to consider.”
It is through tourism and the work you do, that we have an opportunity to experience the many wonders of our nation and showcase them to the rest of the world.
FRIDAY, 23 FEBRUARY, 2018
It was Barack Obama who said, ‘climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here and it is happening now.’
Indeed, research from the Climate Council revealed that 2017 was a record-breaking year for heat and extreme weather.
The fact is that rising average temperatures and extreme weather events are placing immense pressure on the productivity, liveability and sustainability of our cities and regions.
And what we know is that business as usual won’t cut it.
We must take action to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
So thank you Professor Barbara Norman for inviting me to launch your book, which considers the enormous challenge at hand for governments and the urban policy sector.
It very usefully proposes a set of seven sustainable pathways.
These encompass planning within planetary boundaries, the need for a long-term vision, integrated planning, national sustainable development strategies, net zero carbon precincts, innovative platforms for collaboration and evaluation, as well as green growth.
This is important because issues of urbanisation and climate change go hand in hand.
While cities cover less than two per cent of the earth’s surface, they consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of all carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
When I was Infrastructure Minister, the world tipped over to become more than 50 per cent urban.
Now, with the world on track to become 70 per cent urban by 2050, it’s pretty obvious these figures will continue to rise.
As Professor Norman puts it in her book, ‘planning for a low-carbon and resilient urban future is now our greatest global challenge’.
Australian cities are not exempt.
All capital cities are projected to experience significant population growth between now and 2031.
By then, the populations of our four largest capitals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – will have increased by 46 per cent, and Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin are expected to grow by nearly 30 per cent.
Sustainable development must be amongst our first priorities as we seek to accommodate this growth.
But, as highlighted by Professor Norman, we must do this in a way that is fair.
It must also be democratic and participatory.
In doing so, we can ensure people and the communities in which they live are at the forefront of this process.
The Commonwealth has a central role to play in leading this change.
It is significant that Kuala Lumpur recently finished hosting the ninth World Urban Forum – the first time for our region.
It is disappointing that the Federal Government did not send a delegation.
This follows on from the Federal Government’s decision to not send a Minister to the UN Habitat Conference held in Quito in 2016.
These multilateral forums provide opportunities we simply cannot afford to miss.
The fact is; Australia is not alone in the challenges we face.
We should be learning from other countries in our region, and indeed from across the world, sharing examples of best practice when it comes to urban policy, or innovative solutions that are actually working.
We should be participating in conversations about how to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals with the New Urban Agenda in our cities and regions.
These are both ground-breaking agendas that have the potential to transform how we approach nation building.
But we have to take part.
What’s more, and as is noted by Professor Norman, the implementation of these agreements is dependent on national urban policies or sustainable development strategies.
I’m proud that as a Minister in the former Federal Labor Government I released Australia’s first national urban policy called ‘Our Cities, Our Future’.
We also created the Major Cities Unit, established the National Urban Policy Forum and released the National Urban Design Protocol.
Our policy recognised that a silo approach, whereby government departments and ministers don’t talk to each other, won’t work for our cities.
Similarly, a multi-level governance framework is also critical and COAG, as well as the Australian Council of Local Government that we established, play an important role in this space.
And when it comes to place-based decision-making, I’ve always advocated that communities and elected local governments know best, which is reflected not just in the principles underpinning the ACLG, but also a number of programs that we funded including the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program.
This book tells us a story of what we could, as a nation, achieve with an integrated, sustainable approach to planning and development.
It tells us that our cities and regions, whose successes and failures are intertwined, can be places of opportunity for any person.
It tells us, really, that we are a nation standing at a crossroads.
One path leads us to cities and regions that are productive, liveable and sustainable, but we can only get there with leadership and investment from the national government.
The other is troubling to think about.
That’s why I’ll continue to talk about cities policy, and I encourage you all to do the same.
It’s also why contributions, such as this book are so important.
We are very lucky to have in Barbara someone who understands the need to ensure that an analysis of our cities is not just academic.
Barbara’s work with this book, and in all her contributions to urban policy in Australia, has been geared at making a genuine, practical difference for which I am very grateful – and I’m sure these are sentiments echoed by everyone here today.
It is good to be back at Ausrail.
The great thing about the Australasian Railway Association and the rail industry in general is its willingness to look forward with optimism.
Too many people in this country look for excuses to resist change.
They put it off or pretend it is not an issue.
Forward thinkers accept change is inevitable and, as you are doing again this year at Ausrail, collaborate to harness it to their advantage.
Some of you look a bit tired today as the conference winds down.
I can see you have been busy exploring ideas about the ways in which the digital revolution is affecting your industry now and how it will continue to provide challenges into the future.
Across the board, from new technology, to supply chains, signaling systems, productivity and, perhaps most importantly, safety, you’ve been looking at how to best harness change for the good of your companies, your industry and the community in general.
I congratulate the ARA for staging such an important event.
RAIL INDUSTRY PLAN
While I am handing out plaudits, let me also commend the ARA on your call at this conference for the preparation of a National Rail Industry Plan for this country.
Our rail network, the sixth largest in the world, has served us well throughout our history.
It has been central to our economic development and it will continue be critical in the future.
Indeed, busy times are ahead, with $46 million of new rail investment planned for the next decade alone.
In that context, your suggestion of the need for an industry blueprint to take us forward is spot on.
The projects coming down the pipeline involve huge challenges.
But they also offer great opportunities.
Australia needs a plan to exploit those opportunities in the national interest.
We must ensure that Australian manufacturers are positioned to produce the new rolling stock that will be required for these new projects.
This requires collaboration between Governments and industry on procurement policies, as well as research and development.
It will also require investment in skills training.
Ensuring that Australians are involved in building this rolling stock is only half the job.
We also need to ensure that in the process, we train as many new apprentices as possible, so we build future skills capacity in advanced manufacturing including in regional Australia.
To that end I was encouraged by the recent announcement by the Palaszczuk Government that if it is re-elected on Saturday, it will ensure that rolling stock is produced in Maryborough, rather than offshore, which was the approach of its predecessor.
We must also co-ordinate the activities of the various state governments on procurement so we can iron out peaks and troughs in demand.
The right plan would also harmonise safety regulations and advance ongoing work being led by Victoria toward harmonizing standards relating to bogies and glazing.
There’s a clear role here for Commonwealth leadership.
Recently the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee recommended the creation of a National Rail Manufacturing Plan, including a specific procurement policy to address some of the issues I just mentioned.
The committee’s report included as an appendix part of the ARA’s impressive document A National Rail Industry Plan for the Benefit of Australia.
Its inclusion in the Senate’s report is a measure of its quality as a piece of policy work in the cause of microeconomic reform.
While the Senate Committee report focused largely on manufacturing and procurement, your plan is impressive because it also examines rail’s broader importance.
The first of the five key requirements in your plan is the need for greater recognition of “the importance of rail for Australia’s infrastructure development, urban planning and freight movements’’.
I could not agree more.
Too many policy makers in this country underestimate the role that rail can play not just in providing transport, but also in addressing some of the great economic and human challenges of our time.
For example, traffic congestion is reducing the quality of life of millions of Australians in our big cities. It is also acting as a handbrake on productivity and economic growth.
As your report notes, every passenger train reduces the cost of congestion to the economy by up to $8500.
Rail is also considerably safer than road travel.
It also produces lower levels of carbon emissions.
It can also be a catalyst for regional economic development through projects like High Speed Rail.
On top of this, people who use passenger rail gain health benefits walking to and from train stations, producing measurable economic benefits that are quantified in your plan.
Unfortunately, many policy makers addressing transport challenges don’t factor these benefits into their considerations.
That often leads them to make the wrong decisions.
The ARA’s National Rail Industry Plan for the Benefit of Australia should be required reading for every planner and policy maker in the nation.
Your report used the term “enablers’’.
I often think of infrastructure generally as the Great Enabler.
When governments invest in the right projects, they enable economic growth and development.
They unleash potential.
In the case of public transport projects, they enable people to develop their own potential by providing access to employment and educational opportunities.
Governments should always be careful with money.
But they should understand that when they invest in the right rail and road projects, they are not just investing in concrete and steel, but also in people.
The current Federal Government’s ongoing cuts to infrastructure investment indicate that they don’t quite understand this concept.
On an aggregate basis, government investment is increasing.
With traffic congestion now costing the economy $16 billion a year, State Governments are getting on with important projects like the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Link and Perth’s Metronet.
But it is the states that are bearing the burden.
In its Fiscal Outlook report last month, the independent Parliamentary Budget Office noted that state net capital investment would peak at 0.9 per cent of GDP in 2018-19 before falling to 0.3 per cent in 2020-21.
By contrast, Commonwealth infrastructure investment, in my view already way too low, will fall from 0.4 per cent of GDP to 0.2 per cent of GDP.
The PBO figures reflect this year’s Federal Budget papers, which show that Commonwealth infrastructure grants to the states will fall off a cliff in coming years, from the $9.2 billion promised in the 2016 Budget to $4.2 billion by 2020-21.
That’s why, after several years of appealing to the Commonwealth for collaboration on urban rail, the States have given up waiting.
Here in Queensland, for example, the State Government has been forced to go it alone on the Cross River Rail project.
The Commonwealth has simply refused to get behind this project, which was approved by Infrastructure Australia in 2012.
As Infrastructure Minister in the previous Federal Labor Government, I reached a funding arrangement in 2013 with then Liberal National Party Premier Campbell Newman to deliver the project using a mixture of grants, value capture and availability payments.
Yet the Newman Government reneged on its own commitment after Tony Abbott said Coalition policy was strictly in favour of a roads-only approach.
Instead of lifting infrastructure grants to the states, the Commonwealth is seeking increased private investment in public infrastructure projects.
I am worried that this trend will distort infrastructure development toward projects that provide private commercial returns, like toll roads, and away from rail.
We saw that approach in 2013, when the incoming Coalition Federal Government cancelled all Commonwealth investment in urban rail that was under construction and transferred the money to toll road projects.
This shift is continuing with the Government’s recent creation of the Infrastructure Financing Unit (IFU) within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, also known as the Infrastructure and Project Financing Agency.
The IFU’s job is to attract more private money into public infrastructure projects using “innovative financing’’ arrangements like value capture and availability payments.
The IFU is a solution looking for a problem that does not exist.
It is an attempt to sideline Infrastructure Australia, which already has the capacity to provide advice on financing and the legislative mandate under Part 2, Section 5, of the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008.
Indeed, the former Labor Government worked with Infrastructure Australia in 2013 to deliver the Melbourne Metro and the Cross River Rail projects.
Creation of the IFU also downplays the role of the states, which have experience of working with the private sector on financing.
Let me be clear here: I support innovative financing.
We didn’t just talk about it.
We did it.
The Gold Coast Light Rail Project is a prime example
The Melbourne Metro and Cross River Rail arrangements would have been other examples, had they been allowed to proceed under the agreed timetables.
But those who believe you can deliver an effective and integrated transport system without Government investment are kidding themselves.
In its pre-Budget submission earlier this year, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia made the same point as it rejected the need for the creation of the IFU.
The IPA said: Commonwealth Government funding support is needed for infrastructure. Commonwealth financing is not.’’
If we only ever built projects that could generate a financial return, we would only ever build toll roads, not railways.
In Sydney at the moment there is a proposal to extend the F6 to the city’s south via construction of a toll road.
Recent media reporting has revealed that when planners within the Government were told to develop the toll road proposal, they were ordered not to test it against the option of rail.
This was in spite of the fact that completing the Maldon-Dombarton rail freight project, with relatively minor upgrades to the Illawarra passenger line would be cheaper and produce greater travel time reductions.
That is absurd.
Governments should not make decisions about major projects based solely on whether they can provide a return to an investor, but based on their capacity to make a return to the national economy.
My concern with the creation of the IFU is that it will entrench the type of thinking that says infrastructure is only worth building if it can attract private investment.
A Labor Government will abolish the IFU.
We’ll allocate its resources back to Infrastructure Australia to support its activities and reinstate the Major Cities Unit to focus on the productivity, sustainability and liveability of the nation’s cities.
The Federal Government’s other investment strategy at present is the use of an equity injection into the Australian Rail Track Corporation to progress the proposed Inland Rail Line from Brisbane to Melbourne.
Delivered properly, Inland Rail would be an enabler.
It could drive export growth and boost rural and regional communities.
This is why the former Labor Government invested $600 million upgrading sections of existing railway lines that will be part of the project and allocated $300 million in our last Budget to progress the project.
The equity investment model has its place as long as projects have the capacity to make a return to the Budget.
The problem with Inland Rail is that it does not meet this important requirement.
In his 2015 Implementation Study into the project, former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson noted that Inland Rail’s operating revenue over 50 years would not cover its construction cost.
Mr Anderson wrote: “Hence a substantial public funding contribution is required to deliver Inland Rail.’’
The Government ignored this advice.
It is basing its approach on the returns for equity for the ARTC as a whole rather than for the Inland Rail project itself.
In other words, the Government is fudging to justify its failure to meet Mr Anderson’s recommendation that it provide a substantial contribution to the project.
There’s also new controversy concerning the route.
In September Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester released a route for the project north of the Queensland border.
In October the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Senate Estimates Committee heard this decision had been made on the basis of assumptions, rather than actual costings.
At the same time, eight Nationals backbenchers signed a letter demanding a change of route and warning the proposed line would cause flooding.
There’s a golden rule for delivering major infrastructure projects: You’ve got to get the planning right.
WESTERN SYDNEY AIRPORT
It is equally important that we get the planning right for the new Western Sydney Airport.
The project offers a great opportunity to recast the economic and social equation in Western Sydney.
To achieve this vision, the airport must be more than just a terminal and runway.
Handled properly, its development will be a catalyst for the development of thousands of jobs in aviation-related industries like tourism, education, advanced manufacturing, logistics and residential development.
Getting it right requires construction of a North-South line Rail line in Western Sydney.
That line must be operational when the airport opens, not sometime years down the track, as has been the Federal Government’s intention.
Federal Labor has already proposed the construction of a North-South line that will not only provide access to the airport, but also make it easier for people to move around the entire Western Sydney region.
The project would extend Sydney’s South-West Rail link from Leppington via Bringelly to the new airport and also involve construction of a new outer orbital train line from Macarthur in the south to St Marys in the north, which would also service the airport.
A second stage would complete Sydney’s outer orbital rail link with construction of a new line connecting St Marys to the Sydney Metro Northwest at Rouse Hill, scheduled to open in 2019.
I can’t overstate the importance of the Western Sydney Rail.
To this point in history, Sydney’s public transport system has developed on a wheel-and-spoke model centred on the Sydney CBD.
Because of this, connectivity within the region itself is sub-standard.
With investors lining up to deliver major projects in the region, we must build this rail line to ensure that the people of western Sydney can access the opportunities this investment will create.
As an example, the proposed Sydney Science Park is an ambitious $5 billion project near the airport that promises to turn 280 hectares of paddocks into an epicentre of research, innovation and education.
It will bring more than 12,000 knowledge jobs to the region – well paid jobs in a region that needs them.
It will also host Australia’s first kindergarten to year 12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics school, and house more than 10,000 residents.
Just as I want to see adults accessing new jobs in Western Sydney, I want their children to access that school.
HIGH SPEED RAIL
Just as a Western Sydney Rail Line would be a game-changer in Sydney’s West, a High Speed Rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra would turbo charge economic growth of regional centres along its path.
I’m talking about communities like the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Wagga Wagga, the Southern Highlands, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.
Quicker access from those centres to capital cities would make them more attractive places to establish businesses.
I am disappointed that there has been no action on High Speed Rail since 2013.
Infrastructure Australia appears to share that view.
In July it released a report urging the Government to preserve or protect the corridor for the project before it is built out by urban sprawl.
The report also called for corridor preservation for a range of other rail projects including the Outer Sydney Orbital, the Outer Melbourne Ring, the Western Sydney Freight Line, the Hunter Valley Freight Line and the Port of Brisbane Freight Line.
It said preservation or protection of these corridors could save taxpayers as much as $11 billion down the track in land purchase and construction costs.
A future Labor Government will advance High Speed Rail.
Indeed, I have a Private Member’s Bill before the Parliament which would deliver our commitment to create a High Speed Rail Authority.
We could pass that legislation next week at the sittings that have been scheduled since 2016.
Of course, that would require a Government that hadn’t given up on actually governing.
Before I finish I would like to briefly mention my concern about proposed changes to maritime laws because of the way they might affect your industry.
The Federal Government has legislation before Parliament which will significantly relax conditions under which overseas-flagged ships can operate in Australian waters.
The changes would expose Australian vessels paying Australian-level wages to more competition from overseas vessels with crews that are paid lower wages.
Understandably, the owners of Australian vessels are deeply concerned that the changes will put them out of business.
But of course, giving overseas vessels a leg up over local operators would also have consequences for your industry.
In a submission responding to a discussion paper on the proposed changes, the Freight on Rail Group outlined the risk very clearly.
Exemptions would allow foreign ships to incur substantially lower wages, conditions and associated workplace relations cost when compared to rail, road and Australian-based costal shipping companies.
It’s hard to believe that the Government wants to legislate to put Australian companies at a competitive disadvantage in this way.
The Government tried to introduce similar reforms in 2015 but failed to win the necessary support of the Senate crossbench.
I want to assure this audience that the Opposition will not support any piece of legislation that would undermine freight rail.
Once again let me congratulate you on Ausrail, and particularly for your work advancing the case for the creation of a National Rail Industry Plan.
Your contributions to the public debate, as usual, are positive, constructive and clearly motivated by your industry’s desire to advance the national interest.
Governments come and go. Policies change.
In the past decade they seem to have changed more frequently than not.
But when it comes to commonsense advocacy in the cause of national progress on rail, the ARA is a welcome constant in the public debate.
THURSDAY, 23 NOVEMBER, 2017
Speech to The National Growth Areas Alliance – Growing Gains, not Growing Pains – Eumemmerring, Victoria
John Irving, the American author, put it best – “living cities don’t hold still”.
Indeed, our cities are constantly changing.
People move in and suburbs grow. Houses and apartment blocks fill pockets and our streets suddenly become a little busier.
But the truth is that this pace of change does not share itself equally.
It is in our outer suburbs that the effect of rapid population growth is felt most keenly.
For instance, the suburb of Clyde in the local government area of Casey is a 30-minute drive from here depending on where exactly you’re going – and even longer in peak hour.
In 2016 it was Melbourne’s fastest growing suburb.
It’s expected to be home to 140,000 people by 2041 as development continues to swallow existing greenfield sites.
However, it’s not the only outer suburb surging ahead in population growth.
Other local government areas with significant growth over the past decade include Whittlesea, which increased by 62 per cent, Cardinia by 69 per cent and Wyndham by 98 per cent.
And this is a pattern replicated in major cities around the nation.
Herein lays the challenge for governments, planners and policy makers. They advocate for smart growth.
Edward McMahon summed this up as: “Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how.”
But for our outer suburbs the challenge extends beyond the task of protecting against the destruction of existing community character.
We must also look at how we can build community character too.
The idea of “place-making’’ has a weight of theory behind it, but it is the practice of this that is most important.
When we think about place, we must put the concept of community first.
As Jan Gehl said, “first life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works’’.
Getting this right requires investment and it requires leadership.
If we fail to achieve this, the consequences are simply far too steep.
They include increased urban congestion, overflowing commuting carparks and schools and childcare facilities that struggle to keep up with demand.
The very simple fact is when we invest in the infrastructure that underpins a community, we invest in each and every one of its people.
OUR CHANGING CITIES
Several factors have contributed to the emergence of population growth hotspots.
The first is that Australia’s transformation to a knowledge intensive economy has seen the CBDs of our cities become the heart of the nation’s productivity.
While most of this job creation has been in inner areas, population growth has been in outer communities.
In some cities this has led to obvious spatial economic inequality.
In Sydney, Geoff Roberts from the Greater Sydney Commission refers to this as a “latte line’’.
Depending on whether you live north or south of the line you are either more likely to be a “have’’ or a “have not’’.
The fact is, higher house prices in the inner and middle rings of our nation’s cities also mean that many people cannot afford to live close to where they work even if they wanted to do so.
There is no sign of this abating, with all capital cities projected to experience significant population growth between now and 2031.
By then, our four largest capitals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – will have increased by 46 per cent, and Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin are expected to grow by nearly 30 per cent.
But it’s much more complex than this.
There are a number of demographic factors that underpin this growth, which are changing the face of our cities.
The first notable change is that increasingly, younger families are living in outer suburbs.
This has, of course, placed increased pressure on health and education facilities.
In its research, the Grattan Institute found that between now and 2021 high schools will need to accommodate more than twice as many students as they did between 2011 and 2016.
Unsurprisingly this is accentuated in outer suburbs.
Second, the number of people living by themselves has also grown.
Currently one in four Australians live alone. However, by 2030 this is expected to grow to 30 or 40 per cent of households.
This brings me to the third issue, which is our ageing population.
The Commonwealth has projected that by 2057, the number of people aged 65 years and older will have doubled.
These three factors combined have very specific implications for our cities and their supporting infrastructure.
With interest rates at record lows, there has never been a better time for actual Commonwealth investment.
However what we have seen instead from the Coalition is a pattern of underspending, which has serious implications for down the track.
In infrastructure, it is not uncommon for money allocated one year to be delayed into the following year because of factors like weather delays or difficulty finalising contractors to complete work.
But when this happens, the extra spending is delivered in the following year.
Instead, the Coalition is drastically underspending its infrastructure Budgets year after year with the figure increasing each year.
A recent Senate committee heard the annual underspend has increased each year, beginning with $829 million in 2014-15, moving to $1.2 billion in 2015-16 and then $1.7 billion in 2016-17, leading to an accumulated underspend of $3.9 billion.
It appears the tactic here is to promise big on Budget night, when Australians are watching the Treasurer’s Budget speech, but then fail to deliver what was promised in the hope nobody will notice.
This deceptive behaviour lets down Australians.
The fact is, investing in the right railways, road and other infrastructure generates economic activity in the short and medium term, and boosts economic productivity in the longer term.
That’s why, when we were in Government, we invested more in urban public transport than all our predecessors combined since Federation.
The other issue I want to quickly touch on is value capture, which, contrary to what many in the Government seem to think, is not a new idea.
Indeed, the London Underground was financed using value capture.
However, my issue with value capture is this: anyone who pretends that clever financing arrangements or value capture will meet Australia’s current and future infrastructure needs without significant Commonwealth investment is kidding themselves.
There is no substitute for actual Commonwealth investment.
That’s why, at the last Federal Election, Labor committed to a number of projects advocated for by the NGAA.
This included Bridge Inn Road at Mernda, upgrades at Craigieburn Road and O’Herns Road, Thompsons Road and the Monash Freeway here in Melbourne, as well as the Metro project to increase suburban rail capacity.
We committed to upgrade Appin Road and Western Sydney Rail.
To the Gawler line electrification in Adelaide.
To Cross River Rail, the Pacific Motorway-Gateway Merge project, Darra to Rocklea on the Ipswich Motorway in Brisbane.
To the Greater Hobart Transport Plan.
And Perth Metronet, Wanneroo Road and Roe Highway upgrade as well as the Armadale Road Bridge.
Real commitments to make a real difference.
We know our growth areas need improved rail and road connections, and we will continue to work with the NGAA and local communities to identify priority projects.
Planning for projects that we know will be needed, such as the M9 Outer Orbital in Sydney should be underway right now.
Over the course of this year I’ve met with a number of local councils, including many of you in this room today.
I understand you have questions about the City Deals program, both in terms of the Government’s approach, but also in terms of where Labor’s thinking is heading on this issue.
My view is that when done right, City Deals do have something to offer.
My concern, however, is that the Government has used this as a distraction from their failure to provide real investment in our nation’s cities.
Here’s what we know about the City Deals program so far:
We know that the three City Deals proposed in last year’s federal campaign in Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney all came in response to actual infrastructure investment commitments by the Labor Party.
We know that there is no process in place to guide the selection of future City Deals.
And, we know that there is no real funding for the program.
The fact is these City Deals are a far cry from the UK model they seek to replicate.
City Deals originated from the United Kingdom as vehicles for co-operation between national and local government on shared economic development goals.
There, the national government delivers infrastructure funding based on these shared objectives and shares any resulting revenue increases with the council.
Labor supports greater investment in our cities; we don’t support political fixes that don’t achieve outcomes.
And I think when it comes to the question of what Labor will do, you only need look at our track record from when we were in Government to know we will invest not only in infrastructure for our cities, but also the policy and research that underpins this.
That’s why we will reallocate the funding for the Infrastructure Financing Unit to Infrastructure Australia and to recreate the Major Cities Unit to drive evidence-based policy making.
Enormous potential exists in our outer suburbs, but the biggest handbrake on this is undoubtedly congestion.
It’s a tragedy that many people spend more time commuting to and from work than they do at home with their family.
We already know that analysis by Infrastructure Australia indicates the cost of urban congestion will rise to $53 billion a year by 2031 unless we act now.
There has been a great deal of talk recently about the 30-minute city and, indeed, I raised this in 2014 in my first speech as the Shadow Minister for Cities.
Last month, the NSW Government released its Draft Greater Sydney Region Plan 2017, which aims to achieve three 30-minute cities by 2051.
The problem is that people in our outer suburbs cannot wait until 2051 for critical infrastructure.
Indeed, Liverpool Council has already raised the fact it houses 100 new residents every week and has 18,000 new dwellings in the development pipeline.
The fact is many of the outer suburbs, such as Liverpool, are happy to assist in accommodating our growing population.
But without the right infrastructure in place, their capacity to do so is severely limited.
That’s why I intend to keep advocating for a rail line servicing the Western Sydney Airport from day one.
Each day, more than 300,000 people commute away from the region for work.
The airport provides a much needed economic catalyst for the wider Western Sydney region, but making sure people can access the jobs this opportunity brings is essential.
That’s why Councils have identified the north-south corridor connecting Rouse Hill, St Mary’s, the Airport, and the Macarthur region as essential, as well as extending the South-West line from Leppington.
I also just want to briefly mention one of my other portfolios.
Opportunities for economic growth in our outer suburbs also lie in tourism.
Penrith City Council, for instance, has seen a significant increase in both international and domestic visitors.
This has boosted the local economy by more than $26 million.
Outer suburbs often function as gateways to the wider regions.
So if we’re serious about encouraging regional dispersal, enticing visitors away from the CBDs of our cities, then we should also think about the role outer suburbs play in this.
American President John F Kennedy was absolutely right when he said: “We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.”
Delivering for our growth areas is good social policy because it promotes inclusion.
It is also essential economic policy because it maximises productivity of our cities, as well as sustainability and liveability.
MONDAY, 20 NOVEMBER, 2017
Speech to the Bus Industry Confederation National Conference – ‘Collaborating for change – toward better Australian cities and regions’ – Hobart
It’s great to be here today once again speaking to the Bus Industry Confederation National Conference.
This Conference will examine the impact of technological change and how your industry can harness the fruits of innovation in transport.
This is an important contribution to ensuring governments adopt the right policy settings and make the right investments to back your efforts.
Today I want to address some of the mistakes of the recent past that have worked against the development of properly integrated transport systems, particularly in our cities.
Before I expand on that, I want to recognise the role the Bus Industry Confederation has played in advancing debate on cities policy in this country in recent years.
I’m proud about the former Federal Labor Government’s efforts to enhance the productivity, sustainability and liveability of the nation’s cities.
We picked up the policy tradition pioneered by Gough Whitlam and Tom Uren in the 1970s.
Not just in theory, but in practice.
We invested more in public transport in 6 years than all previous Governments combined since Federation.
Also a fact is that your organisation played a critical role in framing the public debate, both before Labor won office 10 years ago and since.
You have been ahead of the curve.
Your advocacy has ensured that all political parties are now talking about cities and the way we move around them, even if for some, the talk is not matched by action or investment.
Back in 2014 I addressed the National Press Club about Labor’s approach to urban policy and released our 10-point Plan for Better Cities.
As part of that I expressed my support for the concept of the 30-minute city – one in which most of a citizen’s needs could be met within 30 minutes’ from their home by foot, bicycle or public transport.
I know that your 2016 discussion paper on this matter aimed even higher, aspiring to a 20-minute city.
I share your optimism.
But in the business of politics I’ve always found it wise to under-promise and over-deliver.
The secret to achieving a 30-minute city is for governments – federal state and local – to work together.
It is also to engage constructively with the private sector and communities.
It’s not enough to simply agree in rhetorical terms that we all want to improve the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities.
It makes no sense for one level of government to decide that it has all the answers on cities when its vision is not shared by the other levels of government.
Enhancing productivity, liveability and sustainability in our cities should be a given.
The past few years provide a stark example of what can go wrong if someone decides that they know best.
In 2013, incoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott cancelled all Commonwealth public transport investment.
This decision was based partly on the view he had outlined in his 2009 book Battlelines, in which he argued that Australians did not want public transport.
Mr Abbott wrote that there weren’t enough people wanting to go to the same location at the same time to justify any other mode of travel than the private motor car so roads should be the sole focus of investment.
His Government reallocated all the public transport investment that had been put in place by the former Labor Government to toll roads – roads that Mr Abbott had promised as part of his election campaign.
This was an absurd proposition.
The result of Mr Abbott heading off on his own frolic was that states and councils had no Commonwealth support for their efforts to deliver on public transport.
Nor was there any policy leadership from Canberra on integration of different modes of transport or on other relevant policies areas like planning, provision of open space and urban design.
Although states are now going it alone on projects like the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, the result of Mr Abbott’s folly was five wasted years.
Five wasted years during which traffic congestion has worsened, reducing economic productivity and the ability of our cities to drive economic growth and job creation.
There’s always room for different perspectives.
But ultimately, we all know that effective cities require integration of transport modes. And these modes must also connect through active transport.
That’s how we tackle traffic congestion and boost productivity.
The current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, came to the leadership declaring he supported public transport.
But while he enjoys taking selfies as he rides on trains, trams and buses, Mr Turnbull has yet to provide significant new investment in trains, trams or buses.
Looking forward I am concerned that under Mr Turnbull’s leadership, the Government is again veering off in a different direction.
This shift is not about the type of infrastructure we need, but how it is financed.
In this year’s Budget the Commonwealth slashed its level of direct infrastructure grants to the states.
In the next four years Commonwealth direct investment in infrastructure will fall off a cliff from a promised $9.2 billion promised in the 2016 Budget to $4.2 billion by 2020-21.
The Government proposes to instead focus on equity injections for projects like the Western Sydney Airport and the Inland Rail project.
But it is also seeking to shift the burden of funding public infrastructure to the private sector.
The Government has sidelined the independent Infrastructure Australia and created the new Infrastructure Financing Unit, which it has tasked with using innovative financing arrangements to enlist more private investment for public infrastructure projects.
There is a place for financing mechanisms like value capture and availability payments in funding major projects.
Indeed, in 2013, the former Labor Government used such mechanisms to set up funding arrangements for the Melbourne Metro and the Cross River Rail Project in Brisbane – projects cancelled by Mr Abbott in 2013.
However, it is dangerous to adopt the view that private investment in public infrastructure can replace public investment in infrastructure without having a major impact on reducing the productivity benefits of overall transport investment.
This Government is making the mistake of considering infrastructure projects through a frame of whether they can provide a return for private investors.
If we did that we would distort our transport systems. We’d have an abundance of toll roads and a shortage of railways.
It’s the wrong approach.
The correct frame through which governments should consider infrastructure projects is not whether they can provide a return to a private investor.
It is whether a project can provide a return to the national economy.
That return includes a whole range of issues.
They include the ability of projects to deliver productivity gains for the broad economy.
But there’s also the issue of inclusion and equity – issues that your organisation has highlighted many times.
Not everyone owns a car.
People who don’t own a car still need to move around.
They need to work to contribute to the economy and support themselves and their families.
They need to access education that will allow them to improve their circumstances and, over time, make a greater contribution to the economy.
Meeting these broader social concerns is in fact an economic policy – one that the Government’s approach ignores.
This does not serve the public interest.
It’s also at odds with the approach of the states, which people look to for the delivery of effective transport systems.
There’s a live example of the folly concerning a proposal to extend the F6 south of Sydney toward the Illawarra as a toll road.
Recent media reporting has revealed that when Government bureaucrats were considering improved connectivity between Sydney and Wollongong they were told to ignore the option of rail.
This is in spite of the fact that completing the Maldon-Dombarton rail freight project, with relatively minor upgrades to the Illawarra passenger line, would be cheaper and produce greater travel time reductions.
They were told to deliver a toll road regardless.
That’s absurd. It looks at only half of the economic equation.
COLLABORATION AND EVIDENCE
So my message today is that we don’t need a completely new model of infrastructure investment.
What we need is genuine collaboration across Government and the private sector in the public interest.
We need to forget the politics. Forget the ideology and the experiments.
We need to work together and base our investment decisions on evidence.
That’s why it is disappointing that the Government has sidelined Infrastructure Australia.
The former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia to create an evidence-based approach to infrastructure delivery.
The very design of this independent organisation was based on getting the politics out of infrastructure delivery.
And importantly, project assessment was designed to include the consideration not only of the cost and benefit of a project, but the way in which that project enhanced the existing transport system.
That kind of approach will deliver a 30-minute city.
Maybe even a 20-minute city.
A Labor Government will abolish the IFU and allocate its funding back to Infrastructure Australia for the re-establishment of the Major Cities Unit, which will focus heavily on the productivity, sustainability and liveability Australia’s cities.
Let me turn now to our regions.
Cities are important but passenger transport in just as important in our regional areas.
In my view it’s an area in which the Federal Government needs to be more involved.
I don’t just mean funding regional roads, but thinking more seriously about regional connectivity – villages to towns to regional centres to cities.
These links are important.
Once again, it’s not just about equity and service provision; it’s about productivity and economic activity.
Regional connectivity delivers real economic benefits.
While cities make up 80% of the value of our GDP in our knowledge centres, our growing regions are becoming more important in this sense and that is why it is important to keep people connected through good rail services and, where they are not available, coach services.
At the same time we need to make sure the people living in the country are not left behind.
We need to make sure that young people in regional areas have the same opportunities as those in cities.
That means offering transport choices for them to get to school, to TAFE, to employment, to sport and social activities.
The same goes for single mums and the elderly.
Your industry acts as a social safety net for thousands upon thousands of people.
That’s a fact we have to keep top of mind, especially in these times of transport disruption and new commercial mobility services moving into areas that are traditionally public transport space.
We must not lose sight of the important role public transport plays in the social transit space.
It is not all about mass transit – I know BIC is doing some interesting research work in the social transit space and regional transport that I look forward to receiving when it is complete.
The theme of this Conference, Moving People – Mobility as a Service is really all about where bus, public transport and services fit in the mix of mobility options that are being presented to us today.
Buses are the work horse of public transport in every capital city today.
I can’t see that changing in the future.
Buses move more people than rail every day.
With a growing and ageing population and increasing urbanisation a reality, mass transit is going to be a key to making our cites and growing regions liveable and workable.
Buses will be a big part of that mix.
Looking ahead to autonomous vehicles, which maybe not as far away as some think, we are going to have to be cognisant of the labour challenges this places on all industries.
About 100,000 people earn their living driving in this country.
Much as factories of the past have become mechanised and run by robots, driverless vehicles will have an impact on your workplaces.
And a move to electric and hydrogen vehicles will change the nature of your workshop and mechanical repair requirements.
These are things that BIC is already looking into as outlined in your submission to the Federal Inquiry into the Social Implications of Autonomous Vehicles.
It’s a good thing that your industry is already thinking about these types of issues.
Once again, your industry is ahead of the game.
The job of elected representatives is to keep up with you.
I aim to do just that.