Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Speeches"
May 18, 2017

Speech to Transport Workers Union National Council – The role of government in managing change – Freemantle

It was the sixth century Greek philosopher Heraclitus who noted that the only thing that never changes in life is change itself.

More recently, former US president John F Kennedy put it another way when he said: Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

Our generation has seen more change than any previous generation in human history.

Remember when there was no Internet? When the only way to receive information was on the telephone on your desk or face to face?

It’s not that long ago. Less than three decades ago, in fact.

When I was at school and wanted to do some research for a school assignment, I went to the library and looked in an encyclopedia.

When today’s children need information, they don’t have to leave their desks. The sum of human knowledge is available at their fingertips.

I remember when the arrival of the fax machine was a major breakthrough. Faxes were promoted as the tools that would liberate offices by making it easier to communicate.

But in a dramatic demonstration of the accelerating pace of change, the fax machine is already a museum piece.

Indeed, when you think about how the pace of change has quickened in the past five decades, it is mind boggling to imagine what the world will look like 50 years from now.

Don’t think about that for too long. It will make your brain hurt.

But consider this: Change has no conscience.

Change can improve our lives. It can free us of certain kinds of labour.

It can make life easier in any number of ways.

But change is a bit like the free market. If you leave it to its own devices, people can get hurt.

That is where the state needs to come in.

We need to accept that we can’t stop change.

But we need to manage change so that it serves people, rather than victimising them, particularly working people.

That’s why I am so pleased that the TWU has taken the trouble to sit down today and consider the place of its members in the new economy.

Our friends in the business community are doing their jobs by looking for ways to use technology to cut costs to the benefit of their shareholders.

It is a credit to the TWU that you are doing your jobs by thinking about what will happen to the workers who will be displaced by change in coming decades.

That’s fitting. Your members are in the firing line.

A simple example of what is at stake here is the shift to automated transport, which offers a future in which cars drive themselves.

At some levels, this change will offer many benefits to the community – greater road safety, less traffic congestion and lower carbon emissions.

But as you know, a quarter of a million Australians feed themselves and their families by working as drivers.

We need to think right now about what we will do to ensure that those people are retrained so they can continue to contribute to society through the workforce.

More broadly, we must ask ourselves what we need to do now to reshape our workforce and our culture to a point where they are supple enough to cope with the increasing pace of change.

I’m no futurist.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers here.

But what is clear is that the Turnbull Government doesn’t have a plan to manage change.


I would like to take this opportunity to offer my observations on last week’s Federal Budget, including the way it affects the industries of concern to the TWU.

Budget 2017 was an overwhelming victory for the Australian Labor Party and the broader labour movement.

It was the Budget of ideological surrender.

After years of negativity and culture wars, the Coalition used the Budget to offload much of its ideological baggage and embrace Labor values on some core issues – at least at a superficial level.

They have finally accepted that Australians support universal health care.

…That Australians see needs-based school funding as a right, not a favour.

…That the NDIS is critical reform.

…That it is the responsibility of government to build for the future, investing in the railways, roads, ports and other infrastructure needed to sustain growth and progress.

That’s the good news.

But the bad news is that while the Coalition has raised the ideological white flag, their rhetorical conversions have not come with investment.

For example, they say they embrace needs-based education funding.

But they are still cutting investment by $22 billion over the next decade.

They say they support Medicare.

But the Budget locked in billions of dollars in cuts and maintained the freeze on the Medicare rebate in the short term.

They say they understand the importance of infrastructure investment.

Yet the Budget cuts it by $1.6 billion in this financial year alone, with investment to fall off a cliff over the next four years.

It’s all a bit like Malcolm Turnbull’s attitude to public transport.

He loves taking selfies on trains, trams and buses.

But he won’t make new investments in trains, trams and buses.

It’s also similar to the debate over the National Broadband Network. First Tony Abbott appointed Malcolm Turnbull to “destroy” the NBN.

They declared it couldn’t be funded off Budget.

Then they adopted the principle – but not the substance.

The result is Fraudband, not high speed Broadband.

And this week it has been revealed that Malcolm Turnbull has purchased 15 million metres of copper wire for his second rate network.

Fifteen million metres.

Enough to wrap around Australia.

They have increased the cost and decreased the speed. Only Labor can be trusted to actually deliver on the policies that change the nation for the better.

However, we in the Labor Party and the broader labour movement should celebrate our victories.

It reminds us once again that the Labor Party, working with the union movement, is the driver of progress in this nation.

The conservatives have always resisted change. They’ve always tried to convince Australians that there is something wrong with collectivism and reform that delivers equity.

Medicare, compulsory superannuation, workplace fairness, the NBN, access to university based on merit – they opposed the lot.

But again and again, our leadership, informed by everyday Australian values like the Fair Go, has forced them to shift.

The way forward for Labor is to accept their rhetorical conversion and triple our pressure for investment, while continuing to argue the case for further progressive reform.


One major disappointment in the Budget was its lack of action on road safety.

Mr Turnbull’s abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in 2016 was wholly political.

Everyone here knows the tribunal was created by the former Labor Government.

We worked with your union and other key players in the sector, including employers and experts, to eliminate incentives for drivers to work long hours and adopt unsafe driving practices in order to make a living.

In creating the tribunal, our shared concern was to save lives.

In abolishing it, Mr Turnbull’s concern was to win votes by union bashing.

In Government we pursued this reform, whilst also using new technology to improve road safety. Measures such as changing Australian Design Rules to mandate Front Underrun Protection Systems in heavy vehicles are making a difference.

To the Prime Minister’s discredit, last week’s Budget did not contain a single new road safety initiative at a time when the road toll is on the rise, reversing decades of decline.

Even worse, it cut funding for road construction and maintenance.

It cut the Black Spots program, the Bridges Renewal Program and the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Maintenance program.

There was no new investment in urban rail to tackle the traffic congestion that is a hand brake on productivity growth and a hazard to your members.

Indeed, there was only one new on-Budget project in the entire Budget over the next four years –$13.8 million for the Far North Collector Road near the NSW town of Nowra in the marginal seat of Gilmore.

This is a project no-one had ever heard about until Budget night.

The business sector saw the infrastructure budget as a dud.

The peak industry body Infrastructure Partnerships Australia offered a devastating critique.

It said:

Foremost, the Budget confirms the cut to ‘real’ budgeted capital funding to its lowest level in more than a decade – using a mix of underspend, re-profiling and narrative to cover this substantial drop in real capital expenditure.

At a time when Australia needs to lift productivity to drive jobs growth outside of the mining sector, a drop in real capital expenditure to its lowest point in more than a decade is that last thing we need.


Turning back to the issue of managing change, the Budget also did nothing to lift our ability to ensure that the workers of tomorrow will be able to cope with the challenges of the New Economy.

Those challenges are intimidating already, but will only escalate in coming decades.

We are already all aware of the massive changes unleashed upon the taxi industry by the rise of share economy options like Uber.

A company that is not even ten years old has revolutionised casual travel. More than 40 million people worldwide use Uber once a month.

Uber has 58,000 drivers in Australia and nearly three million frequent users.

The company’s growth has been extraordinary and it stands as a great example of how in the 21st century, progress is nearly unstoppable.

The taxi industry has, understandably, resisted Uber.

But that has made no difference. The share economy is driven by the Internet, which makes regulation difficult.

But these changes still require a government response.


If you think Uber was disruptive, consider the shift to automated transport, which, I am certain, is one of the biggest challenges facing your union.

A recent paper by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, notes that automated vehicles will offer better road safety outcomes, more efficient transport networks, less pollution and greater liveability in our cities.

Platooning is an application of automated driving technology that uses wireless communications to allow two or more vehicles to safely travel closer together.

While travelling in a platoon, the lead vehicle communicates with following vehicles, sending commands about when and how to undertake steering, acceleration and braking.

As well as improving safety, these systems will reduce costs of fuel consumption, in turn reducing pollution.

Vehicle platooning in both passenger and freight applications is projected to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 20 per cent.

That’s important.

Sixteen per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from cars.

However, as I mentioned earlier, the Department noted that about a quarter of a million Australians earn their living from driving trucks, buses and taxis in 2015.

They will be displaced.

Workers in associated industries may also be affected – insurers, smash repairers and parking inspectors.

Then there’s the car manufacturing and sales industry, which will be transformed by the arrival of driverless cars.

On the positive side, there will be jobs for those who maintain the automated transport system, plus perhaps opportunities for new businesses that will use automated vehicles as a platform to deliver new kinds of services.

But even if you account for the considerable amount of media and industry hype surrounding automated transport, it’s clear that the rise of driverless vehicles will dramatically change the Australian workforce in coming decades.

We might not like it.

But change is going to happen.

The question for today is what we can do to ensure that as a society, we reap the economic benefits of this automation while avoiding its worst potential consequences.

If we let the market rip, the worst case scenario is a situation where companies and their shareholders thrive because of the reduced costs, while their former employees are discarded.

The real danger here is that rather than making life easier for everyone, automation will widen the gap between the haves and the have nots.

We all want a better world, with less work and more free time.

But we have to manage change in a way that is fair.

We want the benefits of the new world to accrue to the many, not just the few.


In that context I find it incomprehensible that the Turnbull Government is cutting funding for schools and universities and has gutted the vocational training sector over the past four years.

It is obscene that the Coalition has cut the number of apprentices in this nation by 130,000 since taking government.

Our national focus should always be firmly fixed on preparing our young people for work – providing them with the skills they need to contribute to society and raise their own families.

But the acceleration of change makes this more important than ever.

A business as usual approach won’t work.

Our education and training systems need systemic change, as does the way in which Australians themselves think about work.

Labor has proposed a practical approach in my portfolio which would ensure a minimum of one in every 10 people employed on Commonwealth funded infrastructure projects being an apprentice.


In the 20th century, people were raised to believe that if they worked hard at school and/or university, they could find a good job and stay in that job until retirement.

But in the 21st century, we must accept as a starting point that people will have multiple careers.

A child born today should have the expectation that his or her first job will probably be made redundant within a decade or two after he or she starts work.

So it’s critical that we teach people to embrace the idea that they will have to constantly upgrade and modify their skills in a process of lifelong learning.

We need to get over the idea that once you’ve done a degree or an apprenticeship, you will be set for life.

Indeed, the real aim of 21st century education and training should be teaching people how to keep learning for their entire careers.

This will require significant additional investment in training.


In some ways, today’s children are already being schooled to think differently from previous generations.

They are already experts in coping with change, because during their short lives, it has been a constant.

For example, anyone who uses a computer knows the software is constantly upgraded and updated, requiring us to amend our habits when it comes to simple functions like creating and sending documents.

While many older people find that frustrating, for young people it is a natural part of life.

In the future workforce, jobs will evolve in the same way.

The role you take on one year could evolve considerably in a very short time to something that looks quite different.

While today’s youngsters are already thinking in more flexible ways, I worry about older people losing their jobs now and in the next few years.

I worry about their ability to reskill, both in terms of personal mindset and in terms of the opportunities that will be available to them.

In particular, I worry about what will become of low-skilled workers who occupy the jobs that will be eliminated first.

Here’s a simple example.

Next time you go to a supermarket, you’ll be encouraged to take your own goods through the checkout, to scan them and pack them yourself, ostensibly for the sake of your own convenience.

While this will cut wage bills for supermarket chains, it eliminates jobs.

Once the supermarket chains have trained us all to avoid the few remaining checkouts operated by people, there will be fewer jobs available for unskilled workers.

That’s why Governments need a major new focus on retraining.

There are far too many people in their 40s and 50s in this country who lose their jobs and never work again in a full-time role.

If a breadwinner loses his or her job, they still have to pay the bills. They can’t take three years off to go back to university.

So we need to develop ways in which older people, particularly unskilled workers, can retrain over time – perhaps even before their job becomes redundant.

As a community we must accept that if the benefits of change are to be shared fairly, many Australians will not only need access to re-training, but will also need income support while they undertake that training.

That will cost money. There’s no way to avoid it.


Another important aspect of this entire debate relates to the power of the individual in the workplace.

Increasing automation will lead to reduced job security and more part-time work, creating greater challenges for the trade union movement to protect the rights of workers.

No doubt such considerations are part of the reason that the TWU is holding this forum.

Industrial relations is your business and I would not presume to tell you how to do it.

However, let me conclude by repeating my earlier comments.

Australians are an egalitarian people.

As we saw with the Budget last week, the forces of conservatism and self-interest are always going to struggle to capture the imaginations of people who live their lives according to the concept of the Fair Go.

The Tories will always preach individualism. They will always seek to promote self-interest.

But they will also inevitably be forced to more progressive positions.

That is because while Australians celebrate individual success, it is part of our culture to reject the idea that it is acceptable to leave people behind.

In the 21st century, the forces of the free market will attempt to use technical change to favour the few over the many.

They will want to bank the financial gains of change and reject the idea that some of those benefits must be used to manage its effects.

We must resist that.

We must put our faith in people, by fighting for a world in which people come first.

May 5, 2017

Speech to Implementing the New Urban Agenda Conference


Every night from a tenth floor window of a building in the Rocks a red neon sign beams SOS across Sydney Harbour.

Save our Sirius.

The building catches your attention, but it is not conventionally aesthetic.

Its brutalist concrete blocks stacked side by side loom over the bustling restaurants and shops that draw in tourists and locals alike.

For so long this part of Sydney was its working heart.

Sirius, the building, just like its surrounding area in the Rocks and Millers Point has a place in Australian history.

And, until recently, it also had an established community.

The sell-off of Sirius and nearby public housing at Millers Point is a familiar tragedy that we’ve seen play out before.

As ninety year old Myra Demetriou, who has lived in the area for more than sixty years, said:

“They don’t think people like me should have these views.”

She says this as a matter of fact.

It’s based upon an elitist assumption that damages not just Ms Demetriou but damages the character of the city I am passionate about.

Like these residents I was raised in inner city public housing.

My first political campaign was in the late 1970s.

I fought with my mother and our community to reverse the Sydney City Council’s decision to sell its housing estate in Camperdown, along with other inner Sydney communities.

We were fighting for more than bricks and mortar.

It was our home.

The decision-makers responsible for selling public housing in Millers Point and the Rocks are forgetting one important thing.

These are not just physical structures.

They are people’s homes.

A living, breathing mixture of people that, critically, adds to the diversity of our cities.

As we respond to the challenges of urbanisation we must not diminish the rights and dignity of the vulnerable in our communities.

Successful cities are inclusive cities, something that is recognised by the New Urban Agenda, which states:

“There is a need to take advantage of the opportunities of urbanisation as an engine of sustained and inclusive economic growth, social and cultural development, and environmental protection, and of its potential contributions to the achievement of transformative and sustainable development.”

I am pleased to speak about Habitat III and implementing the New Urban Agenda.

Australia has committed to this very important Declaration that seeks to navigate the urban challenges we face, not only here, but in every nation around the world.

The New Urban Agenda is a roadmap for sustainable development.

What’s more, it puts people front and centre.

Exactly where they should be.


Four out of every five Australians live in cities.

By 2031 our four largest capitals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – will have increased by 46 per cent.

Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin are expected to grow by nearly 30 per cent.

Australia’s transformation to a knowledge intensive economy has seen the CBDs of our cities become the heart of the nation’s productivity.

Whilst most job creation has been in inner areas, growth in population has been in outer communities.

This disconnect between where people work and where people live has led to the development of drive-in drive-out suburbs, where people spend more time commuting to and from work then they do at home with their families.

This has impacted on the quality of life for many.

Mortgage stress.

Rent stress.

Urban congestion on our roads and packed public transport during peak hours.

Critically, there is also the issue of sustainable development.

We cannot talk about urbanisation without also talking about climate change, which is taking a toll on urban infrastructure.

Increasingly there is debate about how we can use urban design to make our cities more sustainable.

This includes more efficient energy and water use, the integration of active transport and maximising our green space to reduce the Heat Island Effect.

We need to replicate the many examples of best practice that are available, whether they are from our own cities, or internationally, from places like Singapore.

The New Urban Agenda is important because it provides a framework for dealing with these issues.

It is no accident that it is connected to the UN Sustainable Development Goals agreed upon in New York in September 2015.

The 17 global goals and 169 targets build upon the previous Millennium Development Goals.

Combined, the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework for countries to progress not only their nation’s economy in a changing world, but also the aspirations of their people.


How well we manage urban population growth will, in part, depend on how we use these examples.

It also depends on our willingness to participate in multi-lateral forums such as UN-Habitat.

UN-Habitat has an extraordinary history.

The first conference, held in Vancouver in 1976, sought to respond to concerns over rapid, uncontrolled urban growth, especially in developing areas.

Governments, armed with recommendations, then set out to influence human settlement across their cities.

The second UN-Habitat conference, held in 1996 in Istanbul, assessed what progress had been made in cities around the world since 1976.

It also produced the Habitat Agenda, a strategic plan adopted by 171 countries containing more than 100 commitments and 600 recommendations.

The third conference, hosted last year in Quito drew 36,000 people from 167 different countries.

36,000 people.

167 countries.

An exceptional level of international engagement.

And from this a New Urban Agenda was adopted.

Australia was represented by Gillian Bird, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN.

But as capable as Ms Bird is, I cannot understand the Government’s decision to not also be represented at Ministerial level.

This follows in the steps of the Howard Government’s decision to not send a Minister in 1996.

UN-Habitat is the most important international urban conference of our time.

It has charted the progress of the world’s cities for more than forty years.

By 2050, the world’s urban population is set to double.

Indeed, as of 2008, for the first time, a majority of the world’s population lived in urban areas.

There were more than 400 cities over one million, and 19 over ten million.

This is why now, more than ever, participation from the Federal Government is critical.

As Gillian Bird said in her statement on the New Urban Agenda:

“The global urbanisation trend is one of the most profound transitions in human history and has occurred in less than a century.”

The fact is that while many people in our middle class have grown their wealth as a result of urbanisation, other people have simply seen their poverty entrenched.

Indeed, wealth in Australia is highly concentrated.

A recent report from the Australian Council of Social Services shows that the top 10% of Australian households own 45% of all wealth in our nation.

The dividend of Australia’s growth need to be shared more fairly.

A person’s background should not preclude them from the opportunities they need to fulfil their ambitions.

Aspiration is indeed for everyone.


This is why the New Urban Agenda is so important.

At the heart of this Declaration lies the principle, ‘leave no one behind.’

Successful cities are not disconnected enclaves of privilege and disadvantage.

They are diverse and their diversity can be harnessed to drive great social outcomes as well as the economic productivity that sustains our lifestyles.

The New Urban Agenda recognises this.

It provides a vision; a set of principles, commitments and recommendations to guide inclusive growth in our cities.

Our national government should play a leading role in implementing the New Urban Agenda.

But the very first step towards achieving this is to break down what can, too often, be a department by department, silo-driven approach.

We must instead put forward a holistic vision that genuinely understands how our cities work.

However the Coalition Government is intent on putting in places structures that achieve the exact opposite.

Most recently the Coalition outlined its plan for an Infrastructure Financing Unit in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, not in the Department of Infrastructure.

And indeed, this new Infrastructure Financing Unit will do precisely the job Infrastructure Australia is supposed to be doing.

It is a retrograde step that separates project assessment from project financing.

In contrast, when I was the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport I released Australia’s first ever national urban policy – Our Cities, Our Future.

It recognised that urban policy cannot be separated from other policy.

That our cities are intimately connected to the environment, water, communications, housing, employment, health and education.

But we have to do more than just talk about it.

Cities require investment.

When we invest in our cities we not only grow their economic potential, but also the nation’s.

Australian cities produce 80 per cent of our GDP.

Indeed, Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, had this to say in his closing remarks at the conference:

“We need to approach urbanisation not as a cost, but as an investment, because the cost of urbanisation is minimal in comparison to the value that it can generate.”


An important part of this is ensuring we get the urban planning and infrastructure right.

But the issue goes beyond return on investment.

It’s also about the fact that how we plan our cities and where we invest in infrastructure has a very real impact on people’s lives.

Policy failures in this space have meant that in cities, like Sydney for example, housing has become extraordinarily costly.

Those that can’t afford to live close to the city are pushed to outer suburbs whereas areas that are serviced by good public transport and infrastructure have seen prices rapidly increase.

As a consequence home ownership is declining.

Between 2002 and 2014, home ownership in Australia fell from 71 per cent to 67 per cent.

Young home buyers have felt this keenly.

For those aged 25 to 34, home ownership rates fell by nearly 10 percentage points in this period to less than 30 per cent.

In turn, the rental market is feeling the pressure.

A joint report released in February this year from Choice, National Shelter and the National Association of Tenants Organisation revealed that, between 1994-5 and 2013-14, the proportion of Australian households who rent has increased from 25.7 to 31 per cent.

Of these, 63 per cent of renters are aged 35 or above.

Renting as such is not a bad thing for those live in a property that suits their needs and have a positive relationship with the agent or landlord.

But, for others, the instability that can exist means it often is harder to lay down roots in a community.

What’s more, as the cost of renting increases disproportionately to wages growth, more Australians experience housing stress.

Consequently, urban growth must be managed properly.

Yet the emergence of a few demographic trends across the nation complicates how we approach this.

First, the number of single person households has increased since the 1970s.

We know this trend will continue.

ABS data indicates that by 2036 more than 3.4 million people will be living alone.

A significant number of these people will be older and female.

That brings me to my second point.

Our ageing population.

Population projections by the ABS indicate that by 2064 more than 23 per cent of Australians will be aged 65 and over.

What’s more, those aged 85 and over will have increased to five per cent.

The bottom line of this is that Australia’s housing needs are diverse.

Consequently, the types of dwellings that are built must be varied to meet the needs of all types of households.

But we need to do more than just this.

Developers, community housing providers and governments should be incorporating the aims of the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals in their work.

In doing so we recognise that the decisions we make shape the social fabric of our communities and impact the liveability, sustainability and productivity of our cities.

The Commonwealth cannot ignore the fact that it has a national role to play in housing policy, both in terms of housing affordability, and affordable housing.

I am proud to have been part of a government that recognised this.

We introduced the National Affordable Housing Agreement.

The National Rental Affordability Scheme.

The Social Housing Initiative through our plan for nation building.

What’s more, we were really starting to see these policies make a tangible difference in communities around Australia.

It is unfortunate that in recent years the focus on affordable housing has dropped off.

This is symbolised by the absence of a Federal Minister for Housing.

And, despite the recognition that excesses in negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts are not sustainable, the Government still has not acted.

Housing policy must be consistent.


As the New Urban Agenda states, we have an ‘historic opportunity to leverage the key role of cities and human settlements as drivers of sustainable development in an increasingly urbanised world.’

Here in Australia, rapid growth in our cities’ populations is taking a toll on our unique natural assets and agricultural lands.

So is climate change.

As a priority, we need to include as much green space as possible in city plans.

Not only do we know that this makes people happier and healthier, but it also offsets some of the worst effects of climate change.

Heat waves, in particular, are a serious challenge facing Australia.

In outer suburbs, which tend to be further away from coastlines, the Heat Island Effect means residents in these areas, especially the very young and elderly, are at risk.

I am pleased that many local governments are already taking a leading role in tackling this issue.

For instance, here Melbourne, the city’s Council is working to lift tree canopy from 22 percent in all public places to 40 percent by 2040.

Similarly, the City of Sydney’s urban forest is aiming to grow its urban forest by 50% by 2030.

Many of you will be aware of the 100 Resilient Cities Network pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Cities apply to join the Network and develop resilience strategies.

So far, both Sydney and Melbourne have signed up.

Sustainability is at the heart of Melbourne’s strategy.

The city aims to create a healthier environment by enabling its natural assets and ecosystems to thrive, whilst accommodating its growing population.

This is particularly important because Melbourne is particularly dependent on its food basin.

Forty-one percent of Melbourne’s fresh produce is currently grown within 100 kilometres of the city.

However, as Melbourne expands, the consequent loss of agricultural land could reduce this figure to 18 percent by 2050.

The New Urban Agenda, in combination with the Sustainable Development Goals can guide both urban regeneration projects, but also greenfield development.


We have more information at our fingertips than we have ever had before.

But it’s how we use this information that determines just how ‘smart’ our cities really are.

We know that use of smart technology can make our use of resources much more efficient, whether that is in energy, water, or the functioning of our roads.

Smart technology is about more than enhancing productivity.

It also is an enabler for creating opportunity and equity.

That is why I regard fibre to the home and business as being an essential social policy, not just an economic one.

When I visited Singapore last month, I was struck by the fact that their model was almost identical to the model that the Rudd Government began with the national broadband network.

Of course Singapore, as a city-state does not have the challenges that the roll-out of high speed broadband had in a vast nation such as ours.

They did however face challenges associated with high rise residential development.

I was struck by the fact that Singapore’s global average peak connection speed of 135 megabits per second means it is ranked first in the world.

In contrast, Australia has fallen further down the rankings since the abandonment of fibre as the basis of the NBN roll out.

There is no excuse for Government not being able to connect our cities and towns to high speed broadband in this day and age.

High speed broadband is such a critical part of ensuring access to employment, education and training opportunities, as well as the provision of health services, while connecting people to each other and the wider world.

We cannot afford to fall behind.


Can I conclude with making a point about process, or, as Jane Jacobs said, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

This is not merely an academic point.

People like Myra Demetriou, who continues to resist her eviction from her home in the Sirius Building in the Rocks, will never attend a conference such as this.

But their engagement as we determine the future of our cities is just as essential as the contribution which those in this room will make.

Part of what makes an inclusive city is true democratic participation in the shaping of our cities.

After all, this is one of the reasons why cities are so attractive as meeting places.

Cities provide a space for the agglomeration of ideas; they are a hive of economic activity and, a source of opportunities for people – so long as they can access them.

Apr 30, 2017

Address to Meetings and Events Australia Annual Conference

International Convention Centre, Sydney

Over the next month, Sydney’s International Convention Centre will host a range of events.

In early May the International Film Festival and Awards of Australia will recognise celebrities who have contributed to the development of Indian cinema.

The Snow Travel Expo 2017 brings more than 50 ski resorts from around the world to Australia and showcases the latest skiing equipment.

Later in May, CeBIT 2017 highlights the latest business technology innovations, with a focus on start-ups and entrepreneurs.

These are just some of the many, extraordinarily diverse events that will feature at the Convention Centre in coming weeks.

And, importantly, every event brings thousands of people to Sydney, who would not necessarily otherwise visit.

Not only does this contribute to Sydney’s economy through money spent at hotels, restaurants and shops, but it also provides critical business for everyone associated with the events sector.

Caterers. Sound. Lighting. The set-up team. Cleaners. Security. The pack-up team.

And this is why the business events sector is so critical.


So I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about this at the Meetings and Events Australia annual conference.

Since its creation in 1975, Meetings and Events Australia has represented a range of businesses and individuals that produce, manage, support, and supply events held across the nation every year.

Today, you have more than 600 member organisations.

It’s an extraordinary achievement and I want to recognise the commitment of Meetings and Events Australia, as well as every person across the sector, who work hard each day to ensure smooth running events and exhibitions around Australia.


I am aware that your sector is looking for government support to enhance the opportunity of successful bids for international conventions and we will be awaiting details in the Government’s Budget next week.

The Commonwealth has an important role to play in supporting and growing this important industry in Australia.

The fact is this is a highly competitive sector, and it can be challenging for Australia to win business against regional competitors.

We need to ensure Australia remains a premier destination for meetings, expos, conferences and exhibitions.

And why shouldn’t we be first choice for these events?

Our vastness means Australia is quite unique.

Nowhere else in the world could you choose between sunny Queensland; the nation’s capital of Canberra; Melbourne with its graffiti lanes and coffee culture; Sydney, with the world’s best harbour; Perth, with its superb river front and beaches; Adelaide, the gateway to one of the world’s great wine regions; Tasmania with its pristine natural environment; or any of the great regional centre including Cairns, Newcastle, Darwin and Geelong.

Of course, these are only several of the many places events are held.

The fact is; events and exhibitions are an integral part of Australia’s tourism sector and deserve to be recognised as such.

Tourism in Australia has been identified by Deloitte as one of five super growth sectors.

It employs more than 1 million Australians directly and indirectly.

At the start of this year it was reported that tourism had overtaken coal to become one of our biggest exports.

Business events in their own right add significant value to the economy.

The latest Business Events Study revealed that in 2015-16 business events generated $30.2 billion in direct expenditure and created more than 190,000 jobs.

Overall, business events contributed $24.9 billion to Australia’s GDP.

What’s more, with more than 37 million people attending more than 400,000 business events across Australia annually, there is a real opportunity at hand.

We should be working closely with the business events sector to promote longer stays.

After all, depending on where you’ve travelled from, it can be a long flight to Australia.

It’s in everyone’s interest to encourage people to make the most of their stay.


Of course events, exhibitions and expos can also grow more than the economies of our major cities.

These events make a significant difference to regional and rural economies.

Each year in January thousands make the journey to Parkes for the Elvis Festival.

Many of these people travel in costume on NSW’s regional train service.

This year the festival was expected to inject more than $11 million into the local economy.

Right around Australia, local communities, peak bodies, and governments are taking steps to promote events in regional areas.

Last September, 20 national business event planners participated in the 2016 Alice Springs Stampede.

It seeks to promote Alice Springs as a business events destination.

What’s more, it’s estimated the Stampede has resulted in events that have generated $8.8 million in visitor spending.

Business Events Victoria has released a planner’s guide.

It promotes towns like Horsham, which is 300 kilometres from Melbourne because of its access to the Grampians National Park and unique venues.

And even after the devastation of Cyclone Debbie, north-Queensland is open for business and we should do what we can to support its economy.

These are just a few examples that show the practical steps we can take to grow this vital industry.


Since the election I’ve held a number of tourism roundtables.

At these I’ve had the opportunity to listen to a range of people from across the sector – hotel owners, tourism operators of small and large businesses, and of course those in the business events sector.

What strikes me is how passionate everyone is about the future of tourism.

How committed they are to growing the industry.

Their understanding of the extraordinary contribution tourism makes to small local economies, but also the larger Australian economy.

But then sometimes when I speak to people outside of the tourism sector about tourism, I’m not convinced they always get the full picture.

That while tourism in Australia is about our pristine beaches, our rainforests and deserts, it’s also about much more than that.

It is a massive source of employment for so many Australians and those Australians working in tourism take their jobs very seriously.

We need to be doing more to support that.

This means more investment in education, skills and training.

I understand that at this conference, the outcomes of a Meetings and Events Australia skills shortage survey will be released.

I look forward to working with you to develop ways we can fill any gaps that are identified.


Now, there’s a reason why I hold the Tourism portfolio in addition to Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development.

This decision ensures a focus on cross-portfolio and agency cooperation and engagement.

It provides a strategic advantage for the tourism sector, by linking it with interdependent areas of government.

It also means tourism has a seat at the Cabinet table.

We also understand that ensuring the right infrastructure is in place is essential to growing tourism.

Our airports and public transport systems have a significant impact on whether or not people enjoy their stay in Australia.

And regardless of where you’ve travelled from our bus, train, tram and ferry networks should be easy to navigate.

This includes in our two biggest cities; Sydney and Melbourne.

The fact is international cities need world class public transport.

Think of the signature international examples: New York Subway, the Paris Metro and the London Tube.

We should be on that list.

This means the national government needs to invest in public transport.

What’s, more, our airports need to be part of this focus on infrastructure.

After all, airports are the first experience anyone has in Australia unless, of course, you’ve come by cruise ship.

Currently our four largest cities are all undergoing aviation expansion, with plans for new runways in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Sydney will have a whole new airport.

But there’s more that can be done.

For instance Cairns Airport has plans to expand. It is the sort of project that could make a good candidate for Federal Government concessional finance.

At the election we put forward our plan for a $1 billion Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund. It was to back projects like this.

Along with our major capital airports’ physical expansion, there are increasing opportunities for other airports to host international flights.

Recently we’ve seen Canberra open up its airport for international flights to and from Singapore and New Zealand.

We’ve seen it at Cairns, Townsville and the Sunshine Coast. Last year Cathay Pacific picked up freight from Wellcamp Airport near Toowoomba and took it directly to Hong Kong.

And in the future we could include international flights to and from airports at Avalon, Newcastle and Hobart.

This would be of enormous benefit to the business events sector here in Australia, making it easier for people to fly directly to their destination.


While the business events sector already makes an enormous contribution to the Australian economy, it is clear there is room for growth.

The Federal Government has a critical role to play in achieving this.

I look forward to working closely with you and wish you all the best for your conference.

Apr 4, 2017

Address to the Lee Kuan Yew Forum

Chairman and distinguished guests.

It is a tremendous honour to be here tonight.

Three years ago now, in 2014, I last visited Singapore to attend the World Cities Summit.

There I had the privilege to hear from leaders across the world, including Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who spoke about the challenges of rapid urbanisation.

Across the Asia-Pacific, including in Australia, our cities are growing at an exponential rate.

How well we manage this growth will, in part, depend on how we use the many examples of best practice that exist across our region.

I have always been fascinated by Singapore.

It provides a global model for urban policy, particularly when it comes to public transport.

In fact, Mercer’s 2017 Quality of Living Survey ranks Singapore first for best city infrastructure.

Singapore is also leading the world when it comes to urban greenery.

Well on its way to achieving its vision of a City in a Garden, Singapore ranked first in a recent study on urban tree density.

Just this afternoon in a briefing on your National Broadband Network, it reinforced to me why a Fibre To The Home model with universal access is best practice and sees Singapore ranked 1st in the world for high speed broadband.

Your delivery model is almost identical to that which the Government I served in Australia began after our election in 2007.

There is much Australia can learn from Singapore.


Australia and Singapore have long had an excellent relationship.

This was reinforced in October last year when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed our Parliament.

Singapore is our fifth largest trading partner and our largest trade and investment partner in south-east Asia.

The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement plays a significant role in facilitating this.

Currently an update to this agreement is undergoing domestic treaty processes both here in Singapore and in Australia.

It provides a framework for bilateral investments.

The update also increases the recognition of a number of Australian qualifications, providing more opportunities for Australian workers in the areas of education, law, e-commerce, telecommunications and professional services.


Our cities are at a turning point.

The nature of our investment now will shape the cities of tomorrow.

Tackling the immense challenge of climate change through sustainable development is pivotal.

Just like in Singapore, Australian cities face the very serious issue of heatwaves.

In our cities, particularly the outer suburbs, which tend to be further away from coastlines, the Heat Island Effect means residents, especially the very young and elderly, are extremely vulnerable.

Urban canopy plays a critical role in reducing heat.

But a holistic strategy is also needed to ensure long-term change, which Singapore has considered through its water strategy, efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and its use of technology to ensure energy efficiency.


Last year in Quito at the Habitat III conference a New Urban Agenda was adopted with a specific focus on sustainable development.

Government participation in multi-lateral forums such as these is important.

Singapore has long been active in this space.

In his national statement at Habitat III, Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development said:

“We believe that the unique conditions and needs of each country should be recognised. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for all cities and all states, there is room for us to work together to share best practices and support each other to implement the New Urban Agenda.”

I, too, hold this view and believe we should all take interest in how countries around the world adapt and change.

This is particularly the case in such a transformative time as the 21st century.


When it comes to technology, we only ever move forward.

Access to data has transformed our capacity to understand the functioning of cities.

But it’s how we use this data that determines just how ‘smart’ our cities really are.

I understand Singapore is developing its digital twin called Virtual Singapore.

A 3D model and data platform of the whole city-state, it will be used for everything from testing how new traffic technology might work to simulating disasters.

As our cities expand, we also need to be innovative about how we build infrastructure, and how we finance it.

This is critical in Australia as each city faces its own infrastructure challenges but must grapple with the fact resources are limited.

Singapore, Asia’s infrastructure hub, has taken a leading role in the region bringing together expertise, building talent and sharing best practice.


In closing, I would like to thank you again for your warm welcome here in Singapore.

Singapore has demonstrated itself to be an exemplar when it comes to urban policy.

When governments invest in urban development we create cities that are diverse and vibrant places, rich in human experience.

I look forward to learning more on issues of sustainable development, innovation and infrastructure in the coming days.

Feb 23, 2017

Speech to Western Sydney Aerotropolis Summit


It’s great to be here today to see the level of interest in the development of the Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.

It’s has taken decades to achieve the political bipartisanship necessary to get this important project under way.

That’s a credit to people on both sides of politics.

Bipartisanship has cleared the way for governments, councils, businesses and communities to contemplate the massive economic opportunities that come with the construction of an airport.

That’s why today is so important.

When it comes to the Western Sydney Airport, we must get the planning right.

It is critical to the national economy.

As the 2012 joint study into Sydney’s aviation needs found, Sydney Airport is constrained by its land mass.

It is one half and one third of the size of the Melbourne and Brisbane airports respectively.

Sydney Airport is the nation’s busiest airport in terms of passenger movements yet it sits on the smallest land area for a major airport. Indeed, the Badgerys’ Creek site is almost twice the size of KSA.

Four out of 10 aircraft that travel in this country pass through Sydney Airport, so a delay at Kingsford Smith has huge knock-on effects across the nation.

When KSA sneezes, the rest of the nation catches the flu.

The Western Sydney Airport will offer great new options for travellers and airlines, while boosting tourism.

But if we get the planning right, the airport will provide unprecedented opportunities for airlines and aviation-related companies to expand in the vicinity of Badgerys Creek.

That means jobs – high value jobs for the people of Western Sydney, an area that has been crying out for new employment opportunities.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The task ahead is not just to build a runway and an aircraft terminal.

That’s only half the job.

We must extract maximum community benefit from this project by making it a catalyst for development of thousands of jobs across a range of industries.

We need to create an aviation precinct so successful that it transforms the entire region.

We must consider the Badgerys Creek site not as Sydney’s second airport, but as the airport for Western Sydney.

We want the Western Sydney Airport to be so successful that its success unleashes waves of prosperity across a range of sectors including research, tourism, education, advanced manufacturing, logistics and residential development.

We must develop an aerotropolis.

And at the same time, we must ensure the airport is developed to world’s best practice in terms of environmental impact and that the impact on residents in its vicinity is minimised.

None of this will be easy.

But if we get it right, the possibilities are substantial.


The case for the construction of the Western Sydney Airport has been established beyond doubt.

We know that Kingsford Smith Airport is near full capacity.

According to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Western Sydney Airport is expected to handle five million passengers in its first year of operation, rising to 10 million passengers a year within five years, 37 million a year by 2050 and 82 million a year by 2063.

It is also estimated that if we fail to build the airport, the NSW economy will lose $17.5 billion a year in gross state product by 2060.

In the process, we would forgo the creation of 57,000 jobs in NSW and nearly 78,000 nationally by 2060.

When I was younger, air travel was the province of the rich.

Working people travelled by air only to attend weddings or funerals, or to do their one off backpacking trip to Europe, the USA or Asia.

But in the 21st century, relatively low airfares and increasing disposable incomes have combined to drive huge demand for air travel.

In 1988 I saved up for the big trip to Europe.

The airfare was $1900 return to London with Qantas. Today, almost three decades later, it is possible to get a cheaper fare.

If only house prices had a similar story.

Patronage nationally is expected to double in the next two decades. Then double again by 2060.

Today, national sporting codes are thriving as a direct result of the reduction in the cost of air travel.

Western Sydney is home to 2.2 million people or almost 10% of Australia’s population. This will grow to over 3 million by the 2030’s.

Without a Western Sydney Airport, residents will continue to have to travel to Kingsford Smith Airport for their aviation needs, clogging roads that are already heavily congested, particularly around peak hours.

It can take longer for commuters to get to Mascot than they spend in the air travelling to Melbourne or Brisbane – and the taxi fare can be more than the airfare.

Anyone who has cause to use the existing airport would know it is already frequently subject to gridlock.

That’s bad for commuters and bad for the economy.

The case for the Airport is further strengthened by the research into its anticipated effects on the economy of Western Sydney.

It will create 11,000 construction jobs in the building stage. There will be 9000 direct jobs associated with the completed airport, plus thousands of indirect jobs to be created in the region.

In terms of enhancing aviation and giving Western Sydney a significant economic injection, this project is vital.


Often, public consultation about major projects goes no further than addressing contentious issues like noise and traffic.

While we must understand and engage with community concern on these issues, the employment opportunities at Badgerys Creek also demand genuine and intense community engagement.

The conversation must begin now about how we can ensure that as many of the new jobs as possible can be filled by people from Western Sydney.

It’s not just jobs building the airport; it’s jobs building the associated road and rail infrastructure and then it’s ongoing jobs created by the airport as a catalyst.

Some of those jobs are underway with the associated road construction. Others are some time off when skills and apprenticeships will look different from today’s training and employment pathways.

These jobs should have a training component which provide transferable skills for local young people and re-skilling opportunities for mature age workers.

We need to collaborate on a jobs and skills plan that provides a skilled workforce capable of contributing on this and future projects.

This effort should engage the entire community including councils, business groups, schools and universities, TAFE, unions and others.

For example, we know that during the construction stage, there will be strong demand for builders, electricians and the full range of tradespeople required to deliver such a large project.

We need to act now to consider how we can maximise access to these jobs for people from Western Sydney.

The project should result in hundreds of young people from Western Sydney being engaged on the construction site as apprentices, learning the skills that will set them up for long-term careers.

At his speech at the National Press Club Labor Leader Bill Shorten pointed the way, committing a future Labor Government to ensuring 10 per cent of the workforce on Commonwealth-funded infrastructure projects should be apprentices.

The Western Sydney Airport is the perfect opportunity to apply this principle.

We need to think now about the extent to which schools and TAFEs in Western Sydney are equipped to prepare today’s young people for the apprenticeship opportunities that beckon.

Likewise, we must think now about what industries have potential to flourish once the airport begins operations and the skills required to ensure their long-term profitability and competitiveness.

Given the changing nature of work, we must ask ourselves what skills will be required to fill those jobs.

We must collaborate with TAFE colleges and the University of Western Sydney to encourage them to focus more heavily on those skills.

I want to see the establishment of a Centre for Aviation Excellence near the airport.

It could involve government and private sector investment in innovation and skills development. Science, technology, engineering and maths should be integrated into the centre, including into the apprenticeships of the future.

That’s just one idea.

But it’s a reminder of the core proposition that must be our guiding light over the next two decades.

We are not just building an airport, but building a better future for Western Sydney.

I see many people here today who are already thinking in this direction.

On Tuesday I spent time with western suburbs-based company Celestino and Penrith Mayor John Thain and his team to discuss the 2500 hectare Sydney Science Park in Luddenham just north of the Airport site.

This is an exciting development which is encouraged by the Airport that will provide 12,000 jobs for the region.

It is a visionary project as a centre for innovation, education and research that will also have 3400 dwellings on site.

It goes beyond the concept of simply providing jobs, to being a whole-of-community-approach that will be productive, liveable and sustainable.

It will encompass the smartest buildings in Australia with the highest green star rating possible.

A deal has already been done with Catholic education to provide for Australia’s first K-12 STEM school in the country, which will accommodate 2000 students.

This is exactly the sort of project that exemplifies the multitude of business opportunities associated with the Airport.

Given that 300,000 people commute away from Western Sydney for work and the youth of Western Sydney have aspirations to live and work locally, the Sydney Science Park is precisely the sort of development driven by rail access and the airport that will shift economic activity and employment closer to where people live.


Delivering the Western Sydney Airport project has been needlessly complicated by the former Howard Government’s decision to give the Sydney Airports Corporation the first right of refusal over construction and operation of the airport.

This was part of the deal to lease Kingsford Smith Airport.

It was not a part of the original consideration, and it is up to others to justify this provision.

Nonetheless, the current Coalition Government is delivering on its contractual obligation to negotiate with SACL, as it should.

This is a commercial negotiation.

Having been involved in commercial negotiations while in government, I know it will be unhelpful for me to provide commentary on what should happen at this point.

Instead, let me be crystal clear.

Federal Labor strongly supports the Government securing maximum public benefit on price, design and operating parameters.

I note that the Government said in December that SACL had four months to decide whether to exercise its option over this project.

I urge the Government to press on and resolve this matter as soon as possible.

If SACL chooses not to exercise its option, Labor would support the Government pursuing other options, such as forming a company to build the airport itself.

That company could later be sold to a private operator.

This model is similar to that is being used to deliver the Moorebank Intermodal project established by the former Labor Government.


While Federal Labor supports the development of the new airport, bipartisanship should not preclude differences of opinion, particularly on planning issues that are critical to the airport’s success.

Labor welcomes the Government’s 2014 decision to begin upgrading roads around the site.

However, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the Government is unwilling to guarantee the airport will be connected to Sydney passenger rail network from the day it opens.

On current planning, construction of the Western Sydney Airport would include provision for the retrofitting of a passenger rail link at some unspecified time in the future.

We’ve heard vague plans about a rail connection, but no details or firm commitments.

That’s not good enough.

This lack of resolve threatens to limit the potential of the project.

If we expect people to use this airport, it should be accessible by public transport.

But there are strong economic reasons for a rail link.

It would allow us to maximise opportunities to access value capture to help pay for construction.

The airport operator will have an opportunity to develop a world-class piece of infrastructure.

Frankly even if the Airport was not being built, north-south connections for Western Sydney make sense.

The station to the north of the Airport would be located at the Science Park I have mentioned.

If the Airport is connected to rail from day one, the benefit of that connection can be reflected in the operator’s lease negotiations with other businesses.

There is no time for delay.

We need to commit to rail now, so that these economic benefits are factored into negotiations at the earliest possible stage.

The most obvious option of a rail link is an extension of the existing passenger line from Leppington through to the western line near St Marys via Badgerys Creek.

This would allow passengers as well as workers at the airport and associated businesses easier access and complete a loop line around Sydney, improving public transport services throughout the region.

Indeed, completion of the loop would be necessary even without the development of the airport.

The existence of the rail link would also increase land values of the nearby state-owned employment lands.

We’ve heard a lot of talk about value capture recently.

But there have been few examples of its utilisation.

The Western Sydney Airport looms as a perfect candidate.

It simple. The amount of value captured – and the benefit to the public purse and the quality of the project – will be higher with a rail connection than without one.

Beyond the contractual implications that come with a rail connection, the experts tell us that the development of an aerotropolis is all but impossible without public transport.

John Kasarda is the Director of the Business School at the University of North Carolina.

In some circles he is known as the Father of the Aerotropolis because of his extensive work in the economics of airport development.

In a report published for the NSW Business Council published in 2015, Dr Kasarda insisted that the success of an aerotropolis depended on good surface transport.

Dr Kasarda describes surface transport as the “the skeleton’’ upon which muscle can attach and grow around airports.

He also links the quality of surface transport to the willingness of private sector to invest, noting that airports which successfully minimise last-mile costs are more attractive to investors looking to minimise risk.

Similarly, a report by David Klingberg, the CEO of David Lock Associates, also describes improved rail capacity as critical to the development of the aerotropolis model.

Mr Klingberg points out that the lack of a rail connection to the Western Sydney Airport would make it difficult for people to move between it and the Sydney CBD and the existing Kingsford Smith airport.

Mr Klingberg’s advice is simple: “It needs to be done once – and done properly’’.

Building a Western Sydney Airport that is ready for connection to rail some time far off into the future will limit the success of this important project.

It will limit job creation.

Western Sydney needs a world-class airport – not a second-rate facility that fails to realise its potential because governments lacked the vision to invest in the infrastructure required to support its growth.


While there is substantial road construction taking place associated with the Airport, there is a need to plan for future economic growth.

The construction of the M9 or outer ring road has been identified by planners as necessary infrastructure for Western Sydney.

It would connect the region directly with the Central Coast and Illawarra and allow for productivity benefits by being located outside the existing M7 motorway.

Infrastructure Australia identified its importance as a national project.

The planning and pre-construction work should be progressed in the 2017 Budget.


Thanks to the vision of the Hawke Labor Government in securing the Badgerys Creek site in 1986 and limiting surrounding development, the airport will be located well away from residential development.

However, aircraft still make noise.

It is important we engage very closely with surrounding communities to develop a world-class noise mitigation plan, including the creation of a night time no-fly zone.

Last year, Bill Shorten and I announced Labor’s plan for a no-fly zone between 11pm and 6am.

It will be possible to ensure simultaneous operations for take offs and landings to the south-west of the runway, stopping flights over residential communities at night.

I’m pleased to say the Government, after initially rejecting this idea, has embraced it.

That’s another example of bi-partisanship in the public interest. This project is simply too important to be compromised by political posturing.

We can also reduce noise through innovative design.

In 2003 sound engineers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport noticed a significant reduction in aircraft noise each autumn, when farmers began ploughing their fields.

Convinced the furrows were absorbing noise, the airport hired a landscaper to replicate the effect all year round by digging 150 symmetrical furrows in a nearby 32ha site green belt known as the Buitenschot Land Park.

It looks not unlike the design of a radio or recording studio.

Since the park opened a few years ago, aircraft noise has dropped by half, with noise hitting the furrows and then being bounced toward the sky.

And in a double pay-off for the community, the park has become a popular recreational area, featuring bikeways and walking tracks.

That’s the kind of thinking we need at Badgerys Creek.

We are working with a Greenfields site here. There will be no excuse not to embrace world-class design principles.

Equally, the process of consulting the local community must also be world-class.


Let me leave you today by pointing out a significant challenge related to the airport that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Aircraft need aviation fuel. A Boeing 747, for example, requires 12 litres of fuel per kilometer travelled.

There are only two possible ways to get aviation fuel to Western Sydney.

One is by using trucks, which will add to traffic congestion. The other is by building a pipeline.

This is a serious issue and it needs to be confronted now, in consultation with the community.


There’s an old saying that if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

It reminds me of a concept put forward by the US time management expert Alan Lakein, who once wrote:
Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.

In 2017, we owe it to future Australians get the planning right for the Western Sydney Airport.

We have bipartisanship.

We have the vision.

What we need now is the resolve to turn that vision into reality.


Feb 10, 2017

Speech to the Tom Uren Memorial Foundation for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – Sydney

Australia must play its part in abolishing nuclear weapons

In 1961 John F Kennedy told the United Nations:

Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.

It is incredible to think that almost six decades on, this threat still exists.

We must continue to dedicate ourselves to eliminating this threat.

Every nation has a responsibility to work for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Australia is no exception.

That is why the work of ICAN in Australia and around the world, in helping to progress the disarmament agenda, is so important.

I come to this debate with the benefit of the testimony of a man who saw the horror of nuclear weapons first hand.

Tom Uren was imprisoned in a POW camp on the island of Omuta on 9 August 1945.

Just after 11am, the US detonated an atomic bomb over the city of Nagasaki about 80km away.

Estimates of the death toll ranged between 40,000 and 80,000.

That’s men, women and children. Nuclear weapons don’t discriminate.

Tom witnessed the explosion.

He later said:

It reminded me of those beautiful crimson skies of sunsets in Central Australia, but magnified about 10 times stronger, and it’s vividly … it’s never left me.

As you know, in October last year, the United Nations adopted a resolution to convene a UN conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

One hundred and twenty-three nations voted in favour of this resolution.

What is disappointing and unacceptable is that that Australia was not one of the countries that voted in favour of this resolution.

ICAN is right to herald this resolution as a potential breakthrough, after decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts.

Thanks to leaders like Tom Uren, Bruce Childs and Robert Tickner, the Labor Party has a proud tradition of advocacy for disarmament.

People like Melissa Parke and many others have tried to build on that legacy and maintain that struggle.

The Labor Party’s platform affirms our belief, committing our party to work toward the end of nuclear weapons and supporting the negotiation of a global treaty banning such weapons.

It says Labor will encourage the pursuit of further substantial reductions of nuclear arsenals and promote the development of processes to bring all nuclear armed states into the disarmament process.

As a non-nuclear armed nation and a good international citizen, Australian can make a significant contribution to promoting disarmament, the reduction of nuclear stockpiles and the responsible use of nuclear technology.

Indeed, our nation has a proud history of activism on the international stage, including in efforts to ban chemical and biological weapons and land mines.

We have now reached a time where an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations are ready to outlaw nuclear weapons, just as the world outlawed chemical and biological weapons and land mines.

There is no reason why we should not be providing leadership in the effort to ban nuclear weapons.

Australia must play our part.

Malcolm Turnbull should commit to attending the 2017 negotiating conference.

If Australia fails to participate, this will tarnish our international reputation as a disarmament supporter and, in doing so, fail to act to promote safety in our world.

So tonight, let us all recommit ourselves to supporting the work of ICAN and to seizing the present opportunity to make real progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons.


Jan 27, 2017

Address to the Chinese New Year Eve celebrations – Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land on which we meet and pay respects to elders past and present.

On behalf of Bill Shorten and the entire the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, I wish the Australian Chinese community a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year.

This year we celebrate the Year of the Rooster. The Year of the Rooster is associated with a hard working mentality, courage, talent, humour and honesty – I hope you and your family and friends enjoy these qualities in abundance.

Tonight, as we savour the colour and spectacle, the flavours and magic of this celebration.

We join each other in putting aside the regrets and sadness of the old year just passed and we look forward with optimism and hope to a new year of greater health and happiness for the people we love.

In doing so, Australians everywhere are celebrating more than the beginning of a new year.

We celebrate the continuation of an old and continuing friendship between Australia and China.

A relationship that was established and set in stone by the ‘father’ of Australia-China relations, Gough Whitlam.

And we celebrate all of you, the people who have made it possible.

There’s an old Chinese proverb we like to quote in the Labor Party:

“When you go to the well to draw water, remember who dug the well”.

Tonight – we celebrate the bravery, creativity and hard work of all who have gone before us.

The Chinese community has a fascinating chapter in our Australian story. Each and every one of you has a story.  A story told in your families.  A story of working hard, taking risks, building communities and making sacrifices so your children can enjoy a better future.

We celebrate the marvellous contributions Chinese Australians have made to our great nation.  In every facet and field of our national life we are a better, bigger, bolder and a smarter country because of the contribution you and your fellow Chinese Australians have made.

Chinese New Year is also a time for all Australians to celebrate the gifts the Chinese community has given us and also a time for us all to rejoice in the rich success of the multicultural society we have built together.

Citizens serving our community, contributing to the common good and making the country we live in a better place.

I trust that each and every one of you will celebrate Chinese New Year with a family feast, along with many sweets, gifts and fireworks.

May the Year of the Rooster bring good fortune and good health to you all.

Best wishes for the year of the rooster – Gōng xǐ fā cái, Jī nián dà jí. 

Happy Year of the Rooster.

Dec 4, 2016

Speech to NSW Country Labor Conference – Taking the ball up – Dubbo

On Friday when I got to Sydney Airport, a Labor supporter stopped me and said I must be glad to be home for the weekend after such a big sitting week in Canberra.

“Actually, I’m going to Dubbo to address the Country Labor Conference”, I told him.

“That’s Tiger Country,’’ he responded. “You won’t win many votes there”.

With respect, he is wrong.

At a time of economic change and political realignment in Australia and abroad, rural and regional Australia is a place of opportunity for the Australian Labor Party.

The Orange Byelection demonstrated how the Coalition base feels it has been betrayed by its leadership.

We must take the ball up and challenge the Nationals in the Bush.

Seeking to advance Labor representation in the regions is of course in our political interest.

But more importantly, it’s in the interest of those fine Australians who live in regional Australia.

Growing our regional cities and towns is also in the interests of those who live in our capital cities.

If population growth continues to be concentrated, then the pressure on liveability in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in particular will cause significant stress.

Growth in regional Australia must be a central component of national economic, social and environmental policy.

And it has always fallen to Labor to provide that national leadership.

No issue has exemplified the need for Labor to step up more than the fiasco over the Backpacker Tax.

The 2015 budget saw a grand announcement by the Government to impose a 32.5 per cent tax on backpackers.

No consultation with farmers.

No consultation with the tourism sector.

No economic modelling or weighing the benefits of extra revenue against the likely impact on labour supply.

And no defence of regional Australia by the National Party.

For 18 months, in spite of farmers warning they weren’t planting crops because they would not have people to pick them, the uncertainty continued.

The sight of mangoes rotting on the ground was a graphic illustration of the Nationals and their city Tory masters’ betrayal of regional Australia.

Over the past month the Backpacker Tax has become the Backtracker Tax as they sought to justify the devastating impacts of their own arrogance and incompetence.

When Labor argued for a lower rate, they sought to hide behind economic nationalism by saying Australian workers would be paying higher taxes than backpackers.

They seem to have forgotten that Labor tripled the income tax free threshold to $18,200 and took a million people out of the tax system.

The overwhelming number of backpackers earn less than this and would pay the Backpacker Tax from the first dollar earned.

Then they even tried to argue that this 2015 Joe Hockey Budget measure was somehow not their initiative.

This after the Coalition had argued for more than a year that 32.5% was good for the economy.

Eventually the pressure got to them as they were mugged by reality as backpacker numbers went into freefall.

They then argued for 19 per cent.

Then they argued again for 32.5 per cent.

Then back down again to 15 per cent.

Then back up again to 32.5 per cent.

Finally, they did a deal with the Greens political Party for 15 per cent, but with a discount and new spending commitments that defeated the very purpose of the tax to begin with.

During this whole debacle, farmers and regional tourism operators couldn’t rely upon the National Party to stand up for their interests.

They certainly couldn’t rely on the Liberal Party.

They couldn’t even rely on the National Farmers Federation.

Only Labor stood up for their interests.

I want to pay tribute to the courage, determination and sheer tenacity of my mate Joel Fitzgibbon on this issue.

When Joel sees rural and regional communities under siege, he’s like a dog with a bone in defence of their interests.

There is no-one in our show I’d rather have next to me in the political trenches.

The regions can also rely on Justine Elliot, who has beaten the Nationals not once; not twice; not even three times; but five times.

They can rely on Mike Kelly, who took a term off chilling out in Eden Monaro before storming back into Parliament this year as the representative of the south-eastern corner of our great state. Great to have you back!

They can rely upon Meryl Swanson who has returned Paterson to the Labor fold.

They can rely upon Stephen Jones who now has the honour of being the Member for Whitlam and is out there every day advocating for regional services and regional communications.

Then there’s Sam Dastyari, Doug Cameron, Jenny McAllister and Deborah O’Neill – our energetic Senate team who travel the State working with branch members, unions and community members and taking local issues to Canberra.

They have been an effective voice for those in National and Liberal electorates whose local members let them down.

Farmers in particular have had to rely upon Fitzy and others to stand up for them.

One thing everyone knows about farmers is that they never throw anything away.

That must be why the National Party is still around. Farmers must be hoping that one day they might serve some useful purpose.

Barnaby Joyce is a bit like one of those old dinged-up paddock-basher cars you see on so many farms.

A bit of fun for the kids, makes a lot of noise… but no good at getting you anywhere.

Barnaby Joyce and his colleagues have sold out the bush.

And not just on Backpacker Tax.

On cuts to health;

Cuts to education;

Cuts to pensions;

Cuts to rail and road funding;

Cuts to road maintenance grants to councils;

In fact, his mate Mike Baird has sacked councils and left communities without elected representation for 18 months.

They’ve failed to progress the Inland Rail project.

Done nothing on High Speed Rail.

Ignored climate change.

And now Barnaby Joyce wants to ignore the Murray Darling Basin Plan, brokered by the former Labor Government to end more than a century of interstate conflict over water.

But perhaps worst of all, Barnaby is selling out the future of the bush by giving it 19th century, copper based Fraudband unfit for the challenges of the 21st century.

My message today is that Labor must capitalize on our opponent’s manifest failures.

The Nationals have left the door ajar.

It’s up to us to bash the door down and pile on through.

I look around this room today and I see people up to that very task.



To capitalize, we must remember that Labor is always at our best when we develop policies that target the aspirations of average Australians, wherever they live.

If you listened to our political opponents, whose creed in based on self-interest, you would think that the only thing to which Australians aspire is material wealth.

We all need to pay our bills.

But the fundamental aspiration of average Australians, wherever we live, is to build a society where our children will have better opportunities in life than we had.

We want access to decent health services.

Good schools and vocational training opportunities.


The ability to get ahead.

Australians don’t want a free ride. But they do want a fair go.

In 2016, Labor is better placed to meet these aspirations than our opponents.

We are the party of the fair go.

We created universal health care in this country.

We opened up the nation’s universities to all.

We created the social safety net.

The trade union representatives in this room have devoted their lives to ensuring that workers get treated with respect and they get a fair share for their labour.

Most importantly, we reject the conservative view that if government would just get out of the way and let the market rip, everything will be OK.

We believe government has a role in intervening to ensure that economic growth and prosperity is shared.



It is in our national economic interest to develop the potential of all Australians, wherever they live.

Entrenched inequality not only hurts individuals, it hurts our national economic growth.

The tyranny of distance has always made it difficult to achieve equity for the bush.

But technology is offering us opportunities to re-imagine rural and regional Australia in ways that enhance equity and promote prosperity.

Infrastructure investment and fibre based broadband is the key.

It is an essential component of decentralization of economic activity.

Infrastructure such as High Speed Rail for passengers and Inland Rail for freight will boost our regions.

High speed broadband boosts service delivery and connects rural and regional businesses to the global marketplace, which is critical as our nation looks beyond the mining sector for future job creation.

We hear pious rhetoric from Malcolm Turnbull about innovation and agility in the 21st century.

But there’s a huge gap between the rhetoric and reality.

His fraudband is slower and costs more.

Industries such as food production and advanced manufacturing offer real opportunities for jobs growth in regional Australia.

But these industries won’t prosper using 19th century copper-based tele-communications in the 21st century.

They won’t prosper without access to a trained workforce or without the railways, road and port infrastructure to get their products to market.

Yet this vision-free government is under-investing in education, trashing the vocational training sector and cutting infrastructure investment – down 20 per cent in its first two years in office.

That’s not the road to prosperity.

But to our opponents, the future is a foreign country.

Their ambition is to win elections to occupy office and prevent progress.

They want to leave the future to look after itself while they protect the contemporary interests of their donors from the top end of town.

But Labor is the party of the future.

So it is important that we ensure our policy platform addresses the future.

How we will create the jobs of the future.

How we will build better cities and regions.

How we will strengthen communities.

And how we will advance equity so we can deliver prosperity with fairness.



If we are serious about re-imagining our regions, we need to accept that unchecked climate change is a threat to our economic future as well as our natural environment.

We need to tackle it front on, not pretend it does not exist, as is the approach of our political opponents.

It would be a mistake to think that people in our regions support Barnaby Joyce’s denial of the existence of climate change.

Farmers see its effects every day.

That’s why last week the National Farmers Federation, previously reticent about recognizing climate change, shifted its policy to one of acceptance of the problem and the role of farmers in tackling it.

The NFF’s new president, Fiona Simpson, spent last week in Canberra unsuccessfully begging the Nationals to join her in the 21st century.

So the Nationals are now isolated on climate change in their own political heartland.

The shift reminds me of a phenomenon I have watched with amusement for my entire political life.

Labor is the party of progress.

We are always arguing for change to take our nation forward, while our opponents focus is on tearing down the gains of the past.

The problem conservatives face is that facts and public opinion always catch up with them and force them to face reality.

On issue after issue, Labor has taken positions and spent years being criticized by conservatives, until they finally accept and embrace our positions.

So it is with climate change.

Barnaby Joyce is not a farmer. He is an accountant – a populist snake oil merchant in the mould of his hero Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

Farmers have abandoned Mr Joyce on climate change because they know he is wrong in his denial and refusal to think beyond his immediate political interests.



I’m up for taking the ball up to Nationals and other conservative forces in the regions.

We need to expose people like George Christensen for the frauds that they are.

And when I say exposed I don’t mean like on the front page of the Good Weekend – which once seen, can never be unseen.

One of the last votes in the House of Representatives on Thursday night was consideration of a Senate proposal for a Royal Commission into the banks and financial services sector.

It had Labor support.

It had the unanimous support of the crossbench.

George Christensen had declared publicly all week he would cross the floor and support a Royal Commission.

He didn’t.

The proposal failed 75-74.

George Christensen – a lion in Mackay, but a mouse in Canberra.

Faced with a choice between the few bank executives on the top floor of CBD towers, and the many in regional Australia who have been victims of bad financial practices, George and his colleagues went with the top end of town – they always do.

So let’s redouble our efforts to be the voice for regional Australia, in this the NSW Branch of our great Party’s 125th year.

In that first election in 1891, Labor won a quarter of the seats including many in the bush.

Our values are the ones that will resonate in regional Australia, as more realise that conservatives’ values are not in their interests.

Only Labor will stand up for them.

Labor values.

Of support for jobs.

Opposition to the abuse of 457 visas to take Australian jobs.

Of support for decent working conditions which have been won by the trade union movement.

Of opposition to the attacks on penalty rates.

Support for every child in every school on the basis of need.

Support for TAFE.

Opposition to the shonky training providers.

Support for universal health care through Medicare.

Opposition to the privatisation of our hospitals and our health system.

Support for investing in infrastructure including High Speed Rail, Inland Rail and a fibre based NBN.

Support for completing the full duplication of the Pacific Highway, that they have slowed down.

Support for local roads funding.

Opposition to forced council amalgamations.

The entire team in Canberra led by Bill Shorten is committed to winning the next election and the key to that objective is winning in regional Australia.

We need a Government that truly represents the interests of all Australians, not just those with views of Sydney Harbour.

We need a Government that shares the values of the outstanding people in this room – you are here because you care about your community.

You want the next generation to have more opportunities than this one has, not less.

You care about the many, not just the few.

With your efforts, Labor can form a Government after the next election – one that makes you proud.

Let’s all commit ourselves to taking the ball up to our opponents every day, as if it’s the first ball return from a Grand Final kick off.

Nov 23, 2016

Speech to TTF Leadership Summit – Canberra

Australia is a truly remarkable country.

Its vastness. Its unique natural landscapes. The extraordinary history, which dates back more than 50,000 years. Australia is a country like no other.

Tim Winton, in his book Island Home, reflects on this.

He says, “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.”

You could hire a caravan, as many people do. Spend a year traversing Australia, but not come close to seeing all there is to see.

We’re still learning about our ancient country too.

Just the other week, I read an article about how a toilet break led to the discovery of a 49,000-year-old Aboriginal site in outback South Australia.

This find of artefacts and bones revealed that humans settled in inland Australia 10,000 years earlier than previously believed.

What a discovery.

Tourism has been a great beneficiary of the myriad of experiences that Australia offers.

In turn, our nation has profited immensely.

Tourism employs more than 1 million Australians and contributes $107 billion to the economy.

Every dollar spent on tourism generates another 92 cents in other parts of the economy.

Since the election, I’ve held a number of roundtables across the nation.

I’ve met with tourism operators in the Top End of Darwin and tropical Cairns.

I’ve met people in the Red Centre, Alice Springs as well as Big Rig town Roma and central western NSW in Orange.

At each of these, the ‘ask’ from operators has been simple.

We need more from the Federal Government. More support. More leadership. More investment.


Tourism has been recognised by Deloitte as one of five super growth sectors.

That’s because it represents three percent of Australia’s GDP.

Domestic tourism, additionally, makes up 75 percent of the total direct tourism GDP.

People are overwhelmingly choosing Australia as their tourist destination.

International visitor numbers in Australia are rising.

In the twelve months to August 2016, ABS overseas arrivals figures show that nearly eight million international visitors came to Australia.

Incredibly, this is a 10.9 per cent increase over the previous year.

We’ve seen record growth of over 20 per cent from China, Japan and South Korea, and 17.4 per cent from the USA.

We have a real opportunity at hand.

It just needs the industry and governments to work together to ensure tourism maintains its place as a super-growth sector well into the future.


There’s a reason why I hold the Tourism portfolio in addition to Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development.

This decision ensures a focus on cross-portfolio and agency cooperation and engagement.

It provides a strategic advantage for the tourism sector, by linking it with interdependent areas of government.

It also means tourism has a seat at the Cabinet table.

And you certainly wouldn’t see the sector treated as an after-thought as the current Government has done.

We take tourism seriously.

We also understand that ensuring the right infrastructure is in place is essential to growing tourism.

Our airports and public transport systems have a significant impact on whether or not people enjoy their stay in Australia.

Regardless of whether you are an international visitor from Guangzhou in China or a domestic tourist from Bundarra in northern New South Wales; our bus, train, tram and ferry networks should be easy to navigate.

This includes in our two biggest cities; Sydney and Melbourne.

One million visitors used public transport last year in Australia.

The fact is international cities need world class public transport.

Think of the signature international examples: New York Subway, the Paris Metro and the London Tube.

We should be on that list.

The national government needs to invest in public transport.

That’s why, at the election, Labor committed to projects in each major city, including a rail link to Western Sydney’s airport from day one, the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, Perth METRONET, Hobart’s urban regeneration and Adelaide’s AdeLINK.

Our airports need to be part of this focus on infrastructure.

After all, airports are the first experience anyone has in Australia unless, of course, you’ve come by cruise ship.

Currently our four largest cities are all undergoing aviation expansion, with plans for new runways in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Sydney will have a whole new airport.

But there’s more that can be done.

For instance Cairns Airport has plans to expand. It is the sort of project that could make a good candidate for Federal Government concessional finance.

At the election we put forward our plan for a $1 billion Northern Australia Tourism Infrastructure Fund. It was to back projects like this.

Along with our major capital airports’ physical expansion, there are increasing opportunities for other airports to host international flights. Recently we’ve seen Canberra open up its airport for international flights to and from Singapore and New Zealand.

We’ve seen it at Cairns, Townsville and the Sunshine Coast. This month, Cathay Pacific has picked up freight from Wellcamp Airport near Toowoomba and taken it directly to Hong Kong.

And in the future we could include international flights to and from airports at Avalon, Newcastle and Hobart.

The spectacular growth of the cruise shipping industry – including local and international cruises – is also creating demand for expanded infrastructure in our harbours and ports.

We need to ensure we’re in the position to respond to this.


It could well be my bias, having lived there my whole life, but Sydney is one of the greatest urban landscapes in Australia.

From time to time I’ll take the Manly ferry, which for about $7, or less if you’re a student, child or senior, gives you the best vantage point of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

If you’re lucky, as I have been once or twice, you’ll even see dolphins race the ferry towards Manly.

Australia offers diverse tourism experiences.

That’s why making sure our cities are productive, sustainable and liveable is critical.

It’s not just because it makes a difference to the lives of people who live there, but it also shapes the tourist experience.

I often talk about the concept of a 30-minute city.

In 2014 at the National Press Club I released Labor’s ten point plan to achieve this.

It recognises the need to create employment centres outside CBDs, protect our urban environment, address the issue of housing affordability and ensure our cities have integrated public and active transport systems.

But it is also relevant to tourism because we have so much to showcase in our cities beyond their CBDs.

For instance, in Werribee, outside Melbourne, you can go to the Open Range Zoo.

And of course outside our CBDs you can find fantastic restaurants embedded in suburbs – a testimony to our success as a multicultural nation.

We should be making it easier for tourists in our cities to spend money in the suburbs to further grow the economy of these areas.


People come to Australia because they want a different experience.

This is particularly the case for Chinese tourists and Australia has seen faster arrivals growth from China than any other market.

The rise of the middle class means that Chinese tourists are spending $8.9 billion here in Australia, which is almost 25 percent of spending by all foreign visitors.

We’re seen as a premier destination, and why wouldn’t we be?

We appeal to people of all ages, including millennial visitors who make up a third of those who come from China.

Perhaps some of you will be familiar with the 2014 lavender bear craze.

Bobby the Bear is produced at Bridestowe Lavender Farm in Tasmania, achieved international status after Chinese model Zhang Xinyu posted a picture of herself with the bear on her social media accounts.

Following this newfound stardom, the owner of the estate, unable to keep up with demand, was forced to ration buyers to only one bear each.

The fact is social media, advancements in technology, and people’s connectedness with the world, means people have all the information they need at their fingertips.

On Instagram, you can search a place before you even go to see what sort of experiences people have had.

We need to be keeping up to date with these advancements. We need to be innovative and, most of all, we need to be competitive.


This issue of competitiveness is at the heart of Labor’s position on the backpacker tax and Passenger Movement Charge increase.

The truth is, the Coalition has treated the tourism sector with contempt.

We took to the election, as did the Coalition, a commitment to not increase the Passenger Movement Charge.

We stuck by our promise – they back flipped.

Just weeks before the Coalition made this announcement; the Minister for Tourism told the Parliament that previous increases in the Passenger Movement Charge were, “choking the golden goose that is Australia’s tourism industry.”

What an incredible turnaround in such a short space of time.

The Government’s proposal to increase the Passenger Movement Charge is an example of bad policy that has been created on the run, without economic modelling or consultation.

Australia already has the second highest Passenger Movement Charge after the UK.

And if you actually take into account short haul sectors, Australia’s Passenger Movement Charge is higher than the UK.

What’s more, the PMC raises nearly $1 billion each year.

According to TTF, this is $750 million more than it costs to provide passenger facilitation services at our international gateways.

It’s not like tourism already isn’t playing its part in contributing to the economy.

Instead of taxing tourism more we should be looking at ways to grow the sector.

We took the Working Holidaymaker Reform Package to a Senate Inquiry because we wanted to make sure there was an opportunity for consultation.

We listened to the industry.

You rejected the Passenger Movement Charge increase, which our position rightly reflects.

The only other comment I want to make is that at the election we actually released a policy.

We put forward our plan for tourism, which looked at urban and regional areas.

We flagged proposals deserving of investment. We set out a plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

We spoke about visa reform and we spoke about Indigenous tourism opportunities.

We also said we would invest in marketing, research, skills and training.


We have enormous opportunity to grow the tourism industry in Australia.

Industry representatives, like the Tourism and Transport Forum play a critical role in making sure your voice is heard at a national level.

It’s also been good to see such a united response to the Government’s attack on the sector.

I will certainly continue to put the case for national leadership and investment in tourism, and I look forward to working with all of you over the next term of Parliament.

Nov 22, 2016

Speech to Masters Builders Australia Dinner – Investing in the Future

We meet at an important time in the evolution of the national economy.

Australia is continuing its move out of the investment stage of the mining boom.

We need to create new industries.

And we need to stimulate existing sectors to secure the new jobs necessary to maintain or improve living standards.

Standing in our way is an infrastructure deficit built up over many years of inadequate investment, particularly during the Howard era, when windfall tax gains driven by the mining boom were squandered on middle class welfare rather than Nation Building.

Addressing this infrastructure deficit is critical if we are to reshape our economy.

The new Australian industries of the future will go nowhere without the railways, roads and ports they will need to get their products to market.

Similarly, no business, new or existing, will thrive in the 21st century as long as it is shackled by a 19th Century copper-based communication system.

It is important that we make the right investment calls now.

It’s about jobs for the future.

My message tonight is that now is the time for the Commonwealth to lift infrastructure investment right across the nation.

There are two reasons.

The first is that if we choose the right projects – those that provide a return to the public – we can extract productivity gains that will allow us to get more out of existing resources.

Those gains will also set up new waves of growth into the future.

But there is also a short-term imperative.

You don’t create entire new industries overnight.

During this period of economic transition, we must seek to maintain economic activity and sustain employment.

Government investment in the right infrastructure projects will do just that.


Of course, for decades governments have used public works to drive economic growth.

An example is the former Labor Government’s use of economic stimulus in response to the Global Financial Crisis.

Our investment kept Australians employed and kept our nation out of the recession that caused so much misery overseas.

It came in a period when we were already lifting infrastructure investment to make up for the deficit we inherited from the Howard era.

During our six years in office, the former Labor Government increased per capita infrastructure investment from $132 to $225.

When Labor took Government in 2007, Australia was 20th on a list of OECD nations in terms of infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP.

When we left office, Australia was 1st.

But times have changed.

The difference between then and now is that current options for economic stimulus are more limited given our very low interest rates.

Indeed, in recent speeches two Reserve Bank Governors – the incumbent Philip Lowe and his predecessor Glenn Stevens – have warned that the effectiveness of monetary policy as a means of economic stimulus is limited in current circumstances.

Both have stressed that the Government should consider borrowing to fund good infrastructure projects that provide a solid public benefit in return for the investment.


That’s why it is disappointing that the current Federal Government has significantly reduced infrastructure investment since it took office.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show total public sector investment fell 20 per cent in the Government’s first two years in office.

More recent figures confirm the downward trend.

In its 2014 Budget the Government committed to $8 billion in infrastructure investment in the 2015-16 financial year.

It even spent public money producing an extravagant propaganda video  pointing to its Budget as evidence of record investment.

But the facts have caught up with the rhetoric.

The Final Budget Outcome document for 2015-16 shows the Government invested $5.5 billion on infrastructure – $2.5 billion less than planned.

And that included a $490 payment to the Western Australian Government as compensation for movements in the carve-up of GST.

In the previous financial year, the Government underspent its Budget by $1 billion.

So it is clear then that whatever the Government says it is going to spend, it is having great difficulty getting the money out the door.

Whether the cuts are being made by choice or because of incompetence, the outcome is the same – the Government is failing to step up to the task of economic stimulus.

Fancy videos and press releases don’t create jobs or economic activity.

You need to actually invest, not just talk about it.

This Government’s reduction in investment has been achieved via a combination of scrapping, delaying and slowing down projects.

Scrapping, delaying and slowing.

It scrapped all public transport projects not underway when it took office, including the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project.

It delayed commencement of projects like the M80 in Melbourne and Adelaide’s South Road.

It slowed investment in the ongoing Bruce and Pacific Highway upgrades.

Instead of scrapping, delaying and slowing, Australia needs to initiate, bring forward and speed up infrastructure development.


I mentioned earlier that former reserve Bank chairman Glenn Stevens had advocated consideration of increased government infrastructure investment on what he called “the right projects’’.

Mr Stevens was correct to make that distinction.

In politics there is always a temptation for governments to invest on the basis of the electoral map, rather than according to which projects provide the greatest benefit to the entire economy.

But the good news is that a process exists to allow us to identify good projects.

When the former Labor Government took office in 2007, we created Infrastructure Australia.

Its task is to assess infrastructure proposals and advise the Government about which projects provide the greatest return for the investment.

By the time we left Government in 2013, IA had conducted rigorous analysis of most major projects on the infrastructure landscape.

It had determined which projects were the right projects and the order in which they should be delivered.

However, the incoming Coalition Government ignored the IA priority list.

It scrapped the public transport projects Labor had funded, including those which had been positively assessed by Infrastructure Australia and declared ready to go.

And it redirected that funding to proposed toll roads which had not been properly assessed and were not ready to go.

One of those was Melbourne’s scrapped East West Link proposal, which would have produced only 45 cents benefit for every dollar invested.

Backing bad projects makes no sense.


Rapid population growth is continuing to drive strong demand for housing in this country, particularly in the outer suburbs of our major cities, where housing is affordable.

At the same time, employment growth is strengthening in and around CBDs of our major cities.

As a result, more and more Australians are facing longer commuting trips and traffic congestion is acting as a hand brake on economic growth.

Indeed, Infrastructure Australia has warned that without government action now, traffic congestion will cost the nation $53 billion a year by 2031 in lost productivity.

We must act.

It’s not just about the economy.

It’s also about the Australian quality of life.

It’s a tragedy that many working parents spend more time in their cars traveling to and from work than they spend at home playing with their kids.

Part of the answer is increased investment in public transport.

We need to build the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Link, AdeLINK, the Perth METRONET and the extension of the Sydney rail network to the proposed Badgerys Creek Airport.

We also need better roads, particularly in outer suburban areas.

We have an opportunity to get ahead of the game here; to guide development in ways that work for the community.

That is why in the election campaign, Labor committed to work with developers and the NSW Government to upgrade Appin Road in Western Sydney.

This is another example of getting ahead of the game – delivering the infrastructure before the congestion develops.

I’m pleased to say that the Government has adopted this initiative.


Let me turn to the broader issue of urban policy.

Four out of five Australians live in cities.

That’s why for many years Labor has held the strong view that there is a role for the Commonwealth in working with states to promote urban productivity, sustainability and liveability.

In Government we focused heavily on urban policy, creating a Major Cities Unit and working with other levels of government to provide policy leadership on issues including planning, active travel and urban design as well as direct investment.

We allocated more money to urban public transport than all previous Commonwealth governments combined.

It’s a shame that when the Coalition took office, Tony Abbott abandoned cities policy.

However, his successor, Malcolm Turnbull, says he is interested in cities.

He has proposed the creation of UK-style City Deals to enhance co-operation on urban development between different levels of government.

However, I am concerned that so far, we are yet to see exactly what the Prime Minister is talking about when he mentions City Deals.

The three announced so far – for Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney – are light on detail.

Indeed, all were announced after Labor came up with specific investment proposals for infrastructure in those cities.

City Deals could provide a genuine opportunity to achieve better outcomes.

But only if they are done properly.

If they are simply used as a mechanism to cover up for policy shortcomings, they won’t work.

The critical component in City Deals is local engagement.

Yet in the case of the Western Sydney proposal, for example, local councils in the area have not even been consulted on the plans.

Commenting on City Deals earlier this year Ken Morrison from the Property Council said:

We want to see City Deals implemented in Australia, but the deals must be based on rigor. We don’t want to see quick deals, we want to see good deals that draw out the economic strengths and potential of a city and drive change where it is needed. Both sides of politics must resist the temptation to turn City Deals into a ‘pork barrel’ or a prize to be awarded to marginal seats.

I fear this is occurring.

Rather than engaging in a matching funding exercise, the Government should be focusing on proper process, using international best practice as its guide.


Let me finish on a note of optimism.

I’ve got great faith in this country and its ability to be successful in a highly competitive world.

We are a lucky country.

We have been blessed with mineral resources that have helped sustain economic prosperity and rising living standards.

We have high living standards, including good health and education systems.

We have fantastic natural resources which boost our quality of life and make our nation attractive to visitors from around the world.

And across a range of fields, we have skilled, creative people with the ability to innovate and take the nation forward.

But to take full advantage of all of these positives, we need to ensure our infrastructure is fit for purpose.

We must take a mature approach to investing in the national interest.

That requires all levels of government to work together and with the private sector to ensure that the investment of today creates the prosperity of tomorrow.