Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Speeches"
Nov 14, 2016

Speech to National Growth Areas Alliance Conference – Growing Our Outer Suburbs for the Future – Wanneroo

I grew up in the heart of urban industrial Sydney.

Workers’ cottages lined narrow streets and warehouses hummed with activity as they spat out packed crates of textiles, biscuits, flour and other products onto the streets ready for delivery.

In recent decades, much of this neighbourhood that I know so well has changed.

Warehouses have been converted, cafes have popped up and traffic crawls its way down Parramatta Road.

Yet each and every time I drive down Pyrmont Bridge Road, Camperdown, past the home in which I grew up, I feel an overwhelming sense of familiarity.

I, like every other person, have been shaped by place.

And place is shaped by people.

Socrates, as early as the 5th century BC, made this connection between the power of place and strength of community.

He said: By far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities.

Today this wisdom is required more than ever before.

The decisions we make, as architects, planners and governments matter.

They shape place and people.

Our cities are in a state of change, rapidly growing outward.

But the question is, can we plan for this growth, or must we always be responding?

Infrastructure is the key to this puzzle.

Instead of sitting back to see where the houses go up, we should be using infrastructure to guide growth in our outer suburbs.

The National Growth Areas Alliance over the past year has campaigned tirelessly for just this – a ‘”fair go for outer suburbs’’ – and I congratulate you on this campaign.

Each of our capitals has its own geography, history and growth challenges.

In that context, NGAA’s thoughtful work to nominate the best value projects in the outer suburbs was something we took note of and acted on during the recent election.

Local government is the closest level of government to people, and it is well placed to understand local priorities for managing growth.

In Sydney there is an opportunity around the new Western Sydney Airport.

A rail line should connect the airport to the existing network from day one of the new airport opening.

But this isn’t just about the airport.

It’s about connecting Sydney’s fastest growing areas in the northwest and southwest to job opportunities around the new airport, the nearby employment lands, and to back in initiatives like the Sydney Science Park.

We also committed to fixing Appin Road and working with the private sector to open up new residential opportunities in that corridor.

In Melbourne, our key commitment was the Metro.

This is critical, because increasing capacity on the inner Melbourne loop will allow many more train services from outer Melbourne in places like Frankston.

We also prioritised key NGAA priorities to the north of Melbourne – including Bridge Inn Road at Mernda, addressing capacity constraints at Craigieburn Road and O’Herns Road.

In addition we added to the Victorian Government’s earlier commitment to Thompsons Road.

In Government we invested $1.43 billion on the M80.

The Coalition cut that on coming to office, and we committed to finishing the job we had begun.

We also committed to increase capacity on the Monash Freeway. In Brisbane we committed to the Cross River Rail, which will facilitate greater carrying capacity from the existing outer parts of the Brisbane network.

This in turn will also take pressure off roads.

We also committed to the M1 Pacific Motorway-Gateway merge project, and the Rocklea to Darra section of the Ipswich Motorway to remove bottlenecks around Brisbane.

Perth is predicted to have seven of the ten most congested corridors in the nation by 2031.

Labor backed the METRONET project, which will extend the existing heavy rail network to outer Perth areas, including north of Yanchep and south to Byford.

We also proposed funding for overpasses to the north of Perth – on Wanneroo Rd and the Roe Highway.

To the south of Perth we added Armadale Rd Bridge – a key element of the ConnectSouth project, connecting Cockburn and Armadale.

This would facilitate new economic activity in a fast-growing area.

In Adelaide, we committed to finish the Gawler electrification by restoring funding to the project that the Coalition cut in 2014.

And in Hobart we committed to a Greater Hobart Transport Plan that addresses emerging congestion, including a new bus interchange and a revamped ferry pier to connect the city with the eastern shore.

My job, over the next term of Parliament is to fight for this critical investment in infrastructure.

Your job is to ensure your voice, and the voices of the many millions of people you represent, continue to be an unavoidable part of the Government’s deliberation.

OUR CITIES TODAY

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.

This has exacerbated the issue of urban congestion, which Infrastructure Australia says will cost the nation $53 billion in lost productivity by 2031 if left unchecked.

Australia’s rapid growth in urban population, coupled with the growing challenge of housing affordability, has meant people in our outer suburbs are wearing the brunt of these challenges.

Increasingly, people are being forced to work in or near the city and commute to drive-in, drive-out suburbs where they can find a house but can’t find a job.

We know this is taking a toll on the nation’s economy in terms of lost productivity.

But what we don’t always recognise is the way this permeates the everyday lives of people living in our cities.

It is so much harder to spend time with your family, go for a walk, get odd jobs done, if you are spending more than three hours a day commuting.

It’s a tragedy that many parents spend more time in their cars driving to and from work than they spend at home playing with their kids.

There’s also another issue at hand.

Our sprawling development patterns have resulted in significant fragmentation as we struggle to grow our cities in a compact way.

This too often means our outer suburbs are left without the infrastructure and community facilities they need.

INVESTING IN OUR OUTER SUBURBS

I’m sure I’m not the only person here to have read Lisa Pryor’s recent piece on Australia’s urban experience in The New York Times.

In this Pryor said:

The passion for well-designed communities needs to be directed outward instead of inward, geographically and in spirit. We need to let go of some of our resources; we need to learn to share.

I couldn’t agree more.

By achieving this we unlock the enormous potential of our outer suburbs.

Melbourne’s Regional Rail Link is the perfect example of investing in outer suburbs prior to people living there.

It included new stations at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale.

I am proud of the fact that this was the largest ever federal investment in an urban public transport project.

Effectively, it untangles the lines used by Melbourne’s suburban railway lines from those used by regional services to and from Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.

It has added 54,000 seats and saves the Victorian economy $300 million a year.

We built this project in anticipation of future growth in Melbourne’s outer suburbs.

It’s an approach that should be applied to each of our cities.

Right now, Western Sydney is crying out for the same type of investment.

Western Sydney has more people living in the region than Adelaide and Perth combined.

It is a city in and of itself, which is why I can’t understand why governments won’t commit to resourcing it as such.

This includes ensuring the rail line to Western Sydney’s airport is ready to go from day one of its opening.

It’s basic commonsense.

We have an opportunity to get this project right; to ensure people have access to the employment opportunities that come with an aerotropolis.

This is important because when we put all our talk of productivity and the economy to the side, we need to remember that when we lift an area, we also lift its people.

This equally applies to the issue of drive-in drive-out suburbs, which I mentioned earlier.

Business as usual won’t work as a strategy for dealing with this challenge.

We need to think of new ways to ensure people don’t need to spend as long commuting to and from work.

Part of this involves improving both public transport and its facilities in these locations.

During the election we committed to a Park and Ride Access Fund in Melbourne to boost car parking capacity at high- use train stations.

We also wanted to make sure funding would be available for new stations where demand growth is expected.

In Sydney, we committed to commuter parking at Schofields Station.

In the scheme of things, these are relatively small investments, but we know they make a practical difference.

Another way to reduce the distance people commute is to create alternate hubs of economic activity across a city.

In my 2014 speech to the National Press Club I spoke about the concept of the 30-minute city.

This is the simple idea that most of people’s day to day work, educational, shopping or recreational activities should be located within 30 minutes walking, cycling or public commuting from their homes.

Our outer suburbs should be vibrant, lively places, not dormitories where people simply rest between commutes.

These two strategies would go part of the way to addressing this challenge.

CITY DEALS City Deals provide an opportunity for investment in our outer suburbs, but only if they are done properly.

The British examples show the potential that exists when all levels of government work together to encourage the economic growth of a region.

Part of this arrangement is that local governments receive support from the national government in recognition that such local investment produces a return to Federal revenue.

That’s why local governments must be at the core of this equation and engaged from day one.

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 rigour. 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.

SMART INVESTMENT

We should be using best practice to guide all infrastructure investment.

Smart, evidence-based decisions on investment is the most effective way to ensure positive outcomes in our cities, particularly our outer suburbs.

Earlier this year I announced Labor’s plan to broaden the role of Infrastructure Australia in two ways.

As well as looking at the economic benefits of proposals through cost-benefit analyses, we said the Government should require projects to address two new criteria.

First, proponents should show what provision for smart infrastructure has been included to ensure maximum benefit is achieved from any investment.

Secondly, projects should be required to include in their design measures that improve their sustainability, including provision for active transport where appropriate.

In some cases this is already occurring.

Water companies, like Queensland Urban Utilities and Yarra Valley Water, are maximizing the potential of their assets by using smart technology including drones and software like TaKaDu.

And Melbourne’s Regional Rail Link has provision for active transport at the new stations where secure bike lockers are available.

BUILDING RESILIENCE

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

So is climate change.

We should be including 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 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.

Many local governments are already taking a leading role in tackling this issue.

The City of Melbourne 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.

By ensuring our growth areas have parks, open space and water features we not only build more attractive places to live, but more resilient cities.

Internationally, cities are grappling with this issue of sustainable development.

Many of you will be aware of the 100 Resilient Cities Network pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.

As part of this cities apply to join and develop resilience strategies.

These strategies aim to prepare cities for the challenges of the future, so they are more productive, sustainable and liveable. One such is example is Berkeley in the United States.

It’s one of many cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region which is expected to grow by two million residents over the next 25 years.

Berkeley’s biggest challenge is ensuring the seismic safety of its buildings and that residents are equipped to respond to earthquakes.

However at the same time, the city is also looking at innovative ways to mitigate the effects of climate change, with a focus on water management.

Berkeley is also looking to play a role across the region in partnership with other nearby cities.

The city is also assessing the feasibility of using groundwater sources as back-up water supply and capturing stormwater.

In addition Berkeley is hoping to change behaviour by developing rainwater catchment incentive programs for residents and businesses.

The city will also look at access to reclaimed water for street cleaning and other uses.

In Australia, we have an opportunity to consider how to best use our natural resources in green field development.

Water should be at the heart of this strategy.

We should be making sure all new developments include water sensitive design.

It’s more economical, and has huge environmental benefit.

Melbourne, too, has developed a resilience strategy through the Rockefeller Foundation.

Issues of sustainability are 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 critical 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 city’s resilience strategy includes a series of actions to ensure Melbourne meets its objective.

It’s great to see Melbourne leading the way with such a holistic approach to building resilience.

CREATING OPPORTUNITY

Of course, resilience goes further than issues of sustainability.

It is also about how cities function as a whole, including socially and economically.

In an age with so much technological advancement, the onus is on government to ensure communities are connected to each other.

This is critical to tackling inequality.

And, that’s one of the reasons why the NBN, fibre to the home and business, is so important.

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

Fast Internet provides employment flexibility, access to education and training as well as health services.

Successful cities are inclusive cities.

I don’t want to live in a city where you can tell a person’s wealth based on their postcode.

We need to remember as we develop greenfield sites that we are building more than just houses.

We’re building communities.

If we’re serious about addressing issues of inequity we need to ensure people can access the benefits that come from living in cities.

This includes public transport, jobs and education.

But it also includes safe neighbourhoods with footpaths and plenty of parks and green spaces.

Failing to achieve this can have a serious impact on our cities.

Concentrations of disadvantage alter the character of our cities.

Clearly, across the world, significant numbers of people feel excluded.

They feel that the mainstream political and economic systems are failing them.

Many factors are involved.

One way we can help to address this trend is to ensure our cities are inclusive and cohesive.

When communities don’t have access to jobs and when people experience increasing inequality it is hard for them to see the benefits of globalization.

The consequence is less cohesive communities.

CONCLUSION

Many of our cities are at a crossroad.

It is up to us to decide what sort of place we want to create.

We can create places of opportunity, but we need governments that are prepared to work together.

There is certainly a role for the Federal Government to step up and provide leadership and investment in our growth areas.

But that will only be successful if that leadership is in partnership with local government.

For my part I will continue to work with you.

Our track record shows this is not mere words, it will be backed by deeds.

Nov 11, 2016

Address to Australian Local Government Association Local Roads and Transport Congress – Nation Building as Economic Stimulus -Toowoomba, QLD

I’m pleased once again to have the opportunity to address the Australian Local Government Association’s annual Roads and Transport Congress.

This is an important event.

Governments come and go, but the need for the construction and maintenance of an efficient system of roads is ever-present.

While much of the media discourse about roads concerns major highways funded by the states and the Commonwealth, local roads are central to the everyday life of Australians.

They are, as your president has described them, the capillaries of our communities, linking our homes, schools, farms and businesses.

Everyone here would have travelled on local roads to get to this congress today.

Ensuring our roads are properly maintained and that new road construction keeps pace with development is critical for two key reasons.

The first is road safety.

But it is also about the economy.

If roads are fit for purpose and kept in good condition, they facilitate the easy passage of goods and people throughout communities.

That can boost productivity, leading to economic and jobs growth.

Indeed, if we are serious in our desire to ensure there are jobs for our children and grandchildren, we must accept that we have a responsibility to keep our road system in good shape.

So thanks for holding this congress each year to keep the spotlight on this important issue.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE GRANTS

Let me start today with the words on everyone’s lips – Financial Assistance Grants.

It’s no news to anyone here that councils rely heavily on Financial Assistance Grants for road maintenance and construction.

That’s why the current Federal Government’s decision in its 2014 Budget to freeze indexation of those grants until 2017-18 was such a poor decision.

This cut reduced council budgets by $925 million over three years.

Small and regional councils have been the hardest hit.

They rely on Financial Assistance Grants more than bigger councils with larger rates bases and other sources of income.

Like your organisation, I opposed the cut when it was announced in the 2014 Budget.

I worried about the effect of the cuts on construction and maintenance of local roads and other council services.

Having read ALGA’s 2016-17 Budget submission, it is now clear these concerns have been realised.

Councils all over the nation have informed ALGA that the cuts have required them to postpone infrastructure works, lift fees for services or simply reduce council activity.

The submission confirms that small rural councils have been hardest hit.

Let me quote from it:

A number of rural councils (including West Wimmera, Wodonga and Toowong in Victoria; Collie in WA; and South Burnett in Queensland) have informed ALGA that as a result of the FAGS freeze they will be forced to postpone infrastructure work, look at substantial increases in the fees for services such as kindergartens; to reduce hours of operation of council facilities and look at possible rates increases.

It is clear that the cuts have not only affected road construction and maintenance, but have forced councils to reduce other services.

As well as having real practical implications, the cuts also represent a quite cynical move by the Commonwealth to outsource its cuts to other levels of government.

I say that is cynical because it’s not the Federal Government that has to account to ratepayers for the cuts.

When someone has a problem with a pothole or worries about snakes hiding in the long grass in a local park, it’s not the local Federal MP that gets the call.

It is the local councillor.

It’s you who are being held accountable for cuts that were imposed upon your communities.

ROADS TO RECOVERY

I am pleased that in June of 2015, the Labor Party was able to work with the Government to restore some of the funding via a boost to the Roads to Recovery Program.

As you will recall, in 2014 the Government proposed lifting a freeze on indexation of fuel excise.

After its 2014 Budget, it exercised its right to begin collecting the extra money.

However, that decision had to be approved by the Senate.

Had that approval not been given, the extra money collected would have been returned to fuel companies – not to road users who had paid it.

Instead, Labor delivered a compromise whereby the changes could proceed as long as the extra revenue was allocated to councils for spending on roads for the first two years.

It was distributed through the existing Roads to Recovery program.

That was a measure Labor insisted upon.

While the Roads to Recovery funding was no doubt welcome, I note the comments of your president, Troy Pickard, in the program for today’s event.

Troy said:

But the additional tied infrastructure funding cannot offset the general purpose funding foregone due to the indexation freeze on FAGs.

INFRASTRUCTURE AND THE ECONOMY

Let me turn to infrastructure investment more broadly.

At a time when the mining boom is moving from its construction phase to production, it makes sense for the Commonwealth to increase infrastructure investment.

In the short term, increased investment provides ongoing economic activity and jobs in construction and related industries.

And in the medium to long term, increased investment boosts productivity and supports future economic and jobs growth.

That’s why the former Labor Government invested heavily in railways, roads, ports and other critical infrastructure.

We doubled the roads budget and built or upgraded 7000km of road.

We rebuilt more than a third of the national rail network and allocated more investment to public transport than all other previous Commonwealth governments combined.

We had several motives, including a need to address under-investment by the former Howard Government.

We understood the importance of infrastructure investment to drive economic activity in the face of the global economic crisis.

But we could also see the writing on the wall in terms of the decline of the investment stage of the mining boom.

It was clear that as private sector investment dropped off, the jobs growth of the future would have to shift to other areas of the economy.

Governments have an important role in that transition.

They need to invest in capacity.

They need to ensure that our transport and communications infrastructure is able to support the needs of new industries and businesses.

The requirement for capacity building is even more urgent in 2016.

Both sides of politics are on the same page when it comes to the need for innovation to create the industries of the future.

But support for innovation to create new industries must also come with investment in the railways, roads and ports that those industries will require if they are to thrive and produce jobs.

This also includes provision of 21st century, fibre-based high speed broadband, which is particularly important for rural and regional Australia.

In 2016, we need a strong and forward looking infrastructure program.

The case for greater investment is even more compelling when you consider that interest rates are extremely low.

Indeed, both former Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens and his successor Philip Lowe have recently noted that there is only so much they can do with monetary policy to stimulate the economy.

Both have advocated infrastructure investment for economic stimulus, provided the projects built offer returns to the public.

THE GOVERNMENT

The current Federal Government’s rhetoric suggests that it understands the economic need for increased infrastructure investment.

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

In the lead-up to this year’s Federal election the Government cut its actual investment on infrastructure to fund an advertising campaign claiming it was delivering record investment.

But the facts tell a different story.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that in the first two years under the current government, total public sector infrastructure investment fell by 20 percent.

More recent figures show that the decline in investment is ongoing at the federal level.

In every quarter since the Government was elected, the public sector has invested less than the amount that was invested in the September quarter of 2013.

In its 2014 Budget, the Government said it would invest $8 billion on transport infrastructure in 2015-16.

But the Final Budget Outcome document shows its actual expenditure on transport infrastructure in 2015-16 was only $5.5 billion.
And that included a $490 million payment to the Western Australian Government as GST compensation.

That means all up, the Government cut its planned infrastructure investment by nearly $3 billion over what it promised.

That’s about 35 per cent.

The Government’s excuse for this huge underspend is that some projects have been re-phased and moved into future financial years.

But that was the excuse in the previous year, when it underspent its planned investment by $1 billion.

The truth is that the Government has reduced investment.

It has done this via a combination of scrapping some projects, postponing the commencement of others and slowing the pace of ongoing major projects like the upgrades of the Bruce and Pacific Highways.

The cuts to roads include important programs that support the work of councils.

Take last financial year.

Actual spending on the Black Spots program was 55 per cent less than the 2014 Budget forecast.

Actual spending on the Government’s own Bridges Renewal program was down 40 percent on the forecast.

Investment in the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity program was down 70 per cent on the 2014 forecast.

These programs are of particular importance to local governments, particularly those in rural and regional Australia.

Let’s take the Bridges Renewal Program which I know is of real assistance to smaller councils because it improves bridges while also generating local economic activity.

The 40 per cent cut in actual spending in 2015-16 over what was forecast in 2014 represents $25 million.

That’s $25 million that should have been being invested in rural and regional Australia in 2015-16.

That’s $25 million that should be stimulating local economy right now: creating jobs; driving local demand; keeping things moving.

I’m surprised by this lethargy.

If the Government was actually delivering on its bridges program, Black Spots and the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity program, the investment might go some way toward helping councils deal with the impact of the cuts to Financial Assistance Grants.

LABOR’S ALTERNATIVE

It’s not enough just to talk about the jobs of the future.

Serious governments invest the jobs of the future by building the infrastructure that will make those jobs real.

In Australia at this stage of our development, that has to include significant investment in public transport and better roads to address traffic congestion.

In cities all over Australia, traffic congestion is eating away at economic productivity and damaging our quality of life.

According to Infrastructure Australia, traffic congestion will cost the nation $53 billion in lost productivity each year unless we take action now.

We need to invest.

And we need to do it now.

Traffic congestion not only erodes economic productivity and acts as a hand brake on jobs growth.

It is also eroding the Australian quality of life and keeping people on the road when they should be in their communities or their homes.

It’s a tragedy that many Australian parents spend more time in their cars travelling to and from work than they spend at home playing with their kids.

We also need to invest in roads, including local roads in rural and regional areas.

And from my perspective, the best way to do that is to work with local councils.

That’s an approach Labor has taken for many years now.

We see investment in communities, whether in roads or other community projects, as a partnership with local government.

Here in Queensland this partnership delivered some great outcomes.

The former Labor Government worked with the Gold Coast City Council and the State Government to deliver the highly successful Gold Coast Light Rail.

We worked with the Moreton Bay Regional Council and the State Government on the Redcliffe Peninsula Rail Link, which opened in September, connecting the Redcliffe Peninsula to the Brisbane suburban rail network.

We also partnered with the Brisbane City Council on Legacy Way, an important road project delivered without a state government contribution.

CONCLUSION

Let me finish up by restating my firm view that local government should be recognised in the Australian Constitution.

Allowing local government to exist purely in state legislation means it is subject to the political whims of the state government of the day.

We’ve seen this from the ongoing process of forced amalgamations in NSW, which have left communities without accountable local representation for two years.

Communities feel angry and betrayed.

And people’s voices are not heard.

Be assured that a future Labor Government will pick up where we left off on this issue.

We’ll also return to an orderly, evidence-based approach to infrastructure investment, working with other levels of government in partnership.

During the election campaign we proposed significant investment right across the nation.

We offered support for public transport and better roads.

But we also backed important freight rail projects including Inland Rail and the Port Botany Freight Line.

I’m strongly of the view that infrastructure investment is the key to future prosperity.

It’s no good just talking about it.

You need to invest in the right projects based on evidence of economic return.

Then you need to roll up your sleeves and get on with it.

ENDS

Oct 28, 2016

Speech to Queensland Business Infrastructure Forum – Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre

Let me start by expressing my condolences for the dreadful accident at Dreamworld earlier this week.

This event has shocked the whole nation.

It’s a tragedy for the families of those who lost their lives and for the entire Gold Coast community.

Over coming weeks the relevant authorities will work their way through the factors surrounding the accident.

But for now, the priority remains helping the families of the victims.

LIGHT RAIL

Many of you will have travelled here on the Gold Coast Light Rail.

This was a transformative project for the Gold Coast.

It shows what governments can do when they work together – local state and federal.

Patronage grew by 16 per cent in its second year of operation to 21,000 trips a day.

The State Labor Government is getting on with the second stage, which will connect the line to the heavy rail system at Helensvale.

It’s due for completion in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Gold Coast Light Rail is proof positive that when governments provide public transport that is convenient,
Australians will use it.

That’s an important lesson for the entire nation.

That’s because in 2016 traffic congestion is one of the biggest problems facing this country.

In cities right across Australia, traffic congestion is eroding people’s quality of life.

But it is also eroding productivity and putting a hand brake on the economic growth needed to create jobs for our children.

Indeed, Infrastructure Australia has warned that unless we act now, traffic congestion will cost the economy $53 billion a year from 2031.

That’s why projects like the Gold Coast Light Rail are so important.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

We need more public transport and we need it soon.

We need all levels of government on the same page on this important issue, because it’s not just about public convenience, as important as that is.

As Bill Clinton once said: It’s the economy, stupid.

That was what was in the mind of the former Labor Government in 2009 when we decided to get behind light rail here on the coast.

We realised Gold Coast Light Rail would not only provide a great asset for  travellers, but that it would also boost the local economy.

In the process, the project would help drive national economic growth.

And that’s how it panned out.

In 2016 our nation continues to seek ways to sustain growth in the wake of the decline of the investment stage of the mining boom.

We need new ideas, new industries.

But to support those new industries, we need railways, roads, ports and other infrastructure.

If we invest in these nation building projects, the construction and other activity will help support and sustain growth.

It’s not just me saying that.

Former Reserve Bank of Australia chairman Glenn Stevens and his successor Philip Lowe have both made the point that there is only so much they can do to stimulate the economy by reducing interest rates.

Both have noted there is a role for infrastructure investment as valuable tool in broader economic policy.

TURNBULL GOVERNMENT

That is why it is so disappointing that the Turnbull Government is sitting on its hands when it comes to new infrastructure projects, particularly public transport projects.

Indeed, if the current government had its way, there would be no Gold Coast Light Rail.

Under the Opposition leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, they voted against commonwealth funding for the Gold Coast Light Rail back in 2009.

Of course, that did not stop local Coalition MPs elbowing each other out of the way to be photographed by the media riding the first service on launch day.

That’s the way it is with this government: They are happy to ride on trains; they just don’t want to fund trains.

It’s pleasing that the commonwealth is now providing funding for Stage II using savings made in the construction of another Labor initiative, the Moreton Bay Rail Link.

But the sad fact is that this investment is a one-off.

The Turnbull Government has not invested a dollar on any new public transport initiative.

It’s also a fact that Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show total public sector infrastructure investment fell by 20 per cent in the Coalition’s first two years in office.

But it gets worse.

In the 2015-16 financial year, the Turnbull Government cut infrastructure investment by nearly $3 billion, or more than 35 per cent, over what it had promised in its 2014 budget.

Incidentally, that cut included the $18 million cut from funding allocated for actual infrastructure projects to fund a pre-election propaganda blitz.

Rather than using this public money to build things, they spent it on television and newspaper advertisements saying they were delivering record investment.

That kind of deception is Orwellian.

It’s also bad for the economy and bad for jobs.

MALCOLM TURNBULL

These facts highlight the chasm between the Federal Government’s rhetoric on infrastructure and the reality of its performance.

The existence of this gap is ironic when you consider the way in which the Prime Minister seeks to promote himself as a public transport enthusiast.

When he was stalking Tony Abbott for the Liberal Party leadership throughout the first nine months of 2015, Mr Turnbull frequently posted photographs of himself riding on trains, trams and buses.

He did this because he knew Australians were dismayed by Tony Abbott’s blanket refusal to fund public transport anywhere in the country.

But since he ousted Mr Abbott, Mr Turnbull has taken on his predecessor’s peculiar policy toward public transport.

He still enjoys being photographed on trains.

Indeed, just a few weeks ago he sought credit for the opening of the Moreton Bay Rail Link to Redcliffe even though, once again, his party opposed the project when the state and federal Labor governments funded the line.

CROSS RIVER RAIL

Federal Government inaction is also evident in Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project.

This is one of the most urgent infrastructure projects in the country.

If we don’t build a second rail crossing of the Brisbane River in the next few years, the existing Merivale Bridge will reach full capacity.

The moment that happens, the bottleneck will be a drain on economic and job growth in Brisbane and Queensland.

The project should be underway right now.

Back in 2013, the then Federal Labor Government actually reached agreement with the then Newman
Coalition Government to build Cross River Rail.

Infrastructure Australia had assessed the project and declared it ready to go in 2012.

But at the last minute, the Newman Government backflipped.

And as soon as Mr Abbott became Prime Minister, he withdrew the Commonwealth funding offer, along with funding for each and every public transport project in the nation that was not already under way.

The Moreton Bay Rail Link was underway, so it escaped the Abbott axe.

The history of this project makes a mockery of Mr Turnbull’s refusal during the recent federal election campaign to commit to reinstating the funding that Mr Abbott cut.

Cross River Rail should be well under construction by now.

CUTS ARE EVERYWHERE

The Federal Government has also cut funding for a range of other important Queensland projects.

In the 2015-16 Budget, funding for the ongoing Bruce Highway upgrade was cut by $94 million over what was promised in 2014.

Funding for the Gateway North project fell by $50 million, the same amount cut from the Coalition’s pet project – the second crossing of the Toowoomba Range.

Programs including Black Spots, and bridges renewal were also cut.

The Government has also cut financial assistance grants to councils, which are usually used for road maintenance, by $199 million over three years.

BI-PARTISANSHIP

What this nation needs is a bipartisan approach to infrastructure investment.

Building the railways, roads and other infrastructure needed to support our needs and also to create jobs and growth are critically important.

They should be beyond politics.

That is why the former Labor Federal Government created Infrastructure Australia in 2008.

Its independent experts are outside the political system.

They assess projects on the basis of whether they are actually needed, whether they will provide a productivity return to the community and how they fit in with existing assets.

Politicians should always be making investment decisions. We are accountable at the ballot box.

But we should make those decisions on the basis of expert advice.

We know from the current Government’s experience that when you ignore the expert advice, you can end up making huge mistakes.

Back in the 2014 Budget, the Coalition funded the proposed East-West Link in Melbourne without consulting Infrastructure Australia.

It later emerged that the project would have returned only 45 cents for every dollar invested.

The project was a dud.

And during this year’s federal election campaign, Mr Turnbull announced about $850 million for 78 new transport projects around the nation.

Seventy-six of these projects were in seats held by the Coalition at the time of the election.

Most of these projects were small – small enough that they would normally be delivered by state or local government.

For example, Mr Turnbull found $1 million to upgrade a road in the Hunter Valley community of Gresford used for an annual Billy Cart race.

That’s not nation building.

It is crude pork barrelling.

Imagine if Mr Turnbull has used that $850 million for a transformative project that would boost national productivity and economy growth, a project like Cross River Rail, for example.

It’s time for all political parties to accept that the delivery of infrastructure is a central part of economic policy.

We also need to listen to the experts about which projects will have the greatest economic benefit.

We need to commit to a pipeline of projects based on the expert advice and be ambitious enough to actually commit the funds to make them happen.

That’s how you produce growth.

It’s how you produce jobs.

In previous years, we always had the mining sector to sustain construction.

But it’s over as mining has moved to the production phase.

It’s time for all governments to step up to their role in driving economic growth.

To do that, we have to put aside the politics and self-interest and think about the future – both short term and long term.

In the short term, we need to invest in infrastructure to sustain economic activity.

If we choose the right projects, we’ll also be serving the long term by ensuring that in coming decades, our nation has infrastructure that is fit for the purpose of supporting ongoing jobs and growth.

I’ve heard a lot of people complaining in recent years about how today’s Australians should not be leaving a legacy of debt for future generations.

I agree.

But it is just as important that we don’t leave future generations an infrastructure deficit.

Our population is growing rapidly.

We need to accept our duty to leave future generations with an economy capable of generating jobs for all Australians.

NBN

That includes communications.

Earlier this week I visited Roma to participate in the Australian Regional Tourism Network summit.

I enjoyed the opportunity to rub shoulders with people from all over rural and regional Australia who are doing everything they can to promote tourism in their communities.

Understandably, much of the focus was on marketing.

I spoke to many people.

The issue that was most frequently raised was the inadequacy of the Federal Government’s broadband service, not just when it came to their businesses, but also their daily lives.

It is beyond me how a Federal Government that runs on a mantra of jobs and growth could be so blind to the importance of communication in driving jobs and growth.

I’m all for innovation.

But the bottom line here is that in the 21st century, Australia won’t be able to capitalise on our innovation unless we have world-class broadband.

In the 21st century, world-class broadband is as important to the success of a business as roads.

Indeed, fibre to the home and business ought to be considered a basic utility, like water, electricity or sewerage.

It saddens me to watch the current Government delivering 19th century copper-based technology that, within a very short time, will have to be torn out and brought up to date to keep our nation internationally competitive.

Based on the feedback I get as I travel the country, Australians are saddened too.

FEDERAL LABOR

Let me conclude by giving you a brief rundown of where Federal Labor is at with regard to individual projects here in Queensland.

I remain very proud of the record of the former Labor Federal Government in which I was proud to have served as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

Projects we delivered included $5.7 billion for the Bruce Highway over six years.

That followed an investment of only $1.3 billion by the former Howard Government over 12 years.

That’s four times as much in half the time.

There was also Legacy Way, investment on the Pacific Motorway, the Ipswich Motorway, the Warrego Highway and the Townsville Ring Road.

We also started planning for a high-speed rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

Unfortunately, while Labor got the ball rolling on High Speed Rail, the current government has dropped the ball completely on this visionary project.

In this year’s election campaign we presented a comprehensive infrastructure policy.

It included investment for Cross River Rail, the merge between the M1 and the Gateway Motorway, the final stage of the Ipswich Motorway upgrade, the Gladstone Port Access Road and a new stadium in Townsville.

And we proposed the creation of a $10 billion infrastructure financing facility designed to encourage more private investment in public infrastructure.

We also had a comprehensive policy for improving the productivity, sustainability and liveability of Australian Cities, backed up by our strong support for public transport but also covering areas like urban design and active travel.

CONCLUSION

Brisbane and the Gold Coast are international cities.

But with growth has come pressures, including traffic congestion.

It is a privilege to make decisions that that have made material differences to people’s lives.

Backing Gold Coast Light Rail was one of them.

Next time you take a ride on the light rail, look around you.

Without light rail, just about every adult on the tram would be driving their car to get to where they were going.

And just like you, they would be stuck in traffic.

 

Oct 26, 2016

Investment in regional tourism critical

Today I will be speaking to the Australian Regional Tourism Network 2016 Convention in Roma, Queensland, about the importance of Commonwealth investment in regional tourism.

Tourism is at the heart of Queensland’s economy.

It is a $23 billion industry that directly and indirectly employs more than 220,000 Queenslanders.

Communities across regional Queensland depend on tourism for their livelihood, with more than 60 per cent of tourism related businesses located in these areas.

Despite these facts, the Coalition has failed to release a plan for investment in Queensland’s tourism industry, which is on track to become a super-growth sector.

Instead the Coalition wants to tax the sector more through the Backpacker Tax and over-collect on fees through an increase in the Passenger Movement Charge.

Since the Coalition Government announced its flawed review into the Backpacker Tax, both the number of backpacker visitors to Queensland, and the number of nights they stay have seriously declined.

The Federal Government has a responsibility to support this vital industry, which contributes so much to our nation.

Oct 7, 2016

Address to the Tourism Central Australia awards ceremony – Alice Springs, NT

It was Gustave Flaubert who said:

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.

Tonight, as we gather on this remote station, under this expanse of stars, in this red heart of central Australia, I wouldn’t be the only one to feel this way.

Thank you Central Tourism Australia for the invitation to address this celebration tonight.

I note that it is also the TCA Awards Ceremony’s 10th anniversary – what an extraordinary showcase of the industry’s success – congratulations.

Congratulations also to the award nominees and recipients.

I want to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet tonight – past, present and future.

This land is steeped in a rich culture and heritage.

It has a history that goes back many thousands of years to the Dreaming, where it is said a caterpillar helped form the Alice Springs landscape, including the Gap that we passed through on our way here tonight.

A rocky archipelago in a burnt red desert sea.

This sacred land entices travellers from countries around the world.

Those who have arrived in Australia over the last 200 years can learn about the importance of respecting our natural environment from the traditional owners of our land.

We are indebted to the first people, who have played a unique role in this region, passing on their knowledge to every people since the Dreamtime.

The growth of tourism in Australia is inextricably linked with this.

Australia’s vastness and its varied landscapes gift travellers with a myriad of experiences.

In no other country can you snorkel amongst the brightly coloured coral at the Great Barrier Reef, or swim with the whale sharks at Ningaloo, or see the night sky set in over Uluru.

In Australia there is always more to see.

But as the creep of climate change continues, we must be prepared.

Governments must show leadership.

We have a responsibility to preserve our prized, culturally significant, natural assets.

We also have a responsibility to the hundreds of communities scattered across Australia that rely on tourism for their livelihood.

We cannot fail in this endeavor.

Tourism is our nation’s largest services export and employs more than one million Australians.

There are more than 276,000 tourism businesses in Australia, which deliver $94.5 billion in revenue every year.

It’s a super growth sector.

Central Australia is proof of this.

Over the last financial year visitor numbers increased by almost 10 per cent.

And already this financial year tourism providers are experiencing strong demand.

Of course a large part of this success is our hardworking tourism sector.

But it also shows the importance of Commonwealth leadership.

We must invest in tourism infrastructure, provide adequate resources for marketing and research, support taxation arrangements conducive to the industry’s growth and pursue visa reform.

We must protect our natural assets, build skills and career pathways and use government to attract more major events and exhibitions.

Over the past three years I’ve enjoyed building a collaborative partnership with providers across the nation.

Tourism is at its most successful when people come together.

I look forward to continuing to work with you – have a great night.

Jun 15, 2016

Address to Australian Financial Review Infrastruture Summit – Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney

Time is our greatest teacher.

Over the past three years, time has reinforced the fundamental truth about how to deliver major infrastructure projects in the most efficient manner.

The clear lesson is that process is critical.

Before political parties commit funding to major projects, they must conduct proper, evidence-based analysis to ensure they stack up.

If they don’t observe this process, they risk failure.

Consider Melbourne’s collapsed East-West Link – funded by the current Commonwealth Government without a cost-benefit analysis.

In 2014 money was handed over to the Victorian Government in advance, no questions asked, for a project that it later transpired would have returned 45 cents for every dollar invested.

Then there is the Perth Freight Link –pulled out of a Weeties packet in the lead up to the 2014 budget.

Not even the WA State Government knew much about it at the time, except that it would have passed through an environmentally sensitive wetland.

Nevertheless, nearly a billion dollars was committed to the Perth Freight Link without cost-benefit analysis.

Now it’s been stopped by the WA Supreme Court on environmental grounds.

Sydney’s WestConnex is another project funded by the Commonwealth in advance in the absence of cost-benefit analysis.

Its budget has blown out from $10 billion to $16.8 billion and its funding is the subject of investigation by the Australian National Audit Office.

And because of a lack of proper process, it remains unclear where the exits to the tunnels will be, even whilst the project is under construction.

This is provoking a response from the local community who quite rightly regard the community consultation process as appalling.

This lack of proper process has cost our economy.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that between the September quarter of 2013 and the September quarter of 2015, public sector infrastructure investment fell by 20 per cent.

This reduction came at the very time we needed to lift investment to sustain economic activity in the wake of the decline of the investment stage of the mining boom.

The common feature in each of these projects is that politics was put before process.

What makes this worse is that these toll road projects were funded by cutting projects that had been approved by Infrastructure Australia and that were ready to proceed, such as Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, the Melbourne Metro and the Tonsley Park upgrade in Adelaide.

Infrastructure Australia, created in 2008 by the former Labor Government to assess viability and value of proposed projects, was sidelined.

Any discussion of infrastructure policy today must begin with the recognition that where politics gets in the way of an evidence-based process, projects stall.

Economic activity is reduced.

Fewer jobs are created.

And we deny ourselves the opportunity to secure productivity gains that will set up future prosperity and, much more importantly, create jobs for future generations.

ELECTION

I’d like to thank the Australian Financial Review for convening this summit.

It’s an opportunity to look back at what has gone wrong, and to consider how we can achieve better outcomes in the future.

As both sides of politics agree, our nation needs to diversify its economy in the wake of the decline of mining.

We need new industries that create high-value jobs for the future.

And we need to strengthen and expand existing industries to meet the new opportunities such as the burgeoning demand from Asia for food products.

However, industries of the future require the infrastructure of the future.

They require roads, ports, railways, intermodal facilities and fibre-to-the-premises broadband.

This nation can’t afford any more costly failures.

PROCESS

I note that earlier this morning you held a panel discussion about how to exclude politics from the infrastructure development.

The answer is proper process.

Different governments will always have different priorities. That’s the nature of our system.

But if all sides of politics commit to evidence-based policy making, the political comings and goings should be less of a problem.

My aim when I created Infrastructure Australia was to create a pipeline of nation building projects that could attract bi-partisan support on the basis of demonstrated evidence.

I wanted to break the nexus between the infrastructure investment cycle, which is long-term, and the political cycle, which is short term.

That is still my aim.

But it takes political maturity from all sides to achieve it.

We’ve had three wasted years on infrastructure.

Last year Infrastructure Australia updated its 2008 audit of the nation’s infrastructure needs with an aim to producing a 15-year investment pipeline.

If both sides commit fully to evidence-based decision-making through Infrastructure Australia, we’ll be able to use that pipeline to the national benefit.

That’s why a Labor Government will bring Infrastructure Australia in from the cold and back to the centre of the process, where it belongs.

But as well as returning to evidence-based process, Labor will expand Infrastructure Australia’s role to attempt to unlock more private capital for public infrastructure.

PRIVATE INVESTMENT

We would invest $10 billion into an infrastructure financing facility which would be independently administered by Infrastructure Australia.

We recognise that while there is no shortage of private money available for infrastructure investment, potential investors stay on the sidelines because of concern about risks in the early stages.

Under Labor, Infrastructure Australia will work with investors to secure their involvement using loan guarantees, discounted loans, seed funding and direct investment.

We’d seek to provide a bridge for private investors to commit to projects earlier on so that they get off the drawing board and into construction.

Our model is based on the successful Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Within 100 days of a change of government, Labor would appoint a panel of experts to lay out the parameters for this new funding mandate.

We won’t go at the problem like a bull at a gate.

We’ll seek the advice of the private sector and experts to find a formula that can work better for everyone.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Later today this summit will turn its attention to public transport.

Your starting point should be Infrastructure Australia’s warning that unless we act to address traffic congestion in this country, it will cost the nation $53 billion a year in lost productivity by 2031.

Investing in public transport is the logical place to begin to address this problem.

That is why it is so unfortunate that in 2013 the Coalition cancelled all Commonwealth investment in public transport that was not the subject of contracts.

That was an absurd decision.

The Commonwealth needs to invest in roads and rail – not one or the other.

In this election campaign, Labor has already announced funding commitments to the Perth Metronet and the Adelink public transport system, as well as bringing forward the electrification of Adelaide’s Gawler Line.

In Bill Shorten’s Budget Reply we recommitted to the Melbourne Metro and Cross River Rail projects and re-announced our support for Western Sydney Rail access to Badgerys Creek Airport.

There’s a lot of ground to make up on public transport.

Take the example of Cross River Rail – a project that was ready to proceed in 2013.

At present, there is only one rail crossing of the Brisbane River in the Brisbane CBD – the Merivale Bridge.

It can take a maximum of 24 trains an hour.

But within five years, demand will hit 28 trains an hour.

Failure to act will mean that within five years, the ongoing development of Australia’s third largest city will be captive to a capacity constraint.

We should address it now.

We need to act whoever wins on July 2.

Infrastructure Australia declared Cross River Rail ready to proceed years ago, which is why it was funded in the 2013 Budget.

Three years later, we are running out of time.

ROADS

To better understand the challenges of traffic congestion, policy makers need to get their heads around changes in the Australian workforce.

In previous decades, Australians could find jobs near their suburban homes in industries like manufacturing.

But in 2016, jobs growth has shifted to areas in and around central business districts in service sectors like banking, insurance and information technology.

Our problem is that high housing prices in and around city centres mean many workers cannot afford to live near their workplaces.

They waste a lot of time commuting to and from drive-in drive-out suburbs.

It is a tragedy that many Australian parents spend more time driving to and from work than at home with their children.

CITIES

To achieve better outcomes, governments need to start looking at cities in their entirety, rather than according to which party holds which seats in which part of town.

And they need to look at a multi-faceted approach to enhancing the productivity, sustainability and liveability of urban Australia.

Four out of five Australians live in cities.

They are also the location the majority of our national economic activity.

The efficiency of our cities is therefore crucial to the health of our national economy, making it important that we confront issues like the phenomenon of drive-in, drive out suburbs.

It’s not just about whether people have time to spend with their children.

It’s about a stronger economy.

The current Prime Minister has had much to say about the need for integrated urban planning.

But as yet, he has failed to put any meat on the bones beyond offering vague ideas about value capture and even vaguer plans about City Deals.

From Labor’s perspective, investing in better roads and ending the three-year ban on public transport is just the starting point to better cities.

We also need to address housing affordability, so that people who work close to the CBD can live closer to the CBD.

The Commonwealth should also be working more closely with other levels of government to increase population densities along established public transport corridors.

We must also look for ways to restore jobs growth in the suburbs by investing in research precincts around hospitals and universities.

There’s also scope for working with councils to encourage the development of second and third CBDs in our cities.

We should be encouraging greater use of active travel options like walking and cycling.

And we should also be looking at funding mechanisms that allow for greater value capture to help fund infrastructure.

The Badgerys Creek Airport is a great example.

Tony Abbott made the right decision in proceeding with a second airport for Sydney.

The Labor Party offered him our full support, knowing that a project of this scale is unachievable without bipartisanship.

However, under current plans, the airport will not be linked to Sydney’s passenger railway network from the day it opens.

This will deny governments the opportunity to access the full benefit of value uplift.

Badgerys Creek must be more than a runway and an airport terminal. It must be an Aerotropolis.

Developed properly, it will be a catalyst for thousands of jobs in the region.

Ensuring the airport is connected to public transport from the day it opens will make the land in its vicinity more valuable than it would be otherwise, something that can be reflected in the lease of the airport to its operator.

The existence of the rail link would also increase land values of the employment lands in the nearby precinct owned by the NSW government.

RAIL

Before I finish let me mention two projects that need to be progressed over coming years in the interests of national productivity.

The first is the proposed Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne.

Talked about for years, Inland Rail would enhance our nation’s export potential, particularly when it comes to meeting Asia’s burgeoning demand for food.

But it has been on the backburner for the past three years despite the Coalition’s 2013 promise to fast track its construction.

In its first two Budgets, the Government failed to invest a dollar beyond the $300 million that had been allocated by the previous Labor Government, which had also invested $600 million upgrading existing rail line that will be part of the Inland Rail.

Finally, some money was allocated in the 2016 Budget, although we have no construction timetable.

It’s time to stop talking and start progressing Inland Rail.

The same goes for the proposed High Speed Rail Link from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

High Speed Rail would revolutionise interstate travel, allowing people to travel between capital cities in as little as three hours.

But it would also turbo charge the economic development of the regional centres along its route.

I’m talking about places like the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

In 2013, the former Labor Government proposed creating a High Speed Rail Authority to begin detailed planning and the process of corridor acquisition.

We made that decision on the advice of an expert panel which included former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, Business Council of Australian chief executive Jennifer Westacott and former Australasian Railways Association chief Bryan Nye.

But the incoming Coalition Government scrapped that plan.

If elected on July 2 Labor will create a High Speed Rail Authority.

But we’ll go one step further.

International railway construction companies from China, Japan, Korea and several European nations have expressed interest in an Australian High Speed Railway.

A Labor Government will ask the authority to move toward an expressions-of-interest process to see what these international firms have to offer.

VISION

These types of infrastructure projects require vision.

Good governments think years and decades ahead.

They imagine a better future and then take steps to realise their vision.

Right now, both sides of politics are trying to imagine an Australia that has a broader economic base, more productive cities and greater productivity.

We won’t achieve that vision without great roads, railways, ports and the intermodal facilities to ensure they work together.

We won’t achieve it without 21st century broadband.

And perhaps most of all, we won’t take our nation forward unless we make our decisions on the basis of the national interest, not on the basis of the electoral map.

May 31, 2016

Eddie Graham Address – Wagga Wagga

In the famous speech launching his 1969 election campaign, Gough Whitlam laid out the mission of the Australian Labor Party in the clearest possible terms.

Whitlam said Labor was about providing opportunity.

Not just for some.

Opportunity for all.

Whitlam argued that if any Australian was denied opportunity by poverty, education or some other factor, our entire nation was diminished.

He said:

 The nation is the poorer—a poorer economy, a poorer civilisation, because of this human and national waste.

Tonight I want to talk about the extent to which rural and regional Australians are denied full access to opportunity in this country.

We know that generally, health and education standards are lower in the bush than in the cities.

So are wage levels.

Rural and regional areas often feature high levels of unemployment and poverty.

That’s a waste of human talent.

These inequities diminish our nation.

In decades past, some people accepted inferior services and reduced opportunity as the unavoidable cost of living outside the big city.

But that’s changing.

In the 21st Century, technology offers us opportunities to re-imagine rural and regional Australia in ways that enhance equity and promote prosperity.

Tonight I want to lay out what I see as the way forward for the Labor Party in rural and regional Australia.

My starting point is that flawed policy approaches and a lack of vision by the current Government are preventing our nation from exploiting opportunities to super-charge economic growth outside our cities.

We all know that in the wake of the decline of the investment boom in the mining sector, our nation needs to diversify our economic base.

That’s a challenge.

But when it comes to rural and regional Australia, this need to diversify also offers huge opportunities for growth in existing export sectors as well as the development of new industries.

To make the most of those opportunities, we need to get the policy settings right.

For example, we must invest in infrastructure to ensure our railways, roads and ports can support a broadening of the economy.

We also need a first-rate National Broadband Network, not the second-rate copper Fraudband system of Malcolm Turnbull.

We need to fund education and training in rural and regional Australia on the basis of need to ensure today’s children are ready for the jobs of tomorrow.

And most importantly, 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.

There was a time in this nation when the bush was a stronghold for the Australian Labor Party.

In the forthcoming federal election, and in the years that follow, Labor must seek to reclaim the bush.

That will not be easy.

But my point tonight is that in 2016, Labor’s policies and our willingness to think long-term put us in a great place to take on the Coalition in the bush.

We need to select energetic candidates like our candidate for Riverina, Tim Kurylowicz.

We need to be positive.

We need to show vision.

And we need to demonstrate the practical benefits of Labor’s program for those who live outside capital cities.

EDDIE GRAHAM

I was delighted to be invited to deliver the 10th Eddie Graham Address.

Eddie was a lion of the Riverina – a successful farmer and an astute politician who understood the value of strong local representation and keeping close contact with his electorate.

Born in 1897 and educated locally, as a young man Eddie became a

butcher and a highly successful pig farmer who established the Kinilibah Stud.

After William McKell claimed the Labor leadership in NSW in 1939, he sought to lift Labor’s stocks outside of cities by recruiting rural people with strong links to their local communities.

McKell drafted Eddie, who beat the Country Party incumbent to claim the seat of Wagga Wagga in 1941.

He held it until his death in 1957.

After only one term Eddie was appointed Agriculture Minister – a post he held for a record 14 years.

He pushed hard against vested interests in the cities to establish four regional abattoirs, including one in Wagga Wagga, as well as improved grain storage facilities around the state.

He delivered teaching and technical colleges to his electorate and insisted on better schools.

As his community grew, his advocacy led to the establishment of maternity units to the Wagga Wagga and Junee Hospitals.

It’s clear Eddie was steeped in Labor values – a man whose ambition was to spread opportunity.

He was born at a time when people made their own opportunities, clearing the land for new towns and developing businesses and communities off their own wits.

But by the time he was in politics, he understood that our obligation is to harness prosperity to provide opportunities for future generations.

FAIRNESS

That heritage of fairness and opportunity informs modern Labor.

We celebrate success.

We encourage enterprise.

We want businesses – big and small – to be successful because they create jobs and produce revenues governments can use to spread opportunity.

Our opponents see prosperity as an end in itself, not as the means by which to spread fairness.

Even when they purport to deliver reform aimed at helping low and middle-income earners, their actions are calibrated for political outcomes, not fairness.

In the recent Budget, the Government extended the threshold for the second highest taxation level from $80,000 to $87,000.

This, we were told, was about tax relief for people who most needed tax relief.

But research from the Australia Institute shows that of the 10 federal electorates to receive the least benefit from the proposed shift, eight are in rural and regional Australia and four are held by the Nationals.

Here in Riverina 91 per cent of wage earners earn less than $80,000.

So they don’t get a tax cut.

Yet when you look at the electorates that gain the most benefit, the top five are Liberal-held city seats and the seat to receive the most benefit is Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth.

It’s followed closely by North Sydney, Warringah, Curtin and Bradfield.

This is not a tax cut. It is a political strategy to shore up seats in cities.

And it came in the same Budget in which the Government gave people earning $1 million a year a $17,000 tax cut.

The Budget contained a tax cut for those with incomes of more than $180,000.

Ninety-four percent of that tax cut goes to the top 1 per cent of income earners.

Those are the priorities of the Liberal Party and the Nationals.

My colleague Andrew Leigh, Labor’s Shadow Assistant Treasurer and a first-class economist, has calculated that between 1980 and 2014, the income share of our top 1 percent of income earners doubled, while that of the top 0.1 percent tripled.

Dr Leigh has also calculated that the richest three people in Australia have more combined wealth than the combined wealth of the poorest one million Australians.

That’s not acceptable.

The Labor Party must keep hammering away at the issue of fairness, all over the country, but particularly in rural and regional Australia.

While the conservatives serve their friends at the top end of town, including the top end of every country town, Labor policies are aimed directly at giving everyone a fair go.

EDUCATION

That’s why it is so important that we ensure that children in rural and regional Australia have access to the same quality of education as is available in the cities.

Education is not just a benefit to the individual.

Ensuring that every child has a chance to be his or her best helps our entire community.

Tolerating a situation where isolation is allowed to prevent that is not only unfair to the individual, but also fails to develop all of the human resources available to our nation as a whole.

For all we know, there are children in this country today with the potential to cure cancer or end hunger.

We need to make sure all children have the tools at their disposal to achieve their full potential.

That’s why a Shorten Labor Government would invest an additional $1.8 billion into schools in regional Australia to deliver equity on education.

That’s in addition to the fact that Labor’s existing need-based school funding model has a weighting toward rural and regional schools.

Of the extra two years funding the Coalition refuses to deliver, in breach of its 2013 election promise, half of the extra funding would go to rural and regional schools despite those schools having about a third of all students.

NATIONAL BROADBAND NETWORK

Fairness also demands broad access to the latest communications technology.

The former Labor Government proposed delivering high-speed broadband via fibre to the home or business premises at no cost to the individual.

In the 21st Century, high-speed broadband should be seen as an essential service, like water or electricity.

It’s a requirement of the technological age, in which connectivity is essential.

If we are smart, we can use the NBN to reduce the relevance of the tyranny of distance.

It offers great potential for rural and regional businesses to bypass traditional distribution systems.

It will also allow small businesses to take advantage of lower rents outside cities and to establish themselves in the regions, creating new jobs and new opportunities for those communities.

It can be the great enabler.

Yet under the Coalition’s Fraudband network, the great communities of regional Australia will not receive fibre to the premises, but fibre to a metal box on a street corner.

Fraudband offers half the Internet speeds that were promised at twice the price.

If we do only half a job, we will hold back development at the very time when we need use every tool at our disposal to reshape our economy.

And of course, rural and regional Australia will miss out on the full range of life-improving opportunities NBN applications in education and health.

The Coalition has mishandled the project.

And when information about its failures leaked, it called the police, even though it seemed to have no concerns about the leakage of its own Budget and important documents from the National Security Committee of the Cabinet about submarines in March.

The NBN leak led to a raid and search of the home of a Labor staffer which started about 11pm and continued until after 5am.

We all know that while Labor proposes to deliver fibre-based broadband, Mr Turnbull is delivering a copper-based system.

But when he talked about sending coppers to the home, no-one knew he meant it literally.

It’s also important that when governments invest in improved communications infrastructure, they invest on the basis of need, not on the basis of the electoral map.

I note that the Coalition recently announced some extra funding to address mobile telephone black spots outside cities.

That’s a good thing.

But it needs to be fairly applied.

Of the 499 mobile towers funded in Round one of the Mobile Black Spot Program, as of May 21, only 21 had actually been activated.

And of those 499, 416 are in Coalition electorates.

Here in Riverina 329 black spots have been reported but only nine have been earmarked for improvement.

In the Victorian Labor-held seat of McEwen, which is one of the most-fire prone areas in the nation, only two towers were proposed under the Mobile Black Spots program, despite 95 Black Spots having been identified across the electorate.

That’s not fair. It betrays a lack of vision.

CLIMATE CHANGE

This lack of vision is also evident in the Coalition’s irresponsible approach to climate change.

You can barely turn on the television or radio these days without reports of rural producers who are experiencing the effects of climate change.

It might be more frequent extreme weather events, shifts in seasonal patterns or the march of pests from Queensland southward with increases in temperature.

Even Barnaby Joyce, a long-time climate change sceptic, has acknowledged there is a problem.

The NSW Farmers Federation acknowledges the threats of climate change, amending its policy last year to call on governments to facilitate a shift away from the use of fossil fuels.

That’s the correct response to the challenge of climate change – adopting measures to actually reduce carbon emissions.

A market-based emissions trading system is the most logical way to do that.

Malcolm Turnbull used to agree.

Indeed, he once said he did not want to be part of any government that did not take climate change seriously.

Now he leads a government that does not take climate change seriously.

He is wedded to Tony Abbott’s approach of paying polluters and picking around the edges of the issue instead of showing leadership.

Mr Turnbull knows that climate change threatens our economy.

He knows it is particular threat to our agricultural industries and that we need those industries to grow to meet the burgeoning demand for food out of China, India and the rest of Asia.

Yet last September, overcome by hubris, Mr Turnbull traded in his convictions for the keys to the Lodge.

INFRASTRUCTURE

One of the keys to an economic resurgence in Australia is the provision of first-rate infrastructure.

On that score, Labor has a great story to tell.

Between 2007 and 2013, Labor more than doubled per capita investment in infrastructure from $132 per head to $225 per head.

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

When we left office six years later Australian was 1st.

We doubled the roads Budget, finished the duplication of the Hume Highway and significantly boosted investment on the Bruce and Pacific Highways.

We built or rebuilt 4000km of freight rail lines, boosting productivity and knocking six hours off the average freight journey from Brisbane to Melbourne and nine hours off the journey between the nation’s east and west coasts.

We provided $300 million to advance the important Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne and invested $600 million on improving parts of the existing rail network earmarked for inclusion in Inland Rail.

Three years later, one figure tells you everything you need to know about infrastructure investment under the Coalition.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics says that between the September quarter of 2013 – our last term in office – and the September quarter of 2015, public sector infrastructure investment fell by 20 per cent.

They cut investment in the Bruce and Pacific Highways.

And despite promising in 2013 they would “fast-track’’ Inland Rail,  their first two budgets did not include one dollar beyond that inherited from the former Labor Government’s 2011 Budget.

So much for fast-tracking.

Inland Rail would be a boon for this region.

By allowing people to get products to market more quickly, it would allow us to expand existing export industries in this part of the world and promote the development of new industries.

In this year’s Budget, announced last month, the Government finally allocated some funds to Inland Rail.

But we still have no starting date.

As John F Kennedy once said:

Things don’t happen. They are made to happen.

It is time to make Inland Rail happen.

The planning has all been done.

This project should be under construction.

HIGH SPEED RAIL

True leadership requires us to imagine a better future and then to take action to create that future.

One of my biggest disappointments during the past three years has been the government’s inaction on a project that I believe has the potential to turbo charge regional development in this nation for decades to come.

I’m referring to a High Speed Rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

This ambitious project would revolutionise interstate travel, allowing people to move between capital cities in as little as three hours.

But more importantly, it would boost the economies of the regional cities along its route, including here in Wagga Wagga.

The former Labor Government conducted a study which found High Speed Rail was feasible.

It would return, for example, more than $2 in public benefit for every dollar invested on the Sydney to Melbourne leg.

The study proposed stations for the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton as well as Wagga Wagga.

Having a High Speed Rail line on your doorstep here in Wagga Wagga would open up unprecedented economic opportunities.

Wagga Wagga would be the key stop between Sydney and Melbourne, meaning all services would stop here.

It’s not just about giving you quicker access to Sydney and Melbourne.

It would mean businesses located here could have quicker access to those markets.

And critically, it would mean people could set up businesses here or move their city-based businesses here to take advantage of lower costs, while still having ready access to city markets.

It would also boost tourism in your region.

Just like the Inland Rail, it’s time to get cracking.

The former Labor Government proposed establishing a High Speed Rail Authority to co-ordinate planning between the governments of Queensland, the ACT, NSW and Victoria.

The authority would also have begun acquiring the corridor to prevent it being built out by urban sprawl.

However, the incoming Coalition government dumped that plan and has refused to facilitate debate on any of my three attempts to advance the idea via a private member’s bill.

If Labor wins the July 2 election, we’ll establish a High Speed Rail Authority.

And we’ll ask it to move toward seeking expressions of interest from the many international railway companies that have the expertise to deliver this project.

VISION

A project like High Speed Rail requires us to show vision.

It means thinking beyond the next election and seeing the process of governing as nation building, not just for today, but for the future.

While our opponents see governing as an exercise in protecting vested interests, we understand that it is within our power to make decisions that can directly improve the lives of individuals and communities.

We have a choice to get moving on High Speed Rail and Inland Rail.

If we do, future generations will thank us, just as we thank Ben Chifley for his vision in pursuing the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Vision is important.

In 2016 we in the Labor Party must apply the same vision right across the policy spectrum when it comes to rural and regional Australia.

Like our opponents, we believe our nation needs to broaden its economy.

Our country needs to be more than a quarry and rural and regional Australia will be critical as we seek to expand existing sectors and create new in industries.

But if we are serious about that, we need to think big and demonstrate our vision by advancing practical policies that will make a difference.

We need to do exactly what Gough Whitlam talked about in 1969 – we must provide rural and regional Australia with opportunity.

We need to give it every tool of growth that is at our disposal.

Well-resourced schools and training facilities.

Great infrastructure.

State of the art fibre-to-the-premises NBN, to plug regional Australia into the 21st century with all of its great opportunities.

Mobile telephone access.

We must also act on climate change.

CONCLUSION

Thanks for having me here tonight.

I always enjoy mixing visiting Labor activists outside our cities, particularly those in electorates held by our political opponents.

It takes courage and commitment to keep taking up the ball against the odds.

You sometimes do it tough.

But your enthusiasm is boundless and your efforts are highly appreciated.

In the past, Labor has not done enough to support your efforts.

But under the leadership of my colleague Joel Fitzgibbon and his Country Caucus process, we are rebuilding and seeking to strengthen Labor’s presence and effectiveness right across the bush.

I know Labor can rely on you to keep taking up the ball.

And I assure you, that for the reasons I have outlined tonight, there is no better time than the present to take on the Coalition in rural and regional Australia.

ENDS

 

May 2, 2016

High Speed Rail Planning Authority Bill 2016: Second Reading

Inspirational author Helen Keller, the first sight-impaired person to earn a university degree, once made a critical observation about vision.

She said:

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.

The proposed High Speed Rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra is a project that requires vision.

It is big—more than 1,700 kilometres long.

It is challenging—it will involve the construction of tens of kilometres of tunnels.

It is complex, necessarily involving the governments of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory as well as dozens of local councils.

Making a project of this scale a reality requires vision.

We must imagine a better future and take actions to create that future.

We have done the research.

We know that the project is viable.

What this parliament needs to do is commit to the next step required to make it a reality—the creation of an authority to advance detailed planning and work with other jurisdictions and begin to acquire the corridor before it is built out by urban sprawl.

That is the thinking behind this bill.

A LONG ROAD

This is the third time this bill has come before us.

I first introduced it in December 2013 as the first private member’s bill before the parliament this term.

However, a lack of political will from the Government meant the bill lapsed, requiring me to reintroduce it in October last year.

But once again, this bill lapsed last month when the Government prorogued the parliament in extraordinary circumstances and then reconvened it for a special fresh sitting staged to allow it to contrive reasons for the double dissolution of the parliament.

So I reintroduced this bill on 19 April.

We could have debated it back then. Indeed, at one stage it was literally the only piece of legislation that was before the House of Representatives.

Yet this government showed no vision, despite the fact that people like former trade minister Andrew Robb, have come out as strong supporters of high-speed rail.

Mr Robb has stated that he could produce the names of international companies that had told him they could deliver the project in full.

Last month someone in the government floated the idea in a national newspaper that the entire project could be delivered using value capture.

This, I do not think, is realistic.

Any politician who tells you that they can fund an entire rail line using value capture is pulling your leg.

And like most of the Government’s thought bubbles, the idea collapsed within hours when the parliamentary secretary for cities ruled out support for the project.

This is indeed a shame.

It is another lost opportunity from a Government that had a plan to win government but no plan to govern.

THE PROJECT

As Transport Minister in the former Labor government, I commissioned a two-part study involving extensive consultation with industry and international operators of High Speed Rail, as well as significant community input.

The study, published in April 2013, included the business case for the project, consideration of environmental issues, projections of patronage, the proposed route, proposed stations and proposed time lines.

It found that High Speed Rail down the east coast of Australia was indeed a viable proposition.

For example, it found that High Speed Rail would return, for the Sydney to Melbourne section, $2.15 in economic benefit for every dollar invested.

The report found that once fully operational across the Brisbane to Melbourne corridor, High Speed Rail could carry approximately 84 million passengers each and every year.

At speeds of 350 kilometres per hour, people would be able to travel from Melbourne to Sydney, or Melbourne to Brisbane, in less than three hours. Of course, new technology is seeing speeds in excess of that.

The report found that Commonwealth leadership and coordination would be essential, given the number of jurisdictions involved.

High Speed Rail would also be an engineering challenge, requiring at least 80 kilometres of tunnels, including 67 kilometres in Sydney alone.

But despite these challenges, the experts said that High Speed Rail had huge potential, particularly if we consider where our society is headed over coming decades.

We can anticipate significant population growth over coming decades along the route of this proposed line.

We can also anticipate that growing pressure for a carbon-constrained economy will drive the economics of this project ever more positively over time.

We can also anticipate that if we fail to act soon, delivery of High Speed Rail will be made more difficult and more costly because parts of the corridor will be built out by urban sprawl.

That is why this bill proposes to create an 11-person High Speed Rail authority to bring together all affected states and territories as well as rail and engineering experts to progress planning and, critically, focus on the corridor.

Members would include:

  • One member from each of the jurisdictions affected—Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory;
  • One member representing the Australian Local Government Association;
  • One member nominated by the Australasian Railway Association; and
  • Five members appointed by the minister for infrastructure on the basis of qualifications or expertise—to make sure there is engineering and other expertise on the authority.

The authority’s roles would include consideration of:

  • Land use planning relating to the corridor;
  • Safety;
  • Measures to minimise environmental impact;
  • Public consultation; and
  • Intervention to purchase the corridor.

This is not an idea that I came up with. We had proper process, and I appointed a High Speed Rail Advisory Group that included people such as the former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, the Business Council of Australia’s chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, and Australasian Railway Association chief executive Bryan Nye.

It was chaired by the deputy secretary of my former department, Lyn O’Connell.

Serious people having a look at a serious issue and coming up with serious suggestions about the way forward, and a way forward that should have been bipartisan.

That is why the former Labor government embraced these recommendations, which were unanimous, and allocated $54 million to establish the authority and begin the process of corridor acquisition.

But in 2013 the incoming Coalition Government scrapped this allocation and turned its back on the project.

VISION

To best understand the potential of High Speed Rail, we need to look well beyond 2016 and consider where this nation will be in coming decades.

We know that our population will be larger.

We now that this growth will be concentrated precisely on the route of this High Speed Rail proposal.

We can also expect the world will have moved in terms of economic options as it is doing in Asia and Europe towards rail. Rail is the transport of the 21st century.

According to the High Speed Rail study I referred to earlier, travel on the east coast of Australia is forecast to grow by about 1.8 per cent every year over the next two decades and to increase by 60 per cent by 2035.

The study said east coast trips would double from 152 million trips in 2009 to 355 million trips in 2065.

There is another compelling reason to proceed with High Speed Rail, and that is the boost to regional Australia. That is why this bill will be seconded by the member for Newcastle.

Stations are proposed for the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

This project will position these centres to take some of the population growth pressure off our capital cities, which will no doubt be a key issue in the future.

Importantly, it will also provide for uplift value by the economic improvement that will occur in those regional centres to be factored into the funding, building and construction of the High Speed Rail line.

It could also deliver a massive improvement in liveability.

Imagining living in Newcastle or the Southern Highlands and being able to commute to the central business district of Sydney in under an hour.

It will transform those centres and facilitate new business.

CONCLUSION

Vision is one of the obligations of leadership.

Today’s leaders will best serve those who follow us if we think ahead.

True leaders do not just sit around waiting for the telephone to ring. They act.

This Parliament should show some genuine leadership by acting on High Speed Rail, starting today by debating and supporting this bill.

I fear this is unlikely, given the Government’s refusal to debate this issue over the last three years.

But there is light at the end  the tunnel.

In the general election in July, the people of Australia have the ability to take this issue out of this visionless coalition government’s hands.

A Shorten Labor Government will act where the Abbott-Turnbull Government has failed.

We will establish a High Speed Rail authority.

We will ask the authority to move quickly towards calling for expressions of interest from international rail companies that have shown a capacity to deliver real projects.

Labor is prepared to think ahead.

Future generations will be the beneficiaries.

Mar 10, 2016

Speech to the Sydney Institute – A new agenda for Australian cities – Sydney

As he launched his 1969 campaign, Gough Whitlam made an important observation about the need for proper planning in Australia’s cities.

“Crucial in determining the quality of life is the environment in which we live; the shape of our cities and towns shapes all our lives, for all our lives.”

Outlining his vision for the nation, Whitlam argued that without Federal leadership our cities could never rival their international counterparts.

He said, “by neglect now, we are building massive problems for the future.”

These words are just as true today.

Labor has long understood the central importance of cities to Australia’s economy.

Gough Whitlam and Tom Uren were right to pioneer urban policy.

But they did this not just to accelerate the nation’s productivity.

They did this because they recognised that a properly planned city has the capacity to shape the lives of people, and the opportunities available to them.

And in the decades since Gough Whitlam first put forward the case for Federal Government leadership and investment in cities, Labor has continued to be the Party of urban policy.

The Hawke Government, through Brian Howe, created the Better Cities Program, which revitalised parts of our cities like East Perth, Honeysuckle in Newcastle and Ultimo-Pyrmont in Sydney.

The Rudd Government created Infrastructure Australia, established the Major Cities Unit and the Australian Council of Local Government, developed a national urban policy and funded the Liveable Cities Program.

Regrettably, the current government has reversed this engagement with cities.

It has marginalised Infrastructure Australia.

It has ignored urban policy.

It removed all funding for public transport projects not currently under construction.

When Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott I welcomed the initial appointment of a Minister for Cities.

But that appointment didn’t last long.

In the latest Cabinet reshuffle the Cities portfolio has been downgraded to that of a parliamentary secretary.

Our cities deserve better.

Urban policy must constantly evolve to meet contemporary needs, but more importantly it must anticipate future needs.

Smart, evidence-based decisions on investment in our cities will ensure the best outcomes.

That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing that a Labor Government will broaden Infrastructure Australia’s role in two ways.

As well as looking at the economic benefits of proposals through cost-benefit analyses, the Government will require that projects address two new criteria.

Firstly, proponents will need to show what provision for smart infrastructure has been included to ensure maximum benefit is achieved from any investment.

Secondly, projects will be required to include in their design measures that improve their sustainability, including provision for active transport where appropriate.

These are common sense proposals, which should be included as a matter of course, rather than as an afterthought.

Before I speak further on this, let me outline the context for this policy announcement.

THE CHALLENGE

Our nation is in a state of change.

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.

Yet our cities are already feeling the pinch of urbanisation.

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

According to research from the Grattan Institute, the CBDs of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth generated almost 15 per cent of all economic activity in Australia in 2011-2012.

This concentration of economic activity has exacerbated the issue of urban congestion.

Across our nation there’s an emerging phenomenon where people are being forced to work in or near the city and commute to drive-in, drive-out suburbs where they can find a house but can’t find a job.

Estimates from Infrastructure Australia indicate that congestion will cost the nation $53 billion in lost productivity by 2031 if left unchecked.

But while this is about the economy, it is also about equity.

Traffic congestion makes it harder for people to access the education and services they need.

It makes it harder for disadvantaged people to improve their circumstances.

However our public transport system, for many, is inaccessible.

On the edges of our cities, many people don’t have access to public transport.

For those that do, surviving the ‘crush load’ conditions of the morning peak hour is the second challenge.

According to the NSW Bureau of Transport Statistics, here in Sydney many commuters, especially those travelling from the western suburbs, frequently travel in trains operating at a load of 167 per cent during the morning peak hour.

This is not sustainable.

It’s also not practical.

We need to invest in public transport.

LABOR’S RECORD

When I was Minister for Infrastructure and Transport we lifted infrastructure spending to record levels.

When we took office, Australia was 20th among OECD nations when it came to infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP.

When we left office, Australia was 1st.

We doubled the roads budget and we allocated more investment to public transport than all other governments combined since Federation.

We established Infrastructure Australia, which conducted audits and identified a national infrastructure priority list.

We set up the Major Cities Unit and the Urban Policy Forum.

We produced the annual State of Australian Cities reports, which were downloaded more than three million times and we released Australia’s first national urban policy, “Our Cities, Our Future.”

We also created the nation’s first Urban Design Protocol, which was developed with industry and included a checklist for designers to ensure they took into account a range of quality-of-life issues including heat.

Labor did all this because it’s our long-held view the Commonwealth can improve our cities by providing direct investment and policy leadership to other levels of government.

THE COALITION

By contrast, one of the first acts of the Coalition Government was to abolish the Major Cities Unit.

It disbanded the Urban Policy Forum and marginalised Infrastructure Australia.

Under the Coalition infrastructure investment has fallen.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that infrastructure work conducted for the public sector has declined by more than 20 per cent since the 2013 election.

Despite cutting investment by 20 per cent the Coalition will now cut it again to spend $18 million on a propaganda campaign to pretend otherwise.

It can’t deliver actual projects, so it is delivering propaganda instead.

What’s more, this campaign has been named ‘Building our Future’.

Yet the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook document released last year shows the Government has no new money for three new projects it has announced in recent months – the Gold Coast Light Rail Stage II, Adelaide’s Northern Connector and Perth’s Armadale Road upgrade.

Delivering these projects within the existing infrastructure budget will see other projects cut, deferred or cancelled.

You can’t claim to be building for the future when you’re actually reducing infrastructure investment.

This comes in addition to the fact the Howard Government squandered more than $300 billion of windfall tax collections driven by the boom on pre-election handouts.

According to Treasury research released in 2008, the mining boom delivered the Howard government a revenue windfall of $334 billion between the 2004-05 Budgets and the 2007 election.

If even a portion of this revenue had been invested in infrastructure at the time, Australia would be in a better position now.

In 2016, in the absence of windfall tax receipts, governments need to lift their own infrastructure investment as much as they reasonably can while also finding ways to lift private sector investment.

This requires Commonwealth leadership.

LABOR’S PLAN

Australia needs a Minister for Cities who understands cities and the role of the Commonwealth in ensuring they are productive, sustainable and liveable.

In 2014 at the National Press Club I outlined Labor’s 10 point plan for cities.

It’s a comprehensive vision that goes to the heart of what makes our cities productive, sustainable and liveable.

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

Since then we have built upon our policy.

Last year Bill Shorten announced that a Labor Government will make private investment in nation building easier through a $10 billion infrastructure financing facility administered by Infrastructure Australia.

In a time of limited resources government must think creatively about new financing models for infrastructure.

The model will be similar to the highly successful Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which has attracted $1.80 in private investment for every dollar of public investment.

Subject to strict and transparent guidelines, Infrastructure Australia will work with private investors to help mitigate risk on big projects using loan guarantees, loans, seed money and direct investment to get projects up and running.

This will give the private sector the confidence it needs to be involved.

It also opens the door to the $2 trillion held in superannuation, bringing a national pipeline of investment online.

But today’s announcement takes these ideas one step further.

Labor wants to see a return to evidence-based policy decisions.

We’ve seen the consequences of funding projects on the run:

  • The East West Link fiasco;
  • The collapse of the Perth Freight Link in the courts, and;
  • The blowout on WestConnex from $10 billion to $16.8 billion.

All on the Coalition’s watch.

That’s why Federal Labor has asked the Australian National Office of Audit to review the Turnbull Government’s entire infrastructure program.

FINANCING PROJECTS

To reduce the infrastructure deficit we must also think of smarter financing models.

This includes being smarter about how we encourage private investment, whether this is through the policy measures I mentioned earlier or through new, innovative means.

Value capture is one solution.

I’m pleased the Coalition Government has announced a willingness to consider this measure.

But while they’re still thinking about their plan, we’ve developed one.

This will come as no surprise – as far back as 2011, I established the Infrastructure Finance Working Group, which provided advice on exactly these matters.

And last year I put forward the case for a value uplift model with regard to Badgerys Creek airport.

I argued that it needed to be connected to Sydney’s rail network from day one.

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

This would complete a loop line around Sydney and is worth building even if we weren’t building an airport.

The line could be funded at minimal public cost by understanding that the land around the airport holds more value if the airport is served by a railway line than if it is not.

The Commonwealth can capture this uplift value by factoring in the rail line to the lease price of the airport.

The airport operator will then be able to lease out land to aviation-related businesses in the area at higher rates than could be achieved if the airport had no rail access.

The existence of the rail link would also increase land values of the employment lands in the nearby precinct owned by the NSW government.

The NSW government should factor in that uplift value to its contribution to the rail line.

But this is simply one option.

All we need is some flexibility in our thinking.

High Speed Rail is another example of a project that would benefit from this approach.

It’s a game changer for the nation and will revolutionise interstate travel.

It also has the capacity to turbo-charge the economic potential of regional communities on routes like the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

The study into High Speed Rail that I commissioned when I was Minister showed the economic benefits outweighed the costs.

It found that high-speed rail would return, for the Sydney to Melbourne section, more than $2 in economic benefit for every dollar invested.

It’s a project that stacks up.

We just need a Government with vision to make the call.

That’s why I have a Private Members Bill before the Parliament to create a High Speed Rail Authority.

This is in line with the recommendations of the High Speed Rail Advisory Group, which included Tim Fischer and Jennifer Westacott.

The Authority is needed to coordinate the preservation of the corridor, for which we allocated an initial $54 million with was cut in the 2014 Budget.

High speed rail technology and infrastructure is proven. Around the world millions of people travel using it every day.

Almost every example of well deployed high speed rail involves a partnership between government and the private sector.

Companies based in Japan, China, Korea and Europe have experience in constructing and operating successful High Speed Rail projects and we should use that expertise.

That’s why a future Labor Government would have the High Speed Rail Authority, once established, work through a process for gathering expressions of interest.

Given the international interest in High Speed Rail in Australia, I have no doubt this would advance the project.

SMART INFRASTRUCTURE

I want to return now to the other policy announcements I have made tonight.

Smart infrastructure will future proof our cities.

In the digital age, time stops for no one.

Labor understands this.

That is why the former Labor Government invested heavily in the Managed Motorways Program, which increases the efficiency of existing road assets through the use of smart technology.

In this particular case ‘smart technology’ included entry ramp signalling, variable speed limit signs, lane control, CCTVs, and digital message signs which provide live updates on traffic conditions and delays.

At a practical level these measures have made it easier for governments to upgrade and better use existing infrastructure

It also goes part of the way to addressing the problem of congestion, and this technology is used on some of our major motorways such as the M4 in Sydney.

But there are also other instances of smart technology being incorporated into cities.

Water companies, for instance, have found innovative ways to resolve some of their most common issues through drones, smart materials and other forms of new technology.

Yarra Valley Water, which services 1.7 million people and 50,000 businesses throughout Melbourne has partnered with IBM to use data analytics, maximising their asset performance while improving customer service.

Yarra Valley Water has also implemented new smart technology called TaKaDu Software.

This software identifies bursts, leaks and meter failures and also provides geolocations for these events.

It monitors and analyses the state and changes in the water and sewerage system in real time using a combination of tuned algorithms, historical analysis and live system data, to identify deviations from predicted system behaviour.

By using this software Yarra Valley Water saved $930,000 and 1.05 billion litres of water in the last financial year.

Queensland Urban Utilities also uses this technology.

The software not only reduces costs, but also minimises the disruption experienced by the community.

It saves water and it saves time.

A planner’s map of a city like Sydney will show that so much of our supporting infrastructure is located by the side of roads.

When a pipe bursts, or an electricity line comes down, cities simply grind to a halt.

Smart technology like TaKaDu Software changes this.

It keeps the city moving.

It also provides us with advanced options to assess ageing infrastructure.

In a highly urbanised area, innovation like this is critical.

Upgrading existing infrastructure where identified as appropriate saves both time and money.

If new infrastructure is not required, we shouldn’t build it.

Smart technology improves the decisions we make.

It facilitates a more sustainable approach, while ensuring the most appropriate allocation of resources.

SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE

Increasing the resilience of our cities does more than simply prepare them for the potentially devastating effects of climate change.

It also ensures they play their part in addressing the shift to a carbon-constrained economy.

In 2016 it makes sense that projects submitted to Infrastructure Australia demonstrate sustainable infrastructure.

Commercial and residential buildings alone are responsible for approximately 23 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainable urban design and planning must be at the forefront of our consideration.

Cities, globally, are rising to this challenge.

Copenhagen has announced its plan to become a carbon neutral city by 2025.

It’s the first Scandinavian city to adopt a policy that requires green roofs for all new buildings with roof slopes of less than 30 degrees.

France, similarly, has legislated that rooftops on new buildings in commercial zones must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels.

Here in Australia, our urban planners and architects are increasingly incorporating sustainability into their design.

Last year the Green Building Council of Australia last year certified 218 Green Star projects in 2015, compared with 156 in 2014.

That’s an increase of 40 per cent.

City Councils, such as the City of Sydney are also taking action.

In 2014 the City of Sydney implemented a Green Roofs and Walls Policy, the first of its kind in Australia.

They are also working to lift their tree canopy in public areas from the existing 15.5 per cent to 23.5 per cent by 2030.

While both of these measures go some of the way to addressing the important problem of the Heat Island Effect, it also achieves something else.

Recent research has suggested greener cities make people happier and healthier.

I’m not surprised by this.

I’ve always thought that liveability and sustainability go hand in hand.

When in Government I released the nation’s first Urban Design Protocol.

It sets out the common sense principles which underpin good, sustainable urban design.

It also provides sound, practical advice for avoiding the planning mistakes which too often create neighbourhoods characterised by high crime rates, poor health outcomes, social isolation, joblessness, poor housing and a lack of basic services.

Best practice and sustainable urban design should be considered for any development that bears upon liveability.

And that’s why I’ve announced tonight that sustainability be considered by new projects submitted to Infrastructure Australia.

Badgerys Creek is the perfect example of how this might work.

If we look to our international counterparts we can see that in the green-fields around Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, authorities have been thinking laterally when it comes to mitigating aircraft noise.

Noise has dropped by half by digging 150 symmetrical furrows in a nearby 32 hectare site green belt, which functions also as a recreational park.

It’s creative thinking at its best.

And because Badgerys Creek is a green-field site it’s even more important that it implement best environmental practice.

We’ll only get one chance to build Sydney’s second airport.

We need to get it right to guarantee maximum economic benefit, while also ensuring sustainable environmental outcomes.

But as our cities expand, we must also ensure our parks, open spaces and waterways are protected for these same reasons.

Unchecked growth has the potential to devastate these valuable resources.

I fear that if sustainability is not a priority when we consider new projects then we put all our urban environment amenities at great risk.

This also means incorporating active transport into project design.

Projects should demonstrate an understanding of how transport systems are linked to smaller scale transport dynamics like active transport to reduce the community’s high dependence on this car.

In many places around the country this is already occurring.

For instance, in Perth as part of the Citylink project, you can leave your bike at a u-rail on the platform.

Bike hubs and lockers are also provided at a number of stations.

Victoria’s Regional Rail Link, which was funded by the former Labor Government, offers secure bike parking at new stations including Tarneit and Wyndham Vale.

Big office buildings in our cities are also jumping on board.

Owners of the Grosvenor Place tower, in Sydney, reportedly spent more than $9 million recently transforming a basement into a well-appointed cycling centre, with space for 230 bicycles, as well as fancy showers and dressing rooms including ironing boards, grooming stations and shoe cleaners.

The International Towers building, in Sydney’s Barangaroo development, will include 1000 bike racks and an on-site bike repair shop, but only 600 car parking spaces.

The Federal Government has a role to play in identifying best practice, then facilitating and investing in its replication where appropriate across the nation.

CONCLUSION

The Federal Government must be ambitious.

If the foundation of ambition is evidence-based, the people in our cities and regions will reap the rewards.

By this I mean projects that are properly planned and independently appraised by Infrastructure Australia.

Tonight’s announcement adds a new dimension to this approach, requiring projects to also show consideration of smart infrastructure and sustainable infrastructure.

We know that in 2016, urban policy is not a luxury.

It’s a necessity.

Our nation’s cities must be liveable and sustainable.

But for the sake of our economy, and our ability to create new jobs, our cities must also be productive.

This requires that governments dedicate themselves to driving productivity gains and constantly reviewing their approaches to make sure they are meeting current demands.

That’s why Labor will go to this year’s election with a comprehensive plan for our nation’s cities.

Mar 4, 2016

Speech to Maritime Union of Australia Conference – Gold Coast

That great campaigner for social justice Martin Luther King once said human progress was never automatic or inevitable.

King said:

Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

Today I want to pay tribute to the sacrifice, tireless exertions and passionate concern of five men.

I’m talking about Warren Hopkins, Liam Conaghan, Brett Kolpin, Zac Kinzett and Michael Pawson.

The so-called Portland Five were dragged out of their bunks on January 13 because they had the courage to stand up against injustice.

Warren, Liam, Brett, Zac and Michael and the other 35 Portland crew personify the ongoing struggle in this country between those who believe Australian governments should support Australian jobs and those who put their ideology ahead of the welfare of their fellow Australians.

It’s a battle between those who understand that the national interest is served by the retention of a vibrant Australian shipping industry and those who look no further than the interests of their political donors.

A struggle between those who understand the power of collectivism, and those whose creed is the law of the jungle.

So let me salute the 40 men who have the ticker to stand up for their own convictions, just as I salute the crew of the CSL Melbourne, who were removed from their vessel by riot police in similar circumstances last month.

To you I say: Thank you.

I support your struggle.

You can expect me to keep speaking on your behalf whether it is in the Parliament of Australia, in the media or on a street corner in my own electorate.

Also, let me thank the MUA for the fantastic framed poster featuring an image of the Portland and the signatures of the Portland Five.

I was humbled when you dropped the gift off to my office in Canberra.

It’s now hanging on the office wall.

Visitors comment on it, which gives me the welcome opportunity to tell them about your struggle.

PRINCIPLES SHOULD MEAN SOMETHING

A moment ago I spoke in praise of people who stand up for their principles.

This brings me to Malcolm Turnbull, whose convictions have lately been exposed as somewhat fluid.

Let’s cast our minds back to September last year, when Mr Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott.

Like all Australians, I was pleased to see Mr Abbott lose power.

Mr Abbott had a plan to get into government, but never had a plan to actually govern this nation.

His agenda extended no further than wiping out the hard-won gains of the past.

Mr Abbott broke his election promises like plates at a Greek wedding.

Cuts to health.

Cuts to education.

Cuts to pensions.

A taxpayer-funded vendetta against trade unions.

Mr Abbott’s leadership style was based entirely on conflict and division, rather than on compromise and inclusion.

His combative approach so dismayed mainstream Australia that Mr Turnbull came to office amid a national sigh of relief.

He promised a more mature economic debate; a new focus on urban policy; investment in public transport and an end to the culture wars and intolerance cultivated by his predecessor.

But six months later, nothing has changed except the name on the door of the PM’s office.

The man who promised so much has revealed himself as nothing more than Tony Abbott in a top hat.

Mr Abbott had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott, but he also has no plan to govern.

No agenda.

The Tories still want to cut education and health investment.

They still want to cut pensions.

They still despise unions and want to undermine wages and conditions and penalty rates.

But what is most bewildering is that Mr Turnbull has done nothing on the issues he has championed for his entire public life.

There’s been no genuine action on climate change.

No change in the government’s approach toward Australia becoming a republic.

And no action on marriage equality.

Indeed, in the past week or so Mr Turnbull has stood silent as Cory Bernardi and Mr Abbott have attacked the Safe Schools program, a voluntary program that seeks to protect children from bullying.

The reason for Mr Turnbull’s sudden transformation is very simple.

Unlike the crews of the Portland and the Melbourne, Mr Turnbull does not have the courage to stand up for his principles.

When the great test of character came, Mr Turnbull squibbed it.

He surrendered his principles in exchange for the keys to the Lodge.

And the mob has worked him out.

Mr Turnbull’s dramatic collapse in opinion polls in recent weeks is solid gold proof of the simple fact that Australians can smell a fraud a mile away.

MARITIME REFORM

While Mr Turnbull has been abandoning his principles, his government has been quietly continuing its ugly campaign to destroy your jobs in the Australian maritime industry.

Last November you and I celebrated a great victory when the Senate rejected the Work Choices on Water legislation, which would have ended preference for Australian-flagged vessels engaged in domestic trade.

Congratulations to the MUA for your long-running campaign.

This was the first piece of legislation I have seen in two decades in Parliament that explicitly stated in its text that its objective was to destroy Australian jobs.

Your jobs.

While we all cheered that November night, I think we all knew that the Tories, having failed to win parliamentary support for their ugly dogma, would be back for another go.

So now, having failed to legislate your jobs out of existence, they are abusing existing law to destroy your jobs through the back door via the issuance of temporary licences allowing the use of foreign vessels.

Last October the Government issued a licence allowing Alcoa to replace the MV Portland with a foreign vessel with a foreign crew.

The Portland crew was ordered to sail the ship to Singapore, where they were to be sacked.

They refused, leading to the industrial dispute that ended in the early hours of the morning on January 13.

The issuance of this licence was a clear abuse of the existing law put in place by the former Labor Government.

That legislation allows the issue of temporary licences for foreign vessels for temporary work, but only where no Australian vessel is available.

But in the case of the Portland, an Australian crew was available.

It was already on the vessel.

And the work in which the Portland was engaged was in no way temporary.

The vessel had been hauling cargo from Western Australia to Portland for more than two decades.

Labor’s Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act explicitly states in Section 34 that the issuance of temporary licences must be consistent with the overall objectives of the Act.

Those objectives, explained on the Act’s first page, include facilitation of long term growth of Australian shipping including promotion of the use of Australian vessels.

I have a message for the new Minister for Transport, Darren Chester.

You don’t facilitate growth in Australian shipping by destroying Australian jobs.

You don’t maximise the use of Australian flagged vessels by conniving to replace them with foreign flagged vessels.

During the MV Portland dispute, Mr Chester’s predecessor, Warren Truss, behaved like a disinterested observer – pretending he had nothing to do with the issue.

But in the past couple of weeks, it has emerged that Mr Truss was in it up to his armpits.

Just last week the Senate’s inquiry into the increasing use of Flag of Convenience vessels in Australian waters heard Mr Truss was informed on December 17 that ship owner ASP had formally requested AMSA to accredit a foreign crew to take the jobs of the Portland crew.

But for four weeks, as the crew conducted industrial action and the vessel sat idle, Mr Truss did nothing to save their jobs.

That makes him complicit in putting Australians out of work.

These are real Australians with real bills and real families to keep.

Importantly, these real people also used to pay real taxes to the Treasury.

No more.

THE NATIONAL INTEREST

That’s what you get from the Tories.

But Labor understands that it is in Australia’s economic, environmental and security interests to maintain a strong domestic maritime industry.

It’s in our economic interests for the jobs it provides and the skills base in maintains.

Not to mention the fact that Australian mariners pay tax here.

Then there’s the issue of the environment.

Since 2004 Australian inspectors have detained 122 foreign flagged oil tankers because they have been overloaded or have had defective equipment or serious deterioration of their hulls judged to be a risk to their seaworthiness.

In the same period, they detained no Australian flagged oil tankers.

Not one of the major shipping accidents around our coast in recent years involved an Australian flagged vessel.

They were all overseas vessels with foreign crews.

Remember the Pasha Bulker.

In June 2007 the vessel ran aground on Nobbys Beach at Newcastle during a storm.

She was flying the flag of Panama with a crew made up of mariners from the Philippines and Korea.

The subsequent investigation raised concern about the failure of the ship’s master to take on ballast or to weigh anchor and move offshore before the winds associated with the storm reached gale force.

In 2009, the Pacific Adventurer began losing shipping containers overboard in very heavy seas off southern Queensland.

One or more of those containers pierced a hole in the vessel as it tumbled into the water. The result was a 60-kilometre-long oil slick that hit the beaches of the prime tourism region of the Sunshine Coast, resulting in a clean-up bill of $34 million.

About a year later, Chinese registered bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 ran aground off Rockhampton.

The vessel was 10 kilometres away from normal shipping lanes.

It carved a hole in the Great Barrier Reef three kilometres long and 250 metres wide and created an oil slick more than three kilometres long.

There was no Australian pilot aboard this vessel. The mariner in charge had little knowledge of Australian conditions was operating on little sleep because he was operating under third-world industrial conditions.

He was later sentenced for 18 months in jail for negligence.

Australian vessels are crewed by Australian mariners who are properly trained and operate in accordance with Australian workplace conditions.

They know the coastline and understand that tourism is critical to our national economy.

Australia’s mariners also have an important role in protecting our national security.

They understand the location and importance of coastal facilities that could be subject to terrorist attacks.

Because they are familiar with what goes on around our coast, they are more likely to notice when something untoward is going on.

Perhaps most importantly, Australian mariners are subject to strict background checks before they can qualify for a Marine Security Identification Card.

But foreign crews are not subject to the same level of scrutiny.

Next sitting week the Parliament will consider legislation that will strengthen background checks on Australian mariners so that officials can not only check whether they have links to terrorist groups, but also whether they have links to organised crime.

But at the same time that the Government seeks to toughen these checks on Australian mariners, it is undermining its own efforts by seeking to eliminate Australian mariners from coastal trade and replace them with foreign crews whose backgrounds have not been the subject of such rigorous checks.

This is not only contradictory. It is dangerous.

In 2012, the Office of the Inspector of Transport Security said the following with respect to security in the Offshore Oil and Gas Sector:

 “As the Australian-based industry and associated employment demands continue to grow, the employee profile of many companies is changing and more foreign workers, generally operating under 457 visa arrangements, are being engaged.

 “As is the case internationally, the ability to effectively vet potential employees, either through company recruitment processes, Maritime Security Identification Cards (MSICs), passport or 457 visa related checks, is essentially limited to basic character style assessment and cannot operate as a genuine security clearance process.

The Inspector of Transport Security is not alone in his concerns.

The Department of Immigration and Border Control has warned that the increasing use of Flag of Convenience vessels from nations like Panama and Liberia increases security risks to Australia.

In a submission to the Senate’s Flag of Convenience inquiry, the department warned:

 There are features of FOC registration, regulation and practice that organised crime syndicates or terrorists may seek to exploit.

It went on to say that in many FOC nations, there was limited transparency about the identity of the owners of vessels.

 Reduced transparency or secrecy surrounding complex financial and ownership arrangements are factors that can make FOC ships more attractive for use in illegal activity, including by organised crime or terrorist groups.

 This means that FOC ships may be used in a range of illegal activities including illegal exploitation of natural resources, illegal activity in protected areas, people smuggling and facilitating prohibited imports or exports.

These are serious issues.

They are too serious to be compromised by the conservatives’ never-ending vendetta against trade unions, particularly the MUA, and its determination to undermine the wages and conditions of average Australian workers.

Make no mistake here.

The Government’s attack on shipping, linked as it is to its hatred for the MUA, is the thin edge of the wedge.

They tried Work Choices and were thrown out of office.

Once they got back in, they tried to destroy Australian shipping using legislation.

And when that was rejected, they shifted the battle front to the back door, attempting to pervert existing law to their wipe out your jobs.

CONCLUSION

That is why the battle of the Portland crew is so important.

Already, the conservatives have repeated the Portland tactics with the CSL Melbourne.

This time it wasn’t security guards, but riot police being used to remove people with the courage to stand up for their jobs, for their families and for the national interest.

It is very clear that the Coalition does not care that its agenda has been rejected by the Parliament of Australia.

It will resort to anything – fair means or foul – to destroy your jobs and the union that represents your interests.

I can guarantee you that if Labor is elected in the forthcoming federal election, we will end the attacks on Australian shipping.

We will support Australian workers and in doing so we will be supporting the national interest.

In closing I again congratulate the MUA and the crews of the Portland and the Melbourne for your courage.

As you know, this is not just about the jobs of the workers involved in these disputes.

It’s about the rights of every worker in Australia.

The rights that workers enjoy in this country have been hard won by unions and their members over decades.

They are worth protecting, not just on your behalf, but for your children and their children.

As Redgum sang: If you don’t fight, you lose.