Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Speeches"
Mar 3, 2016

Address to the Australian Logistics Council – “Infrastructure – Australia at the cross roads”

Randwick

Thanks for the invitation to speak to you today.

In the wake of the decline in the mining boom, our nation needs to diversify sources of economic growth.

While that involves seeking to create new industries, it also includes boosting productivity by ensuring our roads, railways, ports and intermodal facilities develop in ways that facilitate easy movement of goods and services.

I always find it instructive to meet the Australian Logistics Council because your members rely upon existing infrastructure to run their businesses.

You understand what works and, more importantly, you can help us identify the bottlenecks that hold back economic growth.

People don’t often use the words glamorous and logistics in the same sentence.

But your industry is fundamental to our economic prosperity.

If we want our economy to grow, and if we want it to produce jobs for our children, we must prioritise efficiency.

This requires great roads and railway lines.

It requires efficient ports and inter-modal facilities.

Above all, in a world of limited resources, it requires that governments direct scarce public money to the infrastructure projects that have the greatest potential to make your jobs easier, thereby making our economy more efficient.

PROCESS IS EVERYTHING

When I was preparing my remarks today, I reviewed what I said last year when we met at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

My speech that day focused on the need for proper process when it came to deciding which infrastructure projects should attract public funding.

I noted that the former Labor Government had created Infrastructure Australia as one of our first acts to advise the Commonwealth on infrastructure priorities and assess costs and benefits, but that the Abbott Government had abandoned proper process, funding new toll road projects in the absence of proper analysis.

I argued that both sides of politics must take Infrastructure Australia’s advice seriously and commit to an agreed pipeline of projects to strip the politics out of nation building.

And on the way through, I also criticised Mr. Abbott’s absurd ban on investing in public transport.

Against that background, I was pleased last month when Infrastructure Australia released a report which:

  • Called for major projects to be properly tested and subject to cost-benefit analysis prior to receiving Commonwealth funding.
  • Updated Infrastructure Australia’s existing priority list.
  • Called on the Commonwealth to end its ban on investing in public transport.

The IA report is grounded in the same principles that I discussed here last year.

It’s not rocket science.

It is irresponsible to spend billions of dollars on major projects without conducting the requisite research into their viability.

In the private sector, evidence based decision making is business as usual.

It should be the same in the public sphere.

The IA report provides an important opportunity for the Turnbull Government to close the page on the make-it-up-as-you-go approach of the Abbott Government and return to evidence based policy that maximizes value for scarce public dollars.

I am hopeful that the Prime Minister and his new Infrastructure Minister will seize this opportunity and get things back on track.

It is in the national interest to decouple the long-term infrastructure development cycle from the short-termism of the political cycle.

STATE OF PLAY

Whatever happens in the future, there’s no way we can change the past.

For the past two years and five months, the suspension of proper process has contributed to a serious decline in infrastructure investment in this country.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released in January showed a 20 per cent reduction in public sector infrastructure investment between the September quarter of 2013, Labor’s last quarter in office, and the September quarter of 2015.

This decline came at the very time Australia should have been increasing public construction activity to make up for the decline in construction in the mining sector.

Importantly, it also came as the Abbott Government struggled to achieve progress on its few new infrastructure projects, mainly because of Mr Abbott’s decision to ignore Infrastructure Australia and evidence based policy making.

When he took office Mr Abbott cancelled all public transport projects that were not already under construction.

This included projects like the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail – projects that had already been judged by Infrastructure Australia as worthy of investment.

They should be under construction now.

But in the 2014 Budget, Mr Abbott shifted the funding allocated to these projects by the former Labor Government to new toll road projects including Melbourne’s East-West Link, the Perth Freight Link and Sydney’s Westconnex.

The problem was that these projects had not been properly worked up.

There were no comprehensive business cases.

The results speak for themselves.

Melbourne’s East-West Link has collapsed and it has emerged that it would have yielded only 45 cents in public benefit for every dollar invested.

In anyone’s language, the project is a dud.

It should never have been funded.

Indeed, an Auditor General’s report released in December strongly criticised Mr Abbott for defying departmental advice to commit $3 billion to the project.

The Perth Freight Link is now on hold – halted by the Western Australian Supreme Court on environmental grounds.

This surprised few people in Perth, given the road was to have gone through an environmentally sensitive wetland.

It probably did not even surprise WA’s Barnett Government.

When it was announced in 2014, the WA Parliamentary Secretary for Roads, Jim Chown, told a Parliamentary budget estimates committee in Perth: “… at this stage we have not actually got plans that are worthy of public scrutiny’’.

The third of Mr Abbott’s big-ticket road projects is Westconnex in Sydney.

Its Budget has blown out from $10 billion to $16.8 billion.

There are also still serious problems with the design of this project.

In 2012, Infrastructure NSW wrote a report assessing Sydney’s infrastructure needs.

In a section called First Things First, the report addressed the city’s roads and noted:

In recent years, rapid demand growth at Port Botany and Sydney Airport has impacted on NSW’s transport networks, particularly around these facilities.

With growth forecast to continue, investment is urgently needed in land side infrastructure to allow access to these gateways.

The expert advice was unambiguous.

Yet Westconnex, as it is currently proposed, does nothing to improve access to the airport or the port.

When you put together the failures surrounding these three mega projects, it is no wonder infrastructure investment has fallen.

The Government ignored the experts, made arbitrary decisions and has been unable to deliver because of inadequate planning.

It is critical that Mr Turnbull learn from Mr Abbott’s mistakes.

He needs to follow through with his promise to fund rail and roads, not just roads.

He should reverse Mr Abbott’s spending cuts and work with Infrastructure Australia on projects that address actual needs and have been subject to the proper planning required to get them off the ground.

THE NEXT LABOR GOVERNMENT

While the folly of the Abbott approach to infrastructure development has been unfolding in Canberra, the Opposition has been working on an alternative vision ahead of the upcoming federal election.

Our starting point will be to bring Infrastructure Australia in from the cold.

We’ll expand its role beyond passive project assessment to make it an active player in the infrastructure market, working with the private sector to unlock private capital for investment in public infrastructure.

While there is no shortage of private capital in this country – including $2 trillion in superannuation funds – there has been real difficulty in finalising deals.

Labor sees scope for Infrastructure Australia to fill that gap using a similar model to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Infrastructure Australia would administer a $10 billion infrastructure funding facility, using debt guarantees, discounted loans and direct investment to get projects off the ground.

Within 100 days of the election of a Labor Government, we will appoint an expert panel to formalise the arrangements concerning the fund, including the important details around its new funding mandate.

Adding project facilitation to IA’s role will allow it to not only identify good projects, but also work directly with industry to address impediments to the development of those projects.

The more private capital we can unlock, the quicker we will be able to begin to attack the infrastructure deficit that is holding back economic growth in this country.

INLAND RAIL

At last year’s ALC event, I remember talking to some of those present about the proposed Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne.

It was clear to me back then that frustration was growing in the sector over the lack of progress on this important project.

That’s not surprising.

Prior to the 2013 election the Coalition vowed it would fast track Inland Rail.

A year later, people are still wondering what is going on.

It’s time to get moving.

The only funding ever allocated to Inland Rail was the $600 million the former Labor Government spent upgrading parts of the existing lines that will be part of the route and the $300 million it provided to advance the project.

The Coalition has not added a cent to that allocation, despite having handed down two budgets.

And while the 2015-16 Budget forecast investment of $100 million of that money this financial year, a Senate Budget Estimates Committee heard last month that only $29.1 million had actually been spent so far.

The upcoming 2016-17 Budget must take Inland Rail off the backburner.

ROADS

The same goes for the ongoing upgrades of the Pacific and Bruce Highways, both of which have slowed under the Coalition from the pace at which they were being rolled out previously.

On the Pacific Highway, for example, the Government cut its own 2014-15 Budget allocations by $130 million in its 2015-16 Budget.

The last thing we need in coming months is more promises and political argy bargy.

What we need is actual investment and real progress, just like that achieved with the Majura Parkway in the ACT, which is nearing completion.

This $288 million project, funded by the Commonwealth and the ACT Government, is already partially open and is allowing trucks to avoid the Canberra CBD, easing traffic congestion while also reducing trip times for movement of freight.

The Majura Parkway is expected to carry up to 44,000 vehicles a day, including 6000 trucks a day by 2030.

It’s great project – just the sort of investment that delivers genuine improvements and multiple levels.

We need more projects like it.

FREIGHT STRATEGY

Earlier I referred to the recent Infrastructure Australia report and its call for proper process on nation building projects.

That is a wise recommendation.

However, I am concerned about IA’s apparent ignorance of its own previous work.

Its call for a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy ignores the fact that in September 2012, it produced the National Land Freight Strategy, which followed the January 2012 release of the National Ports Strategy.

The strategy, later endorsed by state transport ministers, was based on the notion that existing and future road, rail, intermodal, port and airport developments needed to fit together.

It ended the previous ad hoc, fragmented approach under which decisions had been made in isolation of decisions by other governments or other levels of government.

Features of the plan included the recognition of the need to preserve current and future transport corridors and to make better use of existing infrastructure.

Development of the strategy was a landmark for freight movement in this nation.

It requires governments to not only focus on developing efficient roads or railway lines, but that it also consider how these individual pieces of infrastructure fit in with the overall transport network.

Production of the National Land Freight Strategy complemented the National Ports Strategy.

I’ve got no problem with major documents like this strategy being updated from time to time.

But I am concerned that the Infrastructure Australia report reads as though there never was a National Land Freight Strategy or a National Ports Strategy.

Indeed,  I noted the ALC’s media release of 17 February in which you pointed out that the Government should be looking at the National Freight and National Port strategies to “identify the priority areas for action’’.

I would be very concerned if the production of a new report from scratch was to be used as a reason to do nothing on freight for another two years.

The work has been done. The sector was fully consulted.

The Government should just get on with the job.

I’m sensing a growing frustration in the infrastructure sector about Government inaction being masked by various inquiries into issues that have already been the subject of intense consideration.

I noticed your organisation’s recent submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities over its inquiry about the role of transport connectivity in stimulating development and economic activity.

Your submission was to re-submit your submission to the committee’s 2014 inquiry into infrastructure planning and procurement.

And your submission came with a covering letter from the ALC that said:

It is somewhat disappointing that so little has happened since 2014 that (the) ALC can reproduce a previous submission and ask that its recommendations be used.

MARITIME REFORM

Another issue on the current Government’s agenda that I know is important to your sector is maritime reform.

As you would be aware, the Senate last year rejected proposed legislation that would have ended any concept of preference for Australian shipping companies in the movement of domestic freight.

This would have allowed foreign-flagged vessels with crews paid foreign-level wages to undercut Australian operators, leaving them the choice of going broke or sacking their Australian crews and re-registering offshore.

Be in doubt: Labor believes it is Australia’s national interests to maintain an Australian shipping industry.

We reject the argument that it is acceptable to destroy one industry to advantage another.

Indeed, existing law – the former Labor Government’s Revitalising Australian Shipping package – provided tax breaks, training subsidies and other incentives to help strengthen the local industry.

While it was a good thing that the Senate cross benchers rejected the Government’s attempts to change the law, I have no doubt the Government will attempt to revive this legislation if it can.

In fact, since last November, the Government has sought to implement its agenda through the back door by abusing provisions of existing law allowing  the issuance of temporary licences for the use of foreign crews.

This move would have significant impacts on other modes of transport.

If shipping costs were suddenly slashed, road and rail freight providers would face an immediate change in their own businesses.

The change would pervert the market.

That’s why key members of your organization, including Aurizon, the ARTC, Brookfield Rail and Qube put their names to a joint submission to the Senate inquiry that considered this legislation last year.

That submission said:

The potential impacts that the Bill might have on land freight transport have not been properly considered due to a significant gap in the Regulatory Impact Statement prepared to inform the government and stakeholders of the expected impacts of the bill.

…. The assessment did not model the impact of any potential transfer of freight from the road and rail industries to shipping.

… There is potential for a significant transfer of freight from land-based transport to shipping under the proposed regulatory changes, which would inevitably damage land freight businesses and lead to job losses, including in regional areas and in Western Australia.

I agree.

If you employ truck drivers in this nation, you have to pay them Australian-level wages.

Train drivers also receive Australian level wages.

It should be no different if you operate ships to move freight around the Blue Highway than if you move goods on the Hume Highway.

Instead, the government wants to give shipping companies a leg up over rail and road freight operators who are required by law to pay Australian-level wages.

That’s just plain wrong.

It will destroy Australian jobs.

And, as the freight industry submission I just mentioned pointed out, the Government brought legislation to the Parliament on this matter without even bothering to conduct economic modelling to assess its likely ramifications.

CONCLUSION

This failure goes to underline the point where I began my contribution today.

Just as building an efficient transport network relies on proper research and process, process is also critical when changing laws.

Whether we are making laws or investing in billion-dollar projects, we need an evidence-based process that allows for proper consideration before decisions are made.

And we need governments to stick to that process – which is the main take out from the recent Infrastructure Australia report.

I’m pleased that Infrastructure Australia is doing what it can to get this government back on track after a two-year suspension of proper process and an unwillingness to invest in nation building.

That’s because I want what I suspect everyone in this room wants – progress.

The previous Labor Government created the right processes to conduct infrastructure development on the basis of evidence.

It also created national strategies for the development of a truly national approach to land transport, ports and urban transport.

After two years of mucking about, the last thing this Government needs is a further delay to rewrite the National Land Freight Strategy.

Now it is time to get on with it.

 

 

Feb 10, 2016

Address to the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects Living Cities Workshop – Parliament House, Canberra

 

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to address the Living Cities Workshop.

The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, and in particular their CEO Shahana McKenzie, have worked hard to ensure today is a success.

I also want to recognise their ongoing contribution to the cities policy agenda in Australia.

AILA are serious leaders in the urban policy space and I think the fact we have gathered here from around the nation today is testimony of this.

I also understand that AILA is launching the Living Cities Alliance this afternoon.

This initiative is an important opportunity for industry leaders to collaborate on what they think an urban policy agenda for the nation should look like.

Can I also be so bold as to suggest the national urban policy framework adopted by the former Labor Government Our Cities Our Future as a starting point?

I have no doubt this launch will be a success and I look forward to hearing from the Living Cities Alliance about their policy direction in the months ahead.

Before I continue I do wish to comment on the quite remarkable statement by Minister Fletcher on behalf of the Coalition Government this morning.

In it he said: “If our cities are pretty good by world standards, then, why is there a need for federal government involvement in cities policy?

“After all, previous attempts at such involvement – the grand schemes of the Whitlam years, for example, or the “cities unit’’ Anthony Albanese created as Minister for Infrastructure. – have not made much difference’’.

Such a statement before this audience shows a complete ignorance of this policy area and an absolute lack of political judgement.

People here know full well the positive difference that Commonwealth involvement in our cities during the periods of Labor Government has had.

Indeed, our collaborative approach through the Major Cities Unit, the Urban Policy Forum and the COAG Process under Brian Howe and Lucy Turnbull, engaged many of you in this room.

CREATING LIVING CITIES

I am glad AILA has chosen this topic today, because in the face of climate change, creating green living cities is critical.

Living cities are undoubtedly healthier cities that are better equipped to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.

Importantly, living cities are resilient cities and play an important role in addressing the shift to a carbon-constrained economy.

In a time of significant change, this matters now more than ever before.

Today, four out of every five Australians live in cities.

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

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

Urbanisation has transformed our way of life.

And Labor understands that people depend on the healthy functioning of our cities for their own functioning.

The design of our cities shapes the lives people lead.

It impacts issues of congestion, how our suburbs respond to heatwaves and whether people choose to cycle and walk around their neighbourhoods.

This is why the Federal Government has a critical role to play when it comes to showing leadership and investing in our cities.

In doing so, we ensure cities across the nation are more productive, sustainable and liveable.

Urban design is at the core of living cities.

But as our cities buckle from the demands of unchecked urban sprawl, government and industry alike must ensure sustainable urban design is at the forefront of all consideration.

We must prioritise the health of our parks, open spaces and urban waterways.

In doing so we not only better tackle issues associated with climate change, but we also make our cities better places to live.

LABOR’S ONGOING COMMITMENT TO CITIES

Labor has always focused on investment that supports people in our society.

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 first.

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

We established Infrastructure Australia, which conducted an audit 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 report, which was downloaded more than three million times in 2013 and we released Australia’s first national urban policy.

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.

THE COALITION

In contrast, the Coalition has disbanded the Major Cities Unit, failed to convene the Urban Policy Forum and overseen a 20 per cent decline in public infrastructure investment.

Like you, I supported the appointment of a Minister for Cities.

The problem is that the minister was put in with no Budget, no department and given no job to do.

The fact that the position has been vacant for two months says a lot about this.

Malcolm Turnbull should move quickly to appoint a new Minister for Cities to replace Jamie Briggs if he is serious about his claim to want to champion the productivity, sustainability and liveability of the nation’s cities.

The Prime Minister should also place the new minister within the infrastructure and regional development portfolio, rather than the environment portfolio.

Since he became Prime Minister last September, Mr Turnbull has talked up his interest in urban policy, incessantly staging photo opportunities of himself riding in trains, trams and buses to create the impression of policy engagement.

But Mr Turnbull has done nothing concrete on urban policy.

He has failed to re-establish the Major Cities Unit abolished by his predecessor Tony Abbott or to reverse Mr Abbott’s refusal to fund public transport projects like the Melbourne Metro or Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project.

GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

In Australia, commercial and residential buildings alone are responsible for approximately 23 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions.

By greening our infrastructure we can go part of the way to ameliorating this.

Internationally, a number of cities are leading the way.

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 be partially covered in plants or solar panels.

Here in Australia, our urban planners and architects are increasingly incorporating sustainability into their design.

The Green Building Council of Australia certified 218 Green Star projects in 2015, compared with 156 in 2014 – 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.

And in turn the productivity of our cities is improved.

Although most of these policies are implemented at an industry or local government level, there is room for involvement by the Commonwealth.

I believe the Federal Government has a role to play in identifying and encouraging best practice, as well as facilitating and investing in its replication where appropriate across the nation.

BEST PRACTICE URBAN DESIGN

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.

I hold the view that best practice and sustainable urban design must be considered for any development that bears upon liveability.

Badgerys Creek Airport is the perfect example of how this should work.

We only need look to our international counterparts to understand this.

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 green belt, which also functions as a recreational park.

Because Badgerys Creek is a greenfield 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.

It’s a principle that should apply to all elements of urban planning.

And as our cities expand we should also be thinking creatively about how we incorporate green design into new projects.

This includes protection of pre-existing parks, open spaces and urban waterways.

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.

ACTIVE TRANSPORT

Living cities are more active cities.

The Federal Government should be implementing measures that encourage Australians to consider greener, healthier ways of getting around.

With better planning, new infrastructure and lifestyle changes we can also identify ways to reduce the community’s high dependence on cars.

Part of this includes looking at how transport systems are linked to smaller scale transport dynamics like active transport.

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.

Yet this only goes part of the way to targeting Australia’s biggest urban challenge – the development of drive-in, drive-out suburbs on the edges of cities where people can afford homes but where there are few jobs.

With too many Australians forced to commute long distances to work as jobs growth shifts to the inner suburbs of our cities, we need a co-ordinated response addressing housing affordability, public transport and urban planning, including consideration of greater population densities along established public transport corridors.

SYDNEY’S FOOD BASIN

When we think of living cities, we don’t always consider our food bowl.

But in the Sydney Morning Herald last week we saw that Sydney’s food basin is under threat from urban sprawl and rising land prices.

According to the Sydney Food Futures project, the share of Sydney’s vegetables grown within the city’s food basin will crash to just one per cent in the next 15 years.

The project also found that farmers around Sydney produced around 20 per cent of the city’s agricultural food needs in 2011.

This will drop to six per cent by 2031 if agriculture is not prioritised in the outer areas of Sydney.

To adequately deal with these issues, the Federal Government must take a holistic approach that reflects an understanding of the diverse needs of our cities.

This means working with local governments and industries to determine the most appropriate response.

CONCLUSION

Creating green, living cities is a shared responsibility.

Labor is committed to working with all levels of government and the relevant industries to ensure our cities are productive, sustainable and liveable.

In the face of climate change we must recognise that without sustainable urban design and planning at the core of each project, our cities, and the people living in them, will suffer.

That’s why Labor’s cities policy agenda includes broad collaboration, proper independent planning processes and creative thinking around financing and investment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 1, 2015

Speech to ADC Forum Creating Healthy Cities

When Dorothea Mackeller wrote of Australia’s sunburnt country and sweeping plains she imprinted her words upon the nation’s heart.

Evocative and powerful, her poetry has been appreciated by generations of Australians.

And so it should be.

It captures the beauty of our often harsh and remote rural areas where for many the fierce red of the sun setting over paddocks is a constant.

But for the majority of Australia’s population living in our cities, sighting a sliver of dusty pink peering between buildings is the closest we get to Mackeller’s graphic portrayal of the outback.

And as the nation that still dreams of a four bedroom house with a backyard at the end of a cul de sac, it’s time we face a somewhat uncomfortable realisation.

We’ve become a nation at odds with our image.

Urbanisation has changed our way of life.

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.

The other capital cities – Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin – are expected to grow by nearly 30 per cent.

If our cities are left unchecked then the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our nation will languish.

Danish architect Jan Gehl said, “first life, then spaces, then buildings: the other way around never works.”

He has a point.

The creep of urban sprawl has become a costly, unhealthy exercise.

And it’s eating into the wellbeing of neighbourhoods in the outer regions of our cities.

I am concerned that our communities are paying too high a price for long commutes and increasingly limited access to the opportunities they need to reach their full potential.

To guarantee healthy cities well into Australia’s future, governments must ensure suburban communities do not succumb to the tyranny of distance.

This starts by putting people first.

If the members of a community are healthy, it follows that the community as a whole will be healthy.

It’s important that we do not underestimate the role that urban design has in shaping our communities.

Even more so as we face the impact of climate change.

And while we must look at ways to encourage active living through cycle ways and connected neighbourhoods, this is only one part of the solution.

To improve the health of our communities, we must also tackle the growing phenomenon of drive in drive out suburbs.

If we fail to consider this then we put at risk our faith in the concept of ‘a fair go’.

I’ve long admired that ingrained in the Australian psyche, is the firm belief in being able to achieve anything.

Regardless of your postcode.

But urbanisation can rightly be considered in two ways: it either undermines this long-held view, or wholeheartedly embraces it and reaffirms it.

Which view prevails will be determined by whether we plan and invest adequately in our cities.

And if we fail to recognise the contribution healthy communities make to the productivity of our cities, then we are squandering the nation’s best resource.

People.

 

LABOR’S RECORD

Labor has always focused on policies that strengthen communities.

That’s because we believe society requires investment.

When I was Minister for Infrastructure and Transport we did exactly this by lifting 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 first.

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 an audit 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 report, which was downloaded more than three million times in 2013 and we released Australia’s first national urban policy, “Our Cities Our Future.”

 

THE COALITION

By contrast, in his first week as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott took it upon himself to abolish the Major Cities Unit.

He disbanded the Urban Policy Forum and marginalised Infrastructure Australia.

Infrastructure spending stagnated.

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.

20 per cent.

And this year’s Budget included a $2 billion cut in infrastructure spending over the next two years – cut from their own figures in the 2014 Budget.

It just makes no sense.

Interest rates are at record lows.

Private sector investors are looking for opportunities.

The amount of money held by superannuation funds in this country is approaching $2 trillion.

Yet despite these factors, investment is not happening at the pace required.

Because of these infrastructure decisions, Australia is staring down the barrel of a significant infrastructure deficit.

There has been a change in direction in recent weeks and I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Government on their appointment of a Minister for Cities and the Built Environment.

But there’s a lot of catching up to do.

I’m concerned that the Minister for Cities is working within the Department of Environment, rather than the department that actually drives infrastructure spending – the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

I’m not surprised the Coalition is confused too.

At least five of Mr Turnbull’s Ministers claim to have some level of responsibility in this policy area.

First, there is the Minister for Cities, Jamie Briggs.

Then there’s the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, who is the senior Minister to whom Mr Briggs reports.

There is the Minister for Major Projects, Paul Fletcher, who reports to the Deputy Prime Minister and the actual Infrastructure Minister, Warren Truss.

Off to the side is Josh Frydenburg, who as the Minister for Northern Development, is also talking about infrastructure.

And while I welcome this renewed interest in cities, I would prefer to see Malcolm Turnbull funding buses and trains, not just riding them.

 

LABOR’S NEXT STEPS

Labor understands that the cost of inaction is too high.

We also know the traditional Commonwealth funding approach simply cannot deliver the infrastructure our nation needs.

This is why we’ve put forward a plan to secure private sector investment.

In October Bill Shorten announced that a Labor Government will create a $10 billion infrastructure financing facility.

This will unlock the billions of dollars of investment available in the private sector, elevating Infrastructure Australia to an active participant in the infrastructure market.

It will mobilise private sector finance, Australia’s superannuation industry and international investors.

We will use a mixture of loan guarantees, loans and seed money to mitigate risk.

This will give the private sector the confidence it needs to be involved and opens the door to accessing superannuation investment.

It will bring a national pipeline of investment online.

Infrastructure Australia will operate as a catalyst for private sector investment, with the strictest financial discipline, commercial rigour, credit risk assessment capacities and a commitment to nation building.

We’ll make sure we get good projects up and going by working with the private sector to overcome market failures.

We’re committed to working in new creative ways with all levels of government, the public and private sectors because we want to make sure communities get the level of investment they need.

Working together makes sense.

Creating healthy and sustainable communities benefits all of us.

 

URBAN DESIGN & HEALTH

But there’s no time for the Federal Government to take its foot off the pedal.

We can’t be reactive when it comes to population growth in our cities.

We have to be proactive.

Otherwise our suburbs will be stuck in a perpetual game of catch up.

There is currently a diabetes epidemic in Western Sydney.

We don’t hear it talked about enough but it’s a problem.

Figures published by Medicare Local and NSW Health estimate that by 2025 the prevalence of diabetes within Western Sydney will be 204 percent higher in men and 147 per cent higher in women.

Of course we can calculate the cost of this to our health system.

But our primary concern should be the direct impact on the quality of life of families affected by this condition.

And while, of course, we can’t put these statistics down to urban design, we do need to consider the role that planning plays in shaping our neighbourhoods.

I think we can accept that if there’s no footpath down your street and no park just around the corner, there’s less incentive to get out and about.

This goes to more than just a person’s physical health.

It impacts a community’s social health.

 

COMMUNITIES

When you aren’t walking down your street and when you aren’t at your local park then you’re missing out on those casual interactions with other people that transform a collection of streets on a map into a community.

And when you don’t know your neighbours, then you don’t know to look out for each other.

You also lose out on the vibrancy and sense of belonging that comes with being connected to the people around you.

In the next 25 years there will be a 65 per cent increase in single person households.

This means that there will be approximately 3.4 million people living alone.

Many of these will be older as a result of our ageing population.

The latest projections by the ABS show that within a generation the proportion of people aged 65 years and over will increase from 14.2 per cent in 2012 to 20 per cent in 2041.

Over the same period, the proportion of very old people, those aged 85 years and over, will double from 1.8 per cent to 3.6 per cent.

The ideal community is one that supports ageing in place for those who want it.

That means easy access to health services, groceries and social opportunities through public and community transport options.

But not everyone can afford to live in a suburb that has all these things.

And sometimes, even when you live in a suburb that has all these things, it still isn’t enough.

Last year the tragic story of Natalie Wood came to the nation’s attention.

She lived in Surry Hills in the heart of Sydney.

Yet despite living in one of Sydney’s most bustling and vibrant suburbs, it wasn’t until eight years after her death that anyone noticed.

Eight years.

I don’t say this to speculate on the reasons why this occurred.

I say this to highlight how important it is that we know something of the people living close to us, particularly those most vulnerable such as the elderly.

 

HEAT WAVES

We are now in summer with the hottest days ahead of us.

Heatwaves are Australia’s biggest natural killer.

The Heat Island Effect means city residents, particularly the very young and the elderly, are more susceptible.

In the outer suburbs of cities, this can be even more pronounced as a consequence of poorly considered urban design.

With co-operation from all levels of government, as well as the development and urban design industries, we can reduce the heat in our cities, improving our levels of personal comfort and making them safer for all.

Many councils are already on the case, having accepted that the situation can only become worse because of the effects of climate change.

They know cooler cities are not only more comfortable, but more efficient.

For example, the City of Melbourne has estimated that during a four day heatwave in January 2014, business across the city suffered a $37 million decline in revenue due to lost commerce and increased operating costs.

That’s why the Council is working to lift its tree canopy from its current level of 22 percent in all public areas to 40 per cent by 2040. The City of Sydney is working to lift its canopy in public areas from the existing 15.5 per cent to 23.5 per cent by 2030.

These councils and others across the nation are implementing simple and sensible measures including planting more trees and providing more parks, open space and water features.

These measures not only address issues associated with climate change, but they also create more neighbour-friendly and liveable places.

 

ACTIVE TRANSPORT

I’ve always believed liveability and sustainability go hand in hand.

When Labor was in Government we invested in cycling infrastructure through our National Bike Paths fund.

We also launched our active transport policy, “Walking, riding and access to public transport.”

We did this because we recognised Federal Government should be involved in identifying ways to reduce the community’s high dependence on the car, including better planning, new infrastructure and lifestyle changes.

We also wanted to encourage more Australians to consider greener, healthier ways of getting around.

The simple fact is when cardiovascular disease kills one Australian every twelve minutes; I don’t think we can say it’s not a Federal Government issue.

This is everybody’s business.

The Federal Government has a role to play in identifying best practice, then facilitating and investing in its replication where appropriate across the nation.

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.

And many workplaces now offer end of trip facilities like showers and bike racks.

By encouraging people to cycle and use public transport we’re promoting active living, while also tackling issues of congestion and sustainability.

 

DRIVE IN DRIVE OUT SUBURBS

Australia is in a state of change when it comes to where people work.

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.

Similar findings from PwC show that just ten Statistical Area 2s produce almost $1 of every $5 of national income in Australia.

But for the average worker this simply means longer commuting journeys.

The tragedy of this is that many working parents spend more time travelling to and from work than they do at home with their kids.

Suburbs in middle Australia are being transformed from lively communities where people lived, worked and played into drive-in, drive-out suburbs where people can afford a home but can’t find a job.

The national government must commit to tackling congestion.

It’s not just about a wasted $53 billion in productivity because of congestion.

It’s also about the wellbeing of people in our communities.

Nobody wins when they’re stuck in a traffic jam.

We need to do much more than commit to extra toll roads before there is any business case.

We must attack this problem at multiple levels to give all Australians the time and space they deserve to be more than just numbers on someone’s payroll, more than just cogs in a machine.

It’s one of the reasons why I support High Speed Rail.

The proposed High Speed Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra shows how carefully targeted investment and commonwealth leadership could make a real difference when it comes to strengthening links between cities and regions and, in the process, lifting productivity  and livability for both.

 

CONCLUSION

Societies change.

The vision of having a four bedroom house with a backyard is no longer appropriate for everyone.

Some people need to live closer to town and the fact is, while our population grows our detached dwellings in the inner and middle rings of cities cannot.

This is where government comes in.

The Commonwealth has a role to play in providing policy leadership and direct investment to make our cities more productive, sustainable and liveable.

Now that we’ve moved on from debating whether there should be national involvement at all in our cities, we’ve arrived at another, more important, crossroad.

Creating and maintaining great cities is not just about quality of life.

It’s also about equity.

Successful cities are inclusive cities.

We should be aiming to make our cities places that provide people with opportunities to be the best they can be – whether this is through education, employment and training; or whether we’re making sure that whatever an individual’s circumstance, their environment provides them with the opportunity to live a healthy life.

Government must rise to this challenge, and Labor has a plan and a commitment to do just that.

I said earlier that if the members of a community are healthy, it follows that the community as a whole will be healthy.

It also follows that if the community as a whole is healthy, then as a nation we can be productive, sustainable and liveable well into the future.

 

Nov 27, 2015

Speech to the Green Building Council of Australia

Melbourne

What makes a city great?

Earlier this month a cluster of 31 apartment blocks in Singapore, stacked on their side and bundled into lots of four in a hexagonal shape, won the prestigious title of the World’s Building of the Year.

Aptly named ‘The Interlace’, the development will become a hub of activity.

It features a number of shared outdoor and communal spaces, including a 50 metre pool, reading rooms, games rooms and a one kilometre running track.

I’m not suggesting a building of this type necessarily for Sydney.

What I do suggest, however, is that investing in the spaces in between – those shared communal spaces – brings people together in a way that makes a city great.

Urban design directly affects how we go about our daily business.

It provides opportunities for people to advance themselves through links to education and employment.

It impacts how well we know our neighbours and whether we can walk and cycle to the train station or our workplace.

Urban design shapes communities.

But our nation is in a state of change.

The four largest capital cities, including Sydney, are expected to double in size by 2031.

Australia’s shift to a knowledge intensive economy has seen a focus on employment opportunities in the CBDS of our cities.

And congestion will cost the nation $53 billion in lost productivity by 2031.

As our cities burgeon, we must pay particular attention to how urban design impacts the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our neighbourhoods.

The Commonwealth must provide leadership and investment, facilitating cooperation between all levels of government, the public and private sector to ensure our cities continue to be great well into the future.

THE CURRENT ENVIRONMENT

Like you I was pleased when Malcolm Turnbull announced the Cities and Built Environment portfolio.

But I’m concerned that the Minister for Cities is working within the Department of Environment, rather than the department that actually drives infrastructure spending – the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

And while I welcome the renewed interest in cities, I would prefer to see Malcolm Turnbull funding buses and trains, not just riding them.

Labor has a plan to invest in transport and infrastructure.

In October Bill Shorten announced that a Labor Government will create a $10 billion infrastructure financing facility.

This will unlock the billions of dollars available in private sector investment, elevating Infrastructure Australia to an active participant in the infrastructure market.

We will use a mixture of loan guarantees, loans and seed money to mitigate risk.

This will give the private sector the confidence it needs to be involved and opens the door to the $2 trillion held in superannuation, bringing a national pipeline of investment online.

CREATING SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES

We announced this policy because we believe society needs investment.

A city can only be as great as its people.

I’m an advocate for the 30 minute City concept, promoted by some policy thinkers including the Bus Industry Confederation.

I do understand some argue for a 20 minute City, but better to under promise and over deliver.

This is the simple idea that most 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.

Over a year ago at the National Press Club I outlined Labor’s ten-step plan to achieve this.

It attempts to deal with the challenges of our drive-in, drive-out suburbs.

Suburbs in middle Australia are being transformed from lively communities people lived, worked and played, into drive-in, drive-out suburbs where people can afford a home but can’t find a job.

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

The national government also has a role to play in encouraging more Australians to consider greener, healthier ways of getting around.

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.

Labor’s policy provides a comprehensive approach that builds on success to make our cities more productive, sustainable and liveable.

HEATWAVES

A week ago temperatures in Sydney soared above 43 degrees.

Heatwaves are Australia’s biggest natural killer.

The Heat Island Effect means city residents, particularly the very young and the elderly, are more susceptible.

In the western suburbs of cities, this is even more pronounced as a consequence of poorly considered urban design.

With co-operation from all levels of government, as well as the development and urban design industries, we can reduce the heat in our cities, improving our levels of personal comfort and making them safer for all.

Many councils are already putting in place strategies to deal with the consequences of climate change.

For instance, the City of Sydney is working to lift its tree canopy in public areas from the existing 15.5 per cent to 23.5 per cent by 2030.

While this shows that sensible urban design can help tackle issues associated with climate change, strategies such as providing more green open spaces also create more active, people-friendly neighbourhoods.

That’s because sustainability and liveability 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.

This includes projects like Badgerys Creek.

For instance, 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.

To achieve the best for Sydney, we need to embrace world’s best practice from all angles, including design, operation, services, retailing and connectivity.

CONCLUSION

I mentioned Singapore earlier.

The development there works because it recognises that people aren’t cogs in a machine.

People want quality of life.

Our cities are in a state of change, and government must manage this change.

We can’t expect families to give up their dream of the three bedroom house with the backyard if they gain nothing in return.

That’s where urban design comes in.

By working on the spaces in between we can build sustainable places where vibrant communities thrive and prosper.

This means consideration of green spaces, promoting active living and providing opportunities for people to come together as a community.

To get this right the national government must show leadership and provide investment by working with all levels of government, as well as the private and public sector.

 

 

Nov 26, 2015

Speech to Ausrail Conference – The Role of Rail in Meeting Australia’s Economic Challenges

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to address Ausrail once again.

It’s always a pleasure to rub shoulders with the key players in the rail industry and to hear your ideas about how we can better utilise rail in the national interest.

We meet at a challenging time for our national economy.

The mining expansion has moved from the construction to the production phase.

Growth has slowed.

If we are to retain our standard of living and create new jobs for the future, we need to boost productivity and develop new sources of income.

That’s daunting enough.

But our task is complicated by difficulties including drought in some parts of the country and worsening traffic congestion that is reducing productivity growth in our cities.

Today I would like to talk about the ways in which I believe the rail sector can make a meaningful contribution to mastering these challenges and setting up this nation for a positive future.

My starting point is very clear: Rail is underutilised in this country.

With an open mind and goodwill, the commonwealth can work with your industry to improve our national infrastructure in ways that serve both the industry and the national interest.

TIME OF CHANGE

Anyone who has heard me speak on rail in the past two years would probably have heard me express dismay about the approach of current government when it comes to investing in passenger rail in cities.

The former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, refused to invest in urban rail or any other form of public transport, claiming it was not a Commonwealth responsibility.

After taking office, the government cancelled every public transport project that was not under construction.

Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, the Melbourne Metro, the Gawler line electrification in Adelaide and light and heavy rail in Perth were all cancelled.

The government reallocated the money from these projects to new tolls roads like the discredited East-West Link in Melbourne, which would return 45 cents for every dollar invested.

These decisions were ill-advised and they contributed to Mr Abbott’s fate.

The new Prime Minister says he offers a different approach.

Indeed, during his long period of stalking Mr Abbott of the leadership, Mr Turnbull demonstrated his enthusiasm for public transport by incessantly tweeted pictures of himself aboard trains, buses and trams to draw a contrast with his rival.

But pictures mean nothing.

Investment is what matters – investment in concrete and steel.

I will judge Mr Turnbull on his actions, not his words.

But whatever he has in mind, the government is starting from a long way behind on Nation Building.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, public infrastructure investment fell by more than 20 per cent between the September quarter of 2013 – Labor’s last quarter in office – and the June quarter of this year.

The freefall came at the very time the government should have been lifting spending to help make up for the loss of activity due to the end of the mining boom.

LABOR’S RECORD

Labor is an unashamed supporter of investment in rail.

Between 2007 and 2013 we built or rebuilt more than 4000 km of railway lines.

We allocated more investment to urban rail than all commonwealth governments combined since federation.

We delivered the nation’s first national freight strategy.

We created Infrastructure Australia to examine and assess infrastructure projects according to their ability to boost national productivity.

Under Labor, per capita investment in infrastructure climbed from $132 to $225.

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

When we left office Australia was 1st.

While investment has collapsed under the Coalition, Labor will build upon our record when we return to government.

The immediate problem is that our infrastructure needs are extensive, but our resources are limited.

Government revenues have fallen off since the days of the Howard Government, which squandered about $300 billion of windfall tax collections driven by the boom on pre-election handouts in the early part of last decade.

If the money had been invested in infrastructure back then, Australia would be a better position now.

In 2015, 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.

Historically, the private sector, including the superannuation industry, with $2 trillion under management, has struggled with infrastructure development because of long lead times and high upfront costs.

Last month Bill Shorten released a detailed policy that will make private investment in Nation Building easier using a $10 billion funding facility to be administered by Infrastructure Australia.

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 out of the ground.

The model will be similar to the highly successful Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which has been attracted $2.20 in private investment for every dollar of public investment.

URBAN RAIL

Earlier this year Infrastructure Australia produced an update of the National Infrastructure Audit which predicted that without action, traffic congestion will cost this nation $53 billion a year by 2031.

In our cities, the problem is being driven in part by the mismatch between population growth in the suburbs and jobs growth, which is strongest in inner suburbs and CBDs.

Many Australians filling new jobs in areas like information technology and insurance and other services can’t afford homes close to the centre of the city and commute from the outer suburbs on increasingly congested roads.

This robs them of time with their families and prevents them from being participants in local community activities.

This trend is a hand brake on productivity and is also eroding family and community life.

People are watching their quality of life drifting away from them like the white line in their rear view mirror.

We must address this problem, investing in a properly integrated transport system that includes both road and rail.

Electorates like mine, in Sydney’s inner-west, or in Mr Turnbull’s in central Sydney, are already served by public transport.

We need to improve those services.

But if we are really serious about unlocking big productivity gains, the real challenge in public transport policy over the coming decade is to extend passenger rail to areas of our major cities that have no public transport whatsoever.

 

SYDNEY AIRPORT

One infrastructure project the Coalition has tackled, with Labor support, is construction of a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek.

While I congratulate the government for its commitment, I am stunned by its short-sighted refusal to ensure the construction of a connection from the new airport to Sydney’s rail network.

It’s hard to understand how any government could build an airport without public transport access from opening day.

Labor believes the existing passenger line from Leppington should be extended through to the western line near St Marys via Badgerys Creek.

This would allow passengers and airport employees easier access and also complete a loop line around Sydney, improving public transport services throughout the region.

However, bickering between the Commonwealth and NSW governments over who will pay has created a needless standoff.
The line could be funded at minimal public cost by understanding that the land around the airport will be more valuable if the airport was served by a railway line than if it was not.

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

The airport operator would then be able to lease out land to aviation-related businesses in the area at higher rates than could be achieved otherwise.

The existence of the rail link would also increase land values of the employment lands in the nearby precinct owned by the NSW Government  – something the NSW government should factor into its contribution.

The construction of a second Sydney airport must be more than simply a terminal and a runway.

Properly planned, the airport can become an aerotropolis, a large aviation-related precinct that can provide high-value jobs for thousands of people in a region of Sydney that has endured high unemployment rates for too long.

INLAND RAIL

Another important project that seems to have stalled is the Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne.

The former Labor Government invested almost $600 million on improvements to existing railway network that will form part of line.

In 2013, we also allocated $300 million to begin work on new sections.

But I am concerned that under the current government, very little progress has been made to deliver Inland Rail, despite Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss’s 2013 election promise to “fast track’’ the project.

In two years nothing has happened.

Not a single dollar has been allocated to Inland Rail beyond the additional $300 million put in place by Labor in 2013.

If this is fast tracking I would hate to see where we would be if Mr Truss had put Inland Rail on the backburner.

It’s time to stop talking about Inland Rail and get on with it.

 

HIGH SPEED RAIL

We should also progress the High Speed Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

This project would revolutionise interstate travel, allowing for movement between capital cities in as little as three hours.

It would also turbo charge development in the regional centres along its path, with stations proposed for Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

That’s important for job growth in those communities, but also for our congested cities.

Linking regional cities to High Speed Rail will allow those cities to take some of the development pressure of our capitals.

A feasibility study conducted during the period for the former Labor Government found the project was viable.

For example, on the Melbourne to Sydney leg, it would return $2.15 in public benefit for every dollar invested.

In 2013 an expert panel including former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, the Business Council of Australia’s chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, and then Australasian Railway Association Chief Executive Bryan Nye, recommended the creation of a planning authority to take the project forward.

The panel proposed that the authority include representatives of industry and affected jurisdictions and should advance detailed planning and begin to acquire the corridor before it is built out by urban sprawl.

Accordingly, the former Labor Government agreed and allocated $50 million to implement these recommendations.

However, the Coalition scrapped this funding in its 2013 Budget.

Rather than advance High Speed Rail, it has stalled the project.

No-one is saying it is possible to build the entire High Speed Rail line tomorrow.

But we need to get cracking before our window of opportunity is slammed shut by urban sprawl.

There is no shortage of international expertise to advise on options, just as there is significant interest overseas when it comes to financing.

Indeed, just next week I will again be meeting a representative of the Central Japan Railway to be briefed on the latest developments in maglev technology being applied in Japan.

The Commonwealth should be providing leadership on High Speed Rail, but has instead tossed the issue into the too-hard basket along with, it seems, Inland Rail.

At the start of the current parliamentary term, I proposed a Private Member’s Bill that would have created the planning authority.

But Mr Abbott refused to facilitate debate of the bill, which lapsed.

I reintroduced the Bill last month.

It should be voted on and the Authority established so that the infrastructure of tomorrow isn’t ruled out by the prevarication of today.

MANUFACTURING

Labor created Infrastructure Australia so there would be a pipeline of projects to create investor certainty and to smooth out peaks and troughs in the investment cycle.

The same motivation should also be applied to procurement, where there is a role for national government in facilitating the co-operation of states with regard to purchasing timeframes.

Such an approach could enhance Australian manufacturing, which is so critical for our engineering skills base beyond the specifics of any one company or any single project.

The Government must pursue this issue through the Council of Australian Governments as soon as possible.

All governments have their own pressures and their own deadlines.

But if we can create a mechanism for better co-ordination of delivery of major projects, all governments will benefit.

Jobs will be created in manufacturing, which will have a multiplier effect, particularly in regional communities.

There is no doubt that such a plan would have considerable public support and the Andrews Labor Government here in Victoria deserves credit for the leadership it has shown.

 

SHIPPING

The government also has a proposal which would undermine the competitiveness of rail compared with shipping around our coast.

Your sector would not be allowed to bring in rail carriages from overseas which do not meet Australian standards and employ foreign workers to operate and maintain that rail.

You certainly wouldn’t be able to pay those workers foreign wage rates.

But this is precisely what the government wants foreign ships to be able to do.

This will distort the competitive market in the logistics sector at the expense particularly of the rail industry and will cost jobs in your sector.

No advanced nation allows this approach of removing all cabotage.

This is unilateral economic disarmament. And you will pay for it.

 

CONCLUSION

Let me finish where I began.

This nation faces some real economic challenges.

And our progress in tackling those challenges and securing long-term economic growth are being hampered by problems like traffic congestion.

One way to address this is to make better use of railways, particularly when it comes to moving freight and to public transport in cities.

Events like Ausrail are important to the national debate.

They provide an opportunity to lay out the facts about what is possible if we embrace a future in which rail plays a greater role, particularly in our cities.

So thanks again for the chance to address you today.

I will leave you with the words of John F Kennedy, who once had excellent advice for politicians who were too timid to get on the front foot on nation building.

“Things do not just happen,’’ Kennedy said.

“They are made to happen.’’

When it comes to issues like better urban rail, the Inland Rail and High Speed Rail, we should heed Kennedy’s advice and get on with it.

 

Nov 19, 2015

Address to the Australian Local Government Association Roads Congress

Ballarat

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to address the Australian Local Government Association’s roads congress.

Your organisation is an important participant in the national debate across a range of government policy areas, roads being among the most important.

Indeed, it was the first ALGA Roads Congress, held in 2000, that led to the creation of the Roads to Recovery program, which helps councils to deliver and maintain local infrastructure in communities across the country.

Much has changed on the Australian political scene since I last spoke to ALGA, including the leadership of the Government and a possible shift in policy away from its previous absurd refusal to invest in public transport.

But the biggest change when it comes to roads came in June, when the Labor Opposition was able to secure a breakthrough compromise over indexation of fuel excise that will pump $1.1 billion into regional roads over the next two years.

As you will recall, in its 2013 Budget, the government proposed lifting a freeze on fuel excise indexation and immediately exercised its right to begin collecting the extra revenue.

However, the change required Senate approval, or else any money collected in the interim would have been retained by fuel companies.

While Labor was concerned about the impact of higher excise on consumers, we were even more concerned about the idea of handing a windfall gain to fuel companies.

So we proposed an effective compromise under which the change would go ahead, as long as the first two years’ revenue was allocated to councils for investment in local roads.

Importantly, the money will be distributed under the successful Roads to Recovery program formula.

That’s as it should be.

While Canberra allocates the money, it is Local Government that is best placed to understand local priorities.

This important development means that while motorists will pay more for fuel, the revenue will be invested in roads and road safety.

This might never have happened without the strong advocacy of the Australian Local Government Association.

Your advocacy is important.

The state of our nation’s roads is not just about economic productivity and the financial position of councils, as important as they are.

It’s also about road safety – human lives.

We hear much in the media about National Highway Network roads like the Pacific Highway and the Bruce Highway, which is understandable given that these important national arteries are long and carry vast amounts of traffic.

But we hear less about local roads, even though they account for about 85 per cent of our nation’s road network.

Too often, people forget that just about every road journey in this country starts and ends on a local road.

Most of us live on a local road.

When we pile our kids into the car to go to school, a weekend sporting event or a summer holiday, our journey starts on a local road.

And many of our exports start their journey overseas on local roads.

These roads are built and maintained by local government.

And maintenance is not cheap.

Neither is construction of new roads.

Local government spends about $7 billion a year on roads.

Today I’d like to review what I see as the current state of road funding, how it can be improved, and where the commonwealth and Local government can intensify our collaboration in the national interest.

A TIME OF CHANGE

It certainly is a time of change in Canberra.

We have a new Prime Minister.

A new cabinet and new cabinet ministers.

And much talk about a new policy approach that ends the former prime minister’s absurd ban on investment in public transport and refusal to engage in urban policy at any level.

I welcome the fact that Malcolm Turnbull is talking about public transport and cities, although, I’m more interested in outcomes than rhetoric.

In any event, the infrastructure inaction of the first two years of Coalition Government means the government now has a lot of catching up to do.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show public infrastructure investment declined by 20 per cent between the September quarter of 2013 and the June quarter of this year.

We should not be shocked by this.

As soon as the Coalition took office in 2013 it cancelled billions of dollars of investment in public transport projects including the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Project, Adelaide’s Tonsley Park and Gawler projects and rail in Perth.

Funding was also cut for Tasmania’s Midland Highway Upgrade, Melbourne’s M80 and the Managed Motorways Program, which increases the efficiency of existing road assets with the use of smart technology.

Some of this funding was reallocated to toll road projects including the discredited East-West Link in Melbourne and the Perth Freight Link.

In the area of funding for councils, the Government used its unfair and short-sighted 2013 Budget to freeze indexation of Financial Assistance Grants – creating a $925 million cut that had to be absorbed by councils.

This cut will particularly impact regional Councils, with Ballarat losing $5 million.

The Government also reversed the policy that I put in place as Local Government Minister, to ensure that it was elected local councils that determined local infrastructure priorities.

I am very proud of the 5,500 projects funded through the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program that created jobs in the short term, but have created long term community benefit.

LABOR’S RECORD

Labor comes to the infrastructure funding debate with a proud record.

The former Labor Government doubled the national roads Budget, building or upgrading more than 7,500 km of road.

We also created Infrastructure Australia, designed to provide an evidence-based approach to infrastructure by giving decision makers facts about the productivity benefits of major projects to help guide their considerations.

We created the Major Cities Unit within the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, to drive investment in the nation’s cities.

When we took office in 2007, Australia was 20th among OECD nations when it came to infrastructure spending as a proportion of GDP.

When we left office, Australia was 1st.

In Opposition, Labor has continued to develop policies aimed at lifting infrastructure investment.

This is important.

The decline of the investment phase of the mining boom means we need more economic activity if we are to return to higher growth rates.

That’s what makes the more than 20 per cent reduction in investment such a poor outcome for this country.

Of course, the immediate problem is how to fund new infrastructure investment at a time of economic downturn.

There are two ways.

For a start, we should accept that borrowing money to fund infrastructure developments that boost productivity can make real sense.

An unfortunate by-product of the past few years or negativity and partisanship in Australian politics has been the demonisation of all debt.

But if we are serious we must draw a clear distinction between debt for capital expenditure, which can be a good thing, and debt to fund recurrent expenditure.

When average Australians decide they want to buy a house, most of them borrow money.

They don’t decide that because they don’t have the money upfront they will rent for the rest of their lives.

They borrow. And they understand that overall, they are better off borrowing in the long-term because they will one day own their home and it will increase in value over time.

In the same way, borrowing money to fund, for example, a new railway line or a road that alleviates traffic congestion and boosts economic productivity, can be a good thing.

The productivity gains can drive economic and jobs growth which deliver higher returns to government through income tax.

We also need to work harder to attract private investment.

Almost $2 trillion is sitting in the superannuation accounts of Australians and funds are always looking for investment opportunities.

For years governments have sought to unlock these savings for investment in Nation Building.

But for a range of reasons, private investment in this nation’s infrastructure has never taken off to the extent it should.

Last month Bill Shorten announced new Labor policies that will seek to address this shortfall.

A Labor Government will task the independent Infrastructure Australia with administering a new $10 billion infrastructure financing facility.

It will seek to work directly with private investors to mitigate risk to make investment in public infrastructure projects more attractive.

It will do so using a range of methods including direct investment, debt guarantees, seed funding, value uplift and other innovative funding arrangements to enter into partnerships with industry.

Within 100 days of being elected, a Labor Government will set up a panel of experts to create appropriate arrangements around Infrastructure Australia’s new funding mandate.

One critical element of the design of this new approach is the need for governments to respect Infrastructure Australia’s advice about proposed infrastructure projects.

In its current form Infrastructure Australia assesses the cost-benefit analysis of projects that are competing for public funding to ensure governments invest in projects that will genuinely boost economic productivity.

Regrettably, the current commonwealth government has marginalised Infrastructure Australia, ignoring its advice and instead investing in projects that have not been through the proper process.

Under Labor’s plan to elevate Infrastructure Australia’s role on the infrastructure scene to one that also includes a funding element, it will be essential that any project funded through the new financing facility is fully checked and endorsed by Infrastructure Australia.

PARTNERSHIP

There’s another aspect to Labor’s approach that will resonate with councils.

Labor operates, and has for many years, from the starting point that the best way to improve the daily quality of life for average citizens is to work with local councils on infrastructure and services.

We believe the commonwealth should invest in communities.

But we believe it is councils which are best placed to advise on the best forms that investment should take, whether we are talking about roads or community infrastructure projects.

After all, local government is far more aware of local priorities than bureaucrats sitting in Canberra.

Local Government representatives are also accountable to their communities through the ballot box.

Labor’s partnership with local government started with Gough Whitlam, who insisted that any government that was not investing in the nation’s cities had no real understanding of the life of the Australia nation.

Whitlam pioneered partnerships with councils in areas including provision of sewerage, public transport and heritage protection.

Utilising the talents of my great friend, the late Tom Uren, Whitlam reached out to local government.

He made councils legitimate partners in national progress, which is exactly what they should be.

Tom continued the same approach working with Bob Hawke in the 1980s.

The same principle of working with councils lies at the heart of the Roads to Recovery program.

It also informed my own actions as Minister for Local Government and Infrastructure in the former Labor Government.

In an effective inter-governmental partnership, the national government sets overriding principles, but it is the local government that is best placed to set local priorities.

A DEEPER PARTNERSHIP

The next Labor federal government will seek to broaden this co-operative partnership, particularly when it comes to improving the productivity, sustainability and liveability of the nation’s cities.

It is more than a year since I released a 10-point plan for better cities at the National Press Club.

I spoke at length about the need for an attack on urban traffic congestion, noting that concentrated jobs growth in inner city areas meant many commuters were spending increasing amounts of time on the roads.

And I warned that this phenomenon was not only acting as a hand brake on productivity, but also that it was having negative consequences for family and community life.

This drive-in, drive-out phenomenon is one of the more serious social issues facing this nation.

Yet the current government has done nothing to address it over its two years in office.

Actions we can take include building better roads, more public transport and higher housing densities, particularly along established public transport corridors.

But by their nature, these problems can’t be solved by only one level of government.

We must work together.

And with issues like town planning sitting at the centre of this challenge, local government will be critical.

Just as Labor sees it as essential that we work with councils on local road funding and community infrastructure projects, we must also forge a firm partnership on urban policy if we hope to have any significant impact.

I want to assure you today that the next Labor Government will place real emphasis on addressing the productivity, sustainability and liveability of Australian cities.

I am flagging it today, in this forum, to make absolutely clear that we will need the help of councils in urban areas across the country – not just in capital cities, but also in regional centres.

Economic change is altering our cities by shifting the centres of jobs growth from outer suburbs of cities to inner suburbs and CBDs.

We need to respond to that change in ways that facilitate productivity and jobs growth while also addressing sustainability and liveability.

TOWARDS MORE EFFECTIVE FUNDING

One problem facing this nation when it comes to maintaining our local roads is the lack of data available about the state of those roads.

As a nation we spend $20 billion a year building and upgrading roads.

But, as Infrastructure Australia pointed out in 2013, there is a shortage of evidence to guide decision-making when it comes to local roads.

That’s not the case when it comes to major projects.

As I mentioned earlier, the former Labor Government established Infrastructure Australia in 2007 to provide independent analysis of major infrastructure projects to give decision makers advice on which projects would deliver the most value for the public dollar.

Infrastructure Australia does not make funding decisions. That is the proper role of elected representatives.

It provides information – hard facts which inform decisions.

But there is no such mechanism available to councils.

There should be.

Consider, for example, the dilemma of having two pot-holed local roads requiring upgrading but having enough money to fix only one.

Beyond local knowledge and gut feel, what should determine the priority?

Infrastructure Australia considered this very issue in a report issued in March 2013 based on its work with eight local councils clustered around the Queensland-NSW border.

These councils, including Bal­onne, Goondiwindi, Moree Plains and Narrabri, produce more than $2 billion a year in agricultural production.

Despite warnings from bur­eaucrats that such an approach was impossible, it took council inspectors and workers only three months to assemble reliable comparative data on the condition of more than 2200 local roads covering more than 13,000km.

Their surveys covered issues like the importance of a road to local economic activity, amenity and safety.

The councils involved signed the Bingara Accord, agreeing to use this information to focus their road-funding decisions on driving economic prosperity.

The Bingara approach, championed by more than 100 rural and regional councils that are part of the Australian Rural Roads Group, equips councils to invest in projects that will have the greatest potential to boost economic prosperity in their region.

The ARRG believes the data can open the door to harnessing private capital to help fund road works.

For example, if several dozen grain producers living along a pothole-ridden rural road all made a contribution to upgrading the road, it is possible the productivity gains delivered by upgrading the road would boost their profits by an amount greater than they contributed to its repair.

In turn, their greater prosperity could drive further economic activity and investment in the local community.

But to make such judgments, you need data – data that can be made public to give citizens a basis upon which to assess the quality of decision-making.

Such an approach could make a real difference.

I’m not saying council representatives should cede their decision making to some obscure economic formula.

But I am saying that if you had greater access to evidence upon which to make decisions, it could increase your chances of lifting productivity in your communities.

That means new jobs.

I must say that I am extremely disappointed that since the Infrastructure Australia report on the Bingara Accord was produced, the current government, at least as far as I know, has done little to advance the idea of bringing hard evidence to local road funding.

I can assure you that a Labor Government will examine this issue closely.

Public money is scarce. It must be used to its best effect.

CONCLUSION

I’d like to conclude by once again thanking you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

I’ve been lucky enough to address your organisation many times, as a minister and a shadow minister.

I have seen people come and go from your organisation, just as I have seen people come and go from the Federal Parliament.

But throughout nearly 20 years in politics, your organisation has been a level-headed constant on the Australian political and policy scene.

Your members come from all sides of politics and represent a very wide range of views.

But at all times your organisation seeks to serve the national interest and to influence national policy in ways that benefit people in their everyday lives.

Thank you for that, and I wish your roads congress well in its ongoing deliberations.

Nov 16, 2015

The Challenge of Reform – The Michael Joseph Savage Address – New Zealand

Manawatu Golf Club, Palmerston North

I’m honoured to be invited here tonight to give the Michael Joseph Savage address.

The first Labor Prime Minister of New Zealand was a man whose strong human values and dedication to the welfare of others are as relevant today as they were when he died in office, at the height of his popularity, in 1940.

In the spirit of the friendly rivalry that exists between our two nations, I am often reminded that New Zealand has given Australia many of its most successful international figures.

Russell Crowe.

Neil Finn.

Sam Neil.

But tonight, let me turn the tables.

Michael Savage was in fact born in Australia, near Benalla, in the Australian state of Victoria.

It was 1872 and at this time, as bushranger Ned Kelly was causing chaos around this region, Michael Savage grew up to dream of a more just world and to take action to advance this objective.

Savage is revered in this country as the father of the social security system.

In the difficult years before World War II, he was one of the few national leaders prepared to criticize Britain’s appeasement of Germany, Japan and Italy.

He is known as a fighter, not just because he was a boxer as a young man.

He fought for people who most needed his help.

Told by doctors he had cancer and needed immediate surgery, Savage knocked them back, saying he wanted to focus on his getting his social reform program through the legislature.

Savage is remembered as a great communicator; a man who rallied those around him to the banner of justice.

A man who sought to unite, not divide.

A straight talker fond of putting decisions in their proper context.

For example, during World War II, as Prime Minister, Savage warned that it could become necessary to conscript “human flesh and blood’’ to fight World War II.

But he added that people should understand it would also be necessary to conscript private wealth to care for the families of servicemen who lost their lives.

This kind of spirit is reminiscent of one of Australia’s greatest prime ministers, Gough Whitlam, who in only three years from 1972 to 1975 pursued the same type of social reforms as Savage.

Both men hungered for justice.

And both kept their eye on the main game.

They did not use the power of high office to serve existing entrenched interests.

They challenged and redistributed the prevailing power relationships, such that New Zealand and Australia respectively were never the same.

By the time of their passing – Savage in 1940 while still in office and Whitlam just last year – both were seen as national heroes.

Tonight I want to argue that in 2015, any progressive party that wants to win elections needs to start from the proposition of putting people first by demonstrating how their lives will be improved by government policy decisions.

They must do something more.

They must also argue the case for long term reform that will make a positive difference to society beyond the short term interests of any individual member.

 

THE WORLD IS SHIFTING

In sport and in politics, focus is important.

Just as the All Blacks won the World Cup by putting aside the hype and focusing on what mattered most, politicians must, like Savage and Whitlam did, keep their eyes on the main game.

Concepts like fairness, sustainability, the creation of opportunity and shared prosperity must be firmly in our sights.

In 2015 there is no doubt that such concepts are gathering favour globally.

Across the world right-wing governments are on the nose.

People are looking to the progressive left for a way forward.

The shift has also found its way to Australia, where the conservatives have dumped the aggressive and divisive conservatism of Tony Abbott in favour of Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Turnbull is now busy appropriating Labor Party rhetoric across many areas and is presenting himself as the conservative you have when you don’t really want a conservative.

Of course, the truth is that Malcolm Turnbull has not changed the substance of the conservative Government.

But, in recognition of the public mood, he is attempting to engage people by talking about important policy areas including investing in cities and public transport – both banned by his predecessor.

The problem is that the Australian Government’s core policies have not changed under Mr Turnbull.

They still want to destroy trade unions.

They want to increase the regressive goods and services tax.

They still propose huge cuts to health and education.

 

THE LIGHT ON THE HILL

Former Australian Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley once described the labour movement as “bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people.’’

Chifley was articulating the idea that the labour movement encapsulates a spirit of selflessness – the idea that we are all here on this earth to do something more than feather our own nests.

While we seek personal success, most of us can’t tolerate seeing others being prevented from being their best because of their gender, colour or the circumstances of their birth.

This spirit points us toward a better place for all, while all the conservatives offer is a continuation of the status quo.

Ours is a compelling vision.

It speaks loudly to people who want their children to grow up in better circumstances than they did, an aspiration held by all parents.

The current shift toward progressive politics is confirmation that the real human mission in the 21st century is not to limit fairness, but to extend it.

Tonight, I want to offer five areas that should be core business for progressive parties in 2015 as we seek to respond to the public shift in sentiment.

1.    Future job creation and the economy.

2.    Developing our cities and regions.

  1. Building communities.
  2. Advancing equity.
  3. Environmental sustainability.

 

1. FUTURE JOB CREATION AND THE ECONOMY

No government can survive if it cannot maintain a strong economy.

That’s part of the job description whatever your political affiliation.

But the difference between the left and right of mainstream politics when it comes to the economy is the reason we want a strong economy.

For the conservatives, a strong economy is an end in itself because it means more profits for business.

But Labor wants a strong economy because it generates jobs and government revenues that allow us to deliver ongoing reform.

It’s critical that we explain this difference to voters because it goes to our motives – what we actually stand for.

From this side of the Tasman you would be aware that Australian economic growth has declined in recent years due to the decline of the mining boom.

In my country, the competing political visions about how to deal with economic policy sum up the policy divide.

So far, Malcolm Turnbull has articulated two possible solutions.

The first is to increase the goods and services tax, which as New Zealanders know only too well, will hit pensioners and low-income earners harder than the wealthy.

The second, which is even more worrying, is to attack the wages and conditions of average workers to boost corporate profits.

Mr Turnbull, for example, wants to abolish Sunday penalty rates for workers in hospitality and tourism.

Existing arrangements mean many low-income workers rely on weekend penalty rates for a living wage.

There is ample scope in existing enterprise bargaining arrangements for workers and their employers to trade off penalty rates for higher base rates.

But Mr Turnbull is not looking for trade-offs.

He just wants lower wages.

In the same way, he proposes to destroy the Australian domestic shipping industry by exposing it to unfair competition by foreign-flagged cargo vessels paying third world wages.

On my last visit to New Zealand in 2011 I saw firsthand the extraordinary damage the Liberian flagged MV Rena caused off your pristine north coastline.

The jailing of the captain and navigation officer provides little comfort, given the damage.

Mr Turnbull has decided that because foreign vessels carry freight more cheaply than Australian vessels, he should run local operators out of business or force them to sack their Australian crews and replace them with cheaper foreign labour.

What a betrayal of the national interest.

Labor takes a different approach.

We seek to balance the legitimate hope of business that governments can reduce costs with the equally legitimate aspirations of average people to access employment with fair pay and conditions.

Instead of firing the starting gun on a race to the bottom on wages and conditions, we want to develop new, well-paid jobs in new industries, particularly in areas we can support by investing in innovation and research.

We want to see Australians working in areas like high value manufacturing, infrastructure development, financial and legal services, food and agricultural production, tourism, renewable energy, information technology, urban design, the arts and creative sector, education and health services.

To support those emerging sectors, we also need to invest heavily in our education and training systems to ensure that they produce graduates with the skills to fill these jobs of the future.

That’s an approach that takes people’s legitimate individual aspirations into account while also advancing long-term reform to broaden the economy.

And it’s a whole lot smarter and more sustainable than simply cutting people’s wages.

 

2. DEVELOPING OUR CITIES AND REGIONS

In an increasingly populous and urbanised world, no political party can be taken seriously if it sees no role for itself in promoting the productivity, sustainability and liveability of cities.

Across the world, cities are clogged with traffic congestion and held back by inadequate infrastructure.

In Australia, for example, a recently produced Infrastructure Australia report found that if we fail to act, congestion will cost the Australian economy $53 billion a year by 2031.

Part of the problem is a shift in work patterns, with the Digital Revolution driving jobs growth in service industries in central business districts and inner suburbs of cities.

The result is longer commuting journeys for average workers, who can’t afford homes close to town and live in the outer suburbs.

Governments must confront these trends head on.

We need better roads, public transport and where appropriate, greater housing densities to make our cities are as productive as they can be.

For governments in 2015, urban design cannot be ignored.

It requires that national government work with councils and industry on better design that creates more vibrant neighborhoods featuring more than just residential development, but also retail and entertainment opportunities and open space like parks, bikeways and walking tracks.

We need to accept that people are not just cogs in some economic machine that we can shift around at will without any consideration of human needs.

That means that wherever people live – close to town or further out – governments need to think about liveability.

In a carbon-constrained world, we also need to ensure that new developments optimize the use of renewable energy, water conservation, and other sustainability measures.

If we want to engage voters, we need to talk about their genuine concerns.

Those genuine concerns start with sustainability and everyday quality of life where they live.

 

3. BUILDING COMMUNITIES

The challenge for governments is what they can do in practical terms to promote liveability.

Australian demographer Hugh Mackay has done much work in this area, reminding us in his book The Good Life, that humans are sustained by deep social links.

It’s not up to governments to build those links.

That’s up to individuals.

But governments need to do more to promote and sustain human relationships by nurturing and maintaining local communities, which are the stages upon which people live their lives.

We can have all the money in the world, but, as Hugh Mackay has noted:

The thing we need most is each other.

Governments underappreciate the strength of the positive bonds that exist within functional communities and the desire among people to see those bonds strengthened.

Communities are more than simply places where houses and shops exist.

Too often, national governments turn their back on communities, ignoring the potential to collaborate with people to achieve better outcomes.

That needs to end.

We should support churches, sporting groups, clubs and other community based organisations.

We should invest in community based infrastructure and services, local cultural events and sporting festivals.

People want to work together.

Governments can help them to do so.

 

4. ADVANCING EQUITY

Equity must always be the guiding light for progressive political parties.

We insist that people have a fair chance to be the best they can be by having fair access to education and training.

We retain and protect a social safety net so economic disadvantage is not allowed to become so great that it holds people back.

We oppose discrimination against people on the basis of their sexuality, gender or colour.

The progressive left has long been the trailblazer in the cause of equity.

Much has been achieved, but there remains unfinished business.

In my country that means joining New Zealand in the 21st century by embracing marriage equality.

In a digital world, genuine equity means freedom of access to new technology.

There’s an interesting ongoing debate in Australia about the development of the National Broadband Network.

The former Labor Government designed the NBN to provide fibre optic cable carrying high-speed broadband directly to homes and businesses in Australia.

It was to be universal, the 21st century equivalent of providing water or energy.

But the Coalition has changed the project so that it will provide fibre to the node – a fancy way of saying that the fibre will be connected to a box on the street corner.

Consumers will pay to have it connected and the signal will travel from the street corner box to their home or business via copper networks.

This means that while Labor wanted everyone to have broadband access, Mr Turnbull wants to ration that access according to person’s ability to pay.

First rate access will be restricted to those who can afford it.

Our political opponents insist that their way will cost less and produce the same result, even though the truth is their NBN will cost twice as much as they promised and deliver half the Internet speed.

Compare this approach to that being taken here in New Zealand, where a similar debate is being conducted at a far more mature level.

The current government was wise enough to understand the importance of rolling out broadband to the home.

Under current planning, it is hoped that 75 per cent of New Zealanders will be connected via fibre to the premises by 2019.

And New Zealand Labour, unlike the conservatives when Labor held office in Australia, is not trying to undermine the project – only to hold the government to account in its performance in delivering the rollout.

That is as it should be.

As NZ Communications Minister Amy Adams said in Australia during a visit in August 2012:

It made better sense to do it now rather than have to come back in the future and retrofit fibre-to-the-node to fibre-to-the-home connection.

I understand there is dissatisfaction in this country at present over Internet services in rural areas.

That’s not surprising.

Equity matters, geographically as well as within individual communities.

Labor also insists on equity measures in taxation.

That means requiring multi-nationals that fill their coffers off the backs of consumers in nations like Australia and New Zealand actually paying their taxes in the places where they generate the profits, rather than playing accountancy tricks to send their profits offshore.

It also means taking action to ensure that the wealthiest individuals pay their fair share of tax, rather than using accountants and lawyers to not only minimise their exposure, but reduce their tax liability to zero.

 

5. SUSTAINABILITY

There is no greater intergenerational issue than the environment.

Our world needs to deal with climate change, not prevaricate and kick the problem down the road for our children and our grandchildren.

Climate change is not some kind of international scientific conspiracy dreamed up by extremists who simply hate the mining and energy sectors.

It’s an economic issue.

The world is moving toward a carbon constrained future.

In Australia, our choice is simple.

We can do nothing and wake up one day in the future to find the market for coal is shrinking and that our international competitors have cornered the market on clean-energy technology.

Or we can embrace change as an economic opportunity.

There are fortunes to be made in emerging renewable energy sectors but the current government is turning its back on the reality of change.

Sustainability must be promoted to the very centre of our policy considerations across the board.

 

CONCLUSION

Let me conclude tonight by noting that progressive political parties all around the world are generally motivated by altruism.

We want people to get a fair go, to have a decent opportunity to be their best and to live rich and fulfilling lives.

Most human beings, whatever their political affiliation, would identify with that concept.

The task for the great labour movements of Australia and New Zealand is to tap into that egalitarian spirit and ensure it is reflected in our policies and in the way in which we explain them to the community.

Around the world, people are turning away from rigid ideology.

They are sick of mindless aggression and needless partisanship.

They want pragmatic government focused on them and on building them a better future.

That provides genuine opportunities for Labor, here and in Australia.

In New Zealand, Michael Savage responded to the challenge all those decades ago.

We must defend the gains that have made our respective nations successful and build on them.

It’s up to us to respond to the challenges of today.

 

Oct 28, 2015

Speech to the the Rail, Tram and Bus Union National Conference – The Politics of building better cities

Sydney

It’s great to be back with you at the Rail, Tram and Bus Union.

As you know, since I last had the chance to address you, there have been a few changes on the federal political scene.

We have a new Prime Minister.

A new Cabinet and Ministry.

And a new policy approach – one that purports to recognise that public transport and urban efficiency are directly related to economic productivity and therefore are core business for the commonwealth government.

Of course, the Labor Party has followed this approach since the Whitlam era.

So it is a good thing that after all these years, the Liberal Party has seen fit to join us in the 21st century.

Suddenly, everyone in Canberra is talking about cities and trains – topics that just a few weeks ago the Coalition said were none of our business.

Indeed, it was difficult to avoid Malcolm Turnbull’s tweeting selfies from trains and trams as part of his strategy of stalking Tony Abbott.

But as Shakespeare said, “action is eloquence’’.

I will judge the new Prime Minister’s dedication to cities and public transport on his actions, not his self promotion.

Malcolm Turnbull must fund public transport, not just ride on it.

Things have also advanced on the Labor side of politics.

We’ve finalised our national platform at this year’s conference in Melbourne.

And while our opponents have been busy undermining and knifing each other, we’ve been developing serious policy on infrastructure and transport, particularly in the critical area of project financing.

A Labor Government will invest directly in public transport and cities.

But, as Bill Shorten announced earlier this month, we’ll also create a $10 billion infrastructure financing facility to help unlock the billions of dollars of investment available in private sector investment.

We’ll also restore Infrastructure Australia to the centre of government activity to ensure funding decisions on big projects are made on the basis of demonstrated public benefit, not on political considerations.

THE INFRASTRUCTURE LANDSCAPE

Before I flesh out those ideas, let me take stock of where this nation stands in terms of infrastructure development after two years of Coalition government.

You can best sum up the situation with a single figure.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, public infrastructure investment has plummeted by more than 20 per cent between the September quarter of 2013 and the June quarter of 2015.

That’s a funding reduction of one dollar in five.

We should not be surprised.

As soon as Tony Abbott took office, he cut more than $4 billion in funding that had been allocated by the former Labor Government to public transport projects.

That included great projects like the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail  and Adelaide’s Tonsley Park and Gawler projects.

Planning for additional light and heavy rail in Perth also stopped.

Mr Abbott shifted that money to proposed toll roads including the East-West Link in Melbourne, Sydney’s Westconnex project and Perth Freightlink – all without cost-benefit analysis.

This breached his 2013 election promise to fund no infrastructure project worth more than $100 million without a published cost-benefit analysis ticked off by Infrastructure Australia.

Mr Abbott also cut $100 million from Tasmania’s Midland Highway upgrade and cut the upgrade of Victoria’s M80.

He cut investment in smart infrastructure through Infrastructure Australia’s Managed Motorways program on roads like Melbourne’s Monash Freeway.

In the 2015 Budget, the coalition cut $2 billion in infrastructure spending over 2 years, from their own 2014 Budget projections.

The 2015 Budget was the first I can remember in nearly two decades in Parliament that did not include a single new major infrastructure project.

No wonder traffic congestion is worsening.

A recent Infrastructure Australia update of the National Infrastructure Audit warned that without action, congestion would cost the nation $53 billion by 2031.

That’s bad news for the increasing number of people who live in drive-in, drive-out communities in the outer suburbs of our cities and commute to work in central business districts.

These workers have been literally watching their quality of life slipping away on a daily basis like the white lines in their rear vision mirrors.

Mr Abbott refused to lift a finger to help.

What is truly amazing is that Mr Abbott racked up this woeful record at the same time he was claiming that he wanted to be known as “the Infrastructure Prime Minister’’.

He told us that under the Coalition there would be cranes in the sky and bulldozers on the skyline.

Two years later there are no cranes.

No bulldozers.

Just bulldust.

The only hole this Government has dug is the one in which they buried Tony Abbott’s prime ministership.

This is a pitiful record.

LABOR’S RECORD

It is completely in contrast with the record of the former Labor Government.

We doubled the roads budget.

We built or rebuilt more than 4000km of rail track.

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

When we left office, Australia was 1st.

We also created Infrastructure Australia as an independent adviser to government and the Major Cities Unit within my former department to drive urban policy.

We initiated the greatest infrastructure project of our era – the National Broadband Network.

Malcolm Turnbull is now ruining this visionary project by insisting that fibre should not be connected to people’s homes and businesses, but to box on a street corner.

Last week we learned the Government had bought 1800km of copper wire for the project.

Copper wire – the technology of choice in the era of the horse and cart.

In the competitive and technology-driven 21st century we must connect fibre to the home or business.

Let’s get it right the first time, rather than doing half a job and being forced to retro-fit later at greater expense.

Compared to what Labor had planned, Malcolm Turnbull’s NBN offers broadband access at half the speed, for twice the price.

That’s not good enough.

It will let down our nation and make it harder for us to compete globally.

On infrastructure funding, the former Labor Government also put in place innovative financing arrangements.

For example, we devised ways to deliver the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project using availability payments.

We were also able to use a $405 million commonwealth contribution to Sydney’s F3 to M2 project, along with equivalent NSW Government contribution and an extended concession arrangement, to seal a deal with Transurban to deliver and operate the project.

Labor has a great story to tell on Nation Building.

NEW ERA

I will always struggle with the political wisdom of political parties removing elected prime ministers.

But at least the dumping of Tony Abbott offers the possibility of a common sense approach to infrastructure and cities.

But after two years of complete inaction on infrastructure, there’s a lot of catching up to do.

And the early signs are worrying.

For instance, it is hard to know exactly which minister in the Turnbull Government is actually responsible for cities and infrastructure.

At least five of Mr Turnbull’s ministers lay claim to having some level of responsibility in this policy area.

But it is unclear who is in charge.

First up there is the Minister for Cities, Jamie Briggs.

Then there’s the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, who is the senior minister to whom Mr Briggs reports.

There is the Minister for Major Projects, Paul Fletcher, who reports to Deputy Prime Minister and the actual Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss.

Somewhere off to the side is Josh Frydenberg, who as Minister for Northern Development, is also talking about infrastructure.

If you are having trouble following this, don’t feel bad.

Even the ministers themselves are confused.

Last week in Question Time I asked Mr Briggs a question about the Melbourne Metro.

You would think the Melbourne Metro would be core business for the Minister for Cities.

But I was told the correct person to ask was Mr Hunt.

Mr Hunt had no idea.

After an embarrassing few moments of people looking around and pointing at each other, it was Mr Truss who ultimately offered a non-answer to my question.

A day later, the Prime Minister informed the Parliament that he was in charge of cities.

This confusion points to the potential for dysfunction.

We’ve got a squad of ambitious ministers here – each trying to elbow the others out of the way.

You can have all the enthusiasm in the world for cities, but unless you get the administrative details right, it’s very hard to deliver in a meaningful way.

I am very worried that, whatever Mr Turnbull’s intentions on urban policy, his convoluted administrative arrangements are a recipe for failure.

Much has been said lately about the need for bi-partisanship.

In the spirit of bi-partisanship I urge the Prime Minister to revisit the lines of responsibility on urban policy.

I say this on the basis of my own experience as a driver of urban policy in the previous Labor Government.

I want good policy outcomes.

I’m also concerned that the Minister for Cities is working within the Department of Environment, rather than the department that actually drives infrastructure spending – the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

This does not make sense.

I suspect it is a symptom of another problem facing the Government – ongoing disunity.

It’s no secret that the Liberal Party is split between supporters of Mr Turnbull and supporters of Mr Abbott, who is further to the right on the political spectrum.

We also know that Deputy Prime Minister Truss opposes commonwealth involvement in urban policy and public transport.

While the new Prime Minister has been talking up the need for commonwealth investment in public transport, Mr Truss has been talking it down.

In a bizarre media statement released on October 8, Mr Truss tried to discredit the Melbourne Metro and the Cross River Rail projects by claiming they had not been the subject of planning.

There were no business cases, Mr Truss said.

And no-one knew how much they would cost.

This is nonsense.

On the Metro, for example, the former Labor Government provided $40 million in the 2009 Budget, which enabled the Victorian State Government to produce a business case in 2011.

The former Labor Government provided $3 billion for the project in the 2013 Budget.

Unless he’s been asleep for the past decade, which is of course possible, Mr Truss should know all of these facts.

I suspect the Minister is attempting to push these projects off into the distance even as Mr Turnbull’s ministers are engaging in talks with states aimed at getting them off the ground.

Perhaps he should consider the observation of Bob Dylan who advised in his classic The Times They Are a Changing:

Your old road is rapidly aging.
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand

Mr Truss is also at odds with his colleagues over the proposed Badgerys Creek Airport.

A fortnight ago Mr Turnbull said the airport would not work properly unless it was connected to a railway line.

But last week, Mr Truss, releasing an EIS into the project, insisted the airport would not be big enough to justify a rail connection.

It seems Mr Truss doesn’t understand that the new airport, which is due to open in 2025, offers the best chance in decades to drive significant jobs growth in western Sydney.

Properly developed, the Badgerys Creek Airport will attract a range of aviation-related businesses that could produce literally tens of thousands of jobs in coming decades.

That’s tens of thousands of high value jobs in an area often identified as having high unemployment rates.

But the development of a western Sydney Aerotropolis requires a link to public transport.

Mr Truss’s backward-looking position demonstrates an appalling lack of vision for this nation and hangs a lantern on his ongoing contempt for public transport.

He is not singing from the same song sheet as his Liberal Party Coalition colleagues.

Whether this impedes progress in cities and infrastructure policy will become clearer in coming months.

FUNDING OPTIONS

We could start by taking a grown-up approach to the concept of debt.

Thanks to Mr Abbott’s wildly exaggerated alarmism about debt and Budget deficits, Australians have been led to believe that government debt is a sin.

But governments have been borrowing money since governments were invented.

There is a significant difference between borrowing money for capital investment and borrowing for recurrent spending.

That’s an important distinction.

While Australians don’t take out bank loans to buy the weekly groceries, millions borrow money to buy homes.

They don’t decide that because they can’t pay cash upfront they will rent for the rest of their lives.

They borrow money because they know that in the long-term, buying a house will make them better off.

In the same way, when governments consider how they will fund infrastructure, they need to consider not just the costs, but the benefits of the investment.

For example, if building a new bridge or railway line boosts productivity and drives job creation that increases government revenues via taxation, then those economic benefits should be factored in to the decision about whether to borrow money to proceed with the project.

Playing politics with debt for capital investment is irresponsible.

I do note that in his interviews last weekend Malcolm Turnbull took a position on infrastructure financing completely consistent with Bill Shorten’s Labor policy announced earlier this month.

At the time Mr Turnbull rejected it.

If he is now supporting our approach we welcome it.

PRIVATE INVESTMENT

Public investment alone will not bring us anywhere near addressing our infrastructure deficit.

A real challenge facing this nation is to enlist private investment.

As I mentioned earlier, the former Labor Government was moving in this direction when we lost office.

In Opposition, we have continued this work, leading to Bill Shorten’s recent announcements about new ways to unlock private money.

Our starting point is that right now, $2 trillion is sitting in superannuation funds in this country.

The funds want to invest in assets that have long-term, reliable income streams.

But they and their banks struggle with the high-upfront costs and long lead times in the infrastructure development market.

The next Labor Government will take a more activist role in working with the private sector to provide support for good projects in ways that mitigate risk.

We’ll use a mixture of loans, loan guarantees and direct investment.

We will also enhance the role of Infrastructure Australia to make it an active participant in infrastructure markets.

It will continue with its current role in analysing projects to see whether they stack up.

It will then work directly with private companies and investment funds to see whether government investment can be used in ways that will give them and their banks greater comfort in committing to projects.

Infrastructure Australia will be in charge of a $10 billion financing facility and will work on the basis of injecting the least amount of money required to get projects under way.

It’s a model based on the successful Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Because risk is involved, it is critical that we fund the right projects – those that will produce economic returns for investors and productivity and lifestyle returns to the community.

We can’t take this approach if we are choosing dud projects that enhance our political prospects but which provide no returns.

That’s why Infrastructure Australia will sit at the centre of our approach.

Importantly, within 100 days of taking government, Labor will appoint a special panel to create the rules around Infrastructure’ Australia’s financing mandate.

VALUE UPLIFT

I note that the RTBU has commissioned SGS Economics and Planning to produce an extensive report on the need for Australian governments to consider the use of value capture to fund projects.

The premise here is that governments have a right to capture a reasonable part of the benefit accruing to property owners by the provision of public transport projects.

It notes that value capture is likely to be most successful in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth where demographic trends and economic growth outlooks are likely to support long-term growth in property values.

It proposes mechanisms like tax increment financing combined with the issuance of bonds and extra rates levies on non-domestic property owners whose business benefit from the new piece of infrastructure.

This is a complex area that requires serious consideration and an open mind.

I congratulate your organisation for producing this report as a serious contribution to the national debate about funding infrastructure.

I look forward to a public engagement on the entire report.

I’m convinced that we can use a value uplift model with regard to the Sydney Airport.

I referred earlier to the fact that the current Transport Minister does not believe that Badgerys Creek Airport should be connected to Sydney’s rail network from the day it opens.

This is an absurd position.

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

Indeed, this would complete a loop line around Sydney and would be worth building even if we weren’t building an airport.

However, the commonwealth and the NSW State Government are in dispute over who should pay for a rail link.
They should put aside their squabbling and put on their thinking caps.

The line could be funded at minimal public cost by understanding that the land around the airport will be more valuable 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.

This is not rocket science.

It simply requires flexibility in thinking.

CONCLUSION

I’d like to thank you for inviting me here today.

We are meeting at a moment in time of real interest to those who are interested in infrastructure, cities and public transport.

We now have a government that says it wants to improve the productivity, sustainability and liveability of cities; led by a man who says he believes connectivity is critical in urban Australia.

We’ll see if he can back up those words with actual investment.

But let me leave you with this thought – one that will ring true to many people in this room because you have hands on experience in public transport.

In my electorate in Sydney’s inner-west and in the Prime Minister’s electorate in the inner-east, public transport is already available.

Services must be improved. And under Labor, they will be improved.

But the real challenge for governments in this country now and in coming decades is to get public transport to the places where it does not exist.

I’m talking about the outer suburbs of our cities where the lack of public transport means people spend too long commuting to and from work in the city.

That means less time spent with their kids.

Less time spent enjoying sport or hobbies and contributing to their communities.

Less time saying hello to their neighbours.

This is eroding the richness of Australian family and community life and threatens to worsen social disadvantage by denying people access to employment.

That’s not something that we should tolerate.

Labor’s agenda for Australian cities is not only about lifting economic productivity, which is important if we are to create jobs and economic growth.

It’s also about people.

People and the way they live their lives.

Labor wants to build up our nation.

But we also want to build up our people.

ENDS

 

 

 

Sep 19, 2015

The Light on the Hill Address ‘There is A Light That Never Goes Out’

Bathurst

It’s often said that the greatest speech ever delivered was Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

In less than 300 words, Lincoln’s tribute to the sacrifice of those who died in the cause of freedom drilled deep into the heart of the American spirit.

It was a landmark in human expression, not just for its lyrical beauty, but because it spoke directly to Americans about their national identity.

Because it focused on the great American dedication to the pursuit of liberty and sacrifice in the cause of freedom, it touched all Americans.

It still does.

Ben Chifley’s Light on the Hill speech was 484 words long.

But Chifley’s thoughts on the nature of the Australian labour movement are, in many ways, our equivalent of the Gettysburg Address.

When Chifley spoke of “bringing something better to the people’’ and praised those who gave freely of themselves to advance the circumstances of others, he was outlining the Labor Party’s mission statement.

But the Light on the Hill is not only about the ALP.

It’s a mission statement for the entire Australian people.

Chifley’s emphasis on selflessness, compassion and social justice speaks directly to all Australians about our national values.

Values like the Fair Go; the rejection of entrenched class divisions; equal respect for the highest achievers and the most humble of battlers; and our concept of community that is so recognizable in regional cities such as Bathurst.

Indeed, Chifley’s modestly stated aims promote the concept that while individualism might provide us with financial rewards, what Australians really seek are the greater rewards that come with living their lives to their fullest potential.

That is so much more than simply advancing our personal interests.

Australians want to be a part of something bigger than themselves – something that speaks to their deeply held values.

That spirit encapsulates the Light on the Hill.

It extinguishes the darkness of self-interest.

It illuminates what Abraham Lincoln himself referred to as the better angels of our nature.

It resonates deeply with a people who pride themselves on egalitarianism and mateship.

That’s why so many people invoke Chifley when they refer to Labor as the Party of the Light on the Hill.

They understand its power.

Labor’s call for collectivism, progress and shared prosperity is much closer to the values held by most Australians than the individualism that so excites the conservative parties.

When Labor gets it right, we have a compelling narrative.

Tonight, as we think about Ben Chifley and his contribution to our nation, I’d like to offer some ideas about how Labor can make sure we get it right now and into the future.

The conservatives have provided us with a clear example of how to get it wrong.

They admitted as much this week by knocking off the most-negative leader I have seen in my time in Parliament in Tony Abbott.

Mr Abbott had a plan to get into government, but no plan to govern.

That’s why there’s no sense of purpose or narrative emanating from our conservative opponents.

For them, the attainment of power is the end in itself.

The change in the conservative leadership doesn’t change that fundamental problem.

It is clear from Malcolm Turnbull’s first days as Prime Minister that he has put his personal ambition ahead of his convictions in critical policy areas including climate change, renewables, water sustainability for the Murray Darling Basin and marriage equality.

We all know what Mr Turnbull has said about these issues in the past.

But he has exchanged those principles for the keys to the Lodge.

Policy and intellectual integrity matter in public life.

Mr Turnbull has sacrificed both to become PM.

In doing so, he has given up the authenticity that Australians are seeking from their political leaders.

These actions also represent a breach of trust from the legitimate expectations that people had of Mr Turnbull.

ASPIRATIONS

Labor always performs at our best when our policies target the aspirations of the Australian people.

Those aspirations have motivated generations.

Above all, Australians want to ensure that their children have better opportunities than they enjoyed.

They don’t want a free ride.

They do want a Fair Go.

They want a chance to make something of themselves in life without artificial impediments like the circumstances of their birth or other factors outside their control.

Understanding these basic aspirations must always sit at the heart of Labor’s thinking.

While our opponents seek to empower the individual, we must dedicate ourselves to the many, not the few.

Our opponents believe that if the state just gets out of the way, everyone will be better served.

Labor seeks office so we can use the power of the state to intervene to make a real difference to people’s quality of life and their access to opportunity.

If we see a barrier to fairness, we are prepared to use the power of the State to make a difference.

Or, in the words of Ben Chifley:

I try to think of the labour movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody’s pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people.

OUR RECORD

Our long history is adorned with great leaders.

From Chris Watson through to John Curtin and Chifley himself and on to Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, our record speaks to our ideals.

We build in a real sense through the delivery of great infrastructure.

Think of Ben Chifley’s Snowy Mountains Scheme, the transcontinental railway, the major national highway network and the National Broadband Network, to name just a few.

While others talk about infrastructure, Labor builds it.

But Labor’s most cherished capital project has been building up the social capital of the Australian people.

We empower Australians with education and training, delivering opportunity and unlocking human potential.

We introduced universal health care, building in people the sense of security that comes with knowing that if they become ill they will receive care, whatever their financial means.

We built the social safety net that ensures that all people, regardless of their economic means, are treated with the dignity that we regard as a birthright.

Indeed, when you consider all of the game changing social and economic reforms in our nation’s history, they were delivered by Labor governments.

Action on climate change; childcare; education; fair industrial relations; the National Disability Insurance Scheme, compulsory superannuation.

The list goes on.

Labor is also the author of the great statements of national leadership that have helped Australians come to terms with our past and set the scene for a better future.

Once seen, the great photograph of Gough Whitlam pouring red soil into the hands of Vincent Lingiari can never be forgotten.

And the proudest moment of my time in Parliament was when Kevin Rudd rose to deliver the historic national apology to our stolen generations

Labor always leads the way.

In 2015, as we prepare to write the next chapter of the great Labor story, our history must be our reference point.

We must always deal with the urgent needs of present circumstances.

But we must also always be looking to anticipate the future and, by doing so help to create that future.

A future where people come first.

Whilst this principle has guided my political engagement, I was struck by a QANTAS billboard when travelling through an Airport this week.

It depicts a QANTAS pilot saying, “I don’t just fly planes for a living, I fly people and there’s a difference”.

Indeed there is.

It’s a powerful message that shows that keeping people at the centre of the business equation is just as critical as putting people first politically.

Tonight, I want to raise five points that encapsulate a plan for an approach that puts people first can drive the agenda of the future Labor Government.

They are:

  1. Future job creation and the economy.
  2. Developing our cities and regions.
  3. Building communities.
  4. Advancing equity.
  5. Environmental sustainability.

1. FUTURE JOB CREATION AND THE ECONOMY

 

Building a strong economy is a core responsibility of Government working with the private sector.

For Labor however, a strong economy is not an end in itself.

It’s about creating jobs for Australians.

And it’s about generating the national wealth to fund nation changing reform.

As the resources sector moves from the construction to the production phase and beyond, the current Government has failed to identify and prepare for the jobs of the future.

Our location in the fastest growing region of the world gives us an advantage. China and India have increased their economic size by 6 times in the last two decades. In just one decade the Asian region will account for half of the global economy.

Our superb natural environment is another advantage. Our biggest advantage is the ingenuity and creativity of our people.

We must identify future opportunities now and create policy frameworks that facilitate the realisation of those opportunities, including the provision of education and skills appropriate to these future jobs.

High value manufacturing, infrastructure development, financial and legal services, food and agricultural production, tourism, renewable energy, information technology, urban design, the arts and creative sector, education and health services are all sectors primed for expansion.

The shift to a carbon constrained global economy provides extraordinary opportunities if we end the distraction of the climate skeptics in our national discourse.

Australians have been responsible for some of the world’s greatest advances from WiFi, the bionic ear and breakthroughs in solar and wave technology.

What we have not done as well as maximise the commercial opportunities that these advances have made possible.

Australia stands at a crossroad when it comes to the nature of future job creation.

Labor rejects the idea that we should compete in our region by lowering wages and conditions.

We must create high value jobs that allow for a continued improvement in living standards and fairness in our workplaces.

And we need to understand that while Australians want jobs, they don’t want their jobs to rule their lives.

We want to retain room to meet our commitments to our families, our friends and our communities.

Otherwise, we start to feel like units of production, rather than human beings.

For our political opponents, the nature of employment is solely about meeting the needs of business.

The current government goes even further.

It is prepared to destroy Australian jobs as though an individual’s job security is meaningless.

There’s a stunning example of this phenomenon in my own shadow portfolio of transport.

It’s in Australia’s economic, environmental and national security interests to maintain a vibrant domestic shipping industry.

Yet legislation before the Parliament would allow foreign ships to compete on domestic routes, paying third world wages.

No other advanced nation has such a regime.

This is a case of unilateral economic disarmament.

Evidence before Parliament from Mr Bill Milby of North Star Cruises has confirmed that he was advised that in order to compete he should reflag his ship and replace his Australian crew.

The Australian flag should not be replaced with the white flag on Australian jobs.

We need to balance the legitimate hope of business that governments can reduce costs with the equally legitimate aspirations of average Australians to employment with fair pay and conditions.

2. DEVELOPING OUR CITIES AND REGIONS

 

The current government’s is not interested in shaping our cities and regions.

This is evident in their approach to traffic congestion which has been exacerbated by a major shift that is under way in patterns of work in our cities.

In previous decades, jobs growth was strongest in the outer suburbs of big cities, close to affordable housing.

But this is changing.

The rise of the Digital Age means jobs growth is now concentrated in services industries like insurance and information technology which are based in inner suburbs.

This result is longer commuting journeys for average workers.

It is a tragedy that many working parents spend more time travelling to and from work than they do at home with their kids.

The suburbs of middle Australia are being transformed from lively communities where people lived, worked and played into drive-in, drive-out suburbs where people can afford a home but can’t find a job.

The problem here is not simply inconvenience.

Here we have millions of people literally watching their quality of life drifting away like the white line in their rear-vision mirror.

And the current government is doing nothing.

It sees no role for itself in urban policy or the provision of the public transport that could make a real impact on this problem.

But when Labor returns to government, we’ll begin a major attack on the problem of traffic congestion.

We won’t just build a few extra toll roads.

We’ll attack this problem at multiple levels to give all Australians the time and space they deserve to be more than just numbers on someone’s payroll, more than just cogs in a machine.

But it’s not just about what we do in our big capital cities.

It’s also about what we do to harness the ability of our regional cities and towns like Bathurst to take some of the development pressure off the major cities.

Many Australians stuck in the traffic jams I just referred to would happily consider moving to regional Australia for its lifestyle advantages.

What they need is the confidence they will be able to find work in those regional areas and access the services that are available in capital cities.

That’s why Labor is focusing heavily in boosting regional development and promoting quality of life through close attention to urban policy.

We must strengthen regional centres by working with local businesses to promote jobs growth.

We must also focus on consistency of quality of government services across the nation.

I’m not just talking about good schools and hospitals, but also tertiary education via well-resourced regional campuses of universities and vocational training.

Infrastructure is also critical.

If we hope to see rural and regional Australia taking some of the pressure off our cities, they need to be linked to those cities by good roads and, critically railways.

The recently opened Regional Rail Link, in Victoria, allows commuters from Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong rapid access to Melbourne on a new rail line that is separate from the existing Melbourne passenger train network.

It’s a game changer.

The Regional Rail Link was the largest ever commonwealth investment in a public transport project.

It’s projects like this and the proposed High Speed Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra that show how carefully targeted commonwealth investment can make a real difference when it comes to strengthening links between cities and regions and, in the process, lifting productivity for both.

The most important way to boost regions in the Digital Age is to ensure they have access to a National Broadband Network connected directly to homes and businesses.

A half-baked, second-rate NBN of the type being delivered by the current government not only shortchanges cities like Bathurst.

It also shortchanges the entire nation.

It denies us the chance to bring our country into the 21st century – a century where technology is overcoming the tyranny of distance and allowing for greater connections between regional and metropolitan Australia across a whole range of areas.

3. BUILDING COMMUNITIES

 

Australians want stronger communities.

They understand that the rapid changes that are a constant in the 21st century risk isolating people from each other in a personal sense and seriously damaging the community fabric.

Governments have a role to play in strengthening communities.

I’m not just talking about handing out grants for community festivals, although this is money well spent.

I’m talking about, for example, focusing on quality of life by tackling traffic congestion in cities.

I’m talking about working with councils on urban design to ensure that our cities evolve in ways that promote a sense of community by providing opportunities for the interaction with others that most of us crave.

Designers pay great attention to the look of new apartment buildings.

But to promote healthy communities, we need to think more about the design of the spaces between those buildings.

We need better designed cities and towns, more public transport and better roads.

We need support for the arts and encouragement for local councils which, reflecting the closeness to their community, want to focus on development and sustenance of those strong community links.

It’s not just in big cities.

Every small community in Australia – from Bathurst to Bamaga – adds something to our nation by providing Australians with a home base for their broader activities and a context for their lives.

Governments need to value communities as more than simply places where houses exist.

They are people’s homes – places where they live, work and play.

A future Labor government will provide policy leadership to the states and local government and collaborate with both so that the great gains this nation has made in personal prosperity in recent decades are backed up with commensurate enrichment of community life.

Our task will begin with addressing the drive-in, drive-out suburb phenomenon and extend into any area where we can make a difference.

The best place to start is to work with the local councils, because they are in the closest contact with the needs and aspirations of communities.

The former Labor Government did exactly that in my own area of infrastructure and transport through programs Regional Development Australia Fund and the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure program.

In this region, these programs delivered, for example an upgrade for Mount Panorama, the refurbishment of the Chifley House, the expansion of the Orange Airport and the upgrade of the Orange Aquatic centre.

We also delivered projects like the Orange Bypass and the Great Western Highway upgrade.

A commonwealth government that listens to communities about their needs, rather than seeking to impose upon them some outcome dreamed up by bureaucrats in Canberra, stands the best chance of enriching community life.

4. ADVANCING EQUITY

 

The next Labor Government must be also address inequality.

Whilst growing income inequality is central, there are also aspects of social inequality.

That’s why a Labor Government will legislate for marriage equality within 100 days of its election.

It’s why we will promote racial equality by getting on with a referendum to recognise indigenous Australians in our Constitution.

We’ll enhance universal health care and promote a higher education system in which wealth does not determine access to self-improvement.

We’ll attack digital inequality by giving all Australians equal access to a world-class NBN that is based on fibre to the home and business.

In the 21st century economy, all Australians should have the best available Internet access.

Australia needs broadband, not fraudband.

That means fibre, not copper.

That means universality of service.

Otherwise those who can’t afford it won’t have access to the tools of social mobility.

That’s not only unjust.

It is just plain stupid because it will also limit this nation’s future economic growth.

Labor will also insist on equity measures in taxation.

We’ll require the big multi-nationals that fill their coffers off the backs of Australian consumers to give something back by actually paying tax in this country, rather than playing accountancy tricks to send their profits offshore.

We’ll also consider the introduction of a Buffet Tax under which individuals will be required to pay a minimum tax rate beyond which they cannot reduce their exposure with tax deductions.

The Buffett rule is named after American billionaire Warren Buffett, who found to his shame a few years ago that his accountants had ordered his affairs so that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary.

We also need to deliver gender equity by escalating the battle against domestic violence.

This requires the entire community to be mobilized to address this national crisis.

Striving for equity is central to the Labor mission.

It cuts across just about every policy area on the political radar screen.

5. SUSTAINABILITY

 

There is no greater intergenerational issue than the environment.

The current Government’s refusal to take serious action on climate change not only isolates us from the international community, but also creates a situation where our inaction will impose costs on our children.

Their prevarication and whining about taking any action will do nothing but kick the problem down the road for our children and our grandchildren to deal with.

I don’t want to leave my son and his children a massive bill to make up for the current generation’s inaction on climate change.

I’d rather they inherit a clean environment; a healthy Great Barrier Reef; an Australia that has invested in renewable energy sources.

Labor must not be intimidated by our opponents into turning away from policies that focus on sustainability.

Indeed, sustainability must be promoted to the very centre of our policy considerations across the board.

Sustainability is not just about the environment.

It’s also about the way we design our cities and our communities.

It’s about the way we use government intervention to promote sustainable industry.

It’s about transport policy.

For example, one crowded commuter train can take hundreds of carbon emitting cars off the road.

So public transport not only boosts economic productivity by reducing congestion; it also provides an environmental outcome.

In the future Labor Governments should bring the concept of sustainability to the centre of policy making by considering the sustainability implications of all decisions.

And of course, we must act on climate change.

While the former prime minister became so irrational on the issue that he reduced this critical issue to arguing that wind turbines were ugly while coal mines were beautiful, most Australians understand the arguments for action.

That includes the new Prime Minister, although he agreed to shackle himself to inaction on the issue as a precondition to winning support among his colleagues.

Climate change is not some kind of international scientific conspiracy dreamed up by extremists who simply hate the mining and energy sectors.

It’s an economic issue.

We can kid ourselves as much as we like to avoid the truth, but the world is moving toward a low-emissions future.

Our choice is simple.

We can do nothing and wake up one day in the future to find the market for coal is shrinking and that our international competitors have cornered the market on clean-energy technology.

Or we can embrace change as an economic opportunity.

There are fortunes to be made in emerging renewable energy sectors but the current government is turning its back on the reality of change.

We’ve already lost the first mover advantage.

But it’s not too late for a Labor Government to get things back on track.

We don’t underestimate the complexity of managing a transition from an economy where mining is a key employer to one where the influence of mining declines over the long term.

But we need to manage the shift to renewable energy whether we like it or not.

We can’t stop it.

That’s why Labor remains convinced that a market-linked mechanism is the best way to deliver genuine outcomes.

INSPIRATION

It’s hard not to conclude that Ben Chifley had real enthusiasm for his life’s work; that he took joy in fighting the good fight on behalf of those who needed a hand.

While I’ve got no doubt Chifley was a political warrior, his real interest was in delivering progress.

In 2015, we need to follow his example.

For the past decade I have watched the quality of political debate in this country deteriorate into hyper-partisanship and negativity.

Tight electoral margins, the rise of the 24-hour media cycle and the particularly combative approach of Tony Abbott have led the decline.

I believe that Tony Abbott became so comfortable with being Opposition Leader he failed to transition.

Malcolm Turnbull’s repudiation of long held political positions is also a win for short term tactics over long term policy implementation.

Mr Turnbull should take the opportunity to explore ways to collaborate to achieve real progress for our nation.

He could start by accepting Bill Shorten’s invitation to join him in a bipartisan national summit on addressing the domestic violence crisis.

US actor Kevin Spacey, who plays the President of the United States in the series House of Cards, has obviously reflected seriously on this issue.

Spacey once said in an interview:

Partisan rancour and party politics and ideology have got in the way of compromise – and compromise is the only thing that has ever made politics successful.

He’s spot on.

If the only language between politicians is the language of conflict, we’ll make a lot of noise but less progress.

Indeed, that is pretty much the story of the recently departed Abbott Government.

Lots of noise, no progress.

Tonight I’ve tried to explain why I think Labor can and should return to government.

But I know one thing.

We won’t return to government unless we put people at the top of our agenda.

Putting people first requires that we speak to them respectfully; communicating with them in an authentic manner.

We should look no further for inspiration than former US President John F Kennedy.

On 15 July 1960, as Kennedy accepted his party’s nomination to run for the presidency, he declared,

“We are not here to curse the darkness. We are here to light a candle.’’

CONCLUSION

Whenever I hear that Kennedy quotation and its focus on bringing light to the political darkness, I am reminded of the quiet dignity of Ben Chifley.

Chifley did not curse the darkness. He pointed to a better future – one in which people came first.

Let me thank the Labor Party Bathurst branch for giving me the great honour of delivering tonight’s address.

For me, being given such an opportunity is a dream come true.

But that’s the thing about the labour movement. People’s dreams can come true.

A train driver can become prime minister.

A boy who grew up in a council house with his single mum can become deputy prime minister.

Forty years after Chifley, the Manchester band The Smiths sang: ”There is a light that never goes out’’.

As long as the Australian Labor Party has true believers working for the advancement of all, that light will indeed continue to be a beacon of hope for us all.

Sep 4, 2015

Speech to Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Conference – Investing in Infrastructure – Sydney

A few weeks ago in Canberra, the Minister for Infrastructure outlined progress on major road projects in Western Australia.

With an eye on the forthcoming Canning by-election, the Minister spoke about projects under construction, including Gateway WA – the biggest road project in the state’s history.

There was also the North West Coastal Highway, the Great Northern Highway and NorthLink, known previously as the Swan Valley Bypass.

These are all great projects.

They will all boost the WA economy, driving productivity gains that will create jobs growth and boost prosperity.

But there’s a problem.

None of these projects are new.

They all date from the days of the previous Labor Government. It’s great that they are underway.

But I see little evidence that the government is working up the next wave of Nation Building projects to be rolled out in this and coming years.

At a time when our economy needs extra activity to make up for the drop-off in investment associated with mining, our nation needs to invest in infrastructure to drive productivity growth.

However, something is going wrong with the process of identifying, developing and funding major infrastructure projects in this country.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that infrastructure work conducted for the public sector has declined by 19 per cent since the 2013 election.

This year’s Budget included a $2 billion cut in infrastructure spending over the next two years over the allocation in the 2014 Budget.

This makes no sense.

Interest rates are at record lows.

Private sector investors are looking for opportunities.

The amount of money held by superannuation funds in this country is approaching $2 trillion.

Despite these factors, investment is not happening at the pace required.

My starting point to address this problem is consistent with the approach I have raised at this critical forum over many years.

We need to adhere to a proper process when it comes to selecting which infrastructure projects receive government funding.

We also need the Commonwealth to work with state governments on delivering the infrastructure projects that have the greatest potential to lift our economy.

That means investing in roads.

It also means investing in urban rail to properly address worsening traffic congestion.

We also need to get more serious about facilitating private investment. However, let me stress one point.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. We don’t need a new system.

We just need to extract the politics from the existing system.

But we need to do this strategically and urgently – especially at a time when our economy has grown below-trend for 12 straight quarters and when the domestic economy has been consistently weak since 2013.

 

DEFICIT

Despite all the talk of record spending on infrastructure, investment is falling.

Respected business commentator Alan Kohler noted last week that while the value of construction had increased slightly in the second quarter of this year, public investment had collapsed.

Kohler was blunt.

Governments are basically out of it.

Another example of the way in which the rhetoric of our times flouts reality relates to asset recycling.

There is no additional Commonwealth funding associated with asset recycling.

The money the Federal Government says it has made available was in itself recycled

– taken out of the Building Australia Fund and the Education Investment Fund.

What is being presented as some kind of increase in funding is in fact a means for the Commonwealth to raise more revenue.

That’s because when a public asset is sold, the instrumentality stops paying dividends to the state government and begins paying tax to the Commonwealth.

There is no new money.

And indeed, on projects like the Pacific Highway and the Bruce Highway, the Federal Government has actually put in place arrangements that have reduced state investment in these important upgrades.

Every project under construction on the Pacific Highway right now, including the Frederickton to Eungai, Worrell Creek to Nambucca Heads and Nambucca to Urunga is funded 50-50 between the Commonwealth and the states.

Because the Commonwealth is now saying states need only contribute 20 per cent to road projects, and NSW is already above that much reduced threshold across the project.

That means NSW can minimise its contribution to the rest of the upgrade of the Pacific Highway.

And far from filling the gap, the Abbott Government is slowly shifting its funding to future years for the remainder of the Woolgoolga to Ballina sections.

LABOR’S RECORD

In 2007 the former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia as an independent adviser to government tasked with assessing the merits of major projects seeking Commonwealth funding.

Infrastructure Australia used cost-benefit analysis to give decision makers clear evidence about which projects had the greatest potential to add to national economic productivity.

The aim was simple – to break the link between the infrastructure cycle, which, by its nature, is long term, and the political cycle, which is shorter.

We also 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.

EROSION OF PROCESS

By 2013, the Infrastructure Australia model was up and running.

Based on its research, the organisation was producing the annually updated Infrastructure Priority List.

Of the 15 major projects recommended by Infrastructure Australia on the basis of its independent analysis, Labor funded all 15.

Among those projects were major urban public transport projects including the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail project, both assessed positively by Infrastructure Australia.

But two years later, I am deeply concerned that the current government has abandoned the Infrastructure Australia model.

The Infrastructure Priority List has not been updated since 2013

Only a handful of new project assessments have been completed in the past two years.

Prior to the 2013 election, the Coalition backed Infrastructure Australia.

It promised it would not fund any project worth more than $100 million without a full, published cost-benefit analysis.

But after the election, it withdrew all funding for public transport projects, including the Infrastructure Australia-approved Melbourne Metro and the Cross River Rail project.

It reallocated that money to a range of road projects which had not been analysed by Infrastructure Australia.

Part of the reason for creating Infrastructure Australia was to establish a pipeline of projects already assessed as worthy to which both sides of politics could commit.

I know that if I was an investor looking at the possibility of investing in public infrastructure, I’d want to be certain that projects coming forward stacked up.

If I couldn’t satisfy myself that that a project stacked up, I’d take my money elsewhere.

I fear that is what is happening right now.

That great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes once highlighted the folly of acting without evidence.

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.

Insensibly, one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

There’s a fair bit of fact twisting going on right now in Canberra.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

I suspect that if Sherlock Holmes had a chance to examine the current state of Australia’s transport infrastructure, he would argue for significant investment in public transport.

The recently produced update of Infrastructure Australia’s National Infrastructure Audit said traffic congestion was costing this nation $13 billion this year and that the figure would climb to more than $50 billion by 2031.

Yet our national government refuses to invest in public transport; only roads.

Our nation will never defeat traffic congestion unless we invest in a properly integrated transport system that includes rail and roads.

If traffic congestion, or indeed any other problem, was costing the nation more than

$50 billion a year, I would have thought any competent Commonwealth government would feel compelled to act in the public interest.

But on public transport, we are seeing the opposite – a withdrawal of funding and a return to the soul-destroying blame game that dominated the dying days of the former Howard Government.

Frighteningly, congestion is getting worse.

In previous decades, jobs growth was at its strongest in the outer suburbs of our cities in sectors like manufacturing.

Average workers could find work in the suburbs near their homes.

But the Digital Age has changed the equation and jobs growth is now accelerating in the inner suburbs of our cities in the services sector.

Many Australians, therefore, are being forced to work in the city and commute to drive-in, drive-out suburbs where they can find a house but can’t find a job.

This is a problem affecting millions of Australians who are literally watching their quality of life go down the drain on a daily basis.

DEBT

One of the downsides of the strongly partisan nature of Australian politics in recent years has been the irrational demonization of debt.

After years of scaremongering about an alleged debt and deficit crisis, the current government has convinced many Australians that all government debt is bad.

While we do need to keep debt low, it’s time for an honest conversation about the significant difference between debt raised for capital expenditure and debt raised for recurrent expenditure.

Capital expenditure that increases revenue and national economic activity over time can be fiscally responsible.

Making investments to support future sources of growth and drive productivity improvements is as much a part of a business development strategy as it is part of smart management of the national economy.

Indeed, it can be argued that such spending is economically and fiscally necessary, even though it imposes short-term costs on the Budget.

This applies across the spectrum of Commonwealth expenditure – from public investments in human capital such as education, to investments in physical capital such as productivity-enhancing infrastructure projects.

If a project delivers significant productivity benefits, we should factor that productivity gain into the equation when considering funding options.

If a project drives gains that produce jobs and economic growth, we should factor the value of those jobs into our evaluation.

Governments should be prepared to have the argument about borrowing to invest in productivity-enhancing infrastructure.

The first step toward having that discussion is an acceptance that the nature of the expenditure and investment needs to be assessed and considered differently.

However, if we are to take such an approach, we need to be doubly sure that we identify projects that have genuine community benefit.

Once again, that brings us back to the Infrastructure Australia model. It stresses research.

It allows for rational decision-making.

Australian families borrow money all the time – usually to buy their homes.

They don’t decide that because they have to borrow money to buy a home, they won’t bother and will rent for the rest of their lives.

But before they borrow, they do their research and ensure that they pay the right amount for their home, that it meets their family needs and that, over time, it will appreciate in value.

There is no reason the situation should be different when it comes to government investment in infrastructure.

FINANCING

In July, 2013, I released a suite of policies aimed directly at facilitating new private sector investment in infrastructure.

These arrangements were developed by the Infrastructure Financing Working Group, which included Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s CEO, Brendan Lyon, along with senior public servants and representatives of the infrastructure, banking, superannuation and taxation sectors.

Let me take the time to explain those arrangements today because they will be the starting point for a future Labor Government.

The proposals included:

  • Australian Government guarantees for private debt relating to major projects to improve their overall creditworthiness;
  • Phased payments and availability payments allowing government injections of capital at critical stages during projects, including once a project is operational;
  • Commonwealth seed funding to get projects off the ground;
  • Capital recycling, whereby the Commonwealth provides concessional loans to industry and uses the repayments to fund other infrastructure projects; and
  • Infrastructure tax incentives such as allowing the uplift of carry-forward losses determined by the 10-year government bond rate to remove tax system impediments that work against investment.

Building on these, in May this year, Labor announced that if elected we would ensure that Infrastructure Australia’s mandate be extended so that it plays a key leadership role in facilitating new major infrastructure projects.

It will work with the states and private sector financiers, super funds and constructors to broker deals, get more projects underway, get them financed and have them delivered.

To take the politics out and restore faith and confidence in the infrastructure process, we also undertook to consult the Coalition on all board appointments.

FLEXIBILITY IN PRACTICE

In 2013, as Transport Minister, I reached an agreement with the NSW Government and Transurban for construction of the F3 to M2, later renamed Northconnex.

It’s an example of an unsolicited bid that will produce Nation Building infrastructure with little or perhaps even no impact on the Budget in the short term and a positive impact in the medium and longer term through enhanced growth, increased productivity and a reduction in urban congestion.

Under the project arrangements, the Commonwealth and the NSW Government are each providing a guarantee of $405 million to ensure a project which had been talked about for decades but not progressed could occur.

Another example of working with the private sector is the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal in western Sydney, which will provide major productivity benefits as well as taking 3300 trucks off the road network every day.

This required the establishment of a government-owned company to invest in the site and do the early work prior to it being leased to a private operator.

The former Labor Government also reached a deal with the Queensland Government to provide $715 million in seed funding for the Cross River-Rail Project.

The money was to have been paid over five years.

We also agreed to pay half of the capital cost portion of the availability payment stream for a PPP component over about 30 years and to provide a debt guarantee in relation to the private debt raised for the project by the PPP consortium.

I am very disappointed that the current government abandoned this project.

But what is truly stunning is that the government has not taken advantage of the great work of the Infrastructure Financing Working Group in informing its subsequent decisions.

AIRPORT

To its credit, the current government has committed to developing a Second Sydney Airport.

The Badgerys Creek Airport will boost national economic productivity and provide much-needed jobs for residents of western Sydney.

A project like an airport, with all of its accompanying issues, can’t get off the ground without bipartisan support.

That is why Labor is backing this project.

However, there’s one aspect of the current plan that makes no sense whatsoever – the Government’s failure to commit to linking the Badgerys Creek Airport to a railway line linked to the existing passenger network.

Some have rightly observed that without a proper rail connection, the airport risks not fulfilling its objectives.

The Commonwealth needs to broaden its thinking.

The Badgerys Creek Airport can be an airtropolis that drives economic development and jobs growth throughout western Sydney for decades to come.

It should be more than just a runway and a terminal.

It should be surrounded by businesses in industries like logistics, tourism, engineering and aviation services. It should facilitate high value jobs like the Macquarie Park precinct has for the area around Ryde.

It should be linked from day one to the south-west line at Leppington and the main western line, which would benefit not just commuters to the airport and employment precinct, but also create a loop line around western Sydney that will have enormous wider benefits.

If we are smart, we can deliver on this ambition without a significant public cost for the railway line.

The cost of this rail line should be factored into the lease price for the operation of the airport, whether it is operated by the Sydney Airport Corporation or some other operator.

The existence of a railway line will increase the value of the airport and the lands around it.

That’s an uplift factor the government can include in the contract price and the operator can include in sub-lease arrangements over surrounding land.

CONCLUSION

Infrastructure development is about more than building roads.

It’s about Nation Building and positioning our economy to create the jobs of the future.

It’s also about thinking about how different pieces of infrastructure fit together. Most of all, it’s about having a long-term view.

It’s hard to take a long-term view if decisions about infrastructure are compromised by short-term political considerations.

That’s why the former Labor Government created the Infrastructure Australia system to reduce the influence of politics in decisions about infrastructure.

After two years on the current government, it’s now clear that there has been more infrastructure talking than infrastructure building.

As the mining boom moves from the construction to the production phase, this is the very last thing we need.

Australia must invest scarce public resources wisely.

And the Commonwealth and states must work together in the public interest.

There must be a genuine partnership with business based on flexibility and upon ensuring the projects that are put forward produce decent returns.

The basis of good decision making in infrastructure is proper research.

That is why Infrastructure Australia needs to be the centre of government, where it belongs.