Today marks the 10th anniversary of the election of the Rudd Labor Government, only the third time Federal Labor had been elected to government from opposition since the Second World War.
And when it came to nation building infrastructure, the far-reaching reforms we implemented and the unprecedented capital works program we initiated have made a real and substantial difference.
Between 2007 and 2013, under the leadership of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, Labor:
- Delivered national leadership through the appointment of Australia’s first ever Federal Infrastructure Minister and the creation of a Federal Infrastructure Department.
- Established Infrastructure Australia to overhaul and drive lasting improvements to the way our nation assesses, plans, finances, builds and uses the infrastructure that will drive growth and productivity in the 21st century, including:
- Completing the first ever infrastructure audit;
- Creating a National Priority List to guide investment into nationally-significant projects offering the highest economic, social and environmental returns – and we had committed funding to all those identified as ‘ready-to-proceed’;
- Developing national Public Private Partnership (PPP) guidelines to make it easier and cheaper for private investors to partner with government to build new public infrastructure;
- Publishing long term blueprints for a truly national, integrated and multimodal transport system capable of moving goods around as well as into and out of Australia quickly, reliably and efficiently: the National Ports Strategy and the National Land Freight Strategy.
- Ended the Commonwealth’s self-imposed exile from our cities and re-engaged with the states, territories and local government to help build productive, sustainable and liveable communities. In particular, Labor:
- Created the Major Cities Unit;
- Established the National Planning Taskforce;
- Published an annual State of the Cities Report;
- Produced a comprehensive National Urban Policy: Our Cities, Our Future;
- Committed more funding to urban public transport infrastructure than all our predecessors since Federation combined ($13.6 billion);
- Established the Australian Council of Local Government to give local communities a voice in national policy making process;
- Funded the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government whose mandate was to strengthen skills and professionalism within local government, and showcase innovation and best practice.
- Slashed the number of state, territory and Federal bodies regulating heavy vehicles, rail safety and maritime safety from 23 to 3, freeing up the movement of interstate trade and boosting national income by $30 billion over the next 20 years.
- Created Regional Development Australia to provide strategic input into national programs and improve the coordination of regional development initiatives.
- Set up the Office of Northern Australia to attract and drive economic development opportunities across the country’s vast north.
We backed up these sweeping institutional reforms with record investment.
As part of our Nation Building Program, Labor:
- Doubled the roads budget; built and upgraded 7,500 kilometres of road including completing the duplication of the Hume Highway, accelerating the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to dual carriageway and rebuilding hundreds of kilometres of the Bruce Highway.
- Increased investment in rail more than ten-fold; rebuilt a third of the Interstate Rail Network, 4,000 kilometres of track.
- Established the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, the first ever Federal program dedicated to building new and improving the existing roadside facilities used by truck drivers such as rest stops.
- Used innovative financing arrangements such as value capture, equity injections and public-private partnerships to attract greater private investment in public infrastructure. For example, we employed such arrangements to deliver Northconnex and the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal in Sydney, as well as Legacy Way in Brisbane and the Gold Coast Light Rail.
In addition to investing in the nation’s transport infrastructure, Labor also:
- Made the biggest ever Federal investment in the renewal of the nation’s community infrastructure, delivering 5,500 small and larger scale projects including new and upgraded public libraries, sporting facilities, parks, playgrounds and child care centres;
- Began rolling out high speed broadband to the nation’s homes and workplaces, replacing the existing out-dated copper wire network with fibre optic cable;
- Built 20,000 new affordable homes for low income individuals and families;
- Completed the largest ever school modernisation program, including building and refurbishing 5,000 classrooms, 3,100 libraries, 2,800 multi-purpose halls and 530 science centres.
- Established a Health and Hospitals Fund to finance investment in health infrastructure such as the renewal and refurbishment of hospitals, medical technology equipment, and major medical research facilities and projects.
As a result of these budget measures Australia went from 20th to 1st on the international league table that ranks countries on the scale of the investment they are making in their infrastructure.
The former Federal Labor Government’s nation building agenda of greater investment and long term reform extended to the transport industries linking Australia to the global economy; shipping and aviation.
In the area of aviation, Labor:
- Published Australia’s first ever Aviation White Paper to guide the industry’s future growth, with measures to address skill shortages, a lack of investment in new facilities, unstable world oil prices, global terrorism, inadequate long term planning and poor community relations.
- Negotiated international agreements that gave Australian airlines greater access to major markets, including China and the United States.
- Oversaw a $900 million investment by Airservices Australia in new and upgraded air traffic management technology, and aerodrome rescue and firefighting services.
- Acted to secure more jobs, higher economic growth and Sydney’s status as a global city by progressing planning on the Western Sydney Airport.
- Amended the Airports Act to give local communities a greater voice and better information about development at the nation’s major airports including on the environmental impact of airport operations.
- Injected over $260 million into regional and remote aviation infrastructure, including new and upgraded airport facilities – more than five times what the Howard government spent.
In maritime, Labor’s agenda was equally ambitious. We:
- Began rebuilding the domestic shipping industry with reforms designed to reduce the costs faced by Australian shippers and level the playing field with their international competitors. The package included a zero tax rate, creation of an International Shipping Register and new tax incentives to employ Australian seafarers.
- Enacted the first major rewrite of the nation’s maritime laws since the Navigation Act 1912 was adopted a century earlier.
Lastly, the former Federal Labor Government put High Speed Rail on the national agenda. Not only did we publish a landmark Implementation Study, but we also allocated more than $50 million to establish a High Speed Rail Authority to advance the planning and begin securing the corridor.
From the outset the central task of the former Federal Labor Government was to reverse the neglect we inherited and invest in the modern, well-planned infrastructure that would make people’s lives easier, our businesses more competitive and the national economy stronger.
By that measure, Labor has much to be proud of.
Under Labor we made the right decisions for the nation’s future, and across the length and breadth of the country built the infrastructure which will stand the test of time.
FRIDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2017