May 12, 2007

Transcript – media conference: Budget failures on water policy, ALP water plan..

Transcript of media conference – Labor Council Building, Sydney

Saturday, 12 May 2007

E & OE – PROOF ONLY

Subject: Budget failures on water policy, ALP National Water Security Plan for Towns and Cities, Workplace relations, Tristar

ALBANESE: It’s taken an election year to get any response from the Government about the water crisis.

We know from the Budget papers that John Howard’s $10 billion plan he announced in January this year will deliver just a trickle of money in the coming year. Less than half of one percent has been allocated, and we also know from the Budget papers that the $2 billion allocated in 2004 remains largely unspent.

It appears more money is flowing back to consolidated revenue than into water projects throughout the nation.

John Howard can’t have it both ways. He can’t say we’re in a water crisis, and yet refuse to take real action. That is what is occurring.

We know also that this week’s Budget had no new initiatives on climate change or for the water crisis, because the Government remains sceptical about climate change. And you can’t have a solution to the water crisis without taking action on climate change.

Labor’s practical initiative that we announced this week of $250 million, with matching funds to bring it up to half a billion dollars, will help fix our leaking pipes throughout the nation. It’s an example of Labor having practical projects, which matches our vision on climate change.

The Government has opposed this initiative, like they have opposed Labor’s nation building projects to secure urban water, such as support for the Goldfields pipeline to Ballarat and Bendigo and the Geelong water recycling project at the Shell refinery. At the next election, Australians will have a real choice. A Government that’s sceptical about climate change and complacent about water. A Government who says it has no responsibility to act on urban water for the 18 million Australians who live in our cities and towns. And Labor, committed to real solutions and a real national approach to water, whether it be in the Murray Darling Basin or for the 18 million Australians who live in our cities and towns.

REPORTER: The Howard Government may say that the money is going to be used over a period of time. Do you think they should be putting it into solutions right now? Are there options where they can use that money to make a difference?

ALBANESE: You can’t have it both ways. The Howard Government says there’s a water crisis, and yet at the same time they are holding onto funds and funds are being returned to consolidated revenue rather than being spent on practical water projects to increase our water supply, such as water recycling.

REPORTER: Have you seen Rod Cameron’s comments today where he is reported to say that he thinks Labor has misjudged the public mood on the WorkChoices issue, and they need to sit down with the unions [inaudible]?

ALBANESE: Labor will do what’s right when it comes to restoring balance in industrial relations. The Howard Government may be obsessed with pollsters. What I know, is that in my electorate, down at Tristar, those workers have who for more than year now been turning up, clocking on, but have no work to do. They are literally going through mental torture every day because the balance has been shifted too far, right away from the rights of working families towards employers. Those people in my electorate are the people I’ve been listening to, and they’re suffering. And what we need is a fair go when it comes to industrial relations. So, Labor will do what’s right and we’ll also be listening to the Australian people rather than listening to individual pollsters.

REPORTER: A scientist has come out this morning and said drinking recycled water can be quite dangerous. You say you support water recycling in Geelong, but are there measures that can be put in place to stop that happening?

ALBANESE: The Geelong water recycling project is a $64 million project. $24 million contributed by Shell, $20 million by the Victorian Government and we’ve committed to the remaining $20 million from the Commonwealth.

What that will do is provide recycled water for industry there, freeing up the supply of drinking water for Geelong and the surrounding areas. It will also stop outfalls going into Corio Bay and at the Black Rock outfall. So, we’ll have a positive outcome in freeing up drinking water, and a positive impact because recycled water is actually better for industry than water out of a tap. Industry likes recycled water because it is purer. I visited just last week the Kwinana recycling project in Western Australia. There, businesses are greatly benefiting from the use of recycled water. So, these practical projects which free up tap water for drinking and for households, is what the Howard Government should be supporting.

ENDS