SUBJECTS: Pacific Highway, tourism, Tony Abbott’s cycling, funding cuts, tax
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today I’ve inspected the Sapphire to Arrawarra section of the Pacific Highway that was newly opened. It’s a part of the $7.6 billion the former Labor Government invested on improving travel times on the Pacific Highway but most importantly making this highway safer. By investing in the Pacific Highway we’ve reduced travel times but we’ve also saved lives. That is why this investment is so critical. Holiday makers during this season have benefitted from the Kempsey Bypass, the Ballina Bypass, the Buladelah Bypass and also from upgrades at Glenugie, at Banora Point and at Devil’s Pulpit. But there’s more to be done between Arrawarra and Ballina. This Budget must see the Federal Government invest in the Pacific Highway. Every year we pumped additional money into the Pacific Highway and that effort was abandoned by the incoming Coalition Government. A completion date of 2020 is not good enough. What we need to see in this year’s Budget – in 2015 – is a renewed commitment to deliver on the Pacific Highway and that final investment and that final timetable so the missing section of the Pacific Highway duplication is funded this year.
ALBANESE: There’s no doubt it’s a matter of priorities and it’s a priority to save travel time but also to save lives on the Pacific Highway. It’s not good enough for the National Party MPs to turn up at openings such as the Sapphire to Arrawarra section. They have to actually put in the investment and not just talk. And they know that for 12 years the former Coalition Government neglected the need for new investment for the Pacific Highway. With the return of the Coalition, we’ve seen as a return of that neglect.
ALBANESE: The final sections that are needed for investment are between Ballina and Woolgoolga or Arrawarra where the current new section has been completed. To the south of Coffs Harbour construction is underway on the missing sections that was fully funded by previous Budgets of the former Labor Government. What is needed is new investment. The Coalition now, more than a year into office, has not put a single new dollar into the Pacific Highway. It is simply not good enough for them to take people for granted here on the North Coast.
ALBANESE: They need to invest in the Pacific Highway. In this year’s Budget it’s got to be an absolute priority to complete the full duplication of the Pacific Highway to save travel time but also to save lives.
QUESTION: Under your watch, what would happen?
ALBANESE: Under our watch we’ll return the Pacific Highway to a top priority – the top priorities for regional roads have to be the Pacific Highway and the Bruce Highway. We have a record of investment. It’s shown with this new section between Sapphire and Arrawarra here on the NSW north coast, that we didn’t just talk the talk. We put real money into building projects that created real jobs and are making a real difference.
QUESTION: (Inaudible – relates to proportion of funding to road projects provided by commonwealth and states.)
ALBANESE: Well of course it is 50-50 now. The sections which are under construction such as Frederickton to Eungai, such as the section around Urunga are all funded on a 50-50 basis agreed to by the Federal Government and the State Government. What the National Party is doing now is letting their state National Party colleagues off the hook and because they’ve got that 50-50 investment in the existing construction projects, they don’t have to invest any money into the future projects. That simply isn’t good enough.
QUESTION: The Minister for Tourism couldn’t buy a coffee in Coffs Harbour yesterday. Obviously tourism is very important.
ALBANESE: Tourism is vital for Coffs Harbour and the North Coast region and we need to make sure that we give the proper support to the tourism industry. It is Australia’s second-largest service export. It’s a huge creator of over a million jobs here in Australia and Australia doesn’t even have a federal tourism minister. It’s not good enough. The Federal Government has to prioritise tourism. They could start by appointing a tourism minister.
QUESTION: How do we open up tourism on a public holiday in Coffs Harbour?
ALBANESE: In terms of the tourism sector we need to provide that support for jobs. Here in Coffs people expect to be able to have access to those services no matter which day it is on and it’s important that people do have access to those services.
QUESTION: Are penalty rates the reason why Coffs Harbour was closed yesterday?
ALBANESE: I think that in terms of penalty rates people would expect that if you are going to attract workers to give up their time on days like Christmas day and New Year’s Day then you pay a little bit extra for those workers. People do expect that that will be the case.
QUESTION: What do you think of the reports that the doctor has told Tony Abbott he should stop riding his bike?
ALBANESE: Tony Abbott likes to stay fit and that’s a good thing. My question though, is whether he’s fit to actually lead the country. Yesterday in his answer in front of the Australian and Indian cricket teams – where he said he can’t bat, he can’t bowl and couldn’t field, he could only sledge – to me that says a lot about the way he runs the country. It appears he runs the country the way that he used to play cricket – not actually doing anything constructive, just sledging.
QUESTION: Inaudible. (Relates to Abbott Government funding cuts to welfare organisations)
ALBANESE: Just before Christmas we know that organisations such as peak bodies looking after deaf people, looking after homelessness services – were all cut in terms of their funding. And we now find revealed today that in the fine print, just before Christmas, the Government has stopped its plan to give proper tax treatment of foreign companies at cost of some half a billion dollars to the Budget. A $500 million cut for overseas companies but a cut to the funding services dealing with important issues such as Deaf Australia, dealing with Down Syndrome, dealing with homelessness services. All of those peak organisations having cuts says a lot about this government’s priorities.
QUESTION: The Coalition says your promises to the highway were never funded.
ALBANESE: Our commitment to the highway was not only funded, but resulted in real jobs being created, real construction. People are driving on it right now, such as between Sapphire and Arrawarra, the Ballina Bypass, the Kempsey Bypass with Australia’s longest bridge, the Glenugie Upgrade, the Banora Point upgrade, for work that is now under construction – Frederickton to Eungai – was all funded by the former Labor Government. What we’ve seen from them is just excuses and being prepared to try to take credit by re-announcing what already exists in budgeted projects.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.