Parliament House doors
Subject/s: Budget, public transport, fuel excise
ALBANESE: There’s been a lot of talk and rhetoric from the government about infrastructure in the lead up to the Budget.
But what we’re really seeing is that projects that are already funded in the Budget are being re-announced.
Indeed, there have been more cuts coming that we know of than new projects announced – cuts to public transport in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane.
You can’t deal with urban congestion if you are cutting funds for public transport in order to provide additional funding to roads.
To deal with urban transport congestion you need to look at transport strategies in an integrated way. That’s why the former government created Infrastructure Australia.
This government knows that. That’s why they said they would have proper cost-benefit analysis for all projects above $100 million.
And yet they are abandoning that principle in the lead-up to their very first Budget.
They’re prepared to provide funding without getting the cost-benefit analysis done for projects such as the East-West Road project in Victoria.
There we are seeing the consequences of the abandonment of Federal involvement in public transport. Not only does in mean that Federal money is withdrawn. It means that state governments, faced with a choice of funding a road project or a rail project are choosing road projects so that they can gain additional funding from the Federal Government.
That leads to a distortion of the market. It also leads to results that do not produce the best results in terms of productivity and in terms of dealing with urban congestion.
We’ve seen it already in Perth with the abandonment of public transport commitments that the WA State Government had given.
We’re seeing it in Brisbane where the Cross-River Rail project has been abandoned for an inferior project that will not deal with the rail congestion issues which are important not just for Brisbane, but for the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
And we saw it last week in Melbourne where the Melbourne Metro project, that had been through a $40 million proper planning exercise that was supported by the former Federal Government and the Victorian State Government has been abandoned in favour of an inferior proposal that doesn’t even take passengers through the city and doesn’t deal with the congestion on the city circle area.
That’s why this government’s approach is very short-sighted. We’re seeing cuts to public transport but without a plan for dealing with urban congestion
REPORTER: We saw yesterday reports of investment of about $80 billion.
ALBANESE: No … you’ve picked up on that figure so I’ll start to pick up the journos already. If you say someone else is going to provide money – the private sector and the State Government – that’s not Federal Government investment. What they’re talking about is a figure that’s very similar to the figure that was already in the Budget.
So I’m not convinced there is any new money at all. They have raised a few new projects – the East-West Project in Melbourne it is true, and the Toowoomba bypass were both not included in previous Labor Government budgets.
But every other project that they’ve raised is already in the Budget, including the WestConnex project.
So forget all the rhetoric. Have a look at the detail of the proposals and what you’ll see is very little additional money for roads but more money than that additional money from urban public transport projects – $3 billion from the Melbourne Metro, $715 million from Cross-River Rail, $500 Million from Perth public transport projects – just to name three.
REPORTER: Are there any suggestions, details from the Budget that we’ve heard so far that Labor will flat-out reject in in Parliament?
ALBANESE: Well we’ll wait and look at the Budget as a whole. But what we know is that this is a Budget of broken promises , that this is a Budget that targets the most vulnerable.
Take one area. They say this is a Budget that we need to get back into surplus as soon as possible. Well, why have they intervened to cut measures such as Labor’s measure which would vary the superannuation contributions in terms of tax regimes for those earning above $100,000 from their superannuation investments?
That would have applied to just 16,000 people. You would have to have an enormous amount in super in order for that to occur.
And yet they are abandoning that proposal at the same time as they are abandoning Labor’s government support for the low-income superannuation contribution.
It’s just one example whereby this Government is hitting the most vulnerable.
If you look at the Budget you have public sector cuts that are clearly coming because they don’t like the public sector. You have cuts to public health through abandoning the universality of Medicare because they don’t like public health; cuts to public education by abandoning the Gonski reforms; cuts to public transport; cuts to public broadcasters though the ABC and SBS.
There’s a theme here. They don’t like the public.
What we see is time after time the most-vulnerable people being targeted by measures in the Budget.
Conservative governments have traditionally been attached to smaller government. What they want is micro government.
They want cuts to the most-vulnerable people in our community with new taxes including a new tax every time working families fill up and the bowser.
REPORTER: How do you think Labor is going to fare with the Royal Commission into union corruption?
ALBANESE: I’m interested in what will occur tomorrow night in terms of the Budget and the impact on working families. That’s my priority and that’s the Labor Party’s priority in this building.
If some people want to talk about what happened last century, that’s up to them.
But what we’re concerned about is working families and the impact that Budget measures will have. We’re not going to be distracted as the government is attempting to do by political exercises.
REPORTER: You said that this Budget targets the most-vulnerable. Do you think that cuts to, or freezing, MPs’ pay rises and cuts to salaries of quote unquote fat cats mitigates that argument somewhat.
ALBANESE: No, not at all. I refer you to Tony Abbott’s comments of 2008.
REPORTER: Regarding the fuel tax increase … the fact that the Treasurer says it will be spent on roads, isn’t that an encouraging sign?
ALBANESE: In a big Budget whenever you talk about money being spent somewhere, what you can do is just reduce the amount which you were going to spend and increase it back to the original level by the hypothecated amount. When you have a significant roads Budget was the Federal Government always does, you can always say that is the case. What working families will know is that just as appropriately it could be that it’s being spent on the unaffordable paid parental leave scheme.
What they know also is that this is a government that is abandoning funding for public transport. That’s leading to state governments reducing funding for public transport. At the same time as they are taking away those options to the private motor vehicle they are whacking a higher tax on that private motor vehicle.
So for those people in our commuter suburbs this is an inequitable measure because if you live in the outer suburbs of our capital cities, or indeed in places like the central coast of NSW and have to commute to Sydney for employment, you in many cases don’t have other options other than the private motor vehicle. And if that’s the case, that is why it is an impost on working families.
The top end of town including MPs, I might say, have petrol cards. They won’t be paying the additional tax hit on petrol. But working families, whether they are going to work or taking their kids to sport on the weekend, will pay it each and every time they fill up.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.