Subjects: Cross River Rail; infrastructure; Budget 2017; education funding.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s great to be here at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane, back here, with Jackie Trad, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure, at the very site where, after the Budget in 2013, we confirmed Federal funding for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project. Of course that’s a project of great benefit not just to people who live in the suburbs of Brisbane to the north and the south, but also for the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. It followed Infrastructure Australia putting it number one on its Priority List in its 2012 assessment of productivity boosting infrastructure around Australia.
It would create jobs in the short term. The model that we had was for Federal and State funding as well as, of course, some value capture, some private sector contribution as well. And it followed the record infrastructure investment that the former Labor Government put into south-east Queensland. Whether it be the Pacific Motorway, the Ipswich Motorway, the Gateway upgrades, the Gold Coast Light Rail project, or whether it be the Redcliffe Rail Link.
When we were in Government we invested in infrastructure. The current government talks about infrastructure. Malcolm Turnbull likes travelling on trains and taking selfies on them. If there was just a dollar of funding every time he took a selfie on a train, we’d deal with the issue of urban congestion by now.
Australians quite like the fact that Malcolm Turnbull travels on trains, but they want him to fund them. And here in this city we have known for some period of time that what is needed is a second crossing. That’s why this project must be in next week’s Budget, brought down by Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull if the Government is to have a shred of credibility.
There is currently throughout Queensland only one project, the Toowoomba Bypass, that has been initiated by the current Government. Four years into office every single project that they’ve opened or is underway throughout Queensland, and every project here in Brisbane that is underway, is underway with funding from the former Labor Government.
It’s simply not good enough that this state doesn’t get its fair share of funding from the Federal Government. And that’s why the Cross River Rail project is the ultimate test of how fair dinkum they are about infrastructure investment from the national level. It’s a project that is ready to go. It’s a project that’s been through the process. It’s a project that’s needed and it’s needed right now.
JACKIE TRAD, DEPUTY PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND: Thanks Anthony. I too am very pleased to be here with Anthony Albanese to talk about Cross River Rail. Of course Anthony was the Deputy Prime Minister and the Infrastructure Minister at a Federal level who nutted out a once-in-a-generation deal for a once-in-a-generation infrastructure project here in south-east Queensland.
The benefits of Cross River Rail are a no-brainer. For Brisbane in the 21st century we need more than one rail crossing for our booming population. The current crossing, the Merivale Street Bridge, was built some forty years ago and it hasn’t been able to keep pace with our growing population and the demands on our rail network. That’s why we need to build Cross River Rail.
Now the Federal Government and Infrastructure Australia have had this current business case with them for more than 40 weeks, for the best part of a year. We have spent millions of dollars on the business case and follow up queries from Infrastructure Australia and the Federal Government. We’ve held one-on-one, more than twenty meetings with both Infrastructure Australia and the Commonwealth to progress this. And my message to Malcolm Turnbull is quite clear. It’s time to stop talking and it’s time to start building.
The people of south-east Queensland know that this project is a no brainer. It’s a no brainer to bust congestion. It’s a no brainer for our economy to lift productivity. And it’s a no brainer in terms of setting up Brisbane to be a global city in the 21st century.
So Anthony is quite right. The ultimate test about whether the Turnbull Government is fair dinkum with all of their infrastructure talk today is whether or not there will be a capital expenditure line item in the upcoming Federal Budget for Cross River Rail. And if there isn’t, I think this Budget will be a dud for the commuters and the people of south-east Queensland. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: What’s the doubt? I thought this was in the bag. Why is it suddenly in doubt?
TRAD: Well I think you will have seen, Shane, that there’s a lot of weasel words coming out of the Federal Government in relation to this particular project and the Premier has raised the fact that we need to stop talking about this and we need to start building it. And we need to start building it, quite frankly, this year. It’s a project that is ready to go and what we haven’t seen from the Commonwealth Government is a clear cut commitment that they are on board with this project and that they will provide funding – funding that will see this project start being constructed, start being built by the end of this year.
REPORTER: How much needs to be in the Budget for you to be happy?
TRAD: We’ve put some figures to the Federal Government. I held a meeting with both Mr Fletcher, Paul Fletcher, as well as Angus Taylor, the Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Economy. Now we’ve presented some financial modelling to them. We want to work in partnership with them, but quite clearly there’s no clear cut agreement that they are prepared to come on board in a significant way this Budget. So, as I said and as Anthony has said, the ultimate test about whether or not all of this infrastructure talk coming out of the Federal Government is fair dinkum or not, for the people of south-east Queensland will be whether or not there is a Budget line item that will start getting Cross River Rail built.
REPORTER: So how much money do you want?
TRAD: We’ve put $850 million on the table. We’ve put $850 million on the table and, as Anthony will attest to, the Federal Opposition, Labor Opposition, put $800 million on the table last year during the Federal Election. Now this type of money, this type of injection into the early works would have seen this project start being built. It would have seen the private sector, who are desperately looking to the Commonwealth for leadership on this issue – they know that the State has allocated $850 million to start this project – but the private sector want to see leadership from the Commonwealth Government and make a capital contribution to get this underway.
REPORTER: Do you want them to match that amount then in this Budget?
TRAD: In the very least. But as I said, we’ve presented financial modelling to the Commonwealth Government – various scenarios, particularly based on the scenario Albo had nutted out with the Newman Government back in 2013 before they squibbed it and fell into line behind Tony Abbott and his stance against public transport infrastructure spending. So we think with both the State and the Commonwealth making a contribution, with the private sector deeply interested in this project and nutting out a PPP we think we can get this built. We are absolutely certain we can get this built.
ALBANESE: Be very clear that the Bligh Government began work on this project but then when there was a change of Government with Campbell Newman’s Government, I sat down, including with the Premier himself ,and we nutted out an agreement for Federal and State funding, equal funding, for this project. And what happened of course was that in 2013 Tony Abbott made it clear that an incoming Coalition Government would cut all Commonwealth funding for public transport projects. And to be fair to him, he did exactly what he said he would do. That was fair to him, but it wasn’t fair to the people of Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, or the Gold Coast, or the people of Melbourne and Perth and Adelaide and other cities that got projects cut as well.
The fact is that Malcolm Turnbull says he has a different position from Tony Abbott – that the Commonwealth should fund public transport; that the Commonwealth should be in the business of engagement with our cities and urban policy. This is an opportunity to put that into practice and my concern …
ALBANESE: Well at least an equal amount from what the State Government have done. We put money on the table last time. We had $715 million from both levels of Government in the Budget in 2013.
REPORTER: But neither of you will say specifically how much.
ALBANESE: Well I just have. You weren’t listening.
REPORTER: You are going through ancient history. How much do you want in next week’s Budget?
ALBANESE: You weren’t listening.
REPORTER: I was.
ALBANESE: The fact is that in terms of this project one of the things that the Government is saying now is that it is going to have this Infrastructure Financing facility in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. If that is an excuse for them not to make a contribution then the business community, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and others have all ruled that out completely. Now it is up to the Commonwealth to actually put some money in. What we did when we were in government was we increased rail funding by more than 10 times. Now Malcolm Turnbull was happy to go to the opening of the Redcliffe Rail Link, happy to go there. That was funded with a substantial contribution from the Commonwealth Government as well as contributions from state and local government. Now in terms of that project, it was good enough for him to go to the opening; how about he go to an announcement for funding? What we are asking here is for him to not fund something is new; to fund something that was already funded that his Government, of which he was a Cabinet Minister, cut the funding from.
REPORTER: Are Queenslanders asking for anything more than their due. Are we asking the South Australians and Tasmanians to help us build this project or are we just asking for our own taxes back?
ALBANESE: Queenslanders aren’t asking for anything more than their fair share and if you look at the carve-up of funding, NSW has done very well out of the Turnbull Government. The states that haven’t done well are states that happen to have Labor Governments and I think people will join the dots there. This is a project that was number one on the Infrastructure Australia priority list five years ago. Surely the excuses have to stop and the funding and building and construction has to start.
REPORTER: What’s the bare minimum needed to start this project?
TRAD: Well, I think what we have always asked for its we have asked for not only dollars but a funding arrangement into the future so, in very least, if the deal that the Commonwealth came back to the state with or we agreed in partnership would be similar to what Anthony nutted out with the Newman Government before they flipped and reneged on that agreement and did over the people of South-East Queensland. So it would look like an equal contribution, as Anthony said, and an agreement around 50-50 availability payments for the build into the future. So we want an agreement. It’s not just about the dollar figures. It is about an agreement going forward to make sure that the private sector can come on board in a private-public partnership arrangement so we can see Cross River Rail built. We are ready to go. We have always been ready to go. We have made it clear this is our number one infrastructure priority for our capital city. It will mean productivity gains and economic growth the likes this city needs, desperately needs. But it also means that people will spend more time at home with their families. So, as I said, it’s time to stop talking and it’s time to start building.
REPORTER: Are you ready for an early election?
TRAD: Look I think this is just absolute scuttlebutt. I know that the Premier is absolutely 100 per cent focused on job-creating programs, getting the Budget together, which will be delivered in June, and making sure the Queensland gets a fair deal out of the upcoming Federal Budget, which is exactly what I am here talking about.
REPORTER: Would you personally like to see the next state election fought on the new boundaries?
TRAD: Of course.
REPORTER: So July 15 is a bit fanciful?
TRAD: Look, I don’t know where this has come from but it is absolutely fanciful.
REPORTER: So if you get funding in next week’s Budget will you start the project by the end of the year? Or is it something that is slated for later on? Is it actually ready to go?
TRAD: As I said, Cross River Rail is absolutely ready to go. We believe that if there is funding in the Budget, in the Federal Government Budget around infrastructure and Cross River Rail; If there is an actual capital allocation to Cross River Rail in the Federal Budget we can start early works by the end of this year and that is what the people of South-East Queensland want to see from both the State and the Federal Government.
REPORTER: In that scenario, when would we see passengers on there then?
TRAD: Well the complete build would take something like five years but we know that we need to start getting this project built because capacity will become a clear issue for our city and for the people of South-East Queensland by 2021.
REPORTER: What’s the Government’s main priorities for the Budget other than Cross River Rail?
TRAD: Other than cross River Rail? The Premier has outlined some key priorities. What we have seen is some infrastructure projects outlined for North Queensland which are clear priorities. We have also seen the Premier make some very strong statements around a hydro-electricity scheme for Townsville as well as ensuring that health and education aren’t cut in this coming Federal Budget. Now I note that the Federal Government has made announcements in relation to education and we welcome those announcements, the fact that Gonski is back on the table. But there is some clear concern that most of the funding increases are actually in the out years of the ten-year program. That means that there will be many students within our state schooling system and the whole schooling system that won’t see the direct benefits of these education fund increases at all. There’s a lot of work to do in terms of scrutinising the actual announcement and making sure that Queensland gets a fair deal out of it.
REPORTER: I think I am supposed to get Mr Albanese on Gonski for our Canberra friends if that is all right.
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that the Government has cut the funding for education by some $22 billion over what we anticipated. Every student should be valued. Every student should get the funding that they need based upon needs. That was the principle that we put in place when we were in government and it is the principle that Malcolm Turnbull shouldn’t walk away from. Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.