Subjects: Coopers Plains level crossing, One Nation, Federal election campaign.
GRAHAM PERRETT: I am Graham Perrett. I am the Federal Member for Moreton and I am here in the middle of my electorate with the Federal Infrastructure and Transport Shadow Minister, Anthony Albanese, to talk about one of the biggest choke points in my electorate – the Coopers Plains rail crossing, where we’ve got east-west traffic, heavy traffic, local traffic, local roads meeting one of the busiest train lines going down to the Gold Coast and Beenleigh and I am proud after years and years of lobbying to say that Anthony Albanese has come to the table with a great solution.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Federal Labor will contribute one third of the funding for this project. We want a partnership between the three levels of government with $73 million from each level in order to fix this level crossing. This is the choke point on the Southside when it comes to traffic. What we can see behind us is 1000 cars an hour passing through this intersection – passenger vehicles and heavy vehicles. And because of the fact that 138 times every day the boom gates come down on this level crossing, it is completely unacceptable that you have hold-ups on 138 separate occasions every single day and what we have also seen is four accidents a year where with these boom gates, cars have hit the boom gates. These are circumstances that shouldn’t be allowed to continue. The three levels of government should get together to fix this choke point.
PERRETT: And we have seen the Lord Mayor say he is prepared to put in 15 per cent. I am saying as someone from the Southside, and I need his Southside councillors to speak up, what’s wrong with the Southside? On the Northside they put in 50 per cent for two grade separations. This one, as seen by the RACQ as a greater problem, they are only prepared to put in 15 per cent. We are not even asking for 50 per cent. We are prepared to do a deal and give us a third. So the Southside says treat us the same as the Northside. Don’t ignore us Lord Mayor. We need the LNP councillors to speak up for the people they represent and actually get one third of the funding from the Lord Mayor to match the State Government and the money that Albo is putting on the table.
REPORTER: Do you think politics came into play in those two previous decisions?
PERRETT: Well the Lord Mayor said it was an LNP area. I don’t know it very well. I will leave it to them. That’s a question for the LNP councillors. All I know is that the former Liberal Member for this area said this problem should have been sorted nearly 40 years ago. It’s time to look after the Southside. We need the LNP to step up.
REPORTER: Given that this is the main rail link down towards the Gold Coast, do you think this adds extra priority to having the State Government and the Brisbane City Council seriously consider your offer?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. There’s a clear case for them to intervene and to give support for this project. Both the State Government, by the fact that they’re doing the study, and the Brisbane City Council has acknowledged this as well. But they haven’t come up with the funding that’s appropriate for this project. So the reason why we’re intervening, due to the lobbying and hard work of Graham Perrett, is to put the message out there that this is a priority. Federal Labor is prepared to do our bit. And frankly I hope that the current Federal Government actually funds this project in the Budget that’s coming on the 2nd of April and then we can just get on with it. But it’s a reasonable proposition to have a third, a third, a third funding. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue because the people in these cars that we see crossing here now – and indeed the heavy vehicles that are crossing past us right now – don’t contain Labor or LNP voters; they just contain Queenslanders, trying to get to and from work, trying to get to and from their recreational activities. It is absurd that they’re held up no less than 138 times every single day.
REPORTER: City Deal arrangements sort of opens the door to more flexible funding arrangements under the Coalition. Do you tend to think that is the way levels of government are going and do you think that’s also a reason why the Lord Mayor should look at upping his current 15 per cent offer?
ALBANESE: We think that there should be genuine city partnerships, not a one-off deal with no funding attached, which is what we’ve actually got at the moment, but an ongoing partnership between the different levels of government about planning, about funding, about making sure that South-East Queensland can function as well as it should. But we’ve got a Federal Government of course that refuses to fund the most important project for South East Queensland, which is the Cross River Rail project. I was there just two weeks ago with Jackie Trad, the Treasurer, examining those issues.
REPORTER: On other issues, what did you think of the behaviour of James Ashby and Steve Dickson going to the States to get money from the NRA?
ALBANESE: This is extraordinary that you have One Nation here in Queensland and also Pauline Hanson’s chief of staff travelling to a foreign country to get donations from a foreign organisation in order to do a deal over removing some of the gun law reform that has bipartisan support in this country. This is completely unacceptable and they have been caught out essentially being prepared to have policies bought for $20 million of donations in order, explicitly on camera, to be able to get additional One Nation senators elected in order to undermine Australia’s strong gun laws that have protected Australians from the sort of events which tragically we saw recently in New Zealand.
The fact is that Pauline Hanson needs to be held to account for this. James Ashby isn’t a lone soldier on this. He is someone who acts in accordance with the direction of Pauline Hanson and this is an outrageous circumstance of travelling to an overseas country, to a US-backed organisation – the NRA – in order to undermine Australia’s laws at the same time as there was a debate in the Senate about foreign donations in which Pauline Hanson was arguing when it came up for debate that she supported a ban on foreign donations. Well this is foreign interference in Australia’s electoral process deliberately done prior to those laws coming into effect to be undermined to the tune of some $20 million.
REPORTER: If they say Ms Hanson knew nothing about their trip do you think that would be reasonable?
ALBANESE: It is simply not credible to argue that Pauline Hanson wasn’t aware that her chief of staff was in the United States soliciting donations from a foreign-backed organisation in return for changes being made to Australian law.
REPORTER: Was it actually lawful to accept money from the NRA?
ALBANESE: Well it isn’t now. But the fact is that this has only come to light because of the activities of this journalist. Otherwise we would never have known what actually occurred and the actions of Mr Ashby in particular and the Queensland One Nation group. So what we know now is the details of this – a very specific ask of $20 million to elect more One Nation Senators with a commitment that they would vote in a way determined by a foreign-based organisation. What we need to know is what other deals One Nation was prepared to do to allow policy in the Australian Parliament to be determined by overseas-based organisations.
REPORTER: One Nation positions itself as very much a pro-ordinary Australian kind of party. What do you think this says about what the reality of the party is?
ALBANESE: What it shows is the hypocrisy of One Nation. Here we have One Nation that speaks about that nation as being Australia, having Australian law being determined as a result of soliciting donations to change Australian law from a foreign-based organisation based upon the views of that US organisation, the NRA; the NRA that has a history that is quite outrageous in terms of defending the indefensible. We know that Australia has been, since the Port Arthur massacre, free from mass shootings that occur on far too regular a basis in the United States. Very clearly as a direct result of the lobbying of this organisation, the National Rifle Association, that seems to be completely incapable of any sense of responsibility or compassion or concern for the victims of gun crimes that occur so frequently on the streets of the United States and in the United States’ schools, churches, synagogues and mosques. The fact is that this is a reprehensible organisation that One Nation, through James Ashby, Pauline Hanson’s chief of staff, were prepared to sit down with and negotiate the way that One Nation would vote in the Australian Parliament in order to suit this US-based organisation. It exposes One Nation for the hypocrites that they are and indeed the dangerous representatives that they are.
REPORTER: One final issue, the Coalition is planning to set up headquarters here in Queensland because Queensland will be a very important state during the next Federal election. Will Labor do the same thing?
ALBANESE: Well we have headquarters here already and indeed not just headquarters in terms of the Queensland branch of the Labor Party, but regular visits. This is my fourth visit to Queensland in the last two months. I will be back here regularly, as will the rest of our shadow ministry team.
REPORTER: Are you saying Peel Street is effectively your headquarters?
ALBANESE: Peel Street is our headquarters right now for the campaign and what we have also right throughout Queensland, whether it has been – I have visited so far this year Rockhampton on a couple of occasions. I have been to Townsville, I have been to Yeppoon. I have been to Cairns and I have been to Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast and we will continue to visit Queensland and the difference is that when Labor people come, we come as a united team with a coordinated response. When the LNP comes it is unclear whether they are campaigning against each other or campaigning against the Labor Party because they really are rabble and we have seen that with Barnaby Joyce’s behaviour in recent days reinforcing that in the aftermath of the NSW election result.
REPORTER: Labor doesn’t see the need to have a specific election campaign?
ALBANESE: We have one. We have one and not just that, we have a mobile one as well and it’s a mobile one that went right up and down the coast. I sat on that bus with Bill Shorten in Central Queensland and at that time we had Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Premier, and we had other senior members of the Labor team, the united Labor team, on board as well. What Scott Morrison does is have a bus and then fly in between pictures outside of the bus. He doesn’t actually spend time travelling around talking to Queenslanders.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.