Subjects: Bennelong by-election, rail services, infrastructure, Christopher Pyne, Peter Dutton, John Alexander, electricity prices, Medicare cuts.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning. It’s fantastic to be here with the Labor candidate for Bennelong, my friend Kristina Keneally. Bennelong needs a fighter like Kristina. We have already seen in just the first few days of this campaign what a determined, tenacious, principled campaigner Kristina Keneally is. We’re having a crack in this by-election because we think that the Turnbull Government has to go and there is no issue which more symbolises the inaction of the Liberal Party in Government than right here at Epping Rail Station.
The Parramatta to Epping Rail Link was a fully funded project agreed to in 2010 with an MOU signed by Kristina Keneally as the Premier of NSW and myself as the Transport Minister prior to the New South Wales election. It was to be 80 -20 funded – $2.1 billion from the Commonwealth and $520 million from New South Wales. Our media release from the time shows that it would have been completed in 2017.
What it would have done is to take pressure off the rail link and the crowded trains that will occur from here into the city by providing that direct link to Parramatta. Taking traffic off, whether it’s people coming to the job centres here around Macquarie Park and around this region of Sydney, giving access to people from Western Sydney for that route and also taking pressure off the route for people here who need to get to Western Sydney who have to go through the CBD. It makes no sense – the fact that you have a half-completed line here and John Alexander recognised that. In 2010 he said this in his campaign material: “On behalf of our local community I am fighting for improved public transport including completing the Chatswood to Parramatta Rail Link’’.He went into Parliament after he was elected and said the price of not doing these projects is simply too high – “the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link is a responsibility I hold with the upmost gravity’’.
Well we had the funding in the Budget. Then New South Wales Liberal Government refused to support this line. And then, when the Abbott Government came to office they not only refused to support this project; they took the funding out of the Budget.
It’s not good enough for John Alexander to say he is a good bloke. I agree with that. He’s just not a good local member. We need a local member here in Bennelong who will actually deliver. Kristina Keneally will deliver as the Member for Bennelong before the election and after the full general election, which will happen sooner rather than later if we win this by-election. Kristina Keneally will contribute as a member of the Shorten Labor Government and that is what we need.
KRISTINA KENEALLY: Thank you Anthony. It is fantastic to welcome my good friend Anthony Albanese here today to Epping Station. If Barry O’Farrell and the Liberals in New South Wales and the Liberals in Canberra had just stuck to the plan for the Epping Rail Link, the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link would be operating today. We would be standing here in 2017 with a great train service that would connect Parramatta through to Macquarie Park. It would have made a massive difference for the people of this community.
In the past few days I have heard a lot from the voters in Bennelong and one of the most significant frustrations they face, one of the most significant issues they voice, is over-development and congestion. The lack of planning, the lack of supportive infrastructure and the over-development in this community has meant that traffic times are longer and trains are going slower.
Just a few minutes ago a man told me about how the trains are running later on this service. This is incredibly frustrating for the people of this community and for John Alexander to support in Parliament and to support in his campaign material the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, but then to do nothing when the Liberals cut it, well, I think that says it all about the type of representation Bennelong has had in our Federal Parliament.
Yesterday John Alexander made an announcement as part of his campaign. John Alexander stood alongside Angus Taylor yesterday and announced that the Federal Government would tip in money for a data collection protect. This data collection project would collect data about traffic congestion in Macquarie Park and in this announcement John Alexander helpfully pointed out that four of the most congested roads in New South Wales are in the Bennelong electorate. And what was his solution yesterday? To collect data about it. Now here is a tip for the Liberals both in New South Wales and federally – you don’t need to collect data about traffic congestion; you need to build public transport. They failed to build the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link. They are failing the people of Bennelong. They are failing the people of Australia.
Anthony is absolutely right when he says this by-election in Bennelong is an opportunity for the people of Bennelong to send a clear message to Canberra, to say very clearly to Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals your Government is lousy, your leadership is lousy, your policies are lousy and your services are lousy. And it’s not just about Bennelong, it is about Australia. The people of Bennelong here have a great opportunity to speak on behalf of all of Australia and to send a clear message to Malcolm Turnbull the Liberals – your leadership is just not good enough and you are failing the people of this country.
ALBANESE: Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Anthony, why has Labor back-flipped on calls for an investigation into Christopher Pyne’s Twitter account liking a porn video?
ALBANESE: We haven’t at all. Bill Shorten and I had a discussion last night. Bill had a look at the details of the tweet and it is very clear that this is a public account of Mr Pyne’s. It doesn’t contain any link with the defence department issues, so there aren’t national security issues here. We think there are major issues confronting this nation, major issues like traffic congestion. It is something that impacts on people every day. Indeed, a passenger mentioned it to Kristina that he had been held up this morning with the trains running late. One of the journalists here told us to hold off a couple of minutes because they were running late because the train was running late here to Epping Station. So there are great issues confronting Australia. The issue of Christopher Pyne’s tweet isn’t at the top of them.
One of the things that we are absolutely committed to is making a difference to people’s lives; making a difference to health care; making a difference to education; making a difference to tackling urban congestion; making a difference to sustainability and dealing with climate change. The people of Bennelong have an extraordinary opportunity here. Does anyone think that if Kristina Keneally is successful in this by-election, it won’t have a massive reverberation right around this nation for politics? So you have an opportunity to do something for the rest of us. People in my electorate in Grayndler are cheering on Kristina in Bennelong because they have had enough of this Government. They want to see a change of Government sooner rather than later.
REPORTER: What is your response to Peter Dutton opening the door to a potential refugee resettlement between Papua New Guinea and New Zealand?
ALBANESE: Well what is very clear is that Peter Dutton doesn’t seem to have a plan to deal with the issues which are there on Manus that we see. There’s a need for the Government to provide support for third countries of settlement for these people. They can’t continue, after more than four years in office, to pretend that they are the Opposition in exile. And that’s one of the things about this Government. You know Tony Abbott had a plan to get into Government, but no plan to govern. Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to knock off Tony Abbott but no plan to govern either. People need a Government that actually acknowledges the responsibility it has to lead. Someone’s got to lead this country. That is why Labor is leading from Opposition at the moment.
REPORTER: Do you welcome reports that the same-sex marriage will be passed this year with a debate about freedoms moved to next year?
ALBANESE: Look it is absolutely critical that the compact with the Australian people who voted in this voluntary survey in huge numbers with an 80 per cent turnout – it’s quite extraordinary – they want this done. They want it done this year and that is the commitment that has been given and we expect the Prime Minister and the Government to deliver on that.
It’s up to a conscience vote in the Parliament. I have been a consistent supporter of this issue being dealt with by a conscience vote because I acknowledge that people do have different views on this issue and I respect them. But quite clearly a majority of Australians want to get this done. A majority of Members of Parliament want to get this done. We should do it. And guess what? People will wonder what the fuss was about because most people won’t have their lives impacted by this. It will just give those people who are in loving same-sex relationships the capacity to express that lifelong commitment to their partner in front of their family and friends. And won’t that be a terrific thing for the country.
The issue of religious liberty is an important one. It is one that I have also been consistent in arguing needs to be upheld. That needs to be dealt with. If there are issues, deal with them separate from this issue, because it is a much broader issue, religious freedoms, than just the issue of marriage equality. So in terms of that issue, it will be dealt with I am sure at some time. It’s up to Members of Parliament to bring forward a Private Member’s Bill. I understand that some Members of Parliament have been having discussions about that, about dealing with it next year. That’s a good thing. But nothing should delay the passage of the marriage equality legislation before the end of the year.
Guess what too – as Shadow Tourism Minister, it’s going to be pretty good for the economy. There’ll be an increase in jobs and economic activity not just from Australians marrying each other, but from people coming to Australia as a tourist destination. This is a substantial destination for the pink dollar. Mardi Gras raises a lot of money for the Sydney and New South Wales economy each and every year. Marriage equality will make this a larger destination for more people. That is a good thing.
REPORTER: Ms Keneally can is ask, are you concerned about John Alexander’s popularity in this electorate?
KENEALLY: Look, this is not an election about Mr Alexander. He’s a lovely guy. He’s a bit sloppy with his paperwork, but I am not going to hold that against him particularly and I wish him well in trying to get his citizenship issues sorted out by the close of nominations early next week.
But what this election is about is about how Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals are failing the people of Bennelong. They are failing the people of New South Wales. They are failing the people of Australia. I mean, Australians look at the Parliament and they say: what is going on? Remember Malcolm Turnbull started this year in February – National Press Club and said his number one issue was going to be electricity prices. What has he done about it? Here in NSW electricity prices have gone up 60 per cent since 2011.They have gone up 20 per cent since July this year. I mean, if that is what Malcolm Turnbull calls doing something about electricity prices, well families and small business around this state, they have had enough of that. The people of Bennelong tell me. The small businesses of Bennelong are telling me. Yesterday in Eastwood I had a café owner telling me how difficult it was to have electricity prices going up at the rate they are.
So that is what this by-election is about – a slow NBN which is rolling out in this area giving people actually what they’ve already got – the same speeds and costing more. This is about rising electricity prices and a Liberal Government that has done nothing about them.
This is about cuts to Medicare. If I keep hearing one thing over and over, it’s frustration. Bennelong residents know that it is getting harder to see a GP. They know they are paying more to get medical services and they know that they’ve got less access to Medicare offices after the Liberals closed them in this electorate. I just can’t get past the fact that in 2016 John Alexander and the Liberals did not make one commitment to Bennelong in their election campaign.
So this is what this by-election is about. This is about the people of Bennelong to stand up and not just speak for themselves, but to speak on behalf of the nation. Malcolm Turnbull, enough is enough. We have had enough of your lousy leadership.
ALBANESE: Can I just make a comment on that? I like John Alexander. There are two good people standing for election in Bennelong. If I wanted someone to represent me on the tennis court, I would pick John Alexander. If I want someone to represent me in the Parliament of Australia, then Kristina Keneally is the person who will get things done. Thank you.
KENEALLY: Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.