Subjects: Labor’s $40 million freight support package for Tasmania; Labor’s investment in infrastructure for Tasmania; Channel Highway upgrade; NBN; The real choice at the election; Hobart Airport; Opposition costings; Supporting Tasmanian jobs and growth.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s fantastic to be back in Tasmania again. Here with Julie Collins, my ministerial colleague and the Member for Franklin, and also Jane Austin, the Labor candidate for Denison.
The morning I was in the state’s north announcing our freight logistics $40 million package as a result of what we received from the freight logistics council.
This has been warmly welcomed by industry. It’s about securing Tasmania’s future. Three parts to deal with freight. The first is you’ve got to deal with infrastructure. That’s why we’ve put additional money into Burnie Port, into Bell Bay, and into road and rail freight. Including $120 million into rail.
I note that the Coalition has committed nothing to rail freight here in Tasmania, which means that they’ll rip out $120 million from rail freight. That’s a part of a $280 million that they have failed to match in terms of our commitments to infrastructure here in Tasmania.
Secondly, our Jobs and Growth plan; $100 million support for industry, worked through with Tasmanian community organisations, businesses and between the Federal and State Governments. That announcement, $100 million, is about improving volumes, making sure that businesses can be successful.
Thirdly of course is the issue that we announced today. A $40 million package targeted to ensure $37.5 million in capital grants to improve the supply chain issues, to improve volumes, to improve efficiencies. And also $2.5 million so that small suppliers can cooperate, can use information technology to ensure that we don’t have empty boxes leaving and departing Tasmania, to ensure that we improve efficiencies there.
So this plan, $25 million of which is frontend-loaded, to be delivered prior to Christmas. That part of the plan in terms of the small suppliers dealing with each other of course, is facilitated by information technology. Facilitated by the National Broadband Network.
And here in Tasmania it’s very clear that where contracts have not been signed for the rollout of the National Broadband Network, if Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull are successful on 7 September, they will do what Tony Abbott told Malcolm Turnbull was his job, which is to ‘wreck the NBN’. The rollout will stop.
At least 5000 homes in Denison will not receive fibre-to-the-home. In Franklin that figure is 35,000, including suburbs like Old Beach, Acton Park, Tranmere, Lauderdale, Rokeby and Huonville.
That is an enormous slash to the Tasmanian economy. It means that you’ll have situations whereby in some cases, literally across the street one block will have received the NBN, the next block won’t.
What we’ll see in the future if they get their way is signs up when houses are for sale, ‘three bedrooms, a bathroom, a carparking space and the NBN’. Across the road a house exactly the same but without the NBN will be of less value.
So this is about improving Tasmania’s economic opportunity. That’s why the Government chose Tasmania first for the full rollout. Because Tasmanians understand that the tyranny of distance separating Australians from each other and from the world is overcome with the National Broadband Network.
Huonville will miss out on the NBN if they have their way. But today I’m announcing an important road project also for the Huon Valley Council. A notorious section of the Highway, of the Channel Highway near Huonville, will be built as a result of a $7.5 million grant to the Huon Valley Council. This is a local road. But it has been identified as a major dangerous route that needs fixing. So it’s about road safety, but it’s also about the amenity. It will include a new bridge over Skinners Creek.
This is a project where Julie Collins has argued very strongly for. It is part of the almost $2 billion that we’ve contributed to infrastructure development here in Tasmania. We’ve essentially doubled the road and rail budget here in Tasmania per head of population since we came to office because we understand that good infrastructure means support for traditional infrastructure – road and rail – but also the infrastructure that’s needed for the future in the form of the National Broadband Network.
JULIE COLLINS: I’m really pleased to have the Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese here in Tasmania and of course it’s always great to have Jane Austin, our Denison candidate, with us.
This announcement today is really important for Huonville. It’s really important for the Huon Valley. We know that the Huon Valley and Huonville have been doing it really tough. This $7.5 million I know will be well received down in the Valley. It will not only improve road and road safety, as Minister Albanese said, but will also open up future retail and developments in the Huon Valley.
I know that the Huon Valley Council have been lobbying for this for a long time. And talking to the Mayor this morning, they’re really thrilled that we are making this commitment of $7.5 million for this road down at the Huon. So it’s great news today for the Huon Valley and great news for those local residents who have been talking about this road for some time. And we know the wonderful opportunities that will open up in Huonville.
JOURNALIST: The money we have seen committed to freight this morning is obviously some more cash to keep things flowing, but it doesn’t sound like a long term solution. Are you still looking into something more long term?
ALBANESE: It is absolutely a long term solution. This isn’t about subsidies, this is about capital improvements to businesses that make a difference for the long term. So for example one possible grant could be for the Tasmanian salmon industry.
At the moment, Tasmanian salmon when exported into the markets of Asia has to be fully frozen. What that means is that there’s a reduction, or a perceived reduction in the quality of the product. Therefore less price for the product, therefore less demand.
If you could semi-freeze and have the capital equipment so you have semi-frozen product exported, then you increase the value of the product, you also increase the demand and therefore increase the volume which also leads to support in terms of shipping from Tasmania.
So it’s projects like that, that have been identified by the Tasmanian Freight Logistics council, which is why this is not just a one-off subsidy that’s spent and then gone. This is a very different proposal.
We know when it comes to the TFES scheme that Mr Abbott has told Tasmanians what his policy is. He’s going to have a review by the Productivity Commission. We know the Productivity Commission’s views because they’ve put it out there in 2006. They think that the scheme should be abolished. So Mr Abbott is planning to have a review by an organisation that has made its position very clear, which is that TFES should go.
So at this election you have a very clear distinction. A Government that has put $100 million into the Jobs and Growth plan supporting industry, a Government that is investing in infrastructure, including road and rail infrastructure, commitments not matched by the Opposition, and support for the logistics supply chain as identified by the industry body.
Phil Clark, have a look at what he had to say today at the press conference and all of the industry reps who worked so hard on this. What’s important is that we listen to industry because industry understands how you improve those long term productivity benefits. They’ve put forward this proposal and we’ve adopted it in full. They asked for four years’ funding, we’ve put two years’ funding out there today, to be reviewed after a period into this. But we’ve also of course frontend-loaded the funding as well because we know from the industry body that a range of these projects are ready to go right now.
JOURNALIST: The State Opposition says that it would actually bring a direct shipping link, international ship back to Tasmania and spend $33 million doing that. Why not do that instead?
ALBANESE: Because $33 million spent is gone. No improvements in the freight logistics chain. No difference to the supply chain. Also legal issues and contractual issues.
See what the State Liberals’ plan has said – nothing from the Feds by the way – but what the State plan has said is that we’ll give money to a shipper. So you give money to a shipper. All of those logistics businesses like Toll that aren’t included in that plan, that have existing contracts with suppliers, not only miss out, their actually then at a competitive disadvantage in terms of the supply chain.
It’s a bit like saying that you are going to subsidise Arnott’s biscuits but not Westons and not all the other biscuits that are on a supermarket shelf. You’re picking a winner to subsidise that will deal with 15,000 boxes. There are more than 450,000 boxes in and out of Tasmania. So this is a really ill-thought out plan. And what’s important isn’t that I say that, what’s important is that Phil Clark, the head of the Tasmanian Freight Logistics Council and all of the other industry bodies that were there say that this is not a smart way to go forward. You need to deal with those economic competitiveness issues in the long term.
You need, not to put a band aid on that lasts and then dissolves in three years’ time. You need a permanent fix that improves efficiencies, that improves volumes, that turns around the economics of exporting and importing here in Tasmania.
JOURNALIST: People in the industry say that the TFES should be scrapped and that money should be spent on doing what you are doing today in creating greater efficiencies and so forth. Is that completely off the table?
ALBANESE: We’ll maintain TFES. That’s our position. And this is in addition to TFES.
ALBANESE: Tasmanians will have a decision to make, as will people around the country. Do they want the National Broadband Network continued to be rolled out. If they say yes, they will vote Labor. Do they want the Better Schools plan that will deliver on average well over $1 million into every school, that will transform the way that education operates in this country. Whether it be private schools or whether it be Government schools. If the answer is yes, they will vote Labor.
If they want a Government that is committed to better health care, to the changes that we’ve made in terms of dental care, the logical extension of Medicare to Disability Care. Does anyone think that any conservative government would have the imagination to come up with Disability Care and actually put it in place? I think the answer to that is no, they never have.
All the big changes that have been made have been done by Labor governments. If the answer to that is yes to Disability Care, yes to better health care, they will vote Labor.
If they want their superannuation to increase from 9 to 12 per cent, they will vote Labor. If they want fair workplaces rather than a return to WorkChoices by another name, they will vote Labor. If they want better infrastructure investment and plans that are worked through in cooperation with industry like today’s Tasmanian freight announcement, they will vote Labor.
We have a record of which I’m extremely proud, but there is more to be done. And they will also ask themselves this: why is it that we are less than two weeks’ out from polling day and you have the cuts not identified by the Coalition, the costings not made by the Coalition, you have $8 billion of cuts that we know of in terms of infrastructure. There was an interesting announcement today in one of the Brisbane papers and it said a lot about the Coalition and who controls transport and their priorities. They announced $300 million for an inland freight line, I’ve been talking about freight in Tasmania today, that $300 million has already been announced by us and it’s in the budget.
We’ve already allocated $600 million on improving the existing lines that will make up the inland freight. But the $300 million is already in the budget. So they’ve announced it, pretended it’s something new when there is nothing new at all in this announcement to hide the fact that they’re embarrassed by the fact that they won’t fund projects like Cross River Rail in Brisbane and a range of other projects.
And they won’t fund the rail program here in Tasmania that is so vital for industry.
JOURNALIST: We’ve got Tony Abbott in town today, he’s announced some money to fund an upgrade at the Cadbury factory and reinstate the tours for tourists. It’s been welcomed by the industry. Is that something you will look into and potentially match?
ALBANESE: We’ll look into it, we haven’t been approached about that policy. But what we have done, if you look at our record, I have been here seven times this year. Seven visits right throughout the whole of Tasmania, supporting projects, supporting jobs, talking with industry, consulting with the community and out of that is coming real action that leads to real projects that create real jobs that support the economy.
JOURNALIST: Have you had a conversation with the State Government about the extension of the airport? It’s something the State Government would like to see. The Liberals announced it last week.
ALBANESE: Look that’s something that we’ll look at, of course I as Aviation Minister I must say that in terms of the airport, it is of course privately owned. So you’ve always got to be cautious about handing public money to private operators to increase their profits in terms of those issues.
But in terms of the airport, and aviation, certainly in terms of the commitments that we’ve already made to aviation activity particularly to regional airports, one of the issues that I’ve asked to be examined – because there’s no business being presented at this point – and I have had a discussion with the State Government about the business case regarding potential benefits and relationship between Antarctica basically and Hobart here. So that is something that I’d want to see the business case one.
But I have had discussions over a period of time with the State Government, and also with my federal parliamentary team.
JOURNALIST: Mr Hockey is going to suggest today the carbon tax will save $5.6 million – from the carbon tax in industry compensation and also the PPL will improve the budget bottom line. What’s your response to that?
ALBANESE: Well this is interesting economics from Joe Hockey. He won’t submit any costings to Treasury. We know last time around one of the reasons why they didn’t form government was because they basically made up figures on the run. And then after the election they were found to have this huge black hole when it came to their funding.
And we know now that they’re doing the same. We know with the PPL scheme, which one is it? Mr Hockey, isn’t he the guy who wasn’t sure if 50 per cent or 60 per cent or 70 per cent was going to be dealt with by the tax that he will impose on company tax. That was a week ago. That was after the announcement. And today he tries to say that a scheme that will deliver for some people $75,000 in benefit at a time where that is more than four times what a pensioner gets to survive on, is I think an extravagant scheme.
And the thing is, their PPL scheme benefits the few, but everyone has to pay for it. Everyone has to pay for it through their taxes. Everyone has to pay for it through the changes that they’ve suggested; to superannuation, to those on retirement incomes. Something that they hadn’t really thought through. But all of them will miss out as well.
Companies will pay for it and that will be passed on through increased costs when your Woolworths, or your Coles pay it, they will pass it on at the supermarket shelf.
So this scheme is extravagant, it’s unfunded, it’s uncosted and Joe Hockey wants to pretend that it actually produces money. I mean if they are fair dinkum they will do what they should have done some time ago and they would have done, which is to submit their costings to the Treasury as required by Peter Costello’s legislation.
ALBANESE: No we’re not. Our proposals for jobs and growth here in Tasmania are very clear. We support jobs. We support growth. We think that these projects are absolutely vital.
Projects like Sense-T that I gave the example of in an earlier interview. Sense-T can, by using the NBN, enable farmers and producers to determine what the best time is to pick the grape, what the best time is to plant the crop, what the best time is to farm the salmon. All of those issues using the NBN to Tasmania’s advantage can create very exciting opportunities. So we believe this in an absolutely critical support.
The forest plan as well, we’ve had discussions with the Tasmanian Premier again today about her passion for supporting jobs. And we’ll continue to work with the Tasmanian Government but also to work with industry wherever we can to support jobs and growth.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.