Subjects: City Partnerships Tasmania; Election 2019.
JULIE COLLINS: It’s great to have Anthony Albanese here in Hobart with us with our candidate for Clark, Ben McGregor, but also with our colleague Senator Carol Brown and of course our State Labor Leader Rebecca White and our State Shadow Minister David O’Byrne, and also fellow Member for Franklin. We’ve had a great meeting with the mayors, the Lord Mayor of Hobart, the Mayor of Clarence, the Mayor of Glenorchy and the Mayor of Kingborough; talking about a true partnership going forward should a Shorten Labor Government win the next election. We want to work with the Greater City of Hobart mayors to actually deliver for the people of Hobart. What we saw recently from the dud deal by the current Federal Government, was a whole heap of cobbled together policies and re-announcements that really won’t see anything change for the residents of Greater Hobart.
I know when I’m out and about talking to my constituents, people say: ‘What’s in this city deal for us?’ And when you tell them that most of the money is being spent on Antarctica, when you tell them that the $25 million for light rail has been spent on some strategy that nobody can explain, and when you tell them that the only other thing in it is a heap of re-announcements and $30 million for housing over five years, they look a little bit stunned. They were expecting a lot more from this after 800 days. But it’s been terrific to have Anthony Albanese here to talk about what true City Partnerships look like when you actually engage at the local level with local mayors. I’ll hand over to Albo.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Julie. It’s great to be back here in Tasmania for the second time in the past five days. I always enjoy coming here and it has been a very constructive meeting between Federal Labor, State Labor and the four mayors from Greater Hobart; talking about our vision for City Partnerships. And the key is in that word. A deal is something that is essentially a fix and this is a fix to get the Coalition Government through an election. It wasn’t thought through; after 800 days all they could do as the centrepiece was give back the money for Customs and processing at the Airport that they themselves had taken away in a decision of just a few years ago.
We’ve seen Macquarie Point down here that we funded $50 million for way back in 2012 and the State Government has been unable to progress what is a vital urban revitalisation project. We want to see, under City Partnerships, true partnerships; priorities determined by local communities to benefit local communities. And that’s what’s missing from the so-called City Deal.
Our partnerships will be overseen by the Major Cities Unit that we will recreate at the Commonwealth level after its abolition on the very first day that Tony Abbott was elected as the Prime Minister. That Major Cities Unit will oversee a process of how we get better coordination between the Federal Government, State Government and local government; about how they work with the private sector to enhance the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities. We’ll actually have guidelines developed in consultation with local government, making sure that it’s very clear that there is a transparent process whereby local government can put forward proposals for City Partnerships supported by state and territory governments.
This is, I think, a vast difference and the people who we met with today, the elected mayors, are in a very strong position to know what is needed in their local communities. That’s why when we were last in government we established as well, the Australian Council of Local Government; for the first time having a direct relationship between the mayors in the 500 councils around Australia and the national Government. They got to actually meet with the Cabinet from the Prime Minister down, and talk about what their priorities are. We want a new respectful relationship, not one that imposes from above, but one that builds from below based upon the fact that local government is in the best position to know what local communities need and what they want. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Do you intend on scrapping any of the parts of the City Deal that currently exist?
ALBANESE: What we’ll do is we will maintain all of the funding that is budgeted for as part of any City Deal arrangement. One of the things that people are annoyed with is that when there is a change of government, often things have to go back to the beginning. We want to build on what’s there. But we think, frankly, there’s not that much there in terms of a foundation. So for example the $25 million on light rail, it is very unclear what it is for because there’s not enough to build the project, but it’s too much if it’s about having a business case. So we’ll maintain that funding for public transport, but we’ll make sure it actually makes a difference. At the moment it’s $25 million that won’t produce anything.
REPORTER: You mentioned the Macquarie Point re-development, which sits right next to Macquarie Wharf, which is a working port and will continue to be a working port with logs there. Do you have any concerns about log truck movements through the city of Hobart and is there anything you would do to address that?
ALBANESE: We can work through those issues. One of the things that we were responsible for when we were last in government was making sure that we built the Intermodal and we took a lot of the freight pressure off. We had the rail revitalisation plan that – I worked with David O’Byrne and one of the things that’s happened under this Government is they took a whole lot of funding out, put a little bit back and called it new funding.
There is not a single major infrastructure project underway in the State of Tasmania that was not funded in the 2013 Budget or before. And that is an indictment of the Government. When you look at the work that we did on the Midland Highway, the Brooker Highway; Burnie Port around Bell Bay. When you look at the upgrades that we had to Bellerive – to Aurora – I think it’s called something else these days. When you look at the investment that we made here in Tasmania, we more than doubled the Infrastructure Budget here in Tasmania and that was making a big difference.
This Government if it is re-elected, we know that the Forward Estimates show that infrastructure funding essentially falls off a cliff. And what they’ve done with this so-called City Deal just before an election is called, having had 800 days to actually do something about it, is come up with essentially a smokescreen, where they have cobbled together different things that were happening anyway and called it a City Deal. Well it’s not good enough. Tasmania deserves better. And this growing city, thriving city of Hobart, deserves better as well.
REPORTER: Is there anything that you would specifically do to reduce forestry freight or logging truck movements through Hobart?
ALBANESE: Well we’ll work through all of those issues. One of the things about Macquarie Point is that, when I was the Minister, we began the process of appointing a structure, a board, to advance that project. Now after 2013 the momentum for that from the federal level disappeared completely because Tony Abbott wasn’t interested in cities at all. And the State Government here under Will Hodgman, into its second term, hasn’t been able to advance that project at all. And the $50 million that was got for that project, handed over by the Federal Government, was supposed to facilitate the State Government progressing that project and it simply hasn’t happened and they are wasted years. And if we are elected in May then one of the first things I’ll be doing, is sitting down with the State Government and demanding to know why it is that they have been unable or incapable of advancing that project. I know that Rebecca White wants to advance the project and wants to work with us constructively. But we’ll work with the Government of the day in advancing these issues.
REPORTER: Do you support State Labor’s position on making the inclusion of a child’s sex on birth certificates optional?
ALBANESE: That’s a state issue. I’m here to talk about the Commonwealth’s role in City Partnerships and that’s my focus here today.
REPORTER: Are you pleased that State Labor has taken a step back from its pokies policy?
ALBANESE: Once again I’m not a State Labor spokesperson. I have a big job in the Federal Opposition as Spokesperson for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Cities and Tourism. I was here on Friday with my tourism hat on, with Rebecca at what was the biggest dinner ever held in Launceston, I’m told. It was a great success. And later today I’ll be talking to the Tasmanian tourism sector about ways in which we can advance tourism here in Tasmania. We know that it already employs – about 15 per cent of employment in Tasmania comes directly from the tourism sector. I’m very focused on the job that I have.
REPORTER: Pokies obviously isn’t just a state issue though. For example independent Andrew Wilkie will certainly be campaigning on it for the seat of Clark. So surely Federal Labor has a position on it?
ALBANESE: What Federal Labor will be doing is campaigning on federal issues and we think that what we would want to do is to hold this Government to account. I mean what we see over the last week is Ministers running for the door. We expect that there’ll be more vacancies in the coming couple of months. Our focus is on Federal issues and we’ll continue to campaign on Federal issues in the lead up to the election.
REPORTER: On that – same topic – is the poker machine issue something you would prefer not to become a part of the Federal Election?
ALBANESE: Well we’ll be campaigning on Federal issues and I’ll be campaigning particularly on my portfolio. But we’ve got a big job. The Federal Government is responsible for running the national economy and we have low wages growth, we have some dangerous science on the global horizon. Some clouds are out there and we need to make sure that we have that sustainable economic growth. How do you do that? You invest in infrastructure and you invest in people through skills and through education, early childhood education and right through to university and TAFE, as well as the school system.
We’re responsible, of course, for Medicare which will be at the centre of the health system that we run. We have Julie Collins here and Carol Brown will both be playing important roles as Shadow Ministers. So we have an important task to do. We think that we are in a position whereby we are united, we have a vision for the country, we know where we want to take it. We want to advance opportunity, not entrench privilege. And one of the things that means, is making sure that we invest here in Tasmania. And it’s why this is my second visit here in a week, I’ll continue to be back here campaigning on Federal issues. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.