Feb 22, 2019

Transcript of Doorstop Interview – Brisbane – Friday, 22 February, 2019

Subjects: Cross River Rail, Olympics bid.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s great to be back here in Queensland, in the great city of Brisbane, at this amazing project. When I was last here with Labor Leader Bill Shorten, we announced our commitment to $2.24 billion dollars of funding to deliver the Cross River Rail project in partnership with the Queensland State Government. This is a vital project. It was indeed identified by Infrastructure Australia back in 2012 as Australia’s number one infrastructure priority. That’s why we sat down and worked with – originally the Bligh Government – and then we worked with the Newman Government, as a Federal Government to get a commitment which we put into the 2013 Budget.

Of course we know what happened. Tony Abbott said that he would not fund any public transport projects that weren’t already underway. It was lucky that the Redcliffe project was under construction and couldn’t be stopped. But he withdrew funding from this project and then of course the Newman Government walked away as well.

Well this project is as vital today for jobs and dealing with urban congestion, dealing with improving productivity, sustainability and liveability here in Brisbane, as it was back in 2012. Indeed, it is more needed today because we’ve had lost years – because of the Coalition’s arrogance and their failure to support public transport.

We’re absolutely committed to this project. And I’d say to Scott Morrison and his Government that he has an opportunity over the coming weeks to ensure that this project receives Federal Government funding in the April 2 Budget. There’s no reason whatsoever why this project shouldn’t be bipartisan. But what we’ve seen from the Coalition Government in Canberra is that Malcolm Turnbull and his Queensland team were prepared to come and be at the opening of projects like the Gold Coast Light Rail, Redcliffe Rail, Gateway Motorway North and other projects, but they weren’t prepared to actually fund them. Well I say to them, this is a vital project, everyone knows it, it’s necessary to increase the capacity of the rail network here in Brisbane and they should put real money in the Budget in April.

JACKIE TRAD: Thanks, Albo. I want to start by thanking Anthony Albanese and the Shorten Labor Opposition for their steadfast commitment to the Cross River Rail project. Cross River Rail is critical to the South East Queensland area. It is critical to the Queensland economy and the national economy. There is nothing productive about having thousands of Queenslanders stuck on congested roads, or unable to get onto trains because they’re all full.

The Cross River Rail project will supercharge public transport in South East Queensland. It will double our rail capacity right across the South East Queensland region. That means more trains, more frequently, for Queenslanders to get into work and back home to their families in time. It means less cars on the road, less congestion on our roads. It is critical for South East Queensland but also for the state and national economy. We have had to make the decision to go it alone on this project, because we cannot wait.

Infrastructure Australia said when dealing with our business case that we had overestimated the patronage predictions on our public transport system – the patronage predictions that we’ve relied on to make the case for this project. They said here in South East Queensland we wouldn’t grow patronage on our public transport network by more than 6 per cent, per year. Well, this year, we are hitting a patronage growth figure of 6.5 per cent. There is no doubt that more people are turning to public transport because of congested roads.

Now we don’t want to wait until it becomes a crisis. We are just getting on and building this project in time for the growth that we’re seeing in our local community – in terms of population – but also in terms of public transport patronage. This is what good government is about – delivering infrastructure when it’s needed, not after it’s needed, after there is a crisis. This is what Cross River Rail is all about. And I’m so pleased to be standing here with Anthony Albanese. And the only way that Queensland will get its fair share, in terms of infrastructure spending in our state, is if Bill Shorten is elected with the Labor Party at this year’s Federal Election.

REPORTER: Albo, if you are elected would a Federal Shorten Government support whatever infrastructure is needed for the South East to host an Olympic Games?

ALBANESE: I’ve met with the South East Queensland Mayors just in the last fortnight. They were in Canberra. We’ll have a look at any bid and work cooperatively with Queensland. One of the differences, I think, between a Shorten Government and the Morrison Government is that we will work in the interests of Queenslanders, rather than in the interests of any parochial attitude. I mean, when I was last the Minister for Infrastructure, I worked cooperatively with the Queensland Government – both the Bligh Government, but I also enjoyed a constructive relationship with the Newman Government. When proposals were put forward we acted in a way that put the national interest first. And as Queensland is so important to our national economy as Australia’s most regional state as well, we worked cooperatively.

When we were last in Government we worked, for example, very closely with the Bligh Government on the infrastructure that was needed for the Commonwealth Games. And that Commonwealth Games was incredibly successful. That’s why we contributed $365 million to the Gold Coast Light Rail Project, a project that was opposed by Steven Ciobo, that was opposed by the Queensland LNP. We put $37 million into the stadium, which has had an ongoing benefit of course for the Gold Coast Suns and for sport and activity on the Gold Coast. We helped fund revitalisation along the beach front on the Gold Coast. We funded bike ways. We did our share. In spite of the fact, of course, that all of those seats were held by the LNP, that didn’t matter, we pitched in. What we have from the Morrison Government, frankly, is an attitude that says: ‘We’re going to keep Tony Abbott’s attitude of not funding public transport, we’re going to put all the money into Sydney toll roads’, money that should be going into the Cross River Rail project. That’s what happened when the Government changed in 2013. This project would have been well nearing completion now, frankly. (Inaudible)

REPORTER: (Inaudible)

ALBANESE: Well, we will have an upfront payment of $800 million as a cash injection. But we also recognise that this is an exciting project, and we’ve come up with financing of a long-term payment model that will be contributed over coming decades. Why do you do that? Because you recognise that the benefit of the project will be for decades to come. (Inaudible) That is absolutely necessary now for South East Queensland. But in many years and decades to come, people will still be reaping that benefit.

REPORTER: In terms of the Commonwealth contribution, how much would go towards the construction of Cross River Rail, how much towards operating costs?

ALBANESE: It’s not about operating costs. The Commonwealth doesn’t run trains and it doesn’t run roads. We have that delineation. What the Commonwealth can bring is, essentially, support for projects so that Queenslanders, who pay their taxes, work hard, get given something back in the form of infrastructure. And why should the Commonwealth do that? Because when you build something like Cross River Rail, you boost national productivity. The Commonwealth benefits from that through increased company taxes, through increased personal taxes, by improving the productivity and economic growth of the way that this vital part of Queensland . Because this doesn’t just benefit, this isn’t just about the local community – this is about the capacity of the entire network. This benefits the Sunshine Coast, it benefits the Gold Coast, it benefits Ipswich, it benefits the entire region.