SATURDAY, 14 APRIL, 2018
Subjects: Infrastructure investment, Syria.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The upcoming Budget is a big challenge for the Turnbull Government and the challenge is to actually reverse the cuts in infrastructure that have been put in place. What we have seen is that infrastructure investment will decline from what was anticipated to be in their own Budget in 2016-17, some $9.2 billion, down to $4.2 billion in 2020-21. What we are seeing is a cut in infrastructure as a proportion of the national economy in half from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 percent over the next decade according to the Parliamentary Budget Office. And this is at a time where there are heaps of projects that are ready to go that the Federal Government has refused to fund, projects that were cut when it came to office like the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, the Melbourne Metro project, but other projects as well like AdeLINK in South Australia, where South Australia is due to get just 2 per cent of the national infrastructure budget in 2020-21. This Government has to invest in infrastructure. Malcolm Turnbull has spent a lot of time taking selfies on trains and trams. It is about time he funded them.
REPORTER: The Government says that this year’s Budget will include unprecedented spending on infrastructure. Do you believe that is possible?
ALBANESE: Well we will actually look at the detail. What they have done in the past is not even invested the money that they themselves have said they would – some $5 billion of underspends in their first four years, which means an effective cut in infrastructure investment. Last year alone $9.2 billion was in the Budget, announced in 2016, but they only spent $7.5 billion, so a $1.7 billion cut in effective infrastructure investment. And a Government that has failed to invest in projects like Cross River Rail in Brisbane. The big challenge for the Government is to actually match its rhetoric with real investment, real dollars that make a real difference on urban congestion.
REPORTER: The Government also says that the focus of its spending this time round is on easing congestion and (inaudible).
ALBANESE: This would be welcomed if they stopped cutting investment and actually invest. Labor has a record when we were in office of investing more in public transport than all previous governments combined in the previous 107 years. So our investment was real. We didn’t just talk about it. We did it. This Government hasn’t invested and the challenge for it is: Is there real money on the Budget for the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, for the Melbourne Metro, projects which are underway right now, or projects that need to be fully funded like the complete north-south corridor for Western Sydney Rail, including to the Macarthur region? That’s what people want to see from this Budget because we need to deal with urban congestion and it has been getting worse under this Government because it has failed to invest in public transport and in roads it has only invested in toll roads. It hasn’t invested in the sort of work that needs to be done and when you look at projects like the Black Spots Program, in every state and territory they have spent less than they said they would on those programs in spite of the fact that the Black Spots Program is so important for dealing with high-accident areas.
REPORTER: Labor has made quite a few announcements in the last week regarding roads and rail. Do you see this as a key battleground going into next year’s election?
ALBANESE: Labor will always invest in nation building infrastructure. We will continue to do so and we will point to our record last time we were in office. If we are returned to the Treasury benches, you will see more investment from Labor. Labor will always do more on nation building that this Government. This Government has cut public transport investment in projects like the Cross River Rail, in projects like the Melbourne Metro. They have wrecked the NBN model with their hybrid model that changes from day to day, that was the responsibility directly of Malcolm Turnbull as Communications Minister and they have only invested in roads in our cities that are toll roads. They have actually cut funding to projects when they came to office like the M80 in Melbourne. This is a Government that hasn’t invested in infrastructure. They’ve got all the rhetoric. They’ve got these big figures, but they are out into the never-never, the investment. Even their statement this week when it came to the airport line in Melbourne is funding is funding that is scheduled to commence, perhaps, sometime next decade. Well, there is a project that is under way now, Cross River Rail in Brisbane, as well as Melbourne Metro, which they could have invested in today but they have chosen not to.
REPORTER: Just with what is going on in Syria, what is Labor’s reaction to the news that the US, the UK and France have started air strikes?
ALBANESE: Well Labor has requested a briefing from the Prime Minister’s office. It is important that these national security issues not be the subject of partisan political debate. We have requested a briefing and that will be happening in coming hours and then Labor will make a comprehensive statement. We quite clearly, along with anyone who cares about human rights, abhor the use of chemical weapons. It has no place whatsoever.
SATURDAY, 14 APRIL, 2018