Subjects: National bike paths strategy; High Speed Rail.
EMMA MCBRIDE: I’m very pleased to welcome Anthony Albanese, the Shadow spokesperson for Infrastructure here to the Central Coast today. I’m Emma McBride the Labor Member for Dobell, and I’m joined by Anne Charlton, the Labor Candidate for Robertson, Pat Conroy, the Member for Shortland, and Stephen Hodge, from We Ride Australia. We’re also joined behind us by members of the Tuggerawong Pathway Group, such strong proponents of this national announcement that we’ll be making today. I am so pleased to welcome Albo back to the Coast. He is such a strong supporter of the regions. He’s such a strong supporter of the Central Coast and we’re so pleased you have chosen the Central Coast, our community, our home, to make this significant national announcement today.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, thank you very much Emma. It’s great to be here again on the Coast with yourself, Anne Charlton, Pat Conroy, the Member for Shortland and Stephen Hodge, the head of the peak organisation, We Ride Australia advocating an advancement and expansion of cycle ways and safe cycle use. Today we’re announcing the most significant expansion of cycling in Australia’s history – safe bicycle paths separated from roads, so that we encourage people to cycle to work, to cycle to school and educational activities. To cycle for both recreation but also for everyday activity is something that has enormous demand from support groups around Australia like the one that has advocated for an expansion of cycling here on the Central Coast.
We will commit $260 million dollars in government. Because that will be matched by local and state government, it will produce well in excess of half a billion dollars of expansion of cycle ways around the nation. Projects like the three projects here on the Central Coast; a contribution of $15 million dollars which will go in addition to the planning and work that’s been done by the Central Coast Council, will make an enormous difference to the quality of life as well as making an enormous difference to improving health outcomes for people, young and old. Cycling’s an activity that can make an enormous difference in people’s lives. It’s one in which governments should be encouraging, through sensible, well-planned infrastructure development. Our announcement today will do just that. Not just here on the Coast but right around the nation, in our cities and in our regions.
We know that there has been an increased take up of cycling in recent years but there’s so much more can be done. What today’s announcement is, is a recognition that we need to support communities who are demanding increased access to safe cycle ways. This announcement today will make an enormous difference and I’m very proud that the last time we were in government we funded more at the national level of cycling than had been done ever before. But today’s announcement is a significant advancement on that, indeed. And I do want to pay tribute to those local community-based organisations who have advocated for change such as this; to peak organisations like We Ride Australia, who have been such strong advocates for change and indeed this will make an incredible difference. I think it’s a proud day and where better to do it than right here on the Central Coast, an area of New South Wales that is known for its liveability and its sustainability; an area where families are being brought up and what this will do is encourage the families such as those here today for this announcement to be able to participate in a way that is safe, in a way that benefits the local community.
PAT CONROY: I just want to add a couple of things, thanks Albo, which is to talk about the $15 million specific commitment to the Central Coast which is great news for our community. That will go towards funding three local projects that have got great, great value. The Kincumber – Avoca loop down on the bottom half of the Central Coast that’s been fiercely advocated for by Anne Charlton, Labor’s candidate for Robertson; the Tuggerawong Pathway where we are standing right now, and I want to join Albo in congratulating the community for its fierce advocacy and Emma McBride, the Member for Dobell, who’s been behind this project from day one; and Mannering Park to Chain Valley Bay foreshore route in Lake Macquarie in Shortland. And we really are blessed as Albo pointed out, from Brisbane Water in the south to Lake Macquarie in the north, we’ve got the best lakes and the best beaches in the country and it’s only right that we have the infrastructure to allow locals and tourists to enjoy that great natural beauty as well as getting healthy at the same time. So the Kincumber – Avoca loop, Tuggerawong Pathway and the Chain Valley Bay to Mannering Park foreshore route, will all directly benefit from the $15 million dollars advocated for by Anne Charlton and Emma McBride. So I think that’s great news, and thanks again Albo for bringing that region.
STEPHEN HODGE: The, this is a historic commitment by Albo and his Shadow Cabinet to bicycle infrastructure. It will benefit the eight million Australians who ride in Australia and whether they’re eight or 80, this will provide the infrastructure they need. The safe, separated infrastructure as Albo has said. So we’re extremely happy to be here to support this announcement and you know I think we can only call on all sides to come up with equal commitments that make a difference in people’s local communities. Whether you’ve got a disability, whether your kids are riding or walking to school, this is the infrastructure that changes the game. It’s a step change for the future of Australian communities and people’s choice to get about in an active, healthy way. So congratulations to Albo and his team.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Stephen. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: When will it commence? When will work commence?
ALBANESE: It will be available from the next financial year. What we’ll have is a process. We’re making some announcements but then of course there’ll be an application process for further contributions. One of the things that this will do I think is encourage. Firstly, it will give first mover advantage to those councils that have got ahead of the game and have done the work. The councils that have worked with Anne and Emma and Pat here deserve for the work to commence as soon as possible. So this will be rolled out. It’s a 10-year program but projects like this that are ready to go. I know there are projects right around the country. It also has a major tourism impact.
New Zealand has $300 million dollars of cycle tourism every year. It’s a contribution. People go there because they have safe cycle ways; it’s through scenic country. Have a look at this view that we have here. I mean what a magnificent experience for visitors to this region as well, that will be encouraged. So there’s a range of projects I know that are on the agenda. There are some rail trails that can make an enormous difference as well for tourism and whether it’s for people to ride to work, ride to school or whether it’s to visit a region so that they can cycle through it and experience it in such a natural way. This funding will make an enormous difference.
REPORTER: You have a figure for that tourism? What we’ll get from the tourism of this?
ALBANESE: Look, there is no doubt that there is such a positive multiplier. Here on the Central Coast, for example, what we’re looking at is people being able to visit this region and essentially be able to ride throughout the region between Newcastle and Sydney with water views almost the entire way, safely separated from cars and vehicles in a way that really encourages people to visit and I’m sure it will occur.
Look, when I’m reminded, I was thinking on the way up here this morning, when the Victorian bushfires tragedy happened, I had a meeting in Kinglake with all of the mayors and said as the Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister, what’s the one thing I can do for community infrastructure that you would like? And what they said in the midst of that, that tragic circumstance, was they wanted the rail trail developed and why they wanted that was because it would have that ongoing economic activity whereby people stay, people buy supplies, people eat in the restaurants, they stay overnight. It would have that ongoing economic impact. And it really struck me then at that point in time and one of the advantages of having this portfolio for a while is that you learn something new every day and you get better at it. And that’s one of the problems the current Government has got with their revolving door of ministers, prime ministers, deputy prime ministers – you don’t know who is in charge of what. I thought to myself, if that’s the one thing that can have an impact on a community, then that can be replicated. And whether it’s rail trails or safe separations on our roads as well, safe separations can make an enormous difference.
We know, as Stephen has said, eight million Australians ride bicycles. Eight million. That’s approximately one in every three. So this isn’t a fringe announcement. This is an announcement for mainstream Australia. And it’s one which will have I think enormous economic benefit.
One of the reasons why the work has been done on these projects by local councils, by state governments, is that they’ve recognised the demand which is there and we need to do much, much more.
If you look at the rest of the world as well, many parts of the world are way in advance of where Australia has been and there is no reason why, with the natural advantages that we have, with the space that we have around this vast continent inhabited by a relatively smaller number of people compared with the other inhabited continents on this planet, we shouldn’t be the cycling capital of the world. There’s a reason why we’ve been so successful in competitive cycling, because it is a natural thing to do in this country and what this does is encourage that to happen safely.
REPORTER: Infrastructure is a very important thing for many people on the Central Coast. It’s an expanding region. I think many people would agree that fast rail, High Speed Rail, would be something that many people on the Central Coast would like. What’s Labor’s position on that?
ALBANESE: Well, our position has been we’ve supported High Speed Rail. We’ve put money into a study last time we were in government. I still had, when Parliament was stopped, a Private Member’s Bill before the Parliament to establish a High Speed Rail Authority, and we need to preserve the corridor, first step. Second step, we need to go to market and ask for expressions of interest.
We’ve said that we would do that. We have had that bill before the Parliament on High Speed Rail. Four times, I’ve had to reintroduce it since we lost government in 2013. And that’s a pity, because I established a task force that included Tim Fischer, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party and a great advocate for rail; including Jennifer Westacott, the head of the Business Council of Australia. I mean this isn’t something that’s airy fairy. This is something that would contribute to economic productivity – a major element of a serious decentralisation plan, away from the major capital cities on the eastern seaboard and would make an enormous contribution and I’m a big supporter of High Speed Rail. We’ve said consistently we would advance the project and we would do exactly that.
REPORTER: Would Labor commit a dollar value to that?
ALBANESE: Well, we’ll be making further announcements during the campaign. We had money that was in the budget that was cut. What we won’t do is do things like the current Government has done which is make a big announcement about faster rail, not High Speed Rail, but faster rail to Geelong and then have no dollars in next year’s budget, no dollars in the year after and a few dollars after that – 2 percent over the next four years. That’s just misleading for people. What you need if you’re serious about it is a serious commitment to preserving the corridor and that’s what Infrastructure Australia in the report last year said as well, to get on with the business of the planning, the first stages by having that report that was outlined in two reports. A draft report and then a second report, because I recognise that this is a project that will go beyond one term of office. We need bipartisan support for this project and Labor that will provide the leadership that’s required and the leadership frankly has been sadly lacking from the current Government.
REPORTER: It’s well known within the rail network that that stretch between the Hawkesbury River there, it cannot take a High Speed Rail. Is there any study or investigation into how we’re even going to begin?
ALBANESE: Well, yes there is, and it’s available on the website.
REPORTER: But for that particular stretch?
ALBANESE: No, it’s available on.
REPORTER: For safety.
ALBANESE: It’s available on the website, and they looked at those issues and yes, there are substantial costs when it comes to Sydney and getting through it from the north but also to the south. For example, that report, from memory, identified 92 kilometres of tunnelling that would be required. Sixty-seven kilometres of that was in Sydney and particularly that area through the Hawkesbury.
I know there are challenges there. We had challenges with the Northern Sydney freight line but we’ve got that done, that separation of freight from passenger rail but it is absurd that today it takes longer to go by rail from Sydney to Newcastle than it did 40 years ago and that shouldn’t be the case and we need to address it. If you put Newcastle under an hour from Sydney and the Central Coast much less than that, then that would be a complete game changer.
It would take pressure off the F3, or the M1, whatever it’s called these days and that would be a sensible thing as well. And we know is also that rail is a very safe form of travel compared with driving in your car and we also know that productivity is lifted. If you’re on a train you can be doing work. If you’re in your car and driving you need to be concentrating on the road.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.