Jan 4, 2018

Transcript of Doorstop Interview – Melbourne

Subjects; Victorian infrastructure, Barnaby Joyce, medicinal cannabis exports, Peter Dutton comments

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for joining me. Today I want to call upon the incoming Infrastructure Minister, Barnaby Joyce, to address the fact that Victoria is receiving just 9.7 per cent of the federal infrastructure budget, in spite of the fact that it’s Australia’s fastest growing state, comprising more than 25 percent of the population.

Since the change of Government, we’ve seen a massive decline in support for infrastructure projects here in Victoria. Indeed, a decline from $201 per Victorian from the Federal Government down to $92. And, indeed, they haven’t even delivered what they said they would do. In their first four Budgets, the Federal Government said it would invest $3.3 billion in Victorian infrastructure; that investment was only $2.3 billion.

What we have here is a Federal Government that is giving more than 45 percent of the national infrastructure budget to New South Wales and, of course, primarily to Sydney. That’s not fair and that’s not a Government that is representing the needs of all Australians.

The Andrews Government has had to go it alone on the Melbourne Metro project because the cuts that were made by Tony Abbott have been reinforced by Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm Turnbull likes coming to Melbourne occasionally and likes travelling on trams and taking selfies on them.

It’s about time he funded public transport in this growing city of Melbourne and indeed throughout Victoria as the former Federal Labor Government did when we funded the Regional Rail Link project – the largest ever infrastructure investment by a Commonwealth Government in a public transport project in Australia’s history. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] …Victorian and South Australian Governments as well?

ALBANESE: Look they have made their submissions. Melbourne Metro was approved by Infrastructure Australia years ago in 2012. What we have is a Government that came in in 2013 and cut $3 billion from the Melbourne Metro, cut $500 million from the M80 project, has refused to give the appropriate level of support either here in Victoria or in South Australia. This will see, in South Australia, the share of funding decline to just two percent in the year 2020-21. This isn’t just a smaller share of a growing pie; this is a smaller share of a smaller infrastructure budget.

Over the next decade, the Parliamentary Budget Office has found that infrastructure investment will decline from 0.4 percent of the economy, of GDP, to 0.2 percent; or half. This Government doesn’t have a plan for growth and for jobs and for infrastructure investment. It’s seeing it decline from the $9.2 billion infrastructure budget that it was supposed to spend in 2016-17. That falls off to $4.2 billion over the forward estimates by more than half.

The fact is that this is a Government that is particularly punishing Victorians and also South Australians, it must be said, into the future. But Victorians have been punished from day one because Victoria, particularly, suffered from the massive cuts that occurred in the 2014 Budget by Tony Abbott’s Government. The fact is that Malcolm Turnbull has different rhetoric on public transport and cities, but not different substance.

JOURNALIST: How big should the infrastructure budget be?

ALBANESE: Well what we need to do is invest in good infrastructure projects because over a period of time they pay back that investment to Government and to the national economy by growing the economy, by increasing revenue. So projects like the Melbourne Metro are absolutely vital projects for Melbourne, but also as a great global city, for the national economy as well. That’s why the Commonwealth Government needs to invest in Melbourne Metro, but needs to invest in other important projects here in Victoria as well.

JOURNALIST: How much more should the Federal Government in your opinion be giving the state of Victoria?

ALBANESE: Well what should be happening is that it should be giving round about the proportion to the population. You’d expect if you’ve got 25 percent of the population, you’d be receiving one in four of the Commonwealth infrastructure dollars.

Now, from time to time there will be variation in that because there will be particular projects that have an impact on the national economy, but you’d expect in particular that Victoria if anything would be getting potentially more than 25 per cent, because it is a growing state and Melbourne is Australia’s fastest growing city.

So it’s certainly not getting its share. They could start by contributing those dollars that have been cut over the Government Budgets. They’re not even contributing the money that they themselves said they would.

See, if you look at the Budget figures in the first four Budgets of the Abbott and Turnbull Governments, it adds up to $3.3 billion for Victoria, but the actual investment is only $2.3 billion, or a $1 billion cut. That’s a cut to Black Spots. A cut to the Heavy Vehicle Safety Program. Cuts to major infrastructure funding here in Victoria and it’s simply not good enough.

Barnaby Joyce, as the incoming Minister, who’s the Deputy Prime Minister  is a guy of course who represents a New South Wales seat, goes for Queensland in State of Origin. He needs to actually visit Victoria and Melbourne and convince the Australian public that he will be an Infrastructure Minister for the whole country, not just for the National Party seats in New South Wales and Queensland. That means he needs to fund infrastructure here in Victoria.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ALBANESE: We’ve been supportive of medicinal use of marijuana and cannabis products and it appears to me that Greg Hunt’s move is a sensible move forward. These issues are bipartisan across the Parliament. We know the medicinal use of cannabis can alleviate people’s health issues and therefore if Australia is in a position to provide support, it should do so.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of Peter Dutton’s comments that people are too scared to go out to restaurants in Melbourne?

ALBANESE: Well, I was in Melbourne last night. I didn’t notice any reluctance of people on the streets of Melbourne to go out and this morning I haven’t seen any reluctance when I’ve been travelling to and from meetings here in the CBD as well.

I think Peter Dutton has a serious office as the Minister for Home Affairs. He needs to treat that great honour with the dignity and with the respect and with the gravitas that it deserves. Playing to the crowd on Sydney radio about Melbourne doesn’t make much sense, doesn’t actually do anything to address the real issues of crime that need to be addressed.

But we also need to put these things in perspective. What we’ve seen on the latest figures is actually a drop for the first time in the 12 month figures of crime here in Victoria. We’ve also seen year on year, a continuous decline in youth crime here in Victoria and people like Peter Dutton need to stop playing politics with what are serious issues and require serious responses.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ALBANESE: What matters here is the police’s view of these issues. There’s no doubt that a disproportionate number of African youth as a percentage of the population have been engaged in committing crime. That needs to be addressed.

The Commonwealth Government could make a contribution by actually not cutting the AFP funds as they have. The Commonwealth Government could make a contribution by not cutting new migrant services as they have, and support for people to get into employment, and by addressing those issues.

And the police should be given every support that they require and I know that the Andrews Government is employing 3000 additional police here in Victoria. It deserves better than having a Queensland Minister on Sydney radio talking about Melbourne from a distance just in order to score a political point.

I think Peter Dutton’s comments should be seen for what they are – all about politics, in conjunction with the Liberal Party here in Victoria which is obviously desperate for an issue against the Andrews Government that is governing effectively here in Victoria.

The Federal Government could do worse than look at the Andrews Government, that actually has an agenda to govern. It has an agenda for building infrastructure, for supporting schools, for supporting hospitals. For supporting major reform such as the reform that went through last year about domestic violence.

The Commonwealth Government doesn’t have an agenda. All they have is politics and that’s why the Turnbull Government is flailing around looking for an issue. Peter Dutton needs to be a part of solutions, not just yelling about issues from a far distance.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ALBANESE: We have a robust, and positive, and constructive relationship with the United States. That is particularly Defence related and I’m confident in our Defence arrangements. These issues are bipartisan. They’re worked on in the national interest.

Labor will continue to be a part of a positive, constructive dialogue about our Defence capabilities and our Defence needs. Thank you.