May 10, 2013

Transcript of doorstop interview – Parliament House

SUBJECTS:     Second Sydney airport; Local government referendum; High speed rail; 24hr news cycle 

 

ANTHONY ALBANESE:        Before I talk about airports the Ministerial Council has just met on infrastructure and transport, here in Canberra. We’ve successfully advanced  implementation of the National Transport Regulators’ agenda, going from 23 regulators down to three, bringing a benefit to the national economy of $30 billion over 20 years. A significant reform that has been rolled out in heavy vehicles, in rail, and in maritime safety. And Ministers were pleased with the progress. We also had industry there at the meeting and we continue the commitment to this.

We determined today that the Heavy Vehicle National Regulator will commence work from the 1 September formally, to enable the passage of legislation, which was delayed, in some of the states and territories. But a very successful meeting this morning.

Can I go to Sydney’s second airport. A topic dear to my heart. And today I’m releasing the technical study into Wilton’s suitability as a second airport site. The study also explored the possibility of limited civilian operations at the Royal Australian Air Force Base at Richmond in Sydney’s north-west. Sydney needs a second airport for jobs, for economic growth, and to secure Sydney’s position as a global city into the future. This report reinforces that.

                                                    It indicates what will occur in terms of economic loss if a second airport is not built. An economic loss in terms of the Wilton site of some $4.1 billion in GDP by 2035, or 24,000 jobs. That’s 24,000 jobs created, because if you want to stimulate an economy, then perhaps the two best things that you can provide is either an airport or a university, because of the indirect flow-on effect in terms of jobs, in terms of tourism, in terms of the logistics sector as well.

                                                    This is a comprehensive report that concludes that the development of an airport at Wilton is possible, but it does identify what are the environmental and engineering challenges. These challenges are certainly not insurmountable but we do need to better understand their scale and scope. This study gets the facts on the table and has been considered by the Federal Cabinet just this week.

                                                    So consistent with my approach to these matters of transparency, we are releasing the report in full because part of what we need to do is bring the community with the Government, and indeed the Parliament, on these issues and to have a full and proper community consultation.

                                                    In response to the technical study the Government has determined to take a number of next steps. Firstly, to conduct geotechnical analysis of the Wilton site, to determine the impact that mining subsidence could have on an airport development. This was not an issue that was at the front of mind when we commissioned this study into Wilton. It also identifies a number of challenges in terms of flora and fauna issues around the site. But the issue of mine subsidence, it was expected that that had occurred south of the site.

Having had some experience with the Ipswich Motorway to the west of Brisbane, of the challenges that can occur for major infrastructure projects, when you have mining activity that has occurred previously under the site we want to examine what the economic implications would be of that in terms of the costs. So that work will be commissioned by my Department. It should not take too long and will be completed certainly this year but I would hope as soon as possible. And once again consistent with my approach to these matters, it will be made public and available for all to see and all to examine.

Secondly, the report opens up the potential of limited civilian operations at Richmond RAAF base. This would not, importantly, replace the need for a greenfield airport site. What it would do, however, is allow for some limited operations, up to five million. And of course, there is precedent for this. The Williamstown air base, sometimes known as Newcastle Airport, operates with the cooperation of the Air Force and civilian operations.

And certainly, in terms of discussions I’ve had with the Defence Minister, and he has had with the Department of Defence about these issues, and also with the current chair of Airservices Australia, Angus Houston, who’s not unfamiliar with those issues in defence, we think that there is a possibility of moving towards limited civilian operations, which would particularly service the local area which is of course a growth area in terms of the north west suburbs of Sydney.

What we’ll do is progress that. We think that obviously the airport is in place there. There’s a potential to have civilian operations operating there by 2017. Also, of course, Avalon Airport in the Geelong region of Melbourne, essentially Melbourne’s second airport, is also a shared facility where you have civilian operations as well as the Air Force. Five million passengers is about what Gold Coast Airport operates at the moment.

So the report confirms that Sydney does indeed need a second airport. The government’s position and my position has been consistent, which is that we need bipartisan support if this is going to be advanced. We know that in the past that has not been secured and as a result, progress hasn’t occurred. Sydney does need a second airport. People who use Sydney Airport know that to be the case. The delays impact on national productivity. Because 4 out of every 10 flights go through Sydney, a delay at Sydney has a knock-on effect right around the network, and increasingly that is a problem.

At the same time of course we’re seeing massive expansion of aviation. We’re seeing in terms of international growth, in excess of 30 per cent growth from and to China, just in the last 12 months. We’re seeing considerable expansion in Indonesia, India and in our region and of course, more and more domestically as well we see that increased numbers of people are able to travel domestically.

So in terms of these issues, it is clear that a second airport is required. The Government’s been determined to progress this issue and today’s report and the release of it is a next step in that debate of securing a second airport for Sydney. Happy to take questions.

QUESTION:                              Minister, a double barrel one, is it your intention to proceed with Richmond as a temporary basis while a decision has been made on a second airport? And, secondly, given this report really identified Wilton as a stinker in almost every aspect compared with Badgerys, why don’t we just cut to the chase and say Badgerys is the only really viable option?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       Well, I’ll answer them in order, notwithstanding how they were put. The first response in terms of Richmond, the Government has made an in-principle decision to examine Richmond and to have discussions between Department of Defence and my Department. Now it may well be that there are practical issues which come up. Dealing with the Department of Defence is a challenge in terms of they tend to get their way. There’s a reason why you want the Department of Defence of your nation to be able to get its way, it must be said.

But there is no reason, in my view, why it can’t, as an interim measure and in the long-term, if you opened it up for civilian operations also, what you wouldn’t do is open it up until a full second Sydney airport was operating. You’d have civilian operations established because there is a cost of doing so, not an enormous one but there is a cost, but you’d want it to continue. And the truth is that in terms of expanded operations, in terms of aviation, I think all of the figures which speak about aviation growth, all of them underestimate what the growth will be. Why do I say that? Because that’s my experience.

That’s the experience overseas as well. If you look at people travelling domestically – people just think about their own experience out there in the community. Simple little things like North Queensland Cowboys tonight will face the beloved Rabbitohs and there will be sad people on the way back to Townsville after tonight’s game. That didn’t happen when I was a very bad football player in my teens. The capacity is there now for people to travel to events domestically. We live in a much more mobile society today than we ever have. And because of the vast distances in this great continent, that is expanding.

That’s before you get to international. And we’re very lucky to be positioned in the fastest growing region of the world. What has been a disadvantage for Australia in the 19th and the 20th century is our enormous advantage and opportunity of the 21st century. That’s why this government’s focusing on those opportunities in the Asian Century. And part of that is through aviation. With the best will in the world there’s only one transport mode, well there are two. You could take a ship, but by and large, people travel to and from Australia by air. And of course, that will continue to grow into the future.

So there’s a capacity there in terms of the Richmond site but it couldn’t take, for example, 747s or the very large jets. But there would be a capacity there for it to play a role, as some secondary airports do in other places. I think at some stage, aviation capacity will be required for the Central Coast and the Hunter. The Joint Study showed that to be the case. There’s no doubt therefore, that in terms of looking at Richmond, there is that opportunity.

With regard to the debate re a second airport and a preferred greenfield site, the reports have identified for a long period of time that there are essentially two options, Badgerys Creek and Wilton. They’re the two options for Sydney if it is to have a greenfield site. Of course the former government, the former Labor Government, chose Badgerys Creek, bought the land, provided funding that was there in the budget for the development of the site. And when there was a change of government from 1996 to 1997 there was that money, over a billion dollars, was taken out of the Budget and put aside and then there wasn’t progress on this issue.

What that identifies is the need to ensure that this is a bipartisan issue. By definition, an airport will take a decade to be up and running and you need to secure that support. Badgerys Creek has been identified as having a number of advantages – in terms of the fact that the land is already purchased, in terms of jobs, in terms of being closer to the market. And in terms of the report that we’re releasing today, that points out, again, a number of those advantages that Badgerys Creek has as a site.

                                                     However, in part, I think due to the response to the third runway being built at Kingsford Smith Airport, the support that was there in Western Sydney, where it was campaigned for by the Western Sydney Region of Councils and other local communities, dissipated as a result of concern about those issues. But I note that the Western Sydney Region of Councils are consulting with their communities, that there has been a change in terms of the balance of support for a second airport being located at Badgerys Creek rather than being at Wilton. One of the things that is occurring now is that the Western Sydney Region of Councils, through their chair Tony Hadchiti and others, are consulting their local communities, and I await that.

                                                    We know what the circumstances are at Badgerys Creek because it’s been through an environmental impact statement. Wilton has not been through an extensive environmental impact statement which is why it’s important that the facts be got on the table. That’s what this report does. It also says that we need to do more work because it wasn’t anticipated, some of these geotechnical issues. Once that’s on the table, then people can examine it and engage in that debate.

QUESTION:                              The New South Wales Government indicated it could be persuaded to support Badgerys Creek if the Federal Government gives money specifically for that site. Would you take that to an election?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       Well, in terms of funding from time to time, the New South Wales Premier has made some statements about a second airport, including costs. What this shows is that the costs of a second airport at Badgerys Creek is $2.4 billion; the cost at Wilton is $3.4 billion. That includes all of the transport links in terms of road and rail infrastructure for such an airport. There’s also a revenue stream because airports are, of course, leased. So there’s a potential significant revenue gain from that investment for an airport site for Sydney.

                                                    So in terms of costs this is a bit of a furphy.  I’m not sure how to explain how someone who’s the New South Wales Premier wakes up one morning and says the second Sydney airport should be not even in New South Wales, let alone in Sydney. I’m not sure how that occurred, but I suspect that what’s occurred is this costs issue has come up as a way of crab-walking away from, quite frankly, the laughable suggestion that Canberra should be Sydney’s second airport. The Commonwealth would, of course, have to bear upfront infrastructure costs but, of course, there would be a return to the Commonwealth as a result of leasing a second airport site.

In terms of economic gain, you’re talking about a contribution to GDP in terms of Wilton, for example, by 2035, the report indicates $4.1 billion by 2035. By 2060, $20 billion. You’re talking about a significant economic return to the nation, and indeed to the state of New South Wales. I’ve had constructive discussions with a number of New South Wales Ministers who recognise that Sydney does need a second airport and that funnily enough Sydney’s second airport should be in or next to Sydney, not somewhere else, not in another capital city in another jurisdiction.

So I think that is occurring. It was during the 2010 election that I committed to this process of a study, notwithstanding the Herald referring to the Green Paper and White Paper which weren’t about Sydney’s second airport. That was about aviation, a national aviation green and white paper process. In 2010 we made the commitment to have the study, took it to the election. We’ve had the Joint Study.

While that has been going on the community have been debating as well. You now have the New South Wales Business Chamber, the Western Sydney Business Chamber, the various Sydney business organisations, Unions NSW. You now have significant community support gathering from people who recognise the economic opportunity that is there, and the consequences of not moving are essentially that you have a “Sydney’s full” sign up. And that economic activity goes either to Melbourne or Brisbane or somewhere else but most likely as well, just goes completely somewhere else; goes to Singapore; goes to New Zealand; goes to Bangkok; goes to another site.

We live in a global world. I’ve met serious business people who will choose to locate activity outside of Sydney because of the frustration that has occurred with the delays that are there now, but will get worse unless this issue is addressed.

QUESTION:                              You’ve outlined a lot of positives for Badgerys Creek and the airport. Do you think the airport should be built at Badgerys Creek now? And if you want a bipartisan approach on this, have you already spoken to Warren Truss about this report and the site of an airport?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       That’s a decision for the Government to make, and I’m not here to announce government decisions this morning, I’m here to release the report and the decisions the Government has made in response to this report, and I’ve done that in terms of the three positions that the Cabinet adopted this week.

 I certainly have had extensive discussions with people in the Coalition. I tend to find that having private discussions are most effective if they stay private, but I have had discussions with Coalition members at both a federal and a state level. One of the first discussions I had, this is on the record already, was with Premier O’Farrell after he was elected Premier of New South Wales. It was about this very issue. So I’ll continue to have discussions with them. I will continue also to have discussions obviously with the business community. As part of this process and the report outlines it, we had a roundtable discussion with industry.

Aviation is not a government business these days. It is a private sector business which the Government is a regulator of, so I’ll continue to have those discussions. I have released the report for everybody to see today, not just Warren Truss. It was only received by me last week, and was taken to the Cabinet this week and I’m releasing it this week. In terms of the report that began this, that was actually a Joint Study of the Commonwealth and the NSW government. It was jointly headed by Mike Mrdak, the secretary of my department, who’s here today and Sam Haddad, the head of New South Wales planning.

                                                    So they were intimately involved. New South Wales, in fact, provided most of the detail because Les Wielinga, the head of the Transport Department was there. I certainly spoke to Brad Hazzard, the Planning Minister and the Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, about the report being released today. But I don’t think anyone can say we haven’t been transparent and we haven’t tried to engage.

QUESTION:                              Thanks. When will we see a final decision on the viability of Wilton? How long will that take, and in the meantime, would you consider relaxing some of the curfews at Sydney Airport to allow more traffic?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       In terms of the so-called restrictions at Sydney Airport, let me indicate that there are three that are mentioned. One is the curfew. Heathrow has a curfew, Berlin has a curfew, Frankfurt, I think, has a curfew, Brussels has a curfew. Airports that are in the middle of cities have curfews. Essendon has a curfew in Melbourne, Adelaide has a curfew and Gold Coast has a curfew.

That is standard practice around the world, and the problem at Kingsford Smith Airport isn’t that people who want to fly at 3AM can’t get access to the airport. The problem is that people who want to fly at 8AM book a plane at 8AM and don’t get to go until 8.45AM because of the delays, and the people who land at Sydney at 8AM can’t get access to a gate, so even if they land at time, in time, having flown around at cost to the airlines. Often now something that didn’t occur 10 years ago, it is now more and more common for you to sit in a parked formation, waiting for access to a gate to get off the plane.

The second issue is the issue of the cap on movements at 80 per hour. Both of these positions it might be added, were legislated by the former government, not the current one, even though I did introduce a private member’s bill about one of these issues. The cap at Sydney of 80 movements an hour, the report which I released on 2 March last year indicated that you could perhaps, best case scenario, increase that by maybe five an hour at some time.

The problem is when there’s a delay with 80 movements scheduled an hour it pushes out more and more. It takes longer during the day, because the peak is growing. The peak which used to be, you know, 7.30 to nine is now 6.30 to 10, and it’s growing more and more with growth in passengers at the airport. In the afternoon, it used to be if you landed between five and six, there was heavy congestion at the airport. That’s now more like three to seven. It’s growing, and in terms of once you have a delay, the knock-on impact is even more, and if you try and squeeze more into the airport the delays will be even longer.

The third constraint, allegedly which is there, is the issue of access to regional airlines. Now, the owners of Sydney Airport – not a criticism of them, just that’s the way that businesses behave, want to maximise their return. So what they would like to do is get rid of the little plane that comes in and out of Tamworth, in the morning and out in the afternoon, and replace that with a larger jet. The implications for regional New South Wales in particular would be devastating.

If you operate a business in Dubbo, in Tamworth, in Albury or in Port Macquarie, you want to get in and get out during those peak periods. Being shunted off to the middle of the day would have a huge impact. One of the things we need to do to take pressure off our cities is have appropriate regional development. I, as Regional Development Minister, support growth in our regions, and access to Sydney Airport – access that I’ve confirmed and extended recently, is absolutely vital.

None of those issues will solve the issue of a second Sydney Airport. And I understand that some at Sydney Airport want to pretend that they can expand, you know, ad infinitum and that there’ll be no issues. People who use Sydney Airport come up to me more and more. They don’t come up to me and say hi, I’m a Labor Party member, here’s my union card, I’m a supporter, you’re doing right on the airport. They come up to me and say I’m the CEO of X company, for goodness sake get on with it, we need a second airport. People get that. That’s why the business community is so strong.

QUESTION:                              Minister, given there won’t be a final decision [indistinct] the election…

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       Well, I haven’t said that.

QUESTION:                              [Indistinct] would Federal Labour support whatever choice an Abbott Government may make on the final location?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:        We are going to win the election, and one of the reasons why we’re going to win the election is because of the strong position we’ve taken in terms of economic growth, and the strong factors that we’re seeing out there on the economy, including this week’s job figures, this week’s interest rate cut, again confirms how well this Government is managing the economy during a difficult global period.

                                                    I support a second airport for Sydney. There are limited options of where it will go, and I will continue to advocate for that. I worked very closely with the former government in terms of some issues on Sydney Airport. I will continue to advocate it, but most importantly, I think what is occurring here is that reality is hitting home with regard to Sydney Airport. Maybe Max Moore-Wilton believes that Sydney airport can expand to, you know, until 2045 or something. I don’t know. He can speak for himself.

QUESTION:                              For the two thirds of the country that don’t live in New South Wales, just on the local government election, Barnaby Joyce today’s accused you of trying to use a bit of wedge issue and not being fair dinkum about it. I just wanted to get your reaction to that.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       I’ve seen his comments and they’re a bit odd, but [indistinct]. He actually puts forward all these criticisms and then says but I support it. You know, there are four months until the Federal Election. People seem to think that we should’ve been campaigning on the details of what is a minor change – an important one, but a minor change, to the Constitution for three years, and that people out there would be in the coffee shops and in the pub at St George discussing “what do you think about the third word in the proposed referendum change in three years’ time” that’s going to come up?

I mean, for goodness sake. They can’t have it both ways. There has been a process presided over by my predecessor, Simon Crean. Simon Crean’s someone who is meticulous about process, and we had, in terms of process, we had a committee established, an expert advisory panel. We also had a Parliamentary committee. Barnaby Joyce’s political party was represented on that committee, through people including Michael McCormack, who’s been out there saying we should do exactly what we’re doing. He said he wasn’t consulted. Frankly, standing next to Tony Abbott, I wouldn’t say this. The truth is I’ve spoken directly to Tony Abbott about this, and I also rang Tony Abbott and gave him a heads-up that the announcement would be made on Wednesday. I thought that was appropriate. I left a message on his mobile. I didn’t get to speak to him, but offered for him to ring me back. I’ve had constructive discussions with Tony Abbott. I’m not critical at all, as I’ve had constructive discussions with Premiers.

I mean, we made the announcement standing next to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane Graham Quirk. He is a very senior LNP member in Queensland. I know Barnaby’s abandoned Queensland, in spite of him wearing Queensland State of Origin jumpers, he now tells us he’s from New South Wales. Well, you know, it’s time for Barnaby, and anyone else, to essentially get on with it. If you support this change and you know that it’s necessary, which the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the National Party, the Greens Political Party all say, then there is no reason why a referendum in four months’ time can’t be carried, and carried overwhelmingly.

QUESTION:                              When will we get that decision on the airport – best airport site, and if you get a supposedly [indistinct] and not announcing a decision, why bother?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       Well, this isn’t a definitive report. What it says is that an airport is feasible at Wilton. It raises the challenges. You have to have, of course, an EIS process. Part of the process as well is complicated by legislation of the former government leasing Sydney Airport which means that you’ve got to give 12 months’ notice to the Sydney Airport Corporation Limited.

    There’s a whole lot of legal requirements, so with the best will in the world it is not possible for an Aviation Minister today, because of the law, to say we are going to do X, because you had to choose X as an airport site, unlike if I were to make an announcement about a particular road project or a particular rail project, because of those processes that need to be gone through. They’re not processes of my choice. They’re processes of a deal that was done by the former government around the sale of Sydney Airport. So that’s a constraint that I have to deal with. Their report says, essentially these geotechnical issues need to be dealt with, and that’s what we’re doing.

QUESTION:                              On the airports, people in Melbourne, Brisbane, and the rest of the country, suffering by these continued delay in Sydney sorting out its problems, and would you be urging the premiers in the other states to start making their voices heard?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       Absolutely they are. If you’re on a flight from Melbourne to Brisbane, you might think you’re not impacted, except chances are there’s a reasonable chance that because of the way that the scheduling occurs, including with staff issues, that the plane that you’re taking from Melbourne to Brisbane comes from Sydney. There is a greater chance of that than that it comes from anywhere else. So if there’s a delay at Sydney, there’s a delay on the flight from Melbourne to Brisbane. 40 per cent during every day of all aircraft – four out of every ten – go through Sydney Airport.

It is the case that the growth in flights in 2011 at Melbourne was four times greater than Sydney. It is short-sighted to think that this is not a national issue, because it is. And it is also the case that if people can’t get into Sydney, in terms of access, then sometimes they might just decide to go somewhere else, to not go to Australia.

This is very much a national economic issue. I think in the past when decisions were made about this issue, Sydney MPs were pretty united. Back in the days of the Hawke Government when decisions were made, sometimes, Ministers and Members from other states said, “oh this is an issue we don’t want to deal with”. One of the things that makes it more difficult, is that it is seen as a Sydney issue. What these reports show is this is a national economic productivity issue.

QUESTION:                              So when will we see a final decision on a preferred site now?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       Well, we will receive the report and we will then consider it. Then a decision will be able to be made and what kicks in is the process of notification of SACL. We’ve already made preliminary steps in accordance with the Act, Sydney Airport has already been notified about our commitment to a second airport.

And can I say this, that there are people from across the spectrum, including the Shadow Treasurer and others who are very much on the record with their commitment to a second airport.

QUESTION:                              How long do you think – could you put a timeframe roughly on how long that whole entire process might take?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       The process in terms of SACL is, from memory of the act, is essentially 12 months.

QUESTION:                              Just deciding a site?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:        Well, what we’re doing is narrowing it down right now. People know about Badgerys Creek and the details of what’s available. People now have a lot more detail about Wilton that hasn’t been done up to this point. And when we have that detail, as I said, that detail will be available by the end of the year.

QUESTION:                              Will it be a decade long?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       No. It will be much sooner. I should imagine that people should be in a position to be able to name a preferred site once that process has concluded.

QUESTION:                              Is the Government is concerned that naming a site in the western suburbs may impact on their electoral chances at the upcoming election.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:       No. The position is pretty clear, which is that it needs bipartisan support, wherever a site is, and therefore by definition shouldn’t have an impact in terms of a political impact. This needs to be above partisan politics if it’s going to get an outcome.

QUESTION:                              Minister, Albanese, sorry, just very quickly, Ken Henry has suggested that the pressures of the 24 hour news cycle might be a hindrance on putting up bold policy ideas and reforms. Do you think that there is anything in that? That the pressures of the media cycle could hinder bold reform proposals?

And secondly, with the constant demands for TV appearances and the pressures on politicians to constantly go on media, do you think there is a risk that politicians feel they’re sort of becoming one day reality TV stars?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:        I did see Ken Henry’s comments and there’s no doubt that the changing nature of the media is having an impact on the way that political discourse is conducted in this country, in terms of, I don’t need to go further than this press conference. You release a report with information. Immediately the statement is, what’s next? I’ve been at major road openings of roads that have cost in excess of $1 billion, that have transformed a region, such as the Ipswich Motorway to give an example, in Brisbane. Asked for, campaigned about for a long period of time.

The first question I got at the opening was, what about the next section? And it was just like, hang on a tick here, we’ve had a project that has seen more than 6000 workers inducted onto the site. We’ve got this transformation of a project and you’re sort of, what’s next? There is pressure that’s on not just the 24 hour news cycle, but some of the traditional media as well. The online media means that people are after an immediacy, so that when you do something and say, as I’m doing now, putting, if you like, in my view, a more mature position that says openly, these are the challenges. These are the challenges. If you’ve just come out for the grab and say, we’re going to build an airport here without doing the detailed work, getting the evidence there, building the community support for it, well that’s happened before. That’s happened before, and it hasn’t been sustained into achieving an outcome.

                                                    On a Sydney second airport, notwithstanding the fact that I understand and am sympathetic with some of the frustration – you know, this wasn’t a debate. I wasn’t getting questions about a second Sydney airport before I announced the 2010 study and engaged in this process of bringing the community with us. There was grumbling out there from people who use the airport, but there wasn’t the information, there wasn’t the detail there. This is good considered decision making, and often you’ll get a criticism about it.

So I think there is a legitimate debate about the nature of the way the policy development happens, the engagement between the media and the Government. I’ll give you a better example than Ipswich Motorway – the Moreton Bay Rail Link. First promised in 1985 by a State Government in Queensland. Now under construction, as a result of the commitment that we gave in 2010. At the signing ceremony that we had with Prime Minister Gillard, then Premier Bligh, and myself in Yvette D’Ath’s electorate of Petrie, we then got asked about the next thing. This was a historic moment but it’s like, okay that’s done, what’s next?

The number of journalists when I was first elected in this place, even as a lowly Opposition backbencher, I could craft and help have input into articles that might be done in two, three, four weeks’ time. Now the pressure that you’re under to come up with something for today is enormous. And what we need to make sure is that we don’t lose a proper policy-making discussion and processes in all of that noise.

And I think for politicians – the challenge for us is – I go on Sky and ABC 24 and those shows too – the challenge for us is – and one of the things I’ve learnt as a minister – is don’t worry about some of the noise. What are the big picture things? What are the things that will make a difference?

National Transport Regulators – I’ll see whether anyone writes that story tomorrow. That’s incredibly important. It’s not just some academic exercise – incredibly important for the national economy. To be fair to The Australian, they have covered that far better than any other newspaper in the country. The Fin has covered it a little but frankly not much. The Australian is the only paper that has taken it seriously.

I stood here a while ago about high-speed rail. I think it’s a legitimate debate. And frankly I got a question from one of the gallery that belonged in primary  school.  And they thought they were clever. And that ran. Other news journals picked that up. It’s is a serious debate. We didn’t gild the lily. We didn’t say, here it is, it can be done easily. We did the research, put it out there. I think high-speed rail will happen in Australia. I’ve said that. It’s a matter of when. It’s a matter of getting the costings right, and having that sophisticated debate.

So, you know, I think it’s a good point and it’s something that is a reminder to all of us. And I think that most of – certainly the press gallery here is outstanding in terms of – has people right across the spectrum who are interested in serious policy. I know that because I talk to them. But I know that you often have a difficult job maybe convincing people upstairs, as in upstairs in your own organisations of what appropriate priorities are.

Thanks very much.

ENDS