Issues: The Budget; Pacific Highway Duplication; Unemployment benefits; News Ltd; Second Sydney airport
QUESTION: Mr Albanese, the Treasurer’s made some comments with regards to the Budget this morning, and it’s going to be a tough Budget. With your portfolio, does it mean that the Federal Government, when it comes to infrastructure, will have to lean a bit more on the states to get everything up and running?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, you’ll see the Budget on May 8. I hate to disappoint you, but the Treasurer makes our Budget announcements, and we’re working through the issues in the lead-up to the Budget.
The Government has a big Nation Building plan of infrastructure: $37 billion of commitments.
We also have made it clear that we intend to return the Budget to surplus. There are obvious implications of that.
QUESTION: So, are you going to be calling on the states to put in more?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we have said very clearly that we need to work across the different levels of government, and also with the private sector.
QUESTION: Specifically on the Pacific Highway, the NSW Government says that you’re not chipping in your fair share.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, their position is nonsense. The fact is, we have committed $4.1 billion to the Pacific Highway. [Premier] Barry O’Farrell and [Deputy Premier] Andrew Stoner, and other state ministers, made big claims prior to their election just one year ago.
There is 50:50 funding is on the table for the Pacific Highway. The idea that somehow it is a sole Commonwealth responsibility is nonsense. They know that that’s the case.
John Howard, when he implemented the AusLink program made it clear that 50:50 funding was the basis of it. Indeed, in last year’s Budget, we announced $750 million in additional funding – as well as a separate $270 million from another project – that was conditional upon dollar-for-dollar matching funding from NSW.
I am somewhat concerned that in recent days the State Government who announced in their Budget they would match the $750 million, seem to have reduced that figure by some $300 million.
So I’ve written to the NSW Government asking for an explanation.
QUESTION: There’s also been an ACOSS report released today calling for an increase to the dole. Personally, in your – have your constituents been lobbying you for an increase in the dole?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Cabinet ministers don’t have personal opinions. We have positions of the government. And in terms of those issues I haven’t seen the report, so I’m not going to comment on it.
QUESTION: But have members of your electorate been lobbying you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I haven’t received representations that I know of.
QUESTION: And, just finally, with regards to News Corporation, you were mentioning The Australian, obviously, has some concerns. There have been allegations about sabotaging pay TV competitors and Minister Conroy’s spoken out on that. Is that something that concerns you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not aware of it.
My statements this morning were not a criticism of The Australian. If The Australian had been given a story, then I expect them to run it. I simply was making the point to some industry sectors that if they wanted to talk to the Government, it probably wasn’t a good idea to give a story exclusively to the newspapers before they gave it to the Government and then asked for a response. That’s just common courtesy. I was open and engaging to consultation. That remains my position.
I think with regard to the issues of freight and logistics, The Australian covers those issues comprehensively and fairly. If you look at the whole coverage over time, I’m certainly not critical of The Australian in this area.
QUESTION: The NSW Government came out this week and, again, said that they – well, Barry O’Farrell said there wouldn’t be a second Sydney airport in Sydney Basin in his term. Again, suggested Canberra and a high-speed rail link. Can I get you to expand on your thoughts?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The NSW Government, along with the Australian Government, commissioned a report. Seven people sat on the committee, including the heads of NSW Transport and NSW Planning.
They provided their report to both the Australian Government and the NSW Government, and it indicates the cost to the Sydney, NSW and the national economy if we don’t have a second airport.
I find it extraordinary that the Premier of NSW, who speaks about making NSW number one again, can just dismiss a report that shows there are dire economic consequences for Sydney if we don’t get this necessary piece of infrastructure.
You don’t provide a solution to aviation with a train.
The fact is, last year, international flights into and out of Melbourne grew four times faster than that of Sydney. I would have thought that the NSW Premier would be wanting to reverse that.
And the fact is in 1965, 65 minutes was scheduled for flight from Sydney to Melbourne. With today’s better technology, faster planes, we now schedule 90 minutes. So, it’s a handbrake on productivity, particularly here in Sydney.
There are right now no regional slots available during peak periods at Sydney Airport. Right now, there are issues of congestion around Sydney Airport that need to be dealt with.
The Premier can’t just say that this is an issue that’s too hard to deal with, and I’d call upon him to be constructive, examine his own report and what the consequences for Sydney and NSW are if we don’t get a second airport.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.