Jul 30, 2013

Transcript of doorstop interview – Sydney

Subjects: State of Australian Cities report; Urban public transport funding; Tourism; Second Sydney airport; Coalition’s visit to Nauru; Capital cities

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today I’ve launched the fourth edition of the State of Australian Cities report.

This is compiled by the Government’s major cities unit and confirms once again that the Government is in the business of dealing with our cities.

This is one of the big differences that will come up during the coming election campaign.

The Federal Labor Government believes that in order to protect the national interest the Federal Government must play a role in making our cities more productive, more sustainable and more liveable.

That’s why the Federal Labor Government has invested more in urban public transport than all previous governments combined since 2007, and all previous governments combined from Federation all the way through to 2007.

The Federal Government has invested in urban public transport projects right around the country. Because we understand this is a major measure for dealing with urban congestion.

It’s why we’ve chosen through the Infrastructure Australia process projects such as the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane and the Melbourne Metro project, which will be vital for dealing with urban congestion.

The last budget saw more money committed to urban public transport than any government has committed on any budget night in Australia’s history.

Tony Abbott says that this isn’t the business of the national government. That it is someone else’s problem, and they will stick to what the Coalition has historically done, which is to fail to invest in urban public transport.

We know in this we can believe him, because for the 12 years of the Howard Government, not a cent was put into urban public transport, which compares with our record of committing more funds to urban public transport than all previous governments combined from Federation right through to 2007.

QUESTION: What is the Federal Government going to do to deal with these challenges in terms of transport in the outer suburbs, and jobs?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We need to deal with these issues. That’s one of the reasons why the Federal Government committed funds to the Parramatta to Epping rail link project.

That’s a project that would have connected up western Sydney with the high value jobs around the Macquarie area.

The Macquarie area is a precinct with high value, high wage jobs. Connecting them up with western Sydney would be absolutely vital.

We also need to make sure that transport links don’t just go to and from the CBD; that Parramatta be taken seriously as Sydney’s second CBD. To do that it needs public transport links.

QUESTION: Do you expect Australia’s tourism to benefit from the falling Australian dollar?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There’s no doubt that there are benefits for Australia’s tourism industry from the falling dollar. The falling dollar has placed a great deal of pressure on the tourism sector, as well as on manufacturing.

So a lower dollar means that the relative costs of trips here in Australia, whether they be Australian domestic tourism or international tourists coming to Australia, benefit from that.

Australian tourism has a bright future. We have so much to offer with our natural advantages; one of which we can see behind us here with the greatest harbour in the world.

We need to make sure we get the infrastructure right. We also need to make sure that we take advantage of the opportunities that will come from the growing middle class in our region.

The growing middle class in China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam, and other parts of our region, will bring with it an opportunity for significant increases in Australian tourism, with significant increases in jobs and economic growth that that will bring.

QUESTION: Do you expect increased Asian and Chinese investment in Australian tourism such as the proposed Chinese-Australian theme park at Wyong; spending $500 million there.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we’ve seen is increased links between Australia and our Asian neighbours when it comes to tourism.

We know that’s occurring through increased access – today’s announcement by AirAsia X that follows an expansion of China Airlines into Australia.

That brings with it investment, that brings with it opportunities. And certainly through investments here in Australia what we can see is increased growth in terms of tourism, but also increased opportunities.

The Qantas and Emirates partnership for example means that Australia is being promoted in many nations that Emirates fly to as part of this partnership; that wasn’t occurring in the past.

And we’ve seen with investment, such as the Wolgan Valley Resort, we see practical examples of really positive foreign investment in Australia that supports Australian jobs and supports the Australian economy.

QUESTION: You say you’re going to build a second Sydney airport in your first term of government. Which site do you prefer?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  No, what I’ve said is – despite the fact there have been reports of what I’ve said – I support an airport being built sooner rather than later.

We’ve done substantial work in terms of identification of a site. There is more work that needs to be done, but there is no reason why that can’t be progressed during the next term of government.

But in order to be progressed it also needs to be a bipartisan issue, and needs to be above politics.

QUESTION:  The Wilton site will cost $3.4 billion and take 17 years to build [inaudible]?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we are doing is having a proper process of identification. It’s a public process, that’s it.

What I don’t do, and what shouldn’t occur with such a significant complex issue, is make determinations or statements on the run.

What we do is get the proper evidence in, and then we make policy decisions based upon that.

That’s why we’ve produced reports such as the State of Australian Cities report. That’s the evidence; the policy builds on the evidence.

QUESTION: What site do you prefer?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s a matter for having a look at the evidence, and what you don’t do is pre-empt the report.

QUESTION: So when will you be satisfied?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What I don’t do is pre-empt the report. When we receive the report we will release it publically.

QUESTION: Just on congestion, would you support the New South Wales Government’s program around the Sydney Airport roads?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well there has got to be an issue in which the beneficiaries and the causal effect of the congestion have to kick in as well.

The New South Wales are very good at trying to spend other governments’ money. What I want to see from the New South Wales Government is increased investment in infrastructure by the New South Wales Government in areas to which they have responsibility.

Clearly around the airport, the airport has a responsibility as well.

What we have agreed to do is dealing with rail issues around the airport, with regard to the freight rail to Port Botany. And we need to be very careful.

One of the reasons why we’ve said that we need to look at the M5 extension dealing with traffic directly to the Port is that we don’t want to make the road congestion around the airport worse by not getting the right solutions.

QUESTION: In March the Coalition’s trip to Nauru was paid for by a private company?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is pretty extraordinary if it’s true. I know that the Coalition are strong advocates of privatisation, but there’s got to be some limits to it.

Privatising out the visit by Mr Morrison to develop a policy for the Coalition, which is what he said the purpose of the trip is, if that has occurred, would be extraordinary.

QUESTION: Isn’t it better than using taxpayer’s money?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: If people think that the private sector paying for policy development by governments or alternative governments doesn’t raise conflicts of interest issues, then I’ll leave it up to them.

This certainly raises a lot more questions than it answers. And Mr Morrison needs to answer these questions.

I’m not across all of the detail of his trip. What I know is it has led to another three word slogan, rather than serious policy development.

But I do know the public policymakers need to be very careful to draw a line between public policy and private interests.

QUESTION: In regards to the election, is it true that New South Wales Labor secretary Sam Dastyari is running for the Senate?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I have no idea. You should ask him.

QUESTION: Should the Government give tax cuts to developers who want to build resorts and hotels, because as you know there’s a shortage of hotels in Australia and in capital cities.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don’t make tax policy at press conferences. I would refer any tax questions to the appropriate minister as you would expect me to do.

QUESTION: In some ways our cities are also in competition with one another. How can the Federal Government keep [inaudible]?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  What we need to do is to make sure that we have appropriate growth of all of our cities. That’s one of the reasons why we set up, for example, the Infrastructure Australia process so that you have proper cost benefit analysis about where federal government support is going.

So that you can look at, whether it be road projects or rail projects, what the cost benefit analysis is and that will guide the funding.

Now a project like Cross River Rail, for example, in Brisbane is deserving of government funding. It has gone through the Infrastructure Australia process, it will make an enormous difference to Brisbane, but also to the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast; incredibly important to deal with urban congestion.

So that is one way that we do, by having that transparency. The other way we do it as the report indicates and as I said, we have a COAG process whereby State and Territory governments had to put up their capital city plans.

The capital city plans that identify how they were protecting transport corridors, how they were planning for employment growth, how they were planning for ageing of the population.

We need to reward best practice. Those governments that put in place proper planning mechanisms with projects, be they road or rail or port infrastructure that will provide the largest national productivity benefit, need to receive that support.

Now that will occur, I think, under the Infrastructure Australia process. So for example, a State Government such as Victoria that has been ahead of the game in terms of managed motorways and using smart infrastructure, has received more funding for projects of managing the motorways.

That’s because they have been better at it, that’s a reward for best practice. It then leads other states to lift their game, and lifts up the whole national economy.

Thanks very much.