Subjects: Morrison Government’s leaked infrastructure plan, Labor’s infrastructure commitments, High Speed Rail, CFMEU.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The damaging leak on infrastructure decisions that were made in the Budget but not announced is yet another indictment of how dysfunctional the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has become. What we have here is a range projects; projects that aren’t new; projects that have been around some time; projects which have been delayed as the Government has cut actual infrastructure investment. Infrastructure investment is due to fall from $8 billion in the current financial year down to $4.5 billion across the Forward Estimates. And the Parliamentary Budget Office has indicated that it expects investment to fall from 0.4 per cent of GDP down to 0.2 – in half over the coming decade.
Therefore it’s not surprising that there will be further investment made. What is surprising is the delay that is occurring and the politicisation of the infrastructure investment process. Labor created in government Infrastructure Australia to take the politics out of infrastructure decision making. And yet here what we have is a Government that has actually made decisions way back in May and just not announced them – was leaving them until an election campaign was called.
What that means is delay – delays in job creation; delays in economic activity. For projects such as Western Sydney Rail along the north-south corridor – a vital project, essential that it be opened on day one of the new airport, this delay means a delay in jobs. It means uncertainty for those private sector investors who want to invest along that corridor. And yet we have an MOU signed between the Federal and State Government last year and a political process, rather than a proper policy process, so that that announcement will be made in the lead-up to both the State election in NSW next March and the Federal election, whenever that may be.
We have other projects on the list that have already been announced by Federal Labor. Bill Shorten today is in Rockhampton backing in our commitment to the Rockhampton Ring Road. I was in Mackay just a month ago backing in our commitment to Stage II of the Mackay Ring Road. Just two weeks ago I was in Peter Dutton’s electorate of Dickson backing in the Linkfield Road Overpass with our candidates for Dickson and Petrie. The South Road corridor – we have been crying out for investment for some period of time. This is essential in Adelaide so that you get efficiencies if you are able to have that certainty of investment and that process occurring properly. AdeLINK, the light rail project in Adelaide, we have called for since before the 2016 election and yet – Federal funding delayed. Malcolm Turnbull, a Prime Minister who liked to travel on trains and and trams and take selfies; he just didn’t fund them. And now of course we know that the Morrison Government intends to announce these projects. It’s no wonder there is so much bitterness there.
And as for the City Deals processes in Darwin and Geelong, I have visited both those cities – met with local government there, over the last month. They have been told that it is coming. In Darwin’s case it is more than 500 days since it was announced and yet no announcement of the $100 million – it announced through a leak effectively. They now know that is coming.
Similarly, in Geelong, the $150 million – done through a leak rather than through proper process; that uncertainty for local business, for the State Government, for local government in the great city of Geelong.
And as for High Speed Rail, I am pleased that the Government is somehow belatedly jumping on board that train. But the train was at the station in 2013 and they cut funding for the High Speed Rail Authority and for the preservation of the corridor that was in the 2013 Budget. So some five years later, after five years of delay, in spite of the fact that Labor – I have had Private Members Bills for the High Speed Rail project before the Parliament twice now in the last term and again in this term. We have had to reintroduce it because the Government refuses to debate it.
Again a High Speed Rail Authority was about making sure the coordination between the different levels of government occurred to make sure the corridor was preserved and to advance that project. We had Tim Fischer as one of the members of the advisory board that recommended that. We made sure there was bi-partisan support. But instead this Government has chosen to politicise the project over five years and three prime ministers. But finally it would appear that some money was allocated in the May Budget. They just didn’t bother to tell anybody. In the meantime of course development has occurred along those corridors.
This is a farcical operation from a Government that is dysfunctional, from a Government that has had three prime ministers in five wasted years. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: So what do you make of this road an rail package announced today? Do you think somebody is trying to steal Mr Morrison’s thunder?
ALBANESE: Well quite clearly there is a great deal of annoyance that the people who were responsible for this in the Cabinet – this would have gone through the Budget process in the lead-up to the 2018 Budget, so that means that it would have been prepared well in advance of the May Budget. It has been discussed, debated and approved, but for whatever reason put in the Budget with decisions taken but not announced. And quite clearly Malcolm Turnbull and others would be annoyed that there was an attempt by the Morrison Government; it would have gone out and said “Look we have made this decision. We have finally announced the Rockhampton Ring Road. We have finally got funding for the Mackay Ring Road Stage II. We’ve finally got funding for the Western Sydney Rail Line. It couldn’t be delivered by the Turnbull Government, but the Morrison Government, this shiny new Government, has been able to make this happen’’. Now quite clearly there are people who would have been annoyed at this so they have leaked what is a very comprehensive Budget leak. This is an extraordinary revelation – some $7.6 billion.
Of course what is interesting about this as well is they have forgotten when they looked at the map of Australia that there is a major island to the south of the Victorian coast called Tasmania and there are no projects in it for Tasmania. And what’s more Victoria, in spite of the fact that for the life of the Abbott and Turnbull governments they’ve got around about 9 per cent of the Federal infrastructure budget. They got a little bit more in this year’s Budget that was announced, but there is nothing – no transport projects whatsoever – in this Budget leak for Victoria. Victoria continues to be punished in spite of the fact there are good projects, some of them underway, some of them ready to go in Victoria.
REPORTER: What elements of this road and rail package do you disagree with?
ALBANESE: Well, most of this package has already been supported by Federal Labor, some of it when we were in government in the form of the High Speed Rail Project down the east coast. We set up the process of the study. We had the legislation. We still have before the Parliament the High Speed Rail legislation and the Government should put that through now that they have been exposed, next week.
Many of the other projects – the Rockhampton Ring Road, the Mackay Ring Road, the Linkfield Road Overpass, the Western Sydney Rail Project, Adelaide South Road and AdeLINK – we have previously already announced our support for these projects. So this is Labor once again leading from Opposition. We have been saying to the Government that they should be getting on with these projects.
What we see also is the Gold Coast Light Rail is of course was a project that was begun by Federal Labor with a $365 million grant – one that was opposed by the Coalition at the time. And Gold Coast Light Rail of course has been an enormous success. But what we did was, we went through the proper process. We went through Infrastructure Australia. Infrastructure Australia made the recommendations and then we funded the projects.
REPORTER: So what do you make of the timing of this announcement?
ALBANESE: Well this quite clearly has been designed to damage the Morrison Government, to show when it stands up on future so-called announcements that there is nothing new in it; that these are decisions that were made when Malcolm Turnbull was the Prime Minister in the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government.
This just shows that the ongoing war between the Abbott-Dutton forces and the Turnbull forces just continues. It continues and the only way to stop it is to actually go to an election. This once again reinforces the need for Scott Morrison to stop pretending that somehow he is a new prime minister but to go to an election and seek a mandate from the Australian people, because at the moment he has no mandate and quite frankly he has no credibility.
REPORTER: Now the new Prime Minister Scott Morrison has floated de-registering the CFMEU even though the Royal Commission recommended against it. What is your reaction to that?
ALBANESE: Well that is typical of Scott Morrison. They had a Royal Commission at a considerable cost to the taxpayers of Australia. That Royal Commission of course was all about trying to damage Labor and damage Bill Shorten in particular. It failed. The fact is that when you have a Royal Commission then you have already had an independent look at these matters in a way that has been politicised.
When Labor was in government, if you contrast what we do in government in the national interest, we had a Royal Commission into the institutional abuse of children and young people that resulted in significant, significant change and I don’t think anyone out there is saying that that Royal Commission that found such widespread abuse didn’t serve the interests of those people, many of them now very much later in their lives who have been able to get at least some closure, who were able to tell their stories. That was in the national interest. We called for a Royal Commission into the banks and clearly the revelations there – voted against more than 20 times by Scott Morrison; Scott Morrison called it just a stunt – and yet what they have had is royal commissions essentially into their political opponents. Thank you.
MONDAY, 3 SEPTEMBER, 2018
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.