Subjects: NBN & iBendigo funding; energy efficiency funding for local councils; home insulation scheme; Regional Rail Link; Coalition’s opposition to public transport; Tony Abbott; Better Schools
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s great to be here in Bendigo today with the Labor candidate for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters and the Mayor Lisa Ruffell.
Today, I met with manufacturing companies here in Bendigo such as Keech, who’ve identified the enormous value for high-value manufacturing that will come from the National Broadband Network. I met with other companies that are involved in health and education services. I’ve learnt about the great benefit that is occurring already with the high school here in Bendigo, through new technology, of young people being able to access whatever course they want to enrol in.
What the National Broadband Network will do is bring regional centres and our capital cities into the 21st century, enable regional centres to compete with capital CBD businesses – but do better than compete because if you can have a business here in Bendigo that can access information technology, can upload at the same speed that can occur in the CBD of Melbourne, they can compete with businesses right around the world. Then the natural advantages that come from regional cities will kick in and they will become more attractive places to invest, leading to greater job creation and leading to greater economic prosperity for our regions. That will also have the benefit of taking pressure off our cities which are suffering from issues such as urban congestion.
So this is absolutely a win-win, and in terms of the iBendigo group, we have also announced today $250,000 in funding that will enable that group to, as with other community-based groups around the country, engage with local businesses to prepare for the introduction of the NBN, to make sure that they’re ready to take advantage of the great opportunities that the NBN will bring.
Today also I’m announcing some $5.1 million for a streetlighting project here in Bendigo and in other shires around the region. This will make an enormous difference. It’s about giving support for new technology that will reduce emissions and reduce the costs of producing electricity. This will result in a benefit of $40 million over 20 years. Here in Bendigo it’s equivalent to the electricity used by 1,000 households. So a great initiative and I congratulate the Mayor and the other mayors and shire presidents who’ve coordinated this project.
It’s an exciting day I think for Bendigo because this will make a big difference. It’s a part of our commitment to regional Australia along with the National Broadband Network. We’re about supporting investment, supporting jobs and supporting growth in regional centres.
I might turn to Lisa Chesters and then the Mayor if they wish to say something. Thank you.
LISA CHESTERS: I’m just really excited to have our Acting Prime Minister here in Bendigo. You know, there’s a lot of firsts that we do here in Bendigo and particularly when it comes to the announcement about lighting our regions. It’s a project that just shows Bendigo at its best. It’s the coordination of bringing all the shires together that I really love about the project, you know, and it’s also the NBN which helps put Bendigo and our region on the map for future. I’m very excited to have you here today as Acting Prime Minister and really getting forward to getting on with the job.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Lisa?
LISA RUFFELL: Thank you. I too want to express my thanks sincerely on behalf of the City of Greater Bendigo and also the shires. This is a great announcement. It’s a great saving. Just as the Minister has said it is $40 million of saving right across-the-board. But for Bendigo alone it’s $14 million we save over 20 years. That’s a great initiative for us, to then tell our community that that’s our savings and with our rates, so a great announcement. We thank you for coming to our wonderful town and we put on the sunshine for you. So again, thank you very much for coming.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much. So what are these two issues have in common? What they have in common is embracing the future, investing to create jobs, but also the long-term economic benefits of the National Broadband Network and also this exciting street-lighting program.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: The Opposition has said that some of these NBN launches are just a political stunt when very little infrastructure has actually been installed. How do you respond to that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that’s nonsense of course. The Opposition continually want to talk issues down. Remember before the last election they were saying they’d abolish the NBN and Malcolm Turnbull was given the job by Tony Abbott of destroying the National Broadband Network. Now they’re trying to pretend that they’ll sort of kind of keep the NBN, except the difference is instead of having fibre and high-speed broadband delivered to Australian homes and businesses what they will have is fibre to the street corner, then a fridge-like box that will deliver the old 19th century technology of copper into the home.
I mean, when it comes to costs, the situation is: $30.4 billion of government debt for our National Broadband Network that will deliver 1,000 megabits. The Opposition’s plan is $29.4 billion that will deliver 25 megabits.
It’s like going into coffee shop here in Bendigo and asking for a long-term arrangement that will see you into the future and they say to you, ‘well, you can have 25 cups of coffee with this voucher – it will cost you $29. But if you pay $30 you’ll get a thousand’. You would be an absolute mug to take the inferior product and do that deal. And Australians would be mugs if they lose the opportunity to have high-speed broadband, fibre to the home which is world’s best technology, rather than this 19th century copper technology.
Australians will have a clear choice at the next election. Broadband under us, fraud-band under the Opposition. Fibre under us, copper under the Opposition. And Australians, I think, are too clever to not embrace the future. They know that this debate is as silly as the debate that happened way back in 1910 in the Australian Parliament where some people were saying we don’t need to move fully to copper, the old iron wires had served us for the last 30 years and that will do thanks.
It really is a silly debate and what people should do is talk to the businesses, like Keech here in Bendigo, about what is actually happening in terms of the possibilities for manufacturing, for education, for health, and make sure that we have the best possible option. And that is the National Broadband Network with fibre to the home.
QUESTION: Do you or Kevin Rudd plan to meet with the families of the home insulation victims face-to-face?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I have not had an opportunity obviously to speak to Kevin Rudd. I would certainly be willing to meet with families. It must be said, Mark Dreyfus, the Attorney-General has met with the families on a number of occasions. That is my understanding. But certainly, in terms of those issues, I would be willing to meet with anyone who wants to meet with me.
QUESTION: The Opposition’s Greg Hunt has said Kevin Rudd is not a fit and proper person in response to the home insulation deaths. How do you respond to that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: My absolute sympathy goes to the families. And I think that if Greg Hunt wants to play politics with what is a human tragedy then that’s a decision for him.
QUESTION: Do you think Labor’s at risk of losing the Bendigo electorate at the federal election?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I think we’ve got a great candidate here in Lisa. And I’ve been with Lisa today. We were at the tennis centre earlier on today. I know Lisa. Lisa is a very strong advocate for this community. She lives and works here. She’s someone who is passionate about Bendigo and about ensuring that regional Australia has a strong voice in the Australian Parliament. So I’d be pretty confident about Lisa’s chances at the election. But we can’t take any voter or any electorate for granted. We’ll be out there campaigning up until election day.
But can I say this, this isn’t about Anthony Albanese or Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott or Lisa Chesters. This election is about the future of the nation. Whether we have a positive plan for jobs and growth, whether we’re a forward-looking nation that can embrace the future and take up the opportunities there in the future, rather than being engaged in negative politics, say what we’re against but not say what we’re for, continually talk the economy down, take every opportunity to run a negative line, that is what the Opposition have done for thee years. It’s old politics. People are sick of it. What they want is a positive vision for the future.
Lisa Chesters is advancing that here in Bendigo and Federal Labor and Kevin Rudd, as Prime Minister, will be advancing that every day up until the next election and beyond.
QUESTION: What will Labor be doing to help Lisa Chesters win the seat of Bendigo for the federal election? Can we expect any big promises?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I think what we can expect is for us to be rolling out our record firstly, but also what we plan to do for the future. Take here in Bendigo. The largest ever federal investment in public transport is the Regional Rail Link. $3.225 billion committed from the Federal Labor Government. 2,500 people at work today supporting jobs in construction, but meaning the access between Bendigo and Melbourne is changed so that no longer will there be the delays because of a lack of separation between the metropolitan line and the regional lines for here in Bendigo, Ballarat and for Geelong.
I tell you what, what’s the alternative? The alternative is Tony Abbott who’s gone on radio in Melbourne and said, “oh the Federal Government doesn’t invest in public transport.” They’re not involved in that. That’s not in our knitting as he said. You know, I mean, to be up to leading Australia in the 21st century. The idea that you can say that the Federal Government should have no role in urban public transport for our capital cities and our major regional centres really shows someone who just doesn’t get it, who doesn’t get what the national responsibilities are.
That’s just one issue in terms of what we’ve done, but what we’d do in the future, because Tony Abbott has ruled out any investment in public transport at all. He said that’s not the Federal Government’s business. Bit too positive for him. Have a look at our engagement in regional economic development through primarily the National Broadband Network, but other regional economic development investments, and I’ve been here to Bendigo a number of times as a Minister. I was here for the beginning of the fix-up of the major sports oval here in Bendigo. I’ve discussed with regional businesses on a number of occasions what their needs are.
Federal Labor gets it, and we will be campaigning on that as well as committing to the sort of improvements that need to be made. I will conclude with just one point. This isn’t about us here. It’s about our kids and our grandkids to come. We have on the table a plan for better schools that will lead to increased funding for every school here in Victoria and every school in Bendigo. Tony Abbott says “no, don’t really like that, don’t really want that”. He doesn’t have an alternative plan. And this is about ending a debate that has been around for too long. This will end the debate over private, public school funding forever, put it on a sustainable footing.
We had a proper inquiry chaired by David Gonski. It came up with clear findings about resources, about making sure that we have better teachers, better resources in the classroom. This is about kids and Tony Abbott’s there saying, “no don’t want to be a part of that”. Denis Napthine is saying I’m not sure I want more money for schools in Victoria”, putting politics before the interests of kids in classrooms. Now, we’re going to be campaigning about that. That’s part of our positive vision.
On the other side, if anyone knows their education policy, please let me know. If anyone knows what their health policy is, let me know. We know the infrastructure policy is no urban public transport investment. We know in, terms of climate change, that Tony Abbott was in regional Victoria when he said that he thought it was crap, the science. Really? In the 21st century, we deserve better than a backward-looking leader. We need a forward-looking leader. Kevin Rudd is that Prime Minister.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] if re-elected would you commit to this?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: What I won’t do is commit to new funding on the run on the basis of a question in a press conference, but good try. We have processes in place through the establishment of Regional Development Australia. Of course I went down to Kyneton as the Regional Development Minister in my first term with Steve Gibbons and we funded there an upgrade of the aquatic centre, so certainly we have got a record of investing, whether it’s the aquatic centre in Kyneton or the upgrade of the oval here in Bendigo, the lighting program of more than $5 million I’m announcing today, the support for local businesses to prepare for the NBN. We have an absolute record, a proud record of investing here in Bendigo and I take the opportunity to pay tribute to Steve Gibbons and the work that he’s done. I’ve worked with him in the Parliament for a long period of time. He’s been a very good advocate for Bendigo and Lisa Chesters will be able to continue that work.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.