Apr 30, 2016

Transcript of doorstop – Leichhardt

Subjects: Value capture, Malcolm Turnbull’s reannouncement of 30-minute cities proposal; public transport funding, urban policy, Labor’s 10 Point Plan for Better Cities, pre-Budget tax cuts
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for joining me. Yesterday after a lot of fanfare, we saw the Seinfeld cities policy from the Turnbull Government. It was a policy about nothing. There was no substance.

In a display of style over substance that has characterised Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership, we saw no commitment to any public funding of public transport projects. No commitment to any funding to actually deal with urban congestion.

Just $50 million for a new body to do what Infrastructure Australia is chartered with doing already. An absurd example of Mr Turnbull’s style overcoming any substance when it comes to policy. And there are some specific problems with the policy.

Firstly, Mr Turnbull argues that value capture will solve all of the problems. That you can have infrastructure essentially for free – free of government investment, which is why there’s no commitment to government investment. It’ll all be done by the private sector.

Well, that’s a recipe for just more toll roads and for no policies that actually deal with urban congestion where public transport is essential in our major cities. Secondly, when it comes to value capture, Mr Turnbull has questions to answer.

Ken Morrison from the Property Council said this yesterday:

Value capture is not a magic pudding and the risks of damaging the economy with naive approaches are very real. Does the Federal Government propose introducing new taxes or just encouraging State Governments to do so? At the moment we have no idea. 

And that is a good summation of the policy. Because value capture can work and will work for projects like the Melbourne Metro which the Victorian Government has already factored in value capture to its funding model for the Melbourne Metro, just like it was already factored in for projects like the Cross River Rail in Brisbane.

But what the Abbott and Turnbull Governments have done, is cut all of the funding for projects like that, and yesterday, missed the opportunity to commit to putting that funding back.

Value capture though, can also apply in theory and in the world of academics that Malcolm Turnbull seems to occupy. It can apply to existing property owners as well.

If you have in theory, a house that is increased in value then some of that, according to those who advocate the value capture model, can be taxed in order to help fund for that infrastructure which is increasing the value of that home.

Mr Turnbull needs to make clear to Australian families, is he advocating a new tax on existing properties under his value capture model? Because that’s the only way that this model, without any government investment, will work.

That’s why when Bill Shorten announced Labor’s policy providing an infrastructure investment facility of $10 billion we provided for Government investment to play a role in projects such as public transport.
Because that’s the only way that they’ll actually proceed.

So the test for Mr Turnbull is this; is he proposing a new tax to capture the value of increased properties for new infrastructure?

Is he proposing effectively, a new tax on old or existing properties? If he is not doing that, he should rule it out and he should make it very clear that he’s ruling it out.

He should do that today. Because at the moment all we have is a $50 million commitment for some planning, that might be enough to plan perhaps two or three at the most, major projects. That’s about it.

But then no funding for those projects to move forward. No funding for the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane. No funding for Melbourne Metro. No funding for Adelaide light rail. No funding for public transport projects in Perth. No funding for Western Sydney rail on the north-south corridor through Badgerys Creek.

No funding. Just a lot of words. A lot of waffle from Mr Turnbull but no actual substance. And when it comes to the centerpiece of his announcement, the 30 minute city, he simply took what Labor said at the National Press Club in 2014 and almost repeated it word for word, as if it was something new.

There’s nothing smart about a policy that doesn’t actually deal with urban congestion and that’s why there’s nothing smart about the policy that Mr Turnbull announced yesterday, just disappointment.

Just as Australian people are disappointed with Malcolm Turnbull’s performance as a Prime Minister in general, they’ll be very disappointed when they look for any weight, for any substance at all in this policy.

REPORTER: You said the policy doesn’t have any substance yet it’s eerily similar to one you proposed in 2014 or parts of it.

ALBANESE: Well, we had in terms of the 30 minute city; we had that as a centerpiece of my address to the National Press Club. But we had a 10 Point Plan for Better Cities. We had a plan about investing in public transport.

We had a plan for investing in urban water and amenity. We had a plan for making our cities more productive, sustainable and liveable.

We had a plan for fibre to the home and premises when it comes to the National Broadband Network – something that Mr Turnbull of course, in terms of his policies, didn’t deal with.

We have a plan for High Speed Rail. I have a Bill before the Parliament that Mr Turnbull refuses to even allow to be debated.

Indeed, during last week’s sitting it was the only Bill – the only legislation that was before the Parliament.

We actually had substance from Opposition.

Mr Turnbull is the Government. We have had three wasted years. Three years of cuts to public transport. Three years of support only for toll roads.

Mr Turnbull just two weeks ago quarantined yet again the $3 billion for the discredited East-West Link in Melbourne. That’s a road project that’ll produce 45 cents of benefit for every dollar that’s invested.

They quarantined $3 billon for that project but won’t put a dollar towards the Melbourne Metro project. Won’t out a dollar toward Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project. Won’t put a dollar towards Adelaide Light Rail.

Won’t put a dollar towards Western Sydney rail. Won’t put a dollar towards public transport projects in Perth.

That’s why this is a Seinfeld policy. A policy about nothing, because there’s no substance to it.

REPORTER: Why do you think residents will reject value capture?

ALBANESE: If you are in a home, and you have paid for that existing property, and it increases in value because a rail line is built close to where your home is, you should not be taxed based upon a decision that you have had nothing to do with.

Your income doesn’t change as a result of that. You continue to live in that home and you don’t have an increased capacity to pay a new tax.

That’s very different from a developer using the land about a new railway station to develop it, and that value being captured.

That is a policy that has Labor’s support that we’ve put in place. That’s been in place, nothing new about it around the world.

That’s how the London Underground was funded. That’s how the American rail system was funded. That’s how, in terms of that value capture has normally occurred.

It has been captured by state governments and has been used to increase the bank balance, if you like, of state governments when new infrastructure is being built.

That was one of the benefits, for example, of the Regional Rail Link that we funded in Victoria. It was the increased value around new stations like Tarneit and Wyndham Vale in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

So there’s nothing new about that. That’s something that Labor’s been arguing for. But it’s a very different system indeed to the Commonwealth saying that there is no need for Commonwealth investment, that everything will be funded through value capture and through private sector initiatives.

Because what that means is effect, is that Mr Turnbull is confirming Mr Abbott’s policy of just having toll roads and not having public transport that is so necessary to deal with urban congestion in our cities.

REPORTER: Still on tax, the Government’s made room in the Budget for a tax cut for middle income earners the day before the Budget. Do you think voters will be relieved by that?

ALBANESE: I think voters will be very cynical about a Government that has no economic plan for the nation, that attempts to have, if indeed the reports are true, a minor tax cut the day before a federal Budget. I think voters will see that for what it is.

They’ll also know that this is a government that has cut $80 billion from education and from health.

This is a government that spoke about the Budget deficit but has doubled it since they were in office. This is a government that has ruled out measures that would assist with the Budget process from the beginning of this year.

This is a government that has cornered itself when it comes to economic policy and a government that simply doesn’t have an economic plan for Australia.

When we see connected up with its cities policy yesterday, where because they’ve committed a whole range of funds to other things that are their priorities, they don’t actually have any money to invest in infrastructure.

We’ve already seen a 20 per cent decline in public sector infrastructure investment under this government. On Tuesday night we actually need to see a pipeline of projects funded, with starting dates.

Not an idea that after three years of inaction they say we’re now going to have three years of economic studies under Mr Turnbull.

REPORTER: What do you think of the timing of that tax cut?

ALBANESE: This is a Government that is just so cynical. They take the Australian people for mugs.

The Australian people know that those cuts to education, to health, to pensions they have pursued at the same time as their interested in looking after the big end of town.

That’s their priority. Their mates, who have high incomes, to get relief while working people and their families have to pay more for education, for health, for childcare, for higher education, for all the necessities of life.

I think the Australian people are entitled to be very cynical about a government that simply has no sense of purpose and it should be put out of its misery on July 2.