Subjects: Bruce Highway; Cairns Airport; QLD infrastructure; Federal Election; Senator Leyonhjelm; Sydney Metro West; Andrew Constance.
ELIDA FAITH LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LEICHHARDT: Good morning, welcome everybody. Today I’m here with Anthony Albanese.
The Bruce Highway is part of the national highway. It takes us from Cairns, right down the beautiful Queensland coast to Brisbane and back. This community’s wish list for a very long time has been to have the Bruce Highway extended to the Cairns Airport. It ticks all the boxes – It’s going to provide us with much needed employment. Currently, we have big trucks driving straight through our CBD so they are going to be diverted. Which means that we are going to have safer school crossings and a much better CBD shopping experience.
The Cairns Airport is an integral piece of infrastructure. It is a gateway to millions of tourists coming in and out of Cairns every year. And it’s also our export hub. This extension of the Bruce Highway to the Cairns Airport is going to be fabulous for our community and I’m really proud to be part of a Labor Government that, if successful at the next Federal Election, is going to deliver exactly that to our community. I am now going to hand you over to Anthony Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much Elida. It’s great to be back here in Cairns. And today we’re backing up the announcement that Labor has made for $40 million to assist to take the Bruce Highway from the edge of the CBD – Essentially through it, to the airport.
This is a common sense position. At the moment the M1, which begins way down in Melbourne and goes right up through the New South Wales and Queensland coasts, stops at the outskirts of Cairns. It needs to go to the airport because it’s the airport that is the international gateway for Far North Queensland and for so many international visitors – the international gateway to Australia. More than 300,000 people visit this region and use the airport each and every year and the numbers are increasing. We want to see that increase even more. And later today I’ll be addressing a meeting of the Tourism and Transport Forum, the peak National Tourism Organisation, which is meeting here in Cairns. (Inaudible) invited me and Elida to come along and to talk about how important tourism is for Far North Queensland and to engage with tourism operators.
This project builds on what we did last time when we were in government. Where we invested around about $700 million in the southern approaches to Cairns on the Bruce Highway. Where we of course put together the Cape York Roads Package, of just over $200 million. That’s done so much to improve accessibility and to promote tourism in the region. This is vital for Cairns, vital for Far North Queensland but also vital for the nation.
Labor is the party that builds the nation. That builds roads and that builds the infrastructure that we need to grow the economy and to grow jobs.
REPORTER: The Federal Government says you’re promising a roast without the meat because you still require State Government approval to redesignate this road.
ALBANESE: The fact is, that the Federal Government can designate the national highway in cooperation with the State Government. The State Government has welcomed our announcement. The fact is, that this is necessary.
We have a Federal Government that’s asleep at the wheel. They have relied upon investments that were already in the Budget at the time they were elected – such as the Cape York Roads Package, that was re-announced even though it was already in the Budget – by Warren Entsch, over and over again, before they finally started construction on that package. The fact is, that there hasn’t been any significant infrastructure development – not just in Far North Queensland but throughout North Queensland since the change of Government in 2013, that wasn’t already in the Budget. This is a Government that is asleep at the wheel. That has taken regional Queensland for granted, and that hasn’t delivered infrastructure investment.
ALBANESE: Not at all. What we’re doing today is backing up that announcement, and guess what, we’re going to announce it again and again and again, until we’re in government. And then we will be here to turn the first sod, and then we will be here for the milestones for this construction project. That is what we intend to do, we intend to have a lot more to announce as well, between now and the election campaign.
The tragedy is that there’s nothing that the current Government have done. We did the southern approaches to Cairns, we did the upgrade of the Cairns CBD. We did a range of projects right around the country but particularly here in Far North Queensland. And those projects have made a difference.
REPORTER: So just to confirm. You just got up the Federal Government for re-announcing stuff, and then just committed to re-announcing stuff yourself?
ALBANESE: No, let’s be very clear here. They re-announced projects that we funded in the Budget in 2013. They’ve had no new announcements. This is a Labor commitment, and when you have a Labor commitment, what you don’t do is come along and announce it once. We continue to remind people of the difference – at the next election campaign, is that Labor will do this. Our conservative opponents have said that they won’t do it. They’ve criticised this announcement. We’ll continue to engage on this between now and the election campaign.
REPORTER: The State Government hasn’t agreed, at least publicly, to fund the 50 per cent project cost, have they told you otherwise?
ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that we’ll continue to engage with the State Government. We’re showing national leadership on the issue of the national highway. The national highway, the M1, is a national responsibility. Last time around we invested in the southern approaches to Cairns. We invested in that – some of which were finished after the 2013 election. But there’s no new dollars whatsoever in the recent Budget. Indeed, the fact that the infrastructure budget declines from $8 billion in this current year, to $4.5 billion across the forward estimates up to 2021-22, shows that there won’t be new money forthcoming. This is a government that has cut funding, not added funding as we did in each and every Budget, in which we were in office.
REPORTER: If a 50-50 split isn’t the norm, why would the Government cough up half in this case?
ALBANESE: The fact is, that we are committed to this project. The state members in this region have certainly supported this project as well. And this is a project that will take traffic away from the CBD. It will take trucks away from the congested area of the CBD and it is a project in which – we have supported 50-50 funding across the board for a range of projects, including this one.
When it comes to infrastructure investment, you can rely upon Labor to get it done.
REPORTER: It’s only a half-job though, why don’t you extend the highway the whole way through to Smithfield so that there’s no break in the link?
ALBANESE: There has been proposals for that as well. What we do is make real announcements, with real dollars attached, with real timelines, and that is the way that you get infrastructure built. Obviously the next stage, that would be under consideration, further proposals, as Cairns and the region grow. Particularly in that northern beaches region.
REPORTER: (Inaudible) within a year of you guys winning the election?
ALBANESE: We would get on with the business of ensuring – we don’t know when the election is yet, whether it’s this year or next year. But we would get on with it as a matter of urgency, as a priority for this region.
REPORTER: Just on a different subject, there’s calls for Senator Leyonhjelm (inaudible) some of the comments that were made to Sarah Hanson-Young, do you (inaudible).
ALBANESE: Senator Leyonhjelm’s comments are reprehensible. They’re offensive, they’re offensive not just to Senator Hanson-Young, they are offensive, I think, to all Australians. And particularly to all women. People shouldn’t have to put up with that sort of nonsense in a workplace. If people want to have political criticisms about members of other political parties, they’re quite prepared to do that and they should be able to do that on a political level. There’s nothing political about a sexist attack and a slur and quite clearly defamatory comments against Senator Hanson-Young. I have rung Senator Hanson-Young. She’s someone who I have had a range of political disagreements with, but who I personally respect and we need to respect all women. These comments have no place whatsoever.
REPORTER: Should he step aside from the Senate?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s a matter for him to really consider why he’s there. If he’s there just to make comments such as this, then certainly it has no place, in my view, in public life in Australia.
REPORTER: What does Cairns have to do to get a performance from DJ Albo?
ALBANESE: Anything is possible. I tend to do events from time to time to raise money for charity. So if there was a charity here who Elida wanted me to help out, or who made an approach, I’d give it some consideration. It’s just been a bit of fun. A few weeks ago I did a fundraiser for a women’s refuge in my electorate and it raised over $10,000 for that refuge. So it was for a good cause and I think all of us in public life should do what we can to help out when we can.
There were reports today that Andrew Constance (inaudible) from New South Wales, has actually opposed receiving federal funding for the Western Metro in Sydney. A vital project that’s been identified as the number one priority for Sydney. And yet he doesn’t want to support Bill Shorten’s announcement of $3 billion that was made at the NSW ALP Conference.
Mr Constance needs to put politics aside and not only welcome the funding commitment from the Labor Party and Bill Shorten, but needs to call upon the federal Coalition Government to match that funding. So that this project can go ahead and go ahead earlier than the State Government has scheduled it.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.