Subjects: Tony Abbott’s anti-public transport policy; second Sydney airport
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Tony Abbott, in his repeated statements opposing any Federal involvement in urban rail, is condemning Australian families to sitting in traffic rather than being at home with their families or at work or coaching the local football team. Tony Abbott has shown how out of touch he is with the needs and aspirations of Australian families.
When we came into Government we introduced a merit-based approach to infrastructure funding. We established Infrastructure Australia to advise the Government on what projects would most benefit the productivity of our economy, and we’ve taken that advice seriously. Every single project identified by Infrastructure Australia as a priority in its first infrastructure priority list has been given Federal Government funding. That included important road projects such as the Pacific Highway. But it also included important rail projects such as the Regional Rail Link in Victoria, where the Commonwealth has committed $3.225 billion, such as the Gold Coast Rapid Transit, such as the Noarlunga to Seaford Rail Extension in Adelaide, and such as the Perth City Link project which is sinking the rail line in Perth and transforming the centre of Perth by uniting the CBD with Northbridge.
These are all absolutely vital projects.
Tony Abbott, in saying what he has said and repeated in the last week, has just confirmed what the Coalition have always stood for: the Coalition is against urban public transport on the basis of some sort of ideological mantra that the only role for the Federal Government in transport infrastructure is in regional roads.
While at the same time as this Government has committed more to urban public transport since 2007 than all previous governments combined, we have also doubled the roads budget.
The truth is you need to do both, and the truth is unless the Federal Government is engaged in these issues and takes urban public transport seriously then we will have worsening congestion in our major cities.
For example, the Federal Government has provided not just major capital construction funding but we’ve also funded, through $40 million, the planning work done on the Melbourne Metro project. We know that unless Melbourne Metro proceeds you can’t do things like have a link to the Airport. We’ve also provided funding, $20 million, for the planning work on the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane. And we know from Premier Barnett’s comments how upset he is at Tony Abbott’s intransigence. We’ve funded some planning work for light rail in Perth. These are all sensible Commonwealth investments, taken upon proper advice.
Tony Abbott has plucked his commitments out of a Coco Pops packet. He makes these commitments without proper business cases being done, on projects such as the East West Link and WestConnex, which still in current planning doesn’t actually take people to the City or freight to the Port here in Sydney. We want to make sure that we get the planning right, that we actually have a business case presented. Tony Abbott has committed Commonwealth funding for these projects without seeing a business case, and that is an extraordinary position to take.
This is important on two fronts. Firstly, we now know that if Tony Abbott is elected in September he will not only not plan future public transport funding for projects such as Cross River Rail or Melbourne Metro, or other projects in our capital cities or regional centres. We know also that the funding for all those projects that haven’t been completed will be under threat. We can see the mantra now: after a couple of weeks of him coming into office he would say, ‘oh, we’ve discovered we need to make cutbacks’ and we know that last time around they cut $2 billion from the roads budget in their first budget. We know that all of the projects for which funding has been committed but which aren’t completed will be under threat from an Abbott Government, because he has said it. He has said there is no role for the Commonwealth.
Secondly, we also know that the rigorous process which Infrastructure Australia has led, which has transformed the way that infrastructure is planned and delivered in this country, will also be under threat because he will direct Infrastructure Australia, based upon his own statements, to look at cost benefit analysis of projects but not look at public transport, just look at roads. What that will lead to is a reduction in infrastructure commitments at the Commonwealth level.
Infrastructure development is vital for our future productivity. It’s vital for our future economic growth. It’s vital for the living standards of Australian families. It’s vital to addressing urban congestion, and it can’t be left to this game-playing that Tony Abbott and the Coalition have embarked upon.
So we will be campaigning on this each and every day. We will also be pointing out our record and it stands in stark contrast to where Tony Abbott stands. We have a very clear choice between now and September. Do Australians want people who live in their cities to have a government at the national level that understands that this is a national productivity issue and will invest in our cities and in our regions.
QUESTION: Specifically what projects do you think are under threat if the Coalition wins government?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: All of the ones that haven’t been completed are under threat. The Regional Rail Link, for example, in Victoria, which is going gangbusters. I mean, there are more than a thousand people employed on that project as we speak. Those jobs, that activity, is under threat if Tony Abbott is elected in September. The Gawler Line in South Australia, the modernisation of that line, which is partially completed and for which now have agreement from the South Australian Government that that will proceed.
The projects in which there are further work to be done, such as the Moreton Bay Rail Link. I mean, I saw Peter Dutton out there last week saying in response to his own Leader’s comments that that wasn’t under threat but the fact is there’s been a bit of a go-slow since the change of government in Queensland. We’ve committed funding. The funding is there at the three levels. That project was first promised in 1895. It took this Federal Labor Government to get that project going and we have preliminary work occurring with some separation of road and rail up there to allow that project to move into full construction later this year.
Now, when we announced it in 2010 during the election campaign, on day one the local LNP came out and said they were opposed to it. Within 24 hours they had changed their position. So their support for this project is tenuous at best and that is a vital project that I think would clearly be under threat, let alone the future projects such as Cross River Rail. The Queensland Government are essentially saying that it won’t proceed if Tony Abbott is elected. That’s not us saying. It’s them saying it.
Colin Barnett’s made a host of promises during their last election campaign. What we’ve asked is for them to go through a proper, rigorous process but it’s pretty clear that those projects also won’t proceed if Tony Abbott is elected.
And we know that the Coalition have an opposition to public transport. We committed money here in Sydney to the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link. Quite frankly, if Barry O’Farrell had taken that up, it would be under full construction right now. You would actually have a new rail line being built as we speak because the planning on that had already occurred.
Now, during the last federal campaign John Alexander, the candidate for Bennelong, said that that was his priority. He put out a leaflet on the day that we made our announcement. But of course that wasn’t matched by the Coalition Federally. Tony Abbott opposed that project from day one. Barry O’Farrell for reasons that I can’t fathom has rejected Federal funding for that project and yet I noticed that the Liberal endorsed candidate for Parramatta is now saying if people vote for him at the Federal election, he’ll support the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link.
I mean, these people can’t be taken seriously in terms of public transport. All of these projects are under threat, let alone those future projects such as Melbourne Metro, such as the Perth projects, such as the Cross River Rail in Brisbane, that are all under assessment by Infrastructure Australia and all under consideration.
QUESTION: So when can the government – when can we expect an announcement from the government on its preferred location for a second Sydney Airport?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: You’ll get that when you get it, when we announce it. That process is proceeding. We’ve got a report that is due to come to the government. When it comes to the government, we will make an assessment of it and then we’ll release the report publicly. That’s a report into Wilton and also into Richmond.
QUESTION: Why the delay?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact is that we will receive a report. What we do is do evidence based policy. We actually have proper processes and planning in place. One of the concerns, of course, is that we need to make sure that there’s a bipartisan commitment. The NSW Government is saying that they don’t support a second airport. We’re in discussions with them because of the planning that would be required from the NSW Government.