Subjects: Park and ride upgrades, public transport investment, aged pension waiting times, Nauru, Liberal Party chaos, Tony Abbott.
ANIKA WELLS: Good morning everyone and thank you so much for coming to one of the best corners in Australia – the Northside of Brisbane. It’s really good to have Anthony Albanese with us – with Wayne and myself today – to talk about our really important and quite exciting new announcement, which is the upgrade to Northgate Station Park and Ride.
Now I live here on the north side of Brisbane. I live a couple of suburbs over and it’s a really great place to live, to work and to raise a family. We do weekends like no one else. I went to eight events on Saturday because we do a fete, we do a festival, we do a church parish rosella jam, we do it all. But the thing about living in a really great spot is that everybody wants to join you and fair enough. So what we look to from our governments then is big, nation building infrastructure projects that support us where we work, where we live and getting around to both of those things.
So that’s why I’m so happy to be part of a team that’s delivering Cross River Rail, which is a $2.4 billion congestion-busting fund that will improve and expand Queensland rail services in South East Queensland and now today to be part of the team that’s looked at the micro-solutions that will help people in our suburbs twice a day, every day to get home faster. So let me throw to Albo now to give you the detail.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much Anika and it’s great to be here with yourself and with Wayne Swan, the current Member for Lilley, for this important announcement. Labor federally will deliver $7 million for the upgrading of parking facilities here at Northgate.
We’ve identified this station with Queensland, with Anika’s lobbying, as one of the absolute priorities right here in South East Queensland. It’s a priority for a range of reasons. We know that some 36 per cent of commuters who travel into the city from this station come from the surrounding suburbs. It is a station which for a range of reasons, not the least of which is it’s the northernmost section for Zone 1, people come to park here to then travel into the City, to work or to recreational activities.
We know that park-and-ride facilities are very important for increasing access to public transport and we know that this is particularly the need in growing cities such as here in Brisbane and that’s why we created a $300 million park and ride fund, which we’re using to fund park-and-ride facilities and upgrades right around the nation in partnership with state government. And we’d expect that the Queensland Government will now be able to plan with the confidence that they have this Federal contribution for the upgrade of these facilities. We know this has been needed …
(interruption from aircraft passing overhead)
One of the big distinctions in Australian politics is Labor federally, which supports public transport – we built, of course, the Redcliffe Rail Line, we committed some $2.4 billion we have on the table for the Cross River Rail project, after we committed to it last time when Wayne was the Treasurer and I was the Infrastructure Minister. The incoming Government of Tony Abbott cut that out and what’s more, in spite of their rhetoric, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have kept that funding at zero. We know that to deal with urban congestion you need to support public transport and in order to increase the access to public transport you need good park and ride facilities. That’s why today’s announcement is so important for residents of the Northside.
WAYNE SWAN: Well thanks Anthony. It’s great to be here with Anika. Just look around the streets here in Northgate. They are absolute crowded with cars that are parking and people are walking up to the station. So this park and ride is desperately needed here right now and it’s terrific to see the commitment of a Federal Labor Government, along with Anika, to building one here in this area.
Traffic congestion has to be dealt with in a number of ways. Park and ride is part of it, but we’re very proud Anthony of the expansion of the Gateway North. Well over $1 billion of money which has expanded Gateway North. That’s one way that traffic is taken off our suburban streets and funnelled around the outside of our community. That’s a huge advantage for this area. But we do need park and ride and we also need the commitment to Cross River Rail so we can have more frequent services over time.
So all of these things together give you a Labor Government committed to dealing with urban congestion and providing effective public transport solutions. So this is a very welcome commitment here. Certainly be welcomed by everyone who’s living in the suburbs around here I know that because crowding on suburban streets as a result of inadequate parking around our train stations is a very significant problem particularly in this area.
ALBANESE: Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: I’ve got one for you Mr Albanese. Is Labor concerned pensioners are forgoing groceries and other essentials as they wait for Centrelink aged pension claims?
ALBANESE: Well it’s quite extraordinary, the news today that people are having to wait beyond the normal period to receive an aged pension. It’s as if the Government didn’t know we have an ageing population. This just shows the inertia that’s there at the heart of the Government. It’s a direct result of the cuts to Centrelink and why we have said we’ll employ more workers at Centrelink – real people who other real people – pensioners – can actually talk to and deal with their problems.
This is symptomatic of a Government that is so divided that they’re incapable of performing basic functions of government. And I think really now that we have this revelation – we have today Malcolm Turnbull out there liking a tweet that Scott Morrison’s numbers have gone down in Newspoll. We have a Government that has shut down Parliament because it was unable to function. We have a Government making announcements without reference to the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Department of Defence about where the Embassy in Israel should be located. We have dysfunction and chaos wherever we look and perhaps it’s time to have a mercy rule in politics, whereby things are so chaotic that the Government just calls an election, because if you can’t actually process a form for a pensioner who has turned pension age – and it’s predictable, it’s not like they jump from being age forty up by twenty-five years. It’s very predictable when the numbers are coming in, in terms of pension age. This is an indictment of a Government that simply is incapable of performing basic functions. The problem here is, is that it’s aged pensioners who’ve contributed to build this nation and make it what it is today, who are being treated with contempt by this Government.
SWAN: I just want to add to that because we’ve had a recent case in my office which demonstrates just how bad this has got. We’ve had pensioners come in who have been waiting months and months and months. This is a deliberate policy of the Government to delay the processing of people’s applications. There’s no question about that. And of course just to add to something that Anthony just said, it’s really ironic isn’t it that Malcolm Turnbull actually prefers Bill Shorten over Prime Minister Morrison? That’s quite extraordinary.
ALBANESE: Anything else?
REPORTER: Is this just the start of this or do you plan to upgrade any other Northside stations?
ALBANESE: We’ll make announcements as they come along. We’ve already made a number of announcements for park-and-ride facilities.
WELLS: In Mango Hill and in Narangba these announcements have already been made, but I’ll trust Albo with the details of the $300 million fund that does exist now for this purpose.
ALBANESE: This is the third of the announcements we’ve made right here on the Northside of Brisbane and we intend to make further announcements. We’re making sure that the work is done. The Queensland State Government of course have responsibility for planning, so we’re working through with them in co-operation; in co-operation as well with local members, certainly Wayne and Anika identified this as an absolute priority. That’s why today you can see why it’s a priority just visiting here.
SWAN: But it’s also complemented by what we’re doing in terms of funding Cross River Rail because another issue around here is the regular services that we have. We need to expand capacity. This is a fantastic commitment from the incoming Federal Labor Government, to expand rail capacity right through suburban Brisbane.
ALBANESE: Cross River Rail, to make this point as well – had Labor still been in office from 2013, we would have looking at the opening of Cross River Rail right now.
SWAN: And better and more regular services right up the line. We did Moreton Bay Rail but it needs to be complemented now by extra capacity right through the metropolitan area and that’s what we’re committed to.
ALBANESE: Thank you.
REPORTER: I’ve got a couple of unrelated questions. How hard is Labor willing to push the Government to get the kids off Nauru?
ALBANESE: We think very clearly we should be listening to the health experts here, and the medical experts are saying that the situation on Nauru is a crisis. What we have is the Government slowly bringing some people from Nauru but not being prepared to actually have a common sense solution such as taking up the offer of New Zealand. What we know from Senate Estimates, have confirmed, is that the Government doesn’t need special legislation to stop people who might go to New Zealand from coming to Australia. The Minister can do that with the stroke of a pen. That happens now for a range of people who are New Zealand citizens unable to come to Australia. They’re stopped at the point of attempting to board an aircraft in New Zealand. Those lists are available and that evidence was given and confirmed last week. What we have is a Government that again is simply incapable of governing.
REPORTER: Was Tony Abbott right when he said the kids on Nauru get better medical care than people in regional Australian towns?
ALBANESE: The thing about Tony Abbott is that he now appears to be not satisfied with just wrecking the Liberal Party. He’s now intervened in the British Conservative Party in a piece in The Spectator attacking Theresa May’s attitude to the Brexit negotiations. Tony Abbott has nothing constructive to offer Australian politics and I think he should actually listen to some people on his own side and think about his departure, and if not then I think the people of Warringah will get a say in that sometime early next year.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.