Subjects: Federal Labor’s Nation Building agenda; 2013-14 Budget; Parliament & No Confidence
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m here today to talk about two issues. One is our Government’s plan for nation building infrastructure. Secondly, the non-appearance of the Opposition and their claims of what they would do during this Budget week. They’re crab-walking away from it.
With regards to nation building infrastructure, when we were elected in 2007 we faced an infrastructure deficit, one in which the Australian position was 20 out of 25 in the OECD. We set about with a plan to make sure that we dealt with productivity; that we had a measured approach to infrastructure planning in conjunction with state and territory governments. We have more than doubled the roads budget, increased the rail budget by more than 10 times, and we’ve already committed more to urban public transport than all previous governments combined.
In tomorrow night’s Budget, there’ll be some major announcements as a result of the work that we’ve done, having a considered approach to infrastructure investment. Infrastructure investment leads to higher economic growth when targeted towards the most productive areas, and that is exactly what this Government has been about.
Now, in Melbourne we will have in the Budget, further funding for the M80 project. This is a vital project for outer Melbourne. It will ensure there’s huge productivity benefits, and in tomorrow’s Budget we’ll have an additional $525 million for this vital piece of infrastructure. Jobs will be created during construction, but also there will be considerable benefits in terms of productivity, in terms of road safety and in terms of the way that Melbourne functions.
We’ll also have funding in there for the Gateway North project, which follows the record investment we’ve made in Brisbane motorways, including the Ipswich Motorway, including the range of roads right around South East Queensland, and tomorrow’s $718 million in additional funding is on top of the $125 million we’ve previously put on the table.
And with regard to Sydney infrastructure, we of course have been requested by the NSW Government to match their funding commitment for Sydney motorways of $1.8 billion and the Government will be making provision for that, subject to the planning on this important upgrade of the M4 and the M5 being completed. And included in that, making sure it achieves its objectives of getting people to the city, getting freight to the port, and also ensuring, in line with the NSW Government’s very clear commitment to the people before they were elected, that they wouldn’t place new tolls on old roads.
Andrew Stoner, the Minister for Infrastructure and Deputy Premier, said this prior to the election:
“The NSW Liberals and Nationals are not considering any changes to the roads and transport network that involves users paying for a road or service they currently get for free.”
Well, he was right then. That’s the Federal Government’s position: no new tolls on old roads, and therefore I was surprised by Mike Baird’s statements yesterday that seemed to be all over the place, seemed to confuse the issue of old roads with new roads, and seemed to confuse the issue of what the NSW Government had actually asked for.
I think it is the case that where you have a new road, the public will entertain an argument that there’s a need for a toll in order to pay for it. But that’s a decision, of course, for the state governments. But where I think people cut up rough is if a road that they’ve been driving on for free all of a sudden has a toll put on it in order to boost revenue, and that is a simple principle. It’s a principle that the NSW Coalition Government understood before they were elected. It’s one in which we say they should honour.
And just finally, with regard to the Parliament, I note that Christopher Pyne is now further crab-walking away from the very clear statement that they made on no less than eight occasions, from the Leader of the Opposition to the Manager of Opposition Business, that they would move a no confidence motion in the Government this week. I raise this to make this point to the good men and women of the Press Gallery: maybe when they say something in order to get a headline you should think about how fair dinkum they are, or whether they’re just putting this forward as they have since the election in 2010, continually making claims that this Parliament would not serve its full term, that there’d be a disruption, that there’d be a by-election, that someone was going to resign.
I mean, there wouldn’t be a week goes past where I don’t get a phone call along those lines from someone in the Press Gallery because it’s been peddled by the Opposition. Well, what I’d say is you can’t take them seriously, they have simply tried to disrupt the Parliament, and it’s very clear that this Government will serve its full term. People will then be able to make their decision, whether to continue to support the Government or vote for the policy-free zone that is the Opposition come 14 September.
QUESTION: Minister, you talk to the Independents a lot. Do you get any indication that that no confidence motion is a serious thing, or is it completely a furphy?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it’s one which I think you guys have taken seriously. The Opposition didn’t bother to talk to the Independents prior to them making these statements. I mean, they just do it continually. Their strategy has been to destabilise with the assistance – I got asked a question last week about the 24 hour news cycle. It’s just to feed it into the news cycle, make these grand claims.
You know, when they made that claim that they had put a motion on the Notice Paper and they would move it tomorrow, no one in the Press Gallery asked, ‘hang on, have you put it on the notice paper?’ They hadn’t. It’s not on the Notice Paper, it won’t be debated tomorrow, and I’d simply say that Christopher Pyne occasionally makes these outrageous statements in order to get a run, and then because it’s reported, which is their objective rather than getting serious about policy.
And I think it would be outrageous, frankly, for a debate such as that whilst the Budget is being considered. But they make this claim and it gets reported.
QUESTION: But you’re not going to stand at all that [indistinct] though?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No.
QUESTION: What sort of political boost do you think the Government will get out of tomorrow’s Budget?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Tomorrow’s Budget is being crafted in a difficult economic circumstances where there’s been a massive hit to anticipated revenues and that, of course, means that difficult choices have to be made.
One of the things that we are doing very clearly is ensuring that our priorities of jobs and future growth are locked in. That’s one of the reasons why you make nation building infrastructure investments, to ensure that you have that jobs growth in the short term through construction, but through the boost to economic productivity you get a return in the long run.
And that’s why we’ve prioritised significant projects, whether they be in our regions where we’ve already indicated, and it will be fully funded in the Budget, our $4.1 billion plan for the Bruce Highway, which will make a difference for the most significant road in Queensland in terms of road safety, but also economic productivity.
QUESTION: Post polls would say that the election is lost for Labor. What – can this budget do anything for you? Can anything else do anything for you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what we will continue to do is to put forward our plan for the nation and compare our plan with that of the Coalition. And what people will do as 14 September nears is weigh up the real alternatives. Who has a plan? Who’s created Infrastructure Australia? Who’s dealing with our regional highways, such as the Hume Highway which will be completed in June or July, or whether it be the Pacific Highway where this Federal Government has allocated $7.9 billion compared with the $1.3 billion of our predecessors.
Whether it be the Bruce Highway, where this Government has allocated nearly $6 billion compared with $1.3 billion by the former Government over a similar period of time. Whether it be investment in urban public transport where this Government says it’s a priority that we should have proper cost benefit analysis and not distinguish between road and rail, and rule out urban public transport.
I mean, Tony Abbott did an interview in Melbourne where he said the only urban public transport investment that the Commonwealth had made that he could remember was a commitment to the Moreton Bay Rail Link. He was in Melbourne where the Regional Rail Link, a $4.225 billion project, is being funded with $3.225 billion of Federal funding. That’s the most significant investment by a Federal Government in any urban public transport project in history.
Right now today there are 2,500 workers working on that project from Footscray right through to the Geelong corridor, Bendigo, and Ballarat, creating a massive stimulus for the Victorian economy. There is currently about $100 million every month being rolled out in construction of the Regional Rail Link. Tony Abbott’s never heard of it. It’s because he slept through the debate on the Economic Stimulus Plan of which that was a part.
So these are real distinctions between the Federal Labor Government and the approach of the Coalition. The Coalition that just plucks figures out – doesn’t require analysis, doesn’t require knowing where roads will go, doesn’t require that objects are met, that doesn’t take infrastructure investment seriously.
And that’s a big distinction I think between us and the former government.
We have doubled Federal infrastructure spending from $141 to $269 for every Australian. That is important. We intend to continue with our nation building infrastructure investments and it’s those sort of distinctions between now and September that I think people will weigh up.
QUESTION: But we’re already seeing a number of commitments that were made in just last year’s budget broken or delayed. How can we trust anything that you guys are going to put in tomorrow’s budget?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that there was a considerable revenue write down. What I’m here to talk about today is our nation building infrastructure investments. When you look at what we’ve done in terms of rolling out – indeed we have projects that are coming in either early or coming in under-budget. Projects such as the M80. The record investment that we have there already and being rolled out at the moment is coming in under budget. The Regional Rail Link – on time and on budget.
All of the projects that we have engaged with have made a real difference to the national economy, whether it be to regional Australia through projects such as the Hunter Expressway, the Pacific Highway, Sturt Highway upgrades, upgrades to the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia; whether they be the Gateway Project in Perth, the largest ever investment in any infrastructure project in Perth.
The Perth City Link project, which is going gangbusters as well; the Noarlunga to Seaford Rail Link extension, something Tony Abbott doesn’t even know exists and has written it off. Well, for those people in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, that’s an absolutely vital project and it’ll be open later this year.
QUESTION: Do you have any personal concerns that’s in the budget we probably won’t see an increased Newstart Allowance of $50?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, we’ll wait and see. I’m not going to speculate on what might be in the Budget. I’m telling you today what is in the Budget in my area.
QUESTION: Minister, what do you say to the argument that these announcements support extra road funding, it’s just a blatant attempt to try and get more votes come September?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, have a look at our record: $141 per Australian –prior to tomorrow night’s Budget – to $269 per Australian. Have a look at the announcements that we’ve made in terms of where they are and how they’re prioritised. They’re not prioritised on the basis of marginal electorates. They’re not prioritised on the basis used by the National Party of working out where their seats are and then ignoring the last mile, for example, to get goods to the port, which is what used to happen under the former government. They are prioritised in terms of outcomes and doing what’s right for the nation.
So in terms of our record, if you look at where the investments have been made in the past and where they’ll be made, tomorrow night you’ll see they’re based upon the national interest, they’re based upon nation building.
Since I’ve been absent from parliamentary sittings, the projects that I’ve gone and seen, like the opening of the Kempsey Bypass smack bang in the electorate of Cowper. The local Member for Cowper didn’t bother to show up. I was there opening that piece of road – $618 million dollars, 100 per cent funded by the Federal Government. It includes – at 14½ kilometres –Australia’s longest bridge, done because it was absolutely in the interest to stop that bottleneck that occurred over the Macleay River whether going north or south through Kempsey. A vital project.
That is how we’ve prioritised projects and right around the country that is what we’ve done.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.