Oct 12, 2015

Transcript of doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

Subjects: Gold Coast Light Rail; public transport, High Speed Rail Authority Bill; shipping legislation; polls; Peter Garrett

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Firstly to the Government announcement that they’ve agreed to fund the Gold Coast Light Rail Project yesterday. What’s interesting is that just three days before that, Warren Truss said that the Gold Coast Light Rail project didn’t have a business case, hadn’t been through Infrastructure Australia, didn’t have any process around it and wasn’t at the announcement on Sunday.

Of course, the fact is that the Gold Coast Light Rail project does stack up. That’s why in Government we funded Stage 1 with $365 million. That’s why this announcement to take savings that were there in the Budget from the Moreton Bay Rail Project funded by the former Labor Government and allows the Queensland Government to use that to charge up the project for Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 2 is a sensible one, and it’s one that Labor welcomes.

However, if Malcolm Turnbull is going to be taken seriously on these issues, he needs to as a first step not just do $95 million for the Gold Coast Light Rail project, but do $4.5 billion that he took out of public transport projects. Projects like Melbourne Metro. Projects like Cross River Rail.

I saw today in an extraordinary article in the Herald Sun, once again one of these new projects for Victoria. This project is the Managed Motorways project for the Monash Freeway. The precise project where funding was taken from in the 2014 Budget. It had been included as a priority project by Infrastructure Australia in the 2012 priority list. In 2013 Federal Labor put it in the Budget and then the current government took the money out.

They now are pretending that putting the money back into a project, which had a cost benefit ratio of greater than nine, is somehow something positive and a new initiative of this government.

It says it all about their failure on infrastructure and is a part of the decline we have seen since they were elected of 20.1% according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released since Parliament last sat – a decline in public infrastructure investment since Labor was last in Government.

Today in the Parliament I’ll be introducing this morning the High Speed Rail Authority Bill. This was a Bill that was introduced after our election loss in 2013, consistent with the commitments that we’d made and consistent with the recommendations of the advisory group that included  people like Jennifer Westacott from the Business Council of Australia, Brian Nye from the Australasian Rail Association, and Tim Fischer, a great, genuine advocate of rail in Australia.

This would be charged with ensuring that the planning that’s necessary for the High Speed Rail link from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra would be made possible. This will need cooperation across jurisdictions, which is why we’re introducing this legislation. This was part of the cuts of the current government, some $54 million they cut in their first Budget as part of their slashing of infrastructure spending that was actually in the forward estimates.

Thirdly today, there’s a big test for Malcolm Turnbull, which is the fact that they have listed the shipping legislation. This is legislation which we know from the Senate legislation committee enquiry evidence of Mr Bill Milby will result in Australian shippers, if they want to continue in business, being forced to replace the Australian flag on the back of ships with the white flag on Australian jobs. Replacing their Australian workforce with a foreign workforce being paid foreign wages.

This is terrible policy that is purely ideologically driven. It is in Australia’s national security and environmental, as well as economic interests to have a viable Australian shipping industry. This legislation, we know from all the evidence would destroy that industry and destroy Australian jobs.

Mr Turnbull should take the fact of the change of the Prime Ministership to withdraw this legislation, to have proper negotiations and consultation with stakeholders and make sure that if there are any changes to the regulations, they assist the growth of the Australian shipping industry, not destroy it.

REPORTER: How do you interpret a fall in the Coalition’s two party preferred vote? They’re now neck and neck with Labor.

ALBANESE: Malcolm Turnbull is a superficial politician. When people look at something shiny and new, they tend to be interested in it. But the policies are the same. The shipping legislation is the same. This is WorkChoices on Water that is being introduced and debated in the Parliament today.

Mr Turnbull has had to change his views on climate change, on marriage equality. It’s not real. People want politicians who will actually stand up for their beliefs, not ones who will put their personal advancement before the views that they say they hold dear for so many years about what is best for the country.

REPORTER: How can Bill Shorten boost his popularity? He’s fallen further behind Malcolm Turnbull as preferred Prime Minister.

ALBANESE: We’re on 50-50 two party preferred, which is extraordinary for the opposition to be in at this point in time. In another context, I once quoted the great Tex Perkins in saying “the honeymoon is over, baby” about Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott had a very short honeymoon indeed. It was over before the Parliament first sat after the 2013 election. The honeymoon is over for Malcolm Turnbull. People will have a look at the substance.

People will also have a look at the footage from Saturday where I don’t think I’ve seen, and I’ve been around politics for a long time as part of a political party which has robust debate; I have never seen a Prime Minister ridiculed by his own party membership as happened to Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday. I’ve seen them cheered; I’ve even seen them booed. I haven’t seen them laughed at. That’s what happened with Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday.

Malcolm Turnbull has judgement problems. We saw that last time he was Leader of the Opposition with Godwin Grech. We saw it on Saturday. I saw it first hand at the Dally M awards in Sydney. Malcolm Turnbull knows very little about rugby league. He should probably not pretend he’s an expert, because they were laughing at him at the Dally M awards as well.

REPORTER: Peter Garrett last night, he now denies he was handed an envelope by Clubs NSW containing cash. Do you think he’s been under pressure to retract those claims?

ALBANESE: I’m not aware of the circumstances of that. I haven’t had those discussions with Peter Garrett. They’re a matter for him to answer why there was a change of story.

Can I say this about Peter Garrett though, and his comments about Kevin Rudd. Kevin Rudd was a good Prime Minister. Kevin Rudd was one of three Labor leaders to take Labor from opposition to government in the post-war period along with Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke.

Kevin Rudd is deserving of respect as a Labor leader just as Julia Gillard is and I think that Peter Garrett’s comments last night are most unfortunate indeed and do not reflect well on him.

REPORTER: Were the accusations true about his character?

ALBANESE: Of course they weren’t. Kevin Rudd was someone who I know Peter Garrett supported becoming leader against Kim Beazley. Kevin Rudd is someone who led Labor to victory.

Kevin Rudd is someone who led Labor into a position whereby the first thing that we did as a government was ratify the Kyoto Protocol, we got rid of WorkChoices, we worked on education and health reform, we gave the Apology to the Stolen Generations.

Kevin Rudd’s record as Prime Minister will be regarded very well by history. I note that many issues which Kevin Rudd pursued, such as Australia gaining a seat on the UN Security Council, something that was controversial and opposed by the Coalition at the time, has been regarded by all involved including the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop as something that brought great credit to our nation.

Kevin Rudd deserves respect of every member of the Labor Party as do all our Labor leaders – Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating. All of these leaders deserve our respect and our gratitude for their work that they’ve done, not just for the Labor Party but for our nation.