May 4, 2016

Transcript of doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

Subjects: Budget, infrastructure, public transport, tourism, backpacker tax, passport price jump, Asset Recycling Fund, Melbourne Metro, Victorian infrastructure budget, election, Tony Abbott, Government’s lack of purpose

ALBANESE: Last night didn’t see Budget 2016, it saw Fudge It 2016. This is a Budget where Malcolm Turnbull has spoken about the long-term.

But you can’t have long-term vision if you don’t deal with infrastructure and create a pipeline of investment. This Budget does the opposite.

Last night’s Budget cut over $1 billion from infrastructure investment. Over $1 billion less over coming years will be spent.

This is the first Budget in living memory where there’s not a single new major infrastructure investment announced. Not one. And in four years’ time, once the projects that Labor began investing in are completed in terms of rail transport, there’s not a single dollar for rail except for the equity injections off budget into the Australian Rail Track Corporation.

Malcolm Turnbull’s cities agenda is now a rubble; a pile of rubble because there’s no substance to it. A failure to invest in the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities; a grand announcement last week with just $50 million available for planning dwarfed by the massive cuts that are there in their Budget.

Even on their own figures – on their own figures – investment compared with what they predicted would happen in 2014 is down this year, is down next year and is down the year after.

This is a Government without a nation building agenda, without an agenda for infrastructure. They have spent the last three years on a magical infrastructure re-announcement tour but that’s starting to end. That’s coming to a conclusion as the Labor Government funded projects are opened one after the other.

And in coming months of course Moreton Bay Rail Link will be the latest of the Labor Government funded projects to be opened. But nothing to match it, nothing to continue that investment.

The only significant statement that they’re making a big deal of in the Budget – the Inland Rail Project – all they have is $580 million of equity injection, which they themselves say won’t lead to a single laying of a concrete sleeper, or a little bit of rail anywhere.

That’s just for purchase of the corridor. Now we put $300 million in the Budget in 2011 that commenced two years ago to come into operation.

One would have expected that the Inland Rail project would have been advanced to construction over this forward period. And yet, last night, we saw the result of them spending three years and doing nothing but paying John Anderson to do a study to tell us what we already knew – that Inland Rail is important.

And further with regard to people in the agriculture and tourism sectors; the impact of the backpacker tax that they have imposed, that they haven’t thought through.

The National Farmers Federation and people in our agriculture and tourism sectors are telling the Government that this is a mistake, are telling the Government that the earnings that those backpackers earn from participating in the workforce in regional Australia they spend in the local community.

It adds to the economic activity in that local community. And they’ve been treated with contempt by this Government.

The outbound tourism sector has also been hit by the increase in charges when it comes to passports. No strategy, even though tourism is of course one of the hopes of the side, it is one of the growth sectors that we need to invest in and make sure that we’re competitive in these modern times.

Even though Malcolm Turnbull, we know, is the copper man rather than the fibre man, people get access to information and they can easily access the competitive advantage or disadvantage of particular destinations whether they be for work or for tourism.

And that’s why we need to be competitive in 2016 and beyond, because we’re competing with other markets for that labour or for that tourism and that’s why this Government’s approach is so short-sighted.

REPORTER: What do you think of the Government’s Asset Recycling plan?

ALBANESE: Well, they’ve cut it. They said in 2014 that Asset Recycling was a centrepiece of their Budget. They never got their legislation through because they refused to accept an amendment that was carried in the Senate saying that the Asset Recycling Fund could only be spent on projects approved by Infrastructure Australia.

And in last night’s Budget they provided, of course, a cut of more than $850 million to the Asset Recycling Fund by taking that back as a saving. So it just shows what a sham it was.

They’ve also said that State and Territory Governments could spend it on whatever projects they like, and yet last in night’s Budget, they hide from the fact they cut $3 billion from the Melbourne Metro project in their 2014 Budget, they put some money, less than a third of that, they said from the Asset Recycling Fund, had to go to that project even though the Victorian Government of course in their Budget just last week fully funded the project and went alone because of the abandonment by this Government of Victoria.

Last night’s Budget again produced less than 10% of Australia’s infrastructure investment is going to Victoria which represents one in four Australians. Malcolm Turnbull is punishing the people of Victoria for the fact that they voted Labor at the last State election.

He talks a lot about Infrastructure Australia and the importance of value for money and business cases, and yet last night’s Budget confirmed a massive cut to Infrastructure Australia coming in this year, but from next year a cut of about one quarter of their Budget, gutting Infrastructure Australia and its ability to do its work.

What’s more, they maintained in the Budget $3 billion being set aside for the East-West Link project, a project that has 45 cents of benefit for every dollar of investment. It reduces them to a farce.

They put $3 billion aside there, but they’re saying that any other infrastructure project, road or rail in the future, has to, according to their cities policy, has to produce a return on a loan backed by the Federal Government’s credit rating.

So the only projects that will proceed in the future under this Government are toll roads, because it’s only toll roads that produce a return to investors to enable that to occur on an ongoing basis.

This is a very short sighted approach. On the one hand, saying to state and territory governments essentially, no-go when it comes to public transport projects, on the other hand, keeping this $3 billion aside for the East West Link while they’re starving Victoria of infrastructure funds, which will have an impact of course on future economic growth.

You need to invest today in infrastructure to create jobs and economic growth tomorrow that arises from that infrastructure investment.

REPORTER: Malcolm Turnbull said this morning, this weekend’s looking pretty good to call an election. Is 8 weeks long enough for Labor to make a mark?

ALBANESE: We’re ready to go. This is an opposition in exile sitting on the government benches. That’s what we have here – an opposition in exile.

One that never transitioned from being in opposition and saying no to everything to being in government.

Everything that they do is a response to Labor. They are the most negative, carping, political party in Australia’s political history.

Tony Abbott infected the Coalition with the force of his negative personality and Malcolm Turnbull has caught the disease. That is what has happened here.

This government is not governing.

Tony Abbott had a plan to get into government, but no plan to govern.

Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott, but no idea of what to do next.

No sense of purpose.

No sense of direction.

No long term vision.

Last night’s Budget just underlines that.