Subjects: Infrastructure funding, Budget Reply
MATT KEOGH, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BURT: It’s excellent to be able to stand here on Denny Avenue after two years of campaigning through a by-election and a federal election and personally for many years before that. We’re now going to start to see some action on fixing this terrible traffic snarl.
Anthony Albanese and I were standing just over the road here about a year ago talking about this exact problem of all of these traffic lights, a level crossing and the accidents that happen here at least once a month.
It is not only one of the most dangerous level crossings in Western Australia, it’s one of the most dangerous roads [inaudible] over 200 meters long so what this really is a testament to is not only a long period of Federal Labor campaigning to make sure that this gets fixed but also the great work that’s happened with the McGowan Labor Government, working together with Federal Labor to see this Federal Government move that funding away from the Perth Freight Link and into the projects that Western Australians actually want that money spent on.
Fixing Denny Avenue here, bringing forward the duplication of Armadale Road, building the new Armadale Road Bridge to relieve congestion around the freeway and of course extending the Thornlie Railway line to Cockburn Central with two new stations in Canning Vale. All critical pieces of infrastructure and public transport for these very rapidly growing south eastern suburbs that have been ignored by Liberal Governments for too long.
But it needs to be seen in the context of course that while we’ve had the re-allocation of funds, there’s been no new spending on infrastructure under the federal budget that was just handed down last week, which is terribly sad for Western Australia. But also, while they gave us $226 million in GST compensation which Western Australia desperately needs, it’s only a one off payment, and in the same budget, they’ve taken over $500 million out of the state budget in terms of health and education funding. So whilst they’ve given a small amount with one hand, they’ve taken much more out with the other hand.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is a victory for Matt Keogh. I stood here on this very corner across diagonally a year ago during the by-election and Matt Keogh had this as a priority and it’s not surprising because the Automobile Association here in WA has identified this little section of road as the most dangerous in a survey of motorists. So it’s good that it’s being fixed – Armadale Road and the extension to the Thornlie Rail line.
But the fact is that this is only happened because of pressure from Labor. It’s WA Labor that worked with us. It’s consistent with all of the promises that we made in the Federal election campaign. We recommitted to projects such as this during Canning by-election. But at the same time there’s not a single new dollar for WA. This is simply transferring funds from one project, Perth Freight Link, the flawed project that didn’t go to the port, to other projects.
What Western Australia needed and what the government said it would do is invest in new infrastructure. Make additional investment. And indeed in this year’s budget we’ve got an over $200 million cut in WA. Last year’s budget said there would be $842 million on WA infrastructure this financial year. The budget papers show it will in fact invest $616 million. So more than $200 million cut.
That’s a part of the $1.6 billion in infrastructure cuts that are made just this financial year and it’s no wonder that peak industry organisations like Infrastructure Partnerships Australia have been quite angry in their response to the budget because budget actual investment has fallen off a cliff under this government and will fall to a total nationally of just $4 billion in 2020-21.
REPORTER: So in your speech to the TWU you were quite harsh on the Coalition, do you think that Bill Shorten should have been harsher during his Budget Reply?
ALBANESE: I think what I said was perfectly consistent with what Bill Shorten did in his Budget Reply. This is a government led by Malcolm Turnbull that says now that it supports universal health care through Medicare. But it hasn’t actually put the funds in. It’s maintaining the Medicare freeze which is leading to a decline in bulk billing. They say they support needs-based school funding, but they’ve cut $22 billion of funds for education.
They say they support the NDIS but they’re pretending it wasn’t fully funded when they know full well that it wasn’t just the Medicare surcharge increase, it was also changes to fringe benefits tax, to tobacco excise, to a range of measures that we made. Tough decisions in government to make sure that the NDIS was fully funded. When it comes to infrastructure, it’s a bit like their infrastructure agenda where they say they’re going to do something about roads and railways and ports.
They spoke about good debt and bad debt. When you look at the budget, the only new road funded anywhere with new money is $13.8 million for the Far North Collector Road near Nowra. The fact is that this Government hasn’t been able to take the fight up to Labor about the need for Medicare, about the need for needs-based funding in education, about the NDIS, about the need to invest in infrastructure, but they’re not putting these principles actually into practice.
There’s no substance there and that’s why it’s only Labor that can actually deliver the reform and the programs that Australia needs – genuine commitment to needs-based school funding, genuine commitment to Medicare as the basis of our healthcare system, genuine commitment to building nation building infrastructure.
REPORTER: So you don’t think your speech just said (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Not at all. It’s perfectly consistent with what he said in the Budget Reply. Indeed, the speech was given in advance to Bill Shorten’s office.
REPORTER: So you’re happy with it? You don’t think you should have been stronger considering what the Coalition put out and how it did capitalise with a lot of Labor sort of ideas?
ALBANESE: The fact is that they’re trying to capture Labor ideas because they don’t have any of their own. Because their ideas of wrecking Medicare, of not supporting nation building infrastructure, of having education which entrenches privilege rather than creates opportunity is an agenda that is out of touch with what the Australian public want.
What the Australian public want is a Government that’s as good as they are and that’s why it’s only Labor that has that agenda and has the substance, not just the rhetoric and the headlines, is able to put the substance on the policy headline to give the detail that Australians need.
REPORTER: So Bill Shorten for 2019, you’re still behind that?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. We’re a team and I’m committed to doing the best I can on infrastructure, transport, regional development, cities and tourism. And might I say, today, here we are at a road project that was announced by Matt Keogh and myself during the by-election campaign.
It was recommitted to during the federal election campaign, and even though we weren’t successful, it’s now happening. That’s about Labor getting things done. The fact is the Labor Party is leading from Opposition.
REPORTER: Speaking of that, there’s been plans to upgrade this area for fifteen years. That’s both Labor and Liberal parties in federal government. Why is it only now that it’s been sorted out?
ALBANESE: The fact is that this area hasn’t had an advocate of the quality of Matt Keogh. That’s the difference. Matt Keogh has made sure that, in terms of the priorities that have been done for this growing region, he’s brought it to the attention, won the support of his colleagues as priority announcements, and clearly has won the debate nationally as well.
The Coalition Government here in WA were rejected with their Perth Freight Link plan. That was something that Malcolm Turnbull says was not negotiable. Before the election campaign he was running around; didn’t commit to any new public transport funding. No new roads funding.
The only projects that are currently underway in Perth that have federal money in them, or have been recently completed are ones that were funded when I was the Minister in the former Labor Government. So projects like Gateway WA that’s been completed. Projects right around the state. Projects like the Swan Valley Bypass, which they renamed NorthLink, but it’s the same project that was funded by us when we were in government in the 2013 Budget.
KEOGH: Can I just add, the lack of action on the Denny Avenue railway crossing is directly attributable to Liberal Governments. The previous state Labor government was moving forward in this project before it came out of Government in 2008. When the Liberal government came in in 2008 the project got scrapped.
There hasn’t been, until we’ve seen both the re-election of a state Labor government and the pressure that’s been applied at a federal level by federal Labor on the federal government who have realised that Western Australians are sick of being taken for granted by Liberal Governments that we’ve seen action come about. The Liberal Party is directly responsible for the lack of action that we’ve seen here.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.