Subjects; Car tariffs; cost of living; energy; Black Spots Program; road safety; tourism; the Ashes; NBN; Labor Party.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: [inaudible] including the removal of tariffs without any costings or with any analysis of what that would do. Other proposals have been floated. What the Minister should do is to convene a meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council. Have all the state and territory ministers around the table. Get the police and those responsible for law enforcement. Get the motoring organisations such as the NRMA around the table to discuss how we can reverse the worrying trend which is there around an increased level of road trauma during this Christmas season, but also over the last three years.
Australia had a declining number of fatalities on our roads for decades. Year on year, from 1970 right through until the recent three years. What we should do is discuss how we can return to that declining trend. Because for each of the tragedies over the festive season, there are families. There are friends. And there are communities who have been left traumatised by the increase in the road toll.
This needs to be above politics, which is why a bipartisan urgent meeting convened by the incoming Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce is the appropriate way to go, so that the facts and figures and proposals can be put on the table, and we can have a proper discussion and then action; action about what we can do with regard to new technology; action if any new rules or regulations are required.It in itself would be part of changing driver behaviour, which was obviously a major factor as well that we’d need to address.
JOURNALIST: Obviously the cost of living is a big topic at the moment now. When we met with Tanya Plibersek just now she wouldn’t outline a single measure that Labor would introduce to reduce the cost of living. Can you outline any changes that you would make?
ALBANESE: There’s a range of things we’d do on cost of living. The first thing we would do is to make sure that the economy actually grew and that we had real wage increases. We wouldn’t cut penalty rates. We’d take action to make sure that cutting real wages didn’t occur.
We would, in a comprehensive way, make sure that we addressed training and educational opportunities so that people weren’t left languishing on welfare, that they have an opportunity for employment.
We’d address the uncertainly that’s there for the energy sector. Our energy sector are crying out for certainty when it comes to the regulatory environment so that they can invest more in renewables. In the energy sector, that means that prices are driven down due to the simple supply and demand system.
There are a range of measures that we would introduce to address the growing cost of living and it is of real concern that under the Turnbull Government, as with the Abbott Government, we’ve seen for the first time declines in real living standards over the last few years, and it’s not surprising that people are feeling under pressure due to those rising costs.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor match Malcolm Turnbull’s pledge to cut taxes to help ease the cost of living burden and will Labor do it if the Government doesn’t do it?
ALBANESE: We of course haven’t seen any proposals from the Government. What we’ve seen is thought bubbles floated without any legislation, without any specific proposals. Labor will always try to address, particularly for low and middle income earners, living standards.
One of those areas is taxation. Part of what we need to do is to get people to be in a position to pay tax by assisting them into employment and that will be an absolute priority of a Federal Labor Government. We actually have a plan for job creation, a plan for growing the economy. It’s about investing in infrastructure, and it’s about investing in people.
We saw today with regard to infrastructure, conversations about the Black Spots Program. The Black Spots Program last year, in 2016-17 was allocated $100 million in the federal Budget. When the actual expenditure came out, it was determined that only $25 million dollars had been expended. So $75 million dollars left on the shelf. Taken back to Finance and Treasury that could have fixed Black Spots.
Guess what? That makes roads safer, but it also creates jobs in addressing that new infrastructure at black spots which are identified as the most dangerous areas on our roads. Every single state and territory had an underspend when it came to the Black Spots Program.
I noticed today a call from one expert to remove the Black Spots Program. I think the Black Spots Program is an important component of road safety whereby areas that have been identified as the most dangerous areas on our roads get fixed.
This Government has underinvested and isn’t even spending the money that has been allocated. Frankly, it is beyond belief that you could have a $100 million budget for Black Spots on our roads, but only spend $25 million dollars on it.
JOURNALIST: There was a young lady this morning that come out. She was the first on the scene of the Boxing Day accident and obviously she had to put the fire out as quickly as she could. She’s pulled the girls out of the car along with the family. Very traumatic for her. She’s calling on the Government, or anyone that listen to her, to make it mandatory to have fire extinguishers and first aid kits in all cars that are registered on the road.
ALBANESE: This woman, who is of course an absolute hero for the actions that she took, which were brave, put her own life on the line. Throughout this period we see selflessness from Australians and we should certainly give any proposal from someone who’d been through that experience proper consideration.
That is one of the things that could be on the table at a Ministerial Council meeting that has the power to make decisions, and that’s why it’s not good enough for Barnaby Joyce to just put out the odd thought bubble. He needs to actually get the Transport Ministers and people with authority around the table and get that process underway of reversing the worrying trend that’s out there when it comes to roads.
JOURNALIST: There are still a couple of weeks of school holidays left. What’s the message to road users in New South Wales specifically?
ALBANESE: The message is; drive safely. Do what you can. Don’t rush. You’re better off being a little bit late than not arriving at your destination at all. Be cautious. Many of the accidents that we’ve seen over this festive period have been as a result of driver behavior.
We need to get that message through. People need to drive cautiously and to be safe at all times not only in the interests of themselves and the people in their vehicle, but in the interests of other road users as well.
JOURNALIST: The AMA floated yesterday that probationary and learner drivers caught on their phone should be banned from driving for a year. Barnaby Joyce when he was interviewed, said that was something he would be reluctant to pursue. What do you think about that?
ALBANESE: That would be a measure that would be within the jurisdiction of the State Ministers. That’s why we need to have a Ministerial Council meeting and I’m surprised that Barnaby Joyce hasn’t adopted that proposal from Labor. We’re prepared to participate in it in a constructive way.
What we want is for the whole of the community to play a part. This isn’t an issue just for government. It isn’t an issue just for law enforcement officers. It’s an issue for the entire community and all of these proposals should be dealt with comprehensively.
There are three ways that you can deal with the issue of road safety. The first is infrastructure, obviously better roads, dual carriageways. The second is new technologies. The biggest revolution in road safety was of course the introduction of seatbelts, but there are other new technologies as well. There should be a discussion about how they can be rolled out in a faster way. We would be prepared to participate in that.
Third of course is driver behaviour, some of which is dealt with by rules and regulations, but you can’t always legislate for common sense. It requires drivers to be very conscious about what can happen if they’re distracted; if they’re on their mobile phone; if they’re distracted by other activity within their motor vehicle.
We should also address the issue of heavy vehicle safety. Since the abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, there hasn’t been anything put in its place. That is of real concern as well because we’ve seen over the last year, since its abolition, an increase in the number of incidents involving heavy vehicles.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Greg Hunt’s comments on Sky News yesterday that if Labor loses any by-election, if the High Court orders it, then yourself or Tanya Plibersek will come after Bill Shorten’s job?
ALBANESE: What we’ve seen already this year is leadership tension within the Coalition. Tony Abbott couldn’t make it to January 2 before he undermined Malcolm Turnbull. I expect that will continue this year and it’s not surprising that Greg Hunt, who himself is being spoken about as a potential Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party should there be a change of leadership away from Malcolm Turnbull, is trying to distract from their own internal issues.
JOURNALIST: So you’re confident of Bill’s ability to lead the country if he did have to? You wouldn’t go after his job?
ALBANESE: Labor is getting on with the job of governing as a united Party. I have a job as Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Tourism as well as Cities and I’m getting on with that job, talking about issues in my portfolio right across the board.
On tourism, we’re here outside the Sydney Cricket Ground as a great tourism event whereby every one of the Barmy Army stays for an average of 51 days and contributes $25,000 to the Australian economy.
It’s activities like that that need the support of the Australian Government in terms of growing tourism. We need to recognise that events such as the Ashes series are not just good fun particularly when we’re ahead 3-nil but are also part of our economy and part of job creation.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten’s popularity [inaudible]. Do you think he will lead you to the next election if his popularity continues to fall?
ALBANESE: I am absolutely convinced that Bill Shorten leads a Labor team that’s united, that’s ahead 53-47 in the latest polls. Every poll as we approach the magic figure that Malcolm Turnbull identified for why he challenged Tony Abbott as the Prime Minister – it’s nearing that point. In about March to April, that will hit.
I expect then that there’ll be massive pressure on Malcolm Turnbull. We’ve been ahead in every poll and we’ve been ahead because we’re a Labor team. Bill Shorten is the captain of that team, but every one of our players has a role to play and all of us are working to the best of our ability with the jobs that we have.
JOURNALIST: Would you ever want to be captain of that team?
ALBANESE: I ran for the captaincy a couple of a couple of years ago. I was the vice-captain at one stage of the team and I served in that capacity. Since 2013 what I’ve been focused on, and focused only on, is doing the job that I’m given.
I look forward to being a minister in a Labor Government and being in charge of infrastructure, and transport, and cities, and regional development, and tourism so that I can get on with dealing with issues particularly with regard to major infrastructure projects, actually investing public transport, not just taking selfies on them, investing in our cities, not just talking about them.
When it comes to regional economic development, how we grow those regional towns; when it comes to tourism, having a national tourism strategy, and when it comes to transport, addressing road safety and looking at infrastructure across the board.
Today we’ve had some publicity about my petition on the National Broadband Network. It is a dog’s breakfast. People are not getting what they said they would. Malcolm Turnbull is responsible as the Communications Minister for the debacle that is this dog’s-breakfast National Broadband Network.
But it’s fraudband, not broadband, because it’s being rolled out in a way, with HFC cables that have had to be stopped, that we said was the wrong way to go. The right way to go was to do it right, do it once and do it with fibre. Malcolm Turnbull was given the job by Tony Abbott of destroying the NBN.
It’s the one thing as a Minister and as Prime Minister where he can tick the box and say ‘all done as required’ because he has indeed led to this dog’s breakfast.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.