Issues: National Party conference; Pacific Highway; North West Rail Link, Parramatta to Epping Rail Link; Cuts by State Liberal Governments
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I wanted to take the opportunity today to comment on the extraordinary position taken by the federal Coalition today at the conference of the National Party about the Pacific Highway.
It is extraordinary that they would give the green light to the O’Farrell Government to abandon the joint commitment between the Federal and New South Wales governments to fully duplicate the Pacific Highway by 2016.
When John Howard was in office and Warren Truss and Tony Abbott were senior ministers in the Howard government, they committed to fully duplicate the Pacific Highway by 2016 on the basis of a 50-50 funding split.
It was there for all to see.
It’s there in the AusLink documents. It’s there in the statements of John Howard and other senior Coalition Ministers at the time.
This commitment is also in statements from Barry O’Farrell, Andrew Stoner, Duncan Gay and all of the New South Wales Coalition in the lead up to their election in March of 2011.
In spite of that commitment, the Federal Government under John Howard only contributed $1.3 billion over the 12 years to upgrade the Pacific Highway. At the same time, the New South Wales Labor Government contributed $2.5 billion, or almost double what the Howard Government committed.
The Federal Labor Government has been committed to fully duplicating the Pacific Highway.
We have committed more than $4.1 billion to the Pacific Highway already.
Today, there are a thousand people working on the upgrade to the Pacific Highway at Banora Point, the Kempsey Bypass, the Woolgoolga to Arrawarra section of the highway, the Bulahdelah bypass – all of this work is taking place right now.
In the Budget we found extra money to ensure that the highway could be fully duplicated in partnership with the New South Wales government.
What we have today is an extraordinary proposition whereby Warren Truss, the National Party and the New South Wales government are ignoring the 2016 deadline.
Today the Coalition are saying, under Warren Truss, that they will transfer money away from Western Sydney infrastructure – the Parramatta to Epping rail line – to the Pacific Highway in order to meet their commitment.
The problem with that is there’s just $67 million allocated to the Parramatta to Epping rail link prior to 2016. The arrangement with the New South Wales government – and it’s been abandoned by the O’Farrell government – was that New South Wales would contribute its money first, then the Federal Government would commit its money.
The $2.08 billion they’re talking about kicks in much after 2016, and indeed they can’t even add up basic sums.
NSW has said the funds required to fully duplicate the Pacific Highway is $7.7 billion.
And, because the State Government reneged on the commitments that they made to match the Federal Government’s $750 million (2011/12 Budget), they’re actually half a billion dollars short.
People have asked for the Pacific Highway to be fixed. This is a dangerous road in which too many Australians have lost their lives, and the National Party’s green-lighting of this delay today is an extraordinary abandonment of their own constituencies. They hold these electorates right up and down the New South Wales north coast.
At the same time it represents what Tony Abbott and the Coalition did when they were in government.
Not one cent was put into public transport in any city of Australia whilst the Howard Government was in office. Tony Abbott’s made clear that this is still his position and today he’s pulling money out of public transport commitments for rail in Western Sydney and transferring it somewhere else.
It also represents a repudiation of Barry O’Farrell’s ongoing rhetoric. We heard him time after time after time say the money’s got to go into the North West Rail Link, which is now just a shuttle service half of its length.
We’ve seen the North West Rail Link is also going to have different-sized tunnels, so it won’t be able to fit with the rest of the rail system in Sydney.
Surely we’ve learnt the lessons of rail gauges being different around the country, but here we have Tony Abbott confirming there’s no federal money for the North West Rail Link under the Coalition if he is elected.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Do you think that this strategy by the Liberals is a ploy to win over some of the seats that they don’t have, say like the electorate of Lyne?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think people who have a look at the electorate of Lyne will have a look at the work that’s taking place, and they know who’s done it.
It’s being done by the Federal Labor Government.
The State Labor Government made a contribution to it as well, and this work has been backed consistently by Rob Oakeshott, who’s campaigned not just for the electorate of Lyne, but he’s campaigned for the entire Pacific Highway.
I think people will know who has done the work.
The common thread here is that Coalition Governments walk away from their commitments when it comes to the Pacific Highway.
We’ve got over 1,800 people working all along the Pacific Highway, including on the Kempsey Bypass in the Cowper electorate, a project fully funded by the federal government.
The Woolgoolga to Arrawarra section of the Pacific Highway is underway – hundreds of people at work – funded primarily by the federal government.
You have this work taking place and Luke Hartsuyker, instead of standing up for his electorate and demanding that his National Party colleagues in New South Wales deliver on the Pacific Highway, he’s come up with this fudge, pretending that the money’s there now – when it’s not in the Budget. It can’t come from the Parramatta to Epping rail line, because it’s just $67 million prior to 2016 so they’re billions of dollars short.
They need to get real about their commitments.
People who’ve followed the Pacific Highway issue won’t be conned by this from the National Party. This is the National Party again letting down their constituents by green-lighting the abandonment of the commitments that had been made there.
QUESTION: What does this say to the people of north-west Sydney, whether it’s those who are going to benefit from Epping to Parramatta, or those from Epping to Rouse Hill?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It says that Tony Abbott is not fair dinkum and that Barry O’Farrell isn’t fair dinkum. They’ve spent this money in about four different places now. They’ve run around in terms of road funding.
In a previous speech, when Tony Abbott was asked where the money was coming from for additional road funding, he has said it’s going to come from the existing $36 billion Nation Building Program.
So what they’re doing here is running around promising money that simply isn’t there, and it doesn’t add up. It just doesn’t add up.
The Budget Papers are there for all to see exactly how much has been allocated in each year.
Now in the State Government’s 20-year transport plan, they’ve chosen to abandon the Parramatta to Epping rail line. Construction could have been underway on that line right now primarily funded by the Federal Government.
I think people will be very disappointed by this sleight of hand from the National Party. It just reinforces that the Coalition do not support federal involvement in public transport, and it confirms that they’ve walked away from their Pacific Highway commitments.
QUESTION: Members of the CPSU are rallying outside the Nationals conference in Canberra today, how worried should they be about a federal Coalition?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: They just have to look at what the Tories are doing around the country. I was in Queensland yesterday, where Campbell Newman is wreaking havoc and he’s being supported by the Federal Coalition. He says he consulted the Tony Abbott about the cuts to education and health.
Here in New South Wales, we’re seeing massive cuts to education and health. In Victoria, we’re seeing the closure of TAFEs. I mean, this is absurd. We need infrastructure and skills investment in this country, yet in Queensland we’re seeing a wind back of the capital works program.
What you’re seeing is the Federal Coalition giving a green light to savage cuts that will impact the living standards of Australians.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.