Subjects; The Coalition’s abysmal record on infrastructure investment, World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Ranking 2017-18, banking Royal Commission, foreign investment
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Government is talking big on infrastructure prior to next month’s Federal Budget. But the fact is it is coming off a disastrously low base whereby they have cut infrastructure funding, which is due to fall from $9.2 billion that they predicted they would spend in 2016-17. It drops off to $4.2 billion in 2020-21. The Parliamentary Budget Office has estimated that infrastructure investment will halve from 0.4 to 0.2 percent of GDP over the next decade. And the World Economic Forum has found that Australia’s position, in terms of infrastructure ranking around the globe, has fallen from 18th to 28th under this Government’s watch.
That stands in stark contrast to when the former Government was in office. When we came to office in 2007, Australia was ranked 20th in the OECD for investment in infrastructure as a proportion of the national economy. When we left office, Australia was ranked first.
So they inherited this work, but they haven’t built on it. They cut all funding from all public transport projects that weren’t under construction when they came into office. And they simply haven’t done the work to create a pipeline of projects. So there is a lot of work to be done in next month’s Budget, but the Government should be fair dinkum about the low base in which they find themselves.
The other thing they should be honest about is that they haven’t even invested what they themselves said they would. Some $5 billion of underspends in their first four years in office. That is they said, on Budget night in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, they would spend a certain amount, but they haven’t done it. That’s meant a slowdown in road projects. That’s meant underspends in projects like the Black Spot Program and Roads to Recovery: local road programs that improve road safety. This is a Government that has a terrible record, that’s been through a range of infrastructure ministers and is looking for ways to pretend they’re doing things when they’re not really.
That’s why we’ll examine also very closely statements such as that $5 billion will be available for the airport link in Melbourne, that it would somehow be an equity investment – that is one that produces a return to Government. If that’s the case, it won’t be real investment because the truth is that public transport doesn’t produce an economic return on its investment directly. What it does do, is produce a return to the national economy by boosting productivity and boosting overall economic activity. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Pauline Hanson says she doesn’t think a company tax cut will boost wages but will lead to an increase in jobs. Do you agree?
ALBANESE: Pauline Hanson, of course, has once again shown that in spite of her rhetoric she doesn’t stand up for working people or low and middle income earners. Low and middle income earners have been watching the banking Royal Commission with some horror in the last week. What they know is that this is a Government that’s determined to give a tax cut to the big end of town, including to the big banks, unlike Labor that has a plan to actually invest in education or to invest in health, invest in infrastructure, invest in early childhood education. Pauline Hanson betrays the people who voted for her time and time again by siding with the Coalition Government.
JOURNALIST: Do you support foreign owned companies like Chinese Westside Corporation getting Federal Government grants to develop domestic gas supplies?
ALBANESE: These are matters that are dealt with appropriately by the Foreign Investment Review Board. And when the FIRB deals with, and other regulatory bodies deal with, these issues what they do is look at the Australian national interest and we should always look to the Australian national interest. We do need foreign investment in this country, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the national interest.
JOURNALIST: There are concerns Chinese Westside Corporation has links to the Chinese Communist Party. Is that a worry?
ALBANESE: When you look at Chinese based companies, the fact is that due to their political system every company in China would have some links to the Chinese Government, which is the Chinese Communist Party. That’s almost a tautology to suggest there is a big distinction by the very definition of their political system.