Issues: Regional Rail Link, Newspoll, Carbon price, Energy prices, Foreign investment
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m very pleased to be here today with my ministerial colleague, Terry Mulder, the Victorian Minister, and the local member, Nicola Roxon, for the sod turn on this section of the Regional Rail Link between Footscray and Deer Park.
This is a 7.5 kilometre section and represents the next stage in delivering what is the largest ever Commonwealth contribution to a public transport project in Australia’s history.
The Commonwealth is providing $3.2 billion dollars for this project with a billion dollars from Victoria. We’re working together in partnership to deliver a more efficient rail system for suburban Melbourne, and importantly, for the three key regional cities of Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong.
This will make an enormous difference to Melbourne and to the way that it functions.
It was recommended by Infrastructure Australia, and the work that has continued apace with the Victorian Government is resulting in jobs being created in the short term and in the long term – a much better, more efficient and more sustainable public transport system for Melbourne and regional Victoria.
Over to you, Terry.
TERRY MULDER: Thank you, Minister. I’d like to also welcome to the site Minister Albanese, Minister Roxon from the Federal Government. Also, the alliance, Balfour Beatty, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Sinclair Knight Merz, Thiess, MTM, V/Line and, also, Regional Rail Link and welcome Peter Watson, the chair of Regional Rail Link to the project site here today.
This is a very important milestone in terms of the delivery of the Regional Rail Link project here for Victoria, this brand new station here at West Footscray, 160 metres from the existing station. The existing station will continue to operate until this new station has been built.
As part and part of these projects, the Baillieu Government put in place a station user panel. We were building stations here in Victoria, some of them had design faults, issues that weren’t complementary, particularly to people who had disabilities, elderly people using station precincts.
We put together a station user panel to help to inform the Regional Rail Link Authority to make sure that we got the best possible outcome with these stations.
This particular station will not only have lifts and stairs, but we’ve also included ramps in the design as well. Some of the newer stations built in the past didn’t have ramps. It meant people who were elderly, disabled, women with prams, people with bicycles, if the lifts broke down, they were basically stranded.
The Footscray station, which is part of this particular overall project, will also have ramps installed after negotiations with Heritage Victoria and each and every one of the stations we build from hereon in will have those types of facilities.
As I say, a modern, state-of-the-art railway station right here in the heart of West Footscray. The west is developing quickly because of its close proximity to the CBD. Residential development out here is booming. We want to make sure that the stations we build actually become a part of the community, and that’s exactly what this project will do.
TERRY MULDER: Nicola, do you want to make some comments.
NICOLA ROXON: As the local Member, I’d like to thank both of the Ministers for coming here to do the sod turn. It’s a very important project locally. You can tell that it is a very important project, because even at this early time of morning, we have the Mayor of Maribyrnong here and we have the administrator of Brimbank Council here.
For the local community, it really is a big deal. It’s a big deal in terms of jobs. It’s a big deal in terms of getting a new up-to-date, upgraded station here at West Footscray. This is a booming and growing community. It’s also a big deal for the commuters who will get a better service as a result of this Regional Rail Link going in place.
So, it’s not just for the benefit of the regional communities. I don’t want to underestimate that importance. It is also important if you are a commuter here.
Probably, for West Footscray, people will see the new station. But, of course, they’ll notice the quicker times and the travel that will be able to be undertaken when this new rail link is complete.
So, I want to say thank you to Anthony and to Terry. This is a very big project, a very big investment by the Commonwealth in my electorate, in this region of the western suburbs of Melbourne, and we would like to thank both governments for their commitment to this very significant project.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Any questions on the project?
QUESTION: There was some – earlier on in the lifespan of this project, there was some disquiet among residents who were being forced to move out, land that was being acquired, and some of the teething issues there with working around that. How are you confident that those issues have been resolved?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: When you deal with a major infrastructure project such as this, inevitably, there will be issues that come up.
What’s important is how they’re resolved, and that they’re resolved in everyone’s best interests.
And what we’ve seen with this project is that the Victorian Government are managing and dealing with issues as they’ve risen.
As the Commonwealth Government, we’re very happy with the way that this project is being managed. Any infrastructure project, whether it is a little hall in a street, can create challenges for a community. You put a roundabout at an intersection, it creates some challenges.
When you’re talking about a multi-billion dollar project such as this, inevitably, there will be issues. But, I think the community understand that, in order to get this sort of progress, these projects need to happen. We need big projects in this country. That’s what I’m interested in, as the Infrastructure Minister, and I’m very satisfied with the way we’re working with the Victorian Government and, indeed, with the management of the Regional Rail Link project.
TERRY MULDER: I’ll just comment on that. The homes that were affected with compulsory acquisition, and the families that were affected, the Regional Rail Link Authority put in place case managers to deal with each and every one of those people. Not only that, I personally invited them into Parliament and sat around the table with them and listened to their concerns and made sure that any of those concerns were dealt with and dealt with properly. And I invited them back if, indeed, the issues that they were raising hadn’t been resolved.
It’s always uncomfortable and it’s difficult when you go through the process of compulsory acquisitions. I think every single thing that could have been done has been done, and to this point in time we haven’t had any negative feedback. Once we had that meeting with the people in Parliament, they understood that we knew, as a government, that they were going through a difficult period.
But certainly, the case managers that were put in place working with those individuals through the Regional Rail Link Authority, I believe, have done a very good job.
NICOLA ROXON: As a local member, I think there were a few teething problems when the announcements were made and some concerns from local residents. I think, since that time, the Victorian Government has really, and Terry in particular, really stepped up to making sure those particular issues of residents were dealt with properly.
Anthony is right, there are always challenges when you have a big project, and balancing the interests of the whole community against the interests of those most directly affected is tricky.
I suspect Terry’s history with this region, having grown up here, has made him particularly determined to take care of those issues as they arise, and we certainly will work with his office if there are any further problems in the future which we are not anticipating.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thank you. Anything else on the project?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Polls come and go. What we’re interested in is government and good government.
And that’s what today’s about. We haven’t been distracted by these fortnightly polls. What we’ve been doing is going about the business of providing good government for Australia.
Just to give one example, here in Victoria we have more than doubled per capita the amount of spending on major infrastructure, on road and rail projects. This includes this project today – the largest ever investment in public transport project since Federation.
That’s what our focus is on.
The Prime Minister is out there today discussing issues in terms of energy prices. That’s the Government’s focus.
QUESTION: So would you attribute a spike like this to the infrastructure projects that you’ve been funding around the country?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I certainly think the fact that we have a coherent plan in terms of nation-building is making a difference. We’ve doubled the roads budget, increased the rail budget by more than 10 times, increased funding for public transport so that we’ve committed more for public transport since we were elected in 2007 than all governments combined in the previous 107 years. All of this is making a difference.
This is also part of our good economic management. I think people look overseas, see the circumstances in Europe and in North America, and there’s no country you’d rather be in than Australia. There’s no doubt that the Government’s economic management is a part of that success.
QUESTION: Do you think it’s got anything to do with the fact that the carbon tax was introduced and the sky [indistinct] fallen?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well of course Tony Abbott ran around and said the world was going to end on 1 July. And, of course it was a nonsense scare campaign that has proven to be an absolute fizzer. Today you have the latest research in terms of inflation show that none of Tony Abbott’s scare campaign and rhetoric is true.
He talked it up – he said that towns were going to disappear, businesses were going to shut down immediately, there was going to be this huge impact. And of course we know that the impact of the carbon price is 0.7 per cent – or 70 cents in every $100 and that assistance is being given to families so that 90 per cent of households are getting that massive assistance.
I think people recognise that the rhetoric of Tony Abbott hasn’t matched the reality of their own experience.
They put out a paper on foreign investment this week. I had a look at it; I can’t work out what it means. He’s trying to send both messages at once and it’s not really a policy – it’s sort of an aspiration. It’s a bit like the aspirations he has for infrastructure. Well you can’t drive on an aspiration. You need to drive on a road. It needs to have real funding attached to it. You need to have real funding for rail projects such as this.
Tony Abbott gave a speech in Melbourne on infrastructure a while back and just had a thought bubble – $4.5 billion, sort of round it up, a billion dollars here, a billion there without any idea of where the money’s coming from. He’s got a $70 billion black hole. He’s got no coherent policies and he’s got a scare campaign. And the scare campaign is being exposed by reality.
QUESTION: Nonetheless though, the carbon tax is going to be the source of some questions today; you’ve already mentioned there the Prime Minister’s attack on electricity companies in the states about power prices.
This is – you know, sort of little drops [indistinct] the paper; are you being bit over-sensitive about the carbon price, launching these little skirmishes where you can to counter potential criticism?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact is that the carbon price’s impact is 0.7 per cent. There are impacts on the cost of living in a range of areas and some of those impacts relate to state energy. I know in New South Wales, my home state, that is where the big price increases for consumers have come from. So, we’re just pointing out the reality of the situation.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well in terms of some of the regulatory mechanisms that are there, the failure to invest in infrastructure, there’s a range of measures that the Prime Minister will be talking about today. I’ll leave that detail to the Prime Minister who will be making a statement later today.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Each state is different of course. In New South Wales, IPART sets the prices. But it sets the prices based on government policy and the system that’s been established.
The Prime Minister will go through this today. But what we know is that the scare campaign that Tony Abbott ran, in terms of an impact on inflation, on cost of living, on jobs, on the economy has simply proven to be false.
He argued that on 1 July the world would change and that Whyalla and Gladstone would disappear. I’ve been to Gladstone since 1 July – I assure you Gladstone is not only still there, it is thriving. It is a thriving community.
Tony Abbott said the coal industry was going to shut down. Tony Abbott has run around and gone into businesses right around the country.
But what he has done consistently is avoid scrutiny. He escapes the scrutiny of the Parliament House Press Gallery and goes out to Queanbeyan. It’s time that Tony Abbott actually came up with some policies. And, we’ve seen again this week, Warren Truss’s bumbling performance on the Insiders show on Sunday.
People should have a look at this bloke. This bloke is the alternative Deputy Prime Minister of the country but yet he can’t come up with an answer for anything. He is sending two messages: The Coalition is trying to say they want foreign investment in Australia but be careful about Chinese investment. They are sending two contradictory messages at the same time.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.