Subjects: Cities and urban policy; public transport; decline in infrastructure investment; China FTA; AFL Grand Final
ALBANESE: Well it’s good to be here at the Southern Cross Station in Melbourne with Andrew Giles who is the head of the Labor Party’s Caucus Cities Taskforce. The Labor Party has been concerned about cities and urban policy since Gough Whitlam gave his magnificent speech back in 1972 at Blacktown. What Labor Governments do is invest in cities and engage in urban policy because we know that 80 per cent of the population live in our major cities and 80 per cent of our economy derives from economic activity in our cities. But we know that urban congestion is a blight on the daily life of working Australians. We know the cost of urban congestion will be, according to Infrastructure Australia, some $53 billion by the year 2031 if we don’t invest, particularly in public transport, but in integrated transport strategies in our capital cities.
That’s why it is so unfortunate that when the Coalition was elected to office they cut $4.5 billion from the Budget that was there for public transport, on day one, in their first Budget. That included an allocation for the Melbourne Metro. The Melbourne Metro is required to unlock the capacity of the rail system here in Melbourne. It’s important because unless you fix that then you can’t extend new lines and engage in the sort of growth that this growing city of Melbourne needs.
Now, Labor funded in Government $40 million for the planning of the Melbourne Metro, so the planning is all done and yet the Coalition Government chose to allocate funding that was earmarked for the Melbourne Metro to the East West Link, which unlike the Metro, that will produce a positive economic benefit, had a cost benefit of 45 cents return for every dollar that was invested.
Malcolm Turnbull today has taken a tram here in Melbourne. That’s a great thing. But what we want is for him not to travel on public transport alone; we want him to fund public transport and he can begin by putting the money back into the Melbourne Metro, to the Cross River Rail in Brisbane, to the Gawler Line electrification in Adelaide, to the Tonsley Park line in Adelaide and to public transport projects in Perth that was all cut by the Government of which he was a senior minister.
This comes in the context of a reduction in infrastructure spending of 20.1 per cent in the June quarter, that was released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week, in public sector infrastructure investment. When compared with the last quarter of the Labor Government in 2013, it is extraordinary that one in five dollars has been cut from investment in infrastructure. It exposes the fraud that was Tony Abbott and the Coalition’s promise to be a Government concerned about Infrastructure and in the current quarter, the last quarter of June 2015, released this week, it is actually the lowest infrastructure investment at any time since prior to when the Labor Government was elected going back to 2006.
It’s about time that Malcolm Turnbull got serious about investment in infrastructure. That means investing in public transport, not just riding on it.
ANDREW GILES: Thanks Anthony, it’s great to have you in Melbourne with your passion for cities and your understanding of what matters for Melbourne and for Melbournians. What’s really concerning for me is that in two weeks we’ve had some nice words from Malcolm Turnbull about cities and some selfies on trams. But that doesn’t make up for two wasted years. Two years that Melbourne in particular can’t afford.
Anthony touched upon Melbourne’s growth, which is exciting and extraordinary, but in Melbourne, where jobs growth is so concentrated around the city, we need real investment in public transport, like the Melbourne Metro.
And Melbourne also needs a fair share. Victoria has one in four Australians living in it but only 8 per cent of Australia’s infrastructure spend under the Coalition. We need these things turned around and we need a real plan for coordinated action to deal with questions of liveability and productivity to make Melbourne everything it can and should be.
ALBANESE: Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Malcolm Turnbull seems to have indicated broad support for transport funding. What specifically are you asking him for today…(inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Well what he needs to do is not just talk about public transport; he needs to fund public transport. He can begin with projects like the Melbourne Metro where you had funding allocated by the previous Labor Government. He can begin by funding the Cross River Rail line in Brisbane. He can begin by funding the Gold Coast Light Rail stage two.
All of these projects were assessed by Infrastructure Australia, all of the have positive cost-benefit analysis. All of them will make a big difference to dealing with urban congestion which is a hand break on the Australian economy. So we appreciate the fact and we welcome the fact that Malcolm Turnbull has appointed a Minister for Cities and that he has said he has overturned Tony Abbott’s absurd proposition that funding roads is good but funding rail is bad.
That’s a good thing, but he needs to actually do that, not just put back in the money that was taken out of budgets; but there needs to be additional investment because we know that the 20.1 per cent drop off on infrastructure investment that was shown this week has particularly been the case with the drop off in public transport investment.
There needs to be new investment including, Labor has supported the rail line that needs to be constructed, on day one it needs to be there, at the new Badgerys Creek Airport and linking the south west line in Sydney to the western line. It’s absurd, this idea that you would build an airport with no public transport access to it in western Sydney.
REPORTER: Can we get to a couple of other issues. On the China Free Trade Agreement, what hope do you have of convincing Malcolm Turnbull and Andrew Robb of supporting any compromise?
ALBANESE: Well, I’m certainly hopeful that this can be fixed with a bit of common sense. All Labor has been saying is that the benefits of the Free Trade Agreement with China need to be made available to the Australian workforce by checking, before foreign workers are allowed to work on a project if Australian workers are available. That’s a common sense approach. It’s one that will ensure that the China FTA, which is a good thing, benefits all Australians not just some.
REPORTER: Do you foresee that the agreement will be in place before the end of the year as the Government in China has foreshadowed?
ALBANESE: I’m hopeful that it will be. Labor is a party that supports free trade agreements. Labor as a Party in particular has a proud history of supporting a strong relationship with China. We believe that it’s critical that we engage in the region, that’s why we did measures in Government and talked about the Asian Century and the way that Australia could benefit from it. But all we have asked for here is some common sense solutions, with a bit of goodwill and an end to the Coalition playing politics this certainly can be fixed and it should be fixed as soon as possible.
REPORTER: Are you in a positon now that you have to support it and then propose to change the things that you don’t like if you win government?
ALBANESE: Well what we are hoping for is a bit of common sense on behalf of the Government. We’ll see if the Government is prepared to put the national interest first, which it should, before playing politics over these issues.
REPORTER: So Mr Albanese, you are here in Melbourne on Grand Final Parade Day, I assume you are attending the game tomorrow.
ALBANESE: I will be going to the game tomorrow. I came down, this an old VFL scarf for the Hawks, before the Sydney Swans, when they were South Melbourne, I was a Hawthorn supporter. This is an old VFL scarf from the 80’s and indeed in 1991 I drove down and went to the only Grand Final that has been played out at Waverly between Hawthorn and the West Coast and the Hawks were successful that day and I hope Hawthorn will be successful tomorrow.
REPORTER: Right, so you are tipping Hawthorn to win. Any tips on what sort of game we might see and what sort of margin we might expect?
ALBANESE: I think it’ll be a cracker game. West Coast have been a great side all year. They had a convincing victory over in Perth but I think the G will be a different story tomorrow. Hawthorn are a big game team and Alastair Clarkson will have them primed for tomorrow and it will be quite extraordinary, in the era we’re in with the draft, which makes it harder for a team to stay on top, it will be quite extraordinary if the Hawks can have a three-peat tomorrow but I hope they do.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.