Subjects: Australian Catholic University Blacktown campus; Western Sydney City Deal.
MICHELLE ROWLAND: Good morning. I’m delighted to be here in Blacktown. I’m joined by our Spokesperson for Cities and Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, my Parliamentary colleague, the Member for Chifley, Ed Husic, and our local Mayor of Blacktown and State Member for Blacktown, Councillor Stephen Bali. As a former Councillor and Deputy Mayor of this great city, and now its representative in the Federal Parliament, I know how important it is to have projects that reflect cooperation and partnership between the different levels of government. And the announcement that Anthony Albanese is making today on behalf of Labor goes exactly to that point. Blacktown is one of the fastest growing regions not only in New South Wales but certainly in Australia. We are an area that is an economic powerhouse. We have a number of transformative projects going on right now in the City of Blacktown, including a $7 million grant, under a future Shorten Labor Government, if elected, towards the Australian Catholic University campus here in Blacktown. So what Anthony is going to announce is very welcome news and recognises the economic, social and cultural importance of Blacktown, not only to the economy of New South Wales but certainly all of Australia. So thank you very much for listening to the concerns we’ve raised on this, Anthony, and over to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much Michelle, and it’s great to join with you, and Ed Husic and also supported by Chris Bowen, who also represents part of the Blacktown City Council area with the Mayor, Stephen Bali, for this important announcement that you as local members have campaigned for strongly and one which I think is accepted by the local community. When people talk about a Western Sydney City Deal, and they find out that Blacktown has been excluded from that deal, they think there’s something wrong here because this is the largest local government area in Western Sydney, home to some 370,000 people. It is the fastest growing local government area in Western Sydney and indeed one of the fastest growing in the entire nation.
What Labor wants to do with the City Deals concept is expand it and improve on it. And we’ll do that by making sure that we have genuine City Partnerships; not just a one-off deal and a signature on a document, but truly working with Federal, State and local government to improve planning of our cities so that we make sure that the concept of a 30-Minute City, creating jobs close to where people live, making sure that we improve the sustainability and the liveability of our cities, as well as the economic productivity, comes through these City Partnerships. I’m very confident, having sat down here in Blacktown with the Mayor and his team on more than one occasion over the last couple of years, that they have a dynamic vision for this city. It’s a vision that encompasses growth; it’s one that encompasses jobs; it’s one that speaks about lifting up the cultural life of this great City of Blacktown. The fact is that Sydney is a growing city. It can’t be just focused on the CBD, nor can it just be focused on the second CBD of Parramatta. This great city needs to be a focus. And that’s why we’ll bring it into the City Partnerships.
We’ll contribute, consistent with the agreements that are in place for the other council areas that have been included, $7.5 million, to go towards an infrastructure project here for this city. But, more importantly, it’s building that long-term relationship with the City of Blacktown; making sure that we can build on that cooperative instinct across the three levels of government, because we know that in the past, the fact is that the Commonwealth under the Coalition, haven’t done urban policy or city policy well. Prior to Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister, they didn’t talk about it at all. Now that Malcolm Turnbull has been dismissed by his own side, the concern is that they’ll go back to where they’ve always been, which is to say that the Commonwealth Government has no role in cities. This is just one of the contributions that we will make in terms of Western Sydney and we’ll have further to say about that with the Labor leader Bill Shorten later today.
ED HUSIC: Thanks, Albo. And I just wanted to say how grateful I am to be able to be here today with both Michelle and the Mayor, because today corrects a fatal flaw in the Western Sydney City Deal architecture. When this got announced by the Coalition a couple of years ago, they announced the Western Sydney City Deal in Redfern, 40 kilometres away from the heart of Western Sydney. And they excluded a local government area that is home to nearly 340,000 people, and told them they had no part to play in a massive regional City Deal that is designed to deliver better transport connectivity, better community amenity, make sure the people living in here, as Albo had just mentioned a few moments ago, that you’ve got that planning in place for the growth of a city. And we have just to the west of us, 150,000 people expect to be moving in the North West Growth Centre and we have another CBD within one area of Blacktown CBD that will open up at Marsden Park, and we should be planning for better community facilities, better connectivity and movement of people in those areas. And it was crazy that we had Blacktown City Council excluded out of the Western Sydney City Deal.
Today is a just and proper announcement that makes sure we fundamentally have every council involved in the growth of our region, that is going to be home, or is already home to 2 million people, and puts Blacktown at the heart of it. And I just wanted to also echo the remarks of Albo in commending Blacktown City Council, because they’ve been thinking deeply about how we proceed with respect to planning into the future, and they will be tremendous partners in this City Deal, and I might invite the Mayor if he’s got a few comments.
STEPHEN BALI: Thank you very much and thank you to Albo, Ed, Michelle, for your extensive lobbying. I think today marks common sense has finally returned to the planning of Western Sydney. When you look at the eight councils currently in the Western Sydney Cities Deal, adding Blacktown increases the economic product of the area by 30 per cent. You’ve just excluded 30 per cent of the population, 30 per cent of the development, 30 per cent of the jobs and the economy of the region by excluding Blacktown. If we want Western Sydney to work, we shouldn’t divide it and use the (inaudible) approach of cutting us and dicing us all over the place. Western Sydney has to work as a collective to deliver the best outcomes and as we’ve heard 4.6 per cent economic growth year on year, for the past five years. We’re one of the fastest growing in the area. Having a $17 billion economy of our gross regional product, making us larger than seventy two nations in the world. How can you exclude us? And at the moment 18,000 university students live in the City of Blacktown, travelling up to three hours to go to their university and return. And yet they’re saying, we can’t have a university here in Blacktown. We’re going to have a population of in excess of 522,000 people by 2036; more people living in the City of Blacktown than in the entire state of Tasmania, and they have got twelve Senators. To a large extent, what we need is a concentrated approach, a coordinated approach across Western Sydney. I thank Labor for taking the lead, and the initiative of seeing Western Sydney as one of the economic powerhouses of Australia, and actually having a coordinated approach for the success of having universities, jobs and the cultural influences that – we are one of the most multicultural, diverse communities in the world across Western Sydney. Let’s work together to make sure that Western Sydney has the tools for success. Thank you very much.
ALBANESE: Thanks Steve. I’m happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: There’s so much money and attention being given to Liverpool because of the airport. Do you think it’s going to be an uphill battle to really give Blacktown the attention it might deserve?
ALBANESE: No I don’t, because if you look at Blacktown and what it has to offer, the airport has to be a catalyst for growth and jobs throughout Western Sydney. It can’t just be around the airport. And that’s why we’re backing in the North South rail line. That’s why we’re backing in Metro West, the first stage to Parramatta. But the planning should start on extending that here to the north-west. That needs to start now. And if we’re successful at being elected, one of the first things that I’ll be doing is sitting down with Premier Berejiklian, who I have had a good constructive relationship with in the past, and talking with her about Federal and State Governments that can achieve things for Sydney, New South Wales.
And what that means is achieving things for this region and in particular, this city. This is the largest council in Sydney by a fair way, prior to the amalgamation of Canterbury and Bankstown that has happened very recently. So the fact is that this Council needs the support of the Commonwealth Government and needs the support of the State Government. They have very sophisticated plans, and not just for a university having a presence here, but for sporting precincts, for cultural precincts, for health precincts and they need to work – we need to work with the three levels of government in the interest of the population here. It can’t simply be excluded. And yes, Liverpool is located much closer to the airport, and there will be benefits for Liverpool. But I think the benefits need to be spread throughout Western Sydney. The job of the airport needs to be to maximise the economic benefits whilst minimising the impact of the airport on local residents. A very simple principle and one of the things that we announced just last week is the fuel pipeline to the airport. Now what that’s about is taking trucks off the street in Blacktown, in Liverpool, in Fairfield, in Penrith in Campbelltown, in Camden, everywhere. It’s a sensible policy that we’ve put forward and $71 million will be allocated to the Western Sydney Airport Corporation to make sure that that occurs. These are common sense reforms and proposals, and this is common sense.
I think people will be surprised to find out that Blacktown City was not included in a Western Sydney City Deal and the fact is, they weren’t asked to participate. And what that does, that’s not just bad for Blacktown; that’s bad for Liverpool; that’s bad for Penrith; that’s bad for Fairfield; and the Blue Mountains and Camden and Wollondilly and Campbelltown. Because the whole concept of a City Partnership, or a City Deal, is that by having a look at an entire region, how it functions, what are the comparative advantages that that region has, as opposed to other regions in Australia, in what way can government cooperation, as well as working with the private sector, drive that economic activity. Then you get better outcomes as a whole. You know, the pluses add up to more than the individual contributions. That’s the whole point of a City Partnership and that’s why bringing in an extra 370,000 people into the Western Sydney City Partnership is sensible policy.
I’m sure it will be welcomed by the State Government, if they put partisan politics aside, because it’s common sense. Certainly, when I’ve met with the Greater Sydney Commission, I’ve raised this issue with them, and indicated for some time that I think a weakness of the Western Sydney City Deal is that Blacktown was excluded. You can’t just carve off a slice. Particularly, you can’t slice off – If you’ve got to carve off a slice, they’ve managed to carve off the biggest slice, by excluding Blacktown. Now this is common sense, and I think it will be welcomed by the other Mayors I have told; the Mayors of the other councils who I’ve met with, including all the South West Mayors, very recently. And I’m someone who hasn’t just sat in an office in Canberra or in Sydney. I’ve been here to Blacktown City and met with the Council many times, as I’ve been to Penrith and Liverpool and Campbelltown and throughout the region; The Blue Mountains. Because I know that this region is so important for our national economy and for the future.
This area has such a large population of young people. What that means is that that’s a challenge, but it’s also an exciting opportunity for this region. I’m really positive about the future for Western Sydney and I want to be a part of it, and I want to be a part of it by being a Cities Minister in a Shorten Labor Government that works to genuinely promote regional economic activity in our cities, in particular in our outer urban areas. Because the fact is that they have suffered from a lack of investment compared with the inner areas of our cities.
JOURNALIST: Do you think playing politics is exactly why Blacktown was left out though being such a Labor stronghold?
ALBANESE: It’s the only explanation I can think of, of why Blacktown was excluded. It makes no sense. The fact is that this region needs Blacktown City to be a part of any regional plan.
JOURNALIST: And what will the $7.5 million go to?
ALBANESE: Well, what happens with that, that’s then matched by a State Government contribution. The local government is required to make a contribution as well. The way that it works with the other councils, so we don’t want to favour Blacktown City. What we want is for them to get the same deal the other councils have got, and that’s all they are asking for. So they will work out and propose a project to the Commonwealth. I know it won’t be a case of finding a project. It will be a case of which one of the many worthwhile projects that they have on the agenda they’ll put forward for Commonwealth funding and I’m very, very confident that that will be signed off. And I intend to work with, as well, the State Government, including the Planning Minister, to make sure that that happens.
JOURNALIST: And just moving on to Federal issues, should there be a clean out of Australia’s security agencies if Labor wins the election, as Mr Keating argues?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ve got to say that it was good to see Paul Keating yesterday at the Labor launch. And Paul Keating always has a contribution to make, and it’s always worthwhile listening to that contribution. Look we don’t plan any major changes, certainly to the personnel. I think that what Paul Keating was talking about yesterday was certainly a concern that has been there. Certainly, I’ve had that concern as well and I think in the community. We need to be very careful, that it is not in Australia’s economic interest essentially to be xenophobic when it comes to China, and the role of China in the region. We need to examine legitimate security concerns which are there. But we also need to acknowledge that China has been a nation in which we have a friendly relationship and have had one since the Whitlam Government recognised China in 1972. That is part of Labor’s legacy. We will work with the region. One of the things about Labor’s approach to foreign policy in international relations is it’s based upon three pillars. One is our alliance with the United States. But the second pillar is working with countries in our region. And the third pillar is our commitment to multilateral forums, including through the United Nations, which is why we’ll have a constructive relationship with those organisations on issues like climate change, that require an international, and indeed a regional, response.
JOURNALIST: And is it unhelpful to have Mr Keating weighing into these issues so close to election day?
ALBANESE: Paul Keating has earned the right to weigh into any issues, at any time that he wants to do. And he speaks now, not as, of course as a Labor Leader. He speaks though, as someone who I think has made an outstanding contribution to Australia, and it’s one that I respect.
JOURNALIST: Mr Bali, can I just ask you, with this announcement about the Western Sydney City Deal; you know, you’ve been calling for a university for a while, and I think the day you called for a university, or a couple of days later, the Berejiklian Government announced one for Liverpool. Are you hopeful even, like how confident are you, even if there is a Labor Federal government that the Berejiklian Government will give you what you are asking for?
BALI: Look, as has been said before, this has to be beyond politics. The announcement that the Government made a week after Blacktown undertook the expression of interest for a university, was actually a university in Badgerys Creek. There was a memorandum of understanding for universities to express an interest in the possibility of having a campus at Badgerys Creek, which is really important in the longer term, as a million people are moving into Western Sydney. But here and now, we have 18,000 university students leaving Blacktown every day. Our city is growing at eight to 10,000 people every year. We are one of the fastest in the country – we will be in the top three or four, if you want to check it. So, to a large extent, there is demand today for a university in Blacktown, if we believe in the Half Hour City.
Blacktown is 247 square kilometres. To get around Michelle’s electorate, to go to Riverstone, to Blacktown CBD is about a half an hour. If there is a bit of peak hour traffic around the place, and crossing the railway line. So, there is enough demand here for a university. The Australian Catholic University is bringing health, business and education. If you think about a growth area such as Western Sydney, where you have more schools, the hospital has large numbers of vacancies for nursing and allied health. If you’re looking at recovery services, we’re all lacking in those areas and the first university to come along. The other challenge that the Liberal Government has put forward is the capping of university places. So we’d have more universities that want to be here tomorrow, if the cap is lifted on university places. So, we have manufacturing, 13 per cent of all the jobs in the City of Blacktown are manufacturing. We should be proud of manufacturing. It provides a whole range of jobs from the technically advanced jobs through to your standard job. So all these are important to do an economy that grows, and being the engine house for New South Wales at 4.6 per cent per annum. I’m sure the Premier, which I’ll see tomorrow, as State Parliament starts off, is quite happy to work together with a future Shorten Labor Government to make sure that the whole of Western Sydney benefits, not just particular areas.
JOURNALIST: And have you had any communication from the Berejiklian Government about your calls for a university campus here?
BALI: Absolutely. We’ve had positive responses in the last term because there’s obviously been changes in ministerials, but I’ve got to say that, whether it’s the Planning Minister, whether it’s the Education Minister, the Health Minister, they have all said and agreed that something should happen. I suppose, unfortunately, they have left the lead only to Blacktown, which we’ve done, and we’ve now got a university. We are now planning to sit down with each of the Ministers to explain where we are up to and I’m pretty sure they will continue to work closely with us to make it happen. So we’ve done the groundwork, we’ve got the university onside. There’s other universities that want to specialise in other areas that are prepared to come here. So what we need is now a change in the number of places that are in universities. And I’m pretty sure any Minister knows. Everyone is in public life to make sure that people benefit. I don’t see anyone going out of their way to stymie or to stop it. It’s a bit weird that Blacktown hasn’t been part of the Western Sydney Cities Deal. I don’t know what the reason for that is.
JOURNALIST: Is it true that you were never even approached about being part of it?
BALI: We approached various different organisations, and to a large extent they, they seem to have based their decisions – the official line is around with the Greater Sydney Commission areas, geographic places. But look, if Bargo is considered to be metropolitan Western Sydney, then Blacktown should be considered Western Sydney. To exclude Blacktown is weird. If you want the Cities Deal to work, then you need Blacktown. A third of the jobs, a third of the growth, a third of the development is all here. And for Badgerys Creek to work, you need a North West rail line that goes through Marsden Park. And Marsden Park has the potential to have, in the Sydney Business Park, 40,000 jobs. It’s one of the biggest industrial estates in New South Wales. Why would you exclude them, in the City of Blacktown, from being on a rail line that connects through to Badgerys Creek? It just doesn’t make any sense.
JOURNALIST: In which of the two Western Sydney Cities do you think Blacktown will fit into? Parramatta or the airport city?
BALI: Look, I’m often confused about the mixed messages. They build a stadium in Parramatta and they call it the Western Sydney Stadium. They talk about ANZ Stadium, whether it needs to be knocked down, and that’s a great icon for Western Sydney. So one minute, it’s part of Western Sydney and then all of a sudden it’s not. Parramatta today is the capital of Western Sydney. Let’s face it. You know, it’s a large economy and supporting the growth of Parramatta plus Blacktown, just those two council areas alone, would be one million people. One million between two councils. Blacktown would be larger. One million people living in those two council areas. That’s huge. Today one in every 70 people in Australia lives in Blacktown. How can you ignore us, when one in 70 people in, across Australia, live in Blacktown. So we want to be a major part. I think we’ve proved ourselves.
The people of the City of Blacktown, the business community, the community groups have proven that we are an active partner that knows what growth means, what multiculturalism means, how we can bring people from various different communities – 188 different nations are represented in Blacktown. We have almost got the entire United Nations here and yes, we have our challenges but we’re trying to work through them. But we need the support of the Federal and State Governments to make sure it all happens, and I welcome today’s common sense approach by Labor to actually say Blacktown is part of the Western Sydney Cities Deal; that Blacktown deserves a university, and this is done by the universities themselves putting the money where their mouth is. And we want to change this wonderful CBD, which is a fairly small CBD, if you think about it and old. Let’s revitalise it, let’s transform and that’s where the $7.5 million comes in, in a big way. Not only just for our CBD, but we’ve got to plan for the growth in Marsden Park, we’ve got to plan for the growth across the whole region of Blacktown. So the money will go fairly quickly so no doubt I’ll be going back to Anthony and asking him that we need more money in a new Shorten Labor Government because …
HUSIC: Always good, laying the markers.
JOURNALIST: Just to be clear, you want to be part of Central Sydney, in that Three Cities Plan, or with the Parramatta City or do you want to be a Blacktown all on your own?
HUSIC: Who cares? Who cares about where they designate those artificial boundaries? Like, really, the activity is where the people are. And the people are here, and this will create a CBD of its own.
JOURNALIST: But there is this big plan, and this perception that it’s all around Parramatta and it’s all around Liverpool …
HUSIC: And then people have a way to punch through those plans.
JOURNALIST: And Blacktown’s been left out.
BALI: But the local business community, as I said to you. The Government may leave us out and has taken many jobs, public service jobs, out of Blacktown. But in the end, our economy grows at 4.6 per cent. We’re the fastest growing, we’re growing faster than the other councils you mentioned. But at the same time the State Government also has, you know, the economic development area where they bring economic development offices together to see how you can enhance more jobs and more opportunities. Blacktown is excluded from those meetings, based on the geographic artificial drawing that we’re not part of the eight councils. Why would you want to exclude a third of the economic growth of the area, simply based on a geographical location. The more the merrier. If Parramatta is involved, or Blacktown or Cumberland or the Hills Council; you know, it’s ridiculous just to slice and dice us and treat us like some type of salami, you only take the bits that you like. Now we want to work together.
ALBANESE: Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.