Subjects: Perth City Link & Fremantle tunnel; Urban transport funding; Constitutional recognition of local government; State of Origin
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is a great example of the Federal Labor Government’s commitment to urban public transport, where we’ve worked with the Western Australian Government to achieve such an outstanding outcome.
This Perth City Link project will unite the city of Perth, the CBD with the Northbridge precinct; an investment of $236 million from the Federal Government towards this $360 million project.
And today of course we’ve got an important milestone because the tunnel on the Fremantle line opens to rail traffic.
This is just one example of the Federal Government’s commitment to our cities, to improving productivity, sustainability and liveability, and with this project what we’re seeing is it in action.
In the last Budget as well, we put in $500 million for urban public transport here in Perth, and we’ll continue to have discussions with the Western Australian Government about the heavy and light rail options for that contribution as part of the next Nation Building program.
We simply can’t have a circumstance whereby the Federal Government says that urban public transport is up to the states and up to the local government and has nothing to do with the Federal Government.
Our cities are where most Australians live. Our cities are caught up in urban congestion. The quality of life for Australians therefore requires the Australian Government to work in cooperation with the state and territory governments around the country to deliver projects such as this, which is being delivered on budget and ahead of time.
It’s been a good working relationship with Troy Buswell to ensure that this project is ahead, and this is a great day for Perth and indeed a great day for the nation because this is truly nation building infrastructure.
TROY BUSWELL: Just a couple of quick comments. I said to Anthony last year, if this project goes well it would be good for his career, and it has been!
But more importantly, this is a really important milestone for this project, which is one of the significant state and federally funded projects that are happening around the state.
But from a state point of view, an important part of the jigsaw puzzle in bringing Perth into the 21st century, this – the work at the foreshore and the work in the east of the city – will fundamentally transform the city of Perth.
I’d just make a couple of observations. Firstly a big thank you to the commuters of Perth who have put up with disruptions on the rail line this week. And a big thank you to the staff on this project and from the public transport authority for making that work so seamlessly.
I was out yesterday talking to people who have had their rail services interrupted. They understand the reasons for that. They’ve been very cooperative and this has just been a fantastic outcome for everybody involved, particularly this week.
And of course to remind everybody that next Wednesday evening and on Thursday and Friday there will be more disruptions, but certainly the evidence from this week is that the people of Perth and the users of our train network are happy to support the process because they understand that the outcome is so important.
Again I’d like to thank the Commonwealth Government for their contribution to this project in particular. This project wouldn’t have happened without the financial support of the Commonwealth.
I think Anthony and I have been down here around half a dozen times and the engineering that has happened under the ground here is quite significant. But importantly from our point of view as the State Government we’re really proud to be delivering this project which links the railway line, and a project which effectively links Perth with Northbridge. It has been an aspiration of this city for decades and decades.
It interests me that this week, the only voice in this state which has criticised the processes around the shutdown of the rail system have been the State Opposition. I think that those comments were highly inappropriate and were certainly not reflective of the public’s response to the tremendous amount of work that went into making sure that this week’s disruptions minimised the impact on the travelling public.
But we have to remember at a state level, we have an Opposition party who have effectively been opposed to this project for a long time. And I was interested to have a look the other day in the six years between 2002 and 2008 this project was announced four times by the former government. Nothing happened.
It’s great though that today, in partnership with the Federal Government, we’re able to celebrate what I think is an important milestone in the delivery of this particular project.
TROY BUSWELL: There has been a variety of different state and shadow ministers I think starting with Roger Cook last week, out suggesting that the State had not done enough and the PTA had not done enough to make people aware of this shutdown.
He must have been on holidays on a very remote part of the globe to not be aware that this was happening. We’ve invested a lot of effort. The media have been fantastic in supporting us getting that message out to people, because it is important news.
I didn’t meet one person yesterday who said to me they didn’t know about what was happening. The travelling public have responded well. And it’s just an Opposition trying to talk down a project and a process which is so important to the future development of our city.
TROY BUSWELL: We work with the Federal Government of the day to deliver outcomes for our state. And that’s always been our view. Never saw this Government shut the door on a visit to this state by the Prime Minister.
We’ve always maintained a positive working relationship with the Commonwealth and we will do that irrespective of whoever the Commonwealth Government is because it’s in the best interests of the people of the state.
Now, yes from time to time there will be some full and frank discussions and we’ve had those. But if we work together – irrespective of who the Federal Government is – we can deliver great outcomes for the state. That’s been our focus and that will always be our focus.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Can I make a comment on that. One of the big distinctions at the coming federal election will be Federal Labor, that believes in investment in cities, that believes in investment in urban public transport. And Tony Abbott who says that he doesn’t.
Tony Abbott has made it very clear there will not be one cent for urban public transport if he is elected to office.
What that means is that this project would not have gone ahead under the Coalition. What that means is that future projects will not receive Commonwealth support be they heavy or light rail here in Perth.
Now we know that we can believe them on this statement because in 12 years they didn’t put a cent into urban public transport when they were in government.
So here we have a vast difference that will be a real issue in our major capital cities where we have urban public transport projects. At the moment, in the last budget, the $500 million for WA, Cross River Rail in Brisbane, Melbourne Metro project in Melbourne, all of these projects. And the last Budget saw more money for urban public transport than any Budget in Australia’s history from the Federal Government.
It is an important distinction and this is a project that has been supported very strongly, be it by the local candidate in terms of Stephen Smith, my friend, who I take the opportunity today to pay tribute to Smithy given his retirement. And of course Alannah MacTiernan has a great record as well of supporting urban public transport when she was the state Minister.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We have allocated in our budget processes, last budget $500 million as a sign if you like of good faith in terms of our preparedness to fund urban transport.
Now we haven’t received the detailed submissions on that from Minister Buswell, that’s not a criticism at all, these things have got to be done properly. And I’m sure that we will be able to work constructively with the Western Australian Government on those projects. So it’s there, it’s in the budget, it’s part of Nation Building 2, it’s a real distinction.
And we did that because we wanted to ensure that that money was allocated. Now the Federal Coalition have said that they won’t support that, therefore that $500 million will go somewhere else or simply not be used here in Western Australia.
Of course when I landed in Perth I drove along the Great Eastern Highway, a project that me and Troy turned the sod for on a Saturday a few years ago. So promised, funded, built, opened by the Federal Labor Government in partnership with the WA Government.
Of course we had the largest road project in Perth’s history in terms of federal contribution, the Gateway project that is underway and going gangbusters as well.
This is a Federal Government that believes in investing in infrastructure here in Perth, and indeed right around the state. The North West Coastal Highway, the Great Northern Highway, we put funds in there as well for the Perth-Darwin highway, for the other projects that were included in our budget.
We’ve just about tripled federal infrastructure funding compared with our predecessors.
QUESTION: The State Government has been counting on a lot more than $500 million though for the [inaudible] can you give any indication how much [inaudible]?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well they’ve got to put in a submission. Unlike the Federal Coalition I don’t do it on the back of a light beer shandy coaster after talking to someone in a pub somewhere in Tassie, which is where some of their costings come from.
What we do is proper cost benefit analysis. What we know is when you do the cost benefit analysis, projects like this for example, this is a project where you will have increased development in terms of urban development, a huge benefit in terms of productivity, a big economic benefit, but also of course that liveability benefit here in Perth.
We know this project stacks up. I’m sure that future projects will stack up, and when we see the work we’ll sit down with the WA Government and WA will get its share of infrastructure as it has since 2007.
QUESTION: The Regional Affairs Minister is out canvassing for a free-standing local government referendum. Would you support it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: So who’s arguing that sorry?
QUESTION: Apparently the Regional Affairs Minister Catherine King?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, no, well she’s not. The Government’s position is that we support recognition of local government in the Constitution.
We think this is important for two reasons: one is the Constitution should reflect the reality which is we have three tiers of government; federal, state and local. Secondly we need to put federal funding of local government, be it for the Roads to Recovery program that funds local roads or – I’ll be looking at a black spot in the electorate of Hasluck after this event today – the Black Spots program. Take Roads to Recovery, $1.75 billion of investment in local roads.
Now that is in doubt. We need to put it beyond doubt by including the right of federal government to fund local government in the Constitution. It’s a common sense change. It passed the House of Representatives with only two people opposed to it.
So I’m very supportive of the referendum and it is a bit disappointing that even when Tony Abbott says yes as he did when he voted for it, he appears to be crab walking towards suggesting a no vote on the Constitutional referendum.
We know that Constitutional referendums don’t get passed unless you have bipartisan support, and the Coalition need to really clarify what their position is on this.
QUESTION: I think we’re just trying to get at what it would mean for the date of the election? Are we looking at late August, early September?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’ll give you the big tip on an election date: it will be on a Saturday and it will be before or after South Sydney win their 21st rugby league premiership.
I apologise to my friends who are seeing this in New South Wales for my maroon tie today. Yes it is the product of a lost bet last night. Wearing a maroon tie though is a lot better than some of the other speculation about alleged bets that I lost last night, so it’s in everyone’s interest I think that I just wear a tie in Queensland’s colours.
And can I say this here in Perth, I was at the Grosvenor Hotel watching the game last night – it was packed – and it was fantastic to see so much enthusiasm for rugby league here in Perth last night.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.