SUBJECTS: Labor ‘s plans for a Western Sydney rail line; Donald Trump; ANZAC Day; Kelly O’Dwyer; Australian Conservatives merger
MIKE FREELANDER, MEMBER FOR MACARTHUR : Welcome everyone to Western Sydney – south Western Sydney. It’s fantastic to have Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese here.
Bill is an honourary citizen of Western Sydney, he’s been here so much. He was only here last week and he’s here again with Anthony to make a really fantastic, game-changing announcement about infrastructure, particularly our transport infrastructure.
So without further ado, I’d like to welcome Bill
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Mike. Good afternoon everybody. I am pleased to announce that Labor, if elected, will start building a Western Sydney rail line.
I’m pleased to announce that if Labor is elected, we will start in the first stage of building a rail link between Leppington, behind me, via Bringelly, to Western Sydney Airport, and in addition, we would start the work to build a railway line from Macarthur in the south to St Marys in the north.
We are doing this because this policy will deliver more jobs, and better public transport, and less congestion.
Today, Labor is making it crystal clear that if we are elected at the next election, we will start building the Western Sydney rail line. We are putting our cards on the table.
We’re calling upon the Liberal Party to do the same thing. So far, the Liberals have not committed to a timetable to build Western Sydney rail. Instead they have given dodgy answers and brushed the issue off.
Mr Turnbull has a chance in the Budget coming up in less than two weeks time, to outline his plan and a timetable for Western Sydney rail. If Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison refuse to outline their commitment to Western Sydney rail, then we will know that it will be a very long time before this railway ever gets built under the Liberals.
This is our commitment. No more games, no smoke and mirrors, this is what we want to do. We call upon Mr Turnbull to be crystal clear to the people of Western Sydney where he stands. I’d also now like to ask Anthony to talk further about the detail of our proposal. And we’re happy to take questions.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, CITIES AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Thanks very much, Bill, and it’s fantastic to be here with Mike and Anne Stanley here in south-west Sydney for this exciting announcement. The fact is, that Sydney’s transport network at the moment, the rail lines go from Western Sydney into the CBD, they go from South-Western Sydney into the CBD, they are building a line from North-Western Sydney into the CBD, but there is nothing to connect Western Sydney along the north-south corridor.
Deloittes have done a study that shows that the economic benefit for Western Sydney of a north-south rail corridor that we are proposing today, is some $44 billion between 2024 and 2040. That is why this has got to be seen as an investment in jobs and the future of Western Sydney.
Badgerys Creek Airport needs to be much more than just a terminal and a runway. It needs to be a catalyst for jobs.
If you look at the science park just to the north of Badgerys Creek Airport, that will attract some $5 billion of private sector investment, 12,000 jobs, 4500 dwellings, Australia’s first K-12 science, technology, engineering and maths school, run by an MoU that has already been signed between the developers and the Catholic Education Office.
What we want is kids in the Macarthur region and kids in Western Sydney to have an opportunity to get to that school. What we want is people to have an opportunity to get to those jobs that will be created as a result of the stimulus provided by the airport.
That is why we are proposing a common sense solution. It’s one that is supported by all of the local councils in this region. It’s one that is necessary for the future of Western Sydney. To extend this rail line from Leppington up to the airport via Bringelly, but also to have the airport rail link, have another development from Macarthur, through to the airport, on to connect with the western line, near St Marys, and then a further stage down the future to connect with the northwest line at Rouse Hill.
This is an important project and the government has acknowledged that rail will be necessary but they’re saying they will build into the airport a cavity for a rail station but at some time in the future.
The people of Western Sydney deserve first-class infrastructure, and that means an airport with a rail link from day one to service the community, but to also service those other advanced manufacturing, education, logistics, tourism – those other jobs that will created as a result of the stimulus of the airport.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what would you say is the biggest problem with what the Federal Government has proposed with the rail link? The fact that there is no money?
SHORTEN: Well I think that is just smoke and mirrors. They keep talking about things, but at the end of the day, they’ve got to show the people of Western Sydney the money.
Unless there is a timetable and budgetary commitment, then it is just hot air.
We call upon the Turnbull Government, you’ve got a chance in this Budget to put your cards on the table. Labor is making it crystal clear that if we are elected at the next election, we will start building the Western Sydney railway. In other words, we are backing up our promises with a timetable and a budgeted commitment.
If Mr Turnbull continues to give dodgy answers – ‘we will look at it, we will kick this down the road, we will have another study’- then people should be aware that they will be very old indeed before public transport gets renewed and the Western Sydney railway gets built.
I might get Anthony though, because he’s been pushing this issue so well, to talk a bit broadly about what the government has not done.
ALBANESE: The Government are saying – they’re acknowledging that the airport will need a rail link. They are saying they will build into it, indeed, two potential stations as part of the construction of the airport, as part of the design. But they are not putting a timetable on it. They are not saying that rail will be available from day one when the airport opens. And what we have seen with other infrastructure issues, including other airports around Australia, is that if you go back and you retrofit down the track, then it ends up costing you more to do that.
It makes sense to have infrastructure development in advance of other activity, not following on from it. That is what good economic policy says, that’s what the study from Deloittes, that has been commissioned, shows.
I think the figure is in the order of $3.4 billion a year by 2040 is what will be contributed. It is an extraordinary, positive analysis which has been provided.
The consultation has happened already with the community. That’s what these local members have done, that is what State members have done and that is what the local councils have done. And I’ve had meetings recently with Penrith Council, Blacktown Council, Campbelltown Council and they are all very clear that the designs which are stage one and stage six in terms of the options that are available, option one and option six are the way to go.
And that is why the Government should get on with the business of providing a clear commitment that the railway will be open on day one. Get on with the business of putting funding in the budget in two weeks’ time.
JOURNALIST: What about for the $400 million, that the State Government and Minister Fletcher have both said that won’t even buy a train station. Is that planning money, is that the seed funding for this project and would you consider value capture for the corridors to fund this?
ALBANESE: It’s one of the reasons why it makes sense and you might recall a press conference with Luke Foley prior to the State election. Because one of the things with the airport is that the airport hasn’t yet been leased. Now, whether Sydney Airport takes up the lease or whether the Government builds it itself and then on sells, it makes sense to build in the investment of the railway into the least price of the airport. So there is no doubt, for example, that the State Government will benefit from the uplift in value from the Western Sydney employment lands that are substantial to the north of the airport.
And that is why the State Government, it is getting a huge bonus from the Western Sydney rail line that we are proposing. It’s one of the reasons why it stacks up and makes sense. The Science Park, the tourism facility that is there for a high-end tourism motel/hotel development that is already going through the development process at the moment of approvals. This private sector investment is happening right now. It’s dependent upon a railway line and they are factoring in, at some time, being built. But they are assuming that it will be built sooner rather than later. And that’s why in terms of our commitment here is an initial $400 million. We are saying that upfront, upfront that is money that is available. The State Government should make a contribution. Of course, it’s up to the State Government of course runs the actual rail and road networks but they would also no doubt have discussions with local government, but the private sector have said they are prepared to make a contribution as well and of course, they should.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten does that make sense to you that developers who make money out of infrastructure that is built by the Commonwealth throw in some money for it?
SHORTEN: Yes it does and Labor has been open to that as one of the ways which we would help fund, not only the airport, but infrastructure and public infrastructure in this country. But let’s be really clear here, the Government should be factoring in engineering the public transport and rail links to the airport now. I live in Melbourne where we don’t have a rail line to Tullamarine Airport, we don’t have public transport to Tullamarine Airport and the cost of retrofitting public transport once the airport is functioning is horrendous. The other thing is, of course this project is going to be more than $400 million, we have to work with the State Government. But I think Australians are a bit sick and tired of announcements without detail. That’s why Mr Turnbull has an opportunity in the upcoming budget to spell out some commitment to building the rail line. What we don’t want is another airport without public transport links at the start of it. And you can’t take Turnbull or Morrison seriously if they don’t budget for the first stages of building this public rail line in Western Sydney. It’s not taking Western Sydney seriously at all.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you made an announcement before the last election pledging $400 million for a north south link, so today’s announcement is this just rehashing what you’ve pledged before the election?
SHORTEN: This is demonstrating our ongoing commitment to Western Sydney. We have got a budget in less than two weeks. If Turnbull and Morrison are at all serious about Western Sydney then they need to have provision in the upcoming budget. I have visited Western Sydney now 10 times since the last Federal election. I don’t think Mr Turnbull has been very far west at all on one occasion since the last election. This is an opportunity for Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison to demonstrate that they are equally committed to Western Sydney and we committing and we are putting some markers in the ground now, well in advance of an election, about our commitment to more jobs and better public transport in Western Sydney.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Minister Constance, the Liberal Transport Minister, said you’re ‘”Billshort on ideas and Billshort on cash”. Does that worry you, that kind of rhetoric considering you guys may have to work with each other in a couple of years?
SHORTEN: Does it worry me if a Liberal says mean things about me? No. What worries me is congestion in Western Sydney. What worries me is a lack of a vision for public transport in Western Sydney. What worries me is not willing to back in, if you are supporting an airport, public transport links. What worries is they have no practical plans for jobs, for small business, for public transport in Western Sydney. That’s what matters.
ALBANESE: I’ll tell you something else, if they are playing the man rather than the idea, the idea is pretty good.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I just ask in relation to Malcolm Turnbull meeting with President Donald Trump next week. Just how important is it that he gets that right and fixes what we’ve already seen [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: I think it is appropriate that when an Australian Prime Minister is invited to meet with the United States President that that meeting goes ahead and I hope the nation’s sake, that meeting goes well. Australian Prime Ministers have met with American presidents before this and no doubt they will after this. I think it is a little unfortunate that the time Malcolm has got is the week before the Budget, but that meeting with President Trump should go ahead. But I say it’s a little unfortunate in terms of domestic matters because without a doubt the most important domestic issue happening is this government focusing on the Budget. This Budget is the way that the Government lets Australians know that the Government knows where this country is headed and so far, we have not seen a lot of clear focus from the Government about the budget.
What happens is, every day lately, this government has a different maybe for a problem in Australia. Take housing affordability as an example for this government’s lack of focus, someone comes up with a thought bubble, someone else in the Government comments about the thought bubble and then somebody else rushes out to rule out the thought bubble to begin with. On housing affordability, a major issue for Australians, this government has no direction.
So I think it is important that before Malcolm gets on the plane to go and visit President Trump, that he spells out the direction of this Budget. It’s not really good enough to say we will wait until budget night. When it comes to corporate tax cuts for the big end of town, Malcolm Turnbull has let Australians know what he intends to do. Pensioners, working families, people on low incomes, they have heard the speculation they are up for a severe hit in the Budget. I think Malcolm Turnbull owes it to the Australian people to reassure the Australian people that this is a government focused on the Budget and where we are going as a country domestically.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what are you hoping will be canvased in the meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Turnbull?
SHORTEN: Well I know that Malcolm Turnbull said that he wanted to relitigate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he, I think, asserted he was capable of persuading the President. So I’ll be interested to see how he raises that. I think it’s important that the refugee deal goes ahead. Of course matters of national security, shared security would be hopefully uppermost in the agenda.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] appeared to link ANZAC Day with our refugee policy?
SHORTEN: I think those were very, very, very insensitive comments. I understand the person in question has now apologised. I don’t think it’s automatically though a sackable offence if someone says something stupid on social media. It wouldn’t be the first person to do that, nor the last. I was in Papua New Guinea yesterday I was at the Bomana War Cemetery. It’s one of the largest Commonwealth war graves containing Australian soldiers. Yesterday and ANZAC Day it’s about commemorating the sacrifice. This commentator has made a very insensitive comment for which she has apologised. I’m not going to get distracted by what individuals say, what matters is that we recognise the sacrifice of our fallen.
JOURNALIST: Just I just ask one more in relation to Kelly O’Dwyer obviously there were moves afoot or apparently moves afoot to roll her.
SHORTEN: You’ve got to love the Liberal Party, you go on maternity leave and they’re out there trying to knock you off your job. I think that speaks volumes for the Liberal Party that when one of their few women ministers goes off on maternity leave all of a sudden they’ve got to start worrying about their job security. It also speaks volumes the Liberal Party that they’ve set up a contest between Peta Credlin and Kelly O’Dwyer. There are so many blokes occupying Liberal Party seats, why is it that two women have to fight over a seat held by a woman in the Liberal Party? I think Malcolm Turnbull needs to do more to promote women candidates rather than allowing some sort of fight to the bitter end between two Liberal women candidates.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten can I ask you about the Australian Conservatives and Family First joining together, do you think that’s going to bolster their chances at the next election?
SHORTEN: I don’t know if that’ll be a happy marriage or not, but these people are experts on these matters. I think what it shows is that the conservative side of Australian politics is very disillusioned with Malcolm Turnbull. To me it just shows the total chaos that Turnbull has inflicted on Australia because of his changes to Senate voting procedures. I think that it reflects the ongoing internal and external fight within the Liberal Party and their allies. But what I want to also reassure Australians that whilst the Liberal Party is busy fighting with itself and fight against some of the other right wingers trying to occupy the same political space as the Liberal Party, Labor is getting on with the job. What we’ve done today is we are outlining our ongoing commitment to better public transport and more jobs in Western Sydney. We’re putting up concrete proposals and we invite Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison to actually get on with making proper announcements which people can rely upon rather than these speculative, dodgy promises which never seem to amount to very much under the Turnbull Government.
Thank you everyone.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.