Subjects; Infrastructure investment; jobs; Australia Post; superannuation; Labor Party
ALBANESE: It’s good to be here in Adelaide and I wanted to make some comments firstly about the Abbott Government’s approach to infrastructure investment. We all know with the moving for the resources sector from the construction to the production phase there has been a real drop-off in infrastructure investment – some 17. 3 per cent from the December 2014 quarter compared with just one year earlier. Therefore this Budget was a real lost opportunity.
At a time like this it’s important for the government to step in to invest in infrastructure so that you create jobs and you create future economic prosperity. But what we saw from the Budget in May was $2 billion cut from infrastructure this year and next. Some $318 million of that cut is right here in South Australia. The failure of the Abbott Government to invest in public transport means that the Gawler Electrification Project is now stalled. The South Australian State Government will step in and build that electrification up to Salisbury, but that work won’t commence until 2017 and of course we also saw the previous Government’s commitment to Tonsley Park cut as well.
In addition to that we saw $126 million less allocated for the North-South corridor than was allocated in last year’s Budget by the Abbott Government itself. This is having a real impact on growth and in particular in term of employment. The Abbott Government needs to take Infrastructure Australia seriously. It needs to invest in nation building infrastructure and part of that is dealing with urban congestion in our cities, which requires investment in public transport as well as roads.
Now we saw with the Noarlunga to Seaford rail extension, funded by the Federal Government, in partnership with the South Australian Labor Government, that that project created some 2000 jobs. A majority of people who worked on that project were locals from the southern suburbs of Adelaide. And already we’ve seen since it opened in early 2014, millions of passenger journeys on that route taking cars off the road, giving people a safe journey to and from work or from recreational activities and making Adelaide an even better place to live. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: I’ve just come from the conference of the Civil Contractors Federation and they’ve got a lot of concerns about the state of the economy generally here and also what they see as a lack of infrastructure money to help create jobs and help things going. Can more be done at the state and federal level?
ALBANESE: Of course it can be done and the Federal Government needs to step up to the mark here. They haven’t even fulfilled the commitments that they made from its first Budget through to its second Budget. The complete failure to invest in urban public transport, the reduction in the investment in terms of roads, all of this is having an impact. It’s having an impact on confidence and importantly it is having an impact on jobs.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of jobs, almost 2000 jobs going at Australia Post. How concerning is that?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s of real concern. This is a very large number of jobs that are being lost and Australia Post must assure the Australian public that there will be no loss of services as a result of these job losses. We all know that new technology can mean displacement in terms of employment. But we need to make sure that the services of Australia Post can still be delivered for the community. Australia Post is so important, particularly in our outer suburbs and in our regional areas. In many cases of course Australia Post do much more than the mail. Australia Post can be the place where people pay their bills, where people do their banking, where people engage in that local community. So I would be seeking assurances from Australia Post about those services and I regret the loss of jobs. The government needs to have a plan for job creation. We have this announcement from a government-owned entity. But we’ve also had here in Adelaide the circumstances whereby Joe Hockey just about told GMH to leave Adelaide and leave Australia. And yet what we have seen with the cut to the Gawler Electrification Project is that whereas people could have been retrained to move in a seamless fashion from the car industry into construction of that project, we’ve seen cuts there as well. So the Federal Government have to actually have a plan for job creation and a plan right here in Adelaide.
JOURNALIST: The Government is drafting legislation to make quite radical changes to industry super boards. They want more independent directors and also an independent chairman. Is that something that Labor is likely to support?
ALBANESE: Well look, we’ll have a look at the legislation. But this is a government and a political party, in the form of the Liberal Party, that has never supported superannuation, that go about attacking the superannuation sector, that don’t understand it, that when it came to office they changed superannuation policy so that they got rid of the Low Income Superannuation Contribution, effectively cutting the living standards of those people, those working people, very much at the bottom end of the pay scale. They also made advantages for people at the top end. And at the same time of course they changed the timetable for the increase in superannuation from 9 percent up to 12 percent with no justification whatsoever other than ideology. So this is a government when it talks about superannuation we will look at the detail. But if you look at industry super in this country and compare its returns they are very positive indeed. If you compare the size of our national savings through superannuation it is able to make a major contribution to the national economy, particularly in terms of investment in infrastructure and major projects. This is a government, and a political party in the form of the Liberal Party, that never miss an opportunity to launch attacks on the superannuation industry rather than working with it in the national economic interest.
JOURNALIST: Is there any particular reason you are no longer a part of Labor’s parliamentary tactics group?
ALBANESE: No, I if course did the job of either Manager of Opposition Business or Leader of the Government in the House for 10 years. I enjoyed doing that job. After the last election when I wasn’t successful in contesting the leadership, it was time for new people to take responsibility for that job and Tony Burke, I think, has done an excellent job as Manager of Opposition Business. But I am always available for advice and often I am asked for advice and I give it to the best of my ability. Indeed, just yesterday in the Parliament, with Tony Burke away, I ended up being the Acting Manager of Opposition Business on the floor of the Parliament. So I am always available for Bill or for Tony or anyone else and I think that is an important role for senior people who have been in the Parliament for some time to play, to play that role of providing advice when asked and I am certainly always available to assist and I am asked on a regular basis.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there could be a bit of improvement to perhaps some of the tactics and some timing of decisions?
ALBANESE: I think in terms of Labor’s parliamentary performance, if you look at the way that Labor has held the government to account, particularly with regard to its agenda of cuts – cuts to education, cuts to health, cuts to public transport funding, cuts to the ABC and SBS – you know there is something that this government reminds people of with various issues just about on a daily basis. They don’t like public education, they don’t like public health, they don’t like public transport, they don’t like the public broadcaster. There is a theme running with this government. They don’t like the public and that is getting across through Labor’s efforts to hold the government to account and that is why I am confident that whenever the election is called that Labor will be the government and Bill Shorten will be Prime Minister.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.