Sep 5, 2016

Transcript of Media Conference – Brisbane

Subjects: Cross River Rail, urban congestion, Malcolm Turnbull, public transport

TERRI BUTLER: Well thanks everyone for coming out today. We’re here at the Kangaroo Point Cliffs in my electorate of Griffith, and we’re here to talk about the importance of funding a major infrastructure project, which is Cross River Rail.

Cross River Rail is a project that is direly needed here in Queensland. We’ve got emergently our rail capacities are getting fuller and fuller. It’s a situation where, in fact, there is a great deal of pressure on our rail network, a great deal of pressure therefore as a consequence on our roads and on our buses.

And it’s about time the Turnbull Government committed to funding Cross River Rail, in the way that we did before the Federal Election. We made a strong commitment to Cross River Rail, in the vicinity of $800 million was committed, but it’s time for the Turnbull Government to show up and make a commitment to funding this important infrastructure project.

That’s why it’s so wonderful to have here with us today the Member for Moreton, Graham Perrett, whose electorate is also significantly affected by the absence of funding for Cross River Rail from the Federal Government, and, most importantly, Shadow Minister Anthony Albanese who is going to speak to us about the importance of Cross River Rail.

ALBANESE: Thanks very much Terri, and thanks Graham Perrett also, for joining us here once again at this iconic Brisbane location here at Kangaroo Point. I’ve been coming here now four years. The first time we spoke about Cross River Rail was immediately after the 2013 Budget, when the Federal Labor Government put into the Budget $715 million that was to be matched by the Queensland Government to get Cross River Rail done.

That was after the Bligh Government put in place the planning mechanisms, which ensured that Cross River Rail was the number one project of any infrastructure project in Australia; put on the Infrastructure Australia priority list in 2012.

We’re now back here, four years later. What we’ve seen from the Commonwealth Government, whether it be under Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull, is lost years. That means lost productivity. That means lost jobs, here in south-east Queensland. We know that the fact there’s only the Merivale Bridge Crossing here on the Brisbane River is a constraint on the public transport network for south-east Queensland. A constraint not just here in Brisbane but also, because of the capacity constraints and flow on effects, a constraint on the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. That’s why this project needs to happen and it’s worthy of the support of our national government.

When Tony Abbott came to office he said he would remove all funding for public transport and indeed he did in his 2014 Budget. But when Malcolm Turnbull took over from Tony Abbott, he said he would be different. He said he would engage with our cities and deal with urban congestion that Infrastructure Australia says will cost the national economy $50 billion in lost economic activity by the year 2031 if it is not addressed.

Well we know that it needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now. Brisbane will reach capacity in terms of its rail network, without this project, within the next five years. It’s good that the Queensland State Labor Government has today announced an upgrade for one of the stations at Central that will play a critical role in terms of the Cross River Rail project. But we need Federal Government support.

Our national government has a role to play in our cities. Our cities produce 80 per cent of the economic growth, and Brisbane, as Australia’s third largest city but this growing region of south-east Queensland needs support for this project and it’s up to Malcolm Turnbull to stop the prevarication. Stop the delay.

It’s one thing, and it’s a good thing, that he likes occasionally going on a train and getting a selfie. He did that when he was hunting down Tony Abbott as the Prime Minister. But what he hasn’t actually done is provide that funding. And it’s funding that was already in the Budget. That was put there by the former Labor Government. We recommitted to the project during the last Federal campaign and we’ve been coming here now for three and a half years saying that the Coalition Government needs to get on with this project.

Happy to take questions.

REPORTER: The latest iteration of the business development case has only been with the Federal Government for a few months, isn’t it prudent on them that they get to take their time looking at that?

ALBANESE: What we’ve seen is that consistently the project has stacked up. It was in the Infrastructure Australia priority list in 2012. It was ready to go then. What we saw then was the Campbell Newman Government come to office. I’ve just seen what its infrastructure priorities are – a big building for itself that I passed on the way here from the airport.

They withdrew funding for Cross River Rail and support for that project as a priority even though they had negotiated out between the State Government and the Federal Government equal funding for a project that would also encompass value adding as a result of the growth that will occur around this particular line. So it was ready to go. We know that it’s ready to go now. The Commonwealth Government has the business case; Infrastructure Australia has the business case. They need to get on with funding this project because the longer the delay, the greater the cost. In terms of a project, delayed is a project that ends up costing more.

But significantly as well it’s a handbrake on south-east Queensland’s economic growth right now. During the Federal campaign the Coalition said they were about jobs and growth. But they didn’t have a plan for either. They certainly didn’t have a plan for infrastructure. They provided during the campaign 78 local road project announcements, 76 of which were in Coalition held seats. None of which were significant major infrastructure projects. The entire amount totalled less than $800 million of new commitments.

That’s not a plan for infrastructure. That’s not a plan for productivity. That’s a plan for reduced growth in the future, which is why Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition need to front up to their obligations and commit to this project.

REPORTER: Don’t you think it’s reasonable that they be given time to actually analyse the business case?

ALBANESE: They’ve had time. They have had time; Infrastructure Australia has had this project for a long period of time. What you have is some change in terms of the scope of the project, but all it is, is change to the scope to the project.

They have cut the funding that was in the Budget in 2013. They’ve now been in office for more than 3 years, this is their second term, and they’re yet to commit to funding a major public infrastructure project. And this isn’t anything new. All they have to do is to commit to the funding that they themselves cut as a result of the 2014 Budget.

REPORTER: If the election result had gone a different way, would it be going ahead?

ALBANESE: Absolutely. We committed to major infrastructure projects and major public transport projects such as this one. We know that not just Infrastructure Australia, not just the Queensland State Government, not just the Brisbane City Council, not just Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, the Tourism and Transport Forum; everyone who has looked at this project has recognised that this is the most significant project for Brisbane and for south-east Queensland.

The only reason why it was cut was the ideological objection that Tony Abbott had to public transport. Now whilst that was a bit weird, and Malcolm Turnbull recognised that and overturned it, Malcolm Turnbull hasn’t in substance done anything different from Tony Abbott, which is why he needs to get on with this project.

REPORTER: It’s been suggested that the former Newman Government rejected that funding offer you made because they didn’t want to embarrass Tony Abbott at the time and his stance on public transport funding. Do you think Tim Nicholls who was Treasurer at the time has a question to answer?

ALBANESE: Well they certainly do. This was a very short-sighted political decision that wasn’t in the interest of the people of south-east Queensland. What we had was an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State. An agreement with the then Transport Minister, but also the then Premier, of $715 million from both levels of government, together with private financing that would have occurred due to the value uplift and officials had agreed to all of that.

It was in the Budget Papers. And you had a Cabinet meeting held, the day before, the second Tuesday in May when the Budget comes down in 2013, and there you had the Premier and the Transport Minister rolled within the Cabinet. Rolled within the Cabinet, and a press conference that had been finalised at this very venue, that was due to be held with Wayne Swan as the Treasurer, myself, Campbell Newman, Scott Emerson, the then Transport Minister.

It was all finalised. The wordings of the media release had been negotiated through between the two levels of government. As a result of that decision we’ve seen three years of inaction. Three years of delay. And this is a project that when it begins construction you can’t announce it and open it the next week. It takes time to get this right. It also takes time for that value to flow through in terms of the private sector impetus that will be a part of this project.

It’s good that Queensland now has a Government that is interested in dealing with urban congestion, interested in dealing with infrastructure, and a Premier in Annastacia Palaszczuk who understands the importance of this project and Ministers in Jackie Trad and Stirling Hinchliffe who are committed to this project and committed to dealing with urban congestion. Thank you.