Jul 7, 2015

Transcript of media conference – Kangaroo Point, Brisbane

Subjects: Cross River Rail; public transport; need for cities policy; Bill Shorten; Turnbull on Q&A; State of Origin; marriage equality.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT, CITIES AND TOURISM: I’m very pleased to be here today with Pat O’Neill, the Labor candidate for Brisbane. Brisbane is one of the seats that we need to win back for the Australian Labor Party if we’re to form a Shorten Labor Government after the next election. I’m very pleased that someone of Pat’s quality has been chosen to represent the people of Brisbane, because Brisbane has suffered from the fact that they now have a local member who won’t stand up for the interests of the local community here against the ravages of the Abbott Government that has made cuts to education, cuts to health, cuts to public transport, cuts to pensions, in contravention of the very clear commitment that Tony Abbott gave just one day before he was elected as Prime Minister. Now today I want to talk about one of the reasons why we need a Labor Government – to re-engage with urban policy and our cities. Just today the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council has called for the creation of a Minister for Cities. These are businesses like the Property Council and other peak organisations who understand that Australia is one of the most urbanised countries on the planet, and that you can’t have a national government that shows national leadership that is not involved in improving the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities. Just yesterday the Government finally released the State of Australian Cities Report 2014. Yes, that’s right, in July, they’ve released a report that was written last year and indeed printed last December that they held onto, and according to the Departmental Secretary during the last Senate estimates, was gathering dust. He indicated it might need to be pulped. That’s because the Federal Government wants to keep away that information from the Australian public. What that report shows on page 111 for example, is that the issue of transport can only be dealt with in our cities by mass public transport. That is what Federal Labor’s been saying for some time, and what State Labor has been saying as well. It’s why the former Labor Government put money in the 2013 Budget for the Cross River Rail project. There’s no doubt that Brisbane needs a second rail crossing. Brisbane needs to deal with urban public transport. Brisbane needs a national government that will partner with the Queensland State Government in the interests of Queenslanders and in the interests of ensuring that Brisbane functions as a city and that we deal with the issue of urban congestion. A second rail crossing is essential not just for Brisbane, but of course is essential as well for the Sunshine Coast and for the Gold Coast, for increasing the capacity of the rail network. Now Labor in government invested in roads, like the Ipswich Motorway and of course Legacy Way – all roads and projects in which the Abbott Government has pretended, when it’s attended the openings, that it had something to do with. But what we understand is that you need to invest in roads but you also need to invest in public transport and I would be delighted to be able to work with Pat to ensure that the Federal Government re-engage with urban policy, re-engage with our cities. It’s about time Tony Abbott got that message.

PAT O’NEILL, FEDERAL LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BRISBANE: I just want to thank Anthony for being here today. I’ve been the Candidate for Brisbane for a week and the fact that Anthony’s already here, talking about Brisbane and the future of Brisbane shows the importance that the Federal Labor Party puts in Brisbane and the people of Queensland. Issues like infrastructure are absolutely fundamental to the future of people in Brisbane. Our ability to address issues around transport are going to determine whether we spend hours in the car getting to and from work or if we get to spend that time with our families. It’s going to determine whether business continues to invest in this great city that we’ve got, that is eminently liveable, but also accessible and usable by business, or if we start putting band aid solutions on. Brisbane needs and integrated solution. We’ve got a city that’s growing with a population that isn’t serviced appropriately by current transport. So I want to thank Anthony for being here. As the people of Brisbane would be aware, we had the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Story Bridge – the Story Bridge, where people in the past were able to look forward to the future needs of the people of Brisbane and is now a fundamental piece of infrastructure we have here. I want to work with Anthony and with the Labor Party to ensure we look forward to the future needs of people in Brisbane, so that things like the Story Bridge that have made the difference to people in Brisbane at the moment, that we have future projects that make a difference too.

ALBANESE: Happy to take questions.

REPORTER: Talk of elections raises the spectre of leadership, is Bill Shorten’s leadership strong enough to survive his appearance at the Royal Commission inquiry tomorrow?

ALBANESE: It certainly is. That is why Bill has brought forward his appearance before the Royal Commission. He’s done that, wrote to the Commission and did that so as to clear the air. Bill Shorten is proud of his involvement in the trade union movement and he’s happy to answer any questions that the Royal Commission has, and that will happen tomorrow.

REPORTER: Are you proud to have Bill Shorten as your Leader?

ALBANESE: I certainly am. I’m proud to be part of his team, and it’s a team that has effectively held this Government to account since the 2013 election. We had a process whereby I was a candidate for the leadership, we had a process that I think was transparent, that everyone got to participate in, and since then, what that did was give Labor momentum, and give Bill momentum from day one. His team is united and that can’t be said for our opponents in the Coalition who are currently brawling over whether they’re allowed to go on the Q&A program next Monday night. I mean, it has reached farcical proportions whereby you have a Prime Minister who is such a control freak that he is determining who will go on a particular program at a particular time.

REPORTER: So should Malcolm Turnbull go on Q&A next week?

ALBANESE: Of course Malcolm Turnbull should go on Q&A next week. He should either go on Q&A next week or he should go and curl up in a corner. I mean, really. If the circumstances are that he’s agreed to go on the program, it is in frankly, the Liberal Party’s interests for him to go on that program. Malcolm is an articulate guy; he’s able to put a position, why wouldn’t he want to talk to the Australian people through the Q&A program? And I’d be surprised, frankly, if Malcolm doesn’t go on Q&A next week. If he doesn’t it will just be a total humiliation.

REPORTER: But wouldn’t that serve the Labor Party’s purposes a little bit better, they wouldn’t have anyone to argue against?

ALBANESE: We’re quite happy to put our arguments. This isn’t about personalities. The problem with this Government isn’t its personalities. It’s policies. And the evidence of that is; 39 people voted for an empty chair earlier this year in Coalition party room. It’s about issues. The problem with this Government isn’t what it’s doing to each other; it’s what it’s doing to the Australian people. It’s its lack of engagement when it comes to our cities. It’s the fact that it doesn’t like public education. It’s the fact that it doesn’t like public health. It doesn’t like public housing. It doesn’t like public servants. It doesn’t like public transport. The theme here is that we have a Government that doesn’t like the public and the public have got that message and that’s why they’ve responded so strongly against the Abbott Government’s agenda.

REPORTER: Speaking of agendas, top of people’s minds this week is State of Origin. Here you are, a New South Welshman with a blue tie in Brisbane – what does that say, what are you thinking about the game?

ALBANESE: Well, I am and I’m wearing a blue tie, I’m wearing the uniform that’s been dictated to me by the Prime Minister, not because of rugby league, because the Prime Minister doesn’t understand rugby league, he’s more a rugby union guy, but the fact is that tomorrow night I’m very much looking forward to it. It’ll be very exciting. In a complete fail on my behalf I’m travelling back to Sydney tomorrow morning but I certainly will be tuned in to see how the game goes. Regardless of the outcome, if I can be generous in advance, this is a great battle between two teams and between two states. There is a great deal of goodwill. As Shadow Tourism Minister I point out that there will be there will be New South Wales people, spending their dollars, creating jobs here in Brisbane over the next 24 hours and if they win it is in Queensland’s interests because they will then spend more money over the following 24 hours, so don’t feel too bad, Queensland, if they don’t get across the line tomorrow night.

REPORTER: Just one for Pat, obviously the issue of gay marriage and marriage equality is a massive issue at the moment; it’s a public issue that’s close to your heart. What are your thoughts on a conscience vote?

O’NEILL: I’m on record as saying that I support a binding vote on marriage equality. The only way that we’re going to achieve marriage equality in Australia at the moment is by electing a Labor Government. No matter what the LNP are saying at the moment, there are LNP members who are actively trying to stop the bill for marriage equality being debated and being voted on. So in terms of the binding vote, is that all we’re asking for is a fair go. The Labor Party, Queenslanders and Australians have always stood for a fair go. Issues of marriage equality, income inequality, and gender discrimination are all fundamental issues that the Labor Party tackles and stands up for. For me, marriage equality is one of those fundamental issues that defines us as a Party, that defines us as a country. All we are asking for, and all people are asking is to be treated equally – and for me, no matter who you are, no matter what background you come from, everybody should be afforded equal rights by the government that represents them. Thank you.

ALBANESE: Thank you.