Jul 28, 2015

Transcript of media conference – Penny Road Redevelopment, Launceston

Subjects: Tourism, infrastructure, Cadbury grant, NBN, Bronwyn Bishop, Greens political party

ALBANESE: Well thanks for joining us at what is an iconic tourism venue that will be an even more significant tourism venue. I am here in Tasmania for the next two days looking at tourism infrastructure and also having meetings about infrastructure and transport here in Tasmania.

I think Tasmanians are entitled to be very disappointed at the Abbott Government. At the last federal election they elected three new Coalition members for the five House of Representatives seats that are here in Tasmania. You would have thought that might have resulted in something positive for Tasmania. However what we’ve seen is not a single new road or rail infrastructure project here in Tasmania over both budgets that the Coalition has handed down. Indeed we’ve seen cuts – $100 million cut from the Midland Highway, $30 million cut from the rail revitalisation program funded by the former government, and a series of re-announcements by the Abbott Government pretending that projects like the Brooker Highway, pretending that other projects that have occurred are somehow new.

At the same time we’ve seen the abolition of the regional tourism funding, including for Round II here in Tasmania, there were 44 applications for that fund – 44 local businesses that had partnered with their own investments or with investments from other levels of government seeking a commitment from the Federal Government. What we saw was that abolished. And of course we saw the one significant announcement that was made for tourism prior to the last election – that of Cadbury – a  $16 million grant. We’ve seen that abolished and the money simply disappear from that project and not be re-allocated for any tourism grants. We’ve seen projects like the Three Capes Walk, which received $12 million funding when I was the Regional Development Minister from the federal government, fail to receive any funding for Stage III of that iconic project. Wherever you look in Tasmania, this government has let Tasmanians down and its three local members are basically silent in being advocates for Tasmania.

Later tomorrow I’ll be visiting the West Coast Wilderness Railway. Sid Sidebottom was annoying to the point of driving me crazy to get funding for that project. What we saw from the previous advocates was people who were prepared to stand up for their electorates. The three Coalition members haven’t basically troubled the scorers in Canberra. Let’s hope the Australian cricket team do a bit better than they are doing when the Third Test begins tomorrow night.

So I am calling upon the Federal Government, which returned three new Coalition members, to actually take Tasmania seriously, to fund new infrastructure, to fund tourism infrastructure in particular because that’s what Tasmania needs in terms of future jobs growth and its future economic development. Projects like this here, seeing $12 million of private sector investment, are worthy of the federal and state governments coming to the party and saying we will back up that commitment that the private sector is making to the future of Tasmania by us partnering, by doing our fair share of the lifting.

I am happy to take questions.

REPORTER: You say that the Cadbury money has disappeared, but the Coalition is says that it is going to be available for other projects.

ALBANESE: Yes, where are they? They’ve been in Government. We are now in the lead-up to the next election. They have been there. There’s been two budgets. They’ve promised it and said it was ready to go. They said it had a business case. They said it was all organised. I said at the time (this is my fourth visit to Tasmania this year) – in 2013 I happen to know I came to Tasmania nine times. I am a regular visitor here to the south island and when the Cadbury project was raised I made the point as the person who was responsible for regional development and local government for a considerable period of time of the previous Labor Government in Canberra, that I had received applications about literally dozens and dozens of projects and not once had I received an application or any lobbying or a letter, or an email, or a phone call about granting money to Cadbury, which is why it came as a great surprise, I’ve got to say, that the $16 million plucked out in the context of an election campaign as if it was ready to go, and what we now know is that it was all faded into the distance. For two years the Abbott Government pretended that this project was going ahead. I never saw a business case at a time when we put together the $100 million package including support for everything from the salmon industry through to bike tracks around here in Launceston, due to projects like the Launceston ring road, the projects here across the board we were receiving lobbying. I as the minister came down and had three meetings around Tasmania with each of the regional groups that had been established and received applications about what the priorities were. No-one ever said the Cadbury grant.

What is very clear now is that in the lead up to the election they were prepared to say anything to pretend that somehow they supported jobs and economic activity here in Tasmania. It wasn’t real. It has disappeared. We said it wasn’t real at the time and they are the government. Are you telling me that there aren’t $16 million worth of projects that could be funded? I’ll tell you what, go back to the 44 projects that had already submitted their applications for Round II of the regional tourism funding. That’s a good start. There’s more than $16 million worth of projects there that could be creating jobs right now.

REPORTER: Would it surprise you if they left the money until the election campaign in a bid to re-elect the three northern MPs?

ALBANESE: Well I am glad you are on to them because what I wouldn’t be at all surprised happens if in the lead-up to the election campaign there are more empty promises made by the Abbott Government. Remember you were going to see an international ship going to and from with goods from Launceston as well. I remember well sitting down with people from The Examiner and other of the media here in beautiful Launceston prior to the election when we were putting forward serious plans worked out by serious people to grow industry and jobs here in Tasmania. What we see from the Coalition is being prepared to say one thing before an election and another afterwards. What we’ve seen is half the homes in Launceston that were going to get access to the National Broadband Network. Remember that? Just before the election Malcolm Turnbull was here saying everything would remain intact. Tasmanians would all receive the NBN that there were already getting as a result of the rollout of fibre to the home. The project began here in Tasmania for good reason. I as Communications Minister came here. The reason why that was a good idea is because Tasmania, as the south island, suffers from the tyranny of distance. The NBN is about making Launceston just as accessible to the rest of Australia and the world as a business in George Street, Sydney. Now that has disappeared as well. This is a Coalition Government that has taken Tasmanians for granted. They promised things before the election. Without even talking about the cuts to education, health and pensions, they made specific promises for Tasmanians on the National Broadband Network, on road and rail infrastructure, on tourism infrastructure. They haven’t been delivered. And they can’t be believed.

REPORTER: Just a couple of questions on Bronwyn Bishop. You are probably aware that there is mounting pressure for her to explain a travel claim which seems to be for Sophie Mirabella’s wedding. She says it was for official business in the area. What are your thoughts on that?

ALBANESE: Bronwyn Bishop should go. Her position is untenable. Bronwyn Bishop, every day that she presides over the chairing of the Parliament, will undermine the integrity of the Parliament. It is time to move on. Bronwyn Bishop has been a partisan speaker of the Parliament and Australians I think have all come to the conclusion that she should go. I am sure that most of her Coalition colleagues have also come to that conclusion. Tony Abbott needs to act, frankly, in his own interests and in the interests of his government and tell his friend Bronwyn Bishop that she should go. I have a good relationship with Bronwyn Bishop. I don’t mind the fact that she is a partisan warrior for her political cause. She is a partisan Liberal warrior and she makes no secret of that. But you can’t preside over the chairing of the Australian Parliament whilst you are having fundraisers in your office for your political party, whilst you are attending Liberal party fundraisers, not even for the federal Liberal Party but for the Victorian Liberal Party in the lead-up to the last election, while you are sitting in a caucus room, whilst you are participating on QandA as a partisan warrior; whilst you are presiding over a position whereby the penalty count with 400 penalties being given is 393 to seven. If this was an Aussie Rules game or a rugby league game, people would have jumped the fence by now. It’s not on. It’s over, the game is up, time to go.

And let me say one thing spontaneously about the Greens political party and the news that the replacement for Senator Christine Milne has been chosen by the Greens but no-one is allowed to know who it is, no one is allowed to know who the candidates were, no-one is allowed to know how many people voted in this ballot and no-one is allowed to know how many votes there were for that ballot. We know four of the names have slipped out buy there are six phantom Greens candidates for the Senate. This comes after the fact that no one knew until months afterwards that there had a ballot for the deputy leadership of the Australian Greens.

None knew that Christine Milne was going to step aside. Not only no-one knew in the public, some of her own colleagues didn’t know so that she could slip out and a new candidate slip in.

No-one is allowed to attend Greens political party conferences. And I just say this – whatever the faults of the great Australian Labor Party to which I belong, we are the only political party in Australia that is prepared to be accountable. We are the only political party in Australia that has just spent three days examining, debating out policies about the future of the nation on health, on education, on infrastructure, on foreign policy. We do that out in the open. We do it with participation where not only party members can attend. You don’t even have to go because it is broadcast live on national TV, being prepared to have debates. It shows that we are a mature political party.

At a time when the Greens political party have the hide to talk about transparency, I say to them we will treat you with a shred of credibility when you stop this secret Stalinist society that is the Greens political party in Australia. Thanks very much.