Subjects: WA infrastructure funding, Perth CityLink, public transport, Senate composition, same-sex marriage plebiscite, Turnbull Government dysfunction
TIM HAMMOND: Good morning. I’m proud to welcome back Anthony Albanese to Perth. It’s a testament to the commitment of the Federal Labor team that we have Shadow Ministers visiting, not just during an election campaign but so quickly afterwards to demonstrate their support and commitment to Western Australia.
Particularly in the context of Anthony Albanese’s portfolio of infrastructure, transport, cities and tourism. Especially in the context of a discussion about meaningful infrastructure, because it was only with Anthony Albanese and the Federal Labor Government who have a track record in relation to meaningful infrastructure around public transport and ensuring people can move around town.
Perth CityLink. Gateway WA. The Great Eastern Highway. Before that the Perth to Mandurah Railway – all examples of when you book infrastructure deliverables that actually make a difference to people’s lives.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much Tim and it’s great to be here with the Member for Perth rather than just the Candidate for Perth. We have an outstanding team here in Western Australia, an expanded team and this morning I was with Josh Wilson and Madeleine King down looking at the Australian Marine Complex.
It’s good that we have so many outstanding new members joining Labor’s House of Representatives team from Western Australia and it’s particularly good to be here at Perth Railway Station, the site of the Perth Citylink project – an exciting project to unite the Perth CBD with Northbridge.
It’s a project that has created jobs in the short term but will make an enormous difference to the liveability and sustainability of this great city of Perth. It’s consistent with the other work that we did, not just in rail and public transport but also Perth’s largest ever road project, Gateway WA and also of course, I’m reminded every time I land at Perth Airport and drive along the Great Eastern Highway of how important that upgrade was as well.
We want to do even more. During the election campaign we committed $1 billion to the Perth Metronet, making sure that Perth gets the public transport that it needs as a growing city, as a vibrant city. Infrastructure Australia has identified 7 of the 10 most congested routes in Australia will be right here in Perth if something isn’t done over the next 15 years.
That’s why we committed to the Gateway WA project, but that’s why also you need to have investment in public transport here in Perth. Now, in terms of priorities, it’s very clear that the Turnbull Government has its priorities all wrong.
Malcolm Turnbull likes to ride on trains and take selfies on trains, we say he should also be prepared to fund trains and the rail network, and he should do that rather than the flawed and disastrous Perth Freight Link road project.
This is a project that will have devastating environmental consequences. It’s a project that’s about taking traffic to a port at Fremantle that we know is about to reach capacity in the coming few years and that’s why the Outer Harbour should be the priority in terms of freight, in terms of port capacity, and we need to get on with that planning work to make sure that the Outer Harbour will fulfil Perth and WA’s needs into the future.
What they do need though as well is investment in public transport. I note that Mark McGowan has written to Prime Minister Turnbull just this week calling upon him to reassess the priorities and I’m concerned that the Barnett Government in its dying days will rush to sign a contract which will make it difficult in terms of the future here in Perth and WA. We remain committed to cities.
We remain committed to productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities which is why we believe the Perth Metronet projects are the priority and should be the priority for Federal Government funding as well as for funding from the State Government.
The State Government produced a transport plan that’s just lines on a map. It doesn’t have funding attached. It doesn’t have timelines attached and it doesn’t have the proper plan.
Perth needs better which is why they should adopt the agenda that we put forward constructively during the election campaign and we’re maintaining our constructive position about Perth’s future with today’s announcements.
REPORTER: So I guess you’re saying that you’d like to see the Government and ensure they invest in better infrastructure for our global cities?
ALBANESE: We need better infrastructure for Perth. It is a growing city. It is a city that is increasingly suffering from congestion, and we know that the key to dealing with congestion is public transport. That’s what Infrastructure Australia says, that’s what all the studies that have been done say, which is why it needs to be a priority and why that investment needs to happen now.
We committed in the 2013 Budget $500 million for public transport here in Perth. That was ripped out by the Abbott Government Budget of 2014. What we need to make sure is that Perth gets the infrastructure that it needs. What has happened in the first term of the Abbott-Turnbull Governments is that they’ve been prepared to go around and try and claim ownership for projects like Gateway WA that were funded by the former Labor Government. They can’t do that anymore. They have to come up with a plan of their own and they have to come up with investment.
REPORTER: This is just on other issues. The makeup of the Senate is now known. The government will need nine people to vote with them. How hard will it be for them?
ALBANESE: Well this is a Government that had difficulty negotiating with a considerable majority in the House of Representatives and what should have been a workable position in the Senate.
They had arrogance, but most importantly they didn’t have an agenda. But what’s very clear is that I can’t recall a Government that is yet to be sworn in in terms of the new Parliament that has been so chaotic.
Whether it is the handling of Kevin Rudd’s nomination for the UN Secretary-General’s position; whether it is the Census that will take place next week; whether it is the future agenda of this Government. Wherever you look it has been chaotic and it has lacked coherence.
You have a Cabinet that is leaking on itself. The first thing they’ve got to do isn’t negotiate with the cross-benchers to get some form of harmony; they’ve got to try get some harmony themselves. At the moment we have a divided Government – a divided Government that can’t hope to be able to negotiate with cross-benchers that are so diverse.
The cross-bench is so large as a result of the Greens political party and the Liberals, Malcolm Turnbull and Richard di Natale are directly responsible for the outcome. We have seen a resurgence of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, as well as a range of other cross-bench Senators elected. They now have to deal with that reality.
REPORTER: But are you willing to give some ground on some [inaudible] legislation [inaudible]?
ALBANESE: We’re about the national interest and we want to serve that national interest rather than play politics. That’s why I’m here today with Tim Hammond announcing that we want to see Perth Metronet and Perth public transport funded.
We’re providing an avenue for the Government to do that through not proceeding with the flawed Freight Link project. That’s something they could do today. Right now, I’m sure it would be welcomed by the WA Government because it’s very clear that they have got themselves into a circumstance with Perth Freight Link where they abandoned public transport investment because of Tony Abbott’s ideological objection to public transport.
Now Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t have that ideological position, but he has the same outcome. We’re still not seeing that investment in public transport. So this is an opportunity for the Turnbull Government to embrace what we’re saying constructively, here today. Investment in public transport and investment in infrastructure shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Malcolm Turnbull needs to get on board with that agenda.
REPORTER: Why hasn’t Labor yet decided in principle if it would vote for a same-sex marriage plebiscite?
ALBANESE: Well what we’ve decided in principle is that we would vote for marriage equality in the Parliament right now. If you want to look at a way to save money, there’s half a billion dollars that could be saved by not proceeding with a plebiscite that will be divisive, that will cause a great deal of concern out there in the community and isn’t necessary.
We’re not having a plebiscite about issues of defence, issues of infrastructure, issues of education, issues of healthcare. Why single out the issue of marriage equality, which after all won’t take away rights from anyone that currently enjoys it. All that’s about is giving some people in our communities the right to have their relationship treated the same as my relationship is at the moment.
REPORTER: Mr Shorten says Labor is willing to be constructive, what will that look like? Are you willing to be constructive on things you might initially disagree with?
ALBANESE: We’re prepared to have discussions with the Government. The problem that this Government has is that they don’t discuss issues. If you have a look at the issue of the Royal Commission into the Northern Territory juvenile detention you would have thought that on an issue like that, the Government would pick up the phone and consult with the Opposition about the terms of reference. Consult with the Opposition about who the Commissioner was going to be, consult with the Opposition about the timeframes.
This should be an issue that is above partisan politics. It should be an issue, and I’m sure it is, that everyone is concerned about. How about a bit of consultation? If that had happened you wouldn’t have had the debacle we’ve had this week with the Commissioner appointed resigning a few days later and then having to be fixed up and the appointment of an indigenous Commissioner that should have happened from the very beginning.
So the Government has to learn from these mistakes. It has to be prepared to consult with the Opposition. I’ve asked for a briefing, for example, and will receive next week a briefing from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau about a range of issues including the MH370. I’ve done that, but I had to initiate it.
The Government hasn’t once picked up the phone since I’ve been the Shadow Minister, rather than the Minister, and offered briefings on issues. And that’s what the Government needs to do a lot better. They need to acknowledge it’s not a born to rule mentality, but I’ve got to say in their petty and vindictive rejection and failure to nominate Kevin Rudd for the UN Secretary-General position, that’s not a good sign. That’s the sort of pettiness that says if you’re from Labor, we will play politics with you. This Government needs one that serves the national interest, not partisan political interests.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.