Mar 11, 2016

Transcript of media conference – Sydney

Subjects: Badgerys Creek rail line; Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Fletcher’s contradictory statements; cities policy; Liberal-Greens preference deal; Pat Dodson; Linda Burney; Barton electorate 

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today if you looked at the front page of one of the major newspapers in Sydney, you could be forgiven for thinking that Malcolm Turnbull had actually discovered a policy and was making an announcement of infrastructure development by supporting a rail line to Badgerys Creek airport.

Of course, this is something that Federal Labor has supported from day one of the announcement of the Second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek. If Badgerys Creek airport is to be a success, it needs to be more than just runways and a terminal.

It needs to be a creator of jobs and economic growth in Western Sydney. And for that to occur, it needs to be done on day one to have public transport access. The government has said it will create a cavity so that a future rail station can be put in there.

And as late as last week, Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Major Projects in the government, was saying that that wouldn’t be possible until sometime down the track.

Malcolm Turnbull is now saying that it needs to be done but in his own words to quote him, “neither the Australian nor the NSW Government can commit today to completing a rail connection by 2026. There is too little known about the route, the cost, the value created, and the sources of funding.”

So apart from the fact they don’t know where it’s going, they don’t know who’s going to pay for it, there’s no Commonwealth Government announcement of paying for it, and they don’t know what sort of rail connection it’ll be, it’s all okay.

This is the big Malcolm Turnbull cities announcement of today after he walked away from having a Minister for Cities.

He also this morning on ABC radio had a bit to say about cities policy and he said this; “we’ve got to work around the idea of a 30 minute city, where people can get to work, to university, to school, to whatever they want to do, all of the things they want to do within 30 minutes. That should be your goal.”

Now, when I was listening to 702 this morning thought that was a little bit familiar. And indeed it is. At the National Press Club way back in 2014 I said this in a launch of our ten point cities plan:

“I’m particularly attracted towards consideration of the 30 minute city concept….this is the simple concept that most of people’s day to day work, education, shopping or recreational activities should be located within 30 minutes of walking, cycling or public commuting from their home.”

I’m glad that Malcolm Turnbull has been paying some attention to what Labor has been saying about cities policy. But this is following, not leading.

And saying that you want a rail line to Badgerys Creek airport without providing any funding, without providing any clear step forward, and without a commitment even that it will be completed in 10 years’ time, is pretty inadequate.

It is symptomatic of a Prime Minister who has disappointed Australians because of what they expected when he took over the leadership from Tony Abbott and the fact that he simply hasn’t been able to deliver it.

So today I call upon Malcolm Turnbull, who’s been part of the government for almost three years, to get on with the job of making sure that this rail line is delivered. To provide funding. To provide certainty and to get on with it so that indeed it is fully completed by 2026.

I called, during the March state election here in NSW with Luke Foley, for this to be funded, in part through value capture. I spoke about at the Sydney Institute last night, I spoke about that at the National Press Club, I’ve raised this over and over again.

It appears now that they’ve been listening as well and going down the road of considering value capture and how it can assist to fund such a project. Malcolm Turnbull’s right to follow Labor’s lead on that issue as well.

Can I say something about the preference arrangements that have been entered into between the Greens and the Liberal Party.

I said on ABC Radio on Wednesday that this arrangement had been entered into and named Michael Kroger as the person who was negotiating the very specific arrangements that have been entered into between himself and Richard Di Natale, and that those arrangements would see Liberal Party preferences delivered to try to replace Labor sitting MPs including myself and Tanya Plibersek in the electorate of Sydney with Greens MPs.

In return, the Greens would issue open tickets in terms of the coming federal election in key seats and therefore provide a greater opportunity for Liberal MPs to either be re-elected or to gain seats off the Labor Party due to the difference in terms of less Greens preferences flowing to Labor.

A number of Greens members suggested that that wasn’t the case. Well, Michael Kroger yesterday conceded in an interview on Sky News with David Speers, said very clearly, that there was indeed, he called it “a loose arrangement” between the parties.

He went on in defence of his new found friend, Richard Di Natale and his position with regard to those issues.

But of course you don’t have to just stick with Labor’s view. Osman Faruqi is a prominent Greens Party member and was the candidate in Heffron, which in part covers my electorate, in the past.

Osman Faruqi has said “very confusing to see Greens members on social media furiously denying preference deal as Liberals all but confirm it.”

And indeed, he’s pointed out quite helpfully, “I can’t think of any marginal seat in 2010 or 2013 where Greens issued an open ticket.”

And indeed, he’s quite right. I’ve been someone who has sat down with the Greens and other progressive parties in the past and negotiated preference arrangements.

I think there’s a great deal of concern from Greens supporters that this arrangement will assist Liberals to be re-elected and from Liberal supporters who are concerned that they’ll support the election to Parliament of people who have very different views from that held by the Liberal Party.

This is cynical opportunism at its worst and it should be rejected by both members of the Greens and members of the Liberals for being exactly that.

REPORTER: Was the High Speed Rail that you were discussing before, is it not fair if the Prime Minister hasn’t achieved a [inaudible] in terms of accelerating this projects, is it not fair to go about and do the costings and work out those finer details to get it started as opposed to just going in [inaudible].

ALBANESE: It is certainly a good thing to get the planning done. The question is, Malcolm Turnbull has been Prime Minister now for 6 months but more importantly he’s been part of a government for almost 3 years.

And just last week his ministers in his government were dismissing the idea of a rail link being available at or around where the airport is opening.

The statement today is an aspiration rather than a policy. That’s my criticism of this government. They have put a handbrake on infrastructure investment.

We’ve seen a 20 per cent decline in infrastructure investment since the change of government and that is of very real concern.

With regard to the rail project, for the Prime Minister to say, as someone who’s in the same political party as the NSW Premier, that essentially, there’s too little known about the route, the cost, the value created and the sources of funding, suggests that this is something that was thought up, this announcement, this week because the Prime Minister was speaking at the conference today rather than doing any considered work on the project.

REPORTER: Pat Dodson’s leaving his position as the Co-Chair of the Indigenous Referendum for the Senate; does that effectively hamper the Council’s functioning in the lead up to the election?

ALBANESE: Not at all. I think that Patrick Dodson entering the Senate advances reconciliation and I noticed that his election has been welcomed by Indigenous Australians and others right across the board.

Pat Dodson can be seen as one of the fathers of reconciliation. Having his voice directly in the Senate directly empowers the reconciliation process and there are of course many very capable people who will be in a position to take up Pat’s role outside the Parliament, but I think the whole movement is strengthened by his presence as a Senator.

REPORTR: On another matter, with regards to Linda Burney switching to Federal Politics, are you worried that some ALP branch members are resistant to her taking on the seat of Barton or being appointed to Barton?

ALBANESE: Not at all. I live in Barton, as has been publicised. I’m an ALP member in Barton and Barton ALP members overwhelmingly are very excited about the prospect of Linda Burney running for Barton.

One of the reasons why I had to choose between which seat I ran in, one of the reasons why I chose to run in Grayndler, even though I now live in Barton, was that that opened up the possibility of getting the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives.

I’m proud to support Linda Burney. The overwhelming majority of ALP members, there are a couple of people, one of whom I’ve never met, one of whom I think I’ve met once, have nominated for the seat.

That is their right, but the ballot was taking place this morning and I’m very confident that Linda Burney will be successful.

Everyone I speak to, not just in the Labor Party, but outside the Labor Party as well, is very excited at the prospect of Linda Burney entering the national parliament.

They know as the Member for Canterbury, most of which is in the electorate of Barton, that she’s been an outstanding local member as well as a great role model, particularly for Indigenous women, but a great parliamentarian who is characterised by much more than her background.

She’s characterised by the work that she’s done in community services, in education, in health. She’ll be a great asset for the Labor team and I’m confident that she’ll be a very good member for the electorate of Barton.