May 11, 2016

Transcript of press conference – Glendale, NSW

Subjects: Election 2016; Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, shouldn’t you be sandbagging in Grayndler?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, CITIES AND TOURISM: No, what I’m about is making sure that there is a Federal Labor Government. And the way that will happen is ensuring that good local members such as Sharon Clayton, Pat Conroy and Joel Fitzgibbon are returned to their respective electorates, and that Meryl Swanson is elected as the Labor Member for Paterson.

I’m about ensuring a majority Labor Government because it’s only a majority Labor Government that’s concerned with jobs and economic activity in regional centres such as the Hunter. This project – Labor’s commitment of $13 million to the second stage of this project – will ensure in terms of economic developments that are happening around the Glendale area, more than $1 billion in economic activity with 5,000 construction jobs.

This is an extraordinary project that has a benefit-to-cost ratio higher than any infrastructure project in the nation. And it’s a tragedy that it’s been ignored by the Coalition Government, that indeed, not just have they not backed up Labor’s commitment, where previously as the Minister, we committed $30 million to the activity that we’re seeing around here right now. They actually cut funding that had been granted under the Regional Development Australia Fund when they came to office.

Economic activity, jobs and housing supply are all benefited by this activity here. It will make an enormous difference in terms of reducing traffic congestion. It will make an enormous difference in terms of construction jobs in the short term, but the long term economic sustainability of this region will benefit so much with this project. And I’m very proud to be back here today. I was here a month ago and I’ve been a regular visitor here – because this is an exciting project for the Hunter. We take our responsibility for cities seriously. That’s why, in terms of the commitment that we’ve made here, backs up the other commitments that we’ve made and will make to this great Newcastle region. We have a fantastic set of members here now, and Meryl will join that to be part of our team in Canberra – delivering jobs and economic activity for Newcastle.

JOURNALIST: Specifically, what will this $13 million be going towards?

ALBANESE: Well, what it will go to is the second stage of this project. The first section, the second section of the first stage, was broken up into two. It’s a joint project – Commonwealth, State, and local funding. $13 million from the Commonwealth is our commitment, $5 million has already been put aside by Lake Macquarie Council. We expect the State Government to support this project.

This is absolutely essential for the region and it will make such an enormous difference. What we have here is industrial activity, we have a shopping centre, we have housing, we have an entire region being opened up and this will be a turbo boost for jobs and economic activity here in Newcastle.

JOURNALIST: What would you be calling on the local member or the Coalition to be doing? Would you like to see them match the commitment?

ALBANESE: The Coalition should match this commitment. They shouldn’t have cut funding for the project in the first place and there’s been three years of the project not being advanced after the former Federal Labor Government put in $13 million into the first stage. This is an important project that is in the national interest.

The benefit-cost-ratio of this project is around about $100 of economic activity for every dollar of Federal Government investment. And that’s why it is so important, so important, that the Federal Government match our commitment and that the State Government come to the party.

It’s not good enough that the Coalition Government, upon coming to office in 2013, abandoned the Hunter. People of the Hunter know that it is Federal Labor that contributed something like $1.5 billion to the Hunter Expressway. It’s Federal Labor that put the funding there for the Tourle Street Bridge and for other activity in this region, and its Federal Labor of course that put the $13 million into the Glendale Interchange to get this project going. But this is a project that needs to have a seamless transition, that is important, that’s why we would make the funding immediately available upon us coming to office if we’re successful on the second of July.

JOURNALIST: What does immediately available mean? Does it mean on the third?

ALBANESE: It means as soon as the documents can be signed and the contracts sorted out, the funding would be available.

Now what we’ve had for this project, with Pat, Sharon and Joel, and now Meryl, is strong advocacy for the region. Might I say also, Lake Macquarie Council. Jodie Harrison is the Mayor. The contribution of substantial funding from a local government commitment to this project deserves full credit for Lake Macquarie Council. It is a project supported by all the councils. It’s about time it was supported by all of the Federal Government and all of the State Government as well.

JOURNALIST: In extension to that, obviously the State Government has to get on board and kick in the same amount that your government is offering here. Do you have a message for the state members here?

ALBANESE: Well the State Government need to make sure that they’re delivering for this project. And this is an investment. This isn’t an outgoing that won’t produce a return. What this will produce is dollars to the State Government because of various tax regimes. It will produce, of course, an increase in rates paid to the local council. It will produce a benefit to the national economy through a surge in economic growth coming from this region. And that’s why it makes sense to make this investment.

We’re seeing substantial private sector investment being facilitated by a relatively small government commitment. And that’s why the government talks a lot, Malcolm Turnbull, about value capture. That’s a vague term that he uses to pretend that you can get something for nothing. Well I’ve got news for him when it comes to cities. Cities are not just Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Cities are the great city of Newcastle. And the great city of Newcastle, the centre of the Hunter Region, should be given this support. It’s through growth in our regional cities that the pressure will be taken off those capital cities. The pressure in terms of housing development, the pressure in terms of local job creation. All of that will occur here through this project. It’s a very exciting project. It’s one that’s worthy of support. It’s one where Federal Labor have supported it in the past, and we look forward to supporti ng it in the future after July 2 and I would call upon the State Government to get on board, and not just sit back as participants.

The state Coalition were quite happy to sit back as participants and not talk to their federal colleagues about why this is important. The Council has made previous submission to the Federal Government under their regional funding. It appears that in terms of regional funding, unless you’re in a National Party seat, you don’t get a look in. The fact is that our great regions of Australia have at their centre, great regional cities such as Newcastle. Which is why we need support for this project.

JOURNALIST: Mr Conroy, a question for you. Today, the Liberal candidate was announced, Jenny Barrie. She believes that Shortland has been neglected since its creation. It’s been in the Labor Party’s hands and it’s time for the Liberal Party to get a shot. A response?

PAT CONROY, MEMBER FOR CHARLTON: Well that’s absolute rubbish. Today we’re announcing $13 million worth of investment in the bordering seat of Hunter right next to Shortland. That will deliver 10,000 jobs for our region, unlocking $1.2 billion of construction activity. That’s a Labor Party announcement that benefits the electors of Shortland. On top of that we announced yesterday that our “Your Child, Our Future” package would deliver $33 million for Shortland schools. As Anthony Albanese said, only Labor can deliver for the Hunter, only Labor will continue to deliver for the Hunter. I welcome the fact that the Liberal Party has finally preselected a candidate to run in Shortland. They’ve known about this election for quite some time. But the main fact is that we’re announcing today’s great news – 10,000 jobs, $1.2 billion of construction activit y. All because of a Labor commitment today.

JOURNALIST: The candidate also said that she’s sort of well-known in the business community, Jenny, she said that she would support funding for this project. Of course, she’s got some of her federal counterparts on board.

CONROY: Well she’s got to get a Coalition Minister to come up here and say that. It’s easy for a new candidate to say she’s supportive but I’m yet to see a media release from the Liberal Party saying, “I’ll match our funding”.  We need the final $13 million to unlock 10,000 jobs for this region, so this project should be bipartisan and unfortunately as Anthony has said, when the Liberals came to power in 2013 they cut $1 million from this project. They’ve had three Budgets to deliver for the Glendale Transport Interchange and they’ve delivered zero.

In fact, they’ve cut funding. So look at the runs on the board and their record is woeful.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese is it true, would you be having this discussion today if there were more marginal seats in the Hunter. Would there be a guarantee we would receive this funding?

ALBANESE: Well this is a guarantee. This is a guarantee from Labor that we will deliver this as we have in the past.

It does say something about the contempt that the coalition has for the Hunter that they have decided just today to select a candidate for Shortland.

That says it all about them, ignoring this region. This is a vital region for the country. They have had, I must say, that after we visited here all of us who are standing here before you and Joel Fitzgibbon, just a month ago, the big hint was there for the Coalition Government to put it in the Budget and we called for it then.

And last Tuesday they had an opportunity to put it in the Budget and they didn’t. Three Budgets in a row where there wasn’t a single dollar for infrastructure in Newcastle. Not a dollar. Not a dollar for rail. Not for a dollar for roads. Not a dollar for any infrastructure project.

I can tell you when I was Infrastructure Minister there wasn’t a Budget without commitments for Newcastle and the Hunter region. Every single Budget. Money for rail. Money for roads. Money for projects such as this.

We delivered for the Hunter and if we’re in government we’ll be back delivering again, starting with this vital project.

JOURNALIST: If it was less of a Labor stronghold does that mean the Coalition would deliver more funding for the region?

ALBANESE: Well, the Coalition had every seat at one stage, in the State Government, from the time you cross the Harbour Bridge to the time you hit the Tweed River. And they had every seat in terms of the North Coast of New South Wales including the marginals.

Have a look at what happened on the Pacific Highway. Have a look at what happened on the F3. It took a Labor Government to deliver the more than $300 million of upgrades that have taken place now in terms of the F3, all put in the 2013 Budget.

It took a Federal Labor Government to deliver $7.6 billion for the Pacific Highway including projects like the Bulahdelah Bypass, the Kempsey Bypass, the Ballina Bypass, the Glenugie Upgrade, the Arrawarra section of the Highway. It took a Labor Government.

They put in $1.3 billion over 12 years, we put in $7.6 billion over half that time. Four times the funding in half the time, in spite of the fact that they held all of those seats.

It is Labor that is the party of nation building. Labor is the party of infrastructure development and it is Labor that is the party of jobs.

This Coalition think that if Government just gets out of the way and leaves it to the market the trickle-down effect will look after everyone. That’s their vision of the national economy. Our vision is the government supporting jobs, supporting the private sector and we’re doing that right here. $13 million leading to the creation of thousands of jobs and over a billion dollars of economic activity. That’s our vision. It’s right here, right now. In concrete form, literally.

JOURNALIST: Is it true that workers could just pack up? And have you ever seen that happen before if new funding is not delivered?

ALBANESE: Well, if funding isn’t delivered, of course that’s what happens. There’s a range of projects we can see that has happened around New South Wales and around Australia because you haven’t had a continuation of the funding. Now the problem there, I’ll give you an example. The new south-west rail line, the State Labor Government funded to Leppington should have continued on to Badgery’s Creek on the main western line and beyond. It stopped. It will now be more expensive to get that started again.

There’ll be a tragedy if the work stops here and at some stage in the future work commences again. That does not make sense. What makes economic sense is continuing the work. We have a skilled workforce here. They deserve the certainty of their jobs into the future and business that wants to invest, that’s waiting for this contribution, deserves that certainty as well. It would be cheaper for the government, cheaper for the private sector and cheaper therefore for the national economy as a whole if there is a smooth transition of this project to the next stage. That’s why this announcement is being made today, that’s why I say that this funding will be available on July 3 because we want to make sure that a smooth transition occurs, that we keep the workforce here. Who have the skills, who have the local knowledge built up, rather than bringing people in, going through all the costs of retraining and reorientation with the site that will occur if work does grind to a halt in the future.

JOURNALIST: So with funding on July 3, boots on the ground, do we have any ballpark timeline on when we’ll see them here?

ALBANESE: The boots are on the ground right now. They’re standing over there. They’re driving that tractor, they’re driving that crane. That’s the tragedy here. That’s why this project makes absolute sense and that’s why this should have been included, frankly, not in this year’s Budget, not in last year’s Budget, but the one before. That’s when the project should have received the certainty. Not for the funding to commence immediately, but that certainty. That’s certainly something that would have occurred had Labor been successful. That’s what we do.

JOURNALIST: What’s the cost of restarting a project like this for instance?

ALBANESE: Look I don’t believe in making up figures, I leave that to the Coalition and to Scott Morrison. What I deal with is fact. We know there is a big economic cost. But let me say this, more importantly than a financial cost or a number, it’s the cost to the workers and their families. The cost of being told on a project that you know is so worthwhile, that you’ve invested in, that you’re proud of, having to stop that work, having your families have to look perhaps for work outside of the region and having to start up again. That is the real tragedy here and that’s why this funding is so critical. It’s why it has to happen now and why Joel, Pat, Sharon and Meryl are so committed to making sure that happens.

Thanks very much.