Jan 20, 2015

Transcript of press conference – Melbourne

Subjects: Benefits of public transport, Melbourne Metro, Brisbane Cross River Rail, East-West Link, Infrastructure Australia, Manus Island.

ALBANESE: It’s good to be here in Melbourne and to have the opportunity to talk about the important report that’s been released today by the Australasian Railway Association. What this report highlights is the benefit to commuters of having access to public transport. We know there are significant economic benefits in terms of productivity and the way that our cities function better by having investment in public transport.

What this report shows is the benefit to individuals. They show up to $12,600 can be saved on an annual basis by people who are able to use public transport rather than their car, when all costs are taken into account – costs including petrol, registration, parking and other fees. These figures come from organisations like the NRMA that have assessed the costs of running a private motor vehicle. Here in Melbourne and in Brisbane the costs are higher.

An average of $10,000 annually would be the savings to drivers in those cities who replace motor vehicle use with public transport use. But in order for people to have that option, they need to have access to public transport. That’s why the record investment by the former federal Labor Government was so important with projects the Regional Rail Link here in Melbourne.

That will make a difference to commuters not just from Melbourne but also to people from Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat. That’s why we prioritized by having Infrastructure Australia assess projects based on their productivity. Projects like the Cross River Rail and Melbourne Metro. All had federal funding included in the Budget. Tony Abbott in his book Battlelines outlines this bizarre proposition, where he says, in his words, ‘Mostly there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car and cars need roads.’.

What this report shows is that that attitude hurts individuals; it doesn’t just hurt the economy here in Victoria and the economy nationally. We’ve seen here in Victoria that Tony Abbott’s proposed East-West Link where $1.5 billion was forwarded to the Victorian Government as an advance payment, in contravention of the federal Government’s own stated policies, only had a cost-benefit analysis of 0.45 or 45 cents benefit for every dollar expended. So whether you look at the national economic circumstances or whether you look at individual finances, investment in public transport is good for the economy and its good for families.

QUESTION: If you win the next federal election would you reinvest that money into public transport?

ALBANESE: Tony Abbott has not invested any new money. He took $3 billion allocated for the Melbourne Metro and put it into the East-West Link. What we’ve said is we will have Infrastructure Australia drive where investment should go. We know that the Melbourne Metro project stacks up. The Victorian Government prioritised during the state election campaign the removal of level crossings that are important for productivity but also critical for road safety. They also have a proposal to increase access to the Westgate bridge, particularly for heavy vehicle traffic. What we will do in the lead up to the federal election is talk to our Victorian state colleagues about what their priorities are but we will also be guided  by what Infrastructure Australia says and proper cost-benefit analysis. We know the Melbourne Metro is a needed project here in Melbourne just like we know the Cross River Rail project is needed by commuters in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast in Queensland.

QUESTION: Do you support the state Labor Government’s decision to rip up the East-West contracts given it might cost $1 billion in compensation?

ALBANESE: I’ve seen some extraordinary comments from the now Victorian Opposition speaking about the cost to Victorians for a contract that they entered into just a few weeks before caretaker mode knowing that it was a real possibility that they wouldn’t be the government, and knowing that the alternative government’s position was that it should not proceed. We know now that the project simply doesn’t stack up. That’s why the Infrastructure Australia process is so important. Bringing transparency. Allowing taxpayers to see what the quantitative results are of an analysis of proposed investment of their money into projects. The Victorian Liberal Government stand condemned for what they did in their final days. What Daniel Andrews has done is exactly what he said he would do. The federal Government hasn’t done that. The federal Government said, for all projects over $100 million they would be guided by Infrastructure Australia’s advice. We now know that the Victorian Coalition made a conscious decision to keep that analysis from Infrastructure Australia.

In the documents that have been released the deceit is extraordinary. They say we shouldn’t forward this business case onto Infrastructure Australia because it will be used to not recommend funding for the project. That is an outrage on the taxpayers of Victoria and the Victorian Coalition stand condemned for it and the federal Coalition either knew that and were complicit in that deceit or they simply ignored their own policy anyway, were kept in the dark by the Victorian Coalition and still determined to fund $3 billion for this project and make an advance payment of $1.5 billion so the Victorian budget would look a bit better for their friends in the Coalition.

Well that didn’t help Denis Napthine. What we need in infrastructure is transparency, openness and productivity driving agendas and I am confident that’s precisely what Daniel Andrews and Tim Pallas are doing. I’ll have further discussions with the Victorian Government today. I’ve already had significant discussions with the new Treasurer, Tim Pallas and the ministers responsible in the transport area and I look forward to having a cooperative relationship with them. What’s more, Tony Abbott needs to climb down off his high horse and engage constructively with the Victorian Government as well.

QUESTION: On a different matter, given the recent scenes coming from Manus Island, would you want to see Manus Island closed down if Labor was in power?

ALBANESE: What I want to see is transparency. Today, I listened this morning to the new Immigration Minister on the ABC’s AM program and I was none the wiser as to what was happening on Manus Island after that interview than I was before. They have replaced the minister. They need to replace the script. Australians have a right to know what is going on.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you, would Labor allow journalists in to Manus Island if you were to win government?

ALBANESE: I absolutely believe that transparency is critical on all of these issues. The Australian Government has a responsibility to people who are in their care. Human rights need to be protected at all times. The Australian Government should fulfil its responsibilities. At the moment, what is clear is they are not. What is also clear is that they want the details to remain unclear. Transparency is absolutely important on these issues.

QUESTION: Do you regret then that Labor was the one that reopened the centre back in 2013?

ALBANESE: It is difficult to argue that we are responsible in Opposition for the current conduct of the Government’s policies. The current Government has policies that are defined by secrecy, by closed doors and by misinformation. What is important is that there be transparency in all of these procedures and what is important is that people be treated with dignity and with respect. All human beings –


ALBANESE: With due respect, you are not going to get me to rewrite Labor’s immigration policy, that is a matter for the immigration spokesperson. As an Australian, and as a parliamentarian, I firmly believe that all people deserve to be treated with respect and what we are seeing from the current Government is quite clearly people not being treated with respect, whether they be people who are detainees or people including the Australian public. The Australian public has a right to know what is going on.

QUESTION: So if some of the people in the centre were found to be refugees, should they be resettled in Australia?

ALABNESE: That is a matter for the immigration spokesperson and that is not me.  I am Acting Shadow Minister for Communications and a range of things at the moment but the policies set by Shadow Cabinet. It is set in a reasonable way after proper discussion. With regards to future policy, that is a matter for the immigration spokesperson.

What I can say is that the Government needs to be transparent because I listened to the that interview this morning on the AM program and all I heard was, you may as well have had two Scott Morrisons. Maybe they’ve cloned him with Peter Dutton. What we are not getting is proper information. What we are also not getting is an assurance that human rights will be respected and that people will be treated with dignity. Thanks very much.