Subjects: Labor’s record on infrastructure in Western Australia; Perth Freight Link; Malcolm Turnbull; Grayndler
ALBANESE: Look it’s fantastic to be here joined by Tammy Solonec and Bill Leadbetter, our candidates here in Perth. And what I am here today to do is to talk about Labor’s plan for infrastructure. When we were in government we more than doubled the infrastructure budget here in Western Australia, and in particular we delivered for Perth – whether it be road projects like Perth’s largest-ever road project right here, the Gateway WA project – $1 billion – where more than 1000 people were working at any one time in construction directly. As well as of course the thousands of indirect jobs that were created as a result of this project. We invested in widening the Great Eastern Highway. We invested in projects including the Perth City Link Project. We were prepared to invest in public transport and in roads. What we have seen form the Coalition Government, whether it be under Tony Abbott or Malcolm Tur nbull, is Western Australia has missed out. That’s why we have seen a Magical Infrastructure Re-announcement Tour where they have come to projects such as this and pretended that they somehow are new and that they had something to do with them.
But it’s worse than that because in the Budget papers of just this month there’s a further cut evidenced. They have cut the Swan Valley Bypass funding by some $72 million and $10 million cut from the Great Northern Highway. This is a part of the $1 billion cut in infrastructure that we saw in last month’s Budget.
Now at a time when the benefits of the mining boom are tailing off what should happen is that infrastructure investment steps up to fill that gap. Instead what we have seen is a 20 per cent decline in public sector infrastructure investment since the change of government in 2013. We’ve seen government ministers prepared to come along and cut ribbons of projects that were initiated, funded and commenced under the former Labor Government but no new investment. There isn’t a single project under way right now through Western Australia that was not funded and commenced under the former Labor Government. That is quite extraordinary after three years. When we were in office each and every year there were new projects commencing, being rolled out. The biggest farce perhaps is the Swan Valley Bypass where they are calling that NorthLink. I’ve got news for the Coalition, whether it be Mr Barnett’s Government or Mr Turnbull ’s Government – a new name doesn’t make it a new project. It’s an old project that was funded in the 2013 Budget and one which now is receiving less funding under the Coalition.
REPORTER: The one thing that the Turnbull Government would say that it is funding is the Freight Link.
ALBANESE: Well, they have put money into the Freight Link but nothing has happened on the Freight Link. That’s because it was done in a rush – out of a Wheaties packet prior to the 2014 Budget. This is a project that simply doesn’t stack up. What we know is that in the Western Australian Government’s own figures prior to the announcement in Budget 2014, they spoke about the Fremantle Port being at capacity by 2021-22. What’s needed is planning and work on the Outer Harbour. That’s what is needed and work on the freight links of how the freight will get to and from that harbour. Instead what we have is a project where the Turnbull Government have now committed over $1 billion without knowing how it gets across the river and how it gets to the port. This is a dud project. It’s also a project that has been knocked over in the courts. Its project that, as the infrastructure minister for th e previous six years prior to the 2014 Budget, not a single WA minister ever raised the prospect of the so-called Perth Freight Link Project with me or asked for Commonwealth funding. That’s because it wasn’t ready. That’s because no planning had been done. So it is the cheapest promise ever to put in a Budget now more than two years ago funding for a project where nothing is going to happen for more than two years.
That is part of the problem with the Commonwealth’s approach to Western Australia and to Perth in particular. They haven’t funded projects that are actually ready to be rolled out. Instead they have allocated this money, quarantined it, but it isn’t leading to any jobs, any economic activity. All that it is leading to is uncertainty and the WA Government itself, in their papers for many, many years have spoken about the Outer Harbour. That should be the priority and if you do that you can have freight links to that port that don’t have to go through suburbs, through residences and destroy communities. That’s why Perth Freight Link is a bad project. It’s ill-thought-out and it is the product of a government that hasn’t done the proper work, which is to listen to Infrastructure Australia, get the planning right and then fund the right project. Gateway WA is the template for how to get it right. We did the planning, we provided the funding, we got the construction and now it is open and Perth and Western Australia are benefitting from that.
QUESTION: With the federal and state budgets in dire straits where is the money going to come from for future infrastructure projects, especially in WA. I mean it’s a hard sell for the eastern states to be building infrastructure in WA surely?
ALBANESE: Well look, if you invest in the right projects they produce a return. If you invest here, this isn’t a cost. This is an investment that is producing a return to the government by boosting productivity. That boosts the national economy, it boosts revenues and that means that projects like Gateway WA pay for themselves. They have a positive cost-benefit analysis. That’s why you need to do that. That’s why Perth City Link, a great example, pays for itself. When I fly into Perth every time I get on that Great Eastern Highway with its six lanes I am reminded of the benefit of infrastructure investment. So good infrastructure investment can always be afforded because it pays for itself and then some. Bad infrastructure investment is a cost to the Budget, damages the economy, doesn’t create jobs and isn’t in the long-term interests of Western Australia. And that’s why after mo re than two years of this failed project it is about time that they woke up, just conceded they got it wrong and reallocated that money to projects that will create jobs, that are wanted by the people of Perth and Western Australia and that will make a difference to people’s lives.
REPORTER: On the Freight Link, I mean, that would be abandoned by a Federal Labor Government and a commitment would be made to the Outer Harbour?
ALBANESE: We don’t support bad projects. Perth Freight Link is a bad project. We support good projects whether they be road or public transport projects that boost productivity here in Western Australia. That’s why the project, whether it be the Road to Esperance Port in the south, the Great Northern Highway in the far north, or Muchea to Wubin section, the Swan Valley Bypass, the Great Eastern Highway, Perth City Link Project, the Bunbury Highway upgrade, the Gateway WA Project. All of those projects are positive projects. We funded them. We are proud of them. It’s a pity that Malcolm Turnbull, who is visiting Perth today, can’t point to a single project throughout the entire great state of Western Australia that has commenced on his watch or on Tony Abbott’s watch.
REPORTER: To be over here in Western Australia, does that mean you are increasingly confident about getting rid of the Greens out of your own seat because there is a bit of an assault there?
ALBANESE: I think it says a lot about the Greens political Party that while I am here campaigning with Tammy and Bill, two great Labor candidates trying to take seats off the Coalition so that Labor is in a position to form government, their priority is replacing me. This is week two – again we have the Greens leadership in my seat. Week one – the Greens leadership commenced the week in my seat. I think people will judge in my electorate, will judge who it is who is committed to a more progressive Australia. You get a more progressive Australia by electing Tammy and by electing Bill here in Western Australia and that is my priority.
REPORTER: Do either of the candidate have anything to say.
SOLONEC: The Gateway project has been a fantastic initiative created by Labor and delivered by Labor here in Swan. It’s a great thing for our airports, for our community and we need more investment in public transport and infrastructure that is going to benefit everyone.
LEADBETTER: If you want evidence of Labor’s commitment to infrastructure just look around. Here we are standing in this magnificent project which was created because of Labor’s commitment to infrastructure. Labor remains committed to real, value-adding infrastructure here in Western Australia. We still need that. We are still a growing state. The only way that we can guarantee that over the next decade is to elect a Labor Government and keep electing them because it’s Labor that will put the people of Western Australia first.
ALBANESE: Thank you.
REPORTER: Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.