SUBJECTS: Coalition’s cut to infrastructure investment, public transport, ABCC, Banking Royal Commission
MICAHEL BRISSENDEN, PRESENTER: Anthony Albanese joins me in the studio. Anthony, good morning.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Michael.
BRISSENDEN: The Government hasn’t cut this money though, have they? The Senate Estimates Committee was told it’s either being paid early or delayed into the next financial year. Why is that a problem?
ALBANESE: Well it’s being pushed off to the never never. And when you look at the Budget Forward Estimates from this year, the 2016/17 Budget for example, the figure for the last year 2019/20, in terms of the forwards, shows zero dollars expenditure for rail. Now that will come as some surprise to people who knew when Malcolm Turnbull came to office he said he supports public transport.
What we know is that he supports riding on it himself, he just won’t fund it.
BRISSENDEN: Ok, but let’s look at these projects that they were talking about specifically yesterday; most of them were road projects. Most of those have been delayed and pushed forward. We’ve got the Pacific Highway, the Bruce Highway upgrades, those things, they’ve been delayed, but they haven’t been cancelled.
ALBANESE: There are three lots of cuts. One is the cancelling of projects like Cross River Rail and Melbourne Metro that were funded in the 2013 Budget or earlier. They cut those projects completely. The second is the delay; projects like the M80 road project in Melbourne, the South Road project in Adelaide, the Airport Rail Link in Perth. All of those were ready to go, and they’ve delayed, they’ve just begun them so that essentially we’ve had three years of inaction. And then there are just the slowdowns; the slowdown to the role out on the Pacific Highway, the Bruce Highway.
A range of other projects – Goodwood to Torrens rail freight project in Adelaide, the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, the Gateway North Project, delays and cuts to the Black Spots Program, the Bridge Renewal Program, the Heavy Vehicle Program. Right across the board, if you cut, effectively, infrastructure investment by 35 per cent, which is what these figures show about actual investment.
BRISSENDEN: Well they show they haven’t spent the money yet.
ALBANESE: Talking about infrastructure doesn’t create jobs and economic growth; building infrastructure creates jobs and economic growth.
BRISSENDEN: But you know as well as I do, I mean things like the Bruce Highway, calls for that to be fixed have been part of every election campaign since the 1980s. These things do take a long time.
ALBANESE: They have indeed and that’s why we committed to the Bruce Highway four times what our predecessors did in half the period. So we effectively increased investment…
BRISSENDEN: We’re still trying to fix it though.
ALBANESE: It’s a long road. But this Government has not put a dollar into it; hasn’t put a dollar, new, into the Pacific Highway. Indeed they’ve slowed down spending and what’s also occurring as a result is that State Government spending is slowing down accordingly because a lot of these projects of course are Federal/State projects. When you have the Federal Government slowing the investment, the State Government slows the investment. That means less jobs, less economic growth, but it also has implications for issues like road safety.
BRISSENDEN: Well isn’t that part of the point because as the bureaucrats were saying yesterday, at least half of this $2.5billion dollar figure comes from the Asset Recycling Fund where state governments will receive funds for new projects if they sell off old infrastructure so the Commonwealth is clearly waiting for that. They’re not going to pay out money to the states unless they come up with the projects.
ALBANESE: But they’re not waiting for that. They’ve cut that program. Victoria is the great example of that. See Victoria is getting nine per cent of Federal infrastructure investment. They’ve sold off their ports and the Government is holding back on the payment that they promised they would give Victoria as a result of essentially them punishing Victoria for having the temerity to vote Labor at the last State election.
BRISSENDEN: Ok, can we move to the ABCC, which will be the political action of this week as the Prime Minister said on Radio National just a short time ago, they will be bringing the debate forward today. Let’s just have a quick listen to that:
Malcolm Turnbuill: This is about ensuring that the construction and building sector, which employs a million Australians, is governed by the rule of law. Right now, there are 113 officials of the CFMEU, this union which is so powerful and influential over the Labor Party, 113 of their officials are before the courts.
BRISSENDEN: That was the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on RN just a short time ago. Isn’t it the point Labor opposes this because of your union links? As he said yesterday, Bill Shorten is hostage to the CFMEU.
ALBANESE: Not at all. I’ll tell you what Michael, the Law Council of Australia doesn’t oppose it because it has union links – the Law Council of Australia opposes it because this legislation is contrary to the rule of law. It’s contrary to fundamental principles such as the right to representation, such as the right to actually have proper appearance before proper legal processes.
This is legislation to provide a sense of purpose for the Government that doesn’t have one. I mean, it went to a Double D election and then didn’t mention it. But it didn’t mention it during the entire election campaign. If this was so critical why did Malcolm Turnbull wait to his bizarre concession weird speech he gave on election night before he mentioned these issues.
BRISSENDEN: Nonetheless, it was the trigger for the election. The Government argues it has a mandate for that. Surely they have a right to argue that given that we’ve gone through this process and now here’s where we are at?
ALBANESE: They’ve got to have something to argue, Michael, because what we’ve seen from our previous discussion is that they don’t have an agenda for infrastructure, for cities, for public transport. We know that their agenda for health is undermining Medicare.
We know that their agenda for education is cutting back on the Gonski reforms. We know that their agenda for childcare is making cuts. So they don’t want to talk about that but what they raise here is the old union bogey and that is all this is about; an anti-worker agenda from a Government that really doesn’t have a reason for existence.
BRISSENDEN: This does appear to have the support of the crossbench. It does look like it’s going to become, it is going to get through.
ALBANESE: Well we will wait and see. The crossbench, I have faith in some common sense applying here and some of these provisions are just draconian. They’ve been rejected in the past, not just by the Labor Party, but by crossbench Senators.
BRISSENDEN: You haven’t had any indication that that’s the case now with the new Senate, do you?
ALBANESE: I’m not negotiating on this issue. What I do know is that this Government didn’t mention these issues during the election campaign for them to talk about them having a mandate for these changes. If you want a mandate, you’ve got to argue your case. They didn’t argue their case because the case is so weak.
Even the Productivity Commission has said that there won’t be any significant productivity boost as a result of this legislation. What we need is for, if someone is breaking the law, then they should be prosecuted. I listened to Malcolm Turnbull earlier today, he was very weak particularly on why you need something separate from just beefing up ASIC’s powers.
This is a Prime Minister who is running from keeping the banks accountable through a Banks Royal Commission, but wants to get out there with this anti-worker legislation because he’s got nothing else to talk about.
BRISSENDEN: Anthony Albanese, we’ll leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.