Subjects: State of Origin, Longman by-election, Cross River Rail, Susan Lamb, Infrastructure Australia.
STEVE AUSTIN: Anthony Albanese, thanks for coming into the studio.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be here.
AUSTIN: I am surprised you are here. I thought you would be flying to Melbourne for State of Origin.
ALBANESE: No, no, no. I will watch it at home in Sydney tomorrow night.
AUSTIN: You can’t afford the tickets either?
ALBANESE: At the airport this morning there were quite a few of the NRL guys heading south for the big game tomorrow night. I think it will be very exciting once again – a new Queensland side. We are actually a chance. But I think that every year. So we will wait and see.
AUSTIN: Amanda of Kingston says: “Anthony Albanese, go the Rabbitohs’’. So there you go – a message for you.
ALBANESE: She’s a good person, Souths have supporters everywhere. We’ve got four Souths players. I just hope none of them get hurt.
AUSTIN: Is it significant that you are here helping Susan Lamb in Longman? Is that because you relate better to the outer suburbs than does Leader Bill Shorten?
ALBANESE: No. Bill Shorten has been here already and today I think he was in Braddon in Tasmania. We will all be campaigning. Earlier on today I was in Petrie with Corinne Mulholland and Anika Wells campaigning there, talking about the Redcliffe Rail Line of course that was built by Federal and State Labor working with the Moreton Bay Council there.
AUSTIN: With not enough train drivers to run it.
ALBANESE: Well, that is absolutely true and that is why you need proper planning and certainly the Newman Government didn’t really like the project from the beginning, let alone Tony Abbott, and I was here talking about the need for the next project, which is of course Cross River Rail. That is essential, not just for the people of Brisbane but for the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast as well because you’ve got to do something about the capacity of the rail network in here in South-East Queensland.
AUSTIN: Did State Labor shoot themselves in the foot when they blew raspberries at the Federal Government, saying “no matter what we will go it alone and we can do it’’ and the Federal Government said OK.
ALBANESE: Not at all. Let’s be clear about what happened there. Infrastructure Australia approved the Cross River Rail project in 2012. It was put in the Budget with funding in 2013. I sat down with Campbell Newman, the Premier of Queensland then. We had an agreement. We had $715 million from each level of government, an availability payment going forward.
We had the media release all signed off for the press conference on the Friday. We were going to do it at Kangaroo Point and at the last minute the Queensland Government pulled the pin and the reason they gave was because Tony Abbott had made it clear that he would withdraw all funding from any public transport project that wasn‘t already under construction. And he did just that for Cross River Rail, for Melbourne Metro, for Perth Airport Rail, for projects right around the country that weren’t under construction because he didn’t believe there was a role of the Commonwealth. Now the …
AUSTIN: Under the new, with the new Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, they are funding extra lines to the Sunshine Coast. They are looking at a fast train project.
ALBANESE: Except it doesn’t really work …
AUSTIN: They are putting in serious money.
ALBANESE: Well are not putting in serious money.
AUSTIN: They are putting up multi-millions of dollars.
ALBANESE: There is a study off into the Never-Never, is what they are doing. They have got money for a study for faster rail. They have got money off into the Never-Never for the Sunshine Coast. But they know …
AUSTIN: And for duplicating the track.
ALBANESE: Well again, not in the immediate sense.
AUSTIN: Not next year but, you know …
ALBANESE: Well, it is very much off into the future. That’s the problem.
AUSTIN: I mean the money is there. They have allocated it.
ALBANESE: The money is there but the money that they are doing is over ten years and the truth is that if you want to do anything about the rail network in South East Queensland, Cross River Rail is the number one project. It is the pre-condition for anything else. They know that and out of stubbornness really, they are refusing to fund Cross River Rail. We have put $2.24 billion on the table for that project because we regard it as essential.
AUSTIN: The State Government is rolling in coal royalties. They are giving away cash hand over fist at the moment because they have got a lot of money coming in that they didn’t expect to have. They have made it quite plain that they will go it alone and the Federal Government has called their bluff and it’s saved the public money you know because the Queensland Government is going to fund it …
ALBANESE: Well it hasn’t saved the Government money. What it has done is meant that …
AUSTIN: They have saved the public money.
ALBANESE: No, what it has meant is that the State Government has had to do just that, unless we are elected. That means less money for projects throughout Queensland that the State Government will have. We think that there is a role for the Commonwealth in urban public transport and Malcolm Turnbull, it is true, has said he supports public transport. I just wish every time he took a selfie on a train or a tram some money flowed because if that happened then we would have no problems with any funding at all.
AUSTIN: Let’s talk about the Longman by-election, which won’t be the beneficiary of the Cross River Rail project because it’s a long way away.
ALBANESE: Well, it will because of the capacity. And indeed after this interview I’ll be getting on a train with Susan Lamb going up to her electorate to a function there.
AUSTIN: Taking selfies?
ALBANESE: We’ll be going up on the train from here. We’ve got a function there tonight. And the truth is that the capacity of the network needs fixing and the Cross River Rail is the project to do it.
AUSTIN: My guest is Anthony Albanese. Why is Susan Lamb standing again when she caused the by-election in the first place over refusing to fix up her dual citizenship.
ALBANESE: Well it’s not a matter, and you know full well Steve, that it’s not a matter of refusing.
AUSTIN: Well she pooh-poohed any … well she almost denounced any horrible suggestion that there might be something worth looking at. She blew raspberries at anyone who said: “How dare you say I haven’t done everything right?”
ALBANESE: Well that’s not right. What she did was comply in accordance with what everyone thought, including her legal advice, was the previous High Court rulings.
AUSTIN: It was the ALP’s legal advice.
ALBANESE: No. The previous High Court rulings had found that essentially what you had to do was make best endeavours. And the reason why the High Court had done that was because if it was not the case – if it was a strict interpretation, which they’d currently made, then what that did was give the power of a High Commission or a government of another nation to delay the processing and therefore determine the outcome over whether someone was eligible to run for Parliament or not.
That was the previous understanding of High Court rulings and in previous cases that is as what they’ve done. Now they’ve tightened that up. Susan accepts that. That’s why she resigned and is recontesting, like other members around. We’ve got four by-elections as a result of that High Court ruling. She is putting herself forward because she’s got a lot more to do. She’s been a great local member. She’s passionate about her local community.
AUSTIN: What’s she actually done? What’s she actually done? If she’s been a great local member, point to one project, one achievement, something that the residents of Caboolture, Bribie Island, Ningi, any of those areas, that they can say: “Susan Lamb did that.
ALBANESE: Well, when I’ve been with her, in Caboolture for example, at the medical centre there: standing up for the medical centre; saying it’s not good enough that the NBN, because it’s reliant upon copper wire for the last portion, when it rains they don’t have access to the Internet, to medical records; drawing attention towards that, making sure that Caboolture is not forgotten. She’s done that very strongly. She’s done that in a range of areas, pointing out some of the problems that the Government has created in childcare, in education, with the failure to properly fund schools, with transport issues …
AUSTIN: I think the Government has thrown billions of extra dollars …
ALBANESE: They’ve cut the…
AUSTIN: They’ve cut the forward forecast that your party put out but you didn’t get money to actually do it.
ALBANESE: We did.
AUSTIN: The Federal Government put billions more into education.
ALBANESE: They have not. They have cut $17 billion out of education.
AUSTIN: The RMIT fact-checked that claim and found it to be not true.
ALBANESE: Well it is true. The fact is that compared with what Labor had planned to do under Gonski Mark 1, there would be $17 billion more go into schools. And the other thing that she’s done is point out that the people of Longman will not benefit from the big business tax cuts. Budgets are about priorities. They are about what you determine is most important. There are a finite number of funds and Labor’s priority isn’t tax cuts to the big end of town, it’s tax cuts for low and middle income earners, which the people of Longman will benefit from. It’s funding of education and health services. It’s funding of early childhood and she’s been campaigning earlier today with Amanda Rishworth on those issues.
AUSTIN: My guest is Anthony Albanese. He’s the Federal Shadow spokesperson for Transport, Regional Development, Infrastructure, Cities, Tourism – have I missed anything?
ALBANESE: Building stuff.
AUSTIN: You’re the Russ Hinze. Remember Russ Hinze was the minister for everything in Joh’s old government?
ALBANESE: Yes, except there are no special roads to any of my many pubs that I own throughout Marrickville in my dreams.
AUSTIN: I’ve got a few listeners who want to tell us horse stories in Queensland so I don’t know if you want to stay for that but there’s a couple of things I want to ask about. Just back to talking about rail. If Cross River Rail, as you say, is so much of an important project, why wasn’t it prioritised by Infrastructure Australia, the independent authority body that makes those decisions?
ALBANESE: Well it was prioritised, Steve. It was prioritised as the number one project in the country in 2012.
AUSTIN: Not any more.
ALBANESE: Well I do note the CEO of Infrastructure Australia has just said that he won’t bother to take up his contract. It’s interesting that many of the people who were associated with IA, who have been very disappointed that they have been nobbled, that they’ve had circumstances such as…
AUSTIN: Are you telling me that there is political interference into the decision making process of Infrastructure Australia?
ALBANESE: Well what they’ve done is replace every single person who was appointed. No one has survived on Infrastructure Australia, on the board, in terms of the CEO was replaced, removed and not replaced with anyone for 18 months. I am concerned about how it is that a project that was number one on the priority list in 2012 could not stay in that position, because we know that, when I’ve had discussions with Infrastructure Australia, they’re very clear that they understand that it’s a pre-condition for doing other works and is so important for South-East Queensland.
AUSTIN: So you’re telling me that Infrastructure Australia has been politically interfered with?
ALBANESE: I’m saying that Infrastructure Australia has changed its determination when the government changed.
AUSTIN: (Inaudible) on the basis of evidence?
ALBANESE: Well it’s up to them to explain how it is that a project whereby it’s become more important as the population grows, as urban congestion in Brisbane grows, the project is more important. We know that you need a second crossing of the river here in Brisbane and we’ve known that for a long period of time.
AUSTIN: But because the Brisbane River is such a logistical and topographical problem for us, we’d actually be better off to have a whole lot more bridges (inaudible) the expensive underground tunnels.
ALBANESE: Well, no one is suggesting that as an alternative.
ALBANESE: And what you’ve got to do is get through the built up areas and the way you do that, it is expensive, is to have tunnelling. One of the things that was identified by Infrastructure Australia in all of its original assessments was the uplift value that will occur around Woolloongabba for example from the new access to public transport that will occur there.
AUSTIN: Thanks for coming in.
ALBANESE: Great to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.