Subjects: Perth Freight Link; Fremantle Port; Donald Trump; jobs.
BELINDA VARISCHETTI: Now, let’s have a look around the roads. You might be in the car right now, driving around. I would really like you to be part of this conversation. How do you rate Perth’s transport system? You think it’s running well? Or there are some glaring spots that need improvement? Well, the Labor Party spokesperson on Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Anthony Albanese is, in the studio with me this afternoon and he is happy to take your calls. Join the conversation with us this afternoon. So the talk back line 1300 222 720. Or you can shoot through a text as well, we can read through some of those if you’ve got a question for Anthony Albanese, 0437 922 720. Welcome to Drive.
ALBANESE: Good to be here.
VARISCHETTI: You have been travelling around Perth today, having a look around at our transport system, and you are calling for the Turnbull Government to direct funds away from the Perth Freight Link. The Federal Infrastructure Minister says the $1.2b commitment to the project can’t simply be reallocated.
ALBANESE: Well he needs to have a very close look at this project. It of course was funded by the Abbott Government in 2014. They ripped $500 million off Perth that had been allocated for public transport projects and allocated it to this new thing that no one had heard of, Perth Freight Link. At the time of course, the State Government said that there were not any plans worthy of public scrutiny. It still is being planned on the run. There is the issue of the environmental problems caused around the Beeliar Wetlands. But importantly, it doesn’t actually go to the port. It stops about 3km short of the port, under the current plans. And what’s more, this is a port where all the transport plans for this great city show that it will reach capacity early in the next decade and what we really need to be doing is planning for the Outer Harbour at Kwinana, and how goods will get to and from that export facility there. And that is being ignored.
VARISCHETTI: But, really at this point, as we have heard from the WA Transport Minister Bill Marmion, stopping this project, the Perth Freight Link, at this point is reckless and costly, and he says the cost of breaking the contract would be significant. The estimate is around, for taxpayers, about $30 million or $40 million. I mean, WA cannot afford to being throwing away that sort of money.
ALBANESE: What they cannot afford to do is throw away $1.5 billion. There’s an opportunity cost – $1.5 billion plus spent on this project, the planning of which is still being done on the run. I was the Infrastructure Minister while the Barnett Government was in office. Not once did anyone in that Government raise with me this project. Troy Buswell and other ministers who I dealt with all recognised essentially that Roe 8 was a pretty bad plan. It had been abandoned by previous state governments. To spend $1.5 billon to not achieve an outcome, at a time when we know from all the studies that are being done, WA and Perth in particular will have seven of the 10 most congested roads, if that is not fixed in terms of the transport system over the next couple of decades.
We know also that people have voted with their feet when public transport has been built, be it the Mandurah line or the Perth City Link project that we helped fund as well. I’m not against good road projects. We funded Gateway WA. It was Perth’s largest-ever, 80% funded by the former Federal Labor Government. It stacked up, it achieved its desired outcomes. This doesn’t do that.
VARISCHETTI: You can join the conversation as well with us this afternoon. The Labor Party spokesperson on Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Anthony Albanese, is in the studio with me this afternoon on ABC Radio Perth. The text is 0437 922 720. One supporter there Anthony Albanese: “more commuter rail, less city freight movement, no Roe 8’’. Let’s go to Mike, who joins us from Gooseberry Hill, I think is where he is calling from. Mike, you have a question for Anthony Albanese?
CALLER: Hello Anthony. It makes me laugh when I hear you talking about building the Outer Harbour, because 10 to 15 years ago, the nemesis of the Labor Party was Len Buckeridge. I think you will remember him.
ALBANESE: I do indeed.
CALLER: You do. Well he came up with the idea of building the harbour, building the port down at Kwinana. I think he took it to the Perth Government, and then they took it to Carmen Lawrence and the rest of them and they kicked it in the guts and knocked them on their head right from day one. They would not have a bar of it. He was even prepared to build it at his own cost, but they still would not let him have it.
ALBANESE: Well, the Outer Harbour is needed, we know that. The estimates are around about 2022 or 2023, Freo port will essentially be at full capacity. With infrastructure, the key is to get ahead of the game and to do proper planning. I have been down there with Mark McGowan and with Fran Logan and others, and now of course, Madeleine King, the new member, down there having a look first hand at the facilities and having a look at what will be needed there. It is an important project. It seems to me that Perth Freight Link doesn’t achieve the outcomes and if you spend $1.5 billion on it, you compare that with Gateway WA which was under $1 billion but the difference that is quite extraordinary.
VARISCHETTI: Thank you for that call Mike, from Gooseberry Hill. You can join the conversation as well, 1300 222 720 to give us a call. Or the text is 0437 922 720. Peter from Perth joins us now, Anthony Albanese. Peter, you are opposed to the cancellation of Roe 8.
CALLER: Yes, exactly because I worked on this project many, many years ago, and (inaudible). It was one of the long-term Perth transport plans done in WA. Some want to come and scrap it, saying that it goes to nowhere, and it doesn’t go anywhere (inaudible). I was a Labor voter before, I stopped voting Labor since the day they cancelled this project and Jim McGinty and all these people that cancelled the project.
ALBANESE: They cancelled the project because it was a bad one. Concentrating on building more roads, not to the port, but near the port, that is going to be at capacity, really does not make much sense given what challenges there are of infrastructure development. It is a matter of priority. When the Federal Government changed, they cancelled all public transport funding around the country. That is having a real impact. So WA is missing out. We doubled the infrastructure spend here in Western Australia when we were in Government. Projects that I have visited today with Rita Saffioti, the Northlink project, we funded that in the 2013 Budget when it was called the Swan Valley Bypass, but because it’s got a new name does not mean it is a new project. It is the same project and it is a good one.
VARISCHETTI: Let’s go to Robert in Swanbourne. Robert, you have some concerns the port will reach capacity?
CALLER: Oh yes, I am very concerned that the port will reach capacity. That doesn’t mean it will stop being used, Mr Albanese, it could continue to be running at capacity, which would be highly efficient thing for it to be doing for some considerable period of time, in parallel presumably with some of the other harbours.
ALBANESE: Sure, that is correct.
CALLER: So that infrastructure will still be required.
ALBANESE: But the Freight Link project does not actually go to the port. That is one of the problems. When it was announced, it was announced without any scrutiny. There weren’t maps; there were no details, there weren’t details of how it gets across the river. That is why it is a project that is not worthy of support, compared with the other priorities that Perth has, both in terms of road projects, projects like up at Wanneroo; projects around Cockburn, in terms of road projects, but also important rail projects to extend the commuter transport network here in Perth. Perth is a very spread out city, for the size of its population, particularly in that north-south corridor and extensions of the rail line should be a priority.
VARISCHETTI: Thirteen to five, this is Drive on ABC Radio Perth. Graham has texted through: “Albanese talking rubbish, inner harbour will not reach full capacity until mid-2040s and will be needed forever,’’ says Graham..
ALBANESE: Well, the experts say, all of the studies show, that it will reach capacity early in the next decade. I haven’t gone and done the studies – the experts all say that is the case. Certainly if the Barnett Government has changed its tune on that, they used to acknowledge that was the case back when I was in Ministerial Council meetings with them.
VARISCHETTI: Let’s have a look at some other issues as well on Drive at twelve minutes to five. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten addressed the National Press Club today and criticised the PM, Malcolm Turnbull, for not speaking out against US President Trump’s Executive Order on immigration. What is your response to Trump’s 90-day ban on travel from those seven Muslim majority nations?
ALBANESE: I think wherever you have discrimination it is up to leaders to call it out. And that is why the world’s leaders, be they Chancellor Merkel in Germany, or the British Prime Minister May, or indeed the Canadian Prime Minister, Trudeau, have all called out this policy for what it is – it is discriminatory. It has had dire consequences; it has been uncertain what will happen to Australian citizens. There was no notice given of this, so you had people in transit being detained at airports. It is a very divisive policy. If we are going to truly be able to defeat the scourge of terrorism what we need to do is unite people and to come together, not just as nation states, but as a global community to fight this scourge. Dividing people and playing politics doesn’t assist that.
VARISCHETTI: But Malcolm Turnbull, the PM, is saying it is not appropriate for him to make public comments about the policy. If he wants to offer President Trump some advice, he will do it privately, and if that means that is the best course of action for Australia and our interests, is that not the main point, whether or not he says something out loud and disagrees with what Trump is doing with this policy?
ALBANESE: Well the problem for Malcolm Turnbull is that he will not stand up to people in his own party, so it is not surprising he will not stand up to President Trump and put his own values out there. I know Malcolm Turnbull very well. I would be very surprised if he is not totally opposed to the policy that was announced by President Trump. But the problem is he has shrunk as Prime Minister. He has disappeared and people are wondering what the point of Malcolm Turnbull becoming the Prime Minister is.
VARISCHETTI: Is it not hypocritical though for Labor to criticise President Trump, when the Labor Party supports those stringent border protection policies?
ALBANESE: No, these are very different circumstances. What we are talking about here are people who have validly travelled to the past to the United States, including potentially Australian citizens, being held up and not being allowed to come on the basis of their religion – a discriminatory policy on the basis of where they were born for example. That discriminatory policy is the sort of thing that in past has been bipartisan in terms of the opposition to it. People have crossed the floor in the Liberal Party, people like Philip Ruddock, to oppose race-based migration systems and it’s important that Australia continue to hold those values.
VARISCHETTI: Just a couple of other things before we let you go today Anthony Albanese. Labor’s big message is jobs, jobs, jobs. But more jobs are going to require people with money to invest in business and hire people. What is the incentive to do that?
ALBANESE: The incentive for people to grow their businesses is higher profits. It is not a matter of simply either/or. The fact is that you need to have policies in place that grow the economy.
VARISCHETTI: Because they are reluctant to do that at this point.
ALBANESE: Well you do that by investing in infrastructure, by investing in people through education and skills and training and a lot of what we were announcing today was about just that, and creating the environment where by businesses will invest. Part of the process for fibre-to-the-home and business was about encouraging Australia to have a competitive advantage and overcome the tyranny of distance that particularly effects people in Western Australia. But we need to compete in our region, if we do that then I have no doubt we can grow the economy into the future, but it will not happen by accident and it will not just happen by cutting corporate taxation and thinking that the trickle-down effect will make it happen automatically.
VARISCHETTI: Anthony Albanese, great to have you in the studio today. Thank you for being part of the show.
ALBANESE: Great to talk to you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.