Subjects Liveable cities, public transport, tourism, penalty rates
KELLY: Labor’s Shadow Minister for Cities is Anthony Albanese. Anthony Albanese, welcome back to Breakfast.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Fran.
KELLY: We’ve now got a Federal Liberal Minister for Cities, Jamie Briggs, and a Prime Minister who says liveable, vibrant cities are absolutely critical to our prosperity. Has Malcolm Turnbull stolen your thunder?
ALBANESE: Well I’m pleased that they’ve been paying attention, Fran. What we’ve had is a Federal Government that disbanded the Major Cities Unit, that hasn’t used the Urban Design Protocol that was established by the former Government or the tool for urban sustainability, and reversed the record funding for urban public transport that we had when we were in Government.
We actually funded more urban public transport than all previous governments combined from Federation right through to 2007. Of course, one of the first things that the new Government did in its first Budget, is have $4.5 billion of cuts to public transport projects like the Cross River Rail in Brisbane, like the Melbourne Metro that had all been approved by Infrastructure Australia and, in some cases, fund projects like the East West Link that had a 45 cent return for every dollar invested.
KELLY: But that’s all history now, isn’t it? Isn’t that the point that we now have a Liberal Prime Minister whose policy is to fund infrastructure growth, especially in public transport through long-term planning with the states with an emphasis on greener cities? Is there any point of difference between the Government and Opposition now, or has it narrowed?
ALBANESE: Action, Fran. Words are easy. It’s one thing for Malcolm Turnbull to travel on a train, he’s got to fund rail. And the fact is that this Government hasn’t. The first thing that he could do is to put that $4.5 billion back in. You still have, last week, his three person committee, of Greg Hunt, Jamie Briggs and Paul Fletcher, doesn’t actually include Warren Truss, who is the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. That’s the main game, as Malcolm Turnbull said, connectivity in our cities is the focal point and then other things come off that. What’s the job creation? What are the urban spaces that are created? What’s the liveability of our cities?
They abolished the Liveable Cities program and we’ll wait and see. We welcome certainly the creation of the Minister for Cities, but we do say it’s in the wrong place. It’s a junior Minister in the Department of Environment and the funding portfolio is of course the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development that looks after transport and that appears to be excluded from these discussions and is still in charge of the National Party.
KELLY: In your recent Ben Chifley Light on the Hill speech, you said the suburbs of middle Australia are being transformed from lively communities where people lived, worked and played, into drive-in, drive-out suburbs where people can afford a home, but can’t find a job. And a lot of people would really relate to that, but this is not new. I mean, this was the problem too when you were in Government for many years than the Coalition’s been in Government. You didn’t solve this.
ALBANESE: But we did take action, Fran.
KELLY: Well it didn’t solve it. I mean people are still complaining about those freeways being carparks.
ALBANESE: Well Fran, you don’t solve these issues in one term of Government. We opened earlier this year the Regional Rail Link, for example – the largest ever public transport investment by a Commonwealth Government in any project. That has transformed the ability of people from Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong to get into Melbourne. And in terms of the outer suburbs of Melbourne, Tarneit, a brand new station connected with active transport being promoted by having bicycle lock ups available at the station.
In Perth, the Perth City Link project will transform Perth, uniting the Perth CBD with the Northbridge entertainment section of Perth; syncing the railway line, allowing for development on top of that railway line, removing the bus terminal from the absurd position where it is.
They’re the sort of projects that you need to actually fund and invest in and we do have two challenges. One is the fact that job growth is in our inner areas, because of the changing patterns of work. Therefore you need to have specific projects, like the Badgerys Creek airport is a good start in South-Western Sydney to create a jobs precinct. But, there you have still a Government that’s saying it won’t fund the rail line to the airport. It needs to be on day one, an airport that has rail access.
KELLY: It’s 17 minutes to eight. I guess, Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Transport, don’t we have another problem too and that’s the Budget. The Government is now saying the Opposition’s proposed more than $10 billion of new spending measures since the May Budget and you’ve only proposed half of, in terms of revenue, measures to fund that. Do you accept the Budget needs to be fixed before we’re going to have the money, really, to fix our cities?
ALBANESE: I accept absolutely Fran that we have some issues with regard to recurrent expenditure in the Budget that need to be dealt with –
KELLY: And that Labor’s not really dealing with those. It keeps coming up with ideas but these have cost to them.
ALBANESE: Well that’s not right, Fran. We’ve actually put forward $20 billion of changes that the Government is rejecting in areas like superannuation and multinational tax avoidance.
KELLY: They add up to $5 billion, don’t they? Not $20 billion.
ALBANESE: We are the first, over the period in which we’re talking Fran, and the Government likes to exaggerate the circumstances. The fact is that we have a new Treasurer who, on his first interview, went back to Joe Hockey same old rhetoric. Said there’s no revenue problem. Well there is. The first thing this Government did when it came to office was to make changes that doubled the deficit. You don’t hear them talk about Budget emergency anymore, Fran.
This is a Government without a narrative. Now, in cities, they’re looking for a narrative, but they need to actually have action. And there are some areas that would be very easy for them to fix. Areas like Gold Coast Rapid Transit System. There’s money sitting in the Queensland Budget, that’s been allocated from the Federal Government, that’s a saving on the Redcliffe rail line project that the Queensland Government want to be able to allocate right now to the Gold Coast, to Stage Two of the Gold Coast Light Rail project, and that’s important it get started so it’s completed prior to the Commonwealth Games.
KELLY: Ok, can I suggest another action that could be taken to help rejuvenate cities, this is coming from the Tourism industry and you’re the Shadow Minister for Tourism too. That’s change on penalty rates. Former Labor Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson, says penalty rates should be changed. People are looking at this idea of changing the penalty rates on Sundays. Are you supporting or opposing the union movement’s campaign against any cuts to penalties?
ALBANESE: I like the way you put that Fran. What I’m supporting is the mums and dads in my electorate who rely upon penalty rates to pay their mortgage, to put food on the table and to pay their school fees for their kids. That’s what I’m supporting. We in this country have a system whereby there are many working families with both parents working, struggling to get by, who, if you cut their wages – that’s what we’re talking about here, cut their wages – and cut their living standards, with no compensation at the other end, then they’ll be worse off.
KELLY: So no cuts to Sunday penalty rates even though others say that would really rejuvenate some of our urban centres?
ALBANESE: Well, who says that Fran?
KELLY: Lots of people say that. That’s what the Tourism industry campaign is about. It will keep businesses open; cafes open on Sundays where they can’t afford to is the argument.
ALBANESE: Fran come to my electorate that I think you know well. And what you’ll see is a vibrant community on a Sunday, in places like Newtown and others that are functioning well, where people are also earning money to either get themselves through university or to ensure that they have enough money to get by in terms of their weekly budget. What can occur, Fran, and has occurred in places, is proper negotiation, to ensure that penalty rates are dealt with as part of a wage package. Proper negotiation between employers and employees to produce a win-win outcome.
KELLY: Anthony Albanese, we’ve got to leave it there, thank you very much for joining us.
ALBANESE: Good to talk to you Fran.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.