Subjects: Queensland infrastructure; Park and Ride scheme; Federal Election; urban development; NRL; South Sydney Rabbitohs.
MARK BRAYBROOK: I am joined this afternoon in the studio by the Shadow Infrastructure, Transport, Cities, Regional Development and Tourism Minister, Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese, good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Mark. Good to be here.
BRAYBROOK: That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?
ALBANESE: It’s quite a title isn’t it? I shorten it sometimes to ‘Shadow Minister for building stuff’.
BRAYBROOK: Well, you’re in town today. It’s timely that you are here because we had a good chat on the weekend – not on the weekend, on Friday’s program I should say – with regard to public transport in Brisbane was the motivation for it, because a report from the Planning Institute of Australia – Infrastructure Australia, sorry – came out to say that Brisbane has the worst public transport of any capital city in the country. We then spoke to Planning Australia and we got on to infrastructure and planning of cities in this country. So I’ll ask you about that shortly. But you were in Brisbane today – the election is next year – to make an announcement with regards to public transport and infrastructure in this city.
ALBANESE: I was at Northgate Train Station this morning with Anika Wells, who’s our candidate for Lilley, and Wayne Swan, who’s the current Member, and we were announcing an upgrade of the park and ride facilities there. $7 million will be the Federal contribution, but we expect a State contribution as well. It’s part of a $300 million fund that we’ve got for park and ride facilities. We’ve already had announcements at Mango Hill and at Narangba, both of course also in Brisbane’s north.
We think that public transport is an absolute priority of how you deal with urban congestion and we’re funding the Cross River Rail. We’ve got $2.4 billion we’ll make to that vital project that will transform the capacity of the entire network in South East Queensland here, not just for Brisbane but the Sunny Coast and the Gold Coast. But we also recognise, from the feedback that we’ve had by people talking to people like Anika and Susan Lamb in Longman, is that we need to make the stations themselves more accessible and part of that is park and ride. A lot of people go to Northgate because it’s the last station on the north that’s in Zone 1. So they drive there to then travel into the city, to work or to recreational activities. And this is a really practical program that we’re rolling out of commitments around the country.
BRAYBROOK: People say that in government certain Ministries and certain topics are the key to an election – whether it be health, education, whatever it may be. I think that’s subtly changing. I think so many people now are very much interested in infrastructure, overpopulation and what our cities are going to be like in 10or 15 years. Have you noticed that in your time in Parliament that there is a trend towards: ‘Okay, we’ve got too many people not enough infrastructure, not enough places to get around’ – and that you’ve noticed there’s a change there as well?
ALBANESE: Look, absolutely. I was the nation’s first ever Infrastructure Minister. There was no Infrastructure Department at the Federal level. And when we created Infrastructure Australia to guide Government decision-making and to have that arm’s length analysis of what was needed a bit separate from the political process, that was seen as a radical measure. Now the current Government has maintained Infrastructure Australia. I think that they’ve downgraded it a little bit in importance, but nonetheless it’s good that it’s there.
And the feedback I get around the country is that transport infrastructure, health infrastructure, water, energy, these are the things that affect people’s quality of life and they also affect the nature of our cities, whether they’re inclusive cities or not. And we need to make sure that everyone has access to being able to get around our cities. People have seen the impact of not planning properly, that people need jobs closer to where they live. They need to make sure that facilities are where they live as well, in terms of education and health and recreational infrastructure is a big issue as well – places for kids to play sport on the weekend.
BRAYBROOK: How do we do that if we’re still having so many people come to the cities and I’ll use Sydney and I mentioned this on the program, that anyone that flies to Sydney and goes on South Dowling Street or Southern Cross Drive, has to go from the airport into the city past Zetland, Waterloo and those units that are appearing everywhere, left, right and centre. It’s more pronounced in Sydney and Melbourne than it is here in Brisbane. We can learn a lot from what’s happening in Sydney and Melbourne and make sure the same mistakes aren’t being made.
ALBANESE: That’s exactly right. I’m certainly concerned with developments pretty close to where I live around Green Square in Sydney and Arncliffe, indeed very close to the airport as well, where you’ve had a real increase in density and living without giving thought to where will the kids go to school? Where will they get health facilities? And where will they kick a footy or play netball on the weekend? Those are really important questions.
One of the things that I’ve been working with Tony Burke on, who’s our Environment Spokesperson, is how can the Commonwealth play a role in encouraging state and local government to make sure that where green spaces are there, they don’t just get taken up by development, because that I think is the big mistake that has happened in the southern capitals so far and we need to turn that around in Sydney and Melbourne. But in Brisbane, that hasn’t had, to the same extent, that increase in density, that’s been so acutely felt in Sydney and Melbourne, I think learning from those lessons, getting better planning in place is absolutely vital.
BRAYBROOK: But it’s not just the Federal Government is it? It’s got to be Federal, State and local.
ALBANESE: Absolutely and that’s part of the problem that we have is our system of government. The truth is that we have the three tiers of government. Here in Brisbane you have a big advantage of having a big council and that makes it easier to get planning right whereas what’s happened in say Sydney is you had councils around the airport, some of which –
BRAYBROOK: There could be three or four different councils in …
ALBANESE: Absolutely. And they went gangbusters in terms of some development and the council gets some revenue from that, so there’s a bit of a built-in incentive for them to do that. But it’s led to some very bad outcomes. Whereas here you have the scale. I’ve worked effectively as the Infrastructure Minister in the last term of Government to partner with state, but also local government, here in Brisbane with Legacy Way just up north a little bit with Moreton Bay Council and the new Redcliffe Rail Line. And we partnered with the State Government and Gold Coast City Council on the light rail.
So when you have those large councils, you can have better outcomes. We want to work on a City Partnership arrangement with the South East Queensland councils. One of the good things that has happened here is that mayors by and large have put aside their political caps to cooperate and to come up with coordinated plans for the whole of South East Queensland. And myself and I know Jackie Trad as the Treasurer is very keen – as is Cameron Dick and Mark Bailey, other Ministers responsible in this area – in getting a three-tiered government approach, federal, state and local to get better outcomes for the people who need to improve their quality of life. There’s no reason why, with proper planning, you can’t have increases in the population that are sensible that improve the quality of life. If you leave it to the market though and just let it rip you’ll get really bad outcomes.
BRAYBROOK: Absolutely. Well, one of the calls that were taken on Friday, the theme running through was the fact that no one asked the population what they want their city to be like. And they just built these units and they just do this thing saying that it’s good for the economy, if the population grows, it’s good for the economy, means more jobs and more this sort of stuff. Well no one actually sees that, no one sees those benefits that these people talk about in theory. In practice all we see is the loss of green space, more traffic as we’re trying to get home to and from work and even on the weekend. So all we tend to see is those negative things. If people actually spoke to those out in the public and said: ‘what do you want, what can we do to improve your way of life or improve the city’? The answers can be quite interesting.
ALBANESE: Oh, that’s right. When you talk to people about what they’re interested in, one of the big issues for example, is the growth in participation in girls and young women’s sport. So that changes what infrastructure you need. That means that we need more dressing rooms put in ovals so that – people are participating now in soccer, in AFL, in rugby league – and that changes the nature of that infrastructure. So that’s a good thing that we’re seeing that participation. But there are implications for ensuring that that’s possible and in terms of good development. There’s lots of examples around the country of, whereby, you’ve had a medium density or even higher density living with open space and places for people to gather that add to that sense of community and quality of life. Be it community gardens, not just in between buildings or within structures, sometimes on top. Places where people can gather and get that feeling of belonging, rather than a feeling of isolation that can happen if you have really bad planning and design that doesn’t have any communal space. We are as beings, people who aren’t just individuals, we do want to have places where we can gather and also community based infrastructure. There’s a big development in my electorate at the moment that is having included in it a new community library, and a meeting place, that is desirable. People are wanting to live there and it’s all sold out well in advance of people who will actually be owner-occupiers. So you can have an increase in population with good outcomes or you can really risk a backlash as well, because people will eventually get a say.
BRAYBROOK: There’s a difference between development and overdevelopment, too.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. And it’s got to be appropriate. I mean some of the pressures that are being placed on our natural resources, on local roads and infrastructure, too often one of the things that used to happen was that the easy decision for governments to make was to open up new estates. And without thinking about: ‘Okay, what will go there’? Now here in Brisbane, a good example of that not happening is Springfield. That has the railway station, that has public transport access, has educational facilities, health facilities – including high value research. So you have a range of jobs in that community because some of the planning has gone in there, in advance. Rather than just saying; ‘well we’ll just build houses and worry about how people get there, how people get to work from there and what community infrastructure they have’, after the event.
BRAYBROOK: One of the difficulties that any government has in, whether it be state, or whether it be federal, is trying to divvy up the money as to who may need it. Because everyone thinks they deserve it. From a federal perspective, how does Queensland put its picture across, or put its pitch across to you, I should say – if you were to be the Minister for Infrastructure next year, to get money from the Federal Government, as opposed to WA or South Australia, or any other state wanting money as well? I mean there is only a finite resource isn’t there?
ALBANESE: That’s true. And one of the ways that you’ve got to determine that is by having some objective forum. So it’s not based just upon politics. And, for example, using Infrastructure Australia, using the re-established Major Cities Unit that we would reform, to look at City Partnerships.
When we were last in Government, when we came to office, the average Queenslander got $143 per head, essentially was the infrastructure spend from the Commonwealth. When we left office it was $314.
And that was because Queensland put forward good proposals. They were proposals that made a difference like Redcliffe Rail Line, that’s now up and operating. Cross River Rail, it should have been completed now, except the funding was cut by Tony Abbott, and then it was canned subsequently by Campbell Newman. But that was a project that we negotiated with Anna Bligh’s Government, Campbell Newman’s government kept on with that negotiation, we had an agreement. We put funding in the 2013 Budget and then, because Tony Abbott had said the Federal Government shouldn’t be involved in public transport, that was withdrawn. So that’s five lost years effectively because of that. So we’ve been working constructively with – here in Queensland today – I was in Brisbane just last Friday, I had a meeting with Jackie Trad, The Treasurer. I’m here pretty regularly and we’ve been talking through what the priorities are, and I’ve also met with the Mayor of Brisbane and all of the South East Queensland Mayors, just during the last Parliamentary session about what their priorities are. I think the case with a growing population means that we will see the sort of investment last time we were in, where we did the Ipswich Motorway, The Gateway North, Gateway South, the M1, the Redcliffe Rail Line, Gold Coast Light Rail. We did all of these projects that made a difference and we’ll have more announcements to make in the lead up to the election, whenever that may be, I suspect next May.
BRAYBROOK: Yes. Can we take a quick break and come back and have a chat with you after?
BRAYBOOK: Because I do have to ask a very serious question of you on this Monday afternoon, being a South Sydney supporter. Your new – who’s going to be coaching you in 2019 or 2020? You can’t come to Brisbane without having a chat about Mr Bennett and South Sydney and the NRL as well. So I’ll speak to Anthony Albanese a little bit lighter after the break.
BRAYBROOK: Anthony Albanese, my guest this afternoon. We’ll get to the lighter stuff shortly. But I do have one serious question to ask you and I asked it to Tanya Plibersek when she was here as well. So I’m asking you the exact same question that I asked her a couple of weeks back. Is the next Federal election, which you say is more than likely in May next year, is it the Labor Party’s to lose? Are you in a position now where, if you just keep your head down and your backside up and work hard, you will be in Government in May next year?
ALBANESE: Well, I don’t think this Government deserves to be re-elected but you can’t take any election for granted and the truth is that Governments have an advantage with incumbency. So we have to earn the win. We can’t just sit back. We have to continue to, what I call lead from Opposition. Which is what we have been doing – making announcements, going out there talking to people about issues – today making an announcement with Anika Wells about an issue that she had identified as a priority for the north side. And we’ll continue to do that with our candidates right around the country.
BRAYBROOK: Now, at twenty-nine past three, is your club in chaos? You’re a South Sydney man. You’re trying to steal Wayne Bennett – you have stolen Wayne Bennett in 2020. Should they switch? Anthony Seibold and Wayne Bennett – should they switch clubs? This is the real nitty gritty now Anthony, to get into the NRL.
ALBANESE: Well, I have to declare an interest. I’m a life member of Souths and I was on the board, including when we got kicked out of the comp and fought our way back.
BRAYBROOK: For those that don’t know, that’s the reason I brought it up. Because I know you were a Souths man.
ALBANESE: I thought it was the one red eye and the one green eye that was the giveaway. Look I think it’s a pity that Anthony Seibold wasn’t prepared to stay for longer. I think he was a fantastic coach in his first year. I was at the Red and Green Ball at the end of the season and he gave an incredible speech. He’s very articulate. He has the faith of the players. And it’s a question of, with him moving on in 2020, whether he can coach in 2019 and similarly with Wayne Bennett and the Broncos. I think they’re all mature and professional enough to be able to do that. I myself think that players or coaches shouldn’t sign in advance. We had a problem last year with Angus Crichton playing for us when he was going to Eastern Suburbs.
BRAYBROOK: He still had a good year though.
ALBANESE: He had a good year, but …
BRAYBROOK: But you reckon it could have been better if he hadn’t signed?
ALBANESE: They were pretty cranky in the Burrow. And I just think there’s something wrong with lining up for a semi-final …
BRAYBROOK: But they’re not breaking contracts, though?
ALBANESE: No, I’m not blaming them. I think the system needs to be looked at. Whereby, I think for the fans watching your players play against a team that they’re going to be playing with next year, there’s something awkward about it. And I understand that players aren’t as loyal as they used to be. And, it does stick in the craw a bit. And it’s an unusual situation for coaches to be …
BRAYBROOK: Very odd, yeah. Well, sort of what’s happened with the West Tigers now, your former coach Michael Maguire, is going there and so …
ALBANESE: That’s right.
BRAYBROOK: Cleary will go to Penrith. So should these two swap? Or do you reckon just leave them for the year and hopefully they’re mature enough, and the players are mature enough and see what happens?
ALBANESE: I’d leave them for the year. I think that is what will happen unless the Broncos move Wayne Bennett on earlier …
BRAYBOOK: They won’t.
ALBANESE: Which they will have to pay him substantial money, and fair enough, he has a contract. Anthony Seibold certainly made the comment that he has a contract that he’ll honour. And I have no doubt that he will give a thousand per cent, and I’d have no doubt that Wayne Bennett, the professional that he is, will give a thousand per cent as well. If it changes and we get Wayne Bennett a bit earlier, then we’ll see how that goes. I think the current team of Souths, I’m at that point where the 2014 team, I think they’ve got another Premiership in them. But it has to be in the next couple of years, because after that you’ve got Greg Inglis and a bunch of – certainly Sam Burgess and some other players will be towards the latter half of their career.
BRAYBROOK: Whatever happens, I’m just having a look here. Round Eight, 2nd of May. Thursday 2 May, Souths versus Brisbane, it’s the Thursday night game away. So it’ll be in Sydney, they will get about seven or eight thousand there to ANZ Stadium, on Thursday night, won’t they?
ALBANESE: Oh come on, they’ll go real well.
BRAYBROOK: And then Friday the 23rd of August, Round 23, back here in Brisbane. No matter what happens with these two coaches, those two games will be huge.
ALBANESE: I have already had an invite to the Brisbane game up here. Certainly one of the big advantages that the Broncos have got is – Suncorp is a fantastic stadium to watch rugby league in. I’ve got to say that AAMI Park in Melbourne is just awesome. You are really on top of the play. And when I was on the board we didn’t play at ANZ Stadium, I’ll say that. It’s a fair way away from the crowd.
BRAYBROOK: Anthony Albanese, thank you so much for spending some time with us this afternoon, appreciate it.
ALBANESE: It’s been a pleasure, thanks for having me in.
BRAYBROOK: And good luck to the Bunnies in Season 2019, there’ll be so much to watch.
ALBANESE: The year of the Rabbitoh.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.