HOST: Anthony Albanese, well known to this program. Albo, Happy New Year.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Happy New Year to you.
HOST: Now your proposal, a lot of money to be spent doing this. The State Government unlikely – given their comments leading up to the last election with Labor’s plans to take a tram, for instance, to Norwood up the parade – unlikely to greet this favourably at all.
ALBANESE: I think the State Government needs to have a rethink as they have on other areas. (Inaudible) before the election, but now are attempting to claim, essentially, Jay Weatherill’s legacy when it comes to renewables in South Australia. And public transport is another area. If we’re going to deal with urban congestion, if we’re going to move people around our capital cities, then public transport is the key. There has been good work done and that has continued, particularly on the North-South Road Corridor. And we of course expanded the heavy rail network from Noarlunga to Seaford. But light rail really does make sense for Adelaide. It’s a very efficient way of moving people around. Adelaide has enormous advantages with its wide streets. It’s a well-planned city; the best really in Australia. With the possible exception of Canberra, that’s fully planned. But we should take advantage of that, it’s a very cost-effective option as well.
HOST: You talk about wide streets and they on the whole are. But they’re not through (inaudible) Unley Road, they’re not through Prospect, along Prospect Road – really narrow through there. Won’t that just push cars onto already congested roads, like Goodwood Road, like Churchill Road or Main North Road – people trying to avoid the tram line through what is essentially a really narrow shopping strip of Unley and Prospect?
ALBANESE: Well of course tram lines – one of the advantages is that they can coexist with traffic and that occurs, of course, in many places, particularly the world’s largest tram network in Melbourne. That’s not very well known, but Melbourne really appreciates the fact that, unlike a lot of other cities, they didn’t replace existing light rail. Here in Adelaide though you have the prospect of a progressive rollout, so it can be done in an orderly way. The planning was done. The fact is that the current Federal Government allocated almost $200 million in its last Budget; not announced but allocated. So the money is there to at least commence the rollout of these projects. The planning work has been done. And I think that would be a very positive thing in terms of improving the liveability of what is already a great city to live in there in Adelaide.
HOST: Is taking a tram though to Mitcham where, as a caller just before the news – in fact it was Michael Pratt a former federal MP here in Adelaide – says that you’d be building a tram line literally right next to an existing train line which runs right alongside the top end of Belair Road there, as Unley Road turns into Belair Road. And also taking the tram onto the existing train line at Outer Harbour that’s just a waste of money isn’t it? We’ve got a perfectly functioning well-organised train line running to Outer Harbour 25 kilometres out of the city. Why would you want to wreck that infrastructure and rebuild there?
ALBANESE: Well there is a debate that you can have. Of course the function of light rail is different from heavy rail. It’s very much an efficient on-off service. When I was in Adelaide for the ALP National Conference just before Christmas, I caught the light rail outside the convention centre back to my hotel every day. It’s a very efficient way of moving people around and there should be a debate in Adelaide about its roll out; about what the priorities should be, which extension should be done first. But that should be done in the spirit of an acknowledgement that it’s a positive thing to expand public transport.
The concern is that essentially the Marshall Government, it would appear, just opposed a whole range of good initiatives because they were from the other side of politics. And I think what people want to see, particularly when it comes to infrastructure and transport issues, is projects that aren’t the whim of one side of politics. They just want things to be done. A similar thing happened in terms of the North-South Road. It would be further advanced had not the incoming Federal Government said: ‘No we don’t want to do Torrens to Torrens first, we want to look at Darlington’, even though the fact is that the pre-construction work had been done on Torrens to Torrens. So that project was delayed unnecessarily due to politics.
All I’m saying here, is that the planning has been done. Let’s have a sensible approach, and the fact that there is some federal money on the table from the current Government, it seems to me that it would be absurd for the South Australian Government to say: ‘No, we’re not interested’. Of course this follows the rather bizarre decision of the South Australian Government to cut funding to the Overland Rail from Melbourne through the regional areas. And of course the Victorian Government had to step in, essentially, to prop up that particular rail line that is so important for those regional communities and for tourism.
HOST: What’s your timeline on this? So if you win in May, how long will the money be there for? I mean you can’t come in and build it; you can put the money on the table, can’t you?
ALBANESE: Exactly. I mean I will sit down constructively, as I did the last time (inaudible). In order to get things built and get things done right around the country. These issues shouldn’t be partisan and I would say to the Marshall Government, that they need to be constructive about this. So they need to acknowledge that the extension of light rail in Adelaide is a lot easier than places like Sydney, where they are trying to reintroduce light rail. You do have the key network there. But the extension does make sense and I think it has public support.
HOST: All right. We’ll soon find out, we’ll open the lines on that. Anthony Albanese, thanks so much for your time this morning.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.