Subjects: The Overland Great Southern Rail.
LEON BYNER: Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
BYNER: Anthony, interesting we had a conversation recently and you said: “Leon, the Vics aren’t going to save the Overland. They’re not going to do that. Why would they do anything for South Australia?’’
ALBANESE: Well, what we have here is a humiliation for Steve Marshall. It’s quite extraordinary that Daniel Andrews’ Government effectively are subsidising the South Australian Government as well as their own. And I just thought at that stage the Victorian Government hadn’t made the decision. They obviously have been put in a position whereby, because of South Australia’s intransigence on this issue, the route would have fallen over had someone not picked up South Australia’s share of the tab. And they’ve done it. And good on Daniel Andrews for doing it. And every South Australian should be happy about this today because it’s really important for those regional economies.
BYNER: Well, it’s interesting that the Victorian Government are expanding their regional rail network. We seem to be going in the other direction where we’re selling off rail stock. There’s a line for example to the Barossa, but we’re not interested in doing anything to try and make that work. There’s a point here that I should raise. A couple of people have had a go saying: “Oh Leon, what are you talking about, the train wasn’t viable so why should we put in money?’’ I thought: Hang on a minute. Okay, I’ll accept that if that’s the game. Then I found out that we are spending, in South Australia, $300 million a year on buses and rail, right. But the subsidy for that is most of that $300 million. So if it’s about viability and you’re using that argument, what do we do about the transport services here that lose a heap more than the Overland does?
ALBANESE: Look, public transport, by-and-large nationally, no matter what state you look at, or what city, or what region; contributes around about between 20-25 per cent of the cost of operation and maintenance is made through the fare box. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad economics because the benefit isn’t direct. The benefit is to those jobs that are created. The benefit of people being able to get to work, get to recreational activities, get from A to B.
That’s why governments operate public transport networks. And it’s just absurd. It’s a bit like arguing that roads run at a loss in South Australia because of the maintenance costs that council, the State Government and on the major roads, the Federal Government contribute. I mean it’s an absurd argument. And the fact is that railways are absolutely critical. And the 21st Century is the century of rail. It’s back, whether it’s High Speed Rail, regional rail, suburban rail networks, light rail. We know that is how you can move people around for their everyday lives and that’s how the economy runs.
BYNER: All right, so just from your perspective, why is it good for South Australia that another government has picked up the $300,000 or so, to make sure the train keeps going? What’s the benefit?
ALBANESE: Because places like Murray Bridge and other places along the route will get jobs created. Because people who live in those regional towns will be able to travel to Adelaide or to Melbourne, to see family, to do work or to engage in recreational activities. As the Tourism Shadow Minister, this route provides an absolutely vital connection and it’s particularly important in terms of regional development. The fact is, that many people rely upon this route. It also works to connect people up from Victoria who want to travel on the Ghan or on the Indian Pacific and that adds up. So that has indirect benefits along the route there as well. This is absolutely vital, this service. And good on Victoria for kicking the can for South Australia. But I do find it is astonishing that the South Australian Government for the sake of $300,000 is put in this position as if they can’t afford it. It is a matter of priorities. And I think it’s quite sad the way that Liberal governments seem to have in common not being prepared to fund rail projects in our cities and in our regions.
BYNER: Anthony, thanks for coming on this morning.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.