Subjects: Abbott Government cuts to Great Southern Rail pensioners & veteran concessions
LEON BYNER: Let’s talk to Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Thank you for joining us, Anthony, welcome.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you, Leon.
BYNER: What’s your take on this?
ALBANESE: It’s very clear there’s been a federal subsidy for pensioners and war veterans as a result of the fact that it’s interstate rail we’re talking about. We’re talking about The Ghan, that of course runs from Adelaide to Darwin, the Indian-Pacific that runs across the country from Perth to Sydney, and we’re talking about the Overland that runs from Adelaide to Melbourne, and that’s why it has been for many, many years a federal subsidy. It’s not a huge amount of money but it makes a big difference to the quality of life of those war veterans and pensioners who get to have a holiday at a reasonable price, but it also, of course, creates jobs in tourism, in these regional economies. Of course, people get off and get on The Ghan. It’s good for people in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek right along the route. The increasing cost of travel will be astronomical. It’s resulted in an announcement that the number of journeys will be cut in half from two to one and that makes an enormous difference in terms of jobs at a time when jobs are so important for South Australia and for regional economies.
BYNER: Well, how is this affecting those same pensioners and vets in the other states? Same situation I guess.
ALBANESE: Same situation, right across the board and of course many people would travel to Adelaide and then connect up and go off on The Ghan to go to Darwin in particular. And when you’re talking about the difference for example, of a fare for a sleeper for a war veteran on the Indian Pacific between Adelaide and Broken Hill, it’s expected to climb from $83 at the moment to $969. From Adelaide to Kalgoorlie it will rise from $243 to almost $2000. That’s an enormous increase. At a time when our war veterans and our pensioners should be treated with respect, this is a mean spirited cut. I think there are a range of cuts in the Abbott Government’s budget where things were sitting in the bottom drawer and were brought out. I think Ministers maybe didn’t understand. It’s a bit like the abolition, with a grand saving of $1 million, of the seatbelts on school buses program, which happened in this year’s Budget. These are things that, when the implications are known, as they are now, the Federal Government has got to reconsider this decision in the interest of jobs and in particular in the interests of South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
BYNER: Anthony, what’s your reaction to Scott Morrison’s response that sorry, this is a state concession issue.
ALBANESE: It’s not – it’s interstate. That’s the issue here. States are certainly responsible for the issue of concessions on the Noarlunga to Seaford line or intrastate travel around Adelaide, between Adelaide and regional cities, but these are iconic rail journeys. They’re a part of the Australian history and tradition. They’re more than just economic. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy if we lost these rail routes? It’s a part of who we are, and there is a national responsibility. We took that view when we were in Government, and I know Scott’s new to the portfolio and I certainly will be chasing him up when Parliament sits to ask him to reconsider. Tony Abbott can’t come to Adelaide and redo the sod turn on the Torrens to Torrens project that was funded by us in 2013. I think I spoke to you on the day we turned the first sod. They stopped the project. They’ve started it again and yesterday they were pretending that it’s somehow new and it’s a new project. What we need is new projects for South Australia and we need no further cuts.
BYNER: Anthony, you’ll keep us in the loop and thank you for joining us. That’s the federal Shadow Transport Minister.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.