Subjects: Infrastructure; Monash Freeway; Malcolm Turnbull; public transport; privatisation of state-owned assets, infrastructure Australia; Parliament
JON FAINE: After we spoke to Greg Hunt, we got a call from the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, who is on Bill Shorten’s front bench. Mr Albanese, good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
FAINE: Greg Hunt said that he was prioritising some of the projects. Here is just a little bit of what he said would be his priorities on the better cities project.
GREG HUNT: For Melbourne my suggestion, which has obviously been outlined today, is that we look at two road, two rail and one port project long-term; being the Cross City Rail Tunnel, the cross-city road tunnel – the East-West Link – which inevitably have to be built – and in the meantime get on with fixing the Monash Freeway. There’s a Monash Upgrade that Infrastructure Australia has said is ready to proceed.
FAINE: Do we have consensus Anthony Albanese? Can we take the politics out of this?
ALBANESE: Well, of course Infrastructure Australia said it was ready to proceed in 2012, which is why we included it in the 2013 Budget and it would have been completed by now if Greg Hunt and the government which he was a part of hadn’t cut the project in the 2014 Budget. We had some $80 million allocated for the two sections; precisely, between High St to Warrigal Road and the Warrigal Road to Clyde Road section. I’m reading from the Budget papers here:
The Warrigal Road to Clyde Road section involves replacing existing entry ramp signals with various speed limits and on-ramp management. These projects will improve traffic flows during peak hours, reduce delays and improve safety.
FAINE: Ok. So it was in, and then it was out, and now it might be in again. Can we …
ALBANESE: It’s a good thing if it’s in. But what they shouldn’t do is pretend that he’s got this new idea. It’s the only thing he is saying is proceeding. He cut $3 billion form the Melbourne Metro project, they cut Managed Motorways and they cut the M80 project.
FAINE: No. Clearly now they are prepared to put money into public transport. Tony Abbott was not. Clearly Malcolm Turnbull is. Do you agree with that at least?
ALBANESE: Oh absolutely, because it makes no sense to have a roads-only approach. That’s something that I have been arguing from day one.
FAINE: So we’ve lost two years while we had Tony Abbott insisting that that was the only way to go and, for instance, state governments like this one saying: Well, then there’s no deal. Now the next thing they are saying is that they want to push privatisation of state assets as part of the funding package. Do we have consensus on that?
ALBANESE: Well you need to look at it on a case-by-case basis. With regard to the sale of the ports, that’s something that does make sense from my perspective. But what you shouldn’t have is a view that says private sector good, public sector bad. You need to look at each on the merits of its case just like you shouldn’t have a roads-only approach or a rail-only approach.
FAINE: Can we get Anthony Albanese, Bill Shorten, Malcom Turnbull and Greg Hunt to sit down in a room together and just agree on a plan so that, no matter who is in power it gets done?
ALBANESE: Well there is a better idea than that which is to get Infrastructure Australia to present a plan at arm’s length from government based upon the most appropriate projects, which is why we in government established Infrastructure Australia, which is why we funded all 15 of the priority projects. And Infrastructure Australia, for example, found that the Melbourne Metro project was the first priority for Melbourne. It also found that projects like Managed Motorways on the Monash Freeway, it found a cost-benefit analysis of something in the order of $6 return for every dollar invested, which is why we should take Infrastructure Australia’s recommendations seriously, which is a part of what Bill Shorten was recommending in his speech that he gave last Thursday.
FAINE: But the Labor Party plays politics with this too Anthony Albanese. The state Labor premier, Daniel Andrews, announced a new infrastructure body last week. It’s got three department heads on it. It’s supposedly an independent infrastructure body. It’s got three public servants – heads of Department of Premier and Cabinet, Treasury and Planning and they are beholden to the government of the day. They are hardly independent.
ALBANESE: No, that makes absolute sense. What we did with Infrastructure Australia is have the head of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the head of Treasury there and I’ll tell you why …
FAINE: You had them there, but not as voting members of the body.
ALBANESE: They were there as members of the body and they we there so that when the projects came before the Cabinet through the budgetary process, they were intimate with the proposals, they were aware of what the cost-benefit analysis was and it meant that my job as the Infrastructure Minister was a lot easier around the Budget process than it would have been if historically what occurred, which was that transport and infrastructure occurred over on the side, and then you had to argue the case.
It meant that there was a greater awareness of it and it does makes sense and you’ll find that the bureaucrats operate at arm’s length from the government because they want to see, Treasury analysis wants to see, the money directed towards projects that produce the greatest return.
FAINE: And just finally, shenanigans today, you’ll have fun and games in the Parliament won’t you with Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey on the backbench.
ALBANESE: I think we will there will be Tony And Joe and Bruce Bilson and Kevin Andrews all sitting on the backbench and I think Malcolm Turnbull will be worried about what’s coming from in front of him in terms of the Opposition but he will be also worried about what’s coming from behind and of course his ridiculing on Saturday was pretty extraordinary. I have never seen a Prime Minister laughed at by his own political party before.
FAINE: Good on you and thank you for your time this morning.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.