Subjects: Federal infrastructure investment in Victoria, Western Sydney Airport; ABC board.
JON FAINE: Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and he has arrived in Melbourne to make infrastructure announcements from the Federal Opposition. Mr Albanese, good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Jon.
FAINE: Are you on the train on the way from the airport into Melbourne?
ALBANESE: Yes, well, I wish I was. That is a great example of a project that is needed. But of course in order to do that you’ve got to do the Melbourne Metro, which was why we put $3 billion in the 2013 Budget for the Melbourne Metro that was of course taken out by the Governor-General designate Abbott in 2014.
FAINE: So what we’ve got is the Turnbull Government have announced that they are going to invest seven or so billion dollars in Badgerys Creek Airport including a rail line to an airport that they are committed to building, a rail line to an airport that doesn’t exist. But no one will fund a rail link to Melbourne Airport. They are also investing in Westconnex which the independent auditors said this week looks like it is not viable financially and the various reports were that this could be another bit of a black hole, a commercial black hole, and yet the State Government here says there is next to no commitment to the infrastructure spend that Victoria needs. So like a seagull to a chip, is that what has brought you down to Melbourne?
ALBANESE: Well I’ve got to say that I have been coming to Melbourne and saying this for some time. The Federal Government was happy to put money into the Westconnex project in Sydney. That’s an interesting project in terms of planning. They have begun digging the hole. It’s a $16.7 billion project. But they don’t know quite where the hole is going to come up yet. So that money was forwarded as advance payment, you know, without any business case, without recommendations from Infrastructure Australia. And of course the other fact is the Asset Recycling money, where the money has been forwarded to NSW, to the ACT Government as well. Victoria is entitled to $1.4 billion of that. It has put forward a very practical plan for regional rail and the Turnbull Government are saying no, even though that money itself wasn’t new money; it was taken from the Building Australia Fund that was meant to be for Infrastructure Australia-approved projects. But NSW and the ACT got the money and there is no reason whatsoever why Victoria shouldn’t get those funds. Victoria is receiving 7.7 per cent of Federal infrastructure funds with 25 per cent of the population and with the great city of Melbourne being Australia’s fastest-growing city at the moment.
FAINE: When you were in office the pro-Sydney bias and the Queensland emphasis when Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister was absolutely evident from a Victorian perspective. So when the Labor Party was in federal office, from our point of view you were just as bad.
ALBANESE: Well that is not true Jon of course. The largest-ever Federal investment in a public transport project was right here – the Regional Rail Link project – a $3.25 billion investment. The M80 road project funded here as well; the substantial community infrastructure upgrades; the Managed Motorways program on the Monash Freeway. The fact is that we invested in rail freight as well with the upgrades to the Australian Rail Track Corporation here through Victoria. We invested in the roads around Geelong, including the Geelong Ring Road, the Princes Highway West and Princes Highway East; the Bacchus Marsh upgrades out to Ballarat. We invested in all of those projects and indeed Victoria – the complaint that I had as a NSW person and as the Infrastructure Minister was that Victoria received slightly more money than NSW and that was because frankly the Victorian projects like the Regional Rail Link stacked up – the Victorian Government had done the work.
FAINE: Just finally and briefly and somewhat I hope not too indulgently, we yesterday had the opening of the newly refurbished ABC building here at Southbank.
ALBANESE: Thank goodness for that.
FAINE: Yes the works are over. Mitch Fifield the minister unveiled the plaque and that was glorious and cracked a few good jokes, including the funniest one was that the ABC was going to move headquarters down to Melbourne and nobody laughed when he cracked that joke Anthony Albanese. Nobody laughed from the Sydney management that had flown down for the opening or the board. Now the ABC board has nine people on it. Do you know the break up for the ABC board?
ALBANESE: I must admit I am not an expert on the ABC board.
FAINE: OK, well I will give it to you. There are are nine people on the board, five of them are from Sydney.
ALBANESE: How many of them are from Malcolm’s street?
FAINE: Five of them are from Sydney, two are from Queensland, one from West Australia and one from South Australia. There is not a single Victorian on the ABC board of nine and there are five, all from Sydney
ALBANESE: Well that’s a bit rough. Can I say this – that under my watch, the chair of Infrastructure Australia, a great appointment, was Sir Rod Eddington. The Deputy Chair was Mark Birrell, both Victorians.
FAINE: And one in fact a former Liberal Member of Parliament so there you go.
FAINE: It’s extraordinary how these things happen but no-one ever talks about them so I thought I would get into trouble and make sure that I do. Welcome to Melbourne and thank you for calling us on the train on the way from the airport. Oh no, that’s right, in a taxi on the way from the airport. Anthony Albanese, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.