Feb 17, 2016

Transcript of radio interview on RN Drive with Patricia Karvelas

Subjects: Infrastructure Australia report; public transport; Malcolm Turnbull; Gary Gray; Labor Party

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. Welcome back to the show.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you, Patricia.

KARVELAS: How much of this plan has your support?

ALBANESE: We’ll examine each of the recommendations. Certainly, what it highlights is many of the things that Labor has been saying over the last two and a half years of inaction.

We’ve spoken about the need to deal with urban congestion by investing in rail, not just roads, and half of the priority projects that have been identified, of course, rail projects, and it speaks about the importance of public transport.

It’s identified the need to preserve the corridor for the High Speed Rail Line between Brisbane and Melbourne as the sort of example of the long term planning that’s required and that’s something that I have a Private Members Bill before the Parliament on.

It’s emphasised the importance of proper planning and we’ve been very critical of course of projects like the East West Link project in Melbourne which had a benefit of 45 cents for every dollar that was invested in   it.

So it was a project that simply didn’t stack up. So this is a report that has many worthy recommendations. It seems to me that it emphasises a bit too much the sale of assets which is an easy short term fix but can create longer term fiscal problems for the Government’s position.

KARVELAS: You just mentioned the East West Link, so I’d like to go there. It has a delay cost of $73 million. The Victorian Labor Government cancelled that project when they came to power. Would you encourage Daniel Andrew to have a rethink given that?

ALBANESE: No. It’s a dud. It has 45 cents return for every dollar that’s invested. You know, if you give me $100 the next time we see each other, and I promise to give you back $45 the next time we meet, I reckon you wouldn’t be in that for a deal.

That’s precisely what taxpayers are asked to do for the East West Link project. The priority project for Melbourne that we’ve identified for Commonwealth investment is of course the Melbourne Metro.

KARVELAS: But on the East-West, is Infrastructure Australia wrong then?

ALBANESE: The fact is that there’s a cost-benefit of 45 cents for every dollar that could be invested from taxpayers in it. So it’s a project that simply doesn’t stack up.

KARVELAS: What about the proposal which we’ve seen before of a user pays approach to road funding? Specifically to get there within 10 years and get rid of fuel excise and vehicle registration fees. Now, the Prime Minister says it has to be equitable and fair. Can it be? Is it a proposal that’s at least worth looking at?

ALBANESE: Well, that’s the big weakness. This is a government that of course with the East West Link, the money didn’t come as new investment. That was money that was taken from the Melbourne Metro.

The Melbourne Metro would have been under construction right now had Tony Abbott not stopped it when he came to office in 2013. So in terms of investment in public transport relating to a user pays system, if you have people in the outer suburbs of our capital cities who don’t have access to public transport, asking them to pay higher and higher tolls can be very inequitable indeed, whereas people in the more inner suburbs such as where I live, that do have access to public transport, that do have those options, of course means that it’s possible to travel by rail or light rail or bus.

So I think whilst the theory is there, part of what politicians need to do is to take the report of Infrastructure Australia, independent experts and apply it to the real world.

And in the real world, people in our outer suburbs simply don’t have the same alternatives in terms of not using the private motor vehicle and of course a flat tax which is regressive such as a toll or a user pays system, used right across the network could have very negative consequences indeed and that requires of course further analysis.

KARVELAS: If you’re just tuning in, my guest is Anthony Albanese, the Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, commonly known in political circles as Albo. Our number here, 0418 226 576. One of your most senior colleagues, Gary Gray has announced he’s leaving politics, as you know. And he doesn’t think you can win the election. Here he is.

GARY GRAY: Governments get re-elected in their first time round. And that’s why – you can’t beat the averages, Jeff. No, it’s not defeatism. It’s absolute pragmatic realism. You don’t want parliamentarians who live in la-la land.

KARVELAS: Do you live in la-la land, Anthony Albanese?

ALBANESE: Put Gary’s theory to Daniel Andrews who got elected as the Premier of Victoria after just one term of chaos with the Victorian Coalition.

Or more markedly, I think, talk to Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Premier of Queensland who couldn’t put together a cricket team in the last term. They were on single figures, and they had quite an extraordinary result.

Politics is far more volatile than when Gary Gray came in. He’s been a good friend of mine since the days he was a party official in the national office, the world is a faster moving place and politics reflects that as well, and recent election results have shown just that.

KARVELAS: You really think that Bill Shorten’s going to beat Malcolm Turnbull?

ALBANESE: Look, the truth is that of course, oppositions after one term aren’t favourites. But to suggest that it’s not possible –

KARVELAS: Well, anything’s possible. I mean, I could, you know, become an athlete I suppose. Anything. I could do something really sporty. Anything’s possible. It’s really unlikely though, right?

ALBANESE: You could get a puppy, Patricia!

KARVELAS: You brought it up. Anything is possible. But it’s unlikely, isn’t it? That’s what I’m really getting at.

ALBANESE: Well, what do you reckon the chances would have been that Tony Abbott, after his election victory in 2013, wouldn’t make it to Christmas 2015 as Prime Minister? I reckon you would have gotten pretty good odds about that.

The fact is that that change did occur. It moved very quickly. The Coalition moved to someone who most of them still don’t like in Malcolm Turnbull. So politics is much more volatile than it used to be. I think that is part of what makes our life very interesting.

KARVELAS: Is it so volatile that you could, for instance, become the leader, either before or after the next election?

ALBANESE: We’ve made that decision, and I think we can win the next election. I think I could be a minister in a Shorten Labor Government and that’s what I’m working each and every day towards. But on the issues, I think there’s been an enormous let down from Malcolm Turnbull.

They did expect something different, including on infrastructure and cities. There was a lot of talk about public transport. Malcolm was there in Melbourne riding on the trams. He’s good at taking selfies on public transport. People actually had an expectation he’d fund it, not just ride on public transport.

I think on a range of issues, on climate change, on marriage equality, there’s a great deal of disappointment between the Malcolm that people thought they were getting and the Malcolm that’s actually there, one that is essentially just presiding over Tony Abbott’s policies.

KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, thank you for joining me tonight.

ALBANESE: Great to be with you.

KARVELAS: And that is Anthony Albanese. He is the Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. You’re listening to RN Drive.