Subjects; Morley-Ellenbrook rail line, WA infrastructure
OLIVER PETERSEN: Anthony Albanese, welcome to Perth. Welcome to the Perth Live studios.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s good to be here – a major refurbishment since the last time I was here.
PETERSEN: Yes, we’ve just opened the studios this week. I suppose I should ask you first, as the Infrastructure spokesman for the Labor Party, what do you make of our new studios?
ALBANESE: I reckon 6PR are doing pretty well. The ratings must be good because the studios have certainly improved. It’s a lot better than 2GB or 2UE over in the east let me tell you, these studios. They are fantastic.
PETERSEN: It is good to know. Now in the vein of being the Transport and Infrastructure spokesman for the Labor Party, you have been sprinkling a bit of magic dust today. If you win the next Federal election you are going to commit a whole heap of money to build METRONET out to Ellenbrook?
ALBANESE: We are – $700 million. It’s part of our $1.6 billion commitment we have made – A Fair Share for WA. WA is not getting its fair share of infrastructure funding. It’s not getting its fair share of the GST. It needs support from the Commonwealth. At the moment the WA share is about 8 per cent of the Federal infrastructure budget. That clearly is not good enough. We have had substantial growth in the size of Perth in terms of the suburbs and we know that when rail has been built here in Perth it has been an enormous success. So this project was first promised by Colin Barnett of course almost a decade ago. We, together with Mark McGowan’s Government, will get on with the business of doing it and it will be in our first Budget in 2019.
PETERSEN: OK. You must feel coming to Perth now the political tide has certainly change for Labor. This is now a red state and obviously the Liberal Party here at a state level here and federally is on the nose. Do you feel the change of winds are the air?
ALBANESE: I think certainly there are real prospects here. I mean Mark McGowan’s Government has begun really well and you can sense that. One of the things that you felt about the Colin Barnett’s Government – I got on pretty well with Colin personally – but they had run out of steam and run out of ideas and were just sitting back and complaining about everything being someone else’s fault. Mark McGowan is a go-to guy. He is getting on with the business. Rita Saffioti – I have been across here a number of times this year – she’s really on top of the infrastructure issues. They’ve got a list and we are working with them and we want the Commonwealth Government to match the commitment that we have made today. Construction can begin in 2019. So this is jobs in the short term, but of course up to six new stations in this growth corridor.
PETERSEN: So construction can begin in 2019 out to Ellenbrook. When will it be finished?
ALBANESE: Around about 2022. They are finalising those plans. It’s at least a three-year construction. They’ve got the geo-technical work taking place now so that’s not a firm date yet. But no doubt what we can see is it’s also picking up from some of the excess that is there in construction because of the mining sector moving production away from the construction phase. This is precisely the time when we should be stepping up infrastructure funding here in WA.
When we were in Government, I’m very proud of the record we have, we did Gateway WA, the Swan Valley Bypass we funded, we did the Leach Highway, we did the Great Northern Highway, the North West Coastal Highway, the roads to Bunbury and Esperance Port and Perth CityLink, where we were today at the press conference. That’s a fantastic project, uniting the city with the Northbridge precinct. So we worked very closely with the WA Government, of both persuasions, when we were in Government. We want to get back into Government so that these promises become actual construction on the ground.
PETERSON: Yes, well look I’m sure everyone will be happy to hear that there is some infrastructure spending commitments here from Labor if you do form Government again when we go to the polls, probably in the next year or so. But the other big question is you know, you get hammered with this every time you come to Perth is; what is Labor going to do to fix our share of the GST?
ALBANESE: We’ll await the review that’s taking place but we haven’t sat back and had nothing to say about it. We know that WA is not getting its fair share and that’s why we’ve committed this $1.6 billion. That would bring it up to the floor of 70 per cent, so there’s more than one way to skin a cat as they say.
PETERSON: Sure – $1.6 billion though only goes about halfway to what we lose. We lose over $3 billion per year and, as you know, we’re not happy.
ALBANESE: That’s right and I understand that but lifting it up to the floor level of 70 per cent is a pretty good first step. From Opposition, of course, it’s hard to fix these things. One of the things that I’m concerned about is that not only is the current Federal Government under promising for WA, they’re not even delivering on what they promised.
In last year’s Budget they allocated, that is in 2016, they said in the coming year we’re going to spend $842 million on infrastructure in WA. The actual amount was $614 million. So about a quarter of that was never realised and that means less money for programs like Black Spots and Roads to Recovery and major projects and it’s unfortunate that the Government hasn’t gotten on board for projects like Ellenbrook.
When I was the Infrastructure Minister we had announcements for WA projects in every single one of our budgets and that meant, some of those works are still happening of course, like up on the Great Northern Highway to Wubin. The Bindi Bindi curves and projects up there to improve road safety and of course the Swan Valley Bypass was funded by us in the 2013 Budget, with construction still going there.
PETERSON: Ok, now obviously there is a feeling as I said of probably confidence, is it fair to say Anthony Albanese when you come to Western Australia, when you come to Perth amongst the Labor rank and file that you’re on track to probably be the next Federal Government?
ALBANESE: Well, we’re not taking anything for granted. One of the things that you do notice when you come to WA is that the other side aren’t here. Darren Chester, I don’t know how many visits he’s made to WA or Paul Fletcher in the last year but I think if you could add up half a dozen of them they wouldn’t have been here as often as I have. Bill Shorten’s here regularly.
PETERSON: Not very regularly on the radio though, it’s got to be said. He’s been requested from our program for mornings. It’s very hard to nail down your leader Bill Shorten.
ALBANESE: Well, you’ve got me!
PETERSON: Yeah, we’ve got you. It’s great to have you here Albo.
ALBANESE: You’ve got me. I’ll tell him. I’ll get him to come on.
PETERSON: Okay. It would be great to hear from Bill. But it’s great to have you here, Albo. We’re not disappointed that you’re here in the studio talking to 6PR listeners this afternoon but it does at times, you know, sometimes here in Perth we do feel a little isolated.
We do feel as though it is a very parochial state, Western Australia. Is it understood though enough in Canberra? Is it understood at the federal level that, hey, Perth is part of the Commonwealth, we exist, we need some help. We’ve been banging on about this share of the GST for years.
ALBANESE: Look, I think the truth is that some people get it and some people don’t. Every time I’m on that plane across the Nullarbor you feel it. You do realise how long it is. Today was very efficient this morning. The last time we ran into headwinds and it took six and a half hours to go across. I was sure we’d miss Perth and hit Mauritius. Every time in a day, which I have done the last two times I’ve come across, about six weeks ago when I did it, I said to myself I won’t do that again, I’ll come overnight, but diaries being what they are you certainly feel it when you do it as a day trip. I always feel very welcome in Perth. I think it’s a great city. I’m a Sydney guy.
PETERSON: Big Sydney Rabbitohs fan.
PETERSON: Which has made Perth its home away from home.
ALBANESE: It is indeed. I understand they got Round 1 next year.
PETERSON: They do.
ALBANESE: But I think there’s a really great lifestyle here in Perth. I’ve been across to this part of the world to holiday as well. I think the time difference, to me is a great attraction.
PETERSON: Very good. It sounds like we’ve got a door open here and Albo’s starting to understand where Perth and Western Australia is sitting so it’s good to have a dialogue with you Anthony Albanese and I appreciate you coming into the studios and having a look around this afternoon.
ALBANESE: Thank you so much for having us. We’ll chat again next time.
PETERSON: Look forward to it.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.