Subjects: Medicare co-payment, Abbott’s barnacles, paid parental leave, Budget, East-West Link, infrastructure
FRAN KELLY: Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. Anthony Albanese, welcome back to Breakfast.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you, Fran.
KELLY: We’re going to get to the Victorian election in a moment and that letter from the Prime Minister about the funding for the East-West Link, but can I ask you first about the Medicare co-payment. Has the Opposition seen any sign, have there been any discussions or any understanding that the co-payment’s going to be dropped, or that the Government’s not going to bring it into the Senate and have another go?
ALBANESE: The problem here isn’t that there are barnacles on the ship. The problem is the captain. Everything Tony Abbott does with regard to this Budget has just reinforced that it’s a budget of broken promises. He’s now trying to say he didn’t do that famous interview on SBS TV. With regard to the GP tax, Australians don’t want it. Australians support the universality of Medicare. They know deep down that this $7 GP tax would be a first step and it would rise in the future. They know in their heart of hearts Tony Abbott, just like John Howard, just doesn’t like Medicare, that they don’t support the principle of universality, that people pay through the tax system and then get healthcare according to need.
KELLY: If the Prime Minister does move to cut off these barnacles, let’s call them, drop these policies, and Labor still remains there blocking a number of other policies that come up, are you concerned that Labor can be the one that the voters start turning their negative attention to because we did hear from the head of Treasury, Martin Parkinson yesterday on the program who said again that Australia has a revenue problem, I think there’s no dispute about that, but he says our biggest problem is spending. In other words, he says that some of these policies in the Budget that are proposed to cut spending are really what’s required, we need to get our spending in check. Do you agree with that?
ALBANESE: Tony Abbott is proposing more spending. He’s proposing a paid parental leave scheme that’ll impact the Budget by $20 billion over a four year period of the budget estimates. All he’s talking about now is modifying it. Tony Abbott has rejected revenue measures such as making sure that the top end who use superannuation as a way of evading their proper contribution to the sustainability of the Australian economy, he got rid of that. So they have a real credibility problem here Fran. Of course budgets always have to have savings measures in them – we had that. What this government did as one of its first acts was double the deficit through measures like removing the changes to superannuation at the top end that we had, through removing some of the tax avoidance measures for corporate tax evasion that we’d put in place –
KELLY – yeah, but talking about credibility problems that’s what Tony Abbott used to say about Labor, you have a credibility problem, and I’ve noticed the Coalition has now started to remind people through the Parliament of some of the issues that beset the Rudd-Gillard Governments. Wayne Swan as Treasurer for example, promising Budget surpluses that never came about. Credibility has been a problem for your side of politics as well.
ALBANESE: Government isn’t as easy as they thought it was, is it Fran? They had a plan to get into government. They don’t have a plan to govern. The hypocrisy of Joe Hockey speaking about revenue write-downs – we had revenue write-downs due to the Global Financial Crisis. Australia weathered that global financial crisis better than any of our international competitors. And at the same time – to segway into the topic of my choice, of infrastructure – in government we went from 20th in the OECD for infrastructure investment to 1st for infrastructure investment.
KELLY: Let me come to infrastructure, you are the Shadow Minister, that is true. On the Victorian Election, the East-West road link is really one of the key issues for voters to choose on. There is a clear difference between the parties. The PM has now written to Denis Napthine and Daniel Andrews saying and I quote “I want to make it absolutely clear to the people of Victoria that the $3 billion the Commonwealth has committed is for one purpose only and that is to build the East-West Link. Let me repeat, the $3 billion is only available to build the East-West Link.” In other words, Labor’s promise to scrap that contract if it wins – it’s the Prime Minister’s right isn’t it to dictate how the $3 billion in federal money is spent?
ALBANESE: What he’s attempting to do is not so much to intimidate the Victorian Labor Party, he’s trying to intimidate Victorian voters. He’s saying, if you elect Labor you won’t get your fair share of infrastructure dollars.
KELLY: Well you won’t get $3 billion from the East-West Link to be spent somewhere other else.
ALBANESE: Let’s be clear here about the timeframes. The Government in which I was a Minister entered into an agreement – we sat down, we had discussions with Transport Minister Mulder, with officials from Premier and Cabinet – and we agreed on a process of funding the Melbourne Metro. $3 billion from the federal government, $3 billion from the state government, and then we had a proposal that had attracted interest from private sector funding in addition to that. What occurred was that then we got Tony Abbott, who has this view, as he outlines in Battlelines, that simply there is no role for public transport. He says, quite simply, that “there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car, and cars need roads”. That is what his view of the world is. So therefore, the Victorian Government went along with their Coalition colleagues, in spite of the fact that the Melbourne Metro had a positive CBA, in spite of the fact that $40 million had already been contributed and had funded the planning for this project, they came up with the East-West project that still has not been assessed by Infrastructure Australia, that doesn’t have a published cost-benefit analysis, that the only analysis that has been published of it said there would be a return of fifty cents and at most eighty cents for every dollar that was invested. And then the Abbott Government this year, you spoke before about Budget emergencies. Well let me tell you what, Fran. There is $1.5 billion sitting in the Victorian Government’s bank account for a project in which there has not been so much as a hole dug.
KELLY: Alright Anthony Albanese thank you very much for joining us.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.