Subjects: High Speed Rail, Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal
FRAN KELLY: A very fast train for the east coast is back on the political agenda it seems with reports it’s a key element of a major cities policy to be released before next month’s Budget.
But the price tag for High Speed Rail links has been put at more than $110 billion, which means the Government would have to look at alternative funding models to pay for the project.
Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Infrastructure Minister. He’s been a long-time supporter of a very fast train. Anthony Albanese, welcome back to breakfast.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Fran.
KELLY: We understand that the Turnbull Government’s cities policy will include High Speed Rail links between capital cities and a couple of regional centres. Does this take us closer to a very fast train between Melbourne and Brisbane?
ALBANESE: Well, today is actually three years since the former government received a report on High Speed Rail and in that time there has been nothing in terms of taking us closer.
The High Speed Rail Advisory group that I established – it included people like Jennifer Westacott from the Business Council and Tim Fischer - recommended a High Speed Rail Authority.
We had funded that to the tune of more than $50 million to make sure that the coordination that would be required across state jurisdictions of Queensland, NSW, Victoria and the ACT and also local government could be progressed and that we could get the planning – preserving the corridor is the first task that is required - and that funding was removed.
Nothing has happened at all and now in the lead up to an election Malcolm Turnbull is putting forward a proposal which is nothing new really that value capture will be a part of any High Speed Rail proposal.
But it would be good if they got on board but the first thing they could do is establish the High Speed Rail Authority.
I have a Private Member’s Bill before the Parliament to do just that and I will be re-introducing it when the Parliament resumes next week.
KELLY: And so you will put that in next week and that’s about preserving the corridor as you say, acquiring the land along the corridor before it’s built out. Is that the idea? How important is that?
ALBANESE: Well, its critical. You need structure, Fran. It can’t just happen with a front page splash once every year.
You actually need a structure that will work to do the planning work to preserve the corridor across the jurisdictions and that’s why the High Speed Rail Authority was recommended.
It’s a bit disturbing that it’s now lapsed twice, the second time with the proroguing of Parliament with the government refusing to allow it to be voted or debated fully and that’s disturbing given that this was the unanimous recommendation of the advisory group.
KELLY: Money is key of course. Now there’s a lot of cheap finance washing around the markets around the world at the moment.
We could borrow money I suppose at a rate on par with interest rates - you would think 2.5 per cent or a bit more obviously.
Do you think that is the idea – take on more government debt or look at this alternative funding model? As you say, it’s not new the notion of value capture financing.
Basically what it is, is that the increase in land values as a result of having a high speed train going to your town or past your development means that developers make money and therefore they can pay something for this. It’s a pretty smart way to take the pressure off taxpayers isn’t it?
ALBANESE: Well you need a combination of both. That’s the truth. Anyone who comes and tells you that you can do this for free is fantasising.
The report that was released three years ago showed for example that you need 82km of tunnels, 67km of that would be in Sydney.
It did show that there is a benefit to the economy - $2.15 for every dollar invested between Sydney and Melbourne.
But it did say that on top of value capture you certainly would need some government investment and to pretend otherwise is a fantasy.
What concerns me is that both in terms of for High Speed Rail and for other infrastructure projects the suggestion that you can get something for nothing is out there now from Malcolm Turnbull.
When he spoke about the Melbourne Metro for example and said last week that he would provide a whole $10 million towards this multi-billion project so they could look at value capture.
Well, Melbourne Metro’s business plan, if he had bothered to look at, it includes value capture.
It includes the uplift value that will occur around the development, around the new stations in the city.
So it’s quite astonishing I think that Malcolm Turnbull, who was elected six months ago with a whole lot of selfies on trains and trams here in Melbourne where I am today and around the country, doesn’t seem to go on them anymore, but most importantly hasn’t funded them since he came to office and now he is pretending that it can be done for free. It can’t.
KELLY: It’s 17 minutes to eight. Our guest is the Shadow Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. What about - he is supporting the truckies though, safe rates for truckies.
What evidence is there to show that by paying somebody more they will drive more safety because the Government says there is no link and the Opposition says it is proven?
ALBANESE: Well, the evidence is in Fran and the evidence is that if you ensure that people travel safety in terms of safe rates you will get proper outcomes.
KELLY: What does that mean, proper outcomes?
ALBANESE: Well you will get improved safety. We now know that something like 330 fatalities occur every year involving heavy vehicles and that is of real concern.
And the fact is that Safe Work Australia found in July 2015 that 31 per cent of employers say that workers ignore safety rules to get the job done.
Twenty per cent accept dangerous behaviour and 20 per cent of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines.
Now that compares with six percent of employers in other industries.
KELLY: Yes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all about the pay rate.
ALBANESE: Well, we know from the evidence that has been put forward. This isn’t something that has just come from nowhere Fran.
This arose from a unanimous report of the House of Representatives under the Howard Government – not the Labor Government, the Howard Government - called Burning the Midnight Oil - and it spoke about drugs in the industry.
It spoke about the impact, the pressures that were on there. Now if you have people who are put under enormous pressure to meet deadlines who aren’t paid for their waiting time, then the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which was established in 2012 and which importantly for the hearings of which, or the determination which has been made, the Government didn’t even bother to make a submission to that hearing.
Now, in the lead-up to an election campaign Malcolm Turnbull is allowing his anti-union obsession and the need that they have to make unions the centrepiece of the next election campaign cloud his attitude towards road safety.
KELLY: But he’s not the only one saying this. For a start a former employee of the Transport Workers Union has turned whistle blower - Michael Wong - quoted in Fairfax papers.
ALBANESE: Oh Fran, Whistle blower Fran? Whistle blower?
KELLY: Well, let me quote what he is saying. Michael Wong, former Transport Workers Union, is quoted in the Fairfax papers saying that the link between safety and pay is minimal.
The union fundamentally doesn’t care about owner drivers. It cares about income and the political power it can achieve, which is exactly what Michaelia Cash is saying yesterday.
ALBANESE: A disgruntled bloke who was discredited before the Royal Commission who worked for the union in a couple of places for a short period of time and had nothing to do with the issues around the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
KELLY: Well all right, let me tell you what the owner drivers say. They are the ones doing the driving. They say they’ll be disadvantaged by a safe rates order, they’ll be driven out of business.
ALBANESE: But the safe rates order doesn’t disadvantage them Fran. What the safe rates order does in fact is make sure that they can’t be exploited just like the drivers from the bigger companies can’t be exploited.
KELLY: Well, why don’t they believe that? They are going to bring their big rigs to Canberra to protest against you. They don’t agree with you and they are the ones doing it.
ALBANESE: Well isn’t it interesting Fran that you have a government that is basically out there provoking industrial action in terms of bring your trucks to Canberra, stop working, stop working bring your trucks to Canberra for a political protest at the same time as that’s precisely the sort of activity that they are saying should be ruled out by other working people.
KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thanks for joining us.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
KELLY: Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.