Subjects; Infrastructure funding; Cross River Rail; Western Sydney Airport; AdeLINK; National Energy Guarantee; Peta Credlin.
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now the Shadow Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese. Front page of The Daily Telegraph, I focused on it a bit earlier with Michael Sukkar and Scott Morrison as Santa. He says he’s not Santa, that Christmas isn’t coming in May. But on the serious side of this, you’d welcome their focus on infrastructure with the Melbourne rail link and second Sydney Airport and that sort of focus?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, there’s a bit of rhetoric and there have been a couple of announcements of what they’ll do next decade when they’re in Opposition. There aren’t actually projects that are ready to go like Cross River Rail where yesterday myself and Bill Shorten announced $2.24 billion dollars for that project that will double the capacity of rail being able to cross the bridge. More than 500,000 private vehicle kilometres will be taken off the road per day as a result of that project.
GILBERT: What about [Western] Sydney Airport? The Sydney Airport process, that’s all happening isn’t it? Sods have been turned so it’s not all next decade.
ALBANESE: Well it is in terms of the the rail project, of when they’ve announced it will commence. We have been arguing for some time that you need rail to be ready on day one across the entire network. What they’ve announced is part of it and that’s good, that’s welcome, that’s a start, but it also needs to connect up to the Macarthur region so that people in Campbelltown and that region, which is a growth region, can get access to that those high value jobs. But they’re working off a very low base, because what we’ve seen is in the announcements that they’ve made, they’ve stopped talking about the forward estimates are now talking about ‘over 10 years’ and so figures that are actually cuts look as though there’s growth. Now, the Parliamentary Budget Office has shown that the infrastructure investment will fall from 0.4 percent of GDP to 0.2. It will halve over the next decade. The forward estimates from last year’s Budget showed in 2016-17 it was anticipated to spend $9.2 billion. Over the forwards that falls to $4.2 billion, by more than half.
GILBERT: Okay, but on some of these projects, your Cross River Rail you spoke of, the criticism from the Government is that this is not one of the top priorities for Queensland as articulated by Infrastructure Australia.
ALBANESE: It’s ready to go.
GILBERT: Aren’t there bigger priorities? That’s what the Government says, for Infrastructure Australia there are bigger priorities.
ALBANESE: In Melbourne and the Western Sydney rail line, for example, the planning of those projects hasn’t been concluded. In Melbourne there’s a range of options. We do need airport rail in Melbourne, but there are a range of options that haven’t been finalised yet. Cross River Rail has actually been finalised. It’s done. The Government has sidelined Infrastructure Australia, has starved it of resources. It isn’t listening to it at all.
GILBERT: So it’s irrelevant now?
ALBANESE: Well, unfortunately it has been made irrelevant to the Government’s decision making processes. Cross River Rail was the number one project by Infrastructure Australia way back in 2012. It was funded in 2013, ready to go, construction to start in 2013-14. It was shelved because of Tony Abbott’s cuts and because Campbell Newman walked away from the agreement that he had with us as a Federal Labor Government.
GILBERT: So it’s not just about marginal seats as the Government would argue?
ALBANESE: Cross River Rail impacts the entire Brisbane network. It impacts the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast by improving the capacity of the whole network. It’s a game changer. If you look at where we funded infrastructure when we were in office, when you get off the plane here go to the Majura Parkway, you see that work there. When you look at the Gold Coast Light Rail project on the Gold Coast, that was opposed by Steven Ciobo and the Coalition, state and federal. That was vital. It had more than a million trips during the fortnight of the Commonwealth Games. It was part of the great success story.
GILBERT: Well let’s just look at the country then, the big projects. You’re on the same page as the Government when it comes to the Melbourne rail link and the [Western] Sydney Airport infrastructure around that, although you’d like to see that expedited. The other big projects around the country. What’s your view? I mean, what else needs to be done beyond that Cross River Rail?
ALBANESE: We need AdeLINK in South Australia. We need to expand the light rail network there.
GILBERT: What about the Inland Rail?
ALBANESE: The Inland Rail, we started that project.
GILBERT: So you support that as well?
ALBANESE: We started that process. We think there’s problems with the financing of the project. It doesn’t actually go to the port and now you have a study being undertaken to get the freight from Acacia Ridge, where it stops, more than 30 kilometres from the port. Now, that’s the most expensive bit. That’s the most difficult bit of the project to do so we think there are flaws in the way that the Government is handling this issue, but we’re supportive of Inland Rail. We put some $900 million in, $600 million into fixing the existing track that will form part of it, and $300 million in the Budget for the acquisition and the preconstruction work for that project. But we also have been making major announcements in Western Australia including the Ellenbrook rail line, the extension of the rail line to Byford, the extension of the Mitchell Freeway into the northern suburbs. These are all important projects. The Midland project, which is about moving the station closer to the hospital and also expanding it to one further stop. So that expansion of METRONET in Perth is a great example of a state government that’s done the work, is doing the planning, and is receiving the support of Federal Labor. The Government should get on board.
GILBERT: I want to ask you about the National Energy Guarantee because this is another big story in the lead up to the Ministers’ meeting with the states on Friday and it looks like Mark Butler your colleague is opening the way here for Labor to back the National Energy Guarantee but to toughen your benchmarks, your reduction targets within that framework. But I think business would welcome that development if you could see fit to have some bipartisanship.
ALBANESE: What we’ve said all along is that what industry needs here is certainty. You need certainty to be able to invest. This government has had five years of flip flopping. They could have had an emissions trading scheme, one would have thought that they would have supported a market based mechanism, but they didn’t support that. They’re not only climate skeptics on their backbench, they’re market sceptics as well. They could have had the Chief Scientist’s recommendations for a clean energy target. That was their policy that they developed and then they rejected it after the Chief Scientist recommended it and now we have the NEG being put forward. Labor will closely examine what comes out of any of these processes with the states. We’ll continue to be constructive.
GILBERT: But one of the recommendations of the regulators, and a lot of what you’ve said is accurate in terms of the chopping and changing, and to be fair the Labor Party’s chopped and changed a bit as well in terms of Kevin Rudd’s approach to it but if you look at…
ALBANESE: Well, no. We…
GILBERT: You got forced into it…
ALBANESE: We pursued our processes. We tried to get it through the Senate.
GILBERT: And you gave up on it.
ALBANESE: No. We couldn’t get it through the Senate.
GILBERT: And then you gave up on it.
ALBANESE: No, we couldn’t get it through the Senate. We tried on multiple occasions…
ALBANESE: … to get it through the Senate.
GILBERT: Just quickly in terms of the broader recommendations. One of the key ones is the need for political constancy beyond the cycle, isn’t it? I mean, that’s crucial.
GILBERT: So you can invest in assets beyond 20 years.
ALBANESE: What we need to do is to have mechanisms that allow the market to operate, and when the market operates, guess what? The future is renewables, because that’s what all of the markets are saying. That’s what the energy sector itself is saying. That’s what the economy needs. And it’s also what our environment needs.
GILBERT: Just quickly, it was on an interview with you and Ben Fordham on the Nine Network. Josh Frydenberg made a bit of a critique of Tony Abbott. Peta Credlin wasn’t very pleased with it, my Sky News colleague, and phoned him about it this morning. Mr Frydenberg says he stands by his words, he’d continue to call it as he sees it. This is just a bit of robust politics and it happens on all sides?
ALBANESE: Well, as Josh should, he has called Tony Abbott out for being a wrecker because that is the way that he is behaving. What’s extraordinary was Peta Credlin’s comments. I mean, this is a Sky News commentator seeking to dictate to Cabinet ministers what they say. I’m not surprised that Josh Frydenberg has rejected that. That’s the sort of approach that has led to Tony Abbott’s demise.
GILBERT: That interview is on Multiview in fact, still with Andrew Bolt if you like to catch it. Good interview, interesting one. Thank you, Anthony Albanese. Appreciate your time.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.
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