Subject/s: Joe Hockey; Abbott Government unfair budget; Infrastructure.
KIERAN GILBERT: Joining us now to discuss the politics of the day, Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese thanks for your time. First of all I want to ask you about Joe Hockey and his comments. He says he’s simply putting out the facts of the matter and that the wealthy pay more dollars when it comes to fuel excise than those less well off.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR TOURISM: Absolute nonsense. Joe Hockey has had a shocker of a week. He’s in a hole and he’s digging away and you can barely see him. Today, this morning, Christopher Pyne had six opportunities to say that he agreed with Joe Hockey’s comments and he refused to do so. And no wonder. The fact is that the wealthier people – where I am now talking to you now in Sydney’s CBD, all those company executives, just like myself – have a company fuel card. They don’t pay for their own petrol. Joe Hockey doesn’t pay for his own petrol. Nor do most of the wealthy. The fact is also that if you live in outer suburban Australia, whether in be in western Sydney or the western or eastern suburbs of Melbourne, or the northern suburbs of Brisbane, northern Adelaide, you have to travel to work by car. There simply aren’t the public transport options in our outer suburban, let alone our regional, communities. At the same time as Joe Hockey is dismissing this extra tax every time people get into a car, he’s refusing to fund any public transport projects. Every single public transport project that was already funded in the Budget, like the $3 billion for the Melbourne Metro, was cut by his first Budget. So you take away that option for people and then you basically dismiss the impact that this is going to have on low and middle-income earners. Joe Hockey doesn’t understand what a progressive tax looks like.
GILBERT: For a Labor Party that put in a carbon price though, which was a regressive tax but with compensation –
ALBANESE: It’s overcompensation Kieran.
GILBERT: But the question is it was designed to shape behaviour and to rein in emissions. Isn’t a fuel tax going to do a similar thing in the sense that people will drive less? For a party that delivered the carbon tax, wouldn’t that make economic sense to do that to reduce car emissions?
ALBANESE: Kieran, you might have noticed that in terms of pricing carbon, we didn’t put it on the motor vehicle. We put it on the big polluters. This was a tax on the big end of town. Joe Hockey wants to defend the big end of town at the expense of ordinary mums and dads in our suburbs and in our regional communities. He is so out of touch that he doesn’t even seem to get after 48 hours what a train wreck his comments have caused.
GILBERT: When it comes to those in the outer suburban areas and regional areas that you referred to, obviously infrastructure is going to be very important to them. This is something that is close to your heart. The thing I want to put to you this morning and ask you: is there any way Labor can oppose the billions that the government is proposing to spend on roads. This is just a bit of politics you’re playing around the infrastructure recycling as it’s called – the recycling of assets – because it’s hard to see Labor voting against billions of dollars in spending when it comes to improving the roads for those people your are talking about.
ALBANESE: Where is it Kieran? Where’s the extra dollars? There aren’t any. The only thing that’s being recycled here is existing government funds. Every single dollar in their pro-privatisation fund is taken from the Building Australia Fund and the Education Investment fund – every single dollar. There’s not an extra cent from this government regarding this particular legislation in terms of additional expenditure.
GILBERT: You wouldn’t block it then?
ALBANESE: We haven’t blocked it. They’ve blocked it themselves. Why have they blocked it? Because they don’t want to accept an amendment that says before you spend taxpayers’ money on projects you have to have a cost-benefit analysis and it has to be value for money. That’s just common sense Kieran.
GILBERT: Infrastructure Australia already does it. Doesn’t Infrastructure Australia already require that?
ALBANESE: No, it certainly doesn’t. The government is avoiding that accountability. What they want to do is take funds from the Building Australia Fund that under legislation the funding can only be approved after the Infrastructure Australia analysis and after the cost-benefit analysis is published and shown that there is good value for money. So projects like the regional rail link – the major rail project in Victoria that is transforming western Melbourne and the cities of Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong. That for example is one of them. What they want to do its put it into a fund where they can spend it however they like.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.