May 10, 2017

Transcript of television interview – SKY News 2017 Budget Special

Subjects: 2017 Budget, cuts to infrastructure investment, Western Sydney Airport, TV Ad

TOM CONNELL: More reaction to the Budget now. We’ve got Shadow Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese here in the studio with us. Anthony, thanks for your time today.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

CONNELL: $75 billion infrastructure – big headlines. Were you impressed?

ALBANESE: Well it’s a fantasy. The fact is if you look at infrastructure spending this current financial year they budgeted some $9.2 billion. There will be $7.6 billion spent. A $1.6 billion cut. There was only one new announcement last night with real money attached to it – $13 million for some local road, the Far North Collector Road, in the marginal seat of Gilmore. That was it.

CONNELL: It’s ramping up though isn’t it? Badgerys Creek, Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail?

ALBANESE: No it’s not. It’s ramping down. It ramps down to just $4 billion in 2020-21. Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, the industry group have said this: “The Budget confirms a cut to real budgeted capital funding to its lowest level in more than a decade using a mix of under spend, re-profiling and narrative to cover this substantial drop in real capital expenditure.”

That’s what’s actually happening. There’s the graph of infrastructure spending over the forwards.

CONNELL: So this seems to be down to basically in these projects take a while to get going, so at least in the outer years are you pleased with the projects they are putting on the table; the Snowy Hydro, Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail, Badgerys Creek?

ALBANESE: But the truth is that what they are actually doing is a con. They mention in last night’s Budget speech – there were Budget lines not rail lines. Budget lines in the speech about AdeLINK light rail, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, Melbourne Metro, Sydney West Rail, but not a dollar this year, next year, the year after, the year after, or any time in the next ten years. They announced last night $10 billion for a rail investment program but when you look at it there is no money this year, there’s no money next year, there’s $200 million – $200 million the year after. That’s it.

CONNELL: Just to take you to the specifics – what about Melbourne – Brisbane Inland Rail. Where does Labor sit on that?

ALBANESE: Melbourne- Brisbane Inland Rail, we put $300 million of real money in the Budget for getting the planning and the pre-construction work. That’s been in the Budget, hasn’t even been spent by this mob. The concern that I have is the Budget treatment. I think it’s a good project, but the Budget treatment…

CONNELL: Even though it’s not high up on the Infrastructure Australia list?

ALBANESE: Well it’s not for a reason because of the return on capital investment. Now this Government has put it off-budget but John Anderson did a study. John Anderson, not a Labor operative, former Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the National Party produced a report that said that the capital investment wouldn’t be paid for within 50 years of this project operating. So I can’t see how all of that fund can be off Budget. Is it a good project? Yes, we did the planning work on it. We put $600 million was already spent on the existing parts of the line that will be upgraded. $300 million on the new lines. After four years the Nats have finally come up with something but it’s all in the outer years and it’s all off-budget. There’s actually no on Budget investment that’s necessary to make projects like this happen.

JIM MIDDLETON: Anthony Albanese, in general terms, what you’re saying about what John Anderson did and the business case for Inland Rail, doesn’t this point to the need for a hands-off approach to infrastructure. The development of an authority, not just Infrastructure Australia, but with the level of independence and autonomy of the Reserve Bank to deal with infrastructure projects so that they do not become pork barrelling on a massive scale as would be the case with Inland Rail?

ALBANESE: Well that’s what we did with Infrastructure Australia. We funded all 15 of their top priority projects. Projects like the Majura Parkway, the Hunter Expressway, projects that have been on the drawing board, but politics had got in the way for a long time and we are very much of that view. What we have here is a Budget whereby the only actual new on Budget expenditure is for this road that, quite frankly, I’d never heard of. I doubt whether anyone watching this show had ever heard of. The Far North Collector Road apparently isn’t actually in Collector. It’s in the marginal seat of Gilmore, we had to go looking for it today. $13 million. That’s it.

And we know that projects like Cross River Rail, for example, was approved by Infrastructure Australia as the number one project in 2012. It doesn’t receive a dollar from this Government, even though it was funded in 2013, cut in the 2014 Budget, like they cut all the other public transport projects. Everything else in this Budget is just a shift of funds. So the Perth Freight Link project that was always a dud, some of the funds, they used three different figures in the Budget papers so it’s not clear how much has been transferred to Perth METRONET, which is what Labor went to the election saying should be funded. That’s a good thing.

The Bruce Highway; no new spending at all in that. When it comes to the future 2020-21 there’s a $1.6 billion cut in the Infrastructure Investment Program, on top of the under spend. There’s a massive cut in Pacific Highway funding being rolled out. It’s a trick. You use this giant figure. You make it up and at some time after Scott Morrison’s great grandchildren might be in Parliament. It’s farcical.

Look at what’s actually happening right now. Even the Infrastructure Financing Facility set up in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, with $17 million of funds, set up to provide a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist because there is capital out there for good infrastructure projects. It’s been funded by cutting the actual roads budget. Cutting the money that is set aside to actually build infrastructure to employ high end bureaucrats to do goodness knows what because no one in the infrastructure sector backs this facility.

LEANNE JONES: Anthony Albanese, you talk a lot about those measures there that have been put in place and given that the cost and the details that have been outlined in last night’s Budget, do you think it’s a good idea for the Government to be bankrolling Sydney’s second airport?

ALBANESE: Sydney Airport will produce, the Sydney West Airport, which will be the first airport for Western Sydney, will produce a return. There’s no doubt about that. It certainly is on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list. The land is purchased. What is of concern though is that whilst Scott Morrison mentioned the rail line in his speech, of course there is no money for it. And Sydney West Airport needs to be a catalyst for jobs and growth in Western Sydney. In order to do that it needs to be more than a runway and a terminal, it needs to be that driver of jobs and that needs the north-south rail corridor. It was very disappointing that there was no funding for that last night.

SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Anthony Albanese, what’s going on with you and the Labor Party leadership? Barrie Cassidy has been suggesting that you may be interesting in challenging for the leadership, a well-known media mate of Bill Shorten. Are you being stitched up by Bill Shorten’s media mates?

ALBANESE: Barrie Cassidy hasn’t spoken to me for a while. I’ve been on Insiders once I think in the last couple of years so I have no idea what he is talking about. The fact is that the media, all the time, they have this thing of you shouldn’t stick to the talking points, soon as you actually say what you think, and I said what I think. I was asked a question. It’s consistent.

MAIDEN: So we’re talking about this ad. So you said that this ad that had Bill Shorten surrounded by people that were sort of white as a loaf of Swiss made bread, that this ad was a shocker. This was interpreted as you taking a shot at Bill Shorten’s leadership. Can you rule out challenging Bill Shorten before the next election?

ALBANESE: That’s absolute nonsense. We have our Leader. I’m part of the team and I’m very happy staying in the job I’m in and the fact is this; if people want actually politicians to say what they think, what they shouldn’t do is this nonsense of trying to read other things into it.

MAIDEN: Can you rule out a challenge before the next election though?

ALBANESE: There’s nothing going on on our side.

MAIDEN: But can you rule out a challenge?

ALBANESE: Well absolutely. There’s nothing going on on our side. I’m happy to be part of Bill Shorten’s team. I’m out there arguing the case and indeed what I said about the ad is perfectly consistent with what Chris Bowen said and what Bill Shorten did himself who pulled the ad.

CONNELL: All right, happy for you to keep speaking your mind Anthony Albanese, may it ever be so. Thanks for your time today.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.