Issues: Meeting with Japan Rail, high speed rail, carbon price, site of Sydney’s second airport
ALEX SLOAN: Joining me on the line is the Federal Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese, who’s just finished a meeting with the head of Japan Rail. And thank you so much for calling in. Great to talk to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
ALEX SLOAN: Is it Albanese or Albanese? [pronounces differently]
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s actually Albanese.
ALEX SLOAN: Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m pretty relaxed about it. It’s a very Italian name.
ALEX SLOAN: It’s a fantastic name but I’m just never…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Antonio Albanese.
ALEX SLOAN: Albanese. I’m going to do it from now on.
Now Minister, on a very – in a very interesting week; but first of all, tell me about this meeting.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I just met with the head of Central Japan Railway, Mr Kasai. He’s here to talk to the high speed rail unit that we’ve set up in the Department of Infrastructure and Transport. There’s a lot of international interest in the study that we’re undertaking at the moment, which is now in its second stage.
ALEX SLOAN: And this is the one with Newcastle?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, it’s from Brisbane right through to Melbourne.
It’s a pretty comprehensive study and one we committed to undertake at the last election.
We’ve released the first stage of the study already which looked at the corridor and rough costings – up to $108 billion just for construction. The first stage of the study looked at patronage issues and took a preliminary look at some of the opportunity costs. That is, if you don’t have high speed rail you obviously have to spend more money on road and rail – slow speed rail or normal speed rail if you like.
The second stage will really narrow down the corridor, narrow down what the patronage figures would be and go through a great deal of that detail. We’ll release it publicly and people can then have a discussion.
ALEX SLOAN: And a lot of people kind of roll their eyes at this and go; oh yes, another report and it’ll find it’s too expensive and we don’t have enough people.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we know it’s expensive. It will be expensive. One of the things that we haven’t done is what’s been done in the past; which is entertain a fantasy that someone will come along and build it for nothing because of the uplift factor in development along the corridor. That’s just not the case.
We think we’ve got to be fair dinkum about this. But one of the things we do know is that the cost of high-speed rail is decreasing as it’s increasingly used globally.
We know the technology is getting better. Indeed, there’s a new line which will be open in a couple of years, being built on part of the section from Tokyo to Nagoya which will enable travel at speeds of up to 500 kilometres an hour.
Interestingly, the Japanese delegation have brought with them the CEO of the US-Japan high speed rail project that’s looking at two projects: one project is from Dallas to Houston in Texas, and another project along the Washington to New York to Boston corridor.
ALEX SLOAN: So what do you take out of this meeting, Minister?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We can learn from each other. The Japanese will celebrate 50 years of the Shinkansen operating in 2014, so we know it does work. We know that we don’t have to invent the technology ourselves. We can learn from our international neighbours and we’ve been doing that as part of the studies by looking at best practice. We’re learning from the best and also learning from mistakes that have been made.
ALEX SLOAN: And Christine Wallace was just in, she’s part – said – made the point about Canberra as the de facto second Sydney Airport with a link…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that link is loopy of course.
ALEX SLOAN: Why is it loopy?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Because why stop there? Why not Melbourne as Sydney’s second airport? It’s…
ALEX SLOAN: Because we’re just down the track.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: You’re not just down the track. There is no airport anywhere in the world that is 300 kilometres away. That’s like making New York Washington’s second airport. It’s a distraction from the debate that’s required in terms of Sydney’s second airport.
I think Stephen Byron knows that pretty well. That’s not to say that…
ALEX SLOAN: But they’ve certain… that’s certainly got that factored in as part of their sort of forward plans.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Ah, they…
ALEX SLOAN: They’re – are you saying they’re loopy?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not sure how fair dinkum they are about this. It’s 300 kilometres away. The study into Sydney Airport looked at that, and Sydney needs a second airport that’s actually in Sydney. Otherwise, what will happen is that people will go to Melbourne or Brisbane. They won’t go to Canberra and then find themselves that far away.
ALEX SLOAN: And Minister, we’ve got the duelling politics; the messages following the carbon tax coming down yesterday, and when it comes to transport, Tony Abbott says it will flow through to higher costs.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well Tony Abbott says the world’s going to end and the sun wasn’t going to come up yesterday. All of it’s not true. In terms of the costs – it will be 0.7 per cent. Compare that with the GST that he supported of 10 per cent on everything.
So, it’s a fear campaign from Tony Abbott.
ALEX SLOAN: That’s working. The polls aren’t shifting your way.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we’ll wait and see when people actually experience the reality as opposed to the rhetoric. It’s very easy to run fear campaigns. That’s cheap politics, and Tony Abbott is a good exponent of cheap politics. He knows what he’s against, but if we’re serious about dealing with climate change which is real; we do have to act, and the sooner we act, the cheaper it is to act.
We’re doing it through an emissions trading scheme; doing it through a market-based mechanism which we know is the cheapest way to act. In spite of all his rhetoric, Tony Abbott has the same target that we do, except instead of taxing big polluters and then giving assistance to households, he’ll tax households directly by having his direct action plan which will lead to an increase in taxation.
ALEX SLOAN: And just before I let you go, Minister, in April you said that China will help in building infrastructure projects including high-speed rail. So you’re looking to Japan and China?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Absolutely. And indeed, the Europeans as well are very interested in the projects that we have going, particularly the Italians and the Spanish. One of the good things that’s occurred under some of the microeconomic changes that we’ve made to infrastructure development is we have far more competition in the market in road and rail construction and what that’s leading to is a decrease in costs.
ALEX SLOAN: All right. Minister, a tweet on social media breaking: Anthony Albanese says his name is pronounced Albanese [pronounced differently]. Spread the word, folks.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to talk to you, Alex.
ALEX SLOAN: Nice to talk to you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.