Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Brisbane - Labor’s plan to unlock the infrastructure that Australia needs; Brian Loughnane's departure






SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan to unlock the infrastructure that Australia needs; Brian Loughnane's departure; Counter-terrorism raids; China Free Trade Agreement.


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: (issues with audio) … infrastructure no longer works, the model that the Liberal Party has which is to send Warren Truss around the country cutting ribbons on projects that Labor funded and announced during the last government won’t cut it anymore. If we’re serious about growth and jobs and opportunity we’ve got to get the infrastructure spending right. So we’re very pleased as Labor candidates from, federal candidates from around the state plus Shayne Sutton our council colleague, we’re very pleased to have Bill here today for such an important announcement.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITON: Thanks Jim. Today Labor is outlining more of its vision for Australia after the next election. Labor recognises that in order to generate economic growth. In order to generate more jobs, to generate more liveable cities and regions connected to the cities, we need more infrastructure.  Business as usual in terms of funding infrastructure by Governments trying to work out at each budget a few measures is not enough anymore. Australians want to see more vision from their national leaders. Today I have proposed several ways in which we can make sure that Queensland and Australia get desperately overdue infrastructure, including new ways to help fund important freeways, highways, cross river rail and a range of other measures which will make South-East Queensland, Queensland and Australia much more successful in the future.


Happy to take any questions.


JOURNALIST: Don’t you need the airport in Sydney come first before the rail line to make the rail line viable?


SHORTEN: I didn't want to speak too long at lunch but I'm grateful you raised that issue. Let me draw your attention to the airport in Melbourne. When Tullamarine was built in the 1960s it was a great idea, it’s a great airport. The only problem is the politicians of the day forgot to put public transport with the airport. So we’ve got a lovely airport in Melbourne but there’s was no public transport. I think it is important, if we are going to have a second airport in Sydney and that’s a generation overdue to make sure there is public transport. If you add this sort infrastructure on as an afterthought, after you have built the airport, it costs more and you have more challenges than currently exist if you do it at the same time.


JOURNALIST: [inaudible] Will there be tolls on them?


SHORTEN: Let's talk about how we would fund a range of these projects and then I will come specifically to one mechanism that you raised - tolls. Labor makes it clear that we're not about not having government funded infrastructure in the future. What we are looking to do is unlock private superannuation and give it an attractive investment in Australia's infrastructure needs. Giving it good destination for millions of mums and dads so they can get good returns and they can move their superannuation, at least some of it, from lying just on the share market. What we make very clear, is that government still has a responsibility to fund the projects, so they would provide grants. When we look at how private investors get returns, there is a range of ways in which they get returns. They can get returns through pricing of tolls, they can also get returns through facilitation payments from government to private sector investors. It is not automatic in any shape or fashion that new infrastructure would have to require tolls. I think I need to make a final point here, when you look at the history of infrastructure investment. We would have a new Infrastructure Australia where they would be assessing the commercial nature of the deals, the project finance, assisting with the modelling and forecasting, how many people might use the road and how many users there might be. This is really important work that can often deter private sector investment. The government is helping to create a solid infrastructure market. Part of the research that Infrastructure Australia does and part of the negotiations they will do is to assess how much people are willing to pay. It is by no means certain that you would see all new projects with increased tolls at all. That would not be correct to say that. We need to make sure that we are attracting private investment because just expecting business as usual with State and Federal Governments to answer the crying need for new infrastructure, that is not going to work anymore and today Labor is proposing a new vision which is tens of thousands more jobs, more productivity and a better quality of life. There will be a lot of people driving home tonight in Brisbane who will be stuck in traffic jams and they will take a long time for their commute. What Labor is proposing is a way in which we can have a win win, a better quality of life and better economic future for Australians.


JOURNALIST: [inaudible] How do you get around the fact that if prices do go too high for some people they just don’t take it?


SHORTEN: Certainly there has been a lot of history here about the deals being structured poorly and the wrong modelling being done and the wrong economic forecasting. That actually highlights the need for a turbo-charged Infrastructure Australia so we avoid those very mistakes. It was you who asked the question in there as well about using smart technology to help fix some of the problems of the past and that is part of Labor's agenda.


JOURNALIST: Isn't the flaw in your plan though that there are projects, mainly the stadium in Townsville, that don't stack up on the finance side of it? Your plan replaces courageous politicians who see the value of the projects in the equity of projects like that, for people in North Queensland whereas faceless bureaucrats somewhere else won't. Shouldn't politicians back themselves, back Queenslanders and back the stadium?


SHORTEN: Labor politicians always back Queensland, always back themselves, always back good ideas for North Queensland. One of the features of Labor in Queensland is that we get, unlike the poor old LNP, that Queensland doesn't just stop in South-East Queensland. Although I have some representatives behind me who have done a lot of work lobbying for Cross River Rail and for a range of other projects. When it comes to the Townsville stadium, let me be really clear, that stadium initiative wouldn't be covered by what we're proposing today. The business of government and business of politics and the business of backing North Queensland doesn't just stop with our proposals to unlock future investment from superannuation funds. Labor can still propose funding for stadiums in North Queensland from other purposes and with other revenue to help things get going. I don’t think its right to say that because Labor wants to give better investment outcomes for superannuants, more jobs, better quality of life and turbo charged growth, we can do that and support a stadium in Townsville but at this point we're currently considering the case.


JOURNALIST: How do you measure things like liveability and those factors separate to the bankability of the projects?


SHORTEN: That is what Infrastructure Australia would be doing. I went through three criteria in my speech about what Infrastructure Australia would look at. You would look at commercial interest, certainly. That is not the only thing I said that Infrastructure Australia would look at. You look at economic benefit, You’d look at community benefit. These are the issues which only a Government can an examination of and that is why some of the work needs to be done by an independent authority like Infrastructure Australia. Shane was talking before about Infrastructure Australia wouldn't be accountable. Part of the problem with infrastructure decision-making in Australia is it has been too short-term. There’s been too much of just trying to work out a marginal seat here or clutch of votes there. This country needs courageous leaders who are ambitious to set up the best infrastructure market in the world, backed up by the best evidence. There is a point where courage can actually become a bad decision because you ignore the evidence. What Labor is doing here, just as we are doing in climate change, we want to create a market, we want to let the market work issues out. We want to make sure that the market is functioning to achieve the best outcome for Australians. We are willing to trust evidence, we’re willing to trust science, we’re willing to make the market work efficiently, we’re willing to back in our national savings pool, we’re willing to make long term generational decisions. That’s what we're about.


JOURNALIST: Your thoughts on Brian Loughnane's departure from the Liberal Party today?


SHORTEN: Brian Loughnane was a coach for the Liberal Party. I think he was a formidable political operator. He won some elections and he lost others elections. I congratulate him on his career as Federal Director of the Liberal Party. I have a considerable degree of respect for him. Even if I couldn't convince him about our economic policies or to vote for us.


JOURNALIST: Does Sydney have a problem with Islamic extremism?


SHORTEN: I think societies all around the world have a problem with extremism, I think what we need in this country is to encourage diversity but at the same time make it clear to people that it’s great to come from a  religious tradition or cultural tradition and people should be proud of that. And we’ve also got to make sure that their religion doesn’t become a cave in which we encourage people to retreat, but indeed a welcome participant in our community. We have a problem with a few people in Sydney and Melbourne and elsewhere but I don’t think we have a problem at all, at all with a diverse people with divert religious faiths in this country.


JOURNALIST: Are you disappointed no one has yet been charged?


SHORTEN: I’m not going to start second guessing the police, the police have got a very difficult job. When it comes to fighting terror let me make this really clear. Labor and Liberal are in this together. We certainly believe that 99 per cent of all people abhor the terrible violence. I’ve made it clear that Labor has no time for some of the cynical criminal elements, extreme religious views, who are preying on vulnerable young people to commit the shocking crimes that we saw. The police have got a difficult job, but they should know that Labor backs up our police and our security forces, and we’ll lket them get on with the job. I’d rather they take more time and actually find those who are guilty than rush and make mistakes.


JOURNALIST: Mike Baird says there is a problem in some schools in Sydney. Is it time for Muslim leaders to stand up and acknowledge that there is a problem so that the community can get on with dealing with it?


SHORTEN: If people want me to engage – and that’s not your question, but more generally – if people want me to engage in religious bating, or dividing the community, I’m not your man. I get that we are seeing some religious extremists, in this case of the Muslim faith, manipulating young people to commit terrible crimes. But it wasn’t so long ago in this country that Catholics could be picked on by Protestants, it wasn’t so long ago in this country that a majority of people could pick on minorities – so I’m really wary of getting the balance right. Our police are doing a good job and we want to give them the tools and resources to catch the wrongdoers. I do want to see leadership – not just from the Muslim community, but from all communities to make sure that radicalised young people aren’t left to fall off on the fringes. But I cannot and I will not be party to allocating a negative stereotype to a minority of Australians because of their religious views.


JOURNALIST: The Chinese Free Trade Agreement, just on another topic, is due to be debated soon. Will Labor be supporting the part of the agreement that allows unskilled workers to come in and take jobs that currently they need skilled visa’s for?


SHORTEN: It’s a really important question you’re asking. Labor supports improving our trade ties with China, just as we’ve supported and voted for improving our trade ties with Korea and Japan, and when we were in government with other jurisdictions around the world. We also want to make sure that if there’s any unintended consequences, that the Parliament fixes it. The role of Parliament in Australia isn’t to be a rubber stamp for the government of the day. It’s to check if the T’s have been crossed and the I’s have been dotted. Our approach will be on the actual treaty itself, we don’t seek to change that. That’s been done, and I accept the argument that just demanding the treaty to go back to be renegotiated is not realistic, and so Labor won’t be doing it, we’re very constructive. When it comes to the Migration Act and the operation of the Migration Act, when it comes to making sure that Australians can get access to jobs first, making sure that we have people with the right skills and safety qualifications, that if they’re working in this country they maintain Australia’s high safety and consumer standards, well we will be vigilant on that. Labor and Liberal are capable of fixing some of the concerns in the surrounding legislation around the treaty, and we approach this in a constructive spirit, and we would certainly hope that the Government would recognise that let’s work through the issues, let’s make the Parliament operate as opposed to being a politically partisan shop, but on important issues like the future of trade and protecting Australian jobs we work together.


JOURNALIST: How do you define vigilance there, are you going to seek to actively change the Migration Act as it relates to the treaty, or are you going to vote it all through and just watch it vigilantly?

We’ll be proposing publicly our amendments next week but some of the principles which we’re currently consulting on them with various groups, business and unions. We’ve got certain principles which we think are common sense, you know we tick the box we’re pro a trade agreement with China, we ticked the box making sure that people who come here are appropriate skilled to Australian standards. We tick the box that employers should try and employ Australians living in Australia before necessarily we bring in guest workers from any country.  Our issues here are not China trade specific, they’re about making sure that Australians get access to employment in Australia, unemployment has gone up in the last 2 years under the Liberal Government, so we just want to make sure that Australians get their fair share of the benefits and we are optimistic that we’ll just sensibly work through the issues, fix up the concerns with this arrangement around the China Free Trade Agreement, then we can all get on with having a better, brighter future. Thanks everyone.