MONDAY, 16 APRIL 2018
SUBJECT/S: Appointment of Lt General Angus Campbell to Chief of the Defence Force; Labor’s plan to fund the Cross River Rail; QLD infrastructure funding; live exports; Australian head of state; National Energy Guarantee; Foreign Donations Bill; HIA modelling.
TERRI BUTLER, MEMBER FOR GRIFFITH: Welcome everyone to the great electorate of Griffith here on Brisbane's southside. It is absolutely wonderful to be welcoming Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese and of course my neighbour Graham Perrett into the electorate. I'm Terri Butler, the Federal Member for this area, and I'm very excited to be here today for this announcement in respect of Cross River Rail. Without anything further from me, I'd like to welcome Bill particularly - he has been such a great supporter of Queensland, of Brisbane and the southside. It's wonderful to see you here, let's hear from Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Terri. It's great to be in Queensland. Before I get onto this exciting announcement I should just acknowledge first of all, Labor's appreciation for outgoing Chief of Defence Force Mark Binskin, for his service. And I'd also like to congratulate the new Chief of Defence Force designate, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell. This is a well-deserved appointment and the Labor Party wholeheartedly supports the appointment of Angus Campbell to the very important position as the Chief of the Australian Defence Forces.
Having said that, let me turn to the exciting announcement we're making today. I want to see South East Queensland and Brisbane have the best infrastructure possible. I want to see more jobs in Brisbane and South East Queensland and I want to see less congestion and a better deal for commuters.
So today I am pleased to announce that if Labor is elected at the next federal election, we commit $2.24 billion over the life of the Cross River Rail project, to make sure that we can have Cross River Rail. An exciting north-south railway link which will help decongest Brisbane. This is great news for jobs. 7,700 construction jobs, 500 operating jobs for the new railway line when they're completed. This will mean improvements to existing railway stations at Exhibition and Dutton Park. It will also mean new underground railway stations at Boggo Road, Woolloongabba, Albert Street and Roma Street. This is excellent news for commuters. It's estimated that once Cross River Rail is built in 2023/2024, there'll be 9,000 extra passenger journeys per day. What it will also mean in real terms, is if you live on the Gold Coast or Beenleigh, this will cut 15 minutes off your commute. At the moment, one of the big issues in Brisbane is congestion, especially from the south. This will reduce congestion, it's estimated that it will be something like half a million less passenger kilometres driven every day. This is going to do wonderful things for jobs, wonderful things for commuters and wonderful things for Brisbane. It is ranked as the number one priority for South East Queensland in terms of infrastructure. Labor will make grant funding available of $800 million in 2022/2023 and the following year. And then what we will also do is provide funding throughout the life of the project of $58 million a year. When it's all said and done, this project is good news for commuters, it's good news for jobs, and it's good news for South East Queensland. I would now like to invite Anthony Albanese, our Shadow Spokesperson to talk a little further about the details of the project.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT: Thanks very much, Bill, and it's great to be back here in Queensland for the second time in a few days, and back here, it must be at least a dozen times to talk about Cross River Rail. Cross River Rail was approved by Infrastructure Australia in 2012. It was identified as the number one project not just for Queensland, but for the entire nation. As a result of that, when we were in government we put funding for the project in the Budget in 2013, in a partnership with Queensland. And we also developed, indeed with the Newman Government, an innovative financing model to attract private sector finance to make sure that this could occur.
The availability payment model is using innovative financing to make sure that we can get the infrastructure that we need today, by acknowledging that when you build an infrastructure project, it has benefit over a long period of time, not just during the construction phase. Hence the 30-year period for the availability payment model from the Commonwealth and from Queensland that we would undertake.
At a time where the Commonwealth Government has funded a range of projects that are nowhere near ready to commence construction, indeed that don't have designs, don't have EIS, don't have plans, it's extraordinary that Malcolm Turnbull's Government has shown the same contempt for public transport that Tony Abbott's Government showed. This is a project that is ready to go as we see here. The Commonwealth, in partnering with the Queensland Government to deliver this project, will make a big difference not just for all the commuters who live in Brisbane, but also for the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. Because this is the necessary project to lift capacity of the entire rail network and that's why this is a very proud moment, I'm sure for Graham and Terri who have campaigned on an ongoing basis for this project, but for Labor as well.
SHORTEN: Thanks very much. I should add that we're here today not only talking about rail projects, but we're taking the politics out of infrastructure. So, let me restate our policy from the last election with regards to the M1. Labor will spend $1 billion making sure that we have an eight lane freeway between Eight Mile Plain to Daisy Hill, and we will widen to a six lane freeway between Varsity Lakes and Tugun. Labor will do everything we can to take the politics out of infrastructure, and that's why we invite the Turnbull Government to match what we're saying on Cross River Rail. It is not a public transport policy to take selfies of yourself on public transport, you actually need to build public transport. Only Labor has got a funded plan to build public transport in South East Queensland and many other parts of our capital cities.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on the M1 point, State Labor has suggested that the Federal Government should go an 80/20 split with them, but that $1 billion represents a 50/50 split. Have you spoken to your state counterparts about that?
SHORTEN: I'll ask Anthony to further expand on this, but our default position is 50-50. That's been the default position that Federal Labor has adopted but I might get Anthony to talk a bit further.
ALBANESE: We previously - when we were last in government, we put half a billion dollars into the M1 upgrade. In addition to that of course, we put $365 million into the Gold Coast Light Rail project that made sure that, that happened. And indeed, the Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 2 that was opened prior to the Commonwealth Games, came from savings that Labor had provided on projects like Redcliffe Rail. So we have had a consistent position, which is previously governments just funded under National Party ministers, regional roads. Under Labor, we funded much more than that. Here in Brisbane, not just rail, like the Redcliffe Rail Line, but also the projects that are still under way like Gateway North, were funded by Labor and of course the Ipswich Motorway which is the largest ever Commonwealth investment in a road project, here in South East Queensland. So we have provided substantial funding indeed, we doubled infrastructure investment here in Queensland. Were we to come to office again, under a Shorten Labor Government, Queenslanders should know that they'll always get more out of a Labor Government when it comes to nation-building investment than they will from our opponents. And that's why we've had announcements, Bill has been making announcements right up and down the Queensland coast.
JOURNALIST: So that announcement, just to clear that up, you mean 50/50 and a billion dollars for the M1, that's obviously contingent on the State Government putting up a billion dollars?
ALBANESE: Well, what will occur, one would expect, is that the funding will be in the Budget in May in accordance with the announcement that was made by the Turnbull Government. We made announcements, including the merge between the Gateway South and the M1 which the Government was forced and embarrassed into following. So we will continue to make announcements, we expect that, that funding will be in the Budget. What we'll be looking for is whether there's funding for the Cross River Rail Project, whether there's funding for the Gladstone Port Access road, whether there's funding for important infrastructure upgrades that are required for the Bruce Highway, that's what we'll be looking for. Whether there's a tourism infrastructure fund there, of which the Government hasn't responded at all, to Labor's billion-dollar commitment that we made prior to the last election, and that we have recommitted to since then.
JOURNALIST: So just to be very clear on this, if the State Government weren't to put in a billion dollars, your billion dollars would be taken off the table?
ALBANESE: That's not the way that funding works. The way that funding works is that the road has to be constructed by the State Government. That's the way that it works. So Federal funding is made available, the Commonwealth has announced that, that funding will be in the Budget in May.
JOURNALIST: Is there a timeline for how long the money will be available for?
ALBANESE: I'm not doing the Budget for the government. What we're saying is that we would make that commitment available.
SHORTEN: In terms of the other part of the proposition, we are specifying that the $800 million in grant funding would be available in the years 2022-2023 and 2023-2024.
JOURNALIST: Why are you spending $2.2 billion on a project that is already fully funded by the State Government and they say they'll be using the money on other projects anyway?
SHORTEN: First of all, this is the number one priority that Infrastructure Australia has spelt out.
JOURNALIST: It's also fully funded though.
SHORTEN: Well, the point about it is - if I can answer your first question. This is the number one project priority. A Federal Labor Government is committed to investing in public transport in our cities. Now the fact that we choose to spend it here is as simple as this - Queenslanders pay their taxes to Canberra. Queenslanders have a legitimate expectation that some of that will be invested in infrastructure in Queensland, and that's what we're going to do.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, it was the number one project back in 2012, like you said now it’s definitely not. It didn't make the high priority list only last month. They say the business case largely overestimates the advantages of it. Are you saying you would go completely against what Infrastructure Australia suggested if you were in government?
ALBANESE: We funded when we were in Government, all 14 priority projects who were identified by Infrastructure Australia, regardless of where they were. Infrastructure Australia unfortunately, has been sidelined by this government. Hasn't been given any resources, has been politicised so the projects like WestConnex in Sydney, where they've started to build the tunnel, they're not quite sure - they can't tell you where the tunnel will come up, has been put on a priority list. What we will do, is to make sure that projects are properly assessed and are ready to go. This is a project that has been properly assessed, that everyone in South East Queensland, all of the mayors who I meet with regularly, the South East Queensland mayors, all ten of the councils when they come together, this has been on the priority to-do list every year since 2012. It's still there.
We know that this is a necessary component before you can do things like expand out the rail network into the Gold Coast regions and to the Sunshine Coast. We know that this is an essential project, that's why we're giving it support, and the fact that Coalition Government have chosen to not support it, can come down to one thing and one thing only - that Tony Abbott prior to the election said that he wouldn't fund any public transport projects. He was true to his word. He withdrew funding from every public transport project that wasn't under construction in the Budget. Tonsley Park, Melbourne Metro, Cross River Rail, Perth Rail Project, the study into Hobart Light Rail. All of that money disappeared and a direction given to Infrastructure Australia that the priorities were not public transport or rail projects. That is what has delayed this project; politics, that's all. We know in terms of the substance that this is a vital project to create jobs today, but to bust urban congestion for decades to come.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on a different issue, should Prince Charles automatically take over as Head of the Commonwealth from the Queen, or should member nations have a choice as Jeremy Corbyn has suggested overnight?
SHORTEN: First of all, the custom has always been for Charles, for the monarch to head the Commonwealth Federation. I've got no problem with that. But what I do want is an Australian Head of State. I think it's long past the hour for Australia to have its own Head of State. When I met with Prince Charles, I indicated that my government, if we were elected, would have an ongoing support for the Commonwealth, we would stay in the Commonwealth. But I also explained to him that we could remain in the Commonwealth and still have an Australian Head of State.
JOURNALIST: Was that an awkward conversation?
SHORTEN: No, it's never awkward if you're telling the truth. I think it also shows that - and this is something that I think for people who are concerned about an Australian Head of State. We will still be in the Commonwealth the day we have an Australian Head of State, and if Prince Charles is the Head of the Commonwealth, then we'll still have an ongoing connection with the United Kingdom. But the fact of the matter is that after over 200 years of European settlement, as we approach the close of the second decade of the 21st Century, our country is ready for our own Head of State. Prince Charles took that in good grace.
JOURNALIST: Just on the appointment of Angus Campbell. So Labor doesn't object to promoting a man who was integral to Operation Sovereign Borders?
SHORTEN: Our military implement the political priorities of the government of the day. I think Angus Campbell has got a very distinguished service record. Started off at Duntroon, went through Infantry, served in our Special Air Services. He's operated at the highest levels of implementation of policy. I don't hold the Defence Forces responsible for the decisions of the government of the day. And it doesn't matter if you are a private in the army, or the Chief of Defence Forces, Labor will always support the professionalism of our Australian Defence Forces. Angus Campbell will do I think, a very distinguished role as his predecessor Mark Binskin did.
JOURNALIST: Just on live exports, do you think it's time for the country to look at whether or not it should be stopped?
SHORTEN: First of all, we've got to find out what's gone wrong with these sheep exports out of the West. We've offered bipartisanship to the government in terms of not trying to turn this into a giant political circus. But anyone who saw that footage on 60 Minutes will know that it was shocking. And it isn't good enough and it shows real arrogance and hubris to treat sheep this way, to treat livestock this way. We have said to the Government, it is now well past the time when we need to have an independent Inspector General for Animal Welfare. I also think that a lot of Australians, as we do with a lot of the things that we export overseas, wonder why we don't value-add in this country. So if Mr Turnbull is, I'm up for a discussion about how do we have more processing here, rather than exporting sheep overseas at a far lesser price?
JOURNALIST: Josh Frydenberg says he's confident states will sign up to the National Energy Guarantee on Friday. Have you instructed the Queensland and Victorian Government’s not to take up this deal?
SHORTEN: Let's be clear. The Queensland and Victorian Government’s, they are sovereign governments, they run their own matters and I'm not interested in playing politics. But Frydenberg has form about declaring mission accomplished, doesn't he. This will be the sixth or seventh time they've said that they've solved the problems. My concern is every time a Turnbull Government Minister talks about energy prices, the prices go up and up and up. They haven't solved the gas prices issue, they haven't solved the power prices issue. The only policy which they seem interested in, is spending billions of dollars of tax payer money on an old coal-fired power station merely to keep Malcolm Turnbull in his job. The problem is that this government is so out of touch that for them, when you have a discussion about power prices, it's about Malcolm Turnbull defending his leadership against the right wing of his party. We're up for any sensible national policy. We were willing to support an Emissions Trading Scheme, which I would have thought that the party of the free market, the Liberal Party, would have backed, but they weren't interested in that. Then they rolled out the poor old Chief Scientist to talk about a Clean Energy Target, and we said we would talk about that. And once that didn't meet the approval of the knuckle draggers on the backbench, we're now onto the fifth or sixth version of taking real action on climate change. Just so Australians know where we stand; we're up for good national policy, because that's what drives lower prices. But we will, if we get elected, start backing renewable energy and the new technologies. We will, if we are elected, go to 50 per cent renewables by 2030. That's the future.
Perhaps one last questions if there is any?
JOURNALIST: I have another one. On foreign donations, is Labor threatening to vote against legislation banning foreign donations unless the government strengthens the provisions to protect charities? Or would you just vote against that particular section of the Bill?
SHORTEN: Labor has been leading the policy debate against foreign donations in the political processes. But as usual, the government's taken a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, and so now they're going after charities, and we're not going to have a bar of that. Part of me wonders if the reason why the government is going after charities, is because they're not fair dinkum about dealing with foreign donations, because their own party receives so much of it. No, I think the Government has to stop playing games with charities, and instead ,just look at the unanimous recommendations of the cross party committee - one of the parliamentary committees that really does work, and I think that is the way to go.
JOURNALIST: So just on the question though, if the charities bit remains in the Bill, will Labor vote against it?
SHORTEN: Yes, we're not going to support tying the hands of charities who do good work in our communities. But it shouldn't be all or nothing from the government. I think most people know that currently, the Turnbull Government relies upon a lot of foreign donations and they are loathed, they are addicted to these foreign donations and they just can't break the habit. They should just deal with the politics and forget the charities, and stop making their life hard. And talking about politics, just to close this interview - I notice that the Housing Industry Association has frolicked with a bit of B-grade propaganda about our sensible taxation reforms to create a level playing field for first home-buyers.
The Housing Industry Australia report didn't model Labor policy. It modelled a different policy all together and drew erroneous conclusions. Let's be clear, this is B-grade propaganda from the Housing Industry Association representing vested interests in this country, and we're calling it out. We're not giving up about giving first home-buyers a level playing field with the property speculators trying to buy their tenth house.
Thanks everybody, see you later.