TRANSCIPT: Doorstop, Near NSW/ACT Border, Monday 30 May




MONDAY, 30 MAY 2016

SUBJECTS: Labor's $6.6 million plan for infrastructure in Eden-Monaro; Leadership debate; The Budget; Mike Kelly's Eden-Monaro campaign

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning. Thanks everyone for coming out to meet us on this very lovely, crisp Canberra morning. It's wonderful to be here with Mike Kelly who, of course, has been the member for Eden-Monaro and is seeking to take that seat again. Mike did a terrific job when he was a member of the Federal Parliament. He was dedicated to upgrading transport facilities for his local community and Mike's history of service to his country is an incredibly impressive one. He has served overseas as a member of our armed forces, but his heart has always been in the Eden-Monaro electorate. His family are fourth, fifth generation - 169 years - starting dairy farming in the Bega area and his roots go deep into the community that he is seeking to represent. We are very confident that Mike's hard work in recent years will pay off.

It's also terrific to be here with Andrew Barr and with Meegan Fitzharris from the ACT Government. This is the sort of cooperation that you can expect between a Federal Labor Government and the ACT Government and, of course, the other states and territories as well. We're here today to make a very important announcement - $6.6 million to upgrade both road and public transport links between the ACT and New South Wales. I'll ask Mike to go through the specifics of the four elements of this project in a moment, but I want to talk about the general principles here. Labor federal governments have always been governments that have invested in infrastructure and the contrast between us and the Liberals could not be stronger. Despite all the Liberals' talk, about their emphasis on economic growth, in fact, they have cut infrastructure spending since coming to government. In the first instance, they cut $4 billion from Labor's infrastructure plans but in the last Budget, they cut a further $1 billion from infrastructure projects. There's been a 20 per cent drop in investment in infrastructure. The difference, of course, is Labor's investment in roads - substantial investment in roads when we were in government. The building or upgrading of 4,000 kilometres of rail meaning that Labor invested, while we were in government, in the largest building of public transport infrastructure of any government in Australia’s history. In fact, we invested more in rail than every other Australian government before us put together.

So today's announcement is an important addition to that record of investment in infrastructure that Labor had in government, that we would again pursue should we be elected on the 2 July. I have to also say, that we are talking a lot and you heard a lot of discussion last night during the leaders’ debate, about plans for economic growth. Labor's plans for economic growth really are in two parts - it's our investment in people, our investment in education, our investment in equality between men and women. The investment in people is a really important driver of economic growth, but our investment in infrastructure is the other very important driver of economic growth. It's public transport infrastructure, it's roads and it’s very important infrastructure like the NBN.

Malcolm Turnbull's one job when he was Communications Minister was to roll out this most important piece of infrastructure for economic development in the next century and of course, he completely stuffed that. We've got an NBN that has doubled in cost and will take four years longer to deliver than Malcolm Turnbull said it would. And that's behind the great secrecy around NBN documents that this government has pursued. So it's with great pleasure that I'm going to hand over to Mike now to talk about the details of this $6.6 million investment that we're announcing today. Thanks Mike.

MIKE KELLY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Thanks Tanya. It's wonderful to have with me here today, three of my favourite people. And in particular, although it's a chilly morning, we've got a wonderful story to tell that will warm the hearts of residents in the ACT, Bungendore and Queanbeyan. For years now, I've been working on improving and dealing with the infrastructure situation in this area. We have a very significant conurbation effect that's evolving around the ACT with developments around the Yass, Murrumbateman, Bungendore and Queanbeyan areas. We know with the now merged Queanbeyan and Palerang councils, there is a $47 million infrastructure deficit there and a population that will increase to 76,000 within the next 14 years.

There is also great potential in this region too, in relation to our combined economic strategies that we can develop and that Andrew Barr - as a great visionary leader of the ACT - is also pursuing vigorously. So all of this infrastructure work is vital to complete the inland part of that story and developing the Port of Eden and opening up the Canberra International Airport. But locally here we have pressing needs with large developments occurring to the south of Queanbeyan at Googong and so today as part of this package, we will put $2 million into developing the road plan for the Dunns Creek Road that will enable Googong residents to commute directly to the Monaro highway which we know is where they will be transiting to. That is a very vital road to prevent the clogging up of our internal roads in Queanbeyan. Secondly, we'll put $2 million into finishing off the studies around the duplication of Pia lligo Road right here. And looking at developing a spur from this point to the King's Highway directly, effectively creating that bypass effect off Queanbeyan. Very important for commuters from the ACT going to the coast and of course the large amount of traffic that comes in from Queanbeyan and Bungendore to the ACT. Certainly, of course, we know that we have large developments along the rail corridor out to Bungendore. The proposals for Cowan from the ACT and Palerang proposals and we have the large facility at Headquarters JOC near Bungendore - a lot of defence personnel travelling out there.

I'm very pleased to see we're also putting $2 million into improving the entire public transport picture. It's very important that we actually take pressure off the roads by taking cars off those roads which can be very dangerous with the wildlife issues we face and the volume of the traffic. So the railway line, already exists that carries commuters from Canberra to Sydney and back. What we want to look at now is to do a study on fully communterising it running extra services, getting rolling stock, that would enable passengers to travel from Bungendore. Build a railway platform at Headquarters JOC which has a situation where the railway line runs exactly along the fence line of the headquarters and we know that a lot of defence personnel residing both in Queanbeyan and in the ACT, particularly now increasingly in Kingston, so it makes very good sense to see if we can commuterise that rail link. And of course, for the future, it will help to deal with that extra development traffic and open up the possibility of further development along that rail route.

We also face flood threats around the Queanbeyan area. We have been in the situation before where the town has been cut in half because we have a situation with the Queen's bridge which is well above most flood levels defeated by the fact that the road in front of the bridge goes underwater and is much lower, in fact there is a dip there. It was cut in half in the floods just recently. So we would also enable immediate construction to begin on raising that road level so that the road doesn't go under water again and we have secure links across our city and across what is a key regional link road as well. So the combination of these factors will deliver, I think, a secure infrastructure future for the conurbation effects that are evolving for us. We will then, as a Commonwealth Government, a Bill Shorten Labor Government, commit to working with the ACT and New South Wales to make these projects real. We have proven that we wi ll do that. When we were in government we partnered up with the ACT and New South Wales in improving the King's Highway, leveraging $40 million worth of investment into that, particularly to help service Headquarters JOC and also in duplicating Lanyon Drive. We have the runs on the board.

The Commonwealth is determined to make sure that rural and regional Australia has its full economic potential exploited as well as recognising that a lot of Australians who live in this part of the Australian story need to be properly supported particularly in New South Wales. We've seen a lot of neglect from Sydney. We all know there's a lot of concentration on the Sydney urban needs, but this is a vital aspect of our lives in NSW. We need to make it sustainable, make it attractive for people to come and live. Keep it vibrant and fully exploit the potential, particularly in this region. I know Andrew Barr has got great visions there and so I'd like to throw over to him to talk more about that. Thank you.

ANDREW BARR, CHIEF MINISTER OF THE ACT: Thank you very much Mike. It's great to be here with Tanya Plibersek, Meegan Fitzharris, the Minister for Transport and Municipal Services and of course, an outstanding candidate for Eden-Monaro in Mike Kelly. This region in and around Canberra is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. There's no doubt that with the commencement of direct international flights into Canberra Airport that the roads immediately surrounding the Canberra Airport precinct will need duplication. That's not only to cater for the increased residential population that Mike's just outlined, but also a reflection of the increased freight activity that's going to occur at Canberra Airport. We're very conscious of the need to make provisions in our future capital works program in order to invest in this road infrastructure. So today's announcement is very timely. It reflec ts a shared commitment between Federal and ACT Labor to invest in the road infrastructure for this region. I’m also really pleased to hear about the investment and the desire to work cooperatively with the ACT Government on regional transport planning. That's particularly important as there are thousands and thousands of people who live in the Canberra region who commute into Canberra every day for their work, for education and for a range of other purposes. And we see that increasing significantly into the future as more urban development occurs around the ACT and it's really important to be doing the forward planning now to accommodate that future population growth.

The announcements today combined with the investments my government will be making - the establishment of a new transport agency in Canberra under Meegan Fitzharris' leadership in Transport Canberra - we'll be working very closely with the surrounding Canberra region to ensure that we can integrate all of these transport investments in a way that will benefit the entire region. That's very important for Canberra's economic growth, but it's particularly important for the growth of the Canberra region. Whilst the city of Canberra is approaching 400,000 residents, the greater Canberra region is now nearly 1 million people. It's an economic powerhouse and one of the fastest growing regions in this country and it deserves this sort of infrastructure support, so congratulations to Mike Kelly for this important announcement. Thank you to Tanya and to Bill showing leadership at a national level and wanting to work wi th State and territory governments and particularly with the ACT Government, to deliver these important infrastructure improvements for our region. Thank you very much.

JOURNALIST: How disappointed are you to see last night's debate being labelled boring and lacklustre?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I found it very interesting indeed and I found it interesting because Bill Shorten was putting a positive case for investment in health and education. Talking about good quality jobs for Australians. It was pretty predictable that Malcolm Turnbull on the other hand would bang on about $50 billion worth of tax cuts to the largest businesses in Australia - and his idea that this was going to be the solution for economic growth in the future when we know that a great proportion of this tax cut will actually go to shareholders overseas and to some of the largest businesses in the country. And the notion that this tax cut, for example, $7 billion worth of tax cuts to the biggest banks, will drive jobs is a bit fanciful. The idea that the banks would take that $7 billion and reopen some of the branches that they've closed all over Australia, I think most people understand how far-fetched that actually is.< /span>

JOURNALIST: Have your received any feedback from voters on your decision not to pursue the Schoolkids Bonus? Has anyone said that they are disappointed with that?

PLIBERSEK: No, I haven't. I think most people understand that this is a very difficult decision for us to make. We were strongly opposed to the abolition of the Schoolkids Bonus. We voted against the abolition of the Schoolkids Bonus, but what we see is a government that has tripled the deficit. We’ve gone from a deficit predicted next year to be around $10 billion, to a deficit predicted to be around $37 billion under the Abbott-Turnbull Government. Now it is actually an extraordinary economic record when you think about the Abbott-Turnbull Government. The 2014 Budget saw massive cuts to health and education, to pensions, to supports for families. And yet, even with all of these cuts, you have a higher level of taxation than any time since the Howard Government and you also have spending at Global Financial Crisis highs - and you've got the tripled deficit. It is extraordinary that this government has managed to blow out net debt by $100 billion, has managed to triple the deficit, has managed to increase taxation, has managed to increase spending and yet, has taken away the services and supports that ordinary families rely on. Cutting health care, cutting education, cutting the kids dental program, cutting pensions and cutting a range of other programs and supports that make life a little bit better for ordinary Australian families.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] Coalition could potentially lose Eden-Monaro? How heartened are you to hear that?

KELLY: Well, I don't know about the polls, but you certainly get a wonderfully positive feeling out on the ground to everywhere we travel now. And, of course, with the redistribution Eden-Monaro is bigger than 66 countries in the world with a big mountain range in the middle. It's a physical challenge making sure we deeply understand the needs and the views and the issues and concerns of people in the region. But I think, that’s what I'm reflecting is, the desire of the people of this community to have someone that will listen to them. I think that's the key thing that they have been missing these last few years. I know just in the course of this campaign, I've made over 4,200 individual phone calls to constituents. I've done a lot of door knocking and street stalls and being at the country shows, so we feel we're deeply in touch with the feelings and the needs and desires of this c ommunity and think that's something they've been missing for the last few years.