Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

Transcript: Melbourne doorstop on Urban Congestion Fund

September 21, 2019



SUBJECT: Urban Congestion Fund, Infrastructure; Economy; Tech Giants and our Democracy; Population.

ANDREW GILES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIES AND URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE: I’m Andrew Giles, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Cities and Urban Infrastructure; I’m here today to talk about congestion. Congestion is getting worse across all of Australia’s cities but particularly in the outer suburbs of our big cities, like Melbourne today.

People are spending much longer in their cars and having much more congested experiences on public transport. While this is happening we are having a Government which talks a lot but is doing very little. What we have in the Government implementation of Urban Infrastructure Fund is an advertising slogan in search of a policy foundation to support it.

And that just isn’t good enough.

We know that congestion damages our economy, we know it damages lives, we know that people in our suburbs would like to be spending more time with their family. Doing the things they want to be doing, rather than being stuck in traffic.

And yet, what we have under this Government is a scenario that the writers of Utopia would reject as too far-fetched. We see the Government has spent $11.6 million on an advertising campaign, but not a cent, not a single cent on a construction project of the $40 million allocated in the 2018 budget. That’s gotten even worse because this week in parliament, it was confirmed, Minister Tudge cannot tell us about a single project, a single urban congestion project that will be commenced before Christmas this year.

Now this isn’t good enough, particularly when we have an economy that is flat lining, particularly, when we have the Governor of the Reserve Bank who has called on seven times to boost infrastructure spending. We have a Prime Minister who is spending time overseas, it’s important that he does so, but it’s even more important that he gets on top of the economy and our national interest.

We know that Australian’s wages are not keeping with the cost of living; we know overnight the OECD has downgraded our growth forecast. The Government has put together a flimsy argument about a balanced budget that is about taking $4.6 billion out of people who depend on the NDIS. This is not a Government that is governing in the national interest, particularly when it comes to the infrastructure of suburban Australia that we so desperately need.

If I can touch on one other matter, reports today highlight the submission from the Australian Labor Party, which has called on the parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, to look seriously on the impact of the tech giants, like Google and Facebook, are having on our democracy. I urge all parliamentarians to take very seriously this issue, so that we can restore confidence in our democracy.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Mr Giles, you mentioned about the fund, it’s a 10 year project, certainly you would expect to be planning that would take some time before these projects can get under way?

GILES: I would have expected the Government would have done some planning before they made the announcements. They have allocated funds in the last budget, that is the 2018 budget, not this year’s one that have not been spent. If they have found the opportunity to spend $11.6 million on advertising campaigns, that shows that their priorities are completely wrong.

JOURNALIST: What would Labor then do then to fix this problem?

GILES: Well Labor would have brought forward infrastructure spending as the Governor of the Reserve Bank has instructed all politicians to think about. As we had indeed planned to do so, under Labor our infrastructure spending went right to the top of the OECD. Under this Government it has been flat lining, despite the claims. Almost all of the Government promises when it comes to infrastructure are beyond the forward estimates. Almost all of the projects they like to talk about are funded well into the future when we need action now.

JOURNALIST: There’s has been talk about, the Government said we should cut migration that would help with congestion, what are your thoughts on that?

GILES: All the evidence goes completely against that. And I make two points in response to that. While the Government trumpets its cuts to the permanent intake, we are seeing a blowing out of temporary forms of migration. At the moment there are 230,000 people on bridging visas, 230,000. The Government has a lot to say about population policy but again no plan. Really what this comes down to is not looking for people to blame, it’s taking responsibility, putting in place a plan for infrastructure to support the Australian economy and to make people’s lives easier.

Thank you very much.