SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
THURSDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2019
SUBJECTS: Gladys Liu, Morrison ignoring the RBA and others on Infrastructure Investment, Need for a Senate Inquiry into Inland Rail, Government needs to show Leadership on Road Safety
ANNELISE NIELSEN: Joining us live now is Shadow Infrastructure Minister Catherine King from Victoria, thank you so much for your time.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: It’s really lovely to be with you.
NIELSEN: Now before we delve into infrastructure and the big things that you’re targeting, the story about Gladys Liu has really been dominating political discourse. You’re a fellow Victorian, what do you make of Rex Patrick’s comments this morning that she’s reached the threshold that Sam Dastyari did?
KING: Well, I think that that is absolutely the case. We asked the Prime Minister a series of questions yesterday. Obviously, there’s more in the newspapers again today and, I think, it’s absolutely incumbent upon her to make a statement to the Parliament, and for the Prime Minister to explain what vetting processes were undertaken or whether he in fact, ignored advice from security agencies in making, you know, allowing her to be a candidate.
I think the threshold, the Prime Minister said yesterday was well it’s only if money has exchanged hands. Well, clearly, she’s one of the Liberal Party’s biggest fundraisers, money has exchanged hands and I think there is a bit more to this story to go, I suspect.
NIELSEN: What do you make of what my colleague Laura Jayes was asking Richard Marles about this morning, the alternate candidate for Chisholm has also had questions about her associations. Are you confident that you had adequate vetting?
KING: I’m very confident that we did. But, you know, in the event of a by-election there, of course, will be pre-selection processes. But let’s see, I think this story has got a little way to go. I think that it’s important that the Prime Minister, explain what processes they’ve undertaken. But also, the test that is before the Parliament that Sam Dastyari was the case in point – he resigned from the Parliament. Let’s see what happens over the next coming days. But I think there are certainly some questions here to answer.
NIELSEN: Now, when it comes to your new portfolio of infrastructure, there’s some big, there’s been a really big focus from the Government on this in particular and helping stimulate the economy. They said there’s going to be $100 billion dollars in infrastructure over the next ten years. Why isn’t that enough for you?
KING: Look it sounds like an episode out of ‘Utopia’ that they’ve sat down and said, you know, what can we say, oh let’s have a look, oh, let’s have $100 million, or $200 million. No, let’s say $100 billion in infrastructure.
NIELSEN: That’s what in their Budget though.
KING: What they’ve actually done is a few things. One, it is a project where most of the money is actually well outside not just this election cycle, not just the next election cycle, but the one beyond that, as well. Funded off onto the never-never projects not starting in the case, for example of Linkfield Road, no money to flow for seven years. So it makes a good headline, but doesn’t actually do anything. And that’s the problem. This Government has been very focused on having a political plan, how to spin and how to make sure, look, let’s try and get a headline in the newspaper, but not actually on a decent, strong economic plan.
When you’ve got the Reserve Bank Governor now seven times since the election, saying the economy needs stimulus and infrastructure is a good, good way of doing that. When you’ve got the Master Builders Association coming out and saying, look, there is capacity, particularly in our regions, in areas such as Perth, and in the Northern Territory, where they’re seeing a decline in construction, there is absolute capacity of workers there. Bringing forward some of those projects that seem to be on the never, never would be a very sensible thing to do to keep people employed, particularly in our regions, but also to make sure that we get that money flowing through the economy.
Now the Government seems to be wilfully ignoring all of that advice to date and my job is to keep the pressure on them because people need to be employed, need those jobs and that money needs to be flowing through the economy now.
NIELSEN: There is two aspects to that. The first is that if the economy is not, so there’s a comment already from the Reserve Bank Governor, he has given a lot of extensive speeches, but he said the House Economics Committee – “the economy is not doing well and the global economy is not doing well. We need all forms of public policy to support the Australian economy. But that’s not a call for the Government to do more now. Can I just clarify something I’ve not called on the Government to do fiscal expansion.”
KING: What he said is that he has run to the limits of his policy areas, you know, he’s run to the limits of where monetary policy can go. And he has said that that means that all arms of the Government do actually need to look to see whether there is something else that you can do. Now if you look at all of those speeches in context, then we need to make sure that we do bring that infrastructure forward.
*** Break in interview to take live feed of House of Representatives ***
NIELSEN: We do understand from that, that Labor wants Gladys Liu to be making a statement to the House before Question Time about these alleged links to Chinese backed influence groups. And that’s exactly what you were saying before Catherine King.
KING: Well, she does need to come to the Parliament and making a statement to the Parliament has very important consequences, making sure she can’t mislead the Parliament in any way. I think it was pretty telling that the statement that she put out yesterday was not made to the actual Parliament. I think there’s a bit more to this story to go. I think the fact that there’s been some investigations into some of her links to the Communist Party in China and organisations there and I think she needs to actually fully disclose every one of those links and organisations that she’s been part of, make an explanation to the Parliament about what that has actually meant, and I think also some financial disclosures about what’s actually happening whether money has, in fact, changed hands in relation to the Liberal Party and campaigning. I think this has got a bit to go. But we’re already trying to use the Parliament to disclose, force, to force the Government, force the Prime Minister to disclose this issue. It’s pretty significant foreign influence in our Parliament and in our democracy and if this is part of that, then I think she’s got some serious questions to answer.
NIELSEN: Absolutely. We will return to that once we’ve seen it progress in the House though it looks like the Government will be able to scuttle it with their numbers.
KING: Well, that’s the nature of them being in Government. We will, you know, we need what’s called an absolute majority to be able to pass the suspension. So that’s quite a test for Opposition to do but I think it’s an important issue and important that we’ve raised this today. And I think there’s a lot more to this story to go.
NIELSEN: Absolutely you can keep making noise, but we will turn back to infrastructure. You’re also quite focused on financing and route selection on the Inland Rail. What are your concerns there?
KING: Well, I headed up to Toowoomba just last week, there was a conference up there and Inland Rail is a really important project, a game changing project for regional economic development. But, it seems to me that the Government, you know, this is a Government who has managed to pit farmer against farmer, particularly in Queensland and in New South Wales, the route selection, there does seem to us to need to be more inquiry into whether they’ve got that right. I met with a number of farming groups up in Toowoomba and I’ve spoken to the New South Wales Farmers Federation who are really concerned about the way the Government is not listening to local communities.
We also think there’s some issues around the equity financing model for Inland Rail. The Government’s refusing to disclose when they think the return on Inland Rail is going to be. I think we’ve put in almost $1 billion in grant funding, which largely came from the previous Labor Government to progress this but the rest of it is all going to be on equity funding and I think the Government needs some transparency around that particular funding model.
We’re going to try and get the Senate to inquire a bit more into this and we’ll see how we go with that. Because I think there is the need for, particularly farming communities around the floodplains, around the Condamine, to actually have the opportunity to put their case and to argue, as they have with me that the engineering of this is not quite right yet, and potentially adds to some problems around floods, but also the way in which farming communities are being treated at the moment, I think, needs some scrutiny.
NIELSEN: From the Government’s perspective, they’ve said that the equity funding model is done because they will make more money out of it for every dollar that they put in, they’ll get $2.62 returned. Is that not correct?
KING: Well, the issue is not only whether that’s correct, but also when. When you’ve got (former Nationals Deputy Prime Minister) John Anderson coming out saying look, the equity funding model doesn’t quite stack up, and potentially it is not for another 30, 40 years that we potentially might even see a return on this, I think the Government needs to be very transparent about the model for equity financing in relation to Inland Rail and it clearly has not been, we’ve tried through a number of means to actually make that transparent, and they failed to do so far, and we’re going to keep pursuing that.
NIELSEN: And just finally, your other push in your shadow portfolio has been around road safety. Why aren’t you satisfied with the Government so far?
KING: I was actually the Road Safety Minister in Government when we developed the first National Road Safety Strategy with a view to reducing the road toll in this country substantially. Now, what we’ve got at the moment and the Government’s own report into the National Road Safety Strategy, which was done a year ago, shows that it has failed. It has failed to bring the road toll down. We’ve actually also got, there are eight measures under the National Road Safety Strategy, which we cannot even measure. The work hasn’t been done to see whether we can measure accurately across the country serious injury as a result of road trauma.
NIELSEN: Is that work that should be done by States though?
KING: It is work that is being done in conjunction with States, but it requires national leadership, particularly in terms of aligning datasets across States and Territories so that you can measure how many people are getting injured seriously by road trauma in this country. What are the research and engineering, you know, what are the new engineering things that we need to be doing.
For example, one of the things that’s happened in Parliament this week is that, we know having the safest possible vehicles on our roads is important to getting the road toll down, now the Government took the decision to delay for two years, a road safety measure that will improve the safety of vehicles on our roads. Now that does not show, or speak to me, of national leadership on road safety. So again, we’re going to be pursuing the Government for the role that it needs to play to actually develop and implement a road safety strategy that actually reduces death and serious injury on our roads.
NIELSEN: Well, plenty to watch in shadow infrastructure. Thank you for your time. Talk again soon.
KING: Great to talk to you, Annelise, thank you.