SUNDAY, 23 FEBRUARY 2020
SUBJECTS: Urban Congestion Fund, Regional Development Grants, Train Derailment, Climate Change.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Well, good morning. I’m Catherine King, Shadow Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Regional Development. We saw from reports in the newspaper today that Scott Morrison wasn’t just leaving his rorting to our sporting fields but he’s now taken his rorting of government funding to our roads. We’ve seen reports in the media today of the way in which the Liberal Party has made decisions about the Urban Congestion Fund.
The Urban Congestion Fund was announced in the 2018-19 Budget, a fund that was meant to help ease urban congestion across cities and in regional cities as well. But what we’ve seen from the Liberal Party is that not all areas of our cities and regions are equal when it comes to urban congestion.
What we saw from reports today is that the Morison Government allocated out of the $3 billion that is the Urban Congestion Fund, over $2 billion went to Liberal Party and Liberal Party targeted seats. I want to, because some of the figures are so shocking, read some of those out.
83 percent of funds were allocated to 144 projects in Liberal Party and marginal seats by the Coalition. $2.5 billion out of the $3 billion. 70 percent of all of the funding went to 117 projects in just 39 Liberal Party seats. That is 70 percent of all of that funding, of the $3 billion announced, went to 39 Coalition seats. 34 percent of the funding went to 70 projects in 17 Liberal Party marginal seats, that is over a billion dollars.
Over 28 percent of the $3 billion allocated nationally went to just four Liberal Party seats – the seats of Higgins, Deakin, Latrobe and Boothby in South Australia. 23 urban seats held by the Australian Labor Party received received $0 out of the Urban Congestion Fund.
In Victoria, Liberal seats and Liberal target states received 89% of the $1.26 billion that was allocated to Victoria and every single Liberal seat in Melbourne won a prize with Minister Tudge handing out over a billion dollars, around one third of the $3 billion, to those seats. Over $823 million went to just five Victorian Liberal Party seats.
In regional Victoria, what we saw from this Urban Congestion Fund, that the only seat in the entirety of regional Victoria – our major regional cities of Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong – the only project that received any money at all was of course in the seat of Corangamite, $5 million for the Bellarine. We saw zero for regional urban congestion in the city of Geelong, the seat of Corio, for Ballarat or Bendigo, our major regional cities.
This is rorting on a nuclear scale.
This was a $3 billion funding program that has seen billions of dollars poured into Liberal Party seats and Liberal Party target seats just before the election. There isn’t a single government program that Scott Morrison won’t rort for his own political interests.
I’m happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Are you claiming that guidelines were breached here?
KING: There were no guidelines for this program. This is what is so extraordinary about this. This was a program that was announced in the Budget. This is a government program, funded by taxpayers, no guidelines, no process for how projects have been chosen.
In many instances, local councils and state governments, when the announcements were being made during the election campaign, knew absolutely nothing about these projects.
There has been no process, no application, no opening up. It’s very unclear as to how the government has chosen these projects other than on electoral lines.
JOURNALIST: In 2013, the Audit Office found that when you were Labor Minister for Regional Services that you gave more than $100m to projects that hadn’t been recommended by the independent panel, do you think that your criticism is a little bit hypocritical?
KING: Not at all and I want to go to that in particular. The Government when it comes to sports rorts with 43 percent of projects ineligible, has been trying throw everything it possibly can at its defence.
So it’s gone through a report from several years ago now, which the ANAO found that in fact, two thirds of all of the projects that I funded, were in fact in seats that the Labor Party didn’t hold. The Government’s also been lying, making incorrect claims that somehow or other I funded ineligible projects, which is simply not true.
So worried was the Government about the funding decisions that I made just as we left office in 2013, many of those projects when the Abbott Government came to power were not contracted, so worried was the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government about the project decisions that I made they then ratified those decisions, signed contracts with every single one of those projects, funded them and built every single one of them.
If they’re so concerned about that I suggest they might want to have a look at their terrible record – sports rorts, the Regional Jobs Investment Program, and now this, the Urban Congestion Fund. Rorting on a nuclear scale.
JOURNALIST: Just on the recent train derailment we’ve had in Victoria, there’s been questions raised about the line itself and how it’s been maintained, do you think there are issues there?
KING: So my first thought is we’ve lost two lives, tragically, the train driver and the pilot. Nobody should go to work and lose their life in these circumstances. We’ve also of course seen many people injured and many people substantially traumatised by what is a terrible accident.
I’ve had an initial breaking from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, they will undertake their investigative work and there will be other investigations obviously by the coroner and any of the state bodies. The ATSB will do it’s report, it will report within 30 days.
Part of the scope of that report I am assured is they will look at the maintainance, but not just maintainance but the ongoing state of the track, including whether there has been any shortfall in funding allocations to this track.
This isn’t the first time that concerns have been raised about this track. I know the former member for Indi would regularly talk about problems along this track, as has the current member for Indi, and I think it’s very good that the ATSB has undertaken in its briefing with me to make sure that it will look thoroughly at whether there has been a lack of investment by the government in this rail precinct.
JOURNALIST: On Labor’s commitment to the net zero by 2050, how could Australia be a net zero emitter by 2050 and still make billons exporting thermal coal?
KING: Well, of course, what we haven’t got at the moment from the Morrison Government is any commitment to climate change, or any commitment to any targets for climate change, let alone a plan for actually reducing Australia’s emissions.
What Anthony announced on Friday, was that Labor is committed to a net zero target by 2050.
We also don’t believe that we should be using Kyoto credits in order to try and get to that target, because in essence that’s basically cheating, it’s a fraud and it doesn’t actually present the true picture of what our emissions are doing.
What we need to do is develop the plan to actually get there. What that looks like, is going to be a huge investment in renewables. We are already 20 years behind our European counterparts when it comes to renewable jobs.
With the sun, the winds that we’ve got in this country, we should be at the forefront of jobs in our renewable sector. But we’re not because we’ve unfortunately had a rump of people within the Liberal and National Parties holding this country hostage when it comes to developing a proper plan for climate.
Now, it may well be in 2050, that we still do have coal exports in this country, they are a major part of our economy and coal workers provide a significant boost to the economy, not just across the nation, but in their regions. That may well be part of the mix as we get to net zero.
But what we do need is a plan to get there. We don’t want more and more of these climate wars and this rhetoric from the Morison Government that somehow or other they don’t acknowledge that there is a cost of doing nothing.
We are already well behind where we should be in investments in renewables and the jobs that can be generated from having an economy that goes to net zero.
JOURNALIST: So what would that look like?
KING: For us, we’ve put the marker out there, but it’s not just us. We’ve got the Business Council of Australia, major Australian corporations are now very clearly saying, we have got to act. There is billions that we could benefit from, I think the BCA has said over $22 billion a year would come into the economy from actually getting this target.
We’ve set the target and we’ll work our way through our proposals for the actual policies to get to that point. We’re only seven months past an election, we’ll do that, but what we need now, two years before the election, is a Government that also embraces this and works across the political divide to get us there.
TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP – MELBOURNE – SUNDAY, 23 FEBRUARY 2020