PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 24 FEBRUARY 2020
SUBJECTS: Urban Congestion Fund; Climate Change; Bettina Arndt.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Thanks. Well, we saw on the weekend that Scott Morrison has now taken his rorts to the streets with reports that out of the 160 projects that were announced out of the government’s Urban Congestion Fund, 144 of those, $2.5 billion worth, are all in liberal party seats or seats that the Liberal Party were targeting at the next election.
What we’ve seen from this latest rort is that there is not a government program that this government won’t use to its own electoral advantage. These are projects that were designed to stop urban congestion, to actually help improve urban congestion across the country, and also in our regional cities.
But what we’ve seen with this Government’s nuclear scale rorting, frankly, of this Urban Congestion Fund. It says they will continue to use government-funded programs, programs that were announced back in the 2018 Budget to their own electoral advantage. I’m really happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Those projects that they funded though, are they undeserving of that funding?
KING: Well, again, where’s the transparency here? No guidelines, no clear process about how $3 billion of taxpayer funds were allocated. And, why is the Government saying that there is only congestion if you live in a Liberal Party seat. That $2.5 billion of that $3 billion has to go to Liberal Party seats or a small number of seats that the Liberal Party were targeting in the election campaign? To add insult to injury, what the Government also did was it spent $17 million of taxpayers funds telling you how good they were spending $3 billion is basically to win themselves in election.
JOURNALIST: When it comes to pre-election commitments, I think the man in the street tends to think, oh, well, both sides are just as bad with each other. Is that not really the case? That both sides splash out before elections?
KING: What we’ve seen is this use of government funded taxpayer funds to win elections, frankly on a you know, a rorting on a nuclear scale. This is huge a $3 billion fund, $2.5 billion of which is directed to Liberal Party seats and seats that the Liberal Party are hoping to win in the election campaign. And this wasn’t election announcements, this was a fund that was established in the 2018 budget, two years ago.
We saw in the first year no activity, no development of guidelines, no call for expressions of interest, no call out to things like the road authorities across the country to say where are the congestion points, nothing. Just the Government making decisions and making announcements in the lead up to the election and during the election for its own political advantage.
JOURNALIST: Just on emissions, Labor’s now got a net zero target by 2015. The NFF has come up with some concerns around that today. Are you worried about any impact on the agriculture sector?
KING: No, you know, this is an economy-wide problem that needs economy-wide solutions. There are great opportunities for the agriculture sector in jobs. There are great opportunities for the agriculture sector in carbon sinking, we want to work with all sectors of the economy to actually move forward to develop a plan to get Australia to net zero emissions by 2050. This is a problem that farmers are facing across the country, with droughts, with bushfires, who are the people who’ve been most impacted by these bushfires, by floods, by climate change, by drought – it is people in regional and rural Australia, including our farmers.
This is an economy-wide problem which needs a plan to actually get us to net zero by 2050. We’ve all got to work together on this. What we’ve got is every state and territory government, over 70 countries across the world have all moved now to net zero emissions by 2050. The only outlier in this is the rump of the Liberal Party who refuse to actually acknowledge there is a problem with climate change, let alone acknowledge we need a plan to get to get there to improve our emissions.
JOURNALIST: The Governor-General has passed some claims about Bettina Arndt receiving an award on to the Australia Day Council for their review, do you think she should keep the honour?
KING: No, she shouldn’t. I think that the views that she has expressed are inconsistent with the level of award that goes with Australian honours. I think everyone has been so extraordinarily shocked by the loss of a beautiful young family in Queensland as a result of murder, and then I think her comments and her comments previously inconsistent with people, frankly, receiving Australia Day honours. That’s my personal view and I’m pleased that the Australia Day Council will be looking at those complaints. Thanks everybody.
TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP – PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA – MONDAY, 24 FEBRUARY 2020