SUBJECTS: Morrison Government’s latest infrastructure announcements; China.
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Joining me live is Catherine King, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Thanks for your time. You’ve read no doubt about the planned additional spend today. What have you made of it?
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Well a few things. The government announces big dollars every time we have a Budget and then you’ve got to go through all the detail and what we see in the detail is that there’s a lot of re announcements in this announcement today, so a lot of projects are already there that have overrun their budgets so they make more money for those. But what we also see is most of it is way off, again, on the never never. It’s not for another ten years, many of the projects that we see today. But what we also see is that this is a government that has promised big on infrastructure every single Budget yet fails to deliver by the tune of about $1.2 billion every single year, underspends on its infrastructure. So, it’s not great on delivering.
CONNELL: So, what are the re-announcements?
KING: So, we’ve got re-announcements with a number of projects in Western Australia. So, we saw that in the announcement they put out in the west. Sorry, I haven’t got the names of the roads off the top of my head but number of Western Australian projects. We’ve seen $90 million extra put into the Commuter Car Parks program. Now this is a program that 82% has gone to marginal seats. It’s a project where we’ve only seen one car park actually built, another two underway. One is built in Victoria, two are currently underway.
CONNELL: The Minister said if I’ve got my figures right, two are built and two are underway.
KING: Well that’s good, they must’ve finished another one and they’ve started another one. So, this is out of 67, so $90 million has gone into that program. There’s also commuter car parks that have disappeared off the radar altogether because, basically, they were never going to happen. They were election announcements. So, again, what we’ve seen from the government is lots of big promises lots of big headlines, yet the delivery seems to continue to be a problem.
CONNELL: You mentioned that they’re going out over ten years or so, we often say give us long term vision for the government. There projects take a lot of time that’s, that’s how it is. We don’t expect everything to be done in one cycle.
KING: Sure. Some of the projects that we’re seeing now, they were announced by the Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese in 2013 so it’s now, you know, they’ve had eight years, and they are now starting some of these some of these projects which is…
CONNELL: What’s an example of these projects?
KING: Well over in the West, I was up there recently in Armadale looking at an overpass there, that was a project that was announced in 2013 finally underway now. It was good to actually it, but that’s taken all of that time, eight years while they’ve been in government, to actually start to deliver some of the projects that we announced.
CONNELL: Isn’t this part of the nature of infrastructure, that is the pipeline you get people [inaudible].
KING: Well, what we’re seeing though, so again you say things like commuter car parks, it’s not that they’re in planning, they’re just not happening at all. And that’s partly the problem of the government. They make these big announcements, so things like Roe 8 or the East-West link in Victoria, where the state governments are not going to build these, they’re not committed to these projects where the government’s decided to make an announcement and that money just sits on the table, time and time again.
CONNELL: So, if you become Minister though, you’ll make announcements years before it’s happening, year’s out, beyond the forward estimates right?
KING: What I want to do is work more closely in partnerships with state and local governments to actually deliver. Now we’ve seen very little delivery when it comes to public transport in this budget, for example. Now we know we’ve got a prime opportunity while we’re recovering from COVID to actually we’ll have rebuilding our public transport
CONNELL: Would that be more of a priority for Labor then?
KING: Certainly in terms of public transport, that’s a priority for me, but also better connectivity with our region so that may be public transport but that may also be freight, that may also be other areas. But again what I see from this government is this constant billions and billions of dollars being, you know, I think the Deputy Prime Minister said something about, you know, convoys of cash coming into seats and we’ll have a bit of a look as to where they’re going to go.
CONNELL: Do you think its marginal seats?
KING: Hard to say but I think certainly the Urban Congestion Fund, and the commuter car parks, they’ve got form and they’ve certainly done that in the past so we’ll have a pretty good look at where they are spending money.
CONNELL: So, you mentioned public transport. What, what actually happens there in terms of Labor? are you going to reprioritize money? Will you take away from some projects or is it additional?
KING: Well we haven’t made decisions or announcements yet. We’ve got the government’s announcements today, which we will scrutinize. We’ve got the budget tomorrow…
CONNELL: Do any stand out? They’ve made a lot of announcements over infrastructure, do any of them stand out when you go you know what we’d rather spend money on public transport?
KING: Well certainly as I said, you know, the government’s made commitments to Roe 8. That money is not money that can be redirected, but certainly, you know, that’s not been a priority for us in Western Australia. That’s been a project that clearly is not going to happen.
CONNELL: So are you willing to say…
KING: Nice try Tom, we’ll have a bit of a look and see what the government’s actually done.
CONNELL: Before the election though, there might be other things we won’t do and what you’re going to do instead?
KING: I think what we will do is, you know, we will get the government’s commitments, make sure that they’re ones that the state governments do want to deliver on, we’ll go through all of those and we’ll have our own infrastructure package. One of the things that frustrates me about what the government has done is this isn’t about a reform agenda for improving the nation’s connectivity. This isn’t a reform agenda about improving people’s capacity to get to work. It’s not about reforming agenda about getting more apprentices into construction, nor is it an agenda about actually getting better procurement policies to actually ensure that we’re using Australian made goods in our infrastructure. So, they haven’t done any of those things, it’s just a big grab bag, a big show bag of here is a list of announcements that we’ll put on paper yet are not ever delivered.
CONNELL: Well you say that, that’s your take on what the government is doing, but they would argue these are, you know, some of them taken off Infrastructure Australia, some taken off of state government, they’re not just popping these out of nowhere.
KING: It’s a big list of projects and, again, as I said, it goes back to the delivery, which of them are they actually going to deliver, and which of them are they going to deliver in the next four years, which is the budget cycle? Very few.
CONNELL: I’ll just finish on China. You’ve had some strong views recently on calling out China. What do you make of China formally suspending economic ties with Australia?
KING: Well I think that the problem here is that these are not the actions of a good global citizen at the moment. I think it’s important for Australia to continue to work on its relationship with China and to continue to work in our national interests and to make sure that that relationship continues to grow and be strong, but, you know, sometimes you do have to call those things out.
CONNELL: Is China being a bully in response?
KING: I’m not going to make that sort of statement, but I’m certainly, you know, of the view that it’s an important relationship, and it’s important that the Chinese act as a global citizen and that continues in its relationship with Australia.
CONNELL: We’ll wait until you’ve picked thorough and decided on what’s got the chop in these announcements.
KING: Well, that’s your words, Tom, not mine.
CONNELL: We might talk again after that time. Catherine King, thank you for your time.
KING: Good to talk to you.
CATHERINE KING – TRANSCRIPT – TELEVISION INTERVIEW – SKY NEWS WITH TOM CONNELL – MONDAY, 10 MAY 2021
SUBJECTS: Morrison Government’s latest infrastructure announcements; China.