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Transcript of interview with David Lipson: Sky Lunchtime Agenda: 26 August 2013:High Speed Rail; Federal election

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E & O E - PROOF ONLY _____________________________________________________________

Subjects: High Speed Rail; Federal election. _____________________________________________________________

DAVID LIPSON: Anthony Albanese thanks for your time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

LIPSON: First of all this is not a promise, is it, to actually deliver high speed rail in Australia?

ALBANESE: This is actually a promise to progress high speed rail in a way that has been recommended by the advisory group.

What we did was at the last election campaign we promised to have a study - a comprehensive study - and we’ve done that. It dealt with economics, it dealt with the engineering challenges, it identified a route, it identified the number of stations and it looked at the economics of high speed rail here in Australia.

What we’re committed to is delivering high speed rail for Sydney to Melbourne; will be the first part of the route via Canberra. In the longer term, Brisbane right through to Melbourne.

The report today, that we’ve adopted the recommendations of in full, shows that there will be an economic benefit of $2.10 for every dollar invested. So this will make a big difference, you can go from Sydney to Melbourne in under three hours, but also for the regional stops that have been identified; Southern Highlands, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton; a big difference in terms of regional economic development as well.

LIPSON: Sure, but is it a commitment to actually deliver this project regardless of the budget position or the actual outcomes of these feasibility studies?

ALBANESE: We’ve had the feasibility study. This is the next stage, which is how do you progress it.

Firstly, we’ve provided $52 million - that includes ensuring that we will pass legislation; it will be introduced by the end of the year to preserve the corridor.

Secondly, to establish a High Speed Rail Authority with representatives from the governments of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT.

Thirdly, for Infrastructure Australia to look at financing options for this project - because it has a positive return you can actually attract private sector finance. And we’ve already had considerable interest from France, Spain, Italy, China and Japan for this very project.

So we believe it can be achievable. It’s the sort of vision that Australia needs to plan for the future. It’s the way that good infrastructure development is done. You do your evidence-based work, you determine the next stage and the next stage is preserving the corridor.

LIPSON: It’s far from the first time though that this project has been promised during election campaigns.

ALBANESE: It is actually - with due respect when has anyone ever promised a commitment with funding to preserve the corridor?

LIPSON: But it’s $52 million worth of funding, look yeah to preserve the corridor, yes that is the first time. But in terms of actually building the project, we’re talking about a project that’s going to cost $114` billion.

ALBANESE: Well you’ve got to preserve the corridor before you can build the project.

With due respect, in terms of infrastructure development what you have to do is do your feasibility study. We’ve done that.

You now have to move to the next stage, which is planning, preserving the corridor. That’s stage two.

You can’t actually arrive in a street and start digging it up without the approvals being done -

LIPSON: I understand. I understand that of course.

ALBANESE: Which is precisely what we are doing here. This is a considered approach to infrastructure development. I noticed Tony Abbott out there being Mr Negative again today about this.

Well we’re putting, for example, in the Westconnex project here in Sydney, the road project, $25 million on the table for a project that will cost much more than $10 billion. We’re doing that because that’s what you do first -

LIPSON: My question is what makes you believe -

ALBANESE: Well if you want to just listen for a second, what you do is you have proper planning in place. That $25 million is an example of doing just that.

Tony Abbott is pretending that the Westconnex project is going to start construction in the next year. It’s not. There have been no approvals given.

LIPSON: Sure, we’ll get to Westconnex in a moment, but I want to just finish on high speed rail, and the question I wanted to pose to you is what makes you think that people will believe this Government this time that this is going to be built?

We’ve been talking about it for decades.

ALBANESE: They’ve been talking about it on the back of an envelope. What we’ve done is proper processes.

We had $20 million for a feasibility study. It is the first time that you’ve had identification of the route, identification of the stations, identification of how funding options would be available.

We’ve put real money into this. We established a high speed rail advisory committee. This wasn’t something done by just politicians. It was done by Jennifer Westacott, the Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, Tim Fischer, the former National Party Deputy Prime Minister. It was done by others including Peter Newman who is on the Infrastructure Australia council, Bryan Nye, the Secretary of the Australasian Railway Association, Sue Holliday, a former head of planning here in New South Wales.

This is a proper report of how the project gets progressed. If you are asking me will construction start tomorrow, no it won’t. But you have got to plan for the future. That’s how proper infrastructure development occurs.

And in terms of the costs that you raised, you could build a high speed rail line from Brisbane right through to Melbourne via Sydney for less over the period - to 2035 is when we’ve identified Sydney to Melbourne - but you can build the whole thing for less than Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme will cost where the few will benefit but all of us will pay.

LIPSON: Forgive me for being cynical but this isn’t just a vehicle to make that point, is it, this announcement today?

ALBANESE: This is a serious piece of work and if you had been following any of the debate you would know that we commissioned a study, two phases of the study.

Tim Fischer isn’t normally a part of Labor Party policy announcements. We’ve had a proper process in place here and it’s a proper process that sees the sort of attitude that you’re projecting, through Tony Abbott frankly, is the sort of attitude that would have seen no Snowy Mountain Scheme, no compulsory superannuation, no Sydney Harbour Bridge, no Sydney Opera House, all of the great infrastructure projects that have taken Labor Governments to build them.

More than 100 years ago it was Andrew Fisher, the great Labor Prime Minister, who progressed the Transcontinental Railway across our vast continent.

LIPSON: I’m not projecting any view - I’ll assure you and our viewers.

ALBANESE: This is an important project. We believe it will create - and the report shows it - 10,000 jobs in construction.

In terms of high speed rail, we see high speed rail being developed in just about every country in Europe, in China, in Japan. We have down the east coast of Australia a population that shows that you can get a return of $2.10 for every dollar invested.

And why shouldn’t we explore it given that you have productivity benefits, environmental benefits, and road safety benefits by putting people on rail rather than on our road system.

So this is a visionary project. What you can’t do is just go out there and promise things that are unachievable, you have to work through it in a considered way step by step; we’ve done just that.

LIPSON: Okay look we’re almost out of time unfortunately. I did want to get you on a few other things but we’ve both got bogged down on that a little bit.

I did want to just ask you more broadly on the election; we’ve seen betting agencies today suggesting that the Coalition is priced at sort of a 91 per cent chance of victory.

Someone’s put a $750,000 bet today on the Coalition winning the election. Can Labor really come back at this point?

ALBANESE: Anyone who put money on the Kangaroos versus the Hawks on Saturday at half time and said it was a bet that was sure, knows very little about politics.

The fact is that the election will be determined on 7 September. Each and every day between now and then we’ll be progressing our plan for building for the future.

We have today Malcolm Turnbull attacking his own policy on paid parental leave following up from Nick Minchin’s comments of last week.

We have an unaffordable scheme being put forward by Tony Abbott - it’s one of the few policies that we’ve had. And I know that Tony Abbott is taking this election for granted but the Australian people can’t be taken for granted.

They will make up their own minds based upon their view of who has a vision for building the nation’s future. We have it.

If you want high speed rail to be progressed, you have to vote Labor.

If you want a National Broadband Network, you have to vote Labor.

If you want investment in urban public transport, you have to vote Labor.

If you want the inland rail freight network to be progressed, you have to vote Labor.

LIPSON: Anthony Albanese, we’ll have to leave it there. We do thank you very much for your time this afternoon.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.