09 September 2020


SUBJECTS: Anthony Albanese and Labor’s plan for the regions; high speed rail; Victorian lockdowns; COVIDsafe app failures; Labor’s commitment to Superannuation.

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Labor Leader Anthony Albanese will unveil his plan for smart regionalisation and an increase in infrastructure funding in a pitch to country voters this morning. Mr Albanese will also tap high-speed rail as part of a push to boost jobs in the regional areas. To explain the plan and more I'm joined by Shadow Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones. Thanks for your time.


CONNELL: High-speed rail, it's been an idea that's been kicking around for a while, but well never gets up. Why will it be any different this time?

JONES: Look, there’s been a lot of talk about it, Anthony's been passionate about this since he came into Parliament. He saw the benefits for regional Australia about connecting capital cities and those regional towns along the route. I'm confident that if Labor gets elected it will be high on our infrastructure agenda at the next election. Anthony's also introduced private member's bills over the course of his time as Shadow Minister for Infrastructure to try and get both the debate and the engineering work underway for high-speed rail. It could be a game changer for those regional communities in the same way that in Inland Rail has been boosted by the National Party for those freight routes. The benefit of high-speed rail is it connects our major cities and the regional towns along the way and it means that people can move out of the cities and into regional Australia. If we've learned anything from the COVID pandemic, we've learnt that a hell of a lot of work can be done from almost anywhere.

CONNELL: It's interesting though, isn't it, the talk of people moving out to regional communities? If migration numbers really do collapse as expected, the cities might not be as clogged up. But maybe that that push towards the regions will actually dwindle.

JONES: Mate, tell that to somebody from Wollongong. Why would you live in Sydney or Melbourne if you could live in Wollongong? We've got great beaches, beautiful escarpment, we’re an hour and a half from Sydney with good internet, good rail travel. Places like Wollongong, in fact, towns up and down the East Coast of Australia and inland towns as well have the capacity to absolutely boom because people can do their once city based jobs from those regional areas, while enjoying the amazing lifestyle that regional towns have to offer. I'm a big fan of it.

CONNELL: It sounds like you are. There's your personal pitch, we'll see if it works. I want to talk to this it situation in Victoria though. Yesterday Daniel Andrews conceding there would be an approach, a more localised one in Victoria. So seemingly very much adopting what's happened in New South Wales. Also going for automation. Reports that some of the contact tracing was done by fax. This is a pretty big concession isn’t it, on a subpar system and as the PM said New South Wales is the gold standard on this.

JONES: I’ll tell you what is not the gold standard and that's the government COVID tracing app. The COVIDSafe app was supposed to be the technological solution that got us all out from under the doona. It's been a manifest failure and the Prime Minister, instead of lecturing states on how they should do their business, should stick to his knitting to get his own COVIDSafe app up and running. As far as the differences between Victoria and New South Wales, they went into this pandemic with vastly different health systems. New South Wales, their administration is much more decentralised than Victoria, which has a much more centralised population and centralised health administration management. The decentralisation of their health administration gave New South Wales a real advantage in contact tracing means, which means they had decentralised contact tracers who had intimate knowledge of the regions where they were attempting to do that human-to-human tracing.

CONNELL: That might be part of the structure. Victoria is smaller and more concentrated. How does that explain the things such as faxes still being used? I mean, it just seems antiquated.

JONES: I can't remember the last time I got a fax, I've got to say Tom, if that's true I'm truly astounded by it. I can't explain that to be honest. Here's what I do know that we're not talking about, in Victoria or any of our other states, about what is going to be the best case scenario in the middle of a pandemic what we are trying to put in place a health solution which deals with a pandemic so that we can get our businesses and our economy moving again. One thing we know that I do want to make this point. We aren't going to get our economy moving again when people see their neighbours in their community and people being rushed off to intensive care, if we've seen anything from around the world the economic solution is the health solution. They go hand-in-hand.

CONNELL: Just want to ask you about superannuation, you'll be talking about it today. You're making the case that the increase needs to happen because by 2065 we’ll have 3 workers for every retiree verses 6 to 1 at the moment. Does that mean that superannuation ultimately will need to increase a lot more in the current slated increase out to 12%?

JONES: What it means, Tom, is we need constant and steady policy. We know that nine and a half is not enough. In fact politicians know that they give themselves not 9.5, not 10, not 12, but they give themselves 15% because they understand that that's what is required. Public servants get 15.5%. Around the country, there's a significant proportion of the population that's already getting more than 9.5. We need steady policy not chopping and changing. We do need to increase. We need to stick to the legislator to timetable. It's already been delayed by a decade which means there are hundreds of thousands of Australians who are hundreds of thousands of dollars worse off. Let's not push the bill on to another generation of Australians by saying to our grand kids; we don't care about the problems that we're kicking down the road, we’re putting it on the bill and you're going to pick up the tab. That's not good enough for Australia. We can do better than that. Every Australian deserves to retire with dignity.

CONNELL: All right. We didn't get a firm answer on the 12%. Perhaps we’ll try another day.

JONES: We need to stick with the 12%. Let me give you a very firm answer Labor commits to the 12%.

CONNELL: I understand that, but beyond that?

JONES: I'll be very satisfied Tom if we stick around with the legislated 12% in five modest increases between in 2020 and 2025

CONNELL: Stephen Jones, thank you. Talk again soon.

JONES: Great to be with you.