Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced a new agreement with the ACT Government designed to recognise Canberra’s “unique role” as the national capital and support the Territory government in delivering infrastructure projects.
In his keynote speech at the ACT Labor Conference on Saturday (22 July), the Prime Minister said that the National Capital Investment Framework will address years of underinvestment in the Territory’s infrastructure.
“This is about us working together to create new jobs, build new infrastructure and ensure that Australia’s capital is as modern, vibrant and strong as the nation it serves,” Mr Albanese said, calling Canberra his “home away from home”.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that Canberra is “different to every other Australian city” and should be recognised as such.
“As our national capital, it is tasked with gathering together all the diverse threads of our national history, our national democracy and our national identity,” he said.
“Canberra has the responsibility – as John Curtin said when he opened the Australian War Memorial – to be the ‘sanctuary of Australia’s traditions’.
“But also to educate and inspire future generations.”
Housing, infrastructure and cost of living were major focuses in the Prime Minister’s speech, and Mr Albanese slammed the Liberals for stifling progress by always saying ‘no’.
“Indeed, there are more than 1000 new homes we could be building here in the ACT alone if the Liberal-National-Green-One Nation ‘No-alition’ would just get out of the way, so we can get on with creating the Housing Australia Future Fund,” he said.
“All the Liberals can say is No … As a party, they have never been able to agree on what they are for, they have only ever defined themselves by what they are against,” he said.
“They don’t like public housing. They don’t invest in public transport. They don’t fund public health. They don’t support public education. They don’t respect the public service – or public institutions. There’s a theme here – they just don’t like the public.”
“That’s why the Liberals neglected our national institutions – the National Library, the National Museum and National Galleries that call Canberra home.”
And this extended to another Canberra institution – the Australian Public Service. Mr Albanese said the previous government had “spent a decade trying to hollow out the public service” and had stripped away its accountability, integrity and independence while spending billions on outsourcing to external consultants.
“And – make no mistake – this was the ideological road that led to Robodebt,” he said.
“Robodebt was wrong, it was illegal, it should never have happened – and friends, we will make sure it never happens again. Because we are a government that respects the public service as an honourable profession.”
Mr Albanese praised ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr for his “great Labor instinct” and fundamental belief in changing things for the better and investing in the future, citing the light rail project and construction of new affordable housing in Belconnen for women facing rental stress as two examples of this.
“Housing made possible because of the co-operation between our two Labor governments,” he pointed out.
In his speech to the conference, Mr Barr said the new framework will build on the existing partnership between Federal and Territory Governments.
“As the prime minister outlined, the framework provides overdue recognition of Canberra’s unique role as the National Capital. It will assist the Territory Government to deliver the infrastructure projects that our growing city needs,” he said.
Commonwealth funding has already been earmarked for a number of major projects, including the a new indoor sports arena, the expanded light rail network, new bridges and roads for Canberra’s growing suburbs, and the Garden City Cycleway and affordable student accommodation at the new CIT in Woden.
“Our tourism and cultural sector will benefit from the much-needed commitment from the Commonwealth to the National Cultural institutions. And our economy will benefit from the construction of the new National Security precinct in the Parliamentary triangle,” Mr Barr said.