The railroad out of recovery: Catherine King’s vision for rail

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport & Regional Development Catherine King sets out how rail transport could lead Australia out of a COVID-19 recession.

In July 2019, prior to the arrival of COVID-19, governor of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe called on governments around the country to invest more in infrastructure. Cutting the official cash rate to a then-record 1 per cent, Lowe said that more spending on infrastructure was needed.

“This spending adds to demand in the economy and – provided the right projects are selected – it also adds to the country’s productive capacity. It is appropriate to be thinking about further investments in this area, especially with interest rates at a record low, the economy having spare capacity and some of our existing infrastructure struggling to cope with ongoing population growth,” he told the Darwin business community.

Much has changed since that speech, but in some ways, Lowe’s words could be read, word for word, again, with added emphasis, as the cash rate is now 0.25 per cent and spare capacity in the form of unemployment has only risen.

To hear how the federal government and opposition are responding to this call for an infrastructure-led recovery, earlier in 2020, Rail Express spoke to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack and his shadow, Catherine King. The below interview with King has been condensed and edited for clarity and length. To read Rail Express‘s interview with Michael McCormack, follow this link.

THE ROUTE AHEAD FOR INLAND RAIL
It’s a project that all major parties support, however Inland Rail has been a headache for the government and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) since objections have been raised to the route over floodplains in northern NSW and Queensland. With the rail industry looking for certainty over the project, governments are hoping to increase the project’s momentum.

Rail Express (REX): Labor has brought up some concerns with Inland Rail in the past, particularly around the section over the Condamine River floodplain in Queensland, how confident are you in the delivery of this project, particularly that section in Queensland?

Catherine King: Labor supports Inland Rail and in fact we put the first billion dollars into the project to actually get it started. I’m surprised the government has taken the notion of Inland Rail very literally with it not having any connection to the Port of Brisbane or the Port of Melbourne. They are important, difficult, and challenging issues to sort out but you can’t just build Inland Rail with no connectivity to either port. These projects are complex and we know that you’re never going to please everybody and there are issues around having to procure land, having to dissect across farmland, but one of the things that I’ve learnt as being a long time local MP and also having portfolios like this before is that you have to get the consultation right and when you’ve got such a big community expressing significant concern about the sort of hydrology work that has been done by the government and a lack of transparency about how the decision was made, you’ve got a problem.

REX: How would Labor look to extend Inland Rail or make those connections to other freight networks around Australia?

King: If we were fortunate enough to be in government in 2022, we don’t know what plans would be in place but what I would like to see is the start of a discussion about it. At the moment all we know about it is there’s going to be significantly increased trucks going through Acacia Ridge but no plan or discussion about what some of the alternatives are. The government needs to start that work now because without those connections Inland Rail doesn’t make as much sense as it should.

Catherine King
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport & Regional Development Catherine King.

A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD FOR FREIGHT
Without freight rail continuing to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s supermarkets shelves would be empty and commodities would be sitting at farms and mines, never making it to market. To ensure that this critical link in the logistics chain continued to operate, governments stepped in, allowing freight to cross otherwise closed borders. In May, the ARTC provided some financial relief for rail freight operators by extending payment terms for current access charges and deferring a consumer price index increase that was scheduled for July. Rail freight operators are still concerned however, with more empty containers being transported by sea, and a lack of competitive neutrality with road freight.

REX: Would you want to go back and have a look at competitive pricing neutrality between rail and road, and access charges?

King: That wasn’t part of our policy at the last election but we’ve just seen an extraordinary effort in terms of all our freight and logistics companies, whether it has been rail through to what’s happened in the trucking industry.

I think there’s a much stronger appreciation about the role that our freight and logistics companies play and we support the government’s pausing of some of those fees and charges in order to make sure that we get through this crisis. As a nation, what’s the most efficient way of delivering our freight? It’s important to ensure that we don’t pick one over another that we make sure that there is a reasonably level playing field for both but what we want to focus on is ensuring that we have the most efficient system that we possibly can whether it is road, whether it is rail, or whether it’s via shipping and our ports.

THE FASTER OR HIGH-SPEED RAIL DILEMMA
In a speech delivered to shadow cabinet in May, Anthony Albanese reaffirmed Labor’s commitment to building a high-speed rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane, via Sydney and Canberra. As a nation-building project it would certainly be iconic, but could COVID-19 actually turn Australia’s long held dream of high-speed rail into reality?

REX: High-speed rail proposals obviously have a long history in Australia. Why did Labor feel like now is the right time to return to the project?

King: Well I think we’ve never left the project to some extent. We’ve been pushing high-speed rail as a visionary rail infrastructure project for the nation for a long period of time, and obviously when we had the opportunity to hold the government benches started to progress the business case for that.

REX: Labor took the policy of a billion dollars for land acquisitions along the corridor to the last election. Is that something the party is still committed to at a federal level?

King: Well obviously we’re reviewing all of our policies at the moment, we’re two years out from the next federal election and we’ll have a bit to say in the lead up to the next election in terms of our transport policies including rail. Obviously money is going to be pretty tight this time around for both sides of politics, given the COVID-19 crisis, but we’ve laid a marker down pretty clearly that we think high-speed rail is an important long-term economic opportunity for our nation and shouldn’t be one that’s lost.

REX: There’s also a number of proposals for faster rail. How would Labour see a program of high-speed rail interacting with the current businesses cases focused on faster rail on similar corridors to those the high-speed rail line would follow?

King: Faster rail can be anything from substantial corridor improvements, improvements in rail technology, through to more expensive projects of duplication and looking at improving some of the regional rail networks. It doesn’t have to be either or but what you have to do is be serious about it. There’s lots of potential for regional rail improvements and we should be looking at that all the time.

REX: One of the stumbling blocks for high- speed rail has been that price tag but there are alternative funding methods such as value capture that are used to get projects like these off the ground. Would you be looking at these as a way to fund a high-speed rail project?

King: One of the things that coronavirus crisis has shown us is that we’ve lacked any large scale, iconic infrastructure transport project and Anthony in his vision speech wanted to particularly go back and highlight high-speed rail because of a couple of things. One is the investment potential that it has, but also the nation building potential that it has, in terms of developing a much stronger sense of regional and decentralised towns from Melbourne from Sydney, all the way up to Brisbane.

REX: Another element of Anthony Albanese’s speech was calling for the local manufacturing of rollingstock. Albanese nominated successes in Queensland, WA, and Victoria. How would Labour seek to expand this to other states and for builds to continue happening in those states that already have a manufacturing capability?

King: My hometown of Ballarat is a railway town. We still have our railway workshops here, many of the X’Trapolis trains are built here as well, and they’re really important skilled manufacturing jobs for our region. Part of the problem for many of those manufacturers has been that the procurement is really patchy. Each state and territory government does that separately, they may procure three trains here, they may do 50, and the manufacturers in my own constituency tell me it’s that long term pipeline of projects that keeps those railway workshop doors open.

COVID-19 has taught us that our manufacturing does have enormous capability, but it does need support. One of the things we announced in the 2019 election campaign was that we felt there was a need to have a national rail procurement strategy to actually start to look at how you can smooth out some of those lags that occur in rollingstock procurement so that we can continue to still have those terrific railway workshops here. We’ve got a great history of it, and we don’t want to see railway manufacturing go the way of the car industry. You need a plan to support it, to keep it here and to keep local jobs here.

REX: Would you support or encourage quotes or targets for locally manufactured rollingstock like there are in Victoria?

King: As a Victorian I’m very attracted to the plan that the Victorian government has in relation to local procurement. Federally we are subject to trade law as well so we always have to be conscious about that but I am a big fan. Many people have decided that we should be manufacturing more things that we are capable of manufacturing in this country and I’m a big fan of local content and local procurement.

Albanese launches Labor’s Rail Manufacturing Plan

A National Rail Manufacturing Plan would be formed to ensure that federal money spent on rail projects in Australia leads to local manufacturing of rollingstock if Labor was elected federally.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese used his budget reply speech to announce the plan, which could identify and optimise the opportunities to build freight and passenger trains in Australia.

Included in the plan are measures such as the establishment of an Office of National Rail industry Coordination (ONRIC) to audit the adequacy, capacity, and condition of passenger trains and develop priority plans. Labor would also reinstate the Rail Supplier Advocate to help small to medium sized enterprises find national and export opportunities and create a Rail Industry Innovation Council to spur more local research & development.

Labor estimates that the plan would create up to 659 full-time jobs, and boost Australia’s GDP by up to $5 billion.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie said a coordinated approach to rail manufacturing would help local industry and governments.

“Rail manufacturers currently have to navigate a very fragmented market to address different approaches between state and territories,” Wilkie said.

“This severely limits the industry’s ability to gain the scale it needs to create efficiencies and foster more innovation in the Australian market.

“Policies that support a strong Australian rail manufacturing sector will ultimately lead to better deals for governments and create more jobs in the process.”

Local manufacturers of rollingstock also reacted positively to the Labor plan. Todd Garvey, Head of Sales Australia and New Zealand at Bombardier Transportation said that coordination would ensure that Australia’s rail manufacturing industry continues to thrive.

“Bombardier was encouraged by the focus on our industry in the budget reply speech by the Opposition Leader on October 8. In particular, the establishment of the ONRIC within the Department of Industry and the commitment to ‘manufacturing trains here’ in Australia.”

Garvey noted that Bombardier’s factory in Dandenong builds trains and trams not only for Victoria, but other states including South Australia.

The ARA has been pushing for consistency across state governments in rollingstock and signalling tenders to better leverage existing local capabilities.

Around Australia, the rollingstock manufacturing and repair industry generates $2.4bn and employs over 4,000 people, half outside metropolitan areas. Garvey highlighted that Bombardier’s presence in south east Melbourne supports a wider manufacturing ecosystem.

“In Dandenong we employ over 200 manufacturing workers and support a vibrant rail supply chain in south east Melbourne. This supply chain supports our carriage building, welding and fit out for our trams and trains. This is important, our local content on the VLocity trains is 69 per cent and around 55 per cent for our E-Class trams. Not only this but in Victoria alone we have a significant servicing and maintenance business operating out of West Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat East.”

Wilkie said that a focus on innovation now would set up Australia’s rail manufacturing industry for the future.

“Investment in R&D and innovation leads to a better infrastructure network for Australians and improved efficiencies for industry,” she said.

“Government and industry must work together to advance rail technology and innovation adoption, based on clear policy settings that provide the certainty needed for long term investment.”

Garvey said that in Bombardier’s case, local manufacturing was building a skills base for quality Australian manufacturing.

“Bombardier is committed to building rail cars in Australia. Not only are we committed to this industry but also to the next generation. We have apprentices at Dandenong and a commitment to diversity. Our on-site welding school is testament to this fact and we will not stop making trains and trams to the highest quality Australian standards.”

Canberra COVID

“People need to travel”

In one of the most disruptive events to occur since World War Two, transport leaders around Australia highlight the role that rail has played in getting Australia through COVID-19.

On Friday, March 13, thousands of spectators were queueing outside the gates to the Formula One Grand Prix in Albert Park, Melbourne. The late summer sun was beat down on the spectators as they waited for two hours to find out whether they would be let in. Finally, organisers confirmed that the event could not go ahead because of the fear of an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). Extra trams were rapidly mobilised, and the crowds were herded onto public transport to take them back home, via the Melbourne CBD.

At the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) offices on Exhibition Street, director-general Corey Hannett was assessing the options for the state’s $70 billion of under- construction transport infrastructure spread across 119 major road and rail projects.

“I must admit, when the pandemic turned up in March, I think there were doubts that industry could work,” Hannett told Rail Express.

“At that time, we were looking right around the world at what was going on, and it was very clear that lots of countries were actually closing down.”

Indeed, other countries had entirely ceased all construction activity, except for projects specifically related to the COVID-19 response. In Ireland, almost €20bn ($32.57bn) worth of construction activity creased by March 28.

Unlike countries in Europe and Asia, at the time, the impact in Australia was relatively limited, with only 156 cases when Albert Park closed its gates. In Italy, deaths were already in the thousands.

“At the time, we really hadn’t had that massive impact from the COVID-19 infections that the rest of the world was experiencing, but it was fair to say we were very concerned that we had to make sure that we did things in a way that protected the workforce and the community,” said Hannett.

Across all of its sites, the MTIA and its delivery contractors put in place procedures to reduce the change of an outbreak at a construction site. Workers had to be spaced more the 1.5m apart, personal protective equipment was required, and extra hygiene measures were put in place. MTIA’s own staff moved to working from home and staggered shifts were enforced on work sites.

“Staggering when people start and finish toolbox meetings in the crib shed, getting extra crib sheds, getting extra cleaning in those crib sheds, getting an extra cleaning program of work across the whole sites,” lists Hannett.

All in all, roughly 18,000 people are employed to build road and rail projects under the MTIA umbrella across Melbourne and in regional Victoria. As of the end of June, there have been no significant disruptions to any of the construction programmes.

“I’m quite pleased to say so far so good, but we can only be as good as we are today and we need to keep that vigilance up and keep a heightened focus on making sure that we comply with the relevant rules to keep the community the workforce and ourselves safe.”

Hannett notes that while there has been a small loss in efficiency, the building program is continuing apace.

“In general, the program is in pretty good shape considering the pandemic which was forced upon us in March this year,” he said.

“I can’t imagine what the situation would be today if we had not had our 18,000 plus people not working.”

KEEPING THE COUNTRY MOVING
Canberrans had barely gotten the smell of bushfires out of their hair, clothing, and homes by the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit. After a torrid summer, Canberrans were using the newly commissioned light rail more than ever, which, according to ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel, led to an unexpected windfall.

“Thankfully in February this year, just prior to the pandemic starting, we actually increased the frequency of light rail to help manage the crowding that we had seen because we had so many people wanting to use light rail in Canberra.”

Frequency in the peaks was increased, and the peak period was stretched to 9.30am in the morning and 6.30pm in the evening. This extra capacity meant that the light rail could keep running and ensure that those workers who did need to travel were able to get to their jobs and people were able to access essential services during the lockdown.

To ensure the service was safe, a rapid program of adaptation was rolled out.

“We stepped up hygiene measures across public transport, including light rail, and one of the measures on light rail was to have automatic opening of the doors which wasn’t always the case on light rail,” said Steel.

Across the network, an extra 1,300 hours of cleaning was being conducted per week, and regular cleaners were assisted by over 30 workers hired by Transport Canberra who were stood down from their roles in the wider transport industry.

In Canberra and across Australia, most transport authorities are still encouraging passengers to travel outside of peak periods to avoid crowding. At the same time, Steel and others are concerned that road congestion is rising faster than public transport levels with the ACT at 85 per cent of pre-COVID traffic levels but public transport at less than half.

“We don’t want to see congestion reach even higher levels than it was before the pandemic because people are not using public transport, so we do need to encourage people back at an appropriate time,” said Steel.

“We’ve had for now several months the national cabinet and state premiers and chief ministers very clearly indicate to the community that they should avoid public transport during peak times and that is still the message.

“We also need to have an equally strong message at the appropriate time to welcome people back onto public transport – come and use it, it’s good for our community, it’s good for your health, it reduces congestion and all of the benefits that it provides.”

In Sydney, Howard Collins, chief operations officer for Transport for NSW and former chief executive of Sydney Trains cannot see a future where a return to public transport does not occur in some form.

“I just look at the maths and say we’re currently carrying 600,000 journeys across the transport network, about 350,000 people every day at the moment, compared with 1.3 million on rail before COVID. Where are those people – even if half of them come back – where are they going to go? I can’t imagine them all cycling down George Street. I can’t imagine we’ll get the cars moving more than about 5km/h if they all jumped in their cars. So, rail will have to take on that capacity, but it may be in a different context in terms of how we operate our train service.”

Prior to COVID-19, capacity on Sydney Trains was almost reaching breaking point, particularly in the peaks. With a 73 per cent drop in patronage, Collins is looking at the recovery from COVID-19 as a potential for change in the way the network operates.

“I think patronage will change, permanently. COVID-19, at the end of the day is an issue that has come along that has been really tragic and has been challenging, but it may well be a warning for things happening in the future. So, things have to change but I do believe that public transport and particularly rail is going to still have a major role.”

Collins is sceptical that there will be a wholescale shift to alternative working arrangements, such as working from home.

“Many people have said ‘Oh I’ll never going to be going to office anymore. I’m going to be working from home and I’ll be doing it in a café or bar or whatever it is.’ I do think there’s this human nature of getting together and while we all say we’re coping with Teams and remote working there will be a resurgence of people wanting to cluster and get together, whether that’s socially or for work reasons no matter how good our Zoom or Teams structure is. People will be back, but it will be different.”

During the lockdown, Sydney Trains has increased services during the peak to cope with demand, as well as run extra light rail services. With an unclear future still ahead, to many, what this has demonstrated is the need for flexibility in time-tabling and capacity.

“We certainly need greater flexibility and if you look at Sydney Metro, boy they can switch on and off a flattening peak or an increased fleet just by the press of a button, and the trains pop out of their depot without any care or concern,” said Collins.

“But we know that people still need to travel within certain times. If tradies still sign on as they do every day in Sydney at 7 o’clock then we’re still going to get that massive tradie peak. If schools still operate in the time scale that tends to suit both their parents and teachers, you’re not going to see the flattening of the peak. We will certainly see others spreading the load – particularly office workers – but I think it’s going to be more resistant to change than perhaps some of the theorists believe when it comes to peak services.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Many have noted that COVID-19 is two crises. First, the health pandemic, and second, the economic crisis caused by the shutdown of businesses and the restrictions on movement and gathering. While testing, contact tracing, and medical care can limit the first crisis, there is more debate over how to grapple with the second.

Infrastructure spending has emerged as one way that governments are dealing with the economic crisis. Rail is one area of infrastructure that has been targeted with spending. Already, in Sydney, Metro Greater West, now known as Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport has had funding committed by both state and federal governments, to begin construction before the end of 2020. Approvals for Inland Rail have been fast- tracked. In Victoria, the Level Crossings Removal Project is ramping up and extra money is being spent on regional track and repairs to stations.

While some have argued that smaller infrastructure projects provide more benefits, according to Hannett, all projects should be seen as helping the wider economy.

“A project creates jobs, it boosts the economy, and it also has a significant economic benefit. The fact is. big or small. they do create jobs they do create economic benefit.”

Shadow Infrastructure Minister Catherine King highlighted that now is the time to invest in nation-building infrastructure.

“I think that one of the things that coronavirus crisis has shown us is that while we’ve had infrastructure projects and rail projects, we’ve sort of lacked any large scale, iconic infrastructure transport project,” she told Rail Express.

In May, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese reaffirmed the Labor Party’s commitment to high speed rail from Melbourne to Brisbane, via Sydney and Canberra. According to King, such a project goes well beyond reducing congestion on the air route between Melbourne and Sydney.

“One is the investment potential that it has, but also the nation building potential that it has, in terms of developing a much stronger sense of regional and decentralised regional towns from Melbourne from Sydney, all the way up to Brisbane, and the capacity and possibility of that as we grow as a nation.”

While COVID-19 has been a tragic event, the rail industry is beginning to emerge with a renewed focus on flexibility in operations and the nation-shaping role that rail infrastructure can have.

ARA calls for tender changes to maximise benefit of rail

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has called for an update of tendering procedures around Australia to accelerate job-creating rail projects.

Releasing a new tendering framework, the ARA included 21 recommendations to improve the procurement process for rollingstock and signalling equipment.

ARA CEO, Caroline Wilkie said that implementing these recommendations would extend the benefits of rail infrastructure and supply contracts.

“Australian tendering costs are higher than global benchmarks and that makes it harder to get projects out of the planning phase into delivery,” said Wilkie.

“As governments look to bring on new projects to speed our post-pandemic economic recovery, simple and fast tendering processes will be needed to get people quickly back to work.”

In the framework, the ARA’s recommendations include changes to market sounding and pre-project engagement, a one-time national pre-qualification scheme, a simplified probity management process, clear requirements at the point of early contractor involvement, a harmonisation of specifications, and a cost recovery process for rollingstock design.

“Small measures like a one-time-only pre-qualification process and standardised templates, terms and conditions would make a big difference and reduce costs for both government and the private sector,” said Wilkie.

The ARA commended the NSW Government Action Plan, which it said set the standard for procurement and should be the benchmark for other states.

“A nationally consistent procurement process would cut red tape and focus tender discussions on the all-important project outcomes,” said Wilkie.

Today, Australian tendering costs are approximately 1-2 per cent of a project’s total cost, well over the international benchmark of 0.5 per cent. Bringing Australia into line with other countries would allow for reduced project pricing as well as improving participation by reducing the risk profile for tenderers.

“It is important tender processes are fit for purpose and resourced to succeed so projects can move from planning to delivery as soon as possible,” said Wilkie.

In a speech to the shadow cabinet on May 11, federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s call for more local content in rollingstock. Albanese said that trains should be built in Australia, and pointed to examples in Queensland, Victoria, and WA.

Wilkie noted that well-managed procurement processes can create employment in Australia.

“Now more than ever we need government and industry working together to get projects up and running to deliver jobs for all Australians.”

Chinese high speed train. Photo: Bombardier

Albanese puts high speed rail at the centre of COVID-19 recovery

Anthony Albanese will argue for high-speed rail to be a central part of the rebuilding of Australia’s economy following coronavirus (COVID-19), according to reports.

In a speech to be delivered to the shadow cabinet on May 11, Albanese will say that a high-speed rail project along with decentralisation should be pursued by the federal government as a way to recover and create a more resilient nation.

In a draft of the speech, Albanese is expected to combine a commitment to high-speed rail with local train manufacturing.

“We must invest in nation-building infrastructure including iconic projects like high-speed rail and we should be building trains here,” Albanese is expected to say.

“Government procurement policy in rail manufacturing has produced superior outcomes to imports and created regional jobs in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.”

In 2019, Labor took a $1 billion land acquisition policy for high-speed rail to the federal election, however the Coalition has not pursued high speed rail during its time in office.

The speech by the federal opposition comes after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg outlined his plans for post-COVID-19 recovery. In a speech to the National Press Club on May 5, Frydenberg said that the government would maintain its $100 billion ten year infrastructure pipeline, but did not nominate particular projects. Frydenberg did, however, note that the current pandemic should not lead to protectionist policies.

In April, shadow transport spokeswoman Catherine King had nominated high speed rail as a “economic game changer” and indicated federal Labor’s continuing support for a high speed rail network linking population centres down the Eastern seaboard. King also noted that investment in high-speed rail would encourage economic growth in regional communities.

At the time, federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that the government’s focus is building the Inland Rail project and pursuing faster rail projects.

Anthony Albanese. Photo: Shipping Australia

Albanese announces picks for shadow cabinet

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has announced Labor’s new Shadow Ministry, which meets for the first time in Brisbane on Tuesday.

Albanese on June 3 referred to the surprise Liberal-National election victory on May 18 as a “wake-up call” for Labor, and stated that his team would be “more than a match for the Morrison Government’s frontbench”.

“In the days and weeks that follow that meeting, Shadow Ministers will disperse into communities across the nation to listen to Australians about why only one in three voters gave Labor their first preference at the election on May 18,” Albanese said in a statement.

Notable among Albanese’s picks are Richard Marles as his deputy and shadow minister for defence; Penny Wong as shadow minister for foreign affairs, home affairs and immigration and citizenship; Jim Chalmers as shadow treasurer; and Chris Bowen as shadow minister for health.

Albanese’s choice to replace his previous position of shadow minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development went to Catherine King, who has been federal member for Ballarat since 2001.

King served as Labor’s shadow health minister for six years, a role that will now be filled by Chris Bowen, the previous shadow treasurer.

“It was a great honour to serve as Labor’s shadow health minister for six years and I’ll always be proud of the ambitious health agenda we took to last month’s election,” King said on her Twitter feed. “I wish my friend [Chris Bowen] all the very best in the role.”

Albanese stated that his ministry included an even distribution of men and women (including the Shadow Cabinet Secretary) and a mix of new and experienced ministers.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten, who stood down after the election, retained a place in the cabinet in a dual role as shadow minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and for government services.

“The shadow cabinet announcement, I think person for person, is far superior than those who sit on the government benches,” Albanese told press at a conference in Launceston, Tasmania.

“The recognition of that is the mass exodus that has happened on the government benches. They will suffer from the loss of Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Kelly O’Dwyer they’ve lost some of their best people.”