Jun 17, 2013

Question Without Notice – Infrastructure and Nation Building

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (15:03):  My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government. Minister, how is the Government getting on with its plan for nation-building infrastructure, including the Pacific Highway in my electorate of Page, and how does this plan for infrastructure compare with other proposals?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (15:03):  I thank the member for her question. Indeed, just last week, together we announced more than half a billion dollars for the necessary preconstruction work on the Woolgoolga to Ballina section of the Pacific Highway—just a part of our record $7.9 billion that we have committed. This section of preconstruction is fifty-fifty funded between the Commonwealth and New South Wales.

We are also getting on with the job of upgrading the Bruce Highway, and last Wednesday I was also in Queensland. I was there to begin construction on section A of Cooroy to Curra, a vital project—$790 million shared between the Commonwealth and the state government. The Leader of the Opposition asks his deputy, the Leader of the Nationals, whether he was there. No, he was not. He did not turn up to the sod-turn at the beginning of construction, just as he did not turn up at the announcement of funding, the beginning of construction, the completing of construction or the opening of section B in his electorate. So I thought: ‘Fair enough. He’s probably been pretty busy working on policy.’ I saw a bit of policy from those opposite on 14 June—last week. The South Coast Register had the headline ‘Abbott show rolls into town’. It says this is a direct quote:

If we are elected we will form an organisation called Infrastructure Australia …

Well, there’s a thought! There’s an idea! Why didn’t we think of that? Then he went on to say this:

“… which will do its best to rationally and scientifically look at the various infrastructure projects and rank the best on public cost benefit …”

There’s another idea! Why didn’t we think of that? Melbourne Metro—we did it. It is on the list. Cross River Rail—it is on the list. All 15 out of 15 projects are on the list, and we are funding them, and this bloke is telling state governments: ‘No, don’t accept the money. Stick with the Bombay solution on Cross River Rail of removing seats so people can stand up.’

This quote goes on:

“… then all levels of governments will be able to fund what they choose to be the one that makes most sense.”

So we have cost-benefit analysis. We have Infrastructure Australia. We have the system set up which doesn’t say, ‘We fund roads but we don’t fund rail.’ It says you do proper analysis and that you don’t have bias according to mode. That is precisely what we have done. It is precisely the good policy structure that we have set up.

This bloke has not noticed that we have been funding public transport in our capital cities and urban centres. He also has not noticed Infrastructure Australia; so, to help him, I table the national infrastructure priority list, which has on it the NBN— (Time expired)



Ms SAFFIN (Page) (15:07):  Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, could you provide some more detail on the preconstruction works on the Pacific Highway, including other proposals?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (15:07):  I thank the member for that very good supplementary question. Indeed, it gives me the opportunity to talk about the national infrastructure priority list. Those opposite raise issues of what the priorities should be and raise in interjections the NBN. Here is the list of Australia’s national infrastructure priorities. What is No. 1? A National Broadband Network. It is dated May 2009.

It was part of our Budget proposals, but those opposite do not pay any attention to details, whether it is the Pacific Highway, where the member for Cowper did not bother to turn up to the Kempsey bypass opening—remember that? Six hundred and eighteen million dollars of Commonwealth money, not one cent of state government money, not one cent from the Nats when they were in government. They saved it all for the ad trying to take credit. The Leader of the Nationals described the Cooroy-to-Curra section that we are funding and for which construction of the next section started last Wednesday as ‘the worst road in Australia’. ‘The worst road in Australia’ is in his electorate, and he did nothing about it.

We are getting on with the job of funding infrastructure, whether it be the Hume Highway duplication, whether it be the Pacific Highway; or whether it be the Bruce Highway.