May 10, 2017

Matters of Public Importance – Budget

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:56): In the words of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, the peak industry body, this budget confirms the cut to real budgeted capital funding to its lowest level in more than a decade, using a mix of underspend, reprofiling and narrative to cover this substantial drop in real capital expenditure. They are onto them, less than 24 hours later. This is what Michael Pascoe had to say:

Morrison has got away with rehashing Hockey’s infrastructure PR trick—think of a big number and keep adding years until you reach it.

Wake up, people! Spread over 10 years, the Commonwealth is only offering $7.5 billion a year, much of it already in Hockey’s numbers and a fair swag of that dating from Labor government commitments. It’s less than what the state of New South Wales invests annually.

When you actually look at the budget figures you get a different story: you get that this year alone there is a $1.6 billion cut in infrastructure funding, from the $9.2 billion they set in last year’s budget. Last night, that figure for this year is now $7.6 billion. It drops to $6.2 billion, it drops to $5.1 billion and then it drops off the cliff to $4.2 billion. This is a government that is failing completely on infrastructure. They set up this Infrastructure Financing Unit in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to find a solution to a problem that does not exist. There is plenty of capital available in this country—in superannuation funds, in the private sector—for projects that stack up. However, this government has actually cut the infrastructure funding from the Infrastructure Investment program in order to fund this new bureaucracy in the Prime Minister’s office.

When you look at the budget—I follow the member for Gilmore—and you look at infrastructure investment programs and new investments, normally there are pages and pages of them. Last night there was one! One project: the far North Collector Road in the marginal seat of Gilmore—$13.8 million. I have to say, we thought it might have been in Collector, but it is not. It is this little local road near Nowra that they are funding in order to show that that is their only priority. The only road or rail line in the country that is actually receiving a cash payment from this government as a result of last night’s budget is that one. The rest of it is smoke and mirrors. Where projects for Victoria previously had $1.45 billion in the budget, the government has given them $1 billion and expects them to be grateful. That is a cut of half a billion dollars. It is there in the budget papers at item 134, ‘Victorian infrastructure investments’. I will read out the five-year plan: zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. That is what Victoria gets out of last night’s budget.

The Bruce Highway was mentioned by the previous speaker. It is all existing funding, with not one extra dollar. The Treasurer had the hide to name all these rail projects last night but not deliver a single dollar for any of them. There was not a dollar for AdeLINK, not a dollar for Cross River Rail, not a dollar for Brisbane Metro, not a dollar for Melbourne Metro and not a dollar for Western Sydney Rail. It was a con. They came in here, mentioning projects and saying, ‘There’s this $10 billion fund.’ But you look at the budget. There is nothing this year for this fund, there is nothing next year and nothing the year after, and the year after that there is $200 million, of which not a single dollar flows before the next election—not one dollar. This is a con. Projects like Cross River Rail and Melbourne Metro were already approved by Infrastructure Australia. We had money in the budget for those projects, and then we see ‘Investing in our cities’ in the glossy. Only Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney are mentioned—no other cities. Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth—

Ms Chesters interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: Bendigo? Nothing whatsoever. It is just a complete con. This is a government that does not have a plan for infrastructure; it just has one big con.