May 31, 2017

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2017-2018 – Consideration in Detail

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:05): Infrastructure Partnerships Australia have said that the 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’. That is not people in the Labor Party saying that; that is the peak industry body on infrastructure for Australia. That is what they are having to say, and I assure you, Minister, that what they say in private is less polite than that. They have contempt for what this government has done. The funding is cut in the current year by some $1.6 billion. Last year the budget papers indicated that there would be $9.2 billion expended in the current year. The actual fact is $7.6 billion. Inconveniently for the government, they produce budget papers with figures on them. The budget papers indicated across the forwards that that declines to $4.2 billion in 2020-21.

Budget Paper No. 2 has a story to tell. There is only one new investment mentioned—$13.8 million for the Far North Collector Road near Nowra. I acknowledge that that is a new project. It is the only new funded project in this entire budget over the next four years—one road. There is nothing for the Nowra bridge but this Far North Collector Road does get $13.8 million. If you look at the details, it is a mix of a return of some funding that was cut in previous budgets, such as Infrastructure Australia.

Let us look at the Infrastructure Investment Program. For Victorian infrastructure investments, page 134 indicates that there will be zero, zero, zero and zero. When you look at the Infrastructure Investment Program offsets, it shows a $1,631.6 billion cut in the year 2020-21. Let us look at Keys2Drive. I acknowledge that the government has put funding in that it threatened to cut. It is a good thing that that program has continued.

Let us look at other funding in the budget. Supplementary local roads funding for South Australia has been put in—again something the government threatened to cut—but there is no new investment. When you look at other programs, including the Bruce Highway, it clearly indicates that there are zero additional dollars. That is all from existing funds. At a time when the economy needs support for infrastructure this is an appalling budget. The government will spend less next year than this year on the Bruce Highway. For the Pacific Highway this current financial year the allocation is $1.37 billion and next year it is $710.1 million. Again that is less.

The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport raised the quite farcical National Rail Program. It is a big announcement—a $10 billion program—unfortunately, there is not a cent while they are still in government in this term. There is not one cent because there is not a dollar this year, not a dollar next year and not a dollar the year after. For the next three years, there is not a dollar of new investment for national rail. Then, in 2019-20, there is $200 million. In 2020-21, there is $400 million. So I acknowledge that they have established this program. Unfortunately, it is not for this generation. You could walk the length of the country until a dollar comes on track. It is pathetic. In this budget as well, Victoria will receive eight per cent of the national infrastructure budget. Once again, the government is punishing Victorians for having the temerity to vote in a Labor government.

(Time expired)

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:54): I rise as the shadow minister—and the minister elect, the way this government is going. I can answer the question from the member opposite, which was, ‘What will the impact be of the $10 billion national rail fund?’ The answer is zip, because there are zero dollars this year, zero dollars next year and zero dollars the year after. You do not announce a program for the next term in your first term and pretend that it is real. Then, when it is actually funded, the first year is $200 million and the next is $400 million. It is a great example of the illusion that is this government’s budget—an illusion that includes the Bruce Highway. Here are the figures—they are on page 133 of Budget Paper No. 2—on the Bruce Highway. It says:

The Government will provide $908.6 million over seven years from 2016-17 for infrastructure projects including—

And it includes the Bruce Highway projects. It says:

The cost of this measure with the exception of the Far North Collector Road will be met from within the existing resources of the Infrastructure Investment Programme.

There it is in black and white: there is not an extra dollar for these infrastructure projects—not one dollar—apart from the Far North Collector Road. That is on page 133 of Budget Paper No. 2.

Of course, before the budget we saw the establishment of the Infrastructure Financing Unit. That has now been renamed the ‘Infrastructure and Project Financing Agency’, perhaps because those opposite worked out that the acronym was not the best. Eventually, they worked that through. That is the minister’s contribution: working out that that was a bad acronym. But the fact is that the industry thinks it is totally unnecessary. This is what the industry said:

iii. We cannot identify any currently proposed infrastructure projects which are commercially viable and not already attracting finance; therefore we cannot see how the IFU will increase the pace of infrastructure project delivery;

vii. Commonwealth debt or equity investments provide an illusory benefit to the budget’s bottom line, but the Commonwealth is also taking equity or … risk on complex projects – meaning that risky investments’ in marginal projects will likely never be repaid;

1. The IFU should not be established.

That is what was said. And what this government did was take $17 million out of the construction budget administered by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to fund bureaucrats at the high end in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. They actually reduced the money that was intended for road and rail infrastructure in order to fund this unit. That is a solution looking for a problem. There is not a lack of financing available in this country for good infrastructure projects; what there is a lack of is a pipeline of projects and proper planning for projects.

One of those projects in which there is not a problem is the Cross River Rail. On 30 April 2013 I received a letter from Scott Emerson, the then minister in Campbell Newman’s government. Campbell Newman confirmed on TV on Monday night that this was a project that was absolutely ready to go and that the details had been sorted out thanks to Infrastructure Australia and thanks to negotiations between the two levels of government. There was a five-point plan, confirmed in writing minister to minister by Mr Emerson. The letter said:

the Project will be delivered largely through an availability payment Public Private Partnership;

It goes on about equal capital contributions of $750 million each. It goes on about funding the availability payment stream for the PPP component of the project on a 50-50 basis for the duration of the concession period. It committed the Queensland government to funding rail operating expenses for the project. It said:

the project will be delivered through a PPP commercial vehicle and financed by private sector equity and debt.

That is exactly what some of those opposite, who think they have discovered these things called ‘value capture’ and ‘public-private partnerships’, do not seem to understand—that it was happening and it got stopped in the 2014 budget, just like the funding and agreements for the Melbourne Metro got stopped before that budget. It is quite farcical that the government has established this unit, which will not be able to achieve anything at all, and is establishing a rail fund asking for bids when projects that were approved by Infrastructure Australia five years ago and funded in a budget four years ago remain unfunded due to this government’s intransigence.

(Time expired)

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:21): I rise to question again the gap between the rhetoric and the reality from this government when it comes to actual investment in infrastructure. One of the things the government continually does is speak about the 2013-14 budget. I have news for the government: Wayne Swan delivered that budget. That was not a budget delivered by the current government, but it adds in that figure as if it was when it was in government.

This time around, any analysis shows a $7.4 billion cut in actual infrastructure investment over the forward estimates. Yet the rhetoric of the government is about $75 billion. Well, sometimes it is. In the government’s own glossy produced as part of the budget papers, it says it is $70 billion in infrastructure commitments. Then if you go through and have a look at the details you see $1.2 billion committed to the Perth Freight Link. But then the same $1.2 billion is listed for the Metronet rail project. That is on page 10 of the budget glossy document. However, on page 8 it says there will be $700 million going towards the Metronet rail project. So it is not clear from the budget papers themselves whether it is $700 million or $1.2 billion. And then there is the same $1.2 billion double-counted for the Perth Freight Link project.

It is a bit like the Victorian circumstances where you have $1 billion and then there is $3 billion committed to the East West Link but it is the same money. It is the same contribution—the advance payment that was made from the Commonwealth to Victoria of $1.5 billion as a result of its 2014 budget. There was, further up in Queensland, $13.6 billion allegedly allocated but $844 million for the new Bruce Highway project, and we just heard from the minister that that is new money; that is a reallocation of existing funding. You see that pattern repeated throughout the budget.

Let’s look at actuals for Victoria for 2017-18 through to 2020-21. There is $791.2 million, then $568 million, then $606.3 million and then $280.7 million over the life of this budget. For Queensland $2,049 million goes down to $1,874 million, then to $1,866 million and then down to $1.652 billion in 2021. South Australia begin with $759.2 million. Then in 2018-19 they will get $434 million. In 2019-20 they will get $349.5 million. In 2020-21, they will get $95.2 million—that is the entire Commonwealth contribution for South Australian infrastructure.

Then you see the great fiddles of the Inland Rail project being off-budget.

A government member interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: I do support the project. We provided on-budget funding. We did not provide a fix or a fiddle, pretending that it would happen. This government has stopped the project 38 kilometres short of the port, thereby reducing the cost of the actual construction of the project. Then, what they do with this project is have it all funded off budget. There is not a dollar of on-budget funding, even though John Anderson’s report said that expected revenue over 50 years will not cover the initial capital investment. John Anderson said that it needed on-budget investment. That was the report to the government. It has been totally ignored. Then, we know that what they are counting is not the Inland Rail revenue; it is revenue from the whole of the ARTC. So, as a fix, they are using the profits that are made from the Hunter Valley rail network to pretend that that is the way that you finance this project. If this were a private sector operation, people would go to jail, but you, as a government entity—

Government members interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: It would! This is a corruption of the public financing of taxpayers, and that is why—

(Time expired)