May 30, 2012

Budget Speech – Consideration In Detail – Bega Bypass & Port of Eden

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (17:00):  I thank the member for Eden-Monaro for his outstanding contribution. In a balanced and fair way he has been a very strong advocate for not just his electorate of Eden-Monaro but also for regional Australia. Indeed, the member talked about the Bega bypass, that I think is important, to make the point that one of the issues that creates cynicism out there in the community is when infrastructure projects are promised but not delivered. It is absolutely vital that there be a long-term approach to these issues. It is vital that, where possible, there be a bipartisan approach to these issues. The Bega bypass, for 40 years, is just one example.

The Moreton Bay regional rail link is perhaps a more extreme example. First promised in the Queensland parliament in 1895, it will be delivered two centuries later. It was promised in the 19th century, missed the 20th century but is being delivered in the 21st century. The cynicism is there, and when I travelled to Bega with the member for Eden-Monaro there was a great deal of excitement that the project was actually happening. When construction commences, that is particularly important.

I have already had constructive discussions with the new Queensland government about the way that projects should continue in a seamless way. I have had constructive discussions with the Victorian government since the government changed hands. New South Wales thinks the world stops when there’s an election and you should renegotiate everything. If you do that you cannot deliver infrastructure. You cannot have that approach to infrastructure development. That is why I have taken the approach of this government having a six-year nation building program, of building on the Infrastructure Australia process that is about recommendations and priorities. It is also about recommending policy initiatives such as the creation of the special purpose vehicle for the F3 to M2 and the M5 East, to look at innovative ways in which we can drive not just public investment but also private sector investment in infrastructure.

The member also raised the issue of the port of Eden. One of the initiatives that Infrastructure Australia has taken in driving that policy agenda, driving that long-term approach, is the National Port Strategy and the National Land Freight Strategy. For the first time, ports being required to have an approach that recognises that they are not islands, that they relate to the land transport issues of how the goods get to the port. The big difficulty in road and rail transport and the productivity of our port structure is often at what is known as the last mile, which is so vital as a nation that has more than 99 per cent of our trade conducted by shipping.

That is why looking at how we best maximise the efficiency of our ports is so important. Infrastructure Australia has certainly done that and has provided in recent times advice on northern Tasmania that will put a rigour into the debate that was lacking in the past.

I welcome the creation of similar bodies, based upon the Infrastructure Australia model, such as Infrastructure New South Wales and I think that Nick Greiner, as the chair of Infrastructure New South Wales, is playing a very constructive role in the debate.

In conclusion, I thank all those who have contributed to the debate. I understand that not everyone has had an opportunity to have a say. I am happy to offer people a private discussion or they can put questions on the Notice Paper.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.