May 30, 2012

Budget Speech – Consideration In Detail – F3 to M2

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (16:22):  I will respond to that question because this is a particularly important issue. I make the point that I have no doubt about the sincerity of the member for Berowra about getting funding for this project; he has raised funding for this project before. But I make the point that the former government, in which, he was a senior cabinet minister for 12 years, and they did absolutely nothing in terms of progressing the issue. It is not good enough after four terms to say, ‘We promise to spend something in our fifth.’ That is not good enough. Not one cent was put in from Commonwealth funding into this project.

The fact is there are two elements of the budget which are relevant for this road. I agree with the member that this is a vital project for Sydney. There are a number of vital projects for Sydney, including the M5 East, and hence at the last election campaign we committed for Infrastructure Australia to undertake a study for financing options of the M5 East and the F3 to M2. Infrastructure Australia has produced that report and recommended a special-purpose vehicle be created. Under the auspices in negotiations we have had with the New South Wales government we will insist that Infrastructure NSW provide the lead role in advancing these projects. The fact is that both these projects are quite expensive. The fact is that neither the state government of New South Wales nor the federal government by ourselves are in a position to provide all of the funding that will be required for this to occur at this time.

So how do you accelerate it? One of the ways that we accelerate funding in infrastructure is to mobilise private capital into infrastructure. That is why we have the creation of a special-purpose vehicle, led by Infrastructure New South Wales. I personally have had discussions with Infrastructure New South Wales, including its chair, Nick Greiner, about this direction in terms of infrastructure development. We know that for a period of time there has not been enough investment in infrastructure in our urban communities. We need to come up with ways in which we can mobilise that capital. We know from direct discussions I have had, including with managed funds in terms of the superannuation industry and other potential sources of private capital, that there is an appetite for investment in infrastructure which provides certainty in terms of a return. Hence, there is additional funding of $25 million for commitment to a special-purpose vehicle—bearing in mind that this road that the member for Berowra talks about is not a national road. It is the responsibility of the state government, but we are prepared to do our bit to provide that leadership.

In addition to that, $150 million that we have committed is available also to assist in terms of being allocated in the budget for the F3 to M2. That money has been there for some time. It was allocated by us in our first budget in 2008, after our election. There was nothing in the budget for this road when we came to office. Last year we did defer when that would be available, on the basis that we had received no requests to actually use that funding, just as the $30 million has been there for the M4 East awaiting a proposal from the New South Wales government, which of course is the responsible body in terms of the road network in Sydney.

So I would welcome discussions. Indeed, I am prepared to offer to have discussions with the member for Berowra—I know he is fair dinkum about this issue—about ways in which perhaps he could play a role in encouraging the New South Wales government to play a constructive role in this, because I think there is a real opportunity to advance this issue. (Time expired)