May 30, 2012

Budget Speech – Consideration In Detail – Road Funding

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (16:32):  I am happy to answer the rather extraordinary questions from the Leader of the National Party, the party which purports to represent regional Australia. There are a couple of points to be made. One is with regard to the budget provisions and our expenditure. The fact is that, for example, two weeks ago I was at the Ipswich Motorway for the opening of the Dinmore to Goodna section. It is a major project—well over $1.8 billion of Commonwealth money. We have allocated over $2.8 billion to the Ipswich Motorway. It was opened six months ahead of schedule and $400 million was brought forward as the final payment. One of the things we have done which our predecessors never did—none of the transport ministers—was pay according to outcomes. We made milestone payments. The road is finished, so the $400 million allocated last year we have spent this year. That should not be too hard to understand. I say to the shadow minister that that is appropriate. We then had the extraordinary proposition with regard to Cooroy to Curra where, again, the shadow minister is purports, ‘It is bad that you have produced a road under budget,’ which we did. And do you know what happened to the money? It went into the Bruce Highway.

Mr Truss interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE:  The member did nothing to fix Cooroy to Curra when he was the transport minister, even though it is in his own electorate. He did nothing to fix it over the entire time he was in government, but now that section of the highway is about to be completed he says it is a bad thing that we have done it under budget.

‘We should have given those poor contractors more money. Don’t worry about how much it cost to build, here’s a bonus. We’ll give you more money.’ You can’t be serious—to come into an estimates and put that sort of preposterous position—that we should pay more money for roads, regardless of what it costs!

We make no apology whatsoever for the fact that we have driven efficiencies. One of the reasons we have driven efficiencies is we have doubled the roads budget. We have increased the scale of the work that is taking place. We have introduced alliance contracting. We have gone through the Infrastructure Working Group and introduced micro-economic reforms which may, for example, take away a lot of red tape and streamline the approval process for these projects that have resulted in less money from taxpayers being spent on building roads. That is a good thing. Everyone knows that except the Leader of the National Party who again comes in here and is critical because projects come in under budget. I make no apologies for it whatsoever.

We then have the extraordinary proposition that somehow this government is being unreasonable with regard to the Pacific Highway. Under the former government, the Commonwealth put in $1.3 billion and the state government put in $2.5 billion for the Pacific Highway.

Mr Truss:  But it wasn’t on the national network then. You put it on the national network.

Mr ALBANESE:  Give me a break! The Pacific Highway was just created in 2007 as an important national road—that is an absurd proposition from the member opposite. I make no apologies for the fact that we have delivered additional funding for the Pacific Highway. For example, as part of the stimulus, the Kempsey bypass is 100 per cent Australian government funded.

Mr Truss:  You announced it, yes, so why do you want New South Wales to pay now?

Mr ALBANESE:  I have admitted it. It is really hard to argue with that sort of logic. We have admitted it. It is in the budget papers. It was part of the economic stimulus that was to have major infrastructure projects, including the Pacific Highway, which is a vital road. People did not start having road accidents in 2007 on the Pacific Highway. (Time expired)