Jun 6, 2013

Consideration in Detail – Nation Building Program

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (10:32):  I thank the member for Gippsland for his considered approach to infrastructure. I acknowledge that he is one member on the other side of the House who genuinely makes representations on behalf of his electorate and who plays a constructive role in the putting forward of that funding.

I note that the member has acknowledged that this is the first time that significant funding, $140 million from the federal Labor government and $35 million from the Victorian government, has gone into this section of the Princes Highway East. The current schedule of works is scheduled to be completed in late 2015. We have done exactly what we said we would do: duplicate the highway between Traralgon and Sale. I acknowledge that I would like more to be done and acknowledge the representations of both the member for Gippsland and the member for Eden-Monaro about these issues.

At the other end, the Bega bypass is currently under construction, fully funded, 100 per cent, by the Commonwealth government. Not one cent has come from the New South Wales government. However, that will not stop them from turning up at media opportunities, should they arise in the future.

Labor has done substantially more than the former government did. That is not hard, because they did not put a cent into this section of the highway. There is more to be done. The current process for Nation Building Program 2 is that we have asked all of the state and territory governments to make submissions as to their funding priorities on the road and rail networks.

I sat down on a number of occasions with the Victorian government, the Victorian minister, and worked out some initial priorities in terms of the major projects for Nation Building Program 2 that the Victorian government wanted. Part of that was the Melbourne Metro project that, in Minister Mulder’s own words, is the No. 1 priority for Victoria. We worked out funding for that project—$3 billion from each level of government plus an availability payment model, as I said in my opening remarks—but the Victorian government appear to be stepping away from that. I must say we have had difficulties getting any cost-benefit analysis from the Victorian government for road projects such as the east-west tunnel. Their proposals talk about it beginning in the east, and there is a question about what the appropriate model is. I certainly believe in funding both road and rail projects, but it is beyond me why the Victorian government are refusing to submit this cost-benefit analysis or any business plan to the federal government, my department or to Infrastructure Australia.

I indicate to the member for Gippsland that as part of those discussions we also talked about savings that exist on current Victorian projects that were part of NB1. We have not received from the Victorian government any proposals as to where their priorities would be. But I say to the member that I would be happy to continue to work with him in a constructive way on Nation Building Program 2. We indicated very publicly, on budget night—the shadow minister seems to be surprised by this—that these are instalments for specific projects that we have included in the program.

I am a minister who argues for additional funding for infrastructure. The former government seemed to have transport ministers who just rolled over for the Liberal Party partners and did not seem to actually be able to win an argument in their party room, in the cabinet or wherever. There was a distinct lack of funding. Indeed, the last time the coalition were in office they cut $2 billion from road funding in their first budget, and their budgets never recovered from those cuts.