Jun 6, 2013

Consideration in Detail – Victorian Rail Investment

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (10:43):  I thank members for their questions. Firstly, the member for Gellibrand is very conscious of the federal government’s investment of $13.5 billion into Victorian infrastructure. That is a shift from $89 per head to more than $200 per Victorian. So we have more than doubled the infrastructure budget for Victoria. Concerning specific projects, we are currently investing more than $3.2 billion into the regional rail link, including through the member’s electorate. Right now, there are 3,500 Australians working directly on that project as a result of that investment. Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Melbourne are all benefitting. It is a very exciting project, one I have visited on a number of occasions and one which I note the federal Leader of the Opposition did not even know existed—an extraordinary proposition—when he said on Melbourne radio that the federal government does not invest in any urban rail projects, except for the Moreton Bay rail link. It is an exciting project.

The M80 has also been an absolutely critical project. We have committed some $900 million to the upgrade of the Western and the Metropolitan ring-roads. In this budget, we have added a further $525 million for that project, which is absolutely vital for the efficiency of the Victorian road system. It is an absolutely vital project for Melbourne. The important thing about the east-west—

Honourable member interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE:  or west-east, as the member said—

Honourable member interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE:  That is why you have a business plan; it is to work out issues—for example, with the West Gate Bridge: what is the priority for where the link should begin? We want to see it. The Victorian government say that they have got it, but they will not show it to anyone. It is quite an extraordinary proposition. I think our record in Victorian infrastructure stands in stark contrast to our predecessor’s.

In Tasmania, we have invested $1.9 billion. This, again, is almost a doubling of infrastructure spending in Tasmania. In this budget, the Midland Highway package is particularly important for the electorate of the member for Lyons. There is planning for a future Launceston bypass, duplicating the Perth to Breadalbane section, and dedicated safety upgrades at Mona Vale, St Peter’s Pass, and between Mangalore and Bagdad, as well as activities to advance the Bridgewater Bridge. The Freight Rail Revitalisation project is also absolutely vital. It includes replacing approximately 290 kilometres of old rail track. This creates jobs in manufacturing as well as in the specific work that takes place there. Also, there are the commitments to the Brooker Highway, the Domain Highway, the Huon Highway and the Tasman Highway ramps. All of this adds up to a major benefit.

Of course, the opposition have said that they can duplicate the Midland Highway for $400 million. That is just a nonsense. We have committed $500 million. We are not pretending that we will be able to duplicate the whole highway. The opposition pluck figures from nowhere. It is bit like the construction of the Hunter Expressway, which is now underway, at $1.65 billion. When the coalition said that they would do something about the expressway, they did not actually advance the project. In 2004, they said the costing was $382 million. By 2007, they said it was $1.2 billion. They just make up these figures as they go along. They hold out false hope and pretend that they can build things with an amount that they simply cannot. We have invested real dollars into real projects that are making a real difference in terms of costing. The whole duplication has been costed at $2.7 billion. That is more than $400 million. Those opposite need to stop the sort of nonsense that they go on with. We have invested real money in those real projects.