May 31, 2018

Hansard – Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 – Consideration in Detail – Thursday, 31 May 2018

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 10:36 to 11:11

Mr ALBANESE: This reduction in investment comes off the back of a reduction across the board that we’ve seen over the time of this government. Average annual investment in the nation’s transport, energy, telecommunications and water infrastructure doubled under the former federal Labor government, from $29.1 billion per year to $57.7 billion per year. That’s across the board. Investment in infrastructure has fallen by 17 per cent, to $48 billion, under the Abbott and Turnbull governments. In the case of transport infrastructure the decline has been even greater, at 22 per cent. When we were in office, we went from being ranked 20th among OECD countries when it came to investment in public infrastructure as a proportion of national income to being ranked No. 1 when we left office in 2013.

According to the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index, Australia has slipped from 18th of 148 countries in 2014 to 28th under this government. Australia is going backwards. Of course you don’t have to regard just Labor’s view. Infrastructure Partnerships Australia said:

It’s concerning to see that the Federal Budget has cut real infrastructure funding by $2 billion over the forward estimates.

…   …   …

At a time when our population is growing and our cities are more congested than ever, we need to see infrastructure dollars trending up not down.

The chief executive of the Australian Automobile Association said:

This budget fails to appropriately reinvest the taxes paid by Australian motorists …

He continued:

… land transport infrastructure commitments over the forward estimates have declined since last year’s budget …

This government has the an approach: ‘We’ll talk about what is happening in 10 years time,’ rather than talk about what is happening across the forward estimates. Take, for example, the Coffs Harbour bypass: one per cent of the funding is available in 2018-19 and over three-quarters of the investment is pushed out beyond 2022-23. That’s the case across the board. The minister raised a so-called $5 billion for the Melbourne Airport rail link, but it’s not in the budget. There’s no $5 billion in the budget. What we have is a commitment to equity funding, which I’ll talk about in my next contribution, but it’s not real.

The problem with this government also is that it hasn’t invested the money that it said it would in each budget. In its first four budgets—2014-15 to 2017-18—it said it would invest $29.6 billion. That is what it said it would invest in those years. The actual expenditure is $24.9 billion. That is a $4.7 billion cut in what was actually invested, and means a 20 per cent underspend in major road projects like the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan, black spots, bridges renewal and the heavy vehicle safety program. Now, from time to time, things will be put off because of weather or because of changed circumstances but, across the board in every program every year, this government hasn’t delivered what it said it would do. It is no wonder that the Parliamentary Budget Office found last year that, over the next decade, Australia’s investment in rail and road will halve from 0.4 of GDP to 0.2. That is precisely the opposite of what the government needs if we are going to truly have economic growth into the future. (Time expired)