Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce today proved that he is not up to the job of Infrastructure Minister with a shambolic Question Time performance in response to clear evidence of a collapse in nation building investment under his Government.
In Question Time Labor MPs used the Government’s own Budget papers to ask Mr Joyce about cuts to rail and road funding.
But Mr Joyce did not have a clue. He refused to address our questions, which referred to:
- Evidence that Victoria is receiving only 9.7 per cent of Commonwealth infrastructure grants despite being home to one in four Australians.
- The looming collapse in Commonwealth infrastructure grants to Tasmania from $174 million this year to $53 million by 2019-20 and the Government’s failure to commence a single new major project in Tasmania since it took office in 2013.
- The significant cut to Commonwealth infrastructure investment in South Australia from $921.4 million this year to just $95 million by 2019-20. This represents just 2 per cent of federal infrastructure investment.
- Evidence in the Budget papers that while the Government allocated $100 million last financial year to the important Northern Australia Roads Program, it actually invested only $12 million, an 88 per cent underspend.
Since taking office the Coalition has cut infrastructure investment.
Things are about to get worse, with total Commonwealth infrastructure grants to the states set to fall off a cliff from a promised $9.2 billion in 2016-17 to $4.2 billion by 2020-21.
Mr Joyce, appointed Infrastructure Minister in December, faces a huge challenge to convince his Cabinet colleagues to increase investment as a way to drive productivity and economic growth.
But judging from his performance in Question Time today, his knowledge of his portfolio goes no further than the proposed Inland Rail Link between Brisbane and Melbourne, which goes through his own electorate and does not go to a port anywhere.
When answering any question about infrastructure, Mr Joyce boasts about Inland Rail. At one point today Mr Joyce appeared confused, offering Inland Rail as evidence of his commitment to infrastructure investment in Tasmania.
In fact, Inland Rail was commenced by the former Federal Labor Government, which conducted the early planning and invested $600 million upgrading parts of the existing rail system that will form part of the project.
We also provided a further $300 million in the 2013 Budget to progress the project.