Feb 23, 2016

Matters of public importance – Economy

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:59): What a failure to defend the government’s record. Of course, we know that the government do not have a record to defend. What we see here is the failure of the coalition to actually prepare for government. Under Tony Abbott, the coalition was turned into the ‘no-alition’. They just said no to everything. They did not do the hard yards in policy development that you need to do when you are in opposition and which you can then take into government and into implementation. That is something that this opposition is doing right now in leading the national policy and ideas debates.

Tony Abbott had a plan to get into government but no plan to govern. Six months after his demise, history is repeating itself. Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to defeat Tony Abbott but no plan for what would happen afterwards. He is a man who is at war with his own party. But more importantly than that, he is at war with himself. He is at war with the views that he has held on climate change, on marriage equality, on cities and on planning. On all of these issues he talks a lot but he has nothing to say. This government is an ideas vacuum. That is why Mr Abbott and now Mr Turnbull have struggled when it comes to having an economic plan, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the area of infrastructure.

Under this government, public sector infrastructure investment has fallen by 20 per cent. It has collapsed. Private sector infrastructure investment has fallen by even more. This mob have cancelled every single public transport infrastructure project that was not already under construction—every single one. And when it comes to where the money went that they took out of public transport, the projects that it went to, you look at the East West Link in Victoria—a project that they still trumpet which had a benefit of 45c for every dollar that was invested. It is no wonder that the new minister, with his training wheels on, had to come into the chamber last night and correct the record because he gave an answer yesterday that was not right. I was a minister for six years and never had to do that. Of course, just today the Victorian government has submitted the business plan again on the Melbourne Metro Rail Project. We say that is the No. 1 priority for Victoria. Victorians say it is the No. 1 priority. They voted for the Andrews Labor government because it was the No. 1 priority, and yet this mob want to continue with that.

Then we have Perth Freight Link, which has been knocked over in the courts; and, of course, WestConnex, which the minister raised, was costed at $10 billion but now is worth $16.8 billion. We were promised cranes on the skyline and bulldozers working on new projects within a year, but the only thing we saw on the skyline was Bronwyn Bishop’s helicopter. That is all we saw in those two years. When it comes to the bulldozers, what we have seen is bulldust. We have seen bulldust from this mob’s magical infrastructure reannouncement tour. They have been running around the country claiming projects as their own because they do not have a record to point to. The only hole they have dug is the one that they buried the member for Warringah in. That is the only hole that they dug—although they did dig a hole in Palmerston on the Friday, for the hospital, but they filled it in on the Saturday, a day later. That lasted just one day.

They have failed with regard to cities. They appointed a minister, then sacked him two months later, and now they have not even bothered. Their entire urban policy agenda has gone to dust, just like all of their policies when it comes to infrastructure, just like their lack of an economic plan. Ben Franklin said: ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’ They have failed. (Time expired)