May 13, 2015

Matters of public importance – The Budget

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:52): The key challenge for the economy at the moment is how you deal with the windback that has occurred in the resources sector as a result of the end of the mining boom and the move from the investment side to the production side. How do you fill that gap? How do you ensure future economic growth? There are two key things. You can invest in infrastructure and capital or you can invest in human capital, in people’s skills and education. This budget fails on both accounts.

The fact is that this is occurring at a time when the latest ABS statistics show that the construction activity for public sector infrastructure fell by 17.3 per cent if you compare the December 2014 quarter with one year earlier, the December 2013 quarter. In the same period, private sector investment fell by some 12.4 per cent. This is a time when government should be investing in infrastructure. Yet this budget, delivered last night, does exactly the opposite. Infrastructure partnerships Australia’s analysis of the budget shows that the Commonwealth investment in infrastructure will fall from 1.55 per cent of the budget to 1.47 per cent across the forward estimates to 2018-19.

When you look at the details of budgets, every year there is an infrastructure document formed. In the time I have been in this place there has always been, in every budget, a major infrastructure announcement. In 2013 we produced the nation-building infrastructure budget document that outlined our programs for infrastructure. A bit thinner than that in last year’s budget was Building Australia’s infrastructure. That did not work out so well because when people compared the documents they found that everything in the 2014 document was from the previous Labor government’s budget. The government went around the country on their magical infrastructure re-announcement tour, pretending that these were new projects when in fact they were old ones, sometimes giving them a new name.

When you look at last night’s budget, there is a $2 billion cut to infrastructure over the next two years compared with the government’s budget last year. They are cutting $2 billion in two years from their budget. There is no funding for public transport projects. There is not more money for the Pacific Highway. In fact, there is less money for the Pacific Highway. There is no new money for the Bruce Highway. There is no attempt to tackle urban congestion in our cities.

There is a vindictive attack on Victorians for having the temerity to vote Labor. The government want to wind back the $3 billion that was not new money in last year’s budget; it was taken from the $3 billion cut to the Melbourne Metro, the $500 million cut from the M80 and the $69 million cut from Managed Motorways. They took that way and gave it to the East West Link, which had a cost-benefit analysis of 45c return for every dollar. Then, last night, they attacked again, giving Victorians less than 10c in every infrastructure dollar spent by the Commonwealth. We will see the way that Victorians respond to that activity.

The best that the government had last night was a promise of concessional loans for states at a time when interest rates are just two per cent. At the same time, they cut Infrastructure Australia funding—this is the body that was going to be at the core—from $15 million down to $8 million. They have halved it in real terms over the forward estimates, gutting Infrastructure Australia.

At the same time, they flagged their maritime policy. They said that they want to better align employment conditions on ships based in Australia with international standards. We know what that means, because flags of convenience run on Third World wages and Third World conditions. That is their vision for Australian shipping.

This is a terrible budget for infrastructure. There is not a single new initiative in this— (Time expired)