Sep 17, 2009

Question – Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program

Question without notice – Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program

Parliament House, Canberra

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

17 September 2009

Mr MELHAM (3:21 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. How is the government’s Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program supporting jobs today and delivering lasting benefits to communities around Australia? How have these projects been received by local members and local communities?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Banks for his question. As he knows, this program has been extremely well received by local communities right around the nation because it has resulted in jobs being created in the short term based upon local communities’ priorities themselves as expressed through their elected local representatives in local government. It is also building infrastructure that will last for the long term.

Indeed, last Friday I had the pleasure of taking the opportunity to open the extensively upgraded Clementson Park at Bondi Junction, just around the corner from the electorate office of the member for Wentworth. All up, Waverley Council’s playground upgrade program received some $340,000. The work undertaken by the council involved an extensive refurbishment of the park and included the construction of a new playground, which will benefit the childcare centre that is just near the park. Further work is taking place at eight other parks around Wentworth. The Liberal mayor, Sally Betts, said:

Council and our community are very thankful for this funding from the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program.

It was a very successful launch, which the Liberal mayor, the Liberal deputy mayor and all the Liberal councillors came along to to express their support for economic stimulus on the ground in Wentworth.

Of course, the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Wentworth, himself said, when he attended the launch of the community infrastructure program in his electorate on 26 April:

We have never argued about investing in infrastructure. We support investing in infrastructure …

But they have come in here day after day and opposed the infrastructure investment in schools, in local communities, in housing, in insulation. They have opposed the 70 per cent of the economic stimulus plan that goes into infrastructure. One thing the Leader of the Opposition has said is that it would not create one job. I say to the member for Wentworth that he should go around the corner from his electorate office, because—

Ms Gillard —It’s not a long walk.

Mr ALBANESE —it is not far, as the Deputy Prime Minister says, and because this upgrade alone created work opportunities for 30 people. Thirty people worked on this playground alone. Of course—and the Deputy Prime Minister has tried to explain the way that construction works—they have employed contractors from the private sector. The contractors involved in this upgrade informed us last week that they were ready to make lay-offs. Instead, they kept people employed and, in addition, were able to employ an extra apprentice, giving a young person an opportunity in life.

It may well be that the member for Wentworth sees this local contractor as part of the G20 conspiracy of left-wing leaders, part of the OECD—maybe he has become part of that conspiracy at the moment. But the fact of the matter is this: they are arguing the economic stimulus should stop. What they need to do is to identify those projects in their electorates that they think should not occur, because they argue that in here but not when they go back to their electorates. Here is a photo of the member for Wentworth on 26 April at the Waverley Park pavilion. Here we have the member for Riverina on 7 May out in Wagga Wagga. Here we have the member for Mallee—dancing.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. At the beginning of the published standing orders it states that the chair should uphold previous rulings. I would ask you to uphold the previous ruling that those photographs are out of order.

The SPEAKER —That is not quite the case. There have been many rulings that those—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Your father would have made a better ruling.

The SPEAKER —I simply say to the member for Mackellar: on a previous submission that she made to me where she bridged the generational gap I went back to the proceedings to see what mysteries actually had occurred. Unfortunately, there was no television footage because matters were not televised. The actual incident involved a scorecard. I understand that those Independents and National Party members might have been inspired—

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! I simply say to the Second Deputy Speaker, the member for Maranoa, that we expect him to set an example. That is the score that I have given the point of order, because the previous ruling by a Speaker Jenkins is not relevant in this case and I simply say to the House that this is a matter that I have referred to the Procedure Committee and I am sure that in their wisdom they will give me some guidance.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Yes, Mr Speaker, I rise on a further point of order—again, on the standing orders and the House of Representatives Practice. There is plenty of comment in the Practice that you have ample power as the Speaker to make rulings on such an issue without referring it to the Procedure Committee. You have the power to rule those photographs out of order, and I would ask that you do so.

The SPEAKER —I thank the member for Mackellar for the tutorial and for reminding me what I can and cannot do. I remind her that I have actually ruled these things in order. What I have done by referring it to the Procedure Committee is to give an opportunity to the House if they believe that this is something that the House can make sensible use of.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —I am afraid that I get a little concerned when I hear comments back by interjection of the nature that ‘the government controls the committee’—a very interesting proposition if I were to review some of the reports given by the Procedure Committee that were a little too hot for governments of different persuasions to actually implement. So the committee is not the problem; it is the will of the House.

Mr ALBANESE —Thank you, Mr Speaker—and a fine ruling, Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER —Perhaps a little too long, Minister.

Mr ALBANESE —I do not know why they do not wish to give prominence to what they are doing outside in their electorates. Here we have a photo of the member for Gilmore giving the thumbs up to the program in the Shoalhaven, and the member for Mayo out there supporting projects—

Mr Morrison —Perhaps you would like to look at that picture.

The SPEAKER —The member for Cook is named!

Mr Albanese —I move that the member be suspended from the service of the House.

The SPEAKER —Usually, I would not justify my actions in naming somebody—

Mr Slipper —You can’t justify it!

The SPEAKER —The member for Fisher is warned! No, in fact, the member for Fisher will leave the chamber for one hour under 94(a), and he will not even get the benefit of the explanation!

The member for Fisher then left the chamber.

The SPEAKER —The member for Cook, in the period of the hour before question time, was warned by the occupant of the chair. I was generous in reminding the member for Cook earlier in question time when he was interjecting that he had been warned. He knows that when people are coming to the dispatch box, I expect them to be coming to the dispatch box to make a point of order. He came to the dispatch box and he clearly indicated his intentions and why he was coming to the dispatch box by indicating a prop—to use another expression—and taunting the minister across the table. He has been named.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker—

The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt will be very careful.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, with the greatest of respect, I would ask you—I would plead your indulgence—to allow the member for Cook, whom I am sure had forgotten the status that he held, to apologise to the House and be given the opportunity not to be named.

The SPEAKER —I understand that the Manager of Opposition Business has a responsibility on behalf of those that he is guiding, but I did give the member for Cook a chance earlier in question time and there is a limit to the way in which I can be tolerant about these things.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler —Leader of the House) [3:34 PM] —I move:

That the member for Cook be suspended from the service of the House.

Question put.