Aug 20, 2012

Question Without Notice – Bruce Highway Upgrade and the Mining Tax

KIRSTEN LIVERMORE (Member for Capricornia): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.  Will the minister update the House on the government’s record investments in nation building infrastructure?  How are these helping to rebuild the Bruce Highway and are there any recent observations that confirm the benefit of these investments?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I thank the Member for Capricornia for her question.  Of course, this Federal Labor Government has continued the roll out our record Nation Building Program.

We have doubled the roads budget, increased the rail budget tenfold and committed more to urban public transport than all governments combined since Federation.  We are also committed to spreading the benefits of the mining boom.  That is why we have established the $6 billion Regional Infrastructure Fund.

I am asked about the Bruce Highway, which has benefited from both our Nation Building Program and the Regional Infrastructure Fund.

Recently, the Leader of the Nationals [Warren Truss] embarked on the equivalent of a National Lampoon’s Vacation.  He drove up the Queensland North Coast along the Bruce Highway.  As he drove up the Bruce Highway, all loaded up in the car were the Members for Gippsland [Darren Chester] and other members over there, who were not sure what seat they were from.  Some of that mob over there were loaded into the car, some on the roof, some strapped in, going to look at the significant work that is taking place on the Bruce Highway.

As the Leader of the National Party left his electorate as he headed up north, he would have hit the Cooroy to Curra section – the section which he has previously said is the worst road in Australia.  He said that and he should know.  At the time he was not only the local member; but also the Federal transport minister, and yet he did nothing about it.

But he would have seen the work underway that will be completed and opened at the end of this year.  When he hit the Member for Capricornia’s electorate he would have seen the work that is taking place on the Yeppen Lagoon Bridge and Roundabout – with $40 million coming from the Regional Infrastructure Fund that he said they would abolish.

If they had got their timing right they could have joined me and the Member for Herbert [Ewen Jones] as we opened the $110 million Douglas Arterial.  He could have asked the Member for Herbert what he thought, because he’s had this to say:

“I’ll give Labor a pat on the back and say they have spent more in their four or five years on the Bruce Highway than we did before.”

That is what the Member for Herbert had to say.

Throughout his journey the Leader of the Nationals would have seen the work that is underway, including the $210 million from the Regional Infrastructure Fund.  Federal Labor has committed $2.8 billion over seven years to the Bruce.  The then Coalition Government spent $1.3 billion over 12 long years.

So it is no wonder that as they got to Cairns – Walley World – their final destination, he was asked: What are you committing to the Bruce Highway?  They had spent a whole week strapped in his car and on the roof, and when they got to the end of their journey, they committed not one cent of additional funding – not one single cent of additional funding from those opposite.

KIRSTEN LIVERMORE: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question.  Minister, you have talked about building infrastructure in my home state of Queensland.  Why is it important for us to have bipartisan support for this infrastructure, and is the minister aware of any risks to this support?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I can assist the Member for Capricornia with her very good question because we have committed some $8.7 billion to Queensland from our Nation Building Program.  As part of that, we have made commitments from the Regional Infrastructure Fund, to date worth $430 million, which those opposite have promised to get rid of so they can give Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer a tax cut.

That is their position.  So I was particularly disturbed this morning when the Member for Dawson [George Christensen], had this to say about the Peak Downs Highway in his own electorate:

“It’s something I want to look at, you know, down the track if the Liberal-National Coalition get into government.”

So there it is.  They want to cut school funding for those “wealthy” public schools around the country – the Leader of the Opposition [Tony Abbott] has made that clear – and they want to scrap the Regional Infrastructure Fund.

Indeed, that stands in stark contrast with the Leader of the National Party, who has said that mining companies are not putting enough back into local communities.

The Gateway WA project, Gladstone Port Access Road, Blacksoil Interchange, and Townsville Ring Road are all under threat if they abolish the Regional Infrastructure Fund.  Those opposite need to tell us how they would fund these projects.