May 12, 2010

Question without notice – Budget

Mr CHEESEMAN (3:18 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. How will the government’s $1 billion investment in rail freight in the budget help get trucks off the roads, improve national productivity and create jobs for regional Australia?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Corangamite for his question and his ongoing interest in these issues. Indeed, last night’s budget delivered another $1 billion injection into the Australian Rail Track Corporation. That lifts our contribution to some $3.4 billion over six years—twice as much funding as was given for the national rail freight system by the previous government in half the time. Twice the funding in half the time! This will support some 1,500 jobs in regional Australia. We are fixing the rail lines between Maitland and the Queensland border—some 58 separate projects towards the border; in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales; between Whyalla and Broken Hill and between Broken Hill and Parks; between Albury, down through Melbourne to Geelong; and between Gheringhap and Maroona and between Koolyanobbing and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. We are straightening the rail lines, we are building new passing loops and we are ripping out the old wooden sleepers—

Mr Hockey —Some of your backbench colleagues!

Mr ALBANESE —and replacing them with new concrete sleepers. Stick to trying to add up, Joe.

We are doing all of this in order to raise productivity, support jobs and ensure a national return. This is an investment. This will lead to higher productivity and a higher return to the Australian Rail Track Corporation over a period of time. It is good for jobs and good for the economy, particularly in regional Australia. This brings our nation-building investment in rail, roads and ports to some $37 billion. We have now more than quadrupled the investment in rail and more than doubled the investment in roads over a similar period of time. And we have done all this within the budget and fiscal framework of ensuring that we return to surplus in just three years.