May 27, 2013

Question Without Notice – Cross River Rail & Federal Labor’s record investment in Queensland’s Infrastructure

Graham Perrett (Member for Moreton): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Will the minister outline the government’s consultative and responsible approach to investing in transport infrastructure? Why is it important that we make the right choice to build infrastructure for a stronger economy and what would be the impact of not doing this?

Anthony Albanese: I thank the Member for Moreton for his question. He is a big supporter of infrastructure projects like the Ipswich Motorway and the Cross River Rail in Brisbane.

We are investing real money for real projects to make a real difference in communities right across Queensland—projects like Cross River Rail, recommended by Infrastructure Australiabecause it stacks up; a project that will take 14,000 cars off Brisbane streets and allow an extra 17,000 people to travel on the rail network during peak hours. It has benefits for western and northern suburbs of Brisbane as well as the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. It is a smart investment for our future that will keep our economy strong.

This did not come out of nowhere. It took two years of negotiation, a 2,000 page submission from the Queensland Government, face-to-face meetings between ministers as well as discussions between our respective departments. What happens when you have an agreement between different levels of government is that you have an exchange of letters.

I have here a letter from Scott Emerson, the Queensland Minister.

He asked for the project to be delivered as a PPP: we agreed.

He asked for $715 million from each level of government: we agreed.

He asked for 50-50 funding towards the availability payment: we agreed.

He asked for the Queensland Government to cover the operating costs: we agreed.

He asked for the Australian Government to guarantee private sector debt: we agreed.

He had a final condition, that the project be subject to concessional treatment with the Australian Government payments, and we agreed.

Each and every ask: we agreed. The State asked and we delivered. They got exactly what they asked for. I table the letter from Minister Emerson and I table my response, agreeing to the position, on behalf of the Government (attached).

We have had a position, as a result of the Opposition’s intransigence and statements to the Queensland Government, whereby they put their political interests before the interests of people in Brisbane and those who are stuck in congestion across South East Queensland.

We have firmly put our position on the table. The Queensland Government agreed and we are in a position to move forward. But the Opposition says, ‘Don’t fund any public transport’. So the Queensland Government, in spite of the fact that the MOU had been agreed to by both departments, has now walked away from the project, meaning that there will be more gridlock in Brisbane and South East Queensland in the coming years.


Supplementary

Graham Perrett (Member for Moreton): Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. The minister has talked about the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane. What other infrastructure investment is the government making in this year’s budget across Queensland, and why are these the right choices?

Anthony Albanese: I thank the Member for his question.

We are investing in rail projects as well as road projects. We are investing in the cities and in the regions in projects like the Moreton Bay Regional Rail Link in Brisbane, which is under construction thanks to funding being brought forward, and under threat by the Opposition’s ‘no to public transport’ policy. They have made it clear that where a contract is not finalised they will rip that money and that project back.

We have put $2.5 billion into the Ipswich Motorway, including additional money for the next section in this year’s Budget. But there has been nothing from those opposite. We are putting $5.7 billion into the Bruce Highway, including the $4.1 billion 10-year plan; nothing, and no commitments from those opposite. We are putting over $300 million into the Warrego Highway; from those opposite, absolutely no commitment whatsoever.

You have to wonder why they have such an objection to public transport. I was thinking about this, and I went back to one of his (Tony Abbott’s) role models, Margaret Thatcher, who said in 1986:

“A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.”

Those opposite have an elitist approach to anything that the word ‘public’ is in. They do not like public schools, they do not like public transport, they do not like the public.

Letter from Minister Emerson and Minister Albanese’s tabled response: [PDFPDF: 103 KB]