Mr FITZGIBBON (3:07 PM) —I too have a question for the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Minister, why is certainty and long-term planning important in delivering major road and rail infrastructure projects? Are there any risks to these investments, particularly in the Hunter region?
Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Hunter for his question. He indeed is a member who understands that, when it comes to delivering transport infrastructure, long-term planning and certainty is vital. That is why the reckless statements over the last fortnight by the coalition are so alarming. They are attempting to say one thing here in the parliament but then another thing completely in their electorates. Indeed, the shadow minister for finance released a statement, as part of the budget response, when pass-the-parcel had ended. He said:
Given the commitment to release the costings of already announced policies following is a table of costings relating to our $4.8 billion spending commitments—
and then that table was included. He then stated in a press release, distributed after the famous press conference here, cut short by his advisor, that:
Any other past commitments have been discontinued.
It was a very clear statement from the person responsible for providing a finance position which was a part of the budget response.
However, they are continuing to say something different out there in their electorates. Indeed, in a letter to the editor of local papers, Mr Robb, the member for Goldstein, said—wait for this quote:
The claims by Mr Albanese that this commitment has been discontinued are completely and utterly false.
Well, I am sorry if we have quoted the shadow finance minister, in a carefully scripted and written down comment we thought was gospel truth! That is all we have done. But they are continuing to say one thing in here, around Canberra, one thing to the press gallery about their being concerned about debt and deficit, and that they are not going to make any irresponsible promises, but something else out their in the electorates.
The other thing they have done is that the shadow finance minister, when asked how he would fund roads, said that he would use Roads to Recovery funding—a big ‘woops’ moment from the member for Goldstein. The 565 local governments around Australia that receive untied funding to fund their local roads now know that all of that funding is under threat. The coalition will pillage that funding, in the words of the shadow finance minister. In the electorate of Paterson, in the Hunter: Dungog Shire Council, $2 million—gone; Gloucester Shire Council, $2 million—gone; Great Lakes Council, $3.7 million—gone; Maitland City Council, $2.8 million—gone; and Port Stephens, $2.7 million—gone.
But it gets worse, because they cannot get enough cash to pay for all their promises simply by plundering local government. They have also drawn up a separate infrastructure hit list. In the same letter to local papers the shadow minister for finance said:
There’s still many projects worth billions of dollars in the Rudd Government budget which have not started …
So all of the infrastructure projects, if they have not commenced—and the Leader of the Nationals has said the same thing—are up for grabs. In the Hunter, that means the $1.65 billion Hunter expressway, due to commence construction in 2010—
Mr Baldwin —It’s already started, you goose!
Mr ALBANESE —Construction has not started, because this mob opposite had not even purchased the properties along the route, and that had to be done, or had the planning put in place. So that will commence in 2010.
Mr Truss —You stopped it!
Mr ALBANESE —We stopped it? They did nothing for 12 years, we provided funding but they say we stopped it.
The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Nationals will not make interjections and the minister will ignore them.
Mr ALBANESE —So the shadow minister for finance said today, to the Newcastle Herald, ‘Oh, no, we’d let that one go through’—but we do not have it in writing yet, so we do not know what will go ahead and what will not. What the opposition now have to do is go through the $37 billion nation-building program and say which projects will proceed and which ones they will attempt to stop—even though all of them are subject to memoranda of understanding with state and territory governments. We know that when they last came to office they cut $2 billion from the roads budget.
We also know that it is symptomatic of their attitude to infrastructure across the board. In the Hunter region, right up there at the top, the election of Paterson, the trade training centre at Bulahdelah Central School—$ 1½ million under threat; the trade training centre at Great Lakes College—$4½ million under threat; and the 577 computers in Paterson that kids will miss out on as a result of this opposition’s reckless position. We need to know exactly what they stand for. We will be holding them to account—on the ground, in each and every electorate between now and election day. They will not get away with saying one thing in Canberra and another thing in their electorates.