Nov 25, 2009

Question without notice – Infrastructure

Question without notice – Infrastructure

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

25 November 2009

Mr TRUSS (3:21 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. I refer the minister to his recent list of 32 large-scale projects which he said had been announced, built and completed by Labor since the 2007 election. The list includes the Dynon rail link near the port of Melbourne. I also refer the minister to this April 2006 photograph, taken from the minister’s own website, which has the caption ‘Federal transport minister Warren Truss and Victorian transport minister Peter Batchelor opening the Dynon port rail link’. Minister, isn’t it the case that three-quarters of all of the projects on your list were announced, built or completed under the coalition government? When will you correct the record?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the shadow minister for his question. He indeed is not correct. Earlier this year, I went to the Dynon rail link and opened it with the Australian Rail Track Corporation Chair, Barry Murphy. Last night, we were indeed with the Australian Rail Track Corporation, along with the finance minister, and we had a discussion about the opening of the Dynon rail link and the fact that the ribbon being held by the chair of the ARTC, Barry Murphy, and me across the rail link was not quite long enough and we had to make a decision about who would get hit by the train—me or the chair of the ARTC. The chair of the ARTC got out of the way because he understood that it is that side of politics that likes getting run over by trains, usually self-inflicted.

I am asked about the government’s infrastructure commitments and what we have been doing, and the shadow minister refers to what they have done. That is timely, because he was the minister for transport in the former government and today, indeed, the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics has released a document, ‘Public road related expenditure and revenue in Australia 2009’, that goes through—

Mr Truss —Mr Speaker—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister still has the call.

Mr ALBANESE —That report makes pretty interesting reading, because what it indicates is that the Howard government, in its last two budgets, slashed road spending by almost 40 per cent.

Mr Truss —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is a question about the Dynon rail link. It is not about road expenditure in years gone by.

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Nationals will resume his seat. The Leader of the Nationals went on to refer to wider infrastructure spending and also used it in his preamble. The minister has the call.

Mr ALBANESE —I am not surprised they are embarrassed by this, because at the very time that record revenues were coming into Treasury coffers—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order going to relevance. The minister was asked when he was going to correct the record for having claimed credit for things he had not done. When is he going to answer that specific question?

The SPEAKER —The minister is responding to the question.

Mr ALBANESE —Indeed—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —We are not going to enter into debate about points of order by way of interjections. In fact, I think that, reasonably, if the question indicates something that the minister has disagreement about, the minister is going to go to those points. The minister is responding to the question.

Mr ALBANESE —This report shows that the previous government cut the annual federal roads budget from $4.3 billion in 2005-06 to $2.7 billion in—

The SPEAKER —The member for North Sydney will put that photo down.

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The reason I was holding that photo is because, when the question was asked by the Leader of the National Party, he used the photo as a prop to illustrate the fact that the question was about a rail link and nothing to do with roads.

The SPEAKER —Whilst the member for Mackellar may not have been satisfied with my response to her point of order, her point of order established that the question went wider than just the Dynon rail matter. The minister has the call.

Mr ALBANESE —They are embarrassed because they cut road funding from $4.3 billion in 2005-06 to $2.7 billion in 2007-08. They are of course the only side of parliament that is talking about cutting infrastructure spending. Indeed, on 7 October Senator Coonan said this:

It’s a very good opportunity for the Government to take a very good look at whether this final part of the stimulus package is really necessary—

that is, the infrastructure spend. The Leader of the Opposition told the Adelaide Advertiser on 20 May:

… everything will have to be reviewed. There’s no question about that …

That is what he had to say about infrastructure spending that is taking place right across the country—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will come back to the question.

Mr ALBANESE —a doubling of the expenditure on the roads and a quadrupling on rail. Indeed, a media release dated 8 April 2009 said the following:

ARTC Chairman, Barry Murphy, joined Minister Albanese at today’s event—

that is, the opening of the Tottenham to Dynon rail link. The ARTC chairman, appointed by you, said this:

“It is symbolic that the Tottenham to Dynon Rail Link be officially opened with the passage of a new Pacific National locomotive, as the upgrade represents another step forward in the resurgence of freight rail in Australia,” said Mr Murphy.

“ARTC is proud to partner with the Rudd Government in breathing new life into freight rail.”

We have breathed new life into freight rail. Perhaps the National Party needs a bit of new life as well.

Mr Truss —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table a document from the minister’s website.

Leave not granted.