Feb 3, 2010

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

3 February 2010

Mr PERRETT (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. How is work progressing on vital transport and community infrastructure projects funded as part of the government’s economic stimulus plan, particularly in rail?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Moreton for his question. A short answer to how many of these projects those opposite supported would be: none. I can answer that: none, not one, because you voted against this government’s economic stimulus plan. But through the Nation Building Program we have quadrupled federal investment in rail to $7.9 billion. I was with the member for Moreton and the member for Oxley just a couple of weeks ago at Acacia Ridge to lay the last sleeper on the $55.8 million upgrade of the rail line between the Queensland-New South Wales border and Acacia Ridge. The shadow minister tries to argue they funded this. It was actually part of the economic stimulus plan that they voted against. It is true that on the day the shadow minister put out a release saying that John Anderson did it when he was transport minister—three transport ministers ago. One of those ministers is the current occupant of the shadow ministry position.

This was funded under the economic stimulus plan. All the old wooden sleepers were replaced with 105,000 new concrete sleepers, meaning that jobs were created in the production of those concrete sleepers at Grafton, in the electorate of the member for Page. Significant improvements were also made to signalling and line infrastructure. Funding was announced in December 2008, 120 jobs were supported and the project was completed within 13 months.

There was also a historic moment that day, because the management of this section of the rail line was transferred from the Queensland government to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, of which the Commonwealth is a shareholder. This creates, for the first time, a truly national rail network connecting all mainland states. It took us 110 years but, through the economic stimulus plan, we were able to provide the funding. Through the cooperative relationship with the states, we were able to provide the policy impetus to make sure this occurred. This was one of the 17 rail projects that were fast-tracked under the economic stimulus plan when we put some $1.2 billion of capital into the ARTC. Seven of those projects have now been completed.

I am asked about other projects as well. Of the 14 major projects—collectively worth some $6 billion—that were accelerated, 10 are running ahead of schedule. Jobs are being created, and those roads will be opened ahead of schedule. We tripled work on black spots—607 projects—349 completed and another 131 underway. In relation to boom gates at rail crossings, there are 292 projects; 73 of which have been completed. In relation to community infrastructure projects, these are projects that they lobbied for but voted against. They are still lobbying for the second round. One by one they come around to my office lobbying for the next round of these projects. There are 3,357 projects that have been funded; 2,874 of those have been completed already. This means supporting jobs in local areas today—when they are needed. All of those—rail, road, community infrastructure—support the infrastructure development that we need for the future.