Feb 4, 2010

Question without notice – Infrastructure

Mr BIDGOOD (3:05 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and Leader of the House. Why is the government’s nation-building infrastructure program essential to future productivity and dealing with climate change? Are there any threats to this investment?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Dawson for his question. Indeed, I was up in his electorate just a week ago opening one of the projects that we have brought forward as part of the Economic Stimulus Plan. Indeed, we on this side of the House support nation building, and we have ensured that the nation-building program we have established will not only be good for future productivity but also be a part of the action dealing with climate change, because what investment in rail, particularly urban rail, does is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. So we are using a whole-of-government approach to deal with climate change. But, of course, we recognise that you cannot have a piecemeal approach. In order to move to a carbon constrained economy, you need a price signal for the long term, which is why we support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

But, of course, the Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly stated that he wants to cancel the final stage of the Economic Stimulus Plan, and he has labelled the multibillion-dollar investment in the nation’s road, urban public rail and port infrastructure as ‘low-quality spending’. His finance spokesperson, Senator Joyce, has gone even further, telling Sky News on 10 December:

Well I think the whole … stimulus package was not warranted in the form it went out. I think the stimulus package was inappropriate.

It is pretty clear that they were planning deep cuts to infrastructure spending before this week. But we now know that they have to find money to fund their $10 billion climate change con including $3.2 billion over the forward estimates. What we now know is that not only have the climate sceptics taken over over there, the market sceptics have taken over over there as well. You wonder where this inspiration comes from. John Howard looked to Menzies for inspiration. We know that Peter Costello looked in the mirror for inspiration. Brendan Nelson looked to the ALP for inspiration. Malcolm Turnbull looked to George Souris for inspiration and now we have the new Leader of the Opposition with his source of inspiration—the mad monk meets Lord Monckton. Both of them denying the science—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will resume his seat. I indicate to the Manager of Opposition Business that the member for O’Connor beat him by a considerable amount in jumping up and I am obliged to give the call to the member that first rose. The member for O’Connor.

Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, the 104 issue extends in this case to the capacity of a minister to tell jokes and since Mick Young there has been nobody on that side that can do it. Could he return to the subject?

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister is responding to the question. The member for Sturt.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask the Leader of the House to withdraw his disparaging remark about the Leader of the Opposition.

The SPEAKER —Order! If offence is indicated as being taken, the Leader of the House will withdraw.

Mr ALBANESE —If you are offended I will withdraw. We know that the previous Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, had Godwin Grech. This bloke, Tony Abbott, has Lord Monckton—

The SPEAKER —The minister must refer to members by their titles.

Mr ALBANESE —because his scepticism on climate change would bring him down.

Mr Pyne interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Sturt will resume his seat. I have indicated to the minister that he will refer to members by their parliamentary titles. The member for Sturt tries my patience, often. The minister has concluded.