Feb 8, 2010

Question without notice – Infrastructure

Mrs D’ATH (3:01 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Why is investment in infrastructure critical to Australia’s economic growth and productivity? Are there any risks to the government’s nation-building investment?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the honourable member for her question. The Rudd government is indeed investing in infrastructure, because we want to build a stronger economy for working families into the future. Today I announce that two more projects as part of our economic stimulus plan have been completed—two projects in the east-west corridor between Adelaide and Kalgoorlie. The $23 million projects, in which two new loop lines have been put in, will lead to practical productivity benefits in two ways. Firstly, they will allow trains of up to a kilometre and a half in length to operate along the track and, secondly, they will allow those longer trains to travel much more quickly—a big productivity benefit and dividend as a direct result of the economic stimulus plan.

But this is all at risk because today Senator Joyce has reaffirmed his view that cutbacks to infrastructure investment are on the opposition’s agenda. He has confirmed what the current Leader of the Opposition has said; he has confirmed what the former Leader of the Opposition has said: that cutbacks to infrastructure are on the agenda. But, of course, the coalition have got form, because when they last came to office, in 1996, they slashed $2 billion from the road budget over their first eight years. No wonder the Business Council of Australia have estimated that we inherited a $90 billion infrastructure deficit. Now the opposition wants to make more cuts—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE —A $90 billion infrastructure deficit!

Mr Hockey —What a made-up figure!

Mr ALBANESE —It is from Business Council of Australia. We know those opposite want to argue with the business community, but that is what the BCA said. But, now that the coalition have walked away from market based economics, it is not surprising that they want to battle the Business Council of Australia.

Now we know that the opposition want to make more cuts or raise taxes to pay for their climate con job, because that is the only way that they can pay for it. We know on health that the Leader of the Opposition has said he wants to go backwards to the good old days when he cut $1 billion from hospitals. We know that they cut $2 billion from roads when they came into office. They need to say which projects they would cut that were part of the bring-forward of the economic stimulus plan. The Brighton Bypass in Tasmania—will they cut that? Will they cut the Northern Expressway in South Australia, the Western Ring Road in Melbourne or the Ipswich Motorway upgrade? We know that that is on their agenda because they have confirmed that that is the case. What about the Pacific Motorway Transit Project on the Gold Coast, in South-East Queensland? The Bulahdelah Bypass in the electorate of Paterson—will they cut that? What about the duplication of the Douglas Arterial Road in Townsville in Queensland, the Tarcutta Bypass on the Hume Highway, the Woomargama Bypass on the Hume Highway or indeed the Western Highway at Anthony’s Cutting, which is due to commence construction next week? We have it there. They say they will make cuts. They need to come clean about where those cuts will be. We on this side of the House regard infrastructure as an investment for the future good of our economy.