Feb 25, 2010

Question without notice – Infrastructure

Mr BRADBURY (3:12 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. What reforms are the government putting in place to address underinvestment in infrastructure and boost national productivity, and how does this compare to past approaches?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Lindsay for his question; it is indeed two years this week since we as the government introduced our legislation to create Infrastructure Australia, fulfilling yet another election commitment. Infrastructure Australia got to work immediately.

Mr Hockey interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE —Indeed, the member for North Sydney, who has already been warned, knows full well that Infrastructure Australia go to work immediately.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE —We created the first national audit of infrastructure.

The SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order. The minister has the call. He will be heard in silence.

Mr ALBANESE —We created the first pipeline of projects. We introduced new policy and guidelines—

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will resume his seat. The House need not get excited about concepts of dobbing. The member for North Sydney knew the predicament he was in and did the right thing. The minister has the call. The minister will be heard in silence.

Mr ALBANESE —Infrastructure Australia has brought together the three tiers of government with the private sector to advise the government on investment but also on regulatory and policy reform. Today we announced another milestone has been reached in our commitment to have single national transport regulators by 2013. This is important microeconomic reform that will have significant productivity benefits.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE —Those opposite dismiss this. They could not do it. They could not even try to do it in 12 years. We have replaced nine heavy vehicle regulators with one, replaced seven rail safety regulators with one and established a single national maritime safety regime. Today we announce that the Queensland government will host the future national heavy vehicle regulator. It is now setting up a project office to draft the necessary legislation and delivery arrangements. This will produce one set of rules delivered consistently—a one-stop shop for trucking companies to access the road network and a national centre to drive improvements in productivity.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE —Those opposite dismiss this reform, because they simply forgot about the productivity agenda during their last period in office. They may have their position, but the conservatives around the country do not agree with them. The New South Wales opposition has promised to introduce Infrastructure New South Wales. The Tasmanian opposition are running in the Tasmanian election on introducing Infrastructure Tasmania. Infrastructure Australia visited New Zealand to help the incoming conservative government establish a similar body in New Zealand. Elsewhere around the globe, the UK government have announced the creation of Infrastructure UK. All of these bodies have been created based on the model established here in Australia. That model has led to real investment—record investment, in road and rail. It is not acknowledged by those opposite. Indeed the shadow finance minister had this to say:

Can you take me to the area where the massive new sort of rail infrastructure is or can you take me to the area where the major roads are. They’re not there, and the money is gone, but we’ve got nothing for it.

That is the attitude of those opposite. I say to them: go to the Ipswich Motorway, go to the Bruce Highway, go to the Pacific Highway, go to the Hume Highway and go to the national rail network, which now exists from Perth to Brisbane for the first time as a result of the economic stimulus plan of this government. They simply do not get it. That is why, in Senate estimates a couple of weeks ago, they asked no serious questions about infrastructure and they did not ask a single question about the national port strategy or the national freight strategy that Infrastructure Australia is delivering; they did spend half an hour asking about the number of pot plants in my office, because that was the priority of those opposite, because they simply do not take the infrastructure challenge of this country seriously.