May 11, 2010

Question without notice – Infrastructure

Mr GIBBONS (2:57 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. How will tax reform deliver better nation-building infrastructure? Why is this so very important for Australia?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Bendigo for his question. I acknowledge his interest in infrastructure issues, particularly in his regional community. Australia does indeed need world-class infrastructure, especially in our resource rich states. The Rudd government is determined to manage the next resources boom better than the previous government managed the last one, making sure that we have long-lasting productivity and sustainable growth. Through the resources rent tax, we will be able to establish a $5.6 billion state infrastructure fund aimed at doing just that. This will build better road and rail infrastructure and more efficient ports. It will tackle the capacity constraints that the Reserve Bank warned on 20 separate occasions during the last boom were holding back Australia’s economic growth.

This fund is about boosting productivity across the economy. It will provide vital infrastructure reform for our economic future. It will deliver critical funds for infrastructure funding when they are most needed: as resource projects are built, not years down the track after production has come on line. But yet again we have those opposite opposing reform and opposing investment in infrastructure.

We know that public investment in infrastructure fell by 20 per cent as a proportion of national income during their term in office. Every time this government has attempted infrastructure reform, it has been opposed by those opposite. They opposed the establishment of Infrastructure Australia, they opposed the Building Australia Fund and they opposed the record spending through the Nation Building Program. It is not surprising when you look at what they say. The Leader of the Opposition has justified their opposition to spending when it comes to rail with this quote: ‘But normally state governments can do all that.’ That was their attitude during their period in office—it was someone else’s problem. Under their watch, super profits went up by $80 billion over the last decade, but there was a failure to invest in infrastructure. The way the government has structured this package will ensure that infrastructure is looked after, and that is in the interests of the national economy, just as Australians getting a fair share from their resources is in the interests of all Australians.