May 13, 2010

Question without notice – Infrastructure

Mr HAYES (2:48 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Minister. How is the government’s transport and community infrastructure investment being received in the parliament and the electorate? Are there any other proposals for government investment?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Werriwa for his question and indeed for his consistent and ongoing interest in infrastructure development, both for the nation and for the south-west suburbs of Sydney. Some great progress is indeed being made on the F5 upgrade. The section between St Andrews Road and Raby Road is running some six months ahead of schedule and it is running on budget. The member for Werriwa has always voted for the Nation Building Program, as well as always supporting the community infrastructure measures that the government has put in place, including the $8 million that the government committed to upgrade Campbelltown stadium, which was completed in time for the West Tigers’ first home game of this year. But those opposite are not quite as consistent.

We know that the member for Werriwa supports the resources rent tax. We know that he supports the $5 billion in infrastructure that will come as a result of that. And those opposite? We are not quite sure. We are not sure whether they support the increase in nine per cent to 12 per cent in superannuation. We are not sure whether they support the cut in company tax because they have one message here and another in their electorates. In here they say they are concerned about debt and deficit, but right around the country they are in their electorates—particularly in the areas of my portfolio—making massive multi-billion-dollar commitments—unfunded, uncosted, just making those commitments out there. They are trying to con the electorate.

Mr Robert —Which ones are they?

Mr ALBANESE —I am asked who made the commitment. I have had four shadow infrastructure ministers so far—not quite the same number as shadow finance ministers—and some of you might remember who the third shadow infrastructure minister was, even though there were no speeches, no questions in the parliament and just one media release, but there was one commitment. And to give the member for Groom credit, he made it on day 1. He peaked early. On day 1 in his own electorate he committed $1.75 billion for the Toowoomba bypass—day 1, in his electorate. So what we want to see tonight in the Leader of the Opposition’s budget response is this. Will the $1.75 billion be there, or will he dump it just like he dumped the deal that was done by the member for Groom on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme? We will see that tonight. They had 12 years to act and did nothing about it, but on day 1 made a $1.75 billion commitment. There was of course a $6 billion commitment two weeks ago from the Leader of the National Party, but we might hear some more about that on another day. I am sure that will be there tonight as well.

We do have some more creative coalition members across there—those who say one thing in the parliament and another in their electorate. They vote against projects here, but they are champions of them and claim victory when they go back to their electorate. There is no-one better at that than the member for Gippsland. There is a wealth of material on the member for Gippsland. Here he is in his newsletter: ‘Princes Highway duplication gets started’. I wonder where the funding for that came from? The Nation Building Program that he voted against and that was brought forward as part of the economic stimulus plan that he voted against. So there he is, out there saying how terrific it is. But it does not have to be the big projects; it can be the smaller ones as well. He also voted against the community infrastructure part of the economic stimulus plan, but here he is, under the heading ‘$7 million boost for sport’:

Darren Chester discusses the benefits of the new sports complex with Joan Foot, Sale Netball Association and Johnny Paraskevas, Construction Manager …

So we are creating jobs in his electorate under the program that he voted against. But there is more from the member for Gippsland. He has been out there promising extensions to the Princes Highway. There is not a day goes past that this bloke does not spend a million bucks. Not a day goes past—but we will see it all there in the opposition leader’s response tonight.

When it comes to waste, of course there is one program that comes to mind—the regional rorts program. We all recall it. We recall the Gunnedah ethanol plant that did not exist; we recall the train line that burned down; we recall the dog food—who could forget the dog food and the two-headed dog; and of course we recall the cheese factory in the electorate of Indi—the cheese factory that got $22,000 of taxpayers’ money paid to it on 28 June 2007. There was only one problem—it had shut its doors in March 2007. You would think the member for Indi would know that this was a dodgy program and that now instead of paying for-profit organisations—

Mrs Mirabella —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister seems to have omitted the fact that that project was endorsed by the state Labor government—his mates.

The SPEAKER —The honourable member for Indi knows that that is not a point of order.

Mr ALBANESE —The member for Indi has never seen a trough she didn’t like. You would think that she would have learned—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the opposition finds that personal aside against the member for Indi insulting and we would ask that he withdraw.

The SPEAKER —I did not hear it but I saw the reaction. Based on the reaction of those I could see, it would suit the conveniences of the House if the minister were to withdraw.

Mr ALBANESE —I withdraw, Mr Speaker. The member for Indi I think would know exactly what this program was about and why it is known as the regional rorts program. You would think, leading up to the Leader of the Opposition’s speech tonight about fiscal responsibility and about how responsible they are going to be and how they are going to cut back that deficit and debt, that the last thing they would do is what the member for Indi did this week on ABC radio when she said, and I am not making this up, that she would like to see ‘some sort of re-establishment of the regional partnership program’. You are kidding!

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, on a point of order—

The SPEAKER —The minister will resume his seat. I indicate to the member for Mackellar that that is it; the minister has resumed his seat, either voluntarily or as he was going to be asked to sit down. It is nothing necessarily to do with the member for Mackellar coming to the dispatch box!