May 27, 2010

Question without notice – Infrastructure

Mr CHEESEMAN (4:02 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. How is the government delivering community and nation-building infrastructure for regional Australia? Why is it important to ensure that political commitments are met and projects are funded and delivered in these communities?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Corangamite for his question. Indeed, we are joining with the member for Corangamite to deliver on the commitments that we have made: the Geelong Ring Road 4A, Geelong Ring Road 4B, Princes Highway West, Waurn Ponds to Winchelsea, and many other projects. The member for Corangamite and the member for Corio are great advocates for the greater Geelong region.

We are also out there delivering in other parts of regional Australia. Today I was in Wagga Wagga with the member for Riverina and I was also in Wodonga. There we were making commitments and once again delivering infrastructure on the ground in regional Australia—important infrastructure. In Wagga Wagga we will deliver there an instrument landing system that will help that regional airport to maximise the benefit of the pilot college there that I also opened today that will train 200 pilots as part of the infrastructure and skills agenda that is taken so seriously by this government.

I am asked also why it is important that commitments are delivered, that they are funded and that they actually get built because, out there, there is some cynicism in the community about these issues. It is little wonder, because the coalition said through their shadow finance minister on 20 May, ‘Any other past commitments have been discontinued.’ The famous statement by the shadow finance minister, who says that any commitments, unless they are in the funding document, are not worth the paper that they are written on, let alone those that are just said, because we know they are not worth anything at all. But yesterday, when I raised this issue in the House, the shadow minister for transport said the coalition would meet its promises on road and rail funding. So who do you believe—the shadow finance minister or the Leader of the National Party? They both cannot be right.

Mr Truss interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE —‘They’re both right,’ says the Leader of the National Party. That is the sort of economic integrity of those opposite. I will give you a couple of good examples. On 7 May the National Party had a meeting up in Lismore and 15 parliamentary colleagues were there, including the Leader of the National Party and the shadow minister for infrastructure, Barnaby Joyce. In fact, the reports say that there were ‘many more pollies than community members at the morning tea’ at the Lismore Workers Club. There they went on to make a big announcement: ‘Nats are talking tough—pledges to reopen rail line for light rail and finish Pacific Highway upgrade’. It is a very clear commitment. The whole team was there: senators, House of Representatives members, state leader—all there.

After the statement yesterday, in today’s copy of the Northern Star you have a somewhat different position. You have this:

However, a spokesman for Nationals Leader Warren Truss said the Coalition’s commitment on the train—spelt out during a visit to the region by the Nationals’ leadership team early this month—had never included a dollar figure.

It is a ghost train. It does not have any money. It has no funding, but it is going to exist somehow. They then went on to explain how that can occur, this ghost train of the National Party:

The spokesman said the Coalition’s approach to the Casino-Murwillumbah line, during the Howard years and since, had always been to pressure the State Government to step up and restore the line.

So they go out there, they have a meeting; they bring everyone up to Lismore, they make this commitment, and when they are pinged for it because there is no money there, because there is no money at all, that is their explanation.

But it gets worse. It gets worse, because in the electorate of the member for Corangamite they have also made a range of commitments. The candidate there made unfunded commitments—withdrawn by the shadow finance minister just last week—about the Princes Highway. But what happened when the Geelong Advertiser and the Colac Herald, the local papers, contacted the shadow minister for finance yesterday? The shadow minister for finance told them, ‘No, we don’t have any funding allocated, but we’ll take it out of the Roads to Recovery program.’ So the Roads to Recovery program, which is untied grants to local government for local roads, will now be raided for an off-the-cuff promise. Not surprisingly, the editors have asked the shadow minister for finance to put it in writing, because you cannot trust anything that those opposite say. We saw it again from the Leader of the Opposition today: the weathervane is back, and he is back this time on climate change, saying climate change is no longer crap, unlike what he said when he was running for the opposition leadership. I am not sure what has happened in the meantime, but the fact is that you cannot trust a thing that this mob opposite say. They want to play games with people in their electorates, but when they get in here there is no funding, there is no sincerity, there is no integrity on economic security and there is certainly, for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, no integrity on national security either.

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.