May 24, 2011

Question without notice – Infrastructure funding for regional Western Australia

Mr CROOK (Member for O’Connor) – My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Page 18 of the budget overview uses words in relation to the regional infrastructure fund such as ‘reinvesting the proceeds of the resources boom in mining communities’, ‘delivering a fair return to resource communities’ and, most importantly, ‘the RIF will provide $6 billion over the eleven years to 2020-21 for investment in infrastructure in regional Australia’. How can you justify the $480 million this government will spend on upgrading highways, freeways and bridges around Perth Airport as a regional Australia project?

ANTHONY ALBANESE – I thank the member for his question and for his genuine concern about infrastructure issues in his electorate. I will be visiting his electorate with him next month to look at issues around Kalgoorlie and then Meekatharra. The member’s question goes to the government funding of the Gateway project. Yes, we will fund the Gateway project. The Gateway project needs funding because it is the most important infrastructure project for Western Australia. We know that, because of the fly-in fly-out workforce and because of the massive expansion of the resources industry in the west, there is enormous pressure on the roads, the freight system and the intermodal system around the airport and also across through Fremantle port.

We know that because it has been identified as an absolute priority project, which is why we make no apologies for the commitment we made during the election campaign and we make no apologies for making provision in the budget to deliver on our commitments. Last week, when I was in Western Australia selling the budget message, the member for Canning was out there supporting this government’s investment in the Gateway WA project. Perhaps he could have a word with the WA Liberals and the WA Nationals who seem to have a difference of opinion on this.

The fact of the matter is that every single major infrastructure project under way in Western Australia has a Commonwealth commitment to it—every single one of them. They include, in the next year, a record $920 million in infrastructure in the transport sector to Western Australia alone, including, in the honourable member’s electorate, the upgrade of the road and rail infrastructure into Port Esperance where $60 million worth of work will commence in the following year, the Great Northern Highway at Port Headland, the Bunbury Port access road, Perth Urban Transport and Freight Corridor upgrade and the Great Eastern Highway. Work will commence on all those projects in the coming year, as well as the very important project to bring Perth together, the Northbridge rail link project through Perth’s CBD.

We make no apologies for the record investment we are delivering to the west, some $3.7 billion over the Nation Building Program, more than double what the previous mob committed when they were in office.