Feb 27, 2012

Question without notice – Infrastructure investment

Mrs D’ATH (Petrie) (14:19):  My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Will the minister outline how the government’s record infrastructure investment is building the Australian economy and how will the government’s long-term reform continue to build the nation for the future?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:20):  I thank very much the member for Petrie for her question. In recent weeks, I have yet again been in her electorate looking at the Moreton Bay rail link—an important infrastructure proposal which we are delivering in her seat. When we came to office, we inherited an infrastructure deficit. More than 20 separate warnings from the Reserve Bank of Australia said that a failure to invest in infrastructure and skills was holding back our economic capacity. We set about addressing it. That was the case even though those opposite, when in government, had a $334 billion windfall in the budget in terms of additional receipts from what was anticipated in the budget papers.

We set about getting the policy framework right through establishing Infrastructure Australia. We then set about on the big investment decisions. We have doubled the roads budget. We have increased the rail budget by more than 10 times. We have committed more in urban public transport since 2007 than was invested by all previous governments from Federation right through to 2007. They are the commitments that we have made. But it has not just been in investment. We also understand that you have to get the regulatory environment right, which is why we have moved from 23 transport regulators down to three—single regulators in rail, heavy vehicle and maritime—providing a boost to the economy of $30 billion over 20 years. But there is much more to be done.

We also have a plan, and legislation will be introduced in coming weeks, to revitalise Australian shipping—an industry that is vital for our security, for our environment and for our economy. That industry was neglected and, indeed you can argue, consciously downtrodden by those opposite with a strategy to replace the Australian flag with flags of convenience on our coast, with all of the repercussions that that has. We on this side of the House will take action on these issues.

We have also taken action on the issue of safe roads by making sure that those hard-working truck drivers who keep the country going can drive safely without pressure being put on them. Those opposite are not even sure if they will say yes to that—a fundamental reform that is so important for the safety of all those who drive on our roads, not just truck drivers but all those who share the roads with them. We on this side of the House are determined to get the big issues right. We are determined to continue to advance the reform agenda that we have been putting in place since 2007 in spite of the relentless negativity of those opposite.