SHANE NEUMANN (Member for Blair) – My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. What is the government doing to invest in regional infrastructure? What would be the impact on the Regional Infrastructure Fund if the MRRT is not passed by the parliament?
ANTHONY ALBANESE – I thank the member for Blair for his question. Indeed, today we have announced more than $200 million brought forward to this financial year to fast-track our regional infrastructure development in Queensland alone. That is money brought forward for the Cairns southern approach on the Bruce Highway, for the Calliope Crossroads, for the Yeppen roundabout and bridge upgrade in the electorate of Capricornia and, importantly for the Member for Blair, for construction on the Blacksoil interchange of the Warrego Highway. This is a critical program funded by the Regional Infrastructure Fund. It is related to the billions of dollars of resource developments that are taking place in the Surat Basin.
Nationwide we have more than doubled regional infrastructure funding to some $22 billion.
When you do an infrastructure project, first you plan it – and there was none done by those opposite; they are on the record as opposing it. The fact is that the Government says yes, the community says yes, even the big miners say yes to the Regional Infrastructure Fund, but the walking vuvuzela and his team over there say no.
They say no to completing the Townsville ringroad.
They say no to the Mackay ringroad.
They say no to upgrading the intersection between the Bruce and Capricorn highways.
They say no to the Gladstone Port access road.
They say no to upgrading the Peak Downs Highway.
They say no to all these projects. At the same time, the Leader of the Nats [Warren Truss], while in regional Australia said:
“I share the disappointment about how few mining companies contribute to the areas they invade…”
“Invade” was the term he used –
“…and how little state governments return the massive royalty incomes they receive to these communities.”
That is what they say out there in their communities, but in here, the Nats line up with their Liberal Party colleagues to knock over funding for regional infrastructure.
There are some regional members who understand the importance of regional infrastructure and they sit on this side and up in the corner over there – the Member for Lyne [Rob Oakeshott], the Member for New England [Tony Windsor] – they understand the importance of regional infrastructure and that is why they are backing the MRRT.
I must say there are some others who understand as well. Remember in the budget when we brought forward an additional $1.02 billion for the Pacific Highway? Those opposite, including the local member, said that it was a mirage, that there would be nothing built and that it was just for planning. Well, last week, I was there with the Leader of the NSW Nats, Andrew Stoner, announcing the construction of the Clybucca section of the Pacific Highway. This is the location of the worst road accident in Australia’s history. They did nothing about it for 12 years. We have brought forward funding. Construction will commence in 2012 as part of our upgrade of the Pacific Highway.
I pay tribute to the Member for Lyne, particularly for the work that he has done in advocating the upgrade of the Pacific Highway, unlike the Member for Cowper [Luke Hartsuyker] who has been opposed to funding in his own electorate.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.