Oct 20, 2009

Question without notice – Road and rail infrastructure

Question without notice – Road and rail infrastructure

Parliament House, Canberra

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

20 October 2009

Mr ADAMS (2:25 PM) —My question is for the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. How is the government investing to improve road and rail infrastructure in Tasmania through the Nation Building Program? How is this investment being received? Have there been other proposals put forward to build infrastructure, particularly on the Midlands Highway?

Mr Truss interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for his question and I thank the Leader of the National Party for his interjection. The interjection, for the benefit of members and for the benefit of the Tasmanian Premier, was: ‘Somebody’s going to build it at last.’ He was the minister for transport. For 12 years they sat opposite and they did nothing about the Midlands Highway. We came into office, committed $190 million—$164 million of it to the Brighton bypass, ahead of schedule by six months—and this clown says, ‘Somebody’s going to build it at last.’ Unbelievable.

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister—

Mr ALBANESE —I withdraw, Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER —I thank the minister.

Mr ALBANESE —This project will create up to 380 jobs during construction. We are getting on with the job, thanks to the fact that we have fine representatives from Tasmania—all five of them working in cooperation with the Tasmanian state government.

I am asked also about whether there are alternative propositions being put forward, particularly with regard to the Midlands Highway. I, with other cabinet ministers, had the pleasure of being in Tasmania last week. We were there for the community cabinet, consulting with the Tasmanian community. Whilst I was there it was drawn to my attention that the state Liberals have billboards up saying that they would duplicate the entire Midlands Highway. I thought to myself, ‘Here they are in here, day after day, and out there Senator Coonan, the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Treasurer are all saying they would wind back spending.’ Remember that? They are going to wind back the stimulus and they are going to wind back infrastructure spending, but out there is a $2 billion commitment.

When you look at the detail, there are two caveats on it. One is that they will duplicate the highway where appropriate. We are doing that; we are getting on with that. The second caveat is that the state Liberals will do it subject to federal funding. That is their other caveat. So they got the Leader of the National Party to travel down to Tasmania on Saturday to back up this strong commitment by the state Liberals. In a moment of honest self-analysis, the Leader of the National Party said this: ‘Anyone who has driven the road would know that it needs upgrading now.’ This person, who was, of course, the transport minister in the former government, knows now that this road needs to be upgraded. What is their profile of spending on this commitment? The first thing he said was: ‘If we are elected next time, we will then give a commitment of $400 million to fix this project that would cost at least $2 billion.’

But it gets worse, because he said that it needed to be fixed now but that it would be delivered in the period between 2014-15 to 2024-25. So there is an optimist for you. They can be held to this commitment if they win the election in 2010—and that is going well! If they win in 2013, if they win in 2016, if they win in 2019 and if they win in 2022, they can be held to account for this commitment of $400 million—for 20 per cent of the $2 billion. We do not know where the other $1.6 billion is coming from.

This is a farce. On this side of the parliament we are getting on with the job, in cooperation with the Tasmanian government, of fixing the Midlands Highway right now. We are getting on with the job as part of the $800 million. Three times what those opposite put into infrastructure in road and rail over a similar period we are putting into Tasmania through the Nation Building Program. I look forward to continuing to work with Premier Bartlett on this project. And I ask the opposition: please, get serious.