Aug 26, 2008

Questions without Notice – Building Australia Fund

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE – Building Australia Fund

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (Braddon) (3:16 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Will the minister outline to the House the benefits for the economy and infrastructure of the Building Australia Fund? Is the minister aware of any threats to the size of the fund?

Mr ALBANESE(Grayndler) (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —On budget night this government produced a responsible budget, and part of that, at its core, was the $22 billion surplus and the funds that were set aside for the future—for future education infrastructure, for future health infrastructure and, with the Building Australia Fund, for future infrastructure investment in broadband, roads, rail and ports. That investment was a direct response to the fact that the Reserve Bank had warned on 20 separate occasions of the capacity constraints in the economy placing pressure on inflation and interest rates and reducing our productivity.

We also, of course, have established Infrastructure Australia, a body consisting of the private sector as well as levels of government, to develop and produce an infrastructure priority list in time for the COAG meeting in March 2009But you cannot put funds from the surplus into funds to produce long-term investments if you then undermine the surplus. What those opposite are threatening to do—block the budget bills—will put a $6-plus billion potential hole in our surplus, therefore undermining our ability to invest in our long-term future. If these budget bills are not passed, funding for critical infrastructure will be lost.

On budget night we also announced a number of feasibility studies into the sorts of nation-building projects that are required. The Gateway Motorway missing links in Brisbane—is that project necessary or not? The western metro in Sydney, the east-west link in Melbourne or public transport in Adelaide—all of these issues are potential investments based upon these feasibility studies. But you cannot invest for the future if you are undermining the budget surplus today. This government is absolutely committed to laying down the tracks for future investment in infrastructure. The opposition seem determined to derail our efforts by undermining the surplus. I call upon them to move on from their 12 years of inaction on infrastructure investment and not block budget measures in a way that is totally economically irresponsible