Sep 1, 2008

Questions Without Notice – Infrastructure

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE – Infrastructure

Mr SULLIVAN (Longman) (2:31 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Will the minister outline for the House how members of the public and the business community can put forward their ideas for infrastructure projects of national significance?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Longman for his question. Today Infrastructure Australia is releasing two discussion papers, the first on public-private partnerships and the second calling for submissions from the public and the business community on nationally significant infrastructure. Submissions will close on 15 October and it is indeed important that the community have input into this debate because infrastructure is vital to people’s everyday lives. Often it is not noticed until it does not work—until families are stuck in traffic jams or until people cannot get access to high-speed broadband. That is why infrastructure needs to be a national priority for nation building. That is why we built a surplus with a purpose. It is a surplus with a purpose in the short term: to put downward pressure on inflation and downward pressure on interest rates. It is a surplus with a purpose in the long term: to put aside $41 billion into nation-building funds. But you cannot actually put this money aside for long-term nation building if the surplus is diminished and if the surplus has a $6.2 billion hole drilled in it by those opposite.

We must remember this: every single time that those representing the opposition in the Senate say no to a budget bill, they are saying no to proposals to unclog our ports. They are saying no to proposals to deal with urban congestion. They are saying no to proposals for better public transport. When you look at a budget, you actually have to look at priorities. For this government, our priority has been dealing with the pressures which we have been dealt—the 16-year high in inflation and the international circumstances of the credit squeeze and rising petrol prices—not only by producing a surplus but also by putting aside these funds for long-term nation building. But those opposite will in coming days have to make a decision about their priorities. For example, is it more important to maintain an industry start-up concession for condensate that came in 24 years ago or is it more important to deal with nation building, to deal with infrastructure and to deal with the capacity constraints that were identified by the Reserve Bank in 20 separate warnings? The people of Australia are interested in infrastructure and they will judge those opposite—

Mr Irons interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The member for Swan!

Mr ALBANESE —by how they react in the Senate —

Mr Irons interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The member for Swan should be very careful.

Mr ALBANESE —over coming days, weeks and months.