Sep 16, 2008

Questions without Notice – Infrastructure


Mr RIPOLL (Oxley) (2:55 PM) —My question is also to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Will the minister outline for the House why the government’s nation-building agenda is important given the economic circumstances, and whether Labor’s history as a nation-building party has been given broad support in the past? Is the minister aware of any threats to this agenda?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Oxley for his question and for his ongoing interest in infrastructure, particularly the Ipswich Motorway, where substantial progress has been made under the Rudd government. This government has been working—

Mr Dutton —Another study.

Mr ALBANESE —I advise the member opposite—he lives in Brisbane—to go and have a look at the literally hundreds of workers today doing work on the Ipswich Motorway. You should go and have a look at Labor’s nation-building agenda in practice on the Ipswich Motorway—something that was ignored by those opposite for 12 years. Such progress is, of course, part of Labor’s tradition as a nation-building party. That is why from day one we moved quickly to establish Infrastructure Australia to bring together all the different levels of government and the private sector.

If Infrastructure Australia provides the way, the Building Australia Fund provides the means—a means to fund investment in roads, in rail, in ports and in broadband. These funds are under threat from a reckless, irresponsible opposition that wants to blow, at a minimum, a $6.2 billion hole in the surplus—an opposition that discarded its leader today but discarded economic responsibility sometime ago. It completely gave up on economic responsibility. I would have thought that the new Leader of the Opposition would understand the importance of our nation-building agenda, because in the past he has had a history of being attracted towards the Labor agenda. It is common knowledge in the Labor Party that the new Leader of the Opposition went to Kirribilli to meet with then Prime Minister Keating about getting the casual vacancy in the Senate for the Labor Party in 1994.

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Isn’t it interesting, Mr Speaker, that at the beginning of question time the Prime Minister was offering congratulations and now the ‘dirt-raker’ from the government gets up and make up stories.

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for North Sydney will get to his point of order.

Government members interjecting—

Mr Hockey —I am happy to engage in a debate. You want a debate? Bring it on.

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. I indicate to him my tolerance about those types of points of order, which are not points of order. I will listen carefully to the conclusion of the minister’s answer.

Mr ALBANESE —Thank you. This was about Graham Richardson’s casual vacancy in the Senate, and Malcolm Turnbull, the Leader of the Opposition, had a discussion with then Prime Minister Keating at Kirribilli.

Mr Truss —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This response from the minister is not in any way relevant to the question, which was about infrastructure.

The SPEAKER —On the point of order, the question went in broad terms to Labor history, which I acknowledge should have been code for being very careful. I will listen to the minister concluding his answer quickly.

Mr «ALBANESE» —Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition clearly understood at that time that infrastructure was important. Only Labor could be trusted with the job of building the nation. We have seen a former Labor Party member replaced by someone who wanted to be a Labor senator.

The SPEAKER —The minister will resume his seat.