Sep 17, 2008

Questions without Notice – Infrastructure


Ms REA (Bonner) (2:38 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Will the minister advise the House of any recent calls to boost investment in infrastructure? Is the minister aware of any threats to infrastructure funding?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Bonner for her question and for her ongoing interest in infrastructure, particularly in the growing part of South-East Queensland. This government has made infrastructure a key part of our economic reform program. We have established Infrastructure Australia and put $20 billion into the Building Australia Fund. Our recognition of the importance of infrastructure investment has been widely applauded by industry—people who, for years, were crying out for national coordination of infrastructure; people who were arguing for a pipeline of projects to be available on infrastructure in ports, in roads, in rail, in broadband and in energy. All of these areas have suffered from an infrastructure deficit.

Just this morning I addressed a gathering of the Tourism & Transport Forum, members of which I welcome to question time today. The TTF this morning produced a compact. It is a document that calls for greater public investment in infrastructure. It is a document that talks about the need to deal with urban congestion in our cities. It is a document that calls for the need to unclog our ports. It is a document that is consistent with the principles being established by this government’s nation-building agenda.

The Tourism & Transport Forum, many members of which are sitting up there in the gallery, are not affiliated with the Fabian Society! This is not some left-wing gathering. This is a gathering of Australia’s business leaders—the likes of Clayton Utz, IBM, Leightons, David Jones, ABN AMRO, Bilfinger Berger, Multiplex, Macquarie, Qantas, the NRMA, the Commonwealth Bank; I see many of them, the captains of industry, up there in the gallery—all supporting an infrastructure agenda and all arguing for the Building Australia Fund.

But what do we have from those across on the other side of the chamber? What we had when this question was asked was an interjection from the Leader of the National Party, of all things, who interjected that it is just a slush fund—complete opposition; ignoring it for 12 years and then opposing the nation-building agenda of the government.

Just yesterday the member for Calare said once again that public transport in Australia’s capital cities was solely the job of state governments; once again repeating the argument that it had nothing to do with the Commonwealth; once again repeating what they played out in action over 12 long years of neglect—that it had nothing to do with the Commonwealth government. But, of course, as the people present this morning at the seminar know, if the opposition succeeds in blowing a $6.2 billion hole in the budget, then what that means is less money in the long-term investment funds that were established as a part of the Rudd Labor government’s budget in May.

So out of touch are the opposition—not only with working Australians but with people who, from time to time, would be seen as some of their traditional supporters—that they are ignoring their calls also. But as a reborn friend of the battler, the Leader of the Opposition, from Struggle Street in Point Piper, should ensure not only that he defends working Australians but that he gets in touch with the business community of this country.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will resume his seat.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! Has the minister concluded his answer?

Mr Tuckey interjecting—

The SPEAKER —I indicate to the member for O’Connor that the minister has concluded his answer.

Mr Tuckey interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for O’Connor has not got the call.

Mr Tuckey interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The member for O’Connor!

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! When the House settles down—