Nov 3, 2011

Questions without notice – Infrastructure Investment

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (14:49):  My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. How will the government secure future infrastructure investment in regional Australia? What would be the impact of not proceeding with the government’s regional investment pipeline?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:50):  I thank the member for Throsby for his question and look forward to being back in the Illawarra next Friday, where we will be opening the SMART infrastructure unit at Wollongong University. Indeed, we have committed some $22 billion into regional Australia in infrastructure—$22 billion from the Nation Building Program.

But we want to do more. That is why we have established the Regional Infrastructure Fund: to use the resources from the MRRT to invest into regional Australia and to make a difference on the big productivity agenda, in rail, in roads and in ports that are impacted by the mineral boom. Indeed, we have already announced eight projects, including the Blacksoil Interchange in the electorate of the member for Oxley. Work has already commenced on this project. The Mackay ring road study; the Scone level crossing study in the electorate of Hunter—once again, work has already commenced on these studies in cooperation with state governments. The Gladstone port access road, Townsville ring road, Peak Downs Highway, the intersection of the Bruce and Capricorn highways and Gateway WA—all of these projects boosting productivity and making a difference to our national economy.

But they are only possible if you have revenue from somewhere. Should it come from ordinary taxpayers or should it come from the resources that are all of Australia’s property?

We on this side think all Australians should benefit. Those on that side think the big miners alone should benefit. Those opposite will always side with the big end of town against working families. We have seen it this week on the MRRT, as we saw it with the Qantas dispute. They oppose ordinary Australians sharing in a fair return from the nation’s resources at a time of record mining profits, even though this will lead to lower taxation for companies, higher infrastructure investments and higher superannuation for workers.

But when it comes to the debate, you have got to look for consistency. I saw a fascinating quote from September. One of the leading advocates of a political party in this place said:

I share the disappointment about how few mining companies contribute to the areas they invade and how little state governments return of the massive royalty incomes they receive to the communities.

Mr Ramsey:  Absolute rubbish!

Mr ALBANESE:  That is the quote, talking about invading areas—

Mr Ramsey:  You’ve never been up north, have you?

Mr ALBANESE:  talking about the little return from state governments of the ‘massive royalty incomes’ to the communities that produce this wealth, and stating how disappointed this person was about ‘how few mining companies contribute to the areas they invade’.

Mr Ramsey:  Go to the Pilbara.

Mr ALBANESE:  Do you know who it was? It was the Leader of the National Party speaking about the ‘invasion’. Look at the Blackberry, Warren. He goes out there and says this to one audience—this is what they say in communities—but in here, where they have a chance to make a difference, they support the ‘invasion’, as he called it, of mining companies.

(Time expired)