Sep 15, 2008

Questions without Notice – Rural and Regional Australia

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE – Rural and Regional Australia

Mr BIDGOOD (Dawson) (2:35 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. What are the benefits of the Rudd government’s nation-building agenda for regional Australia?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Dawson for his question and thank him for welcoming me to his electorate once again last week when I joined with the Prime Minister, the Queensland Minister for Main Roads and Local Government, Warren Pitt, and local figures, including the deputy mayor of Townsville, to turn the first sod on the Townsville port access road. When we talk about this government’s nation-building agenda, the Townsville port access road is a good example of how this will help individuals in terms of where they live and how it will help boost the nation’s productivity. Work is starting two years early on this project as a result of Labor’s budget, which brought forward $20 million of spending. The first stage, the 2.5-kilometre Stuart Bypass, will mean that the road can go away from existing residences, therefore leading to a substantial increase in the quality of life of people in the south Townsville area. The second stage, a 7½-kilometre eastern access corridor, will be completed by late 2011 or early 2012. In total, this 10 kilometres of road, costing $190 million in total—with a fifty-fifty split between the Commonwealth and the state government—has the potential to add some $10 billion to economic activity in Northern Queensland. It will enable the Australian economy to benefit from the booming north-west minerals province to get those goods out of the port of Townsville.

It was one of the first commitments made by the Prime Minister when he became the leader of the Labor Party and visited Townsville in December 2006. It seems to be supported by everyone in Townsville. Indeed, last week the Deputy Mayor of Townsville, Councillor David Crisafulli, attended the sod turning and congratulated the government on its nation-building agenda. Someone who would be known to some of those opposite as a former staffer of Senator Macdonald, a minister in the Howard government, had to wait for this government to be elected before we engaged in nation building as part of our $76 billion nation-building infrastructure agenda.

But it is not supported by everybody, because on 19 December 2006, in response to the then Leader of the Opposition’s support for the Townsville port access road, the Minister for Finance and Administration, Nick Minchin, said, ‘Rudd splurges on national spending binge,’ and he opposed not just the Townsville port access road but the Ipswich Motorway as well. That was their position in government. On this side of the House we are going to get on with our nation-building agenda in spite of the opposition and obstruction of the friends of those opposite who sit in the Senate.