Feb 28, 2017

Transcript of doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

Subjects: Barnaby Joyce, Perth Freight Link

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today we see that the chaos that has infected the Coalition has now gone to the National Party. We’ve just had George Christensen replaced as the chief National Party whip. But it doesn’t stop there. Barnaby Joyce is hunting for Darren Chester’s job as Infrastructure Minister. But the truth is that it is the whole Government that has failed when it comes to infrastructure, including Barnaby Joyce. The information that we got from Senate Estimates shows that to be the case.

On the Inland Rail line, a project that they have talked up, a project that they have promised would be under construction in 2016, we now know that they haven’t even acquired the land for the corridor, nor have they finalised the route for the project, let alone dug a hole or planted a sleeper for the track.

When it comes to Victorian infrastructure, we found in Senate Estimates that Victoria is getting 7.7 per cent of the national infrastructure budget, despite being home to one in four Australians and, in spite of the fact that Victoria is the fastest growing state, is expected indeed to be Australia’s largest state around 2050. And that is putting pressure on when it comes to infrastructure.

We also found that the Perth Freight Link project, supported by this Government, not only does it not go to the port, but there have been no plans submitted to actually take it to the port; a fact that Malcolm Turnbull seems oblivious to.

When it comes to infrastructure investment, the fact is that we’ve seen an absolute decline on their watch. A decline from Labor’s record investment whereby, under the Coalition, every 12 quarters that they have been in office, public sector infrastructure investment has been less than every one of the 21 quarters when we were in office. We know that there is no $50 billion program for Darren Chester to preside over; it’s a fiction. The actual figure is $34 billion, plus a portion of $8 billion that has been allocated at some unspecified time into the future.

This is a Government that is racked by division. It is unclear who is in charge of what infrastructure project. You have got Darren Chester, you have got Paul Fletcher as a Minister, you have got Fiona Nash, Matt Canavan, Malcolm Turnbull himself has co-opted the Cities Unit, and Angus Taylor. So with no one in charge not much is happening.

What we’re seeing at a time when the Reserve Bank Governor just last Friday called for an increase in infrastructure investment yet again, following the calls of his predecessor, we see the National Party and the Liberal Party not responding with a plan for infrastructure, just a plan to replace the existing Infrastructure Minister with a new one in Barnaby Joyce.

The fact is that they need to prioritise investment in infrastructure if they are going to have a serious plan for economic growth and for jobs, and that is not what is happening under this Government.