Thursday, 2 March 2017
Matters of Public Importance
I have received a letter from the honourable member for Grayndler proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to invest in productivity boosting infrastructure.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
One of the advantages of being in government is that you have access to the ideas of some pretty smart people, and the government should start listening to them. Last Friday, the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, had this to say:
I have been saying this for some years now: with interest rates so low right around the world, including here, we have been trying to induce households to spend money through lower interest rates. It would be a better strategy to create new assets rather than current consumption. The best new assets to create in our country at the moment are infrastructure assets, particularly in transportation networks.
… we do not have the infrastructure capacity to support today’s population, far less the population of the future.
In the first two years of this government we saw a 20 per cent decline in public sector infrastructure investment. Every single one of the current government's 12 quarters that they have been in office has had less public infrastructure investment than all 21 quarters when we were in government from the time of our first budget in the June 2008 quarter right through to September 2013. When we came to office in 2007, we were ranked 20th in the OECD for investment in infrastructure as a proportion of GDP. When we left office, we were ranked first—No. 1. We are not any more.
What we see from this government is policy failure. It is policy failure based upon ideology. It is policy failure based upon the fact that when they came to office they made a decision to stop all public transport infrastructure investment—money that was in the budget for the Cross River Rail in Brisbane, the Melbourne Metro, the Gawler line electrification in Adelaide and public transport in Perth.
If you want an example of the government's infrastructure failure, you can have a look at the difference between the rhetoric and the reality. Minister after minister will use this fantasy figure of a $50 billion infrastructure plan. It is a nonsense. The budget papers show that the figure is $34 billion up to the year 2019-20 and then $8 billion into the future until some unspecified time. They are simply making it up as they go along. Indeed, they do not even invest what they say they will. In their 2014 budget they had an undertaking for $8 billion in the last financial year, 2015-16. The actual final budget outcome for investment was $5½ billion. In the face of these facts we have Orwellian propaganda. In the lead-up to the election in the first half of last year, they actually cut the infrastructure budget some $18 million to fund infrastructure ads on TV.
The government have no plan for productivity, traffic congestion or housing affordability. The examples are there. The East West Link in Victoria has seen 45c for every dollar invested. If anyone on the other side wants to give me 100 bucks, I will give them back $45 the next time I see them and we will call it a good deal! That is the way that they see investment in infrastructure.
With WestConnex in Sydney, the tunnel has begun but they do not quite know where it is coming up. Last week residents in my electorate got told that it was a good idea to have a construction site virtually on the grounds of Leichhardt high school. They would not do it at Newington. That would not do it at Trinity Grammar. But apparently a local public high school is fair game and does not matter. In a letter that went to residents, the government actually said that they were still working out the final route. They have begun the project and they have begun the tunnel; they just do not know where it is coming out! That is an example of failure from this government.
But they have learnt nothing. On the Perth Freight Link, they are committing the same mistakes over and over again. It was hauled out of a Wheaties box in the 2014 budget. At the time, the WA parliamentary secretary for transport, Jim Chown, told a parliamentary committee:
… at this stage we have not actually got plans that are worthy of public scrutiny …
All these years later they still do not have a plan that is worthy of public scrutiny. We ask in this parliament of the Prime Minister, who flicked it to his minister: what about the three kilometres in between where the road stops and where the port actually is? The port is on the waterfront. You cannot move the port. You have to take the road to the port—but it is stopping three kilometres short. The minister did not even know that that was the case. The Prime Minister did not know. When he went to Perth on the one visit of his campaign—he will not be back there again, I am sure—he still did not know. He said, 'There will be another final stage.' But we asked in Senate estimates this week about this so-called final stage, and of course the department said they have not received any information about it. Mr Roland Pittar of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development said:
We have not seen a draft project proposal report for that.
The government are literally making it up as they go along.
But it is worse than that because of what they are saying will happen with this dud proposal if Labor is elected on 11 March. Let's be very clear: Mark McGowan has a mandate to not proceed with the Perth Freight Link and to instead fund Perth's Metronet and a range of road projects that actually are ready to go, will improve road safety and productivity and will go to an end point.
What he has said is: they will hold over that $1.2 billion. Just like they are treating the people of Victoria with contempt—which is receiving 7.7 per cent of the national infrastructure spend, with one in four Australians, with it being the fastest-growing state in Australia and having the fastest-growing city in Australia, Melbourne—they will hold the people of Western Australia to ransom. It stands in stark contrast to what we did in government—Gateway WA, Perth City Link, the Swan Valley Bypass, the Tonkin Highway, the Leach Highway, the Great Northern Highway, the North West Coastal Highway, Esperance port, the upgrade to the transcontinental railway, the upgrade to the state's grain rail network—which was a contribution of $135 million. Then this mob's idea of a project is either to go and open a project so they have had something to do with it or—and sometimes they are quite creative—change the name and pretend it is a new project. A new name is not a new project. The Swan Valley Bypass is the same as NorthLink. It was funded by us.
The fact is that we on this side of the House look forward to working with a Labor government in WA to invest in infrastructure, support jobs and support productivity.
I welcome this debate. I know it is the member for Grayndler's birthday. It is very kind of him to give me this present. I do appreciate your generosity, member for Grayndler, in giving me the opportunity to come here today and put on the public record some of the facts.
The member for Grayndler has come to the dispatch box and whinged and complained, but he did not want to actually talk about any of the facts and go into this government's $50 billion infrastructure investment program. It is a program that is building for the future. It is changing lives and saving lives right around our nation. It is creating jobs, it is reducing congestion in our major cities, it is improving productivity and it is improving connectivity in our rural and regional areas.
I know that the member for Grayndler is a bit frustrated with the job that he has at the moment. He is the people's choice and he wants to be the Labor Party leader. I know he does not want my job. I know he wants to be the Labor Party leader. I know he is frustrated. I know he is disappointed. But that does not explain why he hates good news so much. There is good news in infrastructure from one end of Australia to the other. Right now, as we stand here talking about the roads and rail, and infrastructure needs of our great nation, there are thousands of people on the ground building those roads and building that rail infrastructure. They are out there building for our nation's future. It is about building infrastructure that our kids and our grandkids will thank us for. This government, this Turnbull-Joyce government, is getting on with the job—from some of the iconic multibillion-dollar projects, whether it be the Western Sydney Airport or the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project, right through to some of those smaller projects in our smaller communities, through the Roads to Recovery initiative or through the Black Spot program, which are saving lives and reducing the number of serious injuries in our community.
I want to thank the member for Grayndler again for giving me this opportunity. I want him to have many, many more birthdays, but I am worried about him. I think this relentless negativity is starting to play on his health a bit. I think he should try to be a little bit more positive about the government's agenda. We have an agenda which will see improvements from Melbourne to Sydney, to Brisbane, to Perth to the Northern Territory, and right through our smaller country towns. He likes to talk about the $50 billion infrastructure investment program like it is not true. But, when you look at the budget figures, we are investing $50 billion from 2013-14 to 2019-20 in critical road and rail infrastructure. It is about jobs; it is about growth; it is about prosperity. At the same time, it is about saving people's lives in the community through road safety initiatives. We are very proud of our nation-building program which will see some enormous improvements right throughout the nation.
The member for Grayndler does not want to talk about the $9 billion which is being spent this financial year across Australia. There are about 1,000 projects currently underway. If you listen to him, there will be a suggestion that there is nothing going on in Australian right now, whatsoever. He likes to selectively look at numbers. The dirty little secret that the member for Grayndler did not want to touch on is: the Australian government's spending on infrastructure averaged around $6.3 billion per annum in the four-year period under Labor ending 2013-14. In the four years since, spending under the coalition has averaged around $7.3 billion. Those numbers again: in the four-year period under Labor ending 2013-14, the average figure was $6.3 billion per annum; in the four years since, under the coalition, spending has averaged around $7.3 billion.
The member for Grayndler is interjecting that it is just not true. The numbers do not back you up in the comments that you are making, member for Grayndler. Our capital investment in transport, as well as Defence and communications infrastructure, is contributing to positive growth in our economy right around the nation. Our economy is now growing faster than seven of the biggest economies in the world. So he can come in here and be negative, he can whinge, he can complain, but he cannot dispute the fact that there are thousands of projects underway right now across Australia—in our capital cities and right through to the Roads to Recovery projects and Black Spot projects.
He knows they are out there. He is smiling now because he knows they are out there. It is about jobs; it is about supporting our communities.
There is a genuine commitment from this side of the House to support local jobs and contractors as we roll out our infrastructure programs. There are some classic examples of that. We have seen with the Northern Connector project in South Australia, NorthHub, an employment skills and training centre, is helping northern job seekers secure some of the 480 jobs a year on average which are associated with the project.
Now, the Pacific highway—
Mr Albanese interjecting—
The member for Grayndler continues to interject. Surely, he would acknowledge that the Pacific highway is a great project. From Sydney to Brisbane, there is record spending on duplication of the Pacific Highway. This upgrade is creating thousands of jobs along the New South Wales coast. The peak employment period is expected to be this year when 16,000 jobs—4,000 direct and 12,000 indirect jobs—will be supported across all of these Pacific Highway projects. Surely, those opposite will concede that is a great project. That is a project of national significance which is rolling out. But, if we listen to the member for Grayndler and to his comments earlier, it is as if nothing is happening whatsoever. He needs to go out there and drive that road. He needs to go out there and drive the Pacific Highway and see the thousands of workers out there every day right along the east coast of Australia.
There are other projects. Local products like Arrium steel are being used on the Northern Connector and the Adelaide to Tarcoola freight rail upgrade. That is happening right now. We are supporting the community on the Pacific Highway right down to local organisations such as the Grafton men's shed in the member for Page's seat and Beamer Tree Services, who are working to improve the environmental outcomes associated with this project by building and installing nest boxes as part of the Pacific Highway project. It is not just about the national significance of this project; it is right down at the local community level that the benefits are being felt.
Under this coalition government we are delivering a $50 billion infrastructure investment program, and the member for Grayndler knows it.
Mr Albanese interjecting—
The member for Grayndler continues to interject. He does not want to talk about the good news. The coalition is supporting the right projects and delivering on our plans for the future. We have committed funding to 15 of the 18 projects in Infrastructure Australia priorities. The member for Grayndler wants to talk about Perth Freight Link. He wants to talk about Infrastructure Australia's priority list. Infrastructure Australia assessed the Perth Freight Link project as a high-priority project. The member for Grayndler calls it a dud project, but Infrastructure Australia has it as a high-priority project. The member for Grayndler was the one who established Infrastructure Australia in the first place. He established the independent body. Perth Freight Link is a high-priority project, and he says it is a dud. If he does not like a decision, he just whinges about it.
From Perth Freight Link to the inland rail project, to Western Sydney Airport, to a range of projects right around the nation, we are getting on with the job of delivering our plan for Australia's future. The coalition is lifting the productive capacity of our nation through our national freight transport routes. To go through the list would take me more than the 10 minutes I have available to me. They are projects like NorthLink, Perth Freight Link, the Great Northern Highway, the Bruce Highway in Queensland, the Pacific Highway in New South Wales, Murray Basin Rail, Northern Connector in Adelaide, Tarcoola rail upgrade, Forrestfield Airport Link, Sydney Metro, Parramatta Light Rail. We offered funding for Melbourne Metro but the Victorian government said they could do it by themselves and they did not need it. Gold Coast Light Rail, Flinders Link and the Canberra light rail—the list is virtually endless.
Mr Albanese interjecting—
The member for Grayndler continues to interject. He wants to talk about Victoria. The Andrews government tore up the East West Link contract and gave $1.2 billion to contractors to not build a road. What Labor genius! $1.2 billion to not build a road! The people of Victoria are meant to thank Daniel Andrews for that. What a genius! Faced with that situation, we had to clean up Labor's mess. We went in there with a $1.5 billion plan and asked the Labor Party to match that funding commitment, and now we have projects rolling out across Victoria as a direct result of this government and this Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, getting on with the job of delivering for Victorians.
All I can say is that the contrast between Labor and the Turnbull-Joyce government could not be clearer. We have seen it here today. The member for Grayndler had 10 minutes. I know it is his birthday. He had 10 minutes to come here and build a plan for the future. He built a complaints box. He had one long whinge session, one long complaint after another. On this side of the House we are building for the future. We have positive plans and we are delivering them right across the nation. We are delivering infrastructure that Australia needs. We are getting on with the job of creating new opportunities for young people in regional areas. We are creating jobs and improving productivity right throughout the nation. The contrast could not be clearer. We are building for the future, and Labor is whingeing about it.
Well, well, well. Here we are on 2 March 2017, a fine day and the last sitting day in this place before Western Australians head to the polls on 11 March. What a great day that will be. The run-up to that day started in this place on 7 February 2017. The seventh of February was when team WA federal Labor came into this place and started the conversation about how it is that Western Australians have been horribly let down for the last eight years under the stewardship of Colin Barnett and his state Liberals. Day in and day out, in this place and in the Federation Chamber, in 90-second statements, matters of public importance and constituency statements, team WA federal Labor rocked up, unified, united, speaking time and time again on ways in which Western Australians have been let down under Colin Barnett. And not a federal Liberal was to be seen. There was no-one to be seen on the other side even to offer up a fig leaf of a reason why Western Australians should re-elect Colin Barnett. The whole time the silence was deafening.
I could not agree with the member for Grayndler more. I think they know that the last dance has been danced, but it is only today that I see the member for Tangney and the member for O'Connor finally rocking up. It remains to be seen whether they will actually get on their feet and stump up with what might be too little too late in relation to defending this hollow, broken shell of the government, but I tell you what: the timing of the member for Tangney is impeccable. He comes in at the last minute. Do you know what they are calling the member for Tangney over in Western Australia right now? They are calling him Houdini—the former state Liberal director of the party. He is nowhere to be seen. He is an escape artist of the highest order.
Speaking of nowhere to be seen, I am reminded about the honourable member for Pearce. For reasons that still escape me, Western Australians voted to elect federal Liberal members of parliament in 11 of the 16 seats. I still cannot work it out, but go figure. You would be forgiven for thinking it was precisely the other way around in this place, because they are MIA. Not once have we heard them get up and go in to bat for their state Liberal counterparts. That is probably for two reasons. Firstly, they say: 'If you don't have anything nice to say about anyone, don't say anything at all.' That could be it. The second thing might be the absolute lack of subject matter, and that is at the heart of this matter of public importance. We wonder why Western Australians are just so disappointed after what they have had served up to them over the last eight years, and perhaps disillusioned in the political process.
If I had longer, I would go through all of them. Let us look at some of the broken promises in relation to infrastructure that besiege this state Liberal government. The MAX light rail in my electorate—cancelled. On 2 September 2012:
Cue forward: 21 June 2016—duh dong. Gone. Colin Barnett said, 'Yes, yes, we did break that promise'—perhaps a shard of honesty in this debate. You would think breaking a promise once is perhaps just one of those things that happen. What about breaking promises twice? That is just careless. The Ellenbrook railway line—do you remember that? What a gift left to his electorate by the honourable member for Peace. In 2009 WAtoday.com.au said:
After matching Alan Carpenter's commitment to build the $850 million, 20km spur off the existing Midland line, Mr Barnett was sworn in as Premier on September 23, less than six weeks before the railway-cancelling email was sent.
Six weeks. Barely enough time for the seats to warm up before that promise was pulled, but not before the member for Swan Hills, Frank Alban, had sent out a pamphlet to all of his electorate—I hope this was not under the member for Tangney's watch—to promise the rail line. There are so many more but so little time. Airport rail link delayed. The Yanchep railway line delayed. So many more delays, nothing but delays. (Time expired)
I am delighted to speak today, and I want to acknowledge the fact that it is the member for Grayndler's birthday, apparently. I grew up in a house where, when it is your birthday, you would have your cake—I do not know if the member for Grayndler had this experience—and you would be able to close your eyes and cut the cake. When you do, you make a wish. We all know the member for Grayndler's wish—that is, that he was the leader of the opposition. Along with the rank and file of the Labor Party, I think he would be a far better—
A government member: The people's choice!
the people's choice indeed—leader of the opposition. I have always thought that the reason he is not is because of the union hold on the Labor Party and the way the unions just call the shots. But the fact that he has put forward today a topic on which the Labor Party has no credibility implies at least that it is also due to his complete lack of judgement. Why the Labor Party would actually wish to debate publicly the topic of investment in productive infrastructure baffles me. It is a key flaw of the Labor Party. The member for Perth, who was the previous speaker, only wanted to talk about WA. Clearly, he does not even support the very motion being put forward by the member for Grayndler. That is okay, because why would you when you know the history?
In the 2010-11 budget, the Labor government said they would spend $6.8 billion on infrastructure in the 2012-13 financial year. Six months later, they reduced the $6.8 billion down to $6.1 billion. Do you know what the actual spend was? The actual spend in 2012-13 by the Labor government was not the $6.8 billion they promised. It was $3.6 billion. They get excited about their track record during their years of government, and of course that is all about their stimulus packages in the GFC. But I remind them that the biggest package in the GFC by Labor was in 2009 and, from memory, that was $42.5 billion. Nearly $15 billion of that was for school halls. What productive infrastructure that was–productive infrastructure indeed.
The problem with talking about productive infrastructure is that you can go wrong in one of two major ways: (1) you can not spend enough money, which is exactly what the Labor Party was guilty of in government—again, $6.8 billion down to $3.6 billion in 2012-13; and (2) you can spend money on the wrong things. That is exactly what they did through their stimulus packages. Compare that to $50 billion being invested by the coalition government—$50 billion. Now I am a Queenslander—
A very proud Queenslander, thank you very much, Member for Fisher; I agree. As a Queenslander, if I look at my patch from the sunny coast down to Brisbane, let me tell you about what the coalition government is doing there. If you looked at the Infrastructure Australia report—it came out on Monday—it talked about the Bruce Highway through to the north coast. Nearly $930 million invested—80 per cent funded by the Commonwealth—and it starts construction within the next few months on the Sunshine Coast Bruce Highway. Up the road, at the Maroochydore interchange on the Sunshine Coast, $187 million will be spent on starting construction over the next couple of years.
The coalition committed, and is delivering, $6.7 billion for the Bruce Highway. How much did Labor, with the member for Grayndler in charge, commit to the Bruce Highway? Only $4.1 billion—$6.7 billion is actually higher than $4.1 billion—and the problem that the member for Grayndler likes to ignore is the fact that they only wanted to fund it fifty-fifty. They were not prepared to come to the party. I will finish with this about the Sunshine Coast: it took a coalition government to deliver on a concessional loan of up to $181 million for an upgrade of the airport. Labor are full of it. With that said, a very big happy birthday to the member for Grayndler.
I am very glad to rise today, of all days, to speak on investment in infrastructure—the day of the birthday of the member for Grayndler. But I cannot imagine that the member for Grayndler, that great champion of infrastructure in this nation, has had many happy birthdays over the last four years, given the Abbott-Turnbull Liberal government's utter failure to invest in productive infrastructure for our country's needs.
I just want to take you through a few of the great projects that the government claims to have given to the great state of Western Australia, some of which you may have heard of, Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough. We have the Gateway project. This is one of my favourite projects not only because it allows the people of my electorate to get to the airport quickly so they can get on a plane to fly up to their places of employment in Karratha, Pannawonica and other centres in the north-west of Western Australia but also because this project was, in my view, famously opened by the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, which was quite interesting because he opened it and it was not finished. But he had his comeuppance on that because, clearly, the people in his own party thought that was such a bad idea that two weeks later they got rid of him—that is how much they thought of that project.
The member for Grayndler mentioned before the NorthLink project, another Labor government funded project rebadged by this government so they can try and claim credit for it. Then we have—and this is one of the minister's favourites—the Forrestfield Railway development to the airport. What is great about that project is that the government, in this chamber, loves to claim that that is a project that they funded as a rail project in Western Australia. But no, the funding for that project was to make up for this government's failure to fix the GST allocation problem for Western Australia. When you look at the budget, when you look at the tables and you see how much of the budget is allocated for rail, it is very clear; there is a very lovely table there. And I use that term 'lovely' ironically because, when you look at WA and when you look at money for rail, it says '$0'. That is how much this government thinks about investing in productive infrastructure for Western Australia.
I would like to also cover some of the projects that this government should be spending money on to make sure that we have adequate and productive infrastructure in Western Australia, particularly for the people of Burt. One of the great projects that Labor committed to at the last federal election and that WA Labor has committed to at this state election is not only the building of the new Armadale Road bridge or the new North Lake Road bridge—depending on which side of the freeway you like to come from—but also bringing forward the widening of Armadale Road. This is a critical piece of infrastructure to make sure the people in my electorate are able to get to jobs closer to the coast. That is why the state member, Tony Buti, and Labor candidates, Barry Urban and Yaz Mubarakai have been out there championing this Labor project, to make sure that we are able to have that productive infrastructure. I have been very happy to work with my colleague the member for Fremantle on making sure this project comes to fruition because just building the road, as the member for Tangney will know, will not be enough; we also need the bridge.
Do you know what is interesting? The local state member for where the bridge actually is, the Liberal member, seems to deny that that this is a useful project. I cannot really say he goes around denying it because, from all reports, 'No-Show Joe' does not show up anywhere to talk about this project—or about anything else for that matter.
We then of course have that great project of removing the Denny Avenue level crossing. This is the most dangerous level crossing in Western Australia. Denny Avenue is also the most dangerous road in Western Australia when it comes to traffic accidents. What has been interesting is that the state Liberal government said there is no problem here. The federal Liberal government said: 'No, we're not going to fix it.' The member for Canning, during the by-election, said he was going to fix it on his how-to-vote cards yet there was no other mention of it whatsoever. They have denied saying it ever since and have done nothing about it. Federal Labor committed to fixing Denny Avenue, and WA Labor is committed to fixing Denny Avenue, because we understand, as does the state member for Armadale, Tony Buti, and WA candidate for Darling Range, Barry Urban, that this is a critical piece of congestion and a road safety issue that needs to be fixed in Western Australia, if we are to have productive infrastructure that allows people to get to work safely, to get to school safety.
In closing, right now the WA economy is desperate for a boost. We need to have investment through infrastructure development, and that is why we need to see the election of a Mark McGowan WA Labor government on 11 March because they understand these priorities. (Time expired)
I would love to think that we have heard a lot of vision today but we have not heard a lot of vision. I point out that one of my great political favourites was FT Roosevelt. What did he do? He built stuff. We, as a country, are collecting roughly $404 billion of income—that is, royalties, taxpayer revenue. We are spending about $434 billion. We are running at a deficit.
The critical part for us to remember is: of that $434 billion, $154 billion is in the welfare budget—one-third. To our shame as a country, we are only spending $6 billion on road and rail. The challenge for us, as a country, is we need to find ways of reducing our welfare expenditure and moving our investment into infrastructure in a greater capacity. Ultimately, we have got Frank Lowy, we have got the Governor of the Reserve Bank out there saying that we should be spending $30 billion a year on infrastructure. What I have heard in the chamber today is one side does something better than the other, and the other side does something better. Really, I have heard no vision from a lot of people in this chamber. We should be aiming for a figure of $30 billion in infrastructure spending. It is not just money; it is management.
We built a project in Mildura recently called the Sunraysia Modernisation Project for $103 million. We put six business people over the top of this project so when they built things they looked at how they could do it and do it efficiently. Instead of the project at full scope costing $160 million, we were able to build the whole thing for $120 million. We actually invested in infrastructure and put management over it.
Now is the time to be increasing our investment in infrastructure. We have the free trade agreements which have been delivered by the coalition government. These have given us great opportunities to hit the marketplace. We have opportunities for the products we produce like we cannot believe. We have the capacity. We are investing in our people through the prepare, train, hire program so that we can have Australians who can have a good job as they reap the benefits of the free trade agreements.
But we do not have the infrastructure capacity to capitalise on the free trade agreements. Do you know you can shift a tonne of wheat from the central parts of Canada to the port, 3,000 kilometres cheaper than you can shift a tonne of wheat 400 kilometres in Australia? This is to our shame. We should be investing in infrastructure. Sure, we are doing a lot, but we should be doing more. Thirty billion dollars should be our aim. It should be well thought out, and there should be good management around that.
We as a country are run by people on this side who have been in small business, and people in small business know there is a difference between a cash flow in and a cash flow out capacity in the business, when you are taking borrowings, to set up your business for the long-term structure and future. I have run a business for 20 years. I understand how this works. At a time when we can borrow money at 1.75 per cent and when we have a mining industry that went from the construction stage to the extraction stage, there is both a capacity to build in the economy and a capacity to access finance to build the things that are going to allow us to capitalise on the free trade agreements.
My only fear is that, because the Labor Party, when they were in government, ultimately cemented long-term structural parts in our budget, we are now spending $154 billion out of our welfare budget. That makes it a little bit more difficult for us to then free up money to put into capital and building infrastructure. I think separating parts of our budget and saying we are going to borrow more and build for the future is something that would be welcomed by many Australians.
This is also a way of stimulating the state governments, because when you build infrastructure you create payroll tax, which is a state government tax; and when you build infrastructure you create stamp duty, which is a state government tax. We should be making the argument to state governments that they should take more of a share of funding health and education, and we should take more of a share of funding infrastructure. Doing so would both stimulate their capacity to have a robust economic boom in their state and remove capacity constraints so that we can capitalise on the free trade agreements that we as a coalition signed. What I have seen here today are lots of arguments between us, but not much vision for spending $30 billion a year— (Time expired)
First off, happy birthday, Member for Grayndler! Investment in infrastructure is necessary if we are to address the urgent need for improved productivity growth in this country. Without this investment, slower growth and missed economic development opportunities are inevitable. This is a position held by the RBA governor, Philip Lowe, who recently said that without high-quality infrastructure 'our ability to compete and to be as productive as we can be' is impaired. Mr Lowe also said:
Good transport infrastructure … opens up opportunities for people and opens markets.
Unfortunately, this is a message which the Premier of Western Australia, Mr Barnett, and the Prime Minister have chosen not to listen to. Instead of looking to what is best for the state, Mr Barnett has racked up record debt and is looking to sell state assets to pay for his mismanagement. The WA Liberal-National government inherited a debt of $3.5 billion and a $2 billion budget surplus from Labor 8½ years ago. Where has that gone? Today, state debt in WA is spiralling towards $40 billion and there is a $4 billion budget deficit. Mr Barnett and Prime Minister Turnbull have stubbornly stuck to dumb, hastily conceived and unplanned projects rather than admit they have made a mistake.
And the Perth Freight Link is a massive mistake, one of gargantuan proportions, with Senate estimates this week confirming this white elephant really is a road to nowhere. Well, it is certainly not a road to its intended destination, with its missing three-kilometre link to the Fremantle port. Infrastructure Australia says in this report I have here that the Perth Freight Link seeks to address the problem of 'suboptimal access to Fremantle port'. Suboptimal? I'll say! The current Perth Freight Link that fails to link freight to the port is the most suboptimal project you could ever imagine. It is a disaster for Western Australia.
On the other hand, WA Labor leader Mark McGowan and his team have real plans to invest in people, the state and its future. Mark McGowan as the WA Labor leader will invest in WA and has plans to create new jobs across many industries, such as investing in tourism and promoting WA as one of the world's great tourist destinations. He will create Defence West to utilise existing infrastructure, and improve it, and facilities and skilled workers already in place in WA when it comes to realising defence projects that mean a lot to my electorate of Brand and also to my colleague's seat of Fremantle.
Instead of wasting more than a billion dollars on the Perth Freight Link, Labor knows the importance of investing in quality, productivity-boosting infrastructure and will do so with. METRONET. METRONET will connect Perth's suburbs. It will address the grinding congestion on our roads. It will transport people to jobs and training opportunities. Someone really should tell the Liberal government about the benefits of public transport, because, if we look at their record, since 2008 only eight kilometres of rail have been built in Perth. They have no plan for public transport in Perth and will not invest in the public transport that the city and the metropolitan area desperately need.
In threatening to withhold $1.2 billion of infrastructure funding to Western Australia should WA Labor win the upcoming election, on the basis of Labor infrastructure promises the Prime Minster has told Western Australians that his government will not invest in linking the Mandurah line—which takes the people of my electorate of Brand either north to the city or south to Mandurah—to the Thornlie line, which again opens up employment opportunities. The WA government is also telling the people of Western Australia that it will not invest in building a new train station at Karnup, another much-needed infrastructure project to enable people living in the fast-growing southern suburbs of Brand to get to work without facing gridlock on an already congested freeway.
Already in progress is this Liberal government's failure to invest in the communications infrastructure that would lift thousands of residents in Baldivis out of the nightmare of the communications black hole they find themselves in. There are no internet ports to connect to. There is no infrastructure in place. There is no funding to address the mobile black spot problem that we have. Small business owners, people working from home and students are all left without the means to engage in a 21st century digital economy in the southern suburbs of metropolitan Perth. It is a disgrace. This government's failure to invest in the infrastructure of the future is deplorable.
This government is not listening, and in doing so it is failing Australians. It is failing them by not investing in improving productivity, failing them by not providing the public transport they need to get to work and study, and failing them by not investing in the infrastructure needed to take us forward.
We all know, and we have heard a lot about it, that Western Australian people are going to an election the week after next. They have a clear choice between a tired, unproductive and, frankly, grumpy government and a vibrant, hardworking, unified Western Australian Labor team that will bring a fresh approach to that great state. They have a clear choice on infrastructure: the flawed Roe 8 Perth Freight Link, with its missing link, or productivity-boosting infrastructure, such as METRONET and the development of the outer harbour at Kwinana.
What a delight it is to stand here on the last sitting day before the WA state election and talk about the most important issue facing Western Australians: the Perth Freight Link, Roe 8 and Roe 9. Some people say that there is no difference between the two major political parties, but on this issue there is a great difference. There is a great story to tell as a Liberal in relation to the jobs we will create and how we are going to effectively get a freight link through to the Fremantle port. Very importantly, I am going to share with you some very important facts—
Opposition members interjecting—
I will start with what we know and what the member for Grayndler knows, and that is that this is a very important project that is highly rated by Infrastructure Australia. Isn't it amazing that once again we see the Labor Party not backing the recommendations of an entity which it set up? Building Roe 8 and Roe 9 will create up to 10,000 jobs. Those 10,000 jobs are needed in WA today. It will provide very important east-west access across our city and access to Perth Airport, the Fiona Stanley Hospital, the St John of God hospital and Murdoch University. Roe 8 and Roe 9 will bypass 14 sets of traffic lights on Leach Highway and Stock Road and will create a safer road environment for all road users. Despite the lies and misinformation from Labor, cars will not pay a toll.
Cars will not pay a toll, member for Burt, to use Roe 8 and Roe 9. There are many more benefits. An independent property report shows that there will be increased property prices as a result of the construction of Roe 8 and Roe 9. Roe 8 and Roe 9 will take 7,000 trucks and 74,000 light vehicles off local roads each day—off Leach Highway, Farrington Road, South Street, Stock Road, North Lake Road, Beeliar Drive and other local roads. Importantly for someone who has discovered the joy of cycling in the last few months, there will also be investment in creating better access for cyclists around the Beeliar Regional Park. I am looking forward to that. I was thinking quite a lot about that when I went for a bike ride only last week to inspect the progress of the construction work.
Yes, you would. I am surprised the member for Burt does not have a moped licence. Unlike the member for Burt, I can drive a truck and I know the impact that stopping and starting those trucks at all those lights has. We need to remember the 450,000 tonnes of CO2 that will be saved with the construction of this project. We hear a lot about the environmental impacts of this road. Less than half a per cent of the construction of Roe 8 impacts on the Beeliar Wetlands. Construction is on land already partly cleared for powerlines. Wetland bridges are being constructed over North Lake and Horse Paddock Swamp.
Labor have been absolutely exposed. They want us to think that they are committed to an outer harbour. Let us look at the facts. Let us look at their own policy document, which says they will 'maintain Fremantle Port as an operational port' and 'improve the management of truck movements to and from Fremantle Port'. You do not hear from Labor—and I would like the member for Fremantle to address this, because I assume he will be speaking next—that the Labor Party is committed to extending Leach Highway between Carrington Street and Stirling Highway. That is in your policy document, member for Fremantle.
It was published in January this year. We need to know the impact that that will have on the Fremantle Golf Course, how many homes will be subsumed and what impact there may be on Fremantle Cemetery. Roe 8 and Roe 9 are good for WA and will create jobs. (Time expired)
I am so sorry that I do not have my full five minutes or much longer, because there are so many things the member for Tangney has said that I would like to respond to. He should get in contact with the former Treasurer and former Minister for Transport—one of about 17 ministers for transport in the current Western Australian government—and ask him about the project that he has just been talking about. The Perth Freight Link is an absolute fraud. It was announced before Infrastructure Australia ever caught sight of it. It was not assessed by Infrastructure Australia in advance of its announcement. There was never a cost-benefit ratio analysis. There was never any planning, and there still is not. We have learnt this week from Infrastructure Australia that a detailed project proposal beyond Roe 8 has not even been received and that Commonwealth funding certainly is not going to be provided.
Let us get to productive infrastructure more broadly. Despite nine years of government at the state level and a healthy complement of federal coalition representatives, Western Australia has been left to fall off the cliff when it comes to new productive infrastructure. That is neglect and incompetence on a grand scale and at a terrible time. The Treasurer and the foreign minister come in here and try to tell Western Australians that things are going great guns in WA, but anyone who has ever been on the other side of the Nullarbor would know that that is not true. Last year demand in the WA economy shrank nearly eight per cent. We have the highest unemployment in the country. Underemployment is at the highest level ever recorded. Employment participation is at the lowest level ever recorded. We desperately need any investment in productive infrastructure, and from the Western Australian Liberals and from the coalition-Liberal combo we have had nothing—absolutely zero.
All we get now are threats from the Minister for Urban Infrastructure that if, God forbid, the people of Western Australia dare choose another government, they will withhold Commonwealth funds. I look forward to campaigning in coalition-held seats in Western Australia on that promise—less than nothing for the people of WA. We will see how that goes for you next time. It is going to be a great campaign. We are going to love it.
I think the member for Fairfax asked for some facts. The former Labor government invested more in public transport than all previous governments combined. In the lowest year of a former Labor government we invested more in infrastructure than this lot have invested in their best year. We doubled infrastructure funding on a per capita basis in Western Australia. Federal Labor and state Labor have a vision when it comes to productive infrastructure in that state. We want the Kwinana trade coast developed. We want the second stage of the floating dock at the Australian Marine Complex. We want METRONET. All of these things will unlock productivity and create jobs in Western Australia.
The coalition believes it is entitled to govern and to represent Western Australia in perpetuity. The foreign minister said today in question time that the Liberal government should never change—it should never be varied from—and that she wants a one-party state in Western Australia.