Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Questions without Notice

Building the Education Revolution Program

2:54 pm

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery, Senator Arbib. Can the minister inform the Senate of actions the government has taken to invest in infrastructure across Australia in order to cushion our economy from the blow of the worst global recession in 75 years? In particular, can the minister update the Senate on infrastructure investments that are being made across the country and how these projects provide an economic stimulus to our economy and support jobs? How does this compare with the levels of infrastructure investment from previous governments?

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment Participation) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Marshall for that question. I know he is a big supporter of the infrastructure projects that the government is putting forward. He is also passionate about education and about Building the Education Revolution. In Victoria, I am happy to tell you, Senator Marshall, all 2,273 schools will be getting upgrades out of the Building the Education Revolution funding in infrastructure, which for the other side of the chamber was too hard.

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

Even the ones that have been closed.

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

Do you support it or not?

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! It is disorderly for both sides to be injecting across the chamber when Senator Arbib is answering the question.

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment Participation) Share this | | Hansard source

Infrastructure is something that really was in the too-hard basket for the Liberal Party over the 12 years. We now know the fact that there was a 20 per cent fall in investment in infrastructure as a share of national income during their time in power. Looking at infrastructure, there were 20 Reserve Bank warnings about capacity constraints in the economy. Where was the former Treasurer then? Infrastructure was on the backburner.

When the global recession hit, the government acted and acted decisively, and at the forefront of what the government was doing was infrastructure—the largest school modernisation project in the country’s history. Every school across the country will be getting funding. Every school will be getting upgrades. Every primary school will be getting new buildings—new libraries and new halls. On top of that, we are rebuilding roads. Senator Bushby raised Tasmania. In terms of Tasmania, let me tell you that one of the first projects that came out of the stimulus package was the Brighton bypass. How many jobs will that support? Three hundred and seventy jobs. Three hundred and seventy jobs will be coming out of the stimulus package in Tasmania—the largest road project in Tasmania’s history. (Time expired)

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for that comprehensive answer. As the minister is aware, there will be around 35,000 individual construction projects across the country when the stimulus package gets up to full steam in about 12 months time. Could the minister please inform the Senate how these projects create work opportunities for small businesses, tradespeople and suppliers across the country? Will these projects be delivered in every community in Australia? How do these construction projects support local economies in general? And is the minister aware of any examples he could provide the Senate to illustrate how these projects support jobs and small businesses, not just directly but also indirectly?

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment Participation) Share this | | Hansard source

As Senator Marshall has said: in about 12 months there will be 35,000 individual construction projects—individual building sites—across the country. The effect that is going to have on the economy in terms of the multiplier effects is endless. Can I just mention one project. Last week I went to Queanbeyan with the Parliamentary Secretary for Employment, Jason Clare. At one site, a community housing project, I spoke to the project manager and there were 95 jobs. Those 95 jobs are new jobs. How will that help stimulate the Queanbeyan economy? Firstly, those 95 workers will all go to the local service station, they will all get their petrol from that service station and that will help to protect the jobs there. They are all going to go to the local hardware stores to get their materials and their supplies, supporting jobs there. This will stimulate the economy. And it goes through to the department stores— (Time expired)

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the minister for his answer. Given the previous government’s neglect of Australia’s rail infrastructure and major roads, which are vital not only to the safety of Australian motorists but also to our nation’s productivity, is the minister able to provide details of any infrastructure projects that are currently under way in these two important areas?

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment Participation) Share this | | Hansard source

These projects are not on the drawing board; these projects have started now. Stimulus projects are underway and people are in jobs right now. I just want to give you a couple of examples. In May, at Singleton, the first sod was turned on the Hunter Valley to Newcastle $135 million rail track. That is 150 jobs in the Hunter region. In South Australia work has begun on the line between Maroona and the South Australian border and in Victoria the line between Albury and Seymour. That is more jobs. That is two rail projects and more than 240 jobs. More than 200 jobs are being supported by the increased demand for concrete rail sleepers. There are 200 jobs there: 50 jobs in Geelong at Austrak’s factory, 65 people at Austrak’s Wagga Wagga factory, 60 people at the Rocla Sleepers Mittagong factory and 60 people at their Grafton factory. They are real jobs. There are 200 jobs from the F5 freeway upgrade; 140 jobs at the Alstonville bypass in the north and— (Time expired)