Monday, 24 June 2013
Infrastructure (Priority Funding) Amendment Bill 2013; Second Reading
Even by Greens standards, the Infrastructure (Priority Funding) Amendment Bill 2013 is a crazy piece of legislation. It will effectively stop road construction around the nation until every rail project conceived and approved by Infrastructure Australia is funded first. Rail does play a very important role in delivering transport services and moving freight around our country, and it is appropriate that we should spend money on rail. But this legislation introduces a draconian new law that would prevent any road projects from proceeding unless they were urgent or there were significant safety issues involved, otherwise all of the money that the Commonwealth allocates to road and rail has to be spent on rail.
It is quite clear under this arrangement that there would be no money available for the important road projects. In Queensland, for instance, Cross River Rail is on the list of projects that have been considered by Infrastructure Australia as ready to proceed. The Melbourne Metro stage 1 project is also on that list. These two projects together, according to Infrastructure Australia's, estimates will cost about $6 billion. However, most observers believe the real cost to build those projects will be $10 billion to $15 million. That means that every single cent that this government has allocated under its Nation Building Program will have to be spent on these two city rail projects before a single dollar is available for a road either in the city or in the country.
I have already had the Greens candidate in my electorate of Wide Bay write to the local newspaper calling for all funds to be taken from the Bruce Highway upgrade in Queensland and spent on passenger rail. The Bruce Highway is responsible for one in six of all fatalities on the National Highway. The Greens view is that no money at all can be spent on upgrading this road until the cross-river tunnel is completed in Brisbane and the metro rail is completed in Melbourne. Of course, there may well be other rail projects over a period of time that will get on this particular list.
It is no comfort to the flood-stranded people in Rockhampton to know that the Greens believe they should stay cut off until the tunnel is built in Brisbane and in Melbourne because that is the priority that should be adopted. It is quite extraordinary that this Greens agenda should deliver a message to all people who live outside the areas that have the privilege of passenger rail services that they are not allowed to have any money spent on their roads. This is, quite frankly, a ridiculous piece of legislation. I am looking forward to telling the people of Australia, particularly those who live in regional communities, about the sort of people the Greens like to pretend they actually support and represent from time to time and that as far as the Greens are concerned no money at all can be provided to roads in regional communities and in cities unless every single rail project is completed first.
This is not the kind of legislation that I would hope the government would support. It is certainly not the sort of legislation that the coalition will support. We recognise that it is important to invest in rail and to make sure that our transport systems work effectively.
There is a need to build major new railway lines and, given a chance in government, the coalition will certainly give those priority. But the intention of the Infrastructure Australia arrangements are that it be mode neutral, that we pick the best projects. In some cases that would be rail; in other cases it would be road. We should not have legislation that restricts the government of the day or the minister of the day to giving absolute priority to passenger rail services over any other project there might be in the country, no matter how worthy those projects might be. (Time expired)