Monday, 24 June 2013
Infrastructure (Priority Funding) Amendment Bill 2013; Second Reading
I rise to speak in opposition to the member for Melbourne's private member's bill—the Infrastructure (Priority Funding) Amendment Bill 2013—but in doing so acknowledge on his part that there is a desire to see a significant interest from the federal government placed on rail infrastructure. Indeed, that interest exists. But I do oppose this private member's bill that he puts before the House, essentially for the reasons that you have just heard from the member for Wide Bay. It does make no sense that you would have in place a piece of legislation that would require that only spending occur in relation to rail, with some very small exceptions, without reference to the need to invest in road infrastructure.
This government has had an unprecedented commitment to infrastructure in Australia. We have set up Infrastructure Australia, a body to examine the key pieces of infrastructure which need to be developed in this country. Then we have put our money where our mouth is and we have committed to that. In rail alone, we have seen a 10-fold increase in expenditure in relation to rail in this country under this Labor government.
But there is a process in play here which the member for Wide Bay described. There is an independent process of assessing the key infrastructure needs of this country and that is an assessment which is done in a mode neutral way because there are some very important road projects which need to be funded as well. Particularly in regional areas, there are often circumstances where rail alone will not solve the infrastructure issue and where rural communities are necessarily required to use roads. For example, between Geelong and Colac we have seen the duplication of the Princes Highway, which is a very important piece of road infrastructure for what had been a very dangerous piece of road for my constituents.
That said, we as a government have done more for rail than any federal government since Federation, particularly in developing our urban rail networks and our connections to those. The best example of this in my neck of the woods is the Regional Rail Link, which is a $3.2 billion project that will provide for better rail connections for Victoria's regional cities, such as Ballarat and Geelong, into Melbourne. It does this by having a dedicated line for those regional trains into Southern Cross station. When trains are currently entering the Melbourne metropolitan network, they experience what people in cars experience, which is in effect a traffic jam. So, by having a dedicated rail line into Southern Cross station, this will provide for a much faster commute—not because the trains are able to go faster but because they are free of traffic—and that in turn should see a better frequency of trains going into Southern Cross station and provide a much better rail link for people from Geelong into Melbourne.
That is a critical piece of infrastructure for a city like Geelong. Increasingly, Geelong is becoming a lifestyle city where people who want to work in the Greater Melbourne area are choosing to live their life in Geelong. But that only works if there is a good commuter connection between Geelong and Melbourne, and the Regional Rail Link is going to provide that. It will provide that in a way which sees the commute time reduced and which sees a greater frequency of trains so that there is an ability for people to get on those trains, get a seat and to be able to travel in comfort.
The one point I would make in relation to rail is that, whilst there is an intent on the part of the member for Melbourne in putting forward this private member's bill to promote rail, the biggest danger for the development of our rail infrastructure in this country would be the election of an Abbott government in September this year. The Leader of the Opposition could not have made it more plain that an Abbott government stands opposed to the Commonwealth playing any significant role in the development of urban rail. He says it is simply not the Commonwealth's knitting. Well, we are the rail government. (Time expired)