Monday, 24 June 2013
Infrastructure (Priority Funding) Amendment Bill 2013; Second Reading
I am pleased to rise to speak briefly on the Infrastructure (Priority Funding) Amendment Bill 2013, a private member's bill moved by the member for Melbourne, which, if it were passed, would fundamentally defeat the purpose and intention of Infrastructure Australia. The job of Infrastructure Australia is to set and implement national priorities for infrastructure. On this side of the House, we believe that that is a sensible thing to do. We have some questions about the effectiveness with which Infrastructure Australia has worked under the present government but the basic concept, we think, is a very sensible one.
There are limited funds available for infrastructure—many other good things compete—and there is a need to prioritise among the many competing priorities. That is a very tough concept for the Greens to understand because they are in favour of a lot more spending on everything, even at the same time as they want to bring an end to the resources sector, which generates much of the wealth which goes into the government's tax coffers. The notion that there is a limited amount of money to be spent is a fundamental one and therefore we need to set national priorities, including priorities between different projects of the same kind of infrastructure and between projects of different kinds of infrastructure—the choice between roads or rail or ports or water.
The approach proposed in the bill before the House this evening would mandate that rail would automatically get priority over road. It would take away the capacity of Infrastructure Australia to rank the projects based upon an assessment of their merits and would substitute for that a politically motivated preference for one kind of infrastructure project over another
On this side of the House, we say that is not a sensible approach and for that reason we do not support the approach which is contained in the bill before the House this evening. We do see merit in Infrastructure Australia. We think it needs to work better but we do not think the fetters and the constraints that are proposed in the bill before the House this evening should be supported. We think they are driven by politics rather than facts.