Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Questions without Notice
Opposition members interjecting—
Would the Deputy Prime Minister advise the House how the government’s investment in road and rail infrastructure is promoting jobs and, importantly, keeping our economy strong? Are there any alternative policies and what is the government’s response to them?
I thank the member for Hinkler for his question. Obviously, the government’s investment in road and rail infrastructure during our time in office has been considerable and recently has increased dramatically. Of course, that goes to the very heart of driving economic growth and jobs growth in Australia. As the member for Hinkler would be well aware, under the Auslink 1 program we are in the process of investing $15.8 billion in Australia’s land transport infrastructure. We can do this because of the good economic management that this government has brought to the economy in Australia. We are doing this with funds from revenue, not from borrowings. We do not have to borrow funds to invest in land transport infrastructure. As a result of the budget this year, we have announced that we are going to extend that investment through until 2014 with a further $22.3 billion in land transport infrastructure. That will be a total of $38 billion over 10 years invested in Australia’s land transport infrastructure from revenues, not from borrowings. That is a hallmark of this government which is in stark contrast to many state governments across Australia. Also in delivering the lowest level of unemployment in 33 years—it is down to 4.3 per cent—we have seen 2.1 million new jobs created since 1996. This is fundamental to the ongoing growth of the economy in Australia.
The member for Hinkler asked whether there are any alternative policies. There are actually two—not one. In response to the budget announcement of Auslink 2 earlier this year, the member for Batman made a very positive comment when he said, ‘That is why Auslink 2 must build on the investment of Auslink 1 in Australia’s strategic, economic, transport infrastructure.’ We agree. We accepted that as a positive comment on the direction in which we are going, that we need to invest in infrastructure and that it needs to be done very quickly. In contrast, last week the Leader of the Opposition announced his plans for the so-called ‘Infrastructure Australia’, a new statutory authority which he wants to set up. He has committed to, within 100 days of being elected, establishing Infrastructure Australia—that will be three months down the track. Then he is going to give Infrastructure Australia 12 months to produce its first infrastructure priority list. We argue, and we presume the member for Batman agrees, that we have negotiated a priority list with the states and identified the strategic corridors into which we need to invest $38 billion. We are getting on with that job and investing in infrastructure, but the Leader of the Opposition wants to freeze it. He wants to put it all on hold for 15 months, while he establishes a new statutory authority, and that would be going back to the old Labor way of dealing with policy—establish a committee, have an inquiry and look at the options, thereby providing more time for the union movement to get back into control and for the CFMEU to be back on construction sites to help the union masters get back control of the construction industry in Australia.
In answer to the member for Hinkler’s question, he knows very well what the government is doing. We are in the process of delivering that infrastructure, including on the Bruce Highway in his electorate, and on local roads and strategic roads in his electorate. But we have two policies from the Labor Party: one from the member for Batman, the shadow spokesman, who seems to support the government strategy of getting on and investing in the infrastructure that we know we need, and another the policy of the Leader of the Opposition, who wants to freeze everything, establish another statutory authority and have an inquiry.