Thursday, 20 September 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the deputy Prime Minister inform the House how the government’s plans for infrastructure are helping to improve our roads and to keep motorists safe, particularly in my electorate of Blair?
I thank the member for Blair for his question—a real question about a real issue that is of interest to Australians, particularly in regional Australia. That is, what the government is doing in terms of the deployment of the prosperity in this country to improve infrastructure, particularly in regional Australia, to the benefit of all Australians. The member for Blair would be well aware of the significant commitment of, and the appropriate decisions that are being taken by, the government in investing in that infrastructure. In the budget this year $22.3 billion was allocated across a range of infrastructure programs, many of which are helping the constituents in the electorate of Blair, ably represented by the current member for Blair and the interest he takes in their wellbeing.
I mentioned yesterday one major piece of infrastructure that the government took a very long-term strategic view about. It took leadership to take a decision to invest $2.3 billion in the Goodna bypass. There are other very important roads that we are funding across the nation. We took a decision to go straight to local government to provide funding to local roads because the states were failing in their responsibility to support local roads.
Under the very popular Roads to Recovery program, we are delivering significant amounts of money to local government and helping local people in their local communities to make their roads safer and more efficient. To one project in particular in the member’s electorate, we have contributed $1 million towards the replacement of the Three Mile Bridge, which provides very important access to Amberley RAAF base in the member’s electorate. It might be a small project but it is a very important project to that local community. That circumstance is replicated right across Australia. We took a decision in 2001—and something that this government has always been able to do is take decisions when they are required—to allocate $307 million a year to local government across Australia. As of 2009, going through till 2014, that will grow to $350 million a year in the Roads to Recovery program.
Since we were elected in 1996, we have maintained the roads funding Black Spot Program, which was axed by the Labor Party, the former Labor government, and which has been incredibly important to local communities, like those in the electorate of Blair, across Australia. That Black Spot Program over that period of time is estimated to have saved at least 130 Australian lives on the roads and saved 6,000 serious accidents, and it has upgraded 4,200 dangerous sites on local roads in every small community across Australia. It has been funded at $45 million a year and we are going to increase it to $60 million a year directed into local communities across Australia.
The member asked about any threats to this and alternative policies. We know that the member for Batman has said: ‘We support the AusLink funding. We want to see it go ahead.’ Well, that is a good thing, but that is contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition has announced, in that he wants to have another inquiry. He wants to set up another bureaucracy. It is actually review No. 37 out of 97, the national infrastructure audit. We have been through all of this process. We have identified what needs to be done in Australia. We are getting on with doing it. We have got the wherewithal to do it. We are funding it out of budget surpluses, not out of debt and deficit in this country, and that is the hallmark of our government.
We are a government of action; the Labor government would be a government of inaction, choked up with reviews and inquiries into what needs to be done in the country. Strong leadership is about making decisions where and when they are needed. Weak leadership is about having more inquiries and more reviews.