Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Questions without Notice
Nation Building and Jobs Plan
My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. How is the government investing in infrastructure to support jobs and local communities through the global recession?
I thank the member for Throsby for her question. Indeed, the economic stimulus plan is supporting jobs right now in the electorate of Throsby through 80 projects worth $43 million: 51 schools, 22 social housing units, seven black spots and two community infrastructure projects worth $7.7 million, including the upgrade of the Albion Park town centre—all of these projects supporting jobs, stimulating the economy, which helps feed into the figures that we saw today.
I say to the Treasurer, I was flabbergasted, frankly, when I was debating the member for North Sydney on Steve Price’s show this morning and the member for North Sydney conceded that it was a ‘no-brainer’ that indeed jobs have been created by the government’s economic stimulus plan. After having come in here, day after day, and explicitly denied that this was supporting jobs and stimulating the economy, there he was—confronted and hit by a reality stick on the Steve Price program this morning.
One aspect of the government’s economic stimulus plan in December last year was what we are doing in rail—17 rail projects, with the $1.2 billion that we have injected into the Australian Rail Track Corporation. These projects are underway, with more than 1,000 jobs, stimulating the economy. In the Hunter the upgrade of the freight rail network is worth more than $1 billion alone, together with the investment from the ARTC itself—650 people put to work, 650 families given real assistance right now. Part of the projects are already completed—announced by the government in December, the money flowing through, jobs created and the projects already completed. The Bylong passing loop has been built and completed. Other projects are underway in the Hunter. And other rail work is underway right around the nation. On the works on crossing loops between Sydney and Brisbane, 40 people are employed right now; on the western Victoria track upgrades, 120 people are employed right now; on the Wodonga bypass, 80 people are employed right now; on the Seymour to Wodonga track upgrade, 120 people are employed in regional Victoria right now; and on building passing lanes from Melbourne to Junee, 40 people are employed right now.
But there are flow-on benefits as well, of course, because you need raw materials to go into the production. The concrete sleepers—we are putting in over a million—are employing 240 people in five factories in Geelong, Grafton, Wagga Wagga, Mittagong and Braemar in Western Australia. These factories would have had to be downgraded were it not for the government’s economic stimulus plan. In February we invested $150 million for boom gates for rail crossings—voted against by those opposite, even though they are all in regional Australia. We announced it in February. It took us a while to get it through the parliament, you will recall. But 16 of those have already been completed in Victoria, supporting jobs, stimulating the economy and saving lives. The great thing about our investment in rail is that not only has it been good in the short term, in providing that economic stimulus that has been fed through in the figures that have been released today, but in the long term it improves the productivity of the nation. We will benefit for years and years to come. And we will be able to come out of the global economic recession with a much stronger economy, a much more productive economy, as a result of our investment.