House debates

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Matters of Public Importance

Western Australia: Infrastructure

3:19 pm

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable member for Perth proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The effect of the Government’s harsh budget cuts on infrastructure investment in Western Australia and on Western Australian families.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

3:20 pm

Photo of Alannah MactiernanAlannah Mactiernan (Perth, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Madam Speaker. This will be a debate about which party has delivered for Western Australia, and I will be focusing very much on the area of infrastructure. It was the federal Labor government that brought home the bacon after years of an eastern-state-centric Howard government. It was certainly the federal Labor government that got on board and supported the economic infrastructure that we needed in Western Australia. I would really like to set out some of these facts.

During its time in government, Labor more than doubled transport expenditure across Western Australia. If we take a look at our six budgets, we committed $4.2 billion worth of expenditure over those six budgets, over those first six years. That is $700 million per annum on average. Now if we contrast that with what happened in the last six years of the Howard government—I am being generous; I am just looking at those last six years of the Howard government—their average annual expenditure was $318 million. So $1.9 billion over their last six budgets, compared to our $4.2 billion. It is absolutely clear who has in fact done the heavy lifting in the development of infrastructure.

I want to talk about the extreme disengagement that we found under the Howard government to the needs of the mining community in the Pilbara. We had two projects that desperately needed to be funded. One was the realignment of the Great Northern Highway through Port Hedland, a $250 million project. The second was the duplication of the Dampier Highway, a $123 million project in and around Karratha and Dampier. The Howard government just simply would not fund these projects. They said, 'These are not on our national transport plan.' We are talking about Port Hedland and Karratha. The national transport plan, which had been developed by the coalition government—which always gives the transport portfolio to the National Party—built 'roads of National Party importance', not roads of national importance—'RONIs' we used to call them.

I have said this before in the House but let me remind you: on that national transport network we had Tamworth, the country and western music capital, we had Mildura, the raisin capital, and we had Shepparton, despite the best endeavours of the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, and company. But it did not include Port Hedland or the Burrup Peninsula. Indeed, at the ministerial council meeting, when I pointed this out to the coalition minister, he said, 'What's the Burrup?', not 'Where's the Burrup?' This showed how eastern-state-centric this government had indeed become. But Labor got it. In the lead-up to the 2007 election, the Labor team committed to and over the next four years subsequently went on to deliver those two absolutely key projects into the biggest mining areas in Western Australia. The level of federal assistance has been unprecedented across the state. It included important projects in Perth—road, rail, passenger and freight transport.

Mr Briggs interjecting

I know you are the Shane Warne of the Liberal Party, but just hold off on the sledging—I only have 10 minutes. If I had 30 minutes, I would love to engage with you, Sweetheart, but I am not going to because I am going to focus on exposing you guys for the reality of your hypocrisy and your failure to invest in Western Australia. The trajectory of this failure to invest in Western Australia continues today. The Abbott government has made very clear that they are ripping $500 million of expenditure from WA—expenditure already in the budget which they are removing. They have said the reason is that they do not do urban rail, although, I did notice the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development was 'wombling' around Perth City Link the other day, marvelling at the project, talking about this fabulous urban rail project, which was two-thirds funded by federal Labor. But now we are not going to do that. We are not going to invest in urban rail. This is a massive problem for Western Australia, a massive problem for Perth.

Perth, which accounts for around 76 per cent of Western Australia's population, is growing with around 1,000 people per week coming into our state and we desperately need to expand our transport network. Even the conservative Premier Colin Barnett recognises that there is an urgent need for expanding our road network. Indeed small business recognises it. Businesses generally recognise it. In a recent RAC survey, they found that 83 per cent of businesses in Perth are reporting that traffic congestion is having a negative outcome on their operations. So we have this massive problem.

Premier Barnett went to the last election having cobbled together a couple of public transport projects, very critical projects, which would have helped. Of course, these were all predicated on receiving federal funding but the federal government has said no. Today we have heard another 'womble-ish' answer come forward saying, 'That's not a problem because we're investing more in roads and so we'll free up all of this money.' When we look at what you are going to do over the next five years, we see that there is not a single road project that was not already in the budget. There is not one single cent more in road projects that you have committed to that which was not already in the last Labor budget. We had those projects, plus we had the $500 million of rail expenditure. You are taking that rail expenditure out. So that is a net loss to Western Australia of $500 million. You cannot explain that away.

I know you are going to pop up and talk about the mining tax. You are using it as a magic pudding. You say on the one hand, 'We don't get any money from the mining tax'; on the other hand you say that it is destroying the Western Australia economy. I want to say to you that there are three companies in Western Australia that would be the most likely candidates for paying the mining tax. Rio Tinto's full-year profit for last year was $3.7 billion—a record profit. BHP Billiton's half-year profit was $7.8 billion. FMG's half-year profit was $1.7 billion. All of these were record profits. The reality is that you are reverting to the days of the Howard government where you are not giving Western Australia a fair share—

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I remind the member for Perth that she should direct her comments through the chair.

Photo of Alannah MactiernanAlannah Mactiernan (Perth, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you.

Mr Briggs interjecting

Mate, you should be in bloody local government, if that is the case. The facts are very clear: under federal Labor, $700 million per year delivered for transport infrastructure in Western Australia; during the Howard years, less than half that; and in this coming budget we are going to see not one cent extra for roads but we will see $500 million less, taken out of that budget, for our urban rail project. Let's get these facts right.

Mr Briggs interjecting

Thank you, you're so helpful! Can you put our $500 million back? (Time expired)

3:30 pm

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, to start with I must say: stranger in the House! That is not the person who was on the corflutes at the election campaign. Stranger in the House, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Gary GrayGary Gray (Brand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: can you draw his attention to the subject of the MPI.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

He has only just commenced. The assistant minister has the call.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

I will take the advice of the member for Brand because I have respect for the member for Brand. It is a big step up from state politics, and we have just seen an example of that, because the member for Perth, who has over the last—

Mr Laurie Ferguson interjecting

As I said to you, Laurie, you're not my favourite Ferguson at the moment, so let's—

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I remind the minister for infrastructure to use the member's parliamentary title.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

He has changed seats so many times in the last few years. What we have seen this week with the first reshuffle of the Shorten shadow ministry is the introduction of a shadow parliamentary secretary for Western Australia, the new member for Perth. I congratulate her on her appointment after such a short period in the federal parliament. Congratulations on being elevated to the front bench. But it is ironic that they are trying to sell this as a symbol to WA that they somehow now care about Western Australia.

If the positions on the front bench show care for a state, let's step through the positions on the front bench of both sides, shall we, Mr Deputy Speaker? We have got on that side the member for Brand, who is the shadow minister for resources, a position he does know quite a bit about. Now we have the shadow parliamentary secretary for Western Australia. Joel, you're not from Western Australia, sit down!

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I give the call to the member for Hunter.

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: the minister has just indicated that it is his intention to go through a description of every member of the opposition frontbench. If that is the case then, by his own admission, he could not possibly be relevant.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister has the call.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

This is an MPI about Western Australia, Joel. The member for Perth has been appointed because the member for Fremantle has had to step down. The member for Fremantle was of course a shadow minister. The member for Perth is a parliamentary secretary. So we have got one shadow cabinet minister and one shadow parliamentary secretary, under the symbolism rule of the Labor Party, when it comes to Western Australia. There are five ministers on our side of parliament. We have got the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party as the foreign minister. We have got the defence minister. We have got the minister for justice—

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, on indulgence: I appeal to the minister to withdraw the remark that the member for Fremantle had to step down, which implies some impropriety on her part. She stepped down for family health reasons. He should clarify that.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Hunter, I did say that she stepped down—

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! If the minister would assist the House.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

I did not say she had to step down. I said she did step down, Joel. I know exactly why she did. I did not make that reflection and it is wrong of you to say so.

The member for Perth is a parliamentary secretary. The point we are making is a comparison between the amount of Western Australians on the front bench from the Labor Party and the amount from our side, because that is clearly what this appointment is about—to call it a parliamentary secretary for Western Australia. So we were walking through this—

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! I also remind members on my left that it is disorderly to be interjecting unless you are in your place.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

That was poor, Joel—really poor!

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture) Share this | | Hansard source

Check your transcript.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

I will, mate, and I'll send it to you. We have the foreign minister, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party; we have the defence minister, Senator David Johnson; we have the member for Stirling, the Minister for Justice; we have the assistant minister for immigration; and we have my great mate, the Minister for Finance. And why having the Minister for Finance is important is because it shows how much we on our side care about Western Australia. When we were elected to government we found that the Labor Party had committed to two very important road projects in Western Australia—the upgrades on the Great Northern Highway and the North West Coastal road—and they were not funded.

Photo of Alannah MactiernanAlannah Mactiernan (Perth, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They were funded.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

They were funded out of a mining tax that the member for Perth has waxed and waned on over the years—

Photo of Alannah MactiernanAlannah Mactiernan (Perth, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They were in the budget.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

Where there was no revenue, so there was no money to pay for the upgrades, Member for Perth. So don't come in here and claim you had all this money from a tax that did not raise any money in the first place.

Ms MacTiernan interjecting

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! I remind the member for Perth she has had her opportunity and the minister has the right to be heard in silence.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

The Minister for Finance said to the Deputy Prime Minister and me: 'We must find a way to fund these roads because they are vital for Western Australia, they are important roads for Western Australia.' The Minister for Finance said, 'We have to find the money in the budget to fund these roads.' So what did we do? We funded them. In December last year, contrary to the scare campaign the member for Grayndler was running around with, we funded them out of the budget, out of real money—not out of a tax that did not raise any revenue in the first place, Member for Perth.

Just dealing with that tax, for a party that have now appointed, in an act of symbolism, a parliamentary secretary for Western Australia, if they really cared about the Western Australian economy, if they really cared about the Western Australian people, what they would do is get their senators in the Senate to vote down the carbon tax, to get rid of the carbon tax. Of the top 20 carbon tax bills, 16 have been sent to electricity companies. Electricity companies have been slugged a total carbon tax bill of $4.1 billion in Western Australia. If you really want to do something for consumers in Western Australia, for Western Australians, get rid of a carbon tax.

The second thing you can do if you want to do something other than symbolism for the people of Western Australia is get rid of the mining tax. The member for Perth, in a moment of clarity a couple of weeks ago in the caucus—sources have reported—got up and said to the Leader of the Opposition: 'Bill, get rid of the mining tax, it's killing us in WA.' But it must be said for the purposes of the record, to make sure that we are not misleading the parliament, that on 22 August 2010, shortly after her state political career had ended, the now member for Perth said in The Australian:

I think there were many aspects of our story, I think the fact that we vacated the field on the mining tax, you know I actually think the mining tax is a bloody good thing and we should have gone out and told people why it was good, why we needed to do it …

That is the problem with the Labor Party. They think taxing your most successful industry, taxing the thing that has made the great strength of that great state Western Australia, is so important. We should do more of it.

Ms MacTiernan interjecting

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would again warn the member for Perth. She has had ample opportunity to speak during this MPI. She should either desist or leave the chamber.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

You cannot injure a business enough in WA and make it more successful. Of course you cannot, and the member for Brand knows that. The member for Brand of all people in this place knows very well that the mining tax is killing Western Australia.

We have done for Western Australia what Western Australians want us to do. We have announced plans to fund and deliver road upgrades, not deliver a record such as the member for Perth when she was a state minister: the Pilbara was exploding and she refused to release more land so more houses could be developed, so those towns could not develop and take the opportunity. Don't you worry about that, Mr Deputy Speaker Kelly, when I was in the Pilbara at the beginning of February that was exactly the message they had. Thank goodness for Colin Barnett. Thank goodness for a federal Liberal government that has come to the party and said: 'We will fund—we won't just announce out of a mining tax that does not raise any revenue—the upgrades which can allow WA to make the most of the opportunities, the enormous opportunities, that the state has.' We will work with Colin Barnett and Troy Buswell to deliver the upgrades to Western Australian infrastructure which will ensure we have the strongest economy we can possibly have.

We have funded projects which were left unfunded by the Labor Party. When you hear the member for Perth claim that we are cutting funding, it is a complete and utter fib. What the Labor Party did in their last years is put money outside the forward estimates. That is what they did, and in fact if you look at the difference between the total overall budget and the next four years, between what we have intended to spend on infrastructure and what those on the other side would have spent had they been re-elected—and thank goodness they weren't—we are spending $6.2 billion extra.

We have not even had our first budget. I say to the member for Perth: hold onto your hat, because on budget night on 13 May, I think you should sit there quietly—I know it is going to be difficult—and listen to the Treasurer deliver for Western Australia, because that is what we will do. And the people of Western Australia know that. Whether it is the five serious and senior ministers of the Abbott government, our plans to get rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax or our plans to invest in the infrastructure of the 21st century, this is best government Western Australians could hope for. We will deliver for Western Australia. We will not go to war with the state government of Western Australia like Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard wanted to and always did. We will go and talk to Colin Barnett. We will work to implement an infrastructure program which will ensure that Western Australia can be as strong and as prosperous as it should be. That is why the Abbott government was chosen last September, and we will deliver.

3:40 pm

Photo of Gary GrayGary Gray (Brand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me great pleasure to rise in this chamber in support of the motion moved by the member for Perth. It gives me also great sorrow to rise in this chamber on the need to speak in favour of Western Australia and the place that we must hold in the minds of the Australian Commonwealth government and of this parliament.

The reality of the financial situation of Western Australia over the course of the last decade is that, since the election of the Rudd-Gillard and then Rudd governments, Western Australia saw a massive turnaround in support funding through infrastructure from the Commonwealth. From an average of less than $100 per Western Australian to an average of almost $300 per Western Australian, infrastructure funding increased.

When ministers from the Commonwealth government, when any parliamentarian or any tourist, arrives in Western Australia, they arrive at the airport and they will travel out of that airport on the Gateway project. That Gateway project is funded by both the Commonwealth and the Western Australia government—a partnership to build Western Australia, a partnership not about politics but about building Western Australia.

I took great pride in being in the Kimberley in late 2008 with the Premier of Western Australia announcing a massive investment in social infrastructure in the East Kimberley: $200 million that was spent on schools, on hospitals, on social infrastructure in Wyndham, massively overdue—massively overdue because successive governments, Commonwealth and state, had underfunded social infrastructure in the East Kimberley. It was a matter of pride for both governments to come together to fix that wrong—to fix funding for hospitals, to fix funding for home construction, to fix funding in schools, and to fix funding in trades training in the Kimberley. It was the first time it had been done and it should not be the last time.

My great concern is that the Commission of Audit into the Australian government's finances, which the government have been sitting on and have held secret for the past three weeks, as we were told in question time today—and quite probably for the next two months, I fear—will have a massively damaging impact on infrastructure in Western Australia. Worse than that, it will have a massively damaging impact on education funding in Western Australia. It will, I fear, have a massively damaging impact on hospitals in Western Australia.

It is important in the four weeks left before the biggest ever by-election in Australia's Commonwealth history, the by-election for the Senate in Western Australia, that the Commonwealth come clean, not on budget day on the second Tuesday of May, but before 29 March, before 5 April. Give people at least a week to understand the nature of that document and its impact on Western Australia, because two million voters will cast their votes on their Senate to represent Western Australia. They should be as well informed as they possibly can be on the impact of that budget on education, on hospitals, and on infrastructure funding, both road and rail but also community infrastructure.

Community infrastructure in my communities of Rockingham, Kwinana and Mandurah is critically important. We know that there are demands before the Commonwealth, agreed to by the Liberal Party during the election campaign—for instance, for massive funding for a swimming pool in Mandurah, something which has not just bipartisan support but historic bipartisan support in the City of Mandurah. We know that there are demands before the government for surf lifesaving club funding—funding that is deeply bipartisan but which has been held up pending the secret audit report, which we were told today in question time the government has had for three weeks.

At some stage in the next four weeks there will be an election. That election will be on 5 April. All Western Australians deserve to understand what that report means for Western Australian infrastructure, for schools and for our hospitals. That is not simply a political statement; it is a statement of dignity, of honesty and of common sense. Western Australians should know what is before them when they cast that most important vote in the biggest-ever by-election in Australia's constitutional history. I take this opportunity before our parliament to ask for that. (Time expired)

3:45 pm

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I recall distinctly in 2007 being rapt, as a young 37-year-old, watching the television when the then opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, ran a prime time advertisement throughout Western Australia prior to the 2007 election. In that advertisement he promised a $100 million infrastructure fund for Western Australia—not $100 million in total but $100 million a year—that was to be paid for out of a share of the petroleum resource rent tax from Chevron's Gorgon project and Woodside's Pluto project. Of course, $100 million a year over potentially six years—$600 million—is a fairly significant promise. Sadly, as early as 1 September 2012, TheAustralian reported, 'Wayne Swan refused to say this week whether that promise would ever be honoured.'

Of that $100 million promise that was advertised on prime time television to all of the residents of Western Australia, how much did we see? Not a red cent. Not a cent. Indeed, that ad ended, as I recall, with a statement saying that John Howard had been 'ripping off WA' and that the good electors in 2007 should vote for Mr Kevin Rudd. It begs the question: if the Labor Party is the great friend of WA and is doing so much for infrastructure and putting so much money into WA, why is it that they hold three seats in WA and members on this side hold 12? Has the entire population of Western Australia been gripped by delusion? Do they not know the reality of the situation?

I know the member for Perth; I know her from a different context. Whilst I would sometimes disagree with her conclusions, I largely found her to be an organised and intelligent member of parliament. One thing I did not know was the extent of her political courage—courage so extreme that it borders on a cavalier disregard for one's own political safety and rationality. To get out here with a motion, with a straight face, and argue that the federal Labor Party is a friend of the Western Australian constituents and the Western Australian taxpayer shows a level of political courage bordering on the cavalier. I say to the member: no matter how short time appears, no matter how desperate things are, you do not always have to follow the orders of your leadership group. If you look at the Falklands, there was a great rumour of an SAS raid which was to be set down on Tierra del Fuego. However, even the SAS, known for their great courage, refused to take that order—so the story goes—because they thought it was too much of a suicide mission. When I look rationally at what the member for Perth is trying to do, just before a full Senate election, she is trying to put a motion that makes this point. However absurd the point is, the point is that—contrary to all the best judgement exercised over successive elections by the Western Australian people, contrary to all the empirical data, contrary to the well-known recent history after six years of Labor—Labor is somehow the better friend to the Western Australian people than the coalition. I find that quite extraordinary. I have noted that 2007 promise of $100 million a year—of which not a cent eventuated. That was not exactly the best start to Labor's promises.

What did we have then? We had the $100 million fund—not a cent. Then we had the carbon tax. Then we had the mining tax. Then I recall, because I framed the budget in 2011, the Western Australian government had the temerity to modestly remove a previous discount on fines iron ore to raise a fair amount of revenue for the people of Western Australia. Do you recall what the response of the federal Labor government was? It was to threaten the Western Australian people with diminished infrastructure funding because we had had the temerity to raise a royalty rate. Do you remember that, Member for Perth? I am assured that you do. Mr Ferguson said, 'The federal government have promised to boost infrastructure spending by $200 million a year in WA over 10 years, using the proceeds of the mining tax, and this would now have to be reduced.' That is a direct and extraordinary threat—a hollow one, because the tax raised no money in any event. Member for Perth, you are like Reg in the darkened rooms of the Roman Empire. 'What has the coalition ever done for us?' Yes, they will remove the mining tax; of course there is that. Yes, they will get rid of the carbon tax; yes, there is that. Yes, there is the Gateway project at $686 million. Yes, there is the Swan Valley bypass at $615 million. There is the Great Northern Highway, $307 million; the North West Coastal Highway, $174 million; Leach Highway, $59 million; Tonkin Highway, $140 million; and the aqueducts. But aside from that, what has the coalition ever done for us? If you are serious, Member for Perth, and you are taking this back to our glorious home state, I hope you can do it with as straight a face as possible or as good a disguise as you can muster.

3:50 pm

Photo of Melissa ParkeMelissa Parke (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

The Prime Minister does not understand Western Australia, and this government takes WA for granted. The Prime Minister has said he intends to model his approach on the leadership of Premier Barnett, and that is precisely what worries people. Despite a rising year-on-year revenue stream, the Barnett government has failed to invest in essential community infrastructure and public services. Funding to schools is being cut, hospital service delivery is being delayed, promises about public transport are being broken, and environmental protection has been steamrolled. That is the model that the Prime Minister apparently admires so much.

The most pressing need in metropolitan WA is for better public transport and better transport planning. Yet Mr Abbott has made it clear that he has no interest in supporting public transport investment and infrastructure. In fact, during the campaign he said, 'We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it is important that we stick to our knitting.' WA's rising congestion needs the creation of an effective second-tier public transport network to link up an expanded hard-rail system. While the Prime Minister knits away at whatever he is knitting, WA's urgent infrastructure requirements grow with each passing week. That is precisely why the former Labor government invested more in public transport than all previous governments combined, including through critical contributions to transformative projects in WA like Perth-Link and the sinking of the Perth-Fremantle rail line. That is why the former Labor government went to the last election committing an additional $500 million to agreed transport projects in WA, in recognition that a capital city in the hardest-working and fastest-growing state in Australia needs infrastructure to match that growth.

In my electorate of Fremantle, the contrast when it comes to transport infrastructure could not be stronger. The Perth-Mandurah hard rail line—a visionary project of the former WA Labor government, led by the now member for Perth and shadow parliamentary secretary for WA, has catalysed transit-oriented development in the south metropolitan region and now forms the spine of a flourishing community in the cities of Melville, Cockburn and Kwinana. But we also need to see the delivery of east-west links that should connect the Murdoch Specialised Activity Centre and Fiona Stanley Hospital to Fremantle and that in time should connect Cockburn Central back to the burgeoning development planned along the Cockburn Coast.

There is another enormous disconnect between this Prime Minister and the interests of people in Western Australia, and that is on the issues of natural resources and the environment. WA is a state with enormous resource wealth, and the greatest wealth in Western Australia is vested in those things we own and share together. That includes iron ore and LPG, which Western Australians expect will be developed in a manner that respects the environment, that creates local employment and training opportunities, that sustains a healthy WA manufacturing sector and that returns a fair dividend to all Western Australians through taxes and royalties.

We are proud of our resources industry and we are proud of the contribution it makes to the Australian economy as a whole. But we know that the mining boom must deliver lasting benefits for all Western Australians, and we know that corporate and community priorities are not always the same. In WA we do not forget that, in the early response to the GFC, resources companies cut 15 per cent of their workforce through the mechanism of individual contracts. We do not forget the arrangements put in place by the Barnett government that allow mining-related manufacturing work to go offshore. Those are not acceptable outcomes of what should always be a compact between the private sector and the community. A healthy and productive resources sector requires a fair and frank partnership between industry and government, not the kind of hands-off, anything goes, blank cheque approach of the coalition.

The greatest shared resource in Western Australia, the most important form of our common wealth, is the environment—our forests and oceans, our coasts and farmland, our places of great Indigenous and cultural heritage—and here is another fundamental disconnect between this government and the people of Western Australia. Only this week we heard a further instalment of the Prime Minister's attitude to the environment. He believes the protection of old-growth forests is the product of extreme ideology rather than being a mainstream value. There was another Liberal leader who held that view in Western Australia. His name was Richard Court and it took the hard lesson of the 2001 state election to remind him that Western Australians are passionate about the natural environment we all share.

And I can tell you that support for marine protection in Western Australia is just as strong. The careful design and adoption of a comprehensive network of marine protected areas in Commonwealth waters was one of the Labor government's greatest legacies—an achievement made possible by reaching an evidence-based consensus between the wider public, dive and marine tourism stakeholders and commercial and recreational fishers.

So let there be no doubt that, with his disregard for essential public transport infrastructure, his disregard for old-growth forests and marine conservation, and his endorsement of a Barnett government that has cut school funding, mismanaged our hospitals and lied about the delivery of transport projects, this Prime Minister has no idea about the things that matter to Western Australians and the things that are necessary to support a strong and sustainable WA in the future.

3:55 pm

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is tremendous having the member for Perth rising and talking about these key issues of funding to Western Australia, because she belonged to the Gallop and Carpenter governments, which at a time of high economic return within the Western Australian coffers did not realise some of that infrastructure that she talks about today. There was an opportunity for that government, within her portfolio, to develop more than the Perth to Mandurah line. Western Australia suffered at the hands of the previous Commonwealth government.

Ms MacTiernan interjecting

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Perth has had ample opportunity to speak in this debate. I will give you one more warning; otherwise you can have an early mark.

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The last six years of the Labor government saw some interesting decisions made. The whole issue around native title and the commitment that had been struck saw the then Prime Minister withdraw that support and that commitment which meant that the Western Australian government paid their way. The $300 million commitment to Broome was met by the Western Australian government and not honoured by the Commonwealth government. The $1.2 billion that was taken out of education under the Gonski arrangements impacted, and therefore the state, without the Commonwealth resourcing, had to make some decisions.

Ms Kate Ellis interjecting

Member for Adelaide, you may skulk, but you were part of this process. Western Australia has not had a friend in the Labor governments. Infrastructure that should have been built was not committed to or delivered on the ground to Western Australians.

It is interesting that you raise this issue at the time of the Senate election, as the member for Brand talked about. I had a discussion with the member for Brand about some of the infrastructure needs of Western Australia. We had a very frank discussion. He indicated that there would not be a commitment to some of the infrastructure required. The Leader of the Opposition at the time, Tony Abbott, committed to some of the major infrastructure that was needed in Western Australia and he has honoured that commitment. The minister for transport has been to the state and has outlined those commitments.

Our road infrastructure in Western Australia is important to the economic growth of our economy—not only at the state level but also at the national level. If we are serious about developing the resources, the previous six years of a Labor government should have meant greater commitment, because it certainly took its share of the taxes that the major companies paid. The imposition of the carbon tax saw companies like Woodside Energy paying $172 million as a carbon tax bill; BHP Worsley Alumina, $56 million; BHP Burrup, $55 million; and Yara Pilbara, $35 million. If we want to develop the economy, let the carbon tax repeal bill through the Senate. Allow the change to occur so that you do not get in the way of the economic prosperity of both this nation and Western Australia.

There is much still to be done. The games that Labor have played over the last six years and, more recently, in this term of parliament are seeing a diminution of our capacity to grow our economy and for all families to share and prosper in that. There are small businesses that rely on the growth of the resources and mining sector. Their opportunity to be part of that is diminished when you get companies slowing. So I would say to Labor, and certainly to the member for Perth, that you had your opportunity. You could have made a difference but you did not. In fact, you were part of a government that hamstrung some of the initiatives. Light rail in Perth could have been done under the Gallop and Carpenter governments. There were sufficient resources that the state was drawing down from mining royalties. I certainly did not see the commitment from the Commonwealth government to come equally to the table, but the Labor government of that time was quite happy to put its hand out and rip resources out of the Western Australian economy.

Colin Barnett, to his credit, has held a strong economic approach to the development of infrastructure and the things required to provide government services to Western Australians. It is a pity that Labor lives in a dreamer's paradise of the things that they say they delivered because, as a Western Australian, I have not seen that translate into reality on the ground.

4:00 pm

Photo of Kate EllisKate Ellis (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

At a time when this parliament turns its attention, through this matter of public importance, to the effect of this government's cuts and broken promises on the families of Western Australia, there are few areas which are more important to those families than education. In the area of education, Western Australian families were given some very clear promises from the Abbott government before the last election. They were told that the Abbott government would be on a unity ticket with a Labor when it came to education reform and funding. That has been shown to be nothing more than an utter farce. They were told, in the Prime Minister's own words:

We will make sure that no school is worse off.

Those were words that the Prime Minister was quite happy to say before the election but has rightly refused to repeat in this parliament after the election because he knows that they are utterly false.

The now education minister stated:

We have agreed to the government's school funding model.

He also said:

We are committed to the student resource standard, of course we are. We are committed to this new school funding model.

But it was utterly untrue, and they have already betrayed those Western Australian families who took them at their word when they made those very clear pre-election promises.

The truth of the matter is that, if they had agreed to the Labor government's school funding model, that model would include some very important provisions. It included the provision that for every $2 of additional Commonwealth funding the state governments would need to put in a dollar of state funding themselves in a co-contribution. But perhaps even more importantly in this example, it had very important clauses that, in order to get additional Commonwealth funds, state governments had to guarantee that they would stop cutting state education budgets. But, of course, this government have said, 'Hands off—do what you like; we'll send you a blank cheque and you can go back to cutting your budgets by even more than we invest in them.' That is exactly what Western Australian families have already seen.

In Western Australia they have already seen $158 million cut from their state education budgets. Western Australian families are dealing with savage cuts to schools right across the state. The effect of those cuts has been dramatic and devastating. We have seen Western Australian schools losing 350 education assistants. We have seen them losing 150 education positions in central and regional offices. We have seen 105 Aboriginal and Islander educational officers lost and 600 teaching positions lost. And, at a time when more than 11,000 new students head to school this year in WA, the government plans to cut another $25 million from education. Why? Because the Abbott government broke their very clear word to Western Australian families.

And why else? Because the Western Australian members opposite in this House have refused to stand up and fight for those Western Australian families. To them I say that the Labor Party will make sure that we keep fighting for the school reforms which you were promised at the last election. We will hold this government to account so that when they said that no school would be worse off they are forced to deliver upon that, which means that it is crunch time. In about 10 weeks time when we see the federal budget, we will see in black and white whether or not there was any honesty whatsoever in the comments from those opposite, because if there is we will be expecting to see included in the budget papers the $7 billion in Commonwealth funding which is meant to be delivered in years 5 and 6 of the Gonski reforms. We will not hold our breath because we know that those opposite are too weak to stand up against the Prime Minister's education cuts and, importantly, Colin Barnett's education cuts.

Just today in question time the Prime Minister admitted that 32 trades training centres in WA would be cut by his government under his watch. The Prime Minister's words in question time today were:

I know that the former Labor government in the election campaign made a whole series of promises, including promises in this area. We made it very clear that we were not bound by them. It is as simple as that.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. They were not election promises; they were in the budget papers as a funded program. Thirty-two trades training centres for Western Australia have been cut under your watch—

Mr Wyatt interjecting

and you, Member for Hasluck, do nothing to stand up against it. But of course we know that in Western Australia—where there are skill shortages in some areas and high youth unemployment in other areas—they are the very communities that need representatives to stand up and fight for their funding, fight for their trades training centres and fight to end the Western Australian government's cut to school education budgets. Those members are only found on this side of the House. (Time expired)

4:05 pm

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is always a pleasure to follow a Western Australian member—sorry, a South Australian member talking about Western Australia. When was the last time that the member for Adelaide was there? I would like to note, for people in Western Australia who are listening to this motion about Western Australia, that I cannot see one Western Australian member on the opposition benches in the House at the moment during this important discussion about Western Australia. On the government side, there are currently five Western Australian members sitting here and listening to this debate which is so important to the member for Perth.

It is amazing that just before the member for Perth moved this motion she had a nice little photo opportunity with the member for Brand, the member for Fremantle and the Leader of the Opposition. On 7 September when she was elected, she declared all her love for Anthony Albanese as the new leader of the federal Labor Party. No wonder the Leader of the Opposition did not hang around to support her during her motion.

The member for Brand let the cat out of the bag when he started pleading with the Western Australian people for their vote in the upcoming Senate election in WA. So this is the whole purpose of this farcical and ineffectual matter of public importance brought to the House by the member for Perth.

I remember a story that was told to me by the member for Curtin with regard to facts. She related a story to me about a time she and the former member for Swan, who was then the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, were delivering speeches in Adelaide. After the speeches were done, the member for Curtin approached the member for Swan and said, 'Some of the facts you gave during your speech weren't correct.' His response was, 'Julie, you have your version, and we have our version.' That is what we have heard from the opposition today—their version, which is so littered with nontruths that it would be amazing if the people of Western Australia swallowed the story that was put forward.

As the member for Swan I was also most surprised by the matter brought to the House by the member for Perth. I know that other members have also been very surprised by this matter from the member for Perth, because the coalition government, under the leadership of the infrastructure Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is delivering the $1 billion Gateway WA infrastructure project in my electorate of Swan. In 2010, during the election campaign, there was a commitment to this project by both parties. One party said that it would finance it through the mining tax. We, the coalition, said that we would fund the project without the mining tax. This is a $1 billion infrastructure project that could never have happened under the Labor government because, as I just said, Labor linked the project to the mining tax. As we have heard from the members from WA, that tax has raised nothing.

It is even more surprising that the member for Perth should raise this MPI when she herself, only yesterday, stated her support for the mining tax, saying the idea was 'sound'. As all Western Australians know, it was an anti-Western Australia tax. Eighty per cent of the revenue that was to be raised from the mining tax was to come from Western Australia. This is not a great position for the member for Perth to be taking to the Western Australian people before the Senate election. I note that the WA Senate team said yesterday:

Anyone who was expecting Alannah MacTiernan to stand up for WA's interests will now be sorely disappointed with the confirmation she will simply toe the line for the Labor party and its anti-WA policy agenda.

There is further trouble with the member for Perth's position on the mining tax. The mining tax is resented in WA because it is an anti-WA tax. Labor's mining tax has killed off investments and jobs in WA, and it hurts WA more than it hurts any other state. Surely the member for Perth understands that. We both represent central Perth seats, so I am not sure what she is hearing from her constituents. My constituents are telling me that the mining tax is an anti-WA tax that threatens jobs and job security in Western Australia, and should be repealed. That is probably why there are 12 sitting federal members from the coalition in Western Australia and only three from the Labor Party. Labor and the member for Perth need to stand up for WA. They need to get out of way and repeal this mining tax, along with the carbon tax.

Thanks to the coalition's plan to provide certainty and deliver Gateway WA, the people of Swan can look forward to upgrades at key intersections in my electorate of Swan. In closing, I advise the people of Western Australia: stay on board with the coalition. The Senate election is important to Western Australia in getting rid of the mining tax and the carbon tax.

4:10 pm

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Manufacturing) Share this | | Hansard source

I welcome the opportunity to support my colleagues from Western Australia and support the people of Western Australia by speaking on, and supporting, the matter of public importance that is before the House. Under Labor we saw the country get the largest ever investment in infrastructure in the history of this country. Of that infrastructure investment, as the member for Perth quite rightly pointed out and I will repeat, Western Australia got its fair share. Western Australia got $4.2 billion during the six years of Labor, compared with the $1.9 billion it got during the previous six years of the Howard government. The facts speak for themselves. It is not a matter of debate. Either the money was spent or it was not, and it certainly was under Labor.

We invested in infrastructure because under the previous government, the coalition government, we had seen a government that had the opportunity and had the money to do so but did not invest sufficiently in infrastructure across the country. We were left with a massive infrastructure deficit throughout Australia. When in government, the Australian Labor Party saw the need to spend money on infrastructure, and it spent the money to try and pick up and fill up that shortfall. It is important to spend money on infrastructure because it has a direct effect on the nation's productivity. Better roads, better railways, better shipping ports, better airports and better telecommunications services, like the NBN, make a difference to the national productivity and efficiency of this country. If our productivity and efficiency are improved, that means we are more competitive, and being more competitive has a direct effect on jobs.

We understood the importance of investing in infrastructure throughout this country. For Western Australia, it is even more important. We understand Western Australia is a large state, we understand Western Australia has a lot of remote communities and we understand that Western Australia is heavily reliant on the mining sector—a sector that needs infrastructure to operate. We also understand that, if you are reliant on a mining sector in which the predictions say there will be a drastic reduction in employment numbers, the one thing you should not do is withdraw infrastructure. That is exactly what the Abbott government are doing. They say they are going to withdraw $500 million worth of rail projects for Perth—not just a few dollars, but $500 million, worth of rail projects for Perth are likely to be withdrawn. It goes further than that. They are going to withdraw $150 million from the Regional Australia Development Fund. Who do members opposite think are the beneficiaries of those kinds of funds? It is remote communities. So, when they withdraw those funds, they directly affect the very communities that need the most help.

Of course, they do those things because they do not care about jobs in this country. They do not understand that withdrawing investment in infrastructure directly affects jobs. They have a fine track record when it comes to turning their backs on jobs in this country. We saw it with Toyota, with Holden, with Alcoa, with Electrolux, with Forge in Western Australia, and with SPC Ardmona—when one of their own members even stood up for those jobs. Then we saw it again, only today, when they brought into this place legislation which is likely—

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member for Makin should come back to the matter of public importance, which is about the lack of commitment from the federal government to Western Australia as to funding, because he is straying to other issues.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Hasluck. The member for Makin has the call.

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Manufacturing) Share this | | Hansard source

We saw it again, only today, when they brought into this place and guillotined legislation relating to the Qantas sale which, again, directly affects jobs and puts at risk the jobs of over 30,000 people in this country.

Again, what they want the Australian public to believe is that they support Western Australia, but, as we heard today, they have an audit commission report in their hands which obviously spells out the cuts that they are going to make but are too gutless to release the findings of prior to the Senate election in Western Australia. Why? Because they do not want the people of Western Australia to know what they have in store for them.

4:15 pm

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Those members on this side of the House who have been in business and understand finance know that government spending is not the only source of infrastructure. Private sector investment is a major source of infrastructure. The private sector must be encouraged to invest in infrastructure. Labor's mining and carbon taxes are holding back the Western Australian economy and, in doing so, holding back the private sector in its investment in the mining industry and the infrastructure which this nation needs.

Nevertheless, the coalition is committed to delivering infrastructure in Western Australia despite being left with the legacy of a $123 billion budget deficit and $667 billion in debt. Despite economic and fiscal challenges, the coalition has a significant platform of projects to get underway in Western Australia. The coalition will invest $3.8 billion in transport infrastructure projects across Western Australia, including: $615 million for the Swan Valley bypass, $307 million towards the Great Northern Highway from Muchea to Wubin, $174 million for the North West Coastal Highway between Minilya and Barradale, $59 million on Leach Highway near High Street, $140 million on grade separations for the Tonkin Highway, and $339 million for equity investment in the Oakajee Port. In addition, the coalition will continue to fund Roads to Recovery and black spot projects, in addition to the $300 million for the bridges renewal program.

The coalition government recognises that transport infrastructure in Western Australia is essential to not only the prosperity of Western Australia but also the wellbeing of the national economy. Without a strong economy, government cannot afford to spend on infrastructure projects, and that is why the coalition is committed to making the difficult decisions to strengthen and grow the Australian economy through solid macro-economic policy, as well as encouraging micro-economic reform.

If the member for Perth is so concerned about Western Australia, she may assist by convincing her colleagues to support the coalition's bills to abolish the carbon tax, which are currently being blocked by the Senate. This will save the average Western Australian family $550 on their electricity bills.

Much mention was made of the Howard government's record. For the record, the Howard government delivered 10 budget surpluses whilst Labor delivered six budget deficits—the largest budget deficits in Australia's history. The coalition will be delivering infrastructure in Western Australia without the burden of a mining tax, despite the former regional investment fund being totally devoid of funds due to Labor's miscalculation on the revenue raised by the mining tax.

Labor's anti-Western-Australian policy agenda is detrimental to investment and employment in Western Australia. Only the election of a strong Liberal Senate team from Western Australia will back up the state's 12 members of the House of Representatives who are committed to ensuring that the best infrastructure deal for Western Australia is achieved and are prepared to stand up for their home state by their actions rather than their words.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the discussion is concluded.