House debates

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Matters of Public Importance


3:11 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

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

The Government's failure to invest in nation-building infrastructure.

I call upon those honourable 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—

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

This week, the Prime Minister went into his party room, and he spoke about how they couldn't do the hokey-pokey. They couldn't move to the left or the right, and it reminded me of Reservoir Dogs. It reminded me of the scene with Mr Blonde and Marvin. There's Mr Blonde torturing Marvin, like this government's torturing the Australian people, and in the background is playing Stuck In The Middle With You, by Stealers Wheel:

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you

That's this Prime Minister, a Prime Minister who's incapable of moving to the left and incapable of moving to the right.

They're incapable of having an energy policy. They're incapable. Even when they put funding in the budget for infrastructure projects, guess what? They don't announce them. They just sit there. We rely upon not the Treasurer on budget night to announce projects but the good burghers of the Herald Sun to announce important projects like the Rockhampton Ring Road, the Mackay Ring Road stage 2, Cairns southern access stage 5 or the Linkfield Road overpass, in the member for Dickson's electorate. It goes between Dickson and Petrie.

Guess what? We've already announced funding for that project. We've already announced it in conjunction with the Queensland state government.

Western Sydney rail—there's an idea. The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, announced funding for that at the New South Wales ALP conference in June. The North-South Corridor in Adelaide—we've already seen projects like Torrens to Torrens open recently and new projects that we announced in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

What's in common with all of those projects is that Labor has been out there, once again, leading from opposition when it comes to infrastructure. The Adelaide tram extensions—when we proposed support for AdeLINK in the lead-up to the 2016 election and in the lead-up to the South Australian state election last year, continually, those opposite dismissed that program.

And then they have the city deal fund. The city deal fund, so-called, is projects in Geelong and in Darwin: Darwin, $100 million; Geelong, $150 million. We know what they are. We know what the projects are, but they won't actually announce them, in terms of Geelong, until after the Victorian state election.

When it comes to infrastructure policy, the government are all about the politics and not substance. That's why they have sidelined Infrastructure Australia—a system established so that you could have business cases submitted, a proper assessment and then government decisions made on the basis of that objective evidence, rather than on the basis of the electoral map. What they did when they came to office was cut funds from projects that had been approved by Infrastructure Australia, such as the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane and the Melbourne metro project, and funded projects, some of which—Perth Freight Link, for example—even state governments didn't know what they were for or where they went to. You had projects that had been on the list, like the East West Link, which had a cost-benefit of 45c return for every dollar invested. They moved funding away from projects that had been through a process and gave it to projects that hadn't.

When you look at the actual investment of this government, in the 2017-18 budget there's some $7.2 billion. That declines over the forward estimates to $4.5 billion in 2021-22. It's 4.5; it was 7.2. That's less. There are cuts each and every year. Indeed, over the decade—the Parliamentary Budget Office has independently analysed it—infrastructure investment will decline by half, from 0.4 per cent of GDP to 0.2 per cent over that period. What's more, even when they do make announcements on budget night, they don't actually deliver them. In the first four years, the difference between what was announced on budget night and what was actually invested in projects like black spots, Western Sydney road infrastructure, and the heavy vehicle safety program was $4.7 billion.

It's not surprising that they don't know what they're doing. We've had five infrastructure ministers over the last five years. We've had countless urban infrastructure ministers. They come and they go. I can't even keep count of them all. Most of them disappear from the parliament. On this side of the House, we've had one shadow infrastructure minister during that time. The fact is that the mob opposite have denied communities investment over five years. What that does is: if you don't have a pipeline of projects, it's a drag on economic productivity, it's a drag on jobs, and it has an impact on economic growth in the medium and long term.

The government will say that they do have some projects. They'll say that they're investing off-budget in projects like Inland Rail. When the Inland Rail project was first assessed, by the ARTC, it wasn't intended that the concept of 'inland' be taken quite so literally. This is a project that doesn't go to a port anywhere. It doesn't go to Brisbane. It doesn't go to Melbourne. You'll have double-decker trains that will stop at Acacia Ridge and will then have to be put onto trucks and carried—I'm not quite sure how they'll get to the port. They did that, of course, to distort the economics of the project, because the most expensive bit of a project is that which goes through urban areas, through the city of Brisbane. That distortion is very much there.

The government also say, 'We've got money for the Melbourne airport link.' Now, everyone knows that public transport projects are beneficial to the national economy. What they don't do is make money. What they don't do is produce fare revenue that's higher than the maintenance and operating costs. On average, it's between 20 and 25 per cent. So the benefit to the national economy is indirect. But those opposite would have you think that not only will the Melbourne Airport rail link not produce a return in terms of operating and maintenance costs, it won't even begin to pay back the original capital. If you're going to have an equity investment, that's what it has to do. That's what commerce 1A suggests needs to happen. That's what the head of the ARTC, for example, John Fullerton, has said before Senate estimates, just won't happen, in terms of a return on capital on the Inland Rail. So those opposite are looking for false ways in which to pretend that they're investing, when it won't actually happen.

When it comes to high-speed rail, of course, there's a billion and a half they're going to announce for a high-speed rail project somewhere—or faster rail, whatever that means—rather than actually getting serious about high-speed rail down the east coast of Australia. The fact is that those opposite are so divided that they're incapable of action. The only thing that's worse than a government that is doing the wrong thing is a government that's actually doing nothing. We see it in this chamber with the failure to back up their own legislation with speakers. We see it with their failure to actually get out there and announce projects that have been announced months ago by the Herald Sun and were included in the budget in six months time. Perhaps it's the case that what they have is investing in the never-never, in 10 and 15 years time, because for a lot of their projects that's exactly what they have done. They have no vision on infrastructure and they have no investment. (Time expired)

3:21 pm

Photo of Alan TudgeAlan Tudge (Aston, Liberal Party, Minister for Cities) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very happy to speak on this MPI. I note there was not a lot of energy on that side of the House as the member for Grayndler was speaking on his MPI. It was virtual silence. I think maybe there might have been a bit more energy last Wednesday night, when the member for Grayndler was DJing for everybody. You might not have known it. He got onto the records DJing on Wednesday night, the opening song being 'What about me?' which he played trying to get the attention back onto himself.

In relation to the infrastructure spend which we're spending, we are making record investments right across this nation in great nation-building projects, in congestion-busting projects in our major capital cities. I'd like to spend most of the time in my remarks on this MPI focussing first of all on the two big capitals, Melbourne and Sydney, and discussing the major projects which we have going on there. Also then I'd like to discuss some of the other large projects and do a contrast with what the opposition have put up and what they put in place when they were last in government, when the member for Grayndler was the infrastructure minister for six whole years.

Let's start with Melbourne. The three big projects which this government has supported with real money on the table, which would be transformational for the fastest-growing city, Melbourne, are the following. Firstly, the Melbourne airport rail: $5 billion to finally connect the second busiest airport in Australia to the rail network. That's what we have done. Second is the Monash-Rowville rail. It will finally connect the largest single university campus to the rail network. 55,000 students attend that campus in Clayton. Our project, our money, $475 million worth, will connect the rail network to Monash University and then on to the Dandenong line.

Look at those two projects. Where was the member for Grayndler, with six long years as the infrastructure minister, in relation to the airport rail? He didn't do anything. That airport's been there for 50 years. He didn't do anything. Where was he in terms of connecting up the largest university campus in Australia to the rail network? He wasn't there. In relation to the third project that I mentioned—the real one—it is a project that would finally, in essence, create a ring road for Melbourne. It would connect a major freeway, with four lanes each way, from the eastern suburbs to the other side to finally connect up and create a ring road. That project is the East West Link.

Where was the Labor Party in relation to the East West Link? They spent $1.3 billion cancelling the project. Every single resident of Melbourne—particularly those in the communities of Deakin, in the communities of Menzies Creek, in my own electorate and right across the eastern suburbs of Melbourne—knows that, had that project gone ahead, by this time next year that project would have been built. It would have been completed. But in the meantime, when the member for Grayndler was the Deputy Prime Minister of the country, the Labor Party supported the cancellation of that project for six long years. They supported burning $1.3 billion to scrap that project. The good news is that, in a month's time, the Victorian people have an opportunity to vote for the East West Link. They know that if Matthew Guy becomes Premier then we will have $3 billion ready to commit towards that project to finally get it going. It could have been done by next year, but it won't be. I'd like to have a commitment from the opposition to support such a project.

Let me touch on Sydney. The two largest transformational projects in Sydney are the Western Sydney Airport and the WestConnex. Let's have a look at Western Sydney Airport. It's an enormous, groundbreaking project. Again, billions of dollars of our government's money is going into that to finally build this project.

Mr Albanese interjecting

I look across to the member for Grayndler. He is proudly proclaiming his fantastic record. He was Deputy Prime Minister for six long years. He was the infrastructure minister for six long years. He actually supported the Western Sydney Airport. He actually supported it, but could he actually get it through his caucus? Could he get the money through cabinet? Could he make this project happen? Absolutely not. Hey, he was only Deputy Prime Minister! You can't expect him to have any weight in the cabinet when he's Deputy Prime Minister and he's Infrastructure Minister for six long years! It again falls on us to find the money, to get it done, to make the hard decisions and to get the Western Sydney Airport built. We're the ones who will actually deliver that.

Mr Laundy interjecting

As Mr Laundy, says behind me, we will deliver this particular project, which the member for Grayndler, despite being Deputy Prime Minister for all those years, could not. The other project is the WestConnex project. It's a fantastic, groundbreaking project that will transform the traffic in Sydney right across the city. It is a game changer for that city. It will remove 4,000 trucks off Parramatta Road daily. It will deliver more than $20 billion in economic benefits for New South Wales.

I will give the member for Grayndler credit, he actually did support this project initially. But then we went into the 2016 election and the Greens started jumping up and down, so what did the member for Grayndler do before the 2016 election? He said, 'No, no. I no longer support this project.' He did actually support it, but then he said, 'No, no. I'm not going to support the project in the 2016 election.' That was because the Greens started to challenge him in his seat and so he backed away. The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, had to override his deputy leader and say, 'No, no. We will actually proceed with this particular project.' He maintained his support.

On this side of the chamber, we are the ones delivering the groundbreaking, transformational projects that the Deputy Prime Minister at the time could not deliver. Across Melbourne, we're the ones doing it. Those opposite wouldn't do it. Across Sydney, we're delivering the game-changing projects which the member for Grayndler, who was the Deputy Prime Minister for six long years, could not deliver. And you could go right across every other capital city: the M1 in Brisbane; Metronet, which we're delivering in Perth; the north-south road in Adelaide, in which we are getting on with the job and creating a huge piece of infrastructure to enable residents of Adelaide to move from the north to south; and we're getting on with the job in Darwin, in Hobart and in other cities. We are getting on with the job of delivering the national infrastructure. Look at the cross-jurisdictional pieces of infrastructure that we are doing—this wasn't being done by the member for Grayndler—such as the Inland Rail. It's $10 billion that we've put on the table, which we are delivering. Again, where was the member for Grayndler? He could have done this project. He was the Deputy Prime Minister. He couldn't get that done.

You could look at other infrastructure, outside of road and rail, such as funding for the Mobile Black Spot Program, a fantastic program. We're going to deliver 867 stations to fix up those mobile blackspots across the country. How many did the Labor Party deliver when this man here was Deputy Prime Minister? They didn't have a program. They didn't have a program at all. It was a big, fat zero.

Mr Albanese interjecting

He raises the NBN. Again, on the NBN, we're delivering more infrastructure, which is transforming the country, to enable people to connect faster. So whether or not you're looking at roads in our big capital cities or rail in our capitals or across the country, whether or not you're looking at mobile blackspots, whether or not you're looking at NBNs, whether or not you're looking at water infrastructure and building dams, we are getting on with the job. We have a very proud record—record expenditure—making the tough decisions, which the member for Grayndler, when he was the infrastructure minister for six long years, could not do. And he'll be the same again, if he's re-elected.

3:31 pm

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd suggest the minister might like to visit Western Sydney and ask them about WestConnex. I'll tell you what it means. It means $8 to get your kids to the soccer, on the weekend, and it means $2,275 per year already in tolls, with a four per cent per year increase for 43 more years, above inflation. That's a four per cent increase every year for 43 years. Come out and talk to the people of Western Sydney about your great WestConnex project. We already had a road to the city and, quite frankly, we got one extra lane that then goes to three lanes and then goes to two lanes as you get towards the city. And we're going to pay thousands of dollars extra every year, in tolls, to get it.

We in Western Sydney live the experience of poor infrastructure investment by this government. We live it. We live it in Third World internet speeds in one of the great economies of the nation. We're the third-largest economy and we've got Third World internet speeds. We've got avoidable traffic congestion that causes people in Western Sydney to spend an hour or more additional time getting to work, every single day. We are already a population of 1.9 million. We're expected to grow to three million within the next 15 or so years. We will carry two-thirds of Sydney's population growth and we should expect, at this point, that investment in infrastructure will be going up not down. Instead, what we've got from this government across New South Wales is infrastructure plummeting by 70 per cent over the forward estimates, from $2.7 billion in 2017-18 to just $825 million in 2021-22, when we've got population growth carrying two-thirds of Sydney's population.

We are extraordinary in Western Sydney. I quite often say about our community that with the way the world's going, in terms of international trade, services and high-speed internet connection around the world, with people's work moving across borders, we are the place you want to be. We speak every language. We have people in our community who can navigate any city of the world without a map. We have cultural diversity. We know how to work in every single culture. We have many individuals in Western Sydney who are already exporting into China and India. But with the growing trade in services and these free trade agreements that this government spruiks so much we need the infrastructure in Western Sydney that allows us to benefit from the extraordinary community that we are.

For a start, we need decent fibre. When we designed the NBN it was a major infrastructure investment. This government has continued to invest, but it built something that is already essentially worthless. New Zealand has a gigabit economy and gigabit towns, like Singapore and countries to the north. We have Third World speeds, and countries around the world already have gigabit economies. If you put fibre in, you can expand to that, but copper cannot go faster. Copper is already at capacity. We cannot extend the capacity of fibre to the speeds we need with the 'fraudband' that this government has delivered over the last five years.

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

'Fraudband'—that's nice!

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, 'fraudband'. New Zealand is a gigabit economy. I bet New Zealand are really pleased that they didn't join the Federation in 1901. If they did, they'd be rolling out copper now instead of being a gigabit economy. Western Sydney cannot be the economy that it is capable of being with this rubbish infrastructure that you've given us. You cannot increase the speed of copper. It has reached its physical limits.

I'm really pleased to say that federal Labor are committed to doing something about traffic congestion in Western Sydney. We've committed to spend $6 billion on Sydney West Metro and the Badgerys Creek rail line. We will build the Sydney West Metro rail line from Sydney to Parramatta. There will be 400,000 additional people moving into that corridor over the next five to 10 years. We need to upgrade our rail system, and Labor will do it. We will build the rail line to Badgerys Creek airport, new connections from Macarthur to St Marys and link St Marys to Sydney Metro at Rouse Hill.

We will invest in what Western Sydney needs. We will give Western Sydney what it needs to flourish. We are the only ones who will do it. Really, you should visit occasionally, Minister.

3:36 pm

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm getting a little old. I think I might need glasses because when I first read the MPI I thought it said: 'The Victorian Labor government's failure to invest in nation-building infrastructure.' I thought the member for Grayndler was being insightful in realising what has been going on in Victoria. I know he's a New South Wales boy and I know he loves to be a good DJ, but I didn't realise he had visited Victoria recently.

Mr Hill interjecting

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Bruce will remove himself under standing order 94(a). He has been warned.

The member for Bruce then left the chamber.

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

If he had visited Victoria recently, he would realise that the MPI 'The Victorian Labor government's failure to invest in nation-building infrastructure' would have been very accurate.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

He's walking out on you.

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

My friend is leaving me because he knows I have capable hands. If you look at the Victorian government's failure to invest in nation-building infrastructure, you will see the Murray Basin Rail Project. You might be familiar with this project. This government committed $240 million to this project. The previous Victorian coalition government committed $200 million to this project. I got to see it being built—well, I got to see part of it being built. The Mildura line was built, but then it stopped getting built. Then they had to fix it up. Another two lines were going to get built—the Manangatang line and the Sea Lake line. What's happening to them? They've been pushed out to 2022. They might get built.

When it comes to the delivery of projects in Victoria there has been a complete failure by the Daniel Andrews government. In fact, they have delivered three things for Victoria. They all begin with the letter C. They have delivered corruption in Victoria, they have delivered congestion in Victoria and they have let crime get out of control in Victoria.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Isn't one of your MPs facing fraud charges?

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McEwen is warned.

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

There was $1.3 billion for a road that wasn't built. I was in Melbourne the other day. I visit there, unlike the member for Grayndler. When I was there I could see what could have been built. I don't mind a road not getting built, but I think Victorians object to spending $1.3 billion to not build a road. I think that is the thing that really frustrates people about the Daniel Andrews government. In their time—and they've had four years—we've had more corruption than we have ever had, more congestion than we have ever had, and more crime.

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Grayndler on a point of order?

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm reluctant to intervene in an MPI, but we're not going to stand here and have members of the Labor Party accused of breaking the law. He should be able to give a speech without going to those matters. So I ask that he withdraw, and then he can go on with his speech.

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Assistant Minister?

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. But I will say it is good if the member for Grayndler decides to come down and look at the road that was not built—$1.3 billion to not build a road. So, when you sit in congestion in Melbourne, I want you as a voter to think, as you come up to the Victorian election on 24 November, that you didn't have to sit there. In fact, things could have been built.

In my patch, we have seen what can happen if a government does want to build things. The federal government in my patch has delivered money for airports. The federal government has delivered money for roads, and we have driven on those. We have delivered mobile phone towers across the electorate of Mallee and across the country, including the state of Victoria. These have not been delivered by the Daniel Andrews government.

The member for Grayndler put up this MPI on the Victorian Labor government's failure to invest in nation-building infrastructure. I've got to say I commend him for putting that up as an MPI. People will make a judgement call in the state of Victoria in a little over a month, and they will say to themselves, 'Why am I sitting in congestion and yet paying money?' They will say to themselves, 'Why couldn't I make a mobile phone call in that country area?' They get nothing. I've got to say: you have a choice, people in Victoria. The people in Victoria have a really clear choice: a government who can deliver for them, which will be the coalition government in Victoria, or a government that will spend their money and deliver nothing, and that will be Daniel Andrews. Throw him out. He's not worthy of it. What people want is taxpayers' money to deliver things, not taxpayers' money spent and still having nothing to show for it.

3:41 pm

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Medicare) Share this | | Hansard source

As with everything that the Morrison government claims, the facts simply don't match the rhetoric. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to infrastructure spending. Let me just quote some of the facts. Under the last Labor government, average annual infrastructure funding doubled from $29 billion to $58 billion. Under the coalition, average annual infrastructure investment has fallen by 17 per cent, to $48 billion. In last year's budget, there was no new money in federal infrastructure funding to the states, territories and local governments. That funding is declining each year. In 2018-19, the figure is $6.3 billion. The next year, it's $5.6 billion. The year after, it's $5 billion. In 2021-22, it's $4.5 billion. The facts speak for themselves. This is at a time when the population of Australia is growing, cities are more congested than ever before and Australia needs more infrastructure, not less.

Now let me turn to South Australia for a moment. I notice that the minister, in his response in this debate, did not mention South Australia once. For South Australia, this government's infrastructure funding track record is appalling, and it would be even worse were it not for the projects that were initiated by the last Labor government. In 2018-19, South Australia will get $504 million. In 2019-20, it will get $311 million. In 2020-21, it will get $136 million. That is just three per cent of the infrastructure budget. South Australia has seven per cent of the population and 11.8 per cent of the nation's roads. Even worse, the money allocated is never expended. South Australia's supplementary local road funding of $20 million per annum, which has been paid to South Australia for almost two decades because of an anomaly in the national distribution of those funds, was cut during the first years after this government came to office.

Let's see what the South Australian business community had to say about the government's 2018 infrastructure budget. This is not the Labor Party's response; this is the business community. I'll quote directly from a statement put out by the South Australian chamber of mines and energy, the South Australian Freight Council, the Royal Automobile Association and the Civil Contractors Federation South Australia when they slammed the federal budget as 'a misleading, untimely, and inauspicious deal for South Australia'. Evan Knapp, the executive officer of the South Australian Freight Council said:

This year’s Federal budget is all smoke and mirrors and delivers none of the promise of the pre-budget announcements.

Victoria Griffith, acting CEO of the Civil Contractors Federation, said:

South Australia cannot afford to have delays and gaps in the infrastructure pipeline. We require clear detail from the Government as to how these projects will come to fruition.

These organisations know exactly what infrastructure money they will get, because they depend on it. They do the figures better than anybody else, and when they criticise the government, as they did, the facts and the picture is absolutely clear.

Equally inciting South Australians was that South Australia was allocated a measly $3.7 million, or one per cent, of the government's Roads of Strategic Importance program. It froze the financial assistance grants to councils for three years, when most of that money goes into infrastructure funding. Again, who misses out? The councils and the infrastructure that they were going to build.

This government simply doesn't get it. Infrastructure funding is an investment. It's an investment in jobs, it's an investment in productivity, it's an investment in raising the living standards of all Australians and it's an investment that makes this country competitive with countries around the world. And yet what we see is a government that is prepared to come into the parliament year after year and talk about having 'infrastructure prime ministers'. But when it comes to really delivering the dollars that are going to build the infrastructure that is needed, we don't actually see them. What we see is a shifting of money from one side to the other; re-announcement of projects which have already been committed to and re-announcement of projects that were committed to in previous years as well.

Infrastructure is not built with spin, it is built with real dollars. This country has, according to some estimates, an infrastructure deficit of around $800 billion. It is time that this government—the Morrison government—understood what that really means in terms of this government's productivity and so on. We can only be serious about building the infrastructure that this government needs to build if we put the dollars on the table that are needed.

3:46 pm

Photo of Nola MarinoNola Marino (Forrest, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm very pleased to stand here and talk about the $75 billion infrastructure pipeline that this government has. Part of what I want to talk about is probably the one that I think is the most important: water projects.

We all know that water in Australia is liquid gold—that's my view. It's what underpins so much of rural and regional Australia. If I look at the projects that the government has already committed to, over $570 million of capital funding is from the fund and loan facility. The government is absolutely determined to tackle issues around water infrastructure.

Every day, we're getting on with the job of building the water infrastructure that's going to take us through the 21st century. As I said, there is $580 million for the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund and $2 billion in the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility. This is really critical in my patch when we look at the lesser amount of rain that we've been receiving. If we look at one of the very important projects, the Myalup-Wellington project, that is really going to make a huge difference in my part of the world. This water project that this government is investing in will actually prevent between 60,000 to 110,000 tonnes of salt from entering the Wellington Dam every year. This is a great project and it's part of the pipeline of the government's projects ahead. This will boost agriculture, horticulture and the forestry industry that is very much part of this. It will create local jobs, without any question, and it will create economic uplift. It's going to attract even further investment in our region—that's what this investment by our government in water infrastructure is doing—and it will help to diversify the economy in WA's south-west.

The Wellington Dam is the second-largest reservoir in Western Australia. When we look at this project, the irrigation system that we have in the Darling Scarp is probably one of the most environmentally sound projects you will find. It's a gravity-fed system, and the piping that's been done in the Harvey irrigation system has seen all of the channel losses disappear and all of the evaporation disappear. So it's much more effective, efficient and sustainable as a result. This project is going to add to the Collie irrigation system. As well as desalinating the Wellington Dam, it plans to pipe the Collie River Irrigation System, which heads further south wrote down towards Waterloo. We'll see efficiency gains, both in channel losses and evaporation out of it, and much better quality water, because it will desalinate the water, as well. This is what really builds small communities and regional communities right around Australia.

This project will be a key part of underpinning the prosperity of the region and our small communities. Where does the water for our dairy farms come from? It comes from this type of irrigation infrastructure, as does the water for our beef farms and for those involved in fruit production and vegetable production all throughout our marvellous south-west. Not only is it a quality water that comes out of our Stirling Dam closer to Harvey, once this project is completed and we see the desalination in the Wellington Dam, were going to see that same opportunity. The two lots of grasses, those that exist with the Stirling Dam and those that exist with the Wellington Dam: at the moment it's like comparing chalk and cheese. We've lost a number of farmers because of the lack of production capacity because of the effect of the salt.

When we talk about real nation-building infrastructure, this is exactly what we are talking out and why the investment by this government is so important. These types of projects, as I said, will underpin these small rural and regional communities and add to economic growth, productivity and sustainability. There is nothing better than this. When you go to wash a dairy yard and you don't need to turn on a pump—because the actual head on the water, because its gravity fed, if you turn the actual hose on fully it could lift you off the ground—you know you've got a very effective and sustainable system. That's exactly how this works. I am particularly pleased that this government is investing in nation-building infrastructure like the critical water infrastructure that we see through the Myalup-Wellington project.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've been sitting here listening to this, and you've got to laugh. We're talking about infrastructure, one of the most important things that governments can build, and the government is too lazy to get their infrastructure minister out here. They get out here a minister who is responsible for robodebts. You can rely on him to go and attack pensioners, but he's got no idea about infrastructure. They make all these claims about the East-West Link. Let's put some truth on the bone. The East-West Link would have tied up road funding in Victoria for the next 10 years. There would have been no road funds at all. Look across my electorate of McEwen, one of the fastest growing areas in Australia. This government has not invested one cent in infrastructure. It is the laziest, most incompetent government in the history of this nation.

Let's compare that to when Labor was in government. We invested in new quarantine facilities. We invested in roads. We invested in the NBN. We hear those opposite sprout the continual lie they make day in and day out about mobile phone towers. When you're in government, you're responsible for taxpayers' money. These guys aren't. They just think they responsible for their own money. We were smart. We said, 'Right, if we're going to build a tower, let's make it multiuse. Let's make it do mobile phones. Let's make it do mobile broadband.' That way, instead of having towers everywhere you have one that does everything. Those opposite stopped that when they destroyed the NBN. So then they go into an area like mine, which has suffered the worst natural disaster in Australia's history and put one tower in. Then they sit there and said, 'We've done really well, we've put one tower in!' The government actually scrapped the third round of the Black Spot Program after getting communities to tell it whether they wanted mobile phone towers, so they could take that money to pay off their pork barrelling in their own electorates.

We heard the member for Mallee. He's normally a pretty good bloke, but clearly he's been drinking the water downstream from the member for Forrest's dairy farm. He talked about there being no infrastructure and about the Victoria government. He may want to think back a couple of prime ministers ago to the one who's still here, who sits up the back, who said that the East-West Link was a referendum at the last Victorian election. Guess what? A first-term Liberal government got kicked out of power for Daniel Andrews to get in. The referendum was clear. People did not want all their road funding tied up in a road that delivers nothing.

I sit back and think of the last election. The member for Grayndler was talking about road projects in our area and how we were going to duplicate Craigieburn Road, how we were going to duplicate Bridge Inn Road and the work on the interchange at O'Herns Road—all these big congestion-removal infrastructure projects and not one of them was committed by the Liberal Party. In fact, in the last two terms of government, there has not been one piece of road infrastructure in the fastest-growing area in Victoria. In fact, the hapless Deputy Prime Minister responded to a letter to me saying, 'Oh, the East West Link—we're going to build that. That's a project in your electorate.' It's a minimum of, I think, 60 kilometres away. It has absolutely nothing to do with our electorate at all.

Victorians are sick and tired of this inept, morally bankrupt government ripping us off. Seven per cent of infrastructure funding goes to Victoria, even though Victoria has 25 per cent of the population. We haven't seen a single major project under the last two prime ministers or the last four infrastructure prime ministers. In fact, the biggest project they came to look at was the quarantine centre, which Labor funded. All they did was come. We had the member for New England come and cut a ribbon. That was the single biggest investment that they put in the area.

When your ministers don't know where Victoria is and don't know the funding in Victoria, you sit there and say, 'We have a major problem'—we have a major problem with the inability of an inept government to actually do its job. They want to attack Daniel Andrews. Well, let's have a look at the Mernda rail—a $500 million investment in rail in our communities. One of the biggest things that's been happening in the fastest-growing area of Victoria was delivered by a Labor government. It was not delivered under the four years of the Baillieu and Napthine governments. Whenever Victorians vote, think about one thing: every time there is a Liberal government, you get done over on infrastructure, you get done over on hospitals, you get done over on schools and you get done over on social services. This is a government that has spent too much time fighting itself and not fighting for you.

3:57 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm delighted to speak on this MPI. I thought it was a Dorothy Dixer. Thank you, member for Grayndler. I've been gratified by the expenditure and investment in infrastructure that's been going on in Grey over the last five years, since we came to government. One of the sticking points, as you would well know, Mr Deputy Speaker—this seems to happen when I talk about Port Augusta; you're in the chair and it's your hometown—is the duplication of the Joy Baluch AM Bridge. There is $160 million from the federal government and a deal with the state government to get on with it and do the job that probably should have been done some years ago. In recent times—only three months or so ago—once again in conjunction with the new government in South Australia, was the announcement of the $90 million dual-laning of the highway through Port Wakefield and the overpass to the north to open up the bottleneck that happens around that Yorke Peninsula turn-off. That will really free up the traffic on that main highway, I must say. In the longer-term, I think I'll be pushing for dual lanes all the way from Port Wakefield through to Port Augusta as the traffic load continues to increase, but, at the moment, these are huge improvements and investments.

There is the rerailing of the Adelaide-Tarcoola line. It includes $80 million worth of steel orders to support the Whyalla Steelworks. It's a project of about $180 million, replacing 600 kilometres of rail with heavier rail through to Tarcoola, which means we can put another eight tonnes of axle-load on a wagon. That is a quantum. It's an increase in the productivity of the nation. It is investing in national infrastructure.

I'm very pleased to announce—I've said this before in this chamber—that the redistribution in South Australia has granted me some new and interesting areas. The electorate of Grey now reaches right down to within 30 kilometres of Adelaide, down to Two Wells and into the Adelaide Plains Council. The Adelaide Plains Council is going to be a major beneficiary of the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme. There will be $45.6 million from the federal government to provide an extra 12 gigalitres—this is not coming out of the Murray, even though it may have originally—of recycled water to increase the horticultural output of the Adelaide Plains. It's a national infrastructure project of great import.

I heard others speak about the NBN. I can report NBN in the electorate of Grey is 99 per cent enabled. As the former, the former communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said when we first came to government, 'We will concentrate on those areas that have the worst service first, and get them wired up.' That's exactly what's happened.

We've had over $40 million worth of investment come through the Building Better Regions Fund, BBRF, and its predecessor in the five years since we have been in government. That's ticked off a whole lot of projects across the electorate of Grey, including: more than $8 million into the Peterborough sewer system, a fish unloader out of Thevenard, aged care facilities in Whyalla and Port Broughton, and a whole host of major sporting facilities—very important pieces of infrastructure for those local communities.

The Coober Pedy community benefited from a hybrid power station. Through ARENA, $18.4 million from the federal government went into the project. For the solar reserve project, once again in Port Augusta, $110 million is still committed and waiting for a business plan to be completed. This will collect the sun's rays and store them in molten salt. So it provides baseload generation or dispatchable power to the South Australian network, which is very much needed, it must be said.

The Regional Growth Fund, it was announced last week, will provide $10 million support towards the development of a new port on Spencer Gulf, on Eyre Peninsula. For a number of years now, South Australia has been victim to a monopoly shipping organisation. We badly need this competition in the system, and I'm pushing for the development of that port. Although not exactly infrastructure, through the Regional Jobs and Investment Package, we've seen an investment of over $20 million in the Upper Spencer Gulf to provide jobs for people.

In South Australia, generally, just as I close, the investment in the north-south link through Adelaide is absolutely national infrastructure of vital importance. In case anyone on the other side wasn't listening, there's been a decision by this government to invest in major naval shipbuilding industry in South Australia. If that's not national infrastructure, nothing is. (Time expired)

4:02 pm

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Grayndler for this matter of public importance on nation-building infrastructure. It's an important one for the Northern Territory and for the North in general. I will focus on the North and on the NT in particular. It's very obvious to Territorians that this government lacks vision and commitment to Northern Australia, and the investment statistics that I will go into in a short while show that. They also show that the government's rhetoric is different to its actions.

Why have the government failed to invest in nation-building infrastructure? I don't know; it's a question for those opposite. I could suggest that perhaps their arrogance, their focus on themselves, their vision and their internals have meant that they've had no national vision for infrastructure development. I've got plenty of local examples from my electorate. The member for Grayndler referred to the leak from within their own side about the Darwin City deal, and I will get to that. There's also been the NAIF, which has been very slow to get funding out the door—in fact, only one project and a small amount of money for the Humpty Doo Barramundi farm. This is obviously very welcome, but very little has been done in the Northern Territory.

The Defence spend, like most of the infrastructure spend, is being pushed out into the never-never, into the years out to 2022, when we really need infrastructure funds to be flowing into our community now. The budget forward estimates show that the federal government will be investing $222 million in Northern Territory infrastructure in 2018-19, and that figure will fall over each of the following four years to $61 million in 2021-22. That is a whopping 75 per cent reduction over four years!

Infrastructure spending in the Northern Territory under those opposite is falling off a cliff—a 75 per cent reduction. It is unfathomable. No government that claims to be a government for all Australians could treat the Territory or any of its jurisdictions in that way. It's an absolute disgrace. Over the past four years, less than a third of what was promised has come to fruition. There's been $224 million less delivered than was promised. The underspends are everywhere, particularly on major road projects like the Black Spot Program and on the Bridges Renewal Program and the promised Northern Australia Beef Roads Program. Those programs have had massive underspends. In other words, those opposite make big announcements, the rhetoric is that there's be hundreds of millions of dollars for these roads projects, but it just doesn't come to pass. Every major federally funded project currently underway in the Northern Territory was identified and funded by the former federal Labor government. Despite being in office for over five years, the federal coalition still hasn't initiated one new major project for the north. So the rhetoric about the critical gateway to Asia, the food bowl and connecting Australia through these roads is just not happening in the Northern Territory.

I mentioned the Darwin City Deal. There could be many examples of how those opposite are not supporting my electorate, in Darwin and Palmerston, or the rest of the Northern Territory, but I think the Darwin City Deal is the most stark example of this government's failure to invest in nation building infrastructure in the capital of the north. We need that City Deal for Darwin, and Territory businesses are sick and tired of the political game playing. It's been 554 days since it was promised. We know from internal leaks from that side that for the Darwin City Deal they're going to meet the NT government's $100 million with $100 million from the federal government, but it has not been signed. So it's of no use to us. We need the funds, and I call on the Prime Minister to come to Darwin and sign the Darwin City Deal.

4:07 pm

Photo of John McVeighJohn McVeigh (Groom, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's an absolute delight to address this matter of public importance in relation to nation-building infrastructure, because when it comes to that vital investment the runs are on the board for the coalition government. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

I've been impressed to hear from a number of my colleagues on this side about investment in road, investment in rail and investment in water infrastructure, particularly now, in times of drought. We know the people of Australia, those who recognise the importance of our agricultural industries, whether they work in them or simply depend on them, want to look into the long term. They talk about water infrastructure in the long term—dams, pipelines—and we know that this government is leading the charge, finally, to prioritise those sorts of projects and that it is working as hard as it can with relevant state governments to bring projects to the fore. Colleagues have spoken in particular about regional benefits right across the country from significant infrastructure investment.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about a couple of examples that relate to my home city of Toowoomba, my electorate of Groom and the wonderful Darling Downs. If we reflect on Queensland media just today, there's significant reference to the exciting plans of South-East Queensland mayors, chaired by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Graham Quirk. The deputy chair of that group, the Council of Mayors South East Queensland, is my own mayor, Paul Antonio, the Mayor of Toowoomba. A whole range of initiatives that they're talking about in South-East Queensland—again, road and rail in particular—touch in part on Toowoomba and the Darling Downs. The reference to fast rail and the reference to a specific passenger rail feasibility study project that was announced earlier this year by the government under our Major Project Business Case Fund prove that we talk about the long term—the decades to come—not just the political cycles which those opposite seem to focus on at the expense of the long term.

Can I refer to the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, something of which I'm very proud, that will bring benefits to the whole eastern seaboard. This has been spoken about since the middle part of last century. Federal and state Labor when they've been in power over the years have proven they were not interested at all, never, ever prioritised it with Infrastructure Australia, never showed any interest at a local level about this vital piece of infrastructure—something that's underway now—the biggest inland road project in our country, $1.6 billion, which will be completed by the early part of last year.

It's a project I know a bit about. Sure, it affects my home town, but it's a project that former Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss led the charge on when he was infrastructure and transport minister. It's a project that at that time the state LNP government led the charge on; the Toowoomba Regional Council led the charge on. After decades of discussion, it took these three levels of government to pull it together. The proof is there, and I know because I signed the deal on behalf of the then state government as Acting Treasurer of Queensland.

I refer to Inland Rail that will bring benefits to Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. It's been spoken of for 100 years. Who's delivering it? This coalition government—the 2016 budget; the 2017 budget. I can recall pundits and commentators suggesting maybe this coalition government may contribute in the order of $1 billion to get this thing going to show they're fair dinkum. We contributed over $8 billion for this nation-building project. Labor couldn't organise it; we're now delivering. We're dealing with the challenges of how that might impact on landholders right through those three states and making sure they don't have to wear all of that, and dealing with the benefits for agriculture, for trade, for international trade, for regional communities, as I said, through those three great states.

Those examples prove a long-term vision—long-term vision that focuses on future generations, not just electoral cycles, not just political debates in this place but a fair dinkum long-term commitment to nation-building infrastructure. That's what we've proven through these projects. That's what our $75 billion long-term commitment to infrastructure is all about. I celebrate the fact that we finally have this long-term vision, courtesy of the coalition government.

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion is now concluded.