House debates

Monday, 14 October 2019

Private Members' Business


12:52 pm

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a young child I recall driving with the family of seven in the old Valiant from Kempsey to Sydney to visit our relatives once a year. That trip took on average about 10 hours, not the mention the psychological damage to my parents. These days the trip takes about 4½ hours, thanks to a vision and commitment by both sides of government since the 1970s. Similarly, the train trip from Kempsey on the Rattler would take 14 to 16 hours; thankfully, now on the XPT it takes approximately six to seven hours.

From 1993 to 2012 I lived in various parts of Sydney before returning home to the mid-north coast. In 1993 Sydney's population was 3.7 million. By 2012 it had grown to 4.5 million. Just under two-thirds of New South Wales's state population resides in Greater Sydney. The population growth accounted for 78 per cent of the state's total growth. From personal experience, whether it was by public transport or private vehicle, it was not uncommon to travel up to and sometimes over two hours a day travelling to and from work. This equates to 20 days per year simply travelling—unproductive time that has had an effect on economic output but also an indirect impact on mental health, families and communities.

According to a study held by the Australia Institute, commuting has negative impacts on at least three dimensions of Australian life: people's psychological, emotional and physiological wellbeing; their relationships and interactions with their families, neighbourhoods, communities and work places; and the physical and social environment. These impacts are at the worst when commuting journeys are lengthy, unpredictable or congested. Lengthy and unpredictable commuting journeys take a toll on individuals both physically and emotionally.

Employees whose journeys to and from work are longer show greater levels of bodily stress and perceived stress. Commuting strain is associated with feelings of nervousness, tension, pain and stiffness and with poorer performance and satisfaction at work.

Commuters travelling by car in some Australian cities are travelling for longer periods than they did a decade ago. Australia's roads are becoming more crowded. Commuters are becoming more stressed and they are increasingly likely to suffer road rage. Therefore this government's $100 billion infrastructure investment for critical road and rail projects aimed at busting congesting, better connecting our regions and improving safety on our roads should be commended. So too should its additional funding across urban and regional Australia, and in particular the additional $3 billion to the Urban Congestion Fund, so that $4 billion is now available through the fund to target pinch points in major cities to reduce congestion in urban areas. This includes $3 billion of additional funding committed in the 2019-20 budget, which will support upgrades to urban road networks to reduce congestion and ensure commuters get home sooner and safer by reducing travel times, reducing vehicle operating costs, delivering more reliable road networks for commuters and freight, and addressing local bottlenecks.

Through the 2019-20 budget, the government has committed to over 30 additional major projects to address the needs of our regional areas and major cities. This includes $1 billion for the Princes Highway between Wollongong and Port Augusta, through Victoria; $400 million for the Newell Highway upgrades; $1.6 million for the M1 Pacific Motorway; and $1.5 million towards Raymond Terrace in New South Wales.

On top of these significant commitments by the Morrison-McCormack government is a significant one to my electorate of Cowper in the form of the Coffs Harbour bypass—a commitment for the long-awaited bypass for the residents of Coffs Harbour—a 14-kilometre bypass, containing three tunnels and reduced road gradient, improving safety, reducing noise and returning the streets of Coffs Harbour back to its residents, whilst at the same time reducing commute time for tourists passing through and those travelling into town.

It is not just the responsibility of the federal government to commit to congestion busting throughout urban and regional Australia; however, I note the significant contribution and commend them for doing so.

12:57 pm

Photo of Alicia PayneAlicia Payne (Canberra, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is vital to bust congestion, most importantly because of the impact on our environment. The best way to do this and reduce our environmental impact is by investing in public transport. Aside from the lake and its towering jet of water, the iconic national institutions and the countless roundabouts, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin's original plan for this beautiful city also included trams. Over 100 years later, the ACT Labor government has delivered on the Griffins' vision. Stage 1 of the Canberra light rail has now been completed. Running 12 kilometres from Civic to Gungahlin, it has transformed how people get around our city.

Canberra is getting bigger and, with a population of almost 400,000, that means more people getting to work, more people driving cars and more people relying on the public transport system in Canberra, which currently mainly comprises buses. The ACT government, under the leadership of Chief Minister Andrew Barr and transport minister Chris Steel, is planning for the future of Canberra and working to avoid the congestion issues of other capital cities before they escalate. Despite opposition from the old-school Canberra Liberals, the Barr Labor government persevered and, in less than four years from ground being broken, delivered to Canberra world-class light rail. This is quite staggering when you think about it, especially when compared to Sydney's and Newcastle's light rail, which have both seen delays and cost overruns. I might also add that the ACT government has not been sued by the contractors tasked with building the system and instead was able to deliver the project $32 million under budget.

Since it opened in April, over 3.1 million people have utilised the system, and journeys on the whole of the public transport network have increased by 8.5 per cent compared to the same period in 2018. Light-rail trips now make up 20 per cent of all public transport use in our city. The system is having a transformative impact on how people access our great city. More people are getting out of their cars and onto our trams and buses, reducing congestion and its impacts on the environment. Canberrans are jumping on board with light rail.

Stage 2B is about to commence, extending the current line through City West to New Acton and terminating at Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. This section of the light rail will open up the west side of the city and improve access for major events, such as Floriade, which just finished up at the weekend. The ACT government is not finished. Stage 2B of the light rail, which will travel from Civic to Woden, will bring the network to the south and extend access to even more Canberrans. In the future, the light rail network will continue to expand, with lines to Belconnen, Tuggeranong and the airport.

One of the most exciting aspects of stage 2 is the game-changing impact it will have on the Parliamentary Triangle. No longer will public servants be stuck in the morning traffic along Commonwealth Avenue. When stage 2 is delivered, perhaps members of this place will even opt for the light rail instead of COMCAR for their daily commute to represent their community. For tourists travelling to our national institutions, getting from the hotels in the city to Old Parliament House, the High Court and Questacon will become a far simpler exercise.

On the member for Forde's motion, I too express concern about congestion in our cities. There is a need for government at every level to invest in congestion-busting infrastructure, particularly public transport, to improve the lives of our citizens and reduce our environmental impact. That is exactly what the ACT government is doing. The Morrison government failed to spend a dollar from the Urban Congestion Fund in 2019-20, but they did spend $11.6 million on taxpayer funded congestion-busting advertising in the lead-up to the election. Minister Tudge confirmed in September that not one Urban Congestion Fund project had commenced construction and promised that some would start by Christmas. Which ones? Where?

I call on the federal government to join with the ACT government to push forward on stage 2B of light rail. The ACT needs the approval of this parliament to enable the light rail to travel through the Parliamentary Triangle. I call on the government to expedite approval of this project. It will bring congestion-busting infrastructure to Canberrans, it will stimulate the economy and it will improve the amenity of the Parliamentary Triangle for the many thousands of Australians and international visitors who visit each year. Our city is growing, and it's vital we provide the infrastructure necessary to ensure that it does so in a sustainable way. As we move forward we must ensure that our urban centres operate as efficiently as possible, and congestion-busting light rail is one way we can accomplish it. At the May election, the federal Labor Party committed $200 million towards the funding of stage 2 of Canberra light rail, and I call on the government to match this commitment.

1:02 pm

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A seamless commute to work, school drop-off or just down to the shops to get the family's groceries can mean the difference between a positive start to your day or a stress-filled morning that cascades into a stress-filled day. As our cities grow and develop and our suburbs transform, our roads inevitably feel the toll of our growing population as the epidemic of congestion spreads across the country. Each moment that is spent in traffic at a traffic light or on a gridlocked highway is time spent away from our families, our jobs and the things that make us all happy and proud to live in this beautiful country. Congestion-busting infrastructure is not only an investment in improving our lives today but an investment in our future as a country.

Constituents in my electorate of Higgins have spoken to me of the daily challenges they face with regard to congestion. It's a common topic for anyone who lives in Melbourne. The Morrison government has committed to a record $100 billion infrastructure investment program to help bust congestion across Australia. This includes a $3 billion Victorian congestion package. I'm proud to say that locally, in my electorate of Higgins, there will be a $260 million investment to fund the removal of the Glenferrie Road level crossing at Kooyong station. In a 2013 VicRoads study, the Glenferrie Road level crossing in my electorate of Higgins was listed as one of the 20 high-priority level crossings to be removed. In the Victorian Auditor-General's December 2017 report on managing the level crossing removal program, this crossing was noted to be one of the most dangerous and congested level crossings. It is the last one in Melbourne that has the dangerous mix of rail, road, pedestrians and trams at one crossing. Simply put, it is an accident waiting to happen. Despite recommendations by experts over many years, this level crossing has not been included in the Victorian state government's Level Crossing Removal Project. I'm proud to have fought for the removal of this dangerous crossing and even prouder that the Morrison government has stepped up to help decongest a road that services tens of thousands of motorists across southern Melbourne each and every day. We've also committed $10 million to a business plan to assess the removal of level crossings across the Glen Waverley Line, and that includes Kooyong station. Such lifestyle-changing projects are only made possible because of our government's strong economic management.

However, in order to improve the flow of our cities and better the lives of all Australians, governments at every level need to invest in congestion-busting infrastructure to provide the best outcomes for our citizens. It is disappointing to see, time and again, that not all levels of government have made such projects a priority. Politics should play no part in working towards an improved way of life for all our constituents. I call on the state government to accept our federal funding with goodwill and to work with us for the best outcome for the people of Higgins and Victoria more broadly. When roads are congested the cost of transporting goods and the price for all employees to get to work increases. Congestion is not just a commuter frustration, it's also an economic burden to our country.

Australians deserve a pragmatic and strategic approach to ensure that the transport pressures on our roads are eased, and congestion busting is just one of those. Since coming to government, the Morrison government has committed more than $27 billion to support transport infrastructure projects in my state of Victoria alone. We have led the way in Victoria by putting funding on the table to kickstart key public transport projects like the Melbourne Airport Rail Link; the fast rail between Melbourne and Geelong; Monash Rail; and numerous level crossings. The Morrison government has made a promise to Australians to get people home sooner and safer, and that is what we're doing. That's why I rise to support this motion on congestion-busting infrastructure made by the member for Forde.

1:06 pm

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

As a Victorian, I have to say that it's a pleasant surprise to hear the government talking about infrastructure! I say 'surprise' because, like so much of this government's agenda, infrastructure investment has been completely missing in action. What else can explain why Victoria, which constitutes 25 per cent of the population, has received only about seven per cent of federal infrastructure funding under the Abbott-Turnbull and now Morrison governments? We've seen them announce $1 billion of funding but not seen one cent spent, because the government is all talk and no action.

The member for Forde may not be aware of this, but we Victorians know all too well that our growing communities are feeling the burden of blown-out commuter times and the lack of federal government investment in infrastructure. It only makes us less productive as workers as we spend more hours on the road, making it harder to come home and spend time with our families and participate in community life.

The government has been starving our communities of the funds we desperately need to address the massive growth of our population and the impacts on our economy and quality of life. This is the reality of what we've had to deal with over the past six years. Areas of regional Victoria, like my electorate of McEwen, are bursting at the seams with thousands of new residents escaping unaffordable city house prices and searching for a better place for their families to grow and thrive in. But instead of being met with the infrastructure they should rightly expect in new and emerging suburbs and towns, they are met with congested roads and shockingly absent federal investment in transport infrastructure. That should, and must, change.

I welcome the idea that the key to successfully addressing this congestion is an all-of-the-above approach, with, most importantly, all levels of government actually committing the funds to make it happen. I must say, though, that we're left scratching our heads about why this very sensible idea doesn't seem to translate into policy or commitments from the Morrison government. Take the vital project at the Wallan diamond interchange in the seat of McEwen, for example. It's a perfect example of government doublespeak. At the 2019 election, Labor committed to provide the funds needed to get this project over the line. It is a key priority for the Mitchell shire, VicRoads and the wider community. It sounds exactly like the sort of project that this motion is about, doesn't it? So why has the Morrison government refused to invest in this project or, for that matter, any other projects associated with addressing the needs of our region? The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development needs to answer those questions. Even my Liberal opponent at the last election agreed with Labor's position, but after the election had passed, unfortunately. What are we hearing now? We're hearing whispers that this government is thinking about ripping money from the Hume Highway and Calder Highway upgrades—projects that had bipartisan support before the election—ripping that money away from the major backbone of transport, freight and commuter movement in Victoria and the eastern states and rehashing it as part of their city deals, yet again leaving Victorians worse off.

What I would really like to see from the government, rather than self-congratulation and the headline figures, is for them to actually deliver proper infrastructure for our communities. Deliver the Wallan diamond interchange; deliver the Watson Street upgrade and the works that need to be done on the Northern Highway; and deliver the extra lanes needed on the Hume and Calder freeways. These projects are vital. Why? Because traffic is banked up along the Hume Freeway, causing massive commuter headaches and, much more importantly, presenting major safety hazards for all road users. Very few drivers motoring down the freeway would expect a traffic jam that stretches for kilometres, but that is what happens on this stretch of the Hume Freeway every day. Clearly, when you're getting traffic jams on a freeway, something has gone dramatically wrong. This is the sort of problem that not only costs us time and money but is likely to cost lives.

So while it's very good to pat yourselves on the back for a new buzz phrase, how about you actually commit the actions to match those words? It's not just a political debate. The toing and froing in the battle of ideas is deadly serious. With critical lack of federal investment in Victoria's roads our death toll has risen. I'm sure that the few sensible members on the government benches would agree that the number we're seeing is too high and that we should do everything to bring it down. That's why government support for this critical $50 million diamond interchange and $90 million dollar investment in the Northern Highway and Watson Street would be so important for communities.

So I say again to the government: don't scrap the money from the Hume Highway and rob Peter to pay Paul; invest in both projects. The time is now to act on congestion-busting infrastructure. Let's hope that it results in shovels in the ground, not buzz words and rehashing of current funding arrangements.

1:11 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm proud to rise to support this motion because this government has a clear track record of delivery of infrastructure for this great nation. When you think about the $100 billion of committed projects that we are funding and financing, you understand that the Morrison government has got every Australian's back. We know that as part of building the strength of this great nation we need the roads, the rail and all the social and support infrastructure for people to be able to live happy and successful lives. Under the minister we have a very clear plan to make sure that, no matter where you are in the country, we are providing the infrastructure that you need.

This was a critical issue and a critical test at the last federal election. If you look at the great state of Victoria, the coalition government was promising to build major pieces of infrastructure of national importance like the East West Link. The East West Link is a plan that we have put forward at election after election, and very every time that we have put it forward the people have voted for it, particularly in the electorates along that corridor. They vote Liberal for a reason. They know that only we understand the importance of the East West Link to their communities to get the freight trucks off suburban streets, to connect to the ports and to build the strength and prosperity of our economy.

What do Labor do every time? They oppose it. They block it. At the state level, the Andrews government even went so far as to hit the hip pockets of millions of Victorians by handing over their hard earned tax dollars and giving it to a private company to not build a road. It was perhaps the most despicable and disgraceful behaviour from a state government that one could ever see. People understand that projects are critical. Victorians have been sold out by the Andrews Labor government. And there has been not one peep of criticism from the Labor members in this place, because in the end they agree with him. In a choice between backing Victorians or backing their Labor mates, they always choose Labor mates and don't stand up for the people that they're elected to represent. In particular, the conspicuous silence of Labor senators from the great state of Victoria should be condemned.

By comparison, the coalition government has made a clear commitment to invest in communities to build the strength of our country. At the last election we went to the people of Goldstein and said, 'We understand the challenges of an established community in making sure that we reduce the congestion that you experience on your streets. We understand the importance of people having transport options so they can go about living their lives.' Do you know what promise the Labor Party made in return? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. They had nothing to say to the people of Goldstein about the concerns and the issues those people face on a daily basis.

But what did we do? We turned around and gave a series of commitments, which we are now honouring, around investing in new parking spaces at local railway stations so that people who want to catch a train can do so. They can get there; they're able to park throughout the day and they're able to get home. We're providing mass commuter options for an established community: 97 new parking spaces at Sandringham station, with an investment of $3.1 million; 136 new car-parking spaces at Brighton Beach, with an investment of $4.3 million; 84 new parking spaces at North Brighton station, with an investment of $2.66 million; 130 new parking spaces at Hampton station, with an investment of $4 million. Working with the City of Bayside, we are giving them the grants and funding for the projects that they've come to us about and said, 'This is what our community needs.' We have heard them and we are responding.

The same is true in the City of Glen Eira, with 203 new parking spaces at Elsternwick station for $6.4 million and 143 new parking spaces at Bentleigh station for $4 million. On each proposal and each project, we're working with the councils. And what is the biggest barrier they're facing to delivering this important congestion-busting infrastructure? The state Labor government, which has never seen a project funded by Canberra to support a local community that it doesn't like, that it doesn't want to block and that it doesn't want to undermine because somehow it might provide a pathway to improve the lives of Victorians. That's what this motion is about: it's about the state getting out of the way and letting us do what we need to do to improve the lives of the people in the great state of Victoria and for community— (Time expired)

1:17 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to begin by quoting a Sydney Morning Herald article from 10 July. It said:

Commuters on Sydney's busiest rail lines are regularly unable to get home on time during the evening peak on weekdays …

It goes on:

Trains on the T1 Western—one of the most heavily patronised … did not meet on-time performance targets during the evening peaks on three out of five weekdays in the 12 months to early July.

That means that for three out of every five working days residents in the electorate that I represent are late home. They are late home after being crammed, at the start of the day, on trains that go from Western Sydney into the city, and they will stand for extended periods of time, crammed like sardines on that rail line.

And what is the solution? What has been the thinking of the state government or the federal government to alleviate that type of problem? When the federal government eventually got round to asking state governments, 'Tell us what your projects are,' the state government nominated two projects: (1) the $20 billion Sydney Metro West project from the CBD to Parramatta and (2) the rail line from St Mary's to the airport, which will also cost an incredible amount of money—probably around $10 billion—on top of that. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, about federal and state governments working on investing on the western expressway or getting rid of congestion on that rail line by opening it up.

Previous Labor governments have suggested that by making some investment in that T1 line, opening up corridors there, you could actually free up transport or train travel for people going into the city. At that point in time it didn't cost $20 billion or $10 billion—it wasn't even $1 billion; at that point in time it would cost $500 million to invest in freeing up congested rail lines for Western Sydney residents, particularly those travelling from Penrith, through Mount Druitt, through Blacktown and on into the city. It was going to cost $500 million to create the western expressway. We've seen nothing about that. In fact, all we have seen is this focus on the Sydney Metro West. While I get that some people will champion that, that will not alleviate the travel time and the congestion that are being experienced by people from electorates like the one I represent who are travelling from Penrith through to Parramatta.

If people don't want to use a rail line and want to use a roadway, they'll have to fork out. I've estimated that people who use tollways to travel from my part of Western Sydney through to the city, if they're travelling by road every single day, will pay on average $9,000 a year, just to get to the city, because they're using tolls. Sydney is the most tolled city in the country. Every time you put an announcement or an idea forward for another motorway in Sydney, it's got to have a toll fixture on it. Most people in Western Sydney are tolled to their back teeth and they cannot afford another one.

The next big motorway that should be built is the M9, running parallel to the M7, but there's no planning on that. Why? Because the state government is more concerned about the politics of how it has upset its own voters in north-western Sydney as opposed to thinking longer term about what's needed to improve travel in Western Sydney. If you are driving from Mount Druitt to Parramatta in the morning and you go on to Google Maps, you'll just see a red line—congestion. It's estimated there is an extra 30 minutes on top of travel time from Mount Druitt to Parramatta because there's been no investment in the roadway. When there was investment, as part of WestConnex, the coalition put tolls back on that road, which had been paid off. So now people try to get off at Parramatta to avoid paying the toll, and this creates a massive congestion headache.

We need serious, long-term investment being made to move people either on roads or on rail or on buses. We aren't going to get it with advertising campaigns or political spin. It takes the hard yards—the financing and the thinking about what's required to make life easier for people in Western Sydney.

1:22 pm

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We've heard a lot about congestion and roads and cities. I note the member for McEwen's contribution, about how people are moving out of the cities and into cheaper regional areas. Hear, hear to that! I know that for you, Mr Deputy Speaker Rick Wilson—and for the member for Barker, who is here in the chamber as well—and me it's really not about the train where we have to wait half an hour to get a connection back to our suburb. We simply don't have the train. We don't have those connections. It's not about congestion; it's about connection. What are we doing in regional areas to continue to connect our communities, to ensure that they have the opportunities that others, in the cities, may well have?

In my area, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you know, we've committed $173 million to the Hinkler Regional Deal, the majority of which is delivered into critical and connecting infrastructure, things that help to grow our economy, connect our local communities and ensure that people in our communities have an opportunity to escape from where they live in times of inclement weather, whether that is cyclone, flood or fire. We need to ensure that those connections are there. One thing that is incredibly important is the flood-proofing of the Torbanlea to Pialba connecting road. This road links the city of Hervey Bay back to the Bruce Highway. With the other link, which runs up to Maryborough, quite simply it is technically unfeasible to make it flood-proof. This is the opportunity. As part of the regional deal, we've committed $24 million, and, in some sort of miracle, the Queensland Labor government have committed their 20 per cent, which was a great surprise to me. In fact, I think it might have been a surprise to some of their ministers that it was on the approved list. They weren't quite aware. That is a $30 million road upgrade which will ensure that we can connect the people of Hervey Bay to the Bruce Highway in times of difficult and inclement weather.

We're also committing money to the redevelopment of the Hervey Bay CBD. What's that about? Hervey Bay is, quite simply, a group of seaside villages that grew into a seaside town and then a seaside city. They don't actually have what they consider to be a town centre. I congratulate the Fraser Coast Regional Council on their vision in establishing one in the city of Hervey Bay. To assist in that, we have committed $40 million from the Hinkler Regional Deal to help council achieve that aim. I think that is incredibly important.

We need to look back not just at congestion busting but connection—connecting those infrastructure pieces that are critical to our people. As I said earlier, the member for McEwen is on our side: he wants people moving into the regions. But what are the critical elements to ensure that we can provide for people that want to move to our areas? The first one is jobs. As I've said many times in this place, the unemployment rate in my electorate had been, quite simply, unacceptable. It had a '9' in front of it. In the last 12 months, it has now reached the point where it has a '7' in front of it, a substantial improvement. That's happened through a range of issues, most importantly through this government's investment into the regions through funds like the Regional Jobs and Investment program and the Regional Growth Fund—very substantial injections of cash not only into local governments and councils but also, in some cases, into businesses, which have expanded and created jobs and provided opportunity. Every single time we provide a permanent job in our region, the flow-through effect helps everyone in our community, and that includes our schools, our volunteer organisations and our rural fire services. It ensures that we have teaching staff and facilities.

As I'm sure you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, we need to continue to drive jobs into regional areas. We simply can't sustain the type of growth that we've seen in some locations, predominantly, I have to say, from immigration. We know that in 2017 some 170,000 individuals chose to make Australia their home, and I say, 'Good on you.' But those 170,000 individuals moved into the east coast cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in just 12 months. I think there are opportunities in regional Australia for them and for us. So I think we need to ensure that we continue to provide those opportunities where we can for long-term jobs, to drive prosperity in our regional economies.

As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, right now there is nothing more important than water and water infrastructure. We can't provide a solution to the current drought. It is well established. But we can ensure that there is a reliable water supply which is available for a much longer period of time if we simply commit to that infrastructure. Right now, we have a Queensland Labor government that is, would you believe, knocking down the dam wall at the Paradise Dam. They are going to take five metres off the Paradise wall—that is, 85,000 megalitres of storage—for an unspecified and yet to be stated safety issue. If there is a safety issue for our community, the Queensland Labor government should tell them what it is. What action do you plan to take? When will it be done? And give us back our water, because water is wealth.

1:27 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm sure the previous member would like to pass on his thanks to the Premier of Queensland, Premier Palaszczuk, for helping him get that unemployment rate down in Queensland from a '9' to a '7'. I thank the member for Forde for the opportunity to speak on this motion, because I agree with him that congestion is a problem across both urban and regional Australia. It's a problem that's grown worse under six years of Liberal-National government because of a chronic, ongoing failure to invest in infrastructure. Those opposite seem to have come late to the party. They've underinvested in national infrastructure. Now they've woken up to growing congestion and thought perhaps they ought to do something about it.

Of course, Labor were dealing with it when last in government. We were more interested in practical solutions than in developing buzzwords, so we didn't attach the groovy name of 'congestion busting' to everything we did, but we did build and invest in roads, we did build and invest in rail, and we did build and invest in ports and in airstrips. Labor's approach to infrastructure investment was stable and consistent—perhaps boring even. But it was dependable. Indeed, when now opposition leader Mr Albanese was infrastructure minister in the previous Labor government, he was so highly regarded by the sector he was named Infrastructure Minister of the Year. Under the member for Grayndler, infrastructure investment in this country was targeted not at pork-barrelling or shoring up marginal seats but at areas of need, guided by independent expert advice. We built stuff where experts said it needed to go. States and territories were properly consulted. Local governments were listened to. When Labor left office in 2013, a healthy pipeline of infrastructure projects was bequeathed to those opposite. Unfortunately, for six long years of laziness and incompetence, the Liberals and Nationals have allowed the pipeline to rust away.

We often hear those opposite bang the drum about their so-called $100 billion infrastructure pipeline. A cursory examination of the budget papers shows less than one-third of it is allocated to the next four years. That's $70 billion on the never-never. It's a pipedream of a pipeline. And there's an old saying, 'Don't listen to what people say; look at what they do.' What this government has done is chronically underinvest in infrastructure.

Since 2014 this government has failed to meet even its own infrastructure commitments. A $5 billion underspend on transport projects over five budgets tells us all we need to know about the priority that those opposite have placed on congestion busting. What did they do with the Building Australia Fund, a reserve fund set aside specifically to provide stable, consistent revenue for national infrastructure? They killed it. It must come as cold comfort to those millions of Australians stuck in peak-hour gridlock on their way to and from work that this government has now apparently woken up and recognised the importance of infrastructure. They've at least recognised the political importance of being seen to talk about it. However, $5 billion of underspend demonstrates they are yet to learn the importance of actually doing the work.

A recent report from Infrastructure AustraliaUrban transport, crowding and congestionfound that by 2031 drivers will spend 60 per cent of their commute stuck in congestion. The latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey found that over the past decade the average commute rose from 3.7 hours to 4.5 hours. One in six Australians spends more than two hours going to and from work every day. It's insanity! It's a waste of human capital and it's robbing Australian workers of time with their family.

The Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania estimates that Hobart traffic congestion costs taxpayers $100 million a year—and that's today. Hobart's projected to have another 100,000 residents by 2050. Hobart has the highest percentage of vehicle use in Australia. It's the nation's fourth most congested city, and only six per cent of our commuters use public transport.

The state government and the federal government have failed Tasmania on infrastructure. Labor went to the last election with a billion dollars of infrastructure for our state. It would have been a great achievement under Labor. Sadly, the Liberals were elected and they are failing infrastructure in Tasmania. They're failing Tasmanian commuters—we are one of the most congested places in the country—and it's a crying shame. This government needs to do better.

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for the debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Sitting suspended from 13:32 to 16:00