House debates

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Matters of Public Importance


3:29 pm

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

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

The failure to provide adequate infrastructure for Australia's needs.

I call upon all 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 Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

This seven-year-old chaotic government was supposed to deliver water security for Australians, but instead our country is desperately seeking national leadership on water. Australians have faced the worst drought on record and are crying out for the federal government to take water security seriously, but water security is a mess. Regional towns at the point of or on the brink of running out of water have been forced to truck it in, and they have been calling out for help. Independent body Infrastructure Australia has noted that crises like the Menindee fish kill have undermined confidence in the governance and management of Australia's water resources.

You might ask, Mr Deputy Speaker O'Brien, 'Why did the Labor Party set up Infrastructure Australia when they were last in government?' Why did we do that? Was it because we needed to take the politics out of infrastructure to try to ensure that future governments didn't use the infrastructure budget like some sort of personal piggy bank, to avoid boondoggles, rorts and the political apportionment of public funds? I think it was all pretty important, and I think we've seen pretty recently, through sports rorts, urban congestion rorts and all of the different corrupt rorting programs that we've seen under this government, exactly why we need independent advice that can talk to government about what is needed.

When it comes to water management, Infrastructure Australia has today put water security and the need for a national water strategy at the heart of the release of the national priority list for infrastructure, and they've done that because, frankly, this government has vacated the field when it comes to water security and water infrastructure. The country is crying out for leadership, but the Liberals and the Nationals have left a leadership vacuum in water management and water security, and it's now been left to someone else to fill that vacuum.

As I said, Infrastructure Australia has noted that crises like the Menindee fish kill have undermined confidence in the governance and management of Australia's water resources. I would add that, between inadequate water management, big subsidies being paid to partly foreign-owned corporations, speculators in the water market and scandals involving Liberal and National government ministers, Australians do not trust the Liberals and Nationals to manage water fairly. Meanwhile, infighting within the Nationals and infighting about water between the Nationals and the Liberals is at its peak. The Liberals and Nationals have mismanaged our most precious resource, water, with Australian farmers, communities and our natural environment paying a massive price. Their woeful track record has left a massive leadership vacuum.

As I said, Infrastructure Australia has today launched its 2020 infrastructure priority list. The list sets out the nationally significant infrastructure investments Australia needs over the next 15 years, and, with the Liberals and Nationals so hopeless and unreliable when it comes to water, it has fallen to Infrastructure Australia to take the lead. For the first time the list contains priority initiatives in relation to the need for a national water strategy and in relation to water security for towns and cities.

Infrastructure Australia are clearly deeply concerned about this government's abject failure to deliver water security, so they've called for a national water strategy to fill the void. Under the Liberals and Nationals, water management has been beset by broken promises and mismanagement. The mismanagement started really early. Do people remember—I'm sure you do—that in 2014, after talking a big game on water from opposition, the new government came in and did what? They axed the National Water Commission. They axed it. Do you know why they said it could be axed? They said it was because there was no longer adequate justification for a standalone agency to monitor Australia's progress on water reform. How wrong can you be? Absolute genius it was to get rid of the National Water Commission!

It took them a while, but they finally worked out their error because, before last year's election, the government, seemingly admitting that it was wrong to axe the commission, scrambled to try to reverse the damage. The now Deputy Prime Minister promised to take the politics out of water—where have we heard that before?—by creating, guess what, an independent statutory authority! We had an independent statutory authority in the National Water Commission, but they created—actually, they set aside; they haven't created it at all. They made a promise to create an independent statutory authority—the National Water Grid Authority.

But they broke the promise. This is a broken promise from this government. Instead, there's no independent statutory authority. There is a so-called National Water Grid Authority, but it's a group within the department; it's not independent, it's not statutory. The government has been caught out breaking a central plank of their election commitment to drought-ravaged Australian communities. The planned authority has turned out to be a mirage. In drought-stricken regional communities, the Nationals pinned their credibility to the establishment of the National Water Grid Authority, which was to be independent and statutory—to take the politics out of water—and they did that to win votes. But it was just a fib. The Deputy Prime Minister claimed that it would be established, but no such body exists. The deputy secretary of the responsible department at the time, Dr Rachel Bacon, confirmed in Senate estimates in October that it's not actually an independent authority. There is no independent statutory authority. This is just another example of this loose-with-the-truth government saying one thing and doing another, and it is absolutely not good enough.

Infrastructure Australia has also joined the growing list of organisations sounding the alarm about the impact of climate change on water availability and water security in this country. But this government is just too busy with its internal ideological warfare to have a meaningful and serious approach to climate change. And now the Liberals and Nationals have a new water minister with a track record of opposing climate action. After the member for New England dumped him, in 2017, the new minister made it back into the ministry three months later. But he then resigned from the ministry, less than six months after that, because he thought even the Morrison government's non-existent climate policy was too much. The new minister must also be honest with the Australian people about the government's intentions when it comes to water. He must face up to the fact that climate change is hitting water availability and water security hard.

Perhaps most egregious is that, before coming to office, the coalition said they were going to build 100 dams. The member for New England said at the time that it was a key election commitment. And what have they done? There are not 100 new dams. These guys have now been in government for seven years. Have they built the promised, much-lauded 100 new dams? People across this country are crying out for water storage. They're crying out for a proper approach to water management and water security. This mob claimed that they were going to build 100 dams—how many have they built? It's just a deeply embarrassing situation, isn't it? In fact, the only thing that they are able to point to is a contribution they made to a dam that was built in a project in Tasmania that Labor had kicked off. So much for 100 dams; they've gotten nowhere on 100 dams.

Last year in October we saw a spectacular example of how the government talks out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to dams and water storage. We had the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the member for New England stand up in October and claim that they were going to work with the New South Wales government to put in 50 per cent for new dam investments. Within 48 hours that claim was trashed: it wasn't 50 per cent, it was 25 per cent. We tried to get the Prime Minister to correct the record, and to come in and fess up to the fact that he'd made this claim to the people of New South Wales that wasn't accurate. But he didn't want to. Because, do you know what, Deputy Speaker? This Prime Minister never likes to admit it when he is wrong. And he certainly doesn't like to admit it when he's been caught out saying something that's not true. We saw some evidence of that today in question time today, didn't we. Here is a man who is so stubborn and so arrogant—who cannot lie straight in bed!— that he will never admit that he is wrong. And do you know what his reaction is when he's caught out, like he was today? He doesn't come in and correct the record. He's not apologetic. He doesn't apologise to the Australian people for what he's said. He just doubles down. He thinks he can spin his way out of anything, because he is an ad man without a plan. He is someone that the Australian people cannot trust when it comes to water.

All of these reasons are why Infrastructure Australia, which is where we started—and which Labor established—is so important. Regional rorts, sports rorts, Urban Congestion Fund rorts—this government just can't be trusted to manage public money without using it for their own political purposes. Labor established Infrastructure Australia so that infrastructure spending would be based on the business case, not the political case—so that it would be spent on public benefit, not on ideas that have been run through colour-coded spreadsheets; and so that it would be spent on productivity, not Liberal-National target seats. This government must pay close attention to today's Infrastructure Australia list and start standing up for Australians, not just for themselves.

3:39 pm

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

What a gift it is to the government to talk about the MPI. The MPI statement says 'adequate infrastructure for Australia's needs'. With due respect to the member for Griffith, who did spend much of her time talking about water infrastructure, I will get to water infrastructure later, because we have a list of projects that I'm very happy to elaborate on that are under construction and that are well into the planning stage as well. I will deal with the water infrastructure issues that she raised.

In the context of the MPI stating 'provide adequate infrastructure for Australia's needs', I have a list of nation-changing projects for Australia that have been instigated and commenced under this government, and I'm going to run through a few of them. The three that I'm going to start with are major projects. The opposition were involved in one, but wanted to cut funding, and I don't think they ever would have funded the other two at all. The first one is the very important Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project. This project has been spoken about for decades. I'm sure you are aware of it, Deputy Speaker O'Brien. This is a $9 billion project that has been discussed for many decades. Work has started under this government. What a very important nation-building project it is.

The other one that has been talked about that they couldn't get off the ground—excuse the pun, because I'm talking about the Western Sydney Airport. Again, a $5 billion project that's very important for Sydney. It's very important for it to keep its international city reputation. The existing Sydney Airport, as we know, is very congested. The Western Sydney Airport began, was announced and is getting built under this government.

The third one, before I go to some other projects, is the very important Pacific Highway project. The Pacific Highway project, at one stage, was the largest regional project underway throughout the country. It just happened to be that the last stage of it, the Woolgoolga to Ballina section, is completely in my electorate. That is a $5 billion project. You might be questioning yourself, Deputy Speaker. You might ask, 'Didn't Labor support that project, and weren't they funding it?' They were, actually. They were funding it at 80 per cent. Then, when there was a change in the New South Wales state government to a Liberal-Nationals government, they decided they only wanted to fund it at 50 per cent. They wanted to not fund the project as they originally were. I had discussions with Warren Truss, who was then the Leader of the Nationals—your predecessor, Deputy Speaker. We recommitted that, if we got elected in 2013, we would fund that project at 80 per cent, and we have. Six years on, a lot of that money has been spent and, weather permitting, that project will be completed by the end of this year.

Why do we do that? Why is that important? The reason that any dual duplication is so important is that it reduces fatalities—an issue that I know is very dear to your heart, Deputy Speaker. In fact, fatalities on the Pacific Highway are at a multi-decade low. When you consider the increased traffic that it has seen over the decades, the fact that fatalities are at a record low is a wonderful thing. That being said, there's still work to do. The dual duplication isn't completed, but when it is I'm sure that fatalities will decrease even further.

The importance of all of the infrastructure projects that I'm going to talk about is that they are job creating in the building of them. In this particular project there are 2,500 to 3,000 direct jobs. The number of indirect jobs is huge, so it's very important to regional economies like mine. One of the projects I'm going to mention later is the Bruce Highway—again, a project that I know is dear to your heart, Deputy Speaker. What is very important is post the build. It brings those communities closer. The tyranny of distance decreases. It brings an economic tourism boom or whatever. Your manufacturers and any businesses in your region are suddenly closer to more customers. It's very important for that as well.

I have a list. I think I'll read it. It goes through the different states. But I will, out of due respect to the member for Griffith, get to some water infrastructure projects, because she's right: water infrastructure projects are important. Water is a very valuable resource. I will get to some of those projects and what we're doing there.

But let me first go through some of the significant infrastructure projects across the states. In New South Wales there is $5.5 billion for the Pacific Highway, $3.5 billion for Westconnex and $3.3 billion for the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan. In Victoria there is $1.75 million for the North East Link, $687 million for the Monash Freeway and $467 million for the Ballarat rail line upgrade. In Queensland, there is $10 billion for the Bruce Highway, $860 million for the Gateway Motorway and $1.1 billion for the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing. In Western Australia there is $820 million for North Link, $116 million for the Armadale Road duplication, $275 million for the Great Northern Highway. In South Australia there is $4.5 billion for the North-South Corridor, $220 million for the Gawler rail line electrification and $190 million for the Goodwood-Torrens Junctions project. In Tasmania there is $460 million for the Bridgewater Bridge, $60 million for rail freight revitalisation and $38 million for the Hobart to Sorell corridor. In the Australian Capital Territory there is $100 million for the Monaro Highway upgrade, $30 million for the Kings Highway upgrade and $20 million for the William Slim Drive duplication. In the Northern Territory there is $180 million for the Central Arnhem Road Upgrade, $62 million for the Arnhem Highway and $30 million for the Garry Miller Boulevard.

We have announced as well $100 billion—yes, you heard it right—over the 10 years. This government has had some notable achievements since it was first elected in 2013. That includes the free trade agreements that we have initiated and the lower tax regime that we have initiated. And I think the third tranche of that is infrastructure, which is why I am so pleased that infrastructure has been brought up in this MPI. And that's why we have record employment growth and unemployment levels where they are.

The member for Griffith mentioned the Urban Congestion Fund and the Roads of Strategic Importance program. One of the roads in my electorate getting an upgrade through the Roads of Strategic Importance program is the Clarence Way. Mr Deputy Speaker, if I took you there, you might say, 'Why is this road getting an upgrade?' It's quite remote. It is getting an upgrade because of the amount of employment that relies on it. There is one of the biggest cattle producers there. There is blueberry production down the road as well. So while that road is remote, it has created a lot of jobs—and a lot of jobs depend on that road.

Before I get to water, I want to mention some other significant infrastructure projects that are important—and a couple of them were initiated under this government. I'm going to go first to the one that I have listed third on my list. It is an infrastructure program that was initiated by us, not Labor—it didn't exist prior to 2013—and that is the Bridges Renewal Program. It has been very important in my region as well. This program is not about the big, sexy bridges on national highways or important state roads. In my region, there are a lot of wooden bridges that maybe only 20 or 30 properties need to drive across. Those properties are productive. Those bridges are important for them in getting to schools, shops and hospitals. They are also important because they are in productive areas—areas that are producing food and fibre. One bridge that is being built is helping a company that supplies 80 per cent of the soybeans to Vitasoy in Australia. You wouldn't believe it if you drove past. It is a great industry, a great business. That bridge is really important to the people who work in that processing plant. That's why we focus on that. Local governments have their own cost pressures. A lot of local governments don't have the resources, especially with a small ratepayer base, to keep that infrastructure up. So we as a coalition government saw that as important, and that's why we announced that program.

I'm running out of time. I really wanted to get to the water infrastructure projects as well, because there are so many. I'm certain that some of my colleagues will talk about the wonderful water infrastructure projects. In fact, I'll give them my list—which will take up their whole five minutes. Again, I think one of the great stories of ours is the infrastructure— (Time expired)

3:49 pm

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

I also rise to contribute to this matter of public importance debate. The Infrastructure Australia priority list released today is a reminder of just how important it is to have an independent body establishing the infrastructure priorities of the nation. Labor established Infrastructure Australia to take some of the politics out of infrastructure funding and to establish a long-term pipeline of projects for the nation. Water infrastructure has been highlighted today, but there is also the growing problem of urban congestion choking our cities. If ever we needed a reminder of why it is important to take the politics out of the allocation of infrastructure funding, we've had it this week with the revelations about how this government has treated its Urban Congestion Fund.

This week it was exposed that the Liberal and National parties are addicted to rorting infrastructure funding. Labor uncovered that, of the $3 billion allocated for the Urban Congestion Fund, $2.5 billion—some 83 per cent—went to Liberal seats and seats that were being targeting by the Liberal Party.

Mr Hogan interjecting

I hear the member interjecting. I want to go again to this issue: the $3 billion. This isn't just a small grants program; this is $3 billion of public funding that the Liberal and National parties have rorted for their own political interest. That is what you have done. You have rorted it for your own political interests: $3 billion, 83 per cent of which went to coalition seats and seats you were targeting in the 2019 election campaign. More than $2.1 billion, or 70 per cent, went to Liberal seats alone. The poor old Nats didn't get a look in on the Urban Congestion Fund—not a cent. Seventy per cent went to seats held by the Liberal Party. Across the country, projects went to every single urban Liberal seat that was marginal or under threat. The Morrison government even extended urban congestion funding to four marginal seats in regional Australia. Meanwhile, 37 urban and regional city Labor seats missed out completely.

Let's look at a few specific examples from around the country. The Prime Minister found $290 million for four congestion-busting projects in the seat of Higgins, but Lalor in Melbourne's west, where commuters have to get to the car park before 7 am to get a spot, did not get a single dollar. Over in South Australia, the two marginal Liberal seats received 58 per cent of the funds allocated to that state, but there was nothing for Hindmarsh, Kingston or Spence. In New South Wales, the marginal Liberal seat of Robertson scored 94 per cent of the $105 million allocated for the New South Wales Central Coast, leaving residents in neighbouring Dobell stuck in the slow lane. Up in Queensland, Brisbane Road on the Sunshine Coast in the Liberal seat of Fisher received $12 million, but the Labor seat of Griffith in the heart of Brisbane didn't receive a single cent. Of course, the Liberals cared so little about urban congestion in Brisbane, they refused to spend a dollar on Cross River Rail, which for years was Infrastructure Australia's No.1 congestion-busting project. Over in Perth, every single individual project went to a Liberal seat. The Attorney-General's marginal seat of Pearce received the biggest prize in the west: five projects worth $10 million.

Does this Prime Minister really think that congestion stops when drivers hit a road that isn't on his partisan list of political priorities? On Monday, we asked him: do think this was fair? The Prime Minister's only defence was that the projects were all election commitments. However, we know this is simply not true. The Urban Congestion Fund was established in the 2018 budget, a year before the election. We also saw that nothing happened in the first year of that fund. There were no guidelines. There was no transparency. There was no call for applications for any of this funding. When you establish a fund with a strategic purpose a year before an election, do nothing and then suddenly roll out projects just before and during an election—I don't know what else to call it but, simply and utterly, a slush fund. An absolute and utter rort is what it was. The Prime Minister couldn't even speak to the alleged benefits of it. This Urban Congestion Fund has been a— (Time expired)

3:55 pm

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

It is an absolute privilege to be able to stand to make a small contribution to the matter of public importance this afternoon. Let me go straight to the point around Queensland water projects. The Liberal-National coalition, under the leadership of Mr Morrison, is absolutely committed to water infrastructure. We know full well that partnership needs to be in place with the relevant state governments.

I'd like to start with Queensland and share some of the headaches that we're having. We have buckets of money on the table to build significant infrastructure in our great state of Queensland, which has been suffering as a result of drought for many years. The fires have also taken a toll. Safe, secure and regionalised water infrastructure provides prosperity not only to households but to communities. We know full well the importance of having significant water infrastructure in place.

Not too long ago it was on the front page of our state paper, The Courier Mail, where townships such as Stanthorpe and Warwick were having water trucked in from the coastline because their water infrastructure was lacking. The Australian government has committed more than $513 million towards 26 infrastructure projects in Queensland alone and $1.5 billion to the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. To capitalise on those, our investments include $11.6 million to modernise the $28.1 million Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme, which will provide more than 8,000 megalitres in new water for irrigators and create more than 290 jobs that boost the value of production annually by $20 million. That money is on the table.

Ms Butler interjecting

The member for Griffith on the other side says, 'Get on with it.' I would ask her to put pen to paper and write to her state colleagues, who are hampering the progress. They are stopping the rollout. Our money is on the table. It is good for everyone. Your state government in Queensland are sitting on their hands. They have done it for years and they will continue to do it. There is a state election coming up this year. Deb Frecklington and the LNP will commit to water infrastructure. They will abandon these bizarre policies where the Queensland government has no commitment to dams.

In addition to that, we've also made capital commitments. While you put pen to paper talking to your Premier, also ask her about the Rookwood Weir. There is $176.1 million to build the $352.2 million Rookwood Weir. The federal government has no jurisdiction on water in the state—and that is not only in Queensland. The good member knows that. It's impossible to come in and make the assertion that this federal government is holding up water infrastructure. Our money is on the table, and I suggest you know that. There is $42 million to build the $84 million Emu Swamp Dam. Again, time after time, we provide evidence that our money is on the table, so just get on and build it.

Ms Butler interjecting

Don't squawk at me! Put pen to paper. Get onto your Labor state government and tell them to put some bulldozers on the ground and start building the water infrastructure. The people of Queensland deserve a better state government. The people of Queensland deserve better representation than what they're getting from you at the moment. I'd also like to suggest that 30 million—

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Point of order from the member for Paterson.

Photo of Meryl SwansonMeryl Swanson (Paterson, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member must address his comments through you, Deputy Speaker, as the chair. For him to say, 'Don't squawk at me'—

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I take the member's point of order. I am watching it closely. I would encourage the member to refer his remarks through the chair.

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd also remind the good member of the standing order of speaking while I'm on my feet. If you want to look at the standing orders, have a look at all of them, because they are all relevant.

There is $30 million to support the construction of the Big Rocks Weir and $180 million to support the construction of the Hughenden Irrigation Project. Those on the other side of the House come into this place and say that, as a government, we are only interested in building in Liberal and National seats. The member for Kennedy is one of the beneficiaries in northern Australia of our major infrastructure projects, and he also shares our frustration with the Queensland state government. I'll tell you what I might do, just out of interest. I might write to the water minister in Queensland and ask if they have received any representation from federal Labor members supporting any of our projects. I would suggest the answer is going to be a big fat no. (Time expired)

4:00 pm

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Cities and Urban Infrastructure) Share this | | Hansard source

That was actually a contribution by a member of the government—a member of the government supposedly speaking up for his government's record on infrastructure. I think it says everything about this government's approach to it. So perhaps you can join the Prime Minister in maybe taking consolation with a couple of emotional support baboons to work your way through the fact that you have delivered nothing when it comes to infrastructure in seven years in government. I think you will probably get promoted, because you share with the Prime Minister his singular characteristic: his refusal to take responsibility for anything, for absolutely anything.

You have just spoken for five minutes and you cannot tell a story about your government's record of achievement, because it's absolutely zero. That is why I rise to support this matter of public importance. We can think about this government's record more recently: first the sports rorts and second the road rorts, but now we have 'pork 'n' ride'. If you don't know what pork 'n' ride is—and I suspect perhaps you don't, although some members here have benefited very nicely from it—allow me to explain. The $500 million national Commuter Car Park Fund sits within the $4 billion Urban Congestion Fund, a fund announced not as an election commitment but in the 2018 budget.

My friend the member for Ballarat spoke quite a bit about how this has been appallingly misused under this government. But I'm going to correct her on one thing. She said it did nothing in its first year of operation. That's not true. They spent $40 million—not on infrastructure but on an advertising campaign. Our ad-man Prime Minister without a plan spent $40 million on advertising in the first year of this fund and not a single cent on infrastructure. That was because, presumably, they were getting the spreadsheets ready, bouncing them back and forwards. Perhaps Senator McKenzie was playing a role, though I think we all know she perhaps didn't play that much of a role. We all know that now. There were 136 emails that went backwards and forwards.

The Prime Minister says, 'We treat taxpayer money with respect.' He said that in question time today in an extraordinary, angry performance. The Deputy Prime Minister, too: 'Everyone is benefiting from the infrastructure projects.' That just isn't truthful. All of these car parks are supporting the political agenda of the government. In Melbourne $30 million is going towards train station car parks on the Sandringham line, including at Brighton Beach, North Brighton and Sandringham—not growth areas but areas in the electorate for the member for Goldstein. There is not a cent for the car parks at nearly 40 stations on the Werribee, Williamstown and Sunbury lines, in the rapidly growing west. Melbourne's western suburbs are booming. The demand for car parks at train stations is huge, yet they don't get a cent. That is pork 'n' ride.

Urban seats, as occasionally the National Party members remind us, are predominantly held by the Labor Party, yet 83 per cent of the projects funded under the Urban Congestion Fund are in Liberal-held or Liberal target seats. That's why it's so important to call this government out. This is burning taxpayer money. We know that urban congestion is the greatest drag on productivity in the Australian economy. We on this side of the House know that it isn't just about the economic impact; it's about the impact on people's lives—people stuck in traffic, not spending time with their family, not spending time with their friends, not being able to do the things in life they want to do. But this government says that if you live in a Labor seat, or even a National Party seat, you get nothing.

This is just a Liberal Party slush fund dressed up as a government program—and not dressed up very convincingly. It is a multibillion dollar slush fund for pork barrelling, whether it's pork 'n' ride through commuter car parks or the more general nuclear rorts the member for Ballarat has so effectively highlighted in recent days. That's why I've written to the Auditor-General about this. The Auditor-General has had a lot of business under this government because this government has shown itself to be unfit for its responsibilities, unfit to administer public money.

A proud Labor legacy is the establishment of Infrastructure Australia. I was there today at the launch of its 2020 infrastructure priority list and heard the words 'process' and 'cost-benefit analysis' spoken. We should approach infrastructure based on need—not on shameless politicising, short-changing our economy and damaging people's lives, all for an adman's short-term political gain. (Time expired)

4:07 pm

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

I want to thank the member for Griffith for the dorothy dixer that's she put up here today. You don't often get that in an MPI, so thank you very much. I enjoyed the irony of the member for Ballarat using the word 'rort' at the dispatch box. It's a word that's become synonymous with the member for Ballarat, so I think we all enjoyed the irony there.

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Cities and Urban Infrastructure) Share this | | Hansard source

Deputy Speaker, he's reflecting on a member.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I didn't hear the comment, but if the member for O'Connor was making a reflection on another member—

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

It was a light-hearted comment.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

it would assist the House if you withdrew it.

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

But, if those on the other side are upset by that, I will withdraw it.

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Cities and Urban Infrastructure) Share this | | Hansard source

You should withdraw!

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Scullin, I'm running the show here, thanks. If the member did make a reflection upon another member, I'd ask him to assist the House by withdrawing.

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

I did withdraw, Deputy Speaker, but I'll withdraw again.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I call the member for O'Connor.

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

Any responsible government is going to invest in infrastructure in the areas where it's going to bring the best return for the nation, such as in my electorate of O'Connor. We produce over $10 billion worth of mineral exports every year and over $6 billion of agricultural exports. Among other industries like tourism, these sectors that bring export income into this country are particularly important, and of course we need infrastructure to get those products off the farms, out of the mines, and to the ports and onto boats.

I want to mention a couple of projects that have been particularly important in my electorate and that reflect that priority of the government. There is the Albany Ring Road. Albany is the largest regional city in my electorate. Over two million tonnes of grain and woodchip go through that ring road annually, with triple trailer road trains interacting with passenger vehicles and tourist caravans. We've announced $140 million to top up the $28 million that the Western Australian government has put up for a project to produce a bypass road that will take two million tonnes of traffic out of the ring road. There are massive road safety benefits there, and also efficiencies in getting that freight to the Albany port and onto the boats as quickly as possible.

Among other infrastructure schemes that are productive and lead to increased economic activity not only for my electorate and my region but also for the nation, is the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme, and we announced $40 million for that. To their great credit, the Western Australian Labor government have supported this project—and I want to acknowledge the minister, Alannah MacTiernan, who has been supportive of this project—unlike some other states that we've heard about here this afternoon. That project is going through environmental approvals at the moment. If those environmental approvals are found to be okay, then that project will proceed. It will have total funding of $70 million, which will be transformational for the Southern Forests area around Manjimup and Pemberton in my electorate, and it will boost the national economy—and that's what this investment is all about.

Today Infrastructure Australia announced their priority initiatives list, and I've pulled out some of the initiatives that are relevant to my electorate and that we're already investing in. One is mobile telecommunications coverage in regional areas. In this day and age, we all rely on our mobile devices, be they phones or iPads and so on; and most modern machinery that operates across the agricultural parts of my electorate requires connectivity to interact and interface with other machines and with the owners. So this is a very important priority that Infrastructure Australia have identified. I'm very pleased to say that, so far, I've had 129 mobile phone towers announced for my electorate in the first four rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program, and that has made a massive difference to many people across my electorate. I'm also pleased to say that at the election we announced another three rounds of the program, $50 million per annum. While Infrastructure Australia have identified that as a priority, the government is already contributing to that program.

As I mentioned earlier, the road network is critical to getting grain and minerals to port, and the Wheatbelt's Secondary Freight Network has been identified by Infrastructure Australia. I couldn't be there myself, but I was pleased when the Deputy Prime Minister came to Western Australia last week to launch that project. We've put $70 million into it, the state government has topped it up a little and the local shires are contributing. It's a great project, and I'm very proud of that.

4:10 pm

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We're at a time in politics in Australia where people are crying out for government that delivers substance over spin, where people are crying out for decisions on things like infrastructure projects and sporting facilities to be delivered on the basis of merit, not political expediency. So is it any wonder that at the moment trust in government is at an all-time low? Sadly, we've witnessed spin and political expediency rather than substance and merit.

The people in my electorate of Dunkley know better than to fall for political expediency and spin, because they live in a state with a Labor government that has been delivering infrastructure projects that it has promised, when it's promised them or earlier. In Frankston, the state government has removed the Overton Road and the Seaford Road level crossings. It has done an amazing redevelopment of Frankston TAFE and Frankston train station—all without a single cent of Commonwealth government funding, notwithstanding that this Liberal government has been in office for seven years. In fact, the state Labor government achieved these infrastructure projects, and so many more, despite having a former Liberal member for Dunkley who campaigned against the state government most of the time. This includes the level crossing removals, which have been so overwhelmingly welcomed by my community and have made a difference for many people. And of course we have a state Labor government investing an enormous amount of money into a brand new redevelopment of Frankston Hospital, which will service people in my electorate and beyond.

So compare that to the infrastructure announcements that have been made by the Liberal government for the seat of Dunkley in the lead-up to the last election. We saw the former Liberal member for Dunkley campaigning and handing out flyers that said the Liberal government was 'building' the extension of the metro line to Baxter, was 'delivering' a new station in Langwarrin with 1,000 car parks for park-and-ride, was apparently 'budgeting' $38.5 million for car parking—free commuter car parking in Frankston, Seaford and Kananook—and 'budgeting' $30 million for funding to update and upgrade intersections on Ballarto Road. It has been seven months since the federal election, and I wonder: has my community seen the Commonwealth do any of those things? Of course not! What we do know about Ballarto Road and the car parking, particularly in Seaford and Kananook, is there has been no consultation with the community, as far as anyone can see there has been no consultation with the council and there certainly has been no consultation with the state government. Announcements were pulled out of the air; those opposite said they were budgeted for and they would be delivered. Now, there is no doubt we need more commuter car parking at Frankston, and had Labor won the election we would have delivered it, but under this government Frankston hasn't seen it being built yet.

The Infrastructure Australia report handed down today listed, for the first time, Frankston public transport connectivity as a priority initiative. Not a high priority, but a priority initiative. The report said this means a proposal has been included to 'indicate that further development and rigorous assessment of this proposal is a national priority' and to 'encourage decision-makers to take proactive steps to develop solutions to future problems and opportunities'. Well, here's hoping it encourages the federal government to release the business case for the extension of the train line from Frankston to Baxter that it has been in possession of since October last year. I wrote three weeks ago to the minister to say, 'You've had this for a long time.' I gave him time and said, 'On behalf of my community, release it.' Have we seen it? No. It is not public, and we do not know what is in it.

What we do know is that this government has been saying for years now that it has budgeted a mere $225 million for that project, which any reasonable estimate would say is over a billion dollars. It would be spent over four years, and the project could be completed. It tried to get more money from the state government before the business case was concluded. Now that it's been concluded it appears the federal government have lost it behind the couch. Stop the spin and the politicisation, release the business case and deliver what you promised to my community now that it's Labor.

4:15 pm

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, it is a gift to stand and rise to speak on the infrastructure that the Morrison government is delivering for all Australians. We are investing in $100 billion over 10 years—that's $10 billion a year for 10 years; quite an incredible and groundbreaking investment in infrastructure across Australia to manage our growing population and get Australians home sooner and safer.

The Gold Coast is one of Australia's fastest-growing and dynamic cities. Currently 605,000 is the population, and the ABS projected those numbers to swell to more than 1.2 million by 2050. The rapid growth presents challenges—there's no doubt. I've been pleased, however, to work with my Morrison government colleagues, including the Deputy Prime Minister, to deliver vital infrastructure for our city. We're still celebrating the additional $157 million that was announced in November last year and injected into Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A, which will go from Pacific Fair in Broadbeach all the way to iconic Burleigh Heads—6.7 kilometres of transport infrastructure that residents and visitors alike will be able to enjoy as they can board and ride all the way from Burleigh to Helensvale and then interchange to heavy rail to Brisbane. The connection will make the Gold Coast an even better place to live and work. It will create more than 760 jobs in my electorate, which I'm so thrilled about, and it will boost the local economy.

Recently we announced around $4 billion over the forward estimates of accelerated project funding, bringing forward road projects across the country to drive jobs and strengthen the Australian economy. On the Gold Coast this means $46 million was brought forward for the M1 Pacific Motorway upgrades for exits 41 and 49 in Yatala. Funding for this upgrade will flow through this year to deliver on our promise to the people of the Gold Coast to spend more time with their families, instead of looking at brakelights on the motorway.

Further to this, we've invested in upgrades between Varsity Lakes and Tugun. This includes upgrading the existing four-lane motorway to six lanes; a direct northbound off-ramp from the M1to Southport-Burleigh Road; ramp upgrades with ramp controls; auxiliary lanes; pavement; reconstruction works; and better active transport connectivity. This upgrade will create 837 jobs and improve commute times to and from Brisbane. To the north of my electorate, between Eight Mile Plains and Daisy Hill, we're investing in upgrades which include widening the motorway from six to eight lanes and ramp consolidation. This will create 721 jobs.

I understand firsthand that Gold Coasters feel frustration when they use the road for their daily commute. I used it for many years, having to go to Brisbane and Springvale to work. So this is going to be fantastic. This is why the coalition government has invested more than $1.7 billion into the M1.

In stark contrast, we have the Queensland Labor government who've been sitting on their hands for years—in fact some would say decades—that they've been in power. I'd like to use this opportunity to comment on some of the claims made earlier today by the state Labor transport minister and state Labor member for Gaven which falls in my electorate of Moncrieff. As usual, state Labor are lying about our commitment to infrastructure. They've once again misled Gold Coasters by saying the federal government is not prioritising the Coomera Connector.

We made a commitment in the last budget of $10 million to undertake a business case. This comes on top of the $1.7 billion we have committed to M1 upgrades. The facts are that Infrastructure Australia is an independent body that provides advice to government. Labor knows that—the members opposite know that—because they set it up. It's not representative of the government. It's up to the state governments to make a credible and detailed submission to the priority list and to meet the requisite conditions for a submission to be accepted onto that the list. To be clear: the M1 Pacific Motorway capacity remains a high priority, which indicates that Infrastructure Australia view it as a key priority.

Just this morning in the Gold Coast Bulletin we see intersections across my electorate which are in dire need of upgrades—and they are state roads under Annastacia Palaszczuk in Queensland, a failing state Labor government that is going to lose at the next election. Can I just put a warning out to all Queenslanders, particularly those on the Gold Coast, that if they vote for Labor at the upcoming by-election in Currumbin they'll see another ten years of 'rail fail' and they'll see another decade of weak, failing, Labor state governments. And if they also vote for Labor on 31 October, for the seat of Gaven, they will see further failure— (Time expired)

4:20 pm

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on this MPI, and I will just make a few comments about the member for Moncrieff, who started her contribution talking about the virtues of the light rail project on the Gold Coast and saying how proud she was of that project—and she's so proud of it that the Liberals actually do turn up when the state Labor government opens those projects. What she neglected to tell the House is that she campaigned against it. She campaigned against light rail on the Gold Coast. When the former Rudd government announced the first $200 million, the member for Moncrieff and all of the other Gold Coast Liberal MPs were on the sides of the roads, holding up signs saying, 'Don't support this project.' 'Businesses will close.' Forget that it's a transformative project that delivered the Commonwealth Games; they campaigned against it. I mean, hypocrisy—how do you spell hypocrisy? L-N-P—that's exactly what you get. So let's not have any crocodile tears.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I'll tell you why we're having the by-election in Currumbin, considering the member mentioned this. It's because the LNP bullied out one of its own members. There's silence on that side when I say that—silence for the former member, Jann Stuckey, who said she was bullied out of parliament. The member for Moncrieff worked for the member for Currumbin, so I would actually defend her rather than criticising the fact that state Labor has helped build the Gold Coast—the convention centre, the Gold Coast hospital, light rail, delivering infrastructure. What has the Gold Coast seen from the LNP? Cutting, sacking and selling, the last time the LNP was in power in Queensland. Wall-to-wall Liberals on the Gold Coast, state, local and federal, and what do you get out of it? Zero. Time and time again, the Gold Coast has been taken for granted by the LNP. So let's not have any lectures—as the Prime Minister likes to say in question time—today from the member for Moncrieff about light rail. She campaigned against it—a $200 million transport project. The member for Burleigh is still campaigning against light rail. When are you going to start listening? You don't think that people are on to you? I tell you what they're on to in the Gold Coast: the fact that the LNP does not deliver on its promises.

Let's talk about the state of Queensland, which I proudly represent, and today's MPI. The Queensland coalition seats, and some marginal seats, received 89 per cent of the funds that we're talking about. Let's put that into perspective: nine out of ten dollars went to coalition marginal seats. The member for Moncrieff said, 'We're about people getting home quicker and sooner'—well, only if you live in an LNP seat! Let's look at the seats that missed out completely on this funding: the seat of Grayndler, the seat of Kingsford Smith, the seat of Sydney—apparently all of the congestion has been busted in the capital of New South Wales, with not one dollar being spent on congestion-busting in that city— and the electorates of Macquarie, Werriwa—I'm pretty that the member for Werriwa will say, 'we've got congestion in our seat'—Fowler, Blaxland, Chifley, Parramatta, Watson, Griffith, Spence, Hindmarsh, Kingston—and I see the member for Cooper is in the chamber: there's no congestion in inner Melbourne! Forget it, job done, tick; well done—Wills, Hotham, Isaacs, Gellibrand, Lalor and Maribyrnong. They have missed out, time and time again. Then you get into the regional cities and the electorates of Canberra, Bean, Fenner, Paterson, Newcastle, Richmond, Whitlam, Cunningham, Solomon, Corio, Bendigo and Ballarat. Magically, they have no congestion at all. But I'll tell you where this magical congestion was: where 95 per cent of the funds in Western Australia went—that is, to every coalition seat. Not one single project went to a Labor seat. The marginal seat of Pearce received $11 million for five small projects. In Queensland, every coalition seat in Brisbane received funds. Meanwhile, apparently the seat of Griffith has no congestion. Take a drive down Annerley Road or Ipswich Road—all done! It's just open traffic. The skies are free wherever you go, time and time again.

Ms Swanson interjecting

That's right! Level crossings—nothing to see here. We're just cruising around. In fact, you can just run into anyone because the roads are so free. This is utter rubbish. This fund was a slush fund on steroids. In fact, they know it and the government today has not proved once to defend against the fact that they only favoured LNP seats. They think that congestion stops when you enter a Labor seat. They are dreaming. I know from my own city and my own home state. If the coalition continue to do this, forget what the member for Moncrieff says—they're going to be in opposition for a very, very long time if this arrogance continues. (Time expired)

4:25 pm

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

As I've been sitting here listening to that contribution, I actually looked up the definition of 'own goal'. It is 'an unintentional deflection that causes a score to the opponent's team'. I'm given to reflect that when I look at the topic of this MPI: the failure to provide adequate infrastructure for Australia's needs. I think the member for Griffith has indeed caused an own goal. My colleagues have spoken about the $100 billion commitment this government had to transport infrastructure in Australia over 10 years. Since 2014, this government has spent more than the $30 billion on road and rail in regional projects.

In Grey, which covers a considerable part of South Australia, it must be said that more than $500 million is committed for major regional transport infrastructure assets within the electorate. A few days ago, I detailed the $88 million that have come through the Roads to Recovery fund to local councils. The government has committed more than $11 billion per annum to transport projects across Australia.

I might point out that fuel excise in Australia ranges around $15 billion a year, and we are now spending about $11 billion. My thoughts are that we should aim to balance that. We should aim to spend $15 billion a year on transport infrastructure. Having said that, I've been on this pony cart for a fair while, and this is the highest percentage of that fuel excise that—I think in the last 30 years at least—has been spent on the road and rail infrastructure of the nation. I think that is an absolute win-win. We're heading in the right direction.

Just to have a little bit of a look at those things that are happening in the Grey electorate and that are committed to—and all of these amounts that I mention are being added to at the rate of 20 per cent by the state government. We are spending $160 million on the second Joy Baluch AM Bridge at Port Augusta. Work is underway on the clearance there already. At Port Wakefield, for the overpass and dual lanes, we've put in $72 billion. There's $44 million for the upgrade of the Horrocks Highway. There is $100 million for the Eyre Highway west of Port Augusta and for contributory roads on the Eyre Peninsula, which have come under increasing loads since the closure of the narrow-gauge railway there less than 12 months ago. We have earmarked $32 million of that amount for roads in that area. There is $64 million for the duplication of the Augusta Highway. When we get the dual lane through Port Wakefield and the overpass on the northern side, we're going to start running those dual lanes right through to the dual bridges in Port Augusta, which is the Joy Baluch AM Bridge. That's the kind of infrastructure plan you can have when you have long-term committed governments and understand the needs of people's individual electorate. As we speak, there is $85 million being spent on an upgrade to the road into the APY lands in the far north-west of South Australia. There is $50 million earmarked for the Barrier Highway.

These are enormous investments—the kinds of investments we have not seen in a generation or longer in an electorate like Grey. So I'm pretty pleased to be part of a government that has recognised those needs. I spoke on the Road to Recovery fund, which has gone up by 25 per cent. That, along with the FAGs to council and in South Australia the Special Local Road Program, is the lifeblood of local councils as they seek to maintain and improve their road network.

There has been $10 million from the federal government to support $25 million for 1,600 kilometres of new dog fencing. This is a generational investment in the pastoral industry in South Australia. There has been $11.4 million for a new accident and emergency unit at the Whyalla hospital and more than $40 million allocated through the Building Better Regions Fund.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time for this debate has expired.