House debates

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Questions without Notice

Inland Rail

2:14 pm

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

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. Can the minister explain how a text message sent by the Minister for Agriculture to the Deputy Prime Minister last Wednesday about the Inland Rail route appeared in The Weekend Australian? Does the Minister for Agriculture agree with the Deputy Prime Minister that the Inland Rail route is settled?

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

The Leader of the House on a point of order.

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

That is not a topic that the Deputy Prime Minister could have any knowledge of—

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

What? Inland Rail!

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

Members on my left!

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

and a text message sent to somebody else allegedly by somebody is not within the knowledge of the Deputy Prime Minister. The question is out of order.

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

The Manager of Opposition Business on the point of order.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm a bit astonished! Sorry—to the point of order.

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

I'm perpetually astonished! But anyway, go on.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

To the point of order: the Leader of the House is alleging that the Deputy Prime Minister is not in a position to answer whether or not a text message was sent to him, and it's about Inland Rail, for which he is responsible.

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

The point I'm going to make—and I can take members through Practice if you really want me to—is ministers can't be just asked about newspaper reports, reports in party rooms, allegations left, right and centre. That's been well established, and I'm conscious of not going over it all. I will if I have to, but it just eats up a lot of question time.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

Without disputing anything you just put there about newspaper reports and the like, the substance of this is two things: one, it relates to a message between one minister and another, between the minister the Deputy Prime Minister is representing and himself about Inland Rail, and, two, asks whether or not the Inland Rail route is settled. The Deputy Prime Minister has to be responsible for that. He has to be able to answer that and—

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

I'll tell you what I'll do. Most of the question is out of order about text messages and newspaper reports. It's not in the position for the chair to judge the accuracy of those, just as I can't judge the accuracy of claims made in questions and answers. But, in terms of the policy topic of the Inland Rail, the Deputy Prime Minister can answer. But, as I've pointed out before, he's not terribly confined given the nature of the question that's been asked.

2:17 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I genuinely thank the member for his question and can, right at the start, say the route is determined. It is absolutely set. It's been through cabinet, and we're getting on with it. We're getting on with the job. That is what we do. And why we are getting on with the job is because this 1,700 kilometre piece of nation-building infrastructure is so vital for us taking this economy ahead. This 1,700 kilometre piece of infrastructure will have 3.6-kilometre-long trains going along it at 110 kilometres an hour. On this 1,700 kilometre piece of infrastructure, each one of those trains will take 110 B-Doubles off the road, and it will take more than 150 semitrailers off the road, each one using around over 600 litres of diesel—one of the great carbon abatement policies that goes to show how the Prime Minister and I and our colleagues are using technology.

We are using technology to take this nation ahead. And that 1,700 kilometre piece of infrastructure will drive decentralisation, drive the growth of the town of Parkes, drive the growth of the town of Narrabri, drive the growth of the town of Goondiwindi, drive the growth of the City of Toowoomba and assist in the further growth of the great cities of Melbourne and Brisbane.

We have a vision. We have a vision for this nation, because we could not rely on the Labor Party's vision for this nation. We could not. For them, the best we got was it was a 'nice idea'—a nice idea! But it's not a nice idea for us; it is a reality. And, as we drive this piece of infrastructure forward, we're going to make sure that the people who produce the culverts, the people who produce the bridges, will be producing the jobs in regional Australia. Even in my own electorate of New England we are building the culverts. We have jobs. A place that used to only have 12 jobs now has over 100 jobs, and that is this nation at work and that is competent management and that is us taking this project ahead. Every day I'm making sure that we put our shoulder to the wheel to see this project finalised.

I am very happy that you ask about the Inland Rail, because every time we see the Inland Rail we see something that the coalition is doing and the Labor Party never did. They had no intention of doing it. It was never going to happen. All we have, and we still have, is that now they are saying they might do it to Gladstone. They were never going to do anything else of it. Of course they're not going to do it to Gladstone, because they don't believe in it. But we do. I thank the honourable member for his question and I look forward to many more questions on one of the great pieces of infrastructure in this nation that we will build and we will see completed because we have a plan.