Senate debates

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Bills

Asset Recycling Fund Bill 2014, Asset Recycling Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2014; In Committee

3:56 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | Hansard source

These amendments on clauses 18 and 24 on sheet 7486 are being moved together, and items (10) and (13) deliver transparency that is otherwise absent from the bill.

The CHAIRMAN: Would you like to seek leave to move them together and then move those amendments?

I seek leave to do so.

Leave granted.

I move these amendments on sheet 7486 together:

(7) Clause 18, page 17 (after line 23), at the end of subclause (1), add:

Note: See also section 21A.

(10) Page 19 (after line 24), at the end of Subdivision B, add:

21A Cost benefit analyses to be made public

     If a direction is made under subsection 18(1) in relation to a grant for an infrastructure project, the Infrastructure Minister must:

  (a) table in each House of the Parliament, within 14 sitting days of that House after the direction is made, a copy of the evaluation by Infrastructure Australia provided to the Minister under section 19; and

  (b) within 14 days of the direction being made, ensure that the following information about the project is made available on the Infrastructure Department's website:

     (i) a description of the project;

     (ii) when the project is to start and is likely to be completed.

(11) Clause 24, page 20 (after line 26), at the end of subclause (1), add:

Note: See also section 28A.

(13) Page 22 (after line 28), at the end of Subdivision C, add:

28A Cost benefit analyses to be made public

     If a direction is made under subsection 24(1) for the purposes of making infrastructure payments for an infrastructure project, the Infrastructure Minister must:

  (a) table in each House of the Parliament, within 14 sitting days of that House after the direction is made, a copy of the evaluation by Infrastructure Australia provided to the Minister under section 25; and

  (b) within 14 days of the direction being made, ensure that the following information about the project is made available on the Infrastructure Department's website:

     (i) a description of the project;

     (ii) when the project is to start and is likely to be completed.

These amendments are identical and require the infrastructure minister to make public the supporting information behind the project that is approved for a grant or payment. The infrastructure minister will be required to table the Infrastructure Australia evaluation in both houses of parliament within 14 days of approval. Further details of the project will also be required to be posted on the department's website. Consistent with Labor's approach in government and in other bills before the parliament, through these amendments Labor will ensure that the evidence before the minister's funding decisions is open to the public. This includes cost-benefit analysis. This is consistent with concerns raised by many stakeholders. It is also consistent with coalition policy. Items (7) and (11) are consequential references.

If there is one thing that has been argued consistently for some years, that is the need for openness and accountability in relation to big infrastructure projects. If you look at what is happening with WestConnex at the moment in New South Wales, you will see that decisions have been made to go ahead with a multibillion-dollar project without any Infrastructure Australia overview or any Infrastructure Australia agreement, and with no cost-benefit analysis in place. So this is to deal with that. This is to make sure that the public are getting value for money. This is to make sure that there is openness in the infrastructure development of this country. It is absolutely essential that these amendments ensure that what is being done is in the national interest—not in the interests of the National Party and not in the interests of the Liberal Party, but in the interests of the nation. These are important amendments and go a long way to ensuring that we have transparency and accountability.

Given that it is coalition policy, I assume the coalition government will be supporting these amendments. These are important amendments that the public need to have in place to ensure that the public purse is well looked after, to ensure that there is no pork-barrelling going on and to ensure that experts deal with these issues and we do not do as we are doing in New South Wales at the moment, and that is career forward with a project like WestConnex which has no clear benefit, no analysis of the problems, does not look at how the problems can be dealt with and has no cost-benefit analysis.

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