Senate debates

Thursday, 16 November 2023

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:16 pm

Photo of Ross CadellRoss Cadell (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

Here we are talking about infrastructure. There's lots of debate about this project or that project. I get that this government is in. It is this government's call on what they want to build. If they want to spend $200 billion building a statue of me, I get it! It's a good thing to do in their eyes, but they don't.

But this mistruth that that these projects and this government—they've cut 50 projects from what they want to do. That's their call. But it's not the fault of this side when it was in government. It is a decision by the people over there. It is the decision of this government to do their things. They are in control. They could have built them all. They could have put more money in. They chose not to.

We hear that there are no cuts and there is $120 billion still there. When they got in, they decided to have a 90-day review. Yesterday or today is the 200th day of that 90-day review, and many of these projects have been pushed off into the never-never, saying: 'Here is a bundle of funds. States, you decide what you want to do.' They've hit the snooze button on decisions for some of these. 'We won't get out of bed. We won't make a decision. We won't go and do anything. We'll just rest a little bit longer on this.' That has the effect of a real cut. When you're talking about $120 billion last year, when this started, and cost-of-living growth of seven to 7½ per cent and construction cost increases of between 10 and 20 per cent, you're talking about $12 billion to $24 billion worth of extra money needed just to keep up. That's not there anymore, so in real terms that's a cut. I don't know about anyone else, but for me the odd $10 billion here and $20 billion there soon adds up to real money, I would have thought, but they're pretending it's a problem of this side.

A full year of twiddling thumbs and wondering what to do means people will suffer and people will not get their deliveries. And they pushed this on the states. It's almost like another question that was asked today, about the farmers and the cost-of-living reduction. 'Yes, we're making farmers pay for the cost of living.' Government is not helping out. 'We're making small business pay for cost-of-living reductions.' Here they're making states pay for the infrastructure.

And what are the effects? I went through the list briefly; it's a long list. We have the Bruxner Highway at Goonellabah. A review found that that area has eight times the serious or fatal accidents as roads of similar nature, and it is cut. Eight times the risk as roads of similar nature, and that's not worth funding. It is a regional thing. We go to the regions and we cut from the regions again and again. With Inland Rail, this great thing that's going to be productive for Australia—productivity is what we need—we cut the inland port at Narrabri, which will stop them getting their goods, their crops, their products. They're trying to build a manufacturing hub around the gas plant up there, but that won't do any good now, because they won't have an inland port to ship their goods. So what happens to them? They suffer.

This is what we're really talking about here: productivity slashes to things that make Australia better. When they say, 'We have to cut funding,' cut the recurrent or ongoing funding that doesn't build productivity, that doesn't build safety, that doesn't add to us as a nation. That's what we should be doing, not cutting projects that make Australia better—and that is what they are doing.

What have they done for other places? In my patch of the world there are great big billboards either side of the Hexham bypass. Anyone going north on holidays on the M1 freeway sees the local member for Paterson and 'M1 delivered by this Labor government'. It needs an asterisk with 'no, not anymore'. I'll have to buy a little billboard under it, if the state government agrees. Labor have bundled that project with the Coffs Harbour bypass and so many other projects on that road and said, 'Here is a pool of money if you want to do it, State Government.' The state asks, 'Is that enough money to do it?' and they say: 'We don't care. That's all you've got.' So there are more question marks going forward.

The government had many options. They could have been honest and just said, 'We're cutting that,' and faced the consequences of it. But they can't deliver bad news, can't deliver the truth, because they want to put everything onto us over here. If I'd had two budgets I'd be saying, 'It is my responsibility,' but that doesn't happen in this place. It is all too hard, it is all the other side's fault, and there are all these other reasons that don't stack up to scrutiny.

When you get down into the document it's easy to see what's going on, because it clearly says, 'The following projects will be built as planned.' It's very clear and unambiguous. We know that stuff is going ahead. But then there are tens of billions of dollars under headings that say, 'The following planning projects will continue as planned,' and, 'The following projects will proceed through planning, with remaining funding reserved for construction.' That means there is no certainty. They've cut 50, but there are 250 that are not under 'These things we'll build as planned.' Australia deserves better, Australia deserves certainty, and regional Australia certainly deserves better.


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