Thu, 16 Feb - 14:25
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Matters of Public Importance: Infrastructure Spending

Look, it is tough being the people's choice. It is tough being the people's choice when you are preferred by the rank-and-file, you have got a book, you have got a beer named after you and you are a disc jockey, but it has taken months and months and months to get a question and to get an MPI because you lost out to Backroom Bill. Backroom Bill had the numbers in the party room, in the caucus, and unfortunately being the people's choice just did not cut it. What you soon learn in dealing with the member for Grayndler is: you would go mad looking for internal consistency in what the member for Grayndler has to say.

Here he is today, waxing indignant that we have not immediately signed on to Labor's METRONET proposal in Western Australia. I might add: step 1 of Labor's METRONET proposal is the Perth to Forrestfield airport link—being delivered by the Barnett Western Australian government. I was at the sod-turning myself with the Premier and with the state minister just a few months ago. So we hear from the shadow minister that somehow this side of politics is claiming credit for things that Labor has done, but it seems the shadow minister is not at all above doing that. And then he waxes indignant that we will not immediately sign on to METRONET, at the same time as criticising this government for proceeding with projects before they have been approved by Infrastructure Australia. Where is the Infrastructure Australia approval of METRONET? Shrieks of silence from the shadow minister on that particular issue. You would go mad looking for consistency from this man.

Let us have a look at what he has had to say on WestConnex. Let us have a look at his inglorious record of inconsistency on WestConnex. What did we see from the shadow minister on WestConnex when he was in government? I will read you a media release issued by the then minister in 2013: The Federal Government has committed to providing funds towards the Westconnex road project...

This infrastructure commitment is also helping western and south-western Sydney residents to cut back on travel times and improve the quality of life they can enjoy with their families.

WestConnex was terrific! In fact, Labor committed $1.8 billion to WestConnex at the 2013 election, as yesterday's Auditor-General's report found. Labor committed $1.8 billion to WestConnex, and in 2014 the shadow minister was on the radio, on Ellen Fanning's show, proudly trumpeting Labor's contribution to WestConnex. Here is what he had to say:

'Take WestConnex for example. We funded the work in terms of planning. $25 million was already spent from us and $1.8 billion was included in last year's budget for the WestConnex project.'

There was the shadow minister proudly beating his chest, claiming credit for WestConnex: $1.8 billion! But then something very mysterious happened. In 2016, the very same shadow minister, discussing the very same project, was on ABC Radio with Fran Kelly. Fran Kelly asked him, 'Did you provide that money?' And here is what he said—listen very carefully: 'We provided $25 million for planning, Fran. That's the whole point. They say they support planning. We provided $25 million. Not for construction; not a dollar did we provide for construction.' In 2014 it was: 'We provided $1.8 billion. What heroes we are!' In 2016 it was: 'No, no, no. I was nowhere near it.'

Why did that happen? Why that inconsistency? I will tell you why that inconsistency—because he was running scared from the Greens. The Greens threatened the member for Grayndler. The Greens hate roads; the Greens hate road projects. Of course, all of a sudden for the member for Grayndler it was a 180-degree turn with reverse pike in degree of difficulty. He had nothing to do with WestConnex. 'Not me!' he said. He tells a community meeting in his electorate that if he is the minister there will be not a dollar more for WestConnex.

This architect of rank hypocrisy stands up and criticises this government on its infrastructure spending because it rankles with him that we are spending more on infrastructure than occurred under the Labor government.

These are the facts. There is more spending from this government on infrastructure. We hear this standard run of criticisms from the shadow minister. In a speech in 2015—one of his best—he criticised this government for continuing with Labor projects like WestConnex and NorthLink and then criticised us because we had cancelled Labor projects.

The shadow minister runs this ridiculous argument, this factually incorrect argument, that there have been no new projects under a coalition government. Let's just go through some of them: the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, 41 kilometres and $1.137 billion; the Northern Connector in Adelaide, 15 kilometres and $788 million. What about the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan: the Northern Road, which is being upgraded to four lanes all the way; and the M12, which will connect Western Sydney Airport to the M7? We have committed $2.87 billion of Commonwealth money to the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan. Then, of course, there is Western Sydney Airport. This government has committed to it—something that Labor never achieved. The Perth Freight Link is a commitment of nearly $1.2 billion.


Zero dollars for rail! It's in your budget!


And then of course there is the other standard claim we hear that there are no rail projects that this government is committing to. That is not true either. With this shadow minister you have to check the facts. For the Perth-Forrestfield Airport rail link $490 million was committed by this government.

Those opposite claim that we are not spending any money on rail, but we are. There is the Flinders Link, the connection between the Flinders Medical Centre and the Adelaide metropolitan rail line: $43 million. There is the Sydney Metro, a transformative rail project in Sydney: $1.7 billion committed by this government. There are the Gold Coast Light Rail, $95 million; Canberra light rail, $67 million; and inland rail, $894 million. The claim that there are no new projects is completely wrong. The claim that there are no rail projects is completely wrong. Do not trust what you hear from this shadow minister, because the reality is that this government is delivering on a $50 billion infrastructure program. Announced in 2014, our commitment was that the package we announced that night would take the government's total investment to $50 billion by the end of the decade, spending between 2013-14 and 2019-20, and we are precisely on track towards delivering that.

Then, of course, we hear the claim from the shadow minister that in some way the coalition government is spending less on infrastructure than Labor did, and that is simply not true. Here is a simple comparison, which I encourage anybody who has got the budget papers to engage in. Take the four-year forward estimates in Labor's last three budgets and the four-year forward estimates spending on infrastructure in the coalition's first three budgets. The average under the coalition is $27.9 billion, 54 per cent more than under Labor in the last three years.


How much more?


Fifty-four per cent more. The fact is that this government is spending more on infrastructure and we are delivering on infrastructure projects all around the country, because infrastructure is vitally important to productivity, to efficiency, to getting people moving to and from work quickly and to getting freight moving around quickly, and it requires careful planning and careful distribution of projects. So the premise of the matter of public importance debate this afternoon is completely incorrect. This government has a comprehensive plan for infrastructure all around the country. There are an enormous range of projects underway.

Let me just remind you of some of the projects that have been announced and/or commenced since this government began: the North-South Corridor in Adelaide, the Northern Connector, $788 million; the East West Link—$3 billion is available for any Victorian government that stands ready to build the East West Link; the Western Sydney infrastructure package, $2.87 billion; the M80 Ring Road upgrade, $350 million; the Monash Freeway upgrade, $500 million; the Murray Basin Freight Rail, $220 million; the Capital Metro in the ACT, $67 million. The projects go on and on. This government has a strong infrastructure— (time expired)