Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (16:32): I gives me pleasure to rise today to speak on this MPI. In fact, I think there would be very few of us here who would not argue that we have a great deal of agreement in relation to the basis of what is being presented. However, if you are going to make a commitment about these things you have to deliver on it.
This is where the previous government-the member for Grayndler was the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport-have let down this country very badly. They did that first of all in relation to their commitments for investment. They did do some great stuff there but there were certainly some very serious holes in relation to their infrastructure commitments. The other commitment on the economic analysis was the independence of Infrastructure Australia-freeing it of political interference. I think that is rather farcical.
The coalition government is certainly committed to building the infrastructure of the 21st century led by Australia’s first ‘Infrastructure Prime Minister’. We have made major commitments to roads and freight rail across the country, to improve our productivity and cut congestion.
Projects that will have significant direct or flow-on effects for my region include $1 billion to widen the Gateway Motorway upgrade in Brisbane to improve access, traffic flow and driver safety; and the $6.7 billion to the Bruce Highway as part of an $8.5 billion package of works with the Queensland government to make this vital road safer, less congested and more resilient to flooding.
A number of us along the Queensland eastern seaboard have been actively campaigning for a number of years to get this commitment. It is a very significant commitment but it is the start of the process. We do not see this as the final package but it will certainly go a long way to addressing many concerns and challenges that we have had in that area. It will also provide us with an opportunity to have some level of continuity so that the work will continue until we at least achieve the outcomes that we are focused on achieving.
I am concerned that despite the previous government’s rhetoric-and the previous minister’s rhetoric-the Business Council of Australia estimates that only about 14 per cent of the former government’s stimulus spending went into productivity-enhancing infrastructure. The reality is that the previous government sidelined Infrastructure Australia from decision-making processes. It is quite amazing that in the case of some $80 billion worth of economic stimulus money that was announced for various infrastructure projects, Infrastructure Australia was not called on for advice. And six of the projects funded were not fully assessed by Infrastructure Australia.
It is all very well to make infrastructure commitments but where the previous government fell down was in not funding the projects. There are a couple of examples in my area. The seawalls in the Torres Strait was a critical piece of infrastructure for the people of the Torres Strait. Despite the fact that the minister at the time, Minister Crean, took a photo opportunity up on Boigu Island to commit $5 million only to start to rebuild these seawalls, in May 2012, when we came into government no contracts had been signed and the flooding was continuing. They have lost about a third of the cemetery on Saibai Island. We found that there had never been any money allocated for the project.
These are only small projects but, nevertheless, they are important to these communities. The sum of $480,000 was promised for the upgrading of the refuelling facilities in the northern peninsula area-desperately needed, committed by the previous government. But when we came in, no money whatsover. The same went for a $250 million Cape York package, including the Jardine River bridge and sealing of 100 kilometres from Mapoon to Weipa. It was promised. No money at all committed to it, so we have to try to find this money. It is all very well to stand up here and create a perception that you have a commitment to building infrastructure in this country, but unless you are prepared to put dollars into it and step out from the political interference then all of that is nothing but hot air.
To view the Hansard, click here