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Friday, 28 June 1996
Page: 3159

Mr FAHEY (Minister for Finance)(1.08 p.m.) —The member for Werriwa (Mr Latham) can rant and rave all he likes in this House. It is very clear that he wants to deal with infrastructure borrowings to save his mate in New South Wales from having to face the prospect of another tollway. He is not the slightest bit interested in any of the fiscal consolidation arguments that he might argue about. He is not the slightest bit interested in anything other than not allowing the Premier of New South Wales, who has some 24 per cent acceptance by the business community I note this morning from the BRW report, to face a tollway. He is not the slightest bit concerned about the jobs that he is destroying in terms of the development allowance and he is siding with the Democrats, as is the entire Labor Party, to simply destroy the prospects through the development allowance of the 40 projects worth $2½ billion over the next six years. They will create jobs.

The amendments that have come from the Senate have absolutely nothing to do with the development allowance. Labor relies in this debate on the EPAC report. They conveniently forget in their selective quoting of the EPAC report that even that report—whether you agree with it in its entirety or not—said not to do anything until 1997-98. That is when the report said it should be done.

That EPAC report also said that in 1969-70 the actual investment in infrastructure represented nine per cent of GDP. By 1993-94, public investment generally in infrastructure had gone down to 4½ per cent of GDP. It pointed out the capacity of governments, the capacity of the public sector, to get involved, to find the revenue in infrastructure was very limited in view of the fiscal constraints that are around.

We know all about fiscal constraint because we have got that $8 billion black hole. The Labor Party is saying, `We don't want any new roads in any city. We certainly do not want the eastern distributor. We do not want Sydney to have some sort of traffic flow by the year 2000 when the Olympics are there.' The Labor Party wants to present that city to the world in a way which is going to send home with all those visitors a memory that you cannot move through Sydney, otherwise the one slim chance of the Premier of New South Wales holding one Labor government together at the next election before the year 2000 will disappear immediately.

The Labor Party in New South Wales lied to the people of New South Wales about removing tollways. They had no intentions ever of doing it. They knew they would lose their AAA rating the moment they attempted to do so and they have tried to hide behind it ever since. These silly, spiteful and irresponsible amendments are going to destroy jobs and they are going to prevent infrastructure in the city of Sydney and elsewhere in our big cities around Australia in the next few years. It is all designed for base political purposes.

What will happen is that the bill presented by Labor and supported by this government for development allowances will not proceed, 40 projects will not get the benefit of the jobs that come from that, and we will find that the infrastructure in terms of tollways or otherwise in urban roads will not continue. As the Treasurer (Mr Costello) said, nothing is achieved by this mixture of logic that seems to be based on the fact that an announcement on a totally unrelated issue was made by the Treasurer this week and that if he had held off for a day or two all of this could have gone through and we could have all gone home. But no, because he chose to announce it at a particular time, they jump in and take advantage to save their mates in New South Wales. They do not save their mates through the amendments before this chamber. Urban roads will be allowed to proceed on the basis of infrastructure borrowings. There is no legislation to prevent that and, in the meantime, a very sensible bill, presented initially by the Labor Party and supported by the government to allow for the development allowances, will not proceed.

As a result of its not proceeding, we put at risk $2½ billion worth of projects around Australia—mainly in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia—in the tourism area, in the mining industry, in the manufacturing area. All of that stops; all of that goes. Is it any wonder that the business community of Australia have no respect for Labor? Their inconsistency and their lack of credibility are demonstrated so well in this debate and it is all for base political purposes. It achieves absolutely nothing. It simply means that Labor has no policies, no consistency in all that it does and it is here to obstruct. It allows the tail to wag the dog in the Senate and it goes along with it in this House. (Time expired)

   Motion (by Mr Costello ) put:

   That the question be now put.