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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4472


Mr CREAN(5.11 p.m.) —I rise again on the point that the four projects in question, not the 75, had the equivalent of the letter. This is the same sort of exercise we went through with tax syndication. When we had the Senate inquiry, which we dragged you into, we got retrospective approval for these projects, in syndication terms, that you were knocking off on the same technical grounds. We will still have you back over there in the Senate making sure we can get these projects in, so why not just accept the amendment now because you will be back in here having to reverse your decision?

This is a government so stubborn and so stupid it does not understand the equivalence factor between the two that it has granted and the four that are in waiting. I am not seeking an amendment that gives access to the whole 75. I am simply saying that the four that have been excluded should be treated in the same way as the two that have been included because the approval, for all intents and purposes, was the same. If you do not understand that, Minister, you had better go off and find out about it.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member should address his remarks through the chair.


Mr CREAN —I will do that, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you for bringing me back to that point. But he does get me worked up because I do not think he understands this. I think he needs to understand it. If they understand it, then they will start making some reasonable decisions, but at the moment they are making bad decisions.

As for the minister's view that these projects can apply under the new scheme announced by the Treasurer (Mr Costello), I point out that they cannot. The reason they cannot is because they are not road and rail projects. There are four projects in question. The first is Redbank power station. I do not think that is a road or a rail track. Next is the Oakey power station in the minister's own state. Is that near you, Minister?


Mr Wilton —It's in his seat.


Mr CREAN —It is in his seat. He would not have a clue. That is not a road or a rail track. Next we have the Parkeston power station in Western Australia. That is not a road or a rail track either, I think, Minister. The final one is a sewage processing plant. That is definitely not road or rail. Yet the minister says in response to my questions that they will have the opportunity in the second phase. How can they? He has just told us in this House that they can qualify under the new proposal, but the new proposal is limited to road and rail. Is he now telling us that they are going to make special exemptions for these four and the other 75 to qualify? I would like to hear that. I invite him to get on his feet and tell us.

What the Treasurer has announced and what is going to be brought into the parliament is not just a reduction in the amount of money available for infrastructure; it is what can qualify. I simply say to the minister that he had better get on top of his brief. To come into this place and have to be prised out of his seat to give an answer, and then still be incapable of answering, does raise a lot of concerns about the way this government operates.

The minister is not on top of the brief. He is still over there at the adviser's box now trying to get clarification. I hope he comes back to the dispatch box and tells us what the answer is. This government has had a senator up in the Hunter saying that the Redbank power station can still go ahead, yet it can go ahead only if this amendment is passed and if it does not pass here, we will move it in the Senate and it will be back here to get passed. That is the only way it can go ahead.

Out of the minister's own mouth, this project is incapable of applying under the new proposal the government brings forward because it is a power station; it is not a road and it is not a rail track. That is the point that I think this House needs to understand. It is also a point that we will make sure that the residents of the Hunter understand, and there will be a lot of attention still focused on the Hunter because of the refusal of the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) to go there until after the test match at Lords. There will still be a bit rattling around about the inaction on the part of the government. Here is the chance to do something. Why don't you take it? I invite the minister to come to the box and explain how the Redbank power station is going to be able to proceed.