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Monday, 24 November 2003
Page: 22506

Mr JENKINS (3:44 PM) —This motion is very timely in the context of independent analysis by organisations such as Engineers Australia and AusCID which have estimated the backlog for infrastructure to be in the order of $20 billion. This debate is not for some analysis of why we have gotten to this situation. Deputy Speaker Adams, the member for Lyons, in his contribution mentioned the work of a former House of Representatives committee, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Regional Services, in investigating infrastructure needs in the rural area. There have been countless inquiries, not only by parliamentary committees but also by a number of other committees, that have indicated this increasing backlog. This backlog arises because we get behind in the renewal and maintenance of infrastructure and because, as the population of Australia grows, we cannot commit resources to the provision of proper infrastructure for that population.

It has to be a shared responsibility. We cannot continue to have debates where there is finger pointing, where there are people saying, `It's the states' fault,' or, `It's local government's fault.' The national government has to understand that it can play a role not only as a leader but also as a provider. I have argued this constantly. I think there is a capacity for a national government to be involved with communities, whether they are inner urban, outer urban or rural—as has been mentioned in this debate—in the delivery of programs that can address some of these infrastructure needs. This has to be done quickly.

I will take my electorate, an outer urban area in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, as an example. This area has been constantly growing over the last couple of decades. It never wins a gold medal for growth but it is always there on the list of placegetters. The continual pressure in outer urban areas, such as those I represent, is tangible. Let us look at road services. Despite the duplication of Cooper Street and the building of the Craigieburn bypass, there are deficiencies. These could be addressed by building new north-south routes, such as the E6 freeway, and by upgrading and further duplicating roads, such as Plenty Road. East-west private traffic could be improved by proper planning for an outer ring-road—an outer orbital which could connect all the growing and new areas on the outskirts of Melbourne.

We should look at public transport. In my local area heavy rail must be taken beyond Epping to South Morang and Mernda, which are now the developing nodes of population. Epping North, a new estate about to be commenced, must be provided with public transport. Light rail must go beyond McKimmies Road, Mill Park. We must remember that light rail was extended from Bundoora to Mill Park under a federal government program, Building Better Cities, which demonstrated not only what could be achieved but also the need to extend it to South Morang and perhaps even beyond. I have raised with the state minister for transport that in Melbourne we should be looking at innovative ways of integrating our bus network with our rail network by using the rail easements, as has been done in both Adelaide and Brisbane. These are things which a federal government can show leadership on.

Telecom infrastructure has been mentioned. Even in a constituency like mine, where we have new estates being built, because of the appalling telecom infrastructure there is uncertain access to broadband services. In terms of utilities infrastructure, we see the need for mains water pipes, waste water services and gas and electricity services. This illustrates the need for not only the renewal and maintenance of that type of infrastructure but also the provision of that infrastructure in new areas. These are all issues that relate, in my case, to urban needs. They should be looked at not just in the context of what the local community needs but also because of their economic, social and environmental impacts, in the context of national and regional problems.

I stress, therefore, that there is a need for the national government to take on board these issues of infrastructure and realise that there is a need for a population and settlement policy that can be integrated with the way in which we achieve the provision of infrastructure. We can look not only at physical infrastructure but also at social infrastructure—health, education and the like. Only by looking at these in a holistic way and with all levels of government joining together with communities can we move towards sustainable communities. I hope that these issues will be investigated in the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage inquiry into sustainable cities 2025. I think that this building a nation program could be a step towards having a proper federal involvement in the provision of infrastructure. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. D.G.H. Adams)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.