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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 30


Mr HARTSUYKER (2:26 PM) —My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister. Would the Acting Prime Minister advise the House on the progress towards implementing the AusLink transport policy? What are the benefits of this policy?


Mr ANDERSON (Acting Prime Minister) —AusLink will revolutionise the way that this country faces its transport task, which is growing very rapidly. It will provide Australia with a long-term plan for our vital infrastructure in terms of transport needs. I have to say that without a better way of doing it in the future we will sell Australians short. Under this program we have allocated some $12.5 billion over the next five years. In today's money that is more than twice what was spent on the Snowy Mountains Scheme. As part of that process we will see in this country for the first time an open, transparent transport funding framework freed up of ad hoc and short-term decision making processes.

The fact is that a rapidly growing economy is resulting in a very steep rise in the escalation of our transport task. At the rate that it is building, in the future our roads will not cope with the level of freight that is being put on them, so it is essential that our rail network is brought up to scratch. The leasing of the interstate track in New South Wales for a period of 60 years, the commitment to spend some $1.8 billion on it over the next five years and, in cooperation with the states to streamline and facilitate the access arrangements, the safety arrangements and the signalling arrangements across this creaking network will see a dramatic improvement over the next five years.

So I make the point that we desperately need a nationally coordinated approach to our transport planning needs. We need adequate resources. For reasons of economic growth, amenity, convenience and better environmental outcomes, we need to ensure that it is done properly in the future. I believe that the community wants to see a greater emphasis on transport infrastructure and on infrastructure more generally, and I would suggest that the absence of a coherent transport plan from the opposition during the recent campaign would hardly have helped them electorally. It is about time they came forward with a decent, coherent explanation as to how they will develop our transport infrastructure for the future.