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- Start of Business
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL ANSWERS
- FAMILIES, HOUSING, COMMUNITY SERVICES AND INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (FURTHER 2008 BUDGET AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2008
- FINANCIAL TRANSACTION REPORTS AMENDMENT (TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS) BILL 2008
- AUSTRALIAN ORGAN AND TISSUE DONATION AND TRANSPLANTATION AUTHORITY BILL 2008
OFFSHORE PETROLEUM AMENDMENT (GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE) BILL 2008
OFFSHORE PETROLEUM (ANNUAL FEES) AMENDMENT (GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE) BILL 2008
OFFSHORE PETROLEUM (REGISTRATION FEES) AMENDMENT (GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE) BILL 2008
OFFSHORE PETROLEUM (SAFETY LEVIES) AMENDMENT (GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE) BILL 2008
- OFFSHORE PETROLEUM (ANNUAL FEES) AMENDMENT (GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE) BILL 2008
- OFFSHORE PETROLEUM (REGISTRATION FEES) AMENDMENT (GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE) BILL 2008
- OFFSHORE PETROLEUM (SAFETY LEVIES) AMENDMENT (GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE) BILL 2008
SAFE WORK AUSTRALIA BILL 2008
SAFE WORK AUSTRALIA (CONSEQUENTIAL AND TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS) BILL 2008
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
- BEIJING PARALYMPIC GAMES
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Private Health Insurance
(Hockey, Joe, MP, Roxon, Nicola, MP)
(Gibbons, Steve, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
Private Health Insurance
(Hockey, Joe, MP, Tanner, Lindsay, MP)
(Trevor, Chris, MP, Albanese, Anthony, MP)
(Wood, Jason, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Cheeseman, Darren, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
Emissions Trading Scheme
(Hunt, Gregory, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Perrett, Graham, MP, Tanner, Lindsay, MP)
(Bishop, Julie, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Zappia, Tony, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Katter, Bob, MP, Bowen, Chris, MP)
(Jackson, Sharryn, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
Murray-Darling River System
(Windsor, Antony, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Turnour, Jim, MP, Roxon, Nicola, MP)
- Private Health Insurance
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL ANSWERS
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- Blaxland Electorate: Australian Hearing Centre
- Cowan Electorate: Kingsway Christian College
- Deakin Electorate: Whitehorse Community Indigenous Plant Project
Keith and Shirley Lillee
Disability Employment Services
- Mrs Linda Lavarch
- Start of Business
- Fisher Electorate: Environment
- Sydney Electorate: Indigenous Employment
Swan Electorate: Manning Primary School
Mr Troy Cook
David Wirrpanda Foundation
- Kingston Electorate: Feet on the Street
- Kalgoorlie Electorate: Ord Stage 2
- Bass Electorate: RSPCA
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Northern Territory Police
- New South Wales Local Government Elections
- Mr Frank Bartley Walker
- AUSLINK (NATIONAL LAND TRANSPORT) AMENDMENT BILL 2008
- QUESTIONS IN WRITING
Thursday, 18 September 2008
Mr PRICE (10:00 AM) —I would like to note the contribution of the member for Parkes and say that perhaps he is a little more fortunate than me in that today we are counting Blacktown City Council votes. I have a great deal of interest in the outcome there. I also share his acknowledgement of the good role that local councils serve in our community. I am a little intimidated, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the honourable member for New England is to follow me. He has drawn to my attention my significant failures as Chief Government Whip, having pointed out that, since the last election, the number of Independents has increased by 50 per cent and my poor efforts do not match that at all.
The bill before us, the AusLink (National Land Transport) Amendment Bill 2008, is an important bill. It is aimed at streamlining the current system and increasing the heavy vehicle industry’s accountability so that they pay their share of infrastructure costs incurred by governments for building and maintaining roads they drive on. AusLink is the government’s national land transport program. It provides funding for national projects, strategic regional projects and black spot projects, along with Roads to Recovery research and technology projects.
In my electorate, Blacktown City Council this year has received some $16 million directly from the federal Labor government. More than $3 million of that is for roads, the rest being financial assistance grants which are completely untied. I think it is fair to say that the government see local government as an important player and one through which we are able as a federal government to deliver more and better services.
The heavy vehicle safety and productivity package will provide local infrastructure needed by truck drivers, remove red tape and restructure the process of providing funding, not only for roads but also for other necessary facilities. The amendment bill will allow the government to provide funding of just under $70 million for the heavy vehicle safety and productivity package announced in the budget. It will provide rest areas on key interstate routes, decoupling areas, heavy vehicle parking and facilities in outer urban and regional centres, new technology in vehicle electronic systems and vehicle capacity enhancements to allow access by high-productivity vehicles to more of the road network.
Land transport remains very important not only for capital cities like Sydney and areas like Western Sydney—which has an economy larger than that of Singapore and is a warehousing hub for Sydney—but also for rural and regional areas. It is the principal means of transporting goods, and we do need to look at further improvements. I also think we need to be more mindful of what we are asking of the drivers of semitrailers and B-doubles. We need to look to their welfare and safety and the safe delivery of the cargo.
There is a proposed increased charge to fund some of these facilities. It was a unanimous decision by the federal, state and territory ministers to increase the heavy duty vehicle charge. It was actually a policy of the former government—that is, the coalition government—but what a change going from government to opposition has made! They are now opposed to it; they are now blocking it in the Senate. We have got a new Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Wentworth, and of the measures that were contained in the first federal Labor budget that Opposition Leader Nelson said he would be opposing, something like $20 billion worth, the new Leader of the Opposition has said, ‘Yes, I support those measures.’
Whilst I do not wish to stray too far from the bill, it is interesting that the member for Wentworth says, ‘We are in the middle of a very serious financial crisis in New York, a crisis of financial institutions.’ Here in Australia we are blessed, I think, with a very strong financial system and an appropriate regulatory authority, but just because we have that we should not be abandoning good economic management. We should not be saying, ‘Well, yes, the Labor government has provided a surplus, but it’s there to be raided at will,’ or announcing promises like a reduction in the excise on petrol of 5c or 10c a litre—depending on which opposition person you wish to quote—and have that completely unfunded. That is irresponsible. I would like to be able to reduce petrol prices. The truth is, of course, that the prices are dominated by the world market for petrol. If Australia does have a problem in that regard, it is the fact that our own reserves are dwindling and have dwindled quite considerably, and if we continue to import petrol, as we do, then we are going to have a serious charge on the current account balance.
That is why I know I share the concern of the Independent members of this House that we need to diversify our petroleum supplies: the more that we can be self-sufficient or aim towards some form of self-sufficiency, the better. In particular, we have opportunities in terms of biofuels, and I am repeatedly on the record in this place as favouring ethanol, not as the only solution to the problem but as part of a suite of solutions—and we need to take them up.
The extra funding that is being provided in this bill is contingent on passage of legislation in the Senate. You cannot say here as a parliament, in a bipartisan way, ‘Yes, we’re in favour of all these facilities that should be provided and should have been provided in the past for the heavy vehicle sector in our economy,’ and then say, ‘But we are not going to allow what was an agreed charge and a policy of the former government.’ I think that it is just utterly irresponsible. I am really quite staggered that the new Leader of the Opposition, the member for Wentworth, is still taking this approach.
If there was ever a time for us to be a little cautious, given the world markets, it is now. If there was ever a time to husband a surplus and try, as best we can, to insulate Australia from the strains of the overseas financial meltdown, now is the time. Is that what the Leader of the Opposition is doing? Regrettably, no. Perhaps he will have an opportunity to revisit these issues once he announces a major reshuffle, promotion and sacking on his front bench. I sincerely hope that he does. I value this program and I value its contribution to my electorate.
I will finish on a note about the M7. It is silly, I suppose, for a member to report on his failures, but I was always very disappointed that the former government did not see the utility of the M7 and provide greater funding for it. It was only a very modest amount of funding that was agreed between the federal coalition government and the state Labor government. As a consequence, the M7, which was always the major infrastructure program in Australia with the best cost-benefit return, in the end has a levy of $7 if you traverse its length.
In Western Sydney, probably as a result of this decision, we have more tolls, I suspect, than any other area in Australia. We have the M4—and, yes, there is a cash-back but not everyone claims it. We have the M7, which arguably is very worth while—and I must say that I use it frequently—but costs $7. Then there is the M2, which is also an excellent tollway. It amuses me that, when people in the inner city get a tollway—for example, the Cross City Tunnel, which I think is a great piece of engineering and saves heaps of time—they whinge like stuck pigs about paying what is a much lower toll than those in Western Sydney.
We do need infrastructure. Having established Infrastructure Australia and our $20 billion fund for it, perhaps we will not have to repeat the experience of the M7 tollway in Western Sydney. A federal Labor government will be able not only to have more of these projects built, as public-private partnerships, but also to actually put more money into them so that we do not have to have tolls that are so high.