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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6667

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (10:01): It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak on the Asset Recycling Fund Bill 2014 because this bill, and what is delivered in this bill, is part of the four pillars of commitment that the coalition gave before the last election. I would like to go through what those four pillars were.

The first was to stop the boats, the second was to repeal the carbon tax, the third was to repair the budget and the fourth was to build the roads and the infrastructure of the 21st century. So let us have a quick look at how we have actually gone so far on those four pillars of commitment.

Stop the boats: I remember before the last election that we were continually told that this could not be done. It was all too hard. Well, today we have marked the milestone of six months without a single unauthorised boat arriving on Australian territory. Six months without one single boat—this has saved the taxpayer $2 billion and also we have not had one single life lost, which is more important.

I note that the Minister for Immigration is at the table, and I think the whole country should congratulate him on the strong stand that he has taken. They said he could not do it, he has proven them wrong and the public—every Australian citizen today—should be thanking the Minister for Immigration for that enormous achievement of six months without one single boat arriving.

The second commitment was to repeal the carbon tax. Again, I remember sitting on the other side of the chamber during the last parliament and good old Mr Combet, then the Minister for Climate Change, said that it would not and could not be done. We could not repeal the carbon tax and we would not repeal the carbon tax. We know that a few days before the previous election we were told by the then Labor government that the carbon tax was terminated.

Now we get to where we were successful in winning the election: we came into parliament and the very first order of business was legislation to repeal the carbon tax. It was passed by the House of Representatives but over in that other place called the Senate, the Labor Party, holding hands with the Greens, continue to block it. So we are hopeful that with the change of the Senate come 1 July we will see that second pillar of our commitment fulfilled to the Australian people.

The third pillar was to repair the budget. Again, we have an opposition in complete denial that there is a crisis. They have been running around saying, 'Oh, there's no problem. The budget doesn't need to be repaired. Just let's keep on spending.' This week, John Edwards, the Reserve Bank of Australia board member, put that dangerous delusion to sleep. John Edwards was appointed by the former Labor government in 2007 to sit on the Reserve Bank board. He was actually also a former adviser to the Keating Labor government. He said, 'I have no doubt there is a budget crisis.' Remember, this is a former Labor adviser—a board member of the Reserve Bank, confirming that there is no doubt there is a budget crisis. He continued:

We're accumulating debt as a higher share of GDP and of course in absolute terms, (it's) absolutely astronomical …

Surely the time has come that this dangerous denial, that we have to deal with the budget crisis, is put to bed?

Then we come to what this bill relates to: the fourth pillar of our commitment which is to build the roads and the infrastructure of the 21st century. It is interesting to see the approach of the previous Labor government in their six years and how they have left us with such a substantial infrastructure deficit. I well remember an example of Labor's approach to infrastructure. Just before the 2010 election, we had the then Prime Minister, Ms Gillard, and the then New South Wales Labor Premier, Ms Keneally, heading out to Western Sydney and making a grand announcement of the promised Parramatta to Epping Rail Link.

It seems that much of this has disappeared down a memory hole, but I was able to find a media release about it from the former member for Bennelong, Ms McKew. There is a picture of the former member for Bennelong and in the same photo there is the current member for Grayndler, the current shadow minister for infrastructure. He is looking very sheepish in this photo. The media release says:

A re-elected Gillard Labor Government in partnership with the NSW Government will build the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, a clear missing link in Sydney’s rail network.

It continues:

This is an important and affordable investment. We will deliver this commitment consistent with our strict fiscal rules, which will see the budget returned to surplus in three years, three years early, and which will keep the budget in surplus over the medium term.

Absolute nonsense about the budget, absolute nonsense about the Epping rail link, simply grandstanding election promises, no commitment, all announcement, no delivery.

That is why this bill is important. It incentivises the states to get on and get the infrastructure we need built to get our country moving and to clean up the mess we have been left in so many different areas. The bill will make $5 billion available to the states where the federal government will actually pay the states and territories an extra 15 per cent of the sale price of any assets they sell and recycle. That is the point. We want our state governments to get on with building that infrastructure. This is what incentivises them. This is exactly what the federal government should be doing.

I heard the member for Fraser. I know he would prefer to have some giant centralised department here in Canberra full of bureaucrats deciding what and where the states should spend on their infrastructure, but that is not the approach the coalition takes. It is a fundamental difference between our two sides. We in the coalition believe that decisions are best made by those working closest to the coalface. In contrast, we know the opposition believe in centralised, bureaucratic decision making.

The member for Fraser also referred to experts. So many times in infrastructure planning we have seen the so-called 'experts' get it hopelessly wrong. We have seen that with the Lane Cove tunnel in Sydney, the Clem Jones tunnel in Brisbane and, of course, the cross-city rail link—even the Sydney Airport link. All the forecasts of the so-called 'experts' were hopelessly wrong time after time after time. This is why the states are in a much better position to make these decisions. They are closer on the ground than some bureaucrat here in Canberra. This is why providing that 15 per cent incentive will get them moving to build the infrastructure that this country desperately needs as quickly as possible.

I would also like to comment on a few comments made by the shadow minister for infrastructure and member for Grayndler in this debate. He said:

We planned and funded the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal, delivering major productivity gains to Sydney and taking 3,300 trucks off the road every day …

This statement is a complete and utter furphy. It is completely misguided. It fails to understand the complete distribution chain. It is a mistake that has already cost the Commonwealth over $100 million and will potentially cost the Commonwealth a lot more.

First you must understand the concept of the distribution of goods via either an intermodal or the standard truck. When a container arrives at Sydney port, it can go on a truck. The truck then goes to the warehouse, the container is unpacked and the truck returns to a container yard to eventually go back to a port. With an intermodal concept, at the port, instead of going on the back of a truck, the container goes on a train. It then goes on a rail link through Sydney, gets unloaded from that train and then goes on a truck, and then that truck takes it to its distribution point. Unless you are unpacking those containers and pouring the goods in a big hole somewhere in the Moorebank intermodal, you are not taking a single truck off the road at all. You do not have a rail siding at every warehouse door. You still need to get the goods from the intermodal to the warehouse via truck. At the very best, you are potentially maybe reducing the travel time and distance those trucks will need to travel to get to their warehouse destination. No trucks are taken off the road.

The concept of the Moorebank intermodal seems to be 'build it and they will come'. The question is: which companies will actually use the Moorebank intermodal? The MooreBank Intermodal Company have actually produced a map showing import destinations. To be honest, this is potentially very misleading. If anyone looks at this map, it looks as if there is this huge market in south-western Sydney for containers—nice big orange and green colourings on the map. If you actually break it down, go in and look at where the containers currently go, which should be the first question you ask, there is simply no market around Moorebank for these containers to go to. There is one market based around Enfield, but we already have an intermodal due to open there at the end of this year, so that zone around Enfield will not be serviced by the Moorebank intermodal. We have another zone south of Sydney in the Campbelltown area, but we already have an intermodal there, so the Moorebank intermodal will not service that area. And there is currently no volume whatsoever around that Liverpool-Chipping Norton-Moorebank area. The actual target market appears to be a market 25 kilometres to the north around Eastern Creek.

Because of the money the coalition government is investing with WestConnex and the duplication of the M5 east, this will simply make the proposal to put an intermodal at Moorebank completely redundant. If I am an importer based out of Eastern Creek, I can get my container from the port and put it on the new WestConnex connection with a couple of traffic lights and be straight there. Why on earth would I want to put my container instead on a rail, ship it all the way around on the Southern Sydney freight line, get it off at Moorebank, unload it at Moorebank, put it on the back of my truck at Moorebank and then go up through the Hume Highway, one of the worst black spots in the entire country, through 20 to 30 sets of traffic lights to get my container up there? It simply will not work.

If the private sector wish to go ahead and invest money in this, good luck to them. But this will be a white elephant. I know the local residents of Moorebank have great concern about the additional number of trucks forecast to come from this intermodal terminal. But I do not believe it will actually happen, because it will not be serviced. It is not a matter of, 'Build it and they will come.' They could build this intermodal at Moorebank, but companies, importers, simply will not use it when we get our roads fixed up in Sydney, which is exactly what this coalition is doing with the WestConnex project, with roads around the new Badgerys Creek airport and with the duplication of the M5 East. We will have a much more efficient road network and we will not need to have an inefficient double-handling system of sending shipping containers around Sydney via rail and then putting them on a truck and sending them to their further destination.

We also need to consider the cost of the 270 hectares of land at Moorebank. When the Moorebank Intermodal Company negotiates with private companies to finalise this deal, we cannot give this land away. It is 270 hectares of very, very valuable land. We must make sure that, if we are going to hand this land over to the private sector, the taxpayer gets full value for it. I am convinced that any intermodal terminal built at Moorebank will be a complete white elephant.