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Monday, 24 March 2014
Page: 2863


Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:14): I rise to express concern at the report today that not only would the government not have Infrastructure Australia determine priorities, but Tony Abbott is going to determine priorities by taking—to quote the front page of today's newspaper—'personal control' of infrastructure development. It is quite extraordinary that that would occur. One of the issues raised by the article today is the rolling out of infrastructure associated with the potential second airport in Sydney.

For a second airport in Sydney to work, of which I am very clearly on the record as a supporter, it needs road and rail infrastructure. If you are not going to have that funding there, then you will not have the support that is required from people in Western Sydney who regard infrastructure development, quite rightly, as an absolute priority for them. Those on this side of the House would be very supportive of increased infrastructure for Western Sydney, but if you have circumstances whereby the government is ruling out funding for rail infrastructure, which is a necessary component as shown by the planning work that was done by the former government for a second Sydney airport, then you need that infrastructure looked at as a whole. Indeed, that issue is a good example of why you need integrated infrastructure planning. The joint study that was done by the New South Wales and Australian governments had very much an emphasis on land transport infrastructure to support aviation infrastructure. It is the case right around the country. It is the case with ports. It is why Infrastructure Australia should not be hamstrung and it is why there should be an assessment of the cost-benefit analysis by Infrastructure Australia for all projects of $100 million or more.

The final decision should be made by the government. I accept that is the case. I do not take one position when I was in government and another in opposition. I take a consistent view, but my consistent view is that infrastructure development is best when you have independent and transparent advice. This amendment would allow for Infrastructure Australia to play a role in the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014, addressing that inadequacy in the legislation. Infrastructure Australia, under the chairmanship of Sir Rod Eddington, has done an outstanding job. The fact that those opposite are pretending that they are strengthening Infrastructure Australia when they are really trying to undermine its independence and integrity shows how far the debate has moved and indeed how successful it has been. When we moved the legislation early in 2008, it was opposed by those opposite, just like they opposed the economic stimulus plan and the nation-building investments that we made.

I commend the amendment to the House. If it is not carried here it will be moved by Labor senators in the other place, because we believe this is absolutely critical. It is consistent with the rhetoric of those opposite. We attempted to get agreement for this amendment, which is why we provided the amendments to the government in advance of this debate and indicated that we were open to discussion. The government rammed through the Infrastructure Australia legislation last year and is putting through this legislation—which makes a significant change—without any proper process and review being attached to it. This legislation is not the comprehensive legislation it could be if the government were prepared to take a bit of a common-sense approach and support the opposition's amendment.