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Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Page: 3672

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (1:49 PM) —in reply—I thank those members who have contributed to this debate, particularly those who were constructive in their comments. Certainly I wish to refer specifically to the comments of the member for New England, who pointed out that infrastructure is about nation-building infrastructure but it can also be about community based infrastructure. The people whom he represents in New England will benefit from both as a result of the Rudd government’s budget last night, which confirmed the $800 million for the Community Infrastructure Program including $5 million for the Tamworth Indoor Sports Centre that I announced with him in Tamworth on Saturday afternoon. I thank him for his warm reception in the fine regional city of Tamworth and I particularly want to acknowledge the fact that the young people from the basketball club were out there in big numbers.

When we talk about infrastructure we are talking about taking action today supporting jobs in order to create infrastructure for tomorrow, whether it be a community infrastructure facility such as that in Tamworth or whether it be the $1.5 billion that we allocated last night to the Hunter Expressway. That will be added to by $200 million from the Rees Labor government in New South Wales to total a $1.7 billion commitment over four years to build the Hunter Expressway. This is an expressway which has been identified as a priority project by Infrastructure Australia. It will add to the productive capacity of the nation, will benefit freight and will benefit motor vehicle passengers who live along the route of the New England Freeway. It is a project that will add to this government’s vision—and was one of the centrepieces of our budget last night—of the N1 from Melbourne right up to Cairns, with feeders such as the New England Highway, the Hunter Expressway and the Ipswich Motorway, making sure that whether it is moving people or freight we do so in a way which is as efficient as possible and, importantly, as safe as possible in order to maximise the capacity of the economy to grow. That is the government’s vision of nation-building infrastructure.

The budget we announced last night included a $22 billion investment in nation-building infrastructure. This investment will provide that economic stimulus in the short term which is needed but also the long-term benefits for the economy as it recovers into the future. The Nation-building Funds Amendment Bill 2009 is required to give effect to the infrastructure spending announced in last night’s budget. As well as investment in transport infrastructure, ports, road and rail, hospitals and higher education, the government will also invest $4.5 billion in a new Clean Energy Initiative, which will encourage further research and innovation in clean energy technologies that will play an important role in Australia’s transition to a low-pollution economy. The Clean Energy Initiative will help accelerate the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage, and it will assist solar energy and other forms of renewable energy.

To provide funding for these priorities, the bill repeals the crediting of $2.5 billion from the 2007-08 budget surplus to the Education Investment Fund that was to occur by 30 June 2009. This amount will be made available for the new Clean Energy Initiative. There will still be more than $6.5 billion in the Education Investment Fund for education and research infrastructure, of which $4.1 billion has been committed in last night’s budget and in the nation-building package announced by the Prime Minister on 12 December 2008. The balance of $2.4 billion plus investment earnings, estimated to be around $630 million over the forward estimates, will be available for future education and research projects.

Last night’s budget was a budget of which those on this side of the House are extremely proud. We are proud because it builds on the history which our great party has of nation building. It is a stark contrast with the failure of those opposite to invest in nation-building infrastructure over 12 long years. The fact is that we are investing more money over six years than those opposite invested over 12 long years. We are investing more in rail in 12 months than they invested in 12 years. Just think about that statistic—more in 12 months than they invested in 12 long years. It is only this side of the House that have ever been committed to nation-building infrastructure. Last night’s budget builds on our record and this bill is a part of ensuring that the proposals put forward in last night’s budget can be turned into action. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.