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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 418


Mr GILES (Scullin) (16:12): I am pleased to have the opportunity to make a few very brief comments in respect of this very significant report. I am very pleased to have been here in this chamber to hear the comments of the deputy chair, the member for Cunningham, who has given, I think, a very effective contribution, not just on the work of the committee and the report it has delivered to the parliament but on its context and its consequences.

I might very briefly touch on those aspects, but before doing so it is appropriate that I acknowledge also the work of the chair, the member for Bennelong, who has a deep interest in all of these issues and an evident passion for them. His chairing of the committee enabled us to have a very effective exploration of a range of critical issues, going to some of the great challenges all of us in this parliament face around productivity, environmental sustainability and liveability for all Australians. I also acknowledge the work of all my colleagues on the committee—it delivered consensus recommendations—and of course the professional and effective work of the committee secretariat, without whose work, I am very confident, the quality of the report would have been much the poorer.

The bulk of the 13 recommendations contained in the report go to questions around value-capture models and issues around high-speed rail. These are important issues, but we should not allow the sense to be generated that they are novel. This report delivers bold and new ground in respect of these issues. They have been at the heart of the provision of infrastructure, when it comes to value capture, for probably more than 100 years, but certainly going back to issues like the financing of Melbourne's City Loop—and I am sure there many other examples around the country when it comes to value capture. In looking at the opportunities to make sure that the costs and benefits of the infrastructure provision are adequately spread and in looking at excellent and important modern examples, including overseas ones, we should not allow this to excuse the critical role of government in delivering the infrastructure that is so vital to enable Australian businesses to thrive, particularly in our major cities, and for Australians to live balanced, good lives.

One of the key questions that occur to me as I consider the recommendations contained in this report is the ongoing gap between the rhetoric of this government and the reality of its record. I think we just need to pause for a moment and consider the performance of the Labor government between 2007 and 2013 in respect of infrastructure, when we led the OECD rankings, and our sad decline since then. This was most obvious, of course, under the prime ministership of the member for Warringah when he walked away from investment in urban public transport as well as when he walked away from the High Speed Rail Authority by cutting funds which were allocated for that.

In looking at the exciting possibilities around technology and around value capture that point ways forward for high-speed rail in Australia to link our major cities and offer great opportunities to 'rebalance settlement', as the chair would say, let us not forget that we have gone backwards in terms of enabling Australians access to the benefits of high-speed rail. I join the member for Cunningham, the member for Grayndler and others in urging members opposite to at least enable this parliament to debate the private member's bill that has been before us since 2013. Let us have that conversation if we are serious about looking at the possibilities of high-speed rail in Australia. Let us also look seriously at these recommendations in this wider context.

I said I would be brief, so I will try and wrap up. I represent an outer-suburban community—a community which feels the costs of congestion more than most. It is absolutely critical, if people can access good employment opportunities and access all the amenities that make Melbourne the world's most liveable city, that we look seriously at the role of transport connectivity. This report takes us some steps further. It must be matched by action on the part of government and a deep commitment to build an institutional framework that not only looks at transport connectivity as a good in itself but also links it to related development issues such as home ownership and wider questions of sustainability and, perhaps most importantly, livability for millions of Australians who struggle to access the opportunities they should be able to access more readily.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Buchholz ): I thank the honourable member for Scullin for that contribution, particularly his brevity in advising the chair.

Debate adjourned.