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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 216


Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (19:20): That was an extraordinary proposition from one of a group of people who are learning that you cannot run a country with three-word slogans. That is what they did prior to the election. But now, today, we are seeing something very different. We are seeing something rammed through this parliament with just two hours of debate to increase the debt cap by $200 billion. Before the election, they said that there was an economic crisis. They said that there was a budget emergency. Today, what we see is that they actually have nothing to say in terms of MYEFO, nothing to say in terms of what the state of the budget is, but come in here and make absurd statements such as the previous speaker—I get them all confused; one of those North Queensland Nats—the member for Dawson has made. He is the bloke who we funded the Mackay ring road for and put money in the budget for and who has gone out there and campaigned against infrastructure spending. Then, in that contribution, he spoke about the things that the government could not do. Well, I will give him a big tip: the Dandenong rail, just like other rail in Melbourne, is necessary, but a precondition is the Melbourne Metro project. We have $3 billion in the budget for it, but they are ripping it out. Unless you fix the Melbourne Metro, you cannot do anything else. You cannot have an airport link, you cannot have a Dandenong extension. Similarly, unless you do the cross-river rail project in Brisbane you cannot satisfy the needs not just of people in Brisbane but also of the people of the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. It is a precondition.

Those on the other side have an ideological objection to funding any public transport because they believe, like Margaret Thatcher did, that, if you find yourself in your late twenties on a public bus then you consider your life to be a failure. That is the attitude that those opposite have towards public transport. Those opposite want to increase the debt by $200 billion, without putting an argument up, at the same time as they are making massive cuts to infrastructure projects, such as the cross-river rail and Melbourne Metro, and major cuts in important projects. Forty-eight hours before the election they put out their hit-list of infrastructure projects: projects like the Tourle Street bridge in Newcastle, and Bolivia Hill. These projects disappeared under the weight of their ignorance as to the need for future productivity investment. We see them wanting to increase the nation's credit limit up to $500 billion at the same time as they are making massive cuts, including to important infrastructure such as regional projects and local government projects.

As the minister for local government, in June this year I announced the next stage of the Regional Development Australia Fund: $150 million allocated, according to the Commonwealth grants formula, between $30,000 and $2 million to each and every local government area. So large councils, such as Blacktown and Newcastle, got more than the smaller councils, but every council benefited, with weighting particularly for regional councils and those in disadvantaged communities, which tend to be in regional Australia. The then spokesperson, now minister, went along—they were all happy to go along and speak to the Australian Local Government Association and say how fantastic all this was and how they supported local infrastructure. Now we are seeing them ripping this money away from local councils, even though the local councils have planned for these projects.

What we see from those opposite is absolute hypocrisy when it comes to this question. They are finding out that government is a bit more difficult than just saying, 'No, no, no', as they did when they were in opposition—just wrecking things. They actually have to build something now that they are the government.