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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1498


Mr IRONS (Swan) (09:02): I rise today to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2012-2013 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2012-2013. When I was preparing my speech, I looked back at some of my previous speeches on appropriations—

Government members interjecting

Mr IRONS: I hear the interjection from the opposite side congratulating me on being here for so long! But it reminded me of when I did my first speech on appropriations, here in this very chamber back in 2008. The member for Oxley and the member for Melbourne Ports, after I had finished—they were 20-minute speeches at that stage—both derided me and said it was the worst appropriations speech they had ever heard from a new member. At that time, I was new and they were really getting stuck into me. I guess I will have to see what the decision is by the member for Chifley once I have finished today!

Anyway, these bills are another stark reminder of the fiscal waste, mismanagement and incompetence of this Labor government. This government does not know what state its books are in. It has billions of dollars in unfunded promises and a giant black hole caused by a shonky tax that cannot even raise money as a tax is supposed to. Projects around Australia, such as the Gateway, in my electorate of Swan, have been placed in jeopardy by this incompetent government. This is before we start to talk about the 'come hell or high water', 'no ifs or buts' surplus that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister promised us. These appropriations are just a hint of the extra money this government will call on to fund its election year promises.

The iconic Gateway project being conducted in my seat of Swan in WA provides a much-needed boost to infrastructure. Driven by the expected doubling of passenger air travel and road freight over the next decade, coupled with proposed consolidation of the Perth Airport terminals, this billion-dollar project involves a major upgrade to the road networks surrounding Perth Airport and the freight and industrial hubs of Kewdale and Forrestfield.

This is arguably WA's most important area of transport interchange and is central to the development, growth and continued economic expansion of the state and the nation. However, this is just one of the joint Commonwealth-state projects that have been thrown into turmoil by a thoroughly irresponsible government.

I recall that way back in 2011, when the minerals resource rent tax was being debated in this place, the reason for its necessity given by those opposite was needing the funds it would raise to pay for essential infrastructure projects such as the Gateway project in WA. In the lead-up to the 2010 election, I and the coalition, led by Tony Abbott, recognised that the Gateway WA project was essential to the development of Western Australia and Australia as a major infrastructure investment not only in the Perth area but in my seat of Swan. As such, the coalition pledged to fund the Gateway WA project without introducing a mining tax that would rip funds and wealth from WA. However, the Labor government used this infrastructure project to hold a gun to the heads of the people of Swan and Western Australia, where the mining tax was, is and always will be incredibly unpopular. The Treasurer, hiding behind a facade of fiscal responsibility, appeared on Perth ABC radio in 2011 and said:

Revenue from the MRRT does go to investment in infrastructure projects like the Gateway project in Western Australia around the airport. That is what it's all about, making the investments, particularly in these mining communities. If we don't have the revenue from the tax then we can't make the investments.

I repeat: he said, 'If we don't have the revenue from the tax then we can't make the investments.' I asked the Treasurer during question time on Wednesday how, given that the mining tax has raised less than 10 per cent of what was promised to help fund the Gateway WA project, the government would pay for the project given the Treasurer's strident insistence that without the tax investments could not be made. Unfortunately, the Treasurer seemed unable to answer this simple question, simply saying that the Gateway WA project is in the 2012-13 budget. Where the money will come from to fund this budget is another question entirely that the Treasurer seems incapable of answering. The Gateway WA project is at risk due to the Treasurer's and the Prime Minister's reliance on the MRRT, a tax based on a premise particularly insulting and damaging to WA that has barely raised any money.

The government has paraded its ministers around the Gateway project so many times they barely rate a headline. In fact, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport was there a fortnight ago, on 1 February, to again primp the government's big spending initiative even though he knew the MRRT had not produced even one-third of the entire $680 million the government has pledged to provide the project with. I was at that particular event, and the minister for transport made sure I was in the photo. I am sure he will table it at some time in the next few weeks to show that I was there supporting the government and their project. During his speech at the event, more interesting was the omission of the phrases 'mining tax' and 'MRRT'; they were also omitted from his press releases relating to the funding of the Gateway WA project. It is essential that the minister and the Treasurer reaffirm their commitment to the Gateway WA project and address exactly where the funding will come from. Those opposite owe it to the Western Australian government—who are, together with the Commonwealth, funding this project—to be open, honest and up-front about whether or not the project will go ahead and be completed in time for the 2017 target Main Roads WA and the federal government have set.

I would like to reiterate once again my unwavering support for the Gateway WA project. During Wednesday's question time, the Treasurer stated that I did not support this incredibly important infrastructure development in my own electorate. This is quite simply untrue. It is essential that the Treasurer come forward and guarantee the completion of Gateway WA by informing the House and the people of Swan exactly where the money will come from to fund this project. Too often during this parliament we have seen important projects put off, cancelled or delayed indefinitely. Too often costs have blown out to astronomical proportions without any increase in quality or reduction in delivery time.

The town of Victoria Park was slated as one of the initial rollout sites for the government's ill-fated National Broadband Network. Construction for the NBN—wait and listen!—in WA first started 19 months ago. They started the NBN rollout in Western Australia 19 months ago, Mr Deputy Speaker! This week we heard in Senate estimates that not one—yes, not one—household in WA, South Australia or the Northern Territory has been connected to the NBN.

This is simply not good enough. I must confess that I am baffled as to how the NBN Co. can make such a mess of this project. NBN said that 12 months after construction commences, premises would be capable of being connected by fibre to the new broadband network. It is now 19 months on since construction began in some places in WA, and they have acknowledged that not one household is capable of being connected at this point.

Mr Husic interjecting

Mr IRONS: Well, check the facts. They said it in Senate estimates. The member for Chifley is interjecting again, and I am just correcting him—check the Senate estimates. We still have no idea when Housing WA will have access to the NBN, and no idea if the NBN will actually be a cost-effective and viable option for the people of WA, who are struggling with increased costs of living brought on by this government's various tax hikes.

I have been contacted by various constituents in Teague Street, Victoria Park, in my electorate of Swan, who are fed up with the amount of time it has taken the NBN Co. and its contractors to complete work on their streets. I would like to read out one of the complaints I received on 3 December 2012 from a Teague Street constituent in relation to the drawn out and shambolic works being conducted:

Dear Steve Irons, I'd like to express my dislike of the NBN doing work down Teague Street right outside our home for weeks now with no progress seemingly to have been made. If it is taking that long down one street with no progress I think it is going to take years to do all of Victoria Park. I walk regularly each morning around Victoria Park and it looks like nothing is happening in any other street. They dug up and cemented outside our home and now the replacement cement has tyre marks in it so I have to look at that now forever. They did not finish it off you see and no one seems to want to do anything about it.

He then followed up with another email on 6 February, again in relation to the same situation in Teague Street:

This is with reference to the concrete with tyre marks in on Teague Street. We have a letter from Syntheo, prompted by Mr Irons, confirming they would, at the end of January, when they finish work on our small area of Teague Street, replace the defaced concrete which was not originally in that condition. After weeks of serious digging, two weeks ago, the work stopped and they left the street without honouring their original timeline.

Before the Christmas break they concreted certain areas only to dig at least three of them up again in the New Year. The piece we are asking to be replaced is only half the size of one of the sections they decided to dig up again.

The householders on the odd number side of our small section of the street would like to know if they are returning. Our neighbours have written asking the same questions. We would like to be able to ask questions of Syntheo as it is the tax payers who are funding this project.

Syntheo is circumspect in acknowledging our emails… We are saddened we have to pursue this but we feel that the NBN is being rolled out without adequate community consultation and blatant disregard for the anaesthetics to the surroundings.

Many nature strips once lovingly manicured are now piles of sand. This will look shocking if it is going to be undertaken in every suburb in Western Australia.

This situation is simply absurd. To top this mess off, residents in Victoria Park still cannot connect to the NBN. If this is the kind of incompetence and inefficiency that is typical of the NBN Co. and Syntheo I am not surprised we are experiencing constant delays with delivery and cost blowouts.

As the member for Wentworth and shadow minister for communications and broadband stated on 6PR radio in Perth yesterday, the coalition is not against the National Broadband Network. We will finish the National Broadband Network and ensure that all Australians have access to the very fast broadband. However, we will do it efficiently and cost effectively, and deliver a superior product at a fraction of the cost. The people of Swan are fed up with this government's inability to deliver on its promises.

Despite the complete disregard those opposite show for the expansion and growth of Western Australia and my electorate of Swan, I would like to close my speech by informing the House of the achievements of Rivervale resident, Alan Richardson OAM, who was awarded the Order of Australia medal as part of the 2013 Australia Day celebrations. Mr Richardson has been a resident of Rivervale in the electorate of Swan for the past 55 years. Over this time he has contributed to his community in many significant ways, especially in the area of services to veterans, their families and the community of Belmont for which he was awarded the Order of Australia medal. Alan was president of the city of Belmont sub-branch and the Rivervale-Carlisle sub-branch of the Returned Services League and became a life member of Lions International in 1987. He served as a councillor for the city of Belmont from 1989 to 2004 as well as being the city of Belmont deputy mayor from 1996 to 1997 and again from 2003 to 2005. On top of this, Alan has been involved in volunteering for schools, kindergartens and sporting associations within the local community.

A father of five, Alan says his drive and enthusiasm in helping out the local community came from his nine years of service in the Australian Army. In an article in one of our local papers, Alan stated: 'I think that those who serve will continue to serve and that is my perception of the service. You get the comradeship, you serve in the army then you serve the community. I think as you get older you try to wean yourself off and bring other new people in and I know there are a lot there that will come forward and do exactly what I have done.' I was incredibly honoured to nominate Alan for this award and attend the Australia Day ceremony at the city of Belmont on Australia Day. Alan's humble community service is an example of an asset for everyone in the community.

I am proud of the community and the proud patriotic spirit that was displayed throughout my electorate on Australia Day. The overwhelming messages I receive when I am out in the community, though, are that small businesses are struggling under a mountain of red tape and families are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Families of Swan want a government that delivers on policy not a government based solely on broad motherhood statements and aspirational goals, which are not backed up by funding or programs. A coalition government will deliver important reforms and get rid of taxes that are strangling development around Australia, particularly in my home state of Western Australia. In the short time I have left, I would also like to inform the House that we have been advised that the Great Eastern Highway project is going to be finished early which will be fantastic. The funding for the project was initially announced by John Howard during the 2007 election campaign and then followed up by the member for Griffith, who then became the Prime Minister four days later, with a commitment to that important infrastructure project in Western Australia. A lot of residents—

Ms Hall interjecting

Mr IRONS: It is a joint venture with the state Liberal government—

Ms Hall interjecting

Mr IRONS: Being overlooked by the state Liberal government. It was a commitment by both sides of politics to an important gateway to the city of Perth. The people of Perth will be extremely happy that it is going to be finished on time, if not before time.