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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1217


Senator MILNE (9:37 AM) —I thank the minister for that explanation, but it is not clear to me that the social infrastructure I am talking about is in any way intended to be covered by this legislation. In the second reading speech of the bill, I could not find any reference to the fact that nationally significant infrastructure will include schools, universities, libraries and so on. To me, the way that this bill and the second reading speech have been written does not automatically include that infrastructure. I would like to have it spelt out more clearly that nationally significant infrastructure does include more than communications infrastructure in moving to an information and knowledge based economy.

Secondly, I would like some clarification. What do you mean by ‘materially improve national productivity’? I would like that clarified specifically in relation to the infrastructure I am talking about in Indigenous communities. There are many who would argue that that infrastructure might not materially improve national productivity, but it is critical to improving the lives of and opportunities for Indigenous people in those communities. I would really like to have an understanding of that because just going through the COAG process is not enough. With respect, it has not worked to date. There has been no prioritising or significant investment through the COAG process.

I still do not have a response to whether there is going to be a specific attempt in putting together the membership of Infrastructure Australia to include someone who has expertise in identifying the appropriate infrastructure needs of Indigenous communities. It is not just any infrastructure that is needed; there is expertise required to determine what the most appropriate and effective infrastructure is for those communities. The government must, in my view, in terms of what has been said in the Indigenous debate and in the policy commitments of the government, include this somewhere in Infrastructure Australia.