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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Page: 1314

Gillard Government: Western Sydney

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales) (14:13): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Conroy. Given Minister Butler's comments that he would not stay at Rooty Hill RSL because it was 'a bit too Benny Hill', and that he could not check in with a straight face, how can Western Sydney residents, who are more worried about their own credit position as they juggle their increasing bills and the AAA credit rating, have any faith that this government understands the challenges they face when it treats them and an important local institution like Rooty Hill RSL, which gave $1 million to their local community last year, with such contempt?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy, I will give you the call when there is silence. I am quite prepared to wait until there is silence on my right and on my left.

Senator CONROY (VictoriaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:14): Labor is delivering for Western Sydney. The NBN is rolling out, we are supporting thousands of local families with the schoolkids bonus and we are delivering record investment in infrastructure. That is what the Gillard Labor government is doing for Western Sydney. And, as some have already commented, we know where Western Sydney is, unlike some members of the opposition who think it is in Western Australia.

Last time the coalition won government, in 1996, the first thing that new government did was slash $2 billion off the roads budget and fail to fund infrastructure. That is the track record of those opposite: slashed $2 billion from infrastructure. I know that Mr Abbott voted against the economic stimulus plan, he voted against the funding of major public infrastructure works such as the Regional Rail Link and he voted against the NBN. A whole range of infrastructure projects in Western Sydney—and those opposite, with Mr Abbott, voted against them. So we know what will happen if Mr Abbott becomes the Prime Minister of this country. We know he will cut investment. We know he will slash and burn. We know that that is the form.

The Leader of the Opposition shifts the goalposts every time he talks about the WestConnex project. First, he promised funding was unconditional. Now, apparently, it comes with strings attached. The government has committed $25 million to assist the New South Wales government with detailed planning on the project as well as to develop a business case and identify a process— (Time expired)

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales) (14:17): I would just be grateful for ADSL2 in my High Street, Penrith, office! Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Doesn't the Prime Minister's attempt to justify her decision to base herself in Western Sydney rather than commute from Kirribilli against the traffic—even with green lights all the way—show that she has no idea and no interest in the infrastructure problems facing Western Sydney and that this visit is nothing but a desperate and cynical tactic?

Senator CONROY (VictoriaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:17): If you are visiting Western Sydney for an extended period of time, it makes sense to stay there. Let us be sensible about this. The PM spending time in Western Sydney shows the importance of the region to the country.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy, resume your seat. When there is silence, we will proceed.

Senator CONROY: In order to maximise the time the Prime Minister spends there over the next week, the PM has chosen to stay in Western Sydney. It really is as simple as that. All of the hypocrisy and the catcalls from those opposite are simply hypocrisy. The PM has spent a lot of time in Sydney over the last year, and anyone who has spent time in Sydney understands the pressures of the commute. So those opposite should just continue to advocate slashing and burning jobs and investment in Western Sydney, because the Liberal Party cuts in New South Wales are just a curtain raiser for the people of Western Sydney to the vicious cuts that the Leader of the Opposition, the member for North Sydney and the member for Goldstein will have to make. (Time expired)

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales) (14:19): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that logic, people who live where I do and work in the CBD would check into the Sydney Hilton Monday to Friday each week. If the Prime Minister cannot pull off a stunt that gives the appearance that she cares about Western Sydney residents, and she cannot tell the truth about something as devastating to their lives as the carbon tax, what assurance can residents possibly have that any promises the Prime Minister makes next week are not just more lies?

Senator CONROY (VictoriaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:19): What the people of Western Sydney know is that Mr Abbott will slash and burn health jobs, education, nurses and teachers. The people of Western Sydney know because this is what Mr Abbott has said in respect of the state cuts:

… I think it’s important that the state premiers do the job they were elected to do and that was to put their fiscal house in order and I respect the job that they’re doing.

How much respect are the people of Western Sydney going to get when those opposite start slashing and burning to cut a $70 billion black hole? They will be faced with the same arrogance and indifference—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Just resume your seat, Senator Conroy. I will remind senators once again: it is a reflection on yourselves; the interjections are completely disorderly during question time, on both sides. I remind both sides that the questioner is entitled to be heard in silence, as is the minister responding.

Senator CONROY: The $70 billion black hole that those opposite have themselves admitted they have will have to be filled, according to their rhetoric. The people of Western Sydney— (Time expired)