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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 630

East West Link


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:10): My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Senator Cash. I refer to the Prime Minister's pre-election promise that the government would require all Commonwealth-funded projects worth more than $100 million to undergo a cost-benefit analysis. Can the minister confirm that the government has agreed to pay $1.5 billion to the former Victorian Liberal government for the East West road project without assessing the business case or the project's cost-benefit ratio?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (14:11): I thank Senator Carr for the question, because what it gives me the opportunity to do in particular is to highlight exactly what this government is doing—unlike the former government—which is, obviously, delivering the infrastructure—

Senator Moore: Mr President, I raise a point of order on direct relevance. Maybe the minister has found the page now, but I will continue with the point of relevance: it is a very specific question about the decision to fund the Victorian Liberal government for the East West road project without the preliminary process and not an opportunity to preach on what had happened before.

The PRESIDENT: The minister had barely commenced her answer.

Senator CASH: In terms of the East West Link, I can confirm that the Australian government is investing over $7.6 billion in infrastructure projects in Victoria from 2013-14 to 2018-19. The Australian federal government and the Victorian government signed a national partnership agreement which includes the construction of the East West Link and a $3 billion Australian government contribution to the project. I would have thought that was actually a significant contribution by the federal government.

Senator Moore: Mr President, again, I have a point of order on direct relevance: the question relates to the assessment of the business case of the East West project. The minister has given us a litany of what was spent and nothing to do with the business case.

The PRESIDENT: I will remind the minister of the detail of the question. The minister has one minute and eight seconds left in which to answer the question.

Senator CASH: I think the bigger question actually is whether or not the Victorian government—

Senator Moore: Mr President, again, I have a point of order on direct relevance: we do not want the bigger question, we actually want the answer to the question that Senator Carr asked.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Moore, the point of order you raised six seconds ago was correct. I have reminded the minister, but I cannot agree with your point of order now—she has had only six seconds on her feet. I think we have to give the minister a little longer to determine whether she is going to answer the question.

Senator CASH: Quite frankly, I think Labor feigns indignation because if they were particularly concerned about the East West Link and about protecting government interests in their project, maybe they might want to ask their Victorian state colleagues why they are doing everything in their power to pay $1.2 billion—

Senator Wong: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. It was a very simple question, and the question was whether the minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure could confirm that the money was paid without an assessment of the business case or the project's cost-benefit ratio. That is the only question, and she has consistently avoided that question.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, I want to respond to the point of order. I want to help the Labor Party by explaining why they are wrong, and I want to help them because clearly they have run out of questions and they are going to take up time by making frivolous point of order.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order, Senator Macdonald. On Senator Wong's point of order, I remind the minister that she has 45 seconds left in which to answer the question, and I do remind her of the detail of the question.

Senator CASH: Maybe those on the other side could show a little bit more concern and talk to their own colleagues in Victoria about why they want to spend $1.2 billion on not building a road.















Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:16): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I ask the minister again: did the government agree to pay the $1.5 billion without a business case for the project or a cost-benefit analysis? I note that the project will only return 45c to the economy for every dollar spent. How can you possibly justify advancing $1.5 billion on the last day of the financial year and yet claim a budget emergency?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (14:17): This is a Victorian Labor senator, a former minister, coming into this place with the audacity to champion against a project that would create approximately 6,000 jobs for Victoria.

Senator Kim Carr: Mr President, on a point of order on relevance: a very specific question was asked about whether or not the government had paid $1.5 billion without a business case or a cost-benefit analysis for the project being undertaken. I would like an answer to that question, not a character reference from this minister.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Carr. The minister has 35 seconds in which to answer the question, and I remind the minister of the question.

Senator CASH: There was a very long question and it was not just about what Senator Carr has said—he mentioned the words 'budget emergency.' Let me tell you why you are responsible for creating budget emergencies. You come into this place and you actively champion against the creation of jobs for Victorians but what is worse is that you come into this place and you justify the Victorian state government saying 'We are going to throw away—

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on direct relevance to the question. The minister now has eight seconds. We want to know about the business case.

The PRESIDENT: Minister, you have eight seconds left in which to answer the question, and I remind you of the question.

Senator CASH: It is $1.2 billion not to build a road, and the next question will be, why doesn't the Commonwealth government invest more in Victorian roads. (Time expired)

Senator KIM CARR: Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that we have a Prime Minister who is happy to trade submarines for votes, is this project not just another example of a government that ignores due process and diligence in order to advance its own political interests?









Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (14:20): No, it is not. This government is committed to ensuring that there are jobs in place for Victorians. Unlike you on the other side, this government is committed to ensuring that taxpayers' money is spent appropriately. How can you possibly, as a senator for Victoria, come into this place and actively justify your state government handing back $1.2 billion of Commonwealth money because it does not want to build a road? I am sorry, Mr President, but that defies any form of logic.