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Address to Australian Labor Party, NSW Branch State Conference, Sydney.

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Prime Minister of Australia


Address to Australian Labor Party NSW Branch State Conference, Sydney

04 May 2008


I acknowledge the First Australians on whose land we meet and whose culture we celebrate as one of the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

I acknowledge the women and men of the great Australian labour movement.

And I acknowledge this great branch of the Australian Labor Party - this branch so crucial in forming this Australian Labor Government.

I acknowledge the contribution of our rank and file members and supporters in every division right across this State in adding 10 new members to the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.

Jason Clare in Blaxland.

Greg Combet in Charlton.

Mike Kelly in Eden-Monaro.

Craig Thompson in Dobell.

Belinda Neal in Robertson.

Bob Debus in Macquarie.

David Bradbury in Lindsay.

Janelle Saffin in Page.

Maxine McKew in Bennelong.

And in the Senate, a bloke who goes by the name of Mark Arbib - who is now in the process of reading and memorising that classic thriller called Standing Orders of the Senate.

I congratulate all those candidates and their supporters who came close but who in the end didn’t get over the line.

This happened to me in my first election and my exhortation to all our people on the ground is simple: stay the course, ours is a course worth fighting for.

I want to congratulate Karl Bitar on his elevation to General Secretary.

I hear it’s been a quiet start for Karl at this conference.

I thank Premier Morris Iemma and his government for their cooperative approach with the Federal Government in our combined efforts to begin the long process of reforming the Federation.

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And I thank the members of our industrial movement, under the leadership of Unions NSW, who dedicated this blood, sweat and tears to the campaign of 2007 in defence of Australia’s working families.

And it is with pride that I now address you as the 26th Prime Minister of Australia.

Sixty years ago, the 16th Prime Minister of Australia also addressed this NSW conference.

At the 1948 NSW State conference Ben Chifley, the son of Bathurst, son of NSW, and son of Australia, said to the delegates of that conference:

“The problem that we have set out to right is in seeing that all the community are in a position to have a decent standard of living. That is the ultimate goal of the Labour movement whatever the reversals in that long, long road. That is the task, after all, that we have set ourselves.

The Labour movement can only be great… by the united efforts of all those who believe in it, of individuals who are not in it to get out of it something personal, but in it because it is a great political party designed to bring all the community a fair share of the things the world is capable of giving them…

These things are really worth fighting for.”

Ben Chifley, the railwayman, reminded us then as he reminds us now, that this party and this movement have a great responsibility to this nation.

And what is that responsibility:

z to plan for the future; z to reform for the future; z to build for the future; z always applying our continuing commitment to the great Australian value of a fair go for all; z always striving to provide a decent life for all Australians (not just for some), and z beyond that, striving also to make this nation Australia an even greater force for good in the world. z To embody therefore in our work Ben Chifley’s great vision of a ‘light on the hill’

Ben Chifley was a planner, a reformer and a builder:

z From 1942 he planned post-war reconstruction; z He established comprehensive soldier re-settlement schemes; z He gave all returning soldiers an entitlement to vocational education; z He launched Australia’s post-war immigration program; z He established the Commonwealth/State housing agreement; z He introduced free hospital treatment and (against trenchant opposition) a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme; z He supported the establishment of the Australian motor vehicle industry; z He launched the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme; z He established the Australian National University.

But Chif’ wasn’t just active on the home front.

Chif also recognised Australia’s responsibilities abroad.

z He steered Australia through the last tumultuous years of the War that threatened our very survival as a nation; z He prevailed in the party’s internal debate on ratifying the Bretton Woods Agreement establishing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund because we had to be part of the global economic system, not removed from it;

z Together with Evatt, he framed Australia’s role at the San Francisco conference in the formation of the United Nations; z He despatched Evatt to chair the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine, and z He helped broker the independence of the Indonesian republic from the Dutch.

Chif was no slouch.

All this was done in five years.

Chif believed that we had to seize the day.

Not simply drifting into the future, but actively shaping the future.

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Exerting our every effort to direct the future rather than standing idly by while the future is simply allowed to direct us.

The Mission of the new Australian Government

That’s why the mission of the new Australian Government is to build a modern Australia, capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century - to secure the nation’s future, as well as securing the future for the nation’s families.

For the economy, that means building a globally competitive Australia based on a productivity revolution, so that we don’t fall behind the rest of the world.

That in turn means an education revolution as part of a single galvanising vision to create the best educated, best trained, best skilled workforce in the world.

That means the national government taking the lead on national infrastructure - rather than just bleating about the States.

That means reforming the Federation - rather than simply perpetuating the blame game - because the Australian people have had an absolute gutful of the blame game and Australian businesses want us to lead the nation towards a long term goal of a seamless national economy.

That means reforming our nation’s health and hospitals system.

That means working together to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia.

That means rather than just hoping that climate change will go away, stepping up to the plate and acting on climate change both at home and abroad.

And it means, once again, Australia resuming our proper place in the councils of the region and the world where our voice very simply has been too silent for too long.

Our responsibilities to the nation are therefore great.

Just as the nation’s expectations of us are great.

And that is why we must dedicate our heart and soul and strength to the task that is now at hand.

Our achievements so far

We have been in office barely five months.

And we’ve not exactly been sitting on our dig.

z Within minutes of taking office, the Government signed the instruments to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and we are now active participants in the Bali Roadmap on climate change. z On the first day of Parliamentary business, I extended an apology to the stolen generations of Indigenous Australians, and we have begun a policy program of closing the obscene gap between Indigenous and non-

Indigenous life opportunities in Australia. z In the first legislation placed before the new Parliament the Government abolished AWAs. We’ve introduced the Transition Act; we’ve released our draft National Employment Standards, and we’ve begun the process of modernising industrial awards. z The Government has also embraced a comprehensive productivity agenda based on a new program of

microeconomic reform. It begins with early childhood education, continuing with computers and trades training centres in every secondary school, 450,000 new training places and thousands of new university scholarships, along with the introduction of Skills Australia to spearhead our response to skills shortages. z The Government has also enacted legislation to establish Infrastructure Australia, and has begun the

implementation of our national broadband network to bring Australia fully into the digital economy of the 21st century. z The Government has commenced a new era in Commonwealth/State relations through the COAG reform process - to reform the Federation, to remove the unnecessary regulatory burdens on business and to begin building a

seamless national economy. z The Government has taken action to improve health outcomes by immediately investing $650 million in our public hospitals to reverse the trend decline in the Commonwealth funding share and start an immediate blitz on elective surgery waiting lists, while also establishing the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission to develop a

long term national health reform plan. z The Government has appointed the Commonwealth’s first Housing Minister in twelve years and has announced its

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intention to implement a new National First Home Savers Account; a new National Rental Affordability Scheme, together with a new Housing Affordability Fund to help reduce infrastructure costs for new houses and new developments - all to help preserve the great Australian dream for Australian working families to own their own home in the future. z The Government has also commissioned its first White Paper on homelessness and is looking at how to invest in

new solutions in partnership with community and business groups to deal with this blight on us all. z The Government has identified over one hundred items of legislation in areas such as tax, superannuation and social security, that need amending to remove discrimination against same sex couples, and has decided to act through Parliament to remove this discrimination once and for all. z The Government has concluded an historic agreement with the state and territory governments of Australia to

establish a single national authority to manage Australia's major inland river system - the Murray-Darling - whose future is threatened by the impact of over use and climate change. z Internationally, the Government has been active in establishing the three pillars of our relationship with the world: a strong alliance with the US, engagement with the United Nations (including our candidacy for the UN Security

Council after a 25 year absence) and a strong commitment to our own immediate region, including a determination to tackle under-development across the Pacific Island states through our new proposal for Pacific Partnerships for Development. z And most recently, the Government has advanced the cause of gender equality by appointing the first woman Governor General in 107 years - it’s been a long time coming.

As you can see, we’ve been busy.

But this is only a start.

There is much, much more to be done in the period ahead - beginning with the Budget.

Our approach to the Budget

The Government’s approach to the Budget is based on four fundamental principles.

z We are committed to building a strong economy through responsible economic management - and an economy that also delivers for working families. z Second, we will honour our commitments to help working families under financial pressure. z Third, we will deliver on our commitments to prepare Australia for the great challenges of the future - acting on

areas of long-term neglect of the previous government in education, health and in infrastructure, climate change and water. z And fourth, we will also be planning and providing for our nation’s long-term national security needs in supporting this most fundamental function of the state.

In building a strong economy that delivers for working families:

We must wage a war on inflation - because inflation causes higher interest rates, and because inflation hurts working families.

We inherited the highest inflation rates in 16 years, and ten interest rate rises in a row, from a government that said they’d keep interest rates at record lows.

High government spending pushes up inflation and puts upward pressure on interest rates.

That’s why in the budget we are reducing government spending - to place downward pressure on inflation and interest rates.

We are committed to delivering a new era of responsible economic management that reprioritises government spending to where it’s needed most.

We are also committed to keeping a weather eye on unfolding global economic circumstances and maintaining a strong budget surplus that provides flexibility to deal with any unforeseen challenges that may arise.

Second, we intend to deliver on our commitment to help Australian families under financial pressure.

We understand that families are under financial pressure because of rising costs of living such as mortgages, rents, groceries, petrol and childcare - unlike our predecessors who told us working families have never been better off and still tell us today that the impact of rising prices and inflation are a fairy tale.

Some economic commentators say we shouldn’t be delivering tax cuts to working families.

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But we promised to implement tax cuts.

And we promised to increase childcare assistance in the Budget.

And we intend to deliver on these promises.

We can’t ease all the financial pain working families are under but we are doing what we can to help - fighting against the emergence of two Australias.

Third, we intend to deliver on our commitment to the Australian people to prepare the nation for the long-term challenges of the future - to secure a long-term future for working families.

New leadership for Australia’s future in areas of national priority such as schools, universities, TAFE colleges, hospital and economic infrastructure - areas which have been neglected by our predecessors.

New leadership to prepare Australia for major new challenges including the rise of India and China, climate change and water and our ageing population, where our predecessors once again neglected to plan.

Finally, there is the security of the nation itself.

There have been billions of dollars in defence waste - in one major project after another. This has got to stop.

That’s why we are delivering a major defence White Paper later in the year, to properly prepare for Australia’s 21st century needs in a significantly changing threat environment.

To do this, we will need to provide sufficient long-term funding to meet our future defence needs.

Prior to the election we committed to 3 per cent real increases in defence expenditure out to 2016, and in the Budget we’ll be honouring that commitment over the forward estimates and beyond.

The Budget will contain difficult challenges. I don’t hide from that. Some decisions will be unpopular. But our responsibility is to get the priorities right for the long term, and we intend to do that.

Budget commitments for older carers

A couple of weeks ago, we held a Community Cabinet at Jamieson High School at Mulgoa, in western Sydney.

We had many remarks and questions from families under financial pressure.

One of those contributions was from a woman responsible for the care of her adult son who has a profound disability.

She spoke about the fear that so many older carers have across our country - a concern for what happens to their disabled children once they are no longer able to provide the support that they have offered during their lifetime.

We do not pretend to have a total solution to this problem.

But it is time that we began to turn the corner.

The Government is making a commitment of $1 billion to fund disability services to address unmet needs and increase support for carers.

In this Budget we are investing $900 million in the new Commonwealth, State and Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA) for the planning and management of disability services including respite, supported accommodation, community support and community access.

The previous Government was planning to deliver this $900 million in funding independently of the States and Territories, duplicating administrative costs and missing the opportunity to attract matching funding.

By allocating this money through the CSTDA, we can begin leveraging double the funding for disability services through negotiation with the States.

Today I announce that in addition to this $900 million investment, we will commit a further $100 million in the Budget in

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immediate new capital funding for supported accommodation for people with a disability.

These funds will complement recent State and Territory initiatives, such as the NSW Government’s Stronger Together Plan.

This package is particularly focused on providing a response to the concerns that older carers often have about the future accommodation and support the needs of their children.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has estimated that the total unmet demand for accommodation support and respite services by people with disabilities is around 23,800.

So this is a small first step - there is a long way to go. It only provides help for hundreds rather than thousands.

But this $100 million together with our announced $900 million investment is designed to provide additional funds to state and territory governments to begin to reduce this unmet demand.

This new capital funding will be provided immediately to State and Territory Governments, with no matching requirements, to enable them to increase the supply of supported accommodation as a matter of priority.

Importantly, this initiative will begin to help older carers of children with a disability to plan for the transition of their children to appropriate supported accommodation in the future.

It will help provide some peace of mind to older carers.

It is time to start turning the corner and start providing a fairer go for these most vulnerable Australians.

Our challenges beyond the Budget

The Budget represents but one part of our long-term plan for dealing with the nation’s future challenges.

Our frame of reference for the future cannot simply be the next 12 months.

In fact, if we are serious about the future, consistent with the spirit of the recently concluded 2020 Summit, we need to be serious about the next 12 years.

The nation now expects us all to lift our sights beyond the electoral cycle for the simple reason that so many of the challenges that now confront us transcend the electoral cycle.

For example:

z For the rest of this term we will need to confront the long term, interrelated challenges of our tax, welfare and retirement income systems - to make sure that we have the right balance between global competitiveness, individual incentive, a social safety net and a capacity for people to live with dignity in their retirement years; z A second challenge for the remainder of this term is to deal with the recommendations of Infrastructure Australia

and move ahead the national audit of our infrastructure needs and a plan to act on that audit; z A third priority for the remainder of this term must be reform of the Federation. The 2020 Summit identified this as being a major structural drag on our national economic performance overall, as well as a source of fundamental frustration on the part of the nation’s longsuffering consumers of government services. z A further challenge for our remaining term will be to get our domestic and international responses to climate

change right, so that we are part of the global solution rather than just part of the global problem. At the same time ensuring that we are not placed at any competitive disadvantage in the context of new global arrangements. z We must also begin reforming the way in which we govern. z Should Labor be re-elected at the next election, the agenda of work that we will confront would continue to be

substantial, not least within our own immediate region where we must see a long-term turnaround in the development trajectory of the Pacific Island states of the south-west Pacific.

The development trends in these small states have been heading in the wrong direction for decades - to their long term detriment and to ours.

The reality is that it will take the better part of the decade to start turning these states around - and given our leadership role within our region, and our own national interests, we have no alternative but to implement this long-term course of action.

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The role of the Party

If we are to achieve any of these objectives for the Party and for the nation, we must remain in government.

It may come as a surprise to some people, but we did not win the last Federal election by a large margin.

Just as it may come as a surprise to some that we would lose the next election with just a small swing against us.

And the truth is, we now face a period of global economic uncertainty.

The challenges we face therefore are formidable.

You as the members of our party are its heart and soul.

You are also its hands and its feet.

If we are to prevail, it is paramount that we remain focused - absolutely focused - on the task at hand.

Remember as Chifley said to us sixty years ago: “the Labour movement can only be great by the united efforts of all those who believe in it”.

Chifley also once described our party as a “great family spreading its political philosophy across the whole continent”.

Like any family, from time to time there are disagreements.

And I’m reliably informed, there’s been the odd disagreement or two here over the last few days.

The time has come to dust yourselves off.

The time has come to move forward once again.

The time has come to get on with the business of building a modern Australian nation capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

In his last address to this conference on the 10th of June 1951 (just three days before his sudden death) Chifley issued this appeal to the members of the Party, an appeal that rings down the generations:

“The Labour movement was created by the pioneers… to make decisions for the best for all the people…… we are after all, the only political party in this country which stands for the masses [of people]…”

“I hope the spirit which animated the people who began the Labour movement goes on today… I can only hope that the sincerity which you have shown over the years in victory and defeat won’t be lost; that you will be inspired by the same things which inspired the pioneers of this movement….”

The challenge of Labor in government is to plan, to reform and to build - consistent with the values of those who pioneered our party; always applying those values to the new challenges of the future, challenges of which those pioneers could scarcely dream.

Carving out the nation’s future.

And all along, seeking to advance and protect the lives and livelihoods of those families that need us.

On this our nation depends.

I thank the conference.

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Prime Minister of Australia


Question and Answer Session, Western Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry Breakfast, Perth

07 May 2008

Subject(s): Housing Affordability Measures, Infrastructure, Public Private Partnerships, Western Australia Infrastructure Fund


AUDIENCE:Well, thank you very much Mr Prime Minister. My name is Michael (inaudible), I’m state manager with (inaudible) here in Western Australia. Let me add my very warm welcome to you. I was happy to hear your comments in relation to housing. You might have deduced from my accent that I’m not originally from here. I hail from Canada. And -

PM:I thought you were Irish, actually.

AUDIENCE:I hear that a lot.

PM: It was a joke, actually.

AUDIENCE:It seems to me looking at some of the initiatives that your Government is magnanimously and diligently unrolling that a lot of the emphasis seems to be on the demand side. Back in Canada and other nations around the world that were predicate on the dream of owning one’s own home, we see the introduction of urban growth boundaries having a significant impost on the price of housing. There used to be historically in this nation, from what I understand, a three-to-one multiplier whereby the median income would entitle one or enable one to purchase a home for roughly three times the price. So, given the current median income or around $60,000 one would ideally hope to be able to purchase a new home for around $180,000. We still can see this occurring in some cities around the world, such as in Canada and United States. But of course, sadly, that’s not necessarily the case here anymore and I was just wondering what sort of initiatives we can anticipate on the supply side, such as the removal of upfront development contributions for infrastructure costs as well as some of the imposts associated with master planning. Perhaps the privatisation of DA applications? Because of course at the moment here in Perth we see the median income approximately a nine to one multiplier for the cost of a home, down in (inaudible), I believe, it’s around 11 times. So it’s clearly unaffordable and I was just wondering if we could perhaps entertain the prospect of removing some of the urban growth boundaries so that we can get back to the original Australian dream of around a three-to-one multiplier? Thank you

PM:Thanks for the question. Certainly when I was here in January, we conducted our first Community Cabinet here in Perth, and we threw the doors of the Cabinet open to several hundred people in the community hall and the discussions afterwards with families in the area, it was quite plain to me that housing affordability is a huge challenge here, huge. And it doesn’t matter what part of this state you travel in, it’s the same response.

The first thing we have done is to recognise this as an area not just of state responsibility but of national responsibility. It maybe of surprise to you in this room to know that prior to the election of this Government there was no Federal Minister for Housing. Now there is one, her name is Tanya Plibersek, and she has this as her portfolio responsibility.

Secondly, we acutely understand the difference between demand side measures and supply side measures in dealing with the overall housing equation.

On the demand side measure, part of the challenge is to ensure that people can actually save enough to cross the deposit threshold, and having consulted extensively with the industry, including the Housing Industry Association and others, what we’ve put forward how we are now consulting the industry is a First Home Savers Account, which basically provides preferential superannuation style taxation treatment for first home savers. And the objective is to make it more possible for

people to get an effective deposit nest egg set aside over a five year period.

But that’s one part of the equation

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On the supply side of the equation, we actually have more resources dedicated. Let me just go to 2 programs in particular.

One is a half billion dollar Housing Affordability Fund which is designed specifically to deal with one of the problems you mentioned. We acutely understand what occurs in terms of the pass on of infrastructure costs from local authorities, engaged in a local development approval processes, onto the actual purchases of new homes in new housing developments.

This half billion dollar fund is specifically designed for the Federal Government to partner directly with local authorities across the country. Those who wish to participate with the objective of bringing down infrastructure pass on costs by up to 20 per cent to people buying houses in those areas.

A related measure is what we are currently seeking to advance through COAG and other forums to accelerate the development approval process across the country. Because, if there’s one consistent playback from the housing industry nationwide, it’s that the time lost through the development approval process is costing big in terms of the final pass on price to the buyer.

The second major program I would point to is another half billion dollar fund that we’ve promoted on the rental side. Part of the challenge, and I’m sure here in Perth as well, based on previous conversations here, is just the ballooning cost of rental accommodation.

We believe that we need to create a new class of investable assets for people, called affordable rental accommodation. Therefore, the purpose of this half billion dollar National Rental Affordability Fund is to provide a resources through which we can partner with large scale private developers to ensure that a proportion of a new rental housing development is provided at an overall market cost of about 20 per cent of what it would otherwise be.

That is there for a cost ultimately to the tax payer, we accept that. But we’ve provided funding, and again, based on advice to us from the Housing Industry Association and others, to construct 50,000 such units of affordable rental accommodation in the period ahead. And if that works, we’ll extend that by another 50,000.

Both those measures, a billion dollars worth of activity on our part in supply side measures. For us, this is just the beginning. Housing policy we regard as critical. We don’t intend just to wave it by and say ‘that is a problem for punters who can’t make it on the way through.’ We actually have a real concern in this area not to mention, not to ignore, the challenge of homelessness.

PM:You’ve got a very quiet audience here in Perth. I’ve just been at the New South Wales State Conference, it’s quiet different to this. Crowd was as big, but not nearly as well behaved.

AUDIENCE:Prime Minister, (inaudible) if I can I add my welcome and also thanks for your address this morning.

You spoke in much of your talk about the need for long term planning for infrastructure and the importance of taking a long term view. I just wonder what your comments are in relation to the three year election cycle we have at the federal level, and whether that got an airing at the 2020 Summit, and just generally some discussion around that issue which does conflict politicians when it comes to making long term planning on some occasions? Thank you.

PM:I think there are both funding challenges here and regulatory challenges. If I could just back up on infrastructure a bit, because it is a big, big challenge here in the west. And I get the logic, I’m from Queensland, I understand these things. We generate a lot by way of the nation’s overall export revenue, and because of the nature of the mining activity in my state

and yours, then, frankly, the infrastructure needs are huge and right across the spectrum you don’t have a argument with me on that.

I actually understand the conceptual underpinnings of what we’re dealing with. So the question then is how do you advance it rather than just talk about it? And it flows, I think, in two categories. One is getting the regulatory settings right. And two is making sure that you’ve got a National Government which is prepared not to absent itself from the field here, to become active, funding, participants.

On the regulatory side, part of the problem when it comes to private participation in infrastructure investment is that nationwide we have inconsistent PPP regulations. We are now working through COAG this year, with the target date of the end of this year, producing nationally consistent PPP regulatory frameworks for large scale private investors wishing to engage in investment activity in Australia so that they don’t have to chop and change from one state regime to the next when it comes to the regulatory underpinnings of those investments.

There are parallel debates about access regimes, and if you’re concerned about infrastructure, can we move more effectively in the direction of a nationally consistent approach to access regimes when it come to infrastructure as well. That is a more vexed area, I’m acutely conscious of the complexity of that debate, but these are two areas where we need to see real progress if we are to provide comfort to large scale investment from the private sector.

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The second challenge is what is the public sector doing.

The State Government of WA, and I know it’s producing its Budget tomorrow, strong economy, strong robust performance on the part of the State Government when it comes to economic management. But the resources here, at the end of the day, are limited.

In the past, the National Government attitude to national infrastructure provision was basically absent Auslink, that is absent roads. The National Government was not interested. This is a fundamental departure. We are saying for the first time as a National Government we are interested. Roads, rail, ports, broadband. And that’s why we have created firstly a Minister with responsibility for infrastructure, that’s Anthony Albanese. Secondly, to be advised by infrastructure Australia, which is to be headed by Sir Rod Eddington. And thirdly, for support for this to come from what we announced prior to the election period, as the Building Australia fund.

This is a major departure in National Government policy.

There’s a further add on for the west and prior to the election I came here and spoke about the need to use a vehicle called a WA Infrastructure Fund, given the particular acute needs of infrastructure in this part of Australia. I referred to that in my formal remarks today. We intend to make use of such a fund in the future, particularly to deal with your challenges here, because your state in vast, the population is small and therefore there is an added responsibility for the National Government to make sure WA gets its fair slice of the action.

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