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Tuesday, 28 May 2002
Page: 2460


Mrs HULL (2:50 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House of transport policy initiatives and how this policy position benefits all Australians, particularly those in my electorate of Riverina and generally rural and regional Australians? What response has there been to these initiatives?


Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the honourable member for her question and note her very real interest in transport, particularly given the importance of Wagga as a transport hub. Last week I released the government's new approach to land transport planning, which we have dubbed AusLink. This aims to make land transport more efficient, make it safer and produce better environmental outcomes. We are seeking to look beyond the immediate headlines of today and tomorrow and the electoral cycle to making the hard decisions that are going to be needed in the national interest in relation to our transport infrastructure.

We face some particularly big challenges. The freight task in Australia, with a very strongly growing economy, will well and truly outstrip both population growth and economic growth. Indeed, with the likely doubling, for example, of the number of trucks on our roads over the next 18 years, without a serious attempt to address these issues we will face real problems of congestion, of interruption to amenity and of pollution and what have you in our major cities— as well as very real difficulties in simply delivering the money and resources needed to keep our national highway system up to scratch to do it.

We are proposing that the federal government will sponsor the development of a five- to 10-year indicative rolling transport plan in consultation with, and providing for input from, the states, the territories, communities and, importantly, for the first time, the private sector. The private sector have shown a very real interest in delivering a better logistics sector in Australia. They see it as critical to the development of the Australian economy and to our export performance. Of course, there has been a reaction to the idea of greater private sector involvement. I have heard a couple of state Labor ministers say, `It means tolls.' They say that it will mean tolls in North Queensland on the national highway grid. I want to highlight that that is nonsense, that anyone who knows anything about paying for roads will know that lightly trafficked national highways would not support tolls even if there were a government of a mind that wanted to do it.

When it comes to private sector investment, it is desirable that we capture more of it. A very good example of that has arisen in the sale of National Rail and FreightCorp to the consortium formed by Corrigan and Toll. Not only have they taken over that rolling stock—far better for the private sector to operate that rolling stock than governments, in my view—on the interstate mainline tracks but, furthermore, they have committed themselves to investing further moneys in the interstate track, subject to a contribution from us, which we are in a position to make. That is leveraging with taxpayers' money private sector contributions—and both sides win. It extends the taxpayers' dollar further and it also makes sure that we use it more efficiently—music, I would have thought, to a Treasurer's ears. I should also add that, very importantly, there will be no reduction, no clipping, of any of the commitments we have made. Whether it is to Scoresby or to such important programs as Roads to Recovery or the Black Spots program—$180 million for a very important program—we will continue those.

The reaction from many people has been very good indeed. The Royal Automobile Club of Victoria said that it is good that the Commonwealth is talking about a national vision for transport and showing leadership. The National Farmers Federation welcomed it. The Australian Railway Association said:

The ARA congratulates the government for taking a long-term view of transport planning and funding and agrees with the minister's summary. AusLink is a major step towards making our land transport system safer and more efficient with less impact on the environment.

The Local Government Association also welcomed it and said that it is incumbent on all spheres of government to work cooperatively on this plan. Of course, there is a bit of a problem there, because what did the Labor ministers do, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales? Before they could possibly have had a chance to study the plan, they came out and panned it and said that it would not work, that it was an unworkable plan, that it could not be made to succeed. One even dubbed it `AusDud'. I was very interested then to note—as they say, success has many fathers—the media release by my opposite number, the member for Batman. I will just read the relevant excerpts. It said:

Labor welcomes the Minister for Transport's support for Labor's long-standing policy on a national transport plan—

and—

the Minister will use a Labor policy to meet Australia's future transport infrastructure needs.


Mr Murphy —What about Badgery's Creek?


Mr ANDERSON —He changes the subject: `What about Badgery's Creek?' There's a bit of a change of subject for you. I challenge the member for Batman to go to his state colleagues and say, `What the Commonwealth is proposing is in the Australian national interest and you ought to get on board.'