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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31523

Mr CAUSLEY (2:30 PM) —My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the Deputy Prime Minister advise the House of the recently announced federal government funding for New South Wales roads? How do these levels of funding compare with road funding announced in the New South Wales budget?

Mr ANDERSON (Acting Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. I enjoyed my time looking at some of those projects that you have been talking about that have needed to be addressed for so long but which will be addressed under AusLink. We recently announced AusLink, and it does highlight some very major works to be undertaken in New South Wales. Indeed, the construction budget for New South Wales goes up by 76 per cent over the next five years. We really will be presiding over some very serious infrastructure upgrades in that state, including duplicating the Hume Highway and the Pacific Highway, so we can get to the point in this country where we have major capital cities increasingly linked by dual carriageway.

The Minister for Roads in New South Wales, Carl Scully, led me to believe that he was about to obviously do something really fantastic. I thought he must be. His reactions indicated that he had something that was so big and so spectacular that it would make everything we were doing pale into insignificance. He called our 76 per cent increase in the construction budget for New South Wales a disgrace and said that it fell well short. So it was that I waited to see what he would produce. The headlines were pretty spectacular in relation to the New South Wales budget this week. They said that it included a record roads budget. Mr Scully had a very colourful song to sing about that. He said that 2004-05 was a landmark year, with a record allocation involving huge increases. We must be reading different budget documents. The NRMA-Access Economics analysis of the New South Wales budget shows that next financial year's capital expenditure on roads—that is, what you actually spend on building them—has dropped by $22 million since 2002-03 and there had been a drop that year of $34 million from the previous year. So, in the past two years alone, road building has gone backwards $56 million in New South Wales, before you take inflation into account.

There is more than that. Do you know what we found when we had a look at the projects they had listed in this giant increase in their New South Wales roads budget? We found that over 20 per cent of them are actually Australian government road announcements. They are federal government roads. Their magnificent new roads program is at least one-fifth ours, when you look at it closely. The drop in the actual New South Wales commitment to roads construction over the last two years is $250 million before inflation. This massive increase turns out to be a very significant decrease. Worse than that, of course, is that, at the same time that has been happening, motor vehicle taxes and charges in New South Wales have increased by $400 million. So there you go: it is quite a windfall indeed. Mr Scully was so desperate that, in his media statement, what was the first project he trumpeted? Westlink—the Western Sydney Orbital—at $110 million. How much of that money is state money? None. It is Australian government money.

I want to make this point: it is time that Australian electors started to contemplate what life under a Latham Labor government would be like. It is time they started to think that through. Where might they find some clues on what it might be like? There are some people around Liverpool who could probably give them a pretty good idea. You could think back to what it was like when the Labor Party was last in office, you could contemplate having the modern version of those days, with Treasurer Crean's hand in your pocket, and you could also have a bit of a look at how the state governments run things. What it shows is that it is very expensive to run nanny states. Your taxes go up and up, so New South Wales motorists are paying more and more—it is a bit like that magic pudding thing—and, at the same time, of course, your services come down and the amount of money spent on capital works comes down. But it is all covered with the most extraordinary fudge—and that is what we have seen in New South Wales with their roads budget. We announced a 76 per cent increase in road building and, according to them, that is a disgrace. At the same time, according to them, a $250 million decline before inflation in road funding is a landmark achievement. People ought to remember what it is like living under a Labor government and start thinking about just what sort of a shambles Mr Latham would run.