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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 6028


Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (22:03): In terms of the issues that are raised, to begin with the Blacksoil Interchange, the member would be pleased to know that today I signed off on the Commonwealth government contribution to the Blacksoil Interchange. Consider this a press announcement. It is a very important project, and I did indeed stand there with him during the election campaign. It is indeed a very dangerous piece of road.

With regard to the issues raised by the shadow minister, I must express some surprise at his choice of issues which he raises. He actually raises the Ipswich Motorway, where we have contributed well in excess of $2½ billion over a seven-year period, whereas they just talked about it and nothing actually happened. As the member stated, the Goodna bypass option and all sorts of other options were put around, but they did not actually do anything about it. I am very proud of the fact that I not only went to sections of the Ipswich Motorway and turned the first sod but also opened them. During that period, there were literally thousands of workers inducted onto the site at a time when it was needed—a vital project which this government is proud of delivering.

Quite rightly, the member for Wide Bay quoted members talking about how bad the Cooroy to Curra section of the Bruce Highway is. Indeed, I will quote the local member himself, who said:

"I'm always pleased when I turn off …

"You never feel completely safe on that road."

He also said, as he has again tonight, that it was rated as the worst piece of highway in Australia. Well, he was the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, it was in his electorate, and nothing happened. It is extraordinary that that statement would be put forward. Work is underway, as he would well know, on the Cooroy to Curra section, but it took a Labor government to deliver it.

He talks about the budget papers. The fact is that, in terms of both these projects, because we are a government that introduced in our 2010 budget a system of milestone payments according to actual delivery and construction, we are getting efficiencies through the budget. Gone are the days when, on about 14 June, the minister would get the department in and say, 'How can we shove money out the door, because our only key performance indicator is the fact that money has been transferred from the Commonwealth to state governments?' We are actually delivering efficiencies, better value for taxpayers, and we make no apologies for this.

Is it the idea of the shadow minister that we should have paid extra money to the contractors even though we have delivered the projects for under what we budgeted for? This is a bizarre logic. We have used that money to reinstate five flood-proofing projects on the Bruce Highway, because we anticipated that there would be capital shortages and labour shortages as a result of the flood and cyclone in Queensland. We always had the intention. We deferred it but kept the planning going, and we said that if we could we would bring them back on line according to the original schedule. That is exactly what we have done on these projects—something I am very proud of.

The shadow minister also raises a number of other questions. With regard to the runway width issue, that is simply not correct. I am advised that CASA is introducing changes to runway widths over time but is working with industry regarding implementation and time lines. I would certainly be happy to work with the member for Hinkler or anyone else on these issues. (Extension of time granted)

With regard to the issue of Rex airlines, quite frankly I would commend the comments that have been made publicly by the shadow minister's colleague the member for Calare, Mr Cobb, in the Western Advocate just last week, in an article titled 'Rex claims a flight of fancy, says Cobb'. When talking about the threats to airlines, he said:

"So there is no justification for this action. There is no excuse to shut Bathurst down."

He said:

"For Rex to say that it is all down to the loss of the federal rebate scheme, I don’t think is right, because they already got rid of the Cobar and Bourke runs very early on [when it was only touted that the scheme would go]. And if they are worried about capacity then look at bringing back the 19-seater.

"All it is is talk. They … really have no issues here."

Frankly, that is absolutely the right thing to do. Indeed, it is extraordinary that the shadow minister again tonight has sought to blame the government, when in fact he said in the Daily Examiner on 17 May:

The subsidy only amounts to a few dollars a ticket. Airlines will not keep going just because there is a subsidy.

He said:

If people don't use it, it won't survive even with government subsidies …

Quite frankly, in terms of the subsidies these are the facts. You people should be standing up against Rex, not playing political games. The fact is that this is the maximum per claim one-way subsidy for a Sydney-Bathurst return: $11 per plane. The subsidy between Sydney and Moruya is a maximum of $20.25 per plane. The subsidy between Sydney and Taree is a maximum of $22.90. That compares with the price from Sydney to Taree of $129 per person. The subsidy between Griffith and Melbourne is a maximum of $37.92 per plane. And compare this: the cheapest one-way ticket per person between Melbourne and Griffith on Rex is $344 per person.

If you look at the capex of the airlines in Australia, last year there was no more profitable airline in Australia. And if you go to Singapore you can meet with Rex and have a discussion with them about their contribution to the regional airline market. But Rex shut down the Cobar and Bourke routes in 2008 and used the subsidy and the withdrawal in 2012 as the excuse for shutting down the route four years before the subsidy was due to end. Get real! There is a sucker born every minute, but you do have a responsibility to your electorates to stand up for them and not to stand up for the commercial interests of any sectional interest.

Rex has not sought a discussion with me over any of these issues. And the shadow minister tells a blatant lie when he says-

Mr Truss: Withdraw!

Mr ALBANESE: that I won't meet with them. I will meet with airlines-

Mr Truss: Madam Acting Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I ask that the minister withdraw. The word 'liar' is totally unparliamentary.

Mr ALBANESE: I said, 'That is a lie.' That statement is a lie. I will meet with airlines. I meet with them regularly, but the fact is that if you look at their own statements-

Mr Truss: It has always been withdrawn!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs D'Ath ): Minister, for the benefit of the House I ask you to withdraw.

Mr ALBANESE: I withdraw, and say that the shadow minister has told a blatant untruth.

Mr Truss: Unconditionally!

Mr ALBANESE: It stands: a blatant untruth. I do meet with airlines regularly and have not knocked back any meeting with airlines. The fact is that Mr Cobb has shown that he actually is a bit more fair dinkum than you are; I commend his actions and say that you should be less opportunistic if you want to be taken at all seriously as a regional representative.