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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 6030

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (22:13): My question is with regard to the promise by Prime Minister Gillard and Minister Albanese to provide $2.1 billion in funding towards the completion of the Chatswood to Parramatta rail link project.

Due to an infrastructure malaise in Sydney over the past 16 years, both the Epping to Parramatta and North West rail links are overdue and absolutely essential projects for the people of Bennelong. These projects are essential for Macquarie Park and Parramatta business districts to reach their full potential in growth, not to mention the current efficiency and productivity losses due to the extraordinary traffic congestion that blights our region.

I am on the record as calling for the immediate construction of both projects. I raise this issue due to concerns that have developed over the omission of Epping to Parramatta anywhere in the recently released budget papers. In last year's MYEFO papers, eight infrastructure projects were specifically listed for federal funding under the Nation Building Program at a total cost of $3.57 billion. Seven of these projects were specifically listed by name in this year's budget papers, with dedicated funding amounts attached. However, the largest of these infrastructure commitments, the Epping to Parramatta rail link, which comprises over 58 per cent of the Nation Building Program 2 funding, was not listed anywhere in this year's budget papers or even in the department's own portfolio budget statement. Can the minister please explain why he found it necessary to specifically list a recommitment to the other of the seven Nation Building Program 2 projects but the Epping to Parramatta link fails to rate a mention. At a time when, unfortunately, many Australians have lost trust in their government due to broken promises, could the minister please confirm the government's commitment to this project and, more importantly, the schedule to commence and complete the works? As the federal government was willing to take the lead role in seeking the electoral benefits of headlines saying, 'We will build Epping to Parramatta', is it not about time that the federal government, as the provider of 80 per cent of the funds for this project, takes the lead in fulfilling their promise, regaining the trust of the people and building this rail link?

It must be noted that the new New South Wales government took a policy to build the North West link in recent state elections and, whilst they have requested federal assistance, they have pledged to commence construction as soon as possible, regardless of the federal government's response. Their commitment is not dependent on re-election, on a future surplus or on other governments making political decisions. It is a commitment based on a policy promise to the people. Will this government accept the same moral obligation of a promise and list how much will be spent in the first year of this project which falls within the forward estimates period and the schedule of construction for the Epping to Parramatta rail link?