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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1222

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (10:02 AM) —Thank you, Senator Macdonald. Obviously, I do not wish to comment on some of the observations you made, other than to say I do not necessarily agree with everything you have put. The specific questions that I think I can extract from the general comments that you made were to do with why the word ‘may’ has been used in clause 6. As I am advised, the process here is that the previous government took the view that, working with the states, there would be a five-year infrastructure assessment. The new government has a broader approach and wants to see a national infrastructure audit undertaken by the new body, Infrastructure Australia.

I cannot quite follow the logic of Senator Macdonald’s argument. He seems to be saying on the one hand that it is wrong to use the word ‘may’—in other words, it should be directed by COAG to undertake this project—but then goes on to say that the states cannot be trusted. I think that is the thrust of what you are putting about Queensland. What this bill does is to establish a new body, Infrastructure Australia. It does not abolish the states and it does not seek to abolish the states. Clearly, the states are still able to undertake matters within their province and may well undertake matters of direct concern to them within their jurisdictions. This is a national body that seeks to coordinate activity but does not preclude other levels of government undertaking infrastructure development. It is clear that the intent here is to ensure we do have national priorities for the provision of infrastructure, but it does not preclude the possibility that states may have matters that they want to deal with under their own resources.