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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1225

Senator MILNE (10:18 AM) —I want to respond to the minister in relation to definitions and then move onto this amendment. I indicate to Senator Allison that that is precisely why the Greens will move the amendment to clause 5 that I am foreshadowing—so that Infrastructure Australia is required to advise the minister on any ‘greenhouse gas emission and oil consumption implications of any development’ that is being considered. That is for the very reasons I outlined last night and for the very reasons that Senator Allison has just reiterated in here this morning. The notion that Infrastructure Australia will only report on these matters if it sees fit to do so or if the minister requires it is ludicrous. Experience to date shows that Infrastructure Australia almost certainly will not see fit to do it itself. We only have to look at today’s papers to see the disasters when private-public partnerships get going and governments get so close to developers that they do not do any social or economic impact assessment. Look at the white elephants trumpeting in Sydney as we speak with the Iemma government having gone ahead with those road projects which are now having to be written off. The traffic through the tunnel in Sydney, for example, has been 50 per cent down on forecasts. The investors are writing it right down as we speak. It is the same thing with the cross-city tunnel—that has not been anything like what it was proposed to be in the first place. What has happened here is that we got enthusiasm from developers and governments overlooking the public interest and not looking at climate change and oil implications at all and rather just going with more roads. In fact, that is why I am very keen that there will be a new body to look at funding priorities so that we do not have this political cherry-picking of road projects at election time. I want to point out that at the last federal election Labor committed $62.5 million on 27 September for stage 4A of the Geelong ring road. On 18 October—21 days later—it committed a further $107.5 million for stage 4B of the same road. They were items 17 and 18 on Victoria’s AusLink 2 bid, right down the list even by state government priorities. You can bet your bottom dollar that there was no social or economic impact assessment or greenhouse gas assessment or peak oil assessment of those roads. And yet they are suddenly now national infrastructure priorities that the government has committed to actually implementing.

It is a ridiculous way of determining what the national priorities ought to be in road funding. It is right across the country, and it was not just the Labor Party either, I might say, in the last federal election. Those AusLink lists became the cherry-picked lists for all parties—for the Liberal and Labor parties—in terms of funding, and it was all roads funding. When I move the amendments, I want to speak further about that, but I want clarification from the minister that transport infrastructure in nationally significant infrastructure includes—Minister, I would like a commitment on this—urban public transport and urban passenger rail. I would like a commitment that nationally significant infrastructure, materially improving national productivity, includes urban public transport and urban passenger rail.