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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1241

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Human Services) (11:31 AM) —It is one of those matters that will come up later during the debate, but I note that the opposition has expressed concern that Infrastructure Australia is unable to independently consider the ALP’s election promises. Infrastructure Australia is about addressing the 11½ years of neglect by the previous government, so we do need to get on with the job. Firstly, I would like to say that the government does take its election commitments very seriously. Secondly, the election promises were developed after wide consultation with stakeholders, as you may have appreciated, during the pre-election period and before. Also, in travelling around Australia in developing those, the urgent need for work on highways such as the Pacific Highway and the Bruce was blindingly obvious, as you would well know, given where your electorate office is placed. Too many people spend too much time in what you could only describe as bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Ipswich Motorway instead of being with their families. I am sure you have experienced that, as I have.

About 80 per cent of Australians who live in our cities are now subjected to long-term water restrictions, and rural Australia is suffering after years of drought. Those matters, I am sure you would agree, are blindingly obvious. They are also a very good reason why the government made election commitments to provide critical water infrastructure that will secure water supplies within and outside of the Murray-Darling Basin. I am sure that is obvious to you as well, as it is to those people who are in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Infrastructure Australia will have its work cut out for it, auditing and prioritising Australia’s infrastructure needs, without having to look at projects that any water user or any motorist in New South Wales or Queensland would tell you are in dire need of attention. Infrastructure Australia will be forward looking and provide support to decisions made about Australia’s future, rather than raking over the past time and time again. It appears to me that those are matters that you did not get on with when you were in government. You navel-gazed about them for so long that they never got done, unfortunately. It is critical that Infrastructure Australia works both strategically and in a much more cohesive fashion than you did when you were in government, and it is critical that it continues to boost the productive capacity of the nation—and to keep a lid on inflation. That is one of the critical aims and something which you did not do when you were in government, which you let get out of control. In any event, I think that provides a short answer to your question. I did not want to take up a particularly long time to respond to you, but I think it is plain.