Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 7629


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (2:33 PM) —My question is to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery, Senator Arbib. Could the minister please update the Senate on progress on the rollout of the government’s stimulus package? That is very relevant to the question just asked. Is the minister aware of comments from the opposition that propose seeking to cut infrastructure as part of the stimulus package? In particular, is the minister aware of comments made by Senator Eggleston in the Senate yesterday regarding the stimulus:

Most of this funding is for useful infrastructure projects, and one option would be to consider reducing the annual expenditure levels while retaining the gross expenditure proposed. That means the government could, for example, extend the period over which this $31 billion was to be spent to 10 or 15 years …

Can the minister advise the Senate what impact this new opposition policy would have regarding the stimulus?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery) —Thank you, Senator Collins, for the question. I am happy to inform the Senate that the stimulus package has moved into the infrastructure stage, and construction is taking place. There are 25,000 projects underway, which are supporting jobs and small businesses across the country. I will give a few examples for the Senate: 8,000 primary school projects are underway; 2,000 social housing projects are underway; there are 14 road projects of which five are underway; there are 17 rail projects with 10 underway. Three of those rail projects are complete. I can inform the Senate that the modernisation of the Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne rail corridor continues, with the opening yesterday of the newly-upgraded passing loop at Kerewong in New South Wales.

In terms of rail, the Rudd government have spent more on rail in 12 months than the coalition spent in 12 years. That is what the government are doing in terms of infrastructure, and it totally shows the absolute neglect that the Liberal Party had for infrastructure. Don’t ask us; ask Don Argus, the Chairman of BHP Billiton, who said, ‘Infrastructure to GDP ratio fell during the Liberal Party period by 10 per cent.’ That was their commitment to infrastructure. I can inform the Senate that Senator Eggleston did make those comments yesterday. His plan for the stimulus is to extend it out for 15 years. So kids who are starting school now would not see the school halls, the school libraries or the classrooms under Senator Eggleston’s plan. We would not see the road projects under Senator Eggleston and the Liberal Party, because those projects would not be finished for 15 years. That is what the Liberal Party’s view is. (Time expired)


Senator JACINTA COLLINS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In light of Senator Eggleston’s plan to stretch the stimulus package into the distant future, is the minister aware of other suggestions from some members of the opposition that the stimulus should continue without change? In particular, is the minister aware of comments by Senator Humphries two days ago that the Australian Capital Territory deserves more of the stimulus package? Is the minister aware of a call by Senator Humphries for Canberra to get ‘a little more attention than it is getting from this government regarding stimulus programs’? Could the minister also advise the Senate of comments made by Senator Humphries in Senate estimates regarding seeking more stimulus programs? Can the minister advise the Senate of how many times Senator Humphries actually voted against the packages?

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Collins, repeat that last part of the question. There was noise and I could not hear it.


Senator JACINTA COLLINS —Can the minister advise the Senate how many times Senator Humphries actually voted against the government’s stimulus package?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery) —This question shows the complete hypocrisy of the Liberal Party. One question ago, Senator Fifield was attacking the stimulus. Yesterday Senator Humphries was saying, ‘Give me the stimulus.’ He is the Jerry Maguire of the Liberal Party: ‘Show me the money.’ That is what Senator Humphries is. That is what the Liberal Party are about. They have no plan to support jobs. They have a plan to stop the stimulus package, but at the same time they want the funding for their own priorities, for their own little pet projects. It has been proven. It has been done time and time again in the other place, and now Senator Humphries has been caught out in his home territory of the ACT. In the ACT, the government is delivering in terms of the stimulus package: $240 million for 257 projects as part of the education stimulus, and $87 million for 352 units under our social housing package. The government is delivering with this stimulus, and it would be good if once in a while the Liberal Party showed some actual decency


Senator JACINTA COLLINS —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister clarify the impact of the contradictory plans to continue the stimulus in the Australian Capital Territory but at the same time delay the infrastructure stimulus until 15 years from now?

Opposition senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Interjections across the chamber at this hour are completely disorderly. I need to hear the question.


Senator JACINTA COLLINS —Given that the Liberal dominated Senate Economics References Committee has recommended winding back the stimulus line by line, how does this recommendation compare with these alternative plans from the opposition? Can the minister advise of any projects that would be at risk from being targeted on such a hit list? Would any of these projects be cut in defiance of the local community’s view on the need for these projects and indeed their opposition representation?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery) —We now know that the Liberal Party have a hit list for the stimulus and that they want to go line by line through the infrastructure projects. I am happy to go line by line. Maybe I will start with Senator Mason in his home territory. Would Senator Mason like the government to withdraw funding from the Mount Gravatt Special School? Would you like us to withdraw funding? How about the Upper Mount Gravatt State School? Maybe we should withdraw funding there? Or the Old Yarranlea State School? Should we withdraw funding there for infrastructure projects? What about Senator Macdonald and his preoccupation with Cairns, which I share—should we take funding away from the Ravens Shoe State School?


Senator Ian Macdonald —It’s Ravenshoe, you donkey!


Senator ARBIB —Should we take funding away from Miallo State School? Should we take projects away? This is what the Liberal Party—

Opposition senators interjecting—


Senator ARBIB —I apologise; I should have said ‘Ravenshoe’. Sorry to those residents. But I am sure Senator Macdonald does not want to take funding away from that school—does he? I am sure Senator Humphries does not want to take any funding away from ACT schools. (Time expired)