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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3231

Senator PRATT (2:57 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Senator Conroy. Can the minister inform the Senate what the Rudd government is doing to ensure that Australia has the infrastructure capacity it needs to grow and boost its international competitiveness?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —I thank Senator Pratt for her question. The Prime Minister announced last week that the government will establish a new $6 billion Regional Infrastructure Fund. This fund means we can begin to tackle our urgent infrastructure needs now and put something back into the mining communities that make our economy strong. This fund will invest in critical long-term infrastructure to boost the productive export capacity of the economy, and it will do so in consultation with Infrastructure Australia. The Rudd government is already making record investments in the nation’s economic infrastructure, more than doubling the roads budget and making a tenfold increase on year-on-year spending on rail compared to the previous coalition government. We are doing this to boost Australia’s competitiveness and to boost growth, and it is long overdue.

Those opposite left Australia an enormous infrastructure deficit. Their underinvestment hurt Australian families and businesses and constrained growth and productivity in the Australian economy. Even worse, those opposite, in their famous habit of opposition for opposition’s sake, tried to expand this infrastructure deficit more recently. They opposed the economic stimulus plan—a plan which included road and rail projects to a total value of over $7 billion. That plan was a key reason— (Time expired)

Senator PRATT —Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Can the minister provide the Senate with further information on how the regional infrastructure fund will provide Australia with the infrastructure it needs to support its economic growth.

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —The $6 billion regional infrastructure fund will invest in rail, roads and ports—critical infrastructure for our mining communities and regions. Projects will promote development and jobs in mining communities, promote Australia’s development in our resource and export capacity and tackle capacity constraints arising from mining production and export. The Australian government will partner with states, private investors and local governments. Infrastructure Australia will be consulted on projects to ensure that projects reflect the economic infrastructure needs of this country.

It is this government’s intention that states’ allocations will reflect their share of total mining production over time. This means— (Time expired)

Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.