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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4072

Mr GIBBONS (2:58 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. What is the role of local capital works in cushioning the impact of the global economic recession, and how has the community responded to the government’s local capital works initiatives?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Bendigo for his question. Indeed, it was a pleasure to visit Kyneton with the member for Bendigo to announce the $5 million for the sports facility in Kyneton—a campaign that had been conducted for 10 years by that local community. It is a project that will support local jobs, stimulate the local economy and make a big difference to young people in Kyneton in particular and for generations to come. We know that local capital works are a very effective way of stimulating the economy when it is needed most. That is why we have delivered $800 million through the regional and local Community Infrastructure Program.

More than 3,300 projects have been approved in local communities right across Australia, regardless of the electorate. An analysis of that $800 million shows that 53 per cent is going to government-held seats, Labor-held seats—that is slightly less than the percentage of seats we hold in the parliament, which is 55 per cent—and 41 per cent is going to Liberal and National party seats such as Sturt. Every seat in the parliament will benefit. Indeed, six per cent of that funding is going to Independent-held seats. There is a particular bias towards electorates affected by bushfire or flood. Hence the electorates of McEwen and, in particular, Kennedy have benefited substantially from this program. This contrasts with the previous government’s approach, whereby one-third of the funds under the Regional Partnerships program went into just 10 seats—and every single one of them was held by the Liberal Party or the National Party.

Our program is a part of the 70 per cent of the stimulus package that is going into infrastructure. But we know that, in spite of the fact that this is a program that is being fairly delivered across the country, those opposite voted against funding for their own electorates. Here in Canberra they did doorstops and called it ‘low-quality spending’. But when they visited their electorates it was a very different story. There is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that is certainly true when it comes to this program. Here is a photo of the member for Swan, on 1 May, pointing at plans for a new civic centre and library in South Perth, to which we are contributing $2 million. I do not think he is saying to the mayor and the local community leaders, ‘This is a project I voted against.’

The SPEAKER —I caution the minister on the overuse of props.

Mr ALBANESE —The opposition are embarrassed by this because what they are doing in their electorates is different from what they are doing in here. It is important that the people who are listening to this know exactly what they are doing in their electorates. Here is a photo of the member for Grey at the announcement of the funding for the Port Pirie library and internet centre on 1 May. The member for Mayo is pushing his way into the photograph. He did not want to miss out on being in the local paper. He was happy to welcome the $2.3 million for the new swimming pool in Strathalbyn. He was very happy to see that. Here is a photo of the member for Gilmore giving the thumbs up to the program with Senator Mark Arbib. They will not put their hands up in here, but they put their thumbs up in their electorates and pretend that they support these programs. The Dunn and Lewis youth complex in Ulladulla is a good project. The opposition were happy to vote against it in the parliament, but they go back to their electorates and pretend that they are for it. They stand up here in question time and say, ‘What about the debt and all of this?’ You cannot say that you are against the spending here and then go back to your electorate and campaign for it. It is just not fair dinkum.

From time to time we see people who are not fair dinkum but are prepared to parade themselves before the media. Indeed, last week Claire Werbeloff shot to international fame after going to extraordinary lengths to get herself in front of the camera to give a grab and to get that few minutes of fame. But, unfortunately, when you look for the substance it just is not there. That is just like the Leader of the Opposition, who voted against the Community Infrastructure Program. One of the first projects launched was a terrific project to fix up the Waverley pavilion. I wrote to the Leader of the Opposition and suggested that he might like to come along. You would think that, out a sense of doing the right thing, he would be too embarrassed to come along.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: after six minutes of this answer, the minister is straying from relevance to the question.

The SPEAKER —The question was in order, and the answer is relevant to the question.

Mr ALBANESE —But there was no element of embarrassment from the Leader of the Opposition. He was there faster than you can say, ‘chk-chk boom!’ He was there for the grab, for that few minutes of fame. And when he was there, this is what he said—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE —Have a look behind you, Malcolm. Your colleagues have been saying for two weeks, ‘I don’t know why Malcolm turned up.’

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will refer his remarks through the chair.

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I ask you to bring them back to the question that was asked six minutes ago. They are a bunch of gasbags.

The SPEAKER —The minister has been relevant to the question, but he must refer his remarks through the chair and refer to members by their appropriate titles.

Mr ALBANESE —I am talking about the Community Infrastructure Program, like other programs where they vote one way but say something else in their electorates. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition had this to say about the program that he voted against:

I’m here to say … good work Albo, good on you for putting the money into the Pavilion for the cricket club, we welcome it …

Well, it would be nice if you voted for it—very simple. They welcome it in the electorate but vote against it in Canberra: opportunism writ large.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —I note the member for Mackellar is on her feet. Has the minister concluded? The minister has concluded.

Mr Melham —What, do you want him to table the photos?

The SPEAKER —I would have thought that the member for Banks would set a better example and temper his enthusiasm.