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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 12083

Mr HAWKE (9:09 PM) —I am certain that the member for Corangamite ran out of time; otherwise he would have added to his presentation that he would be opposing the Rudd government’s changes to income and assets eligibility for self-funded retirees. Those changes will see thousands of self-funded retirees lose their Commonwealth Seniors Health Card entitlement, which they desperately need in these difficult times.

However, my grievance tonight relates to suburban infrastructure projects. Last week we saw the first anniversary of the election of the Rudd Labor government. They were elected on the view that there would be a better deal on infrastructure in Australia, that somehow there would be a new deal in the provision of infrastructure in suburban and regional areas. Few if any people, particularly in my electorate and in Sydney, would claim to be better off in relation to infrastructure provision one year into the Rudd Labor government. In their first 12 months in office we have seen reviews, committees, inquiries and anything else to avoid taking the decisions that are necessary to secure Australia’s future. While the federal government have devoted much of their time to establishing these numerous committees, including the new Infrastructure Australia body, with an economic downturn we have seen a lack of action from the New South Wales Labor state government. Interestingly, there has been a collusion between the federal and state governments in relation to infrastructure in New South Wales—a plan to bail out incompetence, a plan to avoid providing infrastructure in what they consider to be non-Labor electorates.

I am going to outline why I say that. If we have had a year of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister and a Labor government, we have had another year of the failed New South Wales state Labor government. Indeed, the north-west sector of Sydney has been given short shrift from both federal and state governments in the year just passed. The federal government was elected on the promise of ending the blame game, but I would maintain the federal government has become the silent accomplice to the New South Wales Labor government in a stunning and graphic failure in the state of New South Wales, especially in infrastructure provision. I can argue that from the position of representing what is arguably one of the most deprived infrastructure electorates within the country.

Over the last decade 150,000 people have moved to the north-west sector, and this figure continues to grow. We are one of the fastest-growing areas in the biggest city in Australia, Sydney. We desperately need infrastructure to meet the challenges of all that growth. The south-west and the north-west of Sydney form the major growth corridors of Sydney. The city of Sydney is bursting at the seams, and population very much falls on the shoulders of the new growth corridors that the state government has created. The north-west is also a major contributor to employment in greater metropolitan Sydney. We have seen a number of industrial and commercial precincts—the Norwest Business Park, the Castle Hill Trading Zone and major shopping centres such as Castle Towers and the new Rouse Hill Town Centre. The Norwest Business Park in particular houses the national headquarters of about 500 companies and provides employment to over 20,000 people. That is a figure which is expected to grow to about 40,000 in the next 10 years.

Infrastructure is desperately needed to meet the massive demands of growth in my area. In the term of the Howard government we saw the M7 orbital funded by the Howard government. That is perhaps the best and most successful infrastructure project within the Sydney metropolitan basin. There is a reason why people in the Mitchell electorate are the No. 1 owners of cars within Australia, with two or more cars per household, according to the census—that is, we have a significant lack of rail and other public transport infrastructure. The New South Wales Labor government have since 1998 promised the people of north-west Sydney a rail line, and still they wait.

In last year’s budget the people of Mitchell were looking for some assistance from the then New South Wales government, when it announced a $12 billion metro. It was to be a new initiative in urban Sydney, in urban Australia. There would be a new metro system. This metro system would come at four times the cost of a normal heavy rail line. We could not understand it. Why would you go for an option that was four times more expensive? Why would you pay $12 billion instead of spending $3 billion on a heavy rail line? The existing network in Sydney is heavy rail line. Some people said it would never be built. I liked to hope the government would not have maintained such a hideous lie to the people of New South Wales when there was no way of providing such a service. But as we now know the state government has ruled out a metro for urban Sydney and it will not fund a heavy rail line for the most car dependent area of the entire country. Indeed, the people of New South Wales are responding accordingly.

In the first budget after the election of the Rudd Labor government, there were announcements in relation to infrastructure. A very curious item crept into the budget last year—that is, the funding of a study for something called a western metro line. On the night of the budget I sought out my staff and said: ‘This is fantastic. There has been a study proposed for the western metro line. That is great news for my electorate, Western Sydney and the people of New South Wales!’ This was the first we had heard of a western metro line, a study of which the federal government proposed to fund. This was not the north-west metro line which had been announced by the New South Wales state Labor government but a new metro line to run from Parramatta to the Sydney CBD.

Where would this metro line go? Why would the federal government be funding a study for a metro line from an inner city area towards the city? Whose electorate do you think this metro line would traverse the entire length and breadth of, even though it was an inner city electorate? Of course, we knew then and we know now that the western metro line, a study of which was funded in the federal budget, would go through the inner city electorate of the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government—namely, Grayndler. So there was money to fund a planning study for a metro line for the minister’s electorate, which already has heavy rail line options, bus services and light rail options and which is 20 minutes from the CBD. Yet for all of the outer metropolitan suburbs of Sydney—for Penrith, for Parramatta, for the north-west of Sydney, for Camden, for Campbelltown—there was not a cent in the federal budget for better infrastructure.

It did not end there, so I proposed some questions to the minister for infrastructure regarding this serious issue for the people of Western Sydney and the north-west of Sydney, such as: was he aware of the lack of transport in the north-west of Sydney and why was there a feasibility study for a western inner city metro line through his electorate and not to Western Sydney and north-west Sydney? The only answer that the minister for infrastructure and member for Grayndler responded with was that he was aware that there was no funding provided under the previous government—a very cynical and inept response from the minister. It points to a real lack of commitment by the Rudd government to serious infrastructure projects within our country and within metropolitan Sydney.

We were to learn after the budget last year that indeed the north-west metro was not to be applied for by the New South Wales state government, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, because, as the cabinet leak announced, the federal government told the New South Wales state Labor government not to bother asking for funds for the $12 billion north-west metro project because there are no federal Labor votes in it. So now we see that Infrastructure Australia and all the new rhetoric about nation building and a new vision for infrastructure is about nothing more than Labor slush funds. If you looked at the merits of the case, surely there is a case for public rail infrastructure to the most infrastructure deprived area of New South Wales, where you have allowed all of the growth of outer metropolitan Sydney, where you have put thousands upon thousands of new houses and charged them development levies and infrastructure contributions and where you have the single highest rate of car ownership of any federal electorate in the entire country.

This is why I say that the state government is in cahoots with the federal government and that the federal government, more importantly, is in cahoots with the New South Wales Labor government. I asked the Prime Minister a question about this last week. Of course, ‘New South Wales’ was the one term that would not cross his lips, and it would not cross his lips because the federal government is in cahoots with the state government in avoiding the hard decisions about providing infrastructure regardless of whose electorate it goes through and regardless of where the need is. Infrastructure in Sydney needs to be provided for access to all the benefits that come with it. It is a major grievance for the people of my electorate and I will be working hard for them. (Time expired)