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Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Page: 12376

Mr TURNBULL (3:19 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the New South Wales government has complained that his mismanaged unlimited bank deposit guarantee has made it extremely difficult for the state of New South Wales to compete in the public funding markets? Is the Prime Minister planning to establish a national infrastructure bank which would see the Commonwealth government borrow billions of dollars to on-lend to state governments—all carefully structured in a way that would not impact on the level of the Commonwealth’s final budget result? How will the Prime Minister assure the House that his new Labor bank will not go the same way as the catastrophic Labor banks in Victoria and South Australia?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —On the first point which was raised by the Leader of the Opposition concerning representations by the state government of New South Wales—I think that is what he asked—I am unaware of any such representations. It would be normal entirely for the Commonwealth Treasury to be in touch with state treasuries—as would have occurred in the period in which the Liberals were in government; it certainly occurs now—on the overall public sector borrowing requirements of state and territory governments. That is simply the normal way in which things are done.

In terms of the funding for future infrastructure, the honourable Leader of the Opposition would be aware—although he obviously finds these matters entirely amusing—that the government stands committed to implementing its nation-building agenda. The Leader of the Opposition should be aware that the government has established three nation-building funds: the Building Australia Fund for the funding of infrastructure; the Education Investment Fund, which is for the purposes of adding to education infrastructure across the country; and a fund for the future of our hospital infrastructure as well.

Mr Turnbull —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The question was about a Labor government bank. That was the question. That is what the answer should relate to.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister is responding to the question.

Mr RUDD —The Leader of the Opposition asked me a question about representations from the government of New South Wales concerning their public sector borrowing requirements. He asked in particular whether I was aware of any such representations. I have given him a direct answer to that. He then went to the question of the funding of infrastructure. On infrastructure, which in the past was funded exclusively by state and territory governments, this government has a clear and different policy and is embracing a new approach, which is that the national government will invest in infrastructure, including health and education infrastructure. That is why we established three nation-building funds, which have yet to attract the bipartisan support of those opposite. Quite apart from their nation-building utility, can I say to those opposite that these funds also provide added stimulus to the economy for the period ahead.

Can I say also to the Leader of the Opposition that we continue to examine all appropriate measures to properly support infrastructure investment into the future. That is the normal thing that you would expect to do. That is the normal thing you would expect any democratically elected government to do, one which supports the whole process of infrastructure building and nation building in the Australian economy. Those opposite should actually bother to pause and ask themselves this question: with the global financial crisis underway, how are you going to fill the infrastructure gap other than through proper public investment? Our policy is clear.