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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 28

Mr GIBBONS (4:03 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. How will the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan benefit local economies and improve safety in our communities?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the honourable member for Bendigo for his question. The government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan includes some $890 million for short-term infrastructure projects in transport, regional development and local government. This, of course, comes on top of the $4.7 billion nation-building program that we announced at the end of last year and our record funding of rail and road projects. This package provides for $500 million—half a billion dollars—for local capital works delivered through local government. This comes on top of the $300 million that we announced in November in conjunction with the Australian Council of Local Government. I will be meeting with the Australian Council of Local Government steering committee here in Canberra on Thursday.

Applications closed last Friday for the $250 million component of the $300 million package that we announced in November, for which each and every council around the country was eligible. Every single council in the nation—every one; no exceptions—submitted an application for those grants. If they are all approved, some 3,605 local projects will be funded. Those are local jobs in local communities, providing stimulus to local economies—real jobs with real benefits on the ground.

This morning, my department submitted the first tranche of projects to be approved—projects that had satisfied the criteria. Those 10 projects were from Burnie City Council in Braddon in Tasmania; Cloncurry Shire Council from Kennedy in Queensland; Coffs Harbour City Council from Cowper in New South Wales; the District Council of Coober Pedy from Grey in South Australia; Exmouth Shire Council from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia; Frankston City Council from the electorate of Dunkley in Victoria; Fremantle City Council in Western Australia; Goondiwindi Shire Council from Maranoa in Queensland; Katherine City Council from Lingiari in the Northern Territory and Moree Plains Shire Council from the electorate of Parkes in rural New South Wales.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition: when he is considering what their position will be on this latest program and on the $500 million increase in this package, which projects is he against? Which local communities should not be given support for these local capital works? We know that if you are serious about providing stimulus in the short term—projects that are ‘shovel ready’, to quote the shadow minister for infrastructure on Fran Kelly’s program this morning—then the priorities determined for local capital works by local communities are the way to go forward. But what we are seeing from the opposition once again is the Turnbull shuffle. Once again, in principle they are sort of for things, but when it comes to the crunch they just nitpick and oppose without putting up anything constructive. We at least have missed the middle phase, which is usually that they claim credit for the ideas that have been put forward by the government.

These projects are added to by the other initiatives in the area that I have responsibility for—practical programs such as $150 million to improve safety at level crossings through the installation of boom gates and other safety mechanisms, something that has not been prioritised before, something that we know has real impact, particularly—

Mr Hockey —By state governments!

Mr ALBANESE —By state governments—they go back to the blame game. We are actually getting on with the job of delivering here, and I say to the Leader of the Opposition: is he opposed to that initiative? Or is he opposed to the initiative of $150 million being spent on road maintenance this financial year for our regional roads? The previous government ignored the issue of maintenance in terms of our national highways when it delivered the former AusLink program. All of these initiatives are characterised by the fact that they will create jobs, they can do it quickly to stimulate the economy and they can have long-term benefits in local communities.