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Wednesday, 6 September 2023
Page: 74

Mr DAVID SMITH (BeanGovernment Whip) (15:58): As others have said, those opposite just do not have a leg to stand on in this debate. They're the only beavers not to build a dam.

Mr Hogan: And Canberra's suffering for infrastructure, David!

Mr DAVID SMITH: I'll get onto that. They should look into a mirror before they lecture this government on transport and infrastructure policy in this country.

Transport history will remind us that it was those opposite who stood by as Virgin collapsed into administration. It was those opposite who oversaw the mass outsourcing of jobs and a labour hire mess that drove down wages and conditions across the sector—a mess that we in this government are now fixing. It was those opposite who commissioned the Harris review into Sydney airport, only to spend almost two years sitting on it, leaving it to us to sort it out. It was those opposite who cut JobKeeper from dnata workers and left those families in the lurch across the country. They gave billions of taxpayer dollars to Qantas for nothing in return.

Those opposite have now suddenly decided that the Qatar Airways decision, the same decision they largely approved while in government, is now unacceptable. Well, before we start to feel sorry for this multibillion-dollar airline, it's worth noting that Qatar could increase their capacity into Australia tomorrow. I remind the House that Qatar Airways operated flights between Doha and Canberra via Sydney for several years before the pandemic. Qatar could restart here, immediately gain an additional slot into Sydney, and be welcomed by the hundreds of thousands of residents in the capital region with open arms. After speaking with tourist bodies in this region, like the National Capital Attractions Associations, it's clear to me that the restart of long-haul international flights out of Canberra would be a commercial success. The same arrangements go for flights into Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns and the Gold Coast. The Albanese government is now delivering on its election commitment of an aviation white paper to set the scene for the next generation of growth and development across the domestic aviation sector because of a decade of wasted aviation policy.

Those opposite loved to announce infrastructure projects but always fell short of funding and delivering them. As I said before, there were lots of beavers that couldn't build dams. Over the first eight years of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government, its broken promises on infrastructure alone totalled an incredible $7.4 billion. Under the former government, the number of infrastructure projects in the pipeline blew out from nearly 150 to 800. But their appetite for announcing projects wasn't matched with a commitment to deliver them. Projects were left without adequate funding or resources, projects without real benefits to the public were approved, and the clogged pipeline has caused delays and overruns in other important nation-building projects. Many projects under the former government were never even started. Some 160 projects had a commitment of $5 million or less. Yet again, the previous government were all announcement, no delivery.

The proper management of the $120 billion infrastructure investment pipeline should lead to projects that are able to be built and have a lasting benefit for Australia and enhance our economic and social productivity and prosperity. Instead, we're paying the price for a decade of economic mismanagement under those opposite. They left a trillion dollars of debt, dozens of essential government programs without funding and infrastructure projects substantially underfunded. Take the construction of the John Gorton bridge in the Molonglo Valley in my electorate of Bean. Three years ago those opposite got out the high viz and shiny shovels and announced the project. But the $172 million contract to actually build the bridge, which is jointly funded by the ACT government, was only signed in February this year under the Albanese Labor government. Those opposite announced it, but it was this government that committed the funding, and it will be this government delivering the project.

The former government preferred to invest in imaginary car parks in marginal seats over major projects with the potential to drive Australia's future economic growth. As the government, we on this side are committed to ensuring freight keeps moving, people can get home safely from work and the connections between our cities and regions are strong. The Albanese government's investment is already delivering critical nation-shaping projects across the country. Those opposite instead delivered announcements—many repeated announcements—rorts and nation-crippling debt.