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Tuesday, 22 May 2018
Page: 4148

Mr FLETCHER (BradfieldMinister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities) (15:38): We heard there a greatest hits selection of the shadow minister's repeated mendacities and falsehoods. He claimed, for example, that the Cross River Rail project presently submitted by the Queensland government is the one previously approved by Infrastructure Australia—quite wrong. There was in fact a change report submitted by the Queensland Coordinator-General because the current project is so different. As the shadow minister knows full well, the Cross River Rail project submitted to Infrastructure Australia was the subject of a recommendation by Infrastructure Australia to the Commonwealth government that it should not be funded at this time. What the shadow minister has just told the House is plain wrong. He can't even get the budget treatment right in relation to Melbourne Airport Rail Link. He talks indignantly about the fact that we've indicated we have an interest in looking at an equity approach.

Let's look at what the budget actually says in Budget Paper No. 3, page 48. I'll read it out very slowly so we are absolutely clear on this.

(b) The Commonwealth's $5 billion investment in the Melbourne Airport Rail Link will be provided as equity or otherwise as agreed, but consistent with the principles of conservative Budget management, this investment has initially been reported as grant funding.

Let me make it absolutely clear to the House: the premise of what the shadow minister has just said is absolutely factually wrong and entirely inconsistent with what is said on page 48 of Budget Paper No. 3.

Then, of course, we've got his ripper claim that there's somehow some problem with allocating money for projects beyond the four-year forward estimate period. Let's go back and have a look at the shadow minister's greatest hits, the 2013 budget that he had responsibility for. There was $6.2 billion allocated in 2013 to urban transport. Let's look at some of the projects. There was $3 billion allocated to Melbourne Metro, with $2 billion of it outside of the forward estimates. There was $500 million allocated for the Perth Airport link, with $300 million of it outside of the forward estimates. Apparently there was $2 billion to support the Parramatta to Epping rail link, with the entirety of the funding outside of the forward estimates. The shadow minister states some sweeping principle of budgetary management on the one hand but behaved in a total different manner when he was the minister.

Now, let's look at some of the basic claims that underpin what's in this MPI and that underpin the usual, tired, threadbare range of factually incorrect propositions that the shadow minister advances in a collection of poorly-attended media conferences around the country. First are the claims about the level of funding for infrastructure. Let me point out to the House some basic facts: the average level of spending for infrastructure under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, when the shadow minister had portfolio responsibility for infrastructure, was just over $6 billion a year. Let me remind you what the numbers are for the next four years: $8.6 billion, $8.7 billion, $8.2 billion and $8.5 billion. You'll see that there's quite a difference between just over six and well over eight, yet he has the temerity to come in here and claim that in some way infrastructure spending is falling.

Was the shadow minister asleep when we announced $3.5 billion for the Roads of Strategic Importance, $1 billion for the Urban Congestion Initiative, over $5 billion for projects in Queensland, $971 million for the Coffs Harbour bypass, up to $5 billion for the Melbourne Airport rail link, $1.05 billion for additional Metronet projects in Perth and $944 million for a Perth congestion package? The claim that, in some way, infrastructure funding is falling is factually wrong. The facts are clear. We are seeing increases in infrastructure spending. Of course, those increases build on an extremely comprehensive existing program of infrastructure investment all across Australia, be it $1.6 billion for projects on the North-South Corridor in South Australia, presently underway; $400 million for the Midland Highway in Tasmania, presently underway; $914 million for Gateway Upgrade North in Brisbane, presently underway; and $5.6 billion for the Pacific Highway—a subject very close to your own heart, Deputy Speaker Hogan—to be upgraded to four lanes all the way from Sydney to the Queensland border. That is a comprehensive infrastructure investment program all around Australia.'

Let me turn to the ludicrous claim that the shadow minister advances that there's no new money. You could not find a more embarrassing admission of a failure to understand the basic public sector accounting principles that have been employed in constructing this budget. Let me explain it very simply and carefully. We've made a commitment to invest $75 billion over 10 years for infrastructure. We haven't just made that promise on a one-off basis and walked away from it; we've been very careful to make sure that it's supported by the appropriate responsible, credible, public sector accounting treatment. What we do is provision the required amount of money every year for 10 years, and then for every project we announce we allocate very specifically against that rolling program the designated amount and the designated timing. That's why there's no need for individual dollar amounts to be set out in the line items cited by the shadow minister, as he knows full well but is simply cynically attempting to mislead people who may not find public sector accounting the most fascinating and gripping topic. But that is a deeply misleading claim, because the money is there. The money has been provisioned.

Let's turn to the substance of the claim that it's not new money. If you live in Tasmania, what you now know is that there's $461 million committed by the Turnbull government for the Bridgewater Bridge. That's money that wasn't committed before. You could compare that to what Labor committed: $100 million. They got laughed off the island for that particular proposition. We've committed $461 million, and it's fully provisioned in our 10-year infrastructure program.

Tell the people of Nowra that apparently it's not new money. There's $155 million for the Nowra bridge. They know now, after this budget, that that money is there and that project will be delivered. Tell it to the people of Brisbane. They now know, after this budget, that there is $300 million for Brisbane Metro. They didn't know that that money was there before, because that decision hadn't been made, and yet the shadow minister has the temerity to claim that that's not new money. If you live in Brisbane, you now know that $300 million is committed to Brisbane Metro.

What about the Bunbury Outer Ring Road, with $540 million? That is new money committed for the Bunbury Outer Ring Road, funding that was not committed before, and yet again we have this ludicrous proposition that there's no new money. The people of Perth now know something they did not know before the budget: there's $1.05 billion for further stages of the transformational Perth METRONET project, for Ellenbrook to Morley and the extension of the Armadale line to Byford. That's $1.05 billion, but apparently there's no new money. I've got 1.05 billion reasons to say to you: that is dead wrong. There is $1.05 billion of new money. In Port Augusta, the Joy Baluch Bridge has $160 million. The Gawler line electrification has $120 million.

Mr Champion: How long has the Gawler line taken?

Mr FLETCHER: 'How long has the Gawler line taken?'—from a South Australian Labor MP. We don't have the time to go through the lengthy catalogue of public sector incompetence that we have seen from South Australian Labor when it comes to the Gawler line electrification. But I'll tell you what: in years to come it will be a case study in schools of government and schools of public policy all around the country—the chaotic mess that Labor, federal and state in South Australia, produced when it came to the Gawler line electrification.

We are going to fix that. We are going to work with a businesslike, sensible, serious, determined state government in South Australia. Thankfully, they now have a capable Liberal government in the Marshall government, and we've committed this vitally needed funding to the Gawler line electrification.

This ludicrous claim that somehow investment in infrastructure through debt and equity doesn't count as infrastructure investment is simply factually wrong, but the shadow minister continues mendaciously, misleadingly and deceivingly to quote only one line item in the budget, which is grant funding. What he needs to do is quote all of the funding for all of the infrastructure investment programs. That's how we get to $8.6 billion next year, $8.7 billion the following year, $8.2 billion the year after that and $8.5 billion the year after that. So don't come in here and tell us that infrastructure investment is falling. It's not. That's wrong. Look at the facts.