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Tuesday, 22 May 2018
Page: 4151


Mr CONROY (Shortland) (15:48): I'm proud to rise on this matter of public importance to discuss the government's failure to invest in infrastructure. It's a privilege to follow the member for Bradfield, a warm-up act to four successive National Party ministers. It must be very galling to be taking orders from the likes of the member for New England.

The truth is that this is a smoke-and-mirrors budget. This government, as the member for Grayndler has ably outlined, uses equity investments to inflate the infrastructure figure. This inflation is completely dodgy because the projects that are associated with the equity investments are unlikely to provide a commercial rate of return. Equity investments in certain arenas are justified and are reasonable, but in the projects they've identified they have Buckley's of getting a commercial rate of return. The most egregious example is the $5 billion for the Melbourne rail link. The truth is that not a single passenger rail line in Australia returns a profit—not a single one. In fact, on average, a passenger rail line returns 25 per cent of its cost. The Sydney Airport line is a classic example of when you try to make it a commercial rate of return. The company went bankrupt and had to be rescued after the incompetence of the New South Wales Liberal government.

The truth is that infrastructure grants are the key measurement of a government's commitment to infrastructure investment, and grants under this government fall from $8 billion in 2017-18 to $4½ billion in 2021-22. What's even worse is that this government is so incompetent that it can't even spend the money it's allocated. Over the last four years they've spent $4.7 billion less than they promised to spend. Let me repeat that: the National Party infrastructure ministers got into cabinet, wrestled and managed to get some funding for grants, and they then can't spend it. They have spent $4.7 billion less than they promised.

Why is this? Why is this government so hopeless on infrastructure? The truth is it's all spin and no substance. I remember when the Prime Minister was triumphant after assaulting and assassinating the member for Warringah. He became Prime Minister. He was going to be the infrastructure Prime Minister. Well, guess how many times he's mentioned infrastructure grants since becoming Prime Minister: twice—twice since becoming Prime Minister. He's mentioned wine four times. He's mentioned rugby four times. He's mentioned poetry twice. This bloke cares more about poetry, drinking and rugby than he does about infrastructure grants. This is the quality of the Prime Minister.

What's even worse is that we have a series of interning infrastructure ministers. We have a revolving door of infrastructure ministers under this chaotic government. We had Warren Truss, who spent two years and 153 days in the portfolio, and he was a stayer compared to the ones who succeeded him.

An opposition member: He slept through most of it!

Mr CONROY: He slept through it and, quite frankly, we slept through his question time performance. Then we had the member for Gippsland for one year and 305 days, and then the member for New England for 68 days, and the current bloke, the member for Riverina, has been in for 77 days. The current minister has been minister for infrastructure for only slightly longer than Mal Meninga's political career! In fact, the last two ministers have lasted for fewer days than Sophie Monk's relationship with Stu Laundy—and I checked. In fact, the last three ministers combined have had a shorter tenure than the time Britney Spears was married to K-Fed. That is how short these ministers' attention span is. When you add up the entire tenure of all the four coalition ministers, it's lasted less time than the Taylor Swift-Katy Perry feud. This is how seriously these guys take infrastructure.

Compare their combined period, four years and 238 days, to the golden era of infrastructure investment in this country under the member for Grayndler, who served for five years and 289 days. During those five years, infrastructure investment per person in this country increased from $132 to well over $200, a significant rise in per capita investment. That's how you do infrastructure investment in this country: matching your rhetoric with real dollars, unlike this sham of a government that uses smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that it is underinvesting, ripping off Australians, ripping off our economy and driving us into the ground.