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Wednesday, 21 August 1996
Page: 2855


Senator SCHACHT(6.56 p.m.) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

This report, which has just been tabled, deals with various projects, both road and rail, developing around Australia to improve Australia's land transport infrastructure. Most of this infrastructure, particularly in rail, came from the One Nation project, which then Prime Minister Keating announced in early 1992. Road projects also received One Nation money.

The present government, when in opposition, and many economic commentators, used to keep saying that Australia could not afford the One Nation program. But I want to point out that the money invested at that time during the recession not only created employment but also significantly improved the land transport infrastructure of Australia. For example, in my home state of South Australia, the connection of Adelaide to the standard gauge railway is something we had been asking for for generations, but it was the Paul Keating One Nation statement that provided the money. Nobody criticises that project.

I note that in Melbourne the western ring-road is funded overwhelming by One Nation money, yet I notice that when various sections of it were opened, the Premier of Victoria, Mr Kennett, was quick to claim credit for some of the new phases of that significant infrastructure improvement for Victoria.

I draw the attention of the Senate and the public to this report because it outlines the commitment of the previous governments, the Hawke and the Keating governments, to improve the infrastructure of Australia. In the budget announced last night, we note the removal of funds for the upgrading of the Pacific Highway, which was a commitment we made in government, and the removal of money for the so-called black spots program. When we look at the aggregate cuts to state funding, this new federal budget has reduced money for roads in Australia.

The reduction in road funding is a step backwards by the coalition government. I suspect that in the months ahead, as this parliament, and the Senate in particular through the estimates committees, has a chance to examine the actual expenditure on roads outlined in this budget, the people of regional and rural Australia will certainly see that they have been sold a pup in the development of roads and rail in Australia, but particularly roads.

This will be a major issue on which the opposition will campaign and expose the deceit of the new government in claiming that they have provided extra money for road development in Australia when, through their own budget process and the reduction of road funding to the states, they have significantly reduced road development in this country, which of course is an economic cost to the country.

Good infrastructure in roads and rail means that our productive industries can get their goods to port for export and industries can reduce their distribution costs accordingly. Also by improving and building better highways in Australia, we can reduce the awful road toll that Australia has suffered for so many years.

I commend this report because it shows what the previous government had done to improve the land transport infrastructure of Australia. Unfortunately, the new government, in the budget announced last night, has gone a long way to reduce that infrastructure expenditure for some mad reason which is beyond us in the opposition.

Question resolved in the affirmative.