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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 3483


Mr TURNOUR (2:49 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Will the minister update the House on the rollout of the major infrastructure projects funded and accelerated under the government’s economic stimulus package?


Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Leichhardt for his question. Indeed, 70 per cent of the Rudd government’s economic stimulus package was about infrastructure—infrastructure which is about putting people to work today to build the infrastructure that Australia will need tomorrow. Rail is just one example. There are 17 rail projects fast-tracked, with $1.2 billion of funding going to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, supplemented by $400 million of the ARTC’s own money, which has led to major employment around the country, and nowhere less than in the Hunter. A $1 billion upgrade of the Hunter freight rail network is supporting some 650 jobs. So 650 people will be put to work as a result of this program.

We announced it last December in the nation-building stimulus package and already I can report that the $11 million Bylong passing loop has been completed. It was announced in December, people were put to work in the months since and it has now been opened. It is open for business, increasing the productivity of the nation. There are jobs now, infrastructure for the future. But it is not just in the Hunter, of course. The upgrade of the line between Maroona and the South Australian border is underway. There is a $45 million upgrade of the line in Victoria between Albury and Seymour underway. These two projects alone created 240 jobs—jobs today, infrastructure for the future. All up, we are investing more in rail in 18 months than those opposite did in 12 long years.

Our extra investment in rail is having flow-on benefits. There are 200 people employed at factories making concrete sleepers in Geelong, in Victoria; in Grafton, Wagga Wagga and Mittagong, in New South Wales; and in Beamer, in Western Australia. These are jobs in regional Australia as a direct consequence of the government’s nation-building and economic stimulus plans—jobs now, infrastructure for the future. Also in roads, 14 road projects have been accelerated as a result of the economic stimulus packages. Work is underway right now. The Brighton bypass in Tasmania is under construction. It is the largest ever transport infrastructure project in Tasmania’s history, with 380 construction jobs. In South Australia there is the Northern Expressway. It is South Australia’s largest ever transport infrastructure project, with 350 construction jobs. Work is underway. The Western Ring Road in Melbourne is under construction, with up to 350 construction jobs. There are boom gates for rail crossings. There is a safety proposal targeting 282 high-risk level crossings. We did it as part of the $42 billion plan that we supported and those opposite opposed. Eight of them are completed already. The package was passed by us. Jobs on the ground have been created as a result of this government’s plan.

Contrast that with the opportunism opposite. We saw opportunism on display yet again in the last question from the opposition, which tried to attack the government’s economic stimulus plans. The seat of Barker benefited yesterday from the $5 million contributed through the Community Infrastructure Program announced by my colleague the parliamentary secretary and member for Maribyrnong.


Mr Secker —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order going to relevance. That project had already been started months ago, so the announcement—


The SPEAKER —The member for Barker will resume his seat. The minister is responding to the question.


Mr ALBANESE —An absolutely extraordinary position was put on the record by the member for Barker—that is, he is opposed to the $5 million injection which will build a library for Mount Gambier, build a new town centre for Mount Gambier and reconstruct the centre of the important regional community in his electorate. He voted against it and he is still against it. The mayor of that community is very supportive. He is not a Labor mayor but the state Liberal candidate for the area. He put in for the project. We supported it because we supported projects right across the country, regardless of the political affiliation of the councils putting forward those projects. The federal member has shown just how isolated he is from his own community, just as he is isolated on the schools program. But the chickens will come home to roost when we come to the next election, because they will be on the record as opposing all these nation-building and job-creating programs in their electorates.