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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8515


Ms O'TOOLE (Herbert) (17:38): I thank the shadow infrastructure minister, the member for Grayndler, for his amendments to this motion. My electorate of Herbert has received zero funding for infrastructure from this coalition government in the last two budgets. In fact, prior to the last two budgets I wrote to the then Treasurer and now Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, calling on him to match Labor's commitments for the following vital infrastructure: $100 million for long-term water security, $200 million for energy infrastructure, and $75 million for the Townsville port expansion. But, sadly, none of these were delivered in either budget. Labor has been on the front foot regarding these really vital infrastructure projects, because Labor is aware that these projects will create much-needed local jobs, boost the economy and increase industry confidence.

However, last week the newly elected Prime Minister came to Townsville and, in a great show of catch-up—and 197 days after Labor announced their $75 million for the port expansion commitment—the LNP government has committed to this project. Just like with the stadium, the funding has been dragged from this government when we have brought them kicking and screaming to the funding table. The question is: why is this government always playing catch-up? Clearly, it is because they are so out of touch with regional communities like Townsville. The port expansion project is a no-brainer. It has been in development for over 10 years. It has had a business case that stacks up, demonstrating the positive impact for the Townsville community. But we witnessed 197 days of inaction from this chaotic government—inaction that Townsville continues to experience from this government, especially regarding the extremely important water security and energy infrastructure projects. Where are the Prime Minister and his government on water and energy infrastructure for Townsville? How long will my community have to wait until we see real action from the Morrison government? Another 197 days or longer?

The people of my community are not fools. They are well aware that Labor has led the charge on the Townsville port expansion, just as we did on the Townsville stadium. I find it absolutely laughable that the Morrison government believes that just because you change your leader you have changed the inaction of the past. The people of Townsville will not forget this out-of-touch government and the fact that it is not taking our water security and energy infrastructure needs seriously. As the Treasurer, Scott Morrison delivered nothing for our community. Why would we expect anything to change just because he has changed his job?

Nevertheless, where the coalition is failing, Labor is certainly leading and delivering. Recently Labor announced that we will invest $500 million to deliver a staged upgrade of Queensland's inland road network. This will deliver up to 3,000 kilometres of better, safer roads and up to 300 wider, stronger bridges. Labor's announcement will see an estimated 13,000 direct and indirect jobs in Queensland over the next decade, along with an additional $2.5 billion in economic growth to the regional Queensland economy. Half of Queensland's economic activity takes place outside of Brisbane. Queensland is Australia's most decentralised state, and for far too long crucial regional roads have not received the attention that they deserve. Queensland transports a greater volume of cattle by road than any other state, and that makes up half of Australia's cattle herd. The industry employs around 20,000 Queenslanders. This investment not only improves safety on key freight routes but will help reduce the cost of transporting cattle to market. This investment is a big boost for the Queensland economy, particularly regions that are feeling the impact of the drought. Just like every infrastructure project that Labor invests in, we will insist on Australian materials and Australian jobs, and we will make sure that one out of every 10 people working on these projects will be an Australian apprentice.

I must commend the strong advocacy and work of the Inland Queensland Road Action Plan, which brings together 28 local government areas, five Regional Development Australia committees and the RACQ. I know how hard they have worked on this, and I am proud to stand with the united Labor team that will see this project come to fruition.

The coalition government has cut infrastructure investment from $8 billion in 2017-18 to $4.5 billion in 2021-22. Commonwealth investment will fall from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent of GDP over a decade. This coalition government fails the fairness test on infrastructure and it certainly fails the investment tests in areas like Townsville. The country is at a standstill, and it is because of this government. Only Labor will invest in the infrastructure that regional communities need, and only Labor will invest in infrastructure that will kickstart the country again, create Australian jobs and boost the Townsville economy.