Only Labor Will Deliver Infrastructure Funding - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Only Labor Will Deliver Infrastructure Funding

I must say it's a pleasure to follow the previous speaker, whom I might start addressing as 'comrade' because he did such a great job for the Labor opposition in raising so many wonderful issues for us to talk about in this infrastructure MPI. To think that a member of the government would stand up and talk about telecommunications infrastructure, knowing the absolute catastrophe that the NBN rollout has been across this country. Not that I've got that much of it in my electorate, but I can tell you that, where we do have it, all we get is complaints about the dropouts and problems with the HFC. I don't just get the complaints in my electorate, of course; you get them in Senate estimates. How much genius does it take to double the cost and halve the speed! That deserves an absolute round of appreciation for the government's effort.

Might I say, the Prime Minister himself was so proud of his job when he was the communications minister. I met with him about the NBN. He sat me down and he showed me a map and said, 'Look how much broadband you have across your electorate.' Come to Griffith, Prime Minister. Meet the business in Morningside that had to use a dongle because they couldn't even get cable or HFC. Come to my electorate and meet with the people who can't get all of their kids' homework done, because they don't get decent broadband access. Tell us how great it is to have broadband in Griffith.

I also wanted to thank the previous speaker for raising Inland Rail, perhaps one of the best examples of the concerns that we have in relation to this government's absolutely woeful record on infrastructure. It's an off-budget project—one of these off-budget projects that looks too good to be true because it probably is. The claim that this project can be fully funded by an off-budget $8.4 billion government equity injection into the Australian Rail Track Corporation is absolutely doubtful. You don't have to listen just to me on that. You've heard John Anderson, the former Deputy Prime Minister and former Leader of the National Party. What did he say about it? He said:

While the economic analysis indicates that inland rail will deliver a net economic benefit to Australia, the expected operating revenue over 50 years will not cover the initial capital investment required to build the railway – hence, a substantial public funding combination is required …

He's saying we're not going to cover the cost of it over 50 years. That's not a Labor Party position; that's from the former National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson.

Even the infrastructure department acknowledges that, as a stand-alone, the Inland Rail project will not be commercially viable in at least the short-to-medium term. They said the comments made by the secretary of the department for infrastructure at Senate estimates were indicative of the returns on equity for ARTC as a whole rather than for the Inland Rail project. They've cast aspersions on the figures. So I'm very pleased that the previous speaker in this debate decided to raise the issue of Inland Rail, because it is emblematic of this government's absolute failure when it comes to infrastructure investment.

The previous speaker also decided that this was a great opportunity to criticise spending money on school halls and school libraries. I tell you what: went I go to St Ita's in my electorate and I see the amazing school library that they got because of the Building the Education Revolution project, when I go to Norman Park State School and sit in their hall for their citizenship events, when I go to St Martin's, when I go to Mount Carmel, when I go to any of the schools—Camp Hill has an amazing hall—I will see they were able to get money through that project and build facilities for working-class and middle-class families and their kids in my electorate, and I'll think of how the National Party thought that that was a waste of public money, how they thought that was just something to be laughed at in an infrastructure spending debate in an attempt to avoid coming to grips with the real issue here, which is this government's absolute failure when it comes to infrastructure such as the funding for the M1 that's down on the never-never, beyond the forward estimates.

The idea is that 85 per cent of the funding for that project should be beyond the forward estimates and the people of Brisbane are meant to say: 'We'll trust you. We'll trust the Liberals.' They can't trust the Liberals when it comes to infrastructure, and the people of Brisbane are well aware of it. Here is another example: you can't trust the Liberals when it comes to Cross River Rail. This is incredibly important infrastructure project for my electorate and for all of the inner south in Brisbane. It is absolutely crucial. We're already nearing capacity for our rail network. We've got massive road congestion on Wynnum Road, on Lytton Road, on Old Cleveland Road, on Stanley Street. You come to my electorate and see what that road congestion is like. If you want to get people

[Dr Chalmers interjecting—]

It is a car park, as the member for Rankin said. His electorate is affected as well. If you want to get people off the road, you need public transport infrastructure. It's pretty simple. If you want congestion busting, you have to fund public transport infrastructure. The failure to fund Cross River Rail is a disgrace. Labor has committed $2.2 billion. We will continue to support this important project.

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