TURNBULL FAILS VICTORIA ON INFRASTRUCTURE

Those of us who served in the last parliament will remember how the member for Warringah, when he was the Prime Minister, used to enjoy the ludicrous custom of describing himself as the infrastructure Prime Minister, and we used to watch the obsequious ministers of the time slither to their feet and refer to the Prime Minister in their questions as their ‘infrastructure Prime Minister’. Sadly, this Orwellian distortion continued after the honourable member who is presently Prime Minister seized the throne, because we have learnt through bitter experience that, when this government starts talking about an issue, we can all be certain that that issue is set for neglect, for under-investment and for mismanagement. That has been our experience with respect to schools. That has been our experience with respect to universities. That has been our experience with respect to a government that used to talk about debt and deficit—and yet, today, the deficit is 10 times greater than what they predicted it would be in 2014.

So, too, it is with infrastructure, because they would be better to describe themselves as ‘no infrastructure prime ministers’ than as ‘infrastructure prime ministers’, given the sad record they offer the people of Australia. The most recent budget cut $1.6 billion in this financial year alone. But it gets worse, because funding then drops off over the next four years, falling to $4.2 billion in 2020-21. This will be the lowest level of infrastructure funding for more than 10 years, according to Infrastructure Partnerships Australia. Over the forward estimates, funding will collapse from something like $8 billion to a mere $4 billion. The only new on-budget investment is a measly $13 million for a little road near Nowra—a little bit of pork-barrelling for the marginal seat of Gilmore. And how typical of this lot that the only thing they offer at the end of producing this vast bureaucracy is a little boondoggle for their mate in Gilmore.

The government’s infrastructure funding announcement is a hoax. It delivers less over a longer period, and it demonstrates this government’s unwillingness and inability to invest in real nation-building.

As a Victorian, the allegation that we have a Sydney-centric Prime Minister is made out absolutely when one looks at infrastructure spending, because Victoria is once again dudded by this government. Despite the dishonest claim in his budget speech that the government is delivering an extra billion dollars in funding for the regional rail and infrastructure in Victoria, Senate estimates has revealed that the 2017 budget does not include a single extra dollar of funding for my state.

Victoria’s share of federal infrastructure funding remains well below 10 per cent, some 8c in the dollar. We are 25 per cent of the nation’s economy. We are 25 per cent of the nation’s population. Yet we attract only eight per cent of infrastructure funding. How could it be so?

It has often been said that this budget was the government inoculating itself against its greatest weaknesses. We have seen them fain compassion in the field of education; we have seen them try it on in Medicare. How can it be that a budget of inoculation offers nothing for my state of Victoria? Sadly, the answer is: because this government has given up on the state of Victoria. As far as they are concerned the state of Victoria is to be punished for committing the sin of not voting for them. The state of Victoria is being punished for not voting for this government.

Our Victorian members in this House—even those Victorian members who are in the government—say nothing about it. It is a disgrace. They are cutting funding for major roads and rail projects. They are cutting funding for fixing dangerous black spots on local roads. They are cutting funding for building new roadside facilities, such as rest stops for truck drivers. But, of course, why would they care? These things do not only endanger Australian business and economic life; they endanger the actual lives of drivers. We know that fatalities among articulated truck drivers rose by 7.2 per cent last year. But this government does not care.

All up, federal infrastructure spending per Victorian has more than halved; from some $201 under the former Labor government to a mere $92 under the Turnbull government. They have even refused the Victorian government’s request for regional rail funding from the Asset Recycling Fund. This is an outrage. This federal government signed up to providing the Victorian government with monies under its asset recycling program, an obligation that it has walked away from. This is proof that this government regards COAG processes—and its own word when given to a premier—as nothing compared to its own political interest.

Treasurer Tim Pallas has said the only reason they would not support this project would be in circumstances where they just want to find another excuse— (Time expired)

30 MAY 2017.

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