SPEECH: The Turnbull Government’s Failure to Invest in Productive Infrastructure

May 30, 2017

Mr CONROY: Shortland) (15:31): What a pathetic performance from the junior minister for infrastructure. It is clear that they have hidden the senior minister. He cannot even get a question up most days in question time.

Opposition members: Who is it?

Mr CONROY: Who is it? I think he has gone back to Gippsland. But I would suggest that after that performance they need to hide the junior minister, as well. He questioned our facts. Well, let us quote from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia. They are no friend of Labor; they claim to be balanced. This is what they said about this budget. ‘Foremost, the budget confirms the cut to real budgeted capital funding to its lowest level in more than a decade, using a mix of underspend, reprofiling and a narrative to cover the substantial drop in real capital expenditure.’ There you have it. It is not from a Labor mouthpiece. It is from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, saying this budget cuts infrastructure funding to well below the decade average. That is a real pity because infrastructure is critical to our economic future and our quality of life. It is critical to our economic productivity and growing this economy.

Unfortunately, this budget is all smoke and mirrors. It is the equivalent of the Prime Minister—it is all talk and no action, massive expectations and zero delivery. In fact, in the current financial year they have cut funding by $1.6 billion. In the last budget, they were supposed to spend $9.2 billion. They have only been able to spend $7.6 billion. What is worse is that it falls to $4.2 billion in 2021. That is a great disgrace. In fact, the only new on-budget infrastructure investment is $14 million for a project that not even the locals have heard of, as the shadow minister alluded to. Not even the locals knew of the project which is the single new on-budget expenditure from the government. There is no new money for urban rail. The government’s $10 billion National Rail Program delivers nothing before the next election, when this mob will be turfed out. They have again dudded Victoria and they have dudded the Hunter Valley, which I will get to in a minute. They have sidelined Infrastructure Australia and created an infrastructure financing unit, which not even Infrastructure Partnerships Australia can see the point to. To fund it, they have cut $17 million out of real road and rail budgets. They have cut funding to announce a new bureaucratic unit in the Prime Minister’s department. Clearly, it is their version of The Hollowmen.

The truth is: this mob just loves announcements—so much so that the previous infrastructure minister spent $3,000 on props and $2,000 on high-vis vests and hard hats. So God knows what the senior minister does when he comes out of hiding.

Honourable members interjecting

Mr CONROY: Maybe he will invest in some Nescafe ads! The truth is: this budget is all smoke and mirrors on infrastructure, just like the Prime Minister.

Mr Watts: It’s Nespresso!

Mr CONROY: I am reminded it is Nespresso. I am too down market for the senior infrastructure minister. This budget is all smoke and mirrors, just like the Prime Minister—a Prime Minister who, when he knifed the member for Warringah in the back and became Prime Minister, announced that he wanted to be the infrastructure Prime Minister. It was his big claim. He wanted to be the infrastructure Prime Minister. Guess how many times he has mentioned ‘infrastructure’ in the House since he became the infrastructure Prime Minister? How many times? A hundred?

Ms Macklin: No.

Mr CONROY: Fifty?

Mr Albanese: No.

Mr Brian Mitchell: Two.

Mr CONROY: Two! We have a win over there. The member for Lyons is right. He has mentioned it twice since he has become the infrastructure Prime Minister.

Mr Albanese: His attack on me doesn’t count!

Mr CONROY: Exactly. What else has he mentioned twice in this parliament? He has mentioned Cristal champagne twice. He has mentioned ‘luxury’ twice and he has mentioned ‘wine’, ‘rugby’ and ‘cafes’ three times. This is the quality of the contribution of the infrastructure Prime Minister. We have an infrastructure Prime Minister who does not talk about infrastructure. We have an infrastructure cabinet minister who does not even turn up to question time anymore. We have a junior infrastructure minister who folds his dixer answers into tiny pieces of paper in his exercise of origami. They deliver freight announcements like Freight Link, Inland Rail and WestConnex that do not even connect the ports. They have devoted money to the East West Link, which, for every dollar of public investment, delivered an 80c return—

Mr Albanese: Forty-five.

Mr CONROY: It is 45c. I am corrected by the shadow minister. This is the quality of this government. All smoke and mirrors—zero delivery. It has a budget that cuts $7.6 billion compared to the forward estimates average for infrastructure investment. The great pity is that infrastructure is critical to our economic future, it is critical to our quality of life, but this mob just want announcements where they can turn up in their high visibility vests and get a headline. (Time expired)

© 2013 Pat Conroy | Disclaimer