24 March 2014
Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (13:21): Australia’s future growth will be significantly influenced by our capacity to deliver more appropriate, efficient and effective infrastructure. To meet the challenges and opportunities ahead, the coalition government has made a clear commitment to building the roads and infrastructure of the 21st century. The Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014 is necessary to facilitate our ambitious land transport infrastructure agenda and to provide sustainable development across the country for many years to come.
At the last election, voters in my electorate of Bennelong joined a chorus of voices from around Australia demanding a government of action, not words, to address the infrastructure problems plaguing our roads. After six years of rhetoric from the previous government, Prime Minister Abbott has already begun to address the congestion in our cities and the neglected transport infrastructure networks around the country.
This bill sends a strong message to all Australians that this government is one of action and that we take our mandate seriously. The present bill is one part of our plan for building the infrastructure of the future. The bill will enable the continuation of the successful Roads to Recovery program to ensure that vital funding for local governments to support the maintenance of local roads infrastructure will be made available beyond 30 June this year. The Roads to Recovery program was established under the Howard government in 2005 and is due to expire at the end of the financial year. This bill removes from the act the specification of the funding period, allowing new funding to begin on 1 July 2014 and eliminating the need to amend the act in the future every time the funding period expires. This will help ensure that the program will continue well into the future.
The bill further inserts a power for the minister to determine a Roads to Recovery list, which is essential for the program to be able to function. The Roads to Recovery list will be exempt from disallowance under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 and this will provide certainty for the local government funding recipients of the program. Importantly, the bill introduces a new category of project that can receive funding under the act. Projects that involve research, investigation, studies or analysis of investment, or Black Spot projects, previously funded off-network projects and works funded under the Roads to Recovery program, will now be eligible for funding. This funding will also be available for analysis of projects submitted for consideration for funding as investments or Black Spot projects to help inform and advise the government.
Funding for these vital research and analysis projects is in line with the coalition government’s commitment to the continuation of the Black Spot Program, which provides funding to address road sites that are high-risk areas for serious crashes. The Black Spot Program has funded vital road improvement projects in my electorate of Bennelong in Blaxland Road, Lane Cove Road, Epping Road, Constitution Road, Quarry Road, Rose Street and Shaftesbury Road—they have all benefited from this program, which helps keep Bennelong constituents more safe. The bill will ensure that many potential life-saving projects will be funded into the future, both in Bennelong and across the nation. The coalition government is working with the state and territory governments to deliver nationally significant infrastructure projects to grow Australia’s productivity and to improve living standards.
We are a government which recognises the need to work in partnership with the private sector to maximise private capital investment in infrastructure and to create meaningful employment to benefit all Australians. Collaboration between the Australian government, states and territories and the private sector will enable us to successfully deliver the infrastructure that Australians expect. The continuation of funding under this bill will ensure that we can provide Australians with the roads of the 21st century—roads that industry and our communities deserve.
Through the Infrastructure Investment program the coalition government has committed $35.5 billion over six years to road and rail projects. This is a considerable investment in Australia’s future and in the safety and efficiency of our extensive transport networks. Our investment includes $6.7 billion to upgrade the Bruce Highway, $5.6 billion to finish the duplication of the Pacific Highway and $1.5 billion to the WestConnex project in Sydney.
Bennelong constituents will no doubt be pleased that this government’s $405 million commitment towards the F3-M2 link project in Sydney will dramatically improve local congestion by diverting traffic away from our electorate. This will save commuters considerable time and difficulty and improve the quality of life for all those currently affected by heavy traffic and delays. Similar projects include construction of the East West Link in Melbourne and the Swan Valley Bypass on the Perth-Darwin National Highway. It will be welcomed by commuters and provide much-needed upgrades to our national infrastructure networks and the connectedness of our vast land. This government recognises the great range of stakeholders in infrastructure development and has sought to expand the types of bodies eligible for funding under the act to further promote research into our roads and rail networks.
A central pillar of the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014 is the introduction of two new types of eligible funding recipients into the act. Partnerships have been added as eligible funding recipients which simplify funding arrangements for firms without a body corporate structure. This will also benefit non-corporate Commonwealth entities whose functions include research related to land transport operations. The bill includes a new requirement that states and territories notify the minister as soon as possible after the sale or disposal of land that was acquired using the Australian government funding. This will ensure a timely response for land sales or disposal from the states and territories and the Australian government. Importantly, it will also ensure that the proceeds of the sale or disposal are then allocated to new infrastructure projects to promote further improvements and developments to our infrastructure network. The bill slightly alters one of the reasons for granting states and territories an exemption from the public tender requirements under the current act. Work that costs less than an amount prescribed by regulations can currently be exempted from funding. This is being altered so that the amount is determined instead by legislative instrument. This alteration will reduce regulatory delays and create greater clarity in this area. The bill makes no amendments to the national land transport network, which remains a vital component of the Infrastructure Investment program. This network contains the key road and rail links connecting Australia. The significant investments in transport and infrastructure projects proposed by the government will greatly improve the connectedness and accessibility of existing transport corridors and major hubs around the country.
I am proud to work alongside Prime Minister Abbott—the infrastructure Prime Minister—to put our plans into action. This bill is one part of our ultimate vision to provide Australians with first-class roads and rail networks. On behalf of the people Bennelong, I applaud the government for their dedication to improving our nation’s infrastructure, for clearing the backlog of vital works and for honouring the commitment we made to the Australian people at the last election.
I commend this bill to the House.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.
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