2 December 2013
Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (11:07): The member for Throsby has raised some important points on the development of our cities and on the problems that have arisen as a result of relentless centralisation and a lack of any master planning of our nation’s development. My electorate of Bennelong is a prime example of total failure by the former Labor government when it comes to honouring infrastructure commitments. Former Prime Minister Gillard’s 2010 election announcement of $2.1 billion for the completion of the Epping to Parramatta Rail Link caught everybody by surprise—even her own colleagues in the New South Wales government, as the project was not even listed on their ten-year infrastructure plan. And, as the history books show, the $2.1 billion never materialised.
In contrast, the O’Farrell Liberal government was elected in New South Wales in 2011 with a promise to build the North West Rail Link. Since it was first announced by the New South Wales Labor government in 1998, a 13-year delay has seen the cost of the project blow out from $360 million to $8 billion. But the coalition kept their word. A request was made for a federal contribution—for a reallocation of the unspent $2.1 billion from the Epping to Parramatta rail line. The money was not forthcoming but the project continued. Shovels have already hit the ground. This is the way to deliver public transport infrastructure.
The coalition has a strong record of investment in productivity-enhancing infrastructure, and we have made significant commitments to infrastructure to improve productivity and address congestion. Prime Minister Abbott, our nation’s first infrastructure Prime Minister, is determined that this government will work with the states to build the infrastructure of the 21st century. In Sydney, this includes $1.5 billion for the WestConnex and $405 million to assist in the construction of the F3 to M2 link. In recognition of the importance of infrastructure, we have introduced—as one of the first bills of this new parliament—amendments to make Infrastructure Australia a more independent, transparent and expert infrastructure advisory body. This includes the development of a 15-year infrastructure plan for Australia, with this plan to be revised every five years. The plan is to specify clearly infrastructure priorities at national and state levels, based on rigorous and transparent assessment, and hopefully to avoid the types of thought-bubble announcements that we have seen from the Labor Party over the past six years.
Former New South Wales premier, Bob Carr, declared in 2001, ‘Sydney is full.’ It is not full and it was not then—but it has outgrown its infrastructure. It serves as the most acute example of the problems that result when planning and infrastructure are not commensurate with growth. It is a most absurd situation that Sydney can boast the second-highest land prices in the world, when land is this country’s most abundant asset. The task is to plan in a way that brings together regional development and urban renewal in a complementary strategy. The pledge of our Prime Minister is that Australia is under new management and open for business—and that we will build the roads of the 21st century, which will deliver greater productivity, efficiency, competitiveness, economic development and wealth. This will be done in a prudent manner while we live within our means.
These great aspirations cannot be achieved while we are burdened with conflict between state and federal governments and while we have red and green tape greater than any iceberg. Vision, innovation, cooperation, and the forming of a team to achieve this common goal must all be present if we are to realise our potential. Stability and certainty are the essential building blocks for business to have the confidence to invest in a project, and to gear up with the certain knowledge that what has been promised will be delivered. Major urban infrastructure projects, coupled with appropriate zoning, provide businesses with the opportunity to invest in the urban renewal and densification of our major cities that is so overdue. The simple fact is that infrastructure must be justified by a commercial return through economic growth and the creation of wealth. Our cities and our country areas must be viable to be sustainable. These are the conversations that need to be had in this important policy area. These are the conversations that were sorely lacking during the six-year tenure of the previous Labor government.
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