Government refuses to honour promises on transport

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (18:07): There are a couple of extraordinary things about the debate about the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014 before the House this evening. The first is that they are actually having a debate. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will recall the last piece of infrastructure legislation that was before the House—and these people on the other side of the House. It with their own bill, but they did not have the confidence to have the legislation considered in detail. So confident were they about the subject matter of their legislation that they gagged the debate. They were not willing to have their own legislation considered in detail and there was a very good reason for that. There was much to be ashamed of in that bill—the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013. So the first thing that is extraordinary about the debate before the House today is that we are actually considering this bill in detail. A welcome thing that is too.

The second extraordinary thing is the subject matter. I listened with interest to the assistant minister's speech when he was responding to some of the questions before him today. I listened with particular interest when he said that they will honour the commitments they made in the election campaign—they will honour the commitments that they made and the policies they took to the last election. I pricked up my ears when I heard the assistant minister say this. I went to my office, and I grabbed a copy of the coalition's policy—the coalition's policy to deliver infrastructure for the 21st century. This is not a 2011 document or 2010 document—they could be forgiven for forgetting their policy if it was dated back a few years—this was September 2013. And I had not forgotten. I thought I had forgotten—I thought the assistant minister might actually have got it wrong. But there it was. I picked it up, and in black and white I read these words:

The coalition will strengthen the role of Infrastructure Australia to create a more transparent, accountable and effective adviser on infrastructure projects and policies. Under a coalition government, Infrastructure Australia will—

amongst other things—

require all Commonwealth infrastructure expenditure exceeding $100 million to be subject to analysis by Infrastructure Australia to test cost effectiveness and financial viability

It goes on to say Infrastructure Australia will:

…regularly publish cost-benefit analyses for all projects being considered for Commonwealth support or investment…

Well there you have it; that was the policy that they took to the 2013 election.

So I have to ask the assistant minister, who stood up not 10 minutes ago and said that the coalition will honour every policy they took to the last election, why is it that at the first opportunity they have to honour that policy by voting in favour of an amendment to their legislation they resist it? They say they will not support it. Is it because they have already given the go-ahead to the East West Link project and the WestConnex project? Two projects, no cost-benefit analysis. Despite the fact, a few months ago, in this very place the parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Finance stood at that very dispatch box and said, 'yes' that those projects will have cost-benefit analysis. But no cost-benefit analysis, and no support for the legislation before the House. You have to ask yourself: is this another instance of the government saying one thing before the election and doing exactly the opposite once they get elected?

The second question that I have goes to the issue of the new subcommittee of the cabinet that we were advised of by press release this morning. The question I have is this: is this new subcommittee of cabinet truly designed to fast-track infrastructure projects, or is this new subcommittee of cabinet designed to sidetrack Infrastructure Australia and to sidetrack cost-benefit analysis? That is the question for the assistant minister; that is the question for this parliament. If the government truly wants to honour its commitments, the commitments that it took to the last election in this document here, then they will do away with this bogus subcommittee of cabinet. They will ensure that Infrastructure Australia is able to do the job that it was set up to do—the job that these people opposite promised the people of Australia that Infrastructure Australia would be allowed to do. It would be allowed to provide free and frank advice to government, and the cost-benefit analysis the people of Australia deserve. (Time expired)

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