More infrastructure for the Illawarra (19/03/2012)

innovation-campus.jpgMr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (11:10):  It is my great pleasure to be seconding the motion by my colleague the member for Hunter on this important issue. Today we are engaged in two important arguments. The first is an argument with those opposite about the concept of the minerals resource rent tax. What motivates us is to ensure that we spread the benefit of the mining boom, that we spread the benefit of the resources boom beyond those mining regions and right throughout the country, that we spread it to every person in Australia who has a superannuation account, that we spread it to every small business and every large business around the country in the form of a tax cut, and that we spread it to those mining areas and elsewhere in the form of additional infrastructure—much-needed economic infrastructure—to ensure that we are able to get these commodities out of the mine heads and to the ports of our nation.

It is not surprising that those opposite oppose it, because every day they stand up with a shovel in their hands and the purpose of the shovel is to dig another few feet in their $70 billion budget black hole. Their intention is to fool the Australian people that they can fill that black hole through a commission of audit. But we know that their intention is to fill it with the jobs of public servants, manufacturing workers, auto industry workers and the like. They will simply not be able to make ends meet without drastically slashing the services and programs of this country.

By 2036, Australia's population is going to exceed around 30 million people. By then, Sydney will have a population of around six million, an increase of 1.7 million on today's figures. That takes me to the second argument and that is an argument by members such as the member for Hunter and myself to ensure that we get a fair share of the fair share—that is, that we get a fair share of that additional pool of money that will be available to fund infrastructure in this country. The growth in population in Sydney and the ensuing economic activity will bring charges to our infrastructure. It will mean that regional Australia, in particular large regional cities like the Illawarra, Wollongong, Newcastle and the Hunter, will be taking up the slack. We need to ensure that those cities have the infrastructure that is necessary—that is, the rail capacity, the road capacity and the port capacity—to meet those increased needs and to ensure that, as Sydney and Melbourne are bursting at the seams, those regional cities are able to take up the growth capacity.

In my region we know that coalmining is undergoing a resurgence and that is because we have some of the best metallurgical coal found anywhere in the world. Despite the attempts by the Leader of the Opposition to talk down the prospects of the coal industry in my electorate and in the member for Cunningham's electorate, it is literally booming. New longwalls are going in as we speak to increase the mining capacity because if you want steel then you need the high-quality metallurgical coal that comes from the Illawarra.

We have plans to expand the ports. Some of the plans look at doubling, even tripling, the size of the ports. All this puts stress and pressure on our road network and our rail network. We already have an overly congested rail network between Wollongong and Sydney. Over 20,000 people use that road network each and every week to commute to Sydney for work. If we are to have expanding economic activity and expanding freight moving north and south along that route, we need to provide alternate freight passage.

That is where the Maldon to Dombarton rail link comes in. It was cancelled by the former Greiner government because the Liberals have never supported infrastructure projects in the Illawarra. They cancelled it with only 35 kilometres left to be built. Thirty-five kilometres of standard rail gauge needs to be put in to ensure that we can link our port to the inland coalfields, wheatfields, and alternative internodal hubs of Western Sydney. I was very pleased that, when she visited the Illawarra, the Prime Minister pledged another $25 million to review planning and design work to ensure that it is up to speed. But the reality is that without the money—the revenue from the minerals resource rent tax—that rail link will not be completed. We cannot leave it to the Liberals, who have never spent a cent, not a brass razoo, on infrastructure in the Illawarra. We need this tax to pass through the House and we need our fair share in the Illawarra.

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