Infrastructure in Victoria speech in Parliament

This is a debate about nation building, about competing visions for delivering the infrastructure to lead us to a more productive, more liveable and more sustainable future. It is really interesting that the member for Tangney ended by talking about debacles, because 'debacle' sums up beautifully the government's failing in this regard. It is nothing less than a debacle. This debate has demonstrated the intent of government members to add insult to injury. We have heard from the member for Perth about what has happened in WA. we have heard from the member for Newcastle about the neglected infrastructure needs of her community and the wider Hunter. We heard from the member for Franklin about the cruel neglect of Tasmania.I am going to speak a little bit about the biggest loser in infrastructure, and that is my state of Victoria.

It has 25 per cent of Australia's population and it will receive eight per cent of infrastructure investment under this government. This is at a time when Melbourne is growing enormously, as the member for Gellibrand knows, and certainly as I and my friend the member for McEwen know looking at the suburbs that we represent. Melbourne faces enormous challenges in getting the infrastructure mix right, and what do we get from this government? Nothing. It has walked away from any responsibility for urban policy.

As the member for Grayndler pointed out, even though we have paid for it, we still have not seen the State of Australian cities report for last year, a document which should be informing our decision making this year. It is just extraordinary. It is just one example.

Ms Butler: Who is the minister?

Mr GILES: 'Who is the minister?' the member for Griffith asks me. That is a very good question. I am glad everyone is sitting down here, because the Deputy Prime Minister, the responsible minister, said something interesting in question time today. I was shocked. Deputy Speaker Goodenough, you seem shocked too, and you should be. He recognised that Australia is the most urbanised country in the world. But what has he done? The first act of this government was to abolish the Major Cities Unit, and we see a policy of bad investment in urban infrastructure driven by one thing and one thing only: the Prime Minister's personal and pathological hatred of public transport.

We talk about adding insult to injury, but the member for Deakin seems to have missed November's state election. It was an election described, in this place, by the Prime Minister and the responsible minister—by the assistant minister too, and what a compelling contribution he made in this debate; he almost got his 10 minutes. The member for Deakin, in his contribution, took us to the Infrastructure Australia audit. I am glad he did, because that is a very interesting audit.

It tells us about the state of our cities, even though the government's own bureaucracy has walked away from this. It tells us about the increasing cost of congestion. It tells us about the urgent need to invest in urban passenger rail. Funny that, because the Melbourne Metro project was the No. 1 rated project by Infrastructure Australia. It sat alongside very significant public-transport projects in Perth and Brisbane—the Cross River Rail, as my friend the member for Griffith would be well aware. These are the sorts of projects that productive, liveable and sustainable cities need. These are the sorts of projects Australia's economy needs. Melbourne, particularly, is projected to grow to a population of eight million by 2050. Increasing our road capacity is vital in growing areas, but it is not sufficient to meet the needs of Melbourne's economy or the challenges of Australia's economy into the future.

We see here a rejection of the evidence that the member for Deakin put forward in favour of the views of the Prime Minister, who seems to think people prefer cars to trains. He only needs to come to South Morang station on the border of my electorate and the member for McEwen's to see the alternative, particularly in a city like Melbourne, where jobs growth is highly concentrated in the centre of the city. There is only one way to get in and out of where jobs are, from suburbs that the member for Lalor represents, the member for McEwen represents and I represent—that is, by heavy rail. Melbourne needs this investment and Australia needs this investment if we are serious about meeting infrastructure challenges of the future.

It is not simply about rebadging projects and getting to announce them wearing a hard hat. It is about taking seriously where Australia is going, how our cities are being transformed, where the jobs of the future are being located and, fundamentally, how we help people live better, more sustainable and more productive lives. This is a profound challenge and one this government has failed.


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