In the News

Monday, 30 June 2008

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (10.27 a.m.)—I rise to support the Military Memorials of National Significance Bill 2008 and the amendment from the member for Mackellar. In doing so let me first pay tribute to all of those who have served in our armed forces—the returned service men and women—and all those who have had the unfortunate distinction of being prisoners of war.

If you go to many of our country towns and the town centres of our suburbs and metropolitan areas, you will find memorials to our brave soldiers who went to war. These memorials were generally funded by the people within those communities as a personal tribute to their soldiers. Indeed, they stand as a tribute to the true self-reliant spirit of this country in looking after each other and recognising those who did so much in our name.

It is a wonderful thing to think that each of these communities voluntarily got together to fund memorials to their soldiers. The rolls of honour will stand at the heart of our communities for evermore. In supporting this legislation I think it is important to recognise that, while there are memorials of national significance, every war memorial is indeed a memorial of national significance.

This bill will provide a mechanism to honour the government’s election commitment to declare the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat to be a national memorial. It has been said this bill has come about from a mistake and a hasty promise, but it is a mistake and a hasty promise that I am happy to support and to embrace as my own.

I note that national memorials are already recognised under the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 and are restricted to memorials within the Australian Capital Territory. This bill will recognise the national significance of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat and will enable, in the future, other memorials that meet specific criteria to be recognised as a military memorial of national significance. And who indeed could argue with that?

The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial located in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens records the names of more than 35,000 Australian POWs—8,600 died or were killed when they were prisoners of war and more than 4,000 have no known grave. The lists of names on the memorial are arranged in alphabetical order, grouped by conflict, commencing with the Boer War and going through to the Korean War, etched into the 130-metre black granite wall. Across Australia there has not been any recognition of the pain and suffering endured by prisoners of war in the service of our nation. The motto of these brave prisoners was, ‘When you go home, tell them of us and say that we gave our tomorrow for your today.’

This legislation is a good development for so many of the memorials in our country that deserve the recognition and tribute of our federal government as part of its ongoing commitment to the defence of our nation and the memory of those who served.

I had great pride serving in the Australian Army Reserve in one of my local community’s regiments, the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers. Indeed, it was some of the former exuberant members of my regiment who jumped their ships to participate in the Boer War. In 1899, before our nation had federated, a squadron of the regiment, which had been training in England, became the first colonial troops to arrive in South Africa for active service against the Boers in the South African War. They jumped their ships to be there—part of that great Australian spirit of having a go and wanting to be involved in the world and its events. I pay tribute to them. With 21 battle honours, the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers is one of the most highly decorated units in the Australian Army. It was an immense privilege to serve with the fine men and women who make up the regiment today.

This bill specifically will deliver on the promise in relation to Ballarat and other military memorials of national significance, creating a new category. It will bring greater status. It is of more concern, however, that there is an issue with the ongoing Commonwealth funding for memorials. There are many other places in our country that deserve federal government recognition and assistance and I have no concerns in supporting the legislation and its implications.

The importance that war memorials hold in serving as visual reminders of the sacrifice of the brave men and women who served our country was impressed upon me when I trekked the Kokoda Trail back in 2003. So many of our young Australians trek Kokoda today. They attend memorials at Isurava or the dawn service at Gallipoli, where so many of their young counterparts fought many years ago. They attend to pay tribute; they attend to remember. When you go today you see the rusty weapons in the jungle at Kokoda and the depressions where pits were dug by Australian soldiers. You see why the Aussie soldier earned the title ‘digger’. You actually can see, amongst the massive mountains and the valleys, the site of fierce fighting that saved our nation. It is very moving. I was deeply moved and humbled by the experience and the importance of the Kokoda campaign in the history of our country.

To the Howard government’s everlasting credit, they provided the funding for a memorial to be constructed at Isurava on the Kokoda track—a magical place—which has been done so well. A photo of the memorial and some of us who served as young officers in the Army is always on my desk. The incredible ambience of this place and the solemness of the beautiful memorial which overlooks the valley where so much fighting took place stay with me always. There are four words inscribed on the four granite pillars at Isurava, four words that mean so much to many who have served—courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice. Those words say it all about the service so many Australians gave and that must be remembered.

In 1933 we were warned that Japan would pose a major threat to Australian security. The Head of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, Professor David Horner, recently wrote:

It is now generally agreed that the Australian defence policy between the wars and until the fall of Singapore was, at the best, naively optimistic, and at the worst, some might say, close to treason.

While many political leaders of that time may have neglected the defence of Australia, the responsibility of the young diggers in answering the call is very inspiring. It is a lesson we must always remember. We must support our defence forces. We must support legislation such of this, which adds so much to the fine military traditions of our great country. Those Australian diggers were young, inexperienced, outnumbered and outgunned. During the ensuing three months, the Australians fought against overwhelming odds. They forced the Japanese to contest every inch of the rugged and treacherous Kokoda Trail as they advanced towards their objective of Port Moresby.

As I speak today, I still starkly remember the overwhelming emotion that I felt standing at the Isurava war memorial built by the Australian government. It was at Isurava where the first Victoria Cross was won on Australian soil. It was awarded to Private Bruce Kingsbury of the 2nd/14th Battalion. It was Kingsbury’s initiative and superb courage that made it possible for the Australians to recapture the battalion’s position and cause heavy casualties among the enemy. His coolness, determination and devotion to duty in the face of great adversity was not only an inspiration to his comrades but, through the establishment of the Isurava memorial, to all Australians who are the future of the country for which he so valiantly fought.

Private Kingsbury was one of the few survivors of a platoon which had been overrun and severely cut down by the enemy. Immediately, he volunteered to join a different platoon which had been ordered to counterattack. He rushed forward, firing the Bren gun from his hip, through terrific machine-gun fire and succeeded in clearing a path through the enemy. Continuing to sweep enemy positions with his fire, he inflicted an extremely high number of casualties on them. Private Kingsbury was then seen to fall to the ground by the side of a large rock, shot dead by a bullet from a sniper hiding in the wood. Private Kingsbury displayed a complete disregard for his own safety at Isurava but thereby saved his friends. When you stand at Isurava you can still see today the rock, the large boulder where Private Bruce Kingsbury was gunned down by a sniper. It is an experience in humility and gratitude that I would recommend to every Australian to stand at the war memorial at Isurava, to see the rock where Private Bruce Kingsbury was gunned down after conducting such a valiant action, which earned him the first Victorian Cross on Australian soil.

Today I am reminded of Kingsbury’s sacrifice each time I drive down along the memorial drive to Canberra. Another great initiative of the Howard government was to rename the road from Sydney to Canberra ‘Remembrance Drive’. At each rest stop, information about a Victoria Cross winner is attached—a wonderful initiative that reminds us of the men who showed such great courage and valour under fire. When Australians stop at these rest stops, they engage in an act of remembrance. Indeed, I make a point of stopping at the Private Bruce Kingsbury rest stop whenever I can on the road from Sydney to Canberra to remember.

The explanatory memorandum of this bill states:
The Bill will provide a mechanism to honour the Government’s election commitment to declare the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat, to be a national memorial.

The bill may have come about from a mistake, it may have come about from a promise that was made during the election campaign, but again I state that it is an error that I am happy to embrace if it leads to legislation that recognises more of our nationally significant war memorials. It is a mistake that I am happy to say I will embrace and be honoured to support here today.

As already stated, the government has delivered funding for maintenance of the memorial for the next four years. However, the bill is silent on the issue of funding thereafter, and I would suggest to those opposite that this is an issue that we do need to consider further and examine in the light of our future commitments to war memorials across Australia that are outside those within Canberra and considered to be nationally significant. The Register of War Memorials records two memorials in my own electorate of Mitchell: the Arthur Witling Park war memorial and the Dural Memorial Hall. There are two sites outside of my electorate which I often attend as well—they are in Glenorie within the council area of Baulkham Hills Shire—but there are just two war memorials in Mitchell. We are also served by a magnificent RSL club, the Castle Hill RSL club, which is an integral part of our community and also supports these war memorials.

I want to say a few words about the war memorials in my electorate, which will be instructive to the House because, on Anzac Day of this year, I had the privilege of attending the dawn service at the Arthur Witling Park war memorial at the corner of Old Northern Road and McMullen Avenue in Castle Hill. It was a great experience—if anyone had any doubt about patriotism and the belief in the importance of remembering those who have served and paid the ultimate sacrifice—to turn up at a dawn service with 5,000 members of my local community to see teams of young people walking the streets at four o’clock in the morning and to see the entire site taken up by the memorial jam-packed with people. People were standing on the roads trying to get into this memorial site to attend the service. It is a great tribute, 100 years from the events that took place, to Australians and their capacity to remember those who have paid the ultimate price and given so much for Australia.

The memorial at Arthur Witling Park is large and well kept. The whole memorial is constructed in the shape of the rising sun badge. The centre point of the memorial is a large flagpole and a huge white painted rock with the words ‘Lest we forget’ in black, placed on brown and black marble. There is a swallow pool in the shape of an arch surrounding the centre point. Around the wall of the elevated garden are eight plaques, one each for the following: the RSL, Australian women’s services, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Commonwealth military forces and Merchant Navy Australia. The whole memorial has a flagpole, and just off to the right of the memorial is a pine tree grown from an original lone pine of Gallipoli.

My community is well serviced by a strong veteran community, and the acts of remembrance engaged in at Arthur Witling Park are very important to the fabric of my community and our society. The inscriptions on the memorial dedicate the memorial to all those who paid the supreme sacrifice and who served in all wars and conflicts on duty for our country. One inscription reads:

This Memorial is dedicated to the men and women from the Electorate of Mitchell who have served in the Armed Forces of Australia and to those who paid the supreme sacrifice.

I also record my appreciation for the Dural Memorial Hall, which stands to recognise World War I. We do need to ensure that our war memorials overseas are also protected and preserved for future generations to witness. Whilst our well-known overseas war memorials at Isuarava and Gallipoli are well kept, some others are not. I recently became aware of a problem from a member of my electorate, Mr Garry Massie, who has recently returned from visiting the prisoner-of-war memorial, the JEATH War Museum, in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. The JEATH War Museum commemorates the work undertaken on the construction of the Burma rail line by, amongst others, Australia’s POWs during World War II. The JEATH museum bears witness to the suffering of those that fell during its construction. It is an open-air museum. JEATH stands for Japan, England, Australia, Thailand and Holland. It was built in 1977 by a Thai abbot in the style of the huts that were used to imprison prisoners of war. The museum contains bunks and original pictures of the actual soldiers who died alongside the articles and other authentic items on the site. The result is a picture of cramped squalor which gives visitors a genuine insight into the suffering of the soldiers on the Burma rail line. However, I am informed by Mr Massie and others that these artefacts are in some state of disrepair. Many of the pictures are currently held under plastic sheeting and the artefacts are clearly deteriorating. Considering their historical significance to Australia and to our nation’s military history, they are stored in unsuitable conditions. I call on the government to think about sending curators from the Australian War Memorial to visit Kanchanaburi and to undertake a project that could see this collection restored and placed on display in a way that would protect it from damage in the future.

I return to the legislation. It is wonderful to think that so many of our communities voluntarily got together to fund memorials to recognise the soldiers from their communities. Those rolls of honour will stand at the heart of the communities forevermore. They will stand there as a tribute to the spirit not just of the soldiers and the people who went but of those communities who got together to recognise them. One of the primary functions of government is to provide for the defence of our nation, to look after those who have returned from conflicts and to provide for the memory of those who served, who paid the ultimate sacrifice and who were prisoners of war. As a parliament, we must work to ensure Australia always has that self-reliant, caring spirit that sees communities construct memorials—that spirit of duty, service and voluntary sacrifice. I heartily endorse and support the Military Memorials of National Significance Bill 2008, and the second reading amendment moved by the member for Mackellar, and I thank the government for the legislation.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (10.27 a.m.)—I rise to support the Military Memorials of National Significance Bill 2008 and the amendment from the member for Mackellar. In doing so let me first pay tribute to all of those who have served in our armed forces—the returned service men and women—and all those who have had the unfortunate distinction of being prisoners of war.

If you go to many of our country towns and the town centres of our suburbs and metropolitan areas, you will find memorials to our brave soldiers who went to war. These memorials were generally funded by the people within those communities as a personal tribute to their soldiers. Indeed, they stand as a tribute to the true self-reliant spirit of this country in looking after each other and recognising those who did so much in our name.

It is a wonderful thing to think that each of these communities voluntarily got together to fund memorials to their soldiers. The rolls of honour will stand at the heart of our communities for evermore. In supporting this legislation I think it is important to recognise that, while there are memorials of national significance, every war memorial is indeed a memorial of national significance.

This bill will provide a mechanism to honour the government’s election commitment to declare the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat to be a national memorial. It has been said this bill has come about from a mistake and a hasty promise, but it is a mistake and a hasty promise that I am happy to support and to embrace as my own.

I note that national memorials are already recognised under the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 and are restricted to memorials within the Australian Capital Territory. This bill will recognise the national significance of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat and will enable, in the future, other memorials that meet specific criteria to be recognised as a military memorial of national significance. And who indeed could argue with that?

The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial located in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens records the names of more than 35,000 Australian POWs—8,600 died or were killed when they were prisoners of war and more than 4,000 have no known grave. The lists of names on the memorial are arranged in alphabetical order, grouped by conflict, commencing with the Boer War and going through to the Korean War, etched into the 130-metre black granite wall. Across Australia there has not been any recognition of the pain and suffering endured by prisoners of war in the service of our nation. The motto of these brave prisoners was, ‘When you go home, tell them of us and say that we gave our tomorrow for your today.’

This legislation is a good development for so many of the memorials in our country that deserve the recognition and tribute of our federal government as part of its ongoing commitment to the defence of our nation and the memory of those who served.

I had great pride serving in the Australian Army Reserve in one of my local community’s regiments, the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers. Indeed, it was some of the former exuberant members of my regiment who jumped their ships to participate in the Boer War. In 1899, before our nation had federated, a squadron of the regiment, which had been training in England, became the first colonial troops to arrive in South Africa for active service against the Boers in the South African War. They jumped their ships to be there—part of that great Australian spirit of having a go and wanting to be involved in the world and its events. I pay tribute to them. With 21 battle honours, the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers is one of the most highly decorated units in the Australian Army. It was an immense privilege to serve with the fine men and women who make up the regiment today.

This bill specifically will deliver on the promise in relation to Ballarat and other military memorials of national significance, creating a new category. It will bring greater status. It is of more concern, however, that there is an issue with the ongoing Commonwealth funding for memorials. There are many other places in our country that deserve federal government recognition and assistance and I have no concerns in supporting the legislation and its implications.

The importance that war memorials hold in serving as visual reminders of the sacrifice of the brave men and women who served our country was impressed upon me when I trekked the Kokoda Trail back in 2003. So many of our young Australians trek Kokoda today. They attend memorials at Isurava or the dawn service at Gallipoli, where so many of their young counterparts fought many years ago. They attend to pay tribute; they attend to remember. When you go today you see the rusty weapons in the jungle at Kokoda and the depressions where pits were dug by Australian soldiers. You see why the Aussie soldier earned the title ‘digger’. You actually can see, amongst the massive mountains and the valleys, the site of fierce fighting that saved our nation. It is very moving. I was deeply moved and humbled by the experience and the importance of the Kokoda campaign in the history of our country.

To the Howard government’s everlasting credit, they provided the funding for a memorial to be constructed at Isurava on the Kokoda track—a magical place—which has been done so well. A photo of the memorial and some of us who served as young officers in the Army is always on my desk. The incredible ambience of this place and the solemness of the beautiful memorial which overlooks the valley where so much fighting took place stay with me always. There are four words inscribed on the four granite pillars at Isurava, four words that mean so much to many who have served—courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice. Those words say it all about the service so many Australians gave and that must be remembered.

In 1933 we were warned that Japan would pose a major threat to Australian security. The Head of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, Professor David Horner, recently wrote:

It is now generally agreed that the Australian defence policy between the wars and until the fall of Singapore was, at the best, naively optimistic, and at the worst, some might say, close to treason.

While many political leaders of that time may have neglected the defence of Australia, the responsibility of the young diggers in answering the call is very inspiring. It is a lesson we must always remember. We must support our defence forces. We must support legislation such of this, which adds so much to the fine military traditions of our great country. Those Australian diggers were young, inexperienced, outnumbered and outgunned. During the ensuing three months, the Australians fought against overwhelming odds. They forced the Japanese to contest every inch of the rugged and treacherous Kokoda Trail as they advanced towards their objective of Port Moresby.

As I speak today, I still starkly remember the overwhelming emotion that I felt standing at the Isurava war memorial built by the Australian government. It was at Isurava where the first Victoria Cross was won on Australian soil. It was awarded to Private Bruce Kingsbury of the 2nd/14th Battalion. It was Kingsbury’s initiative and superb courage that made it possible for the Australians to recapture the battalion’s position and cause heavy casualties among the enemy. His coolness, determination and devotion to duty in the face of great adversity was not only an inspiration to his comrades but, through the establishment of the Isurava memorial, to all Australians who are the future of the country for which he so valiantly fought.

Private Kingsbury was one of the few survivors of a platoon which had been overrun and severely cut down by the enemy. Immediately, he volunteered to join a different platoon which had been ordered to counterattack. He rushed forward, firing the Bren gun from his hip, through terrific machine-gun fire and succeeded in clearing a path through the enemy. Continuing to sweep enemy positions with his fire, he inflicted an extremely high number of casualties on them. Private Kingsbury was then seen to fall to the ground by the side of a large rock, shot dead by a bullet from a sniper hiding in the wood. Private Kingsbury displayed a complete disregard for his own safety at Isurava but thereby saved his friends. When you stand at Isurava you can still see today the rock, the large boulder where Private Bruce Kingsbury was gunned down by a sniper. It is an experience in humility and gratitude that I would recommend to every Australian to stand at the war memorial at Isurava, to see the rock where Private Bruce Kingsbury was gunned down after conducting such a valiant action, which earned him the first Victorian Cross on Australian soil.

Today I am reminded of Kingsbury’s sacrifice each time I drive down along the memorial drive to Canberra. Another great initiative of the Howard government was to rename the road from Sydney to Canberra ‘Remembrance Drive’. At each rest stop, information about a Victoria Cross winner is attached—a wonderful initiative that reminds us of the men who showed such great courage and valour under fire. When Australians stop at these rest stops, they engage in an act of remembrance. Indeed, I make a point of stopping at the Private Bruce Kingsbury rest stop whenever I can on the road from Sydney to Canberra to remember.

The explanatory memorandum of this bill states:
The Bill will provide a mechanism to honour the Government’s election commitment to declare the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat, to be a national memorial.

The bill may have come about from a mistake, it may have come about from a promise that was made during the election campaign, but again I state that it is an error that I am happy to embrace if it leads to legislation that recognises more of our nationally significant war memorials. It is a mistake that I am happy to say I will embrace and be honoured to support here today.

As already stated, the government has delivered funding for maintenance of the memorial for the next four years. However, the bill is silent on the issue of funding thereafter, and I would suggest to those opposite that this is an issue that we do need to consider further and examine in the light of our future commitments to war memorials across Australia that are outside those within Canberra and considered to be nationally significant. The Register of War Memorials records two memorials in my own electorate of Mitchell: the Arthur Witling Park war memorial and the Dural Memorial Hall. There are two sites outside of my electorate which I often attend as well—they are in Glenorie within the council area of Baulkham Hills Shire—but there are just two war memorials in Mitchell. We are also served by a magnificent RSL club, the Castle Hill RSL club, which is an integral part of our community and also supports these war memorials.

I want to say a few words about the war memorials in my electorate, which will be instructive to the House because, on Anzac Day of this year, I had the privilege of attending the dawn service at the Arthur Witling Park war memorial at the corner of Old Northern Road and McMullen Avenue in Castle Hill. It was a great experience—if anyone had any doubt about patriotism and the belief in the importance of remembering those who have served and paid the ultimate sacrifice—to turn up at a dawn service with 5,000 members of my local community to see teams of young people walking the streets at four o’clock in the morning and to see the entire site taken up by the memorial jam-packed with people. People were standing on the roads trying to get into this memorial site to attend the service. It is a great tribute, 100 years from the events that took place, to Australians and their capacity to remember those who have paid the ultimate price and given so much for Australia.

The memorial at Arthur Witling Park is large and well kept. The whole memorial is constructed in the shape of the rising sun badge. The centre point of the memorial is a large flagpole and a huge white painted rock with the words ‘Lest we forget’ in black, placed on brown and black marble. There is a swallow pool in the shape of an arch surrounding the centre point. Around the wall of the elevated garden are eight plaques, one each for the following: the RSL, Australian women’s services, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Commonwealth military forces and Merchant Navy Australia. The whole memorial has a flagpole, and just off to the right of the memorial is a pine tree grown from an original lone pine of Gallipoli.

My community is well serviced by a strong veteran community, and the acts of remembrance engaged in at Arthur Witling Park are very important to the fabric of my community and our society. The inscriptions on the memorial dedicate the memorial to all those who paid the supreme sacrifice and who served in all wars and conflicts on duty for our country. One inscription reads:

This Memorial is dedicated to the men and women from the Electorate of Mitchell who have served in the Armed Forces of Australia and to those who paid the supreme sacrifice.

I also record my appreciation for the Dural Memorial Hall, which stands to recognise World War I. We do need to ensure that our war memorials overseas are also protected and preserved for future generations to witness. Whilst our well-known overseas war memorials at Isuarava and Gallipoli are well kept, some others are not. I recently became aware of a problem from a member of my electorate, Mr Garry Massie, who has recently returned from visiting the prisoner-of-war memorial, the JEATH War Museum, in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. The JEATH War Museum commemorates the work undertaken on the construction of the Burma rail line by, amongst others, Australia’s POWs during World War II. The JEATH museum bears witness to the suffering of those that fell during its construction. It is an open-air museum. JEATH stands for Japan, England, Australia, Thailand and Holland. It was built in 1977 by a Thai abbot in the style of the huts that were used to imprison prisoners of war. The museum contains bunks and original pictures of the actual soldiers who died alongside the articles and other authentic items on the site. The result is a picture of cramped squalor which gives visitors a genuine insight into the suffering of the soldiers on the Burma rail line. However, I am informed by Mr Massie and others that these artefacts are in some state of disrepair. Many of the pictures are currently held under plastic sheeting and the artefacts are clearly deteriorating. Considering their historical significance to Australia and to our nation’s military history, they are stored in unsuitable conditions. I call on the government to think about sending curators from the Australian War Memorial to visit Kanchanaburi and to undertake a project that could see this collection restored and placed on display in a way that would protect it from damage in the future.

I return to the legislation. It is wonderful to think that so many of our communities voluntarily got together to fund memorials to recognise the soldiers from their communities. Those rolls of honour will stand at the heart of the communities forevermore. They will stand there as a tribute to the spirit not just of the soldiers and the people who went but of those communities who got together to recognise them. One of the primary functions of government is to provide for the defence of our nation, to look after those who have returned from conflicts and to provide for the memory of those who served, who paid the ultimate sacrifice and who were prisoners of war. As a parliament, we must work to ensure Australia always has that self-reliant, caring spirit that sees communities construct memorials—that spirit of duty, service and voluntary sacrifice. I heartily endorse and support the Military Memorials of National Significance Bill 2008, and the second reading amendment moved by the member for Mackellar, and I thank the government for the legislation.

Monday, 30 June 2008

INFRASTRUCTURE AUSTRALIA BILL 2008
Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (12.46 p.m.)—Coming from an electorate which represents one of the fastest growing areas of Sydney, I know that infrastructure is of great concern to many people. Infrastructure Australia is a proposed statutory authority that will be established to advise all levels of government on matters relating to the provision of infrastructure. Infrastructure is important to many people. It is something that governments do need to act on, particularly for people in Western Sydney and in my electorate. I, like many others, will be supporting the Infrastructure Australia Bill 2008 today in the hope that we can get rid of some of the obstacles to getting good infrastructure that exist at the state level and the local level.

I would like to start, however, by making some general points about this bill. There are some concerns about this new statutory body. Firstly, I think it is very important that this body created by government not become an extra hurdle or burden that vital infrastructure projects have to get over. It must not add any delays or burdens to processes that, because of our federal system, can already be complex and unwieldy. I note in particular that there will be a 12-month review period, and I hope that this period does not become an excuse or justification for inaction on vital infrastructure by a new government.

Secondly, I would like to say that Infrastructure Australia does need to be nonpartisan in its approach. All of its appointments are made by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and, in view of the gross politicisation of sectors of our Public Service at a state level, our community will be watching the operation of this new government bureaucracy carefully in the hope that it will be genuinely independent and able to add some value, not burden, to infrastructure planning in Australia. There are going to be 12 appointees, some made in agreement with the states, and I would also add a concern that there has been a lot of failed thinking in relation to the provision of infrastructure at a state level. I think it is quite necessary that we do not allow that same sort of thinking to dominate outcomes in relation to infrastructure from a national perspective.

I am going to spend some time today talking about some of the significant failures at the state level because I think Infrastructure Australia will achieve nothing if it is just the same faces and the same thinking. For example, if you look at New South Wales and examine the state public private partnership deals that have been allowed to exist under the current Labor state government, you see state government departments such as the Roads and Traffic Authority allowed to engage in contracts with various companies, essentially to receive a payment direct to their department to close a legion of public roads, forcing people to use the privately funded infrastructure—the infamous Cross City Tunnel. That Cross City Tunnel deal, when it became public, became a scandal that the people of Sydney rejected. The government was forced to break its contract and, of course, the Cross City Tunnel consortium is now bankrupt. These kinds of episodes and experiences give a very bad name to public-private partnerships and this is, we know from experience, a further disincentive for private capital to get involved in public-private partnerships and also another burden. So it will be a good thing if Infrastructure Australia can examine some of the contractual arrangements at state level in particular and determine why there have been such failures.

The north-west of Sydney, my electorate, is one of the fastest-growing areas of Sydney. It is on the urban fringes of Sydney, one of our biggest cities. Infrastructure is desperately needed in Mitchell to meet the massive demands of growth. The north-west of Sydney is earmarked as one of the biggest growth corridors in our country. I guess one of the first performance measures that infrastructure will face is that if infrastructure continues to not be provided in urban fringe areas in the major growth corridors of our cities, then it will not have achieved anything except to add an extra layer of bureaucracy. For example, in the north-west of Sydney you have one of the biggest business parks, with the major national headquarters of 500 companies. There are 20,000 employees there. That will grow to 40,000 in about 10 years. There is no rail line. There is no mass transit system in this sector of Sydney and it is essential that we get one in the near future.

There has been some suggestion that the previous federal government failed somehow in relation to infrastructure, but the only working, functional piece of major infrastructure that has gone into Western Sydney in many decades was the M7. I am going to speak some more about that later. The M7, the orbital motorway that surrounds Sydney, has been a major success. In fact, when you look at some of the other state funded infrastructure and managed projects you get a lot of complaints about tolling and other matters, but I receive no complaints about the M7. It is a working and vital piece of infrastructure that was fully funded by the Howard government.

When you look at the provisions of this bill, there is scope for some positive developments. We do need to consider how best to remove regulatory barriers to getting good infrastructure at different levels, and hopefully this can be achieved. Looking at state and local governments, you can see some systems, levies and charges that really prevent good infrastructure from getting built. For example, infrastructure levies at the state level need to be looked at as well as the rates of infrastructure levies and the rate of return that people get for the amount of money that they are forced to pay in levies, taxes and charges.

In the 2006 National Housing Infrastructure Costs Study that was commissioned by the Residential Development Council it was found that indirect infrastructure charges for housing and home units have increased significantly in Sydney, far outstripping the growth in construction costs. Significantly, it has been the increase in indirect infrastructure charges covering roads and public transport which has been the most dramatic. As a result of these increases in levies, houses in Sydney now incur infrastructure charges of $68,233, of which over $66,000 relate to indirect charges. From 1995 to 2006, total indirect infrastructure charges per lot for new housing developments increased by $55,000; an indexed increase of 171.9 per cent.

By stark comparison, Brisbane homes have seen no increase in indirect infrastructure charges while Melbourne has seen an indexed increase of just over 30 per cent. I will say that again: there has been an indexed increase in Sydney for new housing developments of 171.9 per cent for infrastructure. These significant increases in indirect infrastructure charges in Sydney have had a serious impact on the housing affordability in my electorate of Mitchell. Whilst the residents of Mitchell are paying more and more for infrastructure, they continue to receive some of the most substandard public transport facilities in the country. They are paying an indexed increase of 171.9 per cent, but the state government will not fund a rail line for the north-west of Sydney.

I want to speak about that for a moment. The New South Wales state government has really abandoned one of its core responsibilities here. One of Infrastructure Australia’s first priorities should be to consider the construction of a heavy rail line in the north-west of Sydney. I have written to Minister Albanese requesting an urgent meeting to discuss what the federal government can do to fund vital infrastructure in Western Sydney in a timely fashion. I know that the minister states that he wants a 12-month review—a 12-month delay to give time to discuss or examine that. A 12-month delay when you have been waiting 20 years for a rail line is another unfair imposition on the people in Mitchell. If you look at the record of the New South Wales state Labor government, there is a case for the federal government to intervene.

On 29 November 1998, three months prior to a state election, the New South Wales state government first promised $29 million for the north-west rail link from Epping Station to Castle Hill. Since then, the government has re-announced the north-west rail link five times. On 9 June 2005, Bob Carr announced an $8 billion, 15-year metropolitan rail extension program. This announcement included the north-west rail link, a new passenger line from Cheltenham to Rouse Hill and long-term plans to extend the Vineyard and Richmond lines. On 20 November 2006 the government re-announced the completion of the north-west rail line by 2017—the first stage to be completed by 2015 and the second stage by 2017. The government recently re-announced the line in June 2007 with an extension from Rouse Hill to Vineyard station on the Richmond line. All of this shows that if it were not for the previous federal government, very little would have been done in the last 10 years. The states are failing.

Another important matter that Infrastructure Australia needs to consider—and one of the major disincentives—is the bad reputation infrastructure is getting from tolling. The New South Wales state government have used a system of geographical discrimination based on where people live. They subsidise people for using some tollways but not for using others. They do it on the basis of where a person comes from and how they get to work. For example, people in my electorate pay tolls to get to work. Based on a 48-hour working week, motorists travelling to the city are now paying $16.90 a day—which is $84.50 a week, $330 a month or $4,056 a year—just to go to work. By contrast, a person using the M4 and M5 motorways in the south-west of Sydney pays $1.20 a day—which is $6.00 a week, $24 a month or just $288 annually once the state government rebate is received. That is $4,056 a year versus $288 a year. This is another example of a failure in the system of infrastructure that has been created in Sydney.

Residents of north-western Sydney pay an average of $4,000 in post-tax income on tolls—including the M2, the M7, the Lane Cove tunnel and the harbour tunnel—while residents in western Sydney using the M4 and M5 pay less than $300 a year due to cash-back schemes. For those members not from Sydney, what is the difference between M2 users and M4 and M5 users? I would argue that it is where they live; it is discrimination between a safe seat and a marginal seat; it is a deliberate policy of geographical discrimination put in place by the state government. Infrastructure Australia must take state governments to task for these appalling and discriminatory decisions. The use of subsidies for some areas of Sydney but discrimination against other areas, on no logical basis, must be abandoned. It will be a good thing if Infrastructure Australia can remove these sorts of scandalous arrangements from infrastructure management in Australia.

There are other major infrastructure projects that the New South Wales state government has failed on, and arrangements that must be considered in this review. You could talk about things like the closure of Epping Road—another public-private partnership in which the state government has closed lanes towards the Sydney CBD on a major public road to funnel people into a privately operated tollway. Again, the tollway and the public-private partnership is a good development. It is good to get private capital into infrastructure. It is good for the government to be encouraging it and ensuring that the arrangements can be put into place to manage it. It is manifestly wrong of any government—whether it be a state government or a federal government—to close public roads that have been paid for by people’s taxes over many years in order to funnel motorists onto a tollway or motorway so that they have no choice about the roads they use.

In addition we have seen other fiascos in Sydney such as the T-card fiasco. We are one of the few major cities in the world that does not have an integrated transport network. The New South Wales state government has spent 10 years planning for a smartcard system on Sydney’s buses, trains and ferries, yet it has become a total and unmitigated failure. This is another thing that is preventing the construction of integrated and future orientated infrastructure. Major cities around the world—including Hong Kong, London, Singapore, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth—have successfully introduced smartcard technology for public transport, but not Sydney. We have four separate ticketing systems for trains, ferries, buses and light rail. That is disgraceful in city like Sydney.

I also want to talk about some of the failures in infrastructure planning that have happened in other parts of Sydney. For example, we have had more rail lines cancelled. A Parramatta to Epping railway line has been announced many times before state elections but cancelled after those state elections. My essential point in reinforcing this failure at the state level, particularly on the part of the New South Wales state government, to provide infrastructure is that states do need to be taken to task over these failures. Infrastructure Australia ought to cooperate with the states, but it also needs to be very frank with them. It needs to say to the states: ‘You have failed here. You have given commitments. You haven’t met your commitments. We require a better performance from you.’ You cannot be cosy with the states when they have not provided essential infrastructure. It has to be critical where required, and it has to point to the failures of public-private partnerships whereby state government departments have negotiated their own deals which have resulted in a scandal and the bankruptcy of those private organisations. People in north-west Sydney—

Interjection
Ms Neal—It’s a private risk.
Continue
Mr HAWKE—Risk becomes a big thing—the risk is dealing with the New South Wales state government. I would argue that is one of the biggest risks. Never mind the constant attacks on oil companies. People in north-west Sydney also pay 52c a litre in excise. I think people want to see that 52c going back into their roads. It is not right that governments levy such a substantial amount on each dollar we pay at the petrol bowser and yet our roads in north-western Sydney are still in a shocking state. We need major upgrades.

Another important concern of Sydneysiders in the future will be the F3 motorway. Each day we have 75,000 vehicles travelling on the F3. During peak times 3,000 vehicles an hour vie for lane space. The F3 is well past its capacity and usefulness as Sydney’s northern gateway. Recently we saw the whole motorway closed because of a bushfire, and people were unable to access the northern gateway to Sydney. There was a recent report in the Sunday Telegraph that there were 16 closures on the F3 in at least one direction in the past year due to accidents or bushfires, causing delays of between 30 minutes and several hours.

The recent Pearlman report recommended that the government could begin work immediately on the construction of a link between the F3 freeway and Sydney’s north-west orbital at the M7. I strongly support option (c) of the Pearlman report. I would make another observation about this report. Infrastructure Australia are going to conduct a 12-month review. In this review they ought not to reinvent the wheel and start from scratch. They ought to consider examining very valuable and detailed reports such as the Pearlman report, which has recommended vital infrastructure. If Infrastructure Australia is only directed by the minister to look at the projects that he considers to be important, rather than having a broader look at what good work has already been done at the federal and state levels in recommending vital infrastructure upgrades, that will be a weakness in the new Infrastructure Australia system. The Pearlman report does call for option (c) planning to be commenced, which would see the second crossing of the Hawkesbury River. It would provide greater opportunities for business and better conditions on local roads. It is the option that the majority of local residents in my electorate of Mitchell would support. The state and federal governments do need to get on with the job of progressing option (c) and giving residents in north-western Sydney some reprieve.

There has been a contention in this bill and the events surrounding the formation of this bill that there was no action by the previous government in relation to infrastructure. As I mentioned, people in Western Sydney know that the previous federal government believed in the provision of essential infrastructure, and the M7 orbital project is an example of one of the best motorways in Sydney. Due to the strategic and economic importance of Western Sydney, and the fact that it had become the third-largest producer of GDP behind the Sydney CBD and Melbourne, the Howard government funded the Western Sydney Orbital. Many of my constituents remark that the tolls for the M2 and the state funded access routes to the city are exorbitant and negative. It is widely regarded that the M7 is well priced and useful, something that we can thank the previous government for.

Infrastructure Australia will be of no use to anyone if it is not completely nonpartisan. In the interests of transparency and open government that we hear so much about from the other side these days, the directions from the minister to Infrastructure Australia ought to be tabled before the parliament. I think that would really strengthen the system and the accountability to this place. It is a sensible and proper proposal. It will not work if it does not ensure that there is accountability for the minister’s directions to Infrastructure Australia. I note that at the moment it is proposed that they be in the annual report of the Infrastructure Australia body. If that is the case, then why would there not be a provision for the minister’s directions to be tabled in the House?

Infrastructure Australia could be an important development in infrastructure in Australia. It must not, as I have spoken about, add an extra regulatory burden to infrastructure provision in Australia. It will not succeed if it does not urgently review some of the discriminatory policies that have happened at state level and some of the failures that states have made in the provision of infrastructure in Australia. It must urgently consider major projects in some of the fastest growing corridors of Sydney to recommend and fund the urgent construction of projects such as the north-west rail line and a second crossing of the Hawkesbury River. This minister and this Labor government must ensure that Infrastructure Australia is something that adds value to the process of infrastructure provision in Australia and does not add regulation and unfair burdens to already challenging circumstances.
 

Monday, 30 June 2008

INFRASTRUCTURE AUSTRALIA BILL 2008
Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (12.46 p.m.)—Coming from an electorate which represents one of the fastest growing areas of Sydney, I know that infrastructure is of great concern to many people. Infrastructure Australia is a proposed statutory authority that will be established to advise all levels of government on matters relating to the provision of infrastructure. Infrastructure is important to many people. It is something that governments do need to act on, particularly for people in Western Sydney and in my electorate. I, like many others, will be supporting the Infrastructure Australia Bill 2008 today in the hope that we can get rid of some of the obstacles to getting good infrastructure that exist at the state level and the local level.

I would like to start, however, by making some general points about this bill. There are some concerns about this new statutory body. Firstly, I think it is very important that this body created by government not become an extra hurdle or burden that vital infrastructure projects have to get over. It must not add any delays or burdens to processes that, because of our federal system, can already be complex and unwieldy. I note in particular that there will be a 12-month review period, and I hope that this period does not become an excuse or justification for inaction on vital infrastructure by a new government.

Secondly, I would like to say that Infrastructure Australia does need to be nonpartisan in its approach. All of its appointments are made by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and, in view of the gross politicisation of sectors of our Public Service at a state level, our community will be watching the operation of this new government bureaucracy carefully in the hope that it will be genuinely independent and able to add some value, not burden, to infrastructure planning in Australia. There are going to be 12 appointees, some made in agreement with the states, and I would also add a concern that there has been a lot of failed thinking in relation to the provision of infrastructure at a state level. I think it is quite necessary that we do not allow that same sort of thinking to dominate outcomes in relation to infrastructure from a national perspective.

I am going to spend some time today talking about some of the significant failures at the state level because I think Infrastructure Australia will achieve nothing if it is just the same faces and the same thinking. For example, if you look at New South Wales and examine the state public private partnership deals that have been allowed to exist under the current Labor state government, you see state government departments such as the Roads and Traffic Authority allowed to engage in contracts with various companies, essentially to receive a payment direct to their department to close a legion of public roads, forcing people to use the privately funded infrastructure—the infamous Cross City Tunnel. That Cross City Tunnel deal, when it became public, became a scandal that the people of Sydney rejected. The government was forced to break its contract and, of course, the Cross City Tunnel consortium is now bankrupt. These kinds of episodes and experiences give a very bad name to public-private partnerships and this is, we know from experience, a further disincentive for private capital to get involved in public-private partnerships and also another burden. So it will be a good thing if Infrastructure Australia can examine some of the contractual arrangements at state level in particular and determine why there have been such failures.

The north-west of Sydney, my electorate, is one of the fastest-growing areas of Sydney. It is on the urban fringes of Sydney, one of our biggest cities. Infrastructure is desperately needed in Mitchell to meet the massive demands of growth. The north-west of Sydney is earmarked as one of the biggest growth corridors in our country. I guess one of the first performance measures that infrastructure will face is that if infrastructure continues to not be provided in urban fringe areas in the major growth corridors of our cities, then it will not have achieved anything except to add an extra layer of bureaucracy. For example, in the north-west of Sydney you have one of the biggest business parks, with the major national headquarters of 500 companies. There are 20,000 employees there. That will grow to 40,000 in about 10 years. There is no rail line. There is no mass transit system in this sector of Sydney and it is essential that we get one in the near future.

There has been some suggestion that the previous federal government failed somehow in relation to infrastructure, but the only working, functional piece of major infrastructure that has gone into Western Sydney in many decades was the M7. I am going to speak some more about that later. The M7, the orbital motorway that surrounds Sydney, has been a major success. In fact, when you look at some of the other state funded infrastructure and managed projects you get a lot of complaints about tolling and other matters, but I receive no complaints about the M7. It is a working and vital piece of infrastructure that was fully funded by the Howard government.

When you look at the provisions of this bill, there is scope for some positive developments. We do need to consider how best to remove regulatory barriers to getting good infrastructure at different levels, and hopefully this can be achieved. Looking at state and local governments, you can see some systems, levies and charges that really prevent good infrastructure from getting built. For example, infrastructure levies at the state level need to be looked at as well as the rates of infrastructure levies and the rate of return that people get for the amount of money that they are forced to pay in levies, taxes and charges.

In the 2006 National Housing Infrastructure Costs Study that was commissioned by the Residential Development Council it was found that indirect infrastructure charges for housing and home units have increased significantly in Sydney, far outstripping the growth in construction costs. Significantly, it has been the increase in indirect infrastructure charges covering roads and public transport which has been the most dramatic. As a result of these increases in levies, houses in Sydney now incur infrastructure charges of $68,233, of which over $66,000 relate to indirect charges. From 1995 to 2006, total indirect infrastructure charges per lot for new housing developments increased by $55,000; an indexed increase of 171.9 per cent.

By stark comparison, Brisbane homes have seen no increase in indirect infrastructure charges while Melbourne has seen an indexed increase of just over 30 per cent. I will say that again: there has been an indexed increase in Sydney for new housing developments of 171.9 per cent for infrastructure. These significant increases in indirect infrastructure charges in Sydney have had a serious impact on the housing affordability in my electorate of Mitchell. Whilst the residents of Mitchell are paying more and more for infrastructure, they continue to receive some of the most substandard public transport facilities in the country. They are paying an indexed increase of 171.9 per cent, but the state government will not fund a rail line for the north-west of Sydney.

I want to speak about that for a moment. The New South Wales state government has really abandoned one of its core responsibilities here. One of Infrastructure Australia’s first priorities should be to consider the construction of a heavy rail line in the north-west of Sydney. I have written to Minister Albanese requesting an urgent meeting to discuss what the federal government can do to fund vital infrastructure in Western Sydney in a timely fashion. I know that the minister states that he wants a 12-month review—a 12-month delay to give time to discuss or examine that. A 12-month delay when you have been waiting 20 years for a rail line is another unfair imposition on the people in Mitchell. If you look at the record of the New South Wales state Labor government, there is a case for the federal government to intervene.

On 29 November 1998, three months prior to a state election, the New South Wales state government first promised $29 million for the north-west rail link from Epping Station to Castle Hill. Since then, the government has re-announced the north-west rail link five times. On 9 June 2005, Bob Carr announced an $8 billion, 15-year metropolitan rail extension program. This announcement included the north-west rail link, a new passenger line from Cheltenham to Rouse Hill and long-term plans to extend the Vineyard and Richmond lines. On 20 November 2006 the government re-announced the completion of the north-west rail line by 2017—the first stage to be completed by 2015 and the second stage by 2017. The government recently re-announced the line in June 2007 with an extension from Rouse Hill to Vineyard station on the Richmond line. All of this shows that if it were not for the previous federal government, very little would have been done in the last 10 years. The states are failing.

Another important matter that Infrastructure Australia needs to consider—and one of the major disincentives—is the bad reputation infrastructure is getting from tolling. The New South Wales state government have used a system of geographical discrimination based on where people live. They subsidise people for using some tollways but not for using others. They do it on the basis of where a person comes from and how they get to work. For example, people in my electorate pay tolls to get to work. Based on a 48-hour working week, motorists travelling to the city are now paying $16.90 a day—which is $84.50 a week, $330 a month or $4,056 a year—just to go to work. By contrast, a person using the M4 and M5 motorways in the south-west of Sydney pays $1.20 a day—which is $6.00 a week, $24 a month or just $288 annually once the state government rebate is received. That is $4,056 a year versus $288 a year. This is another example of a failure in the system of infrastructure that has been created in Sydney.

Residents of north-western Sydney pay an average of $4,000 in post-tax income on tolls—including the M2, the M7, the Lane Cove tunnel and the harbour tunnel—while residents in western Sydney using the M4 and M5 pay less than $300 a year due to cash-back schemes. For those members not from Sydney, what is the difference between M2 users and M4 and M5 users? I would argue that it is where they live; it is discrimination between a safe seat and a marginal seat; it is a deliberate policy of geographical discrimination put in place by the state government. Infrastructure Australia must take state governments to task for these appalling and discriminatory decisions. The use of subsidies for some areas of Sydney but discrimination against other areas, on no logical basis, must be abandoned. It will be a good thing if Infrastructure Australia can remove these sorts of scandalous arrangements from infrastructure management in Australia.

There are other major infrastructure projects that the New South Wales state government has failed on, and arrangements that must be considered in this review. You could talk about things like the closure of Epping Road—another public-private partnership in which the state government has closed lanes towards the Sydney CBD on a major public road to funnel people into a privately operated tollway. Again, the tollway and the public-private partnership is a good development. It is good to get private capital into infrastructure. It is good for the government to be encouraging it and ensuring that the arrangements can be put into place to manage it. It is manifestly wrong of any government—whether it be a state government or a federal government—to close public roads that have been paid for by people’s taxes over many years in order to funnel motorists onto a tollway or motorway so that they have no choice about the roads they use.

In addition we have seen other fiascos in Sydney such as the T-card fiasco. We are one of the few major cities in the world that does not have an integrated transport network. The New South Wales state government has spent 10 years planning for a smartcard system on Sydney’s buses, trains and ferries, yet it has become a total and unmitigated failure. This is another thing that is preventing the construction of integrated and future orientated infrastructure. Major cities around the world—including Hong Kong, London, Singapore, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth—have successfully introduced smartcard technology for public transport, but not Sydney. We have four separate ticketing systems for trains, ferries, buses and light rail. That is disgraceful in city like Sydney.

I also want to talk about some of the failures in infrastructure planning that have happened in other parts of Sydney. For example, we have had more rail lines cancelled. A Parramatta to Epping railway line has been announced many times before state elections but cancelled after those state elections. My essential point in reinforcing this failure at the state level, particularly on the part of the New South Wales state government, to provide infrastructure is that states do need to be taken to task over these failures. Infrastructure Australia ought to cooperate with the states, but it also needs to be very frank with them. It needs to say to the states: ‘You have failed here. You have given commitments. You haven’t met your commitments. We require a better performance from you.’ You cannot be cosy with the states when they have not provided essential infrastructure. It has to be critical where required, and it has to point to the failures of public-private partnerships whereby state government departments have negotiated their own deals which have resulted in a scandal and the bankruptcy of those private organisations. People in north-west Sydney—

Interjection
Ms Neal—It’s a private risk.
Continue
Mr HAWKE—Risk becomes a big thing—the risk is dealing with the New South Wales state government. I would argue that is one of the biggest risks. Never mind the constant attacks on oil companies. People in north-west Sydney also pay 52c a litre in excise. I think people want to see that 52c going back into their roads. It is not right that governments levy such a substantial amount on each dollar we pay at the petrol bowser and yet our roads in north-western Sydney are still in a shocking state. We need major upgrades.

Another important concern of Sydneysiders in the future will be the F3 motorway. Each day we have 75,000 vehicles travelling on the F3. During peak times 3,000 vehicles an hour vie for lane space. The F3 is well past its capacity and usefulness as Sydney’s northern gateway. Recently we saw the whole motorway closed because of a bushfire, and people were unable to access the northern gateway to Sydney. There was a recent report in the Sunday Telegraph that there were 16 closures on the F3 in at least one direction in the past year due to accidents or bushfires, causing delays of between 30 minutes and several hours.

The recent Pearlman report recommended that the government could begin work immediately on the construction of a link between the F3 freeway and Sydney’s north-west orbital at the M7. I strongly support option (c) of the Pearlman report. I would make another observation about this report. Infrastructure Australia are going to conduct a 12-month review. In this review they ought not to reinvent the wheel and start from scratch. They ought to consider examining very valuable and detailed reports such as the Pearlman report, which has recommended vital infrastructure. If Infrastructure Australia is only directed by the minister to look at the projects that he considers to be important, rather than having a broader look at what good work has already been done at the federal and state levels in recommending vital infrastructure upgrades, that will be a weakness in the new Infrastructure Australia system. The Pearlman report does call for option (c) planning to be commenced, which would see the second crossing of the Hawkesbury River. It would provide greater opportunities for business and better conditions on local roads. It is the option that the majority of local residents in my electorate of Mitchell would support. The state and federal governments do need to get on with the job of progressing option (c) and giving residents in north-western Sydney some reprieve.

There has been a contention in this bill and the events surrounding the formation of this bill that there was no action by the previous government in relation to infrastructure. As I mentioned, people in Western Sydney know that the previous federal government believed in the provision of essential infrastructure, and the M7 orbital project is an example of one of the best motorways in Sydney. Due to the strategic and economic importance of Western Sydney, and the fact that it had become the third-largest producer of GDP behind the Sydney CBD and Melbourne, the Howard government funded the Western Sydney Orbital. Many of my constituents remark that the tolls for the M2 and the state funded access routes to the city are exorbitant and negative. It is widely regarded that the M7 is well priced and useful, something that we can thank the previous government for.

Infrastructure Australia will be of no use to anyone if it is not completely nonpartisan. In the interests of transparency and open government that we hear so much about from the other side these days, the directions from the minister to Infrastructure Australia ought to be tabled before the parliament. I think that would really strengthen the system and the accountability to this place. It is a sensible and proper proposal. It will not work if it does not ensure that there is accountability for the minister’s directions to Infrastructure Australia. I note that at the moment it is proposed that they be in the annual report of the Infrastructure Australia body. If that is the case, then why would there not be a provision for the minister’s directions to be tabled in the House?

Infrastructure Australia could be an important development in infrastructure in Australia. It must not, as I have spoken about, add an extra regulatory burden to infrastructure provision in Australia. It will not succeed if it does not urgently review some of the discriminatory policies that have happened at state level and some of the failures that states have made in the provision of infrastructure in Australia. It must urgently consider major projects in some of the fastest growing corridors of Sydney to recommend and fund the urgent construction of projects such as the north-west rail line and a second crossing of the Hawkesbury River. This minister and this Labor government must ensure that Infrastructure Australia is something that adds value to the process of infrastructure provision in Australia and does not add regulation and unfair burdens to already challenging circumstances.
 

Monday, 30 June 2008

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (8.50 p.m.)—I want to acknowledge the member for Cunningham and her contribution. I was born in Wollongong Hospital and still have some family down in Wollongong. Part of my family still commutes out of Wollongong every day of every week, so those matters raised by the member for Cunningham are important.

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