Federal Parliament - Infrastructure

May 13, 2021

Dr ALYYesterday I was asked what I thought of the Government's budget that was delivered on Tuesday night. Like many people, I spent a lot of time trawling through the budget papers with a highlighter in hand, specifically looking for areas of interest where people in my electorate have raised issues with me and looking for funding for Western Australia, for the northern suburbs and for the electorate of Cowan. After that lengthy and, I must admit, at times unpleasant exercise, an analogy came to my mind. That analogy was that, if you were to take your kids grocery shopping and you were to say to them, 'Okay, you guys fill up the trolley,' at the end of it you would have spent $100—or, in this case, $100 billion—and all you would have is sweets and lollies but nothing to sustain you through the week. That's what this budget reminds me of. It reminds me of a trolley full of sweets and lollies and empty wrappers with nothing of substance, nothing to sustain you—no actual reform and no actual fixing of any substantive issues, whether it's around wage stagnation and wage growth or around poverty and social housing. It is, as the Shadow Treasurer said yesterday, bereft of vision. There is nothing to address the fact that Australia is behind Senegal in the complexity and diversity of our economy. It purely is a budget of announcements and tinkering around the edges. This is no more evident than in the area of infrastructure.

When you look at the budget, it's all in the detail. There is a real caveat emptor—buyer beware—that comes with this government. As the Member for Sydney said earlier today, it's all in the Ts and Cs. It's in the Ts and Cs that you find the real budget. That's where you find it—in the fine print. That's where you find the truth about infrastructure. You find that 55 per cent—more than half—of the spend in the big shiny infrastructure announcement is actually beyond the forward estimates. In WA, just 15 per cent of the infrastructure spend is allocated beyond the forward estimates.

On all the promises that this Government makes the caveat emptor—the buyer beware—is don't hold your breath on the delivery. As members before me have said, over the eight long years that we've endured this Government, the modus operandi of this Government has been all about the announcement and not about the delivery. My good friend and neighbour the Member for Perth, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Western Australia, raised this earlier this year when the Member for Stirling put out an advertisement that claimed that planning was underway and construction was starting on the Reid Highway-Erindale Road interchange. That was the claim made by the Member for Stirling that was boldly announced in a newspaper advertisement.

In Senate estimates, when questioned about this interchange that has supposedly been funded or is supposedly underway for construction, the department official actually said:

… the … government has only made a commitment to the business case. The business case has been approved. It should commence later this month. The business case is due to be completed around September-October this year …

Hello? There is currently no funding for construction—no funding. Wait a minute! There was a big ad in the paper that said it was already underway or starting soon. That's what happens when you look at the Ts and Cs and the fine print with this Government.